Entries categorized "Society & Health" Feed

Addressing the Healthcare Burnout Epidemic

Healthcare and psychology practitioners are facing increasing burnout rates in record numbers, so much so that the American Psychiatric Association focused their 2017 annual conference on the “burnout epidemic.” It has only continued to escalate. The 1,710,000 psychology professionals and 12 million+ healthcare workers in the United States provide an essential service to the population. They heal. They listen. More often than not, they genuinely care. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link then a community might be similarly threatened by its weaker and more vulnerable members. That's why it helps to remember the importance healers have in our communities.

While I urge healers to take their own medicine and practice self-care (get balance in other areas of life, find support, take breaks, take care of your body, take care of your mind—and spirit), I suspect another contributing factor is the attitude a community has about its healers. Are healers supported, valued and appreciated? Or are they the target of criticism and contempt because insurance plans don't cover something someone needs? Are healers discounted because they are part of a "Western Medicine" and "Big Pharma" giant that is taking money from innocent people and making them sicker?

Is the dominant narrative around medicine consumed with fear, mistrust and resentment?

I observe frightened and angered people every day. People don't know what to trust or who they can count on. Instead, people tend to flock to the Internet and diagnose themselves at an almost compulsive level. Armed with reams of online results and haughty know-it-all and defensive attitudes, more and more people jadedly tell their medical professionals what is wrong with them and what to do. Hopefully, a good practitioner can listen without defense and seek to inform, help and heal in a way that earns trust.

Sometimes, the burden of endlessly soothing defensive people can take a toll. In addition, healthcare workers get exposed to repeated traumas and run the risk of suffering re-traumatization of personal wounds along with vicarious suffering. Long hours and back-to-back one-way relationships add to the burnout. The career is strife for burnout. Greeting disgruntled patients just makes it worse.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would make sure that every person in the community was safe and that the relationship between healer and community member could be restored to one of mutual safety, mutual care, genuine connection, and positive healing outcomes. That both people would leave the interaction feeling lighter, freer, happier, healthier--and grateful. 

Joseph Campbell said, "One of our problems today is that we are not acquainted with the literature of the spirit. We're interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour."

I think he taps into this grander issue. The real healing comes from each person's inner spirit. It is in connecting to the spirit (the heart) that forgiveness and healing emanate. It is where loving and grateful discourse is born. We can do this one person at a time. One heart hug from one person to another. One moment of listening. One moment of respect. One moment of forgiveness.

To my almost 2 million psychology colleagues and 12+ million healthcare workers (and all those around the world) and to every other person around the planet who makes up our Earth community, I send you these Spirit-filled wishes of healing, love, peace, forgiveness, and more. May we each seek to become acquainted with the literature of our—and our bothers' and sisters'—SPIRITS. Perhaps when burnout, illness and discord arise, it can serve as a wake-up call to get re-centered into Spirit and cultivate a spirit-focused interaction.

Essential Self-Care for the Holidays & New Year

As we head into Christmas, I wanted to offer this post for anyone out there who is feeling sadness over the holidays. First, it helps to know that you're not alone and that many people feel blues during this time. It's a hectic season filled with a rush to get things done and expectations to give presents, visit family and be in good cheer--oh, and don't forget to be spiritual! 

A classic double bind up is set as people voice disdain about the commercialism of spiritual holy days like Hanukkah and Christmas while the marketplace gets flooded with ads promising happiness, joy and familial bliss if you purchase certain products. They manipulate with messages that it's the season of giving. To give is good, right? 

Not to mention the stress that comes with hunting for sales. If you shop correctly, you can take advantage of deep discounts that purportedly happen only one time of year. If you don't, you're probably dumb with money. The internal judge gets so loud that it practically drowns out the ads. Then it chimes in about the quality of the gift you give. Will they know that you only spent 99 cents? Is it worth it? What about when you spend $50 on that toy and it gets ignored after it's opened? Is it worth it? 

Then there's the judgement about who you're going to give presents to and who you won't. Or how about the dreaded inevitable inequity that repeatedly occurs when someone else has gifted you and you didn't get something for them? Or they clearly spent far more money on your item than you spent on theirs (perhaps they're just better at getting to those sales and they won't realize you spent the full price on that handmade soap). How about when they give you something cheap and you spent a fortune on their gift when you make much less money than they do? The indignance! (The internal critical judge is getting fed and swelling more and more like the 1950's sci-fi alien Blob).

At some point, shopping for others turns into a personal shopping trip because everything you ever wanted is suddenly at your fingertips and it fits perfectly and is on sale. Maybe a little shopping for oneself isn't so bad. ("You are so selfish," whispers something from deep inside.)

Of course there's far more to the shopping dynamic and we haven't even touched on family dynamics, winter blues, and how expectations to be happy set us up to be completely unhappy. Or how focusing on a future date (Christmas, the New Year) tends to pull us out of the moment. Plus, we're reminded of the year's past as its end comes hurling at our door whether we're ready for it or not. Why is everyone celebrating the New Year when it also marks the end (death) of a year?

Getting the picture that there's a perfect storm for a mini existential crisis during this time? Or a full-fledged large one? No wonder depression and suicide is at it's peak during December & January.

So, here's my advice--realize you're not crazy and these multiple dynamics converge, making things genuinely difficult. Be gentle with yourself and try to feed self-compassion over the inner critic. You can pray for guidance on the gift-giving and maybe set up some boundaries with your loved ones about the amount you'll spend. Regarding the end of the year and ringing in of a new one, take time to honor your path and feel the grief from any losses. Maybe you can have a private ceremony where you light a candle and say goodbye to the past year and any losses you experienced (loved ones, homes, jobs, friends, dreams, innocence, etc.) for unexpressed grief has a way of backfiring and leaving us in a darker state. Then set an intention for the new year based on self-care attitudes like feeling gratitude, forgiving and letting go of resentments, being fully present in the moment, accepting others for who they are, and loving without attachment and expectations.

If you want suggestions for handling family, you can check out my post on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201712/how-can-i-fix-my-family

Also, beware of masking grief with alcohol and prescription medication. You can read about the growing addiction phenomenon here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201711/drug-overdoses-are-leading-cause-death-those-under-50

One thing that emerged in 2017 was the joining of women who found their voices and declared NO to sexual harassment and assault. I'm so proud of all the men and women that have come together to enforce respectful and healthy boundaries. It goes for therapists as well. You can read about avoiding harassment from a therapist here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201710/if-your-therapist-harasses-you-metoo

All of my Psychology Today posts can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys

Thank you for reading and for allowing me the great honor to share in the healing journey with you. 

Ways to Help in Natural Disasters

With more than 70 people dead and billions of dollars of damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the full impacts of both disasters are still being tallied. Hurricane Harvey saturated parts of Texas and Louisiana with 27 trillion gallons of water and Houston received a whopping 53 inches of rain. Two weeks later, Houston's floodwater is contaminated with E. coli and heavy metals and draining very slowly. CNN reported that Hurricane Irma left a "nuclear landscape" in the Caribbean. On top of that, 61 people were killed by an unprecedented 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, the strongest of its kind in 100 years. Additionally, 65 ongoing fires in the West Coast have posed serious threats, burning everything in its path, wreaking havoc on air quality, and saturating the sky with massive ash like snowflakes in a winter snow storm. 

As people look alarmingly at global warming and feel overwhelmed at what to do to help others directly impacted by natural disasters, here are some things you can do (which can help you feel good by contributing to a solution while helping others at the same time):


> Consider donating to the Red Cross--as a volunteer or through valuable blood and monetary donations. 

> Get involved with other local community or church groups that are working on a mission of rebuilding.

> Volunteer at an emergency shelter near you.

> Donate essential items, like toiletries, food items, clothing, and replacement furniture.

> Help with childcare, play activities, helping with homework, and/or reading to kids at shelters.

> Foster displaced children and/or pets.

> Contribute to lessening your carbon footprint on the planet by investing in solar power and alternative energies.

> Get involved with local conservation groups in your area and do your part to reduce, recycle and reuse.

> Pray and/or send positive thoughts/energy to all around you, including Mother Earth... as Gandhi said, "Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. When properly understood and applied, it is the most potent form of action."

The Tactics Narcissists and other Crazymakers Employ to Manipulate You

I hope everyone is having a great summer. It has been HOT here in Texas. With heat comes a lot of extra stress and studies have revealed that road rage and other stress factors can increase in the heat. Some of the reactions can be physiological as many get overheated, dehydrated, and their adrenals get overtaxed, leading to heightened emotional reactions. Sometimes, however, people are not nice at all. In fact, they can be downright crazymakers. Following is an excerpt about Crazymakers from my Ten Keys to Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle book. An updated and revised edition will be out soon. In the meantime, you can take advantage of an Amazon special this weekend and get a free e-version of the 1st edition. Click here to order. 

Read on to learn about the different type of crazymakers and the typical tactics they employ to manipulate others. Don't forget to check out my other posts on Psychology Today. Nine types of love, modern childrearing, communicating through conflict, and finding sanity in political chaos are a few of the topics.


A mother gave her son two ties for an upcoming family occasion. She then got mad at him when he showed up at the party wearing one of the ties. She wanted him to wear the other one. Years later after the son had grown up and married, he presented his wife with two dresses for their anniversary dinner. He then got upset with her for wearing the wrong dress of the two. A few years later, after they had a daughter, the wife accused the daughter of hugging the wrong parent first—even if the little girl switched whom she hugged each time.

Crazy-makers come in all shapes and sizes and can have good and bad intentions. Some know they are being manipulative and oppressive while others haven’t a clue. Some engage in tactics consistently and others provide intermittent surprise attacks. The challenge is to recognize the behavior, assess if it’s from a healthy or unhealthy place, and then employ the proper strategies to stay sane and empower yourself.

First, let’s look at the definition of crazymaking. Crazymaking is when a person sets you up to lose. Much like the example above—you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You’re in a lose-lose situation, but too many games are being played to help you reason yourself out of it. There is no rhyme or reason or emotional-understanding with a crazy-maker. Worse, when the behavior is stealth and so confusing, it becomes easy to feel crazy. It feels like you’re caught in a whirlwind of chaos with the life force being sucked from you as you are manipulated with nonstop crazy-making tactics.

Key: Consider if You're Dealing with a Crazymaker 


The granddaddy of all crazy-makers is the narcissist. Narcissists cannot empathize with anyone, meaning they cannot relate to another person’s feelings. They can only feel their own wants and needs. They are emotionally stunted, like a perpetual demanding two-year old. It is always about them. However, they can be extremely charming and charismatic, as they have learned how to be the greatest salespeople to get their needs met. These shallow con artists can charm and mimic compassion for brief moments in order to get their needs satisfied. They expect only the best and can be the most materialistic—demanding trophy-relationships, endless objects of success, only well-known acquaintances, top-notch services, lavish vacations, etc. They have disdain for emotions in others and often think even less of people close to them. They try to control everyone around them and will use every available tactic to gain control. Many high-ranking executives are narcissists and consequently tend to create a narcissistic culture in their company or division.


Another famous crazy-maker is the drama-cultivator. Whether histrionic or borderline or a version of other similar diagnosable personalities, the drama-cultivator is best known for their perpetual crises. They are like Chicken-Little screaming “THE SKY IS FALLING,” but they expect YOU to fix it. Now. On their time. On their terms. Some people do experience an excess of rough times (and statistically it’s true that A LOT of crises can happen in one burst), but the drama-cultivator has an overabundance of crises. Plus, EVERYTHING is a crisis for the drama-cultivator. They expend their energy AND YOURS by responding to crises. They cannot empathize with others because they are too wrapped up in their chaos. Yet, they need you and your energy and don’t want you to leave them, so they go to great lengths to get and keep your attention. Like a wounded child, they also swing from loving and supporting you to getting angry and detesting you. Their moods and responses are inconsistent and dealing with them feels like you are walking in a field of hidden landmines.


