Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why Are People So Rude?

We had a lovely family Easter brunch today after church.One of the topics that came up was rudeness.One of our teenage daughters has been working part-time at Disneyland over the spring break from school.She reported that rudeness was extremely common from the guests towards the employees.She understood,because,she explained, the guests have paid so much for admission that they expect a perfect day. Some guests lose their temper over the price of merchandise in the shops,and all she can say is,"I'm sorry". All four of the generations in our family chimed in to agree that people are more short-tempered with others than ever before.Gramps,who has 70 plus years of perspective on societal trends,confirmed that courtesy and kindness have been on the decline for the past twenty to thirty years.

I like the saying that you can tell the size of a man's character by the size of the thing that upsets them.I often think about how adult meltdowns must look to our children. If they are watching Mom or Dad berate sales clerks,what do you suppose they are thinking? Either they must think this is the way to act when you are disappointed, or they must think their parent looks ridiculous. Character is revealed in what behavior we do when you think noone of consequence is watching.

What are the secondary gains from having a temper tantrum? It's one way to release tension.It's easier than hitting the gym or going for a run.It can feel good momentarily to blow off steam at someone who has to take it.It's IMMEDIATE.It's just that later on you realize you overreacted and feel kind of stupid.

This trend toward short-temperedness goes along with the narcissistic bent that society has drifted towards. If it's all about me,then I expect that my needs should be gratified immediately at all times,or I am outraged. Nordstroms' has done a great job of embodying this philosophy of pleasing the customer almost no matter how obnoxious they are. See how the monster of self-importance gets fed?

Life also proceeds at a fast pace now. If we get drive-thru meals and immediate text responses,then waiting in line or being delayed can make people irrate.It's as if results must be instant.In truth,there are many valuable things in life which take patience,gentleness,and self-control.These include parenting,a great love relationship,getting a college degree,and building a career that means something to you.Some things in life are better suited to a slow-cooker than a microwave oven.

Patience and self-control need to be cultivated,just like muscle tone from working out.Putting upsets into perspective can also help.We can stop,breathe,and realize that most things that disappoint or frustrate us are not terminal. They are temporary. We can try to connect with the humanity of the other person or people stuck in a difficult or absurd sitaution with us. We can look for the humor in it. We can remember that the store clerk probably makes minimum wage and is trying the best they can.The clerk probably does not set the prices.

I vote for a little more self-control and a little less rudeness. Maybe, one person and one family at a time,we can turn the tide on the trend of rudeness.Or, perhaps we can build a life raft for the non-rude people who are left and need a sense of community.Being an everyday hero means disposing of your own anger,frustration,and disappointment in a way which is not toxic to others.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Are 8 Million Married People On

If Carl Jung,the psychoanalyst and founder of Jungian Psychology, were still alive,I think he would say the shadow self is alive and well in 2011. This week, I thumbed through the April,2011 issue of the mainstream women's magazine,Redbook. I noticed a story the magazine teased about on the cover about America's cheating web-site, They sent a reporter,Lisa Taddeo, to do an undercover(no pun intended) investigation into who uses such a web-site and why. I thought her findings highlight some interesting trends,and merit some discussion about what it means for intimacy,sexuality,marriage,family and our own soul journey through life.

The web-site's slogan is,"Life is short. Have an affair." Does that sound like have an icecream or a chocolate bar to you? Can you spot the superficiality and narcissism in that? Taddeo found that 8 MILLION married people are using the site to attempt to reach a stranger for cybersex,e-mail photos and correspondence,and sometimes meeting up for uncommited sex. Two-thirds,or,roughly 6 million, of their members are men,and the rest are women.The average member,Taddeo found, is a 44-year old bored man who is married with children.She found most of the men that contacted her reduced their partner's significance to the level of a pronoun,SHE.Noone actually used the word cheating,but favored calling it "seeking pleasure outside the relationship".See the denial?(I'm really a great guy,it's just that I'm missing a soul.)

The researcher found one of the men that responded to her listing was a married father that was a friend of her family's. Most of the men seemed hungry to reminisce about their past with an interested listener who would let them tell their stories. They wanted conversation more than sex frequently.Most liked the excitement of an in-box with something in it from someone secret,and the seratonin rush from that.Some weren't even married yet,and were cheating on a fiance.Many wanted to create a false sense of intimacy by e-mailing brief life summaries,as if they really knew each other.All of them told her they felt they were so stealthy that their wives didn't suspect a thing.See the hurtful self-absorption?

