Some things we simply never get over, no matter how much we try, no matter how many activities we join, no matter how many aerobics classes we attend, no matter how much we put one foot in front of the other.

Bill is in his mid-sixties. Nine years ago he was a chief executive of a prestigious company. The management team changed and he was asked to resign. He was devastated. He had been with the company for over thirty years, sometimes working sixty to seventy hours a week. When told he was being let go, to his credit, Bill immediately hustled another job.

Today he works for a little less than half the pay, but since his children are through college and his house is paid for, he and his wife manage. It’s just that he has never been able to entirely shake off the bad feelings from being let go. He doesn’t dwell on it. He doesn’t go around and bad mouth the company. He still sees some friends who are with the company. But always he fights twinges of depression.

Five years ago Sally was forced to give up her big old house and move to another state when her husband was transferred. Today she lives in a beautiful new house. Everyone who visits tells her how lovely it is. She has worked hard to make it nice. Yet periodically she still yearns for her old home.

Susan and Jim were married for twenty-six years. They had five children. Jim moved up the corporate ladder. Susan took care of the children. When it was announced that Jim was to become president of the company and relocate to the company’s headquarters, Jim told Susan that he was not taking her or the family with him. Instead he took his secretary, whom he subsequently has married.

It’s now ten years later. The children are raised. Susan has completed her MBA and has a job she enjoys. She has dated many men and has had two semi-serious relationships. She has good friends and an active social life. Susan has done everything the books tell her to do in order to move on and not look back. Still, she fights a low-level depression and her self-esteem has never quite recovered since Jim left her.

Sometimes people don’t completely get over a loss.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com



A sixth-grade school teacher confessed that he hadn’t been nice to his students that day. He had been impatient and needlessly sarcastic. All day he had radiated a negative attitude. Usually he would have gone home, mentally chided himself, and felt guilty.

The problem with such a response is that it does no one any good. The students, who are still smarting from the day, as well as the teacher, gain nothing.

“This time I decided that instead of punishing myself by feeling guilty, and then forgiving myself,” said the teacher, “I would change my behavior.”

The following day he went to school armed with resolve to be a good teacher. He marched energetically through his lesson plan. He compli­mented his students’ accomplishments. He tried extra hard to be patient. He worked in a game his students love playing. At the end of the day he felt great.

Often a person is quite aware that he has acted badly – on the job, with his children, with a neighbor. He may even mentally scold himself for his actions. But what is more productive is a change in future behavior.

Guilt is like a flashing yellow light. It is a signal that you’re doing something wrong.

This week resolve that every time you feel guilty over some behavior, you’ll change course. If you’re dilly-dallying over a decision that affects someone else, stop the guilt and make the decision. If you feel guilty because you’ve dropped the ball and haven’t returned a telephone call, turn off the guilt and call the person. If guilt besets you because you’ve been grumpy and out of sorts, adjust your attitude. If you feel guilt because you usually run late, fight too much with your children, don’t see your parents enough, eat too much junk food – pay attention to what guilt is telling you.
Change your behavior.

Guilt is a wake up call to alter actions.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

Connie couldn’t wait to get home and tell her husband Pete that she had gotten a raise. To set the scene, she picked up some steaks, greens for salad, baking potatoes, French bread, a bottle of wine, strawberries for dessert, and a bouquet of tulips for the table.

When Pete walked in, she handed him a glass of wine. Then she said, “Tonight we are having a celebration. I got a raise, a big raise.”

When Pete heard the numbers, he sighed dejectedly and said, “Now you’ll be making more than me.”

At first Connie felt a twinge of pain for Pete, but when she realized a few minutes later that Pete was telling her about a meeting that he had that day, she became angry. She confronted Pete: “You never support me emotionally.”

Another wife told her husband that she was really worried about their money situation. Instead of letting her talk about her worries, the husband immediately assumed that she was accusing him of not making enough money. His assumption switched the focus from his wife and her worries, to him and how much money he made. As a consequence, the wife was not supported emotionally.

The other day I saw a young man in therapy who said his girlfriend is always accusing him of not giving her emotional support.

Just what is this elusive thing that women keep telling men that they want?

Men, here it is!

Emotional support means focusing on her and being empathetic to what she is saying and feeling. It means letting her express her thoughts and feelings and trying to understand. For example, if she is crying, let her cry. Maybe put your arm around her. Don’t try to talk her out of crying. Let her express her feelings. If she is excited about a raise, be happy with her. Don’t get competitive by thinking about your salary.

Another way to give emotional support is to let your mate talk through a problem if this is what she wants to do. Even though you think you see an obvious solution, keep your mouth shut.

