Contact Me

If you like what you see, then follow me!

Sign up for live free seminars and workshops through our company, Absolute Potential, LLC. We also do skype personal touch--a coaching service for individuals, groups, and organizations.

Please feel free to post comments & ask questions on the blog or via email: lifetime2love@gmail.com

Friday, September 9, 2011

Melissa Stockwell (www.melissastockwell.com): A World Away. Again.

Melissa Stockwell (www.melissastockwell.com): A World Away. Again.: So, I’m over 2 months from writing my last entry but forgive me if I focus on what’s happening today instead of what’s happened in the past....

Not just motivational, but inspirational. You can go beyond boundaries & do whatever you'd like to do all it takes is courage, stamina, and an unwavering spiritual belief. This is what digging deep is all about--what have you done today to dig deep and produce BIG results?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Share this Profile

Share this Profile

Check out my profile on NAPW too!

YourTango Expert!

How exciting! I've taken the plunge, and found my community.

Enjoy the new articles I posted today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+, & Instilling Ethics, Values, and Social-Emotional Intelligence

I wrote an article today on Google+. What are the ramifications and implications if we forget to instill ethics, values, and social emotional intelligence in our younger generations as they grab hold of this latest technology. Check out the article on eZine soon!

Monday, July 11, 2011

New Content on Absolute Potential, LLC's Website!

Check out the new content!

Let me know if you like the new format. Included Site Map on each page for easier navigation too.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Lifetime to Love--Sharing Unconditional Love: The Royal Wedding

A Lifetime to Love--Sharing Unconditional Love: The Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding

Have you watched any part of the Royal Wedding? I'm curious to hear why you're watching. The theories abound from wanting to watch a real fairytale unfold, to wanting to be part of a global phenomenon. What's yours?



While thinking and wishing and hoping for great relationships is fun to daydream about--and having a prince charming or cinderella, why not learn some skills that will help you snag and keep your partner for life! The one that's just right for you. You can also use what you learn at work too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mother's Day & Parenting as a Gift

Today, as I was posting comments on Psychology Today about parental influence on tweens and teens, I found I had a lot to say. The article that follows will be up on Your Tango under our Pro Connect profile. The title should be something to the effect of Mothering Tweens and Teens--The Gift that Keeps on Giving. Let me know what you think!

The focus today for commenting tended toward the life and relationships arena rather than business. Another article on Psychology Today I commented on for Mars Venus Coaching was to clarify what John Gray's material does teach in regards to the genders being different, but equal--and the importance of actually respecting the differences to make relationships stronger. The author was asserting that all Mars Venus material did was focus on differences, and by not focusing on the similarities it causes disparity and tears relationships apart.

And then the last article I found to comment on MSN's site was in regards to family dynamics! We just passed Easter when a lot of families get together, and the response is perfect timing for the next holiday, Mother's Day! By identifying the family dynamics going on in your current family of origin, and the one you came from--you can alleviate much pain and suffering throughout the years when you don't see eye to eye with your parents. You learn what battles to fight, and what ones you'll respectfully agree to disagree.

Establishing open, honest relationships in your family, and with anyone else you come in contact with on a daily basis does just this: honors and respects people for who they are and what they bring to the table.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Clean Your Relationships!

Jump into spring by making a continued committment to carry out your New Year's resolutions.

New content up on the Teens and Tweens page, as well as Intimacy page.

The question to ask yourself is this--is what you have been doing in your relationships up to this point working for you?

At any point, you can always learn new skills to help you have healthier relationships. Your relationships do not need to be cut off, you don't need to break up, you don't need to raise your kids as a single parent, you can reconcile, you can start over after loss, grief, or divorce. To do this--learn new ways to interact with others, care for yourself by putting your needs first, and parent kids so they take the best of what you have and carry it forward into their lives.

Anything is possible--if you take action. Make a plan to learn new things, implement the plan. Tackle your goals instead of just thinking about them. Take responsibility and control of your life.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Updates

Sometimes we question what life is all about.

As I work on branding for my company, Absolute Potential, LLC, and I explain to others how I'm involved as a coach promoting gender intelligent communication with Mars Venus Coaching...I keep coming back to my main focus--relationships.

Without relationships and effective communication--we have conflict, misunderstandings, and suffering.

This is what I'm attempting to do--help alleviate suffering, so people can get back to loving life, loving others, and being loved in return.

I cannot tell you how many times in the past week I heard that we shouldn't love our jobs.

My answer is to go after what you love in life. Take a bite out of the world. Put your mark on it. Make it a better place for other people. Someone out there wants what it is you have to offer. Do not sit on it, wait for the right time, do it now. Do something today that takes you one step closer. Love your life.

Act. Take responsibility. And, connect.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

About Life: Creating & Balance

Hello! Life's about creating things. And, I've been caught up lately in getting my business registered and launched, instead of posting blogs here. I am also contributing articles for a number of different news sources..., as well as commenting about six times a week on blogs (BNET, Financial Times, Forbes, Psychology Today, Life Inc./Today Show, Lifestyle/MSN) as the Mars Venus Coaching, Corporate Media Relations specialist.

So, yes, there is balance. And I dropped the personal blog ball as I juggled the set up of Twitter, our company Facebook page, and LinkedIn into the air. I'm almost there....and will be now focused on getting more content on the profiles up..., as I also do my real job! And then my real "real" job of growing our child! And my third job of being a supportive wife, sister, and daughter!

I'm also up on She's Connected (Lyndsay Katauskas and Coach Lyndsay) and Your Tango (as Mars Venus Coaching and Lyndsay Katauskas)....events are posted there as well as articles.

So...in the meantime, if you're still interested in what I'm writing about--the information is phenomenal...follow me on--
Twitter: AbsolutePotenzi
Facebook: Mars Venus Coaching with Absolute Potential, LLC
LinkedIn: Absolute Potential, LLC
Website: www.absolute-potential.com

I love the comments, and the greatest compliment you can give is to refer my work to your friends and family.

To a little creating each day, and keeping the balance!

One last note...I have had several friends lately say they are interested in becoming a coach too. So, if you're reading this, and you're interested in being a coach too, then let me know!

We are all scattered all about, but one of the ways I've set the biz up is to do either weekly group coaching sessions or 1-on-1 coaching sessions over the phone or on Skype. I will always pick Skype with video over any of the tele- options, so we can cue in on nonverbal communication as well as verbal..., so if you're interested in setting up an action plan where you spell out how to get yourself from where you are now to being a coach, or whatever you've being dreaming about...let me know. That's what I do. I get you started and the ball rolling so that dream doesn't stay ether, but actually becomes your reality.

Back to blog commenting!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Golden Rule

Treat others as you would like to be treated. It is a very simple concept, yet we as the human race manage to bungle it up royally. For me, I get confused when I see people, myself included, sometimes acting out of our own fears or saying things aloud (from our negative self-talk), without really thinking what the consequences of our interactions will be with others if we choose to focus on the negative, rather than the positive aspect of the situation. I get confused, because the easiest way for me to understand the golden rule is by saying to myself, "God is Love." I say this to myself, because it's a quick KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) to remind me to flip from the negative fear-based emotion, to a positive love-based one. And, if I can flip whatever it is I am thinking, doing or saying to the positive--then I will be following the golden rule, and responding to any given situation from a place of love(that's also where acceptance, forgiveness, encouragement, and understanding live).

So why don't we automatically treat others like we want to be treated? The simple answer is we don't think. We aren't putting ourselves in the other person's shoes. And if it is too hard to make that leap to trying to see how another person might be viewing the situation..., then we probably aren't treating ourselves with love in the first place. When we treat others with unconditional love, accepting them for who they are without judgment, we give both ourselves and others respect and space to grow. If, for example, we say, “Happy Holidays!” and someone’s response is “bah-Humbug!” It is okay. For whatever reason, they are not having a good day. It is not about you. There is no reason to get upset. If this someone’s response would have been, “you too!” or “Have a great day too!” Then, great! If you give someone a present whether it is your time, knowledge, or an actual present, then it is not a present if you expect something back in return. If you give freely, then it is a present, because you are giving with no expectations. Rather than get upset at someone else’s MIS-behavior, why not just treat them nicely in return. Isn’t that how you’d want to be treated (with patience, understanding, forgiveness), if you were having a not too hot day?

My wish is for us to treat both ourselves better, and others too. Our life here is so short, and it is filled with so many hardships as it is, why not send love out into the world rather than anything else. I am making a commitment to myself on those days when I wake up to choose to share my love with the world, rather than anything else. In practical terms it means when my hubby asks me just as I wake up how I slept, instead of focusing on the hair sticking up every which way, the not enough sleep aspect, or the fact I’m NOT a morning person…I’m going to choose to focus on those great dreams I had instead…and say, “Great! And the day will be wonderful too!” Peace and joy during the last few days before we can relax with family and friends over the holidays! So enJOY today, and share with others how you'd like to be loved yourself!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Creating Balance to Achieve Joie de Vivre...Daily!

