Category Archives: Deadly habits

All The World’s A Stage

By Mike Rice

Have you ever sat down with your TV remote control and flipped through each channel looking for a movie that catches your interest?  Most people have.  Perhaps I should say most men do.  It tends to be a guy trait.  However, this is not a gender specific behavior.  Everyone does it at one time or another.


So you find something that catches your attention and you get comfortable and begin watching.  Then, in twenty minutes or less, the words, “The End” flashes upon the screen.   One’s automatic response may be, “What the heck was THAT all about?”  The reason it didn’t make much sense is because you missed the beginning and the middle.  That’s the way our lives play out in our families of origin.

In each of our lives, a lot of drama occurred before we were born.  If you don’t know the beginning or the first several acts, the family drama can be quite confusing as we observe and it not make much sense.  By trial and error, as we mature, we watch the drama all around us unfold and efforts or made to figure out what role we will play that will allow the drama to continue.  This is where creativity comes in.   Different roles that result in certain behaviors are tested to see if they will maintain the family homeostasis or upset it.  Upstaging or taking over another family member’s role will lead to resentment and conflict.  Demanding directors will also play an integral part in the roles played by new cast members and tell a member what role they will play.

The role one chooses is also designed to satisfy whatever basic needs a cast member feels may be missing in his/her life.  The greater the unmet need, the more the role or behavior is chosen to satisfy or, at least, ease the frustration, of not having the need satisfied . . . regardless of it disrupting the story line.  In such an example, a whole new story line is created by the new character’s role and more drama is added causing other family members to modify or change their roles.

Older family members don’t like changing roles.  They worked hard to create the role they’ve been playing for years.  So any of the senior cast members may often strut and fret their hour upon the stage, signifying their power by trying to control the new cast member in the family drama.

The late noted conjoint family therapist, Virginia Satir, once stated that 95% of all families are dysfunctional.  If so, then I contend the other 5% are in denial.  We are not perfect parents anymore than we are perfect humans. We learned to parent based upon how we were parented.  We all come with our roles that we developed in our own families in order to get our basic needs met and the methods used to acquire these needs are often passed along to each generation.  The roles that are created to maintain the family drama are retained by the actors to seek others in their personal relationships that will allow them to continue to perform the roles they’ve been playing for years in their family of origin.

In a balanced family, all members are allowed to be what they are innately meant to be.  They are supported for their interests and goals and assisted towards moving in a positive direction.  They are recognized as individuals with different interests, dreams, and needs separate from other members.

In a toxic family, members are told what they are going to be, when they will be it, what they will do, and how they will do it.  Strict rigid rules are prevalent in the toxic family and they may even have rules for those who break the rules.  The toxicity tends to permeate the entire family structure.  It is quite common to see many family members fare much better in life when they are not around those whose thoughts, words, and attitudes keep them stuck and prohibit their happiness.  This is a sad scenario to be sure.  Parents don’t have children with designs of purposely setting them up for a life of misery and sadness.  What a parent has learned and developed to deal with their own life is not a one size fits all approach to their children’s lives.  Thus the words of Dr. William Glasser ring loud and clear:  “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.”

Who Owns the Problem?

By Dr. Ken Larsen

The first time I heard this question asked I felt a new level of understanding open within me.

Before this question came into my life, I had found that when a problem arose one of two things resulted:

  • One was the reflexive reaction to find someone or something to blame.  Dr. Glasser defined this process clearly with the “Seven Deadly Habits.”
  • If someone or something could not be found to blame, then, too often I would take on the burden and blame myself.

deadlyhabitsThe problem with this kind of thinking is that the energy that could be used to solve the problem is being dissipated in the “blame game.”

As I pondered this question I came to see that “owning” the problem is simply taking responsibility.  It does not necessarily assign fault.  In his book “Reality Therapy” Dr. Glasser made the simple statement that we could replace the words “mental health” with “responsibility”.

“Owning” the problems that are the inevitable challenges of life is simply realizing our own power to choose the course of action that will be most helpful.

supportinghabitsSometimes we encounter situations where we personally don’t “own” the problem, but are aware of the someone who does.  Once again we have a choice as to how we think about and relate to the other person owning the problem.  Do we lapse into the “7 Deadlies”?  or have we accepted our own “response-ability” to apply one or more of the “7 Caring habits” in support of the other person?

Next time you are faced with one of life’s challenges, ask yourself the question, “who owns the problem?” And then use your “response-ability” to make the necessary choices.



Why can’t everyone else change so I get what I want?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Dr. Glasser defines stress as the difference between what we want and what we are getting. This is also the motivation for all behavior. So inspired, we all act on the world to try and change it so we can get what we want. Too often what we are acting upon in the world, what we are trying to change is another person.

