Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Keeping Our Relationships Out of the Toilet When the Economy Tanks

What do we do when the economy is causing our partner to go through difficult times? How can we be supportive? How can we use these times to promote trust and intimacy in our relationship?

The economy is in a downward spiral causing increased pressure at most companies. The amount of incoming work has decreased as customers tighten their belts and brace for tough times ahead. This creates tension in employees as they worry if their jobs are on the line. Since many of us view ourselves largely through our success at work, this increased stress can impact our relationships both at the office and at home.

Our partner may have significant feelings of helplessness during times such as these. Being a family member and part of the team of providers in a home, creates responsibilities that are taken seriously by both partners. Particularly for men, for whom work may be a major part of their identity, feeling powerless to stave off an impending loss of income may be extremely distressing. Women's identities are also attached to their careers, however, a significant portion of their view of themselves may come from their home lives, where they care for their families.

In either situation, being supportive of a partner is distress is an extremely important part of relationships. We enter into a relationship with the hope that we have found a partner in life. Someone who will stand by us in times of joy and in challenging times. We hope that we can count on our partner to be understanding and compassionate when disaster strikes.

How do we accomplish this task? It is our responsibility in our relationship to view our partner as a whole person. Someone who, like us, has issues and problems. When we accept that each of us is human and may suffer during difficult times, we can be empathetic. Stress created during economic downturns is likely not the fault of any family member. We can offer a sympathetic ear, lighten the mood with humor, try to plan inexpensive fun activities and make the best of our time together.

If our partner's suffering begins to impact the relationship a discussion may be in order. We cannot allow walls to be built during times of stress when partners need each other's support the most. We must take the inititative and reach out to open lines of communication. Listening attentively while a partner airs their concerns, offering support and asking pertinent questions to encourage further exploration of feelings are all ways of increasing connection and decreasing tension and frustration. Some partners may need additional time with hobbies for relaxation and reflection.

If partners cannot bridge the tension a session with a relationship counselor may be of help. Often times partners are stuck in a myopic view and merely need a disinterested third party to show them a new way of viewing their situation. Taking action to protect the relationship is vital. Building bridges, not walls, is the goal in healthy relationships.

These difficult economic times will eventually pass. Once the markets have grown through the challenges and customers have regained their confidence in spending, tensions at work will ease. In the interim we use our tools, practice self care, support our partner and protect our relationships through open communication.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Confusion Meta-Communication and Mixed Messages

What does the term meta-communication mean? How do meta-messages effect our ability to decipher the information we receive?

Meta is a term from the Greek meaning with, or underneath. In meta-communication, we refer to the additional cues that accompany verbalization in the form of body language, facial expressions and sounds. When we are irritated with our partner we may roll our eyes, sigh, slam doors, tap our foot or purse our lips. When we are pleased with our partner we may smile, leave our arms open or hug. These are all obvious forms of meta-communication. They send meta-messages that speak volumes about our emotions.

In our daily lives we read meta-communication constantly. It comes at us at a furious pace. Most meta-communication is absorbed on a sub conscious level without our ever realizing it. We consciously acknowledge our partner's pleasure in seeing us when they smile upon our arrival, but the additional signals we absorb tell us much more than pleasure. We can sense other emotions as well from their stance, hand use, eye contact, facial expressions and other body language.

When we talk with someone we receive a continuous flow of signals from them regarding how they feel about what they are saying. There are times when we sense that the meta-messages we receive clash with what we are being told. We call these mixed messages. We may be hearing one thing, but our partner's underlying emotions are sending their own meta-messages. Since the two disagree we feel peculiar about what we experience. We might not be able to verbalize what we feel, but something just isn't right. We feel the difference between the verbal communication and the meta-communication and label it a gut feeling.

The way we interpret meta-messages varies based on our own view. Since we are left without direct verbalization, we fill in the blanks ourselves. This creates even more confusion. If we have unresolved issues they can effect what we believe regarding this dichotomy.

An example: One partner decides to visit an auto supply store on the way home from the office in order to pick up parts for the car. Fixing up the car is a hobby enjoyed during free time. When the usual time has passed without a call informing of a late arrival, a worried partner begins to assume that something has gone awry. Thoughts swirl around events from past relationships. Tensions mount. When the two are finally together, accusations fly. One accuses the other of being inconsiderate and not calling to advise of a late arrival. The other accuses of being unable to have time to pursue hobbies and interests. Neither of the partners are revealing the underlying truth.

One partner has fears associated with past relationships where monogamy was not reciprocated. The other has fears associated with a controlling parent who didn't permit free time and expected adult levels of responsibility during childhood. The meta-messages clarify what is not being said in the conversation. One partner could have called on the way from the office to advise of a late arrival. Due to fears of being controlled and not permitted time to pursue hobbies as a child, the call was not made. The other partner made assumptions about behavior based on past wounds that were not applicable to the current relationship.

This argument might have been averted if the underlying truth had been spoken by both parties. Instead of angry accusing words regarding inconsiderate time use, shared fears related to past wounds might have allowed an offer of comfort and reassurance. Instead of justifications regarding behavior meant to avoid being controlled, open discussion might have produced a chance for a realization that hobbies and interests were actually supported.

The meta-communication reveals that these two partners are verbalizing only part of their needs. The underlying messages which effect their thinking patterns are sent in non-verbal ways: angry looks, distancing behaviors, curt responses, tense voices, slammed doors and distrustful glances. Both partners feel the dichotomy in their tensed gut.

Meta-communication allows us to experience the underlying message that may not be shared. We learn to trust our gut feelings realizing that we and our partners are not always aware of the motivation behind our actions. We can increase our understanding of our partner through this realization. As we continue to use our tools for self care in our daily lives, we increase our awareness of our own communication and the meta-messages we send and receive. As we practice self care we increase our self esteem. In this way we give ourselves the gift of effective communication.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Is It Already Too Late to Save Ourselves?

Yesterday was April 26th. It was sunny and about 85 degrees outside in New York City. Although we all enjoyed the early summer day it was worrisome. Today was the warmest day on record. Watching a science briefing on the results of the recent arctic studies cemented the concerns.

The sea ice in the arctic is melting faster than the scientific models have predicted. There is new evidence that we could see a complete melting of sea ice in the summer months only about five years from now. The melting of the sea ice would cause the earth's Arctic Ocean to heat up faster, as ice reflects the sun's rays back into space like a mirror whereas the oceans absorb heat. That would warm the arctic region releasing vast amounts of methane trapped in the currently frozen permafrost. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a much greater capacity for heat retention than carbon dioxide. This could heat up our planet to uninhabitable levels in some areas.

The Greenland ice sheet is the largest fresh water reserve in the world, next to Antarctica. It is currently melting faster than scientific models have predicted as well. The melting of this glacial area could cause a substantial rise in the water level of the earths oceans leaving coastal areas permanently under water. The estimated rise in the water table of earth's oceans has been estimated to be as much as twenty feet.

Additionally, adding that much fresh water could cause a dilution in the salinity of the seas, slowing or stopping the North Atlantic Current. This current is responsible for bringing warm sea water from the southern Atlantic Ocean up through Nova Scotia and across to Europe where it ultimately cools and returns to the southern seas. Without this pattern, the southern seas would become warmer and warmer. This current is responsible for the moderate temperatures that North America and Europe currently enjoy. Without those moderating currents, the Northern hemisphere would be substantially colder than it is now.