Creating balance in your life when it has become unbalanced is a lot like hopping back on a bicycle. Do you actually remember what balance feels like? Like hopping back on a bike, or trying something new for the first time...you don't know until you've tried it. If you don't know if you've had balance, then why not try changing things up in your life if what you have been doing hasn't been working? Do you remember if you ever experienced balance before? How do you know when you've achieved "balance?"

I think life in itself is a fluid movement through time and space, it is an ongoing process and is never the same from one moment to the next. So even the question, how do you know when you've "achieved" balance can be somewhat misleading, until you recognize that achieving balance is largely left up to the interpreter. For me I gage this by when the momentary glimpses of that feeling "all is well in life" changes to an all out flowing stream of a sense of well-being both within myself (internal dialogue), and with all that is around me. What I mean by this is that the space I choose to put myself in--both with the people I interact with, and the actions I choose to do on a daily basis to bring my purpose in life
(which for me is helping others unlock their potential and experience joy in their life..., because they are attending to their higher calling in life) to fruition all synchronize together. The momentum builds from spurts and sputters to a constant state, and if you can get enough energy built with positive emotions, good intentions, and spot-on actions---you find yourself in a perfect state of balance, and the best way I can describe this is through the phrase: joie de vivre--the joy of living. To me this means that you are 100% totatlly in the present moment. We've all experienced this at different moments in our life. Think of that feeling of limitless possibilities when you've attended a birth, graduation, wedding, etc. I am not content for mere glimpses of joy. I challenge myself to make this a constant state--and for me it turns living life from a struggle of the mundane, and coping with the stresses in life to a journey with ups and downs...I turned my struggle into a journey when I became responsibile for what happens to me, and then decided resiliency is they only way to go when I'm beat down. Regrouping, bouncing back from the setbacks of the downs, and turning the frowns upside down is what has allowed me to let go of the fear of the unknown or hurts I've experienced to find peace, humility, and forgiveness. This in turn lets me acknowledge that I really do not know anything, this is all a learning experience, and I grow the most when I'm questing after balance and keeping joie de vivre as a constant state. When I forget this, I face slipping back into a struggle.

For me, I found that when I choose creating balance as a way to structure my life, then to do lists or memories from the past are not part of this picture. So, yes, you must cross off your to-dos, however, if you don't get everything in today, it's okay, re-asses, and make a plan to stay on track, and get it done the next day. You decide the only moment that matters is now, and that yes you absolutely need to create a picture of what you want your future to look like by identifying your short and long term goals, writing up a good 90 day plan in conjunction is even better, and someone that can hold you accountable to your richly imagined, specific action plan is imperative..., but you do all that so that you can cut loose and ENJOY the MOMENT! When you have a fluid plan in place, it means that you are anticipating change, are open to adapting as the moments present themselves to you, but you have a good idea of where it is you'd like to go. Having said that, when you have a vision, with goals, and a plan, and someone to hold you accountable to stick to your dreams...then you also unstick yourself from your past. In fact, when you are forward-looking you are acknowledging the only time you do have any influence over is the present moment, the past is over, and you're intentions can help influence where you want to go in the future, but the only control you really have is right now, and your ability to adapt, be resilient and work the situation to your advantage...

If you find yourself stuck in a rut of having similar "bad" feelings, which are attached to the thoughts and actions you find yourself choosing to take part in..., then one of the best ways to supercharge yourself out of the "yuck" is to focus on your vision, create some short and long term goals with detailed specifics of the action you need to take and what the desired result and outcome will be if you stick with your action-oriented goals...In other words, you choose to focus on your present moment, and where you want to go. In essence, you take over control of your life, and begin brainstorming ways you can change so that you may get to that point of joie de vivre. I have found in my own life I am able to stay in a constant state of joie de vivre when my vision, goals, and action plans are synchronized with my thoughts, feelings, and actions. I leave myself no room to get stuck in what may be holding me back from actualizing my dreams, and I don't get ahead of myself by wishing for a better future, because I choose to live that dream in the moment doing the things I need to do to be in congruence.

How? By marrying how I am feeling, with positive thoughts, and actions that are on my to-do list. Once you can get everything working in harmony, thoughts/feelings/actions and you've created the quality time you need to feel alive with friends, family, your purpose in life; you are nourishing your mind by keeping it stimulated by learning new things; you are feeding your body with live healthy food; you are tending your body by moving, dancing, exercising; and you are developing your soul/spiritual side through prayer, meditation, etc...it all comes together, and at least for me balance is achieved. It goes from momentary glimpses of joie de vivre (think momentuous celebratory occasions such as graduations, weddings, births...), to joie de vivre ALL the time! The catch after all that hard work to get everything in-line internally, and with your external relationships..is to be consciously aware that a balanced state is always in motion, and can mean something different from one moment to the next. So, to answer the question, how do you know when you've achieved balance....you know when you relinquish perfection, when you are not in stagnation, and you embrace changing it up! When you have joy, there is no other room for any other emotion..., and as fleeting as it may be in the beginning, there is ALWAYS the possibility for a constant state. For most of us (me included, oh boy, me included)...you can view it as a constant struggle, or a challenge to inject zest into your life so all the moments--even the most painful--create a beautifully flowing mosaic that is your life, and you view it through the lens of unconditional lens and the humble awareness that we don't know it all.

And this moment--it's a beautiful thing--and a beautiful celebration of the way we are, and our hope we all have that one day we may fulfill our potential...and that the easiest way to do this is to fulfill the potential we have moment by present moment. May you have happy travels! My dream is for you to feel the joy I am sending you, so that your burdens are lighter, and you are encouraged to fight with your whole being to never give up spreading the light within yourself to others. You can do it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thinking About It vs. Doing It

Do you have a big "it" in life that you think about, dream about, talk about..., but you hesitate to really take the actions necessary to make the "it" a reality? After much research, planning, and thinking…I’ve decided to leap into a new path in life. Some people like blindly leaping into new aspects of their life. Some prefer to know a bit before they jump. And, some like to know everything there is to know and they either forget to jump or never get around to jumping. Since these are the three camps people fall into when faced with change—I made a choice first that I wanted to be informed (rather than leap blindly) and secondly, because I was embracing change I would make the information I gathered work towards my goal of change rather than face stagnation (and not leap at all). So I spent some time gathering information, checked in with whether the choice gave me feelings of happiness or dread in two scenarios: (1) if I made the change, and (2) if I didn’t make the change…I ascertained that making the change gives me feelings of joy and daring, and not making the change would leave me more forlorn than energized, so I went ahead and leapt. As my son says, “Oh me, oh my” it is scary, but more than that it feels more like an “oh yay, oh boy!” type of exhilaration. Is it the right time? I’m not sure, but I think so. Knowing my work ethic, character, and creativity—I’d say I’ll make it work and be successful as failure is not an option. (I do realize there will be setbacks, I expect and embrace them, but from these I will grow and adapt so I do not consider them to be failures.)

So how do you like to embrace change? How would you like to embrace the stresses that come along with new ground? How do you maintain that balance? Where do you really put your faith when you have to make these decisions?

All of these questions pertaining to finding your purpose in life fascinate me. While I was busy researching and getting my feet wet just to see if I really wanted the change I just called into my life I found myself at a tipping point from being informed to being bogged down with details and planning. I began navigating the scary waters of Doubt and Overwhelming, and before my head went under I remembered I had a life vest! Hallelujah! Ever heard of the brand Faith? It truly is a life saver. For I know deep down in my gut that when I choose to do things out of good intentions, then what follows is abundance. And in that dwelling place of abundance I am able to give more of myself out of the gratitude that I can and am able to do so. And I jumped.

