How to Fix Fearful Freddy

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A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world’s torrent.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Freda’s tired of Freddy’s “I’m going to lose everything” mood.” Yes, he could be laid off. But, he hasn’t been. Freda’s tired of Freddy’s watching TV and soothing himself with beer, chips and ice cream. She’s tired of being a single mother and going to bed alone. So, she told him –

Freda: “This moodiness has to stop. It feels like you’re preparing to be hung.”

Freddy: “Would you be happy with the sword of Damocles hanging over your head? It’s like waiting for a hurricane to hit.”

Freda: You haven’t lost your job. You’ll find another one if you do. Your supervisor likes you and he’ll write a good letter of reference.

Freddy: “It might not be that easy. What will happen if my money stops coming in? How will you feel about me then?

Freda: “We’ll adjust. We love you. Besides, I’m still working.”

Freddy: “I love you too. It just feels so damnably humiliating.”

Freda: Let’s stay focused on what’s actually happening now. You could work on your resume and see who’s hiring engineers. And, you could talk with Dr. Jones about medication to lower your anxiety.

Freddy: “Thanks. I’m sorry. I know I’m overreacting.”

Freda: It’s okay. Let’s relax and have some fun tonight.

Our imaginary couple, Freddy and Freda, are beginning to talk things out and Freddy is feeling more hopeful. Medication can help move him out of immobilizing fear and so can support from encouraging family and friends.

Anxiety is part of life from birth to death and support is needed from birth to death. Infants fear separation. Children fear abandonment and punishment. Adults fear failure. In our advanced years we fear abandonment and death.

Brain research is uncovering new ways of handling anxiety and rediscovering old ways. For example, compassion, touch, meditation, and prayer have soothed people’s minds for millennia.

Focusing inward with breathing exercises can calm the limbic system and stimulate the executive part of the brain. Yoga has helped many people. Oxytocin, the feel good hormone, seems to reward people who maintain good social bonds. Exercise allows the body to better handle increased stress hormones. Medication and psychotherapy can help with anxiety, panic, depression, and other psychiatric disorders.

So, in psychotherapy, I review with my “Freddies” how they can better handle the threat of a job loss. Drinking bourbon, eating chocolate chip ice cream, and zoning out with the TV, although understandable, are not a recommended stress reduction routine. Therefore, I talk with my “Freddies” about the dangers of abusive drinking, junk foods, and watching negative TV shows. A little alcohol can help the body relax and positive, humorous, TV shows can be up lifting. But, more than a beer an hour might work as a depressant, and violent, conflictual, TV shows stimulate anxiety and depression.

In psychotherapy, my “Freddies” learn to monitor their thoughts and replace self-defeating thoughts with positive ones. “Freddies” can refocus to the positive truth about today. Psychotherapy can also be used to deal with past trauma when past anxiety is flowing into a current stressful situation that appears, on the surface, to be similar.

My “Freddies” can decide to eat nutritionally, exercise, snuggle with their “Fredas”, and practice their religion. Good nutrition gives bodies the fuel they need. Exercise results in more alertness and energy. Snuggling fills emotionally, and a religious community can encouragement. Religious practices can help “Freddies” feel love, strength, and guidance from God (higher power).

So, can “Freddies be fixed? Of course they can. Attitude and habits determine “Freddies” level of contentment and inner peace. My “Freddies” do best when they strive to be –

Thankful. Appreciate the incredible opportunity to live, love, and explore. Celebrate love, beauty, truth, opportunities, and accomplishments.

Encouraging. Courageously follow your interests, experiment, and consider failure a part of learning. Encourage others to do the same. You’ll feel more alive.

Peaceful. It’s easier to be close to calm, peaceful, people. You’ll feel more appreciation and love.

Forgiving. Let go of resentment and anger; make it easy for people to relax and get close to you. You’ll feel less weighed down; you’ll have more energy.

Compassionate. Feel yourself in another’s position and respond with kindness. You’ll have gratitude and help when you need it.

Generous. Consider sacrificial giving a part of loving others. It’s the only way to build a loving family; a loving community.

Mindful. Slow down, be aware, of how you’re relating to yourself, others, nature, and God (higher power). You’ll respond more realistically.

Playful. See the humor in life; don’t take yourself too seriously. You’ll live a longer, happier, life

Realistic. Life is what it is; people are what they are. You’ll have better outcomes if you accept this and not try to change people. Make realistic decisions about when to give, receive, compromise, and set limits.

