Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Verbal Self Defense

"If you REALLY loved me......"  

An excellent book on communication is The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, Suzette Haden Elgin
Below is an excerpt that contains the nugget of the wisdom in her books:

From BusinessSpeak, Suzette Haden Elgin

"Only a Wimp Would Let That One Go By!"

Over and over, I hear this kind of objection: "I understand what you're saying... But I just could not let that person get away with it!" (Because the bait in the particular attack was so cruel or so totally false or in some other way so intolerable to the victim.)

There are two basic misunderstandings here. First, you should expect the bait [in verbal attacks] to be like that. Of course the bait is going to be as outrageous as the attacker can make it. Of course, if the attacker has personal knowledge of something that will be especially hurtful to the victim, it will be used as bait. When you go fishing, you don't bait your hook with something that will bore the fish; you choose whatever you think is most likely to get the fish's attention. "Verbal Aggressors" are doing the same thing. They choose the bait not to hurt you, but to hook you; the hurt is just an unavoidable side effect. Attackers want your attention; they want to demonstrate that they have the power to get and keep your attention; they want from you an emotional reaction that is evidence of that power. They will always use as bait whatever they think is most likely to be impossible for you to ignore. This should not surprise you in any way; certainly it should never surprise you into making a strategic error.

Second, it's an error to think that letting the bait go by without challenge is "letting them get away with it." No matter what is in the bait, it's the trivial part of the attack.

Think about it. You had a plan for how you were going to spend the next 15 minutes or so. There were things you wanted to do with that time. But the attacker has a different plan: that you will spend that time engaged in an undignified verbal fight in which you demonstrate how easy it is for the attack to pull your strings and make you dance. Doing that -- not ignoring some ridiculous insult -- is letting the attacker get away with it. No matter how the fight itself ends, the loser (and wimp) is the person who provides the attacker with Victim Service, and the attacker who can get you to provide that service is the winner.

From The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, Suzette Haden Elgin:

 Managing the Verbal Attack Patterns (VAPS) of English

Vaps are English language patterns used to demonstrate power over a targeted victim by (a) capturing and holding their attention and (b) evoking a highly emotional response. They have two parts: an open attack (the "bait") and one or more attacks sheltered in presuppositions. For example:

A. "If you REALLY cared about your job, YOU'D get to work on TIME!"
B. "WHY don't you ever LISTEN to me when I talk to you??!"
C. "EVen a person YOUR age should know SOMETHING about stocks!"
D. "SOME people would FIRE you for coming to work dressed like a THUG!"
E. "YOU'RE not the ONLY person who has PROBlems, you know!"

Rule One:
Ignore the bait.

Rule Two:
Respond directly to a presupposition.

For example.......

"If you REALLY loved me, YOU wouldn't waste MONEY the way you do!!"
"If you really LOVED me, YOU wouldn't waste MONEY the way you do!"

(The first part of the attack presupposes "You don't love me"; the bait is, "You waste money.")

Recommended Responses:
"Of course I love you."
"When did you start thinking I don't love you?"

How NOT to communicate.

There is a famous quote by Paul Watzlawick, a "communication theoretician" and influential figure in psychotherapy and family therapy:  "You cannot not communicate." Even not communicating is itself a message.  His influence along with writers on assertiveness, such as Manuel Smith form a core of much cognitive psychotherapy and personal coaching.  On the one hand, it's sort of intuitive, like much in psychology, but not something many of us think about until we have an epiphany and snap awake out of our usual mesmerized states and see something obvious for the first time.

Here is one of what will hopefully be many rules on how to communicate strategically and intentionally.  But before that tip, a comment on "strategically and intentionally."  Many of our interactions become automatic and we respond without much thought.  And since humans learn to respond automatically for efficiency, like in typing or driving a car, often our automatic responses are ideal.  But the automatic responses that lead to problems and need for conflict resolution would be best examined to see if they truly are strategic and intentional.  In other words, do we want to just express anger because that's our usual pattern or we feel slighted.  Or do we want to be influential and solve problems.

Rule 1.  Assertive, effective communication typically relies on using the pronoun "I" instead of "You." 

If I'm communicating to someone, it's my thoughts, feelings and intentions, and they are more likely to be received without red alert defenses going up in the other person if I label them truthfully as being mine by stating "I" want, think, feel, wish, etc. That is difficult because it's not as common in everyday language as would seem reasonable.

Even if it's difficult to not include a "you" in the sentence, start with the "I."  I prefer that you not be late.  Or I plan to leave on time.  Not, "don't you be late."  Sure that's a benign example, and fine to say to a buddy along with a smile, but I've seen plenty of couples that even such a benign insertion of the word "you" triggers defensiveness, retaliation and conflict, when simply saying what "I" want, works so much more smoothly.  Again, being aware of intention is important.  If my intention is to fight or criticize then "you" may be the best word choice.

Here's a great example of terrible communication that I ran across today, from one professional level adviser to another professional. 
No it wasn't excitement about some cool new song, it was in regards to problem solving in an organization, stated in condescending anger.  Later the poor communicator even admitted that hostile remark was based on an uncontrollable feeling, not on strategic intention and problem solving.  Another issue to be addressed later.

In this case the receiver of the message, being an astute professional, knew not to bite the hook of this verbal assault (see next blog entry),  but the person who wrote this ALL CAPS!!! showed their poor communication skills, lack of problem solving ability, and generally embarrassed themselves, if they have the insight to be aware of that.  An effective communicator or a spouse wanting to solve a problem and avoid a fight could have easily used Rule #1 and stated: "I would like" or "I want to express" or at the least "I want you to hear this," but even that is a poor way to state it, unless as in this case the message was to show arrogance.

I recommend using "I."
Not: You should use "I."

COMING SOON: Rules on: "want vs. need"  "avoid absolutes" "when to obfuscate"
If you can't wait (yeah I meant to use "you" there) or read Smith's book, go to the cheat sheet of tips on an earlier blog entry. 
Another excellent book on communication I hope to write about later, is "How to Argue and Win Every Time, by Gerry Spence.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Remembering changes Memories

The "Observer Effect" of Memory

Stripping away negative emotions from traumatic memories

The act of remembering changes the memory itself. Fascinating neuroscience is unfolding. Applying neuroscience research to treat PTSD is underway.  A recent article from Wired Magazine provides an accessible summary.   (See more below.)