I hope whatever changes in life you may be facing—whether they are big or small—this gives you en-COURAGE-ment to leap into a more abundant life. To see any setbacks as growing pains that may not be fun to go through, but once on the other side when you can view them in a more positive light, they will lead you to more joy. More jumps. And more opportunities to embrace life for what it is an ever-changing journey of ups and downs. It is all in how you choose to think and act. The only moment we truly have control over is the present. And, remember, if you’re stuck JUMP! And, if you're paralyzed with indecision...physically (no more metaphors here) stand up and jump until you fall down in a pile of giggles, and then do something to take that leap of faith so joy is ever present in your life. By the way, did you know the only time you can feel and hold on to joy is when you are living in the present moment?!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quality Time

One of the best things for me about the Thanksgiving holiday is the time my family is able to devote to nurturing our relationships. It is one of the times during the year that when you tell other people you have family coming in and you’re going to be busy with them—that you are granted a free pass to put off those other “pressing” matters for a moment. The only time we have is the present. And, when I’m given the blessing of my family all in one place, that’s all I’m able to focus on. And, while I like it this way, and I attempt to create this boundary of sacred family time on a daily basis…where the focus is my family (when we’re not at work and checking in or being plugged in to technology is not okay)...I wish we granted ourselves more leniency to give these relationships the attention they need on a daily basis. Quality time for me is one of the ways that my cup in life is not just half full, but brims over. It refreshes me when I am able to link back up with my family of origin in ways that are indescribable. It is such a joy to see them with my son and husband, and for us all to interact with my husband’s family too. The long runs and dance classes my sister and I were able to do together over the past few days did wonders for my soul…Playing soccer and football with the little one, okay, it was more like chasing the balls around up and down hills…but still, that precious outdoor time with my family…The time with my mom shopping and preparing the thanksgiving meal…The trip to the petting farm, s'mores, and the biting wind brought up memories of childhoods past, and the sharing of this tradition with new family members…Cramming everyone about the table to give updates in our lives and what’s most pressing on our minds coming from all over the country. We had deaths in both my family and my husband’s in the last year—and as we were saying our prayers of gratitude—I could feel them with us. In a way it is a marrying of the past with the present. There is so much busyness in our lives today. Why? There are good stressors and bad stressors, but often it seems as if there is no time to recover from these stressors. Why do we do this to ourselves? Our many to-do lists never seem to get shorter, only longer. Why? So let me get back to why quality time with those that I love fills me up to overflowing with gratitude and love. For me this “time” is the essence of life. It is what most of my memories revolve around; not grocery shopping, meal preparation, paying bills, working, house cleaning, etc. The hugs, belly laughter, and inane humor (which only your family understands), the stories, the playing, and enjoying each others company good moods and bad—it’s wonderfully rejuvenating. Why? I know the answer to this question…it’s because you can, because you are able, because you’ve been granted the time together. This quality time together for me is priceless. And, it helps me get through all those other days. Until we meet again. The sooner the better!

Now I know it’s not New Year’s yet (I wish a lot for many people on a regular basis—but this is a big one—and I’m putting it out there in print!), but my wish is that everyone who reads this finds that calm well of happiness. For me it’s quality time with those I love. For you, it may be something else. But, I hope you find it—and are able to tap into this well that makes you feel gratitude and alive with life. And, I hope you bottle it up for all those rainy days when it may be tempting to look at a half empty glass instead. Why do I wish this wish? So you always know you are loved, cherished, and that you are an amazing blessing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Do We Really Want Healthier Relationships?

When do you get to the point that you realize what you are doing in your relationships are not working? How long does it take until you see a pattern with the way your intimate relationships keep failing? When is it okay to say, “hey, I know I need help, let me allow myself to find it?” If we read fitness articles and work out to have a healthy body, why not read about and do new things to have healthier relationships? When do you get to the point where you say, “stop already, tell me how to do it a better way?” Why do people sometimes get sex confused with intimacy? Why do we think everyone else has what we want, but we don’t clearly know what we want ourselves in a relationship?

How do you find and maintain joy? Living in the present moment, and learning new ways to deal with emotions, think more optimistically, and behave in ways that make things better...these have all helped me.

The fastest spring-board though lately for me has been dancing. The joy of celebrating my body as it is and turning off any past or future pressures in my head...it works! It produces oxytocin, reduces my cortisol load, and clears out my perspective--so I can then make sound, logical, decisions. I can see clearly where I want to go, and I can kick out anything that is toxic or not working to move me forward relationship-wise.Dancing has gotten me away from thinking and analyzing, and trying to put information out there to help people achieve more happiness and healthiness in their relationships. Dancing has helped me to scrap any of the doubt or fears I have about what I'm doing to make my part of the world better. It has helped me to connect on deeper levels with others than I ever could have just by blabbing about how to learn new skills...

So I say, dance. Dance like your heart needs it to survive. Joy will follow. When you are moving in the moment, there is no room for fear, or anger, or any other downers. You empower yourself and give yourself permission to experience the joy of life, and the love of yourself. Imperfections and all. It clears out room--so you can get better at any of the areas you want to improve in your life. So I say, if you have a dilemma, or a big decision to make, or you downright want to curl up into a ball or go down into a hole and not come back up for a week--I say turn on the tunes and dance. Dance, and after you are laughing and out of breath--then ask yourself if you still feel the way you did minutes before that salsa or cumbia came on...

Dance like there is no tomorrow. Make it contagious, and when you are so full of euphoria, sweep others along with you in the whirlwind of Joy! Love! Laughter! Life!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Emotions: Helpers or Control-Freaks?

Recently my husband and I received some “great” news. In fact, it was so “great” it had a rock plummeting to the bottom of my stomach, and made me wonder if I needed to make a run to the bathroom. The news was so “lovely” the only thing we could do in those first few minutes was fixate on how we were being meddled, okay screwed, over by someone who has attacked something dear to us _____ (you may fill in the blank here). After the initial onslaught of emotions—I woke up. I could either let the emotions ruling my body control the rest of the perfectly lovely (not “lovely”) evening with my family, or I could choose to see the emotions for what they were…an indicator that something may be amiss with the way I see my world, and then I could decide how I’d like to re-direct my emotions so it wouldn’t ruin the rest of my evening. Oh, so you caught me out! The news wasn’t “great,” it was downright debilitating those first few minutes, you could even say our neighbors Despair and Frustration knocked on our door at the exact same time followed by Mr. Angry…, but then I remembered something I knew before the news came in through our door. Would you like to know what that newsy advice was that helped me flip the switch back to ON so our rock-and-rolling evening could continue? I remembered our emotions don’t control our actions; emotions are merely helpers to give us added information about whether we need to stay, scream, flee, or laugh. Emotions let us know if we like what we’ve heard or seen, or if we don’t. If we are able to identify our emotions, then we can keep that current flood of emotions ON and stay in that present emotion and situation, or we can flip that switch to OFF and CHOOSE to switch ON another emotion (one that makes us feel good) to help influence our following actions. The “great” news we had could have easily devolved our evening into one of anger (remember if you’re angry, then there is ALWAYS a secondary or underlying fear-based emotion involved as well) and frustration. Some may also know this as going down Victim Avenue. Sure we let the emotions roll through us, but we decided not to contain them or let them fester. In fact, we did spend a little time dwelling with the initial reaction, but then I chose to feel good rather than to feel bad. Now if you are wondering where my husband’s emotions were in all this—yes he was upset initially, but for men when someone knocks on the door with a problem, Emergency Man comes out of hiding, he gets a flood of testosterone (stress reducer in men)—and he is there ready to solve the problem. In women, when we are stressed our emotion centers of the brain light up like a Christmas tree. Not so for men. It’s just how we’re wired differently, and how our hormones react differently between the sexes. For women when under stress, because the emotion center of our brain is on fire, we tend to have to talk about the situation and ruminate about what we are feeling so that our stress reliever (oxytocin) may be released to calm us down. (If you’re more interested about balancing stress read Dr. John Gray’s Venus on Fire Mars on Ice; which talks all about how to balance hormones for both sexes.) The news we are dealing with, yes, it’s a threat to what we deem our safety and security, but it did not call for immediate action last night. It has called for some action today—and we’re still going through the motions, and figuring it all out…but let’s go back to last night. REWIND: I still had to clean up dinner, get the kiddo ready for bed, and spend some relaxation time with my hubby (DO YOU SEE THIS? WHATEVER THE NEWS---I STILL AM GONNA SPEND THAT DOWN TIME WITH MY HUBBY CUDDLING…etc. You know why? I need it to stay sane. And nothing, NOTHING, is going to come between me and my time with my hubby. Our relationship is more important than any other factors happening in our lives. Okay, then!)---so I decided to choose NOT to let the current emotions from the “great” news affect the rest of our evening, because given the news, it was not going to be solved tonight, nor the next day; in fact, it will be ever present in our lives for a few days, okay—a few months—to come. So, I chose not to let the emotions rule our roost. Instead, I turned me on some Zumba tunes, and I cleaned up from dinner, packed lunches, and danced away. This enabled me to re-center myself, go back to my hubby and say, “hey, I know we can’t solve this tonight, we’ll get through this, but let’s turn the tables. Let’s choose to make the ‘great’ news into a positive—something we can work with and grow from and that will make us stronger.” (Note—the definition of resiliency…) And, off we danced. Down went our son for the night. And, ahhh, the neighbors went home—and we had time all to ourselves. Sure we did some what-ifs and problem-solving, but it was more logical, clear-headed and easy to shelve so we could take some us time too before we hit the sack! And guess what? I chose right! How about you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do You Listen as Well as You Think You Actually Listen?

