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    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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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!

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Battle Plan For Holiday Stress

The holidays are coming, and for some of us, that means a lot of fun with family we haven’t seen in a while. It means spending time and sharing stories and eating food til we burst. 

But for some of us, that means a lot of stress and frustration around spending time with people that we may not like, and for some of us, really secretly despise.  I’ve realized that I haven’t put up something about holiday stress on this thing, so I figure now is as good a time as any. After all, if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to get through the upcoming Thanksgiving, and forthcoming Christmas insanity.

Well, that’s what I’m here for. So let’s focus on the usual issues that people have to deal with over the holidays, shall we? Mostly this involves interacting with your family, right? You know what I’m talking about: Overbearing parents; aunts and uncles that make stupid comments about what you should and should be doing; grandparents that pinch your cheeks; and that one relative that always says insensitive things about your life and no one has the stones to say anything to them about it.

So what do you do about all this insanity? It can be really overhwelming even thinking about dealing with all these personalities in one room, not to mention adding in there all the food and drink that goes along with it.

Well, the good news is that large amounts of family only come to these events once in a blue moon. So at the very least you can deal with them in small doses. However, if things get especially stressful around these times, we need to have a battle plan in place.

OK, so here’s the Battle Plan. Simple, but Powerful.

1. Set Boundaries. If there are issues that are off limits, be very clear to your family that these issues are off limits. You can do this very calmly, and matter of factly. If you’re worried about what others will think about your boundary setting, remember that you are not in control of other people’s Emotions, but you are in control of how others treat you.

2. Manage the stress appropriately. The last thing you want on your holiday is a big argument about something foolish and ridiculous. So find ways to take a break throughout the day. Find little breaks in the action to relieve some of the stress. If you have to, put the stress aside for the moment, manage the situation at hand, and after the family leaves, do something to relax at the end of your day.

3. Remember that you can change your Emotions, not other people’s. Decide what you want to feel and be prepared for the usual barrage of nonsense that comes from some of these family members. Also, allow other people to feel whatever they want to, and separate yourself from their feelings. Pretend there’s a bubble around you, and that’s where everyone else’s Emotions stop and your Emotions begin. By setting that boundary with yourself and others, you can then keep your Emotions in check without allowing anyone elses Emotions to affect you.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen family get togethers go wrong. The key is whether or not you’re going to let it get to you.

The Known and the Unknown

My approach to problems is very simple, as you probably know from reading this blog. Still, life gets complicated, and sometimes we tend to make our problems out to be more than what they actually could be.

One of my clients told me a story about a person who annoyed her a lot. It seemed everything about this person was annoying: clothing, hair, what this person said and did….all of it seemed to frustrate my client to no end.

We thought about how to handle this person. After all, other people’s WATER is all stuff we can’t change, right?

Then, as it tends to happen, we came to a remarkable conclusion.

What makes this annoying person any different than anyone else?

Moreover, we thought about all the people in the world, and all the information in the world, and how we really don’t care about it, because we don’t know a lot of it; those people and that information is meaningless to us.

So how could we put the annoying person’s WATER into the realm of the Unknown? How could we make that person’s WATER meaningless?

It then seemed clear that all we had to do was make that choice in our minds, that the annoying person’s WATER was meaningless, and it removed all the power that person had from the client’s life.

Anywho, I figured I would share this story to help you with stuff that annoys you. Maybe you need to put some of that stuff from the Known into the Unknown meaningless sea of information that has no bearing on your life. Couldn’t hurt, right?

The Nothing Box

nothingbox

I’ve often said that if a woman can multi-task, she’s normal, but if a guy can multi-task, he’s got ADHD. I am about to introduce you to a very strange and magical place that men frequent often, but women may be unaware of. I’ve run into a lot of clients and friends who go to this magical place, and one of my clients finally put a name to it, which I thought was pretty clever.

Its called the Nothing Box.

