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It's your book, you can re-write it

Often times we struggle as we watch people make decisions or behave in ways in which we feel are not in their best interest. This is often couched in words like "should" and "supposed to." There is a tendency to think globally, that all creatures have agreed upon a certain "right" way of being or behaving and that anyone who deviates is incorrect. Of course this global view is always that of our own, because to us, our view makes the most sense. If fact, the reality is that we are mistaking our own beliefs for that of all of rational mankind. Part of the struggle of life is to allow yourself to re-write the rules, both for yourself and for others, as you go along. Some examples:

You are at the supermarket and the person in front of you starts to open their wallet for their cash or credit card after their order is completed. Most people presume that there is some universal rule that states that, for time management purposes, and consideration of others, get your wallet out while your order is being processed. This is a benign example. However, as a gentle reminder, there is no universal rule, it is the rule of you. People have free will and can do their shopping in any way they like (within reason). In order to save yourself from some un-needed angst, avoid an internal dialogue that goes something like "Doesn't he know that he should take his wallet out first," "Everyone knows that its stupid to wait," "Who does he think he is, does he think his time is more important than mine."

This is a common issue in my work with couples. What compounds it is the desire of one member of the couple to impose their will upon the other, purely because they think that it is the "right" way to do things, that's the way things "should" be or that "everyone" would agree that this is the right way. (As I say often in my work, and will refer to in my posts, be aware of extreme words like everyone, always, never, have-to and should). I have seen long term relationships on the brink of disaster over seemingly trivial matters such as how/when to get ready to go out, when/how to do household chores and clothing choices of partners.

If partner A likes to take 60 minutes preparing to get ready and partner B believes that a person should mentally prepare to get ready in advance and take 10 minutes in the actual process, there will be battles. If partner B tries to impose their belief or will, through explanation, bargaining, brow beating etc, partner A will grow in resentment. If partner B has an internal dialogue that supports lots of "should, always, never and everyone", negatively focused on partner A, partner B will grow in resentment. Over time, this chips at the foundation of the relationship.

The solution? The short answer is that partner B can re-write the rules and work on tolerating and accepting partner A's right to free will. Then use the energy previously devoted to getting partner A to change, or engaging in negative dialogue, towards doing other things, or engaging in helpful, calming rational internal dialogue. I will go into this in more detail in a future post.


Move a Muscle, Change a Thought

I was speaking with two different mothers recently about two very different issues. The first is the mother of an adult son who has struggled with the after-effects of a childhood brain tumor and the periodic re-occurrences of masses that appear in his brain. It has been a long road, the life which she envisioned for him has not come to fruition, his growth stopped when he was young so he is very small and he has lost a good percentage of his vision over time. He struggles with obsessive-compulsive symptoms which at times debilitate him. Recently, an MRI found a new mass, which means more brain surgery and in anticipation of this his symptoms of OCD have faired up and there is lots of (understandable) worry amongst his family.

The second is the mother of an adult son who struggles with addiction. It has been a long road, the life which she envisioned for him has not come to fruition, he has been in many in-patient and out-patient treatment programs and he almost died twice; once from an overdose, and once from being shot, at point blank range, while buying drugs. Recently he relapsed again and went into a detox, he is, at the moment, back at home with his family trying to pick up the pieces. There are lots of (understandable) mixed emotions in the home; anger resentment and frustration that he is at this place again, confusion about what, if any role they play in his recovery and the smallest slither of hope that this time he may "get it."

Though their stories and situations are unique and different in many ways, part of their struggle is similar. Both with the OCD and the addiction, they have great difficulty in, as they say in al-anon, "detaching with love." This process involves being part of the solution, and hopefully avoiding being part of the problem. So many times they are pulled into the craziness of the disease and at times they become addicted to their loved ones and thier plight. It is all very understandable and comes from a place of deep love but it is tinged with fear anxiety and dread. However, the truth is, all of the hard work must be put in by their sons, they cannot do it for them. This involves setting limits, healthy boundaries and taking time for self care and support.

They both e-mailed me this morning and both spoke with different words on the same technique, referred to in the title; taking purposeful action to postively change thoughts/feelings. We cannot think our way into different feelings, however taking purposeful positive action (and trying to stay present mindful and focused on this activity while engaged in it) will have a postive effect on our feelings.

I welcome comments or if you'd like to share ways in which you practice this skill, Ill happily publish them in a future post.



Welcome To My Site

Hi There!

Thanks for visiting my site.

I am excited to share on such topics as; relationships, sobriety, communication skills, dealing with anxiety, parenting, setting goals and living healthy.

Speaking of dealing with anxiety, I was speaking with someone this morning who had a meeting at her sons school. Understandably she was anxious and fell into her default pattern of thinking, that she was not good enough as a mother and that this was the reason for the school meeting.

I know that it is a condition of being a human being that we feel insecure or unsure of ourselves. Hopefully there are levels of insecurity across spheres of our lives; on a scale of 1-10 we are an 8 at budgeting a 2 at asserting ourselves a 6 at parenting and so on, and of course, context and stresses have a direct effect (going for a meeting at school draws our focus on parenting and we question our skills more harshly).

Part of my intervention was on what is called "universalizing" assuring her that indeed it is quite normal and expected to feel anxious and question your parenting skills when being called in to your child's school for a meeting. In regard to anxiety, I suggested, first, focus on slowing down and deepening her breathe (slow deep breathes from the diaphragm are most helpful) and to re-frame her thoughts to be more rational and helpful. Often times our body reacts to what we are thinking or saying to ourselves. Therefore avoiding extreme words such as "always" "never" and "should" help in calming. I also reminded her that feelings are not facts.

Just because she feels like she "never is successful as a parent" and they "always focus on her son negatively," doesn't make it true. The rational facts are that she is an "intelligent mother who is passionate about her sons education and open minded about suggestions."

The curse and blessing of life is that most experiences are dynamic, not static. If she doesn't feel wonderful about how she handles the meeting, there will surely be another opportunity to practice these skills. We are not responsible for outcomes, so long as your heart and intentions are in the right place.

I look forward to sharing on topics such as this.

Thank You.



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