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


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?


   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!


 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.  

Come on Get Happy!



The world of social work and psychology are always doing research and trying new approaches to help individuals and the world survive, thrive and bloom. These processes come in waves and the most current wave is in the area of Happiness or Positive Psychology. Trainings and new book offers arrive in my mailbox almost daily on understanding, using and living in the realm of happiness.

 I thought I’d share the information I’m getting. Some of this is, in my opinion, common scene. Other pieces of information, on the surface, may appear new, but with reflection I think you will find you knew this all along.  Here is the information:

  1. Happiness is considered 50% genetic, 40% within our power to achieve through activities and positive thinking, and 10% environmental (we experience something that brings us joy, laughter and pleases us).

2. Stay connected to people, places and activities that bring you positive energy appreciate and validate you.

3. Realize that everyone has problems. The key is the mind set: problems are temporary and solvable.

4. If you can’t get out of a bad situation, change your attitude. Play positive and uplifting thoughts, memories in your head. Listen to music you like. Be involved in activities that offset the situation. There are great stories from POWs using this technique to survive in captivity.

5. Stop focusing on what could have been, what should be or should have been. Stop trying to escape your problems and meet them face on.

6. Express your needs and concerns positively and take ownership of them. An example: When you forget to pick me up, I feel abandoned. Instead of I’m pissed at you for forgetting to pick me up or how dare you forget to pick me up.

7. In relationships, focus on WE instead of ME. Always ask – Will what I am about to do or say bring our relationship closer or pull us further apart?

8. Every morning, stop before starting your day and be grateful for what you have. Name them in your head. Your house, inside climate control, your car, family, food, clothing, fresh water, a job…

9. Acceptance, that you are not perfect and neither is anyone else. Have compassion toward yourself and patience and acceptance toward others. (This does not mean you have to agree with their behaviors or choices. It is honoring them as a fellow human being trying to make it).

10. Remember you can’t read other’s minds; you don’t need to judge their actions or  take them personally. Example:  He didn’t accept my idea. I know he’s out to get me and this is part of his plan to make me look like a fool. I’ll show him.

Give these a thought or two. My wish to you this day; may this St. Patrick’s Day bring you a renewed sense of happiness.

5 (25) Potential Relationship Killers


Divorced Super Sized

I see books all the time about the five types of relationship killers. It’s ashamed we stop at five because naming the top five may not hit on the bumps in a relationship. If you look at a lot of the social and psychological data on relationships, the list looks more like this. (Note these are not in order of most damaging to least. There is no way to do that as each entry has its own dimensions and they differ couple to couple).

  1. Communication issues
  2. Dependency vs independency
  3. Money
  4. Ineffective problem solving or arguments
  5. Changes in sexual desire
  6. Affairs/one night stands/porn/excessive flirting
  7. Friends/family/in-laws
  8. Life Stress: job/unemployment/death/chronic illness/sudden illness/mental illness/increase in responsibilities/aging/moving/life style changes
  9. Habits/vices/addictions
  10. Taking the other for granted
  11.  Rushing into a phase in the relationship too quickly: weddings/babies/retirement
  12. Lack of trust
  13. Lack of Intimacy: feeling like you have to hide who you are due to fear of being unlovable/ no physical intimacy (touching)/ feeling like you have to be someone else to be loved
  14. Lack of care: feeling like you are uncared for or your partner does not understand you
  15. Judgementalism: feeling like you are always scrutinized, you can’t do anything right or being perfectionist and believing you can’t do anything right.
  16. Tests: partner sets up little tests to see if you pass and are worthy of trust/love
  17. Unrealistic expectations: if this is love, why am I so miserable – expecting partner to meet or fix your inner emptiness or meet unrealistic expectations or fantasies
  18. Lack of contributions in household, family responsibilities
  19. Raising kids
  20. Respect
  21. Comfort levels
  22.  Different goals in life
  23. Step parenting
  24. Mistakes: shutting down due to fear of making a mistake, making things worse
  25. Living in the past

In the next couple weeks, I’m going to address each of these risks and discus them in more detail. In the mean time, what is important to know is that while these can range in metaphor as a splinter, dagger or serial stabbing.

