Fork in the Road

“Life is complex.
Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness. ”
M. Scott Peck

Many years ago, before the gps was invented, I got directions to go to a family party.  The trip was going well, and we were right on time.  Unbeknownst to me, the road  that we were on was about to end (this part was not in the directions). We were faced with two choices–go left or go right.  We sat at the stop sign, trying to figure out the best option.  Ultimately, we turned right.  This was was in fact wrong and proceeded to drive off course.  After driving around for a while, we eventually righted our course and arrived at our destination.

 Each and every day, many of us arrive at that stop sign with a left or right turn option.  It looks like this:

 

Every day, we can decide to change or not to change.  We talk about it all the time ” I should go to the gym” , “I should get a new job” ,” I should lose weight”.  We “should” on ourselves but ultimately don’t do anything.  Change is hard.  I think the decision process looks like this:

Our “”change/no change” slide tells the story.  On one hand, it would be so much better for me to change–I’d feel better, but it’s scary and unknown.  On the “no change side”, it’s familiar,  but  as Henry Ford said “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got”.  “No change” keeps us stuck!  The hardest part about this “stuckness” is that I know intellectually that making any change is going to be better, but because I’ve projected way way down the path it looks very scary.  Staying right where I am usually wins out.

Let’s look at a concrete example of this.  It’s the new year, and I’ve put on a few pounds from the holidays.  It’s time to lose weight. Let’s look at our change/no change view:

 

The “change” side speaks loudly:The pants are getting tighter, I hate how I look in the mirror, I know it would be medically better to lose these pounds, but to do this I have to sacrifice.  Am I willing to sacrifice my comfort, my ability to be “comfortably numb”?  Do I really want to exercise and not eat what I want?  Can’t I just work around this by getting bigger pants or not ever look in the mirror?   Day after day, I argue with myself.  My head is like a giant seesaw going back and forth between change and no change options.

We can continue in this state of ambivalence for a long time.  It can go on and on and on until we make a decision to do something.  Sometimes change occurs just by taking any type of action.  In our weight loss example, the action may have little to do with food or exercise.  It may be a decision to read or not sit on the couch endlessly.  Small change leads to bigger change.  Bigger change ultimately leads to the changes that we want.

In addition to doing something,  making a commitment to change sets up some accountability.  In our weight loss example, joining a program (i.e. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystems, Over -Eaters Anonymous) allows us to “put our money where our mouth is”(literally) and commit to the opportunity for change.   Another way that commitment can work towards change is by telling people.Tell your friends, relatives, co-workers,  and social media universe about your plans for change(i.e. I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year). Ask them to check up on you about your change.  This accountability strategy can give you a little oomph towards your goal. We will definitely feel embarrassed if three months from now, my support people ask about weight loss, and there is no change.  Guilt and shame prevention is a good thing!    If we pay money and tell people about our changes, we’ve started to tilt that see-saw towards the change side.

We are now a technological society.  We have  a gps to help us to find our way when we are lost.  There is no electronic device that can change our default ambivalence settings.  We have to decide daily that change is better than no change.  Change is do- able.  Change is possible.  Make change happen.

 

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Change Is

Observations and Reflections as the year comes to a close

 

“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”
Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

 Change is :

1)      Change is fear

2)      Change is pain

3)      Change is love

4)      Change is acceptance

5)      Change is hope

6)      Change is feeling

7)      Change is action

8)      Change is living life

9)      Change is flexibility

10)   Change is enjoying life

11)   Change is dealing with inconveniences, hassles and things that aren’t fair

12)   Change is grief

13)   Change is sadness

14)   Change is peace

Most of all change is possible

 

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The NHL and Parenting

I have been a hockey fan for most of my life. I was struck by The National Hockey League’s(NHL) speed, power, grace, and excitement. It is a sport with a regular season that goes on too long. However its claim to fame is its playoff series, a 16 win marathon that culminates in the celebration of Lord Stanley’s cup. It’s a sport played by professionals from 18-48 making it a sport played by both the youngest and oldest professional athletes.
The NHL also has a rather strategic way of policing its players who do not follow the rules. In fact, the league’s penalty system gives us a good model for parenting strategies. It disciplines its players immediately, for a specified period of time, and uses effective time outs (penalty box). It is also dishes out consequences based upon the person’s behavior.