Courageous. Accept that something worthwhile is learned in the struggles of life. The heroes in our stories are better persons as a result of the challenges in their heroic journey. They’re tired and weary but they’ve learned from their experience.

My primary message is don’t let anxiety rob you. Prepare for difficult times by being a helpful, positive person – then you won’t be alone when Damocles sword is threatening your position. Family and friends will be with you. You’re a person who’s valued and loved.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Helen Keller.

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Forty-eight Years of Commitment – And Still Going

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9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm [alone]? 12 And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4 ASV, The Bible

Commitments are a big deal. I was concerned about commitment right before I married my wife. I really wanted to be with my fiancee. Still a lifelong commitment is a daunting one.

My fiancee and I belonged to the same Christian denomination. Neither of us had close relatives who were divorced. The members of our churches seemed to stay together for life. They all kept their marriage vows – together for better or worse; no other sexual partners; till death do you part. And, they seemed to be okay with their arrangement. That was encouraging.
Our vows were spoken in front of relatives, friends, and church members. We were part of their group; they expected us to keep our vows to each other and to God.

In June, we’ll celebrate 48 years of marriage. We kept our commitment to God and to each other. We stayed with our denomination. We’re still active members of our church. I’m grateful we’ve worked out our differences and accepted each other’s imperfections. We’ve benefited from our arrangement. We have –

1. An agreed upon moral/ethical code. Our moral and ethical code is a time honored one prescribed by our religious group. We have both agreed to abide by it. As a result, we didn’t have to create something new.

2. Emotional security. I don’t have to compete with other men; she doesn’t have to compete with other women. We’re not looking for somebody better.

3. Affection and sex. They’re readily available. We don’t have to hunt for a lover.

4. No worries about sexually transmitted diseases. It’s a closed sexual system.

5. Physical security. Someone’s there if you’re sick, disabled, or just need help with the computer.

6. Good memories. A lifetime of photo’s and memories of being together and being with our children.

7. Secure children. Our children, and grandchildren, are wanted and have security. They don’t have to worry about their family dissolving and their home disappearing. It’s not mom’s place or dad’s place? It’s mom and dad’s place.

8. Energy to put into the community. Security issues, companionship issues, and “where do I belong issues” are resolved. Energy can be directed other places.

9. The support of our church. Our government is less likely to need to take care of us because we have the support of each other and our church.

10. A place to socialize and contribute. The same religion has united us and given us a place, our church community, to socialize and contribute.

I’m glad that I made commitments to my wife, God, and my religious community. My wife and I have benefited and so have our children and the community. Making a clear commitment and keeping the commitment is necessary for the well-being of any venture. Why should building a home and a family be any different? It’s something to think about.

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My Contribution to a Happy Home

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Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.
Mother Teresa

I love to come home to the warmth and laughter there. I want to do what I need to do to maintain a happy, healthy, home. A garden needs water, fertilizer, and someone to remove the weeds. The atmosphere of a home also needs tending to. Here’s what I work at –

1. Sound ethics and morality. I work at following the teachings of my Christian church, the professional ethics of the National Associations of Social workers, and the regulations of the Social Work Board of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Noble ethics and morality are life giving to everyone.

2. Control issues. I want to remember that I only have control over my attitude. That’s about it. I can’t control others or the world I live it. I make my decisions and so do others. It’s good to remember that.

3. Self-control. Only my self-control will allow me to live out noble ethical and moral ideals. Only my self-control will provide the opportunity for others to live with me safely. I want people to be safe with me and to trust me.

4. Healthy rules. I can avoid chaos with a few rules that I kindly and consistently enforce. I learned this when my wife and I trained my dog. I also learned that rewards help my dog to live by my rules. Rules and rewards are something to consider.

5. Growing up. I want to be a more mature, loving, compassionate person. My support for this comes from my family, church, prayer, and my professional life. I’ve learned that I need the wisdom and support of others.

6. Appreciation. I work to verbalize and demonstrate my appreciation. I know that lack of appreciation can be discouraging.

7. Freedom. I want to be free of obsessive-compulsiveness behavior, complaining and resentment. I want to relax and enjoy my life as it is. War, corruption, illness, poverty, abuse, and erupting volcano’s aren’t new. I want to help people as I can and then shift my attention to what is beautiful, good, and true. Is this uncaring? I don’t think so.

8. Shared resources. I want to share my money, skills, and time. It feels good to do something significant for someone else. Altruism is a good thing. I want to help people realize their dreams.

9. Celebration. It’s a good thing to celebrate success. I want to celebrate the successes of others without envy and jealousy.

10. Excellence. I can choose to work for excellence and humbly accept that perfection is impossible. I don’t want to expect perfection of myself and others. It’s discouraging and a waste of good time.

Our homes and gardens take work but they’re worth it. What can you work on to develop and keep warm loving relationships in your home?

Think About Coming Home

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Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home. Mother Teresa

I will forever associate home with my wife’s parents and their spirit of hospitality, graciousness, and generosity. It was the epitome of a warm and loving home. Good company, good humor, and delectable food. It was a place where we could relax. They’re gone but their descendants still take gracious interest in each other and support each other. My wife and I have worked to provide the same kind of atmosphere in our home.

So what are the characteristic of a home that will allow us to thrive? Here are some that I think are important –

Safety. I can relax here because I’m physically and emotionally safe. I am safe to be around.

Intimacy. I belong here. I’m listened to; I have influence. My thoughts and feelings matter. I listen to and give my partner and children influence. I can be emotionally close to them and them to me.

Communication. I can hear and be heard with a spirit of honesty, kindness and generosity. I can hear and be heard without fear of ridicule.

Fruitfulness. I can develop my abilities and interests; I can experiment, fail, and learn. I support my partner and children as they develop their interests and abilities.

Ecstasy/joy. My family and I can find joy in people, pets, nature, projects, and privacy.

Neighborliness. My family and I honor the needs of others in the community and we accept the support of others.

I believe the above characteristics can help me have a home like my in-laws. A home that exudes a spirit of hospitality, graciousness, and generosity. That’s very important to me.

Think about these characteristics; talk about them with others. Perhaps you could send the post to a friend and see what he/she thinks. A good home is worth working for.

Photo credit: 123rf.com. Image ID : 24704393

You Call This Communication? I Think, “Not!”

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. Buddha

  • “We need to talk.”
  • “Why, we’ll fight?”
  • “Just listen!”

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Do any of the above sound familiar? Maybe you could add to the list? A lot of people come to my office saying they have a communication problem. They want to know their partner. They want to feel connected and loved.

Good communication means that you have a free flowing stream of shared experiences, feelings and information. In healthy relationships the best and the worse can be shared, accepted, and understood leaving behind a sense of being known, accepted and loved.

Healthy communication and emotional intimacy thrive in an atmosphere of trust and compassion. Remember,

Your partner moves

toward > pleasure and

away from < pain.

The person you love will

only want to talk with you

if he/she associates you

with love and trusts you.

Your partner isn’t stupid. No one jumps into a conversation if he/she expects to be attacked and judged. Relax and tell your side of the story with kindness and truth.

Love, trust, and compassion are at the heart of healthy communication. Courageously work at communicating truth with a spirit of mercy, forgiveness, and non-violence. Pull away from judgment, vengeance, and pettiness. Understand that someone can understand precisely what you’re saying and still disagree. Understanding does not mean agreement; it can lead to compromise.

The positive virtues draw people toward us just as anger, judgment, avoidance, cowardliness, and poor ethics cause us to draw away. We’ll give up pleasure to avoid pain. You can get immediate satisfaction by calling your partner an idiot but you’ll pay for it. Your partner has plenty of opportunities to get even; so does the server at a restaurant. It pays to be careful. Help your partner want to talk with you about more than the weather and the latest news report.

Communication can be like a stream – clean things up and it flows as nature intended it to. These things that can slow down or block communication –

  1. You have a simple misunderstanding. My wife pointed to a thumb drive and said, “What’s that?” I responded, “My thumb drive.” She laughed because her real question was, “Do you want me to work on one of the files?” I thought she wanted me to get it off of the counter. Usually humor and patience take care of these problems.
  2. You’re not being congruent. Your words are “I love you honey” while your body is pulling away, your tone is snappy, and your eyes say, “I’d like to hit you with a brick.” Your partner will respond to your body. Work at getting your words and feelings together.
  3. You have different interests. A man may find it hard to be interested in the saga of cousin Jenny’s life; a woman may find a discussion of tools dull. Gender and genetics matter. Don’t expect a woman to be a man or a man to be a woman. Keep your same sex friends and look at what you can you enjoy with your partner.
  4. Your personality type is different. (E.g., you want details and your partner doesn’t.) Personality type affects communication. You can discover your type, and your partner’s, at http://www.keirsey.com. Take a look and consider what might help you make you with your partner.
  5. You’re discussing painful issues like money, sex, or the kids. Be courageous and face the issue(s). Avoidance (cowardliness) leads to disaster. Get assistance from a couple you respect, a clergyman, or a psychotherapist if the two of you can’t resolve a problem. Bite the bullet; do what you need to do. You’ll gain respect.
  6. You have a negative attitude, or habit. Is your partner saying that –
  • You’re acting like your mom or dad?
  • You’re overreacting?
  • A person, a place, or something else changes you?
  • You always have to right?

Think about what your partner is saying. You may be unaware of what you’re doing. Your partner could be right. You want your partner to be glad he/she is talking with you.

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Feel free to leave your comments and to contact me –

  • Do you have a suggestion that might help other couples?
  • Do you have a suggestion that might improve the blog?

Feel free to pass on the article.

Next article: Putting yourself in a good place to communicate.

Forgive the ___________? Are you insane?

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi

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Yes! To be healthy you’ve got to do it – you need to let go of resentment, anger and bitterness. You need to find a way to stop feeling angry and resentful because the feelings carry a poison with them; it’s like holding a live coal in your hand and hoping to not be burned.

I totally agree with you that some people don’t deserve forgiveness. You’re right. We both know people who’ve lied, cheated, defrauded and defriended (I guess that that’s not a word but maybe you know what I mean. One day you were friends and the next day they dropped off the edge of the earth.)

However, if you’re going to love and enjoy people, and if you want to have a good life coupled up, there’s no other way than to let go of resentment and anger. Why? Nothing good comes of focusing on past wrongs. The resulting bitterness will poison both your body and your attitude. The energy from the bitterness will most likely trigger stress hormones that you don’t need and most likely the pain and resentment from the wound will ooze out on to those nearest and dearest to you. Many of us think that we can carry bitterness, resentment, or hatred and do it safely. I don’t think that it’s possible.

It’s my opinion that we are very poor judges of how we affect other people. We can think that we’re keeping our negative feelings in check while our family and peers at work can have a very different opinion. Men can grossly misjudge how their negativity affects their girl friends and wives. A fellow can think that he’s okay only to find out that she’s loaded up her car and is backing out of the drive. On the other hand, women can feel that they’re so cute and sexy that the guy will put up with anything. Of course, that’s not true either. Men have their limits too.

Anyway, if you feel bitter about something that’s happened in the past, ask for feedback from your partner. Would your partner say, e.g., that you’re calm when Grandpa Joe, the family alcoholic, unexpectedly shows up or would he/she think that you overreact. And, what happens when, driven by guilt, you agree to go visit cousin Lucy who never has anything positive to say?

Would your partner say that certain words, places, people, and events trigger an unusual amount of anger in you? What’s the truth? If there’s a consensus that you’re overreacting, face the truth. Life is short and precious; be wise. Find a way to let go of bitterness so that you can better love and enjoy your family and friends.

Here are some things to consider if you sense that you’ve let bitterness develop –

1. Would it help to look at the person who harmed you in the context of their family history? Does the person have good social skills? Are they malicious?

2. Would it be helpful to look at yourself in the context of your family history? What did you learn about how to deal with disappointment and criticism?

3. What has helped you to refocus from hurts ( that you can’t change) to what is positive in your life (that you can build on)?

4. Has belief in God, a higher power, given you strength to over come obstacles in the past? Would asking for help now be a reasonable thing for you to consider?

5. Would praying for the person who hurt you help you to let go?

In psychotherapy, we work at learning the truth about ourselves and life. We acknowledge the truth and the pain that is there, learn from it, find comfort from others, and then refocus to what is beautiful, true, and good about life today. When memories of the hurtful event occur, we refocus away from the hurt as there is nothing more to be done. Reliving a hurtful event simply creates more pain; we were hurt and now we’re reliving the event and inflicting more pain on ourselves. This, of course, is illogical. I had a supervisor who said that the best revenge is a good life. I believe that he’s correct.

Garrison Keller has a wonderful article in the February 2011 National Geographic. He talks about what it was like for him to live most of his life in the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. At the end of the article he tells us that people know him there and how good it feels to be known, to be forgiven, and to be understood. I feel that way about my wife, children, and grandchildren. They know me; they choose to forgive me; and they work to understand me. It’s a priceless gift.