Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Unhappy, Why Can't I Leave?

Position of the nucleus accumbens and Ventral ...Image via Wikipedia

Why is ending a relationship so difficult? Why do we agonize over the decision to leave a partner when we are unhappy? When the pain of staying in the relationship is overwhelming, why do we continue to hesitate over the decision to go?

These questions deserve an answer. When we enter into a relationship we enjoy the newly found pleasurable interactions. Our brain reacts to this exchange by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, when the nucleus accumbens or pleasure center is stimulated. Dopamine is a feel good chemical in the body. Therefore the more we experience good times with our new partner the more dopamine we produce, and the more pleasure we feel.

The prefrontal cortex, the thinking part of the brain, is concerned with rational decision making and long term consequences. The prefrontal cortex tracks every moment spent with our new partner. As our relationship continues over the years, we begin to notice more and more instances when our partner is irritating. This irritation causes the amount of dopamine produced by our now less stimulated pleasure center to drop. We don't feel as good as we did before. The thinking brain begins to weigh the decision to remain in the relationship against the amount of pleasure received. As dopamine levels drop further, the thinking brain begins to lean toward the decision of leaving the relationship.

However this part of the brain doesn't make all the decisions alone. The pleasure center has developed an attachment as a result of all the dopamine released over the years. Now whenever dopamine is released the pleasure center revels in its arrival with strong good feelings. We have become hooked on our addiction to dopamine and the resultant good feelings.

Another area of the brain which weighs in during decision making is the amygdala. The amygdala formulates decisions based on impulse and emotion. This may account for our tendency to feel the urge to run when the going gets tough, or to stay when the relationship is proceeding smoothly.

Over time as the relationship degrades we receive less and less dopamine forcing our pleasure center to starve. The amygdala weighs in on the decision impulsively, first one way then another. The thinking brain begins to make the decision that leaving the relationship is the logical course of action. Different parts of the brain begin working toward determining the best outcome. When these parts disagree, as in the thinking brain, amygdala and the pleasure center, we experience cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance exists when we hold two contradictory ideas in our mind at the same time. This may cause us to experience uncomfortable feelings such as: anxiety, shame, anger and stress. At this point we have two choices, we can reconcile our ideas and make a decision that we feel is in our best interest, or we can begin to rationalize. If we choose to rationalize - creating false reasons or justifications to support a decision we know is not in our best interest - this can lead to confirmation bias and defense mechanisms kicking it to support the ego.

Overall we discover that a seemingly simple decision, leaving a relationship that is causing unhappiness and pain, is not easy. The loss of the good feelings we initially experienced in the relationship coupled with attachment, causes unhappiness and pain. When the pain of staying in the relationship is outweighed by the pain of leaving the relationship, we continue to stay, waiting for the occasional burst of dopamine. As the relationship collapses and the pain of staying outweighs the pain of leaving, we eventually make the choice to move on.

Although we will experience pain and loss in either instance, the short term pain of severing the ties with our partner will decrease over time and we will once again begin the task of rebuilding our self esteem and using our tools to ensure our recovery.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Intentions: The Lie Behind the Words

Communication major dimensions schemeImage via Wikipedia

But I didn't mean for that to happen! That's not what I meant! I didn't mean for that to hurt your feelings! You misunderstood what I meant by that!

What do all these statements have in common? They all share one simple truth... intentions make no difference in how we are perceived by others. When we interact with those with whom we are in a relationship on a daily basis, we interpret what is said and done using the lens through which we view the world. We have no way of knowing what motivation our partner may have had when they took an action which affected us. We may think we know our partners intentions, and we may be correct at times, but in actuality we view the world through our own point of view.

How does this affect our relationship? When we talk to our partner we are expressing our thoughts and feelings through our words, actions and meta-messages. Our partner translates what we communicate through their lens. In the process, much may get lost in translation. Our underlying feelings may be communicated through our body language and our tone of voice. Yet, we may be unaware of how we are perceived. When we speak we may intend one message, but actually communicate another.