The NHL has a very specific tier system which looks something like this:

  • Minor Penalty(tripping ,holding, high sticking, inference, slashing) 2 minutes
  • Major penalty(fighting) 5 minutes
  • Misconduct(usually towards referee) 10 minutes
  • Game Misconduct(major offense—hurting another player etc) Thrown out of game, possible suspension or fine.

When a player commits a wrong doing, it’s not only the player who is penalized, it’s his team. When a player goes to the penalty box for a two minute tripping minor, his team also plays shorthanded for those two minutes. Playing shorthanded increases the possibility that the opponents will score a goal making the penalty much more significant.

Could parents discipline their children using the NHL model? Yes! Good parenting is based upon immediacy and “making the punishment fit the crime”. The NHL has got that down perfectly. The NHL is already using a “time out” model, (penalty box), so that too is a good fit. Most penalties committed by children at home or in school are usually minor. They need some immediate consequences. A simple timeout, whether in a time out chair or sent to their room, will usually suffice as a consequence. The penalties and consequences could be adjusted according to the age of the child— a seven year old who doesn’t listen and a 15 year old who doesn’t listen could both be “minor” penalties. However the consequences of these “minors” would be different. This model also allows parents to identify appropriate consequences depending upon the infraction. A child who is bratty towards his sibling and one who steals from a store would need very different consequences. The NHL model also reinforces that yelling is counterproductive. There is only 1 reason to yell at a child, that is when they are in DANGER! I’ve never seen a referee yell at a player. He has pointed to the penalty box, asked nicely for the person to go, asked with a little more assertion, warned that the player will get a misconduct penalty if that does not go, and then gave them the 10 minute misconduct. No yelling to reinforce the consequence occurred.

The NHL also rewards good behavior. There are the Player of the Week, and Player of the Month awards. At the end of the season, there are the trophies for Most Valuable Player, Best Goalie, Best Defensive Player etc. The best NHL award is The Lady Byng trophy which is given to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”. Imagine an award for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct in a professional sport. It is these awards and trophies that players can aspire to in order achieve bonuses in their contract. Using this incentive plan is also a way for parents to help their kids change behaviors. If you give a child a specific goal to work for (i.e. getting dressed in the morning by themselves), then they can have good reinforcement towards that goal—praise, stickers etc. Once the behavior is learned, no more struggles! Incentives also work with teenagers. Since teenagers always need something—phone, ride, clothes, money, they too can be asked to change their behaviors in order to achieve what they want.

The NHL has perhaps the finest conditioned athletes in the world, but ones who need structure, discipline, consequences, and incentives in order for them to have maximum performance. We want our kids to have their own maximum performance. To have that level of achievement, they need parents to give them incentives and consequences. Once children learn new behaviors, they feel better about themselves. Over time, they become happy and healthy kids. When they are happy and healthy, then they can win their own “Stanley Cup”.

Watch this video to learn more about the NHL:

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Get help if you are unsure of your marriage or relationship

You have been married for many years. You begin to recognize that you are not as happy as you used to be. You start examining the pros and cons of the relationship. Your partner has many pluses and a few chunky negatives. You are unsure of what to do. Follow this advice for some good ideas about your next steps.


Do seek counseling

You need a sounding board to air out your thoughts and feelings. As you go through this process, you may also change your mind on a regular basis. A good therapist will help you with both your feelings and with your decision making process. If your partner is willing to attend counseling, then both of you can go through this change process together. If he or she is unwilling, go to counseling by yourself. It can only help.

Do work on identifying your goals

Most people get married and stop identifying what they want. Some people become very partner driven and forget about their own needs and wants. It’s important to identify what you want and what’s most important to you. Do you want security, independence, happiness, partnership, a friend? Can you be OK by yourself?

Identify what’s a need versus what’s a preference.

Do keep yourself in good shape

Your decision making process is largely a mental and emotional event. Make sure you keep up your physical part since mental and emotional stress will drain your physical self. It’s not uncommon to lose weight or feel tired and dragging during this process. Make sure that you exercise, eat healthy, get sleep, and minimize your use of caffeine and alcohol in order to have the energy you need to make a good healthy decision.