The final crazy-maker is the stealth-bomber. They are the passive-aggressives that look like roses compared to the narcissist and drama-cultivator, but beware of their sharp thorns. These highly dependent people try to please you, but the nice things they do have a cost. They are the martyr that keeps score. Like a stealth bomber, just when you think everything is okay, they get you. Their modus operandi is to sabotage you while they look innocent. For instance, they will commit to doing something when they really don’t want to do it and then consistently bail out at the last minute. Or they’ll conveniently forget. Perhaps they’ll run late and miss the deadline. Everyone has these experiences now and again, but stealth-bombers do it ALL the time and they get YOU to feel guilty about it. They will make up excuses with the most ambiguous details and then sulk and act like a victim if you get upset. They will conveniently lose items, forget dates, miss deadlines, ruin plans, and then become sad and withdrawn because they’ve tried so hard. Whether it’s a narcissist, drama-cultivator or stealth-bomber, it is critical to ascertain if your power struggle stems from one of these crazy-makers. If so, empathy and rational problem-solving will not work (although paying attention to your own hot buttons is still key because crazy-makers have a keen ability to immediately spot your hot buttons and use them against you). Additional strategies are going to have to be used.


It is imperative to know if you’re dealing with a crazy-maker in the first place. However, the tendency is to be a little blind to this possibility if it’s a loved one or someone close. People seem to resist such a notion, so they end up taking the person’s behavior personally. They believe that the crazy-maker in their life could change if they wanted to change. They also expect the crazy-maker to play by the same communication and etiquette “rules” as everyone else, but they can’t. Let me repeat that again—CRAZY-MAKERS DON’T PLAY BY THE SAME RULES AS YOU. They simply don’t experience the world in the same way. It is as if they are dancing to a different song. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and energy if you realize this now and stop trying to make the crazy-maker in your life dance to your song.


The double-bind sets you up to lose. It can be like the example in the beginning where the mother gives two ties to her son and then gets mad at him for selecting to wear the wrong tie of the two. It can also be as subtle as a person giving a scolding look while saying, “I love you.” Another example is the ever-famous situation with two siblings and report cards. One has made all A’s and the other all C’s and D’s. The parent responds with “I know you did you’re best. Not everyone can be as smart and great as Johnny who makes all A’s,” which puts both siblings in a double-bind with each other. Double-binds are negative messages disguised in a positive message or gesture. The insult about choosing the wrong tie is cloaked in the gift of the tie. The son is trapped because if he complains, she can say he doesn’t appreciate the gift. The “I love you” is coupled with an angry look, so one is prevented from addressing the look because the counter-argument might be, “But I said ‘I LOVE YOU’.” Finally, both siblings are in a bind from saying anything to their mother about the grades as the punch in the stomach is hidden with supposed praise. Double-binds happen all of the time. Start paying attention and you’ll be appalled by the frequency. Crazy-makers employ this tactic most often. So, what do you do? The answer lies in boundary strategies at the end of this section.


Crazy-makers are superior at giving inconsistent praise. Narcissists, drama-cultivators and stealth-bombers are adept at keeping you on your toes and getting you to beg for their praise. There’s even a scientific explanation for it. Inconsistent praise tends to elicit desired behavior the most. As an example, numerous animal researchers have discovered that the best way to train an animal is with an inconsistent reward. Yes, an inconsistent reward produces the most compliant behavior in animals. That is why gambling can be so addictive because it provides an inconsistent reward. We literally get hooked. Crazy-makers have somehow figured this out and provide the people around them with inconsistent praise. Sometimes they are just so loving, present and/or flattering that it feels good. Then it’s gone. Some people get hooked and continue to put up with crazy-making behavior because they are waiting for the payoffs—the praise. In fact, crazy-maker’s praise probably does feel better than the person who is consistent with it. But, like gambling, it can be an addictive high that also has a queasy, unsettling feeling to it along with a high cost.


Crazy-makers have selective memories. We all do, but crazy-makers are exceptional with it. They conveniently forget any problems you’ve had with them when they want something from you. Then they throw every wrong you’ve ever done in your face when they are upset with you. Like above, it’s inconsistent. You never know what your review will be like because you’ve learned that it depends on their mood. You know that the only thing you can depend on with a crazy-maker is that you can’t depend on them. They will hold a grudge against you and then expect you to forget any disruptions. They will manipulate like crazy and use their selective memory as ammunition.


Crazy-makers can not empathize. This is how you really know that you’re dealing with a crazy-maker because they will simply not be able to understand your feelings or situation. They might try to and give you a sense that they understand, but they can’t sit with it very long and generally turn the conversation back onto their feelings or situation. This is an important point. Empathy is a developmental trait. A child at 4 years begins to play with others in a more cooperative fashion for the first time. Prior to that, children play with themselves. If they are with other children, they are most likely playing in an individual fashion while sitting next to other children, referred to as serial play. That’s normal because they haven’t developmentally learned to share and take turns. Such skills kick in at around the fourth year. Empathy begins at this time as well. You’ll see evidence of empathy when you watch a child trying to calm down another crying child by giving them a hug. Typically, a crazy-maker personality has not developed empathy, so they are more like a perpetual two-year old at an emotional level. Knowing this is critical to protecting yourself in a power struggle with them. Keeping strong boundaries is key to dealing with a crazy-maker.

Learn what you can do to protect yourself from crazymakers along with other strategies for staying empowered in power struggles in my book. Order this weekend and get a FREE e-version on Amazon.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May mental health monthWorld Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Deterioration of mental health is caused by as many external factors as internal ones... it takes a community solution where we embrace each other with tolerance, love, dignity, respect and where we help each other - in spite of our differences.

Bullying, discrimination and oppression create self-abuse as much as self-abuse can lead to outward abusive behavior. Err on the side of love....that's where healing, resilience and hope grow.

See if you can use this month to do at least one loving thing for yourself and for someone else and the community where you reside. Then let's see what flowers bloom.

Discover Your Personal Vitamin Rx

It’s difficult to write about natural remedies without addressing a core issue that leads to so many health problems—improper nutrition.


Much of the popular American fare (i.e., processed sugary snacks in a box like meal replacement bars, cereal, pop tarts, etc., and fast food burgers and fries) is lacking in necessary vitamins and minerals. Consequently, people tend to eat more in the body’s desperation to obtain nutrients.


The problem: More food equals more calorie consumption which can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases the body’s need for nutrition. The resulting vicious cycle can create obesity and starvation because the body’s real nutritional needs aren’t met—in spite of food consumption.


Hunger and cravings attack and emotional helplessness and self-flagellation set in. It’s a debilitating process that many can’t understand. Shaming someone for their hunger doesn’t work; it simply exacerbates the problem because the cortisol that comes from the stress of feeling shamed saps the body’s last nutritional stores and whips the adrenals into fatigue. It is like being a lone soldier on the battlefront—without a team to cover one’s back. Isolation leads to more stress and the emotional comfort of food masks the real instigator—nutritional starvation.


A billion-dollar diet industry has blossomed and is filled with experts telling people how to eat and what to eat; yet the problem persists. In an earlier post, I share that there is not a perfect diet solution for everyone because our bodies metabolize food differently. While a raw food diet works great for some people, another person may thrive on a protein-based, lower carbohydrate diet. There is a simple metabolic test I recommend in order to find out how your body processes food. I’d beware of any diet or nutrition expert that only advocates one kind of diet plan and that doesn’t give you a metabolic assessment first. See my previous post to learn more: http://kimberlykey.typepad.com/kimberlykey/2014/07/let-your-body-tell-you-what-to-feed-it-understanding-your-personal-metabolism-.html


Like the metabolic test that addresses how your body processes food, I have discovered a test that can assess your personal nutrition needs. What really excites me about this test is that it takes any existing medical conditions into consideration and provides nutritional needs based on your current health while giving vitamin & supplement solutions THAT DON’T INTERFERE WITH ANY OF YOUR MEDICATIONS. This is so huge. Even with training in toxicology, I personally get lured into wanting to take additional supplements to fix all of my ailments (or to prevent them) and I can seriously risk taking over the counter ‘natural’ supplements that dangerously interact with each other or with my prescriptions. It’s so difficult because many of the nutrition sales agents (and doctors) can’t keep track of simple contraindications of vitamins and supplements—AND MEDS. This test has a fantastic database with all of this knowledge and can recommend what you need without any dangerous consequences. It’s all HIPPAA compliant and the vitamins and supplements they supply are all top of the line pharmaceutical-grade quality. Best news is the test is for free. After a year of scrutinizing the company, I finally signed up as a distributor, so you can take the free test on my site: KimberlyKey.IDLife.com


There’s a 30-day money back guarantee, so try a 29-day challenge…take the test and try the nutritional supplements they recommend for 29 days. See how you feel and notice if cravings have diminished. Take note how your joints feel. Has energy increased? Is skin more supple and are wounds healing faster? Do you find you’re actually eating less and feeling more sated? Have stomachaches and headaches decreased? Has your mood improved? Does the world seem just a little bit better than it did before? That’s what meeting your nutritional needs feels like.:)


 Please let me know if you have any questions at Kimberly AT EncompassWF dot com.

Take Two Potassiums and Call Me in the Morning

Romantic dinner picThere’s nothing more anticlimactic to a romantic date over an indulgent dinner than getting swollen feet and legs from too much salt in the meal. Water retention. Not cute. Not comfortable. Not healthy. 

Before you give in to a ruined night and try to seclude yourself from your partner, try taking a potassium chloride supplement and guzzling a large glass of water. In 20 minutes you’ll be restored and the swelling will be gone. You can then resume cuddling  comfortably with your partner and enjoying the rest of your evening.

Potassium is a powerful need that often gets overlooked. Many have heard to eat a banana when dehydrated because the banana has potassium in it. Most people don't drink enough water and suffer from a chronic state of dehydration - and therefore low potassium.

In addition, the downside and danger of low-carb diets is that potassium gets even more depleted in the body. Because the body is in ketosis (fat-burning lypolysis mode instead glucosis), glycogen stores in the muscles are diminished along with the body’s electrolyte balance of potassium, magnesium and chloride. Therefore, low-carb dieters need extra supplementation to restore the balance.

Suffer from high blood pressure? The American Heart Association points out the need for potassium in the diet due to its ability to decrease unhealthy sodium and its powerful ability to relax blood vessel walls, which thereby reduces blood pressure. Nice!

So, while old school docs used to say, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” perhaps the 21st century dictum is to take two potassiums.

Here are the FDA recommendations for Potassium:


Adequate Intake (AI)


0-6 months

400 mg/day

7-12 months

700 mg/day

1-3 years

3,000 mg/day

4-8 years

3,800 mg/day

9-13 years

4,500 mg/day

14 years and up

4,700 mg/day


18 years and up

4,700 mg/day

Pregnant women

4,700 mg/day

Breastfeeding women

5,100 mg/day


While I have heard that potassium is generally low in most people’s diets and that overdose from it can be rare, it can happen - especially in people with kidney disease or heart patients on certain common medications. In such cases, potassium overdose can be life threatening due to potential for fatal heart rhythms. Please consult your doctor to determine your needs and if any of your medications and supplements have any contraindications with each other. 

Is Your Brain Starved?

Woman holding coconut to drinkWhen I think about all of the motivations for eating healthy—promises of a longer lifespan, reduction in diseases, losing weight and looking better—the one that most appeals to me is improving my brain. If eating can help me remember things better and process information more quickly then I’m getting an immediate payoff and am therefore more motivated to select healthier food options. The other benefits of a good diet are more delayed and as a human living in an era of immediate gratification, I want results now. That’s why I titled this post about the brain because I’m hoping this will wake you up and motivate you to think about the food choices you’re consuming and whether it is going to help or hurt your brain NOW.