Now what is the Nothing Box? Its a place where men go when there is absolutely nothing going on inside their head. Jerry Seinfeld once said, “Wanna know what men are thinking about? Nothing. We’re just walkin’ around….lookin’ around.” This happens more often than we men would like to think, or even admit. At times, the Nothing Box serves as a valuable tool to focus on the task at hand.

Now how do I know that this Nothing Box even exists? Well for starters, I go there often. One of the more common places I go to my Nothing Box is when I’m driving. All I’m doing is focusing on driving, and that’s basically it. When my wife is with me, sometimes she’ll ask me, “What are you thinking about?” To that I respond, “Nothing.” I wish I were kidding, but that really is the case.

I’ve worked with clients that will go to their Nothing Box as long as they are focusing on a task that requires concentration. These same men will ignore their wives for sex, insensitive to their wives, and have ignored small innuendo during conversation because too many people are talking.

So how do you avoid the Nothing Box? Here are a few tips:

1. Be aware of the outside world. Don’t be so drawn into what you’re doing that the rest of the world doesn’t shake you from your concentration.

2. There’s a time and a place for your Nothing Box. Don’t go there all the time, just certain times when you don’t have to be conscious of others needs or Emotions.

3. Increase your capacity for awareness. Sometimes you don’t recognize that you’re in your Nothing Box until you’re already there. Use your Thoughts to consider when and where you are most likely to go to your Nothing Box, and decide whether or not you want to go there.

For you ladies, there’s some stuff here too:

1. Realize that your man may vey well have a penchant for the Nothing Box. Cut him some slack if he’s decided to be there. Its not because he’s not thinking about what’s important, it may just be that he’s a guy and can focus on only one thing at a time.

2. Educate your man about his Nothing Box. He may not even know he’s going there. Kindly letting him in to what he’s doing could help you understand each other better.

3. Give your man some time to be in the Nothing Box. He’s got to be there sometime, so give him a chance to be there. Talk about when might be a good time for him to go there, so that it doesn’t get in the way of stuff you need to do.

So let me ask you this: Have you ever gone to your Nothing Box? Ladies, do you have a story about your man and his Nothing Box? I’d love to hear it!

P.S. – This isn’t a new concept. Cindy Holman talked about it here, as well as Robb Lewis, and Carolyn McCulley. Check out their stuff on this topic and enhance the discussion.

Change the Scene, Change The Ending

If you’ve ever called yourself an idiot (like me), then you’ve probably kicked yourself for doing something stupid. More often than not, its probably not the first time that you’ve done it either. Why is this the case? Because humans are creatures of habit. This is nothing new really, but sometimes I wonder if we take the time to think about our habits.

Better yet, we probably don’t think about them in a way that changes our behavior. Well, that’s what this post is here to change.

Ever watch a movie that has a scary moment in it? I’ll admit I haven’t seen very many, mostly because I think horror movies are a waste of oxygen. Be that as it may, if you’ve ever seen something startling in a film, it probably had that desired effect the first time you saw it.

Meaning, see it once, get scared. See it again, and yawn.

Why did this happen? At first, you were scared out of your wits (for me, this was Bilbo trying to grab the ring from Frodo in Lord of the Rings). After the first time though, well, that’s just crazy old Bilbo grabbing the ring again.

You’ve seen it before, so the effect is lost.

But what if we looked at our Actions this way? Or our Thoughts? If we could recognize that anything we want to change has been done before, and that we’ve seen it play out in our lives over and over again, then we can change that scene and make it better. I mean, why have a sucky ending to your life? Make the scene and thus the behavior what you want it to be.

How do you do that? Here’s the breakdown.

1. Take a look at your negative habitual Actions, Thoughts or Words.

2. Look at the triggers that happen before those Words, Actions or Thougts.

3. Once you’ve set the “scene” you know when its coming. You’ve seen it before, so you know what’s going to happen.

4. Decide how you want your future to turn out, i.e. How you want to change things, and make an effort to change your future.