Do connect with others

If you are going to go through this major process, you are going to need support. Who are your support people? Consider talking to friends, relatives, etc. Find your go to people and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Ideally, find people who have stayed and those that have left. Seek out a support group. There are some amazing message boards where you can be totally anonymous and hear and learn from others’ experiences.

Do consult with an attorney

Find an attorney who specializes in family law. Since knowledge is power, get empowered. Find out the rules of the game. How does alimony and child support work? Learn about the business of divorce while you are sorting out your emotions. Sometimes knowing that it is possible to get a divorce opens what was thought to be a closed door. By contrast, knowing what a divorce might do to you and the family might get you closer to working on the marriage.


Do not get into another relationship

When people are in the decision process, they are most vulnerable. It’s easy to share pain with another person who has similar pain. The misery loves company approach seems to work to find the fix to the problem. Due to their newness, these extra relationships just seeks to cause more confusion and ultimately more pain.

Do not nag, scold, or complain to your partner

When a person is unhappy in their marriage, the person they want to tell is their partner. However, how many times does the partner need to hear about the unhappiness? I’m guessing that unless that person is hearing impaired, lacking mental capacity, or suffering from neurological damages, that number is not a high one. Why add to your own frustration by being a broken record?

Do not try to fix your partner

It’s been said many times, “If only he would stop drinking…”, “If only he would get a job…”, or “If only she wasn’t so depressed things would be so much better.” When you love someone, you want them to get better. But you can’t fix them. Encourage them to find solutions to their own problems.

Do not medicate your pain

When confusion, fear, sadness, and anger are the feelings that predominate, who wants to feel these? No one. The easiest way to get rid of these is to use quick fix band aids like drinking, drugging, shopping, spending, eating, sex, relationships and work. They all work, kind of, but ultimately cause other and bigger problems. Short term pleasure usually leads to long term pain.

Do not isolate

Sometimes you see that many other people have their lives together. They are either happily married or successfully divorced. As a result, you think that you are the only one in this state of limbo. This constant stay or go makes you want to tell no one, and keep all of your pain inside. If you do this, your pain will only grow bigger and develop into a bigger problem. You really don’t need more problems, do you?


Summary

Making a decision about changing a relationship is one of the hardest things that people do. When there are kids involved, that decision making process is even harder. Give yourself the time that you need to identify your goals, identify your actions, and ultimately make yourself happy. Although there will be some tough days, you will make the right decision. Remember change is possible.

 

 

ExpertBeacon. Expert advice for the everyday crisis

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Convince Yourself That Change is Possible and It Is What You Want

This article is reprinted from:

http://expertbeacon.com/convince-yourself-change-possible-and-it-what-you-want/#.UaODgNhZ6Kl

How many times have you said things like: If only I could lose these five pounds, I’d feel so much better. I would love to stop smoking, these things are so expensive. I want to go to the gym. I want to get in good shape for the summer.

If you’re like most people, you’ve had conversations like this about many things. Unfortunately, you haven’t figured out how to take that huge first step. Some of you have plunged ahead only to have the next step be the one that brings your change momentum to a screeching stop. Here are some ideas that will help you to start the change process.

 

 

 


Do think small change

People inevitably think about change in large chunks. This viewpoint is a setup for failure because if your goals are too big, it’s easy to become frustrated. Think about making your changes small – lose 1 pound this week, go to gym once. If you succeed with this goal, your can take on a bigger goal next time.

 

Do some part of the change

Sometimes when people make the decision to change, they feel overwhelmed. They don’t know where to start. Should I stop drinking, eat better, lose weight, work on my relationship? Sometimes it’s just good to do some part of the change. If I want to stop drinking, maybe I should: read about not drinking, read about celebrities who have stopped drinking, or remove all the alcohol from the house. These are all examples doing part of the change process.

 

Do the opposite of what you usually do

This is called the opposite theory. Let’s say that your goal is to meet the woman of your dreams. You continue to go to places to meet this woman and strike out every time. Opposite theory would suggest that you stop looking. Do activities that enhance your well being. Mister or miss right will show up when you are not looking for him or her.

 

Do keep good data of your change

Treat your change process like a good research experiment. Write down your starting weight and other measurements like BMI, etc. and do regular weigh-ins. Log in your data weekly so that you can see the change. Your perception of the change may be different than the facts. Stay with the data, not how you feel.

