I’m at an airport this morning, waiting to get on another plane so that I can wait some more. In a few hours I will be in LA where I can wait for 4.5 hours to get on another plane so that I can wait some more. Eventually I’ll be in San Francisco so that we can wait until tomorrow where we will wait in line again, this time to get on to a floating mall with entertainment. So much of life seems to be about waiting – waiting for vacation, waiting for Christmas, waiting for retirement, waiting on the world to change (ya I know, but I couldn’t resist).
Growing up I somehow thought that life would move… well… faster. In counseling those with addictions we often talk about how the “normie” world is boring. One of the hardest parts of sobering up for most people is the thought of normalcy, of mundane, of no buffers. Quitting the desire for self-medicating is far harder than quitting the drug itself.
As the story goes, I am finishing this post while waiting at LAX. If you haven’t been here you may not know, but this is one of the worst airports in the world. It lacks color, flavor, or continuity. We had to leave the secure area and walk a kilometer and re-enter with the whole cavity search. So more waiting, then walking, then waiting, then take off your shoes, put your shoes back on, hurry up and wait. I told my father, with whom I am holidaying, that this is the reason, at the end of the trip, that people actually want to get home.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to be away from the regular grind but the whole “getting there” piece is always more daunting than I remember. I can just hear someone saying, “Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.” It’s a truism that often applies, a little less so at LAX. Nonetheless I am reminded how fortunate I am that this is even possible. So many people I know will never get the opportunities I have had, and often forget to be thankful for. Fewer still would want to spend a couple of weeks with their dad. I am truly blessed.
I have a seven year old boxer named Frodo. Boxers are awesome family dogs; smart, friendly, goofy and for the most part, non aggressive. Frodo anyways. He’s the kind of dog who will happily welcome in a burglar for tea then invite him to dinner. But Frodo has two pet peeves, mailmen and moving vehicles – both of which he loves to hate. There’s little that has the power to distract him from the chase of either. Not obedience school, not his age, not reward, not the local animal control lady.
The local animal control lady showed up last summer after Frodo got hold of the paperboy’s pant leg. She’d visited once before with probation papers so I cringed upon seeing her official looking truck pull into the cul-de-sac again. Frodo, of course greeted her like his long-lost sister which I wasn’t sure whether aided or impeded his case. But despite her official business, the animal control lady was more of a dog defense attorney than dog prosecutor and explained to me…
Tiger Woods is on top again. In honor of his recent success, Nike, who never dropped Tiger as a sponsor in spite of his foibles, has launched a new advertising campaign strategically called Winning Takes Care Of Everything. Apparently it doesn’t really matter if you are an adulterous letch as long as you can hit a little white ball into a hole better than anyone else in tacky pants and spiked shoes.
When you consider how young the potential audience is for such an ad, how many children idolize Tiger or want to get a new pair of Nikes, it is singularly irresponsible, even immoral, for a company that has made its billions off the backs of the general populace, to blatantly try to convince us that adultery is fine, ruining the lives of innocents is just peachy, as long as you make a comeback.
This morning I was watching TV when a commercial for the new Proactive Dark Spot Remover showed up. Apparently if you pay the money and use this product it will remove the “appearance” of blemishes and restore your complexion to “perfect skin”. Quite a promise… or is it.
Notice what they are not saying. They are not saying that they will improve your complexion or skin at all, only give the appearance of change. The cosmetics industry, a word that means “to make order out of chaos”, has made millions, even billions, hiding the world from the truth. No wonder many women talk of “putting their face on” in the morning or before a date.
This past week The Chive and various other online rags ran a pictorial called “The Face Of Porn: Porn Stars Before And After Makeup.” To say the pictures were revealing is an understatement. Most of the most famous goddesses are less than perfect without artificial enhancement, to say the least. Some were downright homely, not even attractive. It is a reminder of the power of fantasy, of Photoshop, and of an extreme makeover. Cosmetics sell an illusion, an illusion of beauty, of perfection. Makeup is made to cover, it’s a band-aid that does nothing for us except hide our blemishes and present a false face… literally.
Many of us treat our problems the same way. We have spent years trying to cover up our faults and our past. I often tell people when they come for counseling that they may not really want to dig that deeply into their issues. I have an irritating habit of making people very uncomfortable, of asking them to think about things they have spent years trying to bury. Counseling, when it works, is a very painful and humiliating experience. It is much easier to just throw some Proactive on the problem, apply some makeup to our ugliness and give the impression, even to ourselves, that we have taken care of the problem. This is one of the reasons I rarely do groups on Anger Management. I have this annoying habit of treating anger as a symptom, not a base problem. I keep asking clients and patients ‘why’ they are angry and tend to gloss over anger management techniques.
There is an old maxim in psychology that change usually happens much slower than we imagine and the results are less pronounced than we would like to believe. Transforming oneself from a broken, hurting, violated victim of abuse and trauma into a whole person takes years, not months. The twelve sessions that your counselor signs you up for may be an excellent start but will probably not even begin to address a complex life full of dysfunctional coping mechanisms.
Band-aids are far easier and if you play your cards right, you can even find them with pictures of Spiderman on them.
