Author Archive

One Reason Why Grandparents Spoil Grandchildren.

bea and car

I was leaning on the car looking at my phone while I waited.  My grandson was strapped in his car seat, refusing to get out of the car.  He was tired and so was I.  I felt very tired.

It has already been a busy day.  I had agreed to hang out with my 5 ½ year old grandson during the day because it was Spring Break and both his parents were working.  I enjoyed doing it.  Today was a busier day than usual as my eldest son’s 40th birthday was coming up and his partner had planned a surprise birthday party tonight, which I agreed to host.

I picked up my grandson at 10:30 am and on the way to the tennis club I stopped to pick up the Tiramisu cake my daughter-in-law asked me to pick up.  My grandson and I went into the bakery.  He spotted some cookies that he like the look of and asked for one.  No problem.  He asked to buy one for his little friend who was going to join us for lunch with his grandmother.  He picked out one for him.

However, I couldn’t pick up the cake because they said they don’t make Tiramisu cake.  After texting my daughter-in-law, she remembered that it was at a different store.  We didn’t have time to get it then, so off we went to the tennis club.

I usually have a tennis lesson on Fridays from 12:00 – 1:00 pm.  So this Friday I shared it with my grandson.  He did very well for half an hour even though he got a blister.  I had the other half hour.  After the lesson we went down to the children’s area and played ping-pong while waiting for our friends.  Unfortunately they didn’t come.  My friend texted me to say that her grandson had gotten over-tired, had a meltdown and was napping.  So my grandson and I had lunch, played some more ping-pong and then headed to my home.

I still needed to pick up the cake.  On the way I pulled over and parked in front of the store.  My grandson refused to get out of the car.  I was tired and I knew he was tired, but I could not leave him in the car.  I told him I understood that he did not want to go into the store.  I told him I didn’t feel like going either, but I needed to get the cake.  The birthday party was tonight and if I didn’t get the cake now, I would not be able to get it.  He emphatically refused.

I did not want to fight with him.  I knew if I started to pressure him, he would resist more and things would go from bad to worse.  I didn’t want to go there.  I was in a bind.

I decided I would wait outside the car.  So here I am leaning against the car starting to look at emails on my cell phone.  I couldn’t help but think of all I had done for my grandson that day already, yet he was acting up.  I knew thinking that way would not lead to a good place for him or for me.  It didn’t take long before he cracked open the car door.  Relieved, I thought he was ready to co-operate.  I open the door more.  No such luck.  He still continued to say he was not going to go.  I told him (all this time I kept my voice in a reasonable straightforward tone) again that I needed to get the cake.  He continued to resist.  I thought about bribing him with a treat.  He’d already had a cookie earlier at the other bakery.  It was at this point I thought – this is why grandparents spoil their grandchildren – they don’t want to fight with them.  I certainly did not want to fight with him.  While I think there are times that bribing children is warranted, I did not want to bribe him either.  I love him too much to do that to him.

So, since I felt so tired, without telling him what I was going to do,  I decided I would sit in the driver’s seat and wait.  I closed his door and got into the driver’s seat.  As soon as I got into the car, he said to me in a calm voice, “Nana, I will go.”  I said, “Great!  Let’s get it over with so we can both get to my place.”

We happily went into the store.  I found the cake and got into the line up.  I remembered that I needed bananas so I asked him if he would go get me some.  He willingly did this, going by himself, picking out a bunch of bananas and joining me at the checkout.  Soon we were home at my place.  We were good with each other.

I felt good about how I handled the situation.  I did not yell at him, coerce him, call him names, complain about his behavior, bribe him, threaten him or fight with him. I did not give in to him.  If I had, I knew I would feel resentful and that would not be good for our relationship.  The time it took to wait  (less than a minute) was much shorter and easier than if I’d gotten into a battle with him.  It also strengthened our regard for each other.

The focus of the situation remained -I needed to do a task.  It did not evolve into an issue of who was boss and who had bratty behavior.

When children and adults are tired, behavior can often dissolve into power struggles.  Waiting calmly sometimes can avoid these struggles and take  shorter time and less energy than fighting.  Relationships are enhanced rather than damaged.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

 

 

Does my Ex Still Love Me?

Lets catch up

Mike opened up another card.  His mother had died recently and he was still receiving sympathy cards from friends, family and acquaintances. This card was from a woman he had not seen in over 25 years – an old flame from his university years. He had not thought of her in years.  He started reminiscing about those times and the fun they had together.  He tried to remember what had gone wrong between them and why he had married his current wife instead of her. He looked back down at the card.  She’d included her phone number and an invitation to ‘catch up’ with each other.  Should he call?

The divorce rate for first marriages is close to 50% and even higher for second and third marriages. The divorce rate for marriages of old flames who marry after 15, 20 and 30+ years is only 3-4%.  According to Nancy Kalish, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at California State University who is studying former lovers who reunite, 60% of reunions last.

We are drawn to the familiar.  We don’t have to get to know a former lover, an old flame knows us and we know them.  We already know their history and who they are.  We always remember the younger person we fell in love with.  In a new relationship we will never know the younger person inside the way we know a former lover.

We are living much longer now so it’s possible to have a marriage of 20-25 years, get divorced and have another marriage of 20-25 years.  Many people are looking up an old love at reunions and on the Internet.  Modern technology makes it so easy today.

Often though, when we remember an old love, we remember the part of the relationship that was good. This is especially true if we are unhappily married, or alone and longing for a love and companionship. So it’s important to remember why that relationship broke up – what went wrong. If neither of you has changed, then you might recreate the problems that were there before and be hurt again.

Dr. Kalish warns that rekindled relationship are intense. Before you do your search on Facebook or go to a reunion think it through.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Does your Relationship Suffer from these 3 Common Errors in Communication?

couple_mug_b

Error 1. Interrupting.

Couples who interrupt each other a lot have difficulty understanding each other and solving problems.  Often they end up arguing about who is right and who is wrong.  The intent of the message to each other gets lost. Being right about the facts or circumstances may not do any good.  [If you’re in an accident on the highway and you are killed, it does you no good to be right.]

Solution: Listen more, only asking for clarification if needed.  Look at the issue from your partner’s perspective.

Good communication happens when each listens to the other without correcting them and figures out what their partner is thinking, feeling, and doing/not doing, about what they are talking about.  It really means putting yourself in your partner’s place and looking at the issue through their eyes. Your partner will appreciate that you’ve heard their point of view.

Error 2. Jumping to solutions.

Normally at work, people figure out what’s at the heart of the problem before they try and fix it.  They don’t want to waste time, resources and money. But in relationships, one or both partners usually jump to solutions before they know what the real problem is. Often your partner does not want a solution, he or she wants to bounce something off you or just connect with you.  Other times they want to be understood and known by you on a deeper level.

Solution: Listen intently and dig deeper into what your partner is bringing to your attention.

Be patient, slowing down may help resolve an issue faster. Figure out what is at the heart of the issue before you suggest solutions.

Error 3. Analyzing each other.

Couples often analyze their partner’s feelings, opinions and behaviors.  For instance, “You’re just insecure.” ” You’re just like your father.” or ” You’re just trying to get out of doing your part.”  The analysis may be right, but saying so can really hurt the relationship.

Solution: Stick to your partner’s behaviors that bother you and ask for change.

