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Wish Upon a Star, You Can go Far. Sit on Your Butt, You’ll Stay in a Rut

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Everyone at some point in their lives dreams about what could have been or should have been. They look back upon their life and say things like, how in the hell did I get here and with these people?  

 The answer is simple to say, but hard to accept. For the most part, they chose the elements of their life that brought them to where they are currently. (This is not to state catastrophes and events thrust onto someone are chosen by the victim! No, no, no, but everyone has choices concerning the aftermath of such events.  That’s a different topic.)

 Why do we make the choices we do? We think it’s in our best interest at the time, that’s why. The problem arises when we make choices without examining what truly is in our best interest. Many of us wander through life, dreaming, but never taking ourselves seriously enough to invest time into evaluating our choices with the life we really want. Then one day, we turn around and wonder how we got where we are and why do we feel so miserable.

 As we grow, we develop a picture of what our perfect world would look like. Then, hopefully, we spend our lives making choices to get us as close to that perfect world as possible. We do this because when our real world closely aligns with our internal, ideal world, (quality world) we feel good.

 So, okay, here you are in a relationship that does not match your ideal world. You work in a job that is so far off base from your interests, talents and desires that you hate getting up in the morning.  You look at yourself in the mirror and say, who is that person looking back at me? Now what?

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   Step one: Do you know what your ideal life is? If not, start figuring it out. Play with the idea of having a magic wand and there are no limitations. Forget the idea of, why do this, I can’t accomplish this anyway. Just do it.

 Step two: What does this ideal world say about you? Do you see patterns? Do your dreams show you feeling powerful, more accepted, more creative? This is important because while you may not be able to get your exact ideal life, you can find good substitutions to get those same needs and wants met.  Let’s say, you want to be a surgeon, but you don’t have the education or time for medical school. You realize you want to be a surgeon so you can help others in the field of medicine. Become a phlebotomist, a Red Cross volunteer or first aid officer at your company.

 Step three: Look at the choices you are making in your life. Do they line up with getting closer to your ideal world? Why or why not? Identify the areas in your life or choices you are making that push you further from your ideal life.

 Step four: Get more information about other choices you could be making. Talk to people who appear to have similar ideal lives. Read books and cruise the internet for more information. The more information you have about what you want, the easier it is take steps to make it happen.

 Step five: Set goals for yourself. Remember not all goals are external. For example, today, instead of dreaming I was married to Johnny Depp and being pissed at my spouse, I’ m going to find out what qualities in Johnny Depp I admire and see how my spouse lines up. Or, deciding – my spouse has great qualities and my ideas about Johnny Depp are based on fantasy and not reality. I really wasn’t that crazy when I married my spouse. He’s pretty special. These are internal choice changes.

 An external choice change might be, my spouse ridicules me, threatens me and I don’t want or need to live like this. I’m going to investigate what it takes to get a divorce or what is in my community to help people like me.

 Think of goals as the set points. They are your rudders helping you steer through life.  

 Step six: Evaluate! Evaluate!

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 What is it you really want?

What are you doing to get it?

 Is it working? Why or why not?

What can I do different?

Set goals and do it!

 No one has to spend their lives sitting in a rut. We create the ruts and put ourselves there. Choose to get up and wish upon a star. You have what it takes. Just do it.  

Stress Perseverance for Relationships

(Video is Tom the Turtle teaches about Stress Perseverance)

I met a woman the other day who’d told me she was ready to divorce her husband.  They had only been married for two years.  I asked her why she was making this decision and she said he was acting peculiar.  What does peculiar look like?

She said when they first got married he would come home from work and spend time with her.  These days, he comes home late or would call  from work to tell her he was going out with friends or doing community volunteer work.

I asked her if there was legitimate reason for him to work late.  She said yes the reasons for his work lateness were valid.  She didn’t suspect he was being unfaithful.

What was his relationship with his after-work buddies? Were they old friends or new people in his life?  If they were old friends, did he go out with them frequently before they got married?

She answered, that before they got married he regularly went out with his friends after work or spent time volunteering at various organizations.  She married a man who gets a lot of satisfaction and relaxation by being social. After they got married he slowed down his out the home activities. Now he had resumed to pre-marriage arrangements.

I asked if she was a social person.  She said no, she was more of a homebody.  Going out with people was more stress than something she enjoyed.  These days, she much preferred staying home cuddling up with a good book or watching television.  When they were dating, she used to force herself to go out, to be social.  These days it was too much for her to do.

She said she enjoyed helping others and was proud of her husband for his involvement in the community.  She just wished he’d spend more time with her.  I asked if there were any stresses in their lives other than the current relationship issues.  She didn’t think they had any until we talked about stress and what stresses are.

A stress is something in your environment that convinces your body to react as though it’s in danger.  It can be simple things such as new responsibilities at work, changes in your schedule, or ever stimulation such as overcrowding, too much light, too much noise.

Stress can be good, bad or neutral.  Think of Christmas or thanksgiving.  Times that most people consider family time, happy time.  They are; however, very stressful because of extra responsibilities, financial burdens and demands from society and our families.