Woke up feeling kind of hung over this morning, though I didn’t even enjoy any drinks last night. Along with this new, improved internal heating system and hair that magically streaks itself, that’s another new thing about 50 – drink free hangovers. Who’d have thought 50 came with so much new and free awesome-ness?
Years ago, my then 70-year-old mother in law enthusiastically told me, ‘my 30’s and 40’s, they were okay. but let me tell you, my 50’s, 60’s and 70’s – now that’s really living’. I looked at her greying hair and softening body from my 30 something perspective and was to be honest, a little grossed out and afraid. Those years came with visions of polyester leisure suits, support hose, musty perfume, and 50 shades of bitterness.
Aging isn’t something many of us accept easily. Entire industries are built on our inability to let go of the us we were at 20. And there are few examples of how to grow older well, and god…
I remember watching Fracture, an excellent movie with one of the greatest actors of our age, and Ryan Gosling. There is a profound place in the movie where Gosling sits beside the bed of the victim and reads to her, “Oh The Places You’ll Go” while she is in a coma. I remember thinking at the time, this is a very disturbing story. Sure it starts out innocuous enough, but soon becomes dark and foreboding.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’ t Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true and Hang-ups can happen to you.
Harsh reality in a child’s book. Sometimes things are not going to go as you planned. Sometimes you will have hardship and pain. Sometimes…
You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
Depression. Slumps. Reality. The way is not always marked and it is easy be bogged down in the quagmire.
You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Some of us are in the waiting place right now. Waiting for something to change, for a situation to resolve itself. We are caught in circumstances which we cannot control and there seems to be no end in sight. It is hard to hope in such places, hard to believe that somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue. We are in the waiting place.
I’ve been in the waiting place. I’ve spent years there. You may know what I am talking about because you are there right now or are just coming out. Days and months wondering if there is ever going to be change, railing at God, prayers unanswered, dreams dashed. Time seems to stand still.
I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.
All Alone! Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.
In counseling we talk about the pit of depression. The longer you go through depression the deeper it can become. People usually come see me when they are at their worst, and recovery takes months, even years.
Yes I’ve sat in the waiting place and honestly believed that life would never get better. Eventually you get to a place, while waiting there, where you don’t even feel much anymore. Gone is the anger, even the tears. You have cried yourself out. You feel nothing. And that is a dangerous place.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go though the weather be foul On you will go though your enemies prowl On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike and I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
Healing is about micro-change, baby steps, and almost imperceptible movement. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. As I have alluded to many times, there are no magic pills, there is no “secret”. There is only perseverance and tenacity.
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)
Winning is about showing up. The definition of success I ascribe to is “fall down seven times, get up eight”. That is the only way I was able to move forward. After all the crying, and the depression, the suicidal ideation and the self-medicating I realized that no one, no one at all, could fix me. I had to get up and walk.
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’ t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. there are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
back in 1929, hungarian author frigyes karinthy penned his short story ‘chain links’. chain links isn’t a story i’m very familiar with but i’m certainly familiar with the theory proposed in it, ‘6 degrees of separation’. perhaps you are also.
in a nutshell, 6 degrees of separation proposes that any two people in the world can be connected through the relationships of 6 other people. it’s basically a formula for figuring out the distance of social networks.
though it circulated as an urban myth for almost a quarter century, in the 60’s it gained credibility through research at MIT and harvard then later was popularized by psychology today. in 2007, microsoft finally provided proof of its validity in analyzing 39 billion instant messenger conversations, confirming the path distance between any two people to be 6.6 degrees.
that may or may not be entirely accurate if you’re trying to connect yourself to some unknown rainforest tribe. but if you ask me, it’s a pretty amazing discovery originally founded…
It’s called a cognitive distortion. We all have heard it, probably most of us believe it. We aren’t sure where it came from. It’s in the bible somewhere or the Dali Lama said it. Everything does happen for a reason.
Tell that to the six million jews who died in World War Two. Or the twenty-five million Russians who perished fighting the Nazis. Tell that to the children born in Mogadishu, or in starvation conditions in Africa. Tell that to the Tutsi’s hacked to death in Rwanda, or the genocide victims in The Congo.
“Everything happens for a reason” is a western, affluent, construct. It is a convenient and heartening way to explain away pain and suffering but it is, unfortunately, not based on any legitimate philosophy and it hurts people. It reminds me of my friend who was told, after his child died, that “God must have wanted another child in heaven”. Such a god would be a masochist and a bastard. The sentiment sounds good on paper but is destructive and hurtful in reality.
I no longer believe that everything happens for a reason. What I do experience, however, is a shocking realization that life is not fair. There really is no payback for every bad deed, at least not in this life. Sometimes the rich are in fact very happy exploiting the poor and have a much better life. Sometimes that bully does not get his comeuppance. Sometimes crap happens. Sometimes life sucks. Some people do get an easy ride while others seem to constantly suffer. There is often no justice for the poor african/american who is condemned to death row because he cannot afford an affluent lawyer. When my good friends lost their baby girl recently there was no “reason” that could even remotely justify or sanctify their loss.