Keep your analysis to yourself.    If there is good will in the relationship you will probably get the change you want.  If you don’t get it, maintain good will yourself and figure out ways that you can change.  Change in one partner impacts upon the other, who often responds to change with change. When you make changes you don’t have to wait for your partner to make them.

Start right now improving your communication.  Don’t wait for your partner.  Positive efforts are likely to pay off.  You will be happier because you feel good about yourself.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Triangulation Part 3: Why Kids Fight.

triangulation 3

Children fight for many reasons.  One of the major reasons they fight is to engage parent(s).

Years ago I can remember being busy in the kitchen.  My two boys, around ages 3 and 5, were playing in the living room.  Then they started fighting. Without saying a word, I stopped what I was doing and went into the bathroom.  Within seconds, they had joined forces and were banging on the bathroom door trying to get me to come out.

Children like to have their parents involved with them. Before children start to misbehave or fight with each other, they usually ask parents to play with them, read to them, or just go for a walk or bike ride. Often they offer to help.  Lots of time children will play well together waiting for the parents to  finish their work. If none of these positive ways to get attention work, they will find negative ways.  Mostly, I don’t think children do it consciously.  I believe, for them, any kind of involvement is better than no involvement.  They need the adult contact.

Often parents are legitimately busy since there is so much to do.  Other times, parents just don’t want to engage for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’ve already spent a good chunk of time with the children.  Maybe they are tired, sick or distracted with other things. If children keep getting put off, then they start to do things that will bug the parents until they get involved.

A parent will usually get involved in their children’s fighting by “rescuing” the more vulnerable child. Usually, it’s the youngest, but not always.  Some younger children are more vibrant and determined than their older siblings.  Some older siblings are passive.  Rescuing one sibling from the other can create a dynamic of VICTIM-BULLY-ARBITRATOR.  The weaker child learns he or she can get the parent’s attention  by being a victim. The stronger child learns that he or she  can get the parent’s attention by being a bully.  The parent feels needed as the rescuer/arbitrator. Children mistakenly think they have to have parents to settle disputes and parents, lacking faith in their children,  believe they are not able to get along.

Most of the time weaker children do need to be protected from stronger siblings.  HOW parents do that is a key to maintaining good relationships between the siblings and between the parent and each child.

When parents are aware of the dynamics of triangulation they have more options in handling it. In any case, without judging treat both children the same. 

Choose to be a part of the triangle:

  • Remove from both children what they are fighting over, e.g. a game, activity or toy.
  • Help the children negotiate and brainstorm with each other. Make sure each child has a turn to speak.
  • Ignore the fighting and suggest that you all do an activity together – work or play.

Decline to be a part of the triangle:

  • Send both children to their rooms or to different parts of the home for a specified time.
  • Send both children outside. Children’s play usually improves when they are sent outside.
  • Express your faith in your children that they can work things out for themselves.
  • Remove yourself from the situation.

Of course, all of the above suggestions depend on the situation.  Some will work in some situations, but not in all.  Parents need to consider the circumstances and choose the best option.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Triangulation Part 2: That’s between the Two of You

triangulation 2

Shawna, a 30 year old woman and her father are enjoying dinner in a restaurant. Father’s cell phone rings and he answers it. It’s his wife. She angrily demands to know when he will be home. He gets flustered. He hands the cell phone to his daughter, saying he can’t hear his wife. Shawna gets exasperated with her mother for once again putting pressure on her father. Most of her life, Shawna has tried to protect her father from her mother’s domination. She grabs the phone, yells at her mother to leave her father alone and hangs up. Her father gets upset because he knows his wife will be furious with him when he gets home. He can no longer enjoy his time with his daughter. His daughter can no longer enjoy her time with her father.  The rest of their conversation is spent talking about Dad’s relationship with Mom. They focus so much on Mom, it’s like she’s there with them.

What happened is triangulation.

In this scenario there is ongoing tension between the mother and father.  Both father and mother triangulate the daughter – mother by phoning and interrupting the father-daughter time, and  father by giving his daughter the cell phone and telling her he can’t understand the mother. The daughter allows herself to be triangulated by taking the phone and getting angry at the mother.

A better approach (avoiding triangulation):

Possibility 1: Mother does an activity by herself or with someone else.  She does not call.

Possibility 2: Father turns off his cell phone, or lets it go to voice mail.

Possibility 3: Father answers the call and deals with it himself, does not involve their daughter.

Possibility 4:  Daughter does not accept the cell phone when father holds it out to her.  She refuses to be hooked in and reassures her father that he can handle it. She says, “This is between you and Mom.  I’m going to stay out of it. You can handle it.” Father deals with the call. Father and daughter continue their time together, not talking about mother.

Mother and Father will reorganize their relationship differently if they stop triangulating – or are unable to triangulate  their daughter.  That would be healthy for all concerned.

Be aware of triangulation in your relationships.   Once aware, you can choose to be involved or you can respectfully decline.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Communication Skill 8: Reflective listening

reflective listening

One of the most powerful communication skills is Mirroring, also called Reflective Listening. As a mirror reflects back one’s image, the receiver verbally reflects back to the sender words that let the sender know for sure that the message sent was the message received.

Mirroring is difficult to learn but well worth the time and effort. It pays off big time in developing solid connections between partners. For that matter, it works with people in general. Often when couples I work with learn this skill, one or both will report back how mirroring was effective in a situation at work, with one of their children or with a friend.

Reflecting Listening is NOT repeating the message word for word. That is called parroting. Parroting is useful at times, such as making an appointment or date.

Mirroring is NOT repeating or even remembering all the details of what was said. People think that just because they can repeat back everything that was said means they were listening. Hearing the words is not enough. Hearing the message the words are conveying, and saying that message back to the sender, is mirroring.

Mirroring is NOT saying “I understand.” Or “I get it.” The receiver may or may not understand, but the sender has no way to gauge whether they do or not. If the receiver actually does not understand, things could get worse later. “But I thought you understood!”

Mirroring involves the receiver putting his or her own viewpoint aside and letting the sender know in words that they see or know the sender’s point of view.

The receiver puts into words what the sender:

  • thinks and believes
  • feels (emotions)
  • has done, has not done, is doing or wants to do (behaviors)
  • wants and needs
  • values
  • wants you to understand

Example:

  • Stan: I expected you back from your trip yesterday morning. I had made plans for us. I was really looking forward to going out together. I can’t believe you would not let me know you’d been delayed.
  • Cindy: (instead of getting defensive she reflective listens to Stan) You’re really disappointed that I didn’t get back yesterday. You missed me.
  • Stan: (relieved) I sure did. I’m glad your back.
  • Cindy: I’m sorry I didn’t let you know about the delay. I understand you’re disappointed, and I’m glad to know you missed me.

Stan had not said he was disappointed or that he missed Cindy. Cindy picked his feelings up and mirrored back to Stan how he felt. Even if Stan had actually forgotten that she had told him she would be late, Cindy is better off doing what she did, reflective listening, rather than arguing, defending herself or withdrawing in silence. As a result of Cindy’s reflective listening, what stood out for both of them was the positive connection between them – he missed her and she likes that he missed her.

Couples who are positively emotionally connected to each other have relationships that are strong through the good times and the bad times.

