he other day I was approached by an acquaintance who was offering me a great opportunity to be a part of a great organization where a lot of money could be made with very little work. He got my name in passing and was good at following up leads. During his call to schedule a time to meet and discuss this opportunity further, I found myself in a dilemma. While this may indeed be a good option to explore further and the guy offering this was a new acquaintance, there was no way I was going to add anything more to my schedule, especially another job. So what to do?
A little into the call I simply told him “no”. I was not interested in adding anything more to my life. A few years ago I would have gone into even more of an explanation and justification of my answer in hopes to not hurt his feelings or our relationship. But I have discovered that the art of saying “no” is often enough in itself. No explanation is usually needed unless it is requested and the relationship is higher on the importance list.
Saying “no” is easy when it is a telephone solicitor or via email. As the degree of contact and the importance of the person rises, saying “no” is more difficult. However, it is important to be able to tell even the important people in life “no” if you hope to have more authority and power over your life. Being able to take charge of your life may mean that everything and everyone will not fit into your dreams and goals. It’s time to face the fact that some things and people are energy drainers. You dread the conversations with them when you meet in the hall at work. You see their name on the caller ID and your insides tighten, but you still answer the phone (even though your voicemail works fine).
Let’s begin to employ the art of saying “no” more frequently. For some of you that may mean this week you only tell two people “no”. Which would double your normal rate. Start small and work your way up. This week, when faced with something you really don’t want to do, say so. When given the wrong order at the restaurant, speak up. This is an easy way to learn how to say “no” which will increase the likelihood that you will be able to say it to more people, even those towards the top of the importance list.
Saying “no” allows you to stay on target with your values and goals. I do not recommend saying “no” just for the sake of saying “no”. Say it to take charge of your time. To take charge of your family. Your marriage. Your job. Your recreation. And say “no” without a long drawn out explanation, which often turns into excuses. Say “no” confidently. It will empower your spirit and your life!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Every person seeks happiness. You hear it all the time. “I just want to be happy.” “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This last phrase points out an important aspect, the pursuit of happiness. There is no guarantee that it can be obtained. One of the common things I see is people spending most every waking moment seeking happiness. As if it is something out there to be gained or discovered. Perhaps this is a major contributor to the status of society.
Watch television for more than five minutes and you will see this idea confirmed. If I can only get the car, house, boat, job, relationship, salary increase; then life will be complete. I will lack nothing, at least until the next can’t-do-without product is available for purchase. The average adult now has more than 4 different careers in their lifetime. My father-in-law had one job from the time he was a teenager until retirement. Forty-two years at the same job. That’s almost unheard of now. It seems our society is more into the thought that if this job won’t bring about happiness, the next one will. If this relationship doesn’t bring about happiness, then a relationship with him or her will. If life in this tax bracket isn’t satisfying, then the next bracket up will be. It’s the same story over and over. Something out there will complete my life. It will fill the void.
What if the key to happiness rests internally? What if happiness can be learned?
This starts with the idea that happiness is up to me. My perspective of things will influence the results. My expectations affect the outcome.
So what is it about my life that brings me happiness? If I change my outlook from happiness being something out there to it resting internally, ask this; what am I grateful for in my life? What are my successes or wins lately? When I focus too much on what else is out there, I neglect the things we currently possess. Going to the other extreme is also unhealthy. Spending too much time focusing on what used to be produces blurred vision about what is.
Focusing too much on the future or too much on the past, I will miss a lot of what is going on now. I think I have told every one of my clients at some point to slow down. We live life at a fast enough speed as it is. Sometimes speed only produces uncertainty. Did you realize that of all the species on the planet, humans are the only ones that when lost, speed up. All other animals will slow down or even sit down until they get their bearings before proceeding. Do you know where you really want to go? What is your vision for life?
If you have trouble answering the preceding questions, that’s where you should spend some time reflecting and searching. Take an inventory of your current life. What are the things that you enjoy? What are the things that drain you? Enjoy the things going on in life right now. Happiness can be learned, and it starts with what’s going on inside you now. Happiness is not something out there, its inside. Resting deep within your soul waiting to be tapped into. By slowing down and seeking what you really want, life will begin to be more aligned and then more full.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Have you ever wondered why there are times in life when it seems that you are simply coasting along? Throughout life, there are many tasks that must be undertaken in order to experience a life or relationship that is more alive. Granted there will be times when each of us may be bogged down with a particular event or stage in life (I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old in my house, needless to say, life right now is about them). Life has its natural ebbs and flows of emotion. But if you find yourself asking the preceding title question frequently, let me offer you some hope.
First, you are not alone. There are many, many people that have chosen to settle into their schedule driven life and have begun to believe that this is all there is for them and their loved ones. For many people, a routine life full of kid’s activities, homework, one week of family vacation per year, grocery lists, church meetings, carpool, etc. is enough for right now. What about later? When the kids are grown and out of the house (hopefully not boomeranging back). Have you planned that far in advance? Incidentally, did you know that the second most frequent period of relationships experiencing divorce is after the kids are out of the house? When you are forced to spend time with your spouse whom you may have avoided by “diving” into your kid’s life for all those years. You don’t have to wait that long (to change something, not get divorced).
