Archive for December, 2013

Often people feel like victims in life. They think they have no control over what happens to them. But what they don’t think about are all the times they set themselves up to be victims. Here are some of the typical ways you can be sure to bring on some additional problems for yourself:

Don’t get out of bed when the alarm goes off. Instead, keep pressing the snooze button.

Don’t have a leaky roof fixed.

Don’t follow the washing instructions on a favorite wool sweater.

Don’t send in your warranty cards.

Have an important luncheon to attend and forget to check your supply of panty­hose.

Don’t study for your exam until the night before.

Wait until the deadline before filling out your college applications.

Ignore the gas company’s warning that you haven’t paid your bill.

Overschedule so you run late for every appointment.

Go to exercise class, even though you have a pulled hamstring.

Insist on picking up the tab, when you’re flat broke.

Make coffee every day at the office because you’re the only woman.

Go to a movie that will give you night­mares for months to come.

Fix a big family dinner and then insist that you’ll take care of all the dishes the following morning.

Notice that a friend has burned a hole in your new coat and say, “Oh, it’s OK.”

Agree to a 6 a.m. breakfast appoint­ment with a client who consistently over­sleeps.

Share a well-guarded secret with someone who’s a blabbermouth.

Lend $50 to the person who hasn’t paid you the last $50 he owes you.

Let your driver’s license expire.

Don’t pay your personal property tax, so that when it’s time to get your car license, you have to do everything the last day of the month.

Can you think of any other ways that you set yourself up as a victim?


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Marie threw a load of clothes into the washer and started it up. A few minutes before, Frank had stepped into the shower. As the washer filled with cold water, Frank was showered with very hot water. He stepped back from the shower nozzle and started banging on the wall. “I’m being scalded to death,” he bellowed. “Turn off that washer!”

Marie rushed to shut off the washer. Neither she or Frank had messed up. You might say it was just bad timing.

But some problems caused by bad timing can be prevented.

For example, you’re talking on the phone and your husband asks you the whereabouts of the checkbook. You must now tell the party on the other end to wait while you talk to your husband. Or you can try to mouth the answer. Or you can grab a paper and pencil and write a note. No matter how you handle it, your mate’s timing is poor and he’s created a stressful situation for you.

Another example: As you are rushing out the door to go to work, your child asks you to sign a permission slip for school or announces this is her day to bring a snack. Had she brought up the issue the day before, it would not have been a big deal. But because of her faulty timing, your feathers are bound to be ruffled.

One woman says her husband’s “favorite trick” is to start talking finances right before bedtime. “Talking about bills and our money makes me feel anxious. Once he brings up the bills, I can’t fall asleep.”

Bad timing in the home also includes:

–   Making a phone call right after your wife has told you dinner is ready.

–   Asking your parents for money or the car a few minutes after you’ve smarted
off to them.

–   Starting an important conversation with someone who is engrossed in a movie
or trying to balance the checkbook.

–   Yelling for your mate to come and look at something in the front yard when you
have no idea where he is in the house or what he’s doing.

–   Expecting sex when you’ve been rude and just had a fight.

–   Telling your spouse you have no money as you pull in the movie parking lot.

–  Sweeping the floor when the rest of the family is in the car waiting to leave.

–  Talking about redecorating the family room when your husband has just told
you he feels insecure about his job.

Remember, smooth relationships require sensitivity to what others are doing and feeling. So watch your timing.

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We think about a particular gift to buy someone, we earn the money to buy it, we shop for it, we haul it home and wrap it, and then at the appropriate time, we put it under the tree or take it to the office, and we give it. All the while, we hope that the receiver will enjoy our gift.

The receiver of the gift, out of deference to the giver, is to say “thank-you.” Even if the receiver doesn’t like the color of the gift, realizes the gift won’t fit, or knows he will never use it, he still needs to thank the giver enthusiastically.

Last year I gave a friend a putting green. I thought it was a great gift. I researched various putting devices and came up with a 7-foot practice green. I figured the guy could use it in his office, set it up in his den, or put it in his basement. I have a similar one set up in a spare bedroom. Mostly I trip over it, but occasionally I use it.