Caution: When mirroring, reflect back only the message sent. Do not add more than was said or try to put your own message into your response. That is, don’t put a spin on your response. That wont work, and it could easily make communication worse. Wait for your turn to say what you want to say.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Communication Skill 7: Instant Replay

replay

When people have a negative interaction with each other, one or the other can ask for a replay of the interaction, during which they each alter their exchange in a positive way.

Example:

  • Let’s start over.
  • Let’s re-do this.
  • Let’s try this again.

Yesterday I saw a couple for the first time.  They are a feisty couple, very engaged with each other, but at this point in their relationship, not in a good way. In the session, I was able to get them to take responsibility for what each was doing that was not working for them.  I asked each to take responsibility for what they were doing in their interaction and work to change themselves rather than trying to change the other.  We discussed specific ways they could change. Both are strong-willed yet still open to change.  They were desperate for change and willing to try something different.

At the end of the session, while I was writing out the receipt, the couple had a small interaction that was their usual way of reacting to each other.  Each was assuming the negative about the other. They realized what they had just done and were smiling at catching themselves doing it. [This type of smile is called the recognition reflex]. Neither knew what to do next.

So I said to them, “Let’s back up and do this interaction again – only differently.”

The original interaction:

Joe was smiling because he felt good about how the session went.  He was looking at Amanda wondering how she was feeling about the session, but he did not say anything.  He was apprehensive that her reaction would be negative.

Amanda saw the look on Joe’s face and said to him, “When you crinkled your face up like that it makes me feel insecure about how the session went.”

The new interaction:

I said to Joe – Smile again at Amanda, and tell her how you were feeling about the session.

Smiling, Joe said to Amanda, “I feel good about how the session went.”

With a warm smile, Amanda readily responded, “So do I.”

Both smiled even more.  The positive emotional connection between them was clearly evident.

I thought,   “This couple is fun to work with.”

Couples, and others, can learn to shift their interactions from negative to positive by backing up, redoing them differently.  They just need to learn what to say that would work.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Communication Skill 6: Turn your questions into statements.

question mark

People often ask questions when they are really making statements.

Sometimes this is intentional, but mostly people don’t even realize they are communicating in this way. At face value a question is a request for information or clarification. A statement disguised as a question is about the dynamics between the sender and the receiver.

Examples:

  • a) Do you feel like seeing a movie tonight?

May actually mean:

I want to see a movie tonight, and I want someone to go with me.

Or

I want to do something, but I’m reluctant to ask you directly because you might reject me.

  • b) Are you leaving now?

May actually mean:

I don’t want you to leave now, but I am shy about saying so.

  • c) Don’t you have to be somewhere at 8:00?

May actually mean:

I want you to leave now so I can get back to what I was doing.

  • d) Did you take out the garbage?

May actually mean:

I want you to take out the garbage.

  • e) Are you coming to bed soon?

May actually mean:

I’m feeling randy, and I’m hoping I can entice you into making love.

  • f) Have you done your homework?

May actually mean:

If you have not done your homework, you’re going to be in trouble, because I need you to do well in school.

  • g) What are you doing?

Usually means:

I don’t like what you’re doing!

But depending on the tone, it could mean:

I really like what you are doing!

Usually the person being asked this kind of question takes it at face value, as a request for information, and answers accordingly.  This may develop into an argument that neither want to have on a topic that is not the real issue.

If a husband asks his wife “Do you have to go out tonight?” she may explain that she has made a commitment and needs to keep it. “I promised Janie I’d have coffee with her.” or “ I need to get groceries.” The conversation may escalate into an argument about whether or not she really has to go or that she is going out too much. Perhaps the husband feels neglected and perhaps she feels he’s trying to control her.

What the husband is may be saying is “We’ve both been really busy lately, and I would like to spend some time with you.”  If he had made this statement, his wife would know what is really going on with him and be able to respond to the real issue.  She could generate options. She could set up a time to be together soon.  She could come home early.  She could put off what she was going to do to another time.  Depending on the situation, she could invite him to go with her.  Now the couple is communicating clearly with each other.  Each feels cared about rather than frustrated.

 

All too often the person asking the questions already knows the answer.

  • a)   Did you eat a cookie? (In a harsh tone to a child with cookie crumbs on her face.)

The child, sensing the parent is angry, denies it. This sets the child up to lie. Now the issue shifts from cookie eating to lying – harmful to the relationship.

It is better to make a statement:  I see cookie crumbs on your face.  This sets children up to tell the truth and maintain good relations between adult and child.

 

  • b)   Were you in my workshop? (In an accusing tone knowing spouse had rearranged things.)

A question asked this way means: The workshop is my domain, and I do not want you to do anything to it.

Better to make a clear statement: You cleaned up my workshop.  I appreciate the intent, but I want you to leave that to me.  I like to organize it the way that I want.

 

Usually a question is just a question – a request for information. But many questions are really disguised statements with the sender’s real message hidden within them. When that happens people can feel interrogated, manipulated, attacked or put on the spot. When questions are disguised statements a person can feel set up and get defensive. These kinds of questions create resentment which leads to lots of arguments and poor communication. After awhile others become wary of any questions. Before long relationships deteriorate.

By making statements instead of asking questions communication remains clear. The real issues are more likely to get addressed in a friendly, respectful and even caring manner.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Communication Skill 4: Make the Fuzzy Clear.

fuzzy

Too often in conversations and interactions people assume they know what the other person is talking about or doing. Without checking out their assumptions they act as if what they assume is true or fact. Sometimes their assumptions are indeed true and communication is clear. However, when their assumptions are incorrect communication tends to go sideways.

In relationships we know our partners well. Usually we know what they think, feel, value, expect, get upset and excited about. Sometimes though, knowing each other too well creates blind spots. Clarifying can help navigate the blind spots.

PRONOUNS

Pronouns often make communication fuzzy: I, mine, he, she, his, hers, they, them, you, yours, we, us, one, it, this, that, these, those, other(s), etc.

Example A:

Bob’s mother and her sister are coming for dinner.

  • Bob: My mom said my aunt is a little unsure that you want her to come. She wants you to give her a call.
  • Ann: (thinking the ‘her’ referred to is Bob’s aunt) I don’t feel comfortable calling her.
  • Bob: (for Bob the ‘her’ is his mother) What’s the big deal? Give her a call.
  • Ann: (feels pressured and wants to avoid) It’s your family. You do it. I bought the groceries, and I’m making the dinner. You haven’t done much at all.

THE FIGHT IS ON. Now the issue shifts away from making a phone call.

Make the fuzzy clear:

  • Bob: My mom said my aunt is a little unsure that you want her to come.  She wants you to give her a call.
  • Ann: Who, your mom or your aunt?

Example B:

Greg in conversation with a friend.

  • Greg to a friend: Yesterday I really impressed my boss with what I did. You know, when you get an opportunity to make more of an impact you should go for it.

[When people say “you” they could be referring to you,themselves, or everyone one in general.]

Make the fuzzy clear:

  • Friend to Greg: When you say “you” do you mean yourself, everyone or me?

Knowing specifically who or what is involved helps you make decisions that work out better for you:

Example C:

  • Siggie to Jane: We’re going to Joan’s for a dinner. Do you want to come?

