Category Archives: Communication

The only way to win is not to play!

Dr. Ken Larsen

tictactoe

I remember the film “War Games” where a rogue computer was waging a simulated Thermonuclear war between the US and the USSR.  The outcome was a doomsday scenario where everyone was destroyed.  The only way they were able to get the computer to stop was to entice it to play Tic Tac Toe.  The computer soon recognized the futility of the game, where every move resulted in a counter move with no possibility of a clear victory.  The computer extrapolated this insight into the Thermonuclear simulation and quickly recognized that there was no possibility for either side to win.  The computer concluded wisely, “the only way to win is not to play!”

I believe we need that insight in today’s world, especially in our nation with its upcoming very critical elections.

We’ve looked at the truth of “the world is divided by those who think they are right.”

Yet many of us continue the rancorous battle between opposing points of view without realizing the utter futility of the ongoing argument, pitting opinion against opinion, generating far more heat than light.

What would happen if all of us would pause and reflect on what is good and true and beautiful for each of us?  What do we value, where do we find love and light and life?  What if we were to stop attacking those with a different point of view, accepting that there are differences and that our differences can make up the diversity that makes life interesting?

Maybe we could even talk about what we cherish and value, owning what we say as ours, not trying to be right and make others wrong, but just interested in sharing what is good in life with one anotherOnce we have some clarity within ourselves, we can vote with those values in mind.

I suspect that the impact on our personal and on our collective mental health and happiness would be profoundly positive.

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, peaceful acceptance of one another has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult and not tried.

I’m willing to try this.  How about you?

Nourishing the Different Parts of Ourselves-Part 2

By Dr. Barnes Boffey

Each of the different sub selves of our personality get nourishment in different ways. The “Cowboy” I spoke of earlier likes free time, lots of fun and some thrill and excitement. Without that, he feels trapped and bored and boxed in, and he can do what anyone does in those situations, act out or depress. Tending to his needs is important in maintaining happiness.

hobby-1642907

Other major sub selves for me are my “Artist,” my “Helper,” my “Teacher and my “Warrier.” Some seem pretty obvious, but let me share a few specifics. My “Artist” is the creative, non-linear, poetic, romantic part of my personality. He loves a good book, and listening to fine music, and writing and romance. Where my “Cowboy” wants to see an  adventure movie, my artist wants a love story or an off-beat tale to stimulate and energize. My” Cowboy” wants to drive a car fast, my “Artist” wants to lie on a rug and read poems with a lover.

My “Helper” is the minister inside me; the counselor, the fixer and the compassionate friend and citizen. My “Helper” needs significance, not so much excitement, and he needs to know he is making a difference in the world. He is the one who helps people move houses, and stops to talk with a friend who needs support, and gives what he can to charity. He is dedicated to service and returning the favor for the gifts he has received. He looks forward to situations where people are in need, so he can provide some solace and aid.

My “Teacher” is my central sub-self. He is part helper, but more educator and mentor. He is the one that taught elementary school, and does counseling workshops, and mentors young men and women who need an elder. My “Teacher” is enthusiastic about being an elder in the community and taking on the role of sharing what he knows. My “Teacher” and my “Helper” are more self-less than my “Cowboy.” They get bored when life too self-focused for a long period of time, and they need to get back to work in service to something larger than themselves.

And finally, my “Warrier,” who is the strong and willing to “do battle if necessary” with those who seek to destroy or hurt others or use people or the world badly. My “Warrior” can be seen as a bit scary and sometimes “too much,” but he is a part of me that I love and cherish. He was not understood at all in school, especially by female teachers, and had to find ways to express his strong and often loud feelings and behaviors in more appropriate ways. Of all my sub selves, this is most often the hardest one to find ways to nourish in a world becoming more gentrified and politically correct. “My “Warrier” goes to see an action movie with a bad-ass hero who fights for justice and eventually vanquishes the bad guy.