What one couple sees as a serial stabbing another might see as a splinter. Why the difference and which couple is going to ride the wave and come out feeling connected? The quick and easy answer is in fluidity and desire to the commitment.

Fluidity means the ability to bend and not brake, to see the whole picture and not hyper-focus on one detail.  Think about your relationship as a porcelain bowl, for example. If you drop the bowl into a swimming pool full of water, it will get wet, but most likely will stay intact. If you drop it in the sand, depending on the height you drop it; it might stay intact or crack. If you drop it on concrete – it’s shattered – almost every time.

There are ways to make you more mindful – more fluid. Keep in mind, however, that you are only one person in a relationship. The strongest relationships have fluidity in both partners.

Until next time….

Sorry, the Life you Wanted is Currently Out of Stock

ImageDid you ever wonder if people living in third world countries sit around wondering what life would be like if….. (fill in blank here)? Is attempting to design our lives something that all humans contemplate or is it a manifestation of our society? Are we bred or designed to think in terms of what if?

I think the first time I was introduced to the concept of, there might be something better out there, happened when I saw Cinderella as a little girl.  You know the story, the down and out princess, abused by her stepmother and stepsisters dreaming of someone to love her and take her away from the hell.

Then there was Casper the Friendly Ghost. He was the child ghost harassed by his emotionally abusive uncles and longing for acceptance and love. I think if I really put my mind to it, I could name hundreds of characters or media sources depicting the theme, there must be something better out there.

In every case I can think of, the lead character gets to a point where they can’t take it anymore and attempts to force a change hoping for the better. But what is better and how do we decide when what we have is not good enough?

In my counseling practice I have seen people who appear happy living in relationships and in environments plagued with difficulties. On the flip-side, I’ve seen miserable people in what looks like great relationships or having more than enough money to live very comfortable. Where does the difference come from?

I’m sure you have heard the saying, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. If you are one of the billions of people thinking or searching for the, there must be something better, this probably seems infuriating.  It got me wondering. If everyone lived by that saying, where would the world be?  Is the act of making lemonade a kin to fight the good fight or accept and learn to live with lemonade?

All these questions are important because depending on your beliefs, this maybe the only opportunity to live your life.  Are you going to buy into the somewhere out there life is better or things are great just the way they are? Of course there is any combination of both options that people vacillate between.

How many divorces occur because there might be something better? How many wars fought because owning someone else’s land, people or forcing your way of life on another group of people might make life better?  Only to have that something better happen and be startled that the something better is not that better after all.  Note I am not talking about people in abusive relationships.

The idea of, let’s get back to the good ole days is another example of this phenomena. I saw a book in the Smithsonian American History Museum entitled, The Good Old Days They Were Terrible!, by Otto Bettmann. It asserts that the concept of the good old days is a myth, a trick of the mind. If you look at the reality of our history, personal, national and global, he’s right.

I think this backward looking fantasy is not much different then, there might be something better out there, which is forward wishing.  In both cases the person has judged their current life as not acceptable.  How does this serve us, help us?

When I was in Northern Africa, I didn’t hear people saying things like, I’m an anchovy fisherman now but one day ……  Maybe they were hoping for a different future or desiring a glossed over remembrance of a life long ago and I was not made privy to their desires.

I have friends who spent a couple weeks in Haiti.  When they came back they were overcome with the positive, spirit-focused, mind-set of the people. Was this a representation of a select group of people, an outward expression designed to show outsiders or a genuine way of viewing the reality of their national and personal situation?

The ultimate question is who ends up with the least regrets at the end of life? The person searching, planning, acting in hope for something better or the person accepting and finding reasons in the here and now to be happy.

Happy does not necessarily equate to lack of regret or does it? Perhaps the real; key is not whether to search or accept but the mind set accompanying both

Can a person accept and “be” happy for the life they have and still search for something better? That almost sounds impossible, impractical. In my mind the act of being happy equals contentment. And if I’m content than I forget the future or pondering if there is something out there better?

I’m happy, content, but what if there is something better? Maybe better does not bring more happiness but a richer experience. Someone who says, I have a million dollars and I feel happy. I’m going to spend a great percentage in this helping people in need and that enriches my happiness. This is a very altruistic goal as opposed to the self centered thinking of Cinderella who was looking out for her own needs.