In short, fat is our friend. The brain NEEDS fat. Heck, the brain IS fat (at least more than half of it is composed of fat). So, doesn’t it make sense that it requires lubrication? Think about those poor nerves encased in a myelin sheath that never gets fed properly. It’s like a piece of leather left out in the sun. It dries out. It doesn’t work as effectively. Anyone who has ever read The Seal Skin story can apply that lesson here. (It’s a favorite story of mine and I’ve always wanted to reference it!)

The problem with fat is when we our arteries get clogged and health is risked by consuming it. For years, doctors have encouraged lowering fat when one has high cholesterol. Hundreds of beauty magazines have also encouraged low-fat diets for weight loss. We’ve been conditioned and we’ve seen the consequences. (This blog is inspired by the loss of my mother who lived on a low-fat, barely any calories starved existence for years until her metabolism was ruined and then she gave in and ate foods to sate her deprivated body...which led to losing her health and life to obesity and diabetes. That’s a dire consequence! Of course her body was starved and sugar was the quickest fuel, so her body naturally craved it.)


  "Your body is either in glucosis or lipolysis." 

Fat is not bad. Consuming fat with sugar is bad. To put it very simply, our bodies can run on two types of fuel—sugar or fat. When we consume higher carbohydrates, our bodies automatically pick the easiest fuel for energy—sugars (carbs), or glucosis. If we limit the carbs and consume fats, we can switch our bodies into lipolysis (fat-burning machines), which is what our bodies actually crave and run more efficiently on, like a fancy Lamborghini that needs high-end oil and fuel to operate optimally.

Numerous studies reveal a low-carb, high fat diet reduces weight loss, curbs health problems, and improves overall nerve and brain functioning—including easing mood disorders like depression. What’s exciting is that researchers are finally studying this issue in more depth and reporting on it. One recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that the low-carb, high fat diet produces decreased fat, increased lean body mass, and decreased inflammation (a huge component underlying so many diseases) among Caucasians and African Americans.

The takeaway is to feed your brain with healthy fats and decrease your carbs so that it will actually use the fats you ingest. If you have been living on carbs and sugars for a long time, it will take a little bit of time to heal from the withdrawals, yet you should feel increased energy after a few days.

You may also discover improved digestion. One Paleo blogger provides an interesting analysis of the digestion topic in his post “Does Meat Rot in Your Colon? No. What Does? Beans, Grains, and Vegetables!”

Change your diet for two weeks and see how you feel. Sate your body with healthy fats and see how efficiently your brain works. Then post your results in the comments section. Looking forward to learning how it works for you! Blessed wishes and happy healthy eating!




Resolving the Gluten & Grain Controversy

Golden-Grain-Field_www.FullHDWpp.com_You may have heard of gluten. It seems everyone is sensitive to gluten these days. I’ve heard some people question the legitimacy of gluten intolerance and have suggested it’s just a fad. Maybe. But what if I told you that gluten and its cousins, other grains (which are abundant in “gluten-free” products), might be harming you—whether you feel the consequences or not.

That’s part of the basis of the growing paleo movement. What I like about paleo are the dozens of paleo bloggers that share their personal stories of overcoming illness and weight issues by switching to paleo (check out slimpalate, thepaleomom, or thedomesticman to name a few). While they are truly inspiring, I find that people get totally overwhelmed by the topic, don’t know what to eat or not eat, and just give up.  This post is an attempt to simplify the issue so that you can decide whether you want to eat grains or not.

First, here are a few definitions…

  • Gluten—a protein in grains that gives dough its elastic texture. You may have seen gluten in a bag next to the flour at the grocery store. It’s used for binding and enhancing elasticity in doughs. And gluten can be found in more than just wheat. It is in other cereal grains. Gluten is widely used and in some medications, vitamins, soy sauce, and other condiments, so it’s a stealthy ingredient that can cause a lot of distress for people trying to avoid it.


  • Celiac and other diseases that cannot tolerate gluten—people with celiac have an autoimmune disease in their small intestine and it flares up with the introduction of gluten. Other people with digestive disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, and other diseases and digestive disorders can have similar indigestive allergic type reactions to gluten.


  • Grains—while there are grains of sand, the grains for this topic are cereal grains such as wheat, rice, corn, millet, oats, rye, barley…and yes, legumes (beans, pulses)…and soy.


Paleo stays away from all grains. Knowing that gluten can be in other grains may seem like the reason, but it’s not. Paleo stays away from grains because of the phytic acid contained in grains. Here’s why—phytic acid competes with mineral absorption in the body. Let me explain that in a different way. Ladies, you might be taking fancy calcium supplements to avoid osteoporosis. Men, same thing. Perhaps you’re taking magnesium (a post to come on this essential mineral!) or you’re just taking a plain old multivitamin/mineral supplement. Well, you can just throw those away when you’re ingesting grains because that’s what your body is doing. Yep, like a magnet it attracts that phytic acid to the mineral and flushes those healthy and much needed minerals right out of your body.

Some doctors point to research that vitamin & mineral supplementation passes directly into our urine, so they claim supplements are a waste of money. In fact, it’s a common joke that middle class have the most expensive urine on the planet. I believe that supplementation works and can does get absorbed—when its not competing with other elements in the body like toxins, metals, and phytic acid in grains.

What can you do? Well, the good news is that you have two options. Or three…(the third being that you just keep doing what you’re already doing.)

In my last post, I recommended the book, The Metabolic Typing Diet. The test reveals if your personal metabolism needs a low-carb/high purine protein diet or a high carb/low protein diet or a balanced mix of both. If you are a low-carb/high purine protein type, the paleo no grains approach will work for you. More meats and veggies.

BUT if you are the high carb/low protein type, your solution requires a little bit of work and may explain why all the sage advice in the leading vegan books urge you to soak your grains. Soaking depletes the phytic acid in grains. Eating sprouted foods does the same. See, you can have your cake and eat it too—as long as you soak.

If you’re not still sure what to do, try limiting grains for a couple of weeks and then see how you feel after you reintroduce them. I discovered all kinds of problems when I tried to eat even sprouted grains (I’m also a low carb/high purine protein type though). The pain I experienced keeps me from craving it as much. I have also found a lot of great healthy substitutes. You can check out those paleo sites for ideas.

I hope this helps explain the controversy of gluten and grains. It’s a daily process of discovery. Good wishes and happy healthy eating. You can share any questions or comments in the comments section. 

Three Must-Have Supplements to Ease Aging

We are all aging. It’s a good thing. With age, comes wisdom and maturity. (Hopefully.) In today’s world of fighting the appearance of aging, I think we miss the opportunity to embrace all that age gives us. Our elders have much to teach us about the world and have rightfully earned their place as our heroes, mentors and guides along the path. With that stated, our bodies do start giving us certain challenges that make it a little more difficult to move around as we get older, so here are the top three must-have supplements that can help you maintain your mobility and ensure your status as a future elder hero that can guide the younger generations. (Please note these supplements are in addition to – supplement – your multivitamin.)

  1. Glucosamine—I was fortunate enough to have an orthopedic surgeon recommend this to me long ago. I was a candidate for knee surgery and thank goodness he was open to healthy alternatives. I began taking glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin and my knee pain subsided and my mobility improved. It works so dramatically well that my knee pain flares back up if my glucosamine runs out and I miss a day or two. I will find myself absentmindedly rubbing my knee in a meeting and then it dawns on me to quickly refill. Pain and absent-minded knee rubbing disappear! Because of my personal success, it was no surprise that when my golden retriever could not walk or move, my vet recommended glucosamine. My golden is now 14 years old and can still fetch and walk up stairs.
  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids—Omega fatty acids from healthy fish oils tested free of heavy metals and pesticides can help your body in numerous ways. Combing through the research can be exhausting and exciting. To simplify, Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) help our nervous system and organs in our body – even hormone production. Unfortunately, the low-fat diet craze led to a decrease of these healthy fats and gallbladder malfunctioning and other issues resulted. No wonder research shows a positive connection with EFAs to decrease depression and even aid other neurosensory disorders like attention-deficit disorder. Think of our bodies like a new pair of leather boots. After time in the sun (aging), boots need polishing. If they are only dabbed with water (low-fat diet) and not a good polish, they will worsen. EFA’s help our internal organs, our nervous system, and that precious organ that keeps us together – our skin.
  1. Digestive Enzymes—If EFA’s are like a wax for leather boots, digestive enzymes are like the buffing cloth that rubs in the wax and gives the leather a dazzling sparkle. Our natural digestive enzymes decrease as we age. Unhealthy diets of processed foods don’t help. With lack of enzymes, our food doesn’t properly digest and particles on undigested food escape into our intestines where they ferment and breed unhealthy bacteria. Once established, it becomes a vicious battle to restore that delicate bacteria balance. Problems like chronic indigestion, leaky gut syndrome and Candida ensue. I personally use a good enzyme that contains hydrochloric acid, pepsin, l-glutamic acid, and some pancreatic enzymes like amylase, protease and lipase.

There are so many more supplements on the market and shopping in the health section of your favorite grocery store can be overwhelming, if not completely addicting. There are even hundreds of natural cures ailments you didn’t even know you had. I confess to buying many of them and trying new things with as much zeal as a child opening presents on Christmas morning. Yet these are the three must-haves that I make sure I consistently take. I hope you find as much success with them as I have. We only have one body and it’s worth caring for as we age.



Bloated Stomach? Try this Simple Stomach Cure from the Sea

New ImageI was fifteen years old when I was diagnosed with an ulcer and prescribed a liquid antacid. Fast forward a couple decades, numerous antacid prescriptions and countless stomachaches later, I have learned that antacids were my worst enemy.

Now, for those of you that picked up that antacids are not the primary treatment for ulcers  (an antibiotic is now prescribed to treat the H. Pylori that causes many ulcers and antacids are used to treat the acidity to heal the stomach lining), you're right. I have been given antibiotics as well, yet my stomach issues persisted. I know I'm a sensitive soul, so  I - and practically everyone around me - chalked up my stomach issues to having a "nervous stomach." Ahh, there's nothing more validating than that. Stomach pain coupled with judgement.

Not much time passed before I started playing with my diet. I have been a vegan, vegetarian, balanced my carbs and protein, tried the Zone diet, tested my metabolic type, tried low-carb, Paleo, practiced food combining, took enzymes, did FODMAPS, and a few other things. My stomach problems still continued. I even relented and went to a "real" doctor, had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy and then tried a few medications that made things worse. 

I've learned a few things that work and definitely A LOT of things that make things WORSE. I will coniniue to post and share what has worked for me. For now, I want to share one big solution that has not been widely publicized. In fact, its nemesis - ANTACIDS - are the go-to cure for everyone. Remember, nemesis means enemy. Its opposite. Can you believe that many of us actually have too little stomach acid??

I tested myself by taking some HCl  tablets (Hydrochloric Acid - I used one 650mg HCL with Pepsin) after I was sick and bloated one day. I began feeling relief within 15 minutes. I was stunned. Grateful. What I learned is that our stomach acid actually declines as we age and one of the major precursors to natural HCl in our body is iodine. It also helps regulate our thyroid. (Which regulates our homormones! More posts on that to come!)

Once upon a time, iodine was supplemented in some of our foods, like bread, and was then abandoned. There has been a resurgence in the past few years as studies point out connections between health decline and iodine deficiency - and now some bread manufacturers are supplementing with iodine again. Still, bread (later posts will discuss the challenges of wheat and gluten) is not best source for iodine. Neither is iodized salt (for obvious sodium reasons and iodized table salt is the most depleted source of salt, so a healthier pink himalyan salt would be a better choice). 

The best way to supplement your diet with iodine is through kelp or kelp iodine drops. If you're past your 20's, you could really benefit. If you are past 40, you will be in awe how this simple supplement can improve your digestion.