As the author mentions, this view of the neuroscience of memory could turn standard Critical Incident Stress Debriefing on its head.  Although, I would hypothesize that psychotherapy may achieve a similar result as this chemical approach, though perhaps more slowly, by helping people learn to reprogram traumatic memories by remembering the incident while relaxed, thus re-saving it to our brain's memory without the intense trauma element.

It turns out the "observer effect" from physics (often confused with  Heisenberg's uncertainty principle) may be a good model for understanding how our memory works and how to change it.  The act of observation changes the phenomenon observed.  Take the memory out of storage, observe it without the physiological distress, re save it to memory and some of the distress elements have been stripped away in the new saved memory file.  Think of it as saving your open "Word" document as the same name as your original file, replacing earlier versions of the file, but in this case, in your brain's memory.

The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever
By Jonah Lehrer  February 17, 2012 |  3:44 pm |  Categories: Wired March 2012


Read the complete article here:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

There's a Hole in the Sidewalk

How Change often happens.


There's a Hole in My Sidewalk.
By Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately. 

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

 I walk down another street.

Tina Fey’s Rules For Improv…And the Workplace

A REPOST from:  Tina Fey’s Rules For Improv…And the WorkPlace
December 14, 2011 by Bryce Christiansen  
from  Tina Fey’s book Bossypants


Rule #1.  Agree

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.

When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt.

But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.

The Lesson:  Respect What Your Partner has Created

Tina Fey obviously doesn’t think you’ll agree with everything you hear, but the real lesson is in “respecting what your partner has created.”   The benefit of “agreement” is an open mind, an environment where ideas can thrive and innovation is welcome.

We all know what it’s like working with the guy who breaks rule #1.  You’ve heard him, he’s the guy who says, “No, it won’t work,” “That’s impossible,”  “Nope, we can’t do that.”  Not so much fun working with them, is it?

Rule #2.  Not Only Say Yes…Say Yes And

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own.

If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill.

But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.

The Lesson:  Contribute Something

So how does this apply to work?

When Tina Fey says, “Say yes and” it means to contribute.  Don’t be that guy in the office who sits in meetings with nothing to add to the conversation.

Take what your team has created and add something to it.

Rule #3.  Make Statements

This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers

We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag. It’s usually the same person around the office who says things like “There’s no calories in it if you eat it standing up!” and “I felt menaced when Terry raised her voice.

Lesson:  Don’t Ask Questions All the Time

Statements are about confidence.  Asking nothing but questions is draining.  It’s excluding yourself from being part of the solution, it’s building obstacles instead of bridges, it’s throwing the ox in the mire and stealing the plow to get him out.

Rule #4.  There Are No Mistakes…Only Opportunities

If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what?

Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field.

In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.

Lesson: Stay Positive, Learn to Adapt

If you do work of any meaning, mistakes are going to happen.  Imagine the difference one simple change in attitude like this can make on having a positive work environment.

Just like improv, not every project will go as planned.  You can take the amateur approach; stop the scene, destroy the momentum, and start over.  Or you can be a pro; adapt to the change, make it your own, and do something greater.


Work is a Stage and has more in common with improv than I even first realized.
We all have behavior that comes naturally to us.  We might like to take things slow, mingle with friends, or have alone time.
And it’s not always advantageous to behave this way at work.  So we adapt.
We play some improv.
We accept things that come our way…even though we don’t like it.
We add our personal touch as projects come our way…to make work more enjoyable.
We make mistakes…and learn to roll with it.
In business, it pays to have the qualities of an improvisationist. Respect. Create. Contribute. Adapt.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Assertiveness and Managing Stress

Here's a quick business card size pocket reminder of tips for managing stress and solving problems through rational cognitive thinking, wellness tips and being assertive.  Several books worth of strategies condensed to a pocket guide you can print out or store in photos on your smart phone. RE

Monday, July 16, 2012

Predictors of Divorce

What are the negative behavior patterns that can predict divorce?  The leading academic research psychologist who has studied marriage for over 35 years, John Gottman, Ph.D.,  has named the most corrosive negative behavior patterns, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Specifically, these are:
  • Criticism: stating one’s complaints as a defect in one’s partner’s personality, i.e., giving the partner negative trait attributions. Example: “You always talk about yourself. You are so selfish.”
  • Contempt: statements that come from a relative position of superiority. Contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eliminated. Example: “You’re an idiot.”
  • Defensiveness: self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victim-hood. Defensiveness wards off a perceived attack. Example: “It’s not my fault that we’re always late; it’s your fault.”
  • Stonewalling: emotional withdrawal from interaction. Example: The listener does not give the speaker the usual nonverbal signals that the listener is “tracking” the speaker.
These predict early divorcing – an average of 5.6 years after the wedding. Emotional withdrawal and anger predict later divorcing – an average of 16.2 years after the wedding.

When asked what are the key findings of Dr. Gottman’s 35 years of research, the answer was the following two statements.

Happily married couples behave like good friends, and they handle their conflicts in gentle, positive ways.
Happily married couples are able to repair negative interactions during an argument, and they are able to process negative emotions fully.

More from John Gottman, Ph.D.:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Emotional Competence

Daniel Goleman ( and  Hendrie Weiisinger ( ) have two of the mainstream books out on Emotional Intelligence.  Not that we really need more written on this, there's lots on the web, and these guys have made millions marketing it to corporations, but below is my simplified model of this topic and then Goleman's general outline.  Sometimes these trendy concepts get marketed as the "business du jour psychobabble" and then quickly forgotten, but this topic could as easily be called "Everything you need to know about Psychology and How to be successful and Get along with others effectively."

My Graphic of what this all means:

Awareness of self and others.  
Insight into intentions and actions of self and others
Ability to manage ourselves 
Ability to influence others within the context of the relationship to 
Skillfully bring our intentions to successful actions and desired outcomes.