Often we think we are listening to someone, only to find out that we missed what they said. Either we were busy listening instead to the voices in our head, or we've become distracted by whatever is happening around us. When people ask how they can have better relationships with others, the first thing I point them to is active listening. What is the difference between listening and active listening? When you are "actively" listening, you are attending to what the other person is saying by silencing the voices in your head, paying attention to their verbal and nonverbal actions, and reflecting back what the other person is saying. The key to active listening is recognizing that there are blocks that prevent us from staying in the moment and paying attention to what the person is saying right in front of us. That is half the battle--knowing and acknowledging that there are these listening blocks. Once you understand what these blocks are--when you find them happening to you as you are trying to listen to someone, you can then choose to turn them off, and re-focus your attention on what the person in front of you is saying....verbally and non-verbally.
By the way, did you know that we gather most of our information from nonverbal cues, not verbal? That’s an interesting fact in light of how much time we spend on social media sites, and not interacting face-to-face with one another. (This is why I love SKYPE!) That's why it is so hard sometimes when we are using social media sites/texts/emails to pick up on the conversational tone of someone's posts!

Later on we can explore one by one how we can switch the listening blocks off, so we can become more effective listeners. First let's read about the listening blocks themselves!
For now though here are the twelve most common listening blocks (these blocks are commonly taught, and are also summarized at the above link):

1. Comparing
When you compare--it is hard to hear what the other person is saying, because you are busy seeing if you are smarter, more competent, more healthy emotionally, if you've suffered more, or if you're a bigger victim...An example of this is: "She said she ate that for breakfast, well I only ate an apple, and I'm so much thinner than her..."

2. Mind Reading
It is difficult to pay attention to what other people are saying when you are instead busy trying to figure out what the other person is "really" thinking or feeling. If you do this, then you may assume things without fully listening to the facts. You may also make assumptions about how other people react to you, and act on the assumptions, rather than what the person is saying. For example, "She said she hates it when her son's friend comes over to play, but does she really hate the kid, or does she dislike not being able to walk around in her pajamas?"

3. Rehearsing
When you rehearse what you are going to say after the person finishes talking, then your attention is on preparing and developing what you are going to say, rather than what the other person is saying to you. For example: You attempt to look interested, but inside your head your wheels are turning about, "first I'm going to say this, then she'll say this, then I'm going to say that..."

4. Filtering
You pay attention only enough to pick up on the other person's emotional state, and once you've identified that--you let your mind wander to other things. You listen to some things, and not others. Sometimes you're so good at this--that you block out anything negative or unpleasant--it's as if it never happened. Such as: Your girlfriend calls you up because she is pissed off again that someone cut her off on the road, you ascertain she's angry--let her rant--and think about what you are going to make for dinner. Or, your partner is talking about finances and you hear agitation in your partner's voice, so you decide to say "mm-hmm, I'm sorry" and think about when you can change the tire on your mountain bike.

5. Judging
When you judge, you afix a negative label to something, giving enormous power to a prejudice, which causes a "knee-jerk" reaction before you have actually heard and evaluated the content of the message. As judging pertains to listening, we should only make a judgment after the facts have been heard. For example: Someone driving a luxury car rolls down their window and asks you for money while you are pumping gas into your car. Before the window is even rolled down, you've already decided that the person is hypocritical and crazy to be peddling money. When, in fact, the person was asking for a few bucks so they could... (are you still passing judgment or listening to what the person was going to say? :o) )

6. Dreaming
While you are listening half-way, you hear the person talking to you say something..., and all of a sudden you're playing flashbacks in your head that have nothing to do with the conversation. We tend to daydream when we are either bored or anxious. We all do it, but if you find yourself daydreaming a lot with specific people, it may mean you are not appreciating them, committed to the relationship, and you do not value what they have to say. For example, Your mom is talking to you about going to the doctor for her asthma. Cheese and crackers would be great to serve when the neighbors come over to carve pumpkins. And the next thing you hear your mom say is: "thanks honey, I always knew I could count on you to tell me what to do."

7. Identifying
You take anything and everything a person is telling you, and refer it back to what has happened to you. Whatever they are saying reminds you of something that has happened to you, you've felt, or suffered through--and you are so busy busting into the conversation to tell your own story, before they've finished, that you neglect to hear or get to know the other person better. For example, a co-worker is talking about his broken toe, but this reminds you of when you stubbed your toe, and then your boyfriend stepped on it, and then your dog sat on it...

8. Advising
You love solving problems and are there to offer help and suggestions. Heck, you're so good, you don't even need to listen to the full story, how the person felt or what they were thinking. Instead you are thinking up solutions and how you can convince someone to "try it," before you've heard what is most important to them--and that could just be having someone listen to them re-tell their story, acknowledge their feelings, and just be there.

9. Sparring
This block has you arguing and debating with people. Consequently, the other person never feels heard, because you're so quick to disagree. In fact, a lot of your focus is on finding things to disagree with. You take strong stands, are very clear about your beliefs and preferences. The way to avoid sparring is to repeat back and acknowledge what you have heard. You could also find one thing they have said that you do agree with and start the conversation from there.
--The put-down is another form of sparring. When you do this you use sarcastic remarks as a way to dismiss the other person's point of view. Your wife is cleaning up the dishes and sighs. You say, "why don't you use your brain today, use the dishwasher so you can finish faster." You're feeling neglected, and want more of her attention, and you think this will help her finish up and pay attention to you. Her reply is, "Unlike you putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, I actually like the dishes to be clean when I unload the dishwasher so I don't have to spend more time washing them again!" These kinds of replies can push you into hostile retorts.
--Discounting is another form of sparring. You do this when you are unable to withstand or accept compliments. "Oh, making fondue from scratch was nothing really..." The other person will often feel run down or discouraged, because they are trying to show their appreciation, and you are not acknowledging their feeling of thanks.

10. Being Right
Being right means you will go to any lengths (twist the facts, start shouting, make excuses or accusations, call up past sins) to avoid being wrong. You cannot listen to criticism, you cannot be corrected, and you cannot take suggestions to change. Your convictions are unshakable. And since you will not acknowledge that your mistakes are mistakes, you just keep making them.

11. Derailing
You change the subject—either because you are uncomfortable or bored with the topic. It could be you want to avoid feeling anxious, so you’ll make jokes or quips, so that you don’t have to have a serious conversation.

12. Placating
You like it when people like you, so you agree with everything. You like to be seen as pleasant, supportive, nice. Sometimes you may say things like, “right…oh, absolutely, …I know…mm-hmm, of course….really?...Oh sure, I think that too…” Instead of tuning in and examining what is being said, you may listen half-way to get the drift, so you can placate, but never really get involved.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sign me up for a lifetime of love like that!

Does anyone get excited about the fact they are married/committed, and their mate loves them warts and all? The fact that he or she will be with you until the day you die? That no matter what you or say or do, you’ll be forgiven? How about the fact that you get to bear witness to the greatness of your mate on his/her life journey? How awesome is that? You, and in turn he/she, gets to be privy to all the things you do and say in your life! So, when you are switching jobs or your babies are leaving the nest, or you find yourself dealing with grief, death, economic hardships—you name it—you have someone that is there to hold your hand and get you through life’s ups and downs! At the end of your life, someone will have witnessed and been a part of the greatness that is you. That even though ___-years down the road you’re not going to have the same body you did when you first met, but he or she is gonna love you sags, bags, and all, because you promised and made a commitment to each other oh so long ago… That you don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be honest and real. And ladies, even though you look downright sexy with your hair and make-up done, your mate still find you sexy with hair mussed, and baby spit-up on your clothes…Sign me up! It is perhaps one of the most terrifying, but exhilarating things you can do in life, don’t you think? What makes it challenging I think at times is thinking of ways to keep things fresh. Playfulness and humor go a long way to making things fun in the bedroom! Silliness, for me at least, also helps with intimacy, no matter how strange that sounds. And, at the end of the day I know someone cares. They care what I’ve felt, said, or done for that one day. And the greatest thing I can do is to love him/her back, with no reservations or conditions. And in that loving, I can encourage and instill hope and I can cheer him/her on to be the best person he/she can be—to go after his/her dreams, to tinker on his/her hobbies, and to protect & provide for our family. I think this is pretty neat! Sign me up for a life time of love like that!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Balance--in relationships, with work, and achieving dreams

Balance. Balance with our relationships, our work, and marrying this to our dreams--do we have it? Are we willing to pay someone to work with us 1 on 1 to help us achieve these goals? No, seriously, I want to know. I'm willing to do what it takes to be the place you can come to work on these issues. I know the material and the interventions needed. I'm in the process of starting up my own small business to do just this, because I feel so passionately about getting the word out--to you.

That's what I am trying to find out. I have the requisite knowledge and interventions to help people out. I know what my passion and purpose in life is--to help others identify and achieve this balance in their relationships and to help align their work with what makes them feel alive and empowered to go and conquer their part of the world. The question is--how may I help you?

Would you prefer to do 1-on-1s in the privacy of your own home, and when you have a free 30 or 60 minute window? Are you interested in investing in yourself and beefing up your intra- (with yourself) and inter- (with others) personal skill sets?

