Tag Archives: Society

Will that be credit or debit?

I recently lost my American Express card. Not a major tragedy, I know, but I have to admit I went through a variety of emotions – anger at having lost it, fear someone would find it and try to use it, frustration at the process of cancelling it and requesting a new one (not to mention changing all the things that automatically bill to the card – yoga!), and finally a strange kind of grief or loss at not having it in my hot little hands. Again, I want to acknowledge this is not a major tragedy – no one died and it will be replaced, but the process sucked. I basically went through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief over a bit of plastic! (Here is a sneak peak, if you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model).

Then… an interesting thing happened. I was buying less. See, my American Express is the only credit card I use. I use it for everything – I mean, everything – groceries, gas, shopping, yoga, anything and everything. I didn’t pay attention to what I was spending at all, I would just wait until the bill arrived at the end of the month, stare agape at the balance, and then pay it off. For the past seven days, I have not had my American Express and, instead, have been using my debit card. It was strange, but having to write each of these purchases down in my checkbook made me reconsider them – was it worth it? Did I really need it? Somehow using “real money” made it feel more real than slapping down a credit card.

My new Amex arrived today… I am trying to decide if we will have a new relationship or if I will snap back into old patterns. For now, I am enjoying my new awareness and hope it will continue – would couldn’t benefit from saving a little more each month?

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Unanswered Prayers

I’ve talked about my daughter before – her name is Charlie and she is almost 10 years old. She is awesome and I love her, but she has recently taken a turn for the dramatic (could it be teen hormones already?). Anyway… I was tucking her into bed the other day and she looked at me and asked, “Why doesn’t anything ever go my way?” (Like I said, a flare for the dramatic). We had a long talk about what it was that was bothering her and resolved her current crisis as best we could at 9 PM. I even added a little reality check about using words like “never” and “always”.

Everything seemed good, but it got me to thinking – we (all of us) have a tendency to assume not getting our way is always a bad thing. We assume if something else had happened, everything would have been better. Let me give you an easy example- a client was recently in a car accident. It wasn’t anything too traumatic, but there was car damage which is always a hassle. My client was in my office complaining how she keeps getting screwed by life and if she had only left 5 minutes later (or earlier) the accident could have been avoided. I think it is perfectly natural to feel this way, but it is important to remember things could have been actually worse. Maybe a different, more serious car accident would have occurred. It is impossible to know. We can waste so much time focused on what “might” have happened.

There is even a song about it. Do you know Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers”? Here is a peek, if you aren’t sure (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-13-greatest-country-songs-for-thanksgiving-20141125/garth-brooks-unanswered-prayers-1990-20141125). It’s all about a man who goes back to his home town and sees his high school girlfriend with whom he had so desperately wanted a future. The relationship had not worked out and both had moved on. When the singer looks around, he realizes how not getting what he wanted actually helped him to get what he really needed after all (wife, kids, happiness). The ways that not getting what we want actually serves us is not always so transparent or direct, but it is important to try not to spend too much time on what might have been at the detriment of what actually is.

My stepdad died about 12 years ago after a painful bout with pancreatic cancer. I was living on the West Coast while he and my mom were in Michigan. I got a call one day I should come home because the doctors determined he did not have much time left. I booked a flight for the next day, but he passed before I got there. For a fairly long while I was torn up about not having had an opportunity to say goodbye. I had this dramatic vision of a Hollywood deathbed goodbye where we shared our feelings (all good) and he peacefully went to “sleep”. I felt cheated of this. Over time, I became aware that his deathbed was likely nothing like this. He was not conscious and communicating. I was spared seeing him so ill. My last memory of him is not him sickly and weak, but up and about and teasing me. I was not cheated, but was spared. I did not get what I wanted, but it was for the best.

So, here is my takeaway – if you get frustrated about something that happened (or didn’t happen), remember it may have been in your best interest. Even if you can’t see how it is good for you, try not to dwell too much on what could have been (or should have been) and, instead, focus on what is. Try to make your “is” as good as you can.

