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Writing Naked

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“You have quite the internet presence,” said the woman on the phone who interviewed me six months ago for a part time position.  “Well, this is complicated,” she continued. “I think you are exactly what we are looking for, but I’m not sure what I think of what you write. The topics you write about, you know? Granted, it’s not fair to judge you based on your writing vs not having the same criteria for all the other applicants. It’s just I’m more comfortable hiring someone whose beliefs and ideas are unknown to me.”

I put down the phone in stunned silence. I told my hubby what happened. He said, “Well, you obviously are not getting that job.”  And he was right. “Just let it go,” he said. That was six months ago.

I did think, well, if she thought the content of my blog and web sites were controversial ( I don’t see the controversy), wait till she reads my novel. They would have fired me for sure, if I’d been hired.

Yes, I do have quite the internet presence, but hey, I’m out there trying to connect, trying to make a business, trying to share my inner sanctum with others who might benefit. I think it’s altruistic, in some respects. Does it make me vulnerable to scrutiny? Yes, and I knew this when I finally got the courage to write and put it out there. So what is the problem?

The problem is… this is the first thing I have written in six months. All editing, plotting, character development, research and blog writing came to a crashing halt. You don’t want to see me when I’m not writing. It’s not pretty. This is devastating to me and I am the one who is keeping me stuck!

“Do you stand by your writing?” hubby asks on the one hundredth conversation about the same topic.  Of course I do. “Then this is a no-brainer, just start writing again and don’t let anyone slow you down.” God love him, he doesn’t get it.

I walk around in this state of malaise, passing by the proof of my novel on the desk, the dust covered storyboard of the next novel in the works, and think – is this what life is all about? That’s when I know I’m in deep doo-doo, when I realize my daily writing has become a once in a six month event and I’m contemplating the meaning of life – again.

It’s easy to tell my clients to do reality checks on those insidious thoughts and hidden emotions. It’s even easier to help my expressive writing clients work through their writing blocks and put their life on the page.  Oh, therapist, heal thy self. It’s not like I don’t have the skills.

This is where the nude writing comes in. I thought my problem is that I felt vulnerable and exposed as a result of that ridiculous phone call six months ago. Even though I was already willingly vulnerable and exposed, having it brought to my attention somehow changed things.

Hmm, I often tell my clients to embrace that which causes us pain instead of hiding or running. So, I’m embracing feeling vulnerable and exposed. The next step is called flooding. It’s where you find a situation where you feel really uncomfortable with what ails you and work your way through. I can’t currently think of any situation other than writing this blog naked to feel totally exposed and vulnerable. So here I am writing again!

Am I naked? Hell no! Its sixty-four degrees in this house and the heater is not on! Do you think I’m insane?  Which brings me to my last point, the imagination is an amazing tool. In a world of pure imagination you can conquer just about anything – and you get to keep your clothes on.

Boston Terror: We the Viewers – Coping

ImageBy now I think all of us know of the horrors that happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday. I’m currently in Florida and luckily (that I am aware) don’t know anyone who ran or attended the event.  My son, who used to live in the area of the attack, had the job of contacting friends to make sure everyone was accounted for. They were all fine.

I know there is a possibility that someone reading this does not have favorable news. To you, I send my deepest hope for healing and strength of perseverance.

The rest of us have the job of learning just how much television to watch on the topic. Dissecting factual information from fiction and how we can help.  None of which is easy.

The 24 hour news coverage concept I’m sure must have seemed like a good idea. My personal opinion is that it has done little to alleviate stress and much to exacerbate fear, anxiety and anger. News is no longer news but opinions, assumptions and exaggerations with some actual facts thrown in. As a relative of mine said, “Well, they have to fill air time with something.”

The Boston coverage has been on almost every station for the past couple days. Some reporters are more careful about keeping fluid in reporting facts. While others even when the two reporters standing are right next to each other at the scene report conflicting information as verifiable fact. Eventually the chaos of the devastating event works its way into our living rooms and lives. We react.

After 911, I was involved in post-trauma counseling and realized many people do not have the knowledge needed to screen themselves from becoming secondary victims. Nor did they realize the impact knowing, with or without watching coverage can have on their own lives. So, I came up with a couple guidelines I could hand out. I thought this would be an appropriate opportunity to re-look at this.