We all decide what will and won’t make us happy. Sometimes we are realistic and other times there is no pleasing. There will always be people who are never happy with certain elements in their lives. The will fault their fate, themselves or blame someone else.

I usually hear people make comments such as, if only so and so would do such and such, I would be happy.

I have also seen people attempt to go against who they are and against their desires and needs in an attempt to make another person happy. It typically doesn’t work. Why, because the other person is seeking change in someone else to make themselves happy instead of taking responsibility for their own happiness.

Thoughts of if only I had a better job, a better car, improved health than life would be better. I would be happier. There is no difference in any of these scenarios. They are externally focused. What if you are never able to have improved health or a better job? Are you destined to never be happy, content with a well lived life?

Are these thoughts byproducts of modern industrial society? A product of bombardment with advertizing telling us what we should have, what our spouse should look like, behave like, what the definition of success is? The birth of the internet and the six-hundred channels on a TV brings many of us further still from the realities of healthy human interaction to obsessive, unhealthy, unrealistic expectations.

How can a person navigate through all the sewage to find contentment, happiness? How do we balance what can’t be, what should not be, what might be with what is? How do we set up that reality check to keep ourselves headed in the direction of happiness, contentment and a life well lived? However you define that?

Do you make lemonade dreams for a better tomorrow? What do you do when you are told, sorry, the life you wanted is out of stock? You decide, it’s your life.

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.

Fishing for the Right Life Partner

ImageSetting out to find a life partner is like fishing. Fishermen have to know what kind of fish they are fishing for and where that type of fish is likely to be found. If they are after tuna, hopefully, you wouldn’t see them fishing in a river.  They have to know what kind of bait to use to entice the fish. They have to know their own abilities and have good skills in fishing. Knowing all this, they go to their favorite fishing place and throw in their line and wait. If they are lucky a fish shows interest. Skill is in the length of time and reel play needed to keep the fish interested and not bored. Hopefully, the fisherman gets his fish.

Okay, dating is not quite like fishing. There are some differences but the basics are the same. The person looking needs to know the type of person that holds their interest. Next, they have to know where to best find that type of person. The fisher of a life partner has to assess if they have the correct personal characteristics to attract this type of person.  They have to be confident that what they have to legitimately offer and be sincere in offering.  This is where the analogy stops.

People are not fish and the idea of baiting someone sounds horrid. However, I find using this fishing analogy works well in getting people to realize some of the behaviors they chose to find a mate are as wacky as fishing for tuna in a river. Two reasons for dating disasters and the destruction of the beginning relationships are: One or both people have minimal ideas on what they really want in a relationship. One or both people don’t know what their needs are and the ways they have learned to get those needs met.  One or both parties do not realize that everyone in the world processes and sees the world somewhat differently. When you add the hormonal component involved with sexual attraction and the chemical reaction we call falling in love, is it any wonder new relationships have a high turn-over rate?

To be a fisherman in good form and help prevent fishing disasters, it is best for the fisherman to know his/herself before those hormones kick in.  I’m going to review some ideas then look at an example.

Review: All choices in life revolve around the same basic questions and concerns. What is it I really want and need? What am I doing to get it?Is it working? If not, reassess what you are doing?

 Our choices must also include two very important pieces of information: ALL BEHAVIOR IS PURPOSEFUL (Everything you think, feel and do is for a purpose – always). THE ONLY PERSON YOU CAN CHANGE IS YOU.

All our behaviors are based on our needs. Everyone has the same needs, only in different degrees.  Universal needs are: Love and belonging (feeling connected to a bigger whole),                                             Power, Freedom, Fun, Survival,  Purpose in life (spiritual).

  How we get these needs met depends on several factors:  Our total knowledge (learning and experience), Our values. Our perceptions (how we choose to see the world around us).


Let’s look at Joe (not a real person) for an example of this in action.

Joe has a high NEED for LOVE and a low need for POWER. His goal (WANT) is to find someone to marry who will love him unconditionally the way he wants to love them.

Joe’s TOTAL KNOWLEDGE comes from:

His divorced parents:

Mom said. “Your father never loved me. I know this because he never helped me with the chores.”