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Jane to Siggie: (Thinking – It depends on who is going and whether she will have to do anything or not.) Who is “we”?   Is it potluck or not?

Example D:

  • Joe to John: I’m working late every night next week. The week after I’m going out of town for 3 days. It gets more and more difficult.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • John to Joe: (What is the “it'”? Working a lot? Traveling? Keeping up? Getting enough time with family?) What is it that is gets more difficult for you?”

Fewer misunderstandings lead to easier relationships.

QUALIFIERS

Words that qualify can have different meaning for different people.

Sometimes, early/late, in a little while, high/low, hard/soft, big/small, strong/weak, fast/slow, positive/negative, mostly/slightly, more/less, helpful/not helpful, harmful, safe/dangerous etc.

When people communicate they often have different ideas in mind. It is often helpful to inquire more about what someone is thinking or intending before you respond. What is difficult for one person may seem easy to another. What is slightly stressful for one person may be really stressful for another.

Example E:

  • Lindsay to Sam:  I’m going to be late tomorrow night.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Sam to Lindsay: When you say you will be late, how late is late?

Example F: 

  • Kim to Julie: I want to earn more money.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Julie to Kim: How much more do you have in mind?

Example G:

  • Fred to Mike: Stop doing that, it’s harmful.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Mike to Fred: How do you see it as harmful’? (Mike thinks he knows, but perhaps it is not what he expects.)

The key here is the word YOU. The receiver may or may not see it as harmful, but to the sender it is harmful. Rather than argue about whether or not it is harmful, inquire how the sender views it, or experiences it as harmful.

IDIOSYNCRATIC (personal) MEANING

People often use the same words or expressions but have different meanings for them. Often the meanings are only slightly different, but sometimes they are vastly different.

Take the word ‘drunk’ for instance. We all have a common meaning for ‘drunk’. Yet a person who had a parent who was a mean drunk when they were growing up has a different additional meaning for ‘drunk’ than a person who had a parent who occasionally got drunk and was funny when they did.

Example H (Words):

  • My Tennis Instructor: “I no longer trust Federer.” (Federer is a top tennis player)

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Me: In what way don’t you trust him? (I was inquiring about what he meant by the word ‘trust’.)

Example I (Phrases):

‘Losing it’ refers to a range of behaviours varying from almost nothing to extreme violence. For some people ‘losing it’ means saying something or doing something when usually they say or do nothing. Some people use this expression when they just mean that they lost their focus. For others ‘losing it’ means they became physical, either with only themselves (punched a hole in the wall), or with someone else (punched someone else). ‘Losing it’ could also mean becoming emotional. For some people this could mean showing a few tears while for others it means they became hysterical.

  • Jim to Rick: Boy, I lost it with my manager yesterday.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Rick to Jim: When you say you ‘lost it’ what exactly did you say and do?

Inquiring early in a conversation keeps communication clear. Clarifying leads to clearer understanding, effective communication, and less reactivity. Fewer misunderstandings lead to easier relationships.

I encourage all of you to assume less and clarify more.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Preventable Medicine for Skin Hunger – the Deprivation of Touch.

Yesterday I had my regular bi-weekly full body massage.  I knew it would feel good but knowing it would feel good and the experience of feeling good are two different things.  It’s like, “Aaaaaaah that’s what I’ve been missing.”, but didn’t know it.

I often need massage because I have some injury from tennis, looking after my grandson or some other activity.  But the best massages are when I’m fully fit and healthy. After several years my massage therapist knows my body better than I do.  It’s nice having someone know your body so well.  He knows where I carry my tension and works it out of my body when I didn’t even know it was there.  He knows where I’ve had injuries and makes extra focus on those areas.

I enjoy deep tissue massage. Not everybody does.  I like the strong pressure on my skin and muscles even when it sometimes hurts.  The lighter massage feels pleasant but it does not impact me the way deep tissue does.

Yesterday, as my massage therapist was working on my lower leg, I was reminded of the experience of making passionate love in the past. I did not feel sexually aroused.  The strong pressure on my skin and muscles made me feel – it is difficult to put into words – alive, present, impacted and loved.  I did not feel loved by my massage therapist – of course we have a good report– it was the pressure he was applying that reminded me of feeling loved during passionate love-making in the past when I was touched that intensely.  It felt good to remember.

During massage I find it difficult to stay focused on the part of my body being touched.  I can do it for short times and then my mind goes off to the future or the past.  Then I’m brought back to the present by the wonderful pressure on my skin and muscles.  I stay with the sensations for awhile.  It’s difficult to stay in the moment, but oh so satisfying when I do.  I experience a pleasant kind of grogginess at the end of the session. I move slowly.

Humans need to touch and be touched.  That’s why we love children and pets because they seek us out for touch and we get our need to touch and be touched by caring for them and playing with them. Couples frequently massage each others’ backs, feet and, of course, other parts.  When my sons were teens, giving them occasional back rubs was a way I connected with them and expressed love without them thinking I was being soppy.

It is important to have regular massage treatments if you are not in a current relationship.  Skin hunger can build up over time.  Without intending to, people who are deprived often act out sexually (especially when alcohol and drugs are involved) and have regrets afterward.

In our current North American life style we often are too much in our heads – thinking thinking thinking –  which disconnects us from our bodies.  Massage helps us keep connected to our bodies and helps us remain balanced between mind and body in a healthy way.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

“Monkey Fingers” Tell us that the Brain is Aways Adapting to Current Life Situations and Events.

I read a fascinating book while on holidays titled, The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.  He puts forward research results in easy to read language.  As the title indicates, it is about brain plasticity;  how the brain, animal and human, can adapt and change in amazing ways.

The one study that stood out for me was the one about monkeys.  The researches tracked the neural pathways of a monkey from its brain to each of its five digits on one hand.  Then they stitched together two of the digits.  After several months, they tracked the neural pathways from the brain to the digits again.  This time, the neural pathways of the two fingers stitched together had combined into one pathway.  They then unstitched the fingers.  After several months they tracked the neural pathways again.  Sure enough, the united pathway had separated again, providing separate neural pathways for each digit.

This shows that the brain is constantly adapting to current changes, events and situations.

That gives us humans an idea how our brains change physically and even emotionally.  When we make changes in the present our brains adapt.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

The Woman at Work who Grabbed onto her Desk when Panic Attacks Struck.

Once upon a time there was a woman, (I’ll call Jo) who was suffering from panic attacks.  They occasionally happened at work, or in the early morning before she got to work.  She said the panic attacks came out of the blue; she never knew when one was going to strike her.  She would be sitting at her desk at work and suddenly get a wave of panic so intense she would have to grab onto her desk so she wouldn’t run out the door. The attacks were happening more often and she dreaded the next one.   She claimed that her job was not the issue – it wasn’t difficult, just boring.  Her main focus was how to manage the panic attacks.  Her doctor prescribed some Ativan and referred her for counseling.

Panic attacks seem to occur ‘out of the blue’ but they really don’t.  They are like a tidal waves, they rise up, crest and subside.  The therapy started with helping her handle the panic attacks by breathing through them.  This helped her feel less out of control.  Then focus shifted to increasing her awareness of herself.  She was so focused on trying to avoid a panic attack that she had lost contact with herself.  She was focused on the symptom, not the cause of the symptom.