You are a Survivor

I’ve noticed something lately. I used to think people were “playing the victim” to be manipulative or to get attention and/or sympathy, but I think there is more to it. When you are the victim, you don’t have to change – you are doing nothing wrong. The bad thing is happening to you because someone else is doing something mean or evil or wrong or mean to you. They are the ones who need to change their behavior or be punished. You just get to be you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times someone is doing something to you that is horrible and undeserved and you did absolutely nothing to bring it on. That sucks. I get it. But, and here is the big but, you decide what you are going to do about it and how you are going to recover. You get to decide if you are a victim or a survivor. There is a lot more power and control over your life as a survivor than as a victim.

If a man beats a woman – that is terrible. He is a reprehensible human being and deserves to be punished within the fullest extent of the law (and maybe a little bit more). This woman has experienced something tragic and painful and, undoubtedly, feels scared and betrayed. Labeling her as “the victim” means she has no power over what happens to her next. It limits her. If she views herself as a victim, she may feel vulnerable. If she is a survivor, she can stand up and get out of the relationship. She can heal her body, mind, and spirit and rebuild her life.

If a child grows up in a home rife with abuse, he or she can be a “victim of child abuse” or a survivor of child abuse. Can you imagine how people selecting those two different labels might view themselves and their experiences? One is empowering while the other seems to minimize their power.

This isn’t just about abuse. We can become so firmly entrenched in bad or unfair things that are happening to us that we don’t look for a way out. The weight of the “bad” holds us down and almost smothers us. It is important to look around you to see if there is any way to make the situation better and, if not, how to find an exit strategy. A client of mine recently told me about the difficulties he was having with his supervisor at work. He felt she was unjustifiably critical of him and often ignored his requests for assistance. He reported feeling trapped by her and saw no way to “make her change”. We began to explore their interactions (through his report, of course) and he discovered he has a tendency to be defensive, argumentative and passive-aggressive with this supervisor. We discussed how his style of communication might be contributing to her treatment of him. This was not all on him – at least it didn’t seem so, but once we could identify how he was exacerbating the situation, we could problem-solve ways to (hopefully) improve their relationship. My client had been so stuck in his self-identified role as the victim of his mean supervisor he had not been able to recognize his own behaviors. He could not change what he did not recognize. When we become so firmly entrenched in our position as the victim, we cannot acknowledge changes we might make to improve the situation.

Let’s sum this is – if you are in a problematic relationship, look for ways you might be able to make It better. If this isn’t possible, look for your way out. Life it is too short to be miserable. You are a survivor.

Post-Holiday Slump

A frequent complaint of patients in my office this time of year is something they call Seasonal Depression. This is a very real diagnosis and many people suffer from it. What I find, though, is many people who self-diagnose as Seasonal Depression are really experiencing a post-holiday emotional slump. Regardless of whatever holiday you may celebrate (religious or otherwise) there are a number of celebrations that occur during November and December each year. Due to these celebrations, we are disgustingly busy during this 6-8 week period and are often running from one social event to another. By the time we get to catch our breath, it’s the beginning of January. Now, if you live anywhere besides the Southernmost states or California, it is also a time of bitter cold and related household lockdown.

For most of us, after the excitement of New Year’s, there isn’t much new coming up until Valentine’s Day (and the emotional whiplash THAT holiday causes). I call this the post-holiday slump. We have been so busy with November and December that we don’t know what to do with ourselves and all our current free time. There is also, often, little to look forward to. This is my recommendation. Create things to look forward to. Plan a vacation. Schedule a meet-up with friends. Put a massage on the books. Find something to give you some excitement.

Post-holiday slump is typically short in duration – a few weeks, a month maybe. If you find it is lasting too long or the symptoms are too difficult for you to manage on your own or if you consider doing anything to hurt yourself or anyone else – get help immediately. Do not walk, run to your nearest mental health professional – in a pinch, call 911 or go to the local Emergency Room so you can get immediate help. You do what you can to manage your symptoms, but there is never any shame in needing help.

