By: Maria E Trujillo alias Manual DeVie
Growing up I had my share of life’s lemons. I did my best to make what I thought was the best of it. Following the old adage I attempted to make lemonade out of lemons.
However, my batch of lemonade was filled with toxic mixers that I added. I used my own negative thinking and faulty beliefs combining it with and unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships.
It’s difficult to learn how to make a healthy batch when I wasn’t born into a family with a healthy skill set. In fact, I learned to operate as an ostrich and to sweep problems and difficulties under the rug.
Courageously I entered a new class in lemonade 101, more commonly known as couple’s counseling. Our counselor followed the structured couples counseling session advocated by Dr. William Glasser. As a couple we never made it past the crucial fourth session. This is the session where we each needed to make a commitment to continue. That ended couple’s counseling.
I knew there were always going to be lemons in my life. I knew I wanted a healthy batch of lemonade. I wanted to learn how to change and use my own healthy mixers to make a healthy batch of lemonade. I continued forward with individual counseling.
With the help of this counselor who practiced Reality Therapy using choice theory psychology I found a better recipe for making lemonade. I have gained healthy skills in the process.
These skills include knowing which lemons are worth squeezing and which are best left for the compost pile.
by Dr. Ken Larsen
Dr. Wm. Glasser taught us about “total behavior”. His insight that our actions, our thinking, our emotions and our physiology are all interconnected helps us understand ourselves and one another. Each of the components of this total behavior have an impact on the other parts. My actions affect my emotions and my physiology, my thinking affects my actions and emotions. This helps us see that we are one integrated whole and not a separated collection of parts and pieces. They all work together as we move more closely to deeper mental health and happiness.
Emotions often get our attention, especially when they cause some discomfort. Depression and anxiety are epidemic in our culture and have victimized far too many of us for far too long. Our mental health is overshadowed by these emotional states. Our tendency is to look outside ourselves for the cause of our depression or anxiety. Sometimes we may need to look inside ourselves for the cause. Let me tell you what happened to me that brought this message home.
A couple years back I started to experience a very uncomfortable level of anxiety. It was what is described as “free floating anxiety” without any apparent cause. I was not facing divorce or foreclosure, my dog hadn’t died—any of these would foster some real anxiety. What I was feeling didn’t seem to have a focus, but it was very real. I was tempted to have one of my physician friends Rx some Xanax, but I decided to look elsewhere before asking for the Rx.
I had heard about “HeartMath” and was reading one of the books published by that organization. I turned to the section on “Anxiety” and I read that sometimes a physiological condition could cause anxiety. They specifically mentioned cardiac arrhythmia as a possible cause.
I made an app’t with my primary care physician and described the situation, especially the part about an arrhythmia. He scooted me into the room where they do EKGs and sure enough, the EKG readout clearly pointed to atrial fibrillation. This is a condition where the upper chambers of the heart are not working as they should.
Once this diagnosis was made, I was given the appropriate treatment and the anxiety slipped away.
I’m not saying I am totally free of anxiety. If I got a letter from the IRS, I suspect I would get a little uptight.
In our quest to enjoy more mental health and happiness, it is good to be aware that we are whole beings “fearfully and wonderfully made” with an amazing complexity to the way our parts and systems work together. It’s good to have this in mind if mental health and happiness become a bit elusive.
Dr. Ken Larsen
Dr. Glasser told us that we choose our own misery. That’s just what a miserable person wants to hear, right? WRONG! When I ‘m miserable I want someone to blame. I want to feel helpless and a victim of the fickle finger of adverse circumstances. Something, someone OUT THERE is causing my misery and suffering.
The problem is whose behavior can I control? If my suffering is caused by someone or something outside of myself, I am condemned to a prolonged period of suffering. I am a victim. No one understands me. Poor me.
Please forgive my mocking tone as I make this point. The hopeful message that Dr. Glasser was bringing us is that if we are choosing our own misery, we can choose something else. If we stop criticizing, blaming and complaining about external causes, we can take responsibility for our life and our total behavior. A good way to recapture the mental health and happiness that has slipped away is to look at what we can change, our behavior.
Dr. Glasser talks about total behavior as the four wheels on a car. The front wheels are what steer the car. They are how we choose to act and to think. The back wheels are often the result of what we are doing with the front wheels. Our actions and our thoughts have an impact on our emotions and our physiology. The evidence for this is conclusive.
The hard part is turning away from the misery that shelters us from responsibility. It takes courage and determination. To change our miserable feelings, we need to move away from the back wheels and work on what we are doing and thinking. This can be as simple as taking a walk, and reading an inspirational account of someone who has overcome their misery.
I have had bouts of depression and melancholy many times throughout my life. I have learned to pay attention to what I’m telling you here. It’s hard to stay miserable and depressed when physically active. I’ve learned to take a walk, ride a bike, go the club for a workout, call a friend. Anything to shift the focus of my attention from the navel gazing “poor, poor, pitiful me” to something that refreshes my appreciation for the life that I have.
For many of us, this message is a review of fundamental insights from Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory. It is good to review fundamentals from time to time to refresh the wisdom we have learned.
By Dr. Ken Larsen
William James, whom some credit with being the father of American Psychology, once proclaimed, “I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing.”
This simple yet profound statement points to the interconnection between what we do and how we feel. Dr. Wm. Glasser points to what he calls “total behavior”. Total behavior is recognizing the interplay between what we do, the ways we think, our emotions and our physiology.
We can only control our actions. What we do shapes our thinking, which then impacts how we feel. Finally, as we are learning, our thinking and emotions tie into our physiology, and our mental and physical health.
The placebo effect shows us how what we believe has an effect on our health and well being. Then there is the “nocebo” effect. When we believe we are miserable and lonely, we probably will be.
We have a choice here. We can let the way we feel rule our lives, or we can have some control over the way we feel by what we choose to do. We can learn from Anna in “The King and I”
While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows I’m afraid
The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well