Just for an update, I wanted to share that my lack of blog updates does not mean that I am not actively counseling. In fact, just the opposite. As I have gotten busier, blog updates have taken a backseat to visiting with people. I am still accepting new clients and I try to keep a medium sized case load so everyone can get in without having to wait too long, and so I can give everyone the attention they deserve.

On another note, I have recently been accepted as a contracted in-network provider with Healthcare Highways Plus and Healthcare Highways Logix.

I’m not sure where I learned this lesson, so I’m afraid I do not know who to credit. Still, this is valuable wisdom that I really think they should teach in schools.

Many people desire to be more assertive, but I think that is sometimes a vague concept, which makes it hard to do. I once heard it explained in very simple, easy to understand terms that I want to share with you.

Perhaps you have heard of the term passive-aggressive, the idea that someone is nice to your face, but then hurts you when your back is turned. So, let’s imagine there is a spectrum of behavior with Aggressive on one end and Passive on the other. Assertiveness is not just a compromise of the two, it is a third option. And all of these terms can be summed up with these phrases:

Aggressive is the attitude “I matter and you don’t matter.” People are aggressive when they hurt others for their own benefit. When the mean kids in high school tore down other people to feel good about themselves, they had the attitude they mattered and their targets didn’t. Sometimes people are aggressive when they are hurt and then they feel justified hurting that person back. “Because of what they did, they no longer matter.” Violence, insults, threats, manipulation, theft, cruelty and selfishness are aggressive because the person is only concerned about getting their needs met.

Passive is the attitude “You matter and I don’t matter.” Passive people say, “Whatever you want.” Passive people apologize when they have done nothing wrong. Passive people bend over backwards to prevent conflict or upsetting others. People are passive for a variety of reasons. They often call themselves people pleasers. Perhaps it started for noble reasons because they wanted to put others before themselves, because they did not want to be selfish, or they thought loving people means making them happy. Perhaps it was a bit more survival or emotionally based with the idea that making people happy would keep them from hurting you or leaving you. Still, the more you act like only the other person matters and you do not, the more you start to believe it. Most passive people accumulate negative self-esteem because acting like you do not matter eventually makes you feel like you do not matter.

Assertiveness is the attitude “You matter and I matter.” Assertiveness is respectful. Just because someone hurt you does not mean you hurt them back. Assertiveness is solution focused and realizes that speaking up for yourself provides vital information, listening to others provides information, and then you can find solutions that take everyone’s needs into account. Assertiveness sees the big picture. Whereas passiveness feels noble, it makes the other person into the villain. Being assertive may feel like being the bad guy, but it acts on the hope that the other person might join you in a healthy relationship. Even if they don’t, it still protects you and respects them.

And even if being assertive does not always get the outcomes you want, it usually gets you closure and moving on your way towards better things, rather than stuck in the anxiety of never-ending, unhealthy relationship patterns.

Social media is great for connecting people, sharing ideas and easily expressing opinions. It is woefully inadequate for debating. In fact, I think that debating on social media is largely counterproductive. It may feel good to express your opinions or criticize. It feels good to be on a soap box or to be a champion of a cause. I am certainly guilty of it myself, even when I’m aware of the problem. But I try to remember,

“Shutting up people who disagree with you is not the same as changing their mind.”

Most debating just promotes resentment, defensiveness and for people to crawl away to their corners. In my opinion, that is the main cause of the polarization in our society. What we need is for people to be able to listen. If you want to change someone’s mind, you don’t call them out in public. You take them aside, let them know you care, try to understand their point of view and gently encourage them to consider how they could do things better. This requires 2 things:

Tact and relationship.

Remember, social media is still a relatively new invention and new inventions like this transform society. And it takes a while for society to form rules on how to properly use new technology.

I propose that it is time to form a:

Social Media Code of Conduct

*** If you need to correct, criticize or change someone’s mind because of what they posted, do it over the phone or in person.***

Because,

1) if you don’t have a relationship with them to do that, you don’t have a relationship to effectively change their mind, it only promotes resentment in the world.