I'm in the middle of trying to figure this out. I see tons of people connecting on social media sites, and tons more turning to online dating and matchmaking services. But then when I look at where the people are that have the knowledge & experience to share how you have a healthier relationship (i.e. not just an opinion, or anecdote--but actual skills you learn to change how you are coping with your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors), how you marry your dreams and visions to that of your work life so you feel balanced...where most people are going to find this information--it's not where these subject matter experts are located.

Yesterday I came across someone who has written a few books over the past 10 or so years delineating how to find the perfect mate..., and his books have been published, and you could say that he's successful. He's appeared on television shows, and I'm sure in newspaper and magazine articles as well. However, yup, here is the "but..." Until very recently, like in the past 2 years, he finally found someone and settled down. He even advertised that he was a serial dater. And, in my head, I'm going, "WHAT THE???" What? This isn't endemic to just one person, I've come across several people who fall in this category. And, it seems like it's the blind leading the blind, or babes teaching babes, however you want to cliche it. People are listening, paying even, this guy to give them information when he wasn't even heeding it himself? How is this possible? Where is the accountability and where is the actual verifiable proof that the tips he or she is giving is research and evidence based?

And the people who have have spent years of their life getting masters and doctorate degrees in the helping services (namely--counseling, psychology, marriage and family therapy--some may argue even social work)--now they are pouring their hearts into acquiring their state or national licenses...and all this wisdom and knowledge is kept in this arena. They tend to publish in scholarly journals, and conduct research, but when it comes to actually disseminating this information to the mass public--we (and I mean we as professionals with these degrees, gain credibility & experience, and we as a society) fall short. Divorce is over 50% in the U.S. now, and is highest among married couples in their first 5 years of marriage. I mean it's great if your insurance company will help you pay for the services or if you've been forced into receiving help, because you've received DUIs, etc., or have the time to take off an hour or two from work and drive to their office for a session--but these professions tend not to deal with people who for the most part have their life together...and are just looking for ways to do things better. I mean most single people looking for a committed relationship do not sign up for counseling or psychotherapy to learn more about the family system they came from, and what they need to know or learn so that they don't end up making the same mistakes they are running from with the new relationships they are forming--both with friends, co-workers, and in their partner.

So my question is this: if you are such a person who has realized whatever you're doing isn't working out the way you thought it would, and you want to know what you can do to get it right or have better relationships, not feel guilty at work, achieve that balance between happy/healthy mind/body/soul...do you know where to go to learn this stuph? And, where would be the best place? Would you like doing email/phone/skype sessions? Would it be easier if you could just go online to a website and slot yourself in for a 30, 45, 60 or 90 minute session with someone who does know how to teach or coach you in these areas: relationships, stress management, conflict resolution, goal setting, parenting, family dynamics? Would this help you in conjunction with using online dating/matchmaking services so that your next relationship will be successful--b/c you are changing your behaviors, identifying what it is you want in that relationship? Or...in that job change? Or in raising your kids to be healthy, balanced individuals?

I know this service is greatly needed. I've talked to dozens of counselors and coaches who know this is needed. I know it is needed. My question is--if I focus on starting up something like this--are there people out there willing to connect in this way, pay for this service, and have better relationships and more success achieving their goals and dreams?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stop Following Failed Celebrity Relationships! Stop!!! For Your Sanity!

So let me quickly say this...today it's a quick post, because I have to go do a P90X workout before my son wakes from his nap, and my hubby comes home from work! I need the me time, but I also have a deep need to share this information and get the word out there.

No, I am not taking on the world's problems, but I get quite agitated at times when it seems like everyone is hanging onto the failing relationships of celebrities, and then thinking that these people have it together. Looking at the big picture, these celebrities who have not known their mate more than 2 years before they married, and have been in a relationship with their mate for less than 5 years...they have no clue what a committed relationship even looks like or what it means. Why do we think their relationships are something worthy of following? They are doing what everyone else seems to be doing these days, chasing that love high cocktail. In this fast-paced society we are living in--we read headlines and cheap literature (i.e. magazines and fiction), we watch reality TV, movies, and sitcoms--and we pass off what we are seeing in these relationships as what the ideal is for a "good" relationship. These celebrities--and if we've fallen into the trap of not being able to keep a romantic relationship longer than 2 years ourselves--we're deceiving ourselves; in fact, we are in love with falling in love. The moment the going gets rough--we start packing. In the case of the celebs--they move to another state. Or they say they are taking a break. Really? Are you serious?

Come on people, when you decide that you've fallen in love, and you commit to being with them, you don't take a break or move away from them! Bottomline, love changes--there's new love (falling in love, infatuation....those first glorious 18-24 months of pure bliss!--whatever you'd like to call it), and then there is what I like to call mature love. The mature love is a continually evolving thing--and if you don't work at it (read learn skills so that you stay connected to your mate), then you will freak out when the blinders come off, the love cocktail wears off--and you see the person you've committed yourself to for who they really are a unique individual. Sadly, the places we turn to for the latest scoop as we frantically fly through life chasing the next greatest thing, do not show what this kind of love looks like. So as a society we are losing focus of what is required in a loving and healthy relationship. Yes, there is much out there in the way of scholarly journals where the experts know what you need to do to have this kind of a healthy relationship, but most of us don't know where or how or have the time to go hunting for this information.

So what can we do to get our personal relationships more balanced & healthier? How about focusing more on ourselves--and finding balance within our own body--be it what we eat, how we keep our body healthy through exercise, and in nourishing our spiritual side. The only control we have is over ourselves. Choose not to focus on others' failed relationships, but on ways you personally can improve yourself and your sense of well-being.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Healthy Relationships: Differentiation of Self

Did you know the better you are able to differentiate yourself from what is going on about you by thinking logically rather than emotionally, the healthier your relationships are with other people? Are you asking what the heck does differentiation of self mean, and why should I bother reading about it? Are you getting frustrated by reading magazine articles where you hear about failed relationships and it is either the person's opinion or anecdote from their life experience, and you can only live vicariously through whatever they are writing about during the act of reading, but you have no clue how to actually go about making the change yourself? Learning what differentiation of self is will help you to actively begin changing how you interact with others--so that you have more satisfying relationships. By reading about this you are taking an active skill-based approach to improving your relationships. Did you know that when you become aware of and decide that what you are doing is not working for you, AND you actively learn a new definition or a new skill, then you will put a plan into action enabling you to change how you interact with others!

Differentiation of self is a term Murray Bowen coined when he created the Bowen family systems theory. This theory is used by people as a guide to help them understand either their own or others family dynamics. After all none of us are born into or live our lives in a bubble. Everybody comes from some type of a family. All of us have some form of dysfunction in our families of origin. READ: There are no truly 100& functional families out there. The beauty of picking apart your family dynamics with your family of origin (the one you grew up in) is that you learn to see how you grew up in an objective (or non-emotional) way. This allows you to make a rational thought-out choice as to how you would like to interact in your future family (if you're not married or partnered yet) or the one you now find yourself in with your spouse/partner. Even if you are or were adopted or fostered understanding the eight concepts of the Bowen theory may help you figure out the family dynamics the family you grew up in (and if you're in a new one now) and how this affects how you interact with others.

Hopefully you've read a few of my previous posts about making your relationships healthier so this is just one more tool for your tool kit. Maybe you have even perused the more specific pages on my blog about your current relationship status (single, marrieds, GLBT partnerships...even teens and tweens) or about communication, brain differences between men and women, shared decision making, healthy conflict/anger management, intimacy issues, and even the differences between falling in love and mature love. If not, then please check it out! This post is the beginning of a series of posts that will be discussing how to better understand your family dynamics so you can have healthier relationships. And, if you're looking, then please become a follower, leave comments, send me an email with a question, or subscribe to my feed & share with your friends and family!

The easiest way I explain self differentiation is how well an individual is able to separate the way she/he thinks and feels from that of her/his family's point of view. People tend to function both intellectually and emotionally on a scale. When talking about this concept we tend to lump someone either into having a low/poor "self" differentiation or high/well "self" differentiation. Those with low differentiation tend to become entangled with the group think mentality of their family's emotions. In other words, these type of people depend on others for approval and acceptance. People with low differentiation will either conform to what others want them to do/be in order to please them, or they will attempt to force others to conform to their way of thinking/feeling. By attempting to morph into another person's way of doing/thinking/feeling OR controlling how another person acts/thinks/feels, these type of people tend to be more vulnerable to stress and it is harder for them to adjust to life changes.

Before you reject that you may fall in this camp, please note that NOBODY is able to perfectly conform to the ideal of having a well-differentiated "self." Why? We all grow up in family systems or belong to groups where there is a groupthink mentality of some form or another. We are all influenced to some degree by the way others think, feel, and act. That is what it is to have a relationship. However, when people have a higher (remember the continuum or sliding scale that people function on--you change how you function based on any given situation) differentiation of self, then they recognize they need others, but they tend to depend less on other people's acceptance and approval. This means that they are able to put their feelings on hold before they make a decision about important family and social issues (in other words they don't morph or take on the attitude and beliefs of those around them without first thinking through them). When people have a higher level of self differentiation, then they are more able to stay calm, level-headed, unemotional when they are in a conflict, rejected or criticized. When they find themselves in a conflict, rejected, or criticized they are able to act in the best interest for themselves or a group by staying calm so they can think through a situation based on facts rather than emotions. Whatever they decide matches both what they say and do.

