All The Credit you Deserve

This morning my youngest was playing with an iPad. Well, I’ll let him take it from here…

So I’m on this iPad and it needs flash player to play videos, I go to get flash player and you need flash player to get flash player, so I need flash player to get flash player because I need flash player to get flash player.

Reminds me of a comedy sketch I once saw about getting financial credit. You go to the bank and ask for credit. “I’m sorry”, you are told, “You can’t get credit because you don’t have any credit history”. “How do I get credit if I don’t have credit”, you ask. Again you are told that you cannot have credit until you have credit. It’s a philosophical and moronic loop.

Life is kind of like that. I love this little story from an anonymous source:

“Sir, What is the secret of your success?” a reporter asked a bank president.
“Two words.”
“And, sir, what are they?”
“Good decisions”
“And how do you make good decisions?”
“One word.”
“And sir, what is that?”
“Experience.”
“And how do you get Experience?”
“Two words.”
“And, sir, what are they?”
“Bad decisions.”

There is a vast difference between wisdom and knowledge. Wisdom takes years, knowledge takes education. Some of the dumbest people I have ever met have PhD’s. Unfortunately learning the meanings of life takes pain and time. Ignorance is easy to find, understanding is hard.

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.
Walter Anderson

What Do You Want?

I Can't Quit You BabyPeople often come to counseling hoping that the professional will basically condone what they have already been doing to deal with their problems. Eventually that counselor, if they don’t suck, will gently point out that perhaps, just maybe, the problem isn’t everyone in their screwed up family – the problem is how they are handling their thinking, coping, and life. This is usually a difficult thing to hear and process. Such a revelation may necessitate change in areas the client is not happy to address. They want to be different but they “cannot” change what they need to change. At some point they will turn to their counselor and actually ask for help doing “something they don’t want to do”.

I won’t teach you how to quit doing something you don’t want to stop doing. I have a hard enough time convincing patients to spoil themselves. Besides, people usually do what they want to do. So the question is, what do you want to do?

Here’s the secret – don’t change what you do, change what you want. How easy would it be to quit drinking if you earnestly believed that you hated alcohol and didn’t want it in your life anymore? The key isn’t to convince you to stop snorting cocaine. The key is to help you learn a different way to think about cocaine. A different perspective will change everything.

I have a client who wanted to stop using cocaine so one day he lined up a line of cocaine and then made a second line out of Drano, a horrible cleaner that was under the sink. The two lines looked almost identical and he asked himself, “Which line is worse for me to snort?”

The answer seemed obvious, the cocaine was obviously safer to snort than the toxic drain cleaner. This is the obvious answer and the obvious answer is completely wrong. Snorting the Drano will cause him to become sick and throw up. The experience will teach him never to have that experience ever again. Problem solved. Snorting the cocaine will lead to something that feels good but will take your house and your marriage. It is much much safer to snort the Drano.

You don’t need to do something that you do not want to do. You simply change the way you feel about the cocaine. You consider soberly how prone you are to remember only the good parts of a bad addiction. You allow yourself to believe that you could be happy without artificial stimulants. You begin to dream about life in Normieland. You start getting up in the morning. You get a job. You go to church, or yoga, or NA. You choose to stop entertaining your negative thoughts and force yourself to be positive until you believe it. You come back to life.

The principle applies for almost everything we are dealing with. Radically changing the way we think about life is the ONLY way to find wholeness as we learn to address our inaccurate thinking patterns, our dysfunctional coping skills, and our skewed outlook on life.

As we say around here all the time, “Change your mind and your butt will follow”.

How to keep moving forward, even when your brain hates you.

a little dose of keelium

Edit: This blog has moved! New posts can be found at www.littledose.keelium.com. This post can be found at the new blog here. Thanks for reading, and please update your bookmarks/follow me over there if you’re interested! 