2) If you are not willing to put in that effort, that is a sign you are not willing to put in the effort to be understanding, tactful or respectful in your internet response either, so your efforts will be ineffective and only promote resentment in the world.

“It is too easy to be hurtful on the internet”

Now, I know many people will promptly argue that there is so much hate and ignorance in the world, they need to fight against it. And they also want to make sure to champion the rights of their friends and speak up for them in order that they know they are not alone.

I am not proposing that we just ignore bad behavior. If you feel you have to speak up, then phrase your replies in terms of speaking to those other people you are fighting for. Tell them that you agree with them and you are with them and what you believe.

But rise above, be the better person and leave out the comments directed at calling out bad behavior. When you feel you are right and feel obligated to try to change someone’s mind, remember that calling someone, or their ideas, ignorant, hateful, wrong, etc. on the internet simply does not work. It builds up walls, resentment and shuts down conversation. Again, if you really want to change someone’s mind, do it privately and lovingly.

And of course, there will always be extremists and close minded people. But your responsibility is not to change them, your responsibility is to stand up for what you believe in, in the right way. The ends do not justify the means.

So, if you agree with this Code of Conduct, please:

1) Adopt this code of conduct for yourself
2) Explain it to others (preferably in person, or you can share)

Thanks, and…

“be excellent to each other” – Bill S. Preston, Esq.

I’m going to admit something today.

I don’t like blogging.

I love talking to people. I love thinking about life, relationships, wisdom, etc. And I love sharing those things.

I even like the idea of having a blog, both to inspire others and maybe one day to provide lessons to my daughter after I’m gone. I have no shortage of lessons. I have a long list of topics and think of more things often that I am eager to express.

I also recognize the need to have an internet presence for marketing purposes, and to let people know I am still actively practicing my counseling. But my frequency of posting has dropped from weekly, to biweekly and now I struggle to post monthly.

Simply put, the idea of sitting down to write seems like drudgery. It is something I want done, but not something I want to do.

And often counseling involves helping people address those sorts of struggles. We want to be better. We often know what we need to do, but we struggle with the actual doing.

I totally get that.

My one sentence definition of adulthood is: Doing things we don’t want for the things we do want.

But here I am writing this blog, so obviously something must have tipped the scales for me today, and I thought I would share what helped in case it might help others.

Most of the time when we struggle with decisions, we are struggling with short term and long term thinking. Sometimes all we have to do to change our decisions is simply go from thinking about our momentary happiness to just our daily happiness.

If I was doing what would make me happy right now, I would be taking a nap.

But I asked myself, what will make me happy at the end of the day. Having this task completed will make me happier at the end of the day than if I had taken a nap. Or, looking at it another way, I decided to make a sacrifice to benefit future me. And I’m sure future Me will be grateful. I’m kind of happy now just because I’m doing this nice thing for myself.

Now, admittedly, I asked myself a similar question this morning when I was going to workout, but it was raining outside. I decided going back to bed for 30 minutes while listening to the rain would be more rewarding than exercising and losing half a pound. And it was so very nice and I firmly stand by my decision.

Anyway, it’s a simple point. Don’t just do what feels good now, or avoids pain now. Start thinking, “what will bring me the most joy overall, or the least pain in the long run,” and see if that doesn’t help tip the scales when you’re struggling to get up and do that thing you know you should.

Future You will thank you.

Before I share my thoughts on the use of psychiatric medications for mood disorders, let me first clarify my lack of credentials.

Some people think the terms psychiatrist, psychologist and counselor are basically interchangeable, but there are some distinct differences. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is an expert in mental health and prescribes psychiatric medications. A psychologist is an expert in mental health with a Doctorate degree. A counselor is an expert in mental health with at least a Master’s Degree. All can provide talk therapy, but only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication and has extensive training in brain physiology, chemistry and the like.

I am a counselor.

So, when I share my opinion on psychiatric medications, it is from the perspective of someone who believes in the power of insight oriented solutions, a belief that changing circumstances and thinking is a means to make changes in a person’s mood and life. My opinions come from observations, rather than education and detailed understanding.