This applies to family, group, and organizational relationships

Emotional Competence Overview 

The Details - from Daniel Goleman's Working with Emotional Intelligence



Emotional awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects. 
People with this competence:
  • Know which emotions they are feeling and why 
  • Realize the links between their feelings and what they think, do, and say 
  • Recognize how their feelings affect their performance
  • Have a guiding awareness of their values and goals
Accurate self-assessment:  Knowing one’s strengths and limits. 
People with this competence are:
  • Aware of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Reflective, learning from experience
  • Open to candid feedback, new perspectives, continuous learning, and self-development 
  • Able to show a sense of humor and perspective about themselves
Self-confidence: Sureness about one’s self-worth and capabilities. 
People with this competence:
  • Present themselves with self-assurance; have “presence”
  • Can voice views that are unpopular and go out on a limb for what is right
  • Are decisive, able to make sound decisions despite uncertainties and pressures 
  • Avoid arrogance which masks insecurity or ignorance 


Self-control: Managing disruptive emotions and impulses. 
People with this competence:
  • Manage their impulsive feelings and distressing emotions well 
  • Stay composed, positive, and unflappable even in trying moments 
  • Think clearly and stay focused under pressure
Trustworthiness: Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity. 
People with this competence:
  • Act ethically and are above reproach
  • Build trust through their reliability and authenticity
  • Admit their own mistakes and confront unethical actions in others 
  • Take tough, principled stands even if they are unpopular
Conscientiousness: Taking responsibility for personal performance. 
People with this competence:
  • Meet commitments and keep promises
  • Hold themselves accountable for meeting their objectives 
  • Are organized and careful in their work
Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change. 
People with this competence:
  • Smoothly handle multiple demands, shifting priorities, and rapid change 
  • Adapt their responses and tactics to fit fluid circumstances
  • Are flexible in how they see events
Innovation: Being comfortable with and open to novel ideas and new information. 
People with this competence:
  • Seek out fresh ideas from a wide variety of sources 
  • Entertain original solutions to problems
  • Generate new ideas
  • Take fresh perspectives and risks in their thinking

Achievement drive: Striving to improve or meet a standard of excellence. 
People with this competence:
  • Are results-oriented, with a high drive to meet their objectives and standards 
  • Set challenging goals and take calculated risks
  • Pursue information to reduce uncertainty and find ways to do better
  • Learn how to improve their performance
Commitment: Aligning with the goals of the group or organization. 
People with this competence:
  • Readily make personal or group sacrifices to meet a larger organizational goal 
  • Find a sense of purpose in the larger mission
  • Use the group’s core values in making decisions and clarifying choices 
  • Actively seek out opportunities to fulfill the group’s mission
Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities. 
People with this competence:
  • Are ready to seize opportunities
  • Pursue goals beyond what’s required or expected of them
  • Cut through red tape and bend the rules when necessary to get the job done 
  • Mobilize others through unusual, enterprising efforts
Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks. 
People with this competence:
  • Persist in seeking goals despite obstacles and setbacks
  • Operate from hope of success rather than fear of failure
  • See setbacks as due to manageable circumstance rather than a personal flaw 



Empathy: Sensing others’ feelings and perspective, taking an active interest in their concerns. 
People with this competence:
  • Are attentive to emotional cues and listen well
  • Show sensitivity and understand others’ perspectives
  • Help out based on understanding other people’s needs and feelings
Service orientation: Anticipating, recognizing, and meeting customers’ needs. 
People with this competence:
  • Understand customers’ needs and match them to services or products 
  • Seek ways to increase customers’ satisfaction and loyalty
  • Gladly offer appropriate assistance
  • Grasp a customer’s perspective, acting as a trusted advisor
Developing others: Sensing what others need in order to develop, and bolstering their abilities. People with this competence:
  • Acknowledge and reward people’s strengths, accomplishments, and development
  • Offer useful feedback and identify people’s needs for development
  • Mentor, give timely coaching, and offer assignments that challenge and grow a person’s skills.
Leveraging diversity: Cultivating opportunities through diverse people. 
People with this competence:
  • Respect and relate well to people from varied backgrounds
  • Understand diverse worldviews and are sensitive to group differences
  • See diversity as opportunity, creating an environment where diverse people can thrive
  • Challenge bias and intolerance
Political awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships. 
People with this competence:
  • Accurately read key power relationships
  • Detect crucial social networks
  • Understand the forces that shape views and actions of clients, customers, or competitors
  • Accurately read situations and organizational and external realities


Influence: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion. 
People with this competence:
  • Are skilled at persuasion
  • Fine-tune presentations to appeal to the listener
  • Use complex strategies like indirect influence to build consensus and support 
  • Orchestrate dramatic events to effectively make a point
Communication: Sending clear and convincing messages. 
People with this competence:
  • Are effective in give-and-take, registering emotional cues in attuning their message 
  • Deal with difficult issues straightforwardly
  • Listen well, seek mutual understanding, and welcome sharing of information fully 
  • Foster open communication and stay receptive to bad news as well as good
Leadership: Inspiring and guiding groups and people. 
People with this competence:
  • Articulate and arouse enthusiasm for a shared vision and mission 
  • Step forward to lead as needed, regardless of position
  • Guide the performance of others while holding them accountable Lead by example
Change catalyst: Initiating or managing change. 
People with this competence:
  • Recognize the need for change and remove barriers 
  • Challenge the status quo to acknowledge the need for change 
  • Champion the change and enlist others in its pursuit
  • Model the change expected of others
Conflict management: Negotiating and resolving disagreements. 
People with this competence:
  • Handle difficult people and tense situations with diplomacy and tact
  • Spot potential conflict, bring disagreements into the open, and help deescalate 
  • Encourage debate and open discussion
  • Orchestrate win-win solutions
Building bonds: Nurturing instrumental relationships. 
People with this competence:
  • Cultivate and maintain extensive informal networks
  •  Seek out relationships that are mutually beneficial
  • Build rapport and keep others in the loop
  • Make and maintain personal friendships among work associates
Collaboration and cooperation: Working with others toward shared goals. 
People with this competence:
  • Balance a focus on task with attention to relationships 
  • Collaborate, sharing plans, information, and resources 
  • Promote a friendly, cooperative climate
  • Spot and nurture opportunities for collaboration
Team capabilities: Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals. 
People with this competence:
  • Model team qualities like respect, helpfulness, and cooperation 
  • Draw all members into active and enthusiastic participation 
  • Build team identity, esprit de corps, and commitment
  • Protect the group and its reputation; share credit

More Links: 
A Good Outline of How to Manage Emotions:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Being a Man

Ran across this on the Web.  Wish I'd written it.  Great advice for Men.  Applies to sons as well as daughters.

50 Life Lessons from Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome

A REPOST from:

50 Life Lessons From Marcus Aurelius, Emperor Of Rome

Many philosophers that you may have read about were incredibly intelligent and have written about mind-shattering topics. But that is all that they were, philosophers. Marcus Aurelius was emperor of Rome, and was the absolute ruler of his domain. He was educated by the finest scholars and teachers in the world at the time, and went through things that only a few men that have ever lived will experience.

Meditations, despite its title, is a series of personal writings which embodies his ideas on Stoic Philosophy. It was split into 12 books and was his personal source of guidance and self improvement. Much of it was written in the last decade of his life, while he was leading the Roman army on campaigns against Germanic tribes encroaching Rome’s borders. His stoic ideas focus on freeing men from the pains and pleasures of the material world.

The overall message is that the only way a man can be harmed is to allow his reaction to overpower him.

Concentrate every minute like a Roman – like a man – on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can – if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.

How to act:

Never under compulsion, out of selfishness, without forethought, with misgivings.
Don’t gussy up your thoughts.
No surplus words or unnecessary actions.
Let the spirit in you represent a man, an adult, a citizen, a Roman, a ruler. Taking up his post like a soldier and patiently awaiting his recall from life. Needing no oath or witness. Cheerfulness. Without requiring other people’s help. Or serenity supplied by others. To stand up straight – not straightened.

Your ability to control your thoughts – treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions – false to your nature, and that of all rational beings. It’s what makes thoughtfulness possible, and affection for other people, and submission to the divine.

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each one of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see. The span we live is small – small as the corner of the earth in which we live it. Small as even the greatest renown, passed from mouth to mouth by short-lived stick figures, ignorant alike of themselves and those long dead.

Body. Soul. Mind.

Sensations: the body.
Desires: the soul.
Reasoning: the mind.

To experience sensations: even grazing beasts do that. To let your desires control you: even wild animals do that – and rutting humans, and tyrants.

To make your mind your guide to what seems best: even people who deny the gods do that. Even people who betray their country.

If all the rest is common coin, then what is unique to the good man?
To welcome with affection what is sent by fate. Not to stain or disturb the spirit within him with a mess of false beliefs. Instead, to preserve it faithfully, by calmly obeying God – saying nothing untrue, doing nothing unjust. And if the others don’t acknowledge it – this life lived in simplicity, humility, cheerfulness – he doesn’t resent them for it, and isn’t deterred from following the road where it leads: to the end of life. An end to be approached in purity, in serenity, in acceptance, in peaceful unity with what must be.

Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces – to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it – and makes it burn still higher.

Does your reputation bother you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it. The emptiness of all those applauding hands. The people who praise us – how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region in which it all takes place. The whole earth a point in space – and most of it uninhabited. How many people there will be to admire you, and who they are. “The world is nothing but change, our life is only perception.”

Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed.
Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.

That every event is the right one. Look closely and you’ll see. Not just the right one overall, but right. As if someone had weighed it out with scales. Keep looking closely like that, and embody it in your actions: goodness – what defines a good person. Keep to it in everything you do.

Beautiful things of any kind are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves. Praise is extraneous. The object of praise remains what it was – no better and no worse. This applies, I think, even to “beautiful” things in ordinary life – physical objects, artworks. Does anything genuinely beautiful need supplementing? No more than justice does – or truth, or kindness, or humility. Are any of those improved by being praised? Or damaged by contempt? Is an emerald suddenly flawed if no one admires it? Or gold, or ivory, or purple? Lyres? Knives? Flowers? Bushes?

Love the discipline you know, and let it support you. Entrust everything willingly to the gods, and then make your way through life – no one’s master and no one’s slave.

Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you. – Then where is harm to be found? In your capacity to see it. Let the part of you that makes that judgment keep quiet even if the body it’s attached to is stabbed or burnt, or stinking with pus, or consumed by cancer.

It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it – not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it. Why treat the one as a misfortune rather than the other as fortunate?

Take refuge in these two things:
I. Nothing that can happen to me that isn’t natural.
II. I can keep from doing anything that God and my own spirit don’t approve. No one can force me to.

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts. Color it with a run of thoughts like these:
I. Anywhere you can lead your life, you can lead a good one.
II. Things gravitate toward what they were intended for. What things gravitate toward is their goal.

Nothing happens to anyone that he can’t endure. The same things happen to other people, and they weather it unharmed – out of sheer obliviousness or because they want to display “character.” Is wisdom really so much weaker than ignorance and vanity?

Things have no hold on the soul. They have no access to it, cannot move or direct it. It is moved and directed by itself alone. It takes the things before it and interprets them as it sees fit.

Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone – those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us – a chasm whose depths we cannot see. So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignation, either. As if things that irritate us lasted.

The mind is the ruler of the soul. It should remain unstirred by agitations of the flesh – gentle and violent ones alike. Not mingling with them, but fencing itself off and keeping those feelings in their place. When they make their way into your thoughts, through the sympathetic link between the mind and body, don’t try to resist the temptation. The sensation is natural. But don’t let the mind start in with judgments calling it “good” or “bad.”

When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep on going back to it.

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

I am composed of a body and a soul. Things that happen to the body are meaningless. It cannot be discriminate among them. Nothing has meaning to my mind except its own actions. Which are within its own control. And it’s only the immediate ones that matter. Its past and future actions are too meaningless.

You take things you don’t control and define them as “good” or “bad.” And so of course when the “bad” things happen, or the “good” ones don’t, you blame the gods and feel hatred for the people responsible – or those you decide to make responsible.

When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them. It’s good to keep this in mind.

I can control my thoughts as necessary; then how can I be troubled? What is outside my mind means nothing to it. Absorb that lesson and your feet stand firm.

No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, “No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.”

The mind doesn’t get in its own way. It doesn’t frighten itself into desires. If other things can scare or hurt it, let them; it won’t go down that road on the basis of its own perceptions. Let the body avoid discomfort, and if it feels it, say so. But the soul is what feels fear and pain, and what conceives of them in the first place, and it suffers nothing. Because it will never conclude that it has. The mind itself has no needs, except for those it creates itself. It is undisturbed, except for its own disturbances. Knows no obstructions, except those from within.

Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the firewood as it was? Eat food without transforming it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed? Can’t you see? It’s just the same with you – and just as vital to nature.

To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose.

Look at the past – empire succeeding empire – and from that, extrapolate the future: the same thing. No escape from the rhythm or events. Which is why observing life for forty years is as good as a thousand. Would you really see anything new?

Don’t pay attention to other people’s minds. Look straight ahead, where nature is leading you – nature in general, through the things that happen to you; and your own nature, through your own actions.

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.

Either pain affects the body (which is the body’s problem) or it affects the soul. But the soul can choose not to be affected, preserving its own serenity, its own tranquility. All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them.

Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer. Then remind yourself that past and future have no power over you. Only the present.

Stop perceiving the pain you imagine and you’ll remain completely unaffected. External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now. If the problem is something in your own character, who’s stopping you from setting your mind straight?

Remember that when it withdraws into itself and finds contentment there, the mind is invulnerable. It does nothing against its will, even if its resistance is irrational. The mind without passions is a fortress. No place is more secure. Once we take refuge there we are safe forever. Not to see this is ignorance. To see it and not seek safety means misery.

Other people’s wills are as independent of mine as their breath and bodies. We may exist for the sake of one another, but our will rules its own domain.

To privilege pleasure over pain – life over death, fame over anonymity – is clearly blasphemous.

To do harm is to do yourself harm. To do an injustice is to do yourself an injustice – it degrades you.

Objective judgment, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance – now, at this very moment – of all external events. That’s all you need.

Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.

Enter their minds, and you’ll find the judges you’re so afraid of – and how judiciously they judge themselves.

Consider the lives led once by others, long ago, the lives to be led by others after you, the lives led even now, in foreign lands. How many people don’t even know your name. How many will soon have forgotten it. How many offer you praise now – and tomorrow, perhaps, contempt. That to be remembered is worthless. Like fame. Like everything.

When you run up against someone else’s shamelessness, ask yourself this: Is a world without shamelessness possible? No. Then don’t ask the impossible. There have to be shameless people in the world. This is one of them. The same for someone vicious or untrustworthy, or with any other defect. Remembering that the whole world class has to exist will make you more tolerant of its members.

Spiders are proud of catching flies, men of catching hares, fish in a net, boars, bears, etc. How they all change into one another – acquire the ability to see that. Apply it constantly; use it to train yourself. Nothing is as conducive to spiritual growth.

To feel grief, anger or fear is to try to escape from something decreed by the ruler of all things, now or in the past or in the future. And that ruler is law, which governs what happens to each of us. To feel grief or anger is to become a fugitive – a fugitive from justice.

Characteristics of the rational soul: Self perception, self-examination, and the power to make of itself whatever it wants. It reaps its own harvest, unlike plants, whose yield is gathered in by others. It reaches its intended goal, no matter where the limit of its life is set.

If you don’t have a consistent goal in life, you can’t live it in a consistent way.

Everything you’re trying to reach – by taking the low way round – you could have right now, this moment. If you’d only stop thwarting your own attempts. If you’d only let go of the past, entrust the future to Providence, and guide the present toward reverence and justice.

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.

Ant Eggs as an Antidote to Love

I do not recommend this.  I have not studied the science of this claim but it sounds pretty bizarre.  Although it is "interesting"

This is from an exhibit of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, CA.  Listed by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of 8 Unusual All American Museums.   A throwback to the private museums of earlier centuries, this Los Angeles spot has a true hodgepodge of natural history artifacts.  Thanks to my daughter, Kelly for taking me on one of the more unusual outings I've experienced, which she seems to find many of in Los Angeles.

Read more:

What Women Want - Fairy Tale Wisdom

The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle (The Weddynge of Syr Gawen and Dame Ragnell) is a 15th-century English poem, one of several versions of the "loathly lady" story popular during the Middle Ages. An earlier version of the story appears as "The Wyfe of Bayths Tale" ("The Wife of Bath's Tale") in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales,[1] and the later ballad "The Marriage of Sir Gawain" is essentially a retelling, though its relationship to the medieval poem is uncertain.


King Arthur, with a small group of companions, was out hunting in the forest. As he was dressing his kill, he became aware that there was somebody watching; and when he lifted his eyes he beheld before him a well-armed knight of forbidding aspect, full strong and of great might.
"Well met, king Arthur!" said the big man. "Many years you have done me great harm, and now you will meet your death."
Thus threatened with immediate death, the king was quick to respond with the reproach that there would be little honor for the other in such a deed, since he was unarmed. The king asked his name, and the knight replied, "My name is Gromer Somer Joure." The name meant nothing to the king.
The king's argument, however, had touched on a delicate point of knightly honor, and so the big man in armor was forced to relent a little - not entirely, but a little. He required that his defenseless victim should swear to return to this same spot the same day the following year, unarmed as now - clothed in but his hunter's green - and bring as quittance for his life the answer to the following riddle: What is it that a woman most desires in all the world?
The king gave his pledge and returned in great dejection to the company of his knights. Sir Gawain, his nephew, noted the sorrow of his countenance and drew him aside to ask what had taken place. The king explained in secrecy and after the two had deliberated together, they decided to ride off in different directions, and whatever lands they came to, they would ask men and women what they might answer to this riddle. And so they prepared for their journeys and departed.
They received many answers, which they put down in two books. Some said that women desired to be well arrayed; some said that they loved to be fairly prayed; some said they loved a lusty man that hugged and kissed them. Some said one thing, some said another. But upon returning, Arthur was still uneasy with these answers.
One month remained. The king adventured into the forest of Inglewood, and there he met with the most ugly hag mankind had ever seen: face red, nose snotted withal, mouth wide, teeth yellow and hanging down over the lip, a long thick neck, and hanging heavy paps. A lute she bore upon her back, and she was riding a richly saddled palfrey. It was an unseemly sight to see so foul a creature ride so gaily.
She rode directly to the king, gave him greeting, and told him, without ado, that none of the answers he and Gawain had found would be a bit of good to him. "If I help thee not, thou art but dead," she said. "Grant me, Sir King, but one thing, and I shall make warranty for thy life; or else thou will lose thy head." "What do you mean, Lady?" asked the king. "Tell me what you mean, and why my life is in your hands, and I will promise you anything you ask." The hideous old creature replied, "You must grant me a knight to wed; his name is Sir Gawain. I promise that if your life is not saved by my answer, this desire of mine will be in vain; but if my answer saves you, you will let me wed Gawain. Choose now, and quickly, for it must be so, or you are dead!" The king was greatly dismayed and replied that it was not for him to decide this, but Gawain. And the lady replied, "Well, go home now and speak fair words to Sir Gawain. Though I am foul, yet am I gay!"
The king returned to the castle, and when he told Gawain of the lady's demand, Gawain answered courteously that he would rather marry her than see Arthur dead. And Arthur replied that Gawain was indeed the flower of knightly virtues.
Dame Ragnell was the name of the hag. When King Arthur returned to her and gave her his promise and that of his nephew, she replied, "Sir, now you will know what women desire most of high and low. This is one thing in all our fantasy, and that now you will know: We desire of men, above all manner of thing, to have the sovereignty."
Of course, this was the only answer that would save the king's life, and when he told it to the big knight, he had to spare the king's life.
Now king Arthur had to give Dame Ragnell as wife to Sir Gawain. As they rode into the courtyard together, Arthur was greatly ashamed of her. But as all there wondered where so foul a thing had come from, Sir Gawain stepped forth without any sign of reluctance and pledged his troth. Dame Ragnell said, "God have mercy. For your sake, I wish I were a fair woman, for you have such good will."
All the ladies of the court and the knights were in great sorrow for Sir Gawain, for his bride was so very ugly. And she insisted that the wedding take place at once. Nor was she to be put off with a quiet little wedding, but insisted upon a high mass and a banquet in the open hall with everybody there. At the banquet, she gobbled up all the meat!
That night, in bed, Gawain could not at first bring himself to turn and face her unappetizing snout. After a time, she said to him: "Ah, Sir Gawain, since I have wed you, show me your courtesy in bed. It may not be rightfully denied. If I were fair, you would not behave this way; you are taking no heed of wedlock. For Arthur's sake do kiss me at least; I pray you, do this at my request. Come, let us see how quick you can be!"
Gawain collected every bit of his courage and kindness. "I will do more," he said in all gentleness, "I will do more that simply kiss, before God!" And he turned around to her. And he saw her to be the fairest creature that ever he had seen without measure.
She said: "What is your will?"
"AH, Jesu!" he said, "what are you?"
"Sir, I am your wife, securely; why are you so unkind?"
"AH, lady, I am to blame; I did not know. You are beautiful in my sight - whereas today you were the foulest sight my eyes had ever seen! To have you thus, my lady, pleases me well." And he embraced her in his arms and began kissing her, and they made great joy.
"Sir," she said, "my beauty will not hold. You may have me thus, but only for half the day. And so it is a question, and you must choose whether you would have me fair at night and foul by day before all men's eyes, or beautiful by day and foul at night."
"Alas," replied Gawain, "the choice is hard. To have you fair at night and no more, that would grieve my heart; but if I should decide to have you fair by day, then at night I should have a scabrous bed. Fan would I choose the best, yet know not what in this world I shall say. But since this involves you more than anyone else, my dear lady, let it be as you would desire it; I rest the choice in your hand. My body and goods, my heart and all, is yours to buy and sell; that I avow before God."
"AH, sweet mercy, courteous knight!" said the lady. "May you be blessed above all the knights in the world, for now I am released from the enchantment and you shall have me fair and bright both day and night."
And then she recounted to her delighted husband how her stepmother had enchanted her; and she was condemned to remain under that loathsome shape until the best knight in the land should wed her and yield to her the sovereignty of all his body and goods. "Thus was I deformed," she said. "And you, courteous Gawain, have given me the sovereignty for certain. Kiss me, my dear, even here and now; be glad and of good cheer." And there they made joy out of mind. 14

Commentary (not mine)
  To make joy out of mind is a wonderful thing!  This is something this Goddess can give us if we give over our ego's standpoint for the larger standpoint of Soul.  In this tale, Arthur is confronted with a riddle when he faces his death. That riddle has to do with the mystery of the feminine - what do women [the Goddess] desire most? When he begins to search for the answer, he turns outward to the collective, asking whomever he meets for an answer. But the answer to the riddle of life must be found within each individual. So Arthur must ride off into the forest by himself for one last try. There he encounters the Goddess as Hag, or Wise Woman, which is a common motif in Celtic mythology. In many legends, the old hag demands a kiss from one or more of the great warriors who encounter her. Only the one who is willing to suffer a kiss from so ugly a woman will later become king. In this tale, Gawain represents the knightly ideal that Arthur is trying to foster in his court. Even Arthur is embarrassed by Ragnell's ugliness, yet Gawain wins through, for he does live by what he believes in. To live by one's beliefs, to show forth one's inner being, is something to be greatly desired. We all imagine that we do it, but how many of us truly live by our beliefs? The Native Americans call this 'walking your talk'. If we are courageous enough, the very things that seem most loathsome might become gifts to us from the soul and from the Goddess.

10 Life Lessons to Unlearn

A REPOST from:  Martha Beck from O, The Oprah Magazine © 2010

1. Problems are bad

You spent your school years solving arbitrary problems imposed by boring authority figures. You learned that problems -- comment se dit? -- suck.

But people without real problems go mad and invent things like base jumping and wedding planning.

Real problems are wonderful, each carrying the seeds of its own solution. Job burnout? It's steering you toward your perfect career. An awful relationship? It's teaching you what love means. Confusing tax forms? They're suggesting you hire an accountant, so you can focus on more interesting tasks, such as flossing. Finding the solution to each problem is what gives life its gusto.

2. It's important to stay happy.

Solving a knotty problem can help us be happy, but we don't have to be happy to feel good.

If that sounds crazy, try this: Focus on something that makes you miserable. Then think, "I must stay happy!" Stressful, isn't it? Now say, "It's okay to be as sad as I need to be." This kind of permission to feel as we feel -- not continuous happiness -- is the foundation of well-being.

3. I'm irreparably damaged by my past

Painful events leave scars, true, but it turns out they're largely erasable. Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroanatomist who had a stroke that obliterated her memory, described the event as losing "37 years of emotional baggage." Taylor rebuilt her own brain, minus the drama.

Now it appears we can all effect a similar shift, without having to endure a brain hemorrhage. The very thing you're doing at this moment -- questioning habitual thoughts -- is enough to begin off-loading old patterns.

For example, take an issue that's been worrying you ("I've got to work harder!") and think of three reasons that belief may be wrong. Your brain will begin to let it go. Taylor found this thought-loss euphoric. You will, too.

4. Working hard leads to success

Baby mammals, including humans, learn by playing, which is why "the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton."

Boys who'd spent years strategizing for fun gained instinctive skills to handle real-world situations. So play as you did in childhood, with all-out absorption.

Watch for ways your childhood playing skills can solve a problem (see #1). Play, not work, is the key to success. While we're on the subject...