How does knowing all this help?

Relationships: Function of Time and Meaning

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Many years ago a wonderful mentor of mine explained that significant and satisfying relationships were a function of time and meaning. We have all experienced an encounter so full of meaning that you think you and this person will be soul mates for ever only to discover that you hardly remember his name the following week. We’ve also probably had a relationship with an elderly relative who has known us all of our lives. Unfortunately after we finally graduate and become an adult each subsequent meeting with this person becomes more awkward. Yes, your relationship is full of time. But eventually there is only insignificant and trivial meaning between you. Satisfying, meaningful and important relationships are built on a significant amount of two essential ingredients: time and meaning.

With the advent and explosion of social media do you feel more connected, more satisfied in your ability to meet your basic need for love & belonging?

I’m happy to be able to keep in fairly regular contact with my adult niece who lives far away and who I almost never get to see. I’m able to keep an eye on her as I read her latest posts about her cats, social life and political actions. I’m also able to send her interesting posts about the things that she’s passionate about in life. Occasionally she returns the favor by sending me posts and articles that she believes I might care about too.

But the reality is that this precarious connection is not very satisfying. Yes, we are sharing some meaning. And this helps during those few real time meetings that we have. When we get to spend time in the same place we can avoid the strained conversation where we each ask the other whats new. We kind of have that covered by reading each other’s Facebook posts regularly.

Yes, my niece and I have known each other for all of her 34 years of living. And with the help of Facebook we have a better idea about what is meaningful to the other.  My relationship with Sarah is stronger than my relationship with my nephew Lewis. I’ve known Lewis longer because he’s older. But we do not have a Facebook connection. This means we are not sharing any of the meaning in our lives regularly. Now all we have is our shared history. And most of that history was from his childhood.

Oh my goodness! I’ve become that dreaded relative. You know the one I mean. The one who marvels at how grown up he has become and then I regale him with too much information about some subject no one cares anything about!

Our social media my be giving us the false illusion that our lives are filled with friends when in fact many lives are simply littered with people. A screen connection can never replace an actual face-to-face meaningful connection during a shared experience.

But connecting with far away family can be enhanced through the regular and meaningful connection on social media. Facebook will never replace a family reunion. But Facebook is much better then silence and absence that my grand parents experienced.

I never would have dreamed that Facebook would help me with my Mental Health & Happiness!

 

Advice

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Give help rather than advice Luc de Vauvenargues

Are you aware of your God-given gift? We all have it.  We all have the ability to tell other people how to live their lives. Some people offer this advice freely, whether welcomed or not.

What’s amazing is that often the very people we are freely advising are not necessarily open and ready to hear all we have to offer. Some people are actually insulted and annoyed by our generous sharing.

If everyone could learn that what is right for me does not make it right for everyone else, the world would be a much happier place — William Glasser, MD

To test out this idea, think back in your own life, maybe only as far as the beginning of this day. Who has given you unsolicited advice? Did it help? Did it hurt? Were you insulted? Were you enlightened?

canstockphoto10491846

The reality is that no one knows all that is involved in what is happening in your life circumstance as well as you. When someone offers unsolicited advice, usually meant with the best of intentions, the advice is all wrong. As a result you may be no better off and you feel worse about yourself, the problem, or your relationship with this person.  Ugh!

Why do people offer this advice? Certainly their intention is not to detract from your Mental Health & Happiness. However, most people, especially friends, colleagues and family members, want to help solve our problems and help us feel happier. Unsolicited advice is often offered to help contribute to other people’s Mental Health & Happiness in a positive way. Instead this too often is a mistake, detractor and at best a nuisance.