On the scale of self differentiation then--people that are able to think through a situation, and not just react based on their emotions or the emotions of a group would be the ones with a higher differentiation of self.

Not to confuse matters....your level of self differentiation changes based on the situation. Everyone has two types of self differentiation: basic and functional. Your basic differentiation of self level is based solely on the level of your family of origin. Your functional differentiation of self level is based on skills you have learned to better cope under stress.

For example, if your parents have say a level of 40 on a 100 point scale (by the way--there are no actual scales that any professional measures you on when talking about this concept), then you will have a level of a 40. The only way your basic level EVER changes is through hard work re-learning family dynamics and actually putting in cognitive and behavioral changes into place. The more you are able to logically think through and react to a situation, the better you will be able to handle ANY situation or relationship.

In fact in order to have healthier relationships this is how you go about making your first changes, because now you will be able to control your emotions so you are able to be proactive and not reactive. In other words you go from a victim or bully mentality to one of empowerment. And this change is after years of work at re-patterning neural pathways in your brain. It is possible, but not probable that your basic level will change. HOWEVER, we all have another blessed level of differentiation of self and that is functional.

Your functional level is the one that you tend to operate at in your job and with friends when you are under "NO" stress. Meaning, if you get a deadline at work, or you have a tiff with a friend/neighbor/colleague...., then you tend to revert back to your basic level of differentiation of self. If you wonder why you do so well at work, but then your personal relationships suffer it is because you have two different ways of interacting with others. Becoming aware that your basic level of self differentiation is lower on the scale is the first step toward being able to operate consistently at your higher functional self differentiation level.

I will leave you with one last thing to think about...we just went over what differentiation of self means, and you probably put yourself on a sliding scale between having a poor or well differentiation of self. You've found out that most people (you included) have a higher functional level of self differentiation that they tend to operate at on a daily basis at work and with friends, but when subject to stress (conflict, criticism, rejection) they will find themselves reverting back to their basic level--the same level that their family of origin gave them. Our functional level is raised by learning coping skills so we are able to rationally think through things before making a decision, rather than letting our emotions dictate what we say and do. So....in regards to relationships, and if you are trying to find the love of your life. Guess what? You attract and mate with people of the same BASIC level of self differentiation. You may also read that you attract a mate with the same level of maturity. This is often why basic levels stay the same in families. The only way you attract someone with a higher basic level is if you have done the hard work with yourself of raising your functional level (through learning and putting coping skills into practice on a daily basis EVEN when you are not under stress), and you are able to be mindful and rational with your decision-making. This is one of the reasons why in co-dependent relationships where there is substance abuse or mental health issues....if only one person either the one with the problem or the unaffected partner decides to make an active change and operate at their functional level even when in conflict--the relationship falls apart.

Therefore, if you are in a relationship or looking for one we go back to the same basic point. The only way you have healthier relationships is if you are aware: (1) the only person or thing you control is yourself and your feelings, thoughts, actions, and (2) the only way you change this is through learning and putting these coping skills into practice! Pretty cool! You can and will have the relationships you desire if you're able to understand and implement these changes in your life!

I'd love to have you as a follower (I just found this out--good blogging etiquette--if you read a post, then you should post a comment). Ask questions! Leave comments! What is so great about learning these new things is that you are able to put words to whatever it is you are feeling and desiring to make better in your relationships. These terms give you a vehicle to rationally go about making changes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Format!

Let me know if you like the new format! I'm trying to figure out how best to present the information so that it is fun to read, and easy to navigate.

I've also updated the GLBT page, so check it out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kicking toxic relationships to the curb!

My housing development just sent me a reminder via email that on Friday there is a bulk trash pick-up. I just laid my toddler down for his nap...and I've been distractedly cleaning and organizing the house all day long trying to figure out what the heck we need to keep, what we can do without, and when I can start doing marriage education in our new city! This multi-tasking momma is wondering where super woman is when she needs her! I received the first reminder yesterday of the bulk trash pick-up. As I logged on to my blog a new reminder pinged in my inbox reminding me to clean out our house, again. Isn't that what I've been trying to do all day? We are still moving in to our house so items that worked in our other house don't necessarily belong here. So you may be able to see what I can't from my perspective simply because you are not attached to what looks like junk piles, but for me are trinkets attached to memories. What should stay, and what should go? There are piles of discard items, there are boxes of old clothes and trinkets, and there are cabinets I've just filled with stuph that is really better off purged out of our lives. Can I scoop these items up in less than an hour and a half and dump them for good? I have the sweet memories, so can't I just rid myself of the unneccessary clutter once and for all? So what am I able to get done in this precious hour and a half before the little one is up and begging to go play baseball outside in the lovely fall weather?

I absolutely love moving and new beginnings. There are so many opportunities to get it right this time--with setting up the house, enjoying new friendships with our neighbors, and figuring out where our new balance is for our family in terms of creating a stable family environment.

How come we continue to hang on to things that are no longer necessary? What I'm talking about here is no longer getting items ready for a bulk trash pick-up. What I'm talking about are the absurd relationships we sometimes have with others where we take on their garbage instead of giving them the space and encouragement to clean it up themselves. The negative self-talk that insinuates itself into our best conversations with our girlfriends or loved ones. Why do we expect someone else to clean up our mess? Why don't we just get a trash bag and put the yuck messes in there and move on? Where did that put-down come from? After living as long as we have, and knowing better than to dwell on the negative, why are we morbidly fascinated by it? In others lives, and our own? Why can't we just kick these thoughts and feelings to the curb once and for all?

Well, even if we are not moving in to a new home, or doing a fall cleaning before we hunker down for winter, we can still kick bad habits out for good.

How? By choosing to set a boundary around yourself where you only allow the good to penetrate how you decide to feel, think, and act in any given situation. It is that easy. We all find ourselves in toxic relationships where somehow we allow another person's "meanies" to get the best of us. The way they talk to us trying to manipulate our feelings and thoughts. Or, it could be a stranger just brushing by you and interacting in a rude way. We do have the choice to choose to react negatively or positively.

Did you know that when you notice your feelings first you can then choose how to react? If you notice that someone rubs you the wrong way, and it causes a plethora of negative emotions--you can notice these reactionary emotions, and then choose what you are going to do about it. You could either give in to the negative emotion(s) and act nasty back, or you can decide to be compassionate instead and act how you'd like to be calmed down in that situation. When you can identify a negative emotion in yourself, and then choose to think and act positively despite the yuck feeling you feel, then you can kick that toxic interaction to the curb. In other words, you are choosing to allow only what is good and helpful to you inside your nut shell.

We all find ourselves in toxic relationships, whether it is long term with people we know or short term with an acquaintance or stranger. We get to choose right in the moment to determine our outcome. After all the only thing we can control is ourselves in any given situation. Each time you choose to act from a positive stance, instead of giving in to a negative counter-reaction you create a barrier between yourself and the outside world where you choose to let the toxicity just roll away from you. There is no reason to feel stuck in toxic relationships once you know how to build up a barrier around yourself where you do not allow others negative feelings, thoughts, or actions penetrate the boundary between yourself and others. In fact, if you just let the other person be with their emotions, then you are practicing what I wrote about earlier--unconditional love. You grant them peace to feel and think what they want to feel without judgment. You love them whatever way they are presenting themselves to you. In this way, even if you're in a long term toxic relationship, you cannot be victimized or sucked in to this person's own misery. They may be saying mean and hurtful things to or about you. However, you've chosen to not let this affect your inner light. How amazing is this? When you can look and see a negative interaction for what it is, a hurting person intent on inflicting their negative self-talk onto someone else, then you become aware that the crap directed at you is NOT about YOU. It is ALL about THEM! And, you can either react negatively back, and get sucked into their hell hole, or you can choose to stay out and away from their garbage. Hmm.

I wish it were that easy with cleaning out your house for a bulk trash pick-up one day from now. All this thinking and feeling and writing about how to help others kick toxic relationships to the curb in the hopes this blog helps just one person deal with why someone is acting in such a mean way to them...happy dumping! I better get back to work!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Unconditional love. What is it?

We all want to be loved, but what does that mean? Contrary to popular belief, we cannot control how or what another person feels or thinks about us. So isn't the better question, how may I love others better?

Our primal need is to feel love. When you can never be too sure what anyone else is thinking, let alone feeling about you--what about focusing on what you can control. You. Your emotions, your thoughts, and your behaviors.

In fact, when we think we are "in love" or "falling in love," the only thing we are really sure of are the surge of emotions in our body. And, when we are in the act of being loved, do we know the difference between accepting this nebulous thing called love with or without conditions?