An excellent example involves our partner completing a chore which we have requested. We attempt to instruct as they work, wanting to achieve a particular result. We believe we are communicating our desire for a particular outcome, however our actions may indicate a belief that our partner may be incompetent to complete the task on their own. This underlying message comes through causing our partner to become annoyed with our interference. Although our intention was clear in our mind, our partner experienced our actions within a completely different frame work... their lens.

We recall that our partner was raised in a different family of origin. Within that family communications patterns developed and were imprinted on our partner as a baby, reinforced as a youth and finally adopted as an adult. Our experiences and communication patterns in our own family of origin were unique to our family. When we communicate with others our natural instincts revert to our original communication patterns. We recall that each individual learned their patterns in their family of origin, making communication more complex.

We may understand our intentions, but those who receive our message glean additional information through our body language and tone. We can compensate for this difference by carefully selecting our words, monitoring our tone of voice for indications of emotional discord and being aware of our own feelings. This is not, however, a panacea. We may still have occasions when our message is misinterpreted or lost. When we reach an impasse we use our tools. Dialogue, an important tool, may help to re-establish effective communication and restore balance to the relationship.

We practice self care making certain that we honor our feelings and communicate as effectively as possible. We use our tools to keep ourselves centered and balanced. In this way we give ourselves the gift of healthy communication skills.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Second Chances

It is common for spouses to grieve for quite some time after their life partner has passed. (Especially when the passing is sudden and intense) In time the pain of losing the deceased lessens, though it never really disappears all together. The best we can hope for is that the deceased is remembered fondly and with love. In that way we are free to move on with our lives and try to find meaning within a new relationship. We really never "get over" the lost love, the pain fades over time. It is common for those who have lost a spouse to try to find someone who reminds them of their prior partner, especially if that relationship was a happy one.

When we do move on and begin a relationship with a new partner we may encounter obstacles we did not anticipate. Being involved with a new partner has its difficulties, but it is quite another matter to be a step parent. The loss of a mother or father is nothing like the loss of a partner. Children feel acute pain that is not lessened by the arrival of a step parent. Often the step parent is largely resented as another barrier in the childrens relationship with the surviving parent. Even if the children are older, this can be the case. Step parenting is extremely difficult under the best of circumstances and can be a nightmare when the biological parent is away working a good deal of the time, allowing children to feel further abandoned in addition to the death of the primary caretaker.

In addition, fear of intimacy may add to the discord. Losing a life partner can cause emotional wounds that may be difficult to heal. If fear of intimacy applies, it may account for erratic behavior. It is common for those of us who have intimacy issues to run when the going gets tough. Intimacy issues can be thorny ones to work through even with the best of counselors, but it can be done with enough compassion and effort.

Healing from the loss of a life partner will take time and patience. Once we have moved through the grieving process and have begun a new relationship, we will need our heart and head to be balanced and centered to deal with the challenges that may arise. We use our tools and practice self care being certain to allow others to do the same.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lobbying Against the Lobbyists!

I am a single Mom. When my 20 year old son left college to get a full time job he lost his health insurance. He was no longer able to access coverage under his Dad's policy and I cannot afford to pay for COBRA.

I understand that the insurance industry has paid millions of dollars to our congressional representatives in Washington in an attempt to buy their vote "no" on health care reform. The fact that almost 80% of Americans want health care reform seems to have little impact on our congress men and women. They have great health coverage that comes with their job. They seem to be concerned solely with getting re-elected. I am concerned that they are no longer representing us, the American people.

We have a voice and are largely being ignored. Since we can't afford to pay millions of dollars to our congress men and women, they listen to the lobbyists and not to us! This is unacceptable! We are the folks who gave them their jobs.

I believe that health care reform must include a public option that will offer all Americans the same health insurance that our congressional representatives currently enjoy AT OUR EXPENSE!!

This is not a partisan issue. Republicans, democrats and independents are all on the same page. Congress men and women... PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO US, the American people. We are not without a voice any longer!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Can I Practice Self Care in My Relationship?

One of the first things we learn in recovery is that we can't control anyone but ourselves. Once we let go of trying to control people, things and outcomes, we have a much better chance at changing the one thing we do have control over... ourselves.