If you’ve been around here long, or if you know me in person, you probably know I have a slightly defective brain, which is to say that I have a history with clinical depression. Add on to that a(n un-)healthy dose of perfectionism, and you have an expert procrastinator. I can miserably waste a day (and yes, if you didn’t get anything useful done OR even enjoy yourself a little, that was a day wasted) with the best (worst?) of them.

But I’ve been at the depression game for 10+ years now, and the perfectionism for 20+ (I distinctly remember bawling over imperfect crayon drawings. Started young.), and I’ve had to…

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Relationships Are Tough…

I have just been putting together an intro for my new “Speaking Chick and Talking Dude” group starting tonight. I can’t remember where I stole this from but it’s a funny poke at the challenges…

Relationships are tough

Guy in Arizona who was hit by lightning 7 times. 7 times. Apparently he later killed himself over a woman. Think of it – God couldn’t kill this guy…. So bring in the experts.

Recently a guy on a Carnival Cruise line threw himself over the side because of an argument with his wife. The guy drowned rather than deal with the argument. That story makes no sense to anyone… who hasn’t been married. I can see how it went – You’re drunk. I’m on vacation. You’re drunk. I’M ON VACATION. You are supposed to be up at seven for ice sculpturing tomorrow morning. If you don’t shut up I’m going to throw myself over the side of this balcony. YOU DON’T HAVE THE GUTS!

Self-Medicating

Chocolates

I have radically changed the way I think about addictions.

I work part-time in addictions and see it’s effects literally dozens of times each week. It’s easy to believe that the problem is the addiction – if we can just help people stop drinking than their life will work itself out. Unfortunately this is not even remotely true and people who understand people are realizing that the addiction is simply another symptom of something much deeper.

When I was young and drugs came calling they were just another solution to the problem called “My Life”. Chocolate made me happy right now. So did cocaine and boobies and volleyball. Basketball sorted me out, so did pot. My only crime was that I grabbed too hard at one of my solutions to stress. Why couldn’t I have developed an addiction to body-building instead? Chocolate is nice, why couldn’t it have been to chocolate?

Dealing with your maladjusted life by stopping only one of the symptoms does not make sense. Somewhere along the line in many lives drugs became medication, not recreation. Cocaine helped you not have to think about your crumbling life. Drinking and sex helped you believe you were important. Being high kept you from thinking about your struggle to hope that things could change.

In counseling I encourage clients to look beyond their need for medication and address the actual disease they have been medicating. We need to learn to put our lives in perspective and change dysfunctional thinking patterns. Taking responsibility for your own heart and happiness truly is the best thing you can do to improve your life.

 

Shooting Their Wounded

Pastor Ted

I was intrigued by a friend’s Facebook recommendation so late last night found myself on a Documentary website watching a very personal biography on Ted Haggard, disgraced evangelical super pastor. Twenty minutes into the documentary I realized I was feeling sorry for the guy. Let me explain.

I have very little pity for self-made rich hypocrites. Like most of you I get a sick delight when I hear that Donald Trump or Conrad Black has gotten themselves into something dicey. I love listening to religious bigots like Mark Driscoll make an ass of themselves. So why do I feel sorry for Mr. Clean, Ted Haggard?

Haggard didn’t even say he was “100% heterosexual” but was held accountable for it anyway. He couldn’t find a regular job after he got canned and when he did start selling insurance door-to-door he still could not escape his notoriety. As part of his separation package he wasn’t even allowed to live in Colorado in the family home for over a year and a half. Christians lined up to lambast him. He had no savings and was actually becoming poor. Watching this man have the pride kicked out of him was actually sad to watch. Worse still was the complete and utter free fall his life spun into.

It’s no wonder he started another small church. He only has one skill set and not many people want to hire someone with a religious degree and nothing else on the resume except “mega church superstar”. Even Ted Haggard has to eat.

