Tag Archives: ken larsen

Emotional Realities

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted November 14, 2013)

One of the characteristics of mental health and happiness is getting our needs met in and through our relationships with caring other people.

Dr. Glasser describes these needs in a couple of ways.  One, from his first best selling book “Reality Therapy” he points out that we need to “Love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and to others.”

Later, when he wrote “Choice Theory” he listed our basic needs as “Survival, Love and belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun.”

bowlingballs

One way I meet my fun needs is by learning.  Recently I was reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, MD.  One paragraph jumped out at me because it spoke to ways to grow closer to the ones we love.  Having a wife, three daughters, and five granddaughters, the more I can understand the female experience of life, the closer I can be in these very special relationships.

This is a quote from the book: “If she’s married or partnered with a male brain, each will inhabit two different emotional realities.  The more both know about the differences in the emotional realities of the male and female brain, the more hope we have of turning those partnerships into satisfying and supportive relationships and families.”

I highly recommend this book.

What do you see?

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally published November 23, 2013)

The ancient story of the blind men and the elephant is full of wisdom. Let’s apply this wisdom to the ways that we connect with the world around us and the people that share that world with us. We’re realizing that our mental health and happiness depend on loving and being loved in our relationships with others. This fable can give us insights into what can help us connect. It also shows us dramatically one major obstacle to connecting, and that is the assumption that the way I experience the world around me is the same way you experience our world.

elephant

Each blind man had to interpret the information of his senses and construct an image of the elephant from images formed from prior experience. This is understandable. The problem came when each of them assumed that their perception was the only accurate image of the real elephant. What would have happened had they shared their experience, each reporting on the part of the elephant that he could sense, realizing that the others were experiencing something that he could not. By sharing their individual perceptions, they could form a collective composite image of the elephant. This composite image could then be shared and they would all know more about the elephant.

How many conflicts could be prevented if each of us would make the effort to listen to one another to discover how the other “sees” the world that we share. Once we have an understanding of the perceived world of the other, we can make a choice on how to respond.

This seems preferable to reacting to what is assumed to be the point of view of the other.

Cross of Life

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted April 29, 2014)

I first hecrossoflifeard of the “Cross of Life” in the early 70s. Dentistry was going through a shift in orientation from post crisis “count the cavities” to preventive “don’t get cavities.” We were looking at what made people well. I had read Dr. Glasser where he encouraged us to think in terms of pursuing health and wellness rather than running from disease and unhappiness.  

Two components that come to us from all the sages through the ages is the importance of balance and harmony in life. The so called crossoflife2“Cross of Life”, balancing the four components of “Work, Worship, Love and Play” had been promoted by the Mayo Clinic as a simple way to conceptualize the importance of balanced harmony. Harmony in life, as in music, moves us toward happiness. Balance is essential to the wholeness we seek for our mental health.

A quick Google search brought me to this article from a small town paper in Victoria, Texas dated August 1942. The author, speaking from the Mayo Clinic, gives a good review of the importance of balancing Work, Worship, Love and Play in our lives.

Mental Health Characteristics

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 11/5/13)

One of the characteristics of mental health and happiness is getting our needs met in and through our relationships with caring other people.

Dr. Glasser describes these needs in a couple of ways.  One, from his first best selling book “Reality Therapy” he points out that we need to “Love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and to others.”

Later, when he wrote “Choice Theory” he listed our basic needs as “Survival, Love and belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun.”

bowlingballs

One way I meet my fun needs is by learning.  Recently I was reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, MD.  One paragraph jumped out at me because it spoke to ways to grow closer to the ones we love.  Having a wife, three daughters, and five granddaughters, the more I can understand the female experience of life, the closer I can be in these very special relationships.

This is a quote from the book: “If she’s married or partnered with a male brain, each will inhabit two different emotional realities.  The more both know about the differences in the emotional realities of the male and female brain, the more hope we have of turning those partnerships into satisfying and supportive relationships and families.”

I highly recommend this book.

Relationships 101

Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 8/14/14)

puzzleWe know that our mental health and happiness is dependent on the quality of connections we enjoy in our relationships.  We are not meant to be alone.  We each have something that someone else needs and wants.  When we find ways to make those loving, life giving connections, we add to the quality of life of the other.  And what makes it even nicer, our own quality of life is enhanced.

Asking ourselves the question “to whom do we owe what?” gives us the opportunity to evaluate how we are contributing to the relationships we need and enjoy.  The question can also set us free from relationships that are toxic when they are destructive to our well being.  [for more on this idea, look to the principles of Al Anon.]

Our first commitment is to ourselves.  It’s like when you’re getting the safety speech by the flight attendants on the airplane.  Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.  The New Testament tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is not narcissism but a basic principle in a healthy relationship.

fingersThen we look to those to whom we have a commitment.  Spouse, children, friends, parents all have a rightful claim on our time and attention.  Maintaining a healthy balance between self care and care of others is essential to ongoing quality relationships.

Then there is our recognition that “no man is an island.”  We each have a share in the overall well being of all of us.  Certainly to a lesser degree of intensity and time commitment than to those close to us, but essential to our answer to the question.

If we could see these three sets of relationships as concentric circles, we would have a larger outer circle within which all the others exist.  That outer circle is understood in different ways.  Some name it as God, some as a “higher power”, some as the Universe.  Each of us needs to relate to this outer circle according to our own understanding.

Our question, “to whom do we owe what?”  is not a one time question, with one set of answers.  It is an ongoing means of navigation in our journey through life.  It helps us maintain those connections and relationships that are so essential to the quality of our mental health and happiness.

I’d like to hear of your experiences with the sort of thing I’m talking about here.  Add a few lines in the comments below.

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.

mom_baby

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

20 years’ experience or one year repeated 20 times?

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Self-evaluation is the key to Dr. Glasser’s approach to living a mentally healthy and happy life.  The focus of self-evaluation is enclosed in the questions:

  • What do you want?
  • Is what you’re doing working to get you what you want?

We’re all familiar with Einstein’s famous comment that the definition of insanity is repeating the same ineffective behavior over and over hoping for a different outcome.

This is where we ask ourselves if the past “x” number of years have been spent accumulating wisdom and life skills that help us get what we want?

Or have those years been spent repeating what doesn’t work and living in habits and beliefs that are not getting us what we want.

The common wisdom among those who practice Choice Theory is that if you’re not getting what you want, you can either change what you want, or change what you’re doing to get what you want, or both.

I like to think of life as a voyage.  As an amateur sailor, I’ve learned the importance of navigation.  The essence of navigation is to have a clear idea of where you want to go and a workable means to get there.  From time to time it’s not a bad idea to look back at the wake to see if we are sailing a straight course.  But we don’t get to where we want to be by looking back.

repeatingGetting our basic needs met is what we are steering for.  The choices we make provide the forward motion.  As with navigation at sea, it’s important to check our heading against our projected destination.  Is the course we have chosen going to get us to where we want to go?

In any voyage it is inevitable that mid-course corrections will need to be made.  That is a good thing.  We do the same thing in life on a daily basis.  If we stay aware of where we want to go, we can make the needed corrections when we see ourselves straying off course.

I wish you all “Bon voyage” in your journey.

Crowded Closets…

By Dr. Ken Larsen

I was looking in my closet this morning.  I compared my side with my wife Sheren’s side.

cluttered closetMy side is crowded and cluttered making that favorite shirt hard to find.

Her side is neat and well organized with all items clearly visible and available.

What is the difference??

I keep everything.  Like Bill Cosby, I’ll keep wearing it until there’s nothing left but the elastic waist band.

She discards it if it hasn’t been used in a year.

neatclosetI’ve been seeing how important it is to let go of what is no longer useful or helpful in my walk through life.

Now I have to apply that realization to my closet.

Good Will, here I come!

Seriously, I think it is a good thing to take an inventory of our beliefs and behaviours from time to time.

Take a look at what is working.   We need to keep those beliefs and behaviours that help us make progress in getting our needs met and that help us stay close to those we love and care about.

At the same time, take a look at what is not working for us.  Do we find ourselves  repeatedly in undesirable situations?  Do we find ourselves not as close to loved ones as we’d like to be? Maybe some caring and careful self evaluation might be helpful.  There is much wisdom available, some of which was brought out in the Mental Health and Happiness Summit on October 10th.

We’ve learned that life involves a lifetime of learning.  And learning is not changing what you know as much as it is changing what you do.

Join me in cleaning out the closet.

About Ken Larsen

kenlarsen

Ken Larsen is one of the founders of Mental Health & Happiness and one of our bloggers at the site.  Ken is the person in charge of the technical side of bringing you this Summit. Along with the rest of the MHH Team, he works tirelessly to  promote positive mental health and happiness.

 

Ken is one of the interviewers for the Mental Health & Happiness Summit. Don’t miss it!

Register at http://www.mentalhealthandhappiness.com/MHHsummit.html

Only one returned….

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Those familiar with the New Testament can recall the story of the ten lepers who were healed.

My father in law was a good friend and he liked to keep that story in mind.  Especially the part where only one returned in gratitude to say thanks.  Ten men were given the gift of a fresh new life.  Only one returned to say “Thanks.”

That’s a good story to remember as we face the challenges and difficulties of life in these often troubled times.  Even though the question “is your glass half full or half empty” is a bit of a cliché, it still contains enough wisdom to get us to think about our life and the choices we have as we live it.

happypeople

We have a choice in how we focus on the life we are living and the people in it. We can be focused on our complaints, or we can focus on what is good and true and beautiful.

Early in my marriage someone reminded me that clean socks and underwear didn’t crawl into the drawer by themselves.  I started to say thanks for the many ways my wife was making a home for all of us.

Think of the many people that serve us daily.  From the mail man to the guy who picks up the garbage and on and on.  A word of thanks and a warm smile can go a long way to making a long hard day a bit easier.

We’ve learned that we have choices and that the choices we make determine the course of our life.  Those choices often have an impact on the quality of our life and the lives of others.  Being grateful internally and expressing our thanks externally can move us all to a better experience of life.