As I read her report, I kept wondering what Gail Sheehy,the author of Passages,and several more recent books on how we manage the transitions in adult life,would say about these findings.Men in their 40's can have a 'male menopause',or a period of mid-life reevaluation.They can wonder,"Is this all there is?" Getting on,and trolling for sexual activity may be a less successful way to attempt to find a deeper meaning and life purpose as one approaches mid-life.Or a way to deal about feelings about aging. Sad,isn't it? There are absolutely better,richer, and more real ways to increase life's meaning in our 40's and beyond,including changing one's career,pursuing a dream,helping others,developing a talent,strengthening your faith,deepening your sensitivity and compassion as a partner and a parent.None of those strategies are as easy,instant,or passive.They require work,authenticity,and an awareness that your choices impact every life you touch.

So, beyond the initial "ICK!" factor,I found Taddeo's observations undercover give us insight into modern love,and the threat that instant,secret cybersex poses to real,authentic intimacy and successful resolutions to the predictable crises of mid-life.This would be a good discussion to have with your partner about the phenomenon,and what you each feel about what such a breach could mean to your trust,intimacy,and the sacredness of what you mean to each other.If I could reframe their motto,"Life is short. Don't blow it, and mess up a wonderful relationship by letting your shadow self or ego call the shots. Or you might live meaninglessly everafter."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Coping With The Narcissist In Your Life

It is painful to love somebody with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.You can't change it. You didn't cause it. You can't make it better. NPD is a pervasive way of looking at the world that is thought to develop in early childhood,and most often continues throughout one's lifetime.As with other kinds of personality disorders,people that have them rarely come into treatment. Most narcissists blame OTHER people.It is the people who love and work with narcissists who more often come for counseling,because it causes a great deal of pain for the people close to them. Aproximately 70% of narcissists are men, and 30% are women.

In romantic relationships, it is very difficult for partners of narcissists,because they are completely self-absorbed.It's all about them at all times.The relationship won't have the intimacy or safety to be vulnerable with each other that it should have.There is a lack or respect and sincere interest in the partner.Narcissists can sweep you off your feet with charm, gifts, and charisma when you are courting,and then promptly be disinterested in your life. It's as if they feel they are the sun and the moon both, and your little auxillary planet rotates around them.They like to tell stories and dominate conversations. Narcissists like to devalue others.They may have a need to criticize and pick at you.They will have trouble celebrating your accomplishments,or anyone else's besides their own.They don't like your family and friends.They wish to make decisions for you. Your partner tries to change you,and has trouble accepting you.Your partner feels they are more important and valuable than you are,and their wants and preferences are,too. You begun to feel beaten down,exhausted,and intimidated by their relentless self-absorbtion.And surprise, the sexual relationship can be expoitative and all about their satisfaction as well,with little concern for their partners' fulfillment.

It is also horrible to have a narcissist as your parent. They can't see you as a separate person,but instead as part of them. You don't get accurate amounts of deserved credit for what you accomplish.Narcissistic parents demean their children in sevice to their own bloated ego.For example," I had a better GPA/career/girlfriend/appearance than you do". Narcissistic parents won't validate any concerns that their child has about when the parent is out of bounds or over the top.Basically,you can't win with a narcissistic parent,so you have to figure it out for yourself. Children of narcisstic parents often don't have the confidence or belief in themselves that they should have, based on their skills and accomplishments.Nothing is ever good enough that they do, as their parent saw it.

At work, narcissists take all the credit and need to be the one shining star.They would sooner die than honor other peoples' contributions.They can easily exploit others or demand special privileges.They have tremendous lack of understanding for other peoples' feelings or experiences in the workplace.If you work with a narcissist,you will need to take precautions to independently document your contributions(quick,before they take credit!) Setting limits and boundaries will also be key with a narcissistic boss.

Watch out for the famed narcissistic injury.This happens when you poke the narcissist's fragile,puffed-up ego and you get a huge,out of proportion reaction.You will know when you hit it. It is unhealthy to not like yourself,just as it is to be a narcissist. Somewhere in between those two extremes there is a way to repect and care for yourself and also have empathy and genuine concern for other people.