The increase in the temperature of the southern seas, due to the cessation of the North Atlantic Current, would spawn more super storms all over the world (eg: hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike). We could have arid areas experiencing extreme water shortages as well as other areas that suffer massive flooding. Permanently flooded coastal areas could resettle large populations inland causing additional drains on already scarce resources.

There are viable solutions to address the increased carbon dioxide dilemma. We have the technology to produce enough power from renewable energy sources right now. We need funding from government and private industry to create a cleaner future. It is time for corporate greed to be replace by the vision of a habitable planet for our children and grandchildren. We must act within the very near future to save humanity from the devastation that may follow further increases in greenhouse gas levels. It will not matter to our children that they have a balanced budget if they don't have a planet upon which they can live. We must invest in clean energy and solve this crisis before it is too late.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What is Caretaking Anyway? Isn't it Taking Care of Those We Love?

Why does caretaking cause problems in our relationships? What exactly is the difference between caretaking and taking care of our partner?

There are times in every relationship when we do activities or chores for another as part of our loving behavior. We may occasionally take out the garbage late at night after our partner has gone to sleep, although it is not our chore. We may stop at the hardware store and pick up that new window glass to save our partner the trip, if we are in the area and have extra time. These type of acts are typical behaviors of people in healthy relationships.

Then there are the other times. Times when we do for others what they can and should be doing for themselves. We are ready for bed. Our partner calls to us from the laundry room that there are no clean uniforms available for the next morning. While our partner goes off to sleep we get up and put in a wash of uniforms. We too have to get up for work in the morning. We feel angry and resentful that we have to compensate for their forgetfulness in not taking care of their laundry. We complain to our partner that they are inconsiderate and irresponsible in leaving the wash for the last minute. An argument ensues. We are caretaking.

The hallmark emotion that alerts us to the difference between caretaking and taking care is anger and resentment. When we are busy doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves, we have an unspoken agenda. We may call it help, but it really is a form of control. Instead of letting outcomes unfold naturally, we are actively manipulating outcomes to serve our own needs. If our partner had not opted to get up and put in a wash, they might have worn a dirty pair to work the following day. Had we allowed our partner to take responsibility for their own uniforms, we would not have felt angry and resentful, and an argument may have been averted.

When we caretake we create an atmosphere where others feel treated as if they are incompetent. This underlying feeling of incompetence may accurately reflect some of our thoughts. Caretaking and controlling sets up a peculiar energy that others may feel. Our resentment may create tension and anxiety. Our partners irritation with our caretaking and ensuing attitude may also be palpable. We send out mixed messages. Our actions may indicate willingness, but our emotions say otherwise. This dichotomy creates confusion causing effective communication to break down.

When we practice self care we avoid the trap that caretaking creates. We decide whether we wish to comply with requests. If we agree, we do so free of expectations. We are not seeking control, but rather doing what we have been asked out of love. This changes how we experience our choices. We can relax and feel good about ourselves. We can take care of those we love without sacrificing our own self esteem in the process. We can learn to say no when we feel the need. We will come to understand that when we let go and allow others to take care of themselves, they will pick up the slack and make our lives more pleasant. We use our tools to guide us through the maze of requests. In this way we practice self care and increase our self esteem.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Are You Being Emotionally Abused? Is Your Partner Cruel?

Why are some people cruel? What happens inside to transform someone from being an average person to one who hurts others? Are cruel people aware of how they appear from the outside?

There are times when each of us has moments of cruelty. It is part of the human dynamic. But there are some folks who seem to live in that dynamic often. How do we cope if that person is our partner? What do we do to take care of ourselves in that situation? When we are involved in a relationship we see all facets our partner. Some parts of their persona may be warm, passionate, empathetic, understanding and joyful. These are the parts that lead us to love. There may be other portions of their persona that are less positive.

When we are involved with someone who is cruel important decisions lie ahead. Cruelty is emotional abuse. We have much to consider when living with an emotional abuser. Can the cruelty be stemmed? Is the cruel partner willing to change their behavior? Are we willing to set effective boundaries to protect ourselves from further harm? Are we at risk? These questions are vital if we are to practice self care.

A note: If we are at risk for physical injury we must take action to protect ourselves and others for whom we are responsible. Seeking help is imperative and must be undertaken immediately. There are 24 hour hotlines in every area dedicated to prevention of abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE or on line at

Cruelty happens when we are wounded. When an event or series of events in our past creates extreme emotional pain, it injures us in a way that creates fear and shame. We may be afraid that we will re-experience the trauma that wounded us. Our defense mechanisms work to protect us from this outcome. We may feel great shame surrounding the incident or series of incidents. Our defenses work to keep the shame a secret from ourselves and others. Keeping up the defenses we adopt due to fear and shame, robs us of the energy we could be using to enjoy our lives. Living in denial is exhausting. When we have locked ourselves out from experiencing our emotions we may escape pain, but feeling numb keeps us from experiencing the joy of being alive.

When we feel threatened we may respond with our defenses. If we feel fear we may exhibit an exaggerated response in the form of rejection and hostility. Our defenses are attempting to protect us from harm by pushing away the threat. We may appear disrespectful and demeaning to others, particularly to the person posing the threat. What happens when the threat is intimacy? When our fears surround intimacy our partner becomes the source of the threat. Their attempts to facilitate closeness and connection may trigger our fear. We may react subconsciously without even realizing that we are behaving cruelly. Our partner may feel disrespected and demeaned finding our actions confusing. We may be sending mixed messages, saying that we desire closeness and intimacy, but behaving in ways that push our partner away.

Shame may cause us to react to a perceived threat with hostility and rage. We are reminded of the secret we hide from ourselves and others. The pain of remembering is excruciating. We may react to re-experiencing the trauma of the original shaming event or series of events with an array of negative emotions. Our core is threatened and our defenses arrive to protect us from further harm. We react with cruelty. We may spew venomous sarcasm or caustic remarks. We may shut down completely refusing to engage on any level. We may collapse into tears and recriminations.

When fear surfaces we have tools available to help us respond rather than react. We can choose to allow ourselves to feel the fear. We remind ourselves that this too shall pass. Once we let ourselves experience the full impact of the emotion, we learn that feelings are not permanent.
They are like a wave crashing on a beach. The wave approaches getting larger and more threatening. It finally crashes on the sand, then dribbles away back into the ocean. Feelings also come in waves. They arrive, build, may overwhelm for a few moments (crash), then in an environment of self care they dissipate.

Shame arrives through the back door. We may not be aware when we are feeling shamed. We may only feel our defenses stirring up hostility and rage. The best method of handling shame is to openly discuss the original incident or incidents in a safe environment, such as a support group or counseling session. There we can explore our emotions and the feelings they engender. We may be having issues with anger or hostility in our relationships. These symptoms may indicate that we have unresolved shame issues. When we fail to deal with our issues in a way that encourages personal growth, our shame leaks out in the form of venomous attacks on those with whom we are closest.

The long term damage that cruelty causes cannot be underestimated. Eventually the partner subjected to these extreme forms of anger may collapse emotionally. This may lead to a variety of endings, none of which are positive. The abused partner may decide to leave the relationship, or opt for emotional withdrawal. Some partners choose to find fulfillment outside the relationship. The wounds of the past can be healed and cruel behavior patterns can end. The answer is help and self care. Learning to practice our tools can lessen the pain of the past while increasing our self esteem. As we feel better about ourselves and our behavior we are more able to practice self control and esteem building activities.

