Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting Inspired For The New Year

2010 wraps up this Friday, and we break open a fresh new year. I found it busy at the gym this morning, so perhaps many of us are thinking about getting back on track, or doing a few things healthier or differently for the start of the new year that unfolds soon. There is also conversation that goes on,internally and with loved ones, about whether to choose a new years' resolution or not.Perhaps this year you would rather get inspired about something rather than make a resolution, and it might be a better way to approach change.

There is kind of a negative connotation to new years' resolutions. As if they have to mean giving up something you like,or setting up an ordeal for yourself, like a crazy workout schedule that it will be hard to follow through on. Resolutions also carry with them a sense of doom, like failure in carrying through on them may be inevitable.Let's consider some positive ways to get inspired for a new year instead.

What could you get inspired about for the new year? You could commit to a month of giving yourself 15 minutes of quiet everyday, and see what bubbles up to the surface about your life. You could challenge yourself to say 'no' more often this year to give your life some more open space. You could get inspired about embracing more fun this year with your partner.It could be comforting to commit to create a home environment that is less cluttered and more relaxed for you to be in.You could try a new activity or plan a trip you always wanted to take. It could be your year to express your love or appreciation more frequently to the people who matter in your life.You could be inspired to listen more and lecture less.

There are an unlimited number of ways to find inspiration. A new year is a blank canvas on which you have the chance to create new patterns and experiences.You don't have to resolve to do something austere and icky. You can add something positive to your life. This is definiely a good year for commiting to being the best partner, parent, and person you can be. Be inspired and share the challenge with a close confidante who can hold you lovingly accountable.

You may also want to visualize saying goodbye and dropping off old emotional baggage at the train station. You could leave certain negative emotional patterns in the old pages of your 2010 calender,like rushing,impatience,grudges,criticizing and judging others,or being stubborn, inflexible or demanding.The most emotionally healthy people can shift perspectives and see things from someone else's perspective. There is power in visualization, so drop off any negative emotions at the station that you need to.

Let's move forward into the brand new year open to experiences and the deepening of authentic relationships with others.Let's take time to do the self-care we each need to do to feel balanced.Let's begin again in an inspired way; lighter,kinder, and with a reverence for life and love that knows intuitively that we are not here forever.Happy New Year! You can make it one of your very best.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It IS a Wonderful Life

At the holiday season, many people have a favorite holiday movie they like to watch, like Miracle on 34th Street,National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation,the Charlie Brown Christmas Movie, or Elf. It is a fun tradition to watch them again every year, and share the experience with a loved one or two. My favorite is the 1946 Frank Capra classic,It's a Wonderful Life. There are so many valuable lessons in that movie about what is really important in our lives. The movie is based on a short story, The Greatest Gift, by Phillip Van Doren Stern.

In the movie,It's a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart plays a compassionate, but despairing businessman who gets helped by an angel to see what life would have been like if he had never existed. Stewart gets to see the impact on his wife, Donna Reed, his brother, and the community he lives in, if he had not been present. In the end, Stewarts' whole town comes together to help Stewart and his family solve their financial crisis on Christmas Eve.There are tears all around (including my family room) as the touching scene evolves. You can see on Stewart's face the love and deep tenderness and appreciation he feels for his family and friends.

What an appropriate reframe for each of us this holiday season. How essential it seems to not hyperfocus on gifts, lists, or the house being perfect. Every holiday season, no matter the economy, or health challenges, or even loss, there is still much to be appreciative of. What a wonderful time to write or express to those you love how much they mean to you, or what your life would be missing without them in it. It might be the most valuable gift you can give.

Too often, as life gets hectic, we focus on the negative, or what we don't have that we want.In the end, its not about stuff.It's the people in our lives, and our warm memories of our experiences with them, that matter.Being really present with your family or friends this season is the key; slowing down to share some relaxed time together and soak in the feelings of warmth and connection. It occured to me after visiting my elderly grandmother one night this week how much each of us can do to listen to others' stories and reach out to those who don't have the health or ability to connect deeply very often,or get a warm smile or a hug. Perhaps you can think of someone who could use your reaching out to them at this holiday season.Pretty much everyone can be touched by a strangers' sincere smile amid the holiday hustle.

In closing, I borrow from Desiderata, which teaches us "...In the noisy confusion of life, keep your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Strive to be happy".It is, truly, a wonderful life as long as we are here to experience and share it with others. Don't let your love and caring go unexpressed, or miss out on the important things by obsessing on the stupid stuff.I am wishing a Happy New Year to my valued readers!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Good Advice: The Four Agreements

If you are looking for a meaningful book to give as a holiday gift, I recommend Don Miquel Ruiz's 1997 classic,"The Four Agreements".Ruiz had a near-death experience which led to a life of reflection and self-inquiry.He made the study of ancient wisdom and spirituality his passion.A little self-reflection is good for all of us as another year winds to a close.

Here are the four agreements:

1.Be impeccable with your word.This means using your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself and for others.It means avoiding gossip. If you are impeccable with your word will make you happy and bring you peace.You are honest and speak the truth.Your life will be less complicated, and you will live in love, rather than fear.When you live in integrity and are impeccable with your word, you will like yourself better.

2.Don't take anything personally."Personal importance", or taking things personally is the height of selfishness. It assumes everything is about you.It also makes you too vulnerable to predators.Think of it as people who try to feed you negative emotional garbage,and if you eat it,the negativity becomes a part of you.If you take things personally, you can get easily offended and hurt. Try not to take either praise or criticism personally. If you are at peace with yourself, what other people say about you isn't your concern. Avoid the needless suffering of taking things personally. Even if others lie to you,they lie to you because they are afraid you will discover they are not perfect.If someone doesn't treat you with love and respect, it is a gift if they leave you.Your heart will eventually heal. By practicing not taking things personally, you will avoid much hurt and upset in your life.

3.Don't make assumptions. We believe our assumptions are true,and they often aren't.
We create emotional poison through acting on our assumptions. This creates lots of drama and pain. Making assumtions in our relationships is asking for trouble, because you DO have to say what you want in relationships. Don't assume your partner should or does know what you want, or reads your mind. That's an irrational expectation. Don't assume people will change. Find someone you respect and don't have to change at all. Imagine your life without any assumptions about the people who are close to you. Instead of assuming things, ask questions and develop an attitude of curiosity about others.

4. Always do your best.You will have a different capacity at different times in your life. Your moods or health can change, so your personal best may vary depending on circumstances. If you always do your best, you won't judge yourself harshly, and can avoid guilt and blame.Enjoy your work. Our actions to do our best honors God. If you do your best always, you will build a beautiful life.

Ruiz is an insightful writer, and helps the reader to get some valuable perspective on our lives and relationships.Here's wishing you a 2011 with more personal freedom, and emotional well-being.You and your relationships will benefit from putting the four agreements into practice on a daily basis. Living the four agreements will help you mature emotionally into the person you were designed to become.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Gift of Forgiveness

There are only a couple of weeks left until we wrap up 2010. It seems an appropriate time to think about mending fences in our lives, and see what we can each do personally to apologize, forgive, and lighten the emotional load we take into the fresh new year. As each year passes, the enlightened soul realizes that our time on the earth is finite. The years pass more and more quickly. Sometimes we can't even remember why we carry a grudge against a family member or friend.It is time to unpack the baggage.

Healthy people apologize freely. They realize noone is perfect, not even themselves. Often in the quickness of daily life, we forget to consider the impact of our words, actions,or tone on the people who are close to us. We may disappoint others and let them down. I have seen family members melt in my counseling office when a heartfelt apology is given freely, with the genuine intent to learn and do better in the relationship. Apologizing to anyone you have hurt this year will likely bring you closer, but,at the very least,it will give you more peace internally. To give a satisfying apology, one must be able to get past the ego and pride, and recognize our own human frailty.

Forgiving others for the hurt they may have caused you is something smart that emotionally intelligent people do often. Holding grudges and resentment is like eating poison every day. Why would you want to do that? One of my favorite lines from the Course in Miracles is,"Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" There is no benefit to holding on to resentment, and it could negatively impact your mental or physical health.Forgiveness is something you do for your own well-being, not because someone earns it. After all, if we aren't perfect, how can we expect that everyone else is going to read our script?

This Christmas season, be generous with your apologies and your forgiveness. Doing your part to own your own shadow self,in Jungian terms, makes it easier for others to do the same. By apologizing for your own thoughtlessness, selfishness, or hurtfulness to those you love, and forgiving their slights towards you, you will be better prepared to begin the new year with lighghtness and more room for joy.I wish you a happy holiday season and a lighter 2011!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Appreciating Your Partner

Today, take a moment to reflect on what you appreciate about your partner. Often we take our partner for granted, or perseverate about their shortcomings. It is so much better to think of your love relationship as a living, dynamic thing and that you are never in a steady state with each other. You are either growing closer together, or drifting further apart at any particular time. what wonderful things can happen when you take complete responsibility for making your partner feel loved and appreciated.