If you are going through a difficult time right now you may not find wonderful redemption at the end of the rainbow, and that is an unfortunate fact. Believing your sexual or physical abuse will someday be worth leaves you open to bitterness and disillusionment. Healing begins when we accept the truth of our brokenness without trying to justify or condone it. Waiting for the good witch Glinda to make everything better keeps us mired in our distortions and unwilling to let go of what is haunting us.
The second half of the Serenity Prayer, the part no one knows, has really helped me come to terms with this. You know the first part: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Here’s the profound part: Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will. That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
I think in AA they call that “life on life’s terms”.
I have been preaching this for years, since reading a Reader’s Digest (of all things) survey of schools in Canada who were pushing for meds for kids who were disciplinary issues. Confirmation from WebMD.
Some people call it “brain doping” or “meducation.” Others label the problem “neuroenhancement.” Whatever the term, the American Academy of Neurology has published a position paper criticizing the practice of prescribing “study drugs” to boost memory and thinking abilities in healthy children and teens.
The authors said physicians are prescribing drugs that are typically used for children and teenagers diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for students solely to improve their ability to ace a critical exam — such as the college admission SAT — or to get better grades in school.
Dr. William Graf, lead author of the paper and a professor of pediatrics and neurology at Yale School of Medicine, emphasized that the statement doesn’t apply to the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Rather, he is concerned about what he calls “neuroenhancement in the classroom.”
The problem is similar to that caused by performance-boosting drugs that have been used in sports by such athletic luminaries as Lance Armstrong and Mark McGwire, he explained. “One is about [enhancing] muscles and the other is about enhancing brains,” Graf said.
In children and teens, the use of drugs to improve academic performance raises issues including the potential long-term effect of medications on the developing brain, the distinction between normal and abnormal intellectual development, the question of whether it is ethical for parents to force their children to take drugs just to improve their academic performance, and the risks of overmedication and chemical dependency, Graf noted.
The rapidly rising numbers of children and teens taking ADHD drugs calls attention to the problem, Graf said. “The number of physician office visits for ADHD management and the number of prescriptions for stimulants and psychotropic medications for children and adolescents has increased 10-fold in the U.S. over the last 20 years,” he pointed out.
Recent parent surveys show about a 22 percent increase in ADHD, a 42 percent rise in the disorder among older teens and a 53 percent increase among Hispanic children, according to the paper.
While Graf acknowledged that the data about rising numbers associated with ADHD includes a number of cases that have been appropriately diagnosed as ADHD, he said the increase — especially among older adolescents — suggests a problem of overdiagnosis and overmedication.
“We should be more cautious with healthy children in treating them with drugs they don’t need,” he said. “The ethical balance tips against overuse and toward caution because children are still growing and developing and there’s a lot we don’t know.”
The position paper, published online March 13 in the journal Neurology, was also approved by the Child Neurology Society and the American Neurological Association.
Dr. Mark Wolraich, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and chairman of the subcommittee that wrote ADHD guidelines for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that his group was not consulted in the development of the position paper Graf developed. Wolraich noted that the AAP also did not recommend the use of stimulant medications for performance enhancement or pleasure.
We are a people who struggle with self-worth. I meet few people who are happy with who they are. We are the chronically under-valued and the terminally insecure. We have a tendency to look to other people for approval and live our lives in order to be loved. We tell our children to love themselves, but battle with self-loathing.
For years I considered myself a rebel, a person who lived outside the box, who didn’t give a damn about what others thought of him. Looking back it is easy to see how this was a coping mechanism, a way of finding acceptance, if only with myself, as a marginal personality who did not easily “play well with others”. If I couldn’t win at fitting in I would give the finger to the establishment and act as if their opinions did not matter. I gave the impression that I was vain, when in fact I was insecure.
I can see, now that I am getting older, the temptation within myself to act like a performance monkey. Seeking to fit in does not end after high school. We have been programmed since birth to base our feelings of self-worth on what others think of us and what we do. For some reason we are extremely conscious of the opinions of those around us. Those people who choose to criticize us may, in point of fact, be idiots and subjective to the highest degree but this seems to matter very little. Jumping through the hoops of people who don’t even respect is what we do.
There was a time in my life when it seemed important that people liked me. I was running a non-profit and had shareholders who were strongly opinionated and often very negative. I was always available to help salve their broken lives and marriages, and they were always available to critique my performance. I remember vividly one meeting with a couple at a local coffee shop wherein they decided that I needed to be “fixed”. It was to be the last of several meetings, all designed to help me come to grips with my glowering flaws (in their opinion). Late in the conversation it finally dawned on me, I didn’t even really like or respect this couple. I knew their dirty little secrets, their insecurities, their propensity to be condescending and arrogant. I realized that if we did not have a shared vested interest I would never want to be their friend or hang out with them… ever. I had been emotionally prostituting myself in order to appease them – something that now seemed impossible to do. My fear of their disapproval and perhaps disengagement from the non-profit had created a sick codependence.
