What Is A Mother?

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With Mother’s Day fast approaching I began considering what it really means to be a mother. For some, it evokes a warm loving feeling, but for others, the concept of mother makes one cringe. But these reactions we have to the word mother do not really describe what a mother is. Because of adoption, we know that you do not have to bear a child to be a mother. So what does being a mother really mean and how do we measure up? I was just wondering……

So when we think of mother, what is it we expect from her? First, a mother is our caregiver. She provides for us, prepares our meals, buys our clothes, and provides a home. A mother is a mentor, she provides us with guidance throughout life, not just in childhood. She gives us advise when we are confused or when we face new challenges. She is someone we look up to. A mother is a good listener. If she is really good at this, then she will always be there when you need her. A mother is a nurse; she tends to us when we are sick. She is nurturing and reassuring. A mother is also our first teacher. She teaches us to talk and many, many more things as we grow. A mother is a friend. We do fun things with her. She plays with us. We learn to laugh with her and she keeps us company. But most of all, a mother is a bundle of love. She is the one we know we can turn to no matter what, that she will be there, accepting us unconditionally. She is our greatest champion!

But real mothers are not usually so perfect! Mothers are human like us all. They make mistakes. They get angry. They lose their tempers. They get impatient. They say the wrong thing. They get distracted and ignore you. They have their own needs, which sometimes interfere with their ability to fulfill ours. I know all of this because I am a mother and I have a mother! I sometimes catch myself shuddering when I find myself repeating things my mother did that I despised. Despite our mother’s errors, we can learn from their mistakes. We can grab for the good that they offer to us and we can choose to correct their errors when we see them in ourselves. But I also swell with pride when I realize that I am behaving just like my mother when I am forgiving of others, seeing the good in people, being emotionally available to those I love.

While we think of a mother as someone who raises you, who guides you throughout life, it is not always that individual who provides the acts of mothering. This is why some people have trouble labeling their biological mothers as mother. While they may be physically present, the one who is in the house with you, they do not contribute to your emotional needs and sometimes not to your physical needs as well. They are mothers by biology but not by definition of a nurturing presence. That is why the concept of mother is actually much larger than the person who contributed to your genes or even the person who raised you. So even if you had a really bad mother, I would challenge you to think of someone who took an interest in you, who provided guidance, kindness, and support. Many teachers have provided this to children from emotionally and physically abused families. Sometimes it is a neighbor or sometimes a relative who fills this role. The role of mother can be assumed by someone who is a mentor, someone you look up to, who is available, who listens, and who provides some of the traits that we think of in an ideal mother.

As Mother’s Day approaches, we need to think about who provides this love and support for us? Is it our biological mother? Is it an aunt? Is it a teacher? Is it a combination of people? Who has been there for you? Who do you need to thank? But more importantly, are you providing the qualities of motherhood to someone? Are you proud of how you are performing your job? And who may need you that you may have overlooked? I was just wondering……….

A Helping Hand To Those In Need

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At my island winter retreat, the headlines of the newspaper for the last several days have been focused on the story of an abandoned car and a missing person. The car, sadly, was found abandoned at the top of the Cross Island Bridge, unlocked, with the keys on the seat. You can probably guess at the outcome. The missing person’s body was found by a fisherman below a dock after several days of searching. It is being treated as an apparent suicide. While it has not been made public, I have been told there was a note. It seems as though the body was that of a beloved individual involved in the early development of this island, who more recently, had developed a first class jazz club. While I did not know him myself, he was apparently well known and respected in this community long before I became a winter resident. The story is not so rare today as we hear of suicide more and more frequently.   Recently it was listed as the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. While I have worked directly and intimately with suicidal clients, this story made me consider what we all might do to help prevent this growing problem. What can you, the reader do to help eliminate suicide?   I was just wondering……

While I have never personally experienced the suicide of a client, I certainly have had clients affected by the aftermath of suicide. One woman I saw years ago found her husband hanging in their garage and of course was devastated by it. Another lost a son to suicide when he was run over by a train. The families and other survivors of these tragedies are left with thoughts haunted by questions of why and what could they have done to prevent it? Unless it is a love gone wrong situation, the cause of one’s decision for suicide is usually not related to one individual. It is connected to how they see themselves in relation to life in general, their lack of opportunities, how people view them, shame and or humiliation, a feeling of general hopelessness. So the point is, it is not usually one person’s fault nor is it one person’s responsibility. So how do we collectively address this growing concern?

The first problem is to learn to identify where there may be a problem. Many people who are suicidal actually hide it quite well. Often however, the signs are there. Sadly, we often identify them incorrectly. The first red flag is drug use. People just don’t overuse drugs unless they are too uncomfortable without them. Social drinking is just that. Anything beyond it is really a cry for help. Another red flag is isolative behavior. We’ve often seen this connected to school shootings and other similar rampages where the shooter ends up shooting himself. Another danger sign is anger, which is a defensive mask for vulnerable feelings. Someone who is angry a lot is a very unhappy person who is in a lot of emotional pain. Erratic extremes in behavior are signals as well as loss of interest. Persons who feel they are a burden and who feel trapped in some way with no way out are also at risk. These are the early signs and this is when we should begin to intervene. As a suicide plan begins to take form there are other more apparent signs, such as preoccupation with death, sleep deprivation, reckless behavior, and settling of one’s affairs.

