Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

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?

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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

Dreams Part 4: Dreams can be literal and metaphorical.

pregers

Dreams can be literal.

 Example 1:   The dryer burst in to flames.

Once I bought a new clothes dryer.  About a week after I bought it, I dreamed that it burst into flames.  I woke up with a start.  I instantly knew what the dream was about.  The filter on the new dryer was in a different place and I had forgotten to clean it.  “Bursting into flames”  was my fear of what I believed could happen.  The dream was simply my mind’s way of reminding me to clean the filter.

In many cases of interpreting dreams you need to consider several factors.

It is possible to detect malfunctions in machines and vehicles through your senses, such as sight, hearing, smell, and touch.  Because we live busy lives we may not be aware consciously that we picked up information, yet our dreams may let us know while we sleep.

 Example 2:  I am driving up a steep hill and at the top of the hill the engine falls out of the car.  Nothing else happens, no accident, no one is hurt.

When I woke up, I remembered sitting in my car the night before, waiting for my son to come out of his karate class.  While waiting, I was off in my mind thinking about lots of things.  The weather was cold and I remember seeing steam rising up from the hood of the car.  So when I next drove my car, I looked at the engine gauge. The engine was getting too hot too fast.  I took it to the garage and learned there was a hole in a hose.

Dreams can be Metaphors:

Example 1: Marlene dreamed that two of her co-workers were in bed together.

During work, Marlene had detected something was going on between two of her co-workers but she did not register it consciously.  Their connection with each other came to her at night in her dream.

Their being in bed together could mean they are sexually involved with each other and keeping it secret, or it could mean they are conspiring with each other about work and it has nothing to do with sex.  Being in bed together can be a metaphor for secretly allying with each other in the work (or other) situation.

Now that this has been brought to Marlene’s attention, she can figure out consciously whether their alliance is sexual or conspiratorial.

 Example 2:  My good friend from university was pregnant.

Many years ago, before I had children, I had this dream.  Curious, I decided to phone her and catch up with her.  It turns out she was, in fact, pregnant.  I could not have known about it, as I had not had any contact with her for several years.  She lived in Eastern Canada and I lived on the West Coast.

When we dream about people from the past what it means depends on whether that person is in our life currently or not.  If they are, the meaning may be about the real person.  When they are not in your current life, it means they represent something to you.

My friend was married in university, had had one child and got pregnant with her second child when I knew her.  While the dream was about her, I believe the dream stemmed more from my own strong desire at the time to have children of my own.  Dreaming that she was pregnant, and it turning out to be true, was probably more a coincidence than intuition.  She represented fertility and family to me, which I longed for myself at the time.

People too often take dreams literally when they are metaphors for what is going on in one’s current life.  While they may be literal, consider the possibility they may be metaphorical or symbolic when interpreting your dreams.

 

With care and concern,

 

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams Part 3: Learning to Interpret Your Dreams.

perls

Dreams have meaning even if we cannot figure out what the meaning is.  Interpreting our own dreams is difficult because we are so close to ourselves it’s hard to get perspective.  Yet it can be done.

Dreams deal with our current life and what is going on in it.

If you dream of someone from our past, whom you have not seen in years, it means that person represents something for you and relates to your current life.  For example, you dream of the girl in high school who was considered a sexpot (she is not in your current life); it means she symbolizes something about sex for you which somehow does relate to your current life.  If she is also in your current life, it may mean something about the real person and your relationship to her or someone else that relates to sex.

If you dream of something in the future, such as becoming rich, it relates to the present and what is motivating your current behaviors.

Meaning is based in context.

We all have shared meaning of words and expressions.  But we also have idiosyncratic or personal meanings, which are significant when interpreting dreams. For instance, we all have a common meaning for the word ‘bridge’.   However, a person, whose brother attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge, will have an additional high-charged meaning to the word ‘bridge’.

Example:

Roberta and Stan each dream of a woman with a string of pearls.

Roberta had a loving grandmother who always wore a string of pearls.  She adored her grandmother and had a very close relationship to her.  For Roberta, the string of pearls was symbolic of all the good times they had together.  She frequently wore a string of pearls herself.

Stan had a nasty great aunt whom he hated.  She always wore a string of pearls. Every time she visited their home, she made his life miserable.  She disliked boys and seemed to dislike him in particular.  The string of pearls was symbolic of all the times he had to endure her visits.  He tended to be wary of women who wore pearls.

Association can give the meaning.

Since your brain created the dream, in some ways, you are every part of the dream.  You are the producer, director, actors, creatures, setting, furniture, vegetation, sky, ground, colors, sounds, actions, words and storyline.

To find out what meaning the people, objects, creatures, and places, have for you, explore the associations you have with each one.

Example:

Joey dreams of an old man floating in a leaky boat way out at sea. The feeling tone to the dream is dread.

When Joey thought of the ‘old man’, he immediately thought of his grandfather who lived on the West Coast.  His grandfather was not doing well financially. When he thought this, he had the sudden realization that he had a ‘sinking feeling’ about his future.  He did not want to end up poor like his grandfather.

