Monthly Archives: July 2012

Married with Friends of the Opposite Sex

If you are in an intimate, marital relationship, you need to be sensitive and appropriate when it comes to friends of the opposite sex because it’s a very complex and delicate situation. 

The most important issue you should be concerned about is the safety, comfort, and trust of your spouse.  Too many times on my program, I hear from people who care more about their friend than their spouse.  To me that’s a dead giveaway that the friendship line has been crossed, whether you’ve been naked with the person of the opposite gender or not.

I want to discuss some ways you and your spouse can be protective of each other, but still have friends of the opposite sex:

What does it look like?  If you are getting together for a drink with someone who is on the verge of leaving a relationship, lost their spouse, lost their boyfriend or girlfriend, or is known to fool around, it’s inappropriate.  Plain and simple.  You’re only fibbing if you say, “Well, I’m just trying to be helpful and solicitous.”   Especially if your spouse says they don’t want you to be helpful and solicitous to somebody in that situation and you argue that point, it means you’re interested.  Just have the person go see a counselor, a member of the clergy, or family.  Your marriage is always supposed to come first.

Be careful of that little “edgy” sexual tension.  If either one of you is feeling a little horny about the other, or if you’re touching, talking, or acting a little suggestive, seductive, or over-the-line cutesy toward each other, it needs to be over.  If your relationship with a friend in any way makes you question or stress about your boundaries and limitations (which every relationship does at some point), you could be led toward temptation, which will change everything in your universe forever.

You should always make sure you introduce all your friends to your spouse.  Have them over for dinner or a barbeque.  Have them be familiar with the family, and have everything be on the up-and-up and open.  Full disclosure makes it clear to everybody that it’s a friendship – solo time is where the problems start.

You need to socialize with others who are also in committed relationships.   People tend to hang with people who share their same values, more or less.  So, if couples are friendly with each other and everybody has clarity, then everyone is sharing the same values.  Your wife can go with your friend’s husband and do archery while you go do a mini-marathon with his wife.  As long as it’s all on the up-and-up and everybody is sharing the same values, that’s the important thing.

Be careful about using the words “sweetie” and “honey.”  “Sweetie” and “honey” should be saved for your spouse and should not be used on a friend.  Use the person’s name when talking to or about them, and save the lovey-dovey stuff for your spouse.

Give your partner power.  In addition to honesty and openness, you have to be willing to give your partner power.  If your spouse is really uncomfortable about a particular outside relationship, I recommend you honor that and make the appropriate adjustments.  However, if your spouse just freaks out at anybody with the opposite genitals, then that’s an insecurity that has to be dealt with, probably by a professional.

What it all boils down to is that all the choices you make have to be in the best interest of your marriage first.  Otherwise, you’re not being nice, and it’s all going to come back to bite you.

Quote of the Week

There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are the messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.

Washington Irving
American author
1783-1859

Please keep in your thoughts and prayers the victims of last week’s Aurora, Colorado shooting and their families.

Can Life Be Balanced?

I would venture to guess that many of you do not balance work and the rest of your life in a healthy way.  There is all kinds of research suggesting you don’t.  About 80 percent of working people experience on-the-job stress and about half of them need help managing stress.   Considering that stress is the number one health problem in the U.S. today (and one of the main factors contributing to heart attacks), work/life balance should not be taken lightly.

I want to discuss some ways to keep a stress-free work/life balance.  Of course, it’s very personal.  We all have different lives, different priorities, and different types of jobs.  But it doesn’t matter.  There are certain concepts that are universal.

The first thing you always have to do, which a lot of you don’t want to admit but really must, is that stress a) takes years off your life, and b) diminishes the quality of your health.  It’s not something you can just ignore.

Get your priorities clear.  Do something as simple as making a list of all of the responsibilities and obligations you have in a week, or a day.  Just make a list.  Right now, pull out a piece of paper and start making one.  Don’t list things in order; just list ALL the things you’re responsible for.  Then decide what is really the most important to you.  If you put your family first, then you will be able to turn down a promotion if you realize that the extra money isn’t going to be worth it to you.  If it’s your job, then you will focus your entire life around your work, and you can say “bye bye” to free time and fun activities with loved ones.  There’s always a choice, and each of us has to make it.  When you set priorities, you should prepare yourself for the consequences of the choices and be OK with them.  If you’re not OK with them, then you really haven’t made the choice.
 