Joe heard: to show a woman you love them, help with the chores.

Dad said. “We loved one another but she let herself go and well I have needs.  Your mom turned out to be a total dog. Son, marry a younger beautiful woman and you will always be content.”

Joe heard:  Stay in shape, dress sharp and marry a younger, beautiful woman to keep love alive.

Joe has read all about love and relationships in books and magazines and has learned:

Love takes a lot of work

There are stages of love in a relationship

Couples who make it, communicate well and have date nights

Money is the number one reason couples split up


Joe loves to listen to country music, watch TV and go to the movies. He has learned:

Relationships break up all the time

No matter what men do in a relationship, it’s usually wrong

Men have a very hard time staying with one woman

If you work hard enough you can get someone to fall in love with you

If someone steals your girl, you can work hard and win her back

Women want a tender man who is good in bed, has a good job, makes good money, is handsome, maybe a bit quirky and can take care of them

Romance and love hit fast and hard. Go with it.


Joe has friends. All of them are divorced and some remarried. He hears them say things like:

She left me for her tennis instructor.

My secretary is better in the sack.

She just doesn’t get me.

We grew apart.

She was a nagging bitch anyway.

 Joe hears:

Stay in shape or you’ll lose her to some athletic guy.

Don’t look at other women, it’s too tempting.

Keep an open communication so you don’t grow apart.

Remember there are stages of love, stick with it.

There are reasons people complain. Find out and correct problems if needed.

Now Joe is ready to find the girl of his dreams.  He is at an art gallery opening and spots the young and beautiful Sally.  He knows she is the one and there is no turning back. He can feel it. The fact he does not know her is of no consequence. He had everything he needs to make this work. So he thinks.


 Joe has not looked at the most important piece of information needed to make this relationship work. Sally has her own TOTAL KNOWLEDGE independent of Joe!  Because Joe decided, based on his knowledge, values and perceptions that they were destined to be together, he inadvertently placed his heart on the line.  He fell romantically in love and it ended up looking like this.

 Joe: Tries to be attentive.  Sally: Thinks he is smothering.

Joe: Brings her flowers and writes her romantic poetry. Sally: Thinks flowers are a waste of money and only for funerals or for saying I’m sorry. She hates poetry.

 Joe: Wants to spend intimate evenings at home watching TV together. Sally: Wants to belong to various up and coming professional and social groups. These keep her out of the house most nights.

Joe: Reminds her of his good, high paying job and income. But he doesn’t stop there. He also reminds her that he is there to take care of her.  Hinting she can stay home and take care of the kids when they come along.

Sally: Thinks he is a male chauvinist.  There is no way in hell she would consider staying home. She is one of the up and coming, not trying to gain a homemaker of the year award.

Who is in the wrong? Neither! Joe has a strong need for love and a low power need. Sally has a low need for love and a strong need for power.  The relationship fails and Joe is devastated. He has no clue why it did not work.

Because of Joe’s total knowledge and values, he chose to only see the things in his world that agreed with them. Those were his perceptions. It all went together and it never occurred to him Sally saw things differently.  Joe had TUNNEL VISION.

Joe’s tunnel vision prevented him from seeing Kelly at the gallery the night he fell in love with Sally.  Kelly had introduced herself to Joe but he hadn’t really seen her after seeing Sally. She was not as stunning in his eyes.

Kelly was looking for someone just like Joe to fall in love and get married.  She would have been thrilled with poetry, romance, nights home together and a long committed relationship with family. 

 Joe missed it! This was probably not the first or the last time Joe’s tunnel vision would blind him to getting his needs and wants met.

                                               FISHING LESSON FOR THE DAY


Know your needs and wants (the real ones, not the superficial ones).

Have a handle on how you are thinking, feeling, behaving and how you are screening your reality to get   those needs and wants met.

When you met someone REMEMBER – they have their own needs and wants. They have their own ways of thinking, feeling, behaving and screening their reality.

Slow down and reassess yourself and the situation often. If needed, make changes in your thinking, feeling or behaving.

** Now I know someone is going to ask, why would Sally continue to go out with Joe?

 Let’s look at Sally a little closer.

