7 posts from October 2012

October 31, 2012

Be mindful: Your Children Are Watching, Listening...and Learning

IStock_00parentsfightingllMany years ago I was doing home-based therapy with families in need.  One day I arrived at a client’s home while she was watching a woman’s eight-month old daughter.  When I arrived, I heard my client playing with the baby and saying in a sing-song voice, “Aaah, aren’t you such an ugly baby?  Yes you are.  Yes, you’re such an ugly little baby, aren’t you?”  When I asked my client why she was talking to the baby like that she laughed and said it didn’t matter since the baby didn’t understand what she was saying anyway. 

In my work with couples over the years I hear similar excuses from parents about how they talk about their children of all ages, how they fight in front of their children and how they speak to their children.  Parents say, “Oh, they don’t pay attention.  If we fight, they don’t hear us.  If we make a comment about them, they don’t listen anyway.”  Parents often are convinced that their children don’t listen to what they say and don’t tune in to what they do on any significant level.

Continue reading "Be mindful: Your Children Are Watching, Listening...and Learning" »

October 24, 2012

Appreciate What You Have Because You May Not Have It Tomorrow

IStock_00daughtersI’m so aware that things can change in the blink of an eye.  A freak accident could take a loved one from you forever.  A close friend could be diagnosed with a terminal illness tomorrow.  Your partner could decide to leave you next week.  The possibilities are endless.

As I get older, these “possibilities” seem to become realities more and more.  The naive innocence of thinking I was invulnerable has gradually been replaced with the grim realization that I’m really not invulnerable…and nor are my loved ones.  Many people have learned this lesson at far too young an age through tragic experience.  My heart goes out to them.

The gift in this realization, I realize, is I get to not take advantage of life.  I can learn to let go of the little things my husband, children or friends do and instead appreciate the “big” things they do.  I can be thankful for their smile, kind words and simple accepting presence.  I can even appreciate my son and daughter’s staunch arguments (from afar of course) knowing they are learning to fight for themselves.  I can take a moment to appreciate my mother’s perfectionism and see it as her way of letting me know she cares enough to critique.

Continue reading "Appreciate What You Have Because You May Not Have It Tomorrow" »

October 22, 2012

Helping a Loved One Through Breast Cancer -- Part II

Pinkribbon91As I said in my previous post, breast cancer is BIG.  In so many ways breast cancer is a big event, big journey and big process in a person’s life.  Below are a few more tips for helping a loved one maneuver through this experience.  Remember that:
1. You don’t know best…even when you’re certain you do.  Unless you are the patient with breast cancer, do not assume that you know what is best for the patient.  No one knows what they would do if diagnosed with breast cancer unless they are actually diagnosed.  Allow your loved one the space to try on different options.  Help them process the information and run through the different scenarios and DON’T tell them what to do.  You certainly could suggest, if they ask, however don’t force your views on them.  You don’t have to live with the decision, they do.

2. Laughter makes things easier.  Trying to ignore the seriousness of cancer isn’t helpful to anyone, however being nothing but serious all the time isn’t good either.  Don’t be afraid to laugh and cry at the same time.  If the patient makes jokes—go with it.  Laughter offers great healing in even the most horrific of circumstances.  Don’t use laughter to avoid the seriousness in front of you AND don’t avoid laughing because you think it should all be serious.

3. It’s their body and their decision.  Breast cancer, more than many other types of cancers, seems to yield very strong opinions.  A key aspect often debated among loved ones is whether or not to consider a mastectomy.  The bottom line is that the person given the diagnosis is the one who will be living with this decision forever.  Don’t get so stuck on your choice that you ignore the fears, explanations and concerns tied into their decision.  This is true even if the loved one is your spouse.  Your thoughts and opinions certainly matter, however ultimately your spouse has to live with the risks and end results of whatever decision is made.

4. Ignoring the issue doesn’t make it go away.  Often people struggle with knowing what to say to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer.  Many people choose to handle this anxiety by saying nothing.  Do not allow cancer to become the elephant in the room that everyone knows about but no one speaks about.  Check in with the person and ask how they’re doing.  You can then take their lead.  If they quickly steer you away from the topic, allow them their space.  If they want to talk, be their sounding board.  Remember that ignoring an issue does not make that issue go away.

When all is said and done, cancer is a very difficult diagnosis for anyone to take in.  Be careful not to make assumptions about what's best for someone else.  The truth is that no one “knows” what s/he would do unless they are put in that position.  Be compassionate, understanding and non-judgmental while you help your loved one walk through this journey.

Challenge:  Practice compassion for your loved one during the most difficult of times in this process.  Support them, hold them and help them think through all the countless decisions they have to make.  Do your best to share your thoughts without sitting in judgment of their choices.

October 18, 2012

Helping a Loved One Through Breast Cancer—Part I

Pinkribbon91Because October is breast cancer awareness month, today’s blog post is about supporting loved ones through this incredibly difficult diagnosis.  It’s hard to find a person today who has not been impacted in some way by breast cancer.  For me, breast cancer became upfront and personal about five or six years ago when my sister was first diagnosed with it.  I remember first thinking that it was probably early and she could just get the cancer cut out and then get back to life—a detour in life, but nothing too bad.  After more and more news began to come in, I realized that breast cancer is so much bigger than that.  In fact, I remember my sister saying several times, “It’s all just so BIG.”  And it was.
I was fortunate to be able to take time off from work and be with my sister for several weeks as she recovered from surgery.  Having that time together was difficult while also fun, bonding and a Godsend.  Here are the first three things I learned.  I hope they help you if you should ever be faced with breast cancer in your life.  In the next blog post I will share the remaining lessons I learned.  I encourage others to share their stories here as well.