Owning our power, as opposed to giving it to our partner in the form of seeking approval, is one example of self care. We begin to complete our daily activities for our own reasons, to please ourselves, rather than to glean an approving nod or comment from our partner. When we place our partner in the role of judge, we give away our power.

The acronym H.A.L.T.S. is an effective way to remember areas that may provide room for conflict... hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sad or scared. These six key areas may be triggers, leading us to use defense mechanisms to ease our discomfort. Recognizing that we are experiencing one of these feelings may be a boost to self understanding. We can practice self care (eat when hungry, take a time out for anger, call a friend if lonely, nap if tired, figure out why we are sad or scared and allow ourselves to be vulnerable by sharing) before we react to our partner, possibly avoiding negative interactions.

Some things in relationships are unchangeable. Basic personality traits of our partner may be something we must learn to accept, whether we are thrilled by all of them or not. For some, gratefulness is a way out. Gratefulness allow us to be aware of the blessings we already have and helps us to focus our attention in those areas. Once we are truly grateful for the blessings we already have in our lives, we are ripe for receiving more. It may help to keep a gratefulness journal where we write down five things for which we are grateful each day before bed. Over time we see that we have a full and wonderful life. This journal can be a great tool to read when we are feeling upset or out of balance and want to center ourselves.

The habit of keeping score is common in relationships. It can create difficulties for many reasons. When we lose sight of our contribution within the grand scheme of things, when we begin to see ourselves as the victim, we have become out of balance. We begin to focus on taking care of ourselves and practice using our tools in our daily lives, we may begin to give up the practice of keeping score. We realize that we are once again trying to control people, things and outcomes. We practice letting go and allowing outcomes to develop naturally along with gratefulness for all that we have been given in this world.

We are on the road to a wonderfully balanced inter-dependent relationship. The kind that brings much joy to partners. We work toward receiving the many blessings that a fulfilling relationship and life together has to offer!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Health Care Reform or Just Posturing

It is a fact that almost 80% of the nation wants health care reform. Yet our senators and representatives in congress are busy fussing and fighting over partisan nonsense instead of buckling down and doing the work required to hammer out an excellent package. There are brilliant minds available with excellent ideas willing to help with the work.

We as a nation desperately need and want health care reform. It is a shame that our President has to go to the public to garner support for a bill that should not need any more support. Our congressional leaders have forgotten that their jobs is to work for us. It is apparent that the congressional agenda is NOT to take care of it's constituents, but to amass more seats in congress. For my part, this is narcissism, not governing.

I propose a national referendum that places term limits on congressional seats in both the house and senate. Neither of these bodies will pass the law themselves - and put themselves out of a job - but it must be done. We have term limits on many other government jobs and need it desperately in congress where the largest problem we face is cronyism and lobbyists. How can the nation expect congress to do their jobs properly when they are constantly thinking about running for re-election?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Am I A Victim?

Why does this always happen to me? How come any partner I choose ends up doing the same things to me that the last one did? Why do I find myself in the same relationship over and over again?

What do these three questions have in common? They all allow us to believe that we are the victim. In that role, we give our power away. How did we come to be the victim? What are we getting out of this role? What can we do to over come this pattern in our lives?

We may have come to see ourselves as victims through the lens of co-dependency. During a time in our lives when we lived with dysfunctional people we may have truly been a victim. We may have been a young child incapable of independence who needed our family system to survive. We may have been in an abusive relationship. We may have been genuinely hurt as a result of some past event.

If we didn't realize how we had adapted to survive these experiences, we may have become comfortable in the victim role. We may not realize we are feeling like a victim, but our language gives us away.

We may feel empowered in our capacity as victim. We may be using our role to passively control others and outcomes. In our past we may have needed to rely on our ability to manipulate through victim hood to ensure our survival. Now that we no longer live in that same family system, we have not yet realized how our victim identity has affected our current circumstances. In essence we continue to re-create the same dysfunctional familial dynamic in our new relationship by maintaining our victim status.