Her office job was a problem for her.  She was not just bored, she was bored to tears.  She had a dream of getting a degree in biology so she could teach, but she considered doing that out of the question.  She couldn’t afford it.

Work was not the only problem.  She and her husband were totally renovating their home and they were having lots of arguments about it.  Money was tight and she needed her income.  Quitting work was not an option.

As Jo got more in touch with herself, she realized the precursors to the panic attacks.  Gradually she became so aware that she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck go up the closer she got to work.  She no longer could deny how intolerable her job was.

Jo finally told her husband how unbearable her job was.  To her surprise, he understood.  Once the renovations were completed, they remortgaged, finding the money needed for her to go to university.

People often focused on symptoms instead of the cause of the symptoms.

Sometimes people are distracted by the symptoms, which gets in the way of finding the cause.  Other times, focusing on the symptoms helps them avoid what they do not want to face.  People are often convinced there is no solution (which is occasionally true) so they bury their heads.   But usually once they are clear what is causing the problem, they find a solution.  Once the cause is identified, even though it may be difficult, appropriate changes can be made. Change is what is needed.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

I can’t Face Putting on my ‘Monkey Suit’ and Going to Work Anymore.

Once upon a time a man who could no longer function at work.  He was severely depressed on permanent disability.  He said for years he would get up in the morning, put on his ‘Monkey Suit’ and go to work.  Then one morning, after a particularly bad day the day before, he could not get out of bed.  “I just could not face putting on my ‘Monkey Suit’  one more time.

He had all the symptoms of severe depression: no energy, sad all the time, lost confidence in himself, lack of interest in anything, felt flat or numb, felt like a failure, felt like he was being punished, highly critical of himself, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, thoughts of suicide, difficulty making the smallest decisions, highly irritable, difficulty concentrating, very pessimistic about his future and total loss of interest in sex.

He stayed at home and did nothing.  He would stay up late at night and into the early hours playing video games or watching TV.  That time of the night he felt no expectations, from himself or others, to be working.  Also, he had time to himself as the rest of his family slept.  Then he would sleep late in the mornings or nap in the afternoons.  His doctor had referred him for therapy and finally, after six months, he went.

In therapy he talked about how he had never liked his work because it did not fit who he was.  He had to act like someone else to be able to do it.  He thought about changing careers but was not sure what he wanted to do.  He got caught up in the usual phases of life and needed to earn a living to support his family.  He felt trapped, so just kept on going – that is until he could no longer do it.  His life was at a crossroads.

As he talked over many sessions, it became clear to me that he was very angry on some level, although he did not sound angry or act angry.  He said he did not feel angry.  I believed him.  I knew he was out of touch with his own emotions.  Every time he put on his ‘Monkey Suit’ he had to disconnect from himself and what he felt.

One day I gave him some homework.  I suggested that he make a ‘bat’ out of newspaper  – roll up a newspaper, wrap duct tape around it.  Then find a place in his home where he could hit with the ‘bat’. I told him the ‘rules’ of doing attacking type motions.

When he came to the next session he looked different.  His face had changed. He was animated. He told me what he’d done.  He said he made five of the newspaper bats and took them down to his basement.  He hit on a pole with each ‘bat’ until it was in shreds.  He said after all 5 ‘bats’ were in shreds he lay in an exhausted heap on top of them.  He had accessed his rage and channeled it onto the pole.

As a result, he came alive, reconnecting to his emotions.  His emotions let him know what he liked and what he did not like.  Gradually he started making changes.  Over the next weeks and months he found a new meaning for his life which gave him direction.  This led to a new career which was congruent with who he was as a person.  No more “Monkey Suit’!

Sometimes, when we over ride our wants and needs, when we procrastinate in taking action to make the changes we need to make,  our body shuts down and forces us to take stock.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

The Man who Regretted his Impulsive Decision to Change Jobs.

Once upon a time, a man whom I will call Charles, was deeply distressed. He had recently changed jobs and was confused about the decision he had made.

Charles had enjoyed the work at his previous job and was very successful at it. He and his boss occasionally disagreed on how to handle situations yet they usually worked things out.  One day they had a particularly bad argument about one account. Charles was livid.

Charles was very personable, connecting easily with others in his field.  As a result, over the years, he had received a couple of serious offers from other people to come and work for them.  He was pleased about these offers but had not been interested in taking any action on either of them.

When Charles had this huge argument with his boss, he decided to look into one of the offers that particularly interested him.  He got the job and gave notice at his current work.

At the time Charles came for therapy he had been in his new job for three weeks.  Although he liked the work, he found it lonely.  He worked on his own.  He missed the work at his previous job and the people he worked with.

Through therapy, Charles realized his main motivation to change his job had been to get back at his boss.  He felt his boss did not respect or appreciate him.  His hurt shifted into anger, which acted like an engine, driving him to want to prove a point to his boss.  He realized his hurt and anger had distorted his thinking.

Also, he realized how important the people he worked with were to him and how camaraderie in the work place mattered to him.  Working with people he respected and enjoyed was part of what made him tick.

He deeply regretted his impulsive decision.  He said that if he had been more aware of what was going on for him, he would have handled the situation with his boss differently.

The Job Decision Quiz is designed to help people in situations like Charles, avoid making decisions they regret.  Sorting through the statements helps individuals identify factors important to them.  It helps them clarify their priorities about work and the work environment.  It also can point out where a person might be stuck or blocked in their decision-making.  All this can keep thinking straight.

The best decisions evolve from knowing oneself clearly.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Do you Know how Female Sexual Arousal Works?

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended Dr. Marta Helliesen’s workshop on Sex, Brain and Gestalt Therapy.  In the workshop she explained the physiology of male sexual arousal – the pressure of blood flow to the genitals produces an erection.  Then she asked if anyone knew the physiology of female sexual arousal.  Silence.   I knew but felt too shy to say so.  No one else answered.  I wonder how many others knew but were too shy to speak up.

Dr. Hellisen explained to us that female arousal is similar to male sexual arousal.  During arousal the blood flows to the genitals and vaginal area.  The pressure of the blood flow to the area causes some of the plasma to seep through the walls of the vagina and tissue of the genitals, creating the moisture (nature lubricant) which facilitates intercourse.  This process takes longer for women than it takes men to get an erection.  She said women’s bodies can only do so much of this which is why it can be helpful to use commercial lubricants.

When I was talking to her at the end of the workshop I mentioned to her that I had known the answer but felt too shy to say so.  She said that most people do not know this about female arousal.   This surprises me that so many people do not know how the human female body functions.  Humans do much better handling anything if they understand how it works.  If men and women understood why it takes a women’s body more time to be ready for intercourse, they both may be more invested in foreplay.  Men may also realize it’s to their benefit, as well as women’s, to take the time.

Sexual relations are such an important part of our lives and yet we still don’t educate our population about it.  Is it because it’s hard to talk about or because we don’t want to show our ignorance?  Maybe both?

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

How Pornography can Damage Your Sex Life – or Not.

I just recently (June 2010) attended the AAGT (Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy) conference in Philadelphia.  I attended an interesting and informative workshop, titled: Sex & Brain and Gestalt Therapy, given by Dr. Marta Helliesen, a sex therapist [and former neuroscientist] in New York.   www.mkhelliesen.com.

