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Archive for the ‘Emotional Health’ Category

When your moodiness is beginning to affect your marriage and family, it’s time to do something about it.

Are you a moody person? Do you have to deal with someone who’s moody? A mate? A boss? A child? A co-worker?

In a marriage counseling session, a husband complained that the past weekend had not been good. His wife had been in one of her moods.

I asked the wife what the husband meant. She shrugged and looked at him. He said, “Just what she’s doing now. She won’t talk; she refuses to comment on what you say; she acts like the kids and I don’t exist. And it doesn’t matter what we do to try to be nice.” He explained that the family can clean the house, cook the meals, and buy her a present, and she still won’t snap out of it. In fact, last year their eleven-year-old gave her a coffee mug that said, “Snap Out of It.”

I asked Marilyn if what her husband was describing about her was accurate. She shrugged and said yes. Then she said, “It’s just the way I am.” When she gets in one of those moods, she said, she wants people to leave her alone. Not talk to her, not try to cheer her up.

I asked how often her moodiness struck. She said a few times a month. Her husband said about once a week.

How long do her moods last? They both agreed — two or three days.

I asked if she saw her moodiness as a problem. She was noncommittal but added that all her family was like this and her husband had known she was moody before he married her.

He said he had thought her moodiness was because of the stress of the wedding and her dad being sick at the time. He never dreamed it would be something he’d have to live with for the rest of their married life.

I asked if she saw her moodiness as something she wanted to work on to make things better at home with her husband and children.

She said, “Not particularly.”

I asked if she understood how destructive her moods were to her marriage, her children, and herself.

She wanted to know how.

I said that each time she gets in one of her moods, she emotionally leaves the family. She’s not available for anyone. She closes everyone out. She discounts everyone’s existence. She sucks up the family’s energy as all wait for her to be in a better mood. And I said I suspect during her moodiness she can’t possibly enjoy life or feel close to anyone.

She asked what she could do about her moods. I said she’d have to want to make a change. And I wasn’t so sure she was ready. She agreed.

I said my usual routine would be to quickly review her childhood and see who she learned this behavior from and how it served her as a child. This would take no more than a half session. I’d also send her to her doctor to make sure she was okay physically. I’d have her make a list of the advantages she saw in being moody.

She said, “Such as?”

I said, “Well, when you’re moody, everyone is watching you, trying to please you. Maybe you get out of cooking, doing housework. Maybe you get to take a nap, guilt free. People don’t keep a behavior around unless they get a payoff. Sometimes understanding the payoff helps people give up the behavior.”

Another thing — when a bad mood starts, I want her to do some things immediately to help herself shake it off. Research shows that if you get a project going such as cleaning the garage, or if you do something for someone else such as running an errand, your bad mood will dissipate. Also, no television or alcohol when she’s in a bad mood, as both of these things exacerbate the bad feelings.

She said, “You feel pretty strongly about getting me to be in a better mood.”

I said, “I do because it’s miserable for your family and ultimately miserable for you.

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

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If you are always trying to change the bad habits of the person you are dating, maybe it’s time to move on to someone else.

A woman came for therapy because she had just learned that her boyfriend of several months was still involved with his old girlfriend.

When I asked what she wanted from therapy, she said, “I want the guy to give up his girlfriend and commit to me.”

Since I wasn’t sure if her goal was in her best interest, I asked if she would tell me more about this man as well as her dating history with other men. I learned she had been married twice. Her first husband left her for another woman, and she left her second husband because he was an alcoholic. She then had a long-term relationship with a man who was always on the verge of bankruptcy. “I got fed up with paying all the bills,” she said, “so one day I kicked him out.”

After talking with her about her past relationships, I said my best advice was for her to explore why she kept getting involved with men who left her, either emotionally or physically. I also thought another goal of therapy should be that she would come to like and respect herself enough to move away from any relationship that spelled trouble.

Her situation reminded me of a woman I had seen several months previously. She had come to therapy because she wanted to straighten out a man she had recently met. He had stood her up for their first date and was a half hour late for the second date. Her goal was to teach him to be more responsible. Here, too, my advice was to drop the guy, spend her energies learning to like herself more, and look for a healthier relationship with someone who didn’t discount her.

Certainly when you’re looking for a mate and find someone that you’re attracted to, it’s tempting to ignore the obvious. But pursuing a relationship that is probably bound for disaster is not in your best interest. Here are some danger signs to watch for:

* He’s heavily in debt.

* He can’t hold a job.

* She drinks too much.

* She has no friends.

* He’s rude to the waitress, the car mechanic, the store clerk.

* He’s always finding fault with others or with you.

* He flirts with other women which drives you crazy.

* She’s possessive, wants all of your time, and tries to exclude your friends and family.

* She lies.

* He has a bad temper.

* He’s a sports addict and you hate sports.

* He’s Mr. Frugal and you like to spend.

* You want children and he wants no part of them.

* She has a child by a previous marriage and you dislike this child.

* He’s a slob and you’re a neat nick.

Do yourself a favor. If you’re dating someone and there are signs that you’re headed for difficulties, move on. Don’t get hung up with trying to change the person. Remember that no matter how eager you are to find a fulfilling relationship, “the light you see at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train.”