You see, unconditional love, it is something much bigger than love. Unconditional love means exactly what it states, love without conditions. Meaning, giving love to others without requiring anything in return. Often we do this with babies and pets. We think we know what this unconditional love thing requires. However, it seems like the minute a recipient is able to mutter a syllable, we begin heaping requirements on them about how they need to fulfill our needs.

In healthy relationships, learning to love unconditionally is of utmost importance. Often, we're able to do this with babies, little children, pets, even our best friends, but sometimes we run into snags when it comes to other family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers when whatever they are saying or doing doesn't jive with our own outlook on life.

Instead of choosing how we think and act, based on what our internal barometer (i.e. our emotions) is telling us--we often find ourselves reacting to situations. If you understand how to identify fear-based thoughts and actions..., then you are able to be in control of the one thing you can control--yourself. If you can just pause to identify if your feeling is fear or love based, then you are able to get out of the cycle of reacting to situations, and into a pattern of making mindful decisions. Anything you think or do, first came on to your radar through an emotion. When you are able to identify and really name the emotions you are feeling, then you can get to the more important question of why you are feeling said emotion, and then you can decide what you'd like to do about it. If you identify a fear-based emotion such as anger (by the way anger is ALWAYS a secondary emotion with another emotion lying underneath), fear, rage, guilt, apathy, remorse, sorrow..., then you are able to switch out of this downward-spiral. In fact, if you are to give unconditional love, it requires that you snap out of the funk, and choose a love-based emotion to feel instead.

You see with unconditional love, in order to give and receive it freely, the more your emotions, thoughts, and actions are coming from a place of love, the more you are able to do both--giving and receiving of unconditional love. It really is as simple as figuring out whether what you are feeling, thinking, and doing is fear or love-based. If you want the love that has conditions, guess what? It is fear-based. The only way you can flip to unconditional love, is if you are able to come at life from a love-based perspective. It is the only way you are able to empower yourself to grow into the person you are meant to be, and to allow others to do the same. If not, then you run the risk of putting conditions on people on what they have to do to earn or buy your love, approval, etc.

Where we get trapped is our penchant to slip into self-preservation mode. I will do this, if only you....notice me, like me, take care of me, don't say mean things, thank me for what I do for you, help me, love me back. That's a lot of conditions isn't it? If you go back to that experience of loving a baby or a pet--and you think about where your feelings were, what you thought during, and what you did while you were loving that innocent baby or pet...that is what you can have with not just one other person in your life, not just two, but with everyone you are able to let go of controlling, as you let them be themselves.

When you give unconditional love, you do just that. You relinquish the demands that the other person loves or gives you something back. It is a different way of interacting once you learn how to do this with all your relations. When you give love freely, you become empowered. You no longer will be attached to the anger, victim, fearful attachments of abandonment or worrying about being noticed or useful. In fact, if you understand this concept of unconditional love, then you will be able to build better boundaries about yourself so you are not misused by ANYONE. Including, your partner, your family, your children, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, and (yup) strangers.

I thanked my mom a few days ago. I knew I knew what "it" was, and that I practice "it" daily with my husband, my son and my best friend. I know how to flip it, so when I'm interacting with strangers, and they are upset or fearful about something, I can help re-direct them..., but what I thanked my mom for was the gift she gave me of giving me unconditional love so I could grow and become me. And that was the key for me to help write about how you can simply understand unconditional love. Once you have been a recipient of this type of pure, higher, empowering, freeing love. You have the key--you know how to give it as well. It takes a leap of faith away from the self-centered feeling of being hurt by exposing yourself. But the rewards on the other end...joy. Joy against all odds.

Unconditional love, loving without conditions.

How do you love unconditionally, and how did you learn it? How is it different from the kind of love that is the rage right now in our society that is resulting in divorces, single family homes, fatherless children?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Effective Listening

Check out the communication page. Did you know that listening is the single most important skill you can use to make your relationships better? In fact, if you practice how to be a better listener, then you will see your relationship improve right away. Your partner most likely will notice that he or she is being heard, and as a result your conversations may be less heated and your intimacy together may increase. As time goes on, the other person in your relationship may in turn start mirroring the listening skills you've been practicing. I've just added a new game about effective listening. It discusses important skills such as digesting aloud and listening to learn. Hopefully, you'll enjoy learning what and how to become a more effective listener.

I've also moved the skill-builder of the week: Active Listening--Digestive vs. Rejective Listening to the communication page as well. The new skill-builder at the bottom of the blog home page this week is about the latest research on how marriage impacts family life. Check it out to see if you are aware of the most recent statistics about the differences between married couples and single, divorced, or co-habitating couples.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Connecting, Better than Communicating?

As I sat typing up an addition to the "communication" page and posting on BlogHer..., I got the call you never want to get. One of my husband's dearly loved ones passed away. He is on his way home in a few minutes, and I will be here for him. What will be difficult is setting aside all of the daily chores, the fact his father will be arriving from town later this afternoon and the house has yet to finish cleaning itself, and just focus on being here with him in the moment. So, I will definitely be using what I was just writing about--the importance of connecting. We will have much to communicate to prepare for the funeral, take time off from work, etc., for now the most important thing and throughout this life event is to stay connected and do whatever I can to support him during this grief. I will be putting the money where my mouth is you could say. I always do. I would never post anything on this blog that I do not already do in my relationships. However, I sometimes fret that my readers wonder if I'm just writing how to put theories into practice, and I am not following these practices or skills myself. Well, I am and I do. And, this is why I am so passionate about sharing these skills and ideas with others. If you know what is working, and how to help others make their relationships more enjoyable, then to me it feels like a crime not to share. And, no, I don't know all the answers, but I keep looking and trying until I find them. We all will be different people tomorrow, each day brings with it a whole new set of challenges, and it is how we grow and change with them that is the true testament to the lives we are living, and whether at the end of the day or the end of our lifespan--whether all we went through was worthwhile and of benefit to others.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#1 Predictor of Divorce

We've settled in to our new home, and I'm back up and running with posts!

Did you know that the number one predictor of divorce is habitually avoiding conflict?

When we first get married, we often are still in the passionate/infatuation love stage. Later on--whether it be months or years--we find out that we don't always see eye-to-eye with our partner. What we forget is that THIS IS NORMAL! In fact, the happiest married couples often have at least ten areas of "disagreement" or incompatibility. They are successful in their marriage, because somewhere along the way they have been able to communicate openly about touchy or disagreeable topics, and they have been able to decide to disagree. That, and they also choose to not let these disagreements leech into other aspects of their relationship. To me, this means especially not the intimate and romantic side of the relationship.

As an aside...did you know if you did get divorced, in your "newer" relationship ten more areas of incompatibility/disagreement will crop up there too. Now add children from a previous marriage in to the mix...might their upbringing be one of those ten areas of disagreement in the new marriage? In ANY RELATIONSHIP, we are going to have areas where there is incompatibility or disagreement. Success in ANY relationship then means with our partner we learn skills/ways in which we can respect the difference in opinion, and choose to love and carry on in the relationship any way. Novel idea?

One of the most cited and proven ways to confront conflict is on neutral ground. This could mean a couple of different things. For example:
(1) As an issue arises, choosing a point in the near future to discuss ____.
How you would set this up goes something like this, "Honey, on Saturday after we've both fit our workouts in, and we've eaten lunch as a family, while Junior is playing ball outside, can we sit on the back steps and talk about ____?"
Here--you identify there is a problem that needs to be discussed, and you are choosing to discuss it when you're stress levels are low (i.e. you've worked out, you're fed, and your child is occupied), and you can address the situation more rationally than emotionally.
(2) Setting a regular time to discuss personal, family, financial, job, etc. matters.
How this would be set up is by setting a set day and time to discuss potential conflicts. For example, every second Friday, or every Sunday, or the first day of the month, or the third weekend of the month, or two days before payday....etc. The point here is to have a set time and place where you both know in advance you can bring up any topics.
Both of these examples allow partners to come to the table open-handed and hopefully, open-minded. After all--the best way to keep your marriage or relationship healthy is to address issues before they become problems, fights, or major issues.