Don’t misunderstand me, Ted was responsible to live a life in keeping with his elevated viewpoints and standing. He was, after all, the mouthpiece of evangelicalism for many and had the ear of the president. He hid his lifestyle choice and paid the price. The question we need to ask is, however, why did he have to hide? I fully understand that he could not “come out” to his congregation without staggering financial and spiritual ramifications. I get that. What is disturbing is that Haggard had NO ONE he could be honest with, no one he could tell without being prematurely outed and shamed. There was no mechanism in place for him to be honest without some dire consequence. I love what someone has written under the Youtube of “The Trials Of Ted Haggard” –

The message of the documentary is also a concise indictment of the distinct lack of care for the “unrighteous” demonstrated by Ted’s brand of Christianity and should be broadcast in fundamentalist evangelical churches as a moral lesson their bible apparently fails to teach them.

The point I guess is not necessarily the failure of fundamentalist Christians to walk their walk…it is that the walk itself is fundamentally flawed – the literal acceptance of implausible and unnatural moral standards fill otherwise rational minds with a twisted legacy of ancient prejudice and conceit, the only consolation being the relativists dream of escaping such an “objective morality” via grace. The situation is ludicrous. Of course you require grace to be saved ( from something??) because if the standards you set for yourself were not broken everyone would be absolutely miserable, which also explains why they are so frequently broken.

To not put too fine a point on it the problem with Ted Haggard is not simply Ted Haggard. The system propagates the notions that pastors cannot, must not, be honest about their own fallibility. I have known hundreds of pastors and I can tell you straight up, they are a fallible lot. The pressure to be “everything to everyone” is overpowering and it is no wonder than that so many clergy have “secret sins” that they are afraid to be honest with anyone about.

I spent some time, recently, talking to a man who had been a volunteer youth pastor in a church and went on to be convicted of child molestation. We talked about his journey and it became immediately evident that this person felt that there was no one, not even me, that he could talk to about his heinous problem. He was so incredibly shamed by his own religious rigidity that he could not even admit to himself, let alone others, that he liked young males. There was no mechanism in place to help him battle his urges or make good decisions. His shame and his guilt, combined with his aberrant behaviour actually served to prolong his crimes. I spoke to one associate minister who told me that after telling his senior pastor he was struggling with his sexuality (and hadn’t done anything “wrong”) he was told to get out of the office while that senior pastor called the board to tell them. The associate was soon unemployed.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

It’s just another job. Expecting your clergy to be any better than you is unrealistic and profoundly erroneous. The real tragedy with the Ted Haggard story, the Jimmy Swaggart story, Jim Bakker, etc is that we are still surprised at all. Throw millions of dollars at a guy who has little accountability and buckets of power and influence and then freak out when he makes poor decisions. It’s akin to being surprised with Justin Bieber does something stupid. He’s a dumb kid with millions of dollars and cars of “yes” men and women. Why are we shocked?

The only difference between Haggard and so many others is that he got caught.

Who can clergy be honest with? They have copious evidence to support the assumption that their parishioners believe they are more understanding than they in fact appear to be.

Leadership is lonely. Trying to live up to impossible standards while trying to make a difference must be tough. Doing all that with a good sense of self-esteem and balance seems almost impossible. As I have often heard, “it’s the easiest job in the world that will totally break your heart.”

Have fun with that.

The End Of All Our Exploring

Finding you can have a life after all is an amazing thing…

I wrote those words to a close friend this week. I know this is true because I have lived it. I have been to the end and I have been back. I know what it is like to care less if your world burns. I know what it feels like when your heart breaks. I know why people kill themselves.

It must be true that we attract what we are because many of my readers (although many seems a little off) can relate to the last paragraph. So many of us have been scarred. Many have known the “dark night of the soul”. Unfortunately many of us have learned that there are certain lessons you can only learn in pain.

I remember, some time ago, listening to a young speaker talk to battle-hardened veterans of life’s misery. People who had battled addictions, death, heart-break, staggering loss. He told the audience a story of his struggles – pitiful middle-class problems that were trifling and testimony to a life that had never suffered. It’s the reason people don’t like marital advice from a priest, or sexual advice from a Methodist, or advice about generosity from a Scotsman. There is something powerful about listening to the stories of others who can understand your loss. If you don’t believe me come to the Fibromyalgia Clinic sometime and listen to a new client once they understand that someone understands them and no one thinks they’re crazy. The power of a shared experience, no matter how bad.

