Category Archives: Connection

Mother’s Day Pain

By Kim Olver (originally posted May 10, 2014)

Today I want to acknowledge the people who may be in pain on Mother’s Day and in all the days and hype leading up to it. Who may those people be?

  1. A mother whose child has died
  2. A person whose mother has passed away
  3. A mother who has put their child up for adoption
  4. A child whose been adopted
  5. A child living in foster care
  6. A woman with a regretted abortion
  7. A woman who has suffered a miscarriage
  8. A mother and child separated by pride and misunderstanding
  9. Anyone else I may have left out
  10. Couples who are infertile

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Experiencing emotional pain is never easy but it is made even more difficult when the world around you is celebrating while you are feeling so sad. Those who have their mothers and their children to celebrate with will be happy and pampered on Mother’s Day. It is a special day set aside to honor the woman who gave birth to us.

If you are a mother without her child on Mother’s Day, you have some choices to make. You can embrace your feelings of grief and sadness and simply allow yourself to experience the loss. You can put a smile on your face, pretending everything is all right when inside you know it isn’t. You can use distraction to busy yourself so you are focused on other things. You can find a way to be grateful for the experience of motherhood, with all its ups and downs, and find the gifts, lessons and opportunities in the experience. Or you can create a new celebration of your own for this day . . . something meaningful to you.

If you are child without your mother on Mother’s Day, you have similar choices. You can embrace your feelings of grief, loss and sadness and just be in that space. You can pretend all is well when you know it isn’t. You can distract yourself with other things, trying not to think about her. You can find a way to be grateful for the mother you had, for better or for worse. She gave you life and taught you things . . . some you will embrace, others you will never repeat but all lessons nonetheless. Or you can find something else to celebrate on this day.

Whatever you do on Mother’s Day, recognize the choices you have and choose the one that serves you best. The world recognizes mothers on this day and your focus may need to be on how to take care of yourself today. You are just as valuable and important as all the mothers and children who will be happy today. Choose well.

World Peace through Laughter

By Denise Daub

Today, May 1st is World Laughter Day.

Laughter Day was first celebrated on January 11, 1988 in Mubai, India and was founded by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga now practiced worldwide.

laughterLaughter has proven to be instrumental in lowering blood pressure and stress levels, not to mention it just makes you feel good … and happy!  Interestingly, the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter.  This is where Laughter Yoga comes in.

We all know that emotions stimulate physical expressions… when you are happy you smile, but it can also go the other way.  Studies have shown that physical expressions can stimulate emotions. So fake it till you make it will actually work when it comes to laughter.

Laughter is contagious, has the power to bring people together and creates happiness.  It  strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy and triggers healthy physical changes in the body and…. it is totally free!

Laughter helps to create a positive mental state to deal with negative situations and negative people. It gives hope and optimism to cope with difficult times. – http://www.laughteryoga.org

Improve your mental health and happiness and take some time to laugh 🙂

 

The Relationship that Keeps on Giving

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

My relationship with death has been most interesting in the fact that is has uncovered one of the great paradoxes of life: the more you think about dying, the more you think about living. Death is what gives life its significance. If we lived forever, we would never have to answer the important questions about “What do we want our life to mean?” Or “Am I proud of the person I am becoming?” or “Am I living the life I want to live or have I copped out and given into fear and inertia?” The fact that we are going to die is the great motivator of these questions.

I remember one question that was asked of me was, “If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?” That question incited several phone calls, mostly to make sure that certain people knew I loved and appreciated them, and also persuaded me to keep that list current in case anything happened?

canstockphoto14643549Thinking about dying helped me realize the importance of my saying “I love you” as the last words my wife and kids heard from me every day before I left for work. I had decided that if something happened to me that day, I wanted to make sure that my kids could say that the last words they heard from their father were “I love you,” not something like “Make sure to clean up your room” or “Adam, didn’t I tell you to get your damn bike out of the driveway?” My looking at my own death helped me make that decision.

My partnership with death has been a motivator in my creating a notebook which sits on my desk and is entitled, ”The Journey Continues: When I Die” which contains everything my kids would need to make sense of my estate if I died suddenly. Many people make books like these in the very last years of their life (although many think they will get to it and never do). I have had that book ready for my for 20 years; I count it as a gift to them that if I had died unexpectedly, that they would have some reasonable tasks to perform rather than the ungodly mess that many people leave to their kids.