Here are some suggestions to get you going:

Reveal what makes you feel loved to your partner.
Lavish specific praise on your partner for the kindnesses they show you and how they brighten your life.
Be emotionally brave, honest,and let yourself be vulnerable.
Ask for what you need from your partner.
Criticize only in private.
Surprise each other often in little ways that say ,"I thought of you".
(Doing the unexpected can keep your love alive.)
Kiss often.
Say "I love you".
Say "thank you" and "please".
Listen to the meaning behind the words.
Offer to help as needed.
Develop empathy for your partners' point of view.
Share your dreams.
Talk about your fears.
Create your own special traditions as a couple that mean something to the two of you.
Honor one another in front of friends, family,and strangers.
If you have a complaint about the relationship, speak directly with your partner, never to others.
Negotiate the housework and other mundane tasks.
Cultivate romance.
Hug and kiss hello and goodbye.
Schedule time to be alone together.
When you fight, be specific, and ask for what you want in the future, or next time.
Hold hands.
Celebrate the special qualities about your partner that attracted you in the beginning.
Play together.
Have high energy fun together as often as possible.
Forgive one another.
Keep your word.
Love yourself. Believe you deserve to be treated well.
Be faithful and protect the relationship from harm.
Make plans for the future together.
Talk about your coutship.
Make your relationship your priority.

Follow these instuctions, and your partner should feel well loved and appreciated, and you maintain your investment in being a part of something wonderful that lasts!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Surviving and Thriving in your Relationship With a Controlling Person

What if the person you love is driving you crazy with their high need for control? This person could be your partner, a coworker, your boss,or a parent. You may be frazzled by this demanding person, who feels like they personally need to be responsible and in charge of just about everything, including the spinning of the earth on its axis! High control behaviors usually come from insecure people, with low self-esteem. Understanding and dealing effectively with the controller in your life is critically important for your mental health and well-being.

You cannot be codependent and live or work well with a control freak. Codependency comes from the literature on alcoholism and the family. Each member in an alcoholic family often has a role---like hero,scapegoat,joker, etc. Alcoholism impacts the entire family as everyone tries to deny or cope with the problem. Codependency is the pattern of painful dependence on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth, and identity. People who love or work closely with a high-control individual can take note of typical codependent behaviors and benefit from doing the OPPOSITE.

Codependent people often demonsrate these behaviors:
*think and feel responsible for other people
*find themselves saying "yes" when they want to say "no"
*are unaware of their own wants and needs
*feel safest when giving
*overcommit themselves
*fear rejection
*have a lot of "shoulds"
*feel anxious or depressed
*report they give to everyone else and nobody gives to them
*find themselves attracted to needy people
*feel empty and worthless if not solving problems or helping others
*have trouble accepting when somebody gives to them
*do not feel happy, content, or at peace

This list of codependent behaviors is your handy guide of what NOT to do if you have a high-control person in your life. Instead, you need incredibly good self-esteem and confidence.You must give up the idea of making the controller happy, because it is an impossible feat. You will need to stay grounded. Exercise daily. Keep up your own support system. Get some personal counseling or coaching if you open to having a healthy ally on your side. Use humor to deflect. Lead your own life. Communicate clearly and effectively when you are being stepped on. Let the little things go, but define your line in the relationship where you have to set limits and boundaries. You have to hold on to your own dignity, self-respect,and sense of humor.People are allowed to ask you for anything, but it is your job to stand up for what is reasonable to expect of you and what is over the top.

Taking charge of your own self-esteem, and doing the things which will make you feel more confident, will be a good offense. Keep up your relationships with other people. If your controller is at work, keep up your contacts with other departments at your company, and with professional groups within your industry. Don't let the controller isolate you. Consider taking advanced training or certifications. Keep up your contacts. Manage up, by submitting your own generated monthly reports on what you accomplish, and give a copy to your boss and keep one for your use if the controller starts to minmize or take credit for what you do.

If your high-control challenge is at home or in your personal life, love them, but know your own healthy boundaries. Don't let the controller criticize or tear you down, or belittle your friends or family. See this negative behavior for what it is: an attempt to isolate you and make the controller feel better about their own low self-esteem. People who like themselves, and are at peace internally, do not need to pick apart others. As philosopher Kahlil Gibran noted centuries ago in his book "The Prophet", couples need to develop a separateness that makes them stronger as a couple. Two trees planted too close together cannot grow in each others' shadow,as Gibran writes.

Can you survive, and even thrive, with a control freak in your life? Only if you take safeguards to protecting yourself emotionally and not taking their drama as gospel.You have only one life to live, and don't let the high-control person in your life, at home or at work, make you feel less than, or in their service.You are also a child of the universe, no less than the sun and the stars, and as it says in Desiderata, you have a right to be here and be happy.Seeing controlling behavior for what it is, and knowing how to handle the behaviors with wit, humor, compassion, and limits is essential. Let me know how it goes. (christynnelson@gmail.com)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Communicating Effectively With Your Teenager

When people plan to have a child, most picture a sweet little baby who fills your heart with love. Most people aren't prepared for the teenager they become a decade or so later. If we knew in advance that they would be moody, or push the limits, or talk back, would we cancel our order?

To be a good enough parent of a teenager, it helps if you can recall how it felt when you were a teen yourself. It's a tough in-between age, where you are no longer a child, but you don't yet have the freedoms of being an adult. Can you remember feeling really self-conscious about your changing body, and the current state of your complexion? Teens worry about whether they have enough or the right friends,rejection,popularity,getting a boy/girlfriend,grades,getting into college, growing up, and about handling the future. That's quite a lot to worry about. Many teens also worry about family problems more than parents realize---a parents' drinking,arguing and unhappiness between parents,financial stress,illness,divorce,parents' dating and affairs, and more. Perhaps you can connect with the things you worried about in your family when you were growing up.

To communicate effectively with your teen, the adult needs to see past moodiness or difficult attitudes, and remain loving and kind. The adult needs to show the maturity not to be reactive and hostile back. It is important to build on your teens' strengths, take an interest in their activities and friends, and actively listen more than you talk. The adult needs to take the lead in setting a warm, friendly tone at home. Smile. Greet them. Welcome their friends gathering at your house. Set reasonable limits, and enforce them consistently. Teach and empower them to learn to do as much for themselves as they can, knowing this will help them feel more capable.(Think part-time or summer job,learning to do their own laundry,and how to cook basic meals.)Be interested in their future dreams, and help them work towards them.

If you are a step-parent, you need to try even harder. You don't have the built-in biological advantage, and there is all of that horrible "step-parent as ogre" imagery in the Disney classics. Be nice and be loving, and don't be petty or critical. Let the biological parent, your spouse, be the heavy and provide the discipline as needed. You just love them up, and provide support and encouragement.

Here are some other tips from Active Parenting of Teens. Avoid these common communication breakdowns:

*commanding, ordering, directing
*giving advice
*distracting/storytelling about yourself

All of the above behaviors will make your teen shut down and give up on you. Don't push the teen you love, and live with, away. Open up the communication by being a beneficial presence in their lives. If you want them to trust you and open up to you, you will need to earn it by demonstrating love, optimism, hope, and belief in your teen even at the hardest times. That sweet,vulnerable child is still in there, just struggling to make their way through the turbulent teenage years. You will be so glad later that you didn't give up, and hung in there to go the distance until your teen makes it safely into adulthood.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happiness Lessons From Golden Retrievers

I have a soft spot for golden retrievers. Could be related to the two I live with, Jake and Madison, who are 3 years old and such wonderful companions. They are always in a good mood, happy to see me and the rest of the family. I just never considered before how much they have taught all of us about leading a happy life, until I recently read Dean Koontz's new book, "A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog"(Hyperion Press,2009).

Dean Koontz is the author of more than twenty #1 New York Times bestsellers, usually fiction. Here lives and writes here in Orange County, California. This gem of a book, however, is about Trixie, his beloved golden retriever, who he had for ten of her years after adopting her when she wasn't able to coninue her training to become a service dog, due to some elbow surgery.

"A Big Little Life" is full of wonderful and wise insights about what Trixie taught Dean and his wife, Gerda, about life, love, and happiness. As Koontz shares, "Trixie didn't need a new Ferrari or a week in Vegas to know joy. For her, bliss was a belly rub, a walk on a sunny day--or in the rain for that matter-- an extra cookie when it wasn't expected, a cuddle, a kind word. She lived to love and receive love, which is the condition of angels".

I loved the writers' tender relections about how Trixie taught them so much. She loved home, and her toys. She liked her walks and mealtimes to be the predictable security in her day. Trixie was curious about nature and people. She only asserted herself when it was necessary, with a bully. She sized people up right away, and Koontz observes that she was usually right. If Trixie didn't like somebody, best to give them up. Trixie wasn't jealous, didn't covet or deceive. Trixie remembered kindnesses and the people who showed them. She loved to play.

Koontz reflects on how Trixie insisted they shorten their work day to 5:00 or 5:30, because Trixie liked having a balanced life with her Mom and Dad, and she preferred they not be compulsive about work. Trixie required Dean and Gerda to learn to take breaks.There is a beautiful and tender quality as Koontz expains how they learned to be totally present with her, listen to her, and understand her. Trixie was grateful for her home with Dean and Gerda koontz, and enjoyed the simple things in life with great deliciousness and delight.

