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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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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!

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. 

 

What Is Your Integrity Worth?

 Roman-Polanski-001

So a guy who makes all kinds of great movies has apparently been arrested for a sex offense he committed 32 years ago. What’s worse is that Hollywood rallying behind this guy, as if his art somehow absolves him of all blame. They (and by they I mean Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch) apparently feel like he’s “suffered enough” feel as though he shouldn’t be prosecuted for this anymore, simply because too much time has passed, and it just doesn’t matter anymore.

So basically what these people are saying, is that if you orally, anally and vaginally date rape a 13-year old, just hang out for a few decades, and, as long as you’re famous, you won’t have to take the rap for the crime.

Does anyone else find this to be horribly disturbing? As if the trauma experienced by his victim (who by the way, just wants to move on with her life…quite frankly I don’t blame her), just doesn’t matter anymore.

So my big beef is this: What is with our culture giving a pass to famous people, simply because they’re famous?

For example, if I were this guy, I would have been arrested 31 years ago or less. Why? Because I’m just some nobody somewhere, with no money or film history to speak of. I would be treated like every other nobody out there, because that’s the way it works for poor nobodys with no money or fame.

And this goes back to the word “Should.” Wealthy, famous and privilaged people should not be allowed to get away with crimes that would otherwise ruin anyone else’s life. Its the principle of the thing, and quite frankly I’m a little disturbed by the cavalier attitude some have about what this guy has done.

Donald Trump is another fine example of this. How many times has this guy raised an empire, then run it into the ground and filed for bankruptcy. Shortly thereafter, this guy gets another TV show, or someone else is ready to throw money at him, simply because he’s “The Donald.”

Must be nice, and I suppose I could go on a rant about the haves and the have nots, and really make this about class envy.

But I’m not going to do that. After all, there are plenty of people who are willing to do that, and after all, you people are smart enough to figure out that you’re just as outraged about this concept as I am. I’m not going to say anything about this issue that you don’t already know, or haven’t heard somewhere else by someone else.

I will say this: the people who are involved in either the actual crime itself, or are supporters of the criminal, are people who are big directors. BIG directors. These men crank out movies that make millions, and many of which are blockbusters, or at least in Woody Allen’s case, have a huge fan following.

If these men are the ones who are making major motion pictures, what does this say about their integrity?

See, integrity doesn’t sound like its a lot, but its actually a huge part of our core values. Someone’s integrity determines how much you trust that person. By the same token, your integrity, and how much you portray that integrity can determine how much people trust you.

Guys like Polanski can hide behind their achievements and public triumphs, and use their agents and PR people to crush any bad press about them. But you and I, see, all we have is our integrity to go on. No one is going to hide the public from our flaws or mistakes.

I guess my point is, guys like Polanski will always have great achievments to dwarf this failure. If he died, no one would mention his crime..they would talk about what great films he produced and how much of an artist he was (if you don’t believe me, I present Exhibit A: Michael Jackson). You and I, we don’t get that kind of break. That’s OK; that’s just the way the world works, and we have to get over it. Its one of those things you can’t change.

We can, however, make choices every day that speak to our integrity, and the caliber of individuals we can be. We can make choices to be better than who we are right now, and make our own little world a little better as a result. We can make a difference in the lives of those around us with our Actions and Words, as long as those people are open to our influence.

What I’m saying is, don’t get mad at this guy for being a pervert, or at Hollywood for supporting him. Instead, use it as a reminder that you decide every day who you are and who you want to be. They will be judged by their achievements in entertainment. We will be judged by our integrity.

 Frankly, I’ll take integrity any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Boundaries and Fences: A Visual Comparison

MuseumFence

So I was meeting with a client over the course of the last week, and we ended up talking a bit about boundaries and how to apply them to her life. Much of the conversation had to do with how to set boundaries with family members and people she loves, which feels something like trying to spoon out spaghetti sauce with a fork. So we sat there and tried to define what boundaries looked like, and how we could define them a little better.

Now I hate to think that I’m anyone really inspiringly smart. I mean, there are a lot of people out there who know a whole heck of a lot more than me. But every now and then, God throws me a bone and gives me something really cool to share with people. I think this is one of those things.