We must first face ourselves with honesty. We begin by taking responsibility for our actions. Our next step is to seek support and guidance. This is a journey that we cannot undertake alone. As we learn to take care of ourselves and recognize when we are feeling fear and shame we increase our self esteem. We use our tools to practice self care and give those we love the respect and compassion they deserve. In this way we give ourselves the gift of growth.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shock & Awe... American Terrorism and Torture

Over the past weeks I have been listening to the information about TORTURE committed at the hand of Americans... I have been feeling the shame that comes with knowing that the government of MY country... the ones who talked about how much better America was than the rest of the world... the ones who said that the terrorists were animals... just allowed ME to feel that I am part of that animal world... that MY country is now a part of the group of THEM... the one's who perpetrate inhumane behavior... simulated drowning... putting people in small boxes with rodents or insects... forced nakedness... extreme heat or cold... being hung by chains from the ceiling... forced to stay awake for days on end... sensory deprivation for days followed by sensory overload... repeated beatings... and more...

What kind of human beings believe that this type of behavior is acceptable in ANY situation? Why would anyone ever choose to perpetrate these crimes against humanity repeatedly in the name of freedom? What kind of freedom is America selling anyway? Shock and Awe!! Disaster Capitalism!!

I have been an American my whole life. I recall traveling abroad as a young teen and feeling proud of my heritage. I remember the pride I experienced when young people in Europe looked upon my citizenship with a mixture of envy and curiosity. Much has changed in the forty years since I was a teen.

America has become a country of arrogance where the term democracy has been replaced by corporate greed and congressional lobbyists. Now when I travel outside America I feel the hesitance of foreigners who wonder if I too am an arrogant American. The eager hand of friendship I once enjoyed during my travels is gone. It has been replaced by the cold shoulder. Can I blame people for feeling this way? They don't really know me, they only know the politics of the most recent American government and the arrogance displayed in it's policies.

I feel a great loss. I was once proud to be an American. I now hesitate. I would like to be proud once again, but that would take humility on the part of my government to admit that the policies of the recent administration were a massive mistake. The arrogance that was displayed was a huge error. Allowing ourselves to think that somehow America knew best and that our government had the right to impose our way of thinking on other peoples. I am doubtful that this level of humility is actually possible. I would like to believe that the current administration has the capacity to reach out to heal the giant rift created over the past years of divisive policies.

I don't know if other countries leaders are willing to trust America again. We have betrayed their trust. Instead of being part of the solution, we became the problem. We might have printed on our money... In Greed We Trust... it would have been largely the truth. I hope with all my heart that this horrendous mistake can be corrected. Those who have perpetrated it must be permitted to feel the full responsibility for their crimes against humanity.

It must not be said that America is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. We must punish those who have tarnished the face of the Statue of Liberty. We must cleanse ourselves of these horrific criminal activities and purify our nation once again. If we are to be the light of the world, we must walk the talk.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

That's How You See Me? That's Not How I See Myself!!

How do we appear to our partner when we are upset and angry? When we feel like the victim, what do others see in our response?

We cannot underestimate the importance of the message we intend vis a vis the message received when we communicate with others. How we feel on the inside is clearly different from what we project on the outside. When we feel victimized on the inside we may seem
abrasive and hostile on the outside. We may be feeling self rightous on the inside as regards the areas where we feel like the victim, but what we project seems defensive and rejecting toward others.

This disparity between how we perceive ourselves and how others see us may be one of the causes of negative responses when we try to communicate dissatisfaction within our relationship. We may have legitimate areas which require discussion and compromise, but if our communication is laced with negative emotion, our real message may get buried under all the unspoken hostility.

Those who see themselves as victims tend to feel hostile and angry. It is difficult to communicate effectively when our anger is leaking out during conversation. Our partner senses the unspoken issues and without any guidelines may fill in the blanks with their own misinformation. This can lead to serious misunderstandings making communication even more difficult.

The communication style known as dialoging is an important tool for avoiding some of the pitfalls in relational conversation. In dialoging partners reflect back both the spoken and unspoken messages that have been received during conversation. Rather than repeating the words back, partners interpret the spoken messages as well as the body language and emotions sensed. This type of communication gives partners the opportunity to really listen to one another. They are feeling heard, yet more importantly, understood and validated. There is a vast difference between parroting the words said and reflecting the entire meaning within a communication.

Realizing that we are not as we see ourselves is an important first step in learning effective communication skills. Our intentions have no meaning to others. They cannot sense what we mean, only what we say and project through body language. When we are aware of this disparity, we can make every effort to be as honest and open as possible in our conversation to attempt to avoid miscommunication and mixed messages.

We practice using our tools in our daily lives to enable us to put feeling words to our emotions. This part of self care allows us to process our emotions. In doing so, we become increasingly aware of how we feel and may appear to others. As we use our tools we increase our self esteem and give ourselves the gift of effective communication.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Are There Sooo Many Lessons!!!

There are times when we all wish we could hit Ctrl - Alt -Del and reboot ourselves. Would it be useful to be able to wipe out our memory of painful past events? There are times when we might wish for the ability to delete portions of our past. Part of the recovery process is accepting that all of our past has combined to make us the person we are becoming. We cannot yet know the outcome of our combined experiences. Like the tree that has lost its shape, we may need pruning to regain our inner beauty.

Each of our experiences, whether pleasant or otherwise has been purposeful. It has presented a lesson to us. Whether we choose to learn the lesson is up to us. Lessons that we need are presented to us repeatedly until we acknowledge and learn from them. Many times we may ask why a particular situation seems to occur again and again in our lives. We are being presented with a lesson that is important for our growth and balance as healthy persons. It is acceptable for us to lose, just don't let us lose the lesson.

As we grow in our recovery and study our past we may notice a pattern emerging. An example of what might happen: a moderately uncomfortable lesson may be presented to us early in our lives. We are unaware and miss the point of the lesson. The next time that same lesson presents itself, it is more difficult. We struggle against the path placed before us and again miss the teachings of the lesson. A third time the lesson is revealed. This time the pain demands our attention. We can no longer ignore the point of the lesson.

Early in our lives we may not have had the tools to identify and learn from the lessons we faced. If we lived in a dysfunctional environment we may not have had examples from our caretakers regarding challenges and how to learn from the lessons they teach. We can forgive ourselves for missing our earliest lessons.

As we become aware of our path and notice the subtle lessons presenting themselves, we can choose early on to accept the teachings. If we are diligent in pursuing our lessons, we may avoid some of the more painful experiences that may come from ignoring the challenges along our path. Life is a series of lessons to be learned as we progress along our path of recovery. This is what creates wisdom. As we gather wisdom it is our choice to integrate what we have learned into our self image. The more adept we become at learning our lessons the greater our self esteem.

As we walk the path set before us we practice forgiveness toward ourselves and others for the lessons missed. We can relax and trust in our higher power knowing that those teachings that are necessary for our continued growth will be repeated.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Disliked You The Way You Were, Don't Change!!

What happens in our relationship when we begin our recovery journey? How does our partner respond? These questions often arise when we begin our journey into recovery.

As we adopt a plan to overcome the wounds of the past, we begin to use our newly acquired tools for self care. We may find that we are experiencing new difficulties in our relationship. At first this may seem odd, but when we examine how our new habits effect our daily lives, we can begin to understand the impact on our partner.

We may have had issues that surfaced in much the same ways throughout our relationship. This has become a predictable behavior pattern. When we make changes to our behavior through using our tools, we initially become less predictable. Although this is positive change for both us and our partner in the long view, in the short term the change creates feelings of discomfort. Most of us resist change. We may be unhappy with certain behavior patterns in ourselves or our partner, but we are comfortable within those patterns.