I would recommend this sweet book for any animal lovers, Dean Koontz fans, and everyone who chases happiness. Trixie Koontz also authored several children's books(as told to Dean Koontz),with proceeds going to CCI, Canine Companions for Independence, here in Oceanside, California, where Trixie was trained. Have a happy week, and enjoy the little things. Trixie would have liked it that way.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dealing With Difficult People

Into each life, it seems, a few difficult people must be sprinkled. Knowing how to spot them, and what to do with people who annoy ,or are toxic to you, is an important skill to develop. Effectively managing your relationship with difficult people can lower your sress level, cut the drama you experience, and keep your expectations in check. As the holiday season approaches, many people prepare to spend time with extended family. Sometimes the coming family togetherness brings warm feelings, but for others it means managing challenging personalities all gathered up at your house!

Here are some of the difficult people, profiled for your convenience. Just to be seasonal, let's picture them all around your Thanksgiving table. Got the picture? There are:

1.Negative Nancy-Everything is horrible. I hate turkey. I'm bored. My nose hurts.

2.The Energy Vampire-What can you do for me next?

3.The Critic-I'd give that pumpkin pie 2 points on a 10 point scale.It's not like Mom's.

4.The Dumper- Shall we sit down and talk some more about my problems?

5.Touchy, Touchy- I am easily hurt by everyone at any moment. Can you all walk on eggshells please?

6.Mr. Perfect- I can never ever apologize, because I have very little insight, a big ego, and I prefer to blame others rather than look at my part in any situation.

7.The Bully- And for my next act, I think I will intimidate everyone else here for the holiday, because I like to run the show.

8.Miss Fussy-Is there butter in that? I can't eat butter! Can't we have some other kind of vegetable? I don't do peas.

9.Scrooge- I can't possibly contribute anything to this gathering. I hate holidays and get-togethers. Bah Humbug. Can't wait until it's over, and I can crawl back in my hole.

10.Misbehaving- Don't mind me, I'll just be here telling inappropriate and off-color jokes.

We could go on and on, but you get the idea. It is helpful to identify the challenging people in your life, and rehearse a strategy for coping with them. First,
anticipate the contact. Make a plan. Can you manage the contact in some way that you keep it light, use humor to diffuse the difficult person, or put space between you? I have often encouraged my patients, over the years, to rechoreograph gatherings with difficult family members in a new way. Can you meet at a restaurant, so noone does dishes, and you can leave and not feel trapped? Can you go for a walk before or after the meal? Can you organize a card game or board game that will redirect the conversation in a lighter direction? Can you organize an activity or outing that gives everyone something else to focus on?

Perhaps your difficult person is at work, or is your spouse. Don't give up your personal power. The size of our character is determined by the size of the things that upset us. See if you can find ways to step away from someone who is frothing at the mouth with toxic content. Keep a sense of humor. Acknowledge their point and change your focus to someone else. Seat yourself next to people you enjoy at get-togethers. Shift the placecards if needed.(I give you permission.) Move about to find someone who makes you laugh or lifts you up! Smile and step away from toxic people, knowing that prolonged exposure will bring you down.

When necessary, set your own boundaries. We are each responsible for training other people how we want to be treated. We are allowed to not answer some questions, not share everything, not feel close or safe with some people. You can be nice and move along. Seek out YOUR people.

Have realistic expectations for the difficult people in your life. Preplan options for handling expected bad behavior, and keeping your own sanity and grace. I always like having choices, because it takes you out of a childlike or helpless role and makes you an active participant about how you wish to deal with toxic people and behaviors. You will feel proud of yourself for not letting the bad guys win.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Facebook, Texting, And Your Marriage

To have a wonderful, deeply intimate, and lasting marriage, both partners have to "close the exits". In our parents' generation, this might have been not ignoring your partner by reading the newspaper at meals, instead of conversing with your partner. Or, it might have meant don't zone out watching television next to each other every night. Mix it up, and keep the relationship fresh by having some high-energy fun together. Get out together to date nights and to do active things frequently. Pay attention to the sexual relationship you have with your partner. Be fun, and don't take the many available exits to intimacy.

In the past several years in my counseling practice, I am seeing more marriages hurt by social media, and the availability of secret texting,to create dangerous detours to the marriage. When old flames can become your Facebook friend, and a veil of secrecy hides hurtful secret messaging, the temptations abound. Some couples are beginning to discuss these dangers, and how they want to handle potential boundary violations to the marriage, which may hurt your partner and ultimately end the marriage. These are important questions couples should discuss. What do you and your partner feel about recognizing each other as partners on Facebook? Some couples share their passwords. Others discuss it with each other when an old romantic interest surfaces and makes contact. There are no easy or universal answers, but each person should be mindful of the terrible risks involved and the temptation to the middle-aged ego.

Couples therapists across the country are noticing the same trend and risks with social media and technology that I am seeing here in Newport Beach, California. On November 2, National Public Radio ran two related stories by my AAMFT colleague, therapist Jennifer Ludden. NPR's program All Things Considered ran a story on "Can Social Media Break Up A Marriage?", and one titled "I-Phone Makes 3: Marriage In The Digital Age". The world is clearly changing, and relationships and marriages are trying to figure out how to navigate these uncharted waters. Both of Ludden's articles and her interview can be accessed through NPR's website, http://www.npr.org and look for All Things Considered, under programs.

Here's what I know as a couples therapist for these last 20 years. Be careful. Be mindful. Things can start innocently, and go very wrong. Be aware of how lies, secrecy, and confiding emotionally in someone else, besides your partner, can distance and undermine your marriage. Be conscious of not interrupting your sacred time with your partner to do business on your I-Phone. Protecting the special bond between you and your mate is each partner's sacred responsibility, or you cheapen the value of what it means to be your partner. Temptation is more available----and more secret----- than ever before. And a deep and enduring marriage, with a marriage partner who loves and cares deeply for you, has never been more valuable. Closing the exits to secrecy and betrayal means protecting something more real and more lasting than flattery. Real intimacy requires real boundaries.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Your Life With Passion and Purpose

I just finished a great new book by business coach Tom Ferry called "Life By Design: 6 Steps To An Extraordinary You" (Ballantine Books, 2010). Ferry asks us each to take 100% responsibility in our relationships and at work for making them come alive with passion and purpose. Just think what would be possible if everyone stopped blaming and making excuses for things not being how we want them, and dug in to make it happen!

Ferry identifies 4 addictions which keep people from living as fully as possible. They are:

*Addiction to the opinions of others

*Addiction to drama(yours and other people's)

*Addiction to the past

*Addiction to worry

Each of these 4 addictions can become your habits, and keep you from being fully present and engaged in a creative, solution-focused life, being your best self, and sharing the highest quality of relationships with those you love. Contemplate how much easier and more fun your life might be if you gave up one of these addictions, like worrying. I believe that some of the stongest limitations on who we can become are self imposed by our beliefs. Negative self-talk is a good example of something you want to become conscious of, because it keeps you locked in old outcomes.

To increase the personal power we have over our own lives, Ferry suggests we do several things. First,release anything we feel incomplete with---perhaps old anger or grudges we are carrying around with us. Next, Ferry agrees with many writers in Psychology that we need to identify people and things we are grateful for, and express that gratitude and appreciation. Finally, we must set our intentions and declare them in positive, present-tense self-statements that we can repeat to ourselves throughout our day-to-day life. In this way, we clearly and positively state to ourselves what we wish to accomplish or experience, and channel the force of our subconscious mind working towards our intended goals, rather than against us.

I recommend Ferry's book, and like a number of the exercises he offers as ways to unleash the full potential of who you are, and stop living by default. After all, who wants to live a life by default? It's been said that the unexamined life isn't worth living. Stopping to reflect whether your life is in alignment with your core values, and whether you are making the most of your relationships, is worth some time and attention.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Fun Factor

One of my favorite of Dr. Phil's lines is, "how much fun are you to live with?" It is useful from time to time to stop and reflect on how we are coming across to those whose lives touch ours. Are you an encourager to others, or a discourager? Do you grump around the house or the office, or does your presence brighten other people's day?

One researcher studied human perception, and designed 4 window panes of perception. There are the things you know about yourself that noone else knows, the things that are tranparent about you that others can also tell(like your eye color),the things that are unknown about you both to yourself and others, and finally, the things others know about you that you are not aware of. It is that last quadrant, of how others perceive you, that can be an instructive area for reflection.

Each person in a family is responsible for helping set the tone in the family. Families are complicated energy systems, and each person doing their part to make daily life, family meals ,events, chores, and routines peaceful and fun makes the family a better place to be. Family meetings at home, or family therapy with a skilled counselor, can make a huge difference in getting everyone to recognize the powerful impact of their tone, actions, and words on the rest of the family.

There is no place for sarcasm, insults, sullenness ,and refusing to talk to others, in a great marriage or family. Some people learned these passive-aggressive behaviors in their family of origin, but it doesn't mean they should be continued. I work with people in counseling to examine the communication styles and patterns in their families growing up, keep the good and get rid of the rest. Taking ownership of how you come across to those you love most, and live with daily, is empowering. If you can be open and non-defensive, you can learn much from asking those you live with about how you are doing in relating to them.

Taking responsibility for managing our own moods is key. Bring home your best self every day. Stop and set your intention to smile and greet family members,hug and kiss more often, and express your love and appreciation for them. Little surprises are nice, too. Often those closest to us can feel taken for granted, so take action in small ways to show you do care. If you are anxious, down, or angry,take positive personal action to move through those emotions rather than dragging them home to your family.

We need things to look forward to in marriages and families,too, so that the stress of routine tasks doesn't grind you down. This is why weekly date nights need to be sacred time for couples, and why family fun nights where you play together are so vital. You've got to love someone who you can giggle with over laser tag, or another silly game. Having a trip planned, as a couple, or as a family also helps to build positive anticipation. Even if it is months away, it helps boost the fun factor to have plans!

Make your home a no whining zone. This goes for adults, as well as children and teens. The family gets beaten down emotionally with the weight of constant complaining and negativity. Use the power of the family to have each family member deal with negative emotion more effectively--through counseling, action, exercise,etc., rather than torturing other family members to marinate in the negativity and toxicity of repeated whining.

Just think about the possibilities when you, your partner, and the whole household are all taking care to be fun, bring home your best selves, and work together to make your family a wonderful place to be. Now THIS could be fun.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Watching Out For Your Child's Mental health

Is there a child in your life that you love and look out for? The current November 1 issue of Time magazine has a great article summarizing recent research on children's mental health concerns, and what parents and grandparents should be aware of as warning signs of potential need for early intervention. Pediatricians often underdiagnose mental health problems, so adults close to children need to know what to look for.

Here are some of the highlights from the Time article:

*1 in 5 children have some form of emotional or behavioral disorder.

*50% of adults have a mental health issue which began before age 14.

*Early intervention can work, and a range of gentle, child and teen-friendly therapeutic techniques are available in counseling geared for them.

*It can be difficult for parents to separate normal childhood fears or mood swings from those that indicate problems that necessitate treatment.

*Therapists watch for context, for example, if a problem occurs across various situations, or only in one.

*Age of onset is a critical factor. Some disorders classically start at certain developmental points.

*Depression can start as early as age 9, but more often begins at adolecence. Symptoms include loss of appetite and energy, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, sleep problems, inability to enjoy things, and/or suicidal thoughts.

*Anxiety can strike all ages, but most common in children above age 5 through middle age. Higher anxiety is considered normal at age 8 months, 2 years, and 5 years and normally passes.

*Obsessive-compulsive disorder normally starts around age 19, but children can show symptoms earlier.

*Current thinking is that bipolar disorder can also develop in about 1% of teens 15-17 years old. Care needs to be taken to carefully differentiate ADHD from manic mood swings.

*Being a child and having parents divorce adds extra risk. Researchers found a 36% reduction in mental health conditions when children with divorcing parents get preventive therapy.

*ADHD usually hits between 3 and 6 years old, but can strike later. Vision, hearing, and learning disorders need to be ruled out. The key is the severity of the symptoms.

*Teens with anorexia nervosa respond better to treatment if the family is also invoved in treatment. In one study, 49% of anorexics maintain a healthy body weight after family-involved treatment, compared to 25% of those teens in solo treatment.

*Children and teens with depression or anxiety generally respond well to cognitive therapy. Exposure and response prevention training work well with specific fears and OCD.

In general, most mental health professionals consider it best practice to have a child or teen attempt to work through their concerns in talk therapy before considering medication. I always try to partner with parents as well to have them on the support team at home. Many studies suggest that intervening early if you suspect there is a problem can help prevent bigger problems later, and get your child or teen back into the magical time in their life you want them to enjoy. Prevention and treatment of mental health issues in young people can reduce risk and lessen the suffering. Parents and grandparents can be in the best position to know if the child you love is at risk for mental health problems, and get them to professionals who can help.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Creating A Conscious Holiday Season

If Halloween stores have popped up all over, then the rest of the holidays can't be far behind! Time to begin rethinking Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years. Check your gut reaction to thinking about the holidays approaching. Do you feel dread? Overwhelmed? Tired? Time for a proactive first strike.

Time to think outside of the box about the holidays. Make a list of all the things you normally do to prepare or celebrate a holiday. Next, mark off things that you do out of tradition, or routine, but don't enjoy doing. Poll the members of your family about who really cares about what, and what each person really finds meaningful or enjoyable. Think creatively about what will work for your family NOW. For this reason, sending holiday cards has fallen off many people's list of holiday to do's, but going to church together or decorating the tree may be really important. Lots of holiday baking may not make sense when we are all watching our cholesterol, but watching "It's a wonderful life" as a family, or bundling up to see the December Newport Beach boat parade may really get you in the spirit.

Spreading tasks out, starting with the things that can be done earlier, can help reduce the stress. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Get everyone involved. If you lower your standards enough, your children can help with gift wrapping.(Just buy lots of tape!)I personally love Christmas trees that have been decorated by the children of the house. You can tell because all the ornaments are at their height or lower! Children and teens can feel proud of baking a favorite family dessert for the holiday, with a little help from you. Hold a family meeting with you, your partner, and the rest of the family, to see who can help with what tasks. This will help everyone sharing the joy of bringing the holidays home, rather than being something else mom organizes late at night instead of sleeping. Each person will enjoy it more if they invest in creating the holiday.

Don't be a perfectionist about the holiday season. You being relaxed and in a good mood is probably the most important thing. Rumor has it Martha Stewart has help, anyway. When there have been big changes in the family this year, and you are now a single parent, or newly divorced, or the family is coping with a seriously ill family member, it is time to rethink what makes sense in your changing situation. Consider a gathering where eveyone brings a dish to share, or you bring food in, or meet out someplace fun for a festive meal instead of a big ordeal. Don't hog all the 'fun' for yourself!

Now is the time to begin the conversation with the people closest to you about the upcoming holiday season. Empower yourself to think creatively. Imagine YOU enjoying the holidays, feeling relaxed, not overspending or overdoing. This could be fun. You are the choreographer of your best holiday season possible. Think consciously about your holidays, and pass it on! Don't be a holiday victim; speak up and shape the holiday you are needing this year.You can be a holday role model for others! 'Tis the season to engage your options and create some new traditions. I'm thinking pizza is red and green!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Living With Integrity

The older I get, the more important I think it is to demonstrate your strong character and integrity in the way you live life every day. It has been said that character is how you act when you think noone is watching. Much is revealed about each of us in whether our word means something ,if we keep our promises, if we are honest with people, if we follow through, and how we treat others. For those of us those of us who have children, what we actually DO means so much more than what we SAY.

What does your word mean? Those close to you will trust you deeply and you will have unshakeable credibility if you are honest and trustworthy, even when it takes emotional bravery. If you lie to loved ones to avoid conflict, or because you feel you don't owe them honesty, because you are so special( narcissist alert!), you will lose credibility and trust. To grow stronger in your personal character, decide today to be forthcoming, honest, and direct in your relationships, and see how much more real and intimate your relationships become. Your partner and your children can feel dishonesty. Your loved ones will intuitively know the difference.

How do you treat people who are serving you? Much is revealed about your character and integrity by how you treat wait staff, retail clerks, and other drivers. I personally feel everyone should have at least one job growing up where you serve others and we will all be more sensitized to the value of treating others with dignity and respect. Remember, your children are imprinting on the way in which you treat others------strangers, your spouse, your parents----and building a template for what they will do later in life.

Do you keep your promises and commitments? It can be as simple as arriving on time and demonstrating respect for other people's time. Avoid the temptation to make a habit of calling from your cell phone to explain your delays, and believing that makes it okay. Living life with integrity means you keep your word and plan ahead to do so without excuses.

Living life with character and integrity means you don't only think of yourself and what's in it for you. Instead, you can transcend self, and look at a situation fom another persons' perspective. How might this situation look from my spouse's or my son's perspective? People with integrity aren't self-absorbed. They realize that real happiness comes from doing for others, not just grabbing all the goodies for yourself. I have been so impressed to see how loving my dad is to my mom these last several years as she faces a life-threatening illness. People with character, like my parents, don't cut and run when things are challenging. These are the situations in each of our lives that reveal what we are made of.

Each week we get a fresh slate, and can begin again in a new and healthier way. What stuff are you made of?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting Unstuck

It is easy to get in a life rut. It is important to take a personal inventory from time to time,and determine if you want to mix things up a little bit, create some new patterns, or add some more fun into your life mix. If you are bored, you need to take some positive action to move towards being a happier and more interesting individual.

When the fall routines and schedules get going, the calender can look like school and work commitments as far out as you can see. Ho hum. We each live in a box, says writer/therapist Susan Jeffers,in her classic book, "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway".
Jeffers suggests that all of us need to consider moving out of the small box that is our comfort zone, and getting into the next, bigger-sized box.

How do we break out of our current comfort zone? There are lots of unique and personal answers to that. You might take on a personal challenge that requires you to grow or work hard towards a goal. For example, training for a race, or taking a class in something you were always curious about. At mid-life, it is helpful to consider experiences you haven't had, but always wanted to try. Have you ever wanted to learn to dance, or learn another language? You may want to set a plan to travel somewhere you have always been interested in. Making plans is important to mental health. Even if those plans are a year away, or you have to budget carefully to make those plans happen!

Sometimes mixing things up is fun. While I am a proponent of family structure and routines(mealtimes,homework time, bedtime), who says you can't surprise your spouse and meet them on Wednesday for lunch? Think outside the box! Children love to have fun and variety, too. I know several families who keep things fresh for the family by having a theme-night dinner once a week. My own children always liked our 'breakfast for dinner night'. Who says we can't we practice spelling words with shaving cream? Or sidewalk chalk? Or chocolate sauce!