Many of my clients also make use of psychiatric medications, either prescribed specifically by a psychiatrist, or often by a primary care doctor. I have learned a lot from their experiences and insight, as well as by seeing the effects in their lives.

Some people are eager to find the relief they need in medication. Others are very resistant to using medication. I would say my initial attitude on medication was similar to those people who want to solve their problems on their own, by their own will power. Other people are afraid of becoming addicted, dependent or having side effects. It is an unfortunate fact that I have met some people who have ongoing suicidal thinking, depression or other lasting side effects from bad medication reactions.

But the research I have seen suggests that counseling and medication are more effective together than either one separately. I tend to simplify the matter by thinking of medication as something that can make the emotions less raw, and counseling helps people make real changes to their thinking and behavior. If you just take medication, you may feel better, but may not make any real changes. However, for some people, counseling alone is unlikely to be productive if the emotions are just too overpowering. For some people, medications may be like a scaffolding that is put in place while a structure is being built, but then can be removed when the building is complete.

However, for others, there is a legitimate ongoing chemical imbalance that needs ongoing treatment. I witnessed the reality of chemical imbalances when I saw my wife go through post-partum depression. Here was a woman just blessed with a beautiful new baby and she knew she was supposed to be happy, but every night she found herself weeping when it got dark. The doctors predicted it might happen because she had been producing chemicals for two and now suddenly she was getting all those chemicals just for one. And as the doctors also predicted, the depression went away after a few weeks. I saw the very real mood effects of a chemical imbalance. It was not due to external circumstances, my wife’s thinking or anything she had done wrong. She was aware of what was happening, but the feelings were still just as real and just as painful.

If someone had asthma, would you expect them to run a race without an inhaler? Thyroid conditions, blood pressure issues and many other medical conditions require ongoing medical treatment to manage symptoms, so should there be any shame in needing medication when there is a legitimate chemical imbalance? Do we expect people to just will power themselves through slipped discs or vertigo?

So, sometimes medications are in order for long term chemical imbalances and sometimes they are just temporary aids while people make the necessary underlying changes via counseling. Sometimes people are unsure which is the case. I usually just trust each person’s judgment. I have seen cases where people weaned off of medications as they made progress, but I always suggest this be done under advisement of a medical doctor. I have also seen some people start without medications and when they have thoroughly addressed their thinking, behavior, beliefs and circumstances and they still feel depressed or suicidal despite no discernible reason, then they usually feel satisfied that they have done their due diligence and a medical approach is in order.

At the end of the day, I just generally encourage people to stop worrying about the stigma and pressure about what others think they should do, and instead trust their own judgment about what they need.

 

When I was a teenager, one of my fondest memories was the summer that I had no responsibilities and my best friend practically lived at our house. We’d stay up all night playing video games and sleep all day. There seemed to be no end to the fun.

But on occasion, my friend’s mother would call and tell him that he needed to come home. We would ask what was the reason for the end to our fun and I still remember to this day, she would say, “He needs balance.”

As a teen, I just thought this was a lame excuse to ruin our fun.

But as I have gotten older, I have changed my tune. What I thought was foolishness, was just wisdom I did not understand.

Now I understand that more is not always better. You can have too much of a good thing.

The most obvious example is water.

Not enough water and you will die of thirst.

Too much water and you will die from drowning.

“The wise man avoids all extremes.” 1

I think learning about balance and moderation is a large part of maturity. I imagine I’m probably just preaching to the choir for most adults. But I wanted to point out a phenomenon about passing on wisdom that seems to be lost in most memes and debates.

To find balance and wisdom, you often have to be aware of both extremes. But when people are passing on their wisdom or hard earned life lessons, they are usually just warning you of one extreme. And when people put this in meme form or a post on social media, it is just one part of a complicated puzzle, almost always eliciting arguments and derision because other people are looking at another piece.