It is one thing to seek to be kind and a person of integrity. It is another thing altogether to base your self-worth on the opinions of fallible and fickle people whose opinions should not matter. Wholeness is found in the realization that I cannot jump through enough hoops, suck up to enough people, to fill that hole in my heart that wants to be loved. Chasing that dragon is like chasing any other addiction, it just leaves us broken.
Accepting who and what I am, right now, is a daunting and difficult task. Letting go of our need to make everyone happy feels completely wrong. If people had to accept us for who we are would anyone still like us?
In counseling I admonish single clients, often fresh out of dysfunctional relationships, not to date until they don’t need to. They usually look at me funny and I find it necessary to explain – don’t bring your garbage to your next relationship. Don’t use that next person to fill that hole in your heart. Don’t depend on someone else to make you whole or happy. Don’t date… until you don’t need that person to fix anything. Become emotionally self-contained. Work on becoming whole.
When I was a kid, the things I did, were hidden under the grid
Young and naive, I never believed that love could be so well hid
With regret, I’m willing to bet, you say the older you get
It gets harder to forgive and harder to forget
It gets under your shirt like a dagger or work
The first cut is the deepest, but the rest will flippin’ hurt
You build your heart of plastic, get cynical and sarcastic
And end up in the corner on your own
‘Cause I love to feel love but can’t stand the rejection
I hide behind my jokes as a form of protection
I thought I was close, but under further inspection
It seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction
So what’s the point in getting your hopes up
When all you’re ever getting is choked up
When you’re coked up,
And can’t remember the reason why you broke up
You call her in the morning
When you’re coming down and falling
Like an old man on the side of the road
‘Cause when you’re apart you don’t want to mingle
When you’re together you want to be single
Ever the chase to taste the kiss of bliss
That made your heart tingle
How much greener the grass is
With those rose tinted glasses
But the butterflies, they flutter by
And leave us on our asses
‘Cause I love to feel love but I can’t stand the rejection
I hide behind my jokes as a form of protection
I thought I was close, but under further inspection
It seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction
There’s fish in the sea for me to make a selection
I’d jump in if it wasn’t for my ear infection
‘Cause all I want to do is try to make a connection
But it seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction
Oh, oh I love to feel love but I can’t stand the rejection
I hide behind my jokes as a form of protection
I thought I was close, but under further inspection
It seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction
I love to feel love but I can’t stand the rejection
I hide behind my jokes as a form of protection
And I thought I was close, but under further inspection
It seems I’ve been running in the wrong direction
Philosopher William James (1842-1910), said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”
Monique Honaman, Author, HuffPost Blogger
There is an overwhelming number of women who feel unappreciated by their husbands. I often hear the following refrain: “I just want to feel appreciated. For years I have been the cook, the cleaner, the chauffeur… I don’t feel like we are a partnership… I’ve asked, demanded and pleaded that we go to counseling… I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to live the second half of my life feeling like this. I’m done.”
I’m sure this is nothing new. I am sure my mother felt unappreciated by my dad at times during their marriage. I think that’s probably natural in the cycle of marriage and relationships. Life gets busy. We forget to thank those closest to us.
But times are changing. I have spoken with more women than I can count over the past couple of years who aren’t just complaining about feeling unappreciated by their husbands. Instead, they are doing something about it.
These women, most of whom are in their mid-40’s, have decided they want out of their marriages. Sure, they are scared for what this means for them. Sure, they are nervous about the new unknowns divorce will bring. Sure, they recognize the impact this will have on their lives. For most of the women I spoke with, leaving their husbands means having to secure full-time employment for the first time in years. It mean moving out of the big brick colonial in the suburbs and moving into something more affordable. It means being alone. And you know what each and every woman I spoke with said? “I am absolutely OK with this.” I heard, “I’m OK being alone and starting over on my own… I feel as if I have been alone for years anyway. I don’t need my big house or my fancy car. I don’t mind having to work. I just know that I don’t want to spend the next half of my life living this way. Why should I?”
Wow! To give it all up and start over at 45? It’s surprising, particularly because to the outside world, these women appear to have it all. Their husbands aren’t “bad” people. We aren’t talking about men who are abusive or alcoholics. We aren’t talking about men who are dragging the family into bankruptcy. We aren’t talking about men who have lived a double life full of affairs.
What these women are expressing is a deep personal sadness at feeling disconnected and unappreciated by their husbands. They tell me they have fought for years to feel more connected and appreciated. This isn’t a whim, they assure me. They have thought long and hard about their decision to get divorced. They aren’t simply giving up. They have tried and fought a long battle. But the thing they each have in common is that they have reached their breaking point. They say, “I’m tired of not feeling appreciated, not feeling like I am part of a partnership. I feel like I am the roommate, the bill payer, the cook, the cleaner, the chauffeur… but not someone who is valued and appreciated. I’m tired of asking to be appreciated — begging to be valued — pleading to feel I as if I am important and not constantly playing second-fiddle to everything else going on in his life. I’m done.”
Divorce has become commonplace. Many women thrive after divorce. They live independent, happy lives. Any taboo or stigma that may have existed during my mother’s generation doesn’t exist any more. I think this gives many women the courage to say, “I can do this.” And, they are.