Tackling a fear you have can also move you to your bigger box. Are you afraid of public speaking? One person I know feels so good about having joined Toastmasters this last year, and becoming more confident in communicating in groups. Perhaps this is the year you collapse your story that limits you, and take positive action to deal with a rut of depression, anxiety, addictive behavior. We are not getting any younger! You can even stop and imagine how free you might feel if you gave up your own limited view of what is possible for you. Your respect for yourself will surge.

Truly, the biggest limitations on any of us are the limits we put on ourselves. I am a big believer in the idea that within each of us is a more whole person yearning to be fully developed and expressed. If we cling to our ruts, out of habit or lack of awareness, we miss the wonderful possibilities that life has to offer us. Getting unstuck is an an inside job. Nobody can do it for you. When you are ready to get unstuck, or collapse the story you've been telling yourself about why you can't have a great life, talking with a professional therapist can be just the jumpstart and accountability that you need. Have a great week, and stretch to do something healthy, but out of your comfort zone.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Do You Self-Soothe?

When you have had a difficult and challenging day, what is your plan to comfort yourself? It's occured to me lately that eveyone needs a strategy of their own to cope with their daily angst. There are good ways and bad ways to self-soothe. I see children who need tools to bring down their stress level with their parents' divorce,and teens who need strategies to deal with challenges with friends, academics, getting launched, relationships with family and the opposite sex. Adults are also in need of self-soothing strategies that are healthy. Everybody needs to be in charge of learning how to get calm and centered.

If you can't self-soothe in a healthy way, you may live life in a keyed-up style that is terrible for your physical health, and puts you more at risk for heart attacks, stroke, and other serious health problems. In addition, people that don't work out intentional ways to de-stress transfer negative energy and angst to all the people you are in relationships with---your partner, your children,your co-workers. In a sense, not managing your own angst well is like dragging trash home with you and into your relationships. It's just not fair to drag everyone else you love down with you.

What are some healthy self-soothing stategies? Try something active. Working out regularly might be just the ticket. Listening to music that relaxes or calms you can actually slow your heart rate, and put you into a natural, hypnotic state. A warm bath by candlelight might work to take you out of angst and shift you to center. Try an herbal hot tea by sunset, outside in your backyard. Reading a chapter in a great book that helps you escape your life for a while(in a healthy way) could work. Complete quiet can be very healing and soothing as well. Your self-soothing stategy can be as individual as you are. Build your own little rituals.

Don't have coping with food, alcohol, or drugs be your fall-back position because you don't take the time to create a better option. All of these substances shouldn't be used to medicate feelings or numb your stress. These paths just cause more complications. If you are a parent, remenber your children are watching how you cope, so it is really important to be a good role model as it relates to coping with stress in your daily life.

If you need help to identify a healthy self-soothing strategy for yourself, consider talking it over with a good therapist. You're worth it, and so are your health and your relationships. To be your best self, you need to learn how to bounce well. Life is full of its little and big frustrations, and your response to that fact determines your health and happiness. Strong coping stategies help you be more like the willow tree which bends gracefully, and less like the oak tree that snaps in the wind.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

You Are What You Think

Your mind is incredibly powerful. The stories you tell yourself can alter your reality. Be careful what you think, because it creates its own reality in your life and in your relationships. Many people have a story that would be better to collapse, so they could live a more satisfying life.

It is a bit like your mind is a garden, and you need to weed it regularly from negative or victim-like thinking. If you aren't conscious of weeding out the negative thoughts, you can develop behavior patterns that reflect your negative thoughts. To have a great life, and healthy relationships, you need to focus on your blessings, the things you are grateful for, and not the shortfalls.

In a love relationship, the stories we tell ourselves are powerful. If we tell ourselves that our partner isn't making us happy, aren't we less likely to try in the relationship to do our part? What if your partner isn't supposed to MAKE you happy, but you are supposed to make yourself fulfilled and share your happiness with your partner? If you have a different story you tell yourself about your relationship, like you want to do everything possible to be the best partner you can be, won't your actions be an important part of writing the love story you are a part of? You play an active role in creating each of your relationships. You are not the Russian judge at the Olympics, just there to grade your partner critically. Your partner is only part of the equation. You need to be your best self!

Abraham Lincoln said, "Most men are about as happy as they make up their minds to be". Your daily mind set, and telling yourself positive things about how you feel, and what you are going to do that day, is important each morning. See whether you can smile at a couple of people tomorrow. I love to ask families to share at dinner the best or funniest thing that happened that day. It really is true that what we think about---negative or positive---expands to fill the space available.You can make a decision to make it a great day or have a wonderful relationship with your spouse or child, and that decision will help you take the actions that help create improvements.

There are, of course, difficult things that happen in life---losses,breakups, illness, etc. Sometimes all we can control is our reaction to challenging situations when they happen. Most people that I see that are resilent in the face of tremendous difficulty, deal with their feelings,but don't take up residency in victimhood. You can choose to,have a good life, anyway, for the time that you have, including today.

One of my favorite books about overcoming negative thinking is 'You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought' by Peter McWilliams and Jon Roger. Also helpful in learning to identify and eliminate negative thought patterns is,'Feeling Good' by David Burns,M.D. If this area is a challenge for you, you might read some positive input the first and/or last few minutes of the day.

In wrapping up todays' blog, consider the words of Theodore Roosevelt, who told us,"Do what you can, with what you have, with where you are". Watch what you think this week, because your thoughts are powerful things. You might be happier if you give up your story.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shifting Gears from Work to Play

As fall gets rolling, schedules are getting busier, school is back in session, and we are considering what we are going to accomplish this fall, at work and at home. This week, I encourage you to deepen your connection to those you love through making conscious transitions between work and play.

How and when do you connect with yourself and loved ones? Many people come home from work at 5:00 grumpy. Changing clothes right away, or showering right when you arrive home, can help set the stage for changing gears. Try to check in with yourself about what you most need at early evening. Reconnecting with your senses, by eating a crunchy apple, changing into your softest jeans and sweater,or going for a brisk walk or bike ride, can help you move out of your head and back into your body.

We need boundaries between work hours and downtime. If you work outside the home, try to leave unfinished work there. If you work from home, set and keep work hours and turn off work at the appointed time. Do your best not to fuse work into your personal time by turning off your computer and resisting the impuse to check work messages and e-mail on evenings and weekends. Be a boundary role-model for your work friends. Tell yourself 'STOP' when work thoughts come up on non-work time. Train yourself not to talk about work on off hours.

Exercise can help you get some fresh perspective and dissolve the tensions of the day. It can give you private time to process leftover thoughts from work and mentally 'take out the trash' before you spend time with loved ones. I have counseled several couples who improved the quality of their relationship by exercising after work BEFORE they meet up.

End your day with your easiest tasks. Use the last 30 minutes of your day to make copies, return phone calls or e-mail, or make a to do list for the next day. That will help you know where to pick things up on your next work day.

Make plans to meet up with friends or family after work. It will help you keep a tighter boundary at the end of the day. Reconnecting with small children at the end of the day by joining their play is a way to join their world, rather than expecting them to join yours. Most children and teens won't give you much if you ask a flat 'how was school?' If you can track other things they told you about their day and ask specifics, like,'how did the math test go you were worried about?',you will get deeper and be less rote.

If you are part of a couple, it may be fun to try this exercise. Make 3 columns on a piece of paper. In one column, write down how the two of you played together when you were dating. In the second, list how you have fun and play together now. In the third column, what you would like to do for play together in the future. Have your partner do this exercise, too, and you can compare lists and discover and rediscover a whole lot of good ideas for increasing the fun in your relationship this fall. Don't be shocked if your current list of fun things you do togrther is shorter than the two others. I often find that with couples who are busy raising their families. It just means it is time to refocus an having more fun with your partner, because, eventually, it is the two of you again when the kids go to college.

Teens can be a challenge in the family fun department, but keep trying. A live music performance or concert, a roadtrip, a movie and Starbucks outing, laser tag, or a meal out might all be fun ways to connect. Let them include a friend at times.

This week, remember fun is important for switching gears, reconnecting with yourself, your partner, and your family. When all is said and done, we will never regret not working more.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finding Your Voice

It seems like the people who it is hardest to assert yourself with are always the ones closest to you ,and who you love the most. Growing up, many of us learn to please the adults around us who have power over our lives. While being sensitive to the feelings of others is an important quality, learning to speak up when it counts, or when someone close to you is out of line, is also essential.

Self-assertion is especially a challenge for many women, and for young women in particular. Carl Jung told us that in the second half of life, if all maturing goes well, men become softened and more gentle, while women become stronger and have more of a voice than they did earlier. In the growing up years, girls often are afraid to speak up or share their thoughts. The American Association of University Women(AAUW) published their landmark study on girls in the coeducational classroom, and how girls often participate less, and speak up less, in the presence of the opposite sex.

It is my great joy to work with my patients of all ages and both genders to help them develop their own voice. It takes a strong sense of self to learn to appropriately speak up at the right time, and in the right way. It is a great enhancement to your self-esteem to know how to do this, and you can feel successful and at peace with yourself to not be bullied or treated in a way that makes you feel disrespected.

Being positively assertive means standing up for yourself in such a way that you are honest with the other person about what you want, feel, or think. You don't shut down, distance, or stack your internal cupboard with resentment. That would be the passive approach, which enables the bully to keep up their bad behavior, makes you feel distant and like you are in the WRONG relationship, and gives the other person no boundary. Passive people enable bad behavior in others since they are afraid to ever stand up.