One of the common patterns that surfaces in relationships is caretaking. This occurs when we do for others what they can and should be doing for themselves. We may believe that we are helping, but in actuality we are using help as a mechanism of control. Instead of letting the situation develop naturally, we are attempting to create the outcome that we desire. This may seem harmless enough, however caretaking sets the stage for our partner to feel incompetent, as our behavior insinuates that they cannot take care of themselves.

Initially as we begin using our tools to practice self care, we may be caretaking less and allowing others to do for themselves. Although caretaking is not healthy for either us or our partner, our partner is accustomed to us being in that role and may resist change. These change back messages are temporary and need to be met with loving detachment. We explain that change may be uncomfortable, but have confidence that we and our partner will make the necessary adjustments in time.

Change back messages can be quite intense as our partner becomes increasingly uncomfortable with our new behaviors. As we continue to practice loving detachment and reassurance, we will be able to bridge the gap. It is vital at this juncture that we are gentle with our partner. As we set the example of healthy behavior, we anticipate that our partner may eventually become interested in the recovery process.

As we display the peace and calm that comes through the use of our tools and our increased self esteem, we serve as a living example to our partner and others of the benefits of recovery. In this way we give ourselves and our world the gifts that recovery brings, peace.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nightmares, Flashbacks, Anxiety, Rage… Is This You?

Every so often we have the priviledge to have a guest on the blog. Tonight is one of those special times. I would like to thank Michele Rosenthal for her efforts, research and expertise in this most important area of PTSD. And now, dear followers, here's Michele...

Are you haunted by memories? Do you have nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts about a traumatic experience? Have you tried to let go but can’t seem to escape anxiety and stress? Do constantly feel you are in danger? Have you shut down emotionally and feel numb? Do you feel detached from yourself, the people around you and the present moment? Do you have trouble connecting emotionally with friends, family, colleagues or lovers? Does it seem impossible to concentrate? Are you unable to surface from depression? Do you get angry and rage at the slightest provocation?

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions you might be struggling with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You’re not alone. What you may be experiencing is common among millions of people. Recent studies estimate that 70% of all adults in the United States may experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. Of those, up to one in five may develop PTSD. Estimates propose that at any given time 5% of the population may be struggling with PTSD – that’s over 15 million people. That number grows every day and doesn’t include the number of cases remaining undiagnosed.

The good news is, if you’ve recognized yourself you can be on the road to healing. describes PTSD as,“…an emotional illness that develops as a result of a terribly frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experience. PTSD sufferers re-experience the traumatic event or events in some way, tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event ... and are exquisitely sensitive to normal life experiences.”

PTSD surfaces throughout civilian and military history as an extreme emotional reaction to either being involved in or witnessing overwhelming circumstances. In addition to war, the causes of PTSD include natural disasters, domestic violence, rape, physical assault, child abuse, terrorism, random acts of violence and major catastrophic events such as plane crashes, car accidents and industrial calamities.

That’s a long list. We survive all kinds of calamities and can be left with the task of recovering from survival. Trauma changes us. We need to be able to adapt and carry on. It’s tough to do this when the past may have us in it’s tight grasp. We can use our conscious brain, to decide to be done with what happened, but it’s not always possible. Trauma can be hard wired into our sub-conscious mind which determines to protect us from harm. The fact that the danger no longer exists is immaterial, the subconscious continues to function as if it does. This may cause us to live in the shadow of fear and uncertainty, unable to move forward with our lives.

In addition to one on one talk therapy there are other treatments that may lessen the effect of trauma. Some examples, as recommended by the American Psychiatric Association, , include: Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Family Therapy, and Peer Discussion Group Therapy.

If you believe you or someone you love may be suffering from PTSD you may wish to take the PTSD self test available on line through the Anxiety Disorder Association of America. . For more information on PTSD contact the National Mental Health Association on line at

Healing PTSD begins with our decision to conquer the past and create the future. Regardless of how we feel, the choice to heal is always ours. Commit today!!

Michele Rosenthal -
A blog about PTSD awareness, education, treatment & self-empowered healing.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Living Life Backward

Today we lost a friend. Someone just a few years older passed away. It's always a shock when someone young dies. We feel that they were cheated out of a full life. We want to believe that we have all the time in the world to do those things that are most important to us. The truth is that we never know when the clock is going to stop and our time is up. We try to focus our life on the areas that reflect our values. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we forget. It's so easy to get caught up in the everyday demands and stresses of life.

A long while back I read an article that I never forgot. It talked about living life backward. It sounds very odd, but thinking about the concept made perfect sense. We begin with the words spoken by our loved ones as they say their goodbyes at our funeral. We listen to the things folks say about us as they give their condolences to our family and one another. We hear them speak of the love that flowed from us to them as we lived our lives each and every day. We think about our last few moments. We have our loved ones around us wishing us well as we pass from this life. Their eyes glisten with tears as we part company for the last time. We hold hands. What are we thinking? How lucky we have been in this time on earth. How much joy we have experienced, how happy we have been with our family and friends.

This brief look gives us great insight into what is actually important to us. Are we thinking about the room we didn't paint? Are we sad that we didn't work the extra shift? Are we upset about the stain in the carpeting? No. We are totally and completely focused on the most important areas of our lives. The ones that matter the most... the people we love... our family, our friends, those folks who gave meaning to our lives. That is what we treasure. That is what matters.

Do we invest our time where it adds meaning to our lives? Are we chasing rainbows, or are we allowing ourselves to put our time into the areas which reflect our inner values? The most important relationships in our lives are those we have with our partner and our children. Are we putting our time and effort into those relationships? Do we invest enough in the areas that matter most? As we invest ourselves, so follows our heart.

Give yourself the ability to live life backward! You will never regret it!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tools, Glorious Tools - Part Four

Recovery is not complete without tools to take us beyond the drama of the moment into long term health. Patience, managing expectations, deep breathing, journaling and reading are all tools that help us deal with the immediate stress of our daily lives. Tools that are life changing are more elusive, harder to grasp and harder to implement.

Meditation is a state of deep relaxation where we work to empty our minds of all the clutter of the day. We give our brain a time out from the constant work of processing the innumerable messages that bombard us throughout our daily lives. There are many styles of meditation. One in particular is called guided imagery. This type of meditation is a form requiring a guide. The guide may be ourselves or another that we choose. We are first lead through a breathing and relaxation exercise. Following this we are guided through a vivid journey within our minds. We may view past events with a new perspective. We may take a walk on the beach. Whatever we view complements our state of deep relaxation. When we complete our meditation we feel refreshed and relaxed. This tool is one we can use on our own to give ourselves a boost of rejuvenation during stressful times.

One of the most difficult tools for many of us to accept is the concept of a higher power. Many of us were deeply wounded as children. We may have stopped believing that there might be more to life than what we can observe with our five senses. We may be angry with our higher power, feeling abandoned to live through pain, fear and sorrow. It may take some time for us to regain the faith that there is more to our lives than that which we sense. That is part of the process. We begin with baby steps, opening ourselves to the possibility that there may be more. Our higher power can be whatever we choose. It is not a defined concept, nor one based in religion. For some it is the stars, for others the earth, for still others an ethereal spiritual being. There is no correct answer. We use whatever will bring us to a place of faith.

Why does a part of recovery focus on having faith in a higher power? We change our perspective. We become part of a larger world when we enter the journey of recovery. We begin to see that we are not unique and that our pain, fears and shame are a commonality that binds those in recovery together. We learn that we are not alone. This is a powerful concept allowing us to feel that we belong. We are now part of the recovery community. We begin in small increments asking for guidance and wisdom. As we move along our journey we watch for sign posts along the way. We are on a path that has been chosen for us. As we put one foot in front of the other we are reminded that we have already come a long way from our humble beginnings.