 Sally has a strong power need. Her goal (want) is to find a man with enough money, connections and good looks to wine/dine and help elevate her and her career. She wants to live the way her parents did without the commitment to marriage.

Sally’s parents are married. 

Mom says. “Your father and I love one another, I suppose. But he’s a lawyer. I’ve got the country club. Marry someone rich, someone who will get you into the upper crust of society.”
Sally heard: Men are your ticket to the rich and powerful of society. Love is not important, prestige is.

Dad says. “I’m a powerful attorney. I don’t have time for trivialities of marriage. I got married because it is what I was supposed to. It looks good for politics and moving ahead in life.”
Sally heard: Marriage if anything is for convenience and if you don’t have to, don’t do it.

 Sally does not like to read books on relationships. Occasionally she reads magazines on high fashion and celebrities.  She has learned:

The more men you have experience with the better

Men are a great spring board for a woman to succeed

Men can be thrown away when a better opportunity arises

Men’s feelings are not as deep or important as a woman’s

Women have been oppressed too long. It’s your turn, baby.

Sally does not watch TV. She listens to Indie and World music but never notices any relationship issues implied in them. If she goes to a movie, it is only to see an Indie film specific about world concerns and oppressed people getting ahead.  She has learned:

You have to be tough in this world

You are truly on your own

Make sacrifices to better yourself

Think global not home based


Sally’s friends have never married nor do they want to. They have all gone through many men all propelling them further in their own pursuits.  They all think their moms were naive and or dumb.

Sally hears:

Don’t get married

Date only men with money who can help propel your career

It’s all for me to help me so I can help the world

I’m not going to be a pasty fool like my mom.

Sally meets Joe. His money and continuous attempts to convince her of his great and powerful job tell her he meets her criteria. She can use this even if the rest of him is old fashioned and a bit of a bore. Only his old fashioned ways and smothering behaviors make him too much of a liability for her needs and wants. She dumps him for Kevin who has more of a power need similar to her own.

Sometimes the Joe’s do find the Kelly’s in the world and there are still problems that arise.  Why would this happen?

Remember Joe gives flowers and poetry to show love? It could be as easy as Kelly was raised that a man shows love by doing more family events and activities with kids and extended family. Only she never told him.  Joe thinks he is doing everything right to show his love.  In Kelly’s mind, she loves the flowers and poetry. But they are not demonstrating the deep love she needs from him. Kelly needs for Joe to volunteer to do things with the family.

If both of them know what their needs and wants are AND WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE (What behaviors a person would see as testimony of meeting that need or desire. i.e. flowers mean I love you vs. time spent with family means I love you). The next step is to TALK about it. Neither of these people is more right or wrong, only different!

Once they each have more information they can chose to change their behaviors or keep things the way they are accepting the possible unhappy or disastrous results.

So, if you are having relationship issues or are fishing for that special someone –

                                               GIVE YOURSELF A GIFT

Know your real true wants and needs

Know what they look like in action

Remember everyone is different

Give yourself time to explore and grow

Get more information if things are not making sense or you feel out of balance

Self evaluate often

Communicate always

Remember you can only change you. You are ultimately responsible for you, your feelings, thinking and behaviors. Happy fishing!


The Healthy Relationship Part 4: What do I Really Want and How do I Get it?


I’ve been breaking down basic rules for healthy relationships. In Part 3 we looked at identifying our NEEDS. Now we need to explore our WANTS.

 Ask someone what they want and often they can give you a very quick definitive answer.  But is that answer REALLY what they want?

I can say, “I want chocolate chip cookies.”  This sounds simple enough; however, it really isn’t. In this particular case, I’m watching television and I’m anxious about a meeting I’m having in the morning. I’m not hungry or deprived of sweets but chocolate chip cookies are what hits me that I want.

Knowing what I know about myself and human behavior, I know chocolate chip cookies are not really what I want. I don’t want the calories or the mess of making them. I’m not hungry. So, I start to dissect this WANT. Broken down, it looked like this:

  • I want chocolate chip cookies, more specifically
  • I want chocolate, more specifically
  • I want to stop feeling anxious, more specifically
  • I want to not go to this meeting tomorrow, more specifically
  • I want to feel I have more control over the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting, more specifically
  • I want to feel more confident in my ability to handle the unknown of tomorrow’s meeting

 Why is this important to me? Because I see myself as self-reliant, intelligent and due to my past, I have a strong need to feel in control.  When I get into situations where I can’t be or do these, I get anxious and feel out of balance. I need to do something to feel back into balance.