Being aggressive is going too far. It is being honest at the other persons' expense. Aggressive people rage at others, call names, and verbally bully others to get their own way. You might win the argument, but others will distance themselves from you emotionally because you are unfair and disrepectful to them. People who have done their own internal work on themselves, examined their lives, and are at peace with themselves, don't want or need to be aggressive or be around others with an aggressive style. It's exhausting, and like the movie 'Ghostbusters', it makes you feel you have been slimed.

So where do you need to positively assert yourself in your life? Is their a person at work or at home that makes you feel trampled? Or, perhaps you are someone who has been acting too controlling and aggressive with others, and you need to take inventory, make amends, and begin again, in a new way, with the people you care most about. This is a new week and a new beginning.

Girls and women, in particular, need to know that you can still be feminine and be positively assertive. It doesn't require you to be bossy, nasty, or mean. You don't have to be pushy or disagreeable. YOU JUST NEED TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK UP APPROPRIATELY WHEN THAT STILL, SMALL VOICE INSIDE OF YOU SAYS SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT.

Here are some of everybody's basic human rights in relationships:

1. The right to act in ways that promote your dignity ond self-respect, as long as you don't violate others' rights.

2. The right to be treated with respect.

3. The right to say no and not feel guilty.

4.The right to experience and express your own feelings.

5.The right to slow down and think.

6. The right to change your mind.

7. The right to ask for what you want.

8.The right to do less that what you are humanly capable of doing.

9.The right to ask for information.

10. The right to feel good about yourself.

11. The right to make mistakes, acknowledge, and learn from them.

12. The right to grow and change.

When you are positively assertive this week, see what happens. If it is a new behavior, like a new muscle you build up at the gym, it may be uncomfortable. Keep it up. It will get easier with practice. If you are assertive, it greatly enhances your chances of getting what you want. At the very least, you will build your confidence, be honest, and engender your respect and the respect of the people you are close to. You will find your voice, and that's a very good thing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Make Home Your Sanctuary

Home needs to be a place we can go to relax, recharge, and be ourselves. After a busy day at work or at school, it feels wonderful to come home to a peaceful, comfortable, and organized place where you can feel your blood pressure drop and your breathing ease. Of course, it also helps to create sanctuary at home if the people you live with treat each other with sensitivity, kindness, and consideration.

I have been thinking about creating a welcoming home, especially this summer, as my family moved to a new(old) house. It has been a great opportunity to go through things, donate items, throw things out, and simplify our home environment. It is a wonderful gift to teach our children and teenagers, also, to be organized and have a place where everything belongs. It makes day to day life much easier if you can find things. With the start of school, and the beginning of fall, it is a perfect time to help your school-age children find a place to keep their backpack and schoolwork to make your mornings run smoother. Sometimes, less is more.

For home to be a sanctuary, you need to declutter. Enough open space in each room will translate into feeling more relaxed and peaceful. Make sure there are soft, relaxing places for family and friends to plop down. Enough light and live plants will also create a soothing feel.

And how about the rules for the residents at your home? To have home truly be a sanctuary, you need the people in your home to act accordingly. Here are some guidelines:

*love is behavior, not just words

*don't hurt the the people or the things in your home

*make a commitment to talk through things, don't run away in anger

*have an attitude of curiousity towards yourself and your family members, don't assume things

*maintain boundaries (adult/child,etc.)

*bring your best self home at the end of the day, make conscious transitions from work to play

*use mealtimes as connecting time

*make happy memories at home, creating ways to play together

*be fun to live with

Have a wonderful week, and create a little more sanctuary at home for yourself and those you love. Home is never the square footage, it's where you feel loved and welcomed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mealtime is Connecting Time

We are all incredibly busy. That is why family dinners, at least a few times a week, are very important to keep families connected. When did you last eat dinner with those you love? When I am assessing a family, I always want to know when and if they eat together, as well as whether they worship together, or do other fun activities as a family on a frequent basis.

I'm not picky about how gourmet you get. It's okay with me if make something simple, or bring dinner in. As a structural family therapist, I am interested in a candle being lit, and each family member sharing about their day. It can be fun to ask each person the best and worst thing about their day. Even the Obamas reportedly share "the rose and the thorn"of their day with their family.

Keeping the mood light and positive at family meals. It is great to get as many family members involved as possible with ideas for meals, preparing the meal, and cleaning up the kitchen together. We don't want the children to dread dinner because Mom and Dad are nagging, lecturing or complaining about things the whole time.

In a world of fragmentation and technology, family mealtimes are a needed break. Be sure to role model turning off the television, all cell phones,and put away the laptop. The message is: for these 20 minutes, we turn off the outside world, and our family is the most important thing. We all hunger for punctuation marks that bring us sanctuary and respite. It brings us to the present moment with those we love and focuses us on intentional connecting.

I am realistic. You may not be able to do family dinner every night. We can't in my family, either. Do it as often as you can. Even 3 or 4 times a week will make a difference in how connected your family feels. Every adult needs to help get things going. In contrast to what you might expect, teens most often tell me they like dinner with the family. Several local gift shops in Orange County sell sets of question cards called 'Table Topics' that give you lots of other question ideas.

Plan a family dinner this week. It's not just filling your family's stomachs, its about creating closeness and connection in a world of forces pulling you towards disconnection. You can make the difference in your family. Family meals can be a hassle, or a gift. The choice, as always, is yours and mine.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hello Readers!

I am enjoying writing articles for you to read about building great relationships, developing more intimacy and connection, becoming a better parent,creating stronger families, and personal growth. Readership is growing steadily since I began blogging in May. I invite all blog readers to send me a confidential e-mail at christynnelson@gmail.com if you have ideas about topics you would like to see developed in upcoming entries. I appreciate your reading along! Christyn

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anger is Just the Frosting

Is there somebody close to you who gets easily angered? Or is it you who takes out your frustrations and disappointments on others? Some people develop the unhealthy emotional pattern of projecting their internal discontent on their loved ones. Dumping anger and rage into your close relationships is like pouring acid rain on them. It is hard for those close to a hot reactor to feel safe enough to relax, be themselves, and feel connected. Living with a rageaholic makes you feel like you always have to walk on egg shells, or there will be an explosion, often for ridiculous reasons.

In sessions over the years, I have had patients confide the kind of things that set them off. Sometimes the reasons for a sense of justified anger are really petty. Imagine feeling entitled to rage at your partner because they don't wipe down the shower or share every interest you have. What about being furious at your spouse for not reading your mind and intuiting your desires without you having to communicate anything to them? At times, I need to stop patients and examine their (unrealistic) expectations. It can be helpful to remember that your partner probably also tolerates behavior from you that annoys them, but hopefully they love you anyway, and see the big picture. In a grown-up relationship you have to ask for what you want, incorporate your partner's unique needs, and learn to appreciate the good things the relationship brings you.

Some people bully others in the family with their anger. This is not ok. If you live with a bully, you need to set your own limits, and take care of yourself. You might tell the bully you love them, and you understand they are upset, but you will talk it through with them later, when things are calmer. A dictator needs a doormat to operate. Don't be a doormat. You can go to a movie, go to the gym, or go for a self-care walk outside and give them time to get back in control of themselves.

If you are the angry one, you should know that researchers tell us it takes about 20-30 minutes to calm our physiology down after being very upset. Your body goes into fight-or-flight mode and blood rushes to your extremities. Evolution prepared your body to run from a wooly mammoth. Digestion stops, and blood flow to the brain slows. Noone thinks well when enraged, so don't try to talk a conflict through then.
Take time to calm yourself down, go running or for a brisk walk, or listen to your "feel good" playlist on your ipod and dance. It will be more constructive if you talk through the conflict later, when you are quieted and have soothed your savage internal beast. Remember, it is called NORMAL for other people, including your partner, to sometimes approach things differently than you do. You are the only person who sees things exactly the way you do.

If you are noticing yourself struggling with anger in increasing frequency, step up your exercise. Brain research shows us exercise increases seratonin levels. Low seratonin levels are associated with aggression, and contribute to mood disorders.
I normally ask all my patients with depression or anxiety, whether adults or children, to increase their amount of exercise for this reason. It helps.

If you are experiencing a lot of anger, it will also be helpful to reflect by yourself or with a good therapist WHAT YOU ARE HURT ABOUT. Often the powerful sensation of intense anger is just the frosting. Underneath the anger or rage is often long held hurt, perhaps dating back to childhood. Perhaps current situations trigger old wounds that make you react in disproportionate ways. The hurt is like the cake beneath the frosting, and helped create the story you tell yourself about your life. What if your angry rages keep the pain going and rob you of closeness?

Why is important to clear the hurts beneath your anger? Pretty much everyone has some unmet core needs or wounds from childhood. Sorting them out can help you be in the present, and not destroy the chance for getting your needs for closeness and intimacy met now with your current partner and family. If you don't get a handle on your unchecked anger, you will recreate your personal story (i.e. " nooone ever loves me enough")again and again. This saddens me when I can see it happening. Life is short. Why would anyone choose to create the same sad scenario over?