What you need to know: 1. Are me and my family safe? 2. Is there a specific plan of action I need to do to remain safe? 3. If I know or think I know someone involved, how do I find out? 4. Who can I contact to see how and where I can lend my services to help?

After you know the answer to these questions, the remainder of what you see on news reports is secondary. There is nothing wrong with secondary reasons but there is a time when you have to walk away from media reports to maintain your mental health.

When should you walk away from watching news reports: 1. You place your life on hold, afraid if you leave the report, you might miss a piece of important information. 2. You feel drawn or compelled to watch repetitive and more detailed footage of the event despite having seen it before. 3. You start arguing with family or friends over details as they are told in reports. 4. You have trouble eating, sleeping, thinking or are OVERLY upset or angered because of the images and statements.

There is something in the human condition that causes us to be drawn to explore disaster involving human beings. These are what I referred to as secondary reasoning.

So, possible secondary reasons you are watching the continuous reports…

  1. Need for survival: If I study this enough I’ll know what to do if it happens to me.
  2. Shock: I can’t believe this is happening. We watch over and over until it hits us, this is real.
  3. Desire for a reason why the event occurred: Part of survival thinking. I heard a lot of this thinking post-Katrina. New Orleans got hit because of…. (fill in ridiculous reason here). I don’t do that, so I am safe.
  4. Empathy and reactions from helplessness: Having faces to traumatic events connects us with our own fragility and humanity. Feeling helpless to change the unfolding events often causes both a passive and reactive reaction.  Passive: I’m not there but if I pray hard, think hard, watch enough, somehow those people will know that I know and I care.  I can’t do a damn thing to help. But I’m doing what I can.  Active: I’m donating money, going to the scene to wrap bandages, cleaning up debris, helping people find loved ones, making coffee for first responders.
  5. Sense of community: Human beings need each other. Media is a way to bring us to locations and a larger community then our normal existence. In life-threatening situations, this intensifies. Average citizens on the spot become heroic helpers. We want to think we would be heroic helpers too.
  6. Justice /Revenge or both: We want the world to make sense. If we decide (see #2) that the people in trouble did not deserve what happened – someone has to be held accountable. We watch to make sure that happens.

As we gain more details and faces concerning the Boston Marathon tragedy keep yourself in check. If you start having symptoms listed above or others such as crying spells, anger outbursts, panic, nightmares or feel like it is happening to you, pull back. If you can’t or your symptoms worsen, it would be good to talk or journal about what you are feeling –  and turn off the television! At least for large blocks of time.

The Healthy Relationship: Part 3, What Are Your Needs?

ImageBuilding on Parts 1 and 2 of Healthier Relationships …

  1. ALL BEHAVIOR (Everything you think, feel and do) IS PURPOSEFUL AND PARTIALLY BASED ON YOUR NEEDS
  2. THE ONLY PERSON YOU CAN CHANGE IS YOU
  3. WE ALL HAVE THE SAME NEEDS IN DIFFERENT DEGREES

 This being the case, if we want to improve the quality of our lives we need to start by asking ourselves about our own needs.

 NEEDS: Everyone has the same needs, only in different degrees.

 Universal needs can be lumped in the following categories:

Love and belonging

Power

Freedom

Fun

Survival

Purpose in life (spiritual)

 Below are examples of behaviors you might see in someone with a high degree in a need area.  (These are just examples and not meant to be a scientific endeavor) See if you can find yourself. Beside each behavior place a number based on if it fits you. At the end of each section, count up the points and see in what order your universal needs stack up.  (These are ONLY SOME examples of typical behaviors)

 You might want to get other people who have a close relationship with you to do the same quiz and compare the results. It may help explain why you gravitated toward them or why there are conflicts between the two of you. This is also an excellent exercise in looking at children (parent to observe these behaviors in their child and not have the child take the quiz). It is much easier to parent a child if you understand what needs the child’s behavior is trying to meet.