Try it yourself: To get the meaning of elements in your dream take each significant element and  associate to it.  Allow for whatever thoughts to pop into your mind. Write them down as you do it. When you find the meaning it has you will resonate with it.

Become the element.

Example: 

Sara tended to overwork.  Her husband was always worried about how she was going to wear herself out.  Sara too wondered if she was doing too much.

Sara dreamed of a cat sleeping curled up in a wicker basket. Feeling tone to the dream is peaceful.

To try to get the meaning of the dream Sara talked as if she was the cat (another way to associate).  I am a fluffy orange cat.  I’m an older cat.  I’m sleeping peacefully.  I’m getting rest.

As Sara said this she realized she is not getting worn out.  She is just fine.  Like the cat she can rest, get restored and jump up and happily work some more.  She just likes to work.  Her next realization was  – her husband is not getting enough time with her.  She decided to address that issue with him instead of talking about her getting worn out.

Often the meaning of dreams is hidden in the metaphors of the dreams, such as leaky boat and rested cat.  By associating to the significant elements in the dream you can get insight into what the meaning of the dream is for you.

Have fun with this method of exploring your dreams.

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

Triangulation Part 1: Understanding Family Dynamics

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Gladys hear the familiar voices.  They were getting louder and Louder.  This was nothing new. It happened all the time.  “I wonder what it is about this time”, she asked herself.  She wandered towards the sounds making sure she wasn’t making any noise. Then she heard another familiar voice – her brother’s. As usual he was coming to his mother defense.  He’d been doing this for as long as she could remember.  She watched as they all argued.  There was no point in her doing anything because they never listened to her. She slipped away back to her room.  They didn’t even notice she had been there.

What happened is triangulation.

When there is tension between two family members, a third family member is often drawn into the issue. When one child gets involved, the other children often feel “off the hook”, and they remain passive or just ignore their parents.  The function of triangulation is to diffuse the tension between the two who are stressed with each other.  The downside is that the dynamics between family members can become unhealthy for all members of a family.

In healthy families parents avoid triangulating the children when they are stressed with each other.  They tell their child that the issue is between them, and they will take care of it. Parents would remove themselves from the children’s earshot, or they would tell the children to go to their rooms or go outside and stay out of it. They would work it out themselves if possible. By the parents keeping their differences between themselves, the family dynamic remains healthy. The parents are a unit and the children know it.

Sometimes triangulation happens between parent and child and the other parent is drawn in.

Example:

Arlie and her son were arguing about his playing rugby.  She didn’t want him to play because she was afraid he’d get injured.  Stan intervened on behalf of his son and all three argued. Mom felt unsupported and angry at dad. The issue shifted from playing rugby to who was going to have their way.

A better approach (avoiding triangulation):

Stan lets his wife and son have their conversation. Later, when they are alone, Stan discusses the issue with his wife. The issue remains about playing rugby and mom’s concerns about her son getting injured. It does not become about the dynamics of their relationship with each other.

When is it NOT triangulation?

Family members can have a discussion about an issue without triangulation if the discussion remains about the topic and does not become about the dynamics between them, such as who is right/who is wrong or who is allied with whom.

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

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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 5: Talk with Me not at Me

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Dialogues, in which the conversation flows back and forth, create connection between people.

As I was packing up my gear from my tennis lesson today the fellow who had next session came into the court. We’d met before. To be friendly and make a bid for connection, I said to him, “It’s sure great weather for tennis.” He started talking at me about how he had solved the weather question. He kept going on and on about why people should not even bother commenting about the weather. I continued to put my tennis racquet away, thinking to myself – I was just being friendly. I grabbed my jacket and towel, found a moment when he took a breath, then remarked, “That’s how people make bids for connection” (I couldn’t resist even though I didn’t think he would get it.)  He continued to go on mentioning that the French had figured it out. By this time, I no longer knew what he was talking about, nor did I care, because I had tuned him out. It was not the first time that he greeted me with a monologue on a topic that I did not relate to. I thanked my tennis instructor, waved good-bye and left. I thought to myself, I have no interest in connecting to him if he is going to talk AT me.

Earlier, during my tennis lesson, my instructor and I had had a very engaging talk about the rivalry between, Federer and Nadal, the top two men in tennis. Federer had just beaten Nadal in Madrid, and the French Open was just about to start. We were both interested in the topic and what each other thought about it. The conversation went back and forth as we responded to each other and expressed our thoughts. It was an engaging conversation. What a different experience!

Talking AT is a monologue. It is a one-way conversation, even if there is an exchange with others.

When people are talking AT you they are telling you about their opinions, their points of view, what they think you should do or not do, their knowledge and expertise. They want you to hear and believe them. They want to influence you to do, or not do, what they want. They do not want your input – they only want you to ask them about what they think.

How can you tell if someone is talking AT you?

You tend to experience boredom, annoyance or restlessness. You tend to tune out the talker and think your own thoughts about what’s going on. You feel separate and detached from the talker. You easily get distracted. You might want to find an excuse to exit. You might also feel disrespected and put down.

Talking WITH is a dialogue. It is a shared conversational exchange about a topic or situation.

When people are talking WITH you they are sharing a conversation with you. They are open to your response(s) and want your input. They are engaged with you, and the conversation is mutually satisfactory or relevant. This holds true even if the dialogue is difficult.

How do you tell if someone is talking WITH you?

You experience involvement with the other person. You feel a connection to them. You feel paid attention to. You are usually interested in and focused on the topic or situation. You feel your input is wanted and welcomed. You feel respected and valued no matter what age you are.

Do you talk AT people or WITH them?

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

Communication Skill 3: How to Handle Mixed Messages

Mixed messages

Mixed messages cause lots of communication problems in intimate relationships and in relationships in general.

A mixed message (or double message) is communication that sends conflicting information, verbally and/or non-verbally.

First of all, you need to know when you are receiving a mixed message. The way you know is by your feelings (confused) and your thoughts (puzzled). These feelings and thoughts are your cues to guide what you say and do in response.

When messages do not match they are incongruent and come in various forms:

  • 1. What a person says conflicts with what they said previously.
  • 2. What a person does conflicts with what they did previously.
  • 3. What a person says conflicts with what they do.
  • 4. What a person says conflicts with their body language.

How to respond

When you receive a mixed message, without expectation or demand for change, send both messages back to the sender. Share your confusion of thoughts and feelings. Report what was said, what was observed and describe behaviors. When you communicate in this way, the sender is more likely to respond in a positive, reasonable way. If you respond in an attacking, blaming, contemptuous or sarcastic manner, the sender is most likely to be hurt, angry and defensive.

You cannot control how the sender receives your feedback; you can only control how you deliver it.

Examples:

WHEN WORDS DO NOT MATCH WORDS:

  • 1. I’m puzzled.  Last week you said you think mothers should stay home with their babies (words), and now you’re saying mothers should work outside the home to be good role models for their children (words). I’m wondering which you believe or if you believe both.
  • 2. I’m having trouble figuring this out. You just told me you love me very much (words), and now you’re saying you need some space from me (words).

WHEN WORD DO NOT MATCH BEHAVIOURS:

  • 1. I don’t get it. You complain about me not helping (words), yet you re-do everything I do (behaviors).
  • 2. I’m not sure what to do. You say you want me to be affectionate (words), yet when I touch you, you push me away (behaviors).
  • 3. I’m confused. You said you would help me (words), but now you’re going to the store.
  • 4. I’m puzzled. You said you wanted to spend more time with your kids (words), but when they are here, you spend a lot of time on your phone (behaviors).

WHEN WORDS DO NOT MATCH BODY LANGUAGE:

  • 1.  You say you’re fine (words), yet you look sad (body language).
  • 2. I’m not sure what to believe. You said you like my plans for Saturday night (words), yet the tone of your voice has an angry edge to it (body language).
  • 3. You say you’re listening to me (words), but you have not looked at me (body language), so I’m not sure.

You cannot stop or prevent others from sending you mixed messages. What you can do is change how you respond to them. By telling the other person about your confusion, you are letting them know the impact of their behavior on you. This has the potential to improve connection.

When the other knows they are sending mixed messages, they can clarify. It could be that they are not really conflicted and don’t realize they are sounding or acting like they are.

If the sender is truly conflicted, however, your feedback brings their incongruence to their attention. It’s like holding a mirror up to them so that they can more clearly see themselves. Now, if they want, they can address it. This too, has the potential to improve connection.

Experiment with this skill and see how communication and connection shifts.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

Communication Skill 2: After the Fact

communcation-2

It is not always possible to think of what to say or do in the moment. Sometimes people are distracted with something or someone else. When people are anxious they often cannot think, so they say or do nothing. Or, they may blurt out something they don’t mean or something that is not even relevant. Sometimes people laugh nervously in situations which are tense which can be awkward or embarrassing, and the laughter is usually misunderstood.

People often do not realize they can clarify or change what they said, what they agreed to, or simply change their minds. They act as if what they said and did was etched in stone. The good new is that it is easy to set things straight by speaking up after the fact.

This communication skill can be used with anyone: family, friends, bosses, co-workers, children, grocery clerks and others.

Examples:

  • a) Parent to child:  You know yesterday when I got upset with you when you told me you’d broken you grandmother’s china plate.  Well, I want you to know that it was great that you told me the truth and did not try to hide it.  It took courage for you to tell me.  I want you to be able to tell me the truth even though it may be hard.
  • b) Employee to Boss:  I told you this morning I’d have the project finished by today, but I want to let you know now I won’t get the information I need until tomorrow afternoon.
  • c) Friend to friend:  Last year we  put this trip together, and I bailed at the last minute.  I’m sorry about doing that.  I want to plan it again this year, and this time for sure I won’t cancel.

 

The After the Fact communication skill is one of the many communication skills that I teach couples. It is a very useful skill that facilitates connection between partners.

Many couples tell me that during a discussion, argument or fight they often cannot think of what to say in the moment but then later, they come up with what they could have or should have said. They find this very frustrating.  For some reason, spouses often think if they missed out saying or doing something in the moment, that nothing can be done. So they do nothing. Often they stew or ruminate about it, but it does not occur to them that they could possibly remedy the situation.  In ongoing relationships it is always possible to bring up an issue later. Later can be minutes, hours, days or even years. This keeps the lines of communication open and strengthens the connection between couples.

Examples:

  • a) A while ago you said… to me. I was surprised and didn’t know what to say. Well, now that I’ve had a chance to think about it…
  • b) You know yesterday when we were talking about… I kind of blurted out… I didn’t mean it. What I wished I’d said to you was…
  • c) I’ve been thinking about what we talked about last week, you know, about you agreeing to take on that 3 months  project overseas. I want to add that I’ve talked to my boss and he is open to letting me pick up extra hours so that we do not feel so strapped for cash. This could be an alternative to you leaving. I want to let you know that it’s important to me that we discuss financial opportunities together before making decisions that affect our family.
  • d) It’s been a month since we had that fight about you not wanting to have my parents over for the holidays. It is still bothering me. Let’s talk about it again.
  • e) When we married, 10 years ago, you said you never wanted to have kids. I want to know if that is still true for you.

When people use the After the Fact communication skill frequently, the time between the incident and the delayed communication tends to shorten. Gradually, the time becomes so short that partners are better able to think of what they want to say or do what they want to do in the moment. It’s not essential to occur in the moment, After the Fact is just fine.

The After the Fact skill is extremely helpful to keep a couple emotionally connected with positive feedback and behaviors.

Examples:

  • a) I really had a good time last night. (One partner to another about making love.)
  • b) You know, last week when we went to the concert I was so focused on getting there on time I didn’t tell you how great you looked.
  • c) The last time my parents were over you treated them really well. I appreciate how welcome you made them feel.

The more you use the After the Fact communication skill, the better you get at it.  This practice helps you become better at saying what you need to say and do, right in the moment.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

Communication Skill 1: Put the Inside Outside

communication1

Put the Inside Outside is a communication skill that I teach clients in both individual and couples sessions.

When people talk to each other they often think thoughts or have feelings that they do not reveal to others. Most of the time this is perfectly OK. It certainly would not be appropriate to say everything one is thinking or feeling. Yet often, when more information is given there are fewer misunderstandings and a greater connection.

It can be as simple as letting others know you are feeling pressured for time. In a session with client(s) if I’m running late, I often start to speak faster and may interrupt my clients, especially when working with couples. When I notice myself doing that I will say to clients, “The session is almost over and I’m feeling pressured for time to complete what we’re doing.” This helps them understand what is going on with me, and lets them know that I’m not impatient with them. They experience how it feels to be informed and usually want to cooperate. I am also teaching them the skill of Put the Inside Outside by modeling it.

When working with couples, I often find that partners do not let each other know what is going on inside of them, positive or negative. They do not give each other feedback.  It leaves each partner guessing and hoping that the impact of what they said is what they meant.

Example: In a couple’s session.

  • Wife to husband: I appreciate how you help with the kids when you get home.
  • Husband: Well I always do that.
  • Dr. Bea: Your wife just told you something that she appreciated about you. What was that like?
  • Husband: What do you mean?
  • Dr. Bea: Well, did you like her telling you that?
  • Husband: Yeah, it felt good.
  • Dr. Bea: Let her know.
  • Husband to wife: It felt good to hear you appreciate what I do.
  • Dr. Bea to wife: What was it like to hear that from him.
  • Wife: It felt really good.
  • We all laugh.

Often it is the simple things that people communicate to each other that can make a big difference to their connection with each other.

Other examples:

a) I want to tell you something, but I’m afraid of hurting your feelings.

b) It’s hard for me to let you know how much I like you.

c) I just imagined kissing you, and I’m hesitant to act on it.

d) I’m confused, I’m not sure if I should take you seriously.

e) I’m finding it very difficult to take in your compliment, but I’m working on it.

Sharing your inner thoughts and feelings is more likely to create to a stronger connection.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

6 Steps to Enhancing Your Self-Esteem

self esteem - happy1

There are many things in life that we have to accept because we can do nothing about them.  The one thing we can change is how we relate to ourselves.

As said in previous posts (Understanding Self-Estseem and How it Develops, How early experience shape one’s relationship with one’s self and Self-Esteem – a by-product of how you treat yourself) we first have to realize we have developed a style over time.  We need to become aware of what our style is.  We may even develop different styles with different people and in different situations.  The styles may be healthy or unhealthy.  If a style is positive, such as, respecting oneself, it does not need changing (other than to enhance what is already done).  This can last a lifetime.

The styles that need changing are the ones which are unhealthy, such as not respecting, disparaging,  negating, hurting or judging oneself harshly.  Many people have harsh inner critics, treating themselves in ways they would never treat another human being.

STEPS TO CHANGE:

1: Become aware of your own personal styles.

2: Build a solid foundation.  Identify the positive interactions within yourself and choose to do them more often.

Scenario: Wenda likes to try new things even though she gets anxious. The risks she takes are reasonable and safe.  She encourages herself to keep taking risks by saying to herself.  ” I can do this.”  Afterwards she gives herself credit.  When it turns out well she says to herself, “Good for me.  I did it.”   If it goes badly, she says to herself, “OK, that did not go well, but I learned from it. At least I tried it.”

3: Change what needs changing.  Identify the negative interactions and target them for change.

Scenario: Wenda would not allow herself to accept compliments.  She would dismiss, ignore or deny them.
She decided she wanted to receive compliments.  She knew if she could take them in, she would feel better about herself.

4: Figure out new behaviours to replace the old ones.

This takes planning and experimentation. You cannot operate in a void.  You need to replace the old way with a new way.

Scenario: Wenda decided on 4 new ways she would respond when someone complemented her:

  • Thank you.
  • I’m glad you think so.
  • It’s good to hear that.
  • I appreciate your saying that.

5: The Choice Point.

This is the point at which you are aware you are (or are about to) treat yourself badly, and you mindfully decide to continue to do it, or you decide to do something different.

Scenario: Wenda’s friend complimented her on her hair.  Wenda, without thinking, replied sarcastically, “Oh yeah, right.”  Suddenly, Wenda realized she had just done her old thing.  She looked at her friend and said, “I mean, thank you.”

6:  Practice, practice, practice.

Experimenting means that sometimes what you try will go badly.  Expect those times to happen.  Do your best to laugh them off, dismiss them, and learn from them.  Encourage and support yourself to try again.  Gradually, you’ll replace a bad habit with a good habit, an unhealthy habit with a healthy habit.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Self-Esteem is a by-product of how you treat yourself.

self esteem girl

Everyone has a relationship with him or her self.  It is the quality of that relationship that determines the level of one’s self-esteem.

If you listen to people when they talk, you can detect whether they value themselves or not:

  • I’m mad at myself for forgetting to ……..
  • I’m pleased with myself.  I figured out how to do it on my own.
  • I’m such a coward.  I can’t face………
  • What do I know, I’m just a silly old woman.
  • I feel really good about myself for sticking to my exercise program.
  • I’m such a loser!
  • I feel more confident now that I have completed my course.
  • I can be really hard on myself.
  • I have a difficult time accepting positive feedback.

Self-esteem can also be observed in body language:

  • Sue wraps her arms around herself when she’s scared.
  • Jack slaps the top of his head when he’s annoyed with himself.
  • Jaime soothes herself by stroking her hair.
  • Andrew twists the hair on the top of his head when he is nervous.
  • Sam calms himself by stroking his beard.

We are so close to ourselves it is hard to have clear perspective on ourselves. It is easier to see how others treat themselves than it is to be aware of how we treat ourselves.  Our relationship happens in our heads with words and images and in our bodies with sensations. Hold the palm of your hand an inch from your nose.  You can see your hand, but it is a blur. Gradually pull your hand away until your hand comes into focus. Now you can see your hand in clear detail.

This is what happens with your relationship with yourself. To be aware of the quality of your relationship with yourself, it helps to gain some perspective.  You may know that you are hard on yourself or that you feel guilty a lot of the time, but you may not realize how you make that happen inside your head.

AWARENESS IS THE KEY TO CHANGE

To increase your awareness of how you treat yourself start by noticing:

  • What you say about yourself (your choice of words and the metaphors you use).
  • How you say it (the tone of voice, body language).
  • What  images you see.

That’s it for now,   Just notice.

Next post:  What to do next.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

How early experience shape one’s relationship with one’s self.

hand on head

 

Children need their parents’ love, attention, acceptance, and guidance as a plant needs water.  If they do not get it growing up, as adult they may spend their whole lives trying to get it from their parents.  They may also try to get it from bosses, friends, teachers, coaches,and neighbours as well.

Children tend to treat themselves how they are treated by their parents.  If both parents treated them well, children are likely to internalized this style, and treat themselves well.  This is also true if their parents treated them badly; they are likely to internalize that style and treat themselves badly.  Children’s self-esteem is also affected by how their parents treat each other.

It’s not that simple though.  Families are complicated.  There are so many factors influencing children’s self-esteem as they grow:  birth order, extended family, religious affiliations, talents, energy level, school and others.  Sometimes parents and grandparents (even other family members and teachers) prefer one gender to another.  Perhaps one parent prefers boys and the other prefers girls.  How people treat each gender impacts the children’s self-esteem positively or negatively.  Witnessing one’s siblings being favored or unflavored also influences his or her own self-esteem.

My father was the eldest of 10.  I don’t know why, but he did not like boys.  Growing up I was unaware of this, so I did not notice how he treated my brothers.  Perhaps it was because my father had 7 brothers and 2 sisters.  I was lucky.  I was born a girl in this family.  I felt adored by my father and I enjoyed his attention.  I liked being a girl.