Once we realize our pattern and come to grips with the fact that we are no longer victims, we can begin to rebuild our self image and self esteem. It is vital that we let go of the need to control others and outcomes. In doing so we free ourselves from the need to continue our passivity and begin to own our power once again. As we begin to practice self care in our daily lives and use our tools to increase our self esteem, we free ourselves from the bonds of victim hood.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sabotage: Crossing the Line From Taking Care to Caretaking

How do we know if we are sabotaging our relationship? How can we determine if our actions are crossing the line from taking care to caretaking?

Co-dependency has been roughly defined as a condition which develops within us as a result of living with dysfunctional people outside of normal boundaries for an extended period of time. That definition, although specific, is general enough to allow a vast variety of dysfunctions to fall into the category of creating co-dependency. We can develop co-dependent characteristics as a result of being care givers to elderly parents, living with a disabled family member, having a partner who is an addict (alcohol, food, drugs, gambling, sex, etc., etc.), being subjected to extreme fear (post 9/11 trauma) or horrific violence (murder of a family member, rape, abuse, military service). There are many other obvious ways we can develop co-dependency, but what about the more subtle indications?

Overall we can say with accuracy that when we are doing for someone else what they can and should be doing for themselves, we are behaving as caretakers. That is the hallmark of co-dependency.

Why is caretaking a problem? Because the underlying message isn't help... no, it's incompetence. When we do for others what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves we are telling them by our actions that we don't believe they are capable of self care. They don't feel good about what we are doing and act accordingly. They are ungrateful and annoyed with us for our interference. We feel hurt. We tried to hard to take care of the situation and have not gotten what we expected in return, appreciation. That is because the meta-message is felt clearly by the recipient... you are incapable!

Additionally, there is another matter involved in caretaking. Manipulation. We are taking action to force a particular result. We are not actually focused on what's best for the other party, we are focused on what we would like to have as an outcome. That message, although we try our best to pretend we are angelic in our role, comes through loud and clear as well. The recipient doesn't really know why they feel uncomfortable about what we are doing, but they sense something isn't right.

We must learn to let go of outcomes and find a way to let the universe unfold naturally. If we feel uncomfortable not controlling, we use our tools to decrease our stress and practice self care. In the end we will triumph in our relationship if we allow our partner to take care of themselves as we do the same.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Hopes and Dreams

Marriage certificate, 1907We never wanted the relationship to end. We saw the two of us growing old together and sharing retirement. What we are feeling is the loss of our dreams.

We all have dreams when we commit our lives to our partner. When it doesn't work out the way we thought it might we have to face the loss of our partner, but also the loss of all the hopes and dreams we had for the relationship. Sometimes that is the hardest part. We may come to feel indifferent toward the person who hurt us so badly over time as we heal. But the loss of our hopes and dreams can feel as bad or worse than the loss of our partner.

We can help ourselves heal by creating new hopes and dreams for our lives and letting go of the old ones. The more detailed our new hopes and dreams are and the more committed we are to them the better we will feel. We take the time to write them down and put them up in a place where we can see them everyday. Maybe on the bathroom mirror in crayon, or on the front of the fridge with a magnet. Anyplace will do.

It can also help to write a letter to our Higher Power detailing why we feel so badly and how much the loss of our hopes and dreams has hurt. We delineate in as much detail as possible what those hopes and dreams were, then take the letter, shred it, and put in into our special "God Box".

Our "God Box" is the place where we let go of old hurts. It sounds corny, but the act of doing the exercise makes this part of self care work. We take a box, dress it up to suit our fancy and make certain it has a cover that fits. We can use a fancy vase, an old tobacco jar or anything we like. Just pick something that has meaning to us.

We take our shredded letter and place it gently in the box. We ask our Higher Power to take the burden of our loss from us, give thanks in gratefulness that it is done and replace the cover. Then we let it go.

We practice this tool as often as we need. We can use our "God Box" to let go of anything or anyone we feel we are trying to control or are having trouble just leaving behind. We can use it for hope and renewal whenever we feel we are at the end of our rope. We use it to learn to let go. In doing so we give ourselves the gift of peace.
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Plants and Pets

Potato plant. To ensure continuing worldwide a...