If you think about how you want your future to go, and how its been acted out in the past, you can change the scene by implementing a new script. The key is recognizing what happens before the problem issue, remembering how this event has happened before, and then deciding how you want the event to turn out in the future.

Do this enough times, and you can change your habits.

Simple and Powerful

I’ve recently realized that in the process of blogging, I’ve had to revisit the purpose and title of said blog. One of the things that hit me was that everyone manages stress differently, and some of you may not even have an effective way to manage your stressors.

So as a result, I’ve decided to throw a few stress management pointers out there. This may seem a bit redundant, but if you don’t know what you need to do to relax, stress can seem overwhelming at times. So here’s some basic stuff that has worked for me and for the awesome people u’ve worked with.

1. Take Deep Breaths. This sounds so lame, and yet its probably the most powerful technique you could use. By taking a moment to put the stressor out of your mind and take some deep breaths, and I’m talkin’ really deep here, you tell your body to be at a state of relaxation. Your body can’t be stressed an relaxed at the same time. By breathing deeply you give your heart the oxygen it needs to slow down your heart rate. This can reduce your chances of an Anxiety Attack.

2. Exercise. This is yet another no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people know this, and make excuses as to why they can’t or won’t exercise. 5-15 minutes of exercise can help with both anxiety an depression, and more than that its natural.

3. Find a Creative Hobby. Doing something creative, social and constructive can have some really positive effects on you. I had one client who picked up a creative hobby, and as a result, gained not only relaxation, but assertiveness as well. Getting you thinking in a creative way can not only distract you away from the stress inducing problem, but it can also get you problem solving as well.

Those are just 3 of many ways you can manage stress in a positive way. They seem simple, but Tony Robbins once said that the definition of profound knowledge is knowledge that is simple and yet powerful. You probably know that these can help, but maybe you haven’t applied them before. What about you? Do you have something better or different?

The Trust Equation

e=mc2

I was going to sit here and blog about death and how Halloween takes death and turns it into something we fear or something that we joke about. I was going to go off on a rant about how horror movies are bad mkay, and that we are trained by society to fear death.

Then I thought about it, and thought, that’s just no fun at all.

So I decided to share an equation that came to me in session one day. The simple equation below.

Trust=FactsOverTime

Let me explain this equation a bit further. See, I work with a lot of couples, and some of them have to work through issues of infidelity, lying and other acts of mistrust. As a result, many of them come into my office looking for a way to rebuild the trust that has been lost.

So this is what I offer them. You can not have Trust without Facts, and you can’t have Trust without seeing those facts for a period of Time.

Well, this is all well and good, but how can I apply this to my own life?

Well its not just as simple as that, is it? There are certain Facts that need to be understood in order for Trust to exist. What kind of Facts are we looking for? The kind that is necessary to ease the emotional distress of the other person. And not just any amount of Time will do, but we have to get specific about the amount of Time that must occur in order to regain this Trust.

Let’s make this simple, because I tend to make things more complicated than they actually are.

1. Decide that you want to rebuild the trust between you and the person who broke your trust. You have to decide whether or not you want to rebuild the Trust. This is where it has to start if you’re going to rebuild any trusting relationship.

2. Decide what you can trust this person with, and what you can’t. This separation has the WATER Method all over it. What you can and can’t change and what you can and can’t trust someone with are much in the same. The only difference is that with Trust, you can make a change in what you can’t trust someone with.

3. Give this person measurable goals with which they can rebuild your trust. Decide what you are willing to trade in return for your trust. Take in this process, and really think about what is worth trading for…what Facts and for how long do they need to exist before you feel comfortable trusting this person.

4. Decide to give back that trust. Make sure you make this decision, because if you don’t, you may find yourself wondering why this person is so bitter. I mean, you just made them jump through these flaming hoops, you have to make sure you keep up your end of the bargain.

So there you have it. Einstein had E=MC2, Newton had his laws of physics, Freud had his theories. Maybe this isn’t as amazing, but hey, its helped some people Maybe it will help you.