 Scoring:

1 = Not me at all

2 = Maybe relates to me but very rarely

3 = Relates to me but only under certain circumstances

4 = I do this more often than not

5 = This is me, no question

 

LOVE AND BELONGING

 

Enjoys social activities

 

Cooperative with others

 

Likes to belong to clubs, groups, community events

 

Seeks out friendships

 

Family is very important

 

Craves intimacy

 

Self esteem derived from what others think of them

 

Feel lonely and/or depressed if not involved in a greater cause or group

 

Strives to please others

 

Puts others needs before their own

 

Has many friends

 

Teacher’s/boss’s pet

 

Tends to be affectionate

 

More likely to be a follower then leader

 

Strives to find others needs and to fill them

 

High need to be liked by others

 

Hard time saying NO

 

Purpose in life is in ability to help others

 

 

POWER

 

High achiever

 

Competitive

 

Desires recognition for achievements/ skills

 

Strong will for self-worth

 

Needs to win at games

 

Needs to feel correct

 

Pride in completing challenging goals

 

Enjoys being highly skilled

 

Need to dominate situations/and or people

 

Over achiever

 

Involvement in political/social activist activities

 

Aggression

 

Involvement in behaviors that make the person feel stronger/invincible (excessive drinking, fighting, risk taking behaviors)

 

 

 

Wants to be influential

 

Need to be affiliated with other people at the top of their game

 

Desires to gain higher education to feel better about self

 

Sexually aggressive

 

Gives up family/friends to climb their career ladder

 

Has a hard time being told they are wrong

 

Prefers independent sports as opposed to team sports

 

 

FREEDOM

 

Desire to make their own choices

 

Does not want responsibilities  to tie them down

 

Does not like to listen to people in authority

 

Strives to be their true selves regardless of consequence

 

Does not want to make commitments

 

Does not give in to peer pressure

 

Independent

 

Likes to choose their own path

 

Likes to be seen as outside the box

 

Likes to keep their opinions open and not make decisions

 

Craves spontaneity

 

Enjoy independent thinking and creativity

 

Not satisfied with other’s answers, needs to find things out on their own

 

Restrictions make them restless

 

Likes to be self-sufficient

 

Bores easy with daily routines

 

Relates to other’s needs for freedom

 

Creative expressionism

 

Does not do well maintaining or seeing need for planning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUN

 

Likes to throw parties

 

Craves the energy of new/adventurous things

 

Likes to be around other people with common interests

 

Can be indiscriminate

 

 

Pleasure centered

 

Easily bored with daily routines

 

Does not take self/life too seriously

 

Enjoys playing but does not need to be competitive

 

Humorous

 

Willing to break tradition for fun, excitement, joy

 

 

Searches for humorous things/people/events

 

Can bore easily in long term relationships

 

Likes to travel to learn and experience new things

 

Creative for pleasure and not for completion of a project

 

Craves originality

 

Does not like confrontation

 

Enjoys learning in nontraditional ways

 

Can be seen as always on the go

 

Enjoyment of life is seen as most important

 

 

 

SURVIVAL

 

Fears for the future

 

Stores or hordes food/water/survival tools

 

Low trust of others/government

 

Fears losing their freedoms

 

Needs to feel prepared for anything

 

Typically very tense

 

Fears the unknown

 

Very observant

 

Instinctive

 

Self efficient

 

Can become impulsive, aggressive is threat of survival is challenged

 

Can be considered primitive in thinking/living (so busy concern about surviving all else is put to the side)

 

Strong ego, pits self against others

 

Can be seen as greedy

 

Needs things to be predictable to feel safe

 

Sees threats where others do not

 

Often intolerant of differences in other people or ways of living

 

Can have conspiracy based thinking

 

Feels insecure/anxious inside

 

 

PURPOSE DRIVEN (SPIRITUALITY)

 

Desires to be closer in relationship with higher being/power/element

 

Explores self/meaning of life

 

Needs purpose in life to feel whole

 

Can become judgmental and self-righteous

 

Can be religious/external doctrine focused

 

Can fears doing the wrong thing or for the wrong reason

 

Can  be existential and altruistic

 

May break from tradition to explore other cultural spiritual practices

 

Maybe willing to give up much to gain spiritual wisdom

 

May have complex rituals of behavior to feel closer to a higher power or their true being

 

 

May seek out paranormal experiences or classify experiences as miracles, demonic or other worldly

 

May refuse to conform to society norm of religious or doctrine related thoughts, dictates

 

Can be more tolerant of differences in people and cultures then average person

 

May have experienced one or more profound mystical, paranormal or other worldly event

 

May seek out others who share similar experiences or views of life and/or  a higher power

 

May seek and find spiritual values/meaning in life based on nature/science

 

May engage in experimental/chemical/risk taking behaviors to find a feelings of nirvana or out of body experience  

