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  • Hey, This Is A Blog, Not A Therapy Session!

    I post insights that I have here about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and various techniques that I've used to help people. Cool as that is, you gotta make your own choices. Its no replacement for professional advice or counseling, so just bear that in mind before you go taking my advice.
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Truth Doesn’t Matter (?)

So I’m sitting with my wife watching a church service from our home, because we had planned on going to church that morning, but she really wasn’t feeling good, so we stayed in (she’s pregnant, she’s allowed). So I decided to go check out my old church, as they stream their church services every Sunday. During the message, the pastor makes a very strong statement, which is the focus of my post today.

The gist of it is this:

 

People don’t care about the truth anymore. They only care about what makes them feel good, and what they can get out of a situation.

This statement got me thinking, because I didn’t want to believe it was true. Surely there are some people out there who care enough about the truth, and will do so at the cost of feeling good and being selfish. Then I realized that the truth is relative for a lot of people. I mean, I’m a Christian, but if you don’t believe what the  Bible says is true, then you’re not going to agree with me about my version of the truth when it comes to religion. That’s OK, its a free country, you’re more than welcome to believe what you want.

But aside from religion, how can people come to terms with what the truth is? Some would say you come to this determination through science. Surely if you can prove something with science, then you can determine what the truth is that way, right? Then you lay out the global warming/climate change question, and you have people who have data that show both sides of the argument, and both could be considered to be true based on the information presented.

Then you can think about truth in a court of law, and how we are asked in court to “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” How then, is truth determined? By facts and evidence, and upon the weighing of that evidence, the judge or jury comes to a determination about what the truth is, and how the court should proceed as a result of that determination. So it would follow, then, that we can determine what truth is based on facts.

But what if we don’t care about that stuff? What if we throw truth out the window because it doesn’t fit our worldview? Do we then disregard those facts because it feels better to keep our worldview? How then do we determine facts, if our perspective is so tainted that we will take false evidence into consideration?

 

Then there’s the generation of children in this day and age. You’ve seen them haven’t you? The ones that really don’t care much about the truth, and are more concerned with how their friends and their experiences make them feel, and what they can get out of life from others. I shouldn’t fault them too much, but at the same time, there is a line you have to draw at selfishness, so I usually confront teenagers on this as soon as I think they can handle it.

People have said “the Truth hurts,” and I think that’s because for the most part, the truth is difficult to swallow. The truth doesn’t feel good. Its not considerate of your feelings, and it doesn’t give you anything amazing as a result. I’m not sure that people even believe that “the truth will set you free” anymore, because in many respects, its better to be a slave to your own perspective than it is to be free with the difficult truth.

OK, OK, Jim. I get it. But how does that pertain to my life right now?

Since I can only throw my professional opinion at you, I’ll give you my perspective on the truth. First, determine your sphere of  relevance. Are these facts relevant to your life, and your sphere of influence? If not, then perhaps focusing on this area of truth is not necessary for you right now. So determine what truth is relevant to your life.

Second, do your best to seek out the most pertinent truth to your life. Since everyone’s life is different, the truth that is relevant to your life will be different. Do your absolute best to seek out the most truth for your life.

Lastly, do your absolute best to live your life according to the truth. No matter how hard it may be. Even if it makes you change your worldview, live according to the truth.

If I didn’t believe that what I was sharing with you was the truth, and didn’t follow it myself, I wouldn’t be typing it here. Why? Because I do my best to live by what I believe is the truth. I may screw up, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let my screw ups determine who I am and my continued thirst for the truth in my own life.

So my questions to you, and if you comment, please answer these questions: Does Truth Matter? and If so, how do YOU determine what is truth?

So You’ve Had A Bad Day…

Once upon a time there was a therapist who decided to get married, buy a house and get a dog. It seemed like the perfect American dream. But what the therapist didn’t know, was that there was a monster lurking in the basement of his new house.

This monster was none other than the Natural Gas Forced Air Heater.

See once each winter, said heater grows donkey ears and becomes horribly stubborn, and refuses to heat the house.

Dateline: January 4th, 2010 – The heater does just that. So armed with a toothbrush, pliers, dish soap, a wrench and a bucket, I go into the belly of the beast to get the old burro to move.