Our choice to remain open to the possibility of a higher power is our entry into the realm of spirituality. We begin to allow ourselves to consider the possibility that we are more than just a human body. We open our minds to the thought that we may be a spiritual being housed within a human body. The concepts of balance have existed for eons; yin and yang, dark and light, good and evil, heaven and hell, God and Satan, Adam and Eve, Mother Earth and Father Time. All these ideas stem from the concepts of balance… that for each and every positive in the universe, there is an opposing force.

We strive to create balance in our lives. One of the ways we do this is by opening ourselves to the concept of allowing situations to develop naturally without trying to force results. If we can begin to accept that we may be spiritual beings, we can then relax and allow the natural unfolding of events. This brings us to a healthier place where we feel calm, centered and balanced instead of stresses, harried and overwhelmed.

Our tools are our life line. We use them in our daily lives to enhance our ability to remain balanced and to increase our self esteem. We practice patience, managing expectations, deep breathing, journaling and reading on a daily basis. We use meditation and guided imagery as a form of deep relaxation and renewal. We open ourselves to the possibility that there may be more to the universe than we can sense and begin to have faith in a higher power. Our spiritual lives blossom and we experience the peace and tranquility that we crave. In this way we give ourselves the gift of recovery.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tools, Glorious Tools - Part Three

Now that we have begun our journey into recovery on our chosen path, we need a guide to keep us going in the direction we have picked. We do this by using another tool in our arsenal, reading.

The brain is a series of nerve cells passing electrical charges from one to another. The pattern of a path taken by a particular charge represents a thought. The more times we think a particular thought, the stronger the bonds becomes between those nerve cells. Nerve cells actually move closer together when certain thoughts occur frequently to provide faster processing, much like defragmenting a computer hard disk. Nerve cells that may have been dedicated to thoughts that are not accessed frequently, will be reused by the neural net for newer thoughts. As years pass and we think certain thoughts over and over again, we begin to access these familiar neural pathways automatically.

During recovery we review the internal thoughts we process automatically on a daily basis and decide which we will keep and which we will remove. One of the tools we use to help us in our decision making process are books. We read recovery literature to enlarge our perspective and allow us to develop a more appropriate view of our thought processes and the behavior and habits that those thoughts engender. We choose which of our thoughts no longer serve our needs. We may still hear the voices of our family of origin in the background. We have a choice to listen or silence those old tapes playing in our heads.

Reading recovery materials gives us insight into our actions and allows us to become part of a community of people choosing a healthier path. We read recovery stories of others who have walked the road before us. These give us hope that we too can succeed.

Daily reading keeps us grounded in the principles of recovery. We give our brains new material to form into healthy memories. As we learn about ourselves and others through literature, our self esteem increases. We practice our tools in our daily lives. We practice patience, managing expectations, deep breathing, journaling and reading. Through using our tools and practicing self care we learn one of the most valuable lessons of recovery… we are not alone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tools, Glorious Tools - Part Two

In our recovery process we practice patience and manage our expectations. We keep in mind that habits developed over many years may take much time to unlearn. We expect to make mistakes, to backslide, to feel regret when we repeat old patterns of behavior that no longer function for our benefit.

We employ many tools in our daily lives to help us cope with the changes we are making in ourselves and the responses we are cultivating to take the place of our old defense mechanisms. We learn that defense mechanisms are automatic and that we have been employing them without even realizing it. This is the core of how we protected ourselves during our childhood. We have relied on these defenses for a long time. Giving them up creates a void. We fill that void with healthy behavior by using our tools.

In working to change this pattern we strive to become more aware of ourselves and our feelings. We may feel overwhelmed initially by the surge of strong emotions and the feelings that follow. It may take time for us to be able to put words to our feelings if we have been reacting on auto pilot for a lengthy period of time. We allow ourselves to begin to experience all our emotions. This can create much discomfort. We will adjust to the newness of it over time. In the interim we use several tools to help us cope.

We learn deep breathing. When we are tense we tend to breathe in a less effective manner. We breathe with our upper chest and take short, quick, shallow breaths. When we focus on our breathing we take longer, slower, deeper breaths that inflate our abdomen and pull air all the way down to the lower part of our lungs. This allows more oxygen into our blood stream and aids in relaxation. We breathe in through our noses, hold briefly for a count of five, then out through our mouths. As we repeat this process we feel a sense of relaxation flow through ourselves. We are adding vital oxygen to our bodies that have been depleted through stress.

Journaling is an important tool in our tool bag. We write out our feelings, thoughts and opinions about present circumstances and persons in our lives. We may include related memories that have caused us pain in the past, recalled as a result of a particular event. This gives us an outlet for our emotions as well as a way to experience more clarity with regard to our feelings. We may be new at processing our emotions. Journaling gives us an edge. We have our journal entries available for review as we progress through recovery. We can look back at a snapshot of ourselves and see our growth.

Having patience with ourselves, managing our expectations of our progress, allowing ourselves to feel our emotions, deep breathing and journaling… these initial tools help us develop increased self esteem as we use them in our daily lives. We give ourselves the gift of recovery as we practice using our tools to gain emotional balance.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tools, Glorious Tools - Part I

During the recovery process we learn about and use tools. What do we mean by tools? How do they help us practice self care? Why do we need them in our daily lives?

Many of us have been damaged by relationship trauma. This damage may have occurred over an extended period of time beginning with our family of origin during our early years. We may have been too young to be capable of appropriately processing the events that surrounded our lives. In order to survive the drama and chaos, we adopted defense mechanisms. Without our defenses we might not have been able to continue to live in our family of origin without experiencing enormous psychological pain.

Some of us experienced much more subtle forms of damage. The dysfunctional patterns of some families of origin may appear healthy to those within the family. Manipulation and passive aggressive types of behavior by caretakers can be too subtle for the mind of a child to process. Family members may have no ruler against which to measure the behavior of their caretakers. Without an example of what healthy behavior looks like, members will internalize family behavior patterns as their own. This too creates defense mechanisms since children accept adult behavior as the standard against which all is measured.

Now that we are adults we find we have outgrown these defense mechanisms. They no longer serve us as they did when we were children, as a protection from psychological harm. Our defenses have become a hindrance to our enjoyment of life. They are much like a favorite pair of childhood shoes that no longer fit. We try to put them on but they squash our self esteem and don’t permit us to interact appropriately with our world. As we continue to use them as adults, we create shackles that keep us from freedom. We are literally hobbled by our defenses.

Tools allow us to gradually free ourselves from defense mechanisms that no longer function for our benefit. We slowly unlock the iron grip of shackles opening one link at a time. Each tool in our tool bag gives us more ability to open the links and escape our home made prisons. As we do the work of unlocking ourselves from our defenses we gradually increase our self esteem. Each step in the process raises our belief and trust in ourselves, allowing us to begin to trust our discernment once again.

Tools are instruments of self care that are learned during the recovery process. Like the tools used in carpentry, they need to be handled regularly and practiced often so we may become adept at using them in our daily lives. It takes time to unlearn habits that we may have had for twenty or more years and one of our first tools learned is patience and managing expectations. We need to be patient with ourselves. Recovery is a process that takes time and effort. We may often feel as if we take three steps forward and two steps back. That’s okay. We can allow ourselves the gift of patience. Managing our expectations is crucial. We can undo much of our progress if our expectations are unreasonable. We need to expect setbacks. This too is part of the recovery process.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Personal Note

Dear Followers;

I have been given the honor of being permitted to be a guest blogger on Parasites of the Mind, as blog about healing from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. If you would like to see the post you can find it at:

Thanks for following, and have a healthy day!!