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

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Learn to put limitations on your whining. Whining can be acceptable in some situations, but your friends and family don’t want to listen to it forever.
We’re told we’re a nation of whiners. True. But is it good to whine? Does whining have any value?

Yes, some of the time. Suppose you’re overwhelmed at work and then your boss asks you to attend a meeting for him. A little whining to a co-worker may be all you need to dissipate your irritation before you gear up for the meeting.

If you lose a job or find your mate has been having an affair, initially you’ll cry, squeal and yelp. It hurts! As the weeks go by, you’ll probably settle into a steady whine. Eventually you’ll move to an on-again, off-again whine.

Whining phrases include: “I can’t believe he did this to me.” “Why does this always happen to me?” “I can’t stand it.” “People are stupid.” “Doesn’t anyone give a darn?” “Nobody’s trustworthy.” “I could lie down and die and nobody would notice.” “Life’s crummy.” “I’m so tired of this whole thing.”

Note that most of these phrases place the whiner in a victim position. The whiner feels at that moment in time that he has little control over his life and what other people are doing.

If you have a mate or friend who’s a whiner, here are some tips. Start by listening. Listen for 5 minutes and make a few sympathetic comments such as, “That’s awful…I can see why you’re upset…It’s frustrating.”

After 10 minutes, you might make a suggestion as to what the person could do differently. Or ask if there is anything you can do. If you get nowhere, try switching to another topic. For example, to your friend you might say, “Well, how are your other children doing?” Or, “How do other people in your department cope?” To your mate you might suggest, “Let’s have a nice dinner in spite of….” Or, “Let’s have a nice evening. Why don’t we start by going for a walk.”

How much whining should you allow yourself? It depends on the situation. With a major problem such as a layoff or a cheating spouse, feel free to whine an hour a day. But do it in your head. If you’re whining aloud to a family member or friend, a half-hour goes a long way. If the problem is ongoing, for example, you have a difficult boss or difficult child, allow yourself a maximum of 10 minutes of whining. After 10 minutes, make yourself change the focus of the conversation. Ask the other person what’s going on in her life. What happened with her today?

Another suggestion: Get up and do something physical. Sweeping a floor, taking out the trash, or sorting mail will change your focus of attention.

Everyone who whines, and most of us do from time to time, should keep track. If your whining is on the increase, perhaps there is something you need to change in your life. Also, play a game with yourself. Decide that Wednesdays and Saturdays are no whine days.

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

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One morning I was on my way to the computer to write my first column since vacation when I heard my husband singing in the shower. I sat quietly in the hall, sipped my coffee, and listened. He’d sing, then he’d whistle some of the melody, and then he’d sing a few more lines. It was pretty wonderful. He has a nice voice. But what brought a smile to my heart was how happy and content he was.

As I went to get myself that second cup of coffee, I glanced at our bookcases, which I had dusted and straightened the day before. Then I moseyed into the closet to admire my organizational and cleaning abilities.

By the time I clicked on the computer and the little cursor was jumping in front of me, I had changed my idea for the column. “I’ll write on anger another time,” I thought. “Today I’ll write on pausing, pausing to note the little things in life that so often get brushed over and rushed by.”

One wall of my office is cork board. It is convenient for hanging story ideas, school calendars, jokes, funny and philosophical cards people have sent me, and family pictures I can’t bear to put away.

In one section on the wall I have all of my daughter’s school pictures. I love to look at the way she has changed and grown from year to year. First there are the big smiles of pre-kindergarten and early grade school. Then there are the years of shyness and tentativeness in front of the camera. And then a more mature face and a big friendly smile.

Looking around this room, there are so many pleasures. My coffee mug made by a St. Louis potter. The shape, the feel, the coloring, the handle – it’s so right. I’ve been drinking coffee from it for years.

One of my favorite cards on the wall shows a large green and orange fish swimming in the water. A white rabbit dressed in a purple dress is hanging for dear life on the back of the fish. Above the picture is written, “Life can be a slippery fish.” How often that picture has helped me put things in perspective.

I have a globe on a stand in my office. It was a gift from a dear friend. Years ago the two of us were shopping in a stationery store when we came across some globes. I shared with her that when I was in grade school I would have given anything to own a globe. That Christmas my attentive friend surprised me with one. I like to spin it. I like the feel of it. Last week I used it to check out the spelling of Caribbean.

There’s an electric pencil sharpener on my desk. When I use it I become a little girl fascinated at how it can sharpen a pencil.

A handmade doll sits on one of the chairs. Her name is Emily. My friend Jeanine made her for me. Emily has on a blue and white dress with tiny white buttons. I never had a doll when I was a little girl. Maybe that’s why Emily has won such a place in my heart.

Hanging on the wall is a list of things I wanted to accomplish this past year. Unlike other years when I have checked off only half my list, this year I’ve already checked almost every item. Perhaps I was kinder to myself when I made out the list the first week in January. I didn’t give myself so many tasks to accomplish.

Other items in my office have special meaning for me: A carved bird, a small statue of a little girl, photos of flowers, a picture of one son in his football jersey, another son in his bathing suit.

Pause for a few minutes today. Listen. Look. Take note. Appreciate.

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

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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 don’t look up the directions on how to get there until you are walking out the door.

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?

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

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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.

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

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