So… Your Friend is Transgendered – Now What?

I have gotten a number of emails, phone calls, tweets and general comments over the past couple of days about the tragic suicide of a transgendered young woman, Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Alcorn). Much of the focus of discussion has been on this young woman’s suicide note (you can link to it here if you haven’t read it or want a refresher http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note), her transgender status and/or her Christian parents’ refusal to accept/acknowledge that transgender status. I’ve been listening to criticism of her parents and debates over whether or not transgender is real. I don’t really care if you think transgender is legitimate or not (though I can tell you as a mental health professional it is), but what I can tell you is this young woman was in immense pain.

We need to do a better job of taking care of each other – especially our children who may not have adequate coping skills to manage life’s challenges. I am not going to jump on the bandwagon and rip her parents apart. If what has been has said about them is true, I do not agree with their parenting choices and wish things had been managed differently, but that isn’t what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the need to keep an eye on one another.

What can you do if someone in your life is dealing with transgender identity (even if the person isn’t talking about suicide)?

  1. Talk to someone. I am not saying “out” them, but if you need to process through your own thoughts and feelings – talk it out. You can maintain their confidentiality while working things through. You may not know what to do to help. Ask for help! Talk to a teacher, a parent, a school counselor, a priest, I don’t really care who, but talk to someone until you get guidance. All too often, we avoid things that make us uncomfortable – you can’t do that here. This is too important.
  2. Be there. Talk with your friend or family member about what all of this means for them. Even, as in Leelah Alcorn’s situation, you are not “supportive” of transgendered identity, there are still “safe” topics of feeling lonely, sad, and isolated. This is still the same person they were before you learned they are transgendered. If he is a good friend, she will be, too.
  3. Refer to support groups (not just for your loved one, but for you, too). Knowledge is power!
    1. http://community.pflag.org/transgender
    2. http://www.glaad.org/transgender
    3. http://www.transgender.support/
    4. http://susans.org/
    5. http://www.iamtransgendered.com/SupportGroups.aspx

These are but a few of the online, national organizations available to provide information and support, both to the individual and to their loved ones. There are also countless programs available within your own community. When I worked at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), I became acquainted with their amazing program (http://www.chla.org/site/c.ipINKTOAJsG/b.7501767/k.5FBA/Transgender_Services__Adolescent_Medicine__Case_Management__Health_Education.htm#.VKSWvCvF_EY). Check out what might be available in your town.

  1. No matter what you might think or feel about transgendered individuals, do not make fun of, attack verbally or physically, or shame them. Doing any of these behind their backs still sucks – it’s just more cowardly. Remember life is hard enough for each of us without some jerk making worse. Don’t be that jerk.

Did I miss something important? What else might you recommend? As always, I am open to suggestions.

Drama only Belongs on the Stage

We’ve talked about toxic people in the past, you and I, and the toll they can take on you and your relationships. But when I asked my daughter for suggestions about this blog, she asked that I write about drama and the people who seem to enjoy creating it. It is kind of sad, really, that my 9-year-old is already picking up on this in others, but maybe that’s because she seems to enjoy creating it herself at times and that helps her to recognize it in others.

There are a number of different types of drama queens. (I use this term non-gender specifically, as there are just as many male drama queens as female – maybe more):

  1. The attention whore – This drama queen needs to be in the center of attention at all times. She always has an exciting story to share at the top of her lungs, so you couldn’t ignore her even if you tried. She is often extremely entertaining, so most of the time you don’t mind at all. She can be tiring over long periods of time, though.
  2. The chronically ill – I don’t mean people who are legitimately sick. This drama queen always has a headache or an upset stomach or a hurt foot or a sore back. You get the idea. There is always a complaint and she loves sharing it with you. It gets to the point where, instead of saying, “Hi”, you want to say, “So, what hurts today?”
  3. The pot stirrer – Ooooh, this queen is a sneaky one. She creates the drama behind the scenes. She tells Person A something about Person B and then tells that reaction to Person C. She then sits back to watch and see what happens. She doesn’t want to be involved in the fireworks, but sure enjoys the show.
  4. The exaggerator – I don’t think this drama queen even realizes she is doing it, but everything that happens to her is HUGE, at least when she tells the tale. Every date is epically good or bad, all disagreements are explosive, and all successes deserving of a parade. Her life is one of extremes which is exhausting to all involved.