It is common knowledge that parents, who treat their children badly, harm their children’s self-esteem.  It is also possible to harm a child’s self-esteem by excessive and undeserved praise.

Scenario

From the time Cercy was born, she was praised excessively by both parents, but mostly her mother.  Her self-esteem was extremely high.  She thought she was marvellous in every way.  When she went to school, she got a reality check.  She was not nearly as competent and capable as she had been led to believe.  It shook her confidence to the core.  She began to doubt herself.  She would dismiss praise or any positive feedback she received.

At the core of self-esteem is one’s relationship to one’s self.  What a child experiences in their family of origin, extended family, the neighbourhood, school, and other childhood experiences, heavily influences how a child treats himself.

This pattern, established in childhood, goes into the subconscious and operates out of awareness.  When the relationship with self is positive, no problem is created so it may work well for a lifetime.  If it’s not, it needs to be revised.  But how?

Next post will discuss how.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can I Please have Another Helping of Self-Esteem? Understanding Self-Estseem and How it Develops

self-esteem mirroe

 

People tend to think of self-esteem almost as if it is a product you can buy. Perhaps it is because of all the advertising which shows people smiling and feeling good when they use the products. Or, they think of it as a condition, like needing more iron in their diet or getting more rest.

Self-esteem is the result or outcome of one’s relationship with one’s self.  It is a by-product of how a person treats him or herself.

 

How do people develop a relationship with self?

Children are not born having a relationship with self.  It starts with their relationship with others.  Parents do things to them and with them.  Babies and toddlers respond and react to the ways in which they are handled and cared for.  Over time they develop a relationship with self from how they are treated by others. The quality of those interactions is a major factor in determining the quality of relationship a child develops with himself.

Children are not born loving themselves.  They learn they are loveable (or not) by the experiences of being loved by those that look after them.  At first, love comes externally. If they feel loveable, over time children internalize the love they experience and in this way they learn to love themselves.

 How do children determine whether they are loved and valued or not?

Scenario:

Billy knew he was loved.  As a baby, his mother’s eyes lit-up when she saw him.  She talked to him a lot.  She was always affectionate with him and took very good care of him.

His father smiled at him frequently.  He spent time with him: playing roughhousing, sports and games.  He taught him many things about the world and the way it worked.  If Billy had any questions or problems, he knew he could always go to either parent. They stood up for him whenever they thought he needed support and gave him constant guidance. His parents did not have much money, yet they created a safe fun environment.

Billy felt loved, valued, understood, protected, and accepted.  He felt cherished, just because he existed. He felt he belonged in his family. He felt good about himself, confident in himself and his abilities.  To him, the world was an amazing place.

Scenario 2

Sammy was not sure if he was loved or not.  He had a sad mother. She took care of him, but she rarely smiled at him. She often did not look at him directly as she cared for him.  She was impatient, yelling a lot. She was seldom affectionate, and she seemed to resent the time she spent with him.  She read a lot.  Sometimes she was okay, even telling him she loved him. But Sammy did not feel loved.

Dad was away half the time, and when he was home he was tired and distracted.  He did not have time or energy for Sammy.  When he heard his parents arguing, it was always about him.  He felt like it was his fault, that he was bad, but he wasn’t sure how. The family had money, and it seemed to Sammy that money is what mattered, not him.

Sammy did not feel loved or valued. He felt he was a burden on his mother and father.  He tried to be as good as he could to please his parents, but it rarely worked.  He didn’t really feel he belonged to this family, more like he was visiting and it would soon end.  He did not feel good about himself.   He was unsure of how to be and how to act.  The world was a scary place that he had to figure out on his own.

Each child comes to conclusions about themselves from their experiences of interactions with parents and others in their childhood. These conclusions may be accurate or inaccurate. Children do not even realize they come to conclusions; they are just living their lives. Some adults report specific memories of decisions they deliberately made as a young child. But most of the time, these conclusions are made without realizing it, get buried in the subconscious and operate out of awareness.

When a child has felt loved, valued and connected to the significant people in his life, he is more likely to love and value himself, that is, he is more likely to have high self- esteem. Conversely, when a child experiences lack of love and belonging, he is less likely to love and value himself, that is, he is more likely to have low self-esteem.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Safety First: How to Reduce Kids Fighting when Driving in the Car.

driving

 

Safety is first and foremost when driving a vehicle.

Fighting and goofing around are distracting to the driver.  It is also dangerous for the drivers to be upset and yelling at their passengers.  The best thing to do is develop a strategy for safe driving.

When my kids were young, we spent a lot of time driving from one activity to another.  We lived several miles from most activities so there was lots of time spent in the car.  When they would fight or noisily goof around, I found it distracting.  Yelling didn’t work, and besides I hated yelling and nagging at them.

I decided to stop trying to make them stop.  I developing a strategy.  I told them it was not safe for me to drive when there is fighting going on.  I told them I would pull over to the side of the road as soon as it was safe to do so and wait until they stopped.  They didn’t believe me, but I knew they wouldn’t until I followed through on what I had said I’d do.