How Do We Cope During Stressful Holidays?

Happy Passover and Happy Easter!! This was a week of celebration and family. To those of us who celebrate Easter next weekend, Happy Easter to you as well. Most of us spent time with our family of origin over these past few days. We look forward to the fun and food that come with celebrating the holidays. The President and First Lady celebrated their Easter with a new arrival, Bo, the Portuguese Water Dog.

We have a guest blogger today. He has a message for Bo. "Welcome Bo!! We hear that you were rescued from a family that didn't want you anymore. My humans rescued me from the overpass near their house by the highway when I was little and homeless. Congrats on getting some cool humans to take care of you Bo. Good job!! Looks like you picked some winners. Best of luck - Sam, the Cat."

We all enjoy the laughter and good times that being with family can bring. But what if our family of origin brings other gifts that aren't so enjoyable. How do we cope with family time when it isn't as pleasant as we might like?

We can take steps to practice self care. This is even more important during the holidays when emotions may be riding high and we are with those folks in our family of origin. Many of us may have developed dysfunctional life patterns as a result of our time with family members during childhood. As we advance in recovery we may find that time with our family of origin may become difficult. We may see our caretakers and siblings in a new light.

Peeling back the veneer of our defense mechanisms may expose us to some very raw emotions. We can attend family events with this in mind, planning for self care. We can use our tools to keep ourselves balanced. We can limit our visit to an amount of time that we feel is comfortable. Since we are in recovery, we can try to avoid conversations that may trigger unpleasant memories or extreme emotions. It may be difficult at first, but as we remember that we are getting healthier every day, we can empathize with others who are less healthy. We can choose to feel for them, rather than allow them to push our buttons and control our emotions. If we are being baited, we can bite our tongues and take a time out or go for a walk. We can call a trusted friend to chat. If necessary we can take our leave. We give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves.

After we return from a family event, if we feel stressed we can practice self care. We can relax with a hot bath, listen to music, meditate, read a novel, journal, work out, call a friend and plan an outing or just take a nap. Whatever pattern of self care works for us and whatever tools we implement give us greater self esteem. We are learning to take care of the one person we will be with for life - ourselves.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Are You Being Abused?

Domestic violence and abuse is a problem that crosses all ethnic and financial barriers. We would never suspect that good old fellow from the church singing in the choir is an abuser at home. It would be unthinkable to believe that the lovely lady at the beauty salon abuses her partner.

What does abuse look like? It can be extreme, as in repeated beatings, death threats and spousal rape. It can be much less apparent, such as emotional blackmail, limiting activities and funds, jealousy, caustic remarks and sarcasm. It can be constant or periodic. There is a wide range of behaviors that fall under the heading of abuse: physical, emotional and financial.

How do we recognize when we are being abused? The first sign that we are in trouble comes when we don't want to tell our family or friends how we are being treated by our partner. We are ashamed. We begin to enable the abuser by hiding what is happening. We isolate ourselves from our family and friends, fearful that they will sense that something isn't right.

There we are after the slap across the face...shocked...and the abuser says, "Look what you made me do. You just got me so angry! If you hadn't ____________ this would never have happened." We are hurt and angry at first. But the abuser is cunning. He/she tells us that it is our fault and that if we don't do _________ anymore than this will never happen again. He/she is soooo sorry. We are plied with gifts, flowers, affection and a lavish apology. All this attention feels so good after we were treated so badly. We foolishly believe him/her. All is well... for a time.

Soon the tension begins to build again. We can't put our finger on it but we know something is wrong. It gets worse and worse and finally another incident occurs. We are again shocked. We were told that if we fixed ourselves this wouldn't happen again. The abuser blames us again, then follows with another apology and more promises never to let another incident happen. Our gut tells us we are in trouble, but we ignore it. We love the warmth and attention we get after an incident, and once again believe that all is well.

This is the pattern of abuse: tension building, incident, honeymoon phase, tension building, etc. Abusers are addicted to the release they feel when they act out. They cannot control their behavior any more than an active addict. The partner being abused enables the abuser to continue to live within the pattern by not setting effective boundaries early on in the abuse cycle. Once the cycle is set the abuser needs more and more of their "fix" in order to feel good. Incidents may worsen and/or get closer together over time.

If you suspect that you are being abused take action. Get counseling. There are abuse hotlines available all across our country. Call. Reach out. Don't allow isolation to keep you from asking for help. There is no shame in being a victim of abuse. You can protect yourself and your children.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Compromise, Compromise, Compromise...Aaaargh!!

When partners disagree about an issue in a relationship, there are a variety of ways that a solution can be reached. A typical solution may be for one of the two partners to allow the other to have their way in the disagreement. This works well if the issue being discussed is of much greater importance to one partner than another. It also works well if partners frequently take turns being the one to compromise. In this instance the partners both trust that they will have their turn at having their way and getting their needs met.

Another type of solution is for partners to compromise. Instead of one partner being completely satisfied with the solution and the other being completely dissatisfied, the partners negotiate with one another to find an acceptable middle ground where both can find some satisfaction. This works well with partners who are willing to communicate their needs to one another with honesty and openness. It requires that both parties be capable of interacting, for the most part, without hostility and rage, even during a disagreement. In order to facilitate communication the following may be helpful:

Principles of Compromise Communication
  • Stay on topic
  • Don’t bring up past mistakes
  • No name calling
  • No sarcasm or caustic remarks
  • If emotions escalate, take a ten minute time out to refocus and think

Should one partner falter in their attempt to follow healthy communication principles, patience and kindness are in order. Both parties will fail many times before getting used to a new communication pattern. Expectations are critical. The realization that both partners are human beings and will make many mistakes will foster forgiveness. Appropriate apologies are necessary to prevent the accumulation of bitterness.

Using our tools for self care increases our self esteem. Using these practices in our daily lives makes healthy communication, compromise and taking turns in getting our needs met easier to accomplish. In this way we give ourselves the gift of healthy relationships.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Addicted to Relationships

Relationships are all about connection. We humans crave connection so much that infants who are not touched lower their survival rate by significant percentages. Partnered men outlive single men. People in relationships report higher happiness levels overall than singles. Why do we crave connection? What drives us to be in a relationship?

Early humans lived in groups or clans. They did this for a variety of reasons, most of which were related to survival. A lone human had a much greater chance of being attacked by a predator than a group. Clans were capable of hunting larger prey as a result of group dynamics. Women found their roles as gatherers and mothers easier when shared. Humans could huddle together for warmth in cold climates. Procreation was easier in a group setting. These early groups became an extended family with leaders. This structure provided security and safety for members. Clans gave the group another important reason to stay - connection. The shared intimacy in these small groups gave members an emotional link to one another. This emotional bond created the feeling that the clan was a family and increased the odds of survival of the group. Those groups that survived as a result of emotional bonds are our ancestors.

We have evolved over the millennia in many ways, but the basic emotional structure of humans remains. We crave connection because it allows us to feel that we belong. This feeling of belonging creates emotional safety. We are at once part of a family and protected. This is especially true during childhood. Small children are completely dependent on caretakers for survival. In order to ensure the continuation of the human race, we are hard wired in both our DNA and neurological pathways to find pleasure in connection and to seek it. When we experience pleasure we secrete powerful chemicals in our brains that cause us to repeat the pleasurable experience. Our DNA causes us to seek connection instinctively. Our brains cause us to become biochemically addicted to the pleasurable feelings we derive from connection. We are literally addicted to our connections.

