Archive for August, 2018

Couple Communication That Brings You Closer Together: It Works!

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Couple communication may well be the most challenging of all types of communication. Why, you may say. It is because you are so vulnerable in a couple relationship. This partner of yours can hurt you with words. Thus, they need to be chosen carefully and wisely. Here are a few tips, if you are open minded to hear them.

  1. MAKE IT CLEAR THAT YOUR HIGHEST PRIORITY IS MAKING A DECISION THAT IS SATISFACTORY TO BOTH OF YOU:  Couple communication needs to be a win-win proposition. Each person should state his/her position and then a respectful sharing should take place, resulting in a compromise that each person can live with. For example, here is a starting sentence that sets the tone:  “I want to get away on vacation this year and I want to find a place that we both can enjoy together”.


  1. CHOOSE A GOOD TIME TO TALK: This is important as it can greatly affect the mood present and ultimate communication. Whoever initiates a topic of importance should ask his/her partner what might be a good time to talk. If that works, then have the communication at that time. If it does not, suggest another time and see if that might work. Never interrupt the other person when s/he is engrossed in something else. That is rude and will upset the other which will set a negative tone that may be difficult to overcome.


  1. STICK TO ONE SUBJECT AT A TIME: This is especially needed by men. Men tend to zero in on a particular topic and want to work it through. Another topic thrown in tends to be distracting and irritating. Work the one through and then move on to the next one.


  1. AVOID SAYING WHAT YOU DON’T WANT: State positively what you want. Example: “I don’t want to go to dinner with the usual crowd tonight”. Instead say, “I want just you and I to go out tonight. I’ve been missing our alone time.”


  1. AVOID CRITICIZING, JUDGING, AND COERCING: Say, “Let’s leave by seven so we can get there early”, instead of “We have to leave early because you’re never ready on time”.


  1. AVOID BRINGING UP PAST UNPLEASANT HISTORY: It serves no purpose to bring up yesterday’s negative experiences. It just sets off  defensive feelings, and probably unpleasant words.


  1. MAKE STATEMENTS INSTEAD OF QUESTIONS: Example: “Let’s go for a walk after dinner” instead of “Why don’t we ever go anywhere?”


The list of tips for good communication between a committed couple could go on and on. These might get you, Respected Reader, thinking about how you communicate with that special person in your life. Are you pretty good at doing these things? How about your partner?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

There Is No Bad Feeling: Quit Apologizing!

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Oftentimes, I hear a person  in my office say, “I shouldn’t feel that way”, I don’t like that I have these bad feelings.”They  are down on themselves because they have a “bad” feeling. There is no such thing as a “bad” feeling and, therefore, no basis to feel guilty about having one. Let me elaborate.

Let’s start with this. Do you know the difference between emotions and feelings? There is one. They are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected, but are two different things. Debbie Hampton has written an elucidating article about this, based on the wisdom of a few noted neuroscientists.

EMOTIONS are lower level responses occurring in the subcortical regions of the brain, the amygdale and the ventromedial cortices, creating biochemical reactions in your body altering your physical state. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes.

FEELINGS: “Feelings originate in the neocortical regions of the brain, are mental associations and reactions to emotions, and are subjective, being influenced by personal experience, beliefs, and memories. A feeling is a mental portrayal of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion and is the byproduct of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion. Feelings are the next thing that happens after having an emotion, involving

cognitive input, usually subconscious, and cannot be measured precisely.”

Dr. Antonio D’Amasio, neuroscientist professor at the University of California, states it this way: “Feelings are mental experiences of body states, which arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body’s response to external stimuli. (The order of events is: I am threatened, experience fear (emotion) and feel horror.)”

While basic emotions are instinctual and common to us all, the meanings they take on and the feelings they prompt are individual based on your programming past and present. Feelings are shaped by a person’s temperament and experiences and vary greatly from person to person and situation to situation.

Whew! You’re probably saying, “TMI” (Too Much Information)! The reason I share this information is I believe so strongly in the brain wiring process and I want you to understand it and take an active role in the continuing shaping of your brain, through the reality of neuroplasticity. It is important to know how you are brain wired so that you can understand what emotions and feelings that you have. Understanding this, you can make more enlightened choices as to the behavior you choose after these emotional and feeling states arise in your mind and body.

Bottom line here, and the basis for the headline of this article, is that emotions and feelings just happen. They are instinctual reflexes. You do not choose them. So quit feeling bad (a cognitive choice) about having a nasty feeling.

Let me use an example: Someone hurts someone you love. The EMOTION of anger arises. The FEELING of hate for that person comes next. Then the cognitive THOUGHT of wanting to hurt that person emanates (a BEHAVIOR). Then the next thought needs to be, don’t hurt that person or you’ll go to jail. And, hopefully you do not do the “bad” thing of violence.

So, Respected Reader, please never feel guilty about having a “bad” feeling, and don’t apologize for it. Only apologize if you do something “bad”.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

How “Roses, Thorns, and Buds Can Make Your Life Happier!

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

Happiness is a desired goal. How to reach it may present challenges, depending on a multitude of factors. Recognizing the challenges and being proactive in seeking direction and finding pragmatic solutions are key parts toward developing a life of happiness. Hopefully, each of you, Respected Readers, is doing the best you can to create such a life. I would like to share with you another insight that may add to your repertoire of factors promoting happiness.

David G. Allan has written an article that caught my eye in this regard. A mental health component of living a life of happiness is a focus on gratitude. Science has clearly demonstrated that increasing your sense of gratitude is tied to sustained happiness, stress relief, self control, resilience, better sleep, and improved physical health.

Mr. Allan has a brilliant idea that he calls “Roses, thorns, and buds”(RTB). I will elaborate on it and invite you to make it a part of your life. It is an awareness technique that you can use in private, as well as share with significant others in your life.

A “rose” is something you feel is positive in your life. A “thorn” is a challenging occurrence. A “bud” is something positive you are anticipating. Areas of life to consider within this perspective could include, significant other, family members, friends, health, spirituality, work/school, recreational outlets, and so forth.

It is important to put most of your effort into finding the “roses” in your life as well as the “buds”. Research has shown that in relationships particularly, you need five positive factors to counterbalance every negative one because our brains are hardwired to be alert for threats and we then perseverate on the bad instead of the good. The more you focus on the grateful things in your life the happier you will be. As for the “thorns”, they are not to be denied. Rather they are to be dealt with in a timely manner to your best ability. And then let the negative go. Do not let it continue to penetrate your consciousness. “Change the channel” from the negative to the positives of your “roses” and “buds”.

This RTB method is not only good for you, Respected Reader. It can also be a communication technique within your family. Each day, or as often as you want to employ this method, have each member share his/her RTB with the others. This is particularly useful with kids. Instead of asking your kids, “How was school today?” and getting the one word answer of “good”, this method encourages a more complete communication of what went on in one’s day.


In summary, gratitude brings happy thoughts and feelings into your consciousness and helps drown out some of the pestering negative ones. A daily gratitude journal is a wise mental health habit. The “Roses, Thorns, Buds” practice helps enable you to bring more happiness into your life. You deserve that!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates