Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ 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?

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 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

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

I’m back! Time for me to continue blogging.

It’s been awhile. Let me explain my absence. I’d written a manual for therapists on how to work with client’s who are conflicted with self or others. In February 2011, I found a publisher, Gerda Wever, founder of Writeroompress Press. Once we agreed to work together, the work began in ernest.

I already had two workshop proposals, based upon the material of my manual, accepted for the World Congress of Psychotherapy to be held in Sydney, Australia in August, 2011. Gerda believed we could have the book published in time for me to take with me to the conference. I really liked having a deadline.

There was still editing to be done on the manual. I continued to work with my editor whom I’d been working with prior to finding Gerda. I was working full time yet had to spend a lot of time editing and re-writing the manual. I worked late nights and went to work in the days. I had done this when I was at university and didn’t think I’d be able to do it again. But having a deadline is very motivating, so I was up for it. I really wanted to have the book to take with me to the conference. I was working on right up to the time I left on the plane.

I was so busy that something had to go. It was blogging that I put on hold.

Next post, why it took me so long to get back.

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

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

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

“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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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

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.

(more…)

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

Sibling Rivalry:How Parents (and Others) can Make it Better or Make it Worse.

Others can be relatives, teachers, religious leaders, coaches and neighbors, etc.

Rivalry is healthy.

It is normal and natural for siblings to compete with each other. The competition prepares them for the world at large. Healthy individuals are able to compete with others and attain what they want and need. Living in a family and learning how to compete is valuable and productive.  Competing, per se, is not a problem. How family members compete with each other is the key factor.  It’s the style of competition that is healthy or unhealthy. Children learn about competition in the family in several ways. Mostly importantly, how each parent models competition in his or her own life has a big impact on children. Whether or not parents compete with each other and, if so, how they do that, impacts upon their children. How parents handle competition influences how their children will handle it. Children may engage in competition in the same way as their parents, or differently. If it is not fun, they may opt out of competition altogether.

Sibling rivalry is about competing for parental resources.

The first-born never has to compete with a sibling(s) for parental resources; they just have them. When the second child is born he or she begins life competing for parental resources while the first-born has to start competing. The first two children in any family are the most different whether there are two or ten children. The reason for this is because they need different ways to compete for parental resources.  The more children there are in a family the fewer parental resources for each of the children. Children can get more parental resources by being unique, such as gifted, talented, handicapped, troubled, etc.  Children who are unable to compete tend to get lost in the family and feel like they don’t matter.

Parents can promote healthy competition by:

  • Modeling competing in healthy way.
  • Modeling losing in healthy ways.
  • Helping their children compete productively and effectively with each other.
  • Not taking sides between siblings.
  • Expressing confidence that their children can work out their differences.
  • Having clear fair rules/boundaries that they follow through on consistently.
  • Comforting and consoling their children when they lose.
  • Discouraging their children from disparaging and making fun of each other.

For more in depth on Sibling Rivalry see Article: How Parents Can Make it Better or Worse.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Healthy Ways to Smash Stuff. What Everyone Should Know about Anger.Pt. 5

The urge to smash something is a common reaction people have when they are angry.  Many people, men and women, have smashed their phones, landline and cell phones, when they hear what they don’t want to hear.  This can be expensive, not to mention inconvenient.

In the movie the movie, The Godfather, Michael Corleone’s pregnant sister smashes many dishes as her husband, for sinister reasons of his own, provokes her into a nasty fight.

In the February 2009 issue of Psychology Today there is an article about a smashing business in San Diego, called the Smash Shack, started by Sarah Lavely.  While going through a difficult divorce she found smashing items on her driveway helped her to deal with her frustrations.  Now, her business provides a safe outlet for others to handle their frustrations and let go of anger and rage.

Many years ago I saw a documentary done in Japan that showed people going to places where they could break three foot high ceramic vases as well as plates and other dishes.  I saw men hitting old TV’s with sledgehammers.  (I do not remember the name of the programme.  If anyone knows of it please tell me.  It certainly impressed me at the time.)

I believe there is something about smashing that allows the cells of the muscles to release.  It is both the action of smashing as well as the sound of smashing that creates the release.  When the cells release anger dissipates.  Then people are able to let go of their anger rather than hang on to it. Note: if you do fear going completely out of control then do not attempt this. Seek professional help.

One time I was working with a police officer who was containing a lot of rage and feared ‘losing it’ on the job.  We got a large garbage can, lots of bottles, stones and protective eye wear.  The officer found it difficult to started smashing but once he began he found it easy to continue.  He experienced the exercise as very therapeutic.

Another time I worked with a woman who was having images of holding a hammer over her finance’s head.  Acting violent was totally out of character for her.  She was horrified that she was having such images and feared she was going crazy . She told me she was frustrated because her boyfriend was taking so long ending his previous relationship.  But when she was with him she wanted their time together to be good so she did not express her frustration to him. She did not realize that she was enraged at him.  Once she acknowledged her anger and found a way to express it, the disturbing images went away.

Act rather react.

If you feel anger building up inside you or are having disturbing images then deliberately plan a way to allow yourself to smash or do other attacking motions. Have one or more people with you to act as a container.  Just their presence will allow you to express anger without going out of control.  Letting yourself express anger is like preventative medicine.   You are much less likely to spontaneously ‘lose it’ during the day-to-day problems of your life because the anger will not be building up.

Check out the rules for expressing anger and rage.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea.

Looking Forward to My Date on Valentine’s Day

Today’s the date – February 14th – Valentine’s Day.  I’ve been looking forward to it all week. I have a date with the ‘hot’ new man in my life. I picked out a special card just for him. We’ve been seeing each other for about 17 months now. I can hardly wait until he arrives at my door. I know I’ll see a big smile on his face, showing his delight in seeing me.

We’re going to spend the evening together at my place having dinner and just hanging out.  I hear that you’ve found the right person to love if you can be goofy together.  We have lots of fun being goofy together – especially when his parents are not around.  Who is this guy? – my 1 year old grandson.

Enjoy the Valentine(s) in your life,

Dr. Bea

Healthy Ways to Express Anger. What Everyone Should Know about Anger.Pt.4

It’s OK to be angry.

What is important is WHEN and HOW to be angry.

Scenario: Jack was furious at his boss for undermining his authority yet again. He wanted to quit! He felt powerless.  He met with a business colleague and was telling him about what had happened. The business colleague had offered him a job before and told him the offer was still open. Jack was interested. That would serve his boss right if he quit. Still furious Jack said he’d like to think about it and get back to him.

Jack went home. He rolled up a newspaper and put duct tape around it. After making four more paper bats he went down into his basement. He found a pole and wailed on the pole until all five of the paper bats were in shreds. He was exhausted. His anger was gone. As he rested he realized that he did not want to leave his current job. He realized that besides liking the job, he valued the people he worked with and would miss them. He decided that he would find a way to address his issues with his boss.

When people are angry they want to attack or defend – anger has a purpose – make something happen or stop something from happening.  There are many ways to express anger constructively and productively.

Allow your body to do what it needs to do.

Four rules:

1.       Do not hurt anyone else.

2.       Do not hurt yourself.

3.       Do not damage or destroy anything of value.

4.       Do this alone only if you are confident that you can control your impulses.  If you are not sure, seek out one or more people you trust to act as monitors for you. Or, seek professional help.

Types of attacking motions:

Slapping, hitting, pounding, chopping, stomping, swatting, poking, throwing, smashing, slamming, grabbing, kneading, kicking, shoving, squeezing, pushing, pinching, pulling, screaming, ripping, tearing, cutting (with knives, scissors).

Sports

Many sports provide us with outlets for anger by doing attacking motions. Hockey, soccer, tennis. Racquetball, badminton, football, volleyball, basketball, boxing, wrestling, archery, darts and more.

Martial Arts provide excellent ways to do attacking motions.

[Many of these sports involved running or skating yet those activities are not attacking motions, they are fleeing motions.]

Attacking motions that can be done at home.

Roll up a magazine or newspaper and put tape around it. Pound the kitchen counter or furniture with it.

Punch or kick pillows, throw rolls of toilet paper at the bathroom wall, throw a rug over a railing and pound it with a broom. Tear or cut up an old bed sheet. Rip up a phone book. Stomp on bubble packing material.

Household chores: Scrub the floor. While making bread, knead the dough.

Gardening: pull weeds, dig, prune trees and shrubs, etc.

Workshop: pound nails into wood, sawing, hammering, pulling nails out of wood, grinding, chiseling, etc.

Express anger and clear your mind.

By doing attacking motions anger is dissipated and does not build up. Afterwords, people may still be angry yet no longer want to attack. They think more clearly. They are better able to access the underlying vulnerable feelings that are generating the anger. They are better able to deal effectively with whomever or whatever is making them angry.

Because the anger is not building up it is easy to manage. Now, when an upsetting event happens there is a response rather than a reaction. Small events generate small responses and more serious events generate larger responses. That is, the response fits the event.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Channel your Anger.What Everyone Should Know about Anger.Pt.3

Anger is energy.

It is healthy to channel your anger in constructive and productive ways.

Anger expressed positively can convince a lover or a child that he or she is loved. It can help you get a job done when you’re tired.  It can be motivating. Tiger Woods, one of the top golfers, says, “I sometimes lose my temper on purpose to fire myself up.”

Anger expressed negatively can devastate a child of any age, but especially when they are tiny. Anger can destroy relationships and ruin things of value. People often hurt themselves when they get angry.

There are times when it is appropriate and productive to get angry. But often getting angry can be dangerous, even embarrassing. It is helpful to know the difference and have the impulse control to carry out the choice. Most important of all is how a person acts when angry.

Scenario:

Lesley pulled into her garage after a long hectic day at work. As she got out of her car she heard glass breaking. She went around the corner of her home and saw the shattered living room window. Her son and his friends stood on the street frozen. One of the boys had hit the baseball through the window. Lesley was enraged! Last time it was the neighbor’s bedroom window. She’d told them many times to practice in the school yard nearby.She wanted to scream at them and slap them silly, every one of them!

Lesley knew that she was too angry to deal with the boys right then and she told them so. She sent her son to his room and his friends home. She changed into her jeans and a T-shirt, went out into the back yard and chopped some wood. As she chopped, her rage dissipated. She was still angry but not enraged. She then got her son to help her put some plywood over the broken window. Later that evening she and her husband sat down with their son to deal with the problem.

Lesley did not blow up, nor did she block her anger. She allowed her muscles to do what they needed to do – attack. But she did not attack her son or his friends, she attacked the wood. She actually destroyed something and created something simultaneously.

When people get angry, their bodies pump adrenalin into the bloodstream, preparing their muscles for fight or flight. Their muscles are primed to act and as they do the adrenalin is processed. However, if the anger is blocked then the muscles do not do what they naturally do. The adrenalin stays in the muscles often causing side effects, such as shakiness, until it is eventually processed. Blocked or unexpressed anger builds up over time. The brain and the body need to deal with it in some way. Some people blow up because they can no longer tolerate the tension. Others suppress and repress their anger which can lead to physical and emotional illnesses. Depression is often the symptom of repressed anger. Neither is healthy and both can cause a lot of harm.

It is not very easy to find wood to chop but there are lots of other ways to express anger constructively and productively.

Next blog post – Ideas for channeling anger.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Sometimes Marriage is like being in a Boat on a very Rough Sea

The boat is pitching so hard that each one has to cling onto the boat to prevent being thrown overboard. They cannot hang onto each other.  Each feels alone. Each struggles to survive. When the ocean calms down, then they can comfort and reassure each other. Then they can reconnect.

Sometimes life gets really rough – financial difficulties, overwork, illness, aging relatives, death and disaster. In really dark times there is usually more than one area of life that is deeply troubled. In times like these, people use up their resources, both externally and internally.  Some people get depressed and go quiet. Others get depressed and become cranky – anger is the only way they know how to survive emotionally. Love and attention is experienced as a burden or a demand at a time when they have the least to give.

This is very difficult on loved ones. When they try to love, their partner cannot receive. When they try to get loved, their partners cannot respond.  Everyone suffers.

Bad times test relationships but couples don’t stop loving each other just because times are bad. It’s how the couple handles the bad times that determine whether their relationship will survive or not.  Couples who overcome adversity develop strong bonds.

Scenario: Jay was going through a difficult time financially. He was in danger of losing his business and worried about paying the mortgage. He had people on his case for money all the time. One day a writ server drove into his carport, left his engine running, hammered a nail into his front door, hung papers on it and then peeled away. He was deeply depressed and had trouble getting out of bed in the mornings. He dreaded facing another day. It was all he could do to keep going.

Samantha knew Jay was stressed and she was too. She was patient and understanding for awhile, but she felt really distant from him. She tried to get close to him. She asked him for hugs. She initiated love-making. But Jay did not respond in kind. He knew she wanted reassurance but he could not give it to her. He also knew she wanted to help but he did not want to worry her with the problems. He withdrew from her. When he asked for space, she would panic and cling to him. The thought of losing him was unbearable. After many incidents of him calmly asking for space and Samantha’s inability to give him any, he got cranky. Usually Jay was a reasonable man who did not like to fight. Now he was exhausted and emotionally drained. He had nothing left for himself much less anything for Samantha. The more Jay withdrew from her the more frightened and alone Samantha felt. The more disconnected she felt, the more she sought out contact with Jay. But he was emotionally bankrupt. It was a vicious cycle.

Jay was just trying to survive. His wife’s requests for reassurance and connection felt like demands. He felt if he got close to her she would swallow him up. If that happened, as crazy as it seemed, he felt like he would cease to exist. He did not understand this himself so he could not explain it to her. He could only be angry.

In this case the purpose of anger is to help Jay maintain his sense of self. He loves Samantha and does not want her to go away, just back off. Anger helped him to hold himself together in these difficult times.

Samantha had been talking to a couple of her most trusted friends about her fears and hurt. Finally she was able to stop clinging to him. They gave her the support she needed while her husband did what he had to do to survive. He was able to save his business and get his life back in order.  When he felt more in control he reached out to his wife. Together they decided to seek couples counseling to help them talk through what each had experienced.  They were able to reconnect.

What to do?

If you are the one who is angry and pushing your loved one away, reach out to someone you trust, someone who will keep what you say confidential.  Or, seek out professional help and get the support you need.

If your partner is the one who is angry, offer help but do not push or pressure.  Seek out others that you can trust to support you until your partner is able to reconnect.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea