Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Crazy - Epilogue

St. Mary of Bethlehem was a monastery and unofficial hospital in London, officially made an insane asylum by King Henry VIII (one of his more rational acts) in 1547. Based on the best of intentions, the place, the practice, and the name degraded quickly. Within months, it was being called Bedlam. Yes, that Bedlam. From which we get the word now used to describe crazy chaos. But it was worse than that.

There is evidence that any patients considered harmless were forced to beg. Most patients were considered inmates and treated like - or worse - than animals. Many were shackled and chained just inches from cell walls. Active and violent patients were put on display like a circus sideshow to the public for a penny. Cells had no furniture and were never cleaned. Patients were fed with a bowl on the floor when and with what was convenient. There was no provision for warmth or clothing. There were legitimate lunatics mixed in with sane people with behavioral changes from any number of ailments such as concussions or epilepsy, but everyone received the same treatment(s).

The folks at Bedlam had no excuse for their treatment of patients. They can't even claim ignorance, not when effective treatment methods for many disorders had been known for hundreds of years. No, the only reason they did what they did is because the local culture expected it. Maybe demanded it. Definitely paid to see it. Keep in mind, this was a time and place and type of society where people had picnics and watched hangings or beheadings or other public executions. Going to see the crazies would've been a pleasant amusement.

We'd like to consider ourselves much more civilized. How smug. Yet within our own time and place and type of society, we have people speaking out against cosmetic surgery while spending thousands of dollars on deep piercings and horn implants and other "body modification." (Wait, isn't that just a euphemism? Why yes, yes it is.) Oh yes, we've come so far, haven't we? Even at the worst times of Bedlam's history, wearing things as clothes that were never meant to be (meat dresses, anyone?) would've been recognized as a sign of mental illness.

Now we don't even bother. And because of our apathy, genuine cries for help have to be louder and weirder to get our attention. Can't compete with the showiness? Too bad. Post your suicide via live feed to YouTube and you'll get views. Your friends will post the link on their Facebook pages and get a million likes when you're gone.

So tell me truly now, and please consider the ramifications; which scares you more: that people in a group (or entire society) can be just as mentally unbalanced and dangerous as any psychopath, or the fact that they just doesn't give a damn?

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Halloween Crazy Part 2: Another True Story

Imagine yourself waking up one day, right before another Halloween maybe. You go about your day, then wander out in the evening for a change, and do a little people-watching.

There's a guy with lime green hair. The color is so vivid you suspect it would glow in the dark. But it's a bright, optimistic shade and while you wouldn't have chosen it, it isn't offensive. A girl slowly shuffles past; maybe, anyway - she's so emaciated it's hard to be sure of gender. You suspect that if she moved any faster, she'd keel over and die right in front of you. Sad, what people will do to themselves.

But then there are others. It's like Night of the Living Dead had babies with Spanish Inquisition victims, with a few failed Holocaust experiments tossed in for good measure.

Torture, as explained by the U.N., is any act by which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted on a person (who isn't a masochist). The Bybee memo of 2002 added torture to the extent of impairment of bodily function. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 added more: "a significant loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty." It could be torture victims wandering around out there.

In one way or another, they've all mutilated ... or mutated .... Either way. Pinhead has nothing on these people. The women in Myanmar and Thailand who stretch their necks with brass rings have nothing on these people. The girls in Africa and young men in the Amazon using lip plates have nothing on these people. The young men of the Sioux dancing with hooks in their chests have nothing on these people. Child abuse victims with their cigarette burns have nothing on these people. Anything that could be done without killing someone seems to have been done to this crowd.

It's mind-boggling how people can seem so oblivious when it looks as though they've been surgically impaled. Bizarre flaps of skin dangle more than flesh was ever meant to stretch. Metal protrudes from flesh, suggestive of some Wolverine-experiment-gone-wrong. They gesture strangely to each other.

You've read about forms of torture in history, but most of those forms were intended to cause death. These people have survived. And apparently they have little social support. You'd think, birds of a feather and all that. Even the misfits in high school hung out together. These people, though ... the largest group you see is maybe three or four. Are they repulsed by each other? Did their torture impact them mentally? Or maybe they were unstable to begin with, which led to ... whatever cruel punishment happened to them. Or a little of each, maybe.

The weirdest thing is, regular people don't seem to take much notice of them. How can you not be just a little disturbed by something so revolting and grisly? What does that say about the world, that it's just fine when these tragic victims are everywhere? What does it say about you, that you've never thought about it before and only now are realizing you're rapidly becoming fascinated by them?

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Halloween Crazy Part 1: A True Story

Imagine yourself in another autumn, in a different place and year. You've been asleep, caught in the grip of a nightmare, when real-world senses startle you out of your dream.

You waken, realize you're tied down, and there's someone standing over you with a small knife, making tiny cuts all over you. You struggle to see more and realize you're covered in leeches. Blackout. The next time you waken, you're chained upright to a wall at your waist and wrists. You can move about a foot away from the wall, but no more. Your shoulders burn from holding your dead weight. You're in a cell about 5 feet square, with straw on the floor and an open window. You realize you're hungry and try to call out for help, but all that comes out is a croak.

A man comes to the cell, unlocks the chains, and gives you a bowl of something hot. You gratefully sit down and eat. But he's not the savior you thought, because as soon as you're done, you're chained to the wall again. And not long after, it occurs to you that there was something in that food. Everything you've consumed in the past week, it seems, starts to evacuate with the speed of lightning. With vomit dribbling down your chin and even nastier stuff running down your legs, you feel worse than ever.

The man comes with food every day: moldy or stale bread, gruel, or some kind of stew-like stuff with what appears to be beetles. You have no way to clean yourself or your cell. He won't speak to you. It occurs to you that you've been injured at some point, because you have recurring headaches, sometimes so bad they interfere with your vision. But this is no hospital. It's no prison, either, although you're being treated worse than an inmate. You hear weird bursts of laughter, moaning, and crying from other cells, but nobody speaks. After the leeching, the purgatives and emetics in the food, no ability to rest, and poor state of hygiene, your immune system is beyond compromised. It's getting uncomfortably cold at night and there's no sign of blankets or even clean clothing.

After a month, with oozing and infected sores around your wrists and waist, you are unchained from the wall permanently. For a second, it is blissful to lie down in the straw, until you realize it's also been your toilet since the first day. It's much colder now, even during the daytime. You get sick and develop a high fever, which causes you to hallucinate a little. You rave in your sleep, and someone comes to get you, binds your hands behind your back, and ducks your head repeatedly in a huge tub of icy water. The cold is almost a cool comfort against your raging fever, but you can't breathe. The shock and lack of air cause you to lose consciousness.

You awaken in a frigid cell again, seeing things you're pretty sure aren't there. You hear gurgling sounds when you breathe deeply, but there are worse things to worry about. You hear groans, shrieks, and sometimes screaming, followed by laughter. The sounds get closer. Soon a small group of people stand in front of your cell, staring. You stare back, wondering what's going on. Before you can react, a boy in front throws a rock at you. You yelp in surprise and flinch back; the group laughs and moves on out of sight.

In the new cell, you're able to keep the straw clean and dry for bedding by using the far corner for your toilet. As hygienic as that may be, the rattle in your lungs hasn't improved, so you're taken for another leech treatment and returned to the cell without any bandages. It's so cold now you aren't sure whether the blood oozing from the leech sites is scabbing or simply freezing. You burrow into the straw for warmth. There was no food today. If not for the straw for some protection from the cold, you don't know if you could survive.

The next day, another group comes along and finally stops at your cell. You remain curled in the straw. There is no boy with a rock, thankfully. People in the group begin to insult you, but it's easy to ignore them. Finally, the man who used to bring food comes along. He's carrying a torch. Your normal reactions have been dulled by cold, illness, blood loss, and malnutrition, so you don't realize the potential threat until it's nearly too late. He sets fire to the edge of your straw bedding.

You jump up screeching and narrowly avoid being singed. In a panic, you move as much unburned straw as you can from the fire. The crowd roars with laughter at your desperate movements. The man with the torch steps back with a smug smile and you realize you're probably safe enough as long as you entertain the crowd. You are outraged that somehow you've been made a circus animal, still without any idea how it happened. But faced with the choice of either humiliation or death, animal instinct takes over.

You're horrified by what you're willing to do to preserve the shreds of your life: act insane, scare children, eat spoiled or moldy food - and a few things that aren't food, and survive the occasional bleeding, ducking, and even beating. The hallucinations are fewer and farther between but you'd prefer them to this existence. You question your sanity for preferring to be delusional. The primal instinct to preserve life is one thing, but now you have to convince your rational mind that such a basic drive is worth the effort.

Eventually you learn that the people who come to see you begin their day by taking their children out for entertainment, where the whole family can enjoy violent murders carried out before their eyes. Coming to see you is just the icing on the cake, so to speak, since you don't die and end the show. Although by now you truly wish you could.

Surely you had family or friends out there. Are they like the groups that stare at you? Heaven forbid, have they been in the groups that stare at you? A new worry now constantly circles in your thoughts. Who really belongs in the cage - you, or the strange ones on the other side of the bars?

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Halloween Crazy - The Prologue

I'm a huge fan of Stephen King. I have to tell you that first, and I have to tell you why. When I was a kid and first discovered his books (woefully few then, for a reader like me), I could get excited about a girl with psychokinetic fire power or a haunted car. Cool. Rabid dog, okay. But as the books came, and King's writing began to change, I also began to appreciate the human horrors that went along with any visceral stuff.

More grown-up and realistic scary stuff, I suppose, and I believe it haunts most of us more regularly that we'd like to admit or believe. Our fears that someone will hurt our loved ones, fear of the death of a marriage, fear of being held hostage and tortured, fear of rape, cancer or other major illness, senility in old age, accidental death, or the loss of sanity. Normal, everyday horrors.

Those are the things that scare me most, anyway.

Then there are things I try to think about in as clinical and detached a way as I possibly can. I cannot let myself think too deeply about them, because these things scare the heck out of me too. Like how relatively easily bad parents can create a serial killer. How quickly groupthink distorts a peaceful crowd into a killer mob. How we become numb to new stimuli after a certain amount of exposure, so that if we've become numb to something, we consider it safe and appropriate and never think twice.

These things scare me, too, because they're so subtle. They happen before you realize it and by the time you do, it's out of your control. And while the things in the first category scare me, they tend not to happen a whole heck of a lot. These things, though. These things are happening right now, every day, everywhere in the world, and we're not noticing. By the time we do, what new horror will we have allowed?

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Many things I learned about coaching, I could've learned from my cat

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Many things I learned about coaching, I could've learned from my cat.

• Life is hard. Get plenty of rest.
• Use nervous energy productively - clean.
• Pounce on anything that interests and motivates you.
• Focus. Intently. Sometimes on the nothing in middle space.
• Stretch thoroughly. Every muscle, every day.
• Enjoy life's simple pleasures. Crickets are great toys. Or snacks.
• Ask for what you want and believe you deserve it.
• Assume everyone likes you. You don't have to like them back.
• Know the value of your time and make sure others know it. Don't make yourself too available or you'll be taken for granted.
• Keep your priorities straight and manage your time accordingly. Eat, nap, play, clean, contemplate someone's sanity, nap.
• Curiosity is good; asking questions is a good way of finding things out.
• We teach others how to treat us. Sometimes we purr, sometimes we unsheathe the claws.
• Ignore stuff that isn't worth your time or energy.
• It's okay to talk to yourself.
• Know your limits or you'll find yourself stuck in an embarrassing situation.
• Behave. Keep your claws and whiskers to yourself.
• If you're really listening, look into someone's eyes and be fully present.
• Sometimes you have to toot your own horn, or leave a dead bug where somebody will step on it, to be sure your efforts are recognized.
• If medicine is yucky, see if you can get it in a form that will get in to you.
• It's all about impression management. When in doubt, make it look like you meant to do it. Then clean, or laugh.
• Honor and obey Ceiling Cat, avoid Basement Cat. (I must assume if you know cats, you know who these are. If not, you can look them up at or

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Five Kinds of Emotional Vampires

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We've all been at the mercy of an emotional vampire at one time or another. But some of us seem more ... magnetic to them. More often than not, they actually have a personality disorder, which makes them just enough off balance to make US crazy! Most of them have no clue that they're sucking the life out of us. Emotional vampires come in different types, but they share two things in common: they get you to let them get under your skin, and they do it over and over. Learn to recognize them and save yourself!

Learn how to tell if someone might be draining you, and how to stop it!

These are the people who lash out and hurt those around them, one way or another, but they're nearly never violent. This group includes your angry boss, the sibling who criticizes everything you do (still), that woman who knows your idea will never work, and the grown up "mean girls" who can't miss an opportunity to insult someone. These people would reject the idea that there's something wrong with them, so there's no way to "fix" the problem. You have to use other tactics to deal with them.

When you run across these, remember that their attacks are rarely about you, you just happen to be the most convenient target. Understand that they don't get the rules of civilized society, so they don't realize people would like them if they played nice. - but you can let them know that you don't choose to play the victim role for them.

Next time one of them says something mean, you can respond with "Wow, that was really negative! Anyway, blah blah blah," and continue with your part of the conversation as if their remark was no more than a mere interruption. Alternatively, you can go with something like, "I know you can't be that upset with me. Who pissed in your Wheaties?" and move on with the conversation. I don't advise this with your boss, of course!

These people usually mean well but drag us down with their hesitation. These are the ones who cast their personal aura of uncertainty over the group, the guys who doubt, the girls who has you pulling your hair out in exasperation, the foot-draggers, and the weirdos who confuse everyone because they're so confused and overwhelmed.

Don't let these people get the best of your emotional side, or you'll get stuck in their rut. Channel your inner Spock and keep things clear and logical so you can feel more confident in your plans and decisions.

These folks might suspect there's something wrong in their lives. You aren't the shrink, but you might be able to help them rein in their craziness by assuming an attitude of leadership. Express yourself clearly and confidently, allow intelligent questions at the end, and assign them responsibility for their own behavior. "I understand you aren't sure about this, but it's already been decided." "I'm not sure why you're having a problem with this, but (doing whatever) is your responsibility."

Like leeches, these vampires do not play well with others, and aren't aware of it. This may be the largest group of emotional vampires. It includes that family member who constantly disappoints you, the "let's you and him fight" guy who just has to stir the pot, the more passive guy who keeps quitting, the user woman who's only nice when she needs something, the other woman who can only whine about how much her life sucks and how bad things only happen to her.

Inoculate yourself from these drainers by stocking up on positives. Pray, meditate, take your vitamins, rock out on your way to work - whatever makes you feel really good about life. And work at maintaining your grip on your own more positive reality, so it can't get sucked away.

Because these people tend to live in their own little worlds, it's hard to get through to them that you aren't interested in their personal dramas, excuses, and selfishness. But that shouldn't stop you from a little social commentary if you're fed up. Remarks like "Sorry doesn't fix it when other people are counting on you. Maybe you could make it up to us by ...." let the Downer know that his actions impact others (who aren't impressed), but if he follows your specific idea (by your deadline), he'll have a shot of regaining your trust. If you're feeling particularly generous, you can try an alternate approach such as "I know how you feel. I feel like that too sometimes, but right now we need to ...." This might help get the person back on track. With the whiners and victims, you can add that their unique ability or talent is much-needed. This gives them a sense of control that is lacking in the rest of their lives.

These are the vampires who seem to try their best but who can destroy work in seconds. Sometimes it's due to their cluelessness, sometimes because they're passive-aggressive! This is the chatterbox who obnoxiously babbles or gossips so much that it halts productivity. It's the guy who goes off on tangents, sometimes intentionally, and distracts everyone. It's the woman who manages to patronize everyone else. It's the person (often a newcomer) who expects you (and the group) to adapt to his/her pace - the one who may set a break-neck pace but then trips you up when you try to catch up.

With any of these types, keep your priorities in mind. Don't worry about a few minutes of distraction here or there, but staying focused on the big picture will limit their ability to derail you.

Unfortunately, with these vampires, there sometimes isn't much you can do to let them know you don't plan to accommodate their behavior, short of being rude. Allow them a brief moment of attention off-topic if you must, but as soon as they come up for air, bring them back to the task at hand. Sort of a "Hmm, that's interesting, but right now ...." and then literally shift your attention. Turn your eyes and body away and do not respond to anything else that is not constructive. (Good luck!)

If you aren't sure if someone fits into one the above categories, observe your own energy level right before and right after interacting with them. Is it lower? That's a key indicator of an emotional vampire. Then, besides having your energy negatively impacted, how do you feel? If your emotional reaction fits in one of these categories, it's probably toxic residue.

I also should point out that simply calling someone on their behavior, due to mental disorder or not, may not be effective and may potentially backfire. Use your best judgment, considering the person, the specific behavior, and the situation!

FWIW, There's a great site (and book) that describe these in greater detail and by psychological diagnosis, if you dare! It gives you a few examples of types, and "red flag" checklists, which I love! Here's the link:

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Play a Sign of Animal Intelligence? Sorta Kinda Probably.

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Psychologists and animal behaviorists have known for some time that play is a sign of intelligence. And science is seeing more evidence of play behaviors in animals we never expected it from - not just mammals but cephalopods (octopus & squid families), reptiles, and birds.

(I know all this, but sometimes I watch my BDWC (Brain-Dead Wonder Cat) and I suspect maybe we've been tricked.)

Seriously, is there a connection between play and intelligence? The official answer is "Yeah, sorta kinda probably, but we don't know how it works."

Evolutionary psychology says play behaviors are preparation for real life. Related theories suggest that highly social and larger-brained animals are more playful. That supposedly explains why lion cubs practice pouncing, wolf cubs practice howling, and young chimps practice swinging and scampering. In essence, they're smart enough to know they need to prepare to fend for themselves. That makes sense, but Houston, we still have some problems.

• First, if these theories are correct, only juveniles would play. Bigger and more highly social animals (mammals) care for their young, so the young have time to grow and develop skills through play. But adults of these animals play, too.

• Second, if these theories are correct, juveniles would only engage in behaviors that would translate to survival skills in some way. But some play behaviors have no practical application at all. There's far too much evidence now that shows that not only is there creative play, there are species that have developed games, with apparent rules. There are plenty of animals who understand humor to the extent that they are capable of playing tricks on each other. (Domestic animals do this with their people!)

• Third, if these theories are correct, then smaller-brained and less social animals (meaning, according to the theory, less intelligent) who must fend for themselves from birth would not exhibit play behaviors because they don't have a childhood during which to practice. So how do we explain an octopus or a turtle engaging in creative, recreational play activities? We're still figuring out just how smart cephalopods are - they're fantastic communicators, they have exceptional ability to organize complex movements, they use tools, and those in captivity come up with play-like things to do when bored.

• And then, what about creatures with no brains at all, which still learn? Jellyfish can not only learn to navigate a maze, but they'll practice it even without a reward. What kind of behavior does that suggest?

Obviously, there's more to play than just practice. But what?

In play, we have more control over things than at other times. So we have more choices, more creativity. It's a kind of break in routine that keeps a lot of our brain connections strong and active. We know that babies who are exposed to visually stimulating toys grow up to have greater cognitive abilities. Play could potentially trigger synapses all over the brain. And that kind of activity (brain exercise) is good for us.

How? It boosts memory, for one thing. In boosts our general cognitive ability. And it makes us happier. (And by the way, the opposite of play is not work, it's depression. Which is why one of the first signs of depression is a lack of interest in recreation, play, hobbies, and fun stuff.) Maybe play isn't so much a sign of intelligence as it is a sign of the intelligence needed to be self-aware and want to feel better.

So I'm designing more ways for the BDWC to play. She needs all the brain help she can get. We aren't in the same boat as she is, but on the other hand, considering the benefits of play, maybe it's best to do it and consider it preventive maintenance! You're never too old to fire up those synapses! And don't forget YOUR pets - find new ways for them to play, too!

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Where Do Phobias Come From?

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Triskaidekaphobia. Even the name is intimidating. On the other hand, it's simply an irrational fear of the number 13. Which seems so random. Why are people afraid of such weird stuff? I mean, we all know about arachnophobia, but then again spiders can be harmful and they are creepy. But to harbor a fear of a number? How's that gonna hurt anyone? I guess it isn't any weirder than xanthophobia (fear of the color or word yellow), metrophobia (fear of poetry), or chaetophobia (fear of hair).

How do we get these phobias in the first place? There are three main psychological theories that are often applied to phobias, but there are problems with all of them. Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias, so I'll use it to illustrate the theories.

1. The psychodynamic view is that the object of fear is actually just a symbol of the real thing that is feared. So basically, if a person was bitten by a dog as a child, and saw a spider during or shortly after the bite, the person might transfer their fear and anxiety from the dog onto the spider. Nobody really likes this theory much. There are lots of things that are scary and even traumatic to us when we're young, but we don't have phobias stemming from all of them.

2. The classical conditioning theory (remember Pavlov's dogs) says that the fear of spiders could be conditioned, if spiders were linked to traumatic events. A person developing arachnophobia would only develop the phobia if he/she learned to link the spider with the trauma. Which makes this problematic, too, because it requires the phobia to exist only because it reminds someone of a fearful experience. How many people have fearful experiences with the word yellow, or poetry?

3. Evolutionary psychology says that awareness of potential sources of danger could either lead people to fear them, or at least make it easier for us to fear them. Social learning shows that fears can be transmitted through observation, so a person who develops a particular phobia would apparently have to observe another person reacting fearfully to a spider. Imagine a group of early humans exploring a cave, coming upon dangerous spiders, being bitten, and getting very sick or maybe even dying. The rest of the community would develop an awareness of the spiders and learn to avoid them. This makes some sense, but wait, there's more. Like if you apply the theory to modern things that people have phobias about, like cars or computers. And it fails to explain how relatives (people with the shared DNA) don't share the same phobia.

Here's my explanation. A phobia, by definition, is a persistent, excessive, and irrational fear with a specific trigger, which is NOT explained by post-traumatic stress (a person is afraid of spiders because spiders actually caused stress and/or harm) or another mental disorder. (A person with OCD might have a "phobia" about dirt, but it's really a way of showing their obsession with cleanliness.) That means my "arachnophobia" isn't technically a phobia: I'm highly allergic to insect bites and stings ... my fear is rational. BUT, phobias tend to start when a situation triggers the fight-or-flight response, and the event is recorded by the amygdala, so the body can recognize the situation as dangerous or deadly in the future. And it does, even when later similar situations are not dangerous or deadly. They're essentially a form of anxiety disorder.

When it comes down to it, the phobia response is a neurological glitch, sort of like hiccups. Which is why they are relatively easy to treat. So if you have a true phobia, don't worry about it!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Five Reasons Things Keep Going Wrong In Your Relationships

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I do lots of relationship coaching. Most of it is for non-clients. I've even been stopped in the grocery store. For those of you who haven't stopped me but might be wondering about chronic relationship issues, this blog's for you.

Problem 1: You tend to have whirlwind romances that end before you've completely figured out how life together will be in a year.

Reason: No-brainer. Whirlwinds move in no particular direction, fast, leaving a trail of debris. Your romance is just that - a romance, not a relationship. Real people aren't fantasies. If you get out of your head and into the real world, you'll be able to interact more meaningfully.

The Fix: Slow the heck down! Romance is fine, in small doses, well-diluted with real-world experiences. The only reason for being in such a hurry is that you have an issue with flying solo. That's something you need to resolve before you can have a happily ever after.

Problem 2: I'm totally honest with people I meet about my past, and they all want to be "just friends" or maybe "friends with benefits" without a real relationship.

Reason: You're admitting up-front that you're carrying around massive baggage. That's a big risk for anyone. And by failing to keep more personal details private until you've built some trust and intimacy with a person, you're advertising yourself as too flawed to be interested in a serious relationship.

The Fix: Use a little common sense. Would you spill all your faults and inadequacies on a job interview? Of course not! Pay attention to how much the other person is revealing, at what point, and match their speed and level of intimacy.

Problem 3: My relationships seem to leave me flat broke or in debt!

Reason: You are perhaps so eager for a relationship that you're blind to fairly obvious warning signs. Most gold-diggers (male or female) won't just come out and admit that they only want or need your money. But there are always signs. They're adults living with parents. They claim the ex owes money. They're behind on bills. The car needs repairs. They'd love to go on a date but can't afford anything fancy. Maybe they admit to a drug or alcohol problem. And you're hooked, so you offer (much too soon) to pay a bill or "lend" some cash, repeatedly, until your own bank balance is dwindling. It's no coincidence that's when these people start losing interest.

The Fix: In today's economy, you can't afford to give all your money to every worthy person. What about your own financial responsibilities? Take care of you first, offer to pay for moderately-priced dates (nothing extravagant) if you're that interested, but another person's finances are their problem, not yours. Don't butt in and don't make your ATM card available.

Problem 4: The closer I want to be, the harder it seems to get close. The more I try, the faster the relationship dies.

Reason: There's a distinction between close and clingy! Healthy relationships are like healthy anything else - they need a balance. Too much of anything is toxic, not enough is equally deadly. Trying to get too close, too fast (or at the wrong times) is NOT making your partner think you're interested - it's making your partner wonder if you just have an OFF switch. It's annoying at best, but usually a little stalker-ish.

The Fix: Pay attention to their wants and needs instead of just your own - somebody who had a bad day may not be ready get snuggly-cuddly with you if they need to blow off steam first. People who are introverted need more personal time and space - don't invade it without an invitation. Dial it waaaaaay back and give the other person room to breathe.

Problem 5: There's no one reason or any pattern, but none of my relationships lasts.

Reason: So you've examined all possibilities and there's nothing you can see. Well, time for tough love, sweetheart. If you've ruled out everything else, whatever remains is the answer. And the prime common factor in all your relationships is ... YOU. Perhaps you're finding creative ways to sabotage your relationships.

The Fix: You may not be aware of how you're doing it, but if the cause is you, the fix is really about you being honest with yourself. If you're sabotaging yourself, it's because part of you knows that you aren't ready for a relationship. Maybe you're still grieving for a past one, maybe you're young and still growing up and changing, maybe you just aren't emotionally prepared for the responsibility. Whatever. Be honest, and then maybe commit to some quality YOU time for a few months. Everybody deserves a happy relationship, but don't force it if you aren't ready.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Little Pick-Me-Up For A Super Self

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Feeling a little low in confidence? Need a self-esteem booster? This is a great exercise; it won't take that long and it's so easy anyone can do it. Try it and see how fast you start feeling better about yourself!

Before you start, rate your confidence and self-satisfaction level on a scale from one to ten.

On a couple sheets of paper, write (or type and print) the following:

1. List 10 things that make you special.

2. List 15 personal achievements and successes - dig deep and go back to childhood if you need to.

3. List 15 things you are good at or can do well - even daily tasks count.

4. List 10 of your best qualities, values, or character traits.

5. Choose one attractive physical feature and add that to your list.

6. In one corner, write down the rating you gave yourself.

Now you have 50 positive attributes plus one great physical feature. Read this list out loud to yourself every morning for a week. After 7 days, re-evaluate your rating. How much did it go up?

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Do You Need To Let Go Of?

You've probably heard this story:

Two Buddhist monks are making their way to their monastery. Along the way, they come to a river where there is a lady, distressed because she is unable to cross safely by herself. One monk picks her up and carries her safely across the river, where he sets her down carefully and wishes her a good journey. The two monks continue on their way in silence. Eventually, they reach their destination. The second monk cannot contain his anger any longer. "How could you do that? We are forbidden to touch women!" The first monk replies calmly, "Oh, that's what has you so upset? But I put her back down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?"

Here are some take-away points from this example:
• The things we still carry can keep us from focusing on what's truly important and from being the best we can be.
• Letting go might require forgiveness or acceptance.
• Whatever you're carrying probably hurts or bothers you more than anyone else.
• Letting go doesn't mean condoning a situation or behavior, it means simply, letting it go so that we are free to use our energy on other things.
• There is no one right way to let go, as long as you're willing.

The things that are hardest for you to let go of are usually the things you most need to stop carrying! If you aren't ready to put them down just yet, that's ok. Just list them. Think of the things that you carry with you ... and then think about why you're still carrying them.

You know you'll benefit from letting them go. But you obviously have reasons for continuing to carry them. Be honest, there must be a benefit or you wouldn't still be doing it! If you really can't think of a benefit, ask yourself what you could possibly gain from hanging onto whatever it is. And prepare yourself: it's probably a very primitive, selfish, immature gain. Hanging on might mean you don't have to accept responsibility. It might mean you don't have to face your own faults. Maybe it allows you to save face or avoid dealing with something uncomfortable.

I encourage you to take a deep breath and start writing, examine the things you carry, and the reasons. And then I hope you have the courage to set them down and allow healing to begin.

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