5. Success is the opposite of failure.

Fact: From quitting smoking to skiing, we succeed to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure.

6. It matters what people think of me

"But if I fail," you may protest, "people will think badly of me!" This dreaded fate causes despair, suicide, homicide.

I realized this when I read blatant lies about myself on the Internet. When I bewailed this to a friend, she said, "Wow, you have some painful fantasies about other people's fantasies about you."

Yup, my anguish came from my hypothesis that other people's hypothetical hypotheses about me mattered. Ridiculous! Right now, imagine what you'd do if it absolutely didn't matter what people thought of you. Got it? Good. Never go back.

7. We should think rationally about our decisions

Your rational capacities are far newer and more error-prone than your deeper, "animal" brain. Often complex problems are best solved by thinking like an animal.

Consider a choice you have to make -- anything from which movie to see to which house to buy. Instead of weighing pros and cons intellectually, notice your physical response to each option. Pay attention to when your body tenses or relaxes. And speaking of bodies...

8. The pretty girls get all the good stuff

Oh, God. So not true. I unlearned this after years of coaching beautiful clients. Yes, these lovelies get preferential treatment in most life scenarios, but there's a catch: While everyone's looking at them, virtually no one sees them.

Almost every gorgeous client had a husband who'd married her breasts and jawline without ever noticing her soul.

9. If all my wishes came true right now, life would be perfect

Check it out: People who have what you want are all over rehab clinics, divorce courts, and jails. That's because good fortune has side effects, just like medications advertised on TV.

Basically, any external thing we depend on to make us feel good has the power to make us feel bad.

Weirdly, when you've stopped depending on tangible rewards, they often materialize. To attract something you want, become as joyful as you think that thing would make you. The joy, not the thing, is the point.

10. Loss is terrible

Ten years ago I still feared loss enough to abandon myself in order to keep things stable. I'd smile when I was sad, pretend to like people who appalled me.

What I now know is that losses aren't cataclysmic if they teach the heart and soul their natural cycle of breaking and healing.

A real tragedy? That's the loss of the heart and soul themselves. If you've abandoned yourself in the effort to keep anyone or anything else, unlearn that pattern. Live your truth, losses be damned. Just like that, your heart and soul will return home.

By Martha Beck from O, The Oprah Magazine © 2010

Long Term Effects of Short Term Emotions

 A REPOST from:

Column: The Long-Term Effects of Short-Term Emotions
by Dan Ariely    Dan Ariely ( is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University and the author of Predictably Irrational (HarperCollins, 2008).

The heat of the moment is a powerful, dangerous thing. We all know this. If we’re happy, we may be overly generous. Maybe we leave a big tip, or buy a boat. If we’re irritated, we may snap. Maybe we rifle off that nasty e-mail to the boss, or punch someone. And for that fleeting second, we feel great. But the regret—and the consequences of that decision—may last years, a whole career, or even a lifetime.

At least the regret will serve us well, right? Lesson learned—maybe.

Maybe not. My friend Eduardo Andrade and I wondered if emotions could influence how people make decisions even after the heat or anxiety or exhilaration wears off. We suspected they could. As research going back to Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory suggests, the problem with emotional decisions is that our actions loom larger than the conditions under which the decisions were made. When we confront a situation, our mind looks for a precedent among past actions without regard to whether a decision was made in emotional or unemotional circumstances. Which means we end up repeating our mistakes, even after we’ve cooled off.

I said that Eduardo and I wondered if past emotions influence future actions, but, really, we worried about it. If we were right, and recklessly poor emotional decisions guide later “rational” moments, well, then, we’re not terribly sophisticated decision makers, are we?

To test the idea, we needed to observe some emotional decisions. So we annoyed some people, by showing them a five-minute clip from the movie Life as a House, in which an arrogant boss fires an architect who proceeds to smash the firm’s models. We made other subjects happy, by showing them—what else?—a clip from the TV show Friends. (Eduardo’s previous research had established the emotional effects of these clips).

Right after that, we had them play a classic economics game known as the ultimatum game, in which a “sender” (in this case, Eduardo and I) has $20 and offers a “receiver” (the movie watcher) a portion of the money. Some offers are fair (an even split) and some are unfair (you get $5, we get $15). The receiver can either accept or reject the offer. If he rejects it, both sides get nothing.

Traditional economics predicts that people—as rational beings—will accept any offer of money rather than reject an offer and get zero. But behavioral economics shows that people often prefer to lose money in order to punish a person making an unfair offer.

Our findings (published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes) followed suit, and, interestingly, the effect was amplified among our irritated subjects. Life as a House watchers rejected far more offers than Friends watchers, even though the content of the movie had nothing to do with the offer. Just as a fight at home may sour your mood, increasing the chances that you’ll send a snippy e-mail, being subjected to an annoying movie leads people to reject unfair offers more frequently even though the offer wasn’t the cause of their mood.

7 Steps Out of Addiction

A repost from:
by: Stanton Peele  addiction expert, psychologist, raconteur

I have worked in the addiction field for 40 years, since I began researching my book, Love and Addiction (1975), about addictive sex and love. I take a non-disease approach, since I find the idea that you are born to be a lifelong addict unhelpful.

I created the Life Process Program for the St. Gregory Retreat Center. Although we deal with substance addictions at St. Gregory, my model of addiction applies to all kinds - gambling, sex, binge eating and anorexia, et al.

Here are the seven elements to our recovery program, ones you can apply to whatever concerns you:

1. It's not the addiction, it's the rest of your life. You've been thinking about that damned addiction for decades, so more thought in that direction has limited value. What you need to think about is fulfillment in the rest of your life - including relationships, work and educational goals, community, life satisfaction. Then the addiction might not just melt away, but it will sure be easier to manage.

2. What do you value? Everyone has a reason to quit. You've thought about how your habit is hurting your health, your self-respect, your family, your career goals - pick one suit in that deck of cards and play it. Run through the connections between what you are doing and what really matters to you. Think of the smoker whose daughter says, "Why are you killing yourself daddy. Don't you love me?"

3. Get in with the in crowd. It is so obvious and it's been repeated so much - but I have to restate it. Hang out with people who behave the way you'd like to, and are the kind of person you'd like to be. If they don't want to spend all night smoking, drinking, and doing lord knows what - well, you'll have to learn to do the kinds of things your role models enjoy. Then, pretty soon, you're like them!