Second, something can be done now that can begin the process of experiencing a life that is more fully alive. Experience a life full of passion, energy, love, adventure, and fun. It begins by asking yourself a series of simple questions: Would you want to be married to you? Would you want you as your father/mother? Would you want to work for you? Be friends with you? When we can honestly answer these questions, we have entered the beginnings of a life transforming process.
Far too often we want or expect those around us to change and accommodate us. We also may fall victim to the stagnating process of waiting for the other person to change before we respond. Let me explain by personalizing this. There have been times in my marriage when I have grown tired of the routine we have established of interacting, but I wait for my wife to do something different before I do. And to compound the issue, while I am waiting for her to read my mind, I get frustrated that she doesn’t respond fast enough or adequately to my unspoken expectations. Now I know how you may be responding to this; if she truly loved me and understood my needs, she should just know. If you are thinking this, you have fallen victim to the Hollywoodization of relationships. Just because you are in a marriage/committed relationship/close friendship/family does not mean that you cease to exist as an autonomous being. One with your own hopes and dreams and fantasies.
Having a life that is more fully alive, starts with you. By answering these questions honestly, you can begin to grow yourself into a better human. However, this does not come easily. This honest assessment of self and life is often accompanied by a spike in our levels of anxiety and discomfort. This is why we settle into the routine of life and don’t rock the boat. What I am proposing is that you have the willingness to stand up and address the things in your own life that get in the way of the life you want and in turn, take charge of your life and become more fully alive.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Imagine you’re 42 and in pretty good shape.
You exercise several times a week, eat okay, and outside of the occasional cold, are healthy.
You’ve been married for over 15 years, have a couple of kids, nice house, and a good job.
One morning you wake up to find that you can no longer move your right arm. Everything else in your body feels fine, you even have feeling in your arm, you just can’t move it.
What would you do?
If you’re like most people, you’d schedule an appointment with your family doctor as soon as possible. You may even immediately head to the Emergency Room. You also would probably be fine going to several visits with various specialists in order to find out what’s going on with your arm.
You’d sit through tests, scans, waiting rooms, and be willing to take whatever prescribed medication the doctor’s recommend. You’d be willing to go to physical therapy several times per week until your arm was working properly.
The point is, you’d be willing to do almost whatever it took to have your body working well.
Now, answer me this: What makes it so many people don’t treat their marriage the same way?
If you wake up one morning and discover a problem (or finally admit to a problem’s existence), would you seek out help right away or hope the problem simply goes away on its own?
It seems many people hope for the latter.
Don’t believe me?
Research continues to show that couples wait an average of 6 years after a problem has become a problem before seeking out professional help. That’s 6 YEARS!
Imagine if we treated our bodies the same.
Imagine if we said to ourselves, “Oh well, I really don’t use my right arm all that much. Perhaps it will begin working again soon. I’ll just wait and see. In the meantime, honey, can you cut up my dinner for me?”
Marital problems and struggles are common to us all.
But they don’t have to be the end of the relationship, and you definitely don’t have to go through them on your own.
Seek out a marriage and family therapist. This is your best option.
If you don’t want to do that, open up to a close friend. Preferably as a couple to another couple, or if it’s just you, share your troubles with a good friend of the same gender.
Life is so much better when shared with others. Including our struggles.
Most of the time, when you share a struggle with a friend, you find out that they’ve experienced it as well. Plus, you get the burden lifted off your own shoulders a little.
Thanks to the technology of today’s world, you can find help regardless of where you live.
One last point: being brutally honest with you.
Seeking out professional help or opening up to friends around you is a whole lot cheaper than divorce.
10 sessions with a therapist = $200-$650ish (depending on insurance)
Talking to a good friend = Free, unless you pay for dinner or the coffee
Divorce= $???????, but a whole lot more than all the above options combined.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
What should parents do when they discover that their young teen or pre-teen has been looking at pornography sites online? And what does it mean?
Based on a survey of online victimization conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, only a small percentage of kids seek out pornography on purpose, and most respond appropriately by quickly leaving the site, though few report such incidents to parents (Wolak et al., 2006). Exposure to sexually explicit content online can occur very easily through a misdirected “google” search using a innocent word such as “toy”, a misspelled word or URL, a misleading website or email, or a link or photo sent by a peer or through spam (Wolak et al, 2007).
When evaluating what it means that your child is viewing sexually explicit material, before reacting or drawing conclusions, the first step is to assess the situation to find out what is really going on and whether there is a problem. Is this an ongoing issue? How many times has this occurred? Does this seem to be a habit? Are there other changes in behavior, mood or sleep? Is your child isolating himself?
Find out how your child has encountered these sites. Does anyone else at home frequent these websites or suffer from a hidden sexual addiction? When others at home with access to the computer – have a hidden sex addiction, children are exposed to such material with or without the parent’s knowledge, giving the child more opportunity and temptation to explore such websites themselves.
What are the sites the child is going to and what is he looking at? For example, the meaning and effect of looking up the word “sex” on “ehow.com” (a website that is an “encyclopedia” of sorts on how to do anything) is different from watching porn videos online. Children may look for, or view, sites at first out of curiosity after having stumbled upon them – or to find out about sex. When the motivation is curiosity, the diagnosis could simply be: “teenager” or: “preteen”, the impact benign, and prognosis good.
