Sunday, October 23, 2011

What's Your Growing Edge?

People need goals.We need things we are learning,or striving to get better at.All our lives,we have an innate need to keep growing emotionally,intellectually,and physically.In life coaching,we call it "your growing edge".

When people say they are bored,it often means they are being boring.We can get in ruts.We can go to the same restaurants,see the same people,go to the same places,watch the same television shows,and shop at the same grocery store.We each need to take responsibility for mixing it up.Instead of the passive/victim role of being bored,we can shift to take the active role of keeping ourselves interesting and sharing those interests with those we care about.Sometimes our world becomes too small.This sense of boredom may be just the push we need to get a growing edge.

When people don't develop a healthy growing edge in mid-life they can get depressed.In contrast,some individuals act out inappropriately to resolve boredom in mid-life.It would be healthier to find a way to create a growing edge which develops your mind,spirit,career,personal goals,or reaches out to help others.

One of my favorite books,the classic "The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them",reminds us that many people compartmentalize their lives far too much.Many individuals will do all of their play as a child,all their learning in school,and then work as an adult until they play again when retired.When we continue to learn,play,work and serve others throughout life we can stay more fun,vital,and energized.

What's your growing edge? Is there something you always wanted to learn or teach others? Is there a trip you always wanted to take or a book you wanted to write?As the recent premature death of Apple co-founder and technology inventor Steve Jobs reminded all of us,life is fragile.Living our lives fully and giving our gifts is incredibly important to happiness and satisfaction.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Understanding Your Dreams

Did you know that everyone dreams each night? It's just that when we rush to jump out of bed when we hear the alarm and start our day,our dream experience slips out of our awareness.One great way to understand more about your inner life is to keep a spiral bound dream journal,where you jot down notes about what you remember as soon as you arise in the morning.This way you can look for patterns in your dreams,and relate the dreams to what you may currently be experiencing in your life.Keep your dream journal right by your bedside,as dream memory can quickly fade.

In a dream journal,be sure to record your feelings in the dream,along with what you remember about the action,animals,people and images.Later,you can use that dream material to better understand deeper levels of youself.Over my 20 years in private practice as a therapist,clients often bring in their dreams and we collaborate together to understand their meaning.

Dreams do hold meaning,and can inform you about your needs.Dreams can help you understand concerns you are holding on an unconscious level which can guide you in making neede changes.A wonderful new book,called "Into Your Dreams:Decipher Your Unique dream Symbology to Transform Your Waking Life(Janece Hudson,EdD,Adams Media,2011) has some clever suggestions.Name each dream at the top of each page in several brief words,and date it.Below the dream,write a short account of the previous day's activities,including your thoughts,feelings,achievements,decisions,and disappointments.Hudson suggests if you can do this every night for a week,you will learn a great deal about yourself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do Parents Have Favorites?

Short answer:yes,they do.The October 3,2011 issue of Time magazine features a cover story with a review of Jeffrey Kluger's new book,"The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us"(Riverhead Books,2011)

Did you always suspect that Mom liked your sister better? Could you tell you were the apple of Dad's eye? You might be right! Children can tell that not all siblings were created equal.Parents sometimes give differential treatment to siblings for a variety of reasons:gender,birth order,attractiveness,intelligence, or one child's special emotional/physical/educational needs.A parent may identify more with one child,who may be a better personality style fit,bear a physical resemblance,share the same birth order as the parent did in their family growing up,or a host of other reasons.

Siblings jockey for position as "best" child,often looking for their own unique area to prove mastery and show off success to parents.This can continue throughout the life cycle,and can cause great heartache to parents and children both.Parents can help by encouaging different areas of mastery,and celebrating when their children succeed in their own way.I often tell families that a certain amount of competitiveness between siblings is both normal,and helps develop assertiveness.Parents also need to communicate their belief that there is room for two or three(or however many children there are in the family) good children in the family.Care in avoiding labeling the children is also key."Meet Justin,he's our brainy child!" Does that mean noone else can suceed on his turf?parents need to be aware what power there stated perceptions have about their children.Children think we are powerful and know everything,until they become teens and realize we don't.

Experts see that there are emotional costs to being singled out as special by Mom and Dad.Fovorite children may feel guilty,feel pressured,or suffer with poor relationships with their siblings.Nobody likes the class pet, not even at home in the family.

When parents do have to spend more time or emotional energy---for instance with a child who is physically disabled or who has anxiety or depression,researchers suggest parents explain the reason for the imbalance briefly and honestly.It's their family,too,and you can bet your children are already aware of it.

Their may be biological underpinnings in why siblings compete for limited attention and resources.Geges are selfish,and each child wants to get what he or she needs. It is pretty much impossible not to have some competitive themes in any family for parents' approval,and later in work situations for managements' approval.

Parents should make every effort not to show or admit favoritism.Good enough parents do their best to see that each child gets what they need,and that they are each seen as multi-dimensional individuals,with unique gifts.They are not to be compared to each other or anyone else.The angst of sibling rivalry generally fades over the family life cycle.

I can think of no better life outcome than leaving adult children who are close, love and accept each other.I hertily recommend this weeks' Time magazine article and/or Kluger's book to you.As for me? I have three favorite children I love dearly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why Therapy Works

Therapy can help you move forward,get unstuck,and make your relationships stronger and more intimate.Cognitive therapy can effectively reduce the symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.Counselors can help you sort through old patterns and scripts you may have been living with that are holding back your development as a person.

The therapeutic relationship between a therapist and a client is a markedly different experience than any other relationship you can have in the real world.Everything you talk with them about is confidential(barring anyone being in danger,where the therapist has a duty to keep everyone safe).It's not a reciprocal relationship like a friendship,so other than paying the hourly fee,you don't have to "take care" of them.The therapist is focused solely on you,and can give you feedback on behaviors and feelings you are experience that may be keeping your pain going.

Therapists can teach you valuable things.You might want to learn how to fight fairly in your marriage relationship.Most couples don't have any training on how to work out conflicts:about money,sex,parenting,in-laws,time together/time apart,etc. Unless you learn to resolve differences in a respectful and loving way,people tend to repeat the same fatal mistakes in successive relationships.A good therapist can teach you to listen more deeply,be more aware of how your behavior impacts your partner,and empathize more with how things may feel from your partner's perpective.

You might want to become a better parent,and find yourself more frustrated with your teenager than you would like.The therapist can help you understand your child or teen's developmental stage and needs,and help you build a plan for responding more effectively. Few of us get any training for parenting,and it's possibly the most important job you will ever have.

You might be adjusting to a big life transition: a loss like a divorce or death of someone close to you,a shift from one phase of life to another---like developing an adult life after college,or becoming an emptynester, or adjusting to a new marriage,a blended family, or a relocation. A therapist can give you practical suggestions and strategies to help yourself be successful with the transition.Because of a therapist's special training,and their years of experience in helping guide people through similar life situations,they can help you cope in better ways.

Sometimes people are living with unresolved pain from childhood experiences and family relationships.Counseling can be the perfect safe place to unload your emotional backpack,make sense of it,sort it out,and go forward without carrying that pain.

You want to select a therapist that you feel comfortable with,and can be open with.It is good to check with them about their training and experience in helping others with similar concerns.Many therapists have specialties. You want to make sure they are licensed,ask about hours,their hourly fee,and office location.I often recommend that people speak to several therapists before deciding who you feel comfortable with and confident in.

I consider working with my counseling and coaching clients a great privilege. Helping people live more fully,love more deeply,and lead a more satisfying life and career is about as good as it gets.Therapy,if done well,could make the rest of your life so much better,and be money and time very well spent.