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Archive for March, 2012

Certain behaviors can kill friendship before it even begins.

Many people are looking for new friend. Yet month after month goes by, and they find few people to have a relationship with. Often they miss potential friendships because they kill the relationship with their own neediness.
Here’s an example:

Margie moves here from another area. She wants to make new friends. She goes to exercise class and meets Susan. Margie finds Susan likable and thinks that maybe she has found a friend. As she leaves exercise class, she says, “See you again.”

The following evening, Margie pulls up in front of the gym and she finds Susan waiting for her. Susan gets out of her car, comes over to Margie and asks if she’s ready to exercise. Margie feels a little uncomfortable and somewhat intruded upon, but she shrugs it off and goes to class.

After class, Susan presses Margie to go have a bite to eat. Margie declines. Then Susan presses Margie for a time when they can work out together. Margie is noncommittal and says that she’ll probably work out over the weekend, but she’s not sure of her schedule.

The next day Susan calls Margie at work and asks if she’s made plans for the weekend.

Although Margie would have liked to make a friend, Susan came on so desperately that Margie backed away.

If you recognize yourself in the above example, start attuning yourself to the other person. Don’t keep suggesting one date after another when you’ve been turned down for a date. Don’t hold on when it looks as though the other person wants to call it quits for the day or wants to get off the telephone. Let it rest until the other person suggests something. Decide that you won’t invite the other person to do something with you until he or she invites you to do something. One overture for one overture. The less desperate you appear and behave, the more friends you’re likely to acquire.

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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 fell 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. If you like, e-mail me your list.

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Take two steps back during an argument with your significant other and think about what you should say.

I was driving down the road when all of a sudden the driver of the car ahead of me and to my left started moving over into my lane. As he did so, this driver almost sideswiped the car in front of me. The man who was almost sideswiped, swerved to avoid being hit and honked several times. The woman he was with who was in the passenger’s seat, whom I assume was the gentleman’s wife, looked over at other driver who had almost caused an accident, and shook her fist at him.

A moment later, we all pulled up to a stop light. The two drivers who had almost had the accident were now side by side. The wife leaned over to the driver’s side of the car and started shaking her index finger, parent style, at the guy who had made a mistake. The husband at this point focused his attention not on the other driver, but on his wife. He put his hand on her shoulder and patted it in the way you pat a child’s shoulder when you want her to calm down.

Meanwhile, the other driver started wagging his index finger back at the woman in a mocking fashion. To make things worse, he had a nasty grin on his face.

Thank goodness the light changed.

By the time the couple got to the next intersection (I was still behind them), the two of them were arguing. No doubt the argument was over the fact that this woman wanted to tell the other driver off and her husband didn’t like what she was doing.

Sadly, this type of interaction is a common one between couples. Instead of the husband agreeing with his wife’s angry righteous feeling, he focuses on her behavior, which he obviously doesn’t like. In the end, this only causes her to be more upset, because now she must defend her behavior to her husband. The real culprit in the situation is no longer the issue.

A similar interchange occurs, for example, when a couple attends a party and one of the husband’s friends takes a potshot at the wife. Neither the wife nor the husband says anything at the time, but when they get home, she starts to complain about the fellow’s comment. Instead of the husband supporting his wife at this point and saying, “That was really lousy,” he defends the guy, saying, “Oh, Matt probably had too much to drink. You know how it is when he drinks.”

Once again, I’m forced to muse: “Does familiarity breed contempt?” For, certainly, it doesn’t seem to breed support.

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Don’t get caught in a cyclone of overspending – exercise some control in your life.

I’m seeing a couple in therapy who went on three vacations this past year — Hawaii, Colorado, and Florida — and they can’t pay their bills. They are maxed out on most of their credit cards, and they have gotten into the rut of using one card to pay another. She has student loans from years ago, and he owes his parents, his friends, his dentist, his doctor, and the plumber.

When I confronted them about their overspending and asked why they are now planning to go skiing, they both became indignant. She said they work hard, really hard, and they deserve it. He said he needs vacations because his job is so stressful.

I said they were creating more stress by adding to their bills. They said I was wrong and I didn’t understand.

I asked, “What if one of you loses his or her job?” His response, “We’ll get another.” She nodded in agreement.

I asked, “What about your doctor, and dentist, and the plumber? When will they get paid?”

She assured me they would get their money.

I said I doubted it because from my vantage point, I saw bankruptcy. Both of them shrugged, and I could see I was making no headway. Neither of them was going to stop spending.

How about you? Do you need to put the brakes on your spending? If so, there’s no time like now, today, immediately.

One of the best and first things to do: Figure out what you can afford to spend above and beyond your fixed expenses. Set a number, be it fifty, a thousand or two thousand a month. If you’re on the $50 plan and you want something that cost $100, this means you wait two months before purchasing the item.