See, if you know anything about heaters (and I don’t) you would know that some older forced air heaters have a glass gauge that tells you how much water is in the hot water tank. The gauge was dirty, so I figure, what the hey, and cleaned it out (i watched the guy do it last year) so i can see how much water is in there. Once I know, I’ll know whether to add or subtract water to get the house warm. After that, I had to empty the water tank of all the water, then turn one valve to add more water. Nothing worked. So I turn another valve to empty the water, because apparently I had too much (actually the PSI went above 30, and the water flew out of the tank due to too much pressure). So on I go, for 3 hours. Water in, water out. Put water in the bucket, dump it in the sink.

I felt like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and wished that I had an army of magic mops to help me clean up rust colored mess I’d made.

So I call the plumbing/heating folks and they tell me that the cost to come out and diagnose the problem is $175. I tell this to the Mrs., and I might as well have told her that I went to Vegas and gambled the money away.

Here we were, no heat, no money to turn it back on, and an appointment looming like a sunset shadow. I could have lost my cool and flipped out (OK, maybe I did loose my cool and flip out), but once I flipped back, I realized that we could stay upset about the situation or make some choices that could affect the situation.

Back to the WATER Method. What could I change? What couldn’t I change? I could call the plumbing guys and ask my wife to stay home and manage that situation. So we did that. I couldn’t change how much money we had now, but I could work harder to be more aware of what we’ve been paid from insurance and what we haven’t been paid by them.

See, even if difficulty comes your way, eventually you have to make choices about how you’re going to handle them. The sooner you resolve that, and take control of what you can change the better.

By the way, turns out I either have dumb luck or hidden repairman powers (or God heard my cry of frustration), because now the heat works, and it started working before the repairman even showed up (so we called them to cancel the order – something I can change to save money). Don’t know what I did or why, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out next year when the old burro comes out again.

Back To Normal Insanity

You made it! You got through another holiday season! For a lot of people this was a time of stress, parties, presents for family members, and eating a lot of food that you will eventually regret eating. You got through it, and now here you are on a Monday, sending your children back to school and heading back to work to begin a New Year, hopefully refreshed.

So now that things are back to normal, you can begin to focus on the stuff you put on the back burner to manage the holiday season. This is our Normal Insanity, the stuff we deal with on a daily basis without the holidays to use as an excuse. Its the stuff we now must face, or choose to continue to ignore. If we’re not careful, we could find ourselves in a place where continue to stuff our problems and not manage them.

So here are some ways to ease yourself back into the normalcy of post holiday season bliss.

1. Let go of the holiday season. Its over, which means the stress of it is over. If you have really good memories of that time, then give those more weight than the stress you’ve experienced. Remember, you make it through the season, it didn’t kill you, so you’ve made it through the hard part.

2. Take on a new attitude. Remember that your routine is what it was before, and unless something dramatic has changed, you will go through what you normally go through without the holiday stress. However, you can make it better than it was before the holiday season. Your attitude can make a difference.

3. Your time off was a larger example of a smaller concept. Remember that you can take time off in your average day, so long as you can schedule it well. Don’t feel like scheduling your time so you can have a little break here and there? Hey, its your life, but remember that those brief moments here and there are what brings you through the stressful periods. Take care of yourself so you can manage the negative, and relaxed to enjoy the positive.

Let’s not forget that with a new year people often have concerns and worries about the future. I have to say for one that I am scared to death about being a new parent, and what the future is going to hold for me as I move forward. I will have to say though, that using the WATER Method does make it a bit easier. Sure, I can plan for the future, but until I experience it, I’m not going to know exactly what to do until trial and error shows up. I’m going to screw up somewhere, and as long as its not a really nasty screw up, I’m kind of looking forward to it.

I also have to say that finishing my book seems a bit daunting, but I’m going to break it up in small increments to make sure that I accomplish it sooner rather than later. I figure if I can crank out a page every two days, I’ll be on the right track, and should have it done sooner than I think.

So don’t let the new year and the adjustment back to normalcy get you down. You will move on and forward, provided you have a plan in place to keep your wits about you. I know I need one. What about you?