A couple of points for consideration: Why might we consider looking for a new relationship? If we were with our partner for many years and are just a few months into the process of adjusting to the end of our relationship, we are still pretty raw.

What if we find a terrific new partner who's former partner passed away and they don't have the baggage we do. We might be too damaged to successfully navigate this new relationship and in the process hurt both ourselves and our new partner. That would be a sad outcome.

We would be better served to take some time for self care, healing some of our wounds prior to trying to find a new partner. It's fairer to both ourself and our potential new partner. neither of us need to get hurt.

It may seem like finding someone new will make us feel better, but it's really likely to be a rebound relationship for us, and possibly not one for our new partner. We don't want to be unfair to another person or ourself.

Let's give ourselves time to heal. The average time it takes to get past the five stages of grief varies, but is generally around two years. During that time we can start with a plant. If the plant lives, after a couple of months get a pet. If the plant and the pet are both still alive after about two years, we are ready to care for a human being.

In the interim we can learn to care for ourselves. We practice our tools in our daily lives, making certain that we treat ourselves with all the empathy and compassion that we deserve. In this way we give ourselves the gift of healing.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Karma and Acceptance

Agape Music FestivalImage via Wikipedia

Acceptance and difficult decisions... that's the toughest part of relationships. We often begin our relationship with love in our hearts and rose colored glasses on our face. We bathe in the glow of eros, or sexual, love as our relationship begins. We feel alive and joyful. Our partner appears perfect through the haze of erotic love.

Over time as we grow in our relationship we notice that our love has changed. It has gone from being only eros to include agape love. Agape, or selfless, love is a matured love. It is a love that allows us to put our partner first, to compassionately fill their lives with warmth and empathy. As we give ourselves fully to the relationship, we free our partner to do the same.

The Buddhists call Karma the law of moral causation. We get what we give in life. If we give our partner empathy, warmth, respect, acceptance, security and loyalty we will likely get the same in return. If we give our partner condemnation, criticism and complaints we will probably get that in return as well.

As we focus on the positive in our lives and try to be the person we want our partner to be, we allow the ebb and flow of the universe to pass through us. We give up the press of forcing our will and permit events to unfold naturally. We use our tools to de-stress recognizing that enjoying the journey is the ultimate goal.
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Emotions and Kindergarten

kindergarten is funImage by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

Most of us in life are rarely in healthy balanced relationships. We are, more likely, in a variety of dependent or codependent relationships which we enter with a great deal of baggage we bring with us from our past.

The key to effective discussions between partners in relationships is empathy and compassion. Allowing ourselves to experience our emotions during disagreements keeps us compassionate, not only to ourselves, but to our partner as well. Once we turn our feelings off, we become automatons who respond with no more caring than the computer on which we blog. We can learn to disagree without being disagreeable by following the simple rules we learned in kindergarten:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
Remember the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.[Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum. See his web site at ]
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Monday, July 6, 2009

How Do I Save My Crumbling Relationship?

We are in the process of watching our current relationship fail...

Anahata chakra symbolizes the consciousness of...Image via Wikipedia

for the nth time. It's the same old scene again... feelings are changing, the good stuff seems to be disappearing, it's all tense and uncomfortable, we are walking on egg shells all the time, waiting for the other shoe to drop... it always does... we feel like running. It's the same as the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that... and so on. The same problems keep on cropping up in relationship after relationship. We are starting to wonder if it's worth it anymore. Maybe we should just be alone for a while and forget about having a partner. It seems like there just isn't anyone out there who we feel comfortable around for any length of time. It feels like the world has gone mad.

Does this seem all too familiar? What happened? Why do we keep on having the same problems year after year, relationship after relationship? Do we just keep picking the wrong partner?

At some point we consider that the one common denominator in each of our relationships is us. When we finally come to that realization, we have begun to see clearly. The one thing we do have control over in our lives is us. We cannot control how others behave, what they think or how they live their lives. When we finally grasp the truth, that the only person we can control is ourselves, we begin to see the light.