What do we do about this? Many husbands are left with their jaws hanging open in disbelief when their wives file for divorce. “Why didn’t we talk about this? Why didn’t we go to counseling? Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling this way?” The wives smile sadly and say, “We have, we did, I have… and it’s too late now… I’m done.”
I don’t like these conversations. I believe in the institution of marriage. I don’t like to see people quit. What can we do? I know the following advice is oversimplifying the issue — I really do — but it’s a start:
Men, please take the time to appreciate your wife regularly. Thank her for what she does for you and your family. Validate her. Cover her with words of affirmation. Wrap your appreciation of her deep within her heart. This is a marathon, not a sprint. The women I spoke with are not giving up because they weren’t thanked for emptying the dishwasher once. It’s the net result of decades of feeling taken for granted. When I suggest that perhaps having an open dialogue with their husbands alerting them to just how serious this really is and perhaps giving a final chance to make some changes, they tell me it would be too little, too late. “I’m done,” they say.
Clearly, women, this isn’t a one-way street. Appreciation goes both ways. Are you checking to see just how much appreciation you are showing to your husband as well? Do you thank him for all he does, or do you take him for granted? Really think about it. Perhaps you perceive that you are being more appreciative than you really are. What would he say?
I’m not saying that showing more appreciation will lower the divorce rate in our country, but I do believe that showing more appreciation will improve marital relationships. After all, it’s like basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said, “If not shown appreciation, it gets to you.” And it seems that “it gets to you” is leading more and more towards, “I’m done.”
Most of us are acutely aware of the effect of criticism. I ask people all the time, “If ten people tell you that you are beautiful and one person tells you that you are ugly, which do you remember?” We all know the answer.
Why is that? Is it because, on some level, we are more apt to believe a criticism than we are a compliment? Does that criticism subconsciously confirm something about ourselves that we already know? Does it simply reinforce our negative self-image?
There is also another side to that coin. I don’t know about you but I was raised by a culture that strongly asserted that self-promotion was vanity. Being ‘humble’ meant never complimenting ourselves. People who bragged were assumed to be arrogant. Then one day I stepped into a Christian church and heard the saying, “God gets all the glory”. I learned that anything good about myself was God, anything bad is me. Once again I learned that I suck, that in and of myself I had little to brag about… not that I was allowed to anyway.
I have written before about the legacy my grandmother gave me. She was a firm believer in the axiom, “children should be seen and not heard”. I cannot remember one compliment from her mouth given to anyone, especially me. Then I grew up and had a relationship with someone who used contempt and disappointment as a means of control and discipline. You probably know people like this.
It is no real surprise when people come to counseling and admit to me that they struggle with self-esteem issues. Poor self-image is such a common mental health issue that I don’t know if I know anyone who doesn’t struggle with it. We are a culture plagued by emotional pain, largely as a result of criticism, contempt, and condemnation.
Enough with the criticism already. Most of us struggle everyday with feeling like we are losers, that we don’t measure up and we never will. I really don’t need you to point out my faults, I am intimately familiar with them. We know we have failed. We are cognizant of our glaring ugliness.
Many people feel that they are trying to help when they are critical. After all, how will you ever learn if I don’t help you? Granted, there are times when I have appreciated the cutting honesty of a friend, but this is only effective when I trust that person and believe they have my best interests at heart. Tearing people a new one simply because you are righteously indignant usually only scars and forces that person into a defensive posture. Real friends love you in spite of how you are, not because of who you are. Real friends love you enough to shut up.
They say you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar. You can also get more flies with shit than with honey. It’s a great deal more helpful to love someone back to health than it is to shoot the wounded.
In general, humans kind of suck at helping each other. Most of the people reading this would find it about a hundred times easier to diagnose and fix a computer problem than to help a friend in crisis (if only you could just wipe people and reinstall their OS without the cops freaking out about it). I know, because every time I write an article like this, I’m buried in messages that begin with “I’m really worried about a friend …”
Well, here’s something I’m an expert in: screwing up in the face of difficult problems. So while I can’t give you expert advice on how to help your friend/sibling/boyfriend through the disaster that is their personal life, I can give you some great tips on what not to do, because I’ve been on the other end of this shit a lot. In fact, you can help me with my “I don’t have a gold-plated house” problem right now by buying my new book for a dollar. I think you’ll be better at this than 90 percent of the people on Earth if you can just avoid …
#5. Making It All About You (Instead of Just Listening)
The single worst response to a cry for help that I’ve ever seen (and I see it constantly) is the “one-up.” Everybody knows this jackoff. It’s the person who listens to your story before blowing it off because he’s been through worse, in many cases interrupting to do so. “You think that’s bad? Wait until you hear what happened to me today!” Fuck you with a thousand dicks. There is nothing more infuriating to a person who’s ass deep in a personal crisis than someone who just erases the whole thing with a single sentence. Doing that is the same as telling their friend, “Your problems don’t mean jack shit. I couldn’t care less about how you feel. You are only here as my personal dumping ground for my own problems. Here I go.”