Consider some quotes you may or may not have heard to illustrate this.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” 2

and

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered” 3

 

“Never, Never, Never Give Up” 4

and

“You have to know when to quit”

 

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. “ 5

and

“Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. “ 6

 

“Black Lives Matter”

and

“Blue Lives Matter”

Often times people find a problem with something and assume the opposite is right, but in most situations the truth is somewhere in the middle. No one is 100% right or 100% wrong. I have learned some very valuable insights from some cruel people, because the source of wisdom does not always determine the quality of wisdom.

As they say, “A broken clock is still right twice a day.”

With modern media’s polarized debates and short attention span, people do not take the time to incorporate the points of both sides. Instead, one of the new favorite past times is to shut people up. People think that finding a flaw in someone’s point, or pointing out something they missed is equivalent to winning an argument. But I say:

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” 7
“It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.” 1

Perhaps even thinking of it as an argument with two opposing sides is problematic. I think we need less debates and more discussions.

“Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood “ 8

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 9

In my opinion, a good example of balance is a healthy two parent family. Often times you will see one parent being more compassionate while another parent is more authoritarian. Sometimes this can lead to arguments about parenting style, but when two people are able to respect what the other brings to the table, they usually do much better than either would alone. There are times when a child needs to be pushed, have consequences and allowed to fail. But there are also times when a child needs to be rescued and nurtured. Any one person is usually going to err on one side or the other and I have seen the devastating effects of both parenting styles in their extreme.

At the end of the day, figuring things out in life is tricky. There is no one right or wrong answer you can apply across the board. You can’t just take people’s advice at face value.

Sometimes you need to listen to hard truths:

“The wounds of a friend can be trusted” 10

and sometimes you have to be able to rise above what everyone else is telling you:

“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” 11

You have to sort it out for yourself and find that balance and what applies in any given situation.

“Memes are easy, life is hard.” 12

It is easy to get offended or assume the worst in someone when they make a point, thinking they don’t see the whole picture. For instance, I know that this blog about wisdom may sound arrogant, but I am aware that I fall short and make mistakes all the time. I know that striving for balance is hard. Those truths don’t make balance any less valuable.

The best wisdom understands both sides and the need to incorporate them properly.

One of my favorite quotes is a major part of Alcoholics Anonymous, where people struggle daily with moderation:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference. “ 13

or:

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.“ 14

P.S. I like quotes.
————————————————————————————-

Here is what I could come up with for sources:

1 – Ecclesiates 7:18

2 – American Proverb

3 – Japanese Proverb

4 – Winston Churchill

5 – Proverbs 26:4

6 – Proverbs 26:5

7 – German Proverb

8 – Steven Covey

9 – Epictetus

10 – Proverbs 27:6

Not long ago, I shared a blog post attempting to give adults a more understanding perspective of the teenager’s burden. Today, I thought I would share an analogy I often tell teenagers to help their perspective.

First, I start by pointing out that, if we are being honest, you probably feel like you are the main character in your story. Don’t be ashamed, I think that is pretty normal for everyone since we see life through our own eyes. And, again not to be offensive, truth be told, at the end of the day, one of the most important factors is that we are ok.

So, right now, how do you know you are ok?

This question is only difficult, because it seems too obvious. The answer is that you can immediately look and see. No ninjas are attacking you currently, I assume. (If so, I suggest dealing with that before finishing this blog.) You can tell you are breathing. If you need to double check, you can take a moment and feel your heart beating. You know you are ok in this moment. You may be anxious about your future, your next meal or some ongoing drama, but on the most basic level, you can tell you are alive.

Now, imagine through some miracle of magic or science, you could take your heart out of your body and put it in a box. And as long as your heart was ok, you were ok. Now, if you are really playing along and letting your imagination run with this, what do you think you would do with that box?

Most people say they would lock it up, hide it or never let it out of their sight.

Now, what if one of your buddies wanted to borrow your heart in a box? You know, just take it along with them and show some of their friends at the mall?

Most people wouldn’t allow that.

Now, what if it was absolutely imperative that your heart in a box underwent some maintenance? Suppose it has to be cleaned or repaired so that you can continue living. And what if, for some reason, you were not allowed to go with it. Suppose a friend was going to take it in for maintenance for you. How would you feel while it was gone?

