Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Brain on Love

Great summary of how our partners affect us:


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Podcast of "Your Life, Your Relationships" 3/21

The good news about the flu -- and life on the plateau
A conversation with matchmaker, Mandy Watson
How do I respond to a horrible email from my ex's squeeze?
Can I stay in touch with my son's ex?
I'm dating my sister's ex
Psychology news:does killing beget more killing?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Flu, or, Why I Blog

My husband came down with some sort of bug on Saturday, and I came down with it on Sunday. It's not too bad; I can still work some, which is a good thing, because my Wednesday radio show is coming, whether I like it or not. But my mood is as gray as the skies have been here in northern California, and all I want to do is sleep. It's hard to find anything uplifting to write.

Desperate for a monologue for the show, I had the urge to look through earlier blog posts lableled "flu". Here's what turned up:

Denial Ain't Just a River... which is all about the deeper meaning of illness
The Upside of Flu which is about what we can learn from a (minor) illness
And What Did YOU Do this Week? which is more wisdom from a minor illness, and learning to love what we create

It's as if my higher self were talking to me across time. 

This is why I blog! It's so that I have access to my own wisdom, tagged and searchable by subject, when I need it the most. And I'd urge you to do the same. Who knows, maybe others will learn from it, as well!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Practice, practice, practice!

I've been working with a couple of clients lately, who have issues in their lives (who doesn't?), and they somehow expect that a few sessions with me will just fix everything. I do help -- I walk my clients through processes that lessen the hold of the past -- and as a coach, I give them homework. The homework is important, just like it was in school. You have to learn to do something yourself in order to make it yours, in order to have a lasting effect on your own life.You have to create something new to replace what used to be there.

I'm sure you've heard the old joke:

A man is walking down 7th Ave. in Manhattan, and stops a stranger, obviously local, to ask, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?"

The stranger replies with a smile, "Practice, practice, practice!"

It's like that for everything else in life, too. Research shows that the difference between a good musician, who graduates conservatory to teach music, and a great one, who goes on to solo in a major orchestra, is simply how much the musician practices. The good musician has practiced less than 5,000 hours in his or her lifetime; the great one has practiced over 10,000 hours. Talent only goes so far.

It's true in sports, too. Larry Bird, the famous basketball player, grew excellent at scoring baskets by shooting thousands upon thousands of shots -- by himself, after everyone else had gone home.

Practice is necessary for the creation of habits, too, whether those are physical habits, like exercise, or emotional habits, like serenity. Those habits create the quality of your life. If you have bad habits, like being a couch potato or worrying, which you created and practiced without any conscious awareness, then you can change the habits to better ones to create a happier, healthier life in the long run.

You create a habit by having a cue (aka a trigger), an action (the habit) and a reward -- and then by using the cue and the reward to motivate your practice, until the habit happens automatically. If you want to walk every morning before you do anything else, you need a cue to remind you, like putting your sneakers by the side of the bed, where you can't miss them. Then you have to actually go walk. At first, you may need to promise yourself some sort of reward, like 10 minutes to do nothing when you get back, or something else small that you can do right away, and do regularly. If you do this for a while, you'll eventually begin to notice that your body wants to walk when you get up, that you feel so much better when you do that you no longer need the reward -- or even the cue. This is when you'll know you've created a new habit.

That said, here are some really good habits everyone should have:
Both have been shown, in thousands of studies, to improve everything from depression and anxiety to heart disease and diabetes. (Click on words above for links to research.)

In order to make these work for you, you have to find something you like to do. Hate to run? Try walking. Hate to walk? Try swimming. Hate to swim? Play golf -- but walk between the holes and carry your own bag. You get the idea.

It's like this for mediation, too. Don't like to sit when you meditate? Lie down (just make sure you are uncomfortable enough to stay awake.) Don't like to lie? Walk -- or run, and clear your mind while you do it. Here are a bunch of ideas on meditation -- some of them may surprise you.

Pick a type of exercise, a type of meditation, and then pick regular times and places for them. You can even do them simultaneously! Set up cues so you remember to do these things. Set up rewards for doing them. Keep tweaking till you've created something you can sustain -- a new, positive habit. See how the rest of your life improves!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Feeling powerless? Here's what you can do!

Issues tend to show up in my clients in clusters -- all of a sudden, a few will be in grief, or contemplating a major life change, or wanting to get over a heartbreak, for example. (I don't know why this is. Maybe it's just an astrological thing? One of my teachers said that when her clients all turned up with the same issue, it was always something she was going through, or had just gone through, but that doesn't seem to be the case for me.)

Lately, I've been having a run of people feeling powerless (names have been changed, as have the situations, though slightly, so as to protect the innocent):
  • Joe's wife was raped. He knows he can't really help her, except to be there for her, and so he feels angry, out of control, and powerless.
  • Jack, a supervisor, is about to have all his reports, who are contractors, changed out from under him, because his employer is changing temp agencies. While he's not happy with most of the current bunch, the thought of having to train all new employees is daunting. No one asked him if this is a good idea, so he feels powerless and unheard. 
  • Jane worked towards a hellish deadline for a month, and then got sick with a flu which became pneumonia. She feels like her body has betrayed her, and feels powerless against larger forces.
  • The company that employs Jenny is about to be sold. She wonders if she'll have a job in another few months, through no fault of her own. This has happened to her before, so she feels powerless against the larger economic forces.
What can you do if you feel powerless? 
  • Recognize this as a reality check. Reality can sometimes be unpleasant, even downright ugly. That doesn't make it your fault, so don't beat yourself up about it. A rapist needs a victim, who knows why it was Joe's wife? Companies change their vendors -- and now Jack knows how important he isn't. Jane had an opportunity to learn the limits of her body. Companies get sold -- and unless you are the 1% (or probably the .1%), you are, in fact, powerless. 
  • Recognize the power you DO have. Joe can comfort his wife in the aftermath of her trauma. Jack can teach his new workers, perhaps even to do a better job than the old ones. Jane can listen to her body and perhaps take better care of it. Jenny can polish up her resume, start networking, and in the longer term, work towards a specialty that is unique and will give her staying power.
  • Look for resonance to earlier events in your life, and resolve them, so that you're only reacting to what's going on now, and not also to the earlier ones. Joe was bullied when he was in junior high, and his wife's ordeal brought that up for him. By resolving the remaining feelings about being bullied, he could be there more effectively for his wife, without letting his anger at the rapist be amplified by his anger at the bully. 
  • Look for your lesson in this. There is a school of thought that says that your soul/ higher self  agreed to be in your situation for your own spiritual growth. If you learn your lesson, then the event creates meaning in your life. I think this is often, but not always, true. Accidents do happen. 
  • Look for the deeper structure that makes you feel powerless. What is it in society that creates rapists, or allows them out on the street?What laws allow companies to act as they do, whether it's changing vendors with no notice, or assigning impossible deadlines, or slashing jobs? 
  • Band together to create change. Remember the old line, "You can't fight City Hall"? You can -- just not all by yourself. This is why unions were created. It's originally why democracy was created. It's why people raise money to research cures for diseases. It's why the Occupy movement exists. With whom can you ally yourself to create the change you envision? And yes, be that change, wherever and whenever you can.