Tag Archives: family

Christmas Memories

By Brian Patterson

Kids in footie pajamas; frozen windshields and slippery roads; anxiety about how visitors would judge our house and gifts. These are some of my memories of Christmases past when we lived in the Midwest and had a different perspective on life.

canstockphoto1360199Last night, my wife and I hosted the family of our grown children (no footie pajamas) and my in-laws. The house was decorated nicely- with our eclectic style- and there was very little hint of the anxiety which used to pervade these events. We had chosen to go out to eat our evening meal and then go to our house for gifts, desserts and coffee. We have found it mentally healthy to change some traditions so we can enjoy the holidays and people more and worry less about being judged.

 

I used to feel that I should hand out Olympic-style score cards to everyone as they entered so we could average the scores and see how well we had done. For days, my wife would be frantically preparing and resenting me (or so it felt) for not being involved enough! During the event she was so concerned that everyone else was happy she could not allow herself that same privilege. Afterwards, she would vow to never ‘celebrate’ Christmas again.

The difference between those Christmases past and the more recent ones has been a growing understanding of how our brains work to meet our own needs and how to meet those basic psychological needs in different ways. We know now that we are not built like anyone else and we can meet our own needs in our own ways without duplicating the efforts of others. This has made us less judgmental and coercive and has improved all of our relationships.

Our mental health and happiness is our own responsibility. Knowing this has helped us to eliminate misplaced dependencies and unrealistic expectations. Others are not here to serve and satisfy us but to accompany us on this beautiful journey of life.

This website, www.mentalhealthandhappiness.com, has more insights into how others can discover the same peace at Christmas.

Lonely Holidays

By Dr. Ken Larsen

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray  1751.  

For me this verse struck me with sadness from the very first time I heard it.  As life has unfolded I see evidence of the many unseen flowers trapped in the loneliness of our culture.

We all know those who are lonely, most of us have been there ourselves.  When I’m in that place I find mental health and happiness more elusive.

kid_catI think the holiday season afflicts many of us as we look to the fabricated images of people enjoying the holiday season and then realizing that our own lives don’t often match those fabrications.

I recently had some major surgery and was feeling lonely and a bit sad because of the forced inactivity of recovery.   Then the phone rang.  It was a call from a friend who is a media personality in her part of the world.  What touched me and actually sent a jolt of joy through me is that she took the time to call and tell me she was thinking of me.  This simple act of friendship and kindness changed the color of my day from blue to rosy red.

helpinghands2A call, a note, a smile,  a friendly touch are all very welcome to us when we are feeling unseen and out of touch.  Let’s reach out and brighten the day of someone we know or someone we don’t know to give them the boost they may need to reconnect with their mental health and happiness.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Contributed by Denise Daub

Thanksgiving and the Art of Happiness

By Leeann Rooney November 15th, 2014

They say that happiness is a choice. That in order to ‘practice’ happiness, everyone should try to recognize the blessings that surround them, be it family, friends, good weather or simply a great cappuccino.

With that in mind, surely there is no better time to be conscious of your own happiness, than Thanksgiving!

Read more…https://www.pennyowl.com/thanksgiving-art-happiness/

Relationship Tips

Contributed by Denise Daub

by Ellen G. Goldman

When I was a little girl, summer was a time filled with lazy days, family, friends and neighbors. My siblings and I spent our time at the local swim club surrounded by our friends; swimming, playing tennis, ping pong, and just hanging out. When we were old enough to work, we got jobs at the pool club. Camp counselor, lifeguard, kitchen help; it didn’t matter as long as we could all be at “the club.” We didn’t need to think about making time for our friends and family. We were together all the time.

Now that I’m an adult, with adult responsibilities, summer days often feel like any other day of the year. Working, taking care of the house and family and always rushing to get things done leaves little free time to spend with others. I know I’m not alone. My friends and clients complain that there are just not enough hours in the day, and they are too busy to take the time to enjoy just “hanging out.” What I miss the most from those lazy summer days are the relationships I had with my summer friends.

Read more… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-g-goldman/8-tips-to-improve-important-relationships-in-your-life_b_7841656.html?ncid=newsltushpmg00000003

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!

 

Boundaries

By Paulette Murray, Post Grad Degree DCU, Ireland, OL Degree, Ucc Ireland

Boundaries are the way I know where I stop and you begin.
We need boundaries in every relationship.
To live in a relationship without boundaries is like trying
to drive down the freeway with your eyes closed in a snowstorm.
                                                            Marie Fortune

Years ago as an anxious parent of my young children I was afraid to have boundaries between myself and the people I loved most in the world. My fears were all about what ifs.

What if having boundaries meant that I didn’t protect my children? Did having boundaries mean that I wasn’t a good Mum? What if my children got hurt? What if  I neglected to know everything necessary to keep these precious children safe?

Until I learned how to meet my needs in an empowering way I felt as though I was driving down the freeway with my eyes closed in some very cold snowstorms.

Now, in the present as my fourth child is leaving the nest heading to University for the first time I’m glad I finally gained the courage and knowledge to create healthy boundaries between me and my children.

canstockphoto14163467How did I do it? It took a lot of self control and a lot of mindful breathing to control my anxieties.

I let them lead. I supported each as independent choices were made.

I listened to disappointments when one child didn’t get what he wanted, or when another was unhappy when someone behaved differently from how she believed he should have.

I let them learn. I allowed them to grow and become the truly mature young adults that they have chosen to become.

I learned to trust in me and them. As a result they in turn have learned to trust themselves.

Now our eyes are wide open.  Now we are driving down the freeway  of life gazing at the beautiful landscape that is our family and our family’s journey.

Feeling, Emotion and Intuition – Part II

By Dr. Barnes Boffey

Why would it be important to understand the difference between feelings, emotions and intuition? Let’s see:

man2I had a difficult face-to-face discussion with my ex-wife last night and this morning when I woke up I felt a tightness in my stomach and a sense of general uneasiness. I was having definite feelings about the previous night. My feelings, as they always do, told me that there is something that needs to be dealt with- something out of balance, something that I have become or continue to be aware of.

I sat with the feelings for a minute and realized that I was sad, and disappointed and angry – I was creating emotions in an effort to deal with the feelings I was having. As I tried to sort it out, I realized I was disappointed because my story was “I had really hoped it would be different this time. I had hoped to walk away having a wonderful conversation that helped us reconnect as former partners.” I was creating my anger (angering) with my thoughts “Shit, can’t she ever just make things easy. This is just too hard. I hate feeling this way.” Sadness was accompanying my thoughts that, ”I really do love her and it’s just too bad we can’t work this out. I wish life were just easier sometimes.”

Knowing I have some control over my emotions, I began to ask, “What emotions would I like to be creating?” Sadness was fine with me, and even the disappointment, but I do not like being angry very long. Realizing that an emotion is tied to a story, I began to tell myself the story of forgiveness to replace the story of anger.  (‘We are both doing the best we can. Life is hard and she is hurting and feeling scared. I don’t need to answer anger with anger.”) Knowing what emotions I was creating helped me see how I was dealing with the situation what my other choices were.

Finally, since I was out of balance, I used my intuition to make contact with the universal energy which felt large and safe and supportive of my efforts at forgiveness. I was able to be in the presence of the goodness of the universe, a truly loving energy. Like being held by a loved one, or sitting quietly with an old dear friend; I felt calmer and more at peace. Balance was returning.

That’s why!

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.

remotecontrol

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.”

This precious day

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you remember the last time your child came crying to you to have his or her wounds, pride, and heart comforted? You probably didn’t know it was going to be the last time until weeks later! Eventually you realized your child was handling his or her own soothing and comfort. And to your great regret you realized your child no longer needed your warm embrace to cover the booboo with your kisses. That part of your relationship slipped to an end. If you had only known the last time was going to be the last time you might have held tight a little longer to savor the moment.

canstockphoto0189025Do you remember the final lingering kiss from a lover that is no longer in you life? Don’t you wish you knew it was going to be the final kiss at the time? Knowing it now is too late to savor, enjoy and appreciate that moment.

Did your mother, grandmother, or some other magical chief make a dish that only she could cook to perfection? My mother cooked green and shelly beens with pork fat to perfection. She was a good southern cook who cooked this favorite summer indulgence when all the ingredients were fresh and readily available. Sadly, my mother is no longer living. Luckily she lived with me the last 2 years before her death. Together we cooked my favorite dish one more time. While I ate I knew it was to be the final time. With this knowledge I really savored and ate with gusto.

Luckily, many of life’s precious moments that cannot be experienced again are replaced by new precious moments. I can no longer sooth my son’s sufferings from cuts and bruises. But my grand children come to me occasionally for the same comfort. This time I don’t miss the moment. Each time I’m aware that this very moment could potentially be the last.

My Conversion

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

It was going to be a glorious vacation starting by renting an RV in Phoenix, then traveling to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, we would camp, hike and experience the wide, wild western part of our country. Our plan was to head back to Phoenix and return home two weeks later.

Three weeks later my husband, 9-year old twin sons and I were safely back in Rhode Island. We had lots of glorious photographs and fantastic memories. The only problem was my vacation included utter terror and abject fear. Did you know that there are no guard rails on the winding, steep high ways through the glorious National Parks of the Grand Canyon and Zion? Did you know that sitting in the front passenger seat of an RV means you are sitting in an incredible tall place where you can look down into the sheer drop so easily visible? Did you know that I am a very imaginative person who spent too many hours visualizing the mis-calculations of my husband’s driving that would lead to the death and distraction of us all? I begged, pleaded, yelled and finally got on the floor of the RV pounding my fists and kicking my legs in a full blown temper tantrum asking him to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!!!

Several years later we were planning another similar trip in and RV, this time to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. In addition to all the planning, organizing and arranging necessary for the trip, I was determined to change my terrorizing ways. After all, no one else experienced the same panic that I had. My challenge was to manage my fear without trying to manage my husband who was a perfectly safe and competent driver. But how? I considered medication, but did not want to feel foggy, dopey and out of it for our family vacation. Then I remembered what I knew about behavior, and total behavior.

Our behavior includes acting/thinking/feeling/physiology-ing. These four component work in harmony and simultaneously. I also knew from my nursing background that the physiology-ing of fear is the same as the physiology-ing of excitement. The difference between these two total behaviors is the thinking component. Yes! I needed to change the imaginative story I was telling myself.

I practiced for weeks before our flight west to Montana. We’re going on an exciting adventure that will include new experiences and sights! I’m so excited! This became my mantra whenever I thought of our trip, whether I was telling the story to someone else or thinking and planning on my own. Once we got into the RV and started driving on the first highway, I changed what I told myself slightly. We are on our great adventure. I can’t wait for all the new experiences and sights! This is exciting! Every evening I wrote all I had experienced, seen and been excited about in my gratitude journal. I repeated this mantra as many times as I got “nervous” instead of excited. I repeated this every time I say or did anything exciting. I repeated this mantra frequently and often. I was having a great adventure.

Success! Taking control of changing the story I told myself allowed me to convert my terror and panic. I genuinely enjoyed a family vacation which was a great adventure, filled with excitement, extraordinary sights and wonderful family fun and experiences.