This addiction explains the intense emotional and physical response we may have when we lose an important connection, whether through death, long term physical separation or the ending of a relationship. We crave the biochemical substances that we produced through our connection. Over time we adjust to the loss as we increase the value of other connections in our lives to compensate.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Listening to the Sound of Humility

Tonight I watched our new President as he completed his eight day overseas trip. I listened closely as he spoke to the world, taking responsibility for America's part in the current economic crisis, verbalizing the hope that we Americans have for peace in our lifetimes, reaching out to our allies as an equal participant in world affairs, as a nation willing to listen with respect to differing opinions, stating that our country's goal is now a nuclear free world and that we are not and will not be at war with the Islamic people. The last administration built walls between America and the world with demeaning behaviors and caustic remarks. Our previous government behaved as though America's ideals were important and the rest of the world needed to accede to our lifestyle and values. This is a fallacy that had led us into dangerous pseudo relationships with other nations who looked upon America as a bully.

For the first time in many years I am proud, once again, to have our President represent me to the world. I listen to him speak on a range of issues and am impressed with his intelligence and ability to absorb and process great quantities of complex information. I believe that for the first time in my recent adult life we may have a leader who is actually capable of leading our country in the direction the future demands. One of the most important ideas included in our President's statements during these last eight days was that America is no longer going to behave in the same manner. We recognize that the past administration has strained relationships to the breaking point and we are ready to show our better selves to the world.

In our relationships we each have the opportunity to be the leader. There are times when our particular skills are in demand and we can shine. There are times when our partner's skills are needed and we can sit back and enjoy watching, with pride, their moment in the sun. When we love someone deeply we are as thrilled with their aspirations and accomplishments as we are with our own. Their success is tied to our lives through mutual sharing in our relationship. When they feel joy in their achievements we are able to feel joyous along with them. This support that we give and receive is part of the vital flow that enables our relationship to continue to breathe and live.

Why in some relationships is there a lack of support? What happens when one partner is unable to comfort or encourage the other. When a relationship is one sided in any area the scales tip out of balance. Over time this may cause the partner who is not getting fed to feel unappreciated or used and become hostile and angry.

Deposits are being made into the relationship account by one partner and withdrawals are being made by the other. The account becomes seriously overdrawn. In order to correct the problem, steady deposits will need to be made over a sustained period of time by the overdrawn partner to repay the account. A clear understanding of why the situation occurred and the depth of the remedy necessary to repair the damage is critical to avoid unrealistic expectations about the time needed to heal the damage. In beginning to make new deposits the overdrawn partner may expect their mate to be pleased and forgiving quickly. This may not be possible at first as trust rebuilds slowly. Over time, the overdrawn partner may begin to feel unappreciated for these new efforts and become hostile and angry as well.

Hostility and anger can lead one or both partners to begin to build walls within the relationship. Walls are built of bricks composed of bitterness, sarcasm, demeaning remarks and stony silence. When there is a lack of understanding and ineffective communication the relationship is being drained of life. Breathing slows and death may be near. If both partners are willing, life can be replenished. Making a commitment to understanding the underlying problem and learning the necessary skills to repair the damaged relationship is a tall order. It takes a promise of time, effort, patience and a great deal of work by both parties to salvage a severely damaged partnership. Counseling may be necessary for a relationship on the brink of crumbling. There can be hope for a bright future amidst the chaos and confusion if partners are open minded and teachable.

We use our tools in our daily lives to continue to breathe life into our relationship, make our daily deposits and keep life flowing between partners. A healthy partnership is a gift that can never be taken for granted. It is the goal we all yearn to achieve. When we have done the difficult work to obtain such a grand prize we never forget the mountain we climbed to grab the gold ring. We utilize our tools and make certain that we practice self care in our daily lives to protect our most precious asset. In this way we give ourselves and our partner the gift of support.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Managing Expectations - Creating Stability

Making the commitment to be in a relationship is a responsibility. Two people deciding that partnership is what they desire is the basis for a relationship. To fully understand the responsibilities that partnership entails, it may be helpful to view it as though it is a business venture.

In a business relationship there are clearly delineated responsibilities and defined roles. Each party to the partnership knows exactly what their job entails and what is expected of them on a daily basis. This reliability and accountability is what keeps the wheels of the business oiled and allows the venture to continue with stability. None of the participants in the business assume that the other knows what they want or need. All communication is done openly with respect and clarity. This too keeps the business running smoothly and allows the partners to maximize their effectiveness within their business relationship.

If we apply these same principles to our personal partnerships and relationships we have a healthy basis upon which to build. As successful business persons we follow proven principles that work well in business settings. As capable adults we can transfer these skills to our personal lives. If we clarify our responsibilities with our partner and are accountable for our part, we enable the partnership to function at optimal health. Most of us have the skills that it takes to be successful in our careers. If we look at our relationship as a career at home and apply the skills we have learned in the business world to our personal relationships, we may enhance our daily lives.

We treat our partner as though they are the most important relationship we have, because it is true. We give love, gentleness, understanding, honesty, compassion, respect, reliability, accountability and effective communication to our partner as a gift from our hearts without expectation. We do this because we believe that our partner has our best interests at heart and will do the same for us. As long as we feel valued and balanced in our relationships we can continue in them in health. Over time as we give and receive, stability develops in our relationship and we can begin to trust in our partnership.

As we build our relationship with our partner we use our tools to practice self care in our daily lives. We increase our self esteem each day as we learn to value ourselves and trust our instincts. In this way we give ourselves the gift of stability.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Physical Health and Emotional Health are Connected

One of the most important areas of our lives is our health. When we don't practice self care in our daily lives we can decrease our immune response and increase our chance of illness. It is vital that we practice healthy living principles to have the physical energy to support ourselves emotionally.

When we are hungry, angry, lonely, tired or stressed (HALTS) we may not have the energy we need to respond appropriately to our surroundings. When we feel ourselves reacting instead of responding to our environment, we check to see if we are dissipating our energy with the acronym HALTS. If we are facing any of these areas we can take a time out from our situation and practice self care. We can avoid reacting inappropriately if we do this brief self assessment (HALTS) when we first feel ourselves slipping.

When we are hungry we may become more irritable or hostile. Our blood sugar is falling and this may create a feeling within us that drives our mood. When we take a moment to care for our bodies and allow ourselves to rebalance our blood sugar, a balanced mood follows.

If we are upset about an unresolved issue, we may let those feelings overflow onto our current situation without realizing it. We can give ourselves a time out and practice some self care... meditation, guided imagery, taking a walk or calling a friend in order to cool off and gain perspective and insight into our emotional self.

If we are feeling lonely we ask ourselves if we are lonely or just alone. Alone time is essential for healthy growth, giving us time to reflect and be at peace with our inner self. If we are lonely, we can reach out to others via telephone, attend a meeting, use the Internet or just go out to a local shop.

When exhaustion takes it's toll we must acquiesce and sleep. Adequate daily rest is paramount to our health. We need to rejuvenate our bodies each night via proper rest. The most successful sleep patterns are those that follow a similar pattern of rest times each day. This works with the bodies natural rhythm enhancing overall health.

In times of stress we must make extra efforts at self care. There may be intervals when we endure extended periods of stress in our lives over which we may have virtually no control. During those times we practice self care, use our tools and if needed seek counseling to help us through the difficulties. Life can be problematic, but there is no need to face life's challenges alone. There is assistance and comfort at every level of society from the most experienced counselor to the local support meeting in a church basement. Reaching out for help when we feel overwhelmed is a healthy response to stress.