I know that pornography is creating problems for both men and women in relationships in different ways.  I know that some people who look at pornography develop difficulty relating to a partner, but I did not know what created the problem.  Because I could not explain why it happened, I was often dismissed as   ‘just a woman’ and ‘not understanding men’.   Dr. Helliesen helped me understand how pornography can get in the way of normal sexual functioning with a partner.

People who look at pornography are primarily using their visual sense, in a heightened way.  The brain has a need for novelty and through pornography, especially on the Internet, it is quick and easy to get new and more graphic pictures.  This means that arousal and organism are quickly and easily achieved.  During these times men are not using their other senses of smell, sound, taste and touch that are normally involved during sexual encounters with a partner.  Without realizing it, they start to ‘turn off’ these senses and only focus on the visual.  This creates difficulty when they are with a partner. They find it more difficult to experience arousal and orgasm through smell, taste, sound and touch.  Because pornography so quickly arouses them and satisfies their interest and sexual urges, they become impatient with interactions with their partner.

It is possible, although difficult, for people to look at pornography and not shut down their other senses. They are still able to enjoy sexual arousal and orgasm with a partner.  They are able to still find novelty in the nuances of touch, taste, sound and smell and experience pleasure in the time spent. They are able to connect emotionally to their partners and relate through sexual interaction.

Healthy sexual functioning and healthy sexual relationships are important to most people.  It is helpful to know what can go wrong and why.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Giggling my way out of a power struggle with my 2 year old grandson.

I was hanging out with my two and a half year old grandson one Saturday at my home, playing with him as usual.  He spied some rocks that I’ve picked up in my travels at various places around the world.  He  picked them up and started to throw them.  I said to him, “No flying rocks in the house.”  He thought that was hilarious.  I guess I shouldn’t have called them ‘flying rocks’.  He wanted to throw them again.  I grabbed the rocks before he could get them and would not give them to him.  Well,  he went into a rage!  The classic 2 year old rage!  I thought, “Oh oh.  I’m in a power struggle.”  To my surprise, I started to giggle.  He was a little surprise, but kept on with his tantrum.  Still giggling, I got up and ran into my bedroom and rolled across the bed.  He came running after me.  The chase was on!  As I rolled across the bed,  I hid the rocks under the pillows.  Then I rolled off the other side of the bed and ran out of the room. By now he was laughing and giggling too.  I’m sure watching Nana roll across the bed was hoot.  The rocks were forgotten and our fun afternoon continued.

A week later we’re hanging out again.  He saw the rocks sitting on the night table beside my bed.  I thought, “I should have hidden them.”  He tried to stack them up and was having difficulty doing it.  I helped him stack them.  Once stacked, he lost interested in them and went on to something else.  He showed no interest in throwing them.

I remember this type interaction happening with my sons when they were little.  But giggling to shift out of a power struggle was not something I could have done back then.  It certainly never occurred to me to do so.  I was not as secure in myself then. Also, I was a much more serious person than I am now.

I also realize that being a grandmother is very different than being a parent. I hangout with my grandson a few hours a week – it’s not the 24/7 parents deal with.  Even so, I wished I had been able to handle power struggles with more lightness when I’d been a young mother.

There are many ways to get out of power struggles with others.  Try giggling your way out of power struggles with your children or grandchildren – maybe even adults.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

My Highs and Lows of the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies

For me, the best part of attending the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies was the energy I experienced from the moment I got into the line up to enter the stadium to walking out with everyone in the rain afterwords.  It was a happy crowd.

Being a participant of the ceremonies is very different from watching it on TV.  I felt a part of it.  Sixty thousand people!  It is the energy you experience that makes the difference.  You don’t get that when you watch it on TV.  You don’t just hear the cheering, clapping and pounding on the drums, you feel the vibrations from it. During the program there is so much to see.  When you watch it on TV, the camera decides what you’re going to focus on.  When you are there, you can look around at all the activities going on. You see things that the camera never shows. You can focus on what you want to look at.

Our seats were on the floor of the stadium, close enough to the stage to see the faces of all the performers. It was especially fun to see all the smiling faces of the athletes as they entered.  They were really enjoying the experience.

One theme of the ceremonies was the 4 different First Nations people, and the rest of Canadians, welcoming the athletes. The other theme was winter, apropos for a winter Olympics, complete with different types of fake snow – soap suds?? and confetti.  White was the color of the day.  It created a great atmosphere.

I enjoyed most of the program.  It was impressive. I liked how the movie of the snowboarder on the mountains ended with him [albeit at different person] bursting into the stadium on his snowboard. I was amazed at the different landscapes that were created by projecting images on the huge white stage. There were ice fields, oceans, fields and mountains conveying the vastness of Canada.  There were killer whales swimming in the oceans, spouting up misty air as they surfaced.  There were thunderstorms and aurora borealis.  There was so much to see.  K.D Lang’s performance of Leonard Cohen song, Alleluia, was very moving.

I enjoyed sharing the experience with my sons and my good friend, SS.  In the middle of the program my eldest son leaned over, kissed me on the cheek and thanked me for bringing him.

Now the downside.

When the National Anthem started, we were all standing.  I sang the first line of the anthem and then –  the anthem when sideways.  It was a jazzed up version of the anthem which might have been fine in some other situation or setting but certainly not this one.  It did not make our hearts ‘glow’.  I was just standing there confused and puzzled.  I did not feel right.  I felt disconnected from everyone.  Not being able to sing the National Anthem together with 60,000 people was a huge unexpected disappointment.  What a missed opportunity!  I’ve lived in Vancouver for almost 44 years.  I’ve seen the city change from mostly Caucasian people to one with 45% Asian people, as well as people from many other races.  The best way for people to feel connected to each other is to sing together, especially the National Anthem. I saw the movie, The Singing Revolution, the story of the Estonian people, who retained their independence from Russia by uniting and connecting through singing. There is such power in singing together!  Whoever made the decision to have that version of Oh Canada – what were they thinking????????    I hope they do not do that for the Closing Ceremonies.  I also did not enjoy the opera singer who sang the Olympic anthem. Not a good night for anthems.

Apart from the surprise disappointment, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Now when I watch future Opening Ceremonies I will recall what it was like to be at the 2010 Opening Ceremonies.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Getting to the Olympic 2010 Opening Ceremonies

I always loved watching the OLYMPIC Opening  Ceremonies of the various hosting countries.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like to attend one.  This year I got my chance.  I entered the lottery contest and qualified to purchase 4 of the best seats.  Expensive!  I invited my good friend, who is Egyptian.  When I met her I told her that since I was a little girl I had always wanted to visit Egypt.  In 2007, she put together a tour of friends and guided us on a fabulous trip through Egypt.   Taking her to the Opening ceremonies was a way I could express my gratitude.

I intended to sell two of the tickets to cover the cost, or at least reduce the cost but, other than put the word out, I never did anything serious to sell the tickets, such put them for sale on the Internet. In the end, I invited my two sons to attend with me.  I wanted to share the experience with them. The night before I gave a ticket to each of my sons as they would be making their own way from work to the stadium.