I’d be a better wife if only my husband would change. I’d make a nice evening meal if he would promise to be home to eat. But he never keeps a consistent schedule so I never know when to plan dinner. 

I’m a great parent but my children won’t listen and cooperate with me. I’m trying to get all our chores done and the house picked up so we can go on a play date. But these children keep making more messes as soon as I clean one. All their screaming and fooling around drives me nuts. Why can’t they just cooperate this one time so we can go where they want to go? 

My boss doesn’t appreciate how hard I try to do a good job. Why should I work so hard when I never get any appreciation. Not only do I do what she asks, I go out of my way to do even more. But she never notices, she never gives me credit. She only tells me the things I still haven’t done to her satisfaction. 

In each of these situations the person is lacking satisfaction because the husband, the child, the boss is not doing what the wife, the parent or the employee wants and expects. Too often complaining and waiting for the other person to change are not the only things that the wife, the parent and the employee are doing to try to get their “other”to change. (Refer to deadly habits explained in other blogs.)

This might be a good time to take advice from Viktor Frankl. The chances that the wife, the mother, the employee and YOU will be able to change the other person are questionable. And in the process of trying to change the other person you run the risk of damaging your relationships.

We are rarely able to change the situation if the situation we are trying to change is another person. Let’s start from that understanding.

Accept Frankl’s challenge to change yourself from the very beginning!

Do you want to be a better spouse? What would you be doing, thinking, feeling as a better wife? Start now instead of waiting for your husband to change.

Do you want to be a great parent? Start now, whether your children are cooperating with you or not. You might even alter your definition. Parenting uncooperative children well is your new definition of being a great parent.

Do you work hard, doing even more than you are asked? Can you give yourself the pat on the back, an internal reward of recognition? Can you start noticing and recognizing all the things your boss is doing for and with you, rather than only noticing what she is not doing? Hmm. Are you getting back what you are giving out?

Meet the challenge of changing yourself. In order to get more of what you want avoid trying to change another. By focusing on changing yourself and not the other you will maintain connected relationships and improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

Paradigm Shift

By  Mike Rice

Admit it.  We’ve all done it a few times in our lives.  It happens on airplanes, in grocery stores, parks, church, or any other public places.  We experience things outside ourselves that leads to feeling frustrated or angry because “some people’s children,” or someone, or some thing is behaving in ways in which we disapprove.  We begin to think such things as, “These kids need to be taught how to act in public,” or “Boy, Some people’s children . . .,” or “A good swat on their tails would put an end to this kind of behavior.”

When our happiness needs are being disrupted, it’s easy to react in negative ways to attempt to ease the frustration.  You may choose to criticize, blame, complain, nag, threaten or even punish those whom you perceive as the disrupters of your happiness.  Ironically, the thoughts and behaviors that are chosen often cause more unhappiness than they do to resolve it.


You are riding a bus and you don’t like riding busses.  You are only doing so because your car broke down and is in the shop being repaired.  So already, you are not all that happy because in your happy world, your car is running well and has no mechanical problems.  You are also unhappy because the bus has to make several stops to let passengers on and off which makes the bus trip seem to be even more unpleasant.

On one of the stops, a man and his two young sons board the bus.  You are reading a newspaper to take your mind off of your unhappiness and to focus on other things.  But even the newspaper articles are stories of things that conflict with your happiness ideals.  Perceiving yourself as in control of your emotions, you do your best to stuff your negative emotions so that others won’t notice them.

busrideThe two boys who recently boarded the bus are now running up and down the aisle of the bus, playing tag and letting out several high-pitched sounds that are unpleasant to you and disrupting your concentration and ability to read your paper.  You begin to think to yourself how unruly these kids are and how poorly they have been raised to behave this way in public.  You glance over to the father who appears to not even be in touch with his surroundings.  He is not only ignoring his children and their behavior, he is just staring out the window at nothing in particular.  And now your values kick into another gear of confirming just how poor a parent this man is and why these kids are behaving so poorly.  Now there are several people around you who are behaving in ways in which you disapprove.  You begin to feel a knot in your stomach.  You clench you teeth.  Your blood pressure rises.  You feel achy.  Your anger intensifies.

Now you don’t care if anyone notices your looks of displeasure or not.  In fact, you hope the father of the two boys will notice your expressions of unhappiness and take measures to get these kids to behave the way you want them to behave.  But the father is too self-absorbed to notice your unhappiness much less the behavior of his sons.  He simply stares out the window as if in a daze.  Meanwhile, the two boys continue to play and yell while chasing each other up and down the aisle of the bus.

You see the father and the boys as the cause of your unhappiness even though you were unhappy before they even boarded the bus.  But since there is nothing you can do about having to ride the bus, you begin to think that you can say or do something to the boys and/or the father to get them to behave the way you want them to behave.  You have held off as long as you can with only the information you see before you that you have recognized as being of the cause of your personal happiness.

Enough is enough!  You yell at the boys, “Sit down and be still!  Quit running up and down this aisle and disrupting everyone!”  And to the father, “Can’t you control these kids?  Some people should never have children because they don’t know how to raise them!”

The father looks stunned.  It appears you just shook him out of a coma.  He replies, “I apologize.  I’m sorry for how my kids are behaving.  Boys?  Come here.  Sit down and be quiet.”  And to you he once again apologizes:  “We’re all a little bit lost in our thoughts right now.  We just got on the bus back there at the hospital.  My wife . . . their mother, just died of cancer a few minutes ago and we are not dealing with it too well right now.”

So what are your thoughts now?  Do you still want to choose to criticize?  Do you still want to complain and blame them for your unhappiness?

This story is an example of how one chooses to think and behave on limited information and self-centered thoughts.  One cannot behave without a thought that leads to an emotion that leads to the choice of the behavior.  Once you change your thoughts, you will change your emotions and your behavior.

At the beginning of this story, you were controlling your behavior as best you could at the time.  But that didn’t work so well so you began to behave based on your thoughts and lashed out at the source you perceived as the cause of your unhappiness.  Once you got more information of what was happening in their world and not in yours, you suddenly changed your thoughts and behavior and may even felt like a jerk.  So now who is apologizing?

It’s not always about you.  Other people have their own unhappiness to deal with.  Just remember:  When you find yourself unhappy because of the behavior of others, you can only control yourself.  And there will always be someone else who has more to be unhappy about than you.

The Next Time You Are Unhappy

Change what you want and/or change how you behave when you don’t get what you want.  There are no other effective ways.



By Dr. Nancy Buck

Perhaps you already know this, but most people are born knowing other people should live their  lives. Opinions are like belly buttons; everyone has one. It’s just that some people have more attractive ones than others. The same is also true about opinions.

And yet, too often other people presume to be an authority about another person’s life, their choices, their life direction and life decisions. And many people feel compelled to tell the world how badly their fellow man is doing.

Often when people gather, time is spent catching other people up. Not only does one person tell of their own life and life changes, but stories may be told about the lives and changes of mutual acquaintances. Sometimes this chat fest turns into a gossip session.

Can you believe . . . or I just heard that they . . . or Next thing you know he will . . . The ending of each of these phrases is the “authority” explaining the poor choices and failings of the person being discussed.

Before you go making a faulty assumption, let me assure you that this activity is not done just by women. Although many men (and women too) accuse women of being the biggest gossips, this just isn’t true.

Telling a negative, or belittling story or disapproving gossip about another person, is too often done to help the speaker feel a greater sense of superiority and power. Putting another person down so you can feel taller or stronger ultimately back fires. A story teller or gossip often looses the respect and esteem of others.

Although gossiping may not be in the official list of disconnecting habits that destroy relationships, it fits. Gossiping contributes to creating distance in relationships between people. And ultimately gossiping can also diminish a person’s relationship with him or herself.

EXCEPT when people gossip positively! If you admire the achievement of a mutual friend, share this news. Admire and praise people loudly directly to the person and to others. Say nice things about other people, about their fine qualities and attributes.

One of my proudest moments as a parent was overhearing two women in Walmart. I entered the store a few feet behind my then teenage son David. He knew one of the women in the pair and said a friendly hello to her. He then walked on aiming for his purchase. These women did not know David and I were together or connected. The one who knew David said to her friend, “That is one wonderful kid. He is really kind and considerate. We worked together for a time and he was always willing to help me out.” What joy that gossip gave me!

If you want to improve your own mental health and happiness, stop gossiping and stop listening to other people’s gossip.

But go ahead, share positive gossip and spread good will wherever you go.

How do you calm yourself?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Recently I have been fortunate to spend grandma time taking care of my grandchildren, ranging in age from 9-months to 4-years, with an 18-month old in between. And if you’ve ever spent time with children you know that their days and lives are filled with moments of great joy and glee as well as moments of upset and sorrow. No one needs to be an emotionally intelligent genius to guess what emotional state a child is experiencing.

During those moments of sadness, upset and crying, I do my best to offer comfort, alleviating and relieving the source of the pain. I also add the extra grand-ma love, hugs and soothing.

What I also get to observe is how each child is learning to provide his own strategies to relax, pacify and self-soothe.

One searches for her pacifier and snuggle bunny to help ease her pain. Another squeezes his eyes shut tight until Mama comes and picks him up. The eldest now makes his grumble grouch face as he stomps about. This same boy use to grab his baby doll Jeffrey, throw himself in his bed and comfort Jeff as he comforted himself.

Learning self-regulation and self-soothing is an essential skill for good mental health and happiness. Some of us are lucky and learned how to do it early in our lives.

And some of us turned to other self-destructive strategies instead. These destructive and failed attempts toward self-regulation include drinking, drugging, over-eating or nutritional deprivation, sexing, gambling, just to name a few. Just like every other person on the planet, these folks experience pain, sadness, anger and suffering. But rather than learning how to successfully deal with the feelings to enable creative and thoughtful explorations of better strategies to get what is wanted and meet their needs satisfactorily, they choose behaviors that suppress, mask, or cover the negative feelings.

What are your self-soothing, self-regulatory strategies? Are they serving you well? Do you feel calmer, more peaceful and better able to face your problems and look for better solutions?


Or have you escaped the pain, dulled and zoned yourself out with your self-soothing choices? Are you now faced with worry and concern about your choices, adding to more woes and self-hatred?

Now is a great time to learn and add new, more effective and responsible soothing strategies. Start making a list of the strategies you know that work and give you strength and comfort. Get curious and ask family and friends what strategies they use.

Just to get you started let me give you a couple: prayer, meditation, slow and deep deliberate breaths, humming a calming song, hugging a friend, or a dog or a tree.

Your turn. . .

“…and seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

By Dr. Ken Larsen

My friend Dr. Nancy Buck gave me a word of encouragement recently.  It reminded me for some reason of this old song, “Home on the Range.”   I can remember my boyhood hero, Roy Rogers, singing it.  [btw, the second verse is not very politically correct in today’s world, so stick to the first verse.]

It got me to thinking of one of my favorite subjects: words and the meaning they carry.

Think about it.  You have a meaning in mind that you want to send to another.  So you find words that fit and you send those words.  Hopefully, the words trigger a similar meaning in the mind of the receiver.  If that happens, communication has taken place.  Sometime even a meaningless word can have meaning if two people know what is being referenced.  For example, that thingy on your desk came with a doodad attachment.  Where are they now?  You ever communicate like that?  It’s funny how often that sort of thing actually communicates.


When I heard Nancy offer encouraging words, they triggered pleasant meanings in my mind that made me feel better about myself and about Nancy, and even about the world in general.  I like to find ways to send those kind of messages as often I can without falling into flattery.  If I look and listen, I can usually find something positive and up building to say to another.  Dr. Glasser’s caring habits help with this.

Now think of the unkind word.  The harsh word of criticism, or blame, or complaint.  What meanings do they trigger?  How do they make you feel?  We know that at best they don’t make you happy.  At worst they can ruin your day and affect the way you think about yourself.  You may even go home and kick the cat.  Poor cat.  Think of Dr. Glasser’s deadly habits.

We used to sing “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  I have discovered that that is simply not true.

Let’s look for ways to speak words of love and life everyday.  One of the rewards is the happiness it brings to you.

And your bonus is  a short clip of Elvis singing “Words”.

You ain’t nuthin but a hound dog!

By Mike Rice

We humans can be pretty resilient when disappointed or when things don’t go our way.  One of the most common ways people declare their unhappiness is by complaining.  When all known skills to overcome one’s unhappiness fail, complaining becomes evident.  We’ve all heard the old saw, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”  But also, the squeaky wheel can also get replaced.

There is a belief that exists that by moaning and groaning, somehow, somewhere, someone will come along with the answer to one’s unhappiness or even resolve their unhappiness for them.  This usually occurs when the complainer has given up on their own ability to ease their frustration.  So they continue to go through life, moaning and groaning and not doing much about their unhappiness except to give up and endure it . . . complaining all along.

Motivational speaker, Les Brown, tells the story of a young man who heard a sorrowful moaning and groaning sound as he was walking down the street in his neighborhood.  He wondered who and why someone was making this sad lament.  He followed the sorrowful sounds as it got louder and louder indicating he was nearing the source.  He came upon an elderly man sitting on his porch reading a newspaper.  Lying next to the old man was an equally old hound dog.  The young man approached the older man and asked:


“Excuse me sir.  Is that your dog making that mournful sound?”
The old man replied:  “Yup.”
The young man asked, “Why is he moaning and groaning like that?”
The old man answered, “’Cause he’s laying on a nail.”
This prompted the younger man to ask, “Then why doesn’t he get up?”
And the old man replied, “’Cause he ain’t hurtin’ bad enough yet.”

Is moaning and groaning resolving your unhappiness or is it just easing your frustration?  Have you found many people to join you in your unhappiness?  Misery loves company but company hates misery.   Whenever you get tired of all the complaining that isn’t making you feel any better, you have three choices you can rely on that will bring you happiness at a moment’s notice . . . guaranteed.