17 September 2010

Shut the Laptop: one very simple way to improve your relationship

Feeling disconnected in your relationship? Anxious?  Depressed?

Here's a suggestion: unplug.

This weekend, why not put on some music, pour a glass of wine or tea, and just sit and talk or think or read. Rediscover the person you love and cherish! (You or someone else...)

Whether you are single or in a relationship, truly leisurely, directionless time to just be and reflect is so important.  We need it to recharge, dream, and connect with others.   

This type of time does not happen when our primary relationship is with the internet.

When we are sitting on a device, we may think that we are in the room with other people, but we are not.

Think of it this way: every time you reach for your computer or phone, you are leaving the room.

When you find yourself reaching to check that [insert device of choice here], think to yourself, "Is this really what I want to be doing right now?"

Here are some suggestions for unplugging (this goes for phones, too!):
1. Turn off automatic email notification

2. Set a time when you go on the Internet for how long you want to be on the computer. When the timer rings, turn off your computer.

3. Resist the temptation to check everything every five minutes. Do what you need to do when you need to do it. Set aside time for your internet activities, and then engage in your life outside of the screenworld.
What to do instead of looking at a screen:
1. Cook a meal

2. Make a snack

3. Have a conversation

4. Give someone you love a foot rub

5. Listen to music -- dance to music!

6. Read a book

7. Leaf through a magazine

8. Plan an adventure.

9. Think about the future
and on and on...

Sounds like a vacation, eh?

Good luck with having a cozy, unplugged weekend!

10 September 2010

On Dreams

What are dreams? Are they important? If they are not, why do we feel like they are? As in, "I had the strangest dream last night, I wonder what it means..."

We know that these fantastical, scary, beautiful, experiences we have at night have meaning for us, but we don't always know how to access it. 

Dreams are a vital part of daily living. They give information about the future, about ourselves, about destiny.

Here's a few ideas for beginning a dream journal, the key to having a relationship with your own dream life:

1. Buy a journal, doesn't have to be big and fancy. Something medium-sized and thin works well for me. I have a few I like featured in my Amazon Store. I really like Moleskine and Clairefontaine products.

2. When you go to bed at night, take a moment to set your intention to remember your dreams.

3. When you wake up--either at night or in the morning--write down whatever is in your mind, it could be a color, a person, or an entire dream

As you do this more and more, your dream recall will increase, and you'll begin to see themes and patterns.

Our dreaming life is a place of beauty and truth. Enjoy your journey!

07 September 2010

Civility -- Lost Art or Loss of Connection?

I read today that Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who left his job with a seemingly whimsical leap down the yellow airplane emergency slide--beers in hand--will undergo a mental health evaluation as part of his plea deal for the events of that day. Mr. Slater, it appears, had been under some stress.

When the story first broke, almost everyone I encountered was exuberant about Mr. Slater's courageous exit, his f-you to his job and to the rudeness of a particular passenger. And I felt it too. How many of us have wished that on our last day at a detested job we too had had a slide for our exit, had taken control in that way, spoken our mind, said what's true. It seems so heroic, romantic even.

But Mr. Slater obviously, to use a clinical term, flipped out a bit. He has been under tremendous personal stress and the final straw arrived that fateful day in the form of a "rude passenger". Even though we are much more likely to have been in her shoes as a passenger, none of us relate to her, we all feel for Steven.

But what if she had been the one who, in the face of a rude steward and a full plane, had jumped out of her seat, taken the drink cart by storm, deployed the slide and said "to hell with this!" over the intercom. Then she might have been the one cheered as all of us related to her as she was frustrated--as we all have been--by perceived bad customer service, long flights, small seats. It's all a matter of perspective. And our perspective is skewed by who we think we are, and who we wish we could be.

In my experience as a therapist, one thing overrides all others: we are hardest on ourselves. And when that doesn't immediately show, when we seem harder on others, chances are it is because we are so hard on ourselves that we can barely speak of it. At the heart of this is the fear that we are different from everyone else: everyone else has it figured out, they are fine, they are making it, they are doing great.

This delusion is one reason we love a good celebrity free fall. We want to look away from the unsightliness of it all, but part of us feel reassured, "See, she wasn't perfect, he doesn't have everything."

But, as much as we like to think of ourselves as separate, when we work to understand ourselves and truly enter into the heart of our own life, we discover the rest of humanity there too. We lose the tendency to think that we are fatally flawed and different and outcast. We see that suffering is universal, as is redemption and compassion. And in this discovery is freedom.

My heart goes out to Steven Slater. And to that passenger. May we remember that we are both of them. Our ability to relate to and judge others comes from one thing: our knowledge of ourselves. We cannot see something in someone else that we do not have inside of us. We are both exasperated employee and rude customer; villain and hero. And we all get a little stressed from time to time.

A great opinion piece about the Steven Slater incident inspired my musing today:
The Lost Art of Simple Courtesy

01 September 2010

Courage friends, courage!

Courage is key. Fear is what holds us back, what tricks us into believing when we shouldn't, or not-believing when we should. Fear is the bogey man, the one who holds us captive.

Fear affects everyone, so dealing with it is a major concern of the therapeutic process. One of the major influences on my practice is a man named James Bugental. He articulated beautifully the process of overcoming the fear of actually being with ourselves.

James Bugental wrote many books about the process of therapy, emphasizing that therapy holds the possibility of teaching us how to be with ourselves, not just know about ourselves.

It takes time, patience, and courage to be present with oneself, to face the things that have been lurking. In that process, issues we thought we had put away can suddenly surface quickly; or there are themes we begin to notice about where our mind goes when we feel certain emotions.

This is the exciting part of therapy, whether individual or couples: discovery. It is what keeps the process alive, fresh, inspiring, and life-affirming.

I really enjoy the books of Paulo Coelho for this reason. His books stir the heart, encourage courage, and affirm life. This is what I strive to do in my work with clients, and hopefully I get there sometimes.
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