1.    It takes time to process a “cancer” diagnosis.  Finding out you or a loved one has cancer is only the beginning.  There will be tests, biopsies, screenings, family history gathering, etc., taking place for several weeks or more.  There will be several days or weeks following the initial diagnosis where more information will be coming in regarding the specifics of the diagnosis.  It will take time to process each new piece of information.  Have a loved one present – or be that loved one -- if possible for these appointments.  Be patient during this process and do your homework.  Gather all the information, ask questions, do your research and offer to discuss all this information with the patient (if you’re the patient—discuss the information with a loved one yourself).

Continue reading "Helping a Loved One Through Breast Cancer—Part I" »

October 10, 2012

Are You Sabotaging Your Relationships?

IStock_0caretaking womanllI hear from women all the time about how badly they want to have a good romantic relationship.  They want to feel close to their partner, do fun things together and have interesting conversations and feel emotionally supported by their partner.  Most women tell me the reason they don’t have these things is because…well, it’s because of their partner.  They say their partner won’t talk, doesn’t like to share, hates it when she gets emotional and would rather be at work or left alone then to actually sit and hang out with her. 

Not surprisingly, this is only half the story. 

The other half of the story is what the women are doing that is getting in the way of them getting what they want.  Below are several ways women sabotage the connection in their romantic relationships. 
Too many women often:
1.    Start relationships under false pretenses.  Women often think that the way to “get” a man is to be everything they think the men want them to be.  This is crazy thinking since at some point the women will either have to stop the façade and be themselves or eventually lose themselves.  When you start off a relationship pretending to be something you’re not, you’ve already sabotaged your relationship. You can’t have emotional intimacy when you’re faking who you are.
2.    Use a wall of words.  Most women have a strong desire to want to be heard and struggle when those round them don’t listen.  In an effort to be heard, therefore, some women excessively talk.  As the women talk more, the men tune them out and when the men tune them out, the women increase their talking.  The women think that if they just said it the right way the men would listen.  The excessive talking has the opposite effect of what the women want and in effect puts a wall of words between them and their partners.
3.    See too many things through a critical lens.  I see countless women in my practice constantly tweaking those around them.  Women do this in an effort to get things to be better, however, the constant criticism does anything but get things better.  In the quest for perfection, women end up sabotaging the good things they do have.  How a dishwasher is loaded does not really matter in the grand scheme of things.  If women continue to tell the men in their lives how to cook, how to clean, how to dress, how to talk and how to be, they will lose the men.  No one wants to constantly be told how to do things better.  A critical lens is about you not the other person.  Get over your need for perfection and instead deal with your internal anxiety.

Continue reading "Are You Sabotaging Your Relationships?" »

October 05, 2012

TV Anchor Jennifer Livingston Steps in With a GPS (Grounded Powerful Strength)

Jennifer Livingston, anchorwoman of WKVT in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, found her Grounded Powerful Strength when she courageously responded to a letter sent to her by a viewer, criticizing her weight.  The writer questioned whether Jennifer should be on TV given her weight issues.  Livingston addressed this man’s letter on-air Tuesday, October 2, 2012.

“The truth is, I am overweight," she said.  "But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that?  That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see?  You don't know you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale."

Livingston continued, "That man’s words mean nothing to me, but what really angers me about this is there are children who don’t know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day."
“I leave you with this: To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now.  Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies.  Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

What I find so refreshing about her response is how grounded she is in her delivery of it.  She is not yelling, calling names or being disrespectful in any way to the person who sent the letter.  Her calmness, combined with a strong message and said with a confident voice makes her message all that more powerful to hear.  She used a Grounded Powerful Strength (GPS) to guide her through her hurt, anger and upset…and it was impactful.

Continue reading "TV Anchor Jennifer Livingston Steps in With a GPS (Grounded Powerful Strength)" »

October 02, 2012

Dare to See What’s Right in Front of You

IStock_00alcohol coupleXSmallWhen someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
  Maya Angelou

I love this Maya Angelou quote because it speaks to such a common problem for women.  Far too many women have a hard time seeing what’s right in front of them.  They seem to want to assume the best in people, even when the people themselves tell them not to.  I work with women all the time who come into my office and tell me about a guy they’re dating and how great he is.  When I ask more questions, it’s often clear that he’s really not this great guy.  In fact, it’s also pretty clear that even the guy himself wouldn’t say he was.  Of course there are always exceptions, however, guys will often tell or show women their “issues” almost immediately. 

Below are several examples of men showing or sharing their issues and the subsequent surprise by the women when these issues turn into problems later on:
•    Sam told Sarah that he had little time to date due to a heavy workload and his kids.  Six months later, Sarah is upset that Sam is always working. 

Continue reading "Dare to See What’s Right in Front of You" »

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