Essential Anxiety Cure Taught by Children

This is in response to a reader who asked why children seem to be able to bounce back from stress more than adults. While it's a bit complicated, there is actually a powerful lesson that adults can learn from children about tackling anxiety.

Children whispering
Do you know children's number one secret for being happy - even after experiencing a stressful event? 

Is it toys? 


Think about how often kids find more pleasure in the wrapping or container than the actual toy you've bought them. Contrast that with adults' relentless pursuit of toys and material possessions.

Is it their pecking order in a group?

Not that either. (So no wonder the adult ego-driven motivations for status end up feeling empty.)

How about the ability to laugh and play?

Getting closer! But there's a reason behind the ability to do that.

It's living in the moment!

Time feels slower to children because they are completely present in the moment, responding to the stimuli in front of them. Most adults are living in reaction to the past or trying to plan for the future (where fear and anxiety dwells) that they end up losing precious time in the process - and, like a dog chasing its tail, they go after elusive goals like material possessions and status. Exhausted, adults start drinking or taking anti-anxiety relievers to relax. Yet those mood-altering substances don't stop the adult from focusing on the past of future, so the vicious cycle continues.

The cure is to endless anxiety and frustration is to stop and live in the moment. As a quick experiment, stop and take note of all of the sensory input right now: What is your skin feeling? What can you smell? Take a deep breath and really feel it. Listen to all of the sounds around you. Taste and really savor what you're eating and drinking. After doing this, did you notice that your worries temporarily diminished? (Be sure to try this out the next time you are flooded with anxiety...and keep practicing this for longer and longer time periods.)

Slowing down to the present paradoxically slows down time, allowing one to fully live life. It’s also the magical secret to unlocking the imagination—and releasing the power to play. Live in the moment and you will be more happy and content with life - and you won’t reach your grave regretting that you never fully lived.


How Marketing is Ruining Our World

I feel frustrated and have decided to use this blog as a way of voicing my concerns about the detrimental effects of current marketing practices.

Earlier today I decided to go on my neglected Facebook account and peruse around. I saw a bunch of posts touting people's opinions, services or current mood. I felt disconnected from everyone and a bit dismayed by the superficial interaction--then I decided that I should participate to get more out of the experience. You know that old adage, you only get out of something what you put into it. So, I reached out and made comments and connected with folks. It felt rather good. Then I decided to up the participation by posting a status update--and it was in the update that made me realize all of the growing discontent I've had with the current influence of marketing. I'll even go so far as to say that we've let marketing turn into a dictator-ish  monster that is ruining our quality of life and freedom.

Let me explain.

First, you may be wondering what was in my status update that revealed this upsurge of marketing mayhem? 

Here it is (see if it hits you too)...

"What does Art do for us? It 'gives shape' to our emotions, makes them visible and, in so doing, places a seal of eternity upon them..." from "The Elegance of the Hedgehog." Great read and most excellent point. Long live art & emotions (aka LIFE). The more we numb, the less we live and the less art we produce and appreciate.

Did you get it?

Well, let me expound upon it a bit more. Art captures our emotions. Art is the embodiment of what makes us human. It's humanity in form--and it's a cherishable tribute to life. My frustration with marketing is its influence on art.

As an example that I have heard countless times, a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air described that films are produced only when marketers deem them valuable. Marketers. Marketers who look to see if there will be enough revenue generated to justify production. Marketers who conduct surveys and allow people's impulsive opinions in the moment justify what sells. They reduce art down to the lowest common denominator where it no longer represents anything, just hum drum human impulse--which IS NOT the same as human emotion.

Perhaps that's why some truly great films were originally flops at the box office, only to become a hailed as art by all. Ever see "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Somewhere in Time"?

Going back to those impulses that marketers prey upon--I give workshops on overcoming procrastination. I share how our 'primal' reptilian portion of our brain is wired and why/how it gets us off track and distracted from the plans initiated by the frontal lobe portion of our brain. I tell people very clearly that marketers are manipulating our primal brain, so learn how to manipulate your own primal brain before they do.

That's right--manipulation. Yes, people CAN make you do things you don't want to do, especially when you're not aware of how the processes work. You think you're in control and you're not. Marketers are controlling you like the puppeteer controlled Pinocchio and the way Iago influenced Othello. Moreover, EVERYONE is on the marketing bandwagon and ingesting manipulation techniques the way guppies gulp brine shrimp flakes (or any other flakes for that matter). We're ingesting CRAP and we need to wake up.

Politics is infected the most. Did you notice that fundraising emails never stop--and it doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you reside. You are being driven to believe that you need to douse some fire by sending in your money. Again, the lowest common denominator wins and what really helps people seems to fall by the wayside.

Healthcare, once an ivory tower of trust and healing, is now polluted by marketing. Pharmaceutical companies, once banned from advertising, now feed the airwaves with drugs that will cure your whoas, your sex drive, your bladder, and your fatigue. (Of course some of these commercials are followed up by class action lawsuit ads by law firms--did acne-fighting Accutane give you Inflammatory Bowel Disease or did you take anti-inflammatory Celebrex only to have heart issues?) Who do people turn to that they can trust? The only information that's peddled has usually been influenced by marketers.

Even churches are under the influence. Give. Give. Give. Convert. Convert. Convert. Where does anyone go to just rest, relax, breathe, and connect? Churches are under pressure like everyone else and just trying to do what they can to survive. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a place where people can just be without being hit up to give money.

We've truly lost something when marketing practices become the norm. With the rise of small business, people worldwide are succumbing to manipulative marketing practices in the false belief that they're successful entrepreneurial habits. Using people as a means to profit IS NOT successful business. It's a sign of the times that we've lost touch with what matters.

I implore you to pay attention when you feel manipulated and are responding out of an impulse or urge. I doubly implore you to denounce practices that feed on people's impulses or urges (you know the feeling...or the so called "hot button"). Focus on what matters. Find and cultivate your values. Go to a museum and refill your spirit by looking at art. Remember your humanity and feed it to the world free of charge and I'll bet your needs will be filled in ways you could never imagine.

As a closing thought, maybe you could also take in some old movies that feed the soul. One of my favorite's is "Keys to the Kingdom" with Gregory Peck. Another great film that was fortunately restored, is the '37 Capra classic "Lost Horizon," which most poignantly captures the state of our world with this line, "When those that hunger for power devour each other, the meek shall inherit the Earth." (Meek, by the way, in Hebrew translation refers to spiritual humility, not material poverty.) My hope is that this tide of marketing hunger will subside and that it will be our combined spirit that will stand up and demand quality of life, not the tyranny of mass popularity. 


Check Out My Posts on Psychology Today

I realize I've neglected my blog for a couple of months. I'm sorry to anyone that has missed new content. I just posted a piece on tips for managing a listserv (see below) and I promise to add more of my usual material on various counseling and psychology topics. To let you know, I'll also be focusing on evolution trends to correspond with my new venture, Keys to Evolution. If you have any requests for content, please don't hesitate to contact me at Kimberly@EncompassWF.com.

If you're wondering what you're missing on my Psychology Today blog, entitled "Counseling Keys," here's a peek. Please visit it and be sure to check back here soon. Thanks and Happy 2011!

Children’s Expectations: What Your Child Would Tell You if They Could

President Barack Obama says to live up to our children's expectations. Learn the top three myths about children and what they really expect--if they could tell you.

Read More

December 13, 2010

In Defense of Marriage


Examining why 50% of people stay married and what they get out of their lifetime commitment.

Read More




It’s International Conflict Resolution Day – How are you Celebrating this Day?

Conflict res day 2010_WEB_2Today is International Conflict Resolution Day. While started by the Association for Conflict Resolution five years ago, it became recognized as the International Conflict Resolution Day in 2006. One of the main goals of the celebration is to recognize that there are ways to solve conflict through peaceful measures.

When receiving my ACR training in mediation, the biggest thing I learned was to look at the problem differently. The key was to find a mutually satisfactory solution rather than drawing a line in the sand and focusing on differences. I was taught the same thing as a psychotherapist. There is a famous example that illustrates the point perfectly:

Imagine a neighborhood with inviting homes, well-tended yards and tall shade trees where children play together and everyone feels safe. You live in one of the homes and one day a new neighbor moves in next door to you. They are from a different country and their accent is so thick that you can’t quite understand them. You observe many different people coming in and out. You aren’t familiar with their culture and find yourself standing back to observe what they’re about.

One day you go in the back yard and begin picking oranges from the tree. The tree sits in the middle of the property line and you’ve always shared access to its sweet fruits. A woman comes out of the neighboring house yelling at you in a different language. You haven’t seen her before. You are flustered because you don’t know what she’s saying. You are in a hurry because you need the oranges for the dinner party you are throwing and oranges are one of the essential ingredients in the meal. You aren’t about to drop them as they are the last four oranges on the tree and you’re in a time crunch.

What you don’t know is that she, the grandmother, is also in the middle of making an urgent recipe that is a healing remedy for her son (the owner of the home). Her grandson just tried to pick the oranges from the tree, but he couldn’t reach them. He went in to get her help and then she saw you taking them and panicked. She also doesn’t speak English very well.

If you had realized her situation, you may not have felt so threatened. Moreover, you may have felt compassion for her as she was tending to her ill son. You may have gladly given her the oranges and even offered to help her in any way you could. On top of that, if you had realized that she only wanted the juice of the oranges whereas you wanted the zest (the peel), you both could have shared the oranges and been happy. 

Mediation, conflict resolution, peacemaking is about trying to find those solutions. It seeks to understand first before becoming defensive.

Conflicts generally grow out of something so simple – a misunderstanding. Then other people come in to defend you and before you know it, there are two mobbing groups against each other. That’s how war can originate

Please know I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine bullying types of people (sociopaths and other people with more extreme personality disorders) out there that have malice in their heart. What I am saying is that more often than not, people have genuine love in their heart and are motivated by that magic quality. So, the next time you begin to feel enraged or defensive with someone – seek to understand first. Listen with your heart and try to feel compassion for the other person or people. Hearts, by the way, speak all languages, so don’t let that deter you when encountering another person that seems different from you. You just might get love in return, which can only make life greater.

MOTHER__TERESA_167909eIn closing, I want to take a moment to remember and honor Mother Teresa for all the amazing peace work she has done in the world – and for the light she has modeled to the rest of us. She once said that she wouldn’t go to an anti-war demonstration, but she would attend a peace rally, so maybe we can also think of today as Peacekeeping Day. 

(Mother Teresa - 26 Aug 10 - 5 Sep 86)

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

What We Can Do About Bullying

Bullying hurts. It kills. And it impacts everyone – you can be a victim of it, responsible for it, an observer of it, or somehow related to it. The point is that no one is fully removed from it, so it’s in all of our best interests to understand what we can do to confront it.

This is a blog entry and by no means an exhaustive account about what we can do, however, there are some tips that can consistently help a person that has been bullied. I’m placing them here for everyone. If you are a victim, try them and please also reach out and seek help. If you know someone that is a victim of bullying, please reach out to them, support them, and help them to find help. 