 

Do allow yourself to be ambivalent

Not everyone is sold on the idea of change. In fact, most people are not. There is usually the healthy part of the person that wants to change. There is also the safe and comfortable part of the person who does not. This is normal. There is no reason to beat yourself up about things that you should want to do but don’t, like “I should want to lose 25 pounds”. You will find your way when you are ready.

 


Do not beat yourself up for perceived failures

Change is hard. No one is perfect. No one changes perfectly. Change is always 3 steps up and 2 steps back. People learn more about change from their setbacks than from their success. Be gentle on yourself, accept that these setbacks are part of the change process.

 

Do not have unrealistic expectations

It’s easy to fail when you have set up way too big a step of change, “I will lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks” for example, or “I will be divorced by the end of the month.” Be realistic, the old adage “slow and steady wins the race” is applicable here.

 

Do not sabotage your successes

Ambivalence is the battle between the healthy part and safe part of yourself. Sometimes when people are succeeding in their battle to change, they set themselves up their failure – the all you can eat buffet when on a diet, the bachelor party when stopping drinking, etc. Identify the risk factors that could lead to a setback and don’t put yourself in harms way.

 

Do not feel that this is your only time to get it

Most people have several attempts at failed change before they get it right. All of these failures are actually success, because they give good information about the triggers that set up failure. They also highlight when change will be tough. When you are ready, you will succeed.

 

Do not get frustrated

It’s easy to get the “f*ck- its” about the change process and go backwards. Have patience with yourself and recognize that change is hard work. Allow yourself to have setbacks. You are human right? Remember the best hitter in baseball fails 7 out of 10 times. Have some stick-to-itiveness in the process.

 


Summary

It’s easy to do the same old same old over and over. It’s familiar, predictable and safe. You can have so much more but you have to take that first BIG step. Be aware that you may have pitfalls, but recognize that they are opportunities for learning. No one fails at change, they just get better at it. You can be safe and miserable or take the risk and be happy. You know which one works best. Hopefully you’ll pick the change side. Always remember that change is possible.

ExpertBeacon. Expert advice for the everyday crisis

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Wizard of the Desert

Milton Erickson is the Godfather of change therapy. Prior to his work, therapy was about the patient talking endlessly and gathering insight into his or her problems. Erickson, a physician by trade, started using hypnosis to produce profound change in his patients. He was rejected by the psychological community at the time for not doing “real therapy”

This video, a trailer for a movie about him, gives a great overview about Erickson. It highlights his work as well as his handicaps. His work has inspired many of the people who appear on this video.  They have written books about Erickson and his therapy. Clearly his work has been influential to me since this website is titled “change is possible”

For more information about Erickson, refer to Jay Haley’s book about Erickson

http://books.google.com/books?id=VovkFZqQfMIC&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=milton+erickson+biography&source=bl&ots=Dbf6PkK4CZ&sig=oWNZK3GBs0MSiy7YKyLKk8nhBaE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1wuUUfvgEcTc4AP6joHgBg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=milton%20erickson%20biography&f=false

Enjoy this snippet about one of Psychotherapy’s most unknown therapist.

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GPS

As a resident of New Jersey, many of our roadways leave a lot to be desired.  Some are constructed with little logic others are just long roadways filled with construction and repair.  The worst of these however is the four way dance of hell: Rt 17/ Rt 4/ Garden State Parkway/ Rt 80 intersections around Paramus.

The other day I had the misfortune of driving in this area, but fortunately I had my GPS.  I plugged in the address and I was off to my destination.  When it said turn left, I turned left.  When it said make a right, I followed the command.  Blindly trusting my GPS, I followed her every direction and sure enough, in spite of the the tortuous  and confusing area, I reached my location.  Upon completing my mission, I reflected upon my blind faith of this mechanical device. I  made a decision to  turned my directionality over to my Garmin.  I thought about how interesting this is–many people will trust a machine to make them safe but do not listen to their internal GPSs to help them with important life altering decisions.  Why is it that we are so willing to turn left and right on the highway because Garmin says so, but are so unwilling to go left or right in life?  Why do we negate our own “gut feeling” and do unhealthy, illogical or irrational actions?

A typical GPS answers the questions:

Where am I ?

How do I get to my destination?

How long will it take to get there?