Following up and checking back is another way to give emotional support. If she has a doctor’s appointment in the morning that she is concerned about, call and find out how it went. If she is having trouble with a friend, ask if the relationship is going better.

Perhaps one of the most difficult ways of giving emotional support is to listen when your wife or girlfriend is angry or disappointed with you. If you defend yourself and tell her why she shouldn’t be angry or disappointed, you are not hearing the issue from her perspective. Hearing it from her perspective is giving emotional support.

Giving emotional support means listening and responding without passing judgment, or trying to solve the problem, or switching the subject. It means trying to understand and respond to what your wife or girlfriend is feeling and thinking. It means making her the center of your attention.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

I was sitting with my mother in the hospital lobby once waiting until we could see my father in the intensive care unit. Mom and I were talking and smiling. Perhaps for the first time in days we felt that everything was going to be okay with Dad.

Across the lobby was a young woman with two small children about two and four years old. As we talked, I noticed the littlest child have a bit of a temper tantrum, fussing and tugging to get away from his mother’s grip.

The mother was holding onto the child’s sleeve and trying to balance a plate of cookies in her other hand.

I must have looked away when all of a sudden the woman was standing in front of us. She leaned forward and said in a most hostile voice, “Are you having a good time?”

Caught off guard, I automatically turned my head around, thinking the woman must be yelling at someone behind us. But there was no one there. The woman stormed past with her children and disappeared down the hall.

My mom was clearly shaken. In that moment she looked like a little girl who had just been severely reprimanded. I didn’t feel so great either. It’s no fun having someone yell at you. I put my arm around my mother and patted her on the back and told her I loved her.

What I concluded was that the woman must have decided that we were enjoying her predicament. She had presumed to make herself the center of our attention. Yet at no time had my mother or I even commented about the woman and her children. If anything, the two of us were her allies, because we, too, have struggled with young children.

The sad thing was that because this woman had assumed that we were laughing at her, she made herself a victim, and in turn victimized us.

Although most people could probably say they would never behave in such a mean-spirited way, most of us make false assumptions rather routinely. Often these assumptions are based on seeing oneself as the center of the world.

For example: the boss calls a co-worker into his office, and you wonder if they’re talking about you. Your husband turns on the radio when the two of you get into the car, and you think he’s trying to avoid talking to you. You have a great date with a new man. He doesn’t telephone for a few days, and you decide he doesn’t like you. Your boss sounds irritated, and you think he’s mad at you.

When you’re not sure what’s really going on and you make an assumption, think beyond yourself. Make yet one more assumption.

Examples: Perhaps my boss is mad because he didn’t like what I had to say at the meeting. Or, perhaps my boss is mad because he just lost a big account.

Perhaps my husband turns on the car radio to avoid talking. Or perhaps he turns on the car radio because he likes music.

Perhaps those women across the lobby think I’m not a good mother. Or perhaps those women are happy because their relative is starting to fuss about hospital food and soon will go home.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

I went to the parking lot to get my car, and stuck under the windshield wiper was a paper napkin with a sarcastic note scrawled across it. The writer wanted to know whether I thought I was so much better than the other plebeians who worked at the building that I could park in the aisle.

In truth, I had parked in the aisle. In my defense, however, I blocked no one because the aisle is three car widths wide, there were no other spaces available, and I pay a monthly fee for parking.

At the same time, I felt a bit intimidated by the message on the napkin. I think I felt guilty because the note harked back to what I was taught as a child – that it was wrong to be pretentious or to think I was better than anyone else in any way.

Another factor may also come into play when a person is accused of some wrongdoing. Regardless of whether the person is guilty, he or she usually feels uncomfortable. This is probably because as children we were expected to be good and to do things right. And when we didn’t do something right, we lost our parents’ approval for a time, which translates into a loss of love. As adults, when reprimanded, we too feel that vague sense of loss of love.

Because everyone is sensitive to criticism and most everyone gets criticized from time to time, here are 3 questions to ask yourself.

  1. Is this criticism valid?
  2. Is it partially valid?
  3. What might I have done differently to have avoided the criticism?

By asking these questions of yourself, you put in perspective the criticism.

You might also want to keep in mind the following story which was written in the third century B.C. and recounted by Will Durant in “The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage”.

‘When a simpleton abused him, Buddha listened in silence; but when the man had finished, Buddha asked him: ‘Son, if a man declined to accept a present made to him, to whom would it belong?’ The man answered: “To him who offered it.’

‘My son,’ said Buddha, ‘I decline to accept your abuse and request you keep it for yourself.'”

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

As Mike was coming home one night, he found a puppy in the street. Who can resist a tiny, helpless, homeless puppy?