When you think of boundaries, what comes to mind? Personally, I think of fences and walls. When I think of fences and walls, I think of all different shapes and sizes. If you can visualize those boundaries to look like those fences, it could be easier to set those boundaries with the people who are more likely to step all over them.

The size of the fence involves the size of the boundary. For example, there’s a small, 2 foot high wooden fence outside the parking lot of my office building. It wouldn’t take a whole lot for someone to step over this fence, right? A little effort, and the boundary doesn’t exist anymore. We can look at these boundaries like the ones we set with our significant others. We tell them that these areas are off limits, and based on our involvement with that person, we can hope that they don’t step over those boundaries. Think of them as fences that surround a flower bed, and that if the person you love doesn’t want to step on your flowers, they don’t overstep the boundary (even though they could at any time).

Now, think about fences that are chest high. You could climb over these fences and hop over to the other side, but its likely that the person who put the fence up, doesn’t want you in. The boundaries that look like this are more like clear areas that you don’t want people to overstep, and they can know right up front what the boundary is and why you have it there. So think about what kind of issues those are, and where you would set up a chest-high fence. Boundaries like these could be the punishments you set for your kids, or how long you decide you’re going to think about work after you leave for the day.

 Then there are the 10 foot high brick walls, like the ones you see at most mansions in Newport. These often have tall, spiked iron gates with vertical iron bars to prevent climbing. These boundaries are boundaries that mean business. These boundaries have a “No Trespassing” sign on them, and when you set boundaries like these, those who try to step over them should proceed with caution. Boundaries like this are areas that you don’t want to share with others, like personal details, sexual history, and the political discussions your family have at holiday dinners.

Remember, the things you can change are your boundaries, and these are things that are in your Inside World (the world of stuff you control, or your WATER). What other people do is part of the Outside World (or the world of stuff you can’t control), but telling them your boundaries and sticking to them is you way of taking charge of your life and whether or not you allow others to affect your world.

So what do your boundaries look like? How big are your fences and what do they represent?

Meet Your Needs and Live Your Life

MaslowsNeeds

So I’m sitting with my wife today and we’re talking over coffee about our friends and how they’re doing lately. One of the things we noticed was that women and men seem to see their friends very differently. Not that we need another reason to create a difference between men and women mind you, because heck, there are plenty of ways they’re different to begin with. But we noticed something really funny…

Some women hate successful women, yet some men praise and aspire to be like successful men.

For example, if Woman A is atractive or pretty in some way; if she’s successful or smart, or has some other quality that Woman B doesn’t have, then Woman A is a complete witch, and deserves the scorn and hatred of Woman B.

Whereas if Man A is attractive or successful or has some talent or skill that Man B doesn’t have, Man B seems more inclined to idolize Man A, and aspire to be like him.

I have no evidence to back this up whatsoever. I have tried to find articles or studies to show this strange anomoly between men and women, and I’ve come up with a whole lot of nothing.

However, what’s the point of talking about this? What’s the big deal anyway?

The point is to allow this example to help us understand ourselves. Because if you’re Man or Woman B, you likely need to consider how this affects your life in a very negative way.

Here’s my take on this: Some women feel threatened by other women who have different, better, or other talents than they do. When this happens, they instinctively turn on these women who have other traits, and look to find ways to distance themselves from them. This could also allow for her to not be compared to other women who she percieves as “better than her,” and prevent her from being let down by others in the process.

On the other hand, men tend to do one of two things: they are either really supportive, and out of some form of admiration aspire to be like men who are successful, or they tend to envy them in an unhealthy way, and as a result, might praise them to save face, but may hate them from within.

See, in my opinion, the reason why we react the way we do to other people is because of the way we see ourselves. Abraham Maslow described this as the Hierarcy of Needs. Specifically, these issues tend to be somewhere between the Love/Belonging Needs and the Esteem Needs.

So depending on the needs that you have at the time, could determine how you respond to people who come your way.

But let’s take it a step further! What if you are one of these people? Is it a good idea to continue down this path?