However, viewing pornography, especially in an ongoing way, can have potentially detrimental effects on children, and may be motivated or perpetuated by loneliness, isolation and compulsion.
What are the potential negative effects of viewing online pornography?
In the absence of any context, and without having learned about or known healthy sexuality, children may experience depictions of sex as confusing and take the images they see to be representative models of adult behavior. They are thereby introduced to sex before they are ready through images they do not understand, which often involve sexual deviations, and sex detached from relationship or meaning, responsibility, and intimacy.
Children are most at risk when they are repeatedly exposed to images that are over-stimulating and potentially addictive. If viewed compulsively and accompanied by sexual release through masturbating, internet pornography can have a desensitizing effect, requiring greater intensity and frequency as well as causing deviant sexuality to seem like the norm.
Cybersex addiction functions in a similar way to any other addiction, leading to a cycle of preoccupation, compulsion, acting out, isolation, self-absorption, shame and depression as well as distorted views of real relationships and intimacy. However, not everyone exposed to pornography becomes addicted to it.
Teens who are most susceptible to addiction are those who cannot rely on parents to provide a consistent source of contact and comfort to help them regulate their emotional state. Such families include, but are not limited to, those where a parent may suffer from an addiction – including alcohol – or fail to be emotionally available for other reasons. Children from these families are vulnerable – they often have low self- esteem and feel alone. They learn not to trust or depend on others, and find ways to comfort and stimulate themselves which do not involve people and which are reliably available to them and within their control.
Another danger teens are exposed to online is unwanted sexual solicitation. Teens are the most vulnerable of any age group to such unwanted sexual advances (Wolak et.al, 2006.) One in 7 teens reported having been subjected to unwanted provocations – the majority of which involved invitations to meet offline, asking teens to talk about sex or answer sexual questions, or asking teens for sexually explicit photos.
A related hazard for teens online involves “sexting” – sending sexually explicit photos usually over cell phones or sometimes over the internet. Sexting is most commonly engaged in by teens with their peers and usually involves peer pressure. Sexting often creates an expectation of “hooking up” (sex) on the part of the recipient, and increases the pressure to have sex, and likelihood of it occurring, during the next encounter. Sexting is risky in this way and, also, because it often leads to unforeseen reputation disasters that may be irreparable. This often begins with a photo sent to a boyfriend or potential boyfriend, which then – unbeknownst to the sender – is passed around and forwarded to the recipient’s friends and “contacts”, like a chain letter, spreading out of control. In addition, these photos, of course, can resurface later on and be used for blackmail or to wreak havoc on a person’s career.
The surest way to protect teens is to be aware of what is going on with them, and within your family, and make it safe for them to talk to you. Finding out that your child has viewed internet pornography is not cause for panic. Most children and teens do not suffer from sex addictions. And when they do, this problem is usually secondary to other secret or hidden issues in the family affecting them, which must be the focus of treatment along with the teen’s symptom.
To keep teens out of harm’s way, the key is being their ally and helping them collaborate with you in wanting to be safe. If you are not on the same side, your teen will find a way to outsmart or work around even the best technology and well-thought out rules. Remember… the relationship you have with your child and his perception of you as trustworthy and reasonable is the most protective factor against all the dangers faced by teens today.
Tips for Parents
• The key is to remain calm. Use a neutral and non-judgmental tone in talking to teens, taking care not to lecture, yell, blame or shame them for their behavior or for hiding it. Prepare yourself in advance so that you can be in the right mindset for an open conversation.
• Be frank and upfront. Do not lie or test them to see if they will confess the truth. Let them know you are aware that they have have been looking at some websites that can be confusing and harmful to children.
• Explain the dangers. The dangers are:
1. You can easily get addicted to viewing these images because they trick you into feeling pleasure and excitement. You may not realize it until it’s too late. Once you get addicted you feel compelled to keep doing it, aren’t in control, and it’s hard to stop.
2. The images can be sexually exciting and that can make you want more and more. Eventually the things that would naturally create sexual excitement will no longer have that effect.
3. Going to these sites can make you feel ashamed and bad about yourself, and then you have to hide this behavior from people,
4. The images will mislead you. You won’t be able to tell what’s normal sexual behavior and what isn’t.
5. Viewing these images repeatedly can have negative effects on development of healthy sexuality and that will affect your relationships in the future.
• Educate teens about predators on line. Inform them that teens are targeted by predators – “grooming” them by appealing to teens’ interest in and curiosity about romance, sex, and risk-taking. Predators disguise their age and identity – and use tricks that make them seem like they are your friend, in order to get you to you trust and confide in them, preparing to manipulate and use you.
• Let them know that just like you have rules about where it is safe to go in the real world there are the same rules about the virtual world. Some places are dangerous and are especially dangerous because they pull you in and can make it hard to stop going there.
• Explain that you will keep an eye on where they go online in order to protect them. Explain the rules they need to follow to be safe online.
• Explain and answer questions that help them understand the basis for rules and guidelines. Don’t be mysterious or make the sites seem forbidden.