RSS Feed Issue

For those of you who have subscribed to my blog, I have to apologize for my total rookie mistakes. It seems as though I didn’t transfer over my feed I transferred my blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. As a result, You’re not getting updates from my blog when I update. Which isn’t cool.

So as a result, I’m presently working on a fix for this, and it should be all set by the end of the weekend. Special thanks to Scott for pointing this out.

Take care and have a great New Year! Looking forward to good stuff as time goes on, and I hope you’ll be there to join me!

Regards,

Jim Valeri, LMHC

Diversity Can Not Coexist With Exclusion

I’m going to break one of my cardinal rules when it comes to talking about stuff. I hate to do it, but it seems to me that in the year and a half of me blogging I haven’t done one post about this topic.

I’m going to talk about religion and politics, all in one post.

Now if you’ve been reading me for a bit, you know by now that I’m a fairly balanced guy, and that even if I do have personal feelings or core values about something, that I don’t go letting my core values get in the way. I merely ask questions, and ask you to judge for yourself.

Moving right along, today’s topic is about the Holidays. More specifically, the schools in Massachusetts that don’t allow expression of Holidays, merely because the Holidays at this time of year involve some form of religious connotation. As a result, children perform boring depressing songs about snow, which is nice the first time it shows up, but if you live in New England, you get sick of it after a while.

Now, this is only from what I’ve heard from my clients, and other Massachusetts residents that I’ve spoken to, but it appears as though there is some unwritten rule about NOT being able to have any holiday cheer whatsoever in the schools. As I hear this, I realize that times have really changed since I was a kid (aaand I’m sounding old just saying that). Back then, we decorated the classroom for Christmas, and we had a trip from Santa Claus every year (one year, Santa was my dad) and he handed us puzzles and board games.  I don’t recall any discussion about Hanukkah, but if we had celebrated it, or at least learned about it, I probably would have been OK with it.

So what the heck has happened? I mean, I understand the side of the argument that says we can’t encourage any specific religious belief at school – separation of church and state and all. I get it. At the same time, how many people celebrate holidays without any real religious connotations to them at all? Just because people celebrate Christmas, that doesn’t mean they’re protestant or Catholic. Could you imagine witholding Christmas from you kids merely because you had a different religious belief? Of course not.

So what am I getting at here? My question here is: How can you exclude holidays from schools, and still encourage and celebrate diversity? Why not take the opportunity to teach kids about every religious holiday that takes place during that time, and show how cool diversity really is? Why does it have to be something that we shy away from, simply because we’re afraid someome might be offended? Heck, I make no bones about the fact that I’m a Christian, but I don’t shove my beliefs down people’s throats. You wanna know why? Because America is a cool place, and people have the freedom here make their own choices. That’s what makes America cool.

I guess this really comes down to core values, and really the bottom line here is that we can’t do much about what a few paranoid people are doing. I’m certainly not going to let it ruin my Holiday, but I suppose this topic got me thinking: My wife is pregnant, and as a result, it got me thinking about what my children are going to have to endure at this time a few years from now.

So rather than offer some suggestions, which is what I usually do, I’m going to ask you, my extraordinarily intelligent readers, to answer the question: Can Diversiy Coexist With Exclusion? Can we celebrate diversity, or is that just a cute thing to say? Is tolerance merely “tolerance of me?”

I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Bottle Up Your Feelings

Bottling things up. When you hear someone say this, its usually perceived negatively. After all, you can’t bottle up your emotions, right?

Well, to make this a little easier to understand, and less boring, I’ll tell you a little story that I learned from therapy school.

In order to listen to people’s problems every day, and not go insane, you have to set some sort of boundaries with your emotions. Sometimes you have to do this on the fly, because you might get a phone call from a family member or something that could throw you off your game. If you have to work with someone in the next few minutes, and you don’t have time to manage your issues at the time, you gotta figure out a way to put those problems aside and help someone.

So I created the Bottle. But its not like your usual bottle…its a special bottle.

See, this bottle allows you to manage the boloney you’re dealing with in a way that encourages you to deal with the problem before you go to sleep. It takes a bit of discipline, but if you do the technique right, it should work for you too.