Since this is a combination of Love/Belonging Needs and Esteem Needs, it seems we need to work on those the most. Here are my suggestions:

1. Consider what you’re telling yourself about yourself in relation to others. What is causing you to want what they have? Think about where that’s coming from, and how that’s affecting your Emotions and Actions.

2. Live your own life, not someone else’s. How much time do you spend thinking about what it would be like to live someone else’s life? If you’re spending more than a few minutes, you’re spending too much time in fantasy land. Live your life and enjoy it.

3. What do you really want? Do you want someone else’s life, or a better version of your own? If you want a better version of your own, stop looking to other’s lives as examples, and start looking at how you can change your own life to have what you want.

Granted, this isn’t therapy. Its your life, you do what you want…but consider how your attitude about others  and about your self is affecting how you see yourself, and how its affecting your overall life enjoyment.

What do you think? Has this ever happened to you?

Your Impatience Could Kill You

Remember how I can’t stand big box stores because I allow them to make me sleepy? Well, yesterday I went to one, but this post isn’t about that. Its about what happened on my way over to the store.

See, I parked my car and as I crossed the lanes in the parking lot to get to the door, I saw a truck heading my way. It was going slow, mind you, and stopped for me to cross the road.

So I crossed, but I noticed something about the way I did it. I scurried over to the other side as fast as I could. You know what I realized?

I presumed that the person behind the truck was impatient.

This got me thinking: Are we really this impatient? Have we accepted impatience as part of our culture?

Take a look around you. Everyone everywhere is trying to do things faster. We have faster internet, but even that isn’t fast enough, so we upgrade to the next fastest speed (Wireless G to Wireless N and so on). We want our mobile phone internet to be faster (EDGE to 3G). We want our food to be brought to us within a certain amount of time, because waiting too long for food is unacceptable. People get impatient with their children so they yell at them. And traffic, well let’s not go there, shall we?

So what the heck happened? How did we get so caught up on being impatient?

Because somebody somewhere said that time is money. That somebody was Benjamin Franklin.

So from the inception of this great nation, our culture has been told to be impatient.

And you know what? It shows.

Take a look at relationships. People are impatient about sex, so they have it with whoever they’re interested in as soon as they can. They rush into relationships as a result, and pick up the pieces to figure out how to work through the relationship after they’ve already moved physically into an act that can both give life and death simultaneously.

Yes that’s right, sex can kill you. Oh, the odds are probably in your favor, maybe. You could get an STD, but hey, that’s not going to happen to you, right? You’re smarter than that.

It can also give life. Children are created by “accident” all the time. But hey, don’t let me tell you how to run your life. You already know how to do that, don’t you?

So people impatiently get into relationships, and then when things don’t work out so well, they impatiently get out.

You see, we as a culture expect things to go quickly and correctly the first time. How can things go well when you rush into them without thinking about them and taking your time to figure things out?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people have realized that life is too short and that its best to be as efficient as possible in order to get the most out of it.

Maybe, or maybe we’re just selfish.

So what, Jim? Another rant? Fabulous.

Here’s my point: Sit down and think about your life. Think about the time you waste watching other people’s lives on TV, and then speed your way to work to get there on time. Think about how you’re using your time, and if stressing out about being impatient is really worth it to you.

To quote Larry Winget from Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life (this is me paraphrasing), “Losers speed. Winners make enough time to get there without having to rush.”

What I’m trying to say is, being impatient gains you nothing. Stuff takes time. Deal with it. Its in the Outside World; stuff you can’t control. What you can control is how you spend your time, which is part of your WATER. If you’re sitting in traffic honking your horn at people because they don’t go the millisecond the light turns green, then you’re not controlling your time well enough. Or you’re making bad choices about your time.

Oh, and by the way, impatience leads to health risks like Hypertension and High Blood Pressure according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Apparently Hypertension is a big factor in heart disease, kidney disease, and heart failure.

So yeah, impatience can kill you.

If things aren’t going fast enough for you, then maybe you need to slow down to appreciate life and recognize where you are right now.

To quote Ferris Bueler: “Life Moves Pretty Fast. If You Don’t Stop and Look Around Once in a While, You Could Miss It.”

Am I wrong? Talk to me people.