It’s nice to know that even though you are walking through hell you aren’t walking alone.

Does It Really Matter What You’re Addicted To?

English: ChapStick lip balm Español: Bálsamo l...

It’s all about dopamine… and Chapstick.

The need to flee “ordinary” motivates many of us to indulge in the things that others will someday call our “addiction”. Professionals, including myself, have long delighted in shutting down those who believe they had an “addictive personality”. But what if there is more to this than I first supposed?

People working in the addictions field can give you copious examples of clients who were “poly” drug users, addicted to whatever was available. These same addicts would, while in recovery, be the first to sell out to the program, find Jesus, and plan to become an addictions counselor. People who are impulsive, struggle with impulse control, and prone to show a willingness to try anything for a good time are prime candidates for poly-drug use and “all-or-nothing” thinking. Whether it’s Chapstick or heroin, sunflower seeds or cocaine, exercise or meth, addictions all serve the same basic primary function – distraction. As I have heard countless addicts say, when asked what drug they are addicted to, “What you got?”.

Studies have shown that dopamine levels begin to rise long before someone actually snorts cocaine, for example. Just the thought of getting high on Friday is enough to alter the chemicals in our body today. This release of happy goodness serves to focus our energy on satiating our addiction while distracting us from looking at the situation more objectively. The mental build-up to our addiction warps our perception of reality and gives us tunnel-vision. This tunnel-vision is why addicts consistently choose their drug over their family. They truly believe that their family is their top priority but cannot, once the thought has become an intention, stop themselves from making a bad choice over and over again.

I have known people who get this same euphoric energy and satiation from shopping for shoes, or going to garage sales, or running on a treadmill. Addictions experts recognized this before the mainstream medical community and began recommending addictions deflection – moving unhealthy vices into less and less harmful activities through transference, not a “cold turkey” approach.

‘Life’ is usually the reason most people have problems with addiction and impulse control. Helping someone stop drinking, for example, is only a very small part of staying healthy. Learning to deal with their dysfunctional coping skills that have helped them survive their horrible lives, now that’s the real crux of the matter. The journey is not hopeless but it is fraught with work and frustration.

I know what it is like to feel bogged down by the pain of life and struggle to even care if things got better. I do not profess to understand what you are going through and have grown too tired to give you three simple steps to fixing your life.

All I can say is that it was worth it.

In spite of firmly believing that my life would never get better somehow I allowed myself to admit that I was afraid of things getting better. I forced myself to hope again.

I had no idea this article would end up like this…

 

Somehow I Expected More

Boat of Boredom

Most of us live in a word of stress and bills and commitments and bad sleep. I’m not sure about you but I never imagined as a teen that my life would become so predictable, so normal. I was raised in front of the television and if I learned anything it was that life is a series of coca-cola commercials and adrenaline sports. No one on the eighties sitcoms talked about bills and routine and year after year of working with three weeks of holidays.

I don’t have stats to back this up but I have a suspicion that one of the biggest reasons people who are recovering from addictions go “back out” is boredom. The normie world is a dopamine wasteland. Many of those in recovery are also unemployed or often on disability and so they also combat poverty, boredom, and lack of purpose and often hope. Finding fulfillment and contentment is hard to find in any world these days. It’s not just the recovery community that is having a hard time adjusting to the grind and stress of life. More and more of us are asking the big questions – What is the meaning of life? What do I want to spend my life doing? When will I learn to really like myself? Am I grown up yet? How can I find happiness?

Learning to find contentment in life is just that, something you need to learn. The primal brain is hard-wired to remember negative experiences, memories, and patterns. Once in our history is was important to be able to recognize danger before it ate you. The brain learned to survive by remembering the lessons that negative experiences brought. Happy thoughts didn’t keep you from being lunch.