Anxious, worried, unable to really relax or focus on anything else?

Would you call or text regularly to get updates from your friend that everything was ok?

You probably would not feel ok while your heart was out of your sight.

And what if your friend did not respond to a text? What if they were an hour late without letting you know why?

You would probably be terrified.

And when your friend got back later and said they took a detour to a another friend’s house, how would you feel?

Would you be livid? Would there be some choice words or worse?

If you really tried imagining this strange scenario, I bet you got a brief feeling of that roller coaster of emotions.

 

Well, when you have a child, it is like putting your heart in a box. For a parent, they are no longer the most important person in their life, their child is. Most parents are willing to die for their children.

And as soon as I make that connection, most teenagers suddenly get a glimmer of why their parents are so annoying. Always setting rules, texting constantly, showing so little trust. Now their anger that you were half an hour late makes sense, when it seemed so trivial before.

Really, given this perspective, it is actually a miracle that parents ever let their children out of their sight. Some don’t. But most parents realize that it has to happen. One of a parent’s main goals is to raise independent children, so at some point they know they have to let go. But this is why it is so hard. Letting go and trusting a child is one of the hardest things for a parent to do, and it is usually a difficult transition for the parents and the child. Just try to be understanding.

And don’t give your parents a heart attack for no good reason, ok?

For those who may not know, a fallacy is mistaken belief, often times based on some principle or assumption that you did not know was actually wrong. It is like when you build a house only to realize the foundation is no good and the whole thing ends up crumbling down.

Recently, I have come to believe that there is a faulty assumption about love that almost everyone seems to build their life around, but in reality it causes an awful lot of struggle and anxiety because people don’t understand where they went wrong.

I want you to consider the true motives behind most human endeavors. I would say that most of the things we do, we do in order to be “good enough” or “desirable.” Think about people pleasing, competition, perfectionism, worry, cultivating beauty, pursuing fame, seeking popularity, protecting our pride, fighting for respect, trying to be unique, trying to fit in, being judgmental, being angry at being judged and I could go on and on…

One way or another we are constantly seeking to boost or soothe our ego. And I believe on main reason for this is that we want to feel worthy of being loved. 

“If I make them happy then they will love me.”

“If I can be the best, then they will love me.”

“If I have the most likes, then I will feel good about myself.”

“Why don’t they love me?”

Let me put it this way, we are constantly striving to figure out the puzzle of how to make people love us. And we often get frustrated when they don’t. Why do you think it bothers people so much to be judged or disrespected?

But here is the faulty foundation. Let me explain it with one of the most famous Bible verses. Even if you don’t believe in God, I hope you’ll realize the point is still valid.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV

God loved us while we were sinners. He loved us while we were unworthy. Real love is not a reactive feeling. Love is an act of will on the part of the giver, not based on the worth of the recipient.

This is pretty key, so I’m going reiterate my point. If love is given at the whim of the giver, you cannot make them do it.

One more time,

YOU CAN NOT MAKE PEOPLE LOVE YOU.

People can love others who do not deserve it.

People may not love others when they do deserve it.

If someone does not love you, that was a choice they made.

 

You can influence people. You can make them happy. You may be able to make them like you.

But love is an unconditional choice to care about another person’s well being, whether they deserve it or not.

 

Let me illustrate it with a very honest insight into one of my private moments. When my daughter was born and they put her in my arms, my immediate reaction was not exactly warm and fuzzy. My first thought was, “Who is this stranger? I have never seen her before and I am supposed to love her? I don’t know anything about her character or who she will become.”

But then I spoke to her, “I am your daddy. I will always love you and protect you no matter what.” And then the warm fuzzy feelings and the tears came.

I chose to love her. It had nothing to do with what she had done, and it will always be my choice no matter what she does.

 

So, this truth is both wonderfully freeing, and somewhat terrifying at the same time.