• Don’t be controlling or authoritarian.
• Avoid getting into a power struggle – you will ultimately lose. If teens comply to be obedient, to avoid punishment, or avoid disappointing you, they are more apt to rebel, go behind your back, and/or lie to you.
• Show an interest in who their online buddies are, just like you are interested in their other friends.
• Familiarize yourself with internet safety guidelines for parents, including learning acronyms teens use when they text and IM each other.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
JOSH was engaged to be married. He confessed that he loved Karen, but was scared of feeling trapped. Though this is commonly known as a fairly typical male reaction to getting married, in this case it was more than just “cold feet.” Josh often talked in the men’s group about Karen’s reaction when he made plans with the guys. She would seem ok with it until that day would arrive. Prior to Josh leaving, Karen would predictably struggle with him about it . “Why aren’t I enough for you? I don’t understand. It seems like you don’t really enjoy spending time with me the way you do with them. “ Eventually, they would end up in an argument with Karen in tears, which led to Josh feel guilty about leaving. There were times when Josh ultimately didn’t go ahead with his plans and, when he did, rather than feeling free to have fun, he was instead preoccupied with Karen being upset with him.
STEVE seemed deflated as he talked about his wife, Sonya. He had just gotten a promotion to be a professor, something he had worked hard to achieve. Sonya had a fairly high status job herself. When Steve told Sonya about it, she did not seem very interested – definitely not impressed.
He thought back to the party they went to recently with some of Steve’s colleagues and friends. Many of them talked about what a great guy he was, telling stories from work. Steve was within earshot when Sonya commented sarcastically, “Hmm, funny how at home he doesn’t seem so great!” It reminded him of Michelle Obama’s comment during the primaries about how “stinky” Obama was in the morning. On the way home Sonya remarked that she finds it annoying that everyone seems to have to brag about him to her “for some reason.“
DAVID seemed to live in a constant state of underlying anxiety and hyper-vigilance at home. He was generally a perfectionist and tried hard to do the ”right” thing. He seemed very focused on keeping his wife, Jeannie, happy – though as one of the guys in the group mentioned- David’s focus on pleasing his wife often seemed compulsively driven by his fear that she would be mad at him.
Jeannie often seemed mad or displeased and wouldn’t tell David why. David felt he could never get it right and was frustrated that he did not seem to know the rules, despite frequently asking Jeannie to just tell him what she wanted. She often remarked angrily that he “ should know. ” But he didn’t know, and dreaded thinking he was in the clear only to find out he had failed again.
David and Jeannie both worked and generally shared the household chores and child-care. In response to Jeannie’s complaint that David didn’t think of her, he tried to do little things for her, for example, taking the baby out on Saturday morning to let her sleep in. Still, somehow David never scored any points for things like this and often found himself on the losing end feeling defeated, though by his own calculations he should have earned extra credits.
Can Wives Also Be Friends?
What do these stories reveal about men and their relationships with women?
They tell us about men in their own words – what they feel deep inside. Underlying each of these vignettes, though not stated explicitly, is a feeling that many men share that their wives are not really their friend. Men’s sadness and disappointment is palpable when they talk about feeling alone and unsupported in their marriages because of this missing aspect of connection, common in each of these examples. For men, a “friend” means someone who likes you, is happy for you when you make it, and who encourages you in your career and personal goals because in spite of all else, they really do want you to be happy.
Research on marriage has found that celebrating your partner’s success is an essential ingredient of a good marriage, and actually more predictive of a good marriage than being supportive when your partner is unhappy.
At face value, it seems as if it should easy to believe in your man and his triumphs. So then what got in the way of these women recognizing the good and rejoicing with their husbands in those events that their men felt to be positive and inspiring?
Promoting your man and encouraging his personal development requires allowing him some autonomy – which means recognizing and fostering the aspects of your man and his life -independent of you- that bring him joy, and giving them room to grow. Encouraging your man’s personal development and successes can feel risky to the relationship and therefore requires not only love, but courage and letting go. In order to take this leap of faith, women need to feel a sense of security – within them selves and within the relationship.
Women who feel insecure from their own psychological issues, such as Karen, Josh’s wife, may act possessive to manage their own unacknowledged fear of separation and abandonment, or use their spouse to mask emptiness in their own lives. These women may interpret any sign of separation as betrayal, for example, when men say no to something or express feelings, interests or opinions which differ from theirs.
Other women who feel insecure may also unconsciously hold on too tight to their man but may be reacting to legitimate issues that have occurred in the relationship which affect trust and security- such as a past affair or other dishonesty. In all of these situations, women may react by trying to hold their partners back, keep them down or punish them, in the hope that this will secure them. Not surprisingly, this approach usually backfires, leaving men feeling trapped and wanting to break out, and limiting what they share with their wives.
Steve’s wife, Sonya, was competitive with him. She treated him as if she did not believe in him, often putting him down. This ultimately created a profound feeling of hurt in Steve and led him to doubt their marriage. Though from the start Sonya challenged him to be as successful as she was, and claimed to need this from him- when he did match and even surpass her, she refused to acknowledge his accomplishments and did not seem happy for him.