Taking care of our health and making sure we practice self care in our daily lives allows us to have the physical energy available to deal with the emotional issues that present themselves to us each day. Through this process of self care and using our tools we give ourselves the gift of emotional health.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Oops, I Died and Didn't Plan My Estate... Now What?

What happens in blended families when a partner passes away? Doing the work of estate planning is one that many partners put off for the future. Although we know this aspect of our lives needs attention, we may not take the time needed to adequately plan for our loved ones in the event of our death. This is especially true in the case of blended families. We each may have children from a prior relationship, possibly children together as well.

Planning for eventualities such as serious illness or even death may not be the most pleasant of tasks, but it is one that pays big dividends when done in a timely manner. Making decisions for ourselves while healthy gives our loved ones the information they need to properly carry out our wishes when we can no longer do so.

Many decisions must be made. Who will care for the minor children? What provisions will be made for children from prior relationships? How will inheritances be divided? What has to be done to protect current partners from losing assets or a home to adult children wanting their inheritance at once? What does one partner do to take care of another in the event of terminal illness, coma or worse? What kind of arrangements need to be made for funerals or burials? Should the partners assets be placed in a trust? Is a power of attorney necessary? If so, what kind? What is a living will and who needs one?

Questions such as these should be directed to an attorney who specializes in estate planning. The lawyers will be able to answer these questions, as well as raise many others pertinent to each partnership's situation. Look for a firm that comes highly recommended. Estate planning is a field that is continually changing. An estate planning attorney must also be knowledgeable about the laws of the state in which the partners reside, as laws vary from state to state.

When we have completed our estate planning, we share our future plans with our heirs. This enables all those involved to have appropriate expectations. We cannot control how others may feel or behave during times of loss, but we can take care of details and arrangements to make that time as easy as possible.

Planning for our own futures in this way is another tool we have to use for self care. We increase our self esteem as we arrange for the appropriate distribution of our estate to our heirs. We make arrangements to care for our partner as agreed indicating the value of our relationship. We use our tools and practice self care giving ourselves the gift of peace.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Budget - Money, Money, Money and More Money

One of the topics that partners argue about most fiercely is finances... specifically, how to handle their money. We all have feelings about where our earnings should be spent, what portion to save and how to handle budgeting. Though the discussions seem to be centered around money, there may actually be a larger issue under negotiation. Partners may be working out disagreements over power in the relationship. This may be especially true when both are wage earners. The issues can get even more complex if the partners have a blended family. There are serious factors to be considered in making decisions at all levels of planning.

Partners to a relationship are individuals as well as part of a partnership. They each have desires that may need to be met via expenditures. If one or both of the partners have familial obligations from a prior relationship, those obligations need to be met as well. In order to avoid falling into a dysfunctional pattern of managing the partnership's financial assets, decisions may need to be made to handle finances in a business-like manner.

When both partners are wage earners a monetary arrangement can be made based upon equitable contribution. This asks each to commit a portion of earnings to joint expenses based upon the percentage of funds brought into the partnership on a monthly basis. The total expenses for the month are calculated. Each partner adds their contribution, based on the percentage of funds they earn, to the partnership account.

Should one or both partners have financial obligations from a prior relationship, it may be in the best interests of the partners to meet these monetary needs from their own personal funds. In this way partners take care of their personal obligations independently.

It is critical that partners work together to establish a budget. In working through the budgeting process, partners include all expenses, both weekly [allowances], monthly [rent], quarterly [real estate taxes] and annually [insurance premiums]. Once all items have been included, a realistic budget for the partnership can be set. This exercise gives both partners a clear understanding of the fiscal requirements necessary to keep the partnership afloat. If one partner suffers a decrease in income, the budget process must be reworked to include the decrease in overall income and the percentages of equitable contribution.

This budgeting process educates both parties as to the monetary needs of the partnership. A well thought out budget may eliminate much of the fiscal squabbles, as both parties have may personal funds remaining for discretionary spending.

Learning about fiscal responsibility in a partnership strengthens the bond between partners, giving them the shared responsibility of monetary policy in their own lives. This is an important tool that partners can use to enhance the value of their relationship and increase effective communication. Developing and practicing these tools may lead to increased self esteem as partners successfully share the duties of making their partnership solvent.

Practicing and using tools in our daily lives produces results. We can continue to raise our self esteem and increase the value of our partnership by practicing responsible fiscal policy in our relationship and in our daily lives. In this way we give ourselves the gift of financial security.

The Price: Consequences and Reality

Dear Followers -

I normally don't do what I am going to do today. But I feel that there is a great deal of information here that may allow us all to learn. Communication is so vital in relationships that it cannot be overstated. Denial can be so complete that we don't see our actions clearly until after the damage has been done.

I participate on other forums and blogs. One of those is a place where people suffering the pain of divorce can go and receive help from a variety of professionals, as well as support from other members.

A divorced participant posted a blog regarding her relationship with a man whom she knew was married. Over time, she convinced herself that his marriage was an emotionally empty affair. She decided to go to visit the wife to see for herself if it was as she believed. She expected to find a cold uncaring woman who no longer loved or valued her husband or family. Instead she found a woman who had been unable to participated in sexual activity due to illness who still loved her husband deeply, but was aware that he had been having multiple affairs since her incapacitation. She had accepted his activities but clearly had been wounded by them. The following day the participant posted her surprised and shocked reaction to the deep sadness she saw in the wife's eyes. She felt badly and didn't understand her own response to the wife's pain. Most of the participants on the forum were shocked and outraged by her posts. Many were hurt, being reminded of how callus their own spouses had been through their divorces. They posted their feelings in great detail. After reading through her posts and the responses I posted the following (name removed for anonymity).

"Dear "X" - I feel very sad for you. I counsel people who have suffered relationship trauma every day. I believe that you have not internalized the pain you suffered through your own divorce and made it a part of your inner self. This might explain why you would cause another person such deep pain. You might be aware that the person who was incested as a child may become the child molester as an adult. People who are hurt, hurt others as a way to try to relieve their pain. The answer for you may be to incorporate your own past into your inner self. Your posts talk of religion, but not spirituality. There is a great difference. You are adept at rationalization, but when faced with the consequences of your own actions you feel frightened and guilty. I believe there is a deep unmet need within you to feel that you are special and unique. I would guess that you felt a great wound to your psyche following the events that lead to your divorce. Divorce causes people to lose a great deal of their self esteem. Once it is lost it takes time and effort to regain. If we don't do the work to repair our self esteem, we can become persecutors who are trying to escape our pain through inflicting pain onto others. I would guess that you wrote on this forum for exactly those reasons. You must have realized that these folks would be devastated by your remarks. Now that you are faced with the truth of your situation, maybe you will find the inner strength to seek counseling and heal your inner self. You need to regain your self esteem so that you don't repeat this pattern in your life, sentencing yourself to a lonely life of never being truly intimate or important to anyone. Read over some of my blogs. Maybe you will find some help. I hope that you find yourself again."

We all have been in painful relationships at some point in our lives. The process of grieving and healing is imperative. We never want to be the one passing our pain onto others, whether intentionally or otherwise. Unlike "X", who passed her pain onto another wife, many of us take our pain along with us, like a suitcase, and dump it on our next partner. Using our tools, learning to communicate effectively, balanced compromise and self care are all keys to keeping our relationship healthy and well fed.

Let us all remember the lessons of "X" so that we do not repeat them in our lives.