In addition to those heading towards suicide, there are thousands of other people who exhibit these symptoms who are suffering from depression. While they may have no plan for suicide, they suffer intolerably. So when you see these signs, what should you do? You do not need to be a psychologist to lend a helping hand. You do not need to be professionally trained to show a kindness, to listen to someone who needs a listener, to provide a shoulder to lean on. Anyone can offer friendship. There are also things you can stop doing. You can stop gossiping about people. You can stop bullying. You can stop judging. You can stop being petty. You can learn to be forgiving. Life doesn’t have to be organized around exclusive cliques. You can learn to be inclusive and invite everyone to participate. You’ve heard the term, “The more the merrier!” There is always something to learn and everyone has something to offer. Open your heart and see what it can behold.

The best way I know to help prevent suicide and reduce depression happens long before an individual feels the need to see a therapist. Watch for the signs, be aware. Offer a helping hand, send an invitation, smile. Sometimes the feeling of acceptance is all that is needed. Just think of the personal power you have to positively affect someone’s life! Are you willing to extend yourself to save or change a life? In fact, you may be saving or changing more lives than you even realize!

Can you give it a try?

I was just wondering………

 

All You Need Is Love

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It’s Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air! Unless you’re a hermit living high in the Himalayas you can’t miss it! There are reminders everywhere. Drug stores and grocers have positioned flowers and balloons and all things red and romantic to greet you as you enter. Love today means commercial profit at the expense of continuing to sell us the fanciful notion that love happens one day of the year and has to do with flowers, candy, and, like I already said, all things red like hearts, sexy lingerie, cute teddy bears with big red hearts or bows, and we can’t forget expensive jewelry! Valentine’s Day enhances the notion that love is about sex and romance, like the perfectly coordinated release of the film “Fifty Shades of Gray.” Whoa, don’t get me wrong, people, been there, done that {well maybe not ALL THAT!} I certainly welcome a little romance now and then, but let’s get real! While The Beatles may have it right when they claim “Love is All You Need,” what does that really mean,? Lots of hearts and flowers, poetry in the morning, obsessive thoughts of the loved one, perfect passionate sex, starry-eyed engagement with your soul mate? Or what? Something else? I was just wondering………..

The media has capitalized on the notion of selling love with the idea of sex, at the expense of leaving out the rest. My generation watched X-rated movies like “The Story of O” and “The Last Tango in Paris” with shock and titillation. Marlon Brando thrusting his lover against a wall as she straddled his body with her legs was almost embarrassing then. Now it is not even X-rated, just another ordinary sexploited film. Today we have E. L. James informing us what love is, when my generation had to resort to D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, which I discovered hidden in my father’s bureau. I made a habit of sneaking stealthily into their room when my parents went out so I could learn about love! This was much more interesting than Cinderella! After all, how else could you expect to learn about love? No one knew much more about it then than they do today.

We spend a lot of time on days other than Valentine’s Day wondering how to get the love we want. No one ever seems to have enough. If it’s not our lover who disappoints us, it’s our mothers {yes, it’s always mother’s fault}, or our kids who don’t love and appreciate us, or our siblings who just live on another planet. So, some of us just keep on looking for satisfaction in that new, exciting, mysterious, romantic relationship, the forbidden one, the secret one, the perplexing one, the trying one, and for a while all of our narcissistic fantasies are fulfilled. We forget about mother, and the kids, and crotchety dad as long as we have that perfect mate, the one who bewitches us so that nothing else matters. And then suddenly one day, the warts begin to appear, one by one, until Prince or Princess Charming slowly fade from sight. And we return to reality, waiting in anticipation to be carried away again. Yes, I’ve been on those magic carpets, but those rides only last as long as the mystery remains.

While there is a time for all that, if you want to really feel love, start by giving. Love isn’t exclusive to your lover! Help those in need and see the thanks in their eyes. Sprinkle kindness throughout your day and see if that doesn’t make you feel as good as a bouquet of flowers. Do something loving for your family members and feel the love in return. Forgive your spouse. See the glass half full, not half empty. Focus on their good points and overlook the bad. After a while you may be surprised at how much love you feel.

The easiest way to get love, however, is to learn to love yourself. Never forget this! Get to know yourself. Honor and grow your strengths. Behave in ways that allow you to take pride in your behavior. Treat yourself with respect and demonstrate this in your appearance and your relationships with others. Learn from you errors. Nurture yourself and treat yourself for good behavior! Take time out every day for yourself, to do the things that restore and nourish you. Treat yourself with the same tenderness as you would a new lover or a newborn child. You deserve it, and if you begin to believe this then those around you will feel it too. Your self love will become infectious and people will want to be around you, and they will love you too.