In the meantime,with the narcissist in your life,you can learn to cope quite nicely.Take very good,extreme care of yourself. Spend some time alone. Cultivate your own interests, hobbies, career, friends, and faith. Keep a sense of humor about how absurd the narcissists' demands can get.Set firm boundaries about what you will and won't do. Don't take it personally---it's really about THEM. Use loving detachment when necessary.Evaluate how close you can really be to the narcissist and keep your emotional balance.Keep yourself safe. Loving or working with a narcissist can be challenging,and cause you to become a stronger person yourself.

Take back your power,and remember that you don't have to feed this monster,and may be able to be happy despite the narcissist in your life who wishes to suck the life out of you!Getting some counseling can make a huge difference in providing you with some fresh perspective and tools to deal with this beast.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How You Make People Feel

I recently reread some of poet and author Maya Angelou's writings. One statement of hers really touched my heart. Angelou reflects that people won't remember what you said,or what you did. What they will remember is how you make others feel. Who in your life do you love to be around? There is so much negativity and criticism----at work and in relationships.It is refreshing to be around people who are encouraging,supportive,and fun.Nobody likes to hang out with someone who is stuck in victim mode,or brittle about every little thing so you feel you must walk on eggshells.

We each have a choice to make everyday about whether to be an encouragement or discouragement to each person our life touches that day.This includes grocery checkers,counter help, other drivers,neighbors,waiters,co-workers,your children,your parents,and your partner.It is amazing what a smile and a little warmth can do. In this culture of narcissism that we live in,it is easy to get caught up in feeling so busy and self-absorbed that we don't realize we are treating other human beings like objects,or to stroke our own ego. There is a sign up at a gas station near our home which sums it up succinctly,"It's nice to be important, but it's MORE important to be nice".

Truly,it is when we interact kindly with others and we think noone is watching that reveals our character.If each person could police their own moods,and set their intention to treat others with optimism,humanity,and kindness,what a difference we can make in our world. Smile at the supporting cast in your life this week, and be generous with your praise and thanks. All of our lives are really enesemble pieces,not solo acts.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Relationship Rules For 4/1/11

Today we focus on some basic relationship secrets for strengthening the connection between you and the people you love. Here they are:

1.If you are a natural fit, your partner should read your mind and intuit your needs and wants without you having to ask.

2.Other people are responsible for your happiness.If they don't read your script,they are wrong.

3.Relationships should be easy.

4.Children will help your marriage.

5. Timing and approach style doesn't matter when you need to talk through a conflict with a loved one.

6.You are always right,and the other person in the relationship is always wrong.

7.Say everything you think.

8.Physical affection doesn't matter that much. The other person knows I love them.

9.No need for an adult listener or counseling when you go through difficulty.Lean on the children!

10.Getting counseling is a sign of weakness.

11.You are supposed to be happy all the time.

12.There is nothing you can do to change your mood.

13.No need to listen to others. You know what they are going to say by now.

14.Teens don't want any connection with their parents or families.

15.I can take my partner for granted,because they will love me no matter how I treat them.

16.My partner must be exactly like me for this relationship to work.Differences are a bad thing.

17.The children don't notice how I treat their mother/father.

18.I have fallen "out of love" and that must be unusual.The remedy is to end the relationship. It must have outlived its shelf-life.

19.Blended families and step-families should do everything as a big group. The original family members don't especially need time alone,and if they did it might threaten the new marriage.

20.Families don't need clear rules or communication.

21.I don't need to manage my own stress level,or watch what I contribute to the relationship or the family.

22.Blame is a useful tool in building healthy relationships.

23.After you get married,you don't need to court your partner or plan dates anymore.

24.Venting work or financial stress on the family can be effective.

25.Criticism is the best way to motivate your loved ones.

26.Hold grudges as long as possible.Forgiveness is for sissies.Plus,there are the health benefits to consider.

27.Keep doing the same things in your close relationships and expect something different to happen between you. It could happen.

28.Refuse any input from the people you are in relationship with about what you could do better.What do they know?

29.Be rigid with others. Flexibility and understanding are overrated.

30.Keeping secrets is a good way to build intimacy.It will help my partner want to open up and be more vulnerable and honest with me.

I am so glad I could clear a few of these things up today about building stronger, more loving relationships. April Fools! The reverse is true on all of today's tips. Have some fun this April Fools Day!