Next, don’t try to focus on too many things at the same time.  You may want to be a fabulous parent or cook, have the hottest body around, spend tons of time with friends, complete 14 different projects around the house, do charity work, visit with family, etc.  But you can’t do it all!  Sorry!  You’re basically going to have to make some choices.  You have to prioritize your activities, learn how to compromise, and let people know the limits of what you’re willing to do so you don’t get all crazed.  Just do one thing at a time.  For all you Type-A personalities, this is something you’re going to have to learn because the result of doing a million things at the same time leads to stress, low productivity, over-exhaustion, and burnout.

Whatever it is you’re doing, you should be in that moment and no place else in your head.  I have learned this lesson quadruple times over when learning to shoot pool (which I still contend is the most difficult thing I do in life).  With the tip of a stick, I hit one ball, which then has to move and hit another ball at just the right angle to put it in the pocket.  If I don’t hit the ball exactly in the center, or don’t move my body, it won’t work.  I have missed straight shots by 6 inches because my head was someplace else.  It is amazing to me how much learning to shoot pool teaches you about life.  I realize when I’m deciding which ball to hit, how to hit it, and where the cue ball should end up, that better be the only thing on my mind.  I can’t be thinking about my program, my hair, my family, or the dogs – I can’t be worrying about anything.  To put it simply, I have to invest everything I have right into that moment.  It’s called “focus.” 

So, when you’re with your children, with your spouse, or at work, that’s where your head should be.  No matter where you are and what you’re doing, that’s the only place your head should be.  That’s what cuts down on stress.  When you’re trying to subdivide your attention, you don’t do anything well, and that’s stressful in itself.

Cut out unnecessary activities.  Unnecessary activities clutter your schedule and steal precious time from the activities that you need to do and truly enjoy doing.  Sometimes you folks waste a lot of time in front of the TV, or you spend a lot of time on social media nonsense.  Once you get your priorities clear, it should be easy for you to spot what’s unnecessary.   A curtain has to come down between the activities you love to do and the things you need to toss.  That recently happened to me.  I dropped an iron curtain and cut an activity out of my life.  It freed me up to do other things. 

Protect your “non-work” time.  Your free time is an asset that you should protect at all costs.  When we work, we usually have a certain number of hours allocated to working.  For some reason when it comes to free time, we forget how important it is.  It won’t bring you extra income, it won’t get you a promotion, but it will make you a happy and balanced person. 

A good 30 years ago, a major metropolitan magazine section was going to do a whole profile on me and all of my activities, which there have always been many.  When the piece came out, one of my competitors went on the radio the next day and boasted that they did not fritter time away with such activities, but only focused on work (as though that were a good thing?!).  I thought that was hilarious because your non-work time is really important to your self-esteem, your well-being, your health, cleansing your mind, and having fun.  Life is not supposed to be just a work farm.  Enjoyment in life is part of living.  It makes you a more well-rounded person, and it’s better for your physical health as well as emotional health. 

I am ferocious about protecting non-work time. It’s sacred time for me, the same way work is sacred time.

Declutter.  The more junk you have around your house, on your desk, or even on your schedule, the more projects you immediately envision ahead of you.  When you start panicking, “Oh my gosh, I have to do that and that and that,” you have too much clutter.  Declutter your schedule by getting rid of unnecessary activities.  Also, declutter some part of your house every week.  I recently spent time going into my knitting/sewing room, tearing it apart, and putting it back together.  The projects had piled up to the point that I couldn’t work in there anymore (when you go into a room and see 10,000 things to do, more often than not, you’re just going to turn around and walk out).  But now that I’ve straightened up, I can work in the room again.  Cleaning and straightening up is not the most fun thing in the world, but when it’s done, it looks pretty.  And now I’ve even started a new project in there, which I could not have done in the midst of the clutter.

Be great at your job.  One of the secrets to a good work/life balance is actually appreciating the work you do.  If you absolutely hate what you are doing then you probably will be off-balance.  Even if there are a lot of things you don’t like about it, if there’s at least something you do appreciate, then you’ll be able to produce results and generate ideas.  However, if you’re not doing the work you feel you were meant to do, you had better shift.  If you have a lot of responsibilities or don’t have the freedom to make the shift, then you’re probably going to have to re-prioritize in your mind and make, for example, your family the most important.  In that case, work will shift to protecting, preserving, and providing for your spouse and kids.  And that’s something you can do well and take pride in. 

As you can see, it really all comes down to this: work/life balance is just about attitude and making choices.  

Parent Your Child, Not Yourself

Many of you aren’t parenting in the best interest of your child.  Instead, you’re parenting to satisfy your own needs.

I get too many calls on the topic of having low self-esteem.  And that’s probably because there are a lot of parents who have no concept of how to help their kids develop a positive attitude about people and life.  You see, a lot of parenting comes from the “hurty” places: “I didn’t have a lot of freedom, so I’m going to give my kid total freedom,” or “I didn’t have a lot of freedom, so I’m not giving my kid any freedom.”  Instead of thinking about the needs of the child and what’s really healthy, parents make it all about what I experienced.  They think things like, “He looks a lot like my ex-husband, so I can’t stand him.”  

Parents conjure up all kinds of things from ugly places.  They lament to themselves, “My kid isn’t perfect, my kid has some kind of handicap or problem, my kid’s not pretty, my kid’s not athletic; my kid’s not this my kid’s not that.”  But at the root of all their complaining is just their narcissism not being fed. 

The whole “I look good through my children doing something” idea is the same mentality that creates groupies.  Girls go hump stars and sports figures and they think they’ve made themselves into something.  That’s all that’s about.  I had a wonderful conversation a while ago with a young woman who called with, again, a self-esteem question.  I asked her, “Well, how have you earned it?”  Her only comeback was, “I know how to have fun.”  Well, I’m sorry.  We don’t respect ourselves because we know how to have fun.  Don’t misunderstand me, I think it’s healthy to know how to have fun, but that’s not how you respect yourself.

So, a lot of mistakes parents make with their kids come from them still being mucked up by their own pain.  That’s why I think it is really important to have six months of premarital counseling before people decide to marry because they learn a lot about themselves, the other person, their needs, their fears, their desires, and their problems, and they learn how to resolve things, move forward, and mature.  It’s more likely that the marriage will work.

Considering this further, I thought maybe you could apply this rule to having a baby.  Maybe people should go into counseling for six months before they have a baby, or if they get pregnant, perhaps that’s when the therapy starts.  In pre-baby therapy, you can talk about what happened in your childhood, what feelings you have about your husband or wife with respect to having a kid, and put everything on the table.  It’s amazing how much better you both can deal with things once the air is cleared. 

And that’s why I’m so blunt on my satellite radio program: I’m trying to role model for all of you how to put even the ugly stuff on the table.  Because once we take a clear look at it, it has less power over us.   What you try to suppress is what has power over you.   I’d like you to be the master, not the slave to your history and emotions.

So, this is why I recommend counseling when you’re thinking about getting married, and when you’re considering having a baby.  A lot of stuff is never discussed when you’re dating.  I mean who discusses diapers when they’re dating?

My Opinion About the Shootings in Colorado

I know everyone’s glued to the news right now trying to figure out what piece of information they can get out of the “Batman” movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado to keep themselves safe in the future.  However, the fact is there isn’t any. 

You could say, “Well, since children were killed and injured, perhaps the parents shouldn’t have brought children to a movie theater at midnight in the summer (much less a 6-year-old) to see a PG-13 movie.”  But that’s not fair.  They’re not in the slightest way responsible for what happened.  They should have the right to take their kids to a movie if they want to (even if it has a PG-13 rating).  You could argue, “It sounds like the shooter put some tape on the lock to the emergency exit to get into the theater and somebody should have noticed it and prevented this from happening.”  But seriously, who looks for tape on door locks?  The first thing you’d think is that some kids had wanted to sneak into the movie, and if they were already inside and saw the movie, why would they try to sneak in again? 

“What about checking people before they went into the theater?”  But tear gas, guns…who imagines that?  Interestingly enough, a lot of people thought this was a fun thing the theater did for the “Batman” movie.        

And of course somebody already said to me, “Oh my god, how crazy is he?”   To people like that, I can only shake my head.  Crazy is talking to lampposts.  Crazy is seeing elephants that are pink.  Crazy has to do with hallucinations, delusions, and the like. This guy is not crazy.  He’s just evil.  He planned out everything beautifully.  He was totally prepared with guns, a bulletproof vest, and canisters of tear gas.  I mean he even picked The Dark Knight Rises at midnight.  This was drama.

I’m sure he’s going to get some defense attorney who’s going to argue that he was molested by his mother’s cousin’s uncle’s grandpa, and when he got to this age, he just felt compelled to kill people.  I mean just ridiculous crap.

But in my opinion: he enjoyed every moment. 

When you think back to things like the Bataan Death March, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the concentration camps in Germany, Russia massacring millions of people, and the wholesale murdering of innocent people in Syria, Egypt, and Africa, all of these tragedies were orchestrated by evil people – people who enjoyed it.  If you’re a German soldier throwing a baby up in the air and using it for target practice, or lining up children and mowing them down, that’s not insane, that’s just plain evil.  A lot of you want to think these people are crazy because then you can fix them with a pill or therapy.  But people like Charles Manson and all his little buddies, they weren’t crazy.  They weren’t disconnected from reality at all.  Instead, they wanted to change reality into something for them to feel more powerful, special, and connected.  That’s not crazy.

A lot of you don’t want to accept that there is evil.  One of the reasons the world has gotten so dangerous is that the level of sociopathy has increased dramatically.  Today, we’re surrounded by heroism for bad guys.  I mean when I grew up, everything I saw on TV or in the movies was the good guy wearing a white hat, the bad buy wearing a black hat, and the bad guy always got it in the end.  I didn’t grow up seeing all these gangster rap videos with females gyrating all over the place and guys calling for people’s deaths, hating women, and hurting people.  I just didn’t grow up seeing that as entertainment.  When I grew up there was right and wrong, right won, and you took care of wrong – you didn’t just stand by. 

So, when I look at this horrible tragedy, the lesson learned is not about parents taking their kids to a PG-13 movie late at night or tape on a lock.  The main thing to learn from this is that we need to keep our eyes open, and get involved if we think someone is a problem.  Bring them to the attention of the police or FBI.  I ask people all the time on my program, “This has been going on how long?  Children have been at risk how long?  Who has called Child Protective Services?  Who has called the police?, etc.”  And do you know what answer I normally get?: “I haven’t told anybody.  I didn’t want to get anybody mad.”  Stop worrying about upsetting people.  Bad people need to be “cut off at the pass.”

For all you folks who choose to stand by and don’t do anything because you don’t want to upset your family, know that you’re also perpetrators.  No, in fact, you’re worse.  You’re cowards.

Quote of the Week

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.
                – Henry Ford
                  American industrialist
                  Founder of the Ford Motor Company
                  1863-1947

Finding Your Passion in Life

If you are bored or not happy in life, the key is having a passion.  If you want to transform your life and feel meaningful on the face of the earth, you need to have a point to your life.  It could be your job, your career, or your hobby, but it needs to be something that you are simply absorbed with.  And I’m not talking about obsessive-compulsive: I’m talking about a passion, something you love doing.

I talk to so many young people in their 20s immersed in some very sad state, going nowhere, and feeling a lot of pain and confusion about life or a relationship.  I typically ask, “What’s your dream?”  I’m amazed at how almost 100 percent of the time I get nothing back.  Children are not being brought up anymore to imagine there’s a point to their lives and something they are talented at that they need to commit themselves to.  Their job should be to maximize it, respect it, be patient with it, water, fertilize, grow it, and let it bloom.  People who do that are typically not depressed, sad, exhausted, or bored.  There is something about a passion and a purpose that makes people live longer.  When people give up on life, they usually give up on living in a general sense.  So, it’s really important you know what your passion is.

How do you find your passion?