When Mike’s parents saw the dog, they reluctantly said yes he could keep the dog. But the dog was his responsibility. Mike would have to feed and water the dog, take him to the vet, and pay his vet bills. And the dog was to reside outside primarily.

Mike is 23 years old, so the requirements to keep the puppy didn’t seem harsh or extreme.

Mike’s mother agreed to buy an insulated doghouse. She also bought the dog a plastic swimming pool because “he seemed to love the water.”

Mike sort of kept his agreement with his parents. Sometimes the puppy was left with no water. Sometimes Mike took off with his friends for the weekend, so it befell his parents to take care of the puppy.

Now, as in many families, everyone in Mike’s family works outside the home or goes to school all day. So no one is home during the day. And dogs become bored. One boring day the dog ate all the shrubs.

A friend gave Mike’s mom some beautiful Japanese iris, each marked by color. When she planted the iris, she was careful to place them according to the color scheme in her garden. The next evening the dog removed each plant from its hole.

Mike’s mother planted the iris again, giving up on the color scheme. The following morning they were out of their holes again and strewn across the yard.

Then came the weekend. Everyone was going out of town. Mike, Mike’s father, and his sister had already left town.

Two hours before Mike’s mother was to catch a plane, she walked past the kitchen door and saw the dog. ‘Who’s taking care of the dog?’ she thought. Of course she already knew the answer. She got the dog in the car and took him to her mother’s house for the weekend.

The following Monday, Mike’s mother informed him that because he was not taking care of the dog, the dog had to leave. She gave Mike six months to find a home for the dog. After that, he would have to go to the dog pound. Mike agreed.

Five months passed. The dog continued to miss meals and eat shrubs. The mother kept issuing warnings: “The dog goes in four weeks… The dog goes in two weeks… Please find a home for the dog… The dog goes in one week… Please, please find a home.”

Eventually Mike was forced to take the dog to the pound.

For the rest of that week everyone was angry at the mother. Her husband and children gave her dirty looks. They avoided talking to her. She was an outcast in her own family.

Being responsible has more down sides than most of us care to look at.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

Up to increasing your ethical capital? How about playing a game? Everyone who plays wins! Can’t beat those odds.

You can play the game by yourself, with family, with colleagues at work or with
your students in the classroom. Expect some laughter as well as some comments
such as, “Do you think so?” Or, “No way! I can’t see it.”

The only rule: No getting irritated or stomping away as a few sensitive people have been known to do.

The game you’ll be playing is called: “HORSE or PIG or FISH?”

If playing alone, think about your face, focusing primarily on the shape of your nose. Does your nose resemble a pig, a fish or a horse? If you can’t decide check it out the next time you’re in front of a mirror. Think about your family. Take a look at the other folks at your job. I myself am a horse and my husband is a fish. We have three kids: A fish, a horse and a pig. (By the way, this has nothing to do with how she has kept her room.)

What I’ve seen when playing “HORSE or PIG or FISH?” is that a good many people get caught up in not wanting to be labeled a pig. Some are not so keen on being labeled a horse or a fish. We all have our biases.

Think: Did you put a negative spin on one of the three labels? Many do. If so, you took a bit of diversity and dubbed it undesirable. That’s how prejudice starts.

We look at something and instead of thinking neutral thoughts we lean toward making a negative judgment if it’s not aligned with our view of the world. This is how the human brain is wired. We’re genetically conditioned to think negative first when something doesn’t support or confirm how we think things should be.

The following experiment is an eye-opener guaranteed to help both adults and children move from one view of being critical to a second view of neutrality. Or even having a complete turn-around involving admiration.

If you put a baby on the floor and you lie next to the baby, trying to do everything the baby does, moving your arms and legs and head as much as the baby for a period of fifteen minutes, guess what? You can’t keep up with the baby. No matter how many times you work out each week or how many miles you can bike or how much weight you can lift. You run out of energy and become exhausted way before the baby does. In that way, the baby is superior to you.

Think of a street person. Isn’t she superior to you in how she braves the elements and demands little in life? How about the kid who whizzes by you on a skateboard? (I tried my kid’s skateboard years ago and about broke my neck.) How would you fair?

What about the guy who works in the hot sun putting on roofs? Or the gal who has fancy flowers and trees tattooed all over her right arm? You might not want a sleeve yourself, and you can’t figure out why someone else would want one, but would you have the courage to endure the pain that it takes to be tattooed with such elaborate artwork?

Each time you see someone that is unlike you or chooses to live life differently from you, remind yourself of the following: “Each person is in some way my superior, and in that I can learn from him.” So look around and see how each person – man, woman, and child – is superior. The more you’re able to operate from this mind-set, the greater your ethical capital.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com.com

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