I think everyone is familiar with bad stress.  We know from the get-go that what we are experiencing does not feel good and we do not see any benefits. That stress quickly causes headaches, muscle tension, irritability and anxiety.  Sometimes they even anger.

Neutral stress typically has the slowest in reactions unless multiple stresses combine.  I often say an example of neutral stress might be going to the grocery store and picking out pickles.  It’s not a matter of life and death deciding on which pickle to buy.  Still, depending on your frame of mind, looking at all those shelves of pickles can become daunting and stressful especially if you are in a hurry.

So getting back to the woman I met, she said yes there were stresses that were new.  She mentioned that the stepson moved into the home five months ago.  He and the family were having a hard time adjusting.  She also mentioned that her elderly father had developed Alzheimer’s and she didn’t know how she would take care of him.  Her mother was deceased and she was an only child.  One top of that she reiterated that both she and her husband had increased stress at work.  Those are definitely very high stresses.

I was shopping at the local grocery when I overheard a couple arguing.  I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop; however, their volume made hearing easy.  The gist of their conversation had similar rings to the woman I met earlier.  In this case it was the man complaining that his significant other was spending too much time away from home.  He went into a long litany of stresses that he had to deal with by himself.  Stresses such as sick kids, a neighbor who is troublesome, stresses of work and work on the house with no money to fix it.  She yelled back about all the stresses of her life.  She stormed about having too much responsibility in the mornings, stepchild not respecting her, her job being difficult and feeling like she had no support from him.

Regardless of any other issues in their relationship, this was clearly another case of a couple responding to the increase in stress in their lives.  Relationships are like trees. When the storm of stress hits it will either bend or snap. All relationships experience stress. You can’t avoid it.

If you start out with the great relationship, increased stress will still put a strain on that relationship.  If you have a mediocre or poor relationship increased stress will make the road will be much rockier and possibly snap the relationship.

The severity of the stress, the couple’s support system and how well they communicate will help determine how strong and healthy their relationship will be after the storm. Therefore, I always tell people they should have stress inoculation.

Each person handles threats in a different way.  You may remember being taught that people either flee, fight, freeze or flop. Stress is experienced in the brain as a threat.

Two people in the same situation may react completely differently than the next. One person in the relationship may need to take more walks or go out with friends more often.  This person is fleeing.  They need to escaping the situation, even if only temporarily.  Going for walks or out with friends is a lot more desirable then leaving the relationship.  That thought is a flee-from-stress thought.  They literally feel if they don’t flee they will be unable to tolerate the situation.

Another person may start arguments, having tantrums, start physical fights when they are stressed.  They may tell you they feel they’re up against the wall and need to react this way to protect themselves.  There really is no physical danger or need for protection, but their biology and past learning convinces them otherwise. These people are the fighters.

The next person will do nothing.  They may literally stand and shut down in front of you.  These people become quiet, withdrawn and can’t handle having confrontations.  The more upsetting the stress around them the more they shut down.  These people are the freezers.

The last way a person can respond to stress is to flop.  Flopping literally means the person falls down or faints.  I don’t see this much as a reaction to severe stress except in situations of sudden stress such as unexpected death or other extreme, emotional shocks.

I believe adrenaline fatigue is an example of flopping when a person experiences a long term stressful environment. It manifests as extreme fatigue sometimes debilitating and the person can’t function.   In time the body wears down and the person gets sick more often and in severe cases can cause or speed the rate of heart disease and death.

So how can a person stress inoculate?

Step one: remember stress happens it’s only a matter of when and what kind.

Step two: know how you react to stress.  Are you a flopper, the fleer, a fighter, or someone who freezes?

Step three: if you’re in a relationship, which of these reactions does your significant other use?

Step four: acknowledge and accept that the way your significant other reacts does not have to be the way you react.

Step five: develop good communication before stress hits.  If you’re already in the stress boat, take a timeout away from home in neutral territory where you can discuss the stress and how it affects each of you.

Step six: do not bring other parties into your conflict.  This is not about he said, she said, he’s bad, she’s bad, I’m right, they’re wrong.  It’s about coping when you’re not your best or when loved ones are not at their best

Step seven: do not make any life changing decisions while under extreme stress unless absolutely necessary.  You’re not in your normal thinking mind.  You’re in survival mode and the part of your brain that deals with rational thinking has taken a side seat to your primitive survival brain.

Step eight: focus your thinking on elements in your life that currently give you joy.  There is no such thing as not having joy.  Joy is a way of looking at elements in your life that bring peace, appreciation, good healthy feelings if viewed in a positive light.  Find it and make it significant.

Step nine: this too shall pass.  The outcome of a stressful event may not be positive but the events unfolding are moving in time as you are.  You’ll either make decisions for change to get in a better place or the events will change and there will be release.

Step 10: after riding that storm of stress, sit down and evaluate how you reacted and how you both reacted as a team.  What worked, what needs tweaked and what needs changed to prepare for the next round.

In the end I’d like to think that most people want their relationships to be healthy, happy and supportive.  Remember you are team. Even if you didn’t say the words, for better or worse, as part of a marriage ceremony or you have a committed relationship of any kind, the intent is implied.  If your relationship starts looking rocky, do a stress evaluation for both of you.  Do it together.  Remember, this too shall pass.

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