There is a time for the dazzling love exploited everywhere today. But if you want enduring love, it is based on reality, not fantasy. You better enjoy something more together than just hot sex! Real humans are imperfect, and to discover a perfect love is to see imperfections and to keep on loving anyway. It takes the courage to tread through lots of muck, to hammer out problems, to remain steadfast even when your insides are crying to leave. Because when you and your significant other overcome the obstacles in your path, you are stronger and your bond becomes deeper. Real love is worth the effort. It’s the only way you get it. So, are you willing to make the effort to first love yourself?   Next, do you have the courage to face the challenges of a relationship to see past the fantasy? Can you look beyond hearts and flowers? Are you brave enough to face reality? Or have you booked a trip for the next romantic adventure? What will you choose to find love? I was just wondering……

 

 

Violence and the Meaning of Being Human

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A few months ago when the autumn began to envelop the earth with its chilled night air, I noticed some mouse droppings in my kitchen. An unwanted visitor, I mused, as I bristled against the idea of mouse excretion and bacteria in my kitchen. My husband and I discussed our options to rid us of this nuisance and we agreed on the one which seemed to keep us most removed from removing the pest from our abode, the dreaded DCon! Neither of us wanted to remove a dead, mutilated mouse from a trap. So my husband set about carefully placing the DCon in the attic, away from our dear dogs. Several days later, while I was savoring my hot morning tea in the company of the Today show staff I suddenly saw something fly from the ceiling beam to the love seat perpendicular to me. I thought at first it was a bat and I shuddered in horror as I screamed for my husband to save me! I know, I know, I’m a wuss, but I know some of you can relate. But I digress. The thing that landed on my love seat, however, was in fact what appeared to be a dead mouse. I quickly realized it was not dead, however, as it began to slowly move, so I screamed louder for my husband to come and save me! Well, my dogs were in the room with me and they had not yet seen the creature, and I feared that if it was half dead from DCon, then my dogs were at risk if they grabbed the poor thing. Besides which, DCon or not, a bloody tangle between mouse and dogs I definitely did not want to see. My husband finally arrived, scooped the wretched thing into a dust pan and threw it outside. Later, as I was about to let the dogs out into the fenced back yard, I remembered the mouse, and I went out alone first to see that it was gone. But no, there it was, alive but not dead, and surely suffering. Even as I relate this story I am still overcome with a sick feeling for the plight of that innocent mouse. Again, I called for my husband who had to put the poor creature out of its misery, an act that brought us both up close and personal to the actual killing of the mouse. It was not a happy day as we mourned our involvement in the loss of a living creature’s life.

I make it a habit to carefully remove uninvited Daddy Long Legs spiders when they invade my bathroom, and I set them gently free back outside where they belong. On the rare occasion when we accidently hit a creature on the road, we suffer a moment of anguish at the loss of that life, especially because we were involved in its demise. So, you are wondering, what is the point of this story so far? As I recoil in the horror of the daily news, replete with violence engendered by hate I am perplexed beyond any of my training or my life experience about what causes a human life to relish the destruction of another when I can’t even kill a mouse or a spider without feeling badly? Where does the enjoyment of seeing another suffer come from? I was just wondering……..

Besides the headlines on the evening news, I have seen several films recently which vividly depict the satisfaction enjoyed by the perpetrators of these kinds of violent crimes. In Selma, the story demonstrates not only that there was a desire to stop Blacks from voting, but also the relishing by the perpetrators of the beatings that they inflicted. In the film Unbroken, the Japanese officer inflicting pain on the story’s hero seemed chronically unhappy unless he was inflicting pain on him. We, the moviegoers, cringed in horror.

But these films are not unlike the horrors of real life, as we witness every day; reporters decapitated, innocent families slaughtered in the Middle East, promising, intelligent girls kidnapped from school in Africa, never to be seen again, leaving us only to wonder what horrendous fate they have endured.

These acts of cruelty are so far removed from my realm of understanding, yet I am supposed to be an expert on human behavior. I cannot explain these atrocities nor can I even remotely relate to them. I guess it shifts back to that age old argument, is it nature or nurture or a combination of both? What exactly causes a person or a group of people to desire to harm, inflict pain or fear onto another living creature? How can someone actually inflict violence without feeling repulsed by it? How can another human being be so different from me NOT to be repulsed by it?

I know I have not suffered much in my life as compared to many humans around the world. I have not personally witnessed the violence of a war. I have been sheltered, fed, and clothed throughout my life, so that my sufferings have only been the kind of mental anguish that most of us have experienced at one time or another when things didn’t go our way, when we didn’t get what we wanted, when the right person didn’t love us, and so on. But I have suffered and overcome what was declared a chronic illness. I know that many others with that illness succumb to it, that is, they allow it to control and incapacitate them. What is the difference between us? So, I have had my challenges, but we all do. Maybe I don’t understand because I have not suffered enough. But what about those who maintain their humanity and love for one another in countries where the aforementioned atrocities are occurring? What is the difference between them and those who desire to hurt them, yet they have no desire to hurt and hate back? Is it nature, is it nurture, or is it something else?