If you see a queen, you don’t necessarily have to run screaming in the other direction – remember, sometimes they are fun. What you do need to know is with whom you are dealing. Know if someone in your life is a drama queen. It will help you to decide how best to interpret what she shares with you. Do you take it at face value or do you need to translate it through some anti-drama program to get the real deal? You may save yourself unnecessary time spent in an emotional wringer.

What do you think? Did I miss anyone? I’d love your suggestions about any underrepresented drama queens.

The Danger in Making New Year’s Resolutions

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Typically, we set ourselves up to fail and then use this failure to beat ourselves up. “I suck.” It sounds like I speak from personal experience, right? Here is why I think they are horrible for us – somehow we have established an arbitrary date on which we are going to begin to change our lives. This unfortunately means we wait until that date has arrived to begin to make these changes. It becomes like a light switch, prior to January 1st we don’t have to change and BAM January 1st happens and now we have to change. We are not perfect people. Most of us will not be perfect in our New Year’s Resolutions either and, often, as soon as we are not perfect, we give up. Go to any gym on January 5th – it will be filled to the rafters. You will find ridiculous numbers of people lifting and running and spinning and stretching. Go visit that same gym three months later – 50% of them will be gone. Studies show that 88% of New Year’s Resolutions are broken.

The ten most commonly broken New Year’s Resolutions:

How can you survive the New Year’s Resolution trap? Don’t wait until January 1st. If you want to eat healthier, exercise more, get out of debt or spend more time with your family then there is no time like the present. This is not something you wait to start, start today. If there is a day where you are not fantastic at this new lifestyle, shake it off and start again. You can do it. Just remember these are all things you keep working on – these are long term goals, not accomplished within a day, week or month. Establish an accountability partner – someone who will help you to keep trying to meet your goals – they will meet you at the gym, talk you off the ledge when you want to do unnecessary shopping or will call you on your crap when you give up.

Maybe it is a Little Bit You…

We’ve all heard those break-up stories – the couple sit there while one looks into the other’s eyes and explains they want to end the relationship. They try to let the other down easily and say those five little words, “It’s not you, it’s me.” What is this supposed to mean? It means the person ending the relationship is saying they aren’t able to be in the relationship despite the fact the person being dumped is fabulous and wonderful and a perfect person/partner. Do they actually mean this? Well, maybe/maybe not.

Look, harsh reality here – sometimes it really is you. Hearing this can spare you from having to hear these words again and again. I want you to pay attention to patterns even when they aren’t totally obvious. Do your relationships with boyfriends seem to end when you try to get too close too fast? This could be important information! Do you keep getting laid off from jobs as soon as they have an opportunity to downsize? Take notice! Are you struggling to connect in friendships and end up excluded with little to no explanation? Consider the role you may be playing in these relationships!

If you don’t notice these patterns, you are doomed to repeat them. Ooooh! Another saying is especially meaningful here – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana). If someone tells you “It’s not you, it’s me” take a moment and think it through. Maybe, just maybe, it is a little bit you. This doesn’t have to be a painful reality – it is information you can build on to make your life even more amazing. Use it. Learn from it. Make changes as necessary and leave your ex in your dust.