Both Sonya and Karen experienced their husband’s outside interests and successes as taking away from them and compromising their husband’s devotion to them. Sonya’s resentment about feeling less taken care of in the marriage increased over time as Steve became healthier and for the first time considered his own needs. This resentment contributed to her jabs and muted reactions to his success, reactions which existed all along but over time were exacerbated, as well as experienced differently by Steve.
Our Ever- Changing Relationship Patterns
Unspoken marital contracts, set up early on in relationships, may work in a particular context, but later become unsustainable as a result of changes in one or both partners or new life circumstances. Such unspoken arrangements often involve roles taken on by each partner, usually involving behaviors learned in childhood. For example, with Steve and Sonya, Steve was the “underdog” from the start, but found this role natural for a long time, devoting himself to taking care Sonya’s needs, making himself imperceptible, and even taking pride in not needing or depending on anyone.
Later on, however, Steve’s success and personal growth allowed him to begin expressing himself more as well as recognize that he wanted Sonya’s support and encouragement. These changes in Steve essentially challenged their implicit marital agreement, creating conflict and destabilizing their marriage at its roots.
In such situations, when a relationship pattern worked at one time but is no longer viable, marriages must go through a transition and resettle into a new dynamic that works for both individuals. This reconfiguration requires role flexibility in which, rather than being constrained by having to behave within a fixed set of parameters, partners are able to switch off and take on the other’s role when necessary, for example being able to lean as well as be leaned on. Flexibility in being able to assume different roles according to what works for each partner and the couple at different times is associated with healthy marriages, just as psychological flexibility in general is associated with mental health.
Jeannie, David’s wife, also failed to acknowledge her husband’s good deeds, in this case, specifically his accomplishments within the relationship – on top of creating what David experienced as an atmosphere of unrelenting criticism. Jeannie was angry about the lack of emotional connection between her and David but handled her anger in a unclear and indirect way, leading to further isolation between them.
David, in turn, reacted to Jeannie out of fear, behaving as if he had no power in the marriage, continually trying to accommodate her. This strategy served to perpetuate the power differential in the relationship and contributed to the development of a bully-victim dynamic, lack of authentic connection, and failure to resolve the real issues.
Unresolved anger may spill into the relationship in the form of unremitting disapproval, nit picking, and lack of appreciation. Even in the absence of resentment and conflict, when things are working well they are often invisible and unacknowledged, whereas problems intrude and demand attention. Moreover, when other needs are not being met, the good is easily missed or taken for granted, and entitlement replaces gratitude and appreciation.
Men’s need for love, support, and friendship can go unnoticed because of their own lack of recognition that they need this, leading them to participate in the development of patterns in their marriages in which they feel alone. They conceal their unhappiness at first from themselves and then from their wives and overestimate their ability to sacrifice what they need and want.
Men often contribute to setting up a dynamic where they give up the healthy aspect their own power. Then, unable to sustain this, they take power back by acting out – or secretly pulling away, building a wall around their hearts and in their relationships that often becomes impenetrable. When women in these cases discover the extent of their husbands’ unhappiness and why, they are often shocked because it was so well disguised often until it is too late.
Tips for Men
• Recognize that insidious unhappiness and loneliness leads to acting out and/or marital failure.
• Be explicit with your wife about what positive changes would help.
• Point out when your actions or decisions are out of wanting to be thoughtful, or out of love, so that these efforts are recognized as such.
• Resist accommodating out of fear or guilt, keeping in mind that this will only lead to feeling powerless and helpless.
• If you are never getting it right, re-consider what may be the problem. When your wife is telling you something, before responding repeat it back to her to make sure you have heard her correctly and to let her know that you have heard what she is saying.
• Ask your wife how she is feeling about you lately and if there is anything you can do differently (keeping in mind that this doesn’t commit you to anything and that whatever she tells you can be negotiated).
• Thank her when she supports you.
• Make time to be together.
• Be clear about what is important to you. Try to find a mutually acceptable solution.
• When telling your wife what is important to you, for example, going to a game with your friends – try to listen and understand her feelings and objections. Be empathic and find ways – other than giving in – to reassure her and make her feel secure, for example, “I know it is hard for you that I want to go to the game on Saturday. I love you and want to understand how you feel and try to help.” Negotiate but know your bottom line.
• During conversations with your wife when she doesn’t seem happy for you, puts you down or tries to hold you back, be direct and don’t minimize or disguise the impact of her behavior towards you, Match her intensity in discussions (which is different than acting angry), make eye contact, and resist the impulse to retreat.
• Have the courage to consider that you are not in fact trapped. You can choose to work on the marriage – and you can choose to leave if you have to. Allowing yourself to consider this option and even share it with your wife may be scary and create a crisis, but it is empowering too, by creating a sense of urgency that in some cases is needed to provide the impetus for positive change. However, be careful not to use the idea of leaving to escape from having to face the difficult struggles inherent in marriage.
• If none of these tips help, consider seeking a marriage therapy consultation.
Tips for Women
• Recognize that insidious unhappiness, loneliness leads to acting out and/or marital failure.