 

Attempts to fill voids in life/past through higher thoughts/learning/spiritual education/practice

 

May extend need for meaning of  one’s life to reason and causation for universe and life in general

 

 Total scores:

 Love and Belonging: _________

 Power: _________

 Freedom: __________

 Fun: ___________

 Survival: ____________

 Purpose of Life (Spirituality): __________

 ** Information based on the work of Dr. William Glasser

Life’s Little Instruction Manual Part 2 of THE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

ImageToday, I continue with the topic of keeping and maintaining a healthy relationship with others and yourself.  Yesterday, I briefly explored the concept of: People can only act and react (thinking, feeling, and doing) based on what they know.

The next important piece of information is this:

 2. Every action/reaction a person has (thoughts, feelings, actions and physiology) is based on what they believe is in their best interest at the time of the event provoking the action/reaction.   

 This is a slightly more complicated concept to digest for some situations. Especially if the actions/reactions you see in yourself or someone else SEEM to be directly opposite of what is in their best interest. Some serious situations that come to mind are people living in abusive situations, joining gangs, engaging in risky behaviors, getting involved in drugs and alcohol.  Other, perhaps less serious behaviors might be procrastination, letting strong emotions like anger interfere with life, not caring for one’s health and well being.

 We ALL do, think, and feel things that are not in our best interest from time to time. There is no way to avoid this unless you are omnipotent. If you think you are omnipotent then you need the services of your local mental health provider. 

 So, go ahead and ask me, Debbie, why in the world would we continue to do behaviors (thoughts, feelings, actions and physiology) that end up not being in our best interest? Aren’t we trying to do what IS in our best interest?  Good questions, glad you asked me.

 Our brains are amazing machines. But like computers, they can only function as well as the information contained within them. And like the computer, someone has to enter the information into the brain to make it work. 

Who is the computer programmer of your brain?

  To start, you were born with reflexes and certain pieces of information to help you act and search out what you need to survive. Then your parents, home life, community, school, friends, lovers, and anything and anyone you have encountered in your life added to that programming.

 The younger you are when you get information the more it was incorporated into the hard drive of your brain. As you aged, you developed your own screens or filters to decide what information in the world is more important than other ones.  These filters were developed based on your personality and the information you gained when you were little. So, if as a little one you did not have affectionate parents, your filters would reflect this.

 Let’s say Joe’s personality is one of a sensitive, affectionate person raised in the above household. His filter would search out people and situations where he could get these needs met outside the family. Depending on how high his need for affection, he could end doing some very risky behaviors to get his need for affection met.

 Now, let say Joe is in middle school and he meets a person who engages in behaviors he normally would get involved with. However, this person does things that Joe’s brain tells him, this is a way to get my needs met. It’s not the best situation, but somehow it will work out.  Maybe, this person of Joe’s interest is a much older student or a teacher with very poor boundaries.  Joe gets involved with this person because he thinks it is in his best interest at the time.   This is a very simplified example.

 Our filters are like little radars always searching and assessing the environment to get our needs met.  Searching sale papers and clipping coupons for the best sale on ground beef, the outfit that will get us a job, the right words to get someone to do what we want, choosing to eat a Big Mac instead of broccoli, rehearsing or practicing to all hours of the night.  All these are examples of behaviors we do based on our needs and the information we have screened through our filters.  Got it?

 Today, take a moment and ask yourself, why you choose to do or not do something.  For example:

 Open the door for someone else?

Yell at your spouse?

Eat a bowl of ice cream instead of a nutritious breakfast?

Read this blog?

Choose to leave for work the time you did?

Stay late at work?

Have a headache?

Became exhausted?

Engage in any sexual behavior?

Watch a particular TV show?

Drink five cups of coffee and an energy drink?

Take a shower?

 Some of these sound trivial, but they are not. They are all examples of behaviors we choose based on what we feel is in our best interest at the time. 

 Challenge Question!

  Did you give reasons like, I just wanted to, so and so did such and such and that is what I did this, they deserved it, I have to?

 None of these are the real reasons you did any of those behaviors. Look again. Keep looking till you get to the real reason you acted, thought, felt what you did. If for some reason you are not able to get to a deeper reason, don’t panic. This is happening either because your programming has not learned how to get this information or it is being blocked. Either way, it is your programming telling you this is in your best interest right now.