Experts tell us that negative experiences are velcroed to the brain while positive experiences stick like Teflon. It is no wonder, then, that we tend to become negative when we spend too much time thinking about negative things. By way of example ask yourself this question – Have you ever argued yourself into feeling way better about a negative thing? It isn’t natural. Spend any time thinking about the big stressors in your life and eventually you will end up at the worst-case scenario. Finding contentment is, therefore, something that has to be worked for. Without spending time on a regular basis re-evaluating my life and dreams it will be my natural bias to end up a negative old man. As Valdy sang, “Old and tired and bent and bust, grey and wrinkled and you can’t be trusted just a dirty old man.”

I will tell you it is one of my firmest goals that I will not end up a negative old bastard. If I get that way please just float me out on the ice flow. We are only given one short life and I do not want to end up bitter and mean; I want to end up crazy, flirting with younger women.

I tell patients every day that the only way they will be any good for anyone else is if they spend time working on themselves. Self care cannot be optional. How much time do you spend thinking about psychology and art and music. About God and immortality and your need to stop yelling? About dreams and plans and delicious hopes? How much time do you spend reading and writing?

You are definitely worth it.

Women, Why You Don’t Make Sense

You have told him fifty times that your relationship is in trouble and you need to connect better emotionally. So why isn’t he trying? He doesn’t want you to nag or belittle him, you’ve tried and tried and he can’t get it. How much more obvious can you be? Why should you be the one trying again?

Counsel any woman in a heterosexual relationship long enough and these kinds of complaints will emerge. What is it about some spouses that they seem to care so little for emotional and relational intimacy? How did this relationship get so stale so fast?

Unfortunately the problem cannot not be entirely laid at his door step. What seems ridiculously obvious to you may not register the same way on his radar. He isn’t a woman and therefore cannot think like a woman. Only someone who has been living alone under a rock still believes that male and female brains are exactly alike. We understand on a cognitive level that we must speak in such a way as to be heard but this does not mean we know how to do this. He does not know what you mean by relational intimacy, for example. He has tried to “connect” a million times but you don’t seem to notice.

You aren’t talking Man-glish.

You want to connect more on an emotional level. You want to “talk”. I thought we have been talking. You haven’t shut up in twenty minutes. What the hell were you even talking about? I took you to dinner and a movie. How come you are still mad?

What many women fail to understand is that, for many men who have not grown up in a metrosexual environment, that ‘dinner and a movie’ thing was a sincere, even stretching expression of his emotionally availability, whatever that means. Many men have difficulty connecting on anything beyond the most shallow pool unless beer is involved. Dinner was his attempt to connect. Sad huh?

Sometimes that lousy attempt to connect was in fact the top of his game. He was playing his best card but you are still upset. What can he possibly say at this point to appease you/impress you? He’s already shot his best load and now he has to come up with a response that will diffuse your anger and convince you he knows what you are trying to yell at him. But he doesn’t.

Learning to think like someone else is an extremely important, albeit difficult skill to learn. Chances are your perfect plan to gradually win him over to your side hasn’t worked by now and you realize that relationships that aren’t working just get worse and worse. It is almost impossible, once a couple has grown apart and there is misunderstanding involved, for reconciliation to happen. We simply lose our will to keep fighting and it’s extremely difficult to get back.

Take a relationship course. Send for my free session on “Speaking Chick and Talking Dude. Read a book or listen to an mp3. Learning to understand your partner is like taking any foreign language, there are few shortcuts to literacy.

I’m Going To Explode!

Stress

Panic attacks. Many of us have had one, or several. Somehow things stress us out so much that at some point we start to melt down. Little things become big things. Problems become impossibilities. Everything starts to overwhelm us. Some of you know what I am talking about.

Stress is like that too. The relentless and unbending pace, day after day after day. The problems with my parents, or my kids. The never-ending need to be doing something. The never-ending list of things to be done. The meaninglessness of it all.