• Recognize that resentments pile up and build walls. Think about the atmosphere you want to create and the effect it will have on both of you. Keep in mind that grudges and punishments are not effective strategies. They lead to impasses, and pollute the relationship – breeding isolation, helplessness, and despair.
• Be clear, concrete and explicit about the positive things your husband can do to help, even if it is obvious or he should know.
• Instead of giving the cold shoulder, when unhappy or mad, be explicit. Tell him, for example, “When I feel like you are not listening it makes me want to pull away from you.”
• When voicing unhappiness, keep the focus on what your husband can do concretely to make things better. When discussing problems, be as concise and brief as possible. Limit how much you say when it is your turn to speak and it and try to limit the number of issues you raise (preferably only one per discussion).
• Allow positive moments even if you are mad about something, and express appreciation for positive actions.
• Acknowledge your husband’s efforts to express love and be helpful, even if they are not exactly what you asked for.
• In gauging how to support him, treat him the way you would treat a friend.
• Support him in the interests and pursuits he enjoys which are a part of who he is – separate from the relationship. Manage your anxieties without restricting him.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The psychology of road rage has always intrigued me. For some reason, it turns normally rational people into raging lunatics over seemingly trivial matters. Usually placid, reserved people are transformed into foul mouthed, 1 finger saluting maniacs and drivers with an existing tendency towards anger are reduced to emotionally charged barbarians.
So what is it about being behind the wheel that causes these transformations? Is it the fact that cars are potential weapons that have the power to inflict devastation and anyone who uses them gets subconsciously charged by this innate power? I don’t think so.
I think it is because of the arrogance effect. That is, everything that occurs in traffic whilst in a car has a built in arrogance to it. This is not really anyone’s fault as such, it’s just a trait that has been built in to the system. Think of this: You are at the supermarket, browsing through the isles, in that ‘supermarket state’ where you are partly looking for something, partly looking at where you are going and partly thinking about the meaning of life. Someone bumps in to you. Startled for a split second, you stop and look at the perpetrator. In this moment, you aren’t offended or threatened, but you are trying to rationalize what has just happened and are looking at the person who has bumped into you for answers. The person immediately apologizes almost before the act of bumping has finished. This apology is usually coupled with a sincere kind of embarrassed smile. At this point you have your explanation: It was an accident and the person who bumped you is sorry for disturbing you. You are totally fine with this. You’ve made this accident yourself many times. You smile back and say something like, “that’s ok” and never think about it again. All is well. Perhaps you are both better people for having had this frivolous interaction.
But suppose that person didn’t apologize, suppose when your eyes gazed at theirs in search of that vital bit of communication, you were met with nothing. In fact, the person who bumped you didn’t just fail to acknowledge what had just happened, but had pretended you didn’t exist and to top it off grabbed the last can of baked beans from the shelf (the one you were just about to put in your trolley). All of a sudden, this interaction is not so pleasant. You would most likely be a little aggravated and retaliate. Needless to say, if this person then retaliated back in the same arrogant fashion in which he or she bumped in to you, things would escalate pretty quickly.
The problem with cars and traffic, is that this kind of behavior is almost unavoidable. When someone cuts you off in traffic, often it is an accident, or it was a necessary maneuver and at that point, you are back at the supermarket and someone has just bumped into you. You are seeking that act of curtosy that allows you to smile and say, “that’s ok” and then move on. The problem is though, that because it happened in a car, there is no way for that person to give you that human interaction that can defuse the situation in a split second. All you can see is the cold arrogance of the back of their car. It’s actaully not their fault (the arrogance, that is) or yours. It’s just that the human element has been taken out of the game and in your eyes, that person is the kind of person who would bump into someone at the supermarket and not even acknowledge that the person exists.
So what do you do? You probably beep the horn. That’s another great problem. While it is is almost impossible to inject that gentle human interaction into the situation, it’s quite easy to pump aggression into the situation. A nice loud pounding of the horn will do the job. True, often a wave out the window can act as a nice gesture of appreciation or apology, but it rarely happens because it relies on both drivers being able to see each other clearly (which is rare) and both drivers being able to not focus on the road for a second (which is dangerous) in order to interact. But the horn happens instantly and unmistakeably. And just like the supermarket scene, once the tone is set, things escalate quickly. Trading horns, slamming on breaks, speeding up and overtaking, swearing and yelling. These are the mild reactions of road rage. These are the reactions of normally rational, peaceful people. When there are a few aggressive people at play, things get very bad, very quickly.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A significant study from Duke, out today, provides the best evidence we’ve had thus far that bullying in childhood is linked to a higher risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. The results came as a surprise to the research team. “I was a skeptic going into this,” lead author and Duke psychiatry professor William E. Copeland told me over the phone, about the claim that bullying does measurable long-term psychological harm. “To be honest, I was completely surprised by the strength of the findings. It has certainly given me pause. This is something that stays with people.”
I’m less surprised, because earlier research has shown that bullying increases the risk for many problems, including low academic performance in school and depression (for both bullies and victims) and criminal activity later in life (bullies). But the Duke study is important because it lasted for 20 years and followed 1,270 North Carolina children into adulthood. Beginning at the ages of 9, 11, and 13, the kids were interviewed annually until the age of 16, along with their parents, and then multiple times over the years following.