As long as we are trying to control something or someone other than ourselves, we give our power away to that which we try (in vain) to control. Once we realize that we can only control ourselves and allow others to do the same, life gets much less complicated. We focus on what we can control... us... and let our partner focus on what they can control... them.

It is probable that we have participated in the destruction of each of our relationships in pretty much the same manner from relationship to relationship. We begin with an obsessive and captivating eros form of love for our partner. Over time as that love began to change from obsession and eros into the more mature form, agape, we begin to notice little irritations about our partner.

As each of us tries to exert more and more control over the behavior of the other, we become harsh and unpleasant. The wonderful acceptance that blossomed initially in the relationship has vanished only to be replaced by criticism and complaints. In an atmosphere such as this, change does not happen. In order for change to take place, we need to feel accepted. Once we feel accepted as we are, we can begin to make the changes we wish to make to please our beloved.

As our irritation, criticism and complaints grow our relationship diminishes until there is nothing left but the opportunity to leave. If we experience the same kind of failure in one relationship after another we need to look within. How are we contributing to the demise of our love? Is there an answer?

The answer is empathy and acceptance. Compassion for our partner must precede a healthy relationship. Once we can feel empathy for their situation and accept our partner as they are, we are on the road to a balanced healthy relationship that will strengthen instead of falter over time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Health Care Reform Questions

Health care reform. That's the topic all the blogs are buzzing about as Congress begins to review the legislation that may or may not reform health care. There are many issues to be considered and many organizations involved in lobbying Congress to have their desires met. It is important that we, as those who will be helped or hurt by the bill that ultimately leaves Congress, contact our Congressional Representative and Senators with our views. Over 70% of Americans want some type of health care reform, but what that entails varies widely. Here are some of the issues to consider:

Tort reform: This entails making changes to the process by which doctors may be held to account for their mistakes in a court of law. Currently there are no limits on any medical malpractice awards. This drives up the cost of malpractice insurance and increases the cost of medical care. Since America is a litigious society, tort reform may be a necessary part of changing the way we view medical errors. Additionally, the American Medical Association currently has no nationwide format for ensuring that incompetent doctors remain unlicensed. This too may need to be changed. What's your view?

Prescription Drug Reform: The cost of prescription drugs has skyrocketed over the years. Many drugs are available for substantially lower costs outside America. In the UK, for example, almost all Rx's cost under 11 pounds (about $18). This is in stark contract to some Rx's here which can cost upwards of $600 without insurance when no generic is available. The high cost of Rx's in the first years during it's patent is meant to reimburse the company for research and development costs. Should we import lower cost Rx's into America from other countries (such as Canada) to decrease the cost of health care?

Health insurance for profit: The ability of insurance companies to make a profit has always been assumed to be a given in the health industry. This may need to change as the cost of health care rises dramatically over the coming years. How do you feel about insurance companies becoming not-for-profit to decrease the cost of health care?

Public Option vs Private Insurance only: This area of health care reform has been getting the most media attention and has the widest views. On the one hand, some in Congress believe that there should be a public health care option to compete with private insurance companies. This system would be set up on a medicare style basis, would emulate the current plan available to Congress and with existing plans already in place, would provide coverage to almost 97% of Americans. Others in Congress believe that a public option would degrade the overall quality of care available to all Americans over time and would cause employers to eventually stop offering health care as a benefit to employees. What's your view?

How to Pay for Health Care: Any plan requires payment. Even doing nothing will cost trillions of dollars over the coming years. It is agreed by all that some kind of reform is needed. America pays over 50% more for health care than the next closest nation. Considering the findings of the World Health Organization regarding the standing of America, it appears we have a great deal of decisions to make regarding the cost of health care vs the quality we receive. How should we pay for health care?

Regardless of the opinion we each hold, it is our responsibility as citizens to become educated about health care reform: what it means for each of us, how it will effect us, how much it will cost us now and in the future and what will happen if we do not address the issue. After becoming educated it is our further responsibility to contact our Congressional Representatives and Senators to share our opinions so that our elected leaders have the information necessary to represent our views when they vote on this most important legislation.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Misunderstandings Happen!