My friend invited me to a pre-game linner [lunch + dinner].  She managed to get an excellent restaurant, very near the stadium, to open early for the occasion.  We took a taxi to the restaurant.  Excitement was in the air.   We got out near the restaurant because the traffic was moving too slowly.  The roads were busy and there were many street closures.  At one point as we walked along, I lost my friend and turned back to find her.  She was buying some Canadian flags.  As I approached her I suddenly looked up, right beside her there was a camera filming an on-the-spot interview with a person-in-the-street.  Oooops!   I didn’t plan to be a part of that.  She got her flags and we took off for the restaurant.

After a delicious linner in a calm atmosphere, we headed out into crowds. Getting through security in a timely manner was not going to be easy.  I’d heard that it might take 2-3 hours to get through.  Instructions were for everyone to be seated an hour before the ceremony began because we had things to do and activities to practice.  There were lots of police and volunteers directing us to the security entrances.  It took 40-45 minutes to get through security. Once in, we were able to get to our seats quickly – only 15 minutes late.  I was so intent on finding our specific seats that I wasn’t looking at the people. For a few seconds, I thought there was a guy in one of our seats when I suddenly realized it was my youngest son.  I had not expected either of my sons to get there before we did. My eldest son arrived half an hour later and we quickly filled him in on what to do.

On each seat there was a cardboard box, designed and decorated like a drum, with goodies in it.  We needed to put batteries in two flashlights, one a regular one and the other a ‘candle’ with a yellow glow.  There was a drum stick with a round ball at the end, a Canadian flag and a white Styrofoam poncho. Each section had a leader who guided us through the what, how and when to use all the things in the ‘drum’.

We practiced the countdown with the lights on.  In each section some of the drums were blue on the back and some were white. Mine was white and we were in section 1.  Someone counted down from 10.  As each number was called we stood up and held up our drums.  The white drums displayed the number and the blue ones made up the background.  With the lights on, what we saw was all the people standing up as their section number was called.  With the lights out, you couldn’t see the people – only the giant numbers.  They really stood out.  Across the stadium we could see the numbers as they appeared in the crowd – 10…9…8 etc.

The practicing was lots of fun.  The whole place was buzzing with energy.

Next Post: the highs and lows of the ceremonies.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

“I feel like I don’t live anywhere.” The Problem with 50-50 Custody.

Recently one of my clients talked about the confusion and distress her teenage son was experiencing at going back and forth between his mom’s home and his dad’s home.   She said her heart went out to him when he said to her, “I feel like I don’t live anywhere.”  She responded to his plight by telling him that he could live with her and that he could visit his father anytime he wanted.  Fortunately, for the adolescent, the parents worked well around custody and access.  The mother discussed with her ex-husband their son’s distress and he agreed that the son could live full time with his mother.  She said her son’s confusions and distress lessened once he  settle down full time at her place. He continued to see his father a lot.

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It’s Always All about You. Part 2

Scenario:

Again John ended up comforting his wife as she sobbed. She was in a lot of [emotional] pain.  He tried to reassure her that she was a good person – that he loved her.  What he felt was hollow, empty and hopeless.  Every time he tried to raise an issue in their relationship, she would take it as criticism of her as a person, as a wife, as an adult.  No matter how gently and non-judgmentally he would raise an issue, it was like he was burying a knife up to the hilt in her heart.  She got so deeply hurt that she became oblivious of him.  He had difficulty when she was in pain. He had troubling handling his own emotions and her distress triggered distress in him.  He found he would stop feeling his own distress if he focused on her.  He would let go of what he was trying to address, reassure her that he still loved her and that she was not a bad person.  At first, he was able to do this passionately because he deeply loved his wife.  Once she was reassured, with relief, they both enjoyed the loving feelings they shared.  But after so many interactions where bringing up his concerns turned into him consoling her, he felt confused, lost and alone.  Without any way to address change in their relationship,  John’s love was wearing thin.  He was at a loss of what to do.

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It’s always all about you. Part 1

Scenario

Jackie collapsed on the sofa after yet another major fight with her husband. They have the same fight over and over again.  Jackie wants to spend more time with her husband.  He is always busy with work and several projects he has on the go.  She invites or suggests things to do together and he almost always has a reason or excuse not to accept.  Finally, when being friendly and inviting does not work, she complains to him that he makes other people a priority over her.   He feels attacked.  He defends himself by attacking her back, accusing her of doing the same thing – making her family more important than him.  She tried to tell him she only spent so much time with her family because he is never available, but he would not listen; he continues to attack and blame her.  He gets more and more angry. He complains about her time with her family, her time with her friends, her time studying photography.  He claims he was the one who compromises and sacrifices in their relationship.   He is the one not getting his needs met and she is to blame.  At the end of these fights they go to the opposite corners of their home.  Jackie feels alone – totally disconnect from her husband – the opposite of what she wants.

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The Pun[ch] Game. All fun No Tears for Toddler Impulses.

One day recently my two year old grandson punched me.  I handled it in the same way I handled my own children when they bit or hit me at that age.

I said, “Oh, you want to play the Punching Game.”  He said,  “Yes.”  We started swinging,  pretending to punch each other.  We did not hit each other. At first, I would just touch (not hit)  him occasionally with my fist until I realize that he was not touching me at all.  So I stopped touching him.

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Triangulation Part 4: In a Bind

I was cooking up some dinner for my two year old grandson as I happily awaited his arrival.  We were going to hangout together while mom and dad took in a movie.  I don’t think of it as babysitting, because I love to spend time with him and he loves to spend time with me.

I buzzed them in.  My grandson, came running through the open door holding out something he wanted me to see –  a sticker of a car.  As usual, my son followed with their dog.  He put the dog out on the deck, put fresh water in the dog’s dish and then got ready to leave.

Then something unusual started to happen.  My son started to question his son about whether he wanted to stay with Nana or go with him.  I was confused because I was sure he was staying with me.  I could see that my grandson was confused.  I got the impression that there had been some kind of exchange between the two of them about his wanting or not wanting to stay with me.  My son kept grilling him.  “Do you want to stay with Nana ?” My grandson went from being happy and bubbly to quiet.  He nodded his head.  His dad’s tone of voice was unusual – there was an edge to it. That was not enough for my son, he kept asking, “Do you want to stay with Nana?”   I looked at my grandson.  He was clearly confused and not sure what to do.  He slowly walked toward the front door thinking he had to leave.  Again, his father asked him,  “Do you want to stay with Nana?” Again, my grandson nodded his head.

I couldn’t watch this anymore and stay silent.  I said to my son, “He nodded his head.  He has answered you.”  My son responded, “He’s got to say it.”  I said, “You’re putting him a bind.”  I looked at my grandson and smiled at him trying to reassure him.  He smiled back at me.  Finally, my son stopped, hugged his son and left.  Then my grandson turned back into his happy self, delighted to be with me.

There was tension between father and son.  I could see it, hear it and feel it.  I couldn’t believe that my son would put his son – a two year old – on the spot like this.  I was surprised because my son is a fantastic dad.  He loves his son and his son adores his dad.

At first I was just an observer.  Then I got hooked in the interaction. By advocating for my grandson, I became part of a triangle.

In hindsight, I wish I had avoided becoming part of the triangle.  I know my son is a super dad. Instead of criticizing him, I wish I had expressed more faith in him.  What I wish I’d said to my son was, “I don’t know what is going on between you two, but I’m sure you will handle it OK. ” Then, I would have gone back to my cooking and let them work it out.