  • Breathe - Breathing is often overlooked during anxious situations. We begin to pant or stop our breathing altogether. Take deep breaths (at least four or five of them) and re-center and ground yourself. This will calm you while sending needed oxygen into your blood stream and harnessing your adrenaline, so that you can think and react more clearly. Get in the habit of doing this when waking up and going to sleep along with several times during the day.
  • Do not isolate yourself – It is tempting to withdrawal and not share what’s happening to you. Now more than ever you need people around you. Talk to family members. Find support. Join a support group. Find friends that like activities that you like (book reading clubs, outdoor hiking groups, church, gym, other hobby groups, etc.). Make sure to surround yourself with people that help build your self-esteem.
  • Realize that you are in control of you – Bullies like to take control by manipulating and scaring you. You can lessen their impact by taking control of you, your actions, your thoughts, and your responses to them. When you take control of you, you fan the flames of inner strength and resilience.
  • Make a plan – Find action steps to take to deal with the bullying. Document what is happening and write down what you can do to stop it. Enlist help from loved ones and/or a professional to assist you in figuring out your options.
  • Find additional strength in things that matter to you – Think about things, people, places and dreams you love. Cultivate those parts of yourself as that is what makes you unique and special. Feeding your passion takes power away from bullies.
  • Learn something new – Take a class at the community center or community college in something new, like pottery, writing, computers, art, yoga, foreign language, cooking, etc.
  • Nurture yourself – Remind yourself of your strengths and gifts. Write them down. Do things that you love to do and tell yourself positive things (GET RID OF THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK).
  • Have faith and believe in the power of transformation – Yours and the world’s transformation. Give yourself self-love and find strength to make a difference.
  • Keep healthy boundaries – Beware of people that make you feel guilty, less than them, or continually make it about them and ignore your feelings.
  • Advocate on others’ behalf – This helps build your strength and makes you feel empowered (and not alone) along with developing your empathy and compassion for others (because the worst way a bully can control you is if they turn you into them).


If you or someone you love is continually reliving the abusive event, has become hyperalert and easily startled, has developed a hopeless outlook on life, is dealing with anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, lack of concentration, is gaining weight and/or has lost their appetite, is acting out with self-sabotaging behaviors (cutting, drinking, engaging in risky behavior, sexually acting out, etc.), and especially if you/they are having any thoughts of suicide or killing someone else – SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. 

Bullying has numerous victims in schools, workplaces, communities, retirement homes, and even in your home with your loved ones. Most bullies are toxic and are bent on control. They often do not see their victims as real people (dehumanizing them by seeing them as "the other" or even as a possession). They are in a game to win and sometimes their displayed remorse is part of their game. Bullies are usually immature, narcissistic, and highly competitive. They may not genuinely like themselves and be out of touch with their true emotions. They may have mental health issues and can swing from being loving and caring to dangerous and cunning. Keep your boundaries and don’t reinforce their bullying. Don’t laugh when they tease another person and make inappropriate jokes. Don’t engage them or bully with them. Say no and help stop the tide of bullying.  If you see someone bullied, reach out and give them your care because we can all do something to help heal the pain of bullying.


October is National Bullying Prevention Month – “Take Your Power Back” Bullying Prevention Seminar this Saturday, October 16 Downtown Austin (4-5:30PM)

Bullying is pervasive. It happens in schools, workplaces, in neighborhoods—and even in your home. Bullying spans across the ages as it occurs among children, in dating and intimate relationships, between siblings, with parents, against the eldery, and the ill. Cyberbulling (using text messages, social networking sites and the internet) has created another level to bullying, making its deleterious effects lasting and almost inescapable. Cyberbullying has become so bad that iSafe foundation statistics have shown that ONE in THREE adolescents have been threatened online.

In response to Bullying Prevention Month and the alarming trend of bullying, Keys to Evolution is holding its first seminar focusing on how to protect yourself from bullying. We’ll look at the evolutionary trait of equity and fairness and discuss what prompts people to bully (the lure of power and control) and what you can do to empower yourself in abusive and bullying situations. We’ll also discuss what you can do to help others that have been impacted by damaging bullying behavior.  You’ll receive practical tips to help you heal, survive, and thrive from bullying experiences. You’ll also learn proactive steps to prevent bullying. You’ll learn how to spot an abuser before they bully and the secret manipulative tricks they use to bully people and how to deal with cyberbullying. You’ll receive strategies for dealing with various bullying situations along with things you can do to help your community. 

This seminar is for anyone that has ever experienced bullying or anyone that wants to learn what to do prevent it from happening in the first place.

The Keys to Evolution – Bullying Prevention Seminar “Take Your Power Back from Bullies” will be held this Saturday, October 16 from 4-5:30 PM at the Austin History Center meeting room on 810 Guadalupe. (Come downtown, get empowered and enjoy a nice dinner downtown afterward.) The cost is $49 per person with a percentage of the proceeds going to iSafe Foundation. Participants will also receive a copy of my book, "Ten Keys to Staying Empowered  in a Power Struggle." To register, see http://nomorebullying.eventbrite.com/.


Why New Years’ Resolutions Fail and How to Make them Succeed

Thinking about making some New Year resolutions? Before you do, consider this: what you focus on expands. Focus on avoiding something (e.g. drinking, overeating, procrastinating) and you just might ensure its continued success. As an example, 98% of people dealing with stress tend to wake up at night ruminating about the thing that bothers them. It might be a fight with a child, an argument with a coworker, burgeoning mortgage bills, illness, or something else. It makes sense to focus on the problem. Yet, like the old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the problem will get the energy, which only serves to reinforce the rumination. They key is to focus on the opposing force of the problem-the solution.  

To illustrate, let’s use the example of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony, and lust). Numerous stories throughout time teach caution about succumbing to these behaviors. The message is reinforced to us at a young age by parents, teachers, books, and the media. For instance, recall Star Wars, episode 3, where Anakin Skywalker transforms into Darth Vader after allowing fear, envy, anger, and pride to mask his heart and intuition. In the episode, Yoda warns Anakin not to focus on the dark side of the force.

Like Darth Vader, human beings focus on the dark side of the force much of the time. I see it in myself, my friends, my family, and my clients. We fall of the bike of positive thinking and start ruminating on the negative and what we’re trying to avoid. Don’t believe me? Look at these top 13 New Year resolutions in the United States. The very first one is to lose weight with managing debt coming in second place. Both of these resolutions focus on the problem instead of the solution. Perhaps that’s why more than 68% of people will give up on their resolutions within the first two weeks.

People would be more successful if they focused on the light side of the force. Instead of making a resolution to lose weight, try making an intention to take care of your body with nourishing food, love and care. That love and care might consist of vitamins, exercise, deep breathing, emollient lotions, uplifting fragrances, plenty of water, and listening. Let your body speak to you about what it feels. A tummy ache might be a red flag that something is bothering you. Maybe putting up better boundaries and treating yourself with respect is needed. You may not hear this critical wisdom if you’re getting mad at your body for not fitting in your clothes.

Regarding managing your debt, can you tell this resolution focuses on lack? Treat your money with love, care and gratitude. Notice everything you have and how fortunate you are that you have the ability to pay for water, electricity, and things so often taken for granted. Debt begins to melt away (and never take hold in the first place) when we manage our money with gratitude. What happens is that people tend to focus on what they don’t have or how little money they or their partner is making, which leads to a vicious cycle of spending to feel better and then regretting. Stop the cycle by appreciating the joy that $1 gives you. The thrill of that hot shower. The warmth of the extra blanket on your bed. The comfort of the fuzzy slippers or soft socks. That is where the magic lives and abundance multiplies.

As for those seven deadly sins, try focusing on their complementary positives—the seven joys. Instead of avoiding greed, think of expanding how much you share. Instead of battling lust, try encouraging people’s soulful dreams. Instead of resisting anger, give yourself nourishing love. Instead of avoiding becoming a sloth (couch-potato syndrome), allow yourself to dance more. Instead of inhibiting your inner glutton, try releasing your inner artist and seek quality over quantity. Instead of hiding from your proud ego, focus on fostering unconditional self-acceptance. Finally, instead of detaining your green-eyed monster of envy, try re-focusing on gratitude in the moment. 

If you’ve gotten anything from this article, I hope it’s that attitude is everything. Please don’t beat yourself up. Take it one day at a time and keep readjusting your sights on the light. It will become natural over time. If you want help, you can try out my new texting tool for free. It’s www.InstantMotivator.com and is designed to help you stick to your positive goals. Type in ACAFreeTrial for your two-week free trial.

Happy 2010! May the next decade bring you joyous light, soulful meaning, loving relationships, and dreams that come true! 

Veteran’s Day: Honoring the Forgotten Hope of 11-11

I cried as I prepared to write today’s post. It rekindled some painful memories. However, proceeding to write this renewed my faith and hope. I hope reading it has the same effect for you.

Today is November 11, Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a little more somber and poignant this year as our Nation continues to battle in a “war on terrorism” and attempts to recover from last week’s tragedy at Fort Hood when one man (a psychiatrist) engaged in his own battle as he allegedly shot down 13 people and physically wounded 42 others, and emotionally wounded so many more.

How does one heal? What can one do?

Last night I heard a quote by Benjamin Franklin that appalled me, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.” I disagree. Research shows that hope is one of the key ingredients to resiliency and healing. I say it’s the opposite, “He that lives with hope will die fulfilled.”

Of course, I also recognize that hope is only one ingredient. We need direction and action. The obstacle is when our direction and actions are based on reactivity, revenge, fear, and self-deception.

Perhaps that’s what happened November 11, 1919 when Germany begrudgingly signed the armistice agreement that ended World War I (at the 11th hour of on the 11th day of the 11th month). The total number of deaths from that war, The Great War, was considered to have been 8.5 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, and 21 million being wounded (imagine the millions more impacted emotionally and through the generations).

A possible sliver of silver lining from all this destruction (the hope) was the creation of the League of Nations. While it didn’t stay in formation, it’s focus on communicating worldwide about issues that impact global human rights and public health set a precedent for the United Nations.

What does all of this have to do with Veteran’s Day? A few things.

First, because of the armistice agreement, this day was originally called Armistice Day. Ironically, armistice means “a temporary suspension of the warring parties by agreement.” Armistice Day, as its name implies, was only temporary. It was changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954.

While we remember veterans today (living and passed), I want to point out the astronomical number of civilians that have been killed in war (remember that WWI casualties alone totaled approximately 8.5 million soldiers and 6 million civilians). That doesn’t include all of the civilians directly impacted by war.  Today is not so different as civilians are targets of terrorist attacks around the globe.

As a counselor, military brat, and veteran, I feel compelled to express my sympathy and extend loving and healing thoughts to all people worldwide on this day, not just my fellow veterans. In fact, I urge all people to think of this day as a day of peace and to hold the intention of peace throughout time. 

Change happens when we change our foundation. That foundation is created by our intentions and the words we use. Mother Teresa expressed it best when she described that she wouldn’t attend and anti-war protest but she would show up to a pro-peace rally. The original seed of today’s history is based on the hope of worldwide peace. Please don’t forget it—honor the hope of today and the people around you. Namaste.

How the Hidden Blueprint of Childhood Directs Your Career


How can a damaged upbringing hurl you into career greatness?

You’ve probably heard of numerous examples where people have beaten all odds and succeeded in accomplishing their dreams. The subtle message in these cases seems to suggest that rough beginnings and hardships are the secret ingredients to success. That’s why I laughed and laughed when I heard the line “Don’t fix your Daddy issues!” on Samantha Who?, a former ABC sitcom starring Christina Applegate as an amnesiac who finds herself in a successful job but learns she wasn’t a very nice person to many people. The friend that cautioned her from getting to know her father better said that those initial family problems were exactly why she was so good in her job. (Clearly this advice isn’t so good for my job. But if you watch the show, you’ll learn she’s a much happier person by reuniting with her emotions and changing her former greed at all costs approach to life.)

Similarly, I’m often asked how our childhoods can affect our jobs—especially the risk-taking nature of an entrepreneur. It’s highly individual of course, but here’s a theory that can satiate your curiosity a bit. See if you can identify yourself in any of the following categories and learn how it impacts you, your loved ones and your career and  business ventures.

The attachment theory is one of my favorites and a lot of empirical research has given it more validity over the years. The simple description of attachment theory is how you initially bonded with your primary caregiver (Mother? Father? Adopted parent?) forms the basis of how you will interact (or attach) to everything else in your life. This can be a relationship, hobby, home, career and/or your business venture. 