Many people come into my office asking similar questions.  Some of them do not know their “destination”- they just want it to be different from where they are right now.  Many of them have been “off course” for many years and have come to therapy for some map guidance.  They have been ignoring their own internal GPSs.   This has led to issues such as addiction, infidelity, depression or anxiety.  Some of them are so lost they cannot make a simple left or right; they are stuck.

How does a person begin the process of using their internal GPS? For many people this will be a hard task.  Some people are so distant from their internal mechanisms, that they either do not listen to their inner voice, or the voice they hear is a critical, self-destructive one.  They need to change their self- loathing  sounds to ones that have positive affirmation and positive self-talk.  Other people have GPS settings that are other directed.  These people lack confidence in their decision making and need lots of reinforcement and approval from others.  They need to work on healthy risk taking and challenging their “catastrophizing  what if” thoughts.  When people challenge these thoughts, they discover the world hasn’t ended and they are more competent than they initially believed.  Regardless of the degree of the issue, the person needs to rediscover their inner self and work on the belief that they are ok.  If they develop that inner confidence they can take better care of themselves.

For the sake of my own self care, I’m glad that my excursions to driving hell are minimal. On these occasions, my external GPS gets me to where I need to be.  Although working with an internal GPS is not quite as easy as putting in an address, the outcome of getting to where you need to be is quite rewarding.  Remember change is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Question

What questions do you get asked over and over again about your practice?

My model of therapy involves having two way conversations.  Like most conversations, there are discussions and questions.  Some of the questions are logistical—payment, appointments etc, others are more therapeutic. The question that comes up more often is actually not directed towards me.  It is a question asked rhetorically by my clients about their right to have their feelings.  These are a few samples:

“Why should I be depressed?  I have everything that anyone would want.”

“Why should I be upset about my bonus?  There are so many people who don’t have jobs? “

“I really shouldn’t be upset about my husband talking to that woman at the party, should I?”

This sample of questions shows that people doubt their self perceptions and right to feel.  Self doubts then lead to self loathing about not only feeling these feelings, but having them in the first place.  Their self perception is that they are weak, shallow, and ungrateful people.  This process of invalidation followed by self loathing becomes a downward spiral of lower self esteem.  What a crappy process!!!

How do we change this process?  Give myself permission. What does that mean? According to thefreedictionary.com, permission means – approval to do something.  When I give myself permission, I am granting myself the approval to have feelings, and feel my feelings.  That is powerful permission!!  Permission also comes with its own self-talk channel.  This “channel” can run in my head at any time and tell me “it’s ok to have these feelings”; “it’s ok to feel these feelings”.  This ongoing permissive self-talk gives me the power to own my feelings.  They are mine after all!!!  Once I start the process of permission, I can then challenge my self doubts and self perceptions and can empower myself to be a more feeling person.  If I can own my feelings without the self doubt, I can then work on changing other bad patterns and cycles.

Remember, change is possible!

 

 

 

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An Amazing Story

From Lifecaster

“The Beast and the Angel”

Filmmakers:
Adam McKay and Shira Piven
Location:
Los Angeles, CA

As the teenage leader of the popular 1960s Detroit band, The MC5, Wayne Kramer is a pioneer in America’s punk rock music scene. Rolling Stone magazine listed Kramer as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time. Kramer and The MC5 believed that the power of music could change the world, but personal issues and drug addictions tore the band apart, and their dream died.

In the mid-1970s, Kramer pled guilty to a cocaine-dealing charge and spent two years in federal prison. The Clash wrote a song about Kramer during this time called JAIL GUITAR DOORS. During this devastating time for him, Kramer turned to music to heal his anger and pain. When he was released, Kramer continued to play music and perform, and then he co-founded Jail Guitar Doors USA as a way to continue to heal his pain and rehabilitate prison inmates by allowing them to communicate in non-violent ways through music.

But this is a difficult journey for Kramer. As much as he wants to put aside his past, he knows that in order to achieve his goal of helping others like him, he must enter a place he never wanted to return to, and somehow use his skills and his pain to reach current inmates through music to help them heal.

Kramer must now fight with prison administrators for access and convince prisoners to trust him. If he succeeds, Kramer will take a path that combines music and tragedy to reach the goal he’s had since he was a teenager: to show how music can change world for the better—one inmate at a time.

For more information: www.waynekramer.com

Kramer talks about how he made this significant change in his life:

change is possible

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