You may be wondering, okay, so I need to identify potential situations that may escalate before they happen? What?! Well, if you are listening to your self-talk, and have a feeling that your partner may disagree or become upset, then that's an indicator NOT to bring the topic up in the heat of the moment, when he/she walks in from work/errands/etc. How do I stop myself from engaging and rearing up for a heated conversation while I'm asking my partner for "date" to discuss issue B?
(1) Listen to your inner dialogue. If you have any type of uneasy feeling about your partner's reaction, or if you know you feel strongly YOURSELF about the topic....
(a) breathe
(b) decide to choose a date/time/place in the future to discuss topic
(c) ask your partner if you two can sit down (or if walking, kicking a soccer ball, etc. helps you engage--do that too!) and discuss said topic
(d) think through the situation--identify your feelings, what you'd like the outcome to be, and how you see yourself and partner coming to a compromise or decision to respectfully disagree
(e) sit down and discuss the situation
(f) if you are unable to resolve it or come to an agreement, then choose how you will compromise or decide on another time to come back and discuss the same topic
(g) remember to HUG or HOLD HANDS while discussing! WHY? This issue is exactly that--an issue--and in no way affects the rest of your complex relationship. You've chosen to love eachother through thick and thin.
(2) If you are already ready to blow your top--your muscles are tense, you are swearing under your breath/out loud, you're snapping at other people, you want to scream (or are screaming...)--choose 1 of 2 things:
(a) Buzz word. Could be as simple as "Relax" "Chill out" "Love" "Humbleness" "Grace" "Help!" "1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi." Basically, you want to recite something in your head, better yet if no one is around say it out loud...repeatedly until you're in control of your emotions. Note--it is okay to use the same word or phrase or poem repeatedly, HOWEVER what we know of brain neuroscience is that it is better to switch it up. Read more about your second option if you're ready to burst...
(b) Do something mathematical. Wait, what did she say? Yup, do some kind of a math problem.
Huh? Right in the heat of the moment if you are ready to pop--you are NOT in the decision-making area of your brain. You are in the reptilian part. In order to get to the higher executive functions, you have to engage your frontal lobe. How? By doing some kind of math or logic problem. This takes you from the emotional area of your brain straight to your rational area.
Guess what? Those are 2 things you can do to bring yourself back to neutral ground. However, you and your spouse can also decide on a "buzz word" or yell "time out!/math time!" and challenge each other with some kind of a wacky word or math problem to get your tempers back down to neutral. Then--from there agree on a future date/time/place to discuss whatever was heating you up!

Click on the link to see what types of courses are out there that you can take to learn some of these communication skills: http://www.smartmarriages.com/divorcepredictor.html

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lots to Digest!

A lot of the framework for the site has been posted in the last week. I'm going to give you a few days to look at what's up so far..., and then I'll turn the fire hose back on with added data, statistics, and fun things to do under each of the tabs (pages).

Please leave comments on the blog--they can be anonymous--I love constructive criticism!

Steven Stosny, PhD and Pat Love, EdD came up with the following acronyms on how you can improve your marriage (or any committed relationship) without talking about it! To fully understand how this can help though, we'll delve into the scientific reasons of why behind the Rock Star.

to connect to women....you:
R--routinely connect with her
O--open your heart and mind
C--contact, contact, contact
K--keep it positive

to connect to men...you:
S--sex (where men get the largest oxytocin/bonding chemical surge)
T--touch (they need 2-3x more touch to feel bonded)
A--activity, appreciate, acknowledge what he does for you gives him meaning
R--routine, respect and honor it (takes 1.5x to restart an activity for a man compared to a woman)

If you have questions about the above, ask away, and stay tuned for more info on the Brain Difference page!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm Curious...questionnaire

Welcome to the site about healthy relationships!

Please take a moment and take the questionnaire in the lower left hand corner. I'd like to know how I may better set up this site to meet your needs.

One of the main reasons why I have created this blog is so that I may reach a wider audience. I move often, because my husband is in the military--and I wanted to provide a venue to people who have taken my workshops, or have simply found this blog and liked what they saw!

Did you know that creating better relationships with ourselves and others is not a one time affair? We grow as people when we take whatever stressors (there are good and bad ones) we're given in life, and re-work them until we find the positive in the outcome. The more we are mindful and thoughtful about communicating and connecting on a more genuine level with others--i.e. the more we practice the skills we are learning--the better our relationships will be, because we've decided to do something new to make it better!

Do you spend loads of time looking on the internet at Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter? Do you randomly troll friends and family leaving no comments, what about reading about celebrities, sports, and politics? Why not take just a few minutes a day to also look at fun relationship facts and skill builders too! Start when there are no problems, disagreements, or issues!

A long-term goal of this blog is to keep people connected together where you will continue to be encouraged for your efforts! I was watching Roots the TV mini-series last night, and it disturbed me to know that hatred, racism, ethnic cleansing...even though it goes on to a lesser extent in America...it is still occurring in the rest of the world. We have great freedom to be, say, and think what we'd like to in our country. Why not use this freedom to promote well-being, rather than focusing on the latest social media craze? We have room and ability to do both. What do you want your lasting legacy to be when you've drawn your last breath?

Please, take the questionnaire. Become a follower of the blog. Leave comments. Put a link on Facebook and Twitter. Tell your friends and family!

A friend shared the following article with me today, and it may be something to think about:
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/attention-disorders-can-take-a-toll-on-marriage/?emc=eta1

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wonderful News!

I just started the site two days ago. The basic format is up--the pages are set as I tinker about in presenting the information based on skills you may be interested in learning, and what target population represents you the best.

I am targeting a wide range of people--from 10 to 110 years old. Why you may ask?

I strongly believe that we must be more inclusive when trying to help others. We all want to belong somewhere--and we each have unique needs, but the area in which we are all seeking greater belonging in is in the area of our relationships and how we relate to other people. That is why the skills can reach across boundaries of age, sexual preference, relationship status (single, committed, pre-marital, pre-divorce, newly married, mature marriages...., post-divorce, stepfamilies, mending from infidelities...), or religious preference.

However, I think where the professionals are failing is addressing specific needs of:

--adolescents who come from families where their model of a in-tact relationship is missing or conditional (how many people do you know personally still are married/committed to their original partner and parent of their children?)
-- people who are single and want a good relationship (but are uncertain of why this perfect-love relationship remains elusive),
--pre-marital couples who are hoping to make their relationship work for the long haul, but that's all they have....hope and not skills
--newly married couples who have love, but not the skill set to turn their puppy love into mature love that can stand the good & bad stressors of life (kids, jobs, finances, illnesses)
--couples thinking of splitting or are up for reconciliation before divorcing or separating
--mature couples who want spice back in their life before they stray into infidelity, porn, sexual addiction or any other destructive behaviors
--and in some ways, most importantly, the GLBT population that are fighting for recognition, acceptance, and whose unique needs are often ignored, repressed, and short-changed

Many are seeking to be loved unconditionally--where there is only acceptance no matter what you do, say, think, feel. We often find it in our spiritual lives...but I also think one of the main points in life is to learn how to relate and love others. However, based on current trends and statistics we seem to be missing the mark.

So, even if you think "nah, I have no problems or issues, this site is NOT for me..." I gently suggest you think again and ask yourself..."what relationships in my life would I like to be better, to whom would I like to be closer to or with??" The only way we can become better people, is if we look hard at ourselves and if something has not been working..., then to try something new.

On this site--I want to help point you in the right directions--to things that are proven to work.

That is why the workshops I will be teaching on relationships and marriage education for military and families in the community are based on research that proves that if you work on said skills, your relationships will improve. This is not counseling..., I have that skill set and access to the theories that we've been trying to use to help "fix" people (when really the fix comes from people learning new skill sets and pulling upon their own resilience to solve their own issues). Educating yourself gives the power to you and respects that you know how best to make the changes you need to make.

Also....based on brain research..., did you know that focusing on the past, old memories, unhealthy behaviors will only keep these neural pathways awake in your brain? The fastest and easiest way to fix undesirable thoughts, feelings, or actions is to replace them in the present with NEW learned thoughts, feelings, or actions. This has been proven in people categorized with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Substance Abuse, and Substance Dependence...

There is hope! Join me in marrying hope with new skills so that you are more satisfied with your life!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Building Lasting Partnerships

Are you interested in finding out the kinds of skills couples need to build loving and lasting partnerships? Click on the following for an interactive introduction on the types of skills taught in my classes, by Power of Two, and other marriage skills classes.


Content provided by Power of
Two



Launching the Site!

I'm posting with a little bundle of joy in my lap. Please bear with me as I upload good content for you. Become a follower and get updates as I post more information! I'm working on creating links for you to be able to go to sites that are educational and have cutting edge technology to help you take your relationships to the next level. I will also begin to post recommended reading along with interactive activities and quizzes so your learning curve remains fun and does not plateau or stop!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How Are Your Relationship Skills?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Did you know that for learning to be more effective you need to engage as many of your senses (sight, feel, hear, touch, kinesthetic moving) as possible?

Understanding that you'll retain this or any information better if you engage as many of your senses as possible is more reason why you should come to this blog to read up, play games, and take quizzes on an ongoing basis! The more senses you engage as you learn new skills--the faster you will create pathways in your brain that re-wire your thought processes and your ability to inerpret your emotions and use them to gain mastery over any situation.

Take the following quiz and begin your journey to understanding yourself better! Enjoy!


Content provided by Power of
Two



Ask me questions, and come back soon for more answers!

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Latest Research on the Impact of Marriage on Family Life

This week check out your skills on how much you know about how marriage impacts family life.