When you examine the hurt beneath your anger, you can begin to experience the joys of real intimacy and the real person you love, rather than your old projections. Anger, when examined and understood, can be channeled and redirected into healthier patterns. Letting rage run your life and ruin your relationships is a huge mistake.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Approachable Parent

Think back into your growing up years in middle school and high school. When you had something that you were concerned about, who did you open up to? Did you feel comfortable enough to talk with either of your parents? Today's blog entry is about becoming an approachable parent, and steps to become one.

Let's start by thinking about the qualities of a friend you might open up to now, as an adult, about something you are concerned about. My guess is that you are MORE likely to open up with someone who is:

*a good listener
*cares about you
*has a wise, well-balanced perspective
*confidential (isn't going to tell others)
*doesn't tell stories and get the focus back on themself
*calm,not a hot reactor
*doesn't give advice or suggestions unless asked to do so
*available, will make time for you a priority
*instills hope, doesn't give up on you
*makes eye contact, doesn't multi-task while talking with you
*makes you feel important

Teens tell me that they shut down and go elsewhere to discuss problems or heartfelt concerns when parents are dictators, yell,react,judge, berate, or are otherwise hard to talk to. No parent is perfect (me included), but when you can be an approachable parent MOST of the time, it can transform your relationship with your son or daughter. Over time, your child or teen will grow more confidence in their ability to be safe opening up to you.

Building strong families and healthy relationships has everything to do with creating a sense of ease that "we can talk about anything or get through any obstacle together". Being relationship saavy means realizing you can not only use the approachability factor with your children, but also your partner, your siblings,your older parents, your grandchildren, etc. When those closest to you feel safe to open up when they are hurting it is one measure of true intimacy.

When changes, loss, or challenges are going on in the family it is especially an important time to be approachable. When you are in emotional pain yourself, it is easy to forget about how scary a death, separation, divorce, job loss, or move can be for your son or daughter. Sharing only age-appropriate information, keeping adult/child boundaries, and being emotionally available to your children is critically important at these times. It will help your child move through a difficult life transition effectively, and you will be aware if they need professional support like counseling.

So, put away the laptop, the iphone, and turn off the tv a bit this week. Ask a child or teen that you love how they are, how they feel about the new school year starting, or how their friends are doing. Pick a relaxed setting,and be low-key in your approach. As adults, it is up to us to raise the level of openness and interest in how the young person's life is going. We don't want our sons or daughters to experience us being to self-absorbed to care, or to difficult to talk to. If they are out of the habit of trusting you enough to open up, it may take a while. Don't give up. We are here for the long run, and your efforts to be more approachable will make a difference in the months and years ahead.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Relationship Drama Reduction

In this Sunday's New York Times, there was an interesting article called "Girls, Interrupted", about a summer camp program for middle school girls. The 2-week programs helps young women learn self-confidence, how to deal with mean girls and bullies, and avoid drama in relationships. The article got me thinking about the skills grown-ups also need to maneuver the world of relationships and conflict in a healthy way.

So here is my quick tool kit of skills all young adults need to develop, and mature adults need to perfect in order to have satisfying relationships and have good self-esteem. They are:

1. Know how to apologize. Be specific. Don't do it again.

2. Ask for what you want. This greatly increases your chances of getting it. Don't expect others to read your mind.

3. Be direct. If you have a problem with someone, tell that person directly. It only complicates things to tell a third person. (See my recent blog article on not triangulating)

4. Be honest.

5. Take out your own trash in your relationships. This means that each person in the relationship is responsible for managing their own stress level, not taking out your bad day or bad childhood or previous bad relationships on the other person.

6. Don't be a black hole or an emotional vampire. Have reasonable expectations about how much love, time, attention, etc. you expect in any relationship. You will frustrate the other person if you give the message that "it is never enough for me".

7.Don't whine. It is so unattractive if whining becomes your permanent residence. If you are stuck at the whining address and want to change it, see a good therapist who can help get you unstuck.

8.Take responsibility for your own actions and contributions to problems and relationship conflicts. As a psychotherapist for the past 20 years, I can tell you relationships start to get better when both people realize they are part of the problem and part of the solution.

9. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. We are all human and can learn from our mistakes if we choose to.

10. Follow through on your promises if humanly possible. Be a person of your word. Live with integrity.

11.Don't exagerate. In a Facebook world of hyperbole(omg) it is important to report facts accurately. Avoid 'always' and 'never'. Too much drama!

12.Move away from the bullies, the mean girls, and the people who 'just don't get you'. Life is too short.

13. Never text where the situation calls for a conversation. Texting in such situations is wimpy and/or heartless.

14.Be humble. It's so refreshing.

15.Be open to learning about yourself and others when conflict occurs. If you talk it through, you may learn some valuable things.

16. Admit your mistakes and imperfections. People will admire you for your openness and balanced perspective.

17.Try to focus on the repair in a conflict, rather than swinging for more damage.

18.Speak up if you feel tension between you and someone who matters to you. Otherwise, continental drift can occur.

19.Set boundaries to protect your important relationships. If you don't, then you aren't protecting that relationship, and you cheapen what should be special. You make it no big deal to be your partner.

20.Kindness matters. Watch your tone, volume, word choice, and non-verbal cues, so that the person you have a conflict with feels respected,rather than talked down to.

With these skills in your relationship tool kit, you are ready to create relationships with more fun, intimacy, and understanding. And less drama!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Last Burst of Summer

How has your summer been? We are now entering the last glorious, unstructured days of summer before the season turns to fall. Did you make it to the beach or lake? Did you get out the boardgames and play them with your children? Did you make s'mores by firelight and watch the stars at night? Did you sneak out of work early to ride your bicycle or go for a hike? Did you make time for an afternoon nap in a hammock or couch or float on a raft in a pool?

It's now or never time for this summer. It is so important to be in the present with yourself and with those you love. Time to schedule some downtime, a movie day, or a roadtrip before we regroup for the start of fall. What have you missed out on this summer? Even wonderful summer tastes like ripe cantelope, barbequed corn-on-the-cob, and ice cream may be part of your happy childhood memories you can recapture easily.

A number of families I work with are making transitions soon. It is bittersweet to prepare to send your teenager off to college, or back to college for another year. Our oldest daughter is starting her senior year at college, and applying to grad school for next year. We are making our fall pilgrimage to help her move from her summer apartment off-campus apartment to the new one on-campus. Since it is our fourth year helping her with this process, we are getting it down to an easy and smooth flow. Imagine how good we will be at this when we send the younger kids in the next couple of years!

Fall is a new beginning. It is time for a trip to Staples for school supplies. It is a fresh start for parents to reset chores, family meetings, allowance, bedtimes, and schoolyear curfews. It is a good time to relook at the family budget (ala Dave Ramsey) and commit to paying cash, not credit. Fall approaching is a natural time to go through our closets and take a look at our clothes. The change of seasons is a an appropriate time to set goals for what we want to accomplish at work or in our personal life before 2010 is completed in a few months.

Enjoy these dog days of summer. See if you can't fit in a little more relaxation and joy before the summer wraps up Labor Day weekend. These lovely summer evenings, with their long twilights, will soon be gone. Soon enough it will be September, and I will be looking in our hall closet for the fall wreathes made of leaves. (Is that where I put those last year?) Savor every moment remaining of Summer 2010. You deserve it, so appreciate every last delicious moment of summer before it is a sweet memory.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Try Never to Triangulate

Triangles are great for geometry, but they are not healthy for relationships. When I work with couples and families, I often map out the communication patterns. Going direct to the person you have a concern about is generally much more constructive than telling a third person. It requires integrity, emotional bravery, and honesty to do so.

Let's pretend you are married, and you have a complaint about your partner, and how they are treating you. You could choose to discuss that gripe with a friend, your coworker, the children, your former partner, your sibling, or your mother. These are not the best choices from a therapist's perspective. It would TRIANGULATE a third person into a relationship that should be a two-person relationship dyad. A marriage relationship is a sacred trust, and you violate that when one of you "invites" someone else into that trust. Also, rarely do people present a balanced view of what they themselves are contributing to the conflict when talking to an outsider. It is tempting and easy to make yourself the good guy and your spouse the bad guy. The truth is probably in between, with both you and your partner contributing when there is dissatisfaction.

In all relationships, we do communication dances. If we change our dancesteps, it can create pressure for the other person to change their dancesteps also. When you
are not at ease with someone who matters to you, I encourage you to schedule some quiet, uninterrupted time to talk with them and get their perspective. An attitude of curiosity about yourself and the other person is very helpful here. Don't approach the other person from a superior or know-it-all position. Instead, try to express your concern and ask for their perspective. Surprises are not good in this part of a relationship, so meet to discuss changes that are needed only by appointment with each other. No surprise attacks as your partner heads off to work in the morning!

Direct communication feels better. It feels terrible to hear someone close to you is badmouthing you behind your back, and this is a wimpy and ineffective approach. Only the other person you are in a relationship with shares the power with you to make things better between you.

If you need coaching on how to become a more courageous and positively assertive person, see a therapist. A good therapist can help you understand your communication style, how your family communicated when you were growing up, and better ways to do it now. A competent therapist can help balance your view, and take responsibility for your part of the communication dance. In healthy relationships, we recognize everyone contributes to what is being experienced. There often isn't a bad guy.