That person has fallen into an extremely common trap: forgetting that everyone handles stress and problems differently. “Your dog has a broken leg, and you feel bad? My dog died four weeks ago. You don’t see me crying about it.” “Awww, you only got a B on your test, and it ruined your 4.0 GPA? Poor baby — I’ve been fighting for a high D all year. But do you hear me complaining?”
It’s for that exact reason that it is physically impossible for me to feel sympathy for the rich. It’s how we treat strangers. They aren’t people; they’re chunks of meat floating around, far outside the boundaries of our Monkeysphere. We cannot let ourselves do this with friends. Knowing how you react to your own problems does not have any bearing whatsoever on the way your friends feel about their own, and it is so goddamn vital that we keep that in mind when speaking to them about things that they consider important. Even if it seems as insignificant as a popcorn fart to you.
In these situations, listening is the most basic thing you can do to show your support. It’s perfectly fine to have exchanges — you don’t have to sit there in total silence while they spill their guts about how sad Justin Bieber’s new pants made them. That would be, quite frankly, unsettling. But for many of us, it’s just a natural reflex to jump in with our own related stories when a friend is telling theirs.
We think what we’re saying is “See, we’re all in the same boat!” but all they’re hearing is “Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of my own, much more enthralling life.”
#4. Giving Meaningless Advice Just to Be Saying Something
Most people who give it really are just trying to help (although some get off on the sense of power and moral superiority that comes with hearing themselves say something wise). Unfortunately, it’s extremely easy to interject some flowery piece of philosophy into a situation that in no way benefits from it, just because it seems like the sort of thing you should say. “I know you miss your boyfriend, but just remember, if you really love someone, let him go. If you were truly meant to be tog-” Oh, go fuck yourself.
So try this: Stop and ask yourself, “Do I actually have any idea what I’m fucking talking about? Or am I just quoting something I heard a wise character say in a movie?” That doesn’t mean that (for instance) someone who’s never drank can’t be an immense help to a struggling alcoholic, but there has to be some sort of connection or experience behind the advice for it to have any weight. Maybe your dad drank. Maybe you’ve had friends in the exact same position, showing the same patterns of behavior. Maybe you’ve been doing a blind research project on them for 10 years, attempting to turn them into alcoholics for science purposes.
Yes, I know my car has an engine problem, because it won’t start. But since I know exactly nothing about fixing a car, I can’t walk up to a stumped mechanic and say, “I saw this show once where a guy’s car wouldn’t start, and when they opened the hood, they found a severed head in there. Did you find a severed head in there?” I’ll sound like I’m talking out of my ass, because I am. Not only will you not be taken seriously at that point, but there’s a good chance that the person you’re trying to help will take offense at the fact that you just pretended to understand a problem that is obviously beyond you.
That’s the precise moment where you go from “concerned friend trying to help out” to “annoying douchebag who’s just getting in the way.” You become a hurdle. Now, don’t let that idea prevent you from stepping in if you have some honest words of wisdom to pass along. Even if you’re saying something they already know, sometimes we need reminders. For instance, it’s hard to remember in the throes of depression that your actions are affecting more people than just you. That the longer you go without treatment, the more your friends, family, and kids suffer right along with you. That reminder could be the simple nudge that triggers a recovery. You’ll know you’ve made the right choice of words by the rainbow that instantly shoots out of their asshole.
But when you really examine the advice that you’re about to whip out like a homeless guy’s dick, you’re going to find occasional times where you’re just talking for the sake of talking. Because repeating those old sayings feels like help, doesn’t it? But that’s the problem — you’re not worried about your friend; you’re worried about patting yourself on the back for being awesome.
#3. Forcing Your Help on Them (or Giving the Wrong Kind of Help)
Are you sure your friend even wants help? That seems like a weird question — someone is struggling, so obviously they want help, right? Unlike what most movies present, if someone doesn’t want your help, it’s not because they’re just too darned feisty and full of pride to accept it. I remember plenty of times growing up where the only things left in the fridge were half a pitcher of Kool-Aid, a jar of mustard, and stink. But I promise you that in those situations, asking for help wasn’t so much about pride as it was about depression and feeling like a total failure.
No, it doesn’t mean that pride is completely removed as a factor. We’re human, and humans are prideful animals. I’ve been meaning to get a penis reduction for years now, but my pride won’t allow me to accept the countless invitations from limping, bow-legged women to pay for the procedure. And yes, for my mother, there was a certain level of pride at work when she refused to ask for help with groceries. But lording over all of that was a black hole, sucking up every last ounce of hope and motivation to get up and get that shit fixed.
means to fix it with money) is to fill their fridge. Their problem was that they had no food. Now they have food. Problem solved. But as someone who’s been there can tell you, that can actually make the situation worse.
The depression worsens because they had to take “charity” from you in order to feed their kids or themselves. In turn, their stress levels shoot through the roof while they lie in bed under two tons of embarrassment and guilt. Instead of using that time to improve their financial situation by getting a better job (or in my family’s case, any job at all), they’re walking through life, turning down even the idea of prostitution because life has already dicked them into exhaustion.