One cute way is to ask people who know you, “What do you think is my thing?”  A lot of times you will ignore what you have a knack for because you grew up in a family where somebody said it was stupid, or you figure you can’t be great at it and you definitely can’t make money with it.

I have a number of passions, and they really save me when bad things happen.  My biggest passion is my radio program.  I’ve been doing this for a span of 35 years.  I can’t imagine not doing it.  Sometimes people say, “Don’t you just want to retire so you will be able to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it?”  Well, I sort of do that now because my radio program is my biggest passion.

I feel very fortunate to be able to exercise my biggest passion.  And it was by total accident.  I was off being a scientist when one day, I decided to call into a radio program.  They liked what I had to say so much that I was asked to be on the radio show once a week for a year.  I then decided I ought to know more about what I was talking about so while I was teaching full time, I enrolled in a marriage and family therapy program at USC.  It was then I discovered something I never knew before: I had the ability to hear and put things together in a way which proved valuable in helping people with their problems.  I didn’t know I had that in me.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me, but I wonder if people who knew me then thought so as well.

So, I came upon my passion accidentally.  And of course, I’ve added a million other things, and the crafts I go crazy over.

Additionally, using your passion to contribute to the well-being of others is seemingly simple and not very complicated.  For example, the daughter of my friend who just recently died is going to start a charity association where women who are dealing with cancer can go to beauticians to have their hair and nails done to make them feel better.  It’s a small thing, it will never be made into a movie, and most people won’t even know about it, but other human beings will be made happier.  I think that’s huge.  It’s like ripples in the water – if you make one person happy, that in turn affects the people in their own house, and then those people impact others, making them happier.

I found a list of 15 questions that you can ask yourself to help discover your passion and life’s purpose:

Simple Instructions:

  • Take out a few sheets of loose paper and a pen.
  • Find a place where you will not be interrupted. Turn off your cell phone.
  • Write the answers to each question down. Write the first thing that pops into your head. Write without editing. Use point form. It’s important to write out your answers rather than just thinking about them.
  • Write quickly. Give yourself less than 60 seconds a question. Preferably less than 30 seconds.
  • Be honest. Nobody will read it. It’s important to write without editing.
  • Enjoy the moment and smile as you write.

15 Questions: 

  1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)    
  2. What were your favorite things to do in the past? What about now?     
  3. What activities make you lose track of time?
  4. What makes you feel great about yourself?
  5. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?
  6. What are you naturally good at? (Skills, abilities, gifts etc.)
  7. What do people typically ask you for help in?
  8. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
  9. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?
  10. You are now 90 years old, sitting on a rocking chair outside your porch; you can feel the spring breeze gently brushing against your face. You are blissful and happy, and are pleased with the wonderful life you’ve been blessed with. Looking back at your life and all that you’ve achieved and acquired, all the relationships you’ve developed; what matters to you most? List them out.
  11. What are your deepest values?
  12. What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming? How did you do it?
  13. What causes do you strongly believe in? Connect with?
  14. If you could get a message across to a large group of people. Who would those people be? What would your message be?
  15. Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute? (to people, beings, causes, organization, environment, planet, etc.)

I’ll Never Learn! I’m a Loser!: Helping Self-Critical Kids

“Is my kid being unduly hard on themselves?” 

I hear this question a lot.  I get calls from parents saying, “My kid is a perfectionist.  When they lose a game, don’t get chosen for something, or somebody doesn’t like them, they go bonkers.” 

Adolescence is tough enough; you’re not a baby, you’re not an adult…you’re just sort of in a swing state.  And what makes the adolescent swing state painful is when young folks are inclined to be very hard on themselves after some frustration or disappointment.  You’ve probably heard this at home: “I’ll never learn!  I’m stupid!  I can’t do anything right!  No one likes me!  I don’t have any friends!  I’m such a loser!  I hate myself!  I wish I were dead!”   

Doing poorly or not doing as well as they wanted triggers a belief that they deserve the self-inflicted bad treatment.  And a lot of people take this feeling all the way through adulthood.  They feel obligated to come down on themselves. 

Where do they learn this? 