Secure Attachment – The person who has a secure attachment received the perfect balance of love and nurturing from their parent. The parent was attentive to their needs and empathetic (could feel their feelings). The parent was not intrusive (bugging the baby even if the baby expressed displeasure) or neglectful (not paying attention to the baby). The securely attached person grows up with a sense of confidence, trust, and wisdom. They do not stay in situations that do not work. For example, they would move on if a relationship or venture showed clear signs of failure. Conversely, they would not just give up either. They would make the appropriate amount of effort. (Not everyone has this attachment style, but it’s something we can all learn to cultivate in life.

Avoidant Attachment – The avoidant person had a parent that was more neglectful. The parent could not empathize or was just so busy that they could not be as responsive to their child. Consequently, the child learned that being alone was normal. The avoidant adult is not as good with empathy. Moreover, they do not handle intimacy very well as it can feel suffocating and provoke anxiety. They prefer to keep a distance. This can translate into getting into relationships but not being very close (perhaps traveling or working a lot to maintain adequate distance). It can also mean growing tired of ventures and needing new things to do more frequently.

Insecure Attachment – An insecure attachment simply means that the parent swung from being available to not being available, leaving the baby confused and feeling more anxious about losing and/or attracting the parent. The insecure adult brings this underlying anxiety into their relationships and constantly battles with the fear of losing relationships and the desire to have distance. This person most experiences the tension of the togetherness and separateness continuum. In their venture, they may vacillate about what to do as a consequence.

Paying attention to your anxiety is key to healing the wound if you find yourself identifying with the latter two styles. Re-nurturing yourself can help shift you into a more secure attachment style. You can also go to a counselor or coach as this is one of the secret reasons such processes work. The bond you develop with your therapist or coach can form a new attachment style when your interactions are trusting, open and positive. 

(Stay tuned for the next blog post as it will discuss ways you can self-nurture and self-heal.)

Adapting to an Empty Nest and Sharing Parenting Pearls Learned Along the Way

I ate chocolate cake for breakfast today. I fed my sadness. I’m not proud of it (although it was an exceptionally delectable piece of my homemade specialty). Yes, I break down and succumb to unhealthy measures to escape my feelings from time to time. As a counseling psychology professional, I’m just a little more aware of the implications when I do it. The trouble today? Looming empty-nest syndrome brought on by my daughter’s impending graduation.

My daughter and I are extremely close and I’m profoundly proud of her. I knew one day she would grow and flee the nest, but even now it’s surreal to me. We’ll get through it and I’ll be strong. I owe her that. She’s going off to college to pursue her dreams and I can only imagine how frightening it is for her to move away.

That’s where I draw my strength. Being strong and reassuring will help her when she’s feeling homesick. I say this because I know there are other mothers out there who are feeling just as crushed as I feel. I’m also a single mom of an only child, so I deeply understand the secret desire to hold on. Don’t. Let them fly and be proud. If you’re struggling, find support with other moms (in fact, feel free to contact me and let’s start a support group together!).

Having stated that, I want to take a moment to share some parenting pearls that have worked wonders for me these past 18 years. These pearls haven’t always been supported by my colleagues, but I felt convicted about how I was raising my daughter and followed my heart and instincts. Seeing her success and emotional maturity today confirms my choices.

1.             Love your child unconditionally.

Some professionals have suggested that I have loved/love my daughter too much. NEVER. I believe you can NEVER love your child ENOUGH. It is not enmeshment; it is a parental duty to put your child above and beyond everything else. Choices and decisions you make should be carefully weighed against their impact on your children.

Sidney Poitier brilliantly describes such sentiment in a scene from the 1967 drama, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” when his father complains about the sacrifices he made for him and Poitier’s character retorts that it was his job as a father to work so hard for his kids and family.

2.             Kids are spoiled by things, not your love.

Children become demanding when things (toys, money, monster-sized lonely houses, overstuffed playrooms, etc.) are thrown at them in place of the love and nurturing they need. Happy Meals have taught kids that they need to be entertained and given toys with each meal. You can teach them the opposite.

A trick I tried that seemed effective was when visiting a fast food restaurant (only on rare occasions did we go to such places), I’d share a burger with my daughter. No Happy Meal with toys and games. We’d get one burger and enjoy it under a tree at some park. She’d learn to share, spend quality time with me, and to not expect some flimsy toy with each meal. To this day, she still raves about our memories of getting a “big, juicy burger.” 

We also have formal dinners every night (most nights) and cook together. Lighting a candle at dinner makes it extra special. Such routines inspire joy, gratitude and reverence for life’s gifts.

3.             Consistency is critical when raising children.

Kids will naturally manipulate if they experience inconsistency. However, what most people don’t realize is that children actually feel insecure when rules are slippery. Therefore, reinforcing and being consistent with your rules helps to make your children feel safe and secure. They might still test your rules to see what they can get away with, but that’s just to know that they can count on you and a safe world.

Similarly, they need your yeses to be consistent too. Love and praise them and don’t back off of the good things you’ve promised them. Don’t say you’ll go to their game and not show up. Don’t promise to take them to the movies and then not go. Doing so shows slippery rules and you’ll teach them to be just as slippery and noncompliant (along with feeling heartbroken).

4.             TRUST your kids - even your teens.

If you’ve raised your children in a manner of loving consistency and not spoiling them, you’ve raised emotionally mature kids. As teens, you need to listen to their feelings and create empathy. Sure, they’ll go through emotional up and downs. Who doesn’t when one’s body is rapidly changing and hormones are fluctuating beyond belief? Love, support and listen to them.

If you distrust everything they say and set up a power struggle, you are sure to have a rough ride. Too many parents expect the worst and also expect their kids to be perfect. They see emotional reactivity as noncompliance when most of the time, kids really just need a hug and some reassurance to get through the changing chaos of their growth. My daughter’s and my conflicts have just melted away when we stop, hug each other, and mutually share what we’re really experiencing. After all, trust is a two-way street and empathy is the only bridge to peace and healing.

Writing this has been therapeutic for me as it allows me to look back on my daughter’s life, smiling and remembering all of it. Like eating the chocolate cake this morning, I haven’t been a perfect parent. I’ve been inconsistent at times and have definitely engaged in some battles of will. Overall, however, it’s been absolutely amazing. My daughter is the joy of my life and I know I did right by making decisions around her best wellbeing. She’s given back 1,000-fold too.

My best presents, my best memories, and my best accomplishments have been with and because her. Some might argue it’s enmeshment and I disagree.  It’s parenthood - the most important job I, and you, will ever have. My daughter is strong, loving, compassionate, communicative, mature, independent, and confident. She is also quite talented and creative. She needed love to feel safe. She needed trust to trust her own internal guidance. She needed freedom to learn independence. She needed consistency to learn self-discipline. She needed gratitude to grow spiritually and fuel her creative gifts. She is ready to flee the nest and achieve her dreams. So am I—with a deep breath, a broad smile, unshakable support, gigantic applause, and maybe a couple extra pounds.

Are You Profiting Off Someone Else's Pain?

Today I was asked how it felt to profit off people’s pain. It’s not the first time I heard this question. The other time came from a busy male CEO that seemed to sneer at my decision to leave engineering and become a counseling therapist.

Today’s question came from a similarly successful male executive. I felt sad and a little misunderstood. I also couldn’t help but recognize the irony that each of them has a net worth far greater than mine.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, I began thinking about all of the layoffs around the world; the state of our health from unhealthy fast food and inactivity; the quality of our relationships that compete with technology, addictions, and a relentless desire for instant gratification; and this ubiquitous thing called the “rat race” that deems a large net worth and array of material possessions as a measure of success. Am I profiting or are the people that have created and sustained this “rat race” culture?

The effects of this “rat race” culture are frightening. Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, cites data that indicates narcissism is escalating by 30% since the 1960s. Childhood poverty in the U.S, has also been on the rise since 2000. In fact, almost half of our children are living in families that range from low-income to poverty level. On top of that, our uninsured rate continues to climb. Unemployment is at staggering rates. Not surprisingly, insecurity and the anxiety that stems from this current environment is at an all time high.

The silver lining can be summed up by the adage, when one door closes, another one opens. This national and global crisis is an opportunity to re-focus on what matters. We need to change the “rat race” culture and focus on how we are raising the next generation.

Rather than profit off people’s weaknesses (providing fast food that people can eat in a car…knowing that people procrastinate and will unlikely cancel their subscriptions that renew automatically…manipulating people to reciprocate and purchase a product when given something for free…selling them cosmetic surgeries that feed their insecure-based self-obsession…capitalizing on their fears with unnecessary products…etc., etc.), we all need to come together and make our character and relationships - not money - the measure of our success. When we do, we cultivate empathy and compassion for people. When we do that, we don’t even think of business schemes that hurt people (Ponzi schemes, etc.).

In closing, I am struck by an example Benjamin Franklin gives in his autobiography about how he was raised as a child. During instruction, they were told not to notice the food they were eating or any of the table settings (external items that money buys) but to focus on the lessons and what was “good, just and prudent in the Conduct of Life.” Perhaps that is something we can all practice. Don’t focus on profit in business, but on what is good, just and prudent in the Conduct of Life.

(Please note-All members of the American Counseling Association, American Psychological Association and similar professional therapy organizations have a strict code of ethics that focuses on the client’s well-being over profit. All professionals must also provide a certain percentage of pro-bono and community work. In addition, most of my colleagues, and myself included, have frequently extended our services and waived fees on a case-by-case basis with our clients as needed.)

A Counselor’s Commentary on the Caveats of Twitter

“Sunrise in Austin is fabulous today!” Weather reports. That’s pretty much what my Twitter submissions disclosed when my friend and Twitter King, David LaPlante, introduced me to Twitter back in 2006. Now it seems like EVERYONE is Twittering these days. There are even courses on how to Twitter to improve your business. Boy, did I miss something??

Based on my personal experience with Twitter, here are a few of the caveats for those who want to jump on the Tweet-Tweet bandwagon. Keep in mind that I supported and promoted the cool new micro-blogging tool as a way to stay in contact with friends and loved ones in a post on Sep 6, 2007. Still, there are downsides that you should know—and I’ll share those warnings in the only Twitter-esque way possible—David Letterman style!

Top 10 Reasons to Not Join Twitter

10.           People will see that you can’t spell.

9.            You don’t have a good photo to put on your site.

8.            You haven’t learned to text on your phone.

7.            You didn’t know you could send Twitters from your phone.

6.            It might jeopardize your witness relocation program.

5.            You are married and/or dating more than one person.

4.            You are a hermit and don’t want people knowing a thing about you.

3.            You don’t want anyone to find out what you really think of them or your stinkin’ job.

2.            You loathe cyber-voyeurism, cyber-exhibitionism, and cyber-stalking.

1.            Your life is SO dull that you can only tweet about the weather.


For everyone that keeps asking me about my Twitter, I’ll submit a post now. But just this once.  You can check it out at Tea4Soul (my Alias) if you’re that interested in Austin’s weather.  Who knows, maybe if I keep Twittering I’ll get lucky and someone will want to hire a counselor as a weather blogger. 