Based on the findings, Copeland and his team divided their subjects into three groups: People who were victims as children, people who were bullies, and people who were both. The third group is known as bully-victims. These are the people who tend to have the most serious psychological problems as kids, and in the Duke study, they also showed up with higher levels of anxiety, depressive disorders, and suicidal thinking as adults. The people who had only experienced being victims were also at heightened risk for depression and anxiety. And the bullies were more likely to have an antisocial personality disorder.
The researchers also checked to see if the variation among the groups could be attributed to differences in socio-economic status, or family dysfunction/instability, or maltreatment (which they defined as physical or sexual abuse). All three groups—the victims, the bullies, and the bully-victims—had higher rates of some type of family hardship than the kids who didn’t experience bullying at all. For the victims, the risk of anxiety disorders remained strong even when taking into account family problems, though the risk of depression did not (it dropped just below statistical significance if the victims came from a stable home, Copeland said). For bully-victims, the risk of both anxiety and depression held, and for bullies, the risk of antisocial personality disorder did as well. In other words, these results suggest that bullying scars people whether they grow up in a home with two functional parents or with frequent arguing, not much parental supervision, divorce, separation, or downright abuse or neglect. It’s a finding that’s in line with other work, for example by Judith Rich Harris, who in her book The Nurture Assumption, shows that kids are very much influenced and affected by their peers.
Why does bullying have such far-reaching impact? Copeland and his team suggest the experience may change kids’ physiological response to stress, and their ability to cope. This looked especially stark for the bully-victims. “It was definitely the case that chronic bullying led to worse outcomes, but much more the case that being a bully-victim was associated with really significant problems,” Copeland said. The biggest cry for help is coming from that group. Fortunately, it’s a smaller number than victims overall.” Bully-victims, Copeland and others have found, have more problems at home and the most trouble with impulse control and aggression. Sometimes they do the dirty work for popular kids who bully to curry favor with them. “I don’t think things are working out socially for them in a lot of ways,” Copeland said.
It’s important to point out that Copeland and other researchers don’t define bullying broadly, in a way that encompasses a lot of mutual conflict among kids, or one-time fighting. Bullying is physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance—one kid, or group of kids, making another kid miserable by lording power over him. As Dan Olweus, the Scandinavian psychologist who launched the field of bullying studies in the 1960s, has been arguing for many years, this is a particular form of harmful aggression. And so the effort to prevent bullying isn’t about pretending that kids will always be nice to each other, or that they don’t have to learn to weather some adversity.
If the results of this study are dismaying because they indicate that bullying is permanently scarring, the findings also strengthen the argument for prevention. Copeland underscores this idea. “Consider me a reluctant convert, but I’m starting to view bullying the same way I do abuse in the home,” he said. “I honestly think the affects we’re observing here are just as potent. And that’s definitely not the way American researchers look at things. They want to know all about what parents are doing at home. Peers aren’t considered a priority. But these days, with all the time they spend on the Internet, kids are spending even more time with their peers, and that’s a factor we need to pay more attention to.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or, it can be a force that destroys the organization’s ability to fulfil it’s purpose on an everyday level. Managers play a critical role in determining which of these results will come about. The way the manager deals with conflict and anger will set the climate for employees.
There are a number of different anger/conflict situations that managers will face at one time or another. Each of these situations is slightly different, and may require different sets of skills.
■one employee angry or in conflict with another
■employee angry or in conflict with manager (you)
■one employee angry at someone in another organization
■two factions that habitually square off
We are going to look at employee angry that is directed towards you as a manager.
The Anger Iceberg
You should be aware that the anger you see is much easier to deal with than the anger that goes unexpressed by employees. You should also know that the large proportion of employee anger is not expressed directly to the “boss”. It is this anger that is destructive to your organization since it will surface covertly through activities such as back-stabbing, un-cooperativeness, rumour spreading, and poor performance.
One important management/leadership task is to be alert to cues that indicate that there is anger sitting below the surface, unexpressed. While it may be frustrating to bear the responsibility of identifying and dealing with the “iceberg under the surface”, it is an important part of building a positive climate where conflict can be resolved. If you wait for an employee to broach the subject, when it is clear there is a problem, you may be sacrificing a great deal.
We are going to focus on how employee anger that is out in the open can be dealt with so that there is a potential for increasing the level of respect and harmony, and by extension, productivity.
1. Conflict/Angry situations become negative and destructive when they are not dealt with promptly and effectively. When the situations are dealt with properly, there is a tendency for a team to get stronger and better.
2. While angry employees may appear to want a specific issue addressed, they are looking for something else that they see as equally or more important. They want to be heard. If you don’t provide a means for them to be heard, they will find other more
subversive ways to be heard (and you won’t like it much).
3. Staff will watch very closely to see how you handle anger directed at you. Even if you have a private discussion with an angry employee, staff will know about it. Your ability to lead will depend on your behaviour, and the interpretation of your behaviour.
4. Most people react to anger directed at them with a fight or flight reaction. That is there is a gut reaction which, unchecked, results in “firing back” with an aggressive manner, defending oneself, OR, avoidance. Only in rare occasions will these gut reactions result in dealing with anger effectively.