Oh I don’t know, let me think…

…From their parents!  Not always, but generally.  They either learn it from a parent who’s blatantly role modeling that behavior, or just from a very critical parent.  And then these young people spend most of their time hating themselves for any perceived failure, big or small.  “The parental rule of ‘judge and punish’ carries on.”  They beat themselves up out of habit, not because they want to motivate themselves, do better, or change.

So, a lot of the time kids learn self-critical behavior from having a parent or two parents who they could never please, who thought criticism was the best motivation, or who felt that expressing dissatisfaction was motivating.  But parents are not always the culprits.  Some kids get it in their heads that they just have to align themselves with an unreasonable set of expectations.  Maybe it’s from sibling rivalry stuff, something happening at school, or just moon spots…who knows.   In any case, parents really need to help them. 

Here are a handful of triggers that cause kids to get down on themselves, and how you can motivate them to go in another direction:

* Losing a game or contest. In a kid’s head, they think, “I have to win or I’m a loser.”  Oh my gosh!  Nobody wins all the time.  How could they?  Also, by following that logic, if you win and someone else loses, that means they’re a loser.  And of course, that’s not true.  Probably the most important thing you can teach your kids is that winning and losing are exactly the same.  Rudyard Kipling said that, except much more eloquently in the poem If.  You should approach winning and losing the same way – calmly.

It took me years to learn this while playing pool.  If I made a great shot, I’d be bouncing around the room.  But if I missed a shot, I’d start muttering things to myself like, “I’ve been practicing this for three hours, and I’m still terrible,” “I’ll never learn this,” and “I suck at this game.”  I couldn’t tolerate missing.  And I know exactly where that reaction came from.  It was parental.  I didn’t make it up myself.  I can really understand when people get into that mode because I personally had trouble getting out of it.  However, now when I make a good shot, I just say, “That felt good, let’s try to create that feeling again.”  And if I miss a shot, I think, “I didn’t go through my whole routine, or I adjusted my aim while I was taking the shot.  Hopefully I’ll get another shot at this, and I’ll do better.” 

You have to teach your kids that it’s best to expect you’re going to win some and lose some, just like the person on the other side of the game.

* Making a mistake. A kid thinks, “I have to get things right or something’s wrong with me.”  Show your kids the problem with this mindset by role modeling the correct attitude.  If you make a mistake while doing something, stop and say, “Aha!  I think I know what I did wrong.”  They’ll see you analyzing the error and remedying it for next time rather than going on an incomprehensible tirade about how mad you are at yourself.     

Failing to perform well.  Many kids believe they have to be a success to avoid shame.  However, in life, you can control your effort, but you can’t control the outcome.  The result is not entirely up to you.  For instance, things are handicapped or there are politics involved.  Or people cheat, even on the highest levels, which can be seriously demoralizing because cheating seems to pay off when people get away with it. 

So, you have to teach kids that everything in life is not on an even playing ground, and if they fail to do well, it’s not completely their fault.  They can’t always control the outcome because there are too many other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with them. 

* Getting in trouble.  A kid thinks, “Since I did this wrong, I’m a bad person.”  If you have a propensity for doing bad things, then yes, you probably are a bad person.  However, kids do stupid things, they test limits, and they don’t think things through – their brains just aren’t ready to do that.  They do dumb things but it’s not the same thing as being a bad kid, unless they do it continuously.  So, it’s best to teach your kids that if they do something wrong, they should take responsibility, pay their dues, and then forgive themselves.  Instruct them to move on and not repeat it. 

* Getting criticized.  A kid thinks, “Oh my gosh, everybody has to think well of me or I’m inadequate, inferior, or horrible.”  That’s the point where you can remind them just like they’re not going to be a fan of everyone they know, certain people will not like them.  And it’ll be for reasons that may have very little to do with them.  It could be because they look like somebody from the other person’s past who upset him or her.  The other person could be jealous of what they have, who they are, and what they’re like.  It has nothing to do with your kid being a bad person. 

* Being left out.  This is one of the tougher ones.  At some point your child will probably say something like this: “I wasn’t invited to the party,” or “I wasn’t asked to be on the team.”  Tell them that just like we don’t want to be with every group, every group doesn’t necessarily want to be with us.  Or as Groucho Marx put it, “I refuse to join a club that would have me as a member.”