But change the phrasing and the terms of the offer, and you’ll be shocked at how much difference it makes in their lives. “Hey, I’ve got some stuff I could really use some help with. Mostly lawn work and painting flames down the side of my private jet. Why don’t you let me hire you? I get the help I desperately need, and you get some extra cash — everybody wins.” Now they’re not taking charity, they’re helping you out in an employment sense. Even more importantly, they’re not taking a solution from someone else — they’re actively solving their own problems while helping you with your rich asshole problems in return.
I understand that the scenario I laid out was a specific circumstance, but the point is that if you walk into their lives like you’re a prince on a white stallion, throwing out magical cures for the helpless, you’re going to make them feel like they are helpless, and the ensuing emotional shitstorm is going to adversely affect the way they handle the actual core of their problem.
#2. Declaring Their Problem Solved, Then Walking Away
It’s in our nature to want quick fixes. The best charities are the ones where you can just easily hand over a few dollars and then go about the rest of your day, knowing it’s going to be used by honest, upstanding people. Don’t ever think that’s a bad thing. The fact that you’re helping out a good cause at all is super fucking admirable, and I respect the hell out of people who do it.
But it’s also easy to get tricked into that frame of mind when helping out a friend because we want their problems to be like a movie: Here’s the part where they’re struggling, then here’s the part where they get rescued and everything is fine again. Roll credits! But in virtually every case where a person needs help, the problem cannot be boiled down to a simple one-shot cause like “addiction” or “a bad relationship.” Most of those problems are caused by a deeper, darker undercurrent, something that bubbles up from time to time, manifesting itself in different ways. It’s frustrating to see the same mistakes and bad habits bite them in the ass again and again. You start to feel like they’re your patient instead of your friend.
But that’s how real life is different. In a movie, once a person goes through rehab, her drug problem is over. When a person starts laughing and joking, his depression is cured. In reality, people can and do suffer from this shit their entire lives. Even if we’re not talking about actual illnesses (in which case, your first advice should always be “see a fucking professional instead of my dumb ass”), the destructive habits all of us have are the result of decades of repetition and reinforcement. That shit doesn’t change overnight, no matter what background music you play over your homemade montage.
If you want to continue being their friend, then that means you still have to be there for them. That means checking in even when they’re in one of those stretches where they’re not fun to be around. It doesn’t even have to be a big deal — a call, an email, stopping by on your way home from work. Just knowing that someone out there gives a shit is more help than you’ll ever realize (if you’re lucky). I’ve lost count of how many messages I’ve gotten from readers saying that nobody cares about them or their problems. As a friend, 10 minutes of your time could easily change all of that. If you don’t believe me, try it.
#1. Not Knowing When to Back Off
This is the single hardest part of being a friend, and by far the hardest to know when to implement. Let me give you an example:
One of my family members was, like me, an addict. But also a career criminal to boot. He spent a massive amount of his life in prison for … um … “borrowing” other people’s things to support his … um … “huge drug problem.” Our family reached out to him many times, offering places to stay, jobs, money, food, and anything we could reasonably sacrifice on our end. But his cycle of uncountable crises continued for most of his life. He’d clean up and do great for a year or two, then fall back into a self-destructive pattern that would land him in prison once again. Here’s the crazy part: At no point (when he was clean) did he ever consciously look around at us and say to himself, “I think I’ll fuck over this person for personal gain.”
But each time that cycle started back up, all of our help was flushed down the shitter. His problems were out of his control … but more importantly for us, they were out of our control. There came a point where we had to finally grit our teeth and say, “We’ve helped as much as we can, and his disasters are now affecting our own families. Helping him at this point is just perpetuating a cycle that we cannot end.” Then we all stripped naked and ran through a field, screaming, “FREEDOM!”
Did it make us bad people? To some, it would seem that way. Our kids certainly didn’t think so when the danger of break-ins and the volatile atmosphere disappeared.
Regardless, I cannot stress enough how dangerous this point can be — because if you decide to pull out at the wrong time, you could be fucking your friend out of what could potentially be life-changing input. That … didn’t sound clean, did it? If you wait too long, you’re letting their problems spread to you and your family like a case of emotional crabs. I understand that the Internet seems to universally hate Dr. Phil, but one of the wisest pieces of relationship advice I’ve ever heard came from him:
“Ask yourself, ‘What is it costing me to be in this relationship?’ If the answer is your dreams, identity, or dignity, the cost is too high.”
In that quote, his ridiculous child-molester mustache was talking about bad romantic relationships, but it applies just as easily to friendships. You can only sacrifice so much of yourself on their behalf before you finally have to step back and say, “Enough. I’ve done all I can. It’s time for them to deal with this on their own, regardless of the consequences.” Good-hearted people will have such a hard time coming to that decision. They’ll feel guilt, shame, anger — basically all the stages of grief. But in extreme cases, you have to eventually put your own sanity and health at the top of the Good Deeds queue. Otherwise, your friend could be in a dramatically worse situation in which they never change their behavior for the better, and instead grow a dependency on you to dig them out of the quickshit pit. There is no help in that. It only sustains their problems, perpetually, until one of you gives up.