What You Can Do to End School Violence

The recent shooting and killing of 15 people by a teenager in Germany this week brought back haunting memories of the infamous gun shootings at school campuses here in the U.S. Like so many who were alive to experience President Kennedyʼs assassination or the horrifying terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, I have vivid recollections of my exact whereabouts when I learned about the shocking school shootings at Columbine, San Diego, and Virginia Tech to name a few of the bigger ones. Living in Austin, I also shudder at the recollections of the 1966 shooting from the University of Texasʼ tower. Then I read a National Crime Survey that reported a whopping three million crimes occur at or near school campuses in the U.S. every year. Two million of these crimes involve violence.
What can be done?
I believe the answer is three-part - It includes biology, family and community.
It has been reported that many of the assailants suffered from some sort of mental health issue. For instance, the teenager in Germany was said to have been treated for depression. While some mental health issue may exist, I want to make note that there is danger in blaming biology as the primary cause for violence. First, it can falsely imply that people who are being treated for a mental health issues like depression or schizophrenia are violent. That is generally not the case in these specific conditions. There are other mental health diagnoses that reveal more anger and violent tendencies, but those werenʼt reported in the media. The key is to get an accurate assessment and proper treatment. Having stated that, while an underlying genetic predisposition can exist, such conditions flourish in certain environments - which brings me to family and community (and what you and I can do).
As parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, we are all modeling behavior in front of children. Children thrive when we listen to their feelings and when we praise them for what they are doing right. One bad apple spoils the barrel and many adults are guilty of heaping a barrel of bad apples onto kids. Try to put your noʼs in check and treat children like you want to be treated. Respect their feelings, their boundaries and try showing more empathy. Be sure to do this with the rest of the family as well because kids will imitate your behavior. Parents that fight, ignore, belittle, and/or treat each other with anything less than love and respect are basically telling kids to treat people the same way (remember - action speaks louder than words).
The reality is we could all do a much better job. When I see rising divorce rates (50% for 1st marriages, 64% for 2nd marriages, and 73% for third or more marriages) along with ugly custody battles and endless blame-gaming between parents, I canʼt help but wonder about the connection to this alarming research finding among high school boys - many boys thought it was okay to hit their girlfriend if she angered him.
Have we just stopped teaching our children about the basics of life? Do we send them off to school, buy them toys and gadgets, plop them in front of televisions and computers, and ignore their basic needs of love and affection? Have we stopped playing and sent them into competitive sports instead? Do we hound them about grades and getting ahead? Have we forgotten the simple pleasures and larger priorities?
We set the priorities at the family and community level. Right now we are undergoing economic turmoil. People have lost jobs, retirement, and savings. Thereʼs a shuffle to figure out what to do. This is an opportunity to readjust our values and priorities. If you are a parent that has been living in the rat race, stop now. Look at your kids. Find a way to focus on their basic needs first. I guarantee that your time and love is far greater that any toy or material item that you could buy them. Perhaps losing a rat race job could be the biggest blessing to rediscovering a real life with your family and finding work that matters. Maybe if you do this, there will be less angst in the world and more peace and love in our childrenʼs schools.

What to do if the Weather is Bringing You Down


   Gloomy weather

Short overcast days and long cold nights can make you sad. There’s even a psychiatric  diagnosis that uses sad as an acronym – Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens when you lose energy, can’t seem to focus, crave sugar and “bad” carbohydrates, and have a sense of defeat with feelings of worthlessness. Some say that people with this response are in tune with nature and are empathically experiencing a kind of winter period alongside the trees and shrubs (when winter land is kind of glum and non-fruitful too). Yet, the world goes on and doesn’t seem to allow for hibernation in humans. Perhaps that’s why western medicine has stepped in to help the half a million Americans that complain about SAD every year.


The solution is light therapy. People can receive up to 30 minutes of light at an intensity of 10,000 lux (in lumination measurement). To contrast, your household lamps generally put off about 100 lux whereas a bright sunny day can dose you with 50,000 lux or more. Researchers are investigating different timing periods and different light sources. In one study, Columbia University researchers discovered impressive results by calibrating light exposure to natural melatonin rhythms. The difference shows improvement in 80% of the patients that were timed appropriately as opposed to 38% (Mother Nature must be really good as most of these patients’ SAD symptoms improve with the onset of spring).

Still, if you can’t wait for spring, check out the Society of Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms to learn more. But before you run out to get your light therapy, know that certain medications and conditions can cause retinal damage from light therapy. This includes: St. John’s

Wort (a natural herb for treating depressive symptoms), Lithium (used for bipolar treatment), Melatonin (a natural sleep aid), antipsychotic medications, and conditions like diabetes and retinal conditions.

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Happy Holidays to everyone out there. I hope the peace of the season is able to find its way into your and your loved ones’ heart, mind, spirit and body. Best wishes for 2009! I hear it’s going to be a good one, so spread the word.


If you’re taking a break from your revelry or hard work to read this right now (or if it’s just a way of procrastinating), let me try to offer a little inspiration to help you make your New Year’s resolutions last throughout 2009.


First, I’ll start by sharing an experience from graduate school. I was taking an advanced counseling class and a student was crying after recounting the pain he felt during Christmas because his mother was deceased and it was their first Christmas without her. You could feel the heavy longing in his heart as he described his immense love for her. We all hung on his every word and began to tear up with him when one student reached over to hand him a box of Kleenex. Then out of nowhere the professor intercepted the student with the Kleenex and commanded her return to her seat. It was startling and took me by surprise. All eyes were now on the professor as he explained that handing a Kleenex to a crying client interrupted the release of their pain and really indicated a counselor’s discomfort with heavier emotions.


What does that have to do with making New Year’s resolutions? The answer has a twist in it.


When you think of New Year’s resolutions, what comes to mind? Losing weight? Quitting smoking? Increasing exercise? Being on time to appointments and with deadlines? Increasing your bottom line?


Have you noticed what many of the typical resolutions have in common? They are remedial in nature and tend to focus on weaknesses. They are like dictates from our inner slave-driver that is disgusted by us and is demanding improvement. So we respond by setting the prescribed resolutions as our goal and then try to adhere to them a bit begrudgingly. It is no wonder that more than 2/3 of Americans polled have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions by spring.


So, how can you make New Year’s resolutions that stick?


This is where the twist comes in.


Typically, this time of year brings up a host of emotions for people. Many experience grief—grief over a lost loved one; grief over an unfulfilled dream; grief over money; grief over lost career or market opportunities; even grief over the lack of sunlight. Grief has a stealth way of getting you if it isn’t completely processed—which is more frequent than not. We put it aside. Friends hand us Kleenex and tell us to cheer up and that it will get better. So we repress. Then, I believe, we beat ourselves up a bit and demand a few ridiculous resolutions (maybe they’re not ridiculous, but we feel a little rebellious by our inner slave-driver).


Would you like an alternative suggestion that will result in New Year’s resolutions that stick?


One, don’t be afraid to take a little time-out to grieve this season. It’s normal and healthy. Take some time to walk by yourself and allow the feelings to flow. Maybe write about it in a journal. Talk and process it a bit. Look at old pictures, former goals, re-read old diaries…whatever it is that helps the feelings come up and flow out. Taking a little time for this can provide you rejuvenation. It also makes you a little more alive.


Second, after you’ve given yourself time to grieve and you’ve nurtured yourself. Attempt to make resolutions that focus on the positive. Try assessing your strengths and resolve to enhance what you’re already good at and love. Whatever you commit to, do it from a place of self-care and not inner slave-driver. Then use this year as a test to see if the resolutions stick.


Good luck and best of care throughout 2009!


(this is a post from my new blog series on the Club E NETWORK, the online gathering place for entrepreneurs. It's a great resource and free to join, so check them out if you're an entrepreneur or considering starting your own business and want to learn from others.)




Can Love Cure War? Examining Biology of Love, 12th Century Rules of Love & Evolved Love

A-Red-Rose-For-You small

In honor of the anniversary of the end of WWI (90 years ago on November 7, the “war to end all wars” ended), this blog entry looks at love (the hopeful antidote to war) microscopically, across time and into the future.

Love is by far the most influential feeling a person can experience. Love has an extraordinary way of knocking people off their feet, away from their path, and causing them to behave in the most unexpected ways. It has been opposed to war (think 60’s slogan “Make Love, Not War”), has incited war (Helen of Troy myth) and street fights (West Side Story). Of course, many spiritual leaders say jealousy is not love. They say real love would not cause war, fighting, or anything negative. Real love rises above conflict and wants the best for everyone. If that’s the case why is love so crazymaking for so many people? The answer might be two-fold. There are some biological aspects to falling in love that actually create a chemical imbalance in people. There are also some perpetual myths about love that reinforce love’s dark side.


A quick look at the biological underpinnings of love reveals that the early stages of falling in love (or infatuation) triggers a release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. This increase of dopamine creates feelings of exhilaration, heightened focus, and increases one’s energy—which explains why, when people are falling in love, they might lose weight, become more active, can stay up all night talking with each other, and feel euphoric like they’re walking on a cloud.

One-way love (unrequited love) or rejected/abandoned love can wreak havoc on the impacted person’s serotonin levels (displaying significant drops in serotonin as high as 40%, according to research by Donatella Marazziti). Such drops in serotonin mimic obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and probably explain the stalking behavior of some jilted or obsessed lovers.

Long-term, committed love reveals an increase in the bonding hormone oxytocin and is responsible for feelings of security and contentment. At this stage, dopamine returns to normal, but oxytocin levels are heightened. This could explain why people don’t feel that excited rush of first love in longer-term relationships and often differentiate feelings of being “in love” with feelings of “love”…or confusing the chemical shift as an absence of love.

Enduring Myths?

On top of our ever-changing chemical reactions to “love," humankind is also conditioned to beliefs and rules about love. These norms/myths/narratives create behavioral responses that are deemed acceptable or non-acceptable by society. For instance, divorce was once unacceptable but has increased as society has accepted it as less taboo. Pursuing individual happiness is a new norm. Nonetheless, some myths are enduring throughout time. To illustrate, here is an excerpt of “rules” about love put forth in the 12th century. See how many apply today.

“The Rules of Love” by Andreas Capellanus, 1185

  1. The state of marriage does not necessarily excuse anyone from loving.
  2. He who does not feel jealousy is incapable of loving.
  3. No one can love two people at the same time.
  4. It is well known that love is either growing or declining.
  5. Whatever a lover takes from his lover’s will has no savor.
  6. A male does not fall in love until he has reached full manhood.
  7. A mourning of two years is required by the survivor.
  8. No one should be prevented from loving save by reason of his or her own death.
  9. No one can love save by the eloquence of love.
  10. Love is accustomed to be an exile from the house of avarice.
  11. It is unseemly to love anyone whom you would be ashamed to marry.
  12. A true lover only desires the passionate embraces of his beloved.
  13. Love that is made public rarely lasts.
  14. Love easily obtained is of little value; difficulty in obtaining it makes it precious.
  15. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of the beloved.
  16. On suddenly catching sight of the beloved, the heart begins to palpitate.
  17. A new love drives out the old.
  18. A good character alone makes someone worthy of love.
  19. If love lessens, it soon fails and rarely recovers.
  20. A man in love is always fearful.
  21. The feeling of love is always increased by true jealousy.
  22. A suspicious lover and the sensation of love is increased.
  23. A man tormented by the thought of love, eats and sleeps little.
  24. Everything a lover does ends in the thought of the beloved.
  25. A true lover considers nothing good but what he thinks will please his beloved.
  26. Love can deny nothing to love.
  27. A lover cannot have too much of his beloved’s consolations.
  28. The smallest supposition compels a lover to suspect his beloved of doing wrong.
  29. A man troubled by excessive lust does not usually love.
  30. A true lover is continually, without interruption, obsessed by the image of his beloved.

My thoughts

I believe there is another level of love—an evolved love—that many people are now experiencing. This kind of love can cure war. Through knowledge and psycho-spiritual growth, we can override our basic biological and cultural drives toward jealousy, insecurity, lust, and discrimination. By understanding the natural biological and cultural underpinnings of the dark and light side of love, we can step back and realize how our ‘primal’ brain and prevailing culture influences us and then separate those responses from a more higher-functioning and evolved response. That is where evolved love thrives—and we as a collective whole can unite and overcome war. As Blaise Pascal suggested, “The more intelligent a person is, the more originality is found in others. Ordinary people see no difference between men.” Evolved love is expansive, not constrictive or jealous, and let’s you love someone special while also seeing and loving the “originality” in people worldwide.