Here are some ideas (dare I say advice) that you might find useful:

  1. The next time a person is complaining, sharing, or moaning about a problem or overwhelming circumstance ask what you can do to help? As the above quote reminds us, offering help instead of advice is almost always welcomed. Amazingly the person may frequently tell you that when you simply listen that is all the help they need!
  2. If you have such fabulous and perfect advice that you simply cannot resist sharing, ask permission to share first. “I have an idea that I think will help. Would you like to hear it?” If the person politely declines, go to the bathroom or the closest mirror. Now tell this great idea to the person looking back at you in the mirror. Do not share it with the person who declined your offer!
  3. If you discover that you seem to be a frequent recipient of other people’s unsolicited advice, start self-evaluating? Are you voicing frequent complaints such that others might perceive that you are asking for help? Are you clearly stating what you want; someone to listen attentively without offering advice?

The simple practice to improve Mental Health & Happiness is to offer help rather than advice. Please know that this advice was offered in the spirit of helping.

Kindness

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Kindness is a language which the dumb can speak, the deaf can understand C.N. Bone

Today Im feeling overwhelmed. The news tells us of an angry man who states he was not raised by racists, but independently found answers on the Internet that led him to believe killing people because of the color of their skin was the answer to the worlds troubles. Perhaps it is reasonable to surmise that he believed this would be the answer to his own personal troubles.

Almost immediately the news tells us that family members of the slain nine who prayed with this young man before he shot them in cold blood have forgiven this man. This is such an extraordinary act of love and kindness that it is beyond my imagining.

What follows this act are the same arguments in todays news headlines, just are they have been so often:

People cry out for gun control!

We need more focus on mental health issues! (Please read this as mental illness, not mental health.)

If the people had carried guns in church this never would have happened.

What do you mean we have race relations troubles? This was an isolated case!

Amazingly there has also been swift action in many southern states. The confederate flag is being removed from public and government office buildings and spaces. Even Walmart is removing the sale of products that display this flag.

One small step. Years and years and years for this action to become a reality.

Could it be that this is an act of kindness? Is it possible that some are changing their opinions and points of view?

My own personal solution, the strategy I turn to for help with my personal Mental Health & Happiness right now is to search for and discover all the many acts of love and kindness committed by many people. My search includes the citizens of South Carolina as well as in my own city. There are people I meet and greet daily who are loving and kind toward me and others.

My challenge is to regularly commit acts of love and kindness. When others are looking to see where there are people committing acts of love and kindness, not acts of hate and terror, I want to be one of the people they discover. I want to help spread more love and kindness in the world.

For me, love and kindness are the answers to the worlds troubles. For me, love and kindness are the answers to my own troubles. For me, love and kindness are the direct path to Mental Health & Happiness.

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters

Dr. Ken Larsen

In our efforts to maintain or regain mental health and happiness I believe it is important to understand the internal processes that influence why we do what we do and why we feel what we feel.

A cornerstone of understanding ourselves is to study the differences between “sensations “and the subsequent “perceptions” that guide our choices in behavior.

William James, recognized as the father of American Psychology, devoted three chapters of his monumental book, “The Principles of Psychology”, (first published in 1890.) to what he described as the functions of sensations and perceptions and how they are different, and why it is important to understand the difference.

Most succinctly we can describe sensations as the data gathered from the real world outside ourselves through our senses.  Sensations are what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

whatconcernsme

The information from our senses is then interpreted by what we already know about the world around us, and by what we value and believe about that world.  This interpreted data is what we call “perceptions”.  What is most important to know and remember about perceptions is that we put them together ourselves, we construct them in our mind to form what Dr. Glasser called “the perceived world.”

It is this perceived world that is more real to us than the real world because it is what guides our choices as we relate to our external world and all that this world contains, especially our relationships.  We’ve heard the expression “stinkin thinkin”.  This is a way for us to sabotage ourselves with our own thinking.

If this is true, the good news is that we can change our “stinkin thinkin” by changing what is going on in my personally constructed perceived world.

I experienced a major “Aha!” in my life when I first saw that our perceived world was an internal construction based on my past experiences, what I have learned, what I value and believe.  The corollary to this insight is that if my learning or my values or my beliefs are shaping perceptions that are not needs satisfying, I can change.  Changing my perceptions changes my behavioral choices, and changes my experience of the world I live in.