4. It works - I can control myself! Savor the rewards of your new behavior - your new self - the respect, the clean air, the free time, the productivity, the health - the happiness. You can do it - you've done it before, either with this addiction or some other. Pat yourself on the back - you're a mover and a shaker. Just look modest when people ask you how you quit, lost weight, or got going on that health regimen - nobody likes a braggart!

5. Engage your loved ones. It's a fine line between blaming others for - or worse, implicating them in - your addiction. But your life partner and others close to you are keys to recovery. Think about the ways they feed into your habits. Then think harder about how to ask for their help in reversing these patterns - remember, you're requesting help, not accusing them.

6. What's your plan? Being addicted is usually not planned, like those ads that mock the idea of kids saying they want to grow up to be alcoholics. So you have to plan your days, your career, your relationships. I know - you were Mr. or Ms. "What, me worry?" But look where that got you! You need a daily planner; you need a life plan.

7. Aim higher. When you think about an addictive habit, it's so puny, so trivial - feeding your urges, your face. Let's come up with something bigger to focus on. Politics? Poverty? Community? Religion? Art? Your own family and life goals? You tell me what you think is really worth devoting yourself to in life.

And, remember: nothing, nobody is perfect. If you count the people who never take another dance with their monkey - or at least sample some other intoxicant from the one they nailed themselves to a cross on - you don't even have to use all your fingers. The goal is to avoid relapsing into your former addict identity and lifestyle. You can always climb back up, even after you've descended a couple of steps. Just do it!

This is what we do at St. Gregory. Join us at home.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why Men Don't Listen to Women

A REPOST from:

by Robert Leahy, Ph.D

In a recent posting I identified a list of the wrong things to say to someone who is upset. Interestingly, this led to a lot of comments on The Huffington Post, which got me thinking. The first thought I had was, "Why do men find it so hard to validate women?"
Before I get into this, I'd like you to think about the research by psychologist John Gottman. Gottman has been able to predict with 91 percent accuracy which couples will end up getting divorced. He calls these "The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse" -- along with other problematic styles of communication. The Four Horsemen are Criticism ("You are always whining"), Contempt ("You're a basket case"), Defensiveness ("I'm not the problem, you are!") and Stonewalling (withdrawing or becoming silent). Other problematic styles include starting the conversation in a hostile or intense style, giving off body-language that is defensive or cold, flooding your partner with negativity, and bringing up past memories, complaints and injuries. When you can predict divorce with 91 percent accuracy you know you are on to something.
Now I don't want to claim that men are always the problem -- or that they are even more likely to be the problem than women are. No group is innocent, no group is perfect. But I can see that a lot of times men have a great deal of difficulty validating and emotionally supporting the women in their lives. Here are some reasons.

The Seven Reasons Men Don't Listen

  1. It's a Power Struggle. Some men view intimate relationships as a win-lose game. If the woman is venting her feelings, then she is winning and the man is losing. As a result these men may try to dominate and control the woman, telling her that she is illogical, out of control or just a pain to deal with. One man says, "You want us to be doormats."
  2. Sarcasm 
    Many men describe their interactions in terms of "sarcastic" comments -- put-downs, contempt, criticism and condescension. For example, some men respond with, "It must be that time of the month" or "Get me a beer" or other problematic and self-defeating comments. They think that sarcasm will get the woman to either shut up or help her see that she is being ridiculous. She gets the message that he not only doesn't care -- but that he is the last person to ask for support. He thinks he's clever and funny -- and she thinks he just doesn't get it.
  3. Macho Thinking 
    A number of men comment that to validate or to use emotional language to support the woman is unmanly. "You are trying to make us into wusses," a number of men say. They believe that the role of the man is to be strong, above it, domineering. Validating and allowing emotional ventilation is for feminized men, men who have lost their dignity as "real men." The women may think that some of the macho confidence is appealing, until it leads them to feel that the only emotion they can get from him is his anger.
  4. Emotional Dysregulation 
    Some men find it so upsetting, so emotionally arousing to listen to their partners that they feel they have to ventilate their anger or withdraw. In fact, this is supported by the research that shows that their pulse-rates escalate during conflict and they find this unbearable. As a result of their own escalating emotion -- which they can't tolerate -- they either try to get her to shut up -- or they leave the room. She feels controlled, marginalized and abandoned.
  5. Not Wanting to Reinforce Whining 
    This is another reason that men give for not supporting or encouraging expression. They believe that validating and making time and space for their partner's expression will reinforce complaining which, in turn, will go on indefinitely. So they want to stop it immediately by using sarcasm, control or stonewalling. She feels that he won't let her talk, that he is cold, aloof, hostile. So she goes somewhere else to get that support -- another woman friend -- or another man.
  6. Demand for Rationality 
    Some men believe that their partner should always be rational and that irrationality cannot be tolerated. Their response to their partner's apparent irrationality is to point out every error in her thinking, dismiss her, become sarcastic or withdraw. This demand for rationality or "the facts" might sound "mature" but I have yet to hear someone say that they have a great sex life because they have the facts on their side. Communication is often more about soothing, grooming, connecting -- less about simply giving you the information and being logical.
  7. Problems Have to Be Solved 
    These men think that the main reason for communication is to share facts that then can be used for problem-solving. They think that venting and sharing feelings gets you nowhere and that if their partner is not willing to initiate problem-solving then she is being self-indulgent and wasting everyone's time and energy. When he jumps in with problem-solving, she either escalates the emotion which she believes is not heard, or she withdraws.
Well, ask yourself, "Have these responses really worked?" Why is this kind of behavior and thinking so predictive of divorce? If it's not working -- and you and your partner both know it's not -- then maybe it's time to think about making a change. You can change your partner -- break up, get divorced. Or, perhaps it would be easier to change your response to your partner. In a previous posting I listed some possible responses.
Let me go back to a fundamental part of intimate relationships. We want to feel that our partner cares about and respects our feelings. We want to believe that they have time to listen. We want to feel supported, soothed and that we are not a burden. The seven beliefs and styles above -- which many men use -- only alienate the women that they claim they love. If it's not working, why would you continue to act this way?
The answer may be that some men view relationships in terms of power and control. They believe that being real men means never giving up your power. They think that women need to be kept in their place, not "indulged," taught how to think rationally and solve real problems. Of course, rationality and problem-solving are important, but if your partner wants to be heard and respected you better find out first before you jump in and take control. Real men share power, real men are partners, real men know that real women need real respect.