So without further ado, and so you know what the heck I’m talking about, I’ll share this simple technique with you:

1. Take the issue you’re dealing with and put them in an imaginary bottle. After I wrote that, I think I sound a little crazy, but just humor me for a moment. Whatever it is you’re dealing with in the moment, take that issue and throw it in the bottle. Don’t worry, its not going to stay there too long.

2. Put it on a shelf. You’re putting the issue aside temporarily, with the purpose of going back to it when you don’t have to save the world or something. Visualizing the shelf allows you to recognize that bottling the problem is temporary. Most people skip this step, bottle the problem, and try not to think about it or try to forget it. This doesn’t work, as you need time to process the issue.

3. When you have time, take the bottle down. Take the bottle down off the shelf, open it up, and deal with the issue before it gets buried with all the other nasty stuff you may have buried in your life. If you don’t have the time, make the time to deal with these things before they affect the other areas of your life.

See! Bottling things up isn’t as bad, so long as you take whatever’s in the bottle out, and manage it at a later time. Keeping it bottled up is usually a bad idea, so you have to find time to let the issues out of the bottle.

What do you think? Can you put the issue aside and take the time to manage it? Talk to me people.

Why Are The Holidays Stressful?

So I took a sabatical from the blogging thing to take some well needed rest. From today forward, as long as I can, I will continue with my Monday and Thursday posting schedule. To kick things off, I figure I’d get a handle on one of the most stressul times of the year for most Americans. The holiday season is upon us, and the concept behind the holidays is to take time off and spend it with family, right?

At least that’s what I did, and for the most part, it went pretty good. I also took some time to take it easy and relax, and I think this is lost in the idea of the holiday season. As a result, I think it might be good to ask the question: Why the heck are the holidays stressful?

Well, duh, Jim. Its a no brainer. First, you have the shopping. You have lists from your kids and family members, and you have to go to the store and get those gifts. Not only that, but you also have to get the best price, because money is tight, and you have to make it all count. Let’s not forget the crowds, which, depending on where you go, usually requires you to have some kind of medieval armor on your body to protect you from the shoving masses and their own dreams of cheap gift perfection.

Then there’s the cooking. Holidays always involve food, and heck, someone has to make that too, so that involves more shopping, more money spending, more finding the best deal and more stress. Then the food has to be prepared, which is a job in and of itself.

Thirdly, you have the family gatherings themselves, which, as I mentioned in my last  post, you need a battle plan for. So at the very least there you can be somewhat prepared, but the December holidays always seem to have more punch to them than Thanksgiving.

Between all of these things, you have to maintain a job, go to various school shows, plays and sports, and manage the usual baloney that doesn’t come with the holidays. You also have the weather to contend with, depending on where you live, so that throws an additional monkey wrench into things.

Well what the heck do we do about all this anyway?

Well, here are a few things to manage all this.

1. Shopping: Shopping online is probably one of the easiest and best ways to avoid stores entirely, which means avoiding crowds. My wife and I wanted to go shopping on Black Friday, but we decided that we were going to stay home and shop online instead. Got some great deals and shopped in our jammies. The also allows you to compare prices easier than shopping all over town, and if you can get free shipping, it could very well be time well spent.

2. Cooking: Many hands make light work, so if you can get a team to help you, it can make all the difference.Get your family together and do a family event in preparation for the holidays. Get the kids in the kitchen and bribe them with a trip to the mall or something to get them to help you make cookies. The more you plan in advance the less you’ll have to do last minute.

3. Family Stress: Family can be annoying depending on the setting. The key is to keep it light and fun! Find yourself a game to bring with you to distract from the discussions about politics or religion. Bring some classic Christmas movies over like White Christmas (one of my personal favorites), or Miracle on 34th Street. Have a plan ready for how you’re going to handle your family so that when the time comes, you’re ready for any concerns you have.

All of these issues that come with the holiday season have things you can change, and things you can’t. The things you can change are what you do in preparation for all this, and how you spend your time. The things you can’t change, like the crowds, prices, and family members, will always be there, but how you interact with all of these things is up to you.

Decide to have a “Happy” Holiday, and you will have one. Don’t just wish it, want it!