An example of how wrong perceptions can lead to tragic consequences is the death of George Washington.  He had what started out as a sore throat.   Physicians were brought in to treat the sore throat.  One common treatment option in those days was bloodletting.  “Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were regarded as “humors” that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health.”  In Washington’s case, this bloodletting killed him.

Physicians saw the symptoms.  They then formed a perception of the cause of those symptoms, which led to an ineffective, even disastrous, treatment.

The lesson for all of us is that if what we are doing is not getting us what we want, we can pause, step back and evaluate how our internal beliefs about reality are influencing our choices.  Based on new insights, we can change our behavior to more effectively get what we want.  Or we can change what we want, based on a new understanding of what is motivating us.

It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.  Tony Robbins

 

Daily gratitude at the post office

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Going to the post office has been a regular part of my daily routine for many years. I often have books to mail, packages to sign for and my business post box to check on.

For several years I lived in a rural part of Rhode Island where there was never a need to wait in  line. There were never that many customers. Now I’ve moved to a new state and into a city where everything has changed. Now I need a strategy about when to go to the post office. The best time is first thing in the morning, before the doors are even open. Although I still end up waiting in line, the wait is for the doors to be open instead of the long line of costumers in front of me.

Today I arrived at the post office before the doors opened. There was one man waiting in front of me. I was pleased to discover I was going to be the second person attended to. As so often happens, the fellow and I began to chat. It didn’t take long before I mentally named him Mr. Grumble-Grouch.

This is the worst post office in the district. All the people who work for the post office are just lazy. It’s because of the unions. People know they can’t be fired. It’s no wonder the post office is going bankrupt. 

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this is just a sample of all that he had to say.

I was thinking how wonderful it is that I can spend a little bit of time and a little bit of money and am able to send my book halfway around the world. I’m always delighted when I see the postal truck at my neighborhood complex delivering our mail. Yes, there are mistakes made. But I’m actually amazed at the number of mistakes compared to the quantity of accurately delivered mail. I am grateful for  the United States Postal Service delivering my mail through snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night.

postalworker_4326258

Then there is Dave, the wonderful postal employee who works at my neighborhood post office. He is always polite, helpful, cheery, kind and sincere. I admit there are other postal workers at the counter who are not so pleasant or helpful. I don’t think I would call them lazy as Mr. Grumble-Grouch did. But it does seem as though they let people, events and circumstances interfere with their ability to interact kindly with each person they see. I know that the few minutes I experienced with Mr. Grumble-Grouch tested my patience and capacity for civility. And I wasn’t even the target of his angry complaining.

But not Dave. Dave has a secret. In fact the next time I’m in the post office, which might just be tomorrow, I’m going to ask him what his secret is. I know his ability to be pleasant and of service adds to my gratitude at this post office. I bet Dave has something to teach me about Mental Health & Happiness. I’m going to find out.

Stay tuned . . .

 

Random Acts of Kindness

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

How often do you do kind things for others? There was a time when committing random acts of kindness was all the rage.

You might come to a toll booth and discover that the driver in front of you had already paid for you. It wouldn’t be too unusual to purchase a cup of coffee only to discover that a stranger had paid for your coffee too. Even today you may experience good fortune if someone with a carriage filled with groceries will let you go first to pay for your three articles.

Not long ago there was a television commercial showing one person observing another person who was being kind and thoughtful. This inspired similar action by the observer who then was observed in kindness by another. And so the chain reaction of spreading kindness was demonstrated. I don’t remember the advertised product. But I was buying the random acts of kindness that was also being sold.

maninholeKindness can be contagious. And kindness feels good when you give or receive it. Somehow it feels like even more of a gift when the person extending this is a complete stranger! How awesome to discover that another person sharing the planet with you enjoys his or her ability to be generous!

If today is a day where you feel that our world is more and more disconnected, angry, alienated and cruel then today would be a great day for you to spread some random acts of kindness. Your Mental Health & Happiness will be enhanced if you do.

And if you are looking for some help and ideas, please visit www.randomactsofkindness.org. Just visiting this site is guaranteed to improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

KEY WORDS:

Now if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is…

By Dr. Ken Larsen

My wife Sheren and I have been married for over 50 years.  We have learned to live together in peace with no conflicts.

And, dear reader, if you believe that I have a fantastic deal on the Golden Gate Bridge.

We have, however, learned ways to work through our conflicts.  Following is one example.

kenlarsenWe have a home theatre system that is kind of elaborate, with multiple speakers and surround sound and all that sort of thing.

I enjoy listening at a level that Sheren finds unpleasant.  We tried turning the sound level down to a lower level.  That worked for Sheren, but not for me.

Sheren, in her loving wisdom, came up with a solution that works for both of us.

Ear plugs for Sheren or a headset for me.  We actually sort of alternate. This is a very simple but effective resolution to the conflict.

I can conclude from this experience that for us, mental health and happiness is not based on being free of conflict.

It is based on maintaining a loving connection while we work through the conflict.

If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

Dialogue or Diatribe?

Dr. Ken Larsen

The world is divided by those who think they are right.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  This familiar quote from Gandhi is an invitation to make our world a better place.  There is a parallel saying and that is “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Like the Miss America contestants, we all want peace in our world.

diatribe

I suggest that the absence of peace is conflict.  While there is little I can do about global conflicts, there is a lot I can do with the conflicts in my relationships.  One place to start is in our conversations with one another.  Dialogue is the free exchange of ideas and experiences.  It is a chance to see the world through the eyes of the other.  The most fundamental element in dialogue that leads to mental health and happiness is to make understanding the foundation.  Too often interpersonal communication ends in disagreement and conflict based not on understanding, but on a lack of understanding.   Each person in the dialogue has a legitimate point of view.   If one tries to deny the experience of the other and try to control the other to see things his way, we have a serious breakdown in the conversation and in the relationship.  If we agree that disagreement has no right to take place until understanding has been achieved, we are making progress.  It’s OK to “agree to disagree” but in order to have any integrity it is important that each person understands the point of view of the other before moving into disagreement.

Dr. Glasser talked about “external control” as a major contributor to conflict, unhappiness, and breakdown in relationships.

The way we circumvent external control is to recognize that I can only control my behavior.  When I slip into seeing my point of view as correct and the other’s point of view as wrong, we have a problem.  This may result in an “Archie Bunker” kind of diatribe against the other, insisting the other is wrong while you are right.  The result of this behavior is a growing hostility and enmity toward the other.

I mentioned earlier that there is little I can do about global conflicts.   But, if I understand the value of dialogue as a way to see the world as the other sees it, maybe I can have a small impact on what is going on in our world.  If I recognize that the diatribe often associated with condemning the other is based on ignorance I can make an effort to become informed.  I can seek to see the world as the other sees the world.  And in that process, maybe I can find a common link that we can build on.

In my own life, I have made an effort to get to know others who are different from me.  With respect and healthy curiosity I have found truly delightful opportunities to see the world through the eyes of people from other cultures and background.

We know that our attitudes and behavior toward others is based on our experience and beliefs about the other.  When we allow our beliefs to be formed by the unexamined opinions spoon fed to us, we have given away something of ourselves.  When listening to a media report on the “news” can we ask ourselves the simple question, “Is this true?”, or is it pre-digested propaganda that we have accepted without question?

In our relationships and in our world, there are differences.  That is what diversity is all about and it is good.  There is also common ground that we can use to build bridges between us.  Let’s build some more bridges.

For a short two minute video illustrating these principals click here

http://youtu.be/_0cdIQmZxWY