Misunderstandings happen in relationships. Although our goal is effective communication, we don't always make it. It is common for us to make inaccurate assumptions about the intentions of our partner when we don't take the time to get all the facts. Very often we will fill in the holes in the story with our own information. When we do that we may be headed for trouble.

How do we avoid this pitfall? Oddly enough, anatomy gives us the answer. We have two ears and one mouth. This indicates that we should listen twice as much as we speak. Truthfully, most of us speak twice as much (or more) as we listen. Practicing active listening is much more than just hearing what is being said to us. Active listening includes focusing our energy on understanding the meaning behind what our partner is saying in addition to the words being said. We refrain from thinking ahead to our next statement, and instead work on paraphrasing what we have understood from our partner both in words and underlying emotional message. This is not our normal pattern of relaxed chatter and may require a great deal of focus until we are more practiced in our approach.

When we have a misunderstanding with our partner our goal is to repair the rift. We do this by taking responsibility for our part. We own our stuff. We do this because we realize that when we own our part, we free our partner to feel compassion and empathy as a result of our vulnerability and humanness. Our partner can then feel free to own their part in the misunderstanding as well, fully sealing the rift. This breaks down the walls of resentment and bitterness and allows us to reconnect emotionally.

Misunderstandings happen. They can create painful episodes between partners leaving behind walls of anger and frustration. It is important to resolve misunderstandings promptly to avoid those feelings of anger and frustration becoming bitterness and resentment.

As we practice our tools in our daily lives we create an atmosphere of warmth and understanding between ourselves and our partner. Feelings of self esteem grow best in relationships where individuality is encouraged, communication is effective and mistakes are tolerated.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Think I Will Scream!!

She's driving me crazy! He doesn't understand how his behavior makes me feel! If she keeps nagging me I think I'll explode! If he doesn't listen to what I have to say I'll scream!

Sound familiar? We have all been in that place where we are infuriated with our partner and feel like we are going mad. We may want to shout to the heavens in frustration or curl up in a ball and disappear. Regardless of who began the current disagreement, we both end up in the same old argument again and again. What is happening? How do we get off the merry go round?

The high emotional toll that conflict brings to a relationship can be devastating. As partners we were once gentle and loving with one another. Now we bicker and argue almost daily. It seems as though not a day goes by without tension or a disagreement. We both feel like we are walking on egg shells. Every comment is taken the wrong way, every gesture and look misinterpreted. We feel stuck and can't seem to break the destructive pattern.

There is a way out. Empathy is the answer. When we can put ourselves in the place of our partner and imagine how they are feeling in that moment, we are becoming empathetic. When we are angry our ability to empathize with another vanishes. We are upset and consumed with our own feelings. In such a state we simply cannot empathize. In that moment, it is imperative that we give ourselves a time out and take a break from the situation and our partner to regain our center.

We may respond to a perceived threat by feeling anger. This may be our first line of defense. The adrenaline we produce in response to the emotional reaction from a threat, prepares our body for fight, flight or freeze. If we opt to fight with our partner, we add to the drama and discord. If we freeze, we become unable to communicate, again adding to the discord. However if we opt for self care, we can take that burst of adrenaline we received from our emotional reaction and use it to care for ourselves. We can take a brisk walk. While we walk we can mull over the events that have come to pass and use the adrenaline in our system as well. This not only protects our relationship from further harm, but also allows us to burn the adrenaline out of our system rather than letting it negatively impact our health. After a brisk walk we can return to the discussion feeling centered and empathetic, capable of coming to a mutual solution.

Although it may feel odd to walk away from conflict initially - we may have been programmed from early childhood to stay and fight it out with siblings or playmates - once we have tried this approach and found it successful, we will want to incorporate it into our tool bag for frequent use. Taking a time out, decompressing, coming back to our center, returning to empathy and being able to come to a mutual solution, are all beneficial ways of solving recurrent arguments in our relationships.

We use our tools in our daily lives. Our consistent practice of self care gives us increased self esteem. As our relationship improves our ability to be a part of an inter-dependent relationship increases and we become happier more fulfilled human beings. And isn't that what it's all about?
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