Or, worse, ends up on a massive ratings factory of a reality show. People seem to be making a pretty good living out of being a fuckup these days. Whatever, you see what I’m getting at: There’s a point where you’re not helping, but you still want to be the hero, and in the process of trying to be the hero, you’re hurting everyone else. So print this out and hang it on your wall somewhere: Sometimes being a nice person is all about knowing when to be an asshole.
Motherhood May Spur Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviour (from Web MD)
New mothers have a much higher rate of obsessive-compulsive symptoms than other people and these symptoms center on their baby’s well-being, a new study indicates.
For example, a new mother may constantly worry and check to see if her baby is still breathing; she may obsess about germs and whether she’s properly sterilized the baby’s bottles and then wash or rewash them; or she may be unduly concerned about injuring her baby, according to the study authors.
The researchers surveyed hundreds of new mothers and found that 11 percent of them had significant obsessive-compulsive symptoms at two weeks and at six months after giving birth. The rate in the general population is 2 percent to 3 percent.
These symptoms are usually temporary and could result from hormonal changes or may be an adaptive response to caring for a new baby, the researchers suggested. They found that about 50 percent of the women reported an improvement in their symptoms by six months. However, some women who did not have symptoms at two weeks developed them at six months.
“It may be that certain kinds of obsessions and compulsions are adaptive and appropriate for a new parent, for example those about cleanliness and hygiene,” study senior author Dr. Dana Gossett, chief and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said in a Northwestern Medicine news release.
But if these symptoms interfere with normal day-to-day functioning and appropriate care for the baby and parent, they may indicate a mental health problem, the investigators pointed out.
About 70 percent of the women who had obsessive-compulsive symptoms also haddepression symptoms. This suggests that obsessive-compulsive disorder in new mothers represents a distinct mental illness, said study lead author Dr. Emily Miller, a clinical fellow in maternal-fetal medicine at Feinberg.
“There is some debate as to whether postpartum depression is simply a major depressive episode that happens after birth or its own disease with its own features,” Miller said in the news release. “Our study supports the idea that it may be its own disease with more of the anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms than would be typical for a major depressive episode.”
The study appears in the March/April issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.
Have you ever had an emotional or mental breakdown? I have. At the time I was doing martial arts several times a week, was involved in a spiritual community, was learning and growing, but none of that seemed to matter.
So what happened?
Clinicians often refer to a nervous breakdown as technically an “adjustment disorder“. Your external work gets kicked in the spleen so hard that no amount of yoga or protein shakes or Mona Vie bars can hope to compete. Your inside world is depressed, or anxious, or panicked, or all of the above. Often psychosis shows up with tequila shots for the party. Your world crumbles and you simply can no longer cope. Sound like anyone you know?
People who have never been in a severe depression or have had a breakdown cannot hope to understand why people often consider suicide. To the outsider, suicide is a coward’s way out, or a selfish act, or just plain crazy. True enough on one level – crazy does certainly show up. It is hard to understand from a distance, but when things get that bad one is not thinking in their rational mind. Obsession has become a way of life. They call it a “breakdown” for a reason.
Most of us do not realize that we have several gauges of health. Until someone told me I believed that if I was working out, eating right, and learning and growing, I would be fine when things went sideways. I did not realize, and did not pay attention to, my emotional gauge.
Working out, eating broccoli, and going to a church does not necessarily mean that you are not emotionally bankrupt. Those things may help to keep you healthy, but put a group of emotional succubus’ in your life and things start to go wrong.
When you pause to think about it, there is usually three kinds of people in your life. There are those who, after you have spent time with, you feel better for having been together. Then there are those who do not affect you one way or the other.
Did I mention there were three groups? You know the last group. When they call a piece of you dies inside. Being with them sucks the life out of you. They are never happy, or always complaining, or your mother. People like this drain your emotional gauge. Add a relational breakdown, or a child who is unruly, a job that is stressful, and someone who is disappointed in you and you can begin to lose hope. Add to this the crazy schedule we all try to maintain with little or no time for reflection or self-care and you have a recipe for a meltdown.
Don’t even get me started on those of you who also have small children.
Taking care of your emotional stuff is the best thing you can do for yourself besides taking a week on a beach somewhere without a cell phone or your children. Paying attention to your emotional gauge will help you in ways you could never imagine. A healthy person with a healthy heart is the best defence against hurt, stress, and pain.
Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Feeling the need to make sure everyone does what they should. The need to manage not just myself, but everyone around me.
If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.
If you want something done right, do it yourself.
It’s chronic…spoken or unspoken it’s there. I know because I have been a control freak and I am tired of living that way.
I am tired of the pressure to judge, fix, correct, straighten out, spank, corral, frighten, pressure, guilt, condemn, and look down on others. I know nobody says they do that but I have and I see it all the time.
I’m weary of feeling like I have to save the world and that for others to stay saved depends on me and my ability to be good enough. This constant feeling that everyone is teetering on the edge of total rejection and that one slip up from you and their eternal soul’s blood is on your hands is too much.
My God! That’s a massive weight to bear…who can handle such pressure?
Face it – you don’t measure up…. Get over it!
You don’t measure up.
You don’t measure up.
Admit it…. And be free!