Chivalry is not DOA

I know many people say chivalry is dead. I disagree. It isn’t dead, it’s just… different. When Jason and I first started dating, he never let me open a door. Like, ever. It became such a joke between us, that I “don’t touch doors”. We’ve been married more than 15 years and I still don’t. (Unless he’s not there because that would just be weird – me standing there, staring at the door). There is one other thing my husband does I don’t want to give up – whenever we walk outdoors, he always positions himself on the side of traffic. This is to protect me from a runaway car or crazed kidnapper, I suppose. I am completely comfortable with Jason holding the door open for me and shielding me from abduction, but am completely skeezed out when he tries to run around and open my car door for me. I’m not sure what it is about standing there waiting for him to open my car door that makes me feel like a complete tool, but I hate it. I know it makes no sense, but it works for us.

Chivalry is not just for those with male genitalia though – the definition of chivalry: the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms. Nowhere in that definition does it say anything about the person exhibiting chivalry having a penis. I know this assumption is based on the past, knights always being dudes way back when, but come on ladies, buck up! Chivalry is something we could all manage a bit more.

  • If you are walking through a door and notice someone a few steps behind you, stop and hold the door for them. Those few seconds will not destroy your entire day and maybe you will get a smile and a “Thank you” in return. (Side note – if you are approaching a door and someone stops to hold it for you, please, please, please, say “Thank you”. Seriously, drives me crazy when people sail through with an air of entitlement, “Of course you hold the door for me, you peon!”).
  • If someone nearby sneezes even if (or especially if) you do not know them, say “Bless You” (or if you aren’t religious say. “Gesundheit” which means good health). It is nice to acknowledge someone else’s sneeze (I’m not sure why), but just do it.
  • If you see someone struggling with packages and your hands are free, offer a hand. (Unless it is a creepy guy by a van – serial killer alert). Being helpful to other people makes you both feel good.
  • If you are able bodied and are sitting in a seat and you notice someone less able bodied and there are no more seats, offer them yours. What does “less able bodied” mean? This could mean a lot of things, someone elderly or sick or pregnant or traveling with little kids or who knows. If they seem less able to stand than you for any reason – get up!

Are there others I have forgotten? Suggestions?

You Teach People How to Treat You

You teach people how to treat you. This is important enough that I am going to say it again – you teach people how to treat you. If you are frustrated because you feel like the people in your life treat you poorly, maybe it is time to consider why this happening. You are an active partner in their dynamic – what are you doing to perpetuate this relationship? It is critical you figure this out if you want the situation to change because you cannot change something you aren’t aware of.

You can (and should) set limits and boundaries with others. If you have a friend who cancels on you often or blows you off, it is perfectly reasonable to tell them this isn’t OK. Explain how this makes you feel like you aren’t important to them and your friendship doesn’t matter. You friend is given fair warning their behavior is not OK, if they do not change you have a choice. Accept the relationship as it is or leave it. This is 100% your choice and you are responsible for what happens after that. You can’t continue to complain if she bails on you, you’ve accepted her as is.

If you allow your boss to call you at all hours regarding work or to demand long hours of overtime or to belittle you at work or to overwhelm you with unrealistic workloads, you are indicating (even silently) this is acceptable to you. This is a tricky situation. You and your boss are not equals. It is more difficult to set limits with her since she can fire you. If her behavior violates the law your situation might be clearer, but this is often not the case. You can attempt to discuss with her what you are willing and not willing to do, but she may tell you to go pound sand. You then have a choice – accept it or leave. If you choose to accept it, stop complaining or get out. (Reference previous blog on this topic: https://psychobabblechat.com/2014/12/11/you-have-no-right-to-complain/ )

You teach your mother whether or not it is OK to show up unexpectedly at your house. You teach your loved one if it is OK to be out of contact for a few days. You teach your friends if it is OK to make “jokes” at your expense. You teach your boss if it is OK to publicly chastise you for your mistakes. You teach your roommate if it is OK to have regular parties at your apartment. How do you teach them this? By allowing the behaviors to occur (often). Notice a pattern here? When faced with a situation where you are not happy with how someone is treating you (no matter the situation), you only have two choices. Accept it or leave it. If you accept it you are telling the other person it is OK to continue treating you the way they are. You are teaching them how to deal with you.