Direct communication works well in parenting, too. When there are changes in the family, we need to be able to say the truth to children and teens,at age-appropriate levels, about what is happening, and how it might impact them. This could be true about talking about a vacation, a move, a parents' job loss,expectations with school starting,illness,or family changes like a separation or divorce. Children and teens feel worse when they sense impending changes but noone is talking about the elephant in the room.

It is also important to be direct with positive communication, like appreciating the good things another person brings to a relationship. Buckets of tears have been shed in my counseling office over the past 20 years by children, teens, and adults who are in close relationships with people who are so broken that they can't say 'I love you' or share what they appreciate about the other person. Like we are supposed to mindread? Expressing directly what you LIKE about the other person and APPRECIATE about their behavior is powerful. Why would you deny yourself this connection?

When in doubt in your relationships this week, find a way to go direct. Your relationships will get stronger, and you will like yourself better. Your relationships can only be as healthy as you are. Your relationship skills dictate the quality of what you experience. Truly, as scientist and writer Jon Kabot Zinn,Ph.D, titled his book on mindfulness, "Wherever you go, there you are". Let's leave triangles to geometry class. To build great relationships, let's be grown-up, courageous, and direct.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fighting Fair

All couples disagree at times. If you don't, somebody isn't participating! As a couples therapist, I am always interested in couples I work with finding respectful, fair ways to disagree with each other, without creating damage to the relationship. There are some keys to making sure your disagreements don't tear you apart.

Don't expect your partner to be exactly like you. This is a great place to start. If you need to have everything your way, you are better off staying single. Being successfully partnered means appreciating that there are often several correct ways to approach most things. Seek to understand your partners' preferences, needs, and patterns. Understand that your partner will think that the way things were done in their family growing up is the right way to do things, while you have your own,unique, family imprints. If we each get emotional blueprints for how relationships work, we need to be tolerant and respectful that our partner is working from a different blueprint. It's not right and wrong. One of you may have grown up with dinner always at 5:00, or the wife doing all the parenting, or the husband managing all the finances. If your partner got a different script, you've got to be able to discuss and negotiate kindly.

Argue only by appointment with each other. Don't launch into an argument when your partner is on their way to work or another important commitment. Set up a time to discuss an issue if needed.

Stick to one issue per discussion. I have witnessed couples spiral into negativity and unproductive defensiveness when they float from one issue to the next. This is the mistake: any fight can move from one issue to everything and the kitchen sink.

Don't call names, raise your voice , or swear at your partner. These are damaging behaviors that will cause your partner to resent you, distance fom you and/or fear you. You have to feel safe with a loved one to feel you can be intimately connected. Children and teens also have shared with me in family counseling that these same "below the belt" argument strategies from parents make them shut down and give up on you.

Stay solution-focused whenever you argue. Avoid boxing your partner in by using the words "always" and "never". Ask for what you need and try to listen nondefensively to your parner's perspective.Be specific about what would help. Aim for win/win solutions you can both feel good about. Some decisions might need to be 51% to 49%, with the partner who cares more about that specific issue taking a slight lead. Don't be a bulldozer and expect that you should win them all. Be willing to say you are sorry.

Couples most often fight about a few things: physical intimacy, money, time,children,
and extended family relationships. I want couples I work with to feel that there isn't anything that can't talk through. The secret to a happy life as a couple is choosing a mature, loving, and kind partner and treating them extremely well. Now that is really winning in my book.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why Aren't We Sleeping?

I ran across a cute article in last Sunday's New York Times called "Bedtime Stories" that got me thinking of all the concerns we have around getting a good night's sleep. So many of us aren't sleeping well. I always ask my patients how they are sleeping, because it can be an indicator of anxiety or depression. If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or don't wake up feeling rested in the morning, it can mean something is wrong. Sleeping too much, or hypersomnia, or too little, insomnia, can also be cause for concern.

Almost everybody does better with a sleep routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at about the same time every day if you can. When I am working with families with school-age children, I encourage the parents to set bedtimes. Since school will start again in the next month or so, I like parents to reset the bedtime for school a week or so ahead to give children time to adjust their sleep cycle. Children do well with bedtime routines like bathtime, storytime, cuddling, prayers, lights out. Be sure to rotate Mom and Dad into the routine, so children learn bedtime is an equal opportunity for bonding. Parents need to agree on the bedtime so we have adult time after that.

Most adults I know need to wind down to bedtime. Watch the caffeine after mid-day. Limit the exercise late at night, which can be activating. Consider the environment in your bedroom as well. It needs to be a pleasant temperature, a soothing color scheme, and free of clutter, toys, or work gear, like computers. If you are in close confines, like a dorm room, clear your desk as much as you can so it is not in your line of sight as you try to sleep.If you go to sleep and can't fall asleep after 15-20 minutes, get back up, and go into another room to read until you feel tired. Then go back to your bedroom to sleep. We don't want your unconscious mind to associate your bedroom with tossing and turning.

Some years back I enjoyed hearing Boston psychoanalyst and writer Thomas Moore, who wrote Care of the Soul, speak about the bedrooms couples sleep in. Moore considers the master bedroom sacred space, and encourages couples to revere it, be mindful of protecting it for you as a couple, and not making it a workspace or family gathering area. Make your bedroom your sanctuary.

Children are wonderful, but not after 9pm, and not in their parents' bedroom, please. Apparently Brad and Angelina disagree with me on this one, but I saw in a recent interview that she admits they are both exhausted. I want children to begin to feel capable of self-soothing and sleeping on their own---or with a sibling---but not needing to sleep with Mom and Dad. I am trained as a structural family therapist, and I like some boundaries and happy, well-rested parents. Single parents often feel vulnerable and can be too willing to have a child sleep with them. Not good for your child, and what happens if you remarry later?

I prefer that couples sleep together. The New York Times article this week spotted a new trend for couples to sleep separately, but most researchers agree this is not healthy or best for most couples. Why would you want to miss spending the last few minutes of the day together? Sometimes there are medical issues like snoring, sleep apnea machines, or medically-required sleep postioning which complicate your ability to sleep all night in the same room, but being aggressive and creative in finding solutions is important to keeping couples close. At times I work with couples who need different amounts of sleep. Thinking creatively together about how you can cuddle before the first partner drifts off to sleep, or having the early riser come back to bed a while later, is all it takes to meet in the middle.

Think also about the choreography of your evening routine. Doing peaceful, calming activities before bed, like listening to calming music, or giving your partner a backrub, are much better for your falling asleep easily. Inviting the 11:00 news into your bedroom and falling asleep to your subconscious focusing on the BP oil spill is a recipe for a difficult night's sleep. Children also love to have parents massage their worries out of their backs or shoulders at bedtime. Even for a few minutes. Wind down from focused activities, computer work, e-mail and financial paperwork at least an hour before bed as well.

Keep paper and a pen by your bedside table. We all dream every night, but the dream material slips away if you don't catch it right away and note the images down. Dreams can be a powerful tool to understanding more about what is going on for you at a subconscious level.

There are lots of reasons people don't sleep well. Before you ask your doctor for medication, which can be addictive, it is essential to establish these good sleep patterns and see if that will help. Understanding your natural sleep cycle, and what you can do to help yourself, is good self-care in this part of your life. Speaking of which, it is late tonight, and I am off to dreamland myself. Sleep well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Respect: Key Ingredient for Great Relationships

One of my missions in my counseling practice is to guide people to create relationships that include mutual respect. Couples that practice respect for the differences between them, rather than trying to criticize each other, are so much happier. Parents who treat their children and teens with respect find it much easier to require it back from them. Learning self-respect and how to teach other people how you wish to be treated is an important part of maturing. Treating strangers with respect and kindness makes you a class act.

You can feel when you are being treated with respect. It feels wonderful. The person makes eye contact with you. They ask your opinion. You don't get interrupted. You can relax and be yourself, because you aren't teased, belittled, or the object of sarcasm. You feel just as important as the other person.

I have seen family relationships transform when parents stop lecturing and ask teens for their help or their ideas. Family meetings are more fun at every age and stage when you let the children give input, on everything from how to save more money, to planning family activities, or dividing up chores.

We are not all equals in the family, as the parents are the executives. Families work much better as democracies, where everyone gets their say, even if they don't get their way. Parents sometimes need to make the final decision, but the family is a great place to practice the respectful exchange of ideas. I am often amazed at how much more fun family life is when we get everybody interacting respectfully and identifying solutions and new possibilties.

Couples can be closer and enjoy each other more when they celebrate the unique perspective, experiences, and thoughts that each partner brings. Using a respectful tone and appreciating your partners' thoughts and feelings draws them closer to you. They feel they can relax and be at ease. I want couples to feel they can talk about anything---money, work, interests, family, sexuality, politics, faith, hopes, and dreams. You can only open up at this intimate level if your partner provides you with the comfort of respect.

When you respect someone, there are rules for how you interact with them. You watch your tone. You don't yell or name call. You apologize if you catch yourself being disrepectful. You aren't too proud to ask for forgiveness when you have hurt the other person. You allow the other person to have their own opinion. You avoid criticism and sarcasm. You don't use the words 'always' or 'never', which box your partner in. You appreciate their differences, and understand that there is often more than one way to do things.

It all has to start with self-respect, and knowing that each of us deserves, as our birthright, to be treated in this loving way. You have to exercise your own self-worth and require respectful treatment in your most important relationships. As you practice repecting yourself and others, it will become your natural order and you will witness magic in your relationships.