As I’m watching TV, my brain jumps to the old stand-by, carbohydrates! They are the building blocks of changing the body chemistry for a short period of time. Will chocolate chip cookies help me feel self-reliant, intelligent and in control? NO! They will only make me feel fatter and give me more dishes to clean.  Making and eating chocolate chip cookies is a horrible plan to get my needs and wants met. It’s time to plan another strategy. Instead of cooking and eating chocolate chip cookies, I can take that energy and plan a healthier way to prepare for this meeting.

 When you know your real wants, you can better evaluate what behaviors you are choosing to accomplish your want.  So, step one is to EXPLORE what your REAL WANT is. Step two is to EVALUATE if the behaviors you are choosing will get you closer to that goal. Step three, if the answer to step two is no, INVESTIGATE other options. Get more information. Think about in the past, what you might have done that did work in a similar situation. Step four, make a PLAN and follow through.

In my case, I had to address the demons in my thinking. I had to explore the negative images and thoughts I was allowing to run amok in my brain. My poor body was only reacting to my thoughts. The result was anxiety and the desire to feel better through food.  I also had to relax, journal and start saying a positive mantra.

Patterns of behavior do not change overnight, but you have to start somewhere. I was still anxious, but much more in control of me, feeling more self-reliant because I took the steps and therefore feeling more intelligent and back in balance.

If your behavior (thinking, feeling or acting) does not get a need met or a want achieved, a re-evaluation is in order. More than likely, what you think you want is only the surface-want or you are using the wrong behaviors to get you there.  Dig a little deeper and do the steps.

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

ImageBuilding on Parts 1 and 2 of Healthier Relationships …


 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





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.


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




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





High achiever




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




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





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




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










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




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






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




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





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.  


Life’s Little Instruction Manual Part 1: THE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

ImageWouldn’t it be nice if people came with instruction manuals? For that matter, it would be nice if we came with our own instruction manual!  If you had a manual do you think you could have a more positive relationship with yourself and those around you?  You might be surprised to learn you don’t need a lengthy manual, only a couple index cards of information.

 Its basic information that unfortunately most people are not taught. Consequently, most of humanity wanders around with blinders preventing them from experiencing a more fulfilling life.  The end result is attempting several ways of doing things with often minimal positive end. For example, the person who when angry gives the silent treatment to the person they feel responsible for their anger. This solves nothing, gains nothing and puts a chip in the relationship.  With each chip, the relationship becomes more dysfunctional. Despite seeing this happen, the angry person continues to give the silent treatment and is surprised when the relationship sours.  Why would a person do this? Because they don’t have those index cards I talked about.

 So, here is your first card:


  • 1.      People can only act and react (thinking, feeling, and doing) based on what they know.

Sounds simplistic but it must not be.  Every day we expect others to act and react the way we do or we want them to based on the information we have.  


   Expectation Comment: “If you loved me, you would have brought me chocolate donuts with sprinkles.”

     Reaction Comment: “I brought you flowers. I thought that meant I loved you. How was I to know chocolate donuts with sprinkles meant love?”

 Expectation Comment:  “You should know better than to leave the house with the oven in clean mode. Everyone knows it can cause a fire!”

 Reaction Comment: “I didn’t know the oven could catch fire in clean mode! I’ve never cleaned the oven before, how would I know that?”

 Expectation Comment: “Can’t you do anything right? Do I have to do everything around here? Can’t you even put the dishes in the dishwasher correctly?”

 Reaction Comment: “Is there a correct way to put the dishes in the dishwasher? Fine, you can do it. I was just trying to help. See if I do that again.”

 Do you want to be shocked and amazed? Spend one day really paying attention to the number of times you expect a person to act and react to information you have and assume they should too. While you are at it, spend another day paying attention to how you act and react when someone hits you with the same assumptions.