On one hand, you can stop striving so hard for other people’s approval. I mean, really…they are only humans. Why is their validation of you so crucial? If you only knew what skewed their perspectives, you wouldn’t worry so much. It is like looking into fun house mirrors trying to figure out what you truly look like.

But on the other hand, you have to accept that you are not in control of whether someone loves you, or continues to love you, and that truth is so scary that perhaps it explains why so many people are blind to this fact.

 

If you can accept it, the truth will set you free. Forgive the cliche, but it really fits.

And it not only frees you from such excessive striving, but it is also the key to love others better. If you do not have to worry about whether people deserve your love and respect, you can just choose to give it, making this world and, most definitely, your own life that much brighter.

 

You can’t make people love you. I encourage you to accept it and start living. Do not be afraid.

Today’s post comes from an anonymous guest writer who has figured out how to thrive after decades of being stuck in depression. I hope you enjoy these insights as much as I did.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Ways that a life living with years of depression has left me with challenges in
my new life.
When you live with depression, you spend all day everyday in your head. The only
person you talk to is yourself. The internet and tv and Netflix are your only
inputs.
The result is a state of living in fantasy. When you come out of this state of
arrested development, there are challenges that I framed as fantasy versus
reality.
In fantasy, there are no consequences. You don’t hurt anyone’s feelings if you
don’t interact with anyone real. Fantasy people say whatever you’d like them to
say. These imaginary people in your head offer no feedback and no advice. When
you talk, your words mean nothing, they’re just words. When you talk to real
people, they usually assume your words mean something. Your promises are
expected to be binding.
There’s no making plans in fantasy, you can just leap to the best part. There’s
no reason you can’t just say you’ve slain the dragon and now you’re here to
marry the princess. In reality, there are steps in between where you are and
what you want.
Like tv, fantasy has no progress. Every ‘episode’ ends happily, and the next one
starts with a new fresh start. All is forgiven and forgotten. In reality you
have to push and push and keep up the effort to reach a worthwhile goal. Only
simple goals can be finished in a half an hour. And when depression keeps you
from finishing a plan, you have to start over when you get the gumption to get
back to it, if you get back to it at all.
Fantasy is like a single play in football, where every play ends in a touchdown.
There are no ‘plays’, no strategy. In life, you have to persist over many, many
plays, struggling for every yard. You don’t shoot for a touchdown every time.
You try for a first down, and then another and then another as you creep toward
the goal. You don’t learn strategies in fantasy, they aren’t needed.
Not only are there no steps in fantasy, there are no rewards. When the fantasy
is done, that world evaporates. In reality, whether you win or lose you get a
result. You will get a lesson. Fantasy offers no lessons.
There’s no time in fantasy. Things can take as long as you want, good times last
as long as you focus on them. In reality you have to put up with movies that are
over, and ushers that tell you it’s time to leave the building.
Fantasy has no friction. The world is like a smooth sheet of glass. You can fly
and glide and teleport across time and space. In reality the rubber has to meet
the road. The road provides the friction to move you forward. You have to have
friction, it’s the grip of the tires on the road.
In fantasy you can have perfection. The princess is flawlessly beautiful. The
castle is strong and well-built. In reality perfection is not only impossible,
chasing perfection will always get in the way of getting what’s ‘good enough’.
In reality you need to get things good enough and move on to the next thing. If
you don’t, you find yourself always far behind where you want to be because
you’re waiting for the ‘perfect’ opportunity. In reality the best way to move
forward fast is to get things good enough and then ask, “what’s next?”.
Fantasy is a road trip, and reality is moving and having a life.
– Anonymous

Lying in bed sick one morning, with no other distractions, I just listened to my heartbeat for a while.

As I lay there, I pondered the nature of my heart.

It was utterly amazing to me when I seriously considered that my heart keeps beating, day after day, year after year, consistently working without a break.

My entire being depends on it, and it provides the breath of life to every part of my body.

The more I need it, the harder it works.

If I clog it with grease, it doesn’t complain, just works as hard as it can with what its got.

I would immediately die without it.

 

And then it struck me…

This is why the heart is the symbol for love.