Death is a friend who keeps asking, “Ok, what do you really want to do and when are you going to do it? Death is a friend who keeps us honest. Death is the final recovery from the great American addiction: “Just keeping doing what you’re doing; you can get away with it!” With Death, we can’t get away with it.

Many years ago I decided I wanted Death to be my friend rather than my enemy or adversary. I can honestly say that nothing in my life has ever been made worse by that decision, and that overall, my life has been much richer and more significant because of that relationship. We all have that choice.

“If you were sure something important, significant and life-changing were going to happen to you in the future, would you want to know more about how you might have it become an opportunity rather than a disaster?”

“If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love

by Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 7/2/14)

Love and belonging is at the top of the list of our basic needs named by Dr. Glasser.  What we do to fulfill those needs is the essence of mental health and happiness.   Love is a word with many meanings.  I’d like to examine some of those meanings.

Anyone who has been to summer Bible camp has probably been exposed to the Greek words we have for “love”.  They are:

  • “Philos”.   This is brotherly love. Think of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.
  • “Agape” is the selfless, unconditional love that is often used to describe God’s love for humanity.
  • “Eros” is the intimate affection between lovers.
  • “Storge” is a parent’s love for their children.

Each of these ways of expressing love are lifegiving and enriching of relationships.

We need an infusion of love to live and to enjoy life in health and happiness.

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Love is poured into us from the very beginnings of our existence.  A mother looks on her baby with love while caring for her baby’s needs.   We are learning that this life giving, life enhancing connection between a mother and her baby is much more than just a “nice to have” expression of affection.  It is actually essential for the healthy development of the baby, especially  for their social and emotional development.  This connection goes both ways.  Both mother and baby enjoy a release of neurochemicals that support their mental health and happiness.

Sadly, there are some children who are deprived of this early enriching experience of love and care.  Many of these kids grow up and experience difficulties connecting socially.  Often there is limited ability  to self regulate difficult emotions.  This often leads to the self medication that leads to addictions.  Violence and unloving sex are behaviors often associated with people that have not had the early experience of love that is needed for mental health and happiness in a stressful world.

I am convinced that it is better to reach out a helping hand before we read another tragic headline born of the not so quiet desperation suffered by some of our people.

How can each of us make a deposit of love into the accounts of those whose emotional checks are bouncing?  There is no quick and easy answer, at least none that I know of, but I do know that it is better to reach out than to reject and ignore.  There is that wonderful tagline that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

Elvis did a song entitled “Life” back in the 70s.  The closing line is “…for life is love and love is life.”

Here’s the song if you’re interested.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4cWkMXrGjo

Can we all get along?

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 2/24/14)

Dr. Glasser has pointed out the disparity between our technological progress as a society and our ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships with one another.  Our technological prowess has soared over the past couple of centuries, yet, Rodney King’s simple plea, “Can we all get along?”  stands with Dr. Glasser’s comment from his book “Choice Theory” that “…we are no more able to get along well with each other than we ever were.” 

There is more than one reason for this inability to get along with one another.  I’m going to talk about just one that came to me in a fresh flood of insight recently.

It started with discovering a video clip on YouTube.  The clip was of a Swiss family who play and sing Swiss folk music.  Dad plays accordion, Mom does vocal, the two brothers play bass and guitar and daughter Yodels!  I was completely charmed by their performance and puzzled over why I found them so appealing.  I mean how many folks do you know that just DIG yodeling???  [Oesch die Dritten is the name of the group.  Check em out.]

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After a couple of days enjoying their music and driving everyone else nuts with my new found enthusiasm for yodeling, I suddenly sat up in surprise.  I asked myself, “What is the most obvious characteristic of this group?  They are European!  Specifically Northern European, that part of the world where my ancestors lived.  I was connecting in a funny way with some of the traditions of my distant ancestry!  Then I sat back and reflected on this insight.  I found that I really valued what I see and know about my European heritage, especially, in this case, with the music.  My appreciation for my own racial history has nothing to do with thinking less of other traditions.  As a matter of fact, I find that learning about other cultures and ethnic groups is fascinating.  We are all interconnected and have a contribution to make to this organism we call humanity.

Then, in my eagerness to share this with my friends, I found that I wanted to simply share my enthusiasm but I also wanted to be sensitive to the fact that a lot of people I know, including my friends, are less than enthusiastic about yodeling.  So with some hesitation I simply told of the joy I felt with this music, leaving them free to listen or not to listen.