Tips & Techniques For Dealing With Overt Angry Behaviour
1. When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean in two weeks! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
2. Certain situations require privacy for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. However, if anger is expressed in a staff meeting, you can develop a positive climate in the organization by dealing effectively with it in public. One technique is to ask the angry employee whether they would like to discuss it now, or prefer to talk about it privately. Let them call the shot.
3. Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive tone and manner, and gently use questions. For example:
“You seem a bit upset. I would like to help even if you are angry at me. What’s up?”
4. If an employee refuses to talk about what’s bothering them, consider adjourning by saying:
“I can understand that you are hesitant to talk about this, but we would probably both be better off if we got it out in the open. Let’s leave it for a few days and come back to it”
Then follow up on the conversation.
5. Respond to the employee’s feelings first, not the issue underlying the feelings. Use empathy first by saying something like:
“It sounds like you are pretty annoyed with me. I would like to hear your opinion”.
6. Before stating “your side” or your perception of the situation, make sure you have heard what the person said. Use active listening.
“George, if I understand you correctly, you are angry because you feel that I have not given you very challenging assignments, and you feel that I don’t have any confidence in your abilities. Is that right?”
7. If the employee’s perceptions do not match your perceptions express your perceptions in a way that tries to put you and the employee on the same side. Your job is not to prove the employee wrong (even if they are). Trying to prove the employee is
incorrect is likely to increase the anger level even if you are right.
“George, I am sorry you feel that way. Let me explain what I think has happened so you can understand my thinking. Then we can work this out together.”
8. A technique used by expert negotiators is to establish agreement about something. Before getting into the issues themselves, lay the groundwork by finding something the two of you agree on. Again, the point here is to convey the message that you are on the same side.
“George, I think we agree that we don’t want this issue to continue to interfere with our enjoyment of our work. Is that accurate?”
9. At the end of a discussion of this sort, check with the employee to see how they are feeling. The general pattern is:
a) Deal with feelings first
b) Move to issues and problem-solving
c) Go back to feelings (check it out)
Ask the employee if they are satisfied with the situation, or simply ask “Do you feel a bit better?” You may not always get a completely honest response, so be alert to tone of voice and non-verbal cues.
If it appears that the employee is still upset or angry, you may want to let it pass for the moment. Allow the person to think about the situation away from you, THEN follow-up in a day or two. This is important because someone who is angry initially may “lose face” by letting the anger go immediately. Or, the employee might just need time to think about your discussion.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From talk show hosts and political party candidates to newspaper headlines and popular books, so much of what we see and read has to do with anger. Anger has become big business. This certainly makes sense, given the extent of the problems we’re facing today. Still, it makes it all the more important to understand this primary human emotion that many think of as bad or dangerous and others are eager to quickly embody and act out. Since much has already been written about anger as a negative emotion, let’s consider how anger can be positive. Let’s consider how your anger can actually be a gift. Here are four ways:
1.Anger gets you more in touch with yourself.
As we’ve certainly been seeing politically and socially, you can’t be complacent when you’re angry. Things that may have been bothering you for a while become intolerable. Problems that may have stayed just under the surface in your mind take center stage thanks to anger. Your anger demands your attention, opening up an inner dialogue between you and the problem and helping you gain clarity about what’s really important to you. No matter what your level of anger, from irritation to rage, you feel it because something matters to you. While your anger helps you clarify what’s important to you in the world around you, that’s only half of what anger can show you. And it may not be the most important half.
2.Anger shows you where you’re habitually triggered.
Clearly your anger focuses you outward, on what’s bothering you, but what makes anger really effective is using it first to help you focus inward. One of anger’s key gifts is that it can shine a light on your inner world. Try keeping an anger diary for a week — just a simple one where you write down the focus of any anger that you experience during the week and add what you wish had happened instead. Then, at the end of the week, look at your anger episodes to discern the pattern that will inevitably be there. Do you become angry when you feel disrespected? When you feel pressed for time? When you feel taken advantage of or misunderstood? Notice your pattern, and, if you want to take it a step deeper, think about who in your family of origin may have shared that pattern. Taking time for this exploration will show you both the outer and the inner cause of your anger, and that dual knowledge will help you decide on your best course of action.
3.Anger focuses you on your power, and, potentially, on creativity you may not even have known you have.
Action will inevitably be required. Anger is insistent. It demands a solution, and sometimes that demand leads to surprisingly creative results, especially if you’ve taken the time to explore your anger deeply. Do you remember a time when your anger demanded that you ask for help with a task? Find a better way to be in relationship? Reprioritize your schedule? Or your life? One of my clients used her anger to help her focus more deeply on her relationship with her family, and her exploration of her trigger pattern as well as her interpersonal communication, led to a more honest and satisfying relationship with her sister.
4.Anger shakes up the status quo.
This is the ultimate gift. The change that may have seemed too difficult to even contemplate becomes possible given the power of your anger. In fact, throughout history, a lot of the changes the world has made have come about with the help of anger. If you simply react in anger, you’ll probably end up causing more problems than you solve, but if you explore your anger, both its outer focus and its inner origins, you can make beneficial changes that you might not even have dreamed possible.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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