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When you look your partner in the eye while you communicate, you are less likely to spark a negative discussion.
Think about the last conversation you had with your partner. What do you recall about the way he or she looked? Did your partner raise his eyebrows, puff out his cheeks, look disbelieving and smile incredulously? Did his hair lie a bit differently than usual? Did your eyes ever meet? Did she have on lipstick? Was she wearing earrings? Were her eyes twinkling, or did she appear tired?

I see a lot of couples for marriage counseling, and one of the things I’m continually made aware of is that couples frequently do not look at each other when they are talking. In fact, they spend more time looking away and avoiding eye contact than actually looking at each other.

When I point this out to the couple, the partner who is not looking often becomes defensive and says, “I was thinking and that’s why I was looking away.” What he doesn’t realize, however, is how seldom he looks at his partner.

One reason a partner does not look at his mate when talking is that he is paying attention to something else. The radio or television is on, and he is half listening to a program. Or the children are fighting, and she is trying to hear what’s going on with the kids. Also, people speak only about 120 words a minute while we think at light speed in comparison. So it’s easy to become distracted, think of something else, half listen and not look.

In one study, a group of college students in a classroom purposely looked away from a visiting professor as he lectured. His speech soon became monotone, and he lost almost all facial expression. Then, at a predetermined time, all the students sat up and started looking at the lecturer. Within 30 seconds, his face became animated, his body posture changed, he started moving his arms about and his voice became stronger.

At another prearranged time, the students again stopped looking at the professor. Within minutes, he again lost his enthusiasm and started to drone.

When partners look at each other, they are less sarcastic and less likely to respond negatively. In addition, partners who learn to look at each other report feeling less annoyed and more concerned for their mate.

Why not look at your partner today when he or she is talking? Find out how much you’ve been missing.

Taking this quiz on perfectionism will help you determine if you’re a perfectionist.

Do you fear making mistakes more than those around you do?
When you do make a mistake, do you overreact with anger, defensiveness and self-criticism?
Do you remember critical remarks more than you remember praise?
Do you operate from a belief system that says there is a right way to do everything, including folding socks, loading the dishwasher, writing a paper, reading a book?
Do you have difficulty relaxing because there is always something more to be done?
Do you drive yourself with such statements as “you should do this”and “you ought to do that”?
Do you avoid starting a job because your standards are so high that you don’t have time to complete it?

If you answered yes to five of these questions, more than likely you are trying to be too much of a perfectionist.

It’s fine to want to do your best and even to excel in certain areas, but to continually measure your self-worth by how much you get done and how well you do it can be self-destructive. Not only are you a more difficult person to live with (you secretly have the same high standards for everyone), but you are more likely to suffer from depression, performance anxiety and anxiety in social situations.

One thing you might do is observe how others who are not perfectionists live. You don’t have to pick someone whom you view as a slob. Choose a person who seems to be more middle-of-the-road. Someone, for example, who takes pride in her work but whose desk is never in good order.

Once you’ve picked out your less-perfectionistic brother or sister, find one thing the person does that you admire. If she can leave her desk with things still to do, allow yourself the same privilege. And see it as a privilege, not as a weakness.

Another thing you might do is to adopt a favorite phrase that you can chant in your head while taking a shower or driving your car. You can say something like, “I count more than my accomplishments” or “I’m a good person just for being.”

One fellow was able to give up some of his compulsive drive for perfectionism when I explained that if he were perfect, no one could possibly add anything to his life. His need to be perfect was actually a way of keeping people at a distance.

Having high standards and pursuing excellence is a fine goal, and it does give people a great deal of satisfaction and joy when they do well. But having too high of standards can be self-defeating.

When you take responsibility, you take control in the weight loss game!
What excuses are you using for those extra pounds you carry?
“My whole family is overweight” says Maggie. “What can you expect.”
“My mother always rewarded me with food so now I reward myself with food” pipes up Pete.
“I just can’t stop eating, laments Delores, even though I feel like I’m going to pop.”
“My life is miserable,” says Joan. “Why should I deprive myself of food? I need something to make me happy.”
And now we can blame the food industry for helping us pile it on.

The real problem with blaming others for your extra weight is that it actually sets in motion a belief that you can’t do anything about your weight. If you take responsibility for your weight, however, and say, “I’m overweight because I eat too much,” you shift to an internal focus of control and the belief that at any minute you could take control of your eating and your weight.

Embrace resiliency, amplify your strengths – believe in yourself and lose weight.
If watching your weight and keeping to an exercise regimen seems a drag, try switching your frame of reference. View weight watching and exercise as a privilege. See it as a way to build stamina, character and resiliency. Dr. Paul Pearsall, neuropsychologist and author of the “Beethoven Factor” refers to adversity as “stress-related-growth.” Dr. Suzanne Segerstrom, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky says “a persistent attitude is as good as a positive one.”

What happens when you lose weight? You feel great about yourself. You walk differently. You hold your body differently. You convey to the world, “I like myself.” And you do. You feel good and accomplished. And when other challenges come into your life, you may not like them, but you know you have the grit, the stamina, the hardiness to deal with them.

Think about yourself when you get off the treadmill, finish doing your last set of reps or laps in the pool, you have a renewed sense of self. A belief that you’re strong and tough and can handle anything down the road.

Resiliency is like a muscle: You have to challenge it to make it stronger. Resilient people aren’t necessarily braver or stronger than others, but they have learned to move beyond themselves, to grab the baton of responsibility and run with it. In doing so, they erase their weaknesses and amplify their strengths.

So whistle while you work out. Take a bow when you pass up a fatty food. Tell yourself, “Look at me, I am strong, I choose to be active the whole day long.” As positive psychology points out, “Don’t languish, flourish. Don’t merely survive, thrive. Be satisfied with the past, be happy with the present, and be optimistic about the future.”

Here’s a far too familiar family drama.

Bobby comes in from playing and heads for the refrigerator. He stands in front of it, surveys its contents and grumbles, “We never have anything to eat.”

Mom, already frustrated from cleaning up the four messes that Bobby made earlier that day, says sarcastically, “Then what do you call the stuff you’ve been shoveling in your mouth? And close that refrigerator. It’s not an air conditioner, you know.”

Dad sitting at the kitchen table, gets into the act and says, “He’s a growing boy dear, what do you expect?”

Bobby responds, “Yeah, Mom, I’m a growing boy.”

Mom gives Dad the evil eye and says, “And who invited you into the conversation?”

Dad answers, “Just trying to be helpful, dear.”

Now Bobby looks at both parents and says,”I hope you two are not going to fight the whole night.”

“That will be enough,”Dad replies.

Within two minutes, this very typical family has traveled the triangle and everyone has had his or her turn at being a Rescuer, a Victim and a Persecutor.

How did it all start?

When Bobby left four messes in the kitchen and didn’t clean up after himself, Bobby became a Persecutor. When Mom took responsibility and cleaned up the messes, Mom became a Rescuer and defined her son as Victim.

A persecutor on the triangle is a person whose behavior is hostile and angry. The Persecutor usually “gets” people with nasty remarks, sarcasm, and hostile behavior, but denies or discounts the fact that he’s angry.

A Rescuer is a person who takes care of people who don’t need to be helped or who takes care of people when they don’t want to be helped. In both instances, the Rescuer discounts the other person’s ability to take care of himself.

A Victim is a person who acts as though he can’t do something for himself when, in fact, the opposite is true. The Victim discounts his ability to take care of himself.

When Bobby walked into the kitchen and grumbled, “There isn’t anything to eat,” Bobby became the Persecutor and Mom moved from Rescuer to Victim.

Mom, however, made a fast shift from Victim to Persecutor when she commented about the food that Bobby has been shoveling into his mouth and the fact that the refrigerator was not a cooling system.

Dad hopped on the triangle with his comment, “He’s a growing boy.” Dad became Bobby’s Rescuer and Mom’s Persecutor.

Bobby, taking permission from Dad to persecute Mom, responded to the invitation with his own persecution: “Yeah, I’m just a growing boy.”

Mom, unwilling to stay Victim, came up swinging with,”Who invited you into this conversation?”

And on, and on . . . Which, of course, leads to the moral of my story: With so much drama in the family, who needs television?

Trivial Pursuit isn’t the only game couples play.
Lisa, walking into the bedroom, says “Jeff, did you know the light bulb is burned out in the bathroom?” Jeff raises his eyebrows and says, “Oh?” Inside his head, Jeff says, “There’s no way I’m going to replace that light bulb. If she wants me to replace it, she’s going to have to ask.”

Two days later Lisa says to Jeff, “I can’t even see to put on my makeup in the bathroom.” Jeff gives Lisa the old “um-hmmm” response and reaffirms to himself that he’s not going to replace the light bulb until she asks.

Another week goes by and Jeff notices that Lisa is straining to see herself in the mirror with the light that’s coming from the hall. At that moment he feels some compassion for Lisa, and later that day, when she is nowhere around, he replaces the light bulb.

The saga continues when Jeff, decides not to tell Lisa that he replaced the light bulb and Lisa continues to put her makeup on using the light from the hall.

A few days later, Lisa walks briskly into the kitchen and yells indignantly, “When are you going to replace that light bulb?” Jeff looks up from his newspaper, leans back in his chair and says, “Why, I replaced it last week. Didn’t you know?”

Lisa caught off guard, feels confused and indignant. Jeff, on the other hand, feels triumphant.

Lisa takes a deep breath and is ready to fight. Jeff becomes defensive, and for the next 10 minutes they engage in a heated exchange of words followed by another half-hour rehashing who did what when.

Usually in situations like this, a couple will repeat the scenario. The topic will be different, but the scene will play the same way. The reason is because deep down the partners are afraid of closeness. However, because they are human, and each of them has a need to be close and emotionally recognized by the other, they quarrel. Their quarreling allows them to engage each other emotionally, while at the same time avoid closeness.

If this scenario sounds too close to home, examine your motives when arguing, and vow to make some changes in your relationship.

Focus on enjoying life – use this psychological technique to get yourself out of the dumps.

Once in a while even the happiest and most well-adjusted person starts to feel down in the dumps. Sometimes the cause of the person’s depression is easily pinpointed. Other times he simply seems to have lost his zest for life and what used to bring him pleasure no longer does. It’s as if the person is sitting on the edge of the swimming pool watching all the other people do their thing, but for some reason he is unable to get back into the water. Things he has done in the past to make himself feel better no longer work.

When this happens, and it does to everyone from time to time, try this simple psychological technique. Write down 20 things each day that you enjoy about your life. Do this for six weeks.

Here’s a few of the items one man wrote.

– Wearing old baggy clothes on the weekend.
– Driving my car on a recently paved highway.
– Running in the park.
– M&M’s.
– Clean socks.
– Cruise control.
– Watching my neighbor blow glass in his studio.
– The sound of the tennis ball hitting the racket.
– A good bottle of wine.
– An Italian meal.

Here are some items from a young mother:

– The smell of coffee brewing in the morning.
– Nice green leaves on the trees.
– The feel of a new book.
– A glass of Pepsi with lots of ice cubes.
– Sitting on my back porch early in the morning smelling the air and listening to the sounds.
– Snuggling with my children in bed.
– Watching my children when they aren’t aware I’m watching them.
– Fresh sheets on the bed.
– Putting on a newly ironed blouse.
– Opening a new bar of soap.
– Spraying myself with cologne.

Now it’s your turn to make a list.

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