Have you ever had what some call an epiphany?  Where fresh insights just seem to pour out in your thoughts?  That was what I was experiencing.  The next clear idea that emerged was that while I wanted to respect the interests and tastes of others, I also wanted and even expected a certain respect from my friends for what I had experienced through this music.  They didn’t have to jump in and become fans of Swiss Folk Music, but I didn’t expect them to look at my interest disdainfully.

I think this experience gave me a fresh desire to be more reflective in my efforts to touch and appreciate our diverse differences in our American culture.  We have rich treasures from other continents and other peoples.  Most of us have ancestors that came here from someplace else.  As I appreciate my own roots, I want to support and respect all my fellow Americans as we embrace our heritage and as we find ways to continue to build our common culture in this land of opportunity.

We live in an age where diversity is a reality.  I would like to see us all approach one another, as diverse as we are, with respect, interest and healthy curiosity.  Hopefully, through this we will grow in understanding and perhaps even bond in friendship across our differences.

worldhands “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

John F. Kennedy

Best Valentine’s Day Gift

Best Valentine’s Day Gift Ever: Happiness

by Noelle Nelson, psychologist, author and speaker

Oh, you thought I meant his/her happiness? As in making your honey happy with cards and flowers or wearing that sexy lingerie or going to that incredible restaurant? Not! All that’s very nice, but it’s YOU being happy that is the best Valentine’s Day gift ever.

Because let’s think about it: What are you like when you’re happy? For one, you’re not complaining about every little thing. You’re not seeing problems and hassles everywhere. And you’re certainly not blaming anyone for anything, especially not your honey. And whining? When you’re happy, you’re “fuggetaboutit.”

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When you’re happy, you’re a joy to be around. Not only that, you are more appreciative and grateful of your world, your life — and your sweetheart. Because happiness does that. Just like when you’re depressed all you can see around you are more reasons to be depressed, when you’re happy all you can see around you are more reasons to be happy.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noelle-nelson/best-valentine-gift-ever-_b_9194412.html

Practicing Happiness

By Charlotte, Whellen, NBCT, Basic Intensive Instructor
Murray High School

I teach at the first Glasser Quality public high school in the world, Murray High School.  Not only do I teach English, but I’m in charge of teaching Choice Theory to everyone in the school: staff, students and parents. I work constantly to improve my own skills at making use of Choice Theory in my life, and I can see a steady progression in my ability to connect with those I love and to achieve an inner happiness from successfully meeting my needs without hurting those around me.

That said, I get many opportunities to see where external control is still lingering in my thoughts.  For instance, this past Friday, at our weekly Community Meeting, we were introducing some new students who have joined us for the second half of the school year.  The staff requested everyone to get up and participate in some icebreakers and some connecting games.  Most students leapt up and immediately began to participate.  However, there were some resisting students, who just wanted to sit on the sidelines. Our wonderful PE teacher, who had organized the games, gently herded almost everyone into the fray and they got up and got involved.  There was a happy excitement in the gym as new and current students intermingled and began to connect.

I was participating, too, when I noticed one boy lying against the wall, propped up on his backpack, with his hoodie pulled down over his face, seemingly asleep.  I walked over to see if he was okay.  He told me he was having trouble readjusting his sleep schedule since our recent snow days off and that he would be fine if he could just sleep there a few minutes.

At this point, I had a choice to make, but I was not aware of my choices.  I just allowed myself to move into “external control mode” and reminded him that he had made a commitment to participate and that everyone else was doing that.  I encountered immediate resistance.  He began to argue with me that I should be flexible enough to let him do what he wanted to do.  I told him that if he didn’t want to do this and didn’t feel well, that was not a problem, but he’d need to go check in with the nurse and see if she’d let him nap for a few minutes on the bed in her office.  Not surprisingly, I encountered more resistance.  I, also became resistant.  I didn’t raise my voice, or get excited (thanks to my practice with Choice Theory), but I didn’t move away from external control.

Luckily, the student did not insist, but he grumbled that this isn’t what Murray was supposed to be about and packed his stuff up and stomped off.  I went back to the games and later spoke with our astute  principal, Ashby Kindler, about the situation.  She, in true Reality Therapy fashion, asked me a question — how much choice does a student have about getting involved in an activity?

Since then, many more questions along those lines have occurred to me:   Is there ever any room for someone to just feel like watching?  Is watching not participation at some level?  How is sending someone out for not participating helping them learn to participate?  Did my interaction with the young man bring me closer to him, or push us further apart?

Both the young man and I knew that this situation wasn’t what we wanted.  He was blaming me for the problem and I was blaming him.  You might argue, in a way, that we were both right — he should have participated and lived up to his commitment to be actively involved in community meetings and I should have avoided external control and trusted that with time and creating as many strong connections with him as possible, he would eventually make the choice to get involved on his own.

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However, I have often heard Dr. Glasser, in his inspiring talks, refer to our habit of “shoulding” on each other.  I don’t believe he invented that term, but he explained that if we tell someone what we think they should have done, or tell ourselves what we should have done, we are using external control on them (or on ourselves) and damaging our relationships.  He asserted that if we could just become aware of whenever we were using that word, we would soon be able to think of new ways to get what we need without the “shoulding,” and without pushing those we love and need away from us.

I have found this to be superb advice for maintaining my own personal happiness and I teach all my students about “shoulding,” which, of course, they love because it sounds very close to another phrase they  enjoy, but which isn’t necessarily school appropriate.

I have written an email to the young man today, explaining my thoughts since our interaction and thanking him for his willingness to engage me in a discussion about the principles of our school.  I didn’t mention his own commitment to participate in community meetings as a Murray student because I have learned, finally, that his choice in this regard is his own and the happiness of our school community depends upon our each deciding to learn more and more choice theory and choosing to practice using it in our daily lives.

How do you mend a broken heart?

by Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

Like, perhaps, many of you . . . I’ve had my share of broken hearted relationships going as far back as my teenage youth.  Music had always been a major part of my life and I would tend to express my unhappiness by finding and relating to the heartbroken lyrics and music of many song writers and lyricists who could express their unhappiness in words and music far better than I.

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I recall listening to these songs over and over, wallowing in my own despair . . . not willing to let go . . . crying, hoping, and praying that each situation might magically turn itself around and we would find ourselves together again in a state of bliss and happiness.  My favorite songs that I would choose to play as a musician were ballads . . . songs of unrequited love and broken hearts.  I loved the music of such writers of Sammy Cohn and Jimmy Van Heusen, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Matt Dennis, and many, many more.  Recording artists such as Sinatra, Ella, Sarah, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, et al. were m playlist.  I must have appeared to be happy being unhappy.

These were not happy times by any means.  The words and music were like prayers and I recall Father Joseph Martin having said, “The best prayers you ever said were when you were at the bottom of the pit. “

But not all of these artists and song writers wrote only sad songs.  In fact, they wrote and sang more happy songs than they did mournful songs.  And isn’t this the way of the world?  In time, everything changes and we eventually put on a happy face.

When does unhappiness turn into happiness?  . . . whenever one finally becomes tired of feeling miserable.  It happens after weeks, months, or perhaps even years, when we come to terms and accept the reality of a given situation and that there is nothing we can do other than to move on with our life.  As Dr. Glasser reminds us, one of the 3 reasons why people choose to depress is because they know there is something they need to do and they a.) Don’t want to do it, or b.) Don’t know how to do it.  In situations of broken hearts, “a.)” is the primary component.

Letting go of what cannot be controlled eventually comes to those of us who have been mourning the loss of a loved one . . .by breakups, divorce, and even death.  Acceptance.  Making real of what is and not how we want things to be.  Using your own experiences, you will realize that it wasn’t until you accepted the reality of the situation and that there was nothing you could do to change it that you began to move on with your life and feel better.  Looking back on your past lost loves, I would be willing to wager that you can now do so feeling a bit of gratitude for having known them, even if for a little while; for the experience and lesson you may have learned, for the things they may have taught you, and when times were filled with passion and happiness.  I would even venture to say that as you read these words, a slight smile may appear as you recall those times with those you lost long ago.

I still listen to the love songs of my favorite song writers and lyricists. I appreciate a well-written and performed ballad.  The difference now is that I appreciate them for their beauty, creativity, and sensitivity . . . knowing that the creators, too, had the same broken hearts that I have experienced .  . . to be able to express it in words and music.  The songs sometime bring back memories of my lost loves and sometimes they don’t.  And when they do, and after all is said and done . . . I look back on them and realize they were all good.  For even in bad experiences, there is good to be found.  In retrospect, you may, perhaps, even feel fortunate that they did end when they did.

The only two choices we have to overcome any unhappiness is:

  1. Change what you want and/or
  2. Change how you behave when you don’t get what you want.

There are no other options other than to feel miserable until you do so.

Neutral

By Gloria Smith Cisse, LPC, LMSW, CTRTC

Happiness is not simply the absence of sadness.   Happiness is much more.  It is a place of peace, comfort, quiet, beauty, and contentment.  It seems the thing we are always chasing is a kind of excitement that comes from getting something that we felt we have always wanted or needed.  This can be synonymous with drug addiction or thrill seeking.  I have never really enjoyed roller coasters and I don’t believe emotional roller coasters are any different.

A few days ago while I was in my car driving from one work site to the next, I thought about happiness.  Questions like: What is happiness for me?,  Am I happy right now?, and How would people know I am happy? danced around in my mind.  It occurred to me that I had not been “happy” in some time.  It also occurred to me that I was also not sad.  About a week before Thanksgiving 2015, I lost my mother.  I should be sad, right?

Some of my sisters and I communicate with each other on an almost daily basis. It feels like they are having a much harder time adjusting to life after our mother’s death than I am.  I was thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me because I was not as sad as they appeared to be.  I had made a choice to not depress.  I had not told them that, I don’t know if they would have understood.  I made the choice years ago because I had already spent too many years of my life being “clinically depressed.”

I have made a choice to get off the happiness – sadness roller coaster.  I can enjoy the happiness more because I experienced, understand, and appreciate the sadness.  I have learned to respect and give sadness its time because I know that it does not last forever.   As a matter of fact, I choose to not depress.

veronica-balanceSince that night alone in my car, I have decided that neutral, a place of balance, peace, contentment, and weightlessness, is a great place to be. It takes effort to remain balanced.  Anyone who has ever tried yoga will tell you, it’s hard!   I am not chasing happiness.  The mental picture I have is one coasting at my own pace and being surrounded by the things and people I enjoy.  This does not mean that I will avoid happiness.  It means that for now I will do my life and enjoy the peace that comes from simply doing my life.   I will choose the amount of time I spend sad.  I will not live on an emotional roller coaster.

I prefer to think of it as living like a “weeble wobble.”  Some of you may remember, “weebles; wobble but the don’t fall down.”  I can wobble from side to side but I will not remain in any one place too long,  except neutral…smile!

 

When being right may be wrong

by Dr. Ken Larsen

It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.”   — Pete Seege

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We were living in Salinas.  Not far from where Bobby McGee slipped away.  I was in 5th grade and struggling with a major metamorphosis in my thinking and beliefs.  I was beginning to realize that playing cowboys with toy guns was something that kids did.  I was beginning to believe that I was no longer a kid and needed to put aside childish games like cowboys.  I was also beginning to notice that girls were more interesting than I had thought not too long before.  In hindsight, this awareness of a new way of thinking and behaving was an essential step in my development as a person.  What was most interesting was the slow and gradual dawning of a new self-concept pointing to a need to change.  It was not sudden or abrupt, but sort of crept up on me.  I also came to see that I had to make a choice to achieve that change.

I believe many of us in our culture and in our world are facing a similar growing awareness of our need to put aside some of our childish beliefs and behaviors and move on and into a new awareness of who we are as adults in our humanity.

What I’m getting at is the truth in the phrase “the world is divided by those who think they are right.”

I have lost friends in discussions where both of us were convinced we were right.  This “being right” seemed so important that it came out as a criticism and condemnation of the other person’s point of view.

When both parties are enmeshed in the trap of “I’m right and you’re wrong” what kind of an outcome can be expected?

Far too often there is a cascade of anger, hurt feelings and ultimately alienation from one another.

Dr. Glasser helped us see the universal need in all of us for love and belonging.  The need to be connected to one another is built into our genetic makeup.  Dr. Glasser also challenged us to evaluate what we were doing and saying in our relationships by asking the question “is what I’m doing (or going to do) bringing us closer together or driving us further apart.”

I’ve seen that insistence on my point of view as being the right point of view is a flawed approach to connecting with others.  If I really want to draw closer to another, I’m working on creatively growing into learning new and more life giving ways to have a conversation.  If I believe that “live and let live” is a valid way to be with others who see things differently, then I believe I’m making progress.

I find it more interesting to get to know a person as a unique member of our human family before I get too busy trying to convince anyone of how my opinion is superior to theirs.

And my mental health and happiness are enhanced when I’m working to understand rather than insisting I be understood.