So I began to do it.  At first it happened quite a lot.  I kept my word – I pulled over as soon as it was safe to do so and waited until they quieted down.  In the beginning it seemed like a game to them.  I was careful to keep my body language neutral and matter-of-fact, no eye rolling, no heavy sighs, no tense clipped speech.  One time, they took a particularly long time to quiet down.  So instead of “losing it” I stepped out of the vehicle and stood beside it.  I never left the boys alone in the vehicle.  When they finally quieted down, I got back in the car and without saying a word, started driving again.  They didn’t like just sitting in the car and not getting where they were going whether it was school, soccer or home.  So they started quieting down sooner.  Eventually, when they realized I was slowing down to pull off to the side of the road, they would quickly quiet down.  Without saying a word, I would pull back onto the road and speed up.

Somewhere along the way, it became a non-issue, without anyone discussing it.  Being noisy in the car just seemed to hardly happen at all.

This was accomplished without me yelling, getting upset, reasoning, pleading, nagging, threatening, guilt-tripping, being impatient or getting angry.  Having a strategy really helped me remain calm.  I felt in control of the situation in a way that was positive for the boys.

NOTE:

Consistency when carrying out a strategy is imperative to its success.

It may take some time for the plan to take effect so be prepared to be patient.  The plan may even have to be tweaked a bit.

The attitude used to implement the strategy is also key to a successful outcome.

The same strategy used with an angry negative delivery could turn into a power struggle.  This could make the dynamics between all persons involved worse.

 

Strategies on positively influencing others’ tardiness by changing your own behaviour .

 

look at watch

When getting along with others, there are times when things do not go well.  You address the person(s) involved with the hope and expectation of coming to a mutually satisfying resolution.  Lots of time this works.   An example is choosing a designated driver when drinking and driving is involved.

However, sometimes it does not work, or works for a while and then reverts back.  When the situation is ongoing, a different approach is needed.  Developing strategies is one way to address the situation.

Strategy Development:

The goal of the strategy is to change the relationship in a way that enhances the relationship (win-win).

The strategy is to provide a reasonable consequence that motivates positive change.

The person(s) developing the strategy choose behaviours that are congruent with who she or he is.

Consistency is imperative to success.  You need to be consistent (in this case leave after 30 minutes) in carrying out the strategy to avoid giving mixed messages to the other person.

NOTE:  How the strategy is carried out is critical to its effectiveness.  The delivery and the intent needs to be in a warmly matter-of-fact attitude with the genuine goal of enhancing the relationship(s). If it is carried out with anger or a negative “I’ll show you.” attitude, the consequence intended turns into punishment. This will backfire and likely destroy relationships.

Developing a strategy for lateness:

Occasional lateness is not a problem.  Life is life and sometimes tardiness cannot be helped or people just mess up.  The problem occurs when someone is consistently late and will not respond positively to complaints about it.  Usually they dismiss or discount the complaints with accusations of over-reacting and over sensitivity.

Cynthia’s friend Rhonda is chronically late.  Cynthia decides how long she is willing to wait past the agreed upon time without getting resentful. She decides on 30 minutes.  For example, if they agree to meet at 6:30 pm, Cynthia is willing to wait until 7:00 pm without being resentful.  After that, if Rhonda has still not come, she is going to carry out her Plan B for the evening.

The next time Cynthia and Rhonda agree to meet up, Cynthia tells her in a friendly manor that she is OK with waiting up to 30 minutes longer than the time they agree on.  If Rhonda arrives within that time frame Cynthia expresses her appreciation.  If Rhonda is longer than 30 minutes, Cynthia leaves and carries out her plans on her own.  Cynthia is to carry on her relationship with Rhonda as usual.  She is not to complain or explain to Rhonda.  If Rhonda asks her what happened, Cynthia is to say in a friendly manner she waited the 30 minutes,and then left because she was not sure Rhonda would come.  If Rhonda is angry, Cynthia is not to get caught up in her anger.  Cynthia can again express that their relationship is important to her.  Cynthia has let Rhonda know she will act on her word.  Cynthia no longer feels powerless; she is no longer resentful.

How Rhonda responds or reacts lets Cynthia know if Rhonda values their relationship as much as she does.  If Rhonda values their relationship and wants to be sure she meets up with Cynthia, she will be there within the 30-minute window, maybe even on time.  If Rhonda continues to be too late, Cynthia will realize that Rhonda does not value their relationship.  She may choose not to be friends any more.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

Do you have a need to be right?

 

guide

It is OK to want to be right.  It is OK to like to be right.  It is a problem to need to be right.