We are taught that our superior brain is what makes us human. But then what makes someone turn against oneself? In turning against another we do just that, turn away from our own humanity. Where is our thinking brain then? Not thinking, I would speculate! When we turn against another we are operating from our reptilian brain, the amygdala. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by our reptilian brains we have given up, lost ourselves. When we become violent and are not repulsed by it, we are no longer human. When we have lost our consciousness to feel compassion and the ability to emote have we not lost ourselves? Have we not just become another lower animal, an animal that lacks our superior brain, an animal that lacks the understanding that we are all one? Isn’t that what sets us apart?

I was just wondering………………..

A Holiday Invitation

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With the Holidays right around the bend, I thought it might be a useful time to think about our behavior rather than our usual preoccupation with gifts, holiday parties, decorations, and such. The next month is known to be one of the most stressful times for the whole year! In fact, my husband quoted to me yesterday from a magazine that Christmas day, noted for all things religious and cheerful, is also the day of the year when most heart attacks occur! So as I pondered the blizzard of events into which I head for this next month, I thought about a pledge I would make to myself to get through it. I know that if I follow this Holiday prescription, I will sail through with less stress and greater satisfaction and contentment. I thought this holiday challenge would create a great blog idea for this time of year. So here goes my invitation and holiday gift to all my readers. Will you join me? I was just wondering…….

H               Is for Happiness for this sparkling time of year. Even when stressed to the max, I pledge to stay             positive and try to find the joy around me.

O               Is for Optimism, the ability to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. When things appear bleak as the gray winter sky, I promise to watch for a ray of light.

L                Is for Loving, which I will try to demonstrate through my personal interactions. I will also try to love each moment as I experience it.

I                 Is for Introspection, a necessary practice in order to encourage personal growth.

D               Is for Dependability, a trait to be demonstrated through responsible action for myself and others.

A               Is for Accessibility, the ability to be emotionally present. While it is easy to do for my work, it is more challenging to demonstrate consistently with one’s family and friends.

Y                Is for remaining Young at Heart, to continue to see the world filled with awe through the eyes of a child.

G               Is for generosity, the ability to be kind and giving to others and also to oneself. This is a perfect season to practice this attribute.

R               Is for Responsibility, the ability to be reliable to others, but most importantly, to be able to trust myself to make the right judgments and decisions, those which will enhance my growth, not hinder it.

E                Is for Empathy, the practice of being able to relate in a sincere manner to another’s feelings. This makes us more able to see all sides of a situation.

E                Is to practice being Easy Going, a difficult challenge for an intense perfectionist like me. I promise to try not to worry about unfinished business.

T                Is for Togetherness, which I vow to promote within my family. There are always many opportunities within families to derail this, but I promise it won’t be from me.

I                 Is for Inspiration, which I will try to provide to those in need.

N               Is for the practice of being Non-judgmental. I have learned through my years as a therapist that everyone’s story explains why they are the way they are, and if you walked in their shoes, you most likely would see things in a similar way.

G               Is for Gratefulness, during this season and every day. Practiced gratitude enhances happiness.

S                Is for the pledge to Silence negativity. I pledge to enjoy this season as a beautiful gift to myself!

I invite you to join me in my pledge for this often difficult season. Nurture yourself by following the prescription in my Holiday Greeting to you. Don’t make yourself one of those Holiday heart attack statistics! Join with me in gifting yourself with happiness, optimism, love, introspection, dependability, accessibility, youngness of heart, generosity, responsibility, easy-goingness, empathy, togetherness, inspiration, non-judgmentalness, and gratefulness. As you enjoy these gifts to yourself, you are also gifting those around you as they enjoy the results of your efforts. Toss your negativity to the Grinch so that you can greet this season with a Grin. Can you, can you, can you do it? Will you join me? I was just wondering……….

 

Addressing Ebola, The Secret Service, and Other Examples Of The Keystone Cops in Action

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I recently returned from a month long cruise during which our ship was infected with Norovirus among other things. Apparently Princess Cruise Line was aware of the problem but chose to continue their schedule anyway, without warning any of its new would be passengers. They did inform us a month before the departure that two of the ports for which we booked the cruise were being cancelled because of a problem that Princess had with one of their engines. When I suggested that we may want to cancel we were informed that we would only be refunded with vouchers, part of which would be on an airline we would never use again. So, we went, reluctantly. If you google “Sea Princess, trip from hell” you can discover more detail about this voyage. Because of the norovirus, the dining areas were supposed to be using universal health standard precautions; however, the staff in the buffet area was incredibly lax in following those guidelines. Additionally, we were stranded on a dock for over 4 hours because a gale wind arose that supposedly no one knew was coming? Many elderly people stood with walkers and canes and the cruise staff could not think of anything to do about finding shelter or comfort? When I asked about a bathroom and received an inadequate answer I actually had to direct them to arrange for a van to transport people to a bathroom. The question is, do the Keystone Kops run everything today? Doesn’t anyone have a brain? Is there no one who can take their job seriously and do what is necessary? I was just wondering———–

But even more troubling than enduring a vacation gone wrong are the recent examples of inadequacies with the Secret Service and those involved in the Ebola case in America. While the errors of judgment with the White House incident are surely troubling, the handling of the Ebola situation is more than frightening to me. When we contemplated our trip last March I was reading about the spreading Ebola epidemic in Africa and I expressed some fear of travel in August due to the risk of Ebola exposure through air flight. No one of authority seemed to take this threat seriously so we continued with our plans. Now 6 months later we have a case of Ebola here in this country and it continues to spread rapidly in Africa with thousands of deaths. We were reassured again and again, that in the unlikely event that Ebola would find its way here that our health care system was completely prepared to handle it.

Here is the problem as I see it. The responsible and competent operation of the cruise line, the secret service, and the health care system are completely dependent on the individual functioning of everyone involved. Often, it just takes one human error to cause a calamity. Only one individual! And sadly, in my observation of people at work these days, not too many people take their jobs very seriously anymore. In addition, those in higher positions of authority are too busy enjoying their perks to actually supervise what is going on around them.

Even when someone takes their job seriously in the health care field, it is very easy for contamination to occur. Having consulted in many nursing facilities over the course of many years, I personally witnessed competent individuals caring for patients with contagious infections while properly wearing their protective gloves. However, they would open the bathroom door with the gloves on and sometimes the room door as well when they finished. There were other things they sometimes touched while still gloved and all of these areas were potentially contaminated. Cdiff and MRSA are easily spread within health care facilities and more than likely it is not the patient who is doing the spreading!

So back to the case of Ebola in our country. We have already witnessed once again a rapidly cascading series of errors. Ebola is an illness about which we cannot afford to make mistakes. The one case will turn to two and most likely more. I hope I am wrong. I hope that the CDC does not remain stuck in arrogant attitudes that prevent them from seeing this threat in a new light. I hope that someone of vision takes the reigns of authority and begins to make better decisions about allowing air travelers from stricken countries to come here, someone who takes better precautions about isolating potentially exposed individuals so that the number of people exposed does not continue to grow. And someone who arranges better care for those frightened individuals who are in isolation, in terms of cleaning their exposed environment. Not one other individual in America should have to suffer this horrible illness unless the bumbling Keystone Kops remain in charge. It’s time to wake up to our failures and to begin to wonder why so many institutional operations are incompetent. The problem includes not only careless workers and their tunnel visioned supervisors, but also the management systems who fail to see the loopholes where failures occur.

I’m not really sure why it is occurring, but not enough people today have any sense of pride in their work. Perhaps we are spoiled and too rooted in our own issues. Or perhaps, as I’ve said before, we don’t really think enough. Whatever the problem, I know that you will agree we are always having to phone somebody about an appliance, a phone, a computer not working, a bill is incorrect, and just try getting a correct answer from India! It’s time for the Keystone Kops [and this definitely includes Congress] to bequeath our institutions and businesses to individuals of integrity who will take charge with competent authority. But who will that be? How do we fix this? I was just wondering——

 

 

 

The People of Kiribati

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As I was riffling through old travel pictures the other day I came across a picture from Kiribati, an island nation smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, isolated in all directions from civilization. We were on a cruise to Hawaii, but about halfway through the itinerary, we took a two day excursion south to this group of tiny remote islands.  There seemed to be no reasonable explanation for this four day excursion to and from the equator, so far from the populated Hawaiian Islands.  Rumors were that it afforded the cruise line some kind of tax incentive.  So as we ruminated about what these small islands peppered across the middle of the Pacific nowhere would be like, I wondered about the natives who lived there.  Would they be accustomed to visitors? Would they welcome us?  What would it be like to live at such a location, so remote from modern civilization?  How would one experience life on Kiribati?  Would we pity their lack of modern conveniences?  I was just wondering……………..

As the ship docked, we were greeted by the mellifluous singing of the children of Kiribati who were sitting serenely in a circle near the dock. The music, so enchanting, seemed to cast a spell on us as we slowly disembarked to the lilting melodies.  The emotional effect of the music and the overall scene was profound and many of us found ourselves weeping with an intense feeling of connection to these strangers. Yet, at that moment we were one.  It was magical. We were mesmerized.

My own reverie was interrupted when I suddenly noticed that people began to hand money to these innocent beings.  The idea of it was somehow disquieting to me.  It was a transcendent moment and money didn’t belong in it.  But my shipmates seemed to feel sorry for them and thus, wanted to give them something.  While I understood the reason for it, the idea of rewarding something that was a beautiful shared experience somehow didn’t seem appropriate to me. To muddy such an almost sacred event with money was sacrilegious. Then I wondered what they would even do with it.  There were no stores to explore.  There were no roads.  There was no electricity.

The moment passed and we moved slowly onto the island as the dulcet melodies faded behind us.  Many rushed toward the idyllic beach peppered with Norwegian Cruise Line plastic while chairs, and as I observed the onslaught, I could envision an Andy Warhol painting of that scene.  The entire beach area was prepared for a huge outdoor barbeque.  A volley ball net hugged the coastline as people gathered to engage in the prepared activities.

We continued to walk, slowly absorbing the surrounding beauty unfolding with sweet, fragrant scents, and a soothing breeze.  As we trekked inward from the coast, the sound of drums called to us and we soon found ourselves at a rustic pavilion. Dancers in native costumes appeared and soon a performance was underway. The dances were lively and invigorating.  Again, an enjoyable experience, but nothing like the moving event of our entry onto the island.  This, too, was followed by a reward of money, tossed by us into straw hats which served as native cash registers.  I continued to be confused, wondering again what they would do with the money.

As we left this area, we approached the “town” composed of huts made from bamboo and other plants native to the area.  While I have been to other primitive environments, I had never encountered one so completely isolated from the rest of the world as this one.  Nor have I since.

As we began to make our way back toward the ship, the usual and customary “gift shop” lined walkway greeted us, tables bountifully filled with hand -made trinkets.  Smiling faces waited, as these innocent people eagerly displayed their wares.  Again, money turned up, and my shipmates seemed, once again, more than happy to part with it to reward these lovely people for their labors.

I continued to ponder this experience as we approached the ship.  Is everything about money?  What would they do with it?  There was nowhere to buy anything that we observed.  Perhaps the reason for the journey to Kiribati was to take supplies to them that they purchased from the ship with this money they made from the tourists on it.

The island is pristine.  The natives seemed ingenuous, happy, content.  Everything they seem to need is at their fingertips.  They have the sea and the land for their food.  I wondered why we pitied them.  But did I?   Don’t we often dream of being on a deserted island?   Perhaps we were the ones to be pitied.  We have issues.  We have stress.  We have problems.  We get mad when we don’t get out way.  We need things that they don’t need.  I fear that our money will destroy their innocence.  Perhaps they, like us, already lust for money.  My thoughts roiled for clarity.  As I watched this idyllic land slowly fade from view I pondered my experience there.  Who are the lucky ones?  Who should be pitied, the people of Kiribati or us?

I was just wondering……………..

 

 

 

 

Bad Intentions and Mean-Spiritedness

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I recently received a contact submission form from someone named Jasmine with a message that was intended to be hurtful. Jasmine was an alias and she used a fake email, so she clearly did not want to be identified. Unbeknownst to Jasmine, however, my site has a method to track incoming messages so that I can identify the sender, despite the use of a fake email. So this got me thinking about people who have hurtful intentions, what causes it, and what the solution is for healing these negative, personally harmful thoughts. Why do people resort to attempting to hurt, damage or destroy someone else? I was just wondering………

Having ill-will towards another certainly begins in childhood. We are all guilty of wishing bad things on a childhood enemy or sometimes even a friend. When we feel hateful we desire to inflict it on someone else. Every child has had moments of even wishing nasty things on their own families, especially their siblings. Children are notoriously uninhibited and outspoken when they become angry. I can recall my own son as a child, pouting ruefully and expounding like a truculent sailor as only a child can, that he hated me. Just for a moment it lasted, and then when I would counter, unflappable with a slight smile, “Well, we’ll just have to go to the Mommy Store and find you a new mommy,” he would rapidly consider his options while being unable to restrain his own softening smile as his anger melted away. Children, unlike adults, don’t normally hold a grudge. I can recall my own escapades as a child and one past time that could have been very damaging to someone. At around age 10, my best friend Sandy and I would make random calls from numbers in the phone book. Sometimes we would say something silly and sometimes something that could have been more harmful about a family member, who of course, we didn’t even know. In this case it was not ill intentions, just naivety. To us it was all for fun! There are more serious reasons why someone may wish others real harm, however. There are narcissistic personality types who give very little thought to others and the harm that they cause is secondary because they simply do not think enough about others for it to matter. It’s more like the aftermath that they leave in their wake of which they are not even aware. It is not so much intentional, but if they become aware of their residual harm it is easily dismissed, justified, or perhaps met with a moment of regret and then forgotten until it happens again. The most damaging individuals are sociopaths. They are growing in number and there is an excellent book entitled The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout that explains this pathological behavior in detail. These are individuals we should avoid at all costs, but the problem is that their seductive, manipulative nature is almost always successful into luring us into a relationship with them, while we are convinced we have just met our new best friend, or worse yet, our soul mate lover. These individuals, like the narcissistic personality, don’t necessarily set out to cause harm, because their total modus operandi is geared for self-satisfaction, at the expense of anything or anyone in their way. This means they will use you while making you feel you are indispensable. They lack compassion and empathy, although they are often smart and have learned well how to fake these feelings. They also lack a conscience, which makes them very dangerous. There are no rules for them and they can justify just about anything and convince you of the appropriateness of their behavior, and perhaps even convince you to join them in illegal, immoral, or unethical activity. So the harm to others caused by them is really not even on their radar. Simply, they couldn’t care less! The majority of us fit into the last category, when the hurtful behavior is a result of what I define as a “call for love.” The term actually is derived from A Course in Miracles, a book and study group that helps us to redefine the way we see the world around us. In this category we are talking about normal individuals who are having a bad day, are feeling hurt and/or neglected, are depressed, unhappy, lonely, unfulfilled, unloved. Normal individuals in these negative states are often too self -absorbed to see anything beyond their own unhappiness. They are often unable to engage outside of themselves with another and sometimes their negative feelings spill over onto those around them with jealousy, envy, or other harmful feelings. And sometimes the ill will toward another is even intentional because people who are unfulfilled and unhappy, just like children, want to hurt back. Unhappiness can cause us to feel mean, intolerant, and even vengeful. The saddest thing about this is that the greatest harm from this negativity within oneself only compounds the problem within the unhappy person. The one envied or hated may not even be aware. So, if you find yourself to be one of those individuals in this last category, the good news is that there is hope for you. There are solutions to your problem. The best way to diminish negative feelings is to trek outside of yourself. Change your internal channel. Hang around with positive people. Help someone else. Be productive. Refine your talents. Practice kindness. Give love without expectation. Make time for things that you love in your life. If you still need help, find a good therapist. Eventually, watch for my book, Anger the Toxic Temptress: Understand It To Overcome It. If you are the receiver of someone’s intentionally hurtful behavior, try to see it as a call for love. Instead of reacting, try to have compassion for someone who is clearly suffering. Remember, hurtful people are unhappy. So, what are you willing to do when you find yourself in a snit? As for Jasmine and others like her, what are you willing to do to end your suffering that creates vindictiveness in you? There is so much wonder that life has to offer and there is so much given back when we are able to crawl out of our negative heads. Life is much more fulfilling when we focus on the cup half full. Which of these suggestions are you willing to try? Explore! Engage! Can you find a path to happiness?

I was just wondering……………..

Under The Skin

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Not to be confused with the recent movie of the same name, it was the movie, in fact, that got me thinking about this blog subject. The movie, a strange and surreal tale of predator aliens harvesting the skin of human bodies in order to experience human life, focuses on the alien’s disconnect from the human experience despite living under the human skin.  I began musing about our own human disconnect with what is beneath our own skin.  What goes on underneath there remains mostly a mystery, a mystery we spend very little time attempting to solve.  We know a bit about our physiological bodies, but we know almost nothing about the mind, the component that is essentially responsible for just about everything we do.  Don’t get me wrong, while we have incorporated the teachings of psychologists and neuroscientists, what do we really know about the everyday workings of our individual minds and how they dictate what our physical bodies outside of the skin and even our internal physiology are doing moment to moment?  The question, then, is how well do we understand exactly who we are and how aware are we of our intentions and behavior?   But even more concerning, how much effort do we make to have any understanding of this?

I was just wondering……

It has occurred to me that we spend millions and millions of dollars annually on clothing, makeup, toiletries, hair products, perfumes, cosmetic surgery and all things to improve our surface layers.  We also spend many more millions attempting to make ourselves feel better with alcohol, vacations, massages, relationships, movies, gambling, parties, cars, adventures, and so on.  We spend even more with physicians, chiropractors, and other health care professionals attempting to stay healthy and feel well.   So, compared with how much we spend attempting to improve the outside, and the physiological body, what efforts do we actually make individually towards self-understanding?

There is a paradigm known as Johari’s Window which addresses this concept.  It is shown as a square divided into four equal sections.  One square represents the aspects of self that both we know of ourselves and what others also know about us.  Another represents what we know about ourselves that we do not share with others.  Still another square represents what others know about us that we don’t (clearly an area we might want to get more acquainted with!)   The final square represents what both we and others don’t know about us.  So according to this model, we are actually acquainted with only about half of ourselves.  This is a startling comment on our lack of awareness and understanding of self!  This means that half of our behavior is occurring without any conscious awareness of it! That is surely cause for alarm, but the question is, what will we do about this?  Anything?

I have personally been involved in several spirituality groups that promote self-awareness.  Even in these situations with sincere seekers of truth, it appears to be a challenge for us to really look within.  I recall my frustration in one group, which spent a great deal of time every week examining the content of what we read.  After digesting all of these sainted messages of advice for over five years, I suggested that we begin focusing how we were applying these learnings to our lives, to explore how it felt to try new behaviors, to see how much we were actually assimilating.  This idea went over like a lead balloon!  It seems that it feels much safer to play with the idea that we are really exploring within than to really explore within.  But before you give me too much credit for trying, I’m sure I would have been just as blocked as everyone else when it actually came down to doing it.  This is why therapy such as Freudian analysis goes on for years.  It is fraught with defense mechanisms, like denial, minimization, intellectualization, rationalization, and the biggest block of all, resistance.

In my practice as a psychologist, resistance reigns.  I have found that there are actually very few people who really want to know themselves.  Most people just want to attain a quick fix from whatever is distressing them at the moment.  To really know oneself is a frightening and challenging journey that only few really attempt to undertake.

We are afraid of what may lurk under our skin.  We fear that our demons lie there, waiting silently to be released, when in truth, it is our demons that control us because we are unaware that they are already at the helm of our body ship. If we became aware of our dark urges they would be brought to the light and no longer have any control over us.  We could become acquainted with the bright beauty of our souls if only we would have the courage to look beneath the skin.

So I wonder myself what prevents us from spending equal time exploring our inner caverns.  Why do we resist?  What do we fear?  Are we just created so as not to look deeply this way?  Are we just so superficial that we only care about appearances and how we feel?  Are we just not interested in a true mystery? Do we just not have the courage to look within?  Are we brave enough to face ourselves?  Are you willing to discover your essence?

I was just wondering……………….

 

 

Respect, Creative Expression, and the “F” Word

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My husband and I went to a movie last night and like many movies that we have seen recently, the dialogue was replete with the F word.  While I have become accustomed to hearing this not only in movies, but also in everyday conversation, I must admit that I have not become immune to its vulgarity.  Now before you jump to the conclusion that I am just an old prude, just hear me out and see if you still feel the same at the end of this rant!  My objections are not necessarily about morality, but more about the deterioration of creative expression in our everyday language.  It is also about respect and especially self-respect.   I would like you, the reader, to think about your own use of this modern substitute for anything you want to express.  How do you feel about your personal use of the F word and how do you feel when you hear it every day?  Have you become immune to it?

I was just wondering……..

 So let’s start with whether or not the use of the F word has lost its meaning.  Yes, I do believe to some degree we have become benumbed to it. After all, it is everywhere. There is no escaping it! It’s at the water cooler at work, it’s in many homes, and it’s definitely in our school systems.  As noted, it’s in our movies, media, and more recently the civility of Congress has deteriorated to this language as well. So if it’s lost its meaning, perhaps you are wondering, then what is the big deal?  Well, I would suggest that the decline in our overall dress codes, particularly in school makes a good comparison.  When people are dressed better they tend to behave better.  I suspect that the same applies to the use of the F word and our language in general.  While the F word may to some extent have lost its meaning, the mere sliminess of it has remained intact.  So the question I pose to you, the reader, is how do you feel when you are dressed in old, dirty, sweaty  clothing?  It’s definitely a pick-me-up to get a hot shower, to wear a new dress or suit, to get a stylish haircut. The language we use is also a key component of the way we approach the world. Thus, I maintain that mouthing slime is like wallowing in a pig sty.  Even worse, what does this do to our attitudes toward everything around us for the day?

 Let’s take a look at the modern day meaning of the “F” word. If you’re surprised, you may say “F!”  When you’re happy perhaps you say “F!” When someone is mad, you’ll most definitely hear  ”F!”  But then you may hear “F!” when someone has suffered a loss and is depressed.  You may say “ F!” when you forgot something. You will hear the F word as an adjective describing various things, such as “I got the F….ing job,”  in this case a good thing, or “My F…ing boss railed me out today,” a bad thing.  Or you may hear, “You’re a F…ing genius,” or “You’re a F…ing idiot,” the same adjective to describe completely opposite concepts. The F word is a noun, it is an adjective, and it is a verb!  It is primitive and completely lacking in creativity! It’s a perfect word to use if you can’t think of anything else. It’s nondescript yet perfectly understood. You probably only need an IQ of about 10 to use it! So you may ask yourself, what does it say about the user?

 A few months ago I was having an unpleasant text exchange with a tenant from whom I was attempting to extract the rent.  The tenant, as usual, peppered me with the F word while I listened patiently. She added that we were not friends and therefore I did not have the right to ask her for the rent.  I concurred that we were not friends, but that we did have a business relationship to which she had a contractual obligation, adding, that in fact, I would never have a friend who talked like her.  I went on to suggest that the only person she was demeaning was herself.  This idea must have struck a note of truth in her.  Surprisingly since that exchange, she has never uttered the F word to me again.  In addition, she has become the epitome of politeness and civility. I used to brace myself for her onslaught whenever I had to communicate with her and now every exchange couldn’t be more pleasant.  I actually have come to like her!

So, what have you learned about the “F” word?  Do you feel better towards yourself if you delete the “F” word from your vocabulary? Do you feel you are more linguistically creative so that you can avoid using this primitive form of expression?  Wouldn’t you prefer your listener to know how you really feel with a more descriptive word?  And if you do not use this word yourself, how might you affect someone else’s use of it in your presence?

I was just wondering……