It is truly shocking how many of us live our lives in a constant state of anxiety, pressure, and stress. Day after relentless day of problems and issues and things that absolutely must get done before I can fall into fretful sleep. It is no wonder, than, that so many of us live on the edge of constantly boiling over, constantly in danger of being overwhelmed. Constant anxiety can do that. So can ongoing anger, or depression, or grief.  Even ordinary “never going to change” stress and problems can potentially take you to the edge.

Remind you of anything? Ask anyone who’s had an orgasm (and I hope you are one of them) and they’ll tell you that at some point in the whole process you reach what I will call, for lack of a pretty term, the “point of no return”. After this point the house could burn down around you and you’ll still need “just a minute”. There is a vast store of energy just begging to be released. Momentum is building alongside a weakening will to resist and your capacity to hold off a crisis is sorely tested. The train is coming and there is nothing you can do about it.

Anger is also like that. It builds; becoming more intense and more animated, until things just start spilling over. Have you ever wondered why people often seem to make little sense when they are exploding? Maybe that’s because this release of emotion is closer to an orgasm than we care to admit. The build up, the release, the relief. You feel better in spite of the fact that everyone around you feels worse. Time for a cigarette.

Distress Tolerance, Part 3: Confessions

Holland

I wrote for 80 minutes this morning. I got through 70 minutes of cleaning house. Since I’ve been exhausted, sleep-deprived, and just plain not home all week, 70 minutes didn’t get me very far: unloading and loading the dishwasher, most of the laundry, putting accumulated crap away. That kind of thing.

So I’m looking at a home that still looks filthy to me–a layer of dust on the furniture, grime on the counters, and cat litter on the floor. (How does it end up absolutely everywhere? But I guess that’s what happens when your cat has kidney failure and uses the box 4-5 times per day…)

At least I have clean dishes to eat off of, and clean clothes to wear come Monday. Meanwhile, to catch you up (if you haven’t been following up), I endured two and half hours of the activities that still distress me more than anything.

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You Don’t Know How Intimidating You Are

Anger Management

The first time someone told me I didn’t believe them. It was not possible, I wasn’t even angry.  I have heard it since a few times, less the older I grow. Apparently I can be fairly intense and even intimidating when I am fully engaged in an argument or discussion. I throw out a great deal of energy. Someone who once was in a creativity brainstorming session with me described me as a “fire hydrant”. I have had to spend time working on myself.

Recently I watched a couple argue in my office. It was fascinating to watch. One of the characters was incredibly intense – wagging his finger, raising his voice, swearing. His entire posture was set to attack. Now zoom across to the other person in the room.

She is not set to attack. You can watch her slowly close her posture. Her feet come up to her chest, she wraps her arms around herself. Her chin lowers and within a few minutes you can see clearly how she is rolling into the fetal position. The situation screams out for attention but neither of them can see what is happening in the room.

They have been told, more than once, that they have communication problems.

Anger is a very powerful emotion, perhaps the most powerful. It transforms a conversation into a fight. It gives birth to abuse and slander and arrogance and belittling. There are courses in every city on Anger Management. While these courses adequately address the symptom of anger few get to the “why” questions. Why can’t I control my emotions? What is going on in my life that has formed this angry person? Dealing with anger can appear so daunting that many people believe they cannot control their anger and have basically given up trying.

Anger person, you are scary. You come across as very authoritative and very very intense about things others apparently don’t care as much about. You are talking much louder than you think but God help us if we mention this. Your eyes tell me that you are enraged. It is very difficult to match your energy so most people opt to shut down. This generally makes the angry person even more frustrated, but what can the other person do? You sound prepared to do anything, wreck anything, hurt anyone to win this argument. It’s just not worth the fight and the pain.

This does not need to be a terminal illness. Once I began to understand how other people perceived me I was eventually able to recognize this in myself and control it. I shot video of myself and analyzed my posture. I learned STOPP Therapy to control my need to fight back as well as learned to put things in perspective so as not to become wounded. I haven’t arrived by any standard but I am able to exercise WAY more control over my emotions and responses than I used to.

Anger is powerful.