Scenario:

Cynthia was upset.  She was disappointed in her friend, Rhonda, because last night for the umpteenth time, Rhonda had kept her waiting for over an hour before finally showing up.  Cynthia called her friend, Brenda, to talk about her frustration and hurt.  She told Brenda that she has talked to Rhonda about her always being late but it has made no difference.  Each time Rhonda would accuse Cynthia of over-reacting and making a big deal over nothing. Rhonda believed she was doing nothing wrong.  Cynthia felt disrespected.  Brenda suggested that she stop trying to explain and reason with Rhonda and change what she is doing.  But Cynthia said she believed that talking things through was the right thing to do so she saw no reason to change since she was doing nothing wrong.  Brenda agreed that talking things through was the right thing to do, however, that was clearly not working for Cynthia.  Brenda asked Cynthia if she had a need to be right?  Cynthia said, “No, but I have a need to be respected”.  Brenda suggested that instead of talking to Rhonda, Cynthia develop a strategy for the next time they meet.  Together, Brenda and Cynthia developed a strategy with Cynthia standing up for herself while maintaining and enhancing the relationship.  Example of strategy:http://decisionquiz.com/blog/2013/01/28/strategies-on-positively-influencing-others-tardiness-by-changing-your-own-behaviour/

How do you know if you have a need to be right?

  • You feel threatened.
  • You are rigid.
  • You feel like you’re in a battle and you need to win.
  • You back up your position with authority.  (My religious leader agrees with me.  We always did it this way in our family, My mother/father says I’m right. My therapist says I’m right. Your best friend thinks I’m right. The Bible/Koran says it is so. etc)
  • You accuse the other person(s) of needing to be right and you want to prove them wrong.

 

How do you know if you do not have a need to be right?

  • You do not feel threatened.
  • You are flexible.
  • You stay focused on the issue without any argument or hassle, just the discussion (could be a heated discussion).
  • For you, who is right or wrong is a non issue.  Addressing the issue is the focus for you.
  • You recognize other(s) have a need to be right and it does not bother you.  You can let them be right.  It is no way makes you feel unimportant or wrong.
  • You focus on the issue and find a way that works for you.  They feel they are right and that is perfectly OK for you.
  • You use their need to be right to get a mutually satisfactory resolution.
  • You do not need to back up your position with authority figures or symbols.
  • You think in different terms than right or wrong. Such as, whether this is working or not.
  • You say things like “You might be right, yet your solution does not work for me.  Let’s find a solution that works for both of us.

 

Think of rules as guidelines that are flexible and not carved in stone.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

 

Letting go of Thinking in Terms of Right or Wrong

wrong way

 

Many people want to do the right thing. Perhaps even more people focus on trying not to do the wrong thing.

The problem is, it is not always easy to know what the right thing is.  People disagree on what is right and what is wrong.  What is right in one culture is wrong in another culture.  For example in some cultures it is considered disrespectful to be late and in others it is considered rude to be on time. What is right for one person may not not be right for another. Times change. What is right at one point in time may not be right at another point in time. Frequently, we get new information that teaches us what we used to think was right is now proven to be wrong.

Also, being in the right is not always a good thing. For example, if you’re on the highway and get injured or killed in an accident, it does you no good if you are in the right and the other driver is in the wrong.

If you’re not going to think in terms of what is right and what is wrong, then how do you think?

Instead of asking if this is right or wrong, ask different questions,

Is this productive or not productive?
Is this healthy or unhealthy?
Is this helpful or unhelpful?
Will this make me happy or unhappy?
Is what I’m doing working or not working?
Is this constructive or not constructive?
Will this make things better or make things worse?
Is this respectful or disrespectful?

and others.

By asking different questions, it becomes clearer what to do or not do.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Sent from my iPad ebooks

Let the signals your body sends you be your guide to action.

ExhaustionPeople tend to think what they experience, positive or negative, comes “out of the blue”.  But usually there are signals along the way that they do not recognize.

The first time I ever experienced exhaustion was after having my first baby.  I had no idea what exhaustion felt like.  I had had a difficult birth, spent 8 days in the hospital, and when I got home I just expected myself to carry on as I had before the birth.  One afternoon a neighbour came over to visit and see the new baby.  She asked me how I was, and I responded that I was fine.  We talked some more, and she asked me again how I was.  Again, I responded that I was fine.  The third time she asked me I started to cry and couldn’t stop.  I had no idea what was wrong with me.  I got her to leave, and then I thought I’d go grocery shopping because I knew that out in public I’d stop crying.  Well, I had difficulty paying the cashier for the groceries because the tears were rolling down my face and I could not talk.  She couldn’t give me my change fast enough.  Once I got home I had to acknowledge that something was wrong with me, and it took me a while to realize it was exhaustion.

Because of that experience, I learned that my body gives me signals about my level of fatigue.  But because I had never been exhausted before, I did not recognize the signals.  Even if I had noticed them, I would not have known what to do about it.

What I learned about myself.  When I’m somewhat tired my left eyelid twitches, and when I’m very tired, I get a specific type of nausea.  These two signals now guide me on when I need to rest.  The eyelid twitch is a ‘heads-up’ to plan to get some rest soon, and the nausea is strong message I need to rest ASAP.  I have learned to respect these signals and act on them.  It prevents me from getting to the state of exhaustion again.

Pay attention to the sensations in your body and learn what they mean.

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

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

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

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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