A second tough task: Figure how much you are in debt with charge cards, home improvement loans, doctor bills, second mortgages, and loans from friends and relatives. Now figure out how many months or years it will take you to pay off these bills. If you’re in debt $11,000 and you can afford to pay off only $300 a month, it will take you more than three years to pay off this debt. An eye-opening exercise to be sure.

Now come up with a list of excuses you use for spending money, like those of the couple I discussed earlier. Here are some favorites:

I deserve it. I work hard.
We’ll go on a budget after we decorate the house.
My husband doesn’t watch what he spends, why should I?
Life is boring if you can’t shop or go on a vacation.
Hey, it’s on sale.

Next agenda item: What is the underlying reason you spend more than you can pay for? Do you use going to the mall and spending as a form of entertainment, a way to relax, or rid yourself of anxiety for a few hours? If so, discipline yourself. Allow yourself to go to a store only when you truly need something, not when you want something. For entertainment and relaxing, hit some tennis balls, try a walk with a friend, go to a movie, or read a book.

If spending makes you feel better, what feel-good substitute can you come up with? How about visiting an old friend, making a special dinner, doing your nails, or working out?

Next on your to-do list: Write out what you really need. Include those items you feel are essential. Maybe a new toaster is in order because last week your toaster died. But can’t you wait another few weeks for that toaster? And do you really need another pair of earrings, another jean jacket, and another sweater? How much do you really need?

If you’re a compulsive shopper, ask a friend to help you break this addiction. Write down everything you buy in a week, and give her your list. Writing the items down will make you more aware and more accountable for your spending. Or make a pact that you won’t go to any stores for six months. For groceries, ask someone else to do it. You in turn can watch their kids.

Read the book Your Money or Your Life. It lays out a great plan if you are really serious about not continuing to overspend.

Remember the old advertisement, “Buy now and pay later”? Unfortunately it’s true.

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A Mental Cure for Stuttering – Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself

When Jack was a young man, he was a bad stutterer.

“I had a job, but I felt that if I couldn’t communicate verbally, it would hold me back,” said Jack. So 30 years ago Jack searched for the best speech therapy school in the United States.

“I wrote letters, made phone calls, talked to local speech therapists,” Jack explained. The good news was, I located the school, The Institute of Logopedics in Wichita, Kansas. The bad news — the minimum treatment course was three months.

“I had been married about a year and a half and I had just taken a different job. My wife was pregnant with our oldest daughter. I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t feel I had any other option.

“I went, but I went with a real bad attitude. None of my friends stuttered. None of them had to go to Wichita. Why me, God?”

When Jack got to the institute, things got worse. “They treated every imaginable defect,” he said. “Lots of accident victims, stroke victims, children with cerebral palsy. Their ages ranged from 6 to about mid-seventies. It was the first time in my life I had been around a lot of handicapped people. It was real uncomfortable for me to be around those folks, and it added to my sense of feeling sorry for myself.”

At the start of his last week, Jack was waiting outside his therapist’s office when a 7-year-old boy with cerebral palsy came out of the office with his football helmet on. “The CP kids had to wear football helmets from the time they got up in the morning to the time they went to bed so they wouldn’t hurt themselves,” he explained.

On Jack’s next-to-last day his therapist asked if he’d come to his next session a little early. “I got there early,” said Jack. “I was standing in the hall waiting, when this 7-year-old kid walked out with the therapist. The therapist gently pushed the boy toward Jack and motioned for Jack to listen to the boy. “The kid looked at me and said, ‘Hello, Jack.'”

Although the words were somewhat garbled, Jack understood and replied, “Hey, that’s my name. I didn’t know you knew how to talk.”  “The kid puffed up like a toad, beamed, and struggled off down the hall,” Jack said.

When Jack went into the therapist’s office, the therapist asked, “What do you think is the longest block you’ve ever had before you could talk, Jack?”

Jack replied, “About 30 seconds.”

The therapist came back sharply: “Well, the longest hesitation I’ve observed is only about five seconds.”

Jack said, “I knew what he was saying. It was like he had punched me in the stomach — it was a revelation. That was some therapy session, and it didn’t have anything to do with fluency. I realized I had been feeling sorry for myself.”

The therapist then explained, “That kid, Robert, he’s been working here for two hours a day, for the last six days, to be able to say, ‘Hello, Jack.'”

“It turns out that kids with cerebral palsy often don’t live as long as others do,” said Jack. “And Robert was no exception. When I found out that he died, the saddest thing for me was that he never knew what he had done. This kid who was in my life for a day changed my life forever.”

“Robert didn’t have much of a vocabulary. And ‘feel sorry for myself’ were words that definitely weren’t in his.”

For most of us it’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves when life isn’t fair, or someone disappoints us, or something doesn’t go as planned. When you start to feel sorry for yourself, think of Robert and his struggle to say, “Hello Jack.”

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