TRIANGULATION

Triangulation occurs in relationships when there is tension between two people, and a third person gets hooked into the interaction, creating  a triangle.

Triangulation happens in families all the time.  If you are not aware of triangulation and how it works, you usually do not even realize how or why you’ve been drawn into an interaction.

By understanding and being aware of the relationship dynamics in triangulation, you have a choice to become involved or not.  There are times when it is appropriate to get involved and times when it is appropriate and healthy not to engage.

If you choose NOT to become involved,  there are diplomatic ways NOT to engage. (Triangulation Pt. 2 and Pt.3)

If you do choose to become involved, then HOW you get involved is what matters.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

The Death of each Parent is a Life Experience

A good friend of mine recently lost her mother and is grieving deeply.  As a mutual friend and I were talking about her loss, we starting talking about losing our own parents.  I told her about my experience of losing my parents.

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HEADS UP! COMING SOON! A revamped B-Sort site.

I just wanted to let everyone know that we are working on revamping the B-Sort website.  We  are adding two new Sorts.

NEW!  The JobSort is for people who are conflicted about whether or not to stay in their jobs.  Many people think about changing their jobs and the JobSort is a tool to help them think through their decision.  It is similar to the B-Sort for Intimate Relationships and is based on the same theory of resolving inner conflict.

NEW!  The Relationship Satisfaction Sort an exercise to help people determine how satisfied they are with their intimate relationship.  It is the same, in that it is a card sort, yet different in that it is not about decision making.  It is about increasing self awareness.  It is based upon 9 dimensions of satisfaction in relationships.  It helps people to see where they are satisfied and where they are are not.  Then it directs them to resources that they may find helpful to enhance their satisfaction in all areas. We hope people enjoy doing it.

Our goal continues to be to provide inexpensive interesting tools to help people sort out important aspects of their life and facilitate their decision making.

Timeline:  We hope to launch the revamped site in September.

We’ll keep you posted.

In the mean time,  I’ll continue blogging.

Dr. Bea Mackay

Communication Skill: Talk WITH me not AT me.

How to Decode an Early Recollection to find the Message for How to Live Life.

The reason we have the memories that we remember is because they provide us with a message. As discussed in How to talk about the past, memories are blue prints for how to do life.

In order to figure out the message you need to know how to decode the memory.

Here is an Early Recollection:

“THE STRAP”

I remember the strap that my father had. It was an ugly looking Tractor belt – wide and long. When one of the four of us “got the strap”, all four of us cried! That was our revenge! One afternoon when our parents were not home, my older sister and I decided to get rid of the strap once and for all. We got a spade, and some other digging tools from the garage, and dug a “BIG” hole at the very back of our large vegetable garden. We buried the strap!  It was never seen again!

Many, many years later, we did tell our parents what happened to the strap. Fortunately by then we could all have a good laugh.

Were the siblings participants or observers?

In this memory the two eldest were participants.  They weren’t just observing what was going on.

Were the siblings active or passive?

The two eldest were active.  They took action to deal with the problem.

The others were active when they all cried together.  Otherwise, they were either passive or not involved.

What was the quality of the relationship between the siblings?

They stuck together.

The two eldest took charge. They worked together as a team and acted for the good of all.  Together, they figured out what to do, when to do it, what they needed to do it, and then they carried it out.

What was the outcome – positive, negative or neutral?

What they did worked.  There were no bad consequences as a result of what they did.

The message this memory gives for how to live life:

When you have a problem in life that is affecting you and others, do something about it.  Stick together. Find one other person [or more] to help you deal with it.  Work together to find a solution that is good for all.  Plan it, get the right tools and execute it.  There likely will be no negative consequences.

What a positive recommendation for how to handle difficulties in life!

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

How to Talk about the Past in a Way that Brings Family Together

When someone in your family tells you a memory, pay close attention. They are sharing their modus operandi for life with you. If there are unhealed traumas from the past, talking about painful memories can help your family member heal.

Memories are blue prints for how to do life.

Children have millions of experiences by the time they are around five to six years old but they only remember a few of them. Why do they remember only a few and why those particular ones? When children are born into this world they quickly have to figure out how to survive, emotionally and physically. It is the emotion surrounding an event that determines meaning. With their limited knowledge and experience of life they come to conclusions about self, others and life. Then they live their life according to the conclusions they’ve come to, whether those conclusions are conscious or unconscious. Memories after the age of 6 are important as well; they tend to confirm or disconfirm previous conclusions.

How to talk about memories.

1.       Listen to the memories without interrupting. Your parent, spouse, child, sibling, cousin or other relative is telling you something important about themselves. Paying attention to them shows them you are interested in them and care about them.

2.       Memories can be happy, neutral or unhappy/painful. Enjoy the happy ones, be curious about the neutral ones and be empathetic with the painful ones. Often, healing can occur through the expression of feelings alone. It is possible for a child and an adult to heal emotionally from talking to a caring person about an experience they had as a child or young adult.

3.       Validate their experiences and the meaning they make of them. Do not argue about whether the events happened or not.  Just because you don’t remember an event does not mean it did not happen.  Or, if you remember the same event differently, it means you made different meaning out of it. Do not be concerned about the truth or facts of the memory. It may or may not be accurate. It is not about the facts; it is about the meaning the person made of their experience and the facts.

4.       Do not assume you know what their memory means. Ask “What do you make of that?” Say, “Tell me more about that.” Invite your family member to say more by being curious about it.

5.       Validate the feelings generated in the memory, positive and/or negative.

6.       If you want to share memories of your own, wait until they are finished.

Note:  Memories are not static.  As a person ages and their circumstances change, their memories may change, or even be forgotten completely.

Reminiscing is healthy if family members are open to listening to each other.

The above holds true of people who are non-family members as well.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Don’t Kiss and Tell. One Way to Save your Relationship after an Affair.

In an article, May 2009, in MORE Magazine, called After the Affair, Wendy B. seeks complete honesty from her straying husband when she stumbles upon an email to his lover.  Yet later, as they work toward putting their marriage back together, she regretted it.  She says, “At the time I felt I had to know;  now I wish I could block out some of those details.”

Breach of trust creates the most damage when an affair happens. When a couple is attempting to recover from the deception and lies that occurred, honesty seems to be front and center of their focus.  In trying to regain trust the injured partner usually asks a million questions about the affair. The offending partner usually answers them honestly with the hope that they will regain trust.

It’s what partners do with the details that causes problems and can get in the way of reconciliation.  Usually partners, male and female, dwell on the details creating scenarios with them in their heads over and over again. The hurt goes on and on.  Sometimes the smallest details about the relationship and the sex can cause deep anguish.  Wendy B. says. “Hearing about how she had stepped in to help him buy our family’s food bothered me almost as much as the thought of the two of them naked together.”

A loving thing to do is to be honest with your partner but not give specific details of interactions with a former lover. This will create different problems but ones that are less difficult to recover from.  If reconciliation is not possible because of refusing to disclose details then it probably would not be possible if you did. As everyone knows, there are no guarantees.

If you are the one that strayed and you want a chance at reconciliation, do not disclose details because you love your partner and because you don’t want to hurt him or her anymore than you already have.

If you are the one that was betrayed, do not ask your partner to disclose details because you don’t want to be hurt any more than you already have been and because you want a chance to reconcile.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea