1990’s WWE wrestler Brian James shares poignantly about his addiction, his 5 trips to rehab and his sobriety
change is possible
1990’s WWE wrestler Brian James shares poignantly about his addiction, his 5 trips to rehab and his sobriety
change is possible
It’s either sadness or euphoria
It’s a new year. People make all kinds of resolutions. People will say “this is the year that I get into shape, or lose weight, or improve my self-esteem, or improve my marriage. People make these plans in order to make themselves happy. Many of these resolutions fall off of the table early in the year. This lack of success indicates to me that people are apparently content with their misery.
One of the leading causes for misery is expectation. An expectation, according to Webster’s dictionary, is “a belief that something will happen in the future” If it’s garbage day and my partner is in charge of garbage I expect that he or she will take out the garbage. When this occurs, everything is great. The problem occurs when I expect my partner to do something and it doesn’t happen. This expectation often leads to a variety of negative feelings. Let’s look at the following example:
Marie and Steve are married for 10 years. They have two children. Steve has an episodic alcohol issue—He doesn’t drink regularly, but when he does, he binges for days at a time. Marie has communicated her frustration, anger, hurt, disappointment to Steve about his drinking. She assumes that her communications will lead him to “get it” and he will stop drinking. Marie and Steve are having family over on Saturday night. She expects that after all of her conversations, that there is no way that Steve will drink. When she wakes up Saturday morning, she sees Steve passed out on the couch with a bottle of vodka nearby. She is livid, and screams at him at concert hall volume.
There is no doubt that Marie’s feelings are valid—hurt, anger, resentment, disappointment, fear, embarrassment. The problem however lies in Marie’s expectation—“we are having a family party, I’ve spoken to Steve many times, he shouldn’t be drinking” It is the expectation that creates her feelings.
Expectations are the things that we have the most control over, yet the thing that we want to change the least. It is way more fun to have a “you fest” …”you did this, you did that, you always do this etc”. It is much harder to look at our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors. We live in a world that we think is governed by the ways things should be. People should always stop at stop signs. People should wait on lines in grocery stores, airports, department stores. People should be courteous drivers. People should follow all of the rules of our society. We know however this doesn’t happen all the time. We get upset when these rules are bent, broken or destroyed. In relationships, we have the same rules. We expect our partners will follow these rules. (In the above example, Steve should not drink when Marie is having company) When partners don’t comply with OUR EXPECTATION, then we are justifiably hurt, angry etc. [pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#00008b” class=”” size=””]We then then blame our partner. It is MY expectation that is the problem, not my partner’s behavior![/pullquote]
In order to change expectations we are going to invoke my favorite six letter word, “accept”. For more on acceptance (manny being manny blog. Acceptance gives us power over our thoughts, feelings, and behavior and produces the ability to let things go. If I accept the fact that people will not stop at stop signs, will cut lines, and will drive erratically, I will be less upset. Since no one decided that I was in charge to enforce these infractions (a scary thought if I was), I can just accept that people will not always act in ways that I like. They can break all the rules they want. In relationships the same concept applies. In our earlier example, If Marie accepts the fact that Steve drinks episodically, and that in spite of all of her lectures and discussions, he will drink again, she will not be as angry. (In fact if she changes her behavior, she’ll be more compassionate, and won’t take his drinking personally, but that’s another blog entirely!)
Marie gets to choose if she wants happiness or misery. If she looks at life with high expectations and very little acceptance, she will be hurt, angry, and resentful. She will have a great deal of misery which she is causing for herself. If Marie decides to make changes and work on being happy, she can have few expectations, and lots of acceptance. She has the power to do.
Change is possible.
Dedicated to LC who didn’t live very long but inspired many
Many years ago Linda was a client that I was working with. She was a very complicated young woman. She had chemical addictions, eating disorders and an assortment of other significant issues. Her chemical addictions were getting out of hand and she needed to go to detox. Linda agreed and assured me that she would go on Monday. On Monday, after she didn’t arrive at the detox, I called her and the conversation went something like this:
Me: What happened?
L : You know
Me: You took a detour?
Me: Ok, (pause, pause, pause,)but really you need to go to detox
L: I know
Me: How about tomorrow
Me: So you’ll call them now so you can get in tomorrow?
Me: So you are going tomorrow?
Me No detours?
L: No detours
Linda did arrive at detox the next day, she looked like, someone who was on the highway to hell. She completed detox, but soon her multiple issues and continued detours led her to her final highway. She died way too young, unable to deal with many issues that she could not even speak about.
Linda’s detours sadly led to her undoing in a permanent way, but many people that I see don’t listen to their internal gps settings. They appear to be on the verge of getting better only to get off of “Healthy Road” and make several turns on to “Self-Defeating Avenue” or “Self-Destructive Boulevard”. These detours tend to last way longer than necessary and ultimately lead to lots of guilt, shame, remorse, and self-loathing. When people drive back and find “Healthy Road” they generally have to clean up the messes they made from their detour. As people start to clean up those messes they begin to ask themselves the following questions:
• Why did I do that?
• What’s wrong with me?
• Why can’t I succeed?
• Am I doomed to always do this?
• Can I be healthier?
When people bring these questions to my office, we need to do some probing for the answers. We need to look at how their detouring behavior is “wired”— that is what causes this behavior? Is it something from their past? Is it a long standing issue with their self –esteem? Is it from some traumatic event that has occurred? There may be hundreds of hypotheses about the reasons this behavior exists and the mechanisms that keep this behavior going. Once we have an idea about why a person may detour, then we need to identify how to change this. This can be a very painful process because some the issues have never been addressed. It takes great courage, patience, and trust to work through the pain.
Linda never got the opportunity to do this. Her detours to hell, ultimately led to her demise. Her fear and shame led her to take her secrets with her to her death.
As we head for the New Year, we can work to stay on “Healthy Road” with frequent turns towards “Self-Improvement Street” and “Feeling Better About Myself Avenue”. Whatever the issues are, they can be identified, and healed. No one needs to keep detouring from the right path.
Change is possible
There is a light flashing on the answering machine. Wow. Could it be a referral? Is it someone I can see? Is it someone I can help? Will our schedules match up? I impatiently go to the message “Hi this is Lois, I got your name from Dr. Don Henry at St. Paul’s medical center. He said you specialize in couples therapy and addictions. I’d like to make an appointment” My heart races, my breathing increases. I’m a specialist? I am, I guess. I call Lois on the telephone. We discuss some of the clinical issues, insurance, and scheduling. I feel awkward trying to communicate the key points. I have to remember to tell her my address, give directions to the office, and tell her where to park. I successfully accomplish all of this and Lois and her husband Bill come in. I get to share my “expertise” with them. There are so many issues—Bill’s drinking, Lois’ control, and the impact on the relationship. Where do I start? Can I help these people? I’ve helped hundreds of people like Bill and Lois when I worked for someone else. But this is about my name, my reputation, my career, my future.
I see Bill and Lois and their multiple problems. They get better. My initial fears get smaller. Week after week, the phone keeps ringing. There are more messages. A man with an angry sounding voice named Tom, calls saying “I gotta come see you; my boss is such a jerk; he’s gonna fire me if I don’t come” He comes in, and over time, he’s not so angry. A sweet, soft sounding woman named Joan, calls to get help for her panic attacks. She comes into my office and is not as sweet as she sounds. In fact, she’s quite angry, in fact about everything. People continue to call and ask interesting questions “Can you see my son and not tell my ex-wife that he’s coming for therapy even if she calls you”? “Can I tell you a secret that my husband doesn’t know”? “Do I have to be honest during therapy, I mean tell you everything?” These questions and their answers all test my therapeutic skills and challenge my knowledge of both ethics and the law. (if you are scoring at home, it’s no, yes, and no)
Among the other new challenges is the business part of the practice. This includes billing, collecting, marketing and advertising I listen to my colleagues who share the ongoing debate ” I have too many clients to be part time, but not enough to be full time” I wonder ” Will I suffer the same fate?” “What if I do too good a job, and all of my clients get better?” “[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#9370db” class=”” size=””]What if the phone stops ringing?”[/pullquote]
What if the phone stops ringing? (It actually did once for a period of 12 days). Will I be like other therapists in private practice, here today, closing up shop tomorrow?
Over time, my fears get smaller, and more clients attend. I begin to realize that as a result of information that I learned from continuing education classes and from reading journal articles, that prospective clients want to find a therapist who has good clinical and interpersonal skills. They want to find a practitioner who is also human. They want to find someone who has the following characteristics:
Characteristics of desired therapists:
• Shows empathy
• Non judgmental
• Keeps good boundaries
• Good interpersonal skills
• Is human
• Open to other viewpoints
The above characteristics seem obvious to me, but many clients have reported that they have had poor or unsatisfactory experiences with previous therapists. Some are robotic. Some are non-communicative. Some only care about getting paid. I’m glad that’s not the feedback that I have received over these many years of being a therapist.
Time has passed; technology has given us new ways of communicating. We now have voice mail, text messaging, and email, all direct ways for new clients to begin their journey towards change. Over the last few years I have discovered that two trends have started to happen. I have been receiving calls from second generation clients. These conversations usually start the same way “you saw my mother/father some years ago and I would like to make an appointment.” It’s funny to see the adult version of a person who their parent once described to me. The other interesting trend is the returning client. This is a person who I met with more than ten years ago. Those conversations too have a familiar sound to them “Hi my name is Sue and I don’t know if you remember me but I saw you 15 years ago. You helped me so much then and I have some issues that I know you can help me with again.” These two trends are very gratifying to me because they demonstrate my beliefs about change. If two people work together on a problem, and there is good “therapeutic chemistry”, change will occur. This has been proven over my entire career. I am grateful to be a part of that chemistry.
If you are looking to find a therapist, use the “characteristics of desired therapists” list to find your person.
Change is possible.
From John Oliver “Last week with John Oliver 11/15/2015
Another blog about communication? We are communicating about communication for the 7th time. This must be an important topic or I am an incredibly redundant communicator.
To read the first 6 entries, click on the links below:
Communication can occur in many ways:
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#008000″ class=”” size=””]in order to have intimacy you have to be vulnerable[/pullquote]
To go from superficial to intimate requires a loving, trusting relationship. It requires that the listener listen and be able to hear what’s being said. The listener needs to be nonjudgmental and be unconditional. The speaker has to know that what they are saying is safe. They have to know that it will be heard and not used against them in a future fight. If he or she is able to take the risk they will have the intimacy and closeness that is necessary in a good healthy, stable relationship.
This is really risky and it is WAY easier to have superficial, a little off the top relationships. It is even easier to tell people what they want to hear, and take no risks at all. In this video from Grammy Award winner Tracy Bonham, she tells the mother what she wants to hear:
In this conversation between mother and daughter, the daughter gives all of the right answers. She tells her mom, how great she is doing, how “everything’s fine” . She is able to be authentic and personal with the audience as she tells us all of he pain. It is only at the end of the song when she says “I miss you I love you” is she communicating in a genuine way.
We ultimately get to chose the quality of our relationships. Do we want the mother -daughter relationship in “Mother Mother” or do we want something else? If we want something else, then it requires healthy risk taking. It requires having the communication skills to handle the storms that may occur–the misperceptions, the arguments, the conflicts. It requires speaking in ways that our partners can hear. It requires the hardest skill of all, listening.
If we listen and we trust, our relationships can grow. They can grow deeper, and become more meaningful. Meaningful interpersonal relationships are what we need to be good people, to have a good quality of life, and have inner peace. It starts with the risk.
Change is possible.
There are some interesting things to note here:
1)It states that people are 26 times more likely to drink and drug and 13 times more likely to become alcohol dependent–If you look at the data on sexual addiction Carnes 1998 cites 81% of sex addicts in treatment were sexually abused.
2) 1 in 7 women report abuse/28% or men were abused–interestingly these numbers are probably UNDER-REPORTED.
3) note the list of symptoms listed for abuse–these are very common presenting issues that people start therapy with. In addition note that anxiety/depression diagnoses are 3 times more likely
if you or some one you know fit the descriptions listed on this info graphic, PLEASE GET HELP
although it will be painful and scary, you can improve your life……
change is possible
this is a fascinating video “if you want to know if the person has narcissism, just ask him”
When we do our spring cleaning, we find things that we forgot that we had. My cleaning was in cyberspace. I found some old blogs that are not on the changeispossible site. These “moldy oldies” were sitting at my first blog site on psych central. They are a little beat up with funky editing strikes in them, but content wise they provide us with some useful thoughts.
There are 3 old blogs to check out:
1) The 2 questions—knowing which questions to ask yourself is a great decision making tool.
2) Inconvenient not tragic—a seemingly simple phrase that helps us to put our feelings in perspective. We can see the difference between waiting on a long checkout line vs. someone who unexpectantly lost a loved one.
3) I was thinking about you—very useful behavior for couples who want to improve their relationship.
In addition to these old blogs, there will be a few new blogs to expect in the coming months:
1) The traffic light—think a twilight zone in NJ story with a good self caring message.
2) Another tricky day– a Pete Townsend song that translates to how to handle our trickiest days.
3) A double feature of “Bobby Jean” and “Holding Onto Yesterday”. This music inspired grieving blog helps us to validate our own grief and move on to living in the present.
Finding old nuggets and creating new ones. A new definition of change perhaps.
Change Is Possible!
t’s a random day of commuting. Sirius XM is playing on my radio. Like most other people I have to find the best song to listen to. I switch from one channel to the other—I think “hey that’s a great song, oh it’s over”. I get to another channel I think “wow I haven’t heard that song in a long while, oh it’s over”. I change stations again and again (good thing I have over 200 to choose from!!) and I keep hearing the ends of the songs I start thinking about what a weird commute this is—I’ve heard only the ends of many songs. I have heard no beginnings, no entire songs, only the ends. I start thinking about the significance of this—in our lives we want to hear whole songs– we want the entire relationship, we want the whole job story, we want to experience all lifecycle events. We don’t want the beginnings, and we certainly don’t want the ends.
Our storytelling metaphors are “once upon a time” followed by some middle event, followed by some struggle, followed by “and they lived happily ever after”. We close our books, we walk out of our movie theaters and have the “feel good” moments that we are supposed to have. When someone asks about the book, or the movie, we smile and say it was good. However, great filmmakers knew how to disrupt that pattern. When Psycho arrived in movie theaters, Alfred Hitchcock told viewers “no one will be admitted to the film after it starts”. This message told the audience you must pay attention to the beginning, the middle, and the end. The end of Psycho doesn’t leave us feeling good. It makes us feel disturbed. It makes us feel anxious. We may feel robbed of our traditional happy ending.
The end of life for most people is not a happy ending either. We know this movie–it is the most predictable story. If we ignore, deny, and don’t deal with our loved ones endings, we have all the confusion, anxiety, guilt and regret. We are the ones who are unsatisfied, we are the ones who feel bad. Like all other painful situations, we can go through the feelings or we can go around the feelings. I have worked with many people who mastered the art of going around the feelings. Through addictive behaviors or other non-helpful strategies, they didn’t deal with the pain. They numbed the pain. When the pain came back, they numbed it again and again and again. Their pain was gone, as long as they numbed it. When the time came to deal with the past pain, they had not only had the original pain but had the additional pain from their avoidance. Joe Louis, the famous heavyweight boxing champion of the 1930’s and 1940’s said “You can run but you can’t hide”. This is very true of pain, but it is more true of loss.
Endings provide us with many opportunities for change and growth. They teach us to overcome. They test our inner strength. They force us to look not only at the end, but the beginnings and the middles. If we only look at the end, we have pain, and loss, and sadness. We need to examine the entire relationship, the good the bad and the ugly. When we are able to do this examination, we get acceptance and we get closure. In the song by The Doors “When the Music’s Over” Jim Morrison writes “when the music’s over, turn out the light”. We may turn out the light, but we also get the whole song to sing again and again.
Change is possible.