When this man got his gift, he said flatly, “Oh, a putting green.” He did not feign excitement, take it out of the box, look in the box, or say “thank-you.” In 30 seconds it was all over. I thought, “Missed on that one, Doris.” I was really disappointed.

For an instant I thought about rushing over and pulling the green out of the box and making over it myself. Maybe I could get him to see how wonderful it was. But I had already researched the various practice greens, talked to the fellow’s wife about it, (she thought he’d love it), ordered it from a catalogue, picked it up at the post office, wrapped the 4’x 8′ box, and lugged it to his house. Somehow trying to get this guy excited about the present seemed too much. This brings me to the point of this column. When you get a gift, there are certain things, the gift receiver should do.

First, thank the giver.

Second, say thank you with enthusiasm, even if you think the gift is ridiculous or the wrong size. Your gratitude is a way to recognize the gift giver for all he or she has been through to get you that gift. You are the center of attention when you receive a gift. You make the other person the center of attention when you say “thank-you” and praise the gift.

Third, thank the person a few times during the day or evening. This conveys to the giver that you are aware of what he or she has been through.

Fourth, if the giver starts talking about the trouble she had finding the item, or how many stores she ran to, this is an indicator that you need to give her more strokes for her time and energy.

Christmas is a time of giving. Saying “thank-you” is a way to give back as well as a way to give.

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Feel tired, dragged out, listless? You may not be suffering from iron deficiency anemia, but from the psychological maladies “reachback” and “afterburn,” two words used by Eric Berne to describe a phenomenon that plagues many an American.

Suppose you’re planning a barbecue for this Sunday. As a minimum, you’ll need to decide whom to invite and what to serve. You’ll also go to the grocery, and more than likely you’ll spend time straightening up the house. These are normal preparations on which you will expend energy.

If, however, you have to make three trips to the store instead of one, and you wind up getting to bed later than usual because of extra cleaning, and one of the guests calls you at the office to find out what time he is expected, the barbecue starts taking more of your time and energy than you bargained for. When this happens, you experience reachback. The barbecue reaches back, so to speak, from the future to the present, and it interferes with your life today.

If you have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Friday because of a persistent cough, you’ll most likely think about your appointment every time you cough. Setting the appointment initially was a normal expenditure of energy. Thinking about it every time you cough or every time you hear someone else cough causes you to neglect, to some degree, what’s happening in the present. The future is reaching back and affecting your thinking.

I know a woman who often hesitated to make a commitment to give a talk, because as soon as she agreed, she started to lie awake at night, first worrying about what she would talk about and then worrying about how her topic would go over with the audience. It didn’t matter how well she knew her subject or that she had given the talk several times previously, she always experienced a considerable amount of reachback. The more advanced notice she had, the more reachback she experienced. Finally she made the decision that she would only accept talks that were a month away. Anything further away caused her to experience too much reachback.

After an event has passed, most people assimilate the event or forget it after a week or two. If, however, a person continues to be troubled by something two or three weeks after it happens, afterburn is occurring.

If someone at the barbecue says something that hurts your feelings and you can’t stop thinking about it, you are experiencing afterburn. If one of your guests trips and breaks a leg, you’ll experience considerable afterburn. You’ll have to visit her in the hospital and talk to your insurance agent. And if your guest decides to sue you, the barbecue will be giving you afterburn a long time.

Certain events in life cause almost simultaneous reachback and afterburn.

If the doctor tells Paul that he has to have bypass surgery, Paul will experience reachback as he thinks about the upcoming operation. He also will experience afterburn as he thinks about what the doctor said in the office.

Loss of a job, a financial reversal, or a poor job evaluation all cause an overlap of afterburn and reachback as a person gets caught thinking about what has just happened to him and what will happen in the future.

When someone experiences too much reachback and afterburn, or worse yet, if he finds himself caught in a kind of cross fire between the two, he will feel tense and apprehensive, and experience some difficulty in his everyday life. The overall feeling is that of being overworked.

It is important, then, not to schedule one event after another, as you need some time to deal with the unexpected, and you also need time to assimilate the incident. Also, it is advisable to get eight hours of sleep when experiencing reachback and afterburn, because dreaming is the natural mechanism for assimilation.

There will always be some reachback and afterburn in your life. It goes with living. The goal is to control it.

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