Your $5 a Month Personal Coach for Health, Wealth & Happiness

What one thing do clients get the most out of our sessions? New positive thought processes. While I can work with clients on issues that are unique to them and their circumstances, I have found repeating patterns among many - especially in these current economic conditions. Fear has been at an all time high right now as people fear losing their savings, jobs, homes, and primary relationships. This is made worse because fearful thoughts form deep neural pathways of negative thinking that reinforce and actually manifest the very thing that's feared ("self-fulfilling prophecy"). The flip side is that you can focus on what you want and create it in your life, like Walt Disney's famous quote "If you can dream it, you can do it."

Many know this, but few achieve it. Why? There are a few reasons. People get distracted and respond to issues in the moment. Fear and negative thinking are difficult to override. The negative messages in the environment (sometimes referred to as the "real world") compete with positive intentions. Over time, people go back to their normal way ("set point") of thinking and believing. For those who can afford it, coaching helps and keeps people on a path that overcomes these obstacles. Yet, not everyone can afford a coach. In addition, coaches cannot be with their clients 24 hours a day.
I'm so excited to share that we have a NEW SOLUTION for you! We have developed InstantMotivator.com to serve as your personal coach. Simply visit the site and create an account to send a motivational message as a text message to your phone at any time interval you select. Some clients have used "I have more money than I can imagine" and had it sent to their phone every three hours. They meditate and imagine it's true every time they see the message...and guess what? It's been working for them. Others have used it to connect to and nurture their inner child, creating peace and healing old emotional wounds. Still others have used it to reignite the love and passion in their relationships. The service is limitless and you can change the message any time to work on a new manifestation or healing. Please visit the site and see the affirmation examples as well. For $5 a month, it'll be the best investment you've made for yourself.
Good luck with InstantMotivator.com and happy healing & manifesting!

P.S. Please share the good news about InstantMotvator.com with other people you know. It's also a great and affordable gift that can really help someone.

Power Struggles in the Hood

When the Racheal Ray show asked me to be one of their experts on an upcoming segment about neighborhood conflicts, I confess I panicked a little. Trying to solve feuding neighbor issues can be a little like trying to tame wild cats. Attempting to do this on national television would surely undermine any credibility I had achieved. At least that was my fear. To my relief, the show was cancelled and I helped them on another issue. Still, I was asked to let them know if I came across any feuding neighbors for future segments. I didn’t have any candidates for them. But wouldn’t you know that life has a funny way of providing ironies. I have watched turmoil grow in my neighborhood over the past year. In the past three days alone, about two hundred emails have been posted on our neighborhood listserve. The issue? Traffic. That’s the surface issue that has ignited a bunch of personality clashes and power struggles. This is even more ironic, because I just finished writing and launching my new eBook on power struggles (“Ten Keys for Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle”). But alas, I am just a neighbor in the neighborhood. I don’t have a neutral voice, so the nuggets of communication suggestions that I could share may not have the same effect. Still, I will try my best to communicate in a manner that promotes reconciliation and peace. To any of my neighbors that read this blog, please feel free to check out a copy of my eBook and consider that maybe everyone does want a safe neighborhood with calm traffic. Maybe people are being defensive with each other and the more offensive you get, the more defensive they’ll get. Guess that’s why Grandma always said “you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

Is Fear Driving Your Life?

Cars smaller Confronting fear is the number one challenge you’ll face in every moment of your life. Fear holds us back, controls our behavior, and leads to self-sabotage. Fear is also at the core of hatred, violence, oppression, self-deception, hopelessness, anxiety, and failure. You probably already know some of the common fears:
  • fear of rejection (keeping you from asking that special somebody on a date or applying for that promotion);
  • fear of failure (which keeps you immobilized and in constant procrastination mode); and
  • fear of intimacy and trust (you’ve been burned so you keep people at a distance lest you get hurt again).
    The difficulty is that we often have no idea which fear is at play and how it is silently manipulating us into self-sabotaging acts. That’s why self-examination can be so powerful because we can uncover secret destructive fears and then confront them head-on with courage and awareness. Thus, the first step is to identify the fear that is in the driver’s seat of our actions and the second step is to move through the fear and take back control of our lives.
    So, what if I were to tell you that there is one main fear that’s holding you back according to your personality type? Wouldn’t that be helpful? You could then confront that particular fear in every moment of your life and, in doing so, achieve greater success, peace, and happiness. According to the Enneagram, a personality assessment with roots that date back more than 2,500 years, there are nine major personality types and each type is driven by an underlying fear which needs to be identified and challenged. See if any of the following nine fears apply to you. Perhaps you can relate to all of them, but try to see if any one in particular resonates with you the most.
    1. Fear of being bad, evil or corrupt.
    2. Fear of being unloved and unwanted as you are.
    3. Fear of being worthless and without value apart from your achievements and external status.
    4. Fear of having no identity or no personal significance.
    5. Fear of being helpless, useless, and incapable.
    6. Fear of having no support and guidance—not being able to survive on one’s own.
    7. Fear of being deprived or trapped.
    8. Fear of being harmed or controlled by others, violated.
    9. Fear of loss and separation, of annihilation (extinction).
    If any of these fears speak to you, examine how they might be controlling your life. We tend to compensate for our fears by engaging in exaggerated behaviors in the opposite extreme. So, you might become a perfectionist if you fear being bad. The cure is to 1) recognize the fear 2) reassure yourself that you’re okay and 3) take control by living life from your heart and life purpose and not in reaction to your fear. Then you will be in the driver’s seat of your life and fulfilling the dreams from your heart.

    PTSD Explained

    PTSD researcher Dr. Paula Schnurr received the Ladies Home Journal "Health Breakthrough Award" for her work with PTSD and women veterans this year. She provided needed data that revealed benefits of prolonged exposure therapy. Now you may have thought all therapies were equal, but they are not. In fact, an assessment conducted by the American Psychological Association found a deficiency of research on PTSD, which is of growing concern in today’s complex global war and terrorism climate.

    If you're wondering about PTSD because you've heard about it in the news or you know someone who suffers from it, or if you are battling it yourself, here's a little information about the history of PTSD along with some information about recent treatments.

    First known as “Shell Shock” among WWI veterans, PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) is a debilitating condition brought on from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event (see below for criteria). It affects about 5.2 million Americans aged 18-54. Traditionally, PTSD treatments have included a mixture of psychotherapy (talk therapy), pharmacotherapy (medication), Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In addition, newer research about Exposure Therapy has demonstrated some promising results. Exposure Therapy involves slowly and carefully re-exposing the person to images of the trauma until the images and memories no longer evoke an anxiety response. Please note that researchers are continuing to investigate even better treatments.

    Because no one treatment fits all, researchers are also recognizing those who suffer from Complex Grief. Complex Grief can be experienced by those who have PTSD (similar to Survivor’s Grief—the guilt and grief one experiences when surviving a war or tragedy). It can also affect family members of lost soldiers in war. Part of the grieving and healing process involves finding meaning in the loss. The complexity comes about when meaning can’t be found. In addition, researchers are discovering that the former “move on” approach isn’t working. Rather, it’s about honoring and remembering.

    DSM-IV Criteria for PTSD

    A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present: (1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

    B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways: (1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed. (2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.
    (3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur. (4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. (5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

    C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following: (1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma (2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma (3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma (4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities (5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others (6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings) (7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

    D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following: (1) difficulty falling or staying asleep (2) irritability or outbursts of anger (3) difficulty concentrating (4) hypervigilance (5) exaggerated startle response

    E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month.

    F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

    Changing Careers an American Tradition

    I often remind clients that the average person changes careers 5-7 times in their lifetime. Some think it’s a new phenomenon, but take a look at what de Toqueville observed about Americans in 1831…

    Excerpt from Alexis de Toqueville’s “Democracy in America”…

    The inhabitants of the United States experience all of the wants and all the desires that result from an advanced civilization; and as they are not surrounded, as in Europe, by a community skillfully organized to satisfy them, they are often obliged to procure for themselves the various articles that education and habit have rendered necessities. In America it sometimes happens that the same person tills his field, builds his own dwelling, fashions his tools, makes his shoes, and weaves the coarse stuff of which his clothes are composed. This is prejudicial to the excellence of the work, but it powerfully contributes to awaken the intelligence of the workman. Nothing tends to materialize man and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind more than the extreme division of labor. In a country like America, where men devoted to special occupations are rare, a long apprenticeship cannot be required from anyone who embraces a profession. The Americans therefore change their means of gaining livelihood very readily, and they suit their occupations to the exigencies of the moment. Men are to be met with who have successfully been lawyers, farmers, merchants, ministers of the Gospel, and physicians. If the American is less perfect in each craft than the European, at least there is scarcely any trade with which he is utterly unacquainted. His capacity is more general, and the circle of his intelligence is greater.

    (Vol 1, 425)

    Ancient Wisdom Reveals Why We Do What We Do

    We get so tempted to ruminate and reinvent the wheel when history has already revealed an answer. Chances are whatever project on you're working or whatever problem you're trying to solve has been contemplated before and maybe even fixed. That's why Goethe said "He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth." So, check with your elders and look at history.

    As for psychology's history, at just over 100 years old, the field is just an infant. However its parent -philosophy - is much older and has much wisdom to shed. For instance, here is what Aristotle 384 BC- 322 BC (student of Socrates and tutor to Alexander the Great) purported long ago...

    All human actions have one or more of these seven causes:








    Can you find one of these root causes in your own behavior?

    Stop Unconscious Prejudices from Destroying Your Relationships, Business & the World

    Discrimination, racism and intolerance are a lot like holding a grudge. The grudge-holder remains steadfast in their conviction and refuses to understand another point of view or to engage in any type of connection. But what about the stealth grudge-holder? You know--the person that CLAIMS they're not upset but continues to give little jabs anyway.

    Multicultural counselors have a name for stealth forms of discrimination. They call it microaggressions and it's very real and quite toxic. As you'd imagine, it's one thing when someone you love or care about is still stewing about an incident while claiming they are over it, but it's a whole other thing when your boss or Chairman of the Board is launching gestures and double-talk at you that are loaded with the equivalent annihilation power of the atomic bomb. Yet you're in a double-bind because nothing has really been said, so you can't prove the existence of the passive-aggressive poison in the room. Worse, the person responsible for such behavior is probably just as unaware. Hence, "micro"aggressions.

    Numerous studies have been conducted to reveal how oblivious people are to their prejudices. Perhaps you'll recall the "Candid Camera" episode that showed a woman walking down a street with a purse on her arm as several staged teenagers walked passed her. The teenagers were culturally different but dressed in identical clothes. As you might guess (even though the woman claimed not to be "prejudiced"), the woman placed the purse on her opposite shoulder when she saw the Black and Latino teenagers approaching. Sandra Bullock does a good job portraying a similar scene in the excellent, make-you-think movie "Crash."

    So, what can you do to become more aware of your own unconscious prejudices in order to stop perpetuating microaggressions? First, take a moment to really ask yourself some questions--deeply ask yourself. For instance, how do you feel about people of color, people of other religious views, people of different sexual preferences and identities? How do you feel about intermixed relationships? How can you identify with the experiences and challenges facing differing groups of people?

    If you came up with some prejudices, here’s something to consider. A lot of people are talking about the law of attraction--the idea that what you believe and think will be manifested. This is the basis of the film, "The Secret." Well, if the law of attraction is real (in sports psychology it works--you visualize the goal and see yourself completing it), and it's true that many of our prejudices are unconscious (which has been validated through enormous amounts of research), wouldn't it be valuable to unlock our prejudices and change them so that we can stop manifesting in others the very behaviors we fear?

    Fast Facts About Depression

    >Depression has a higher diagnosed rate among women than men (although men have higher rates of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, alcoholism, drug addiction, and autism)

    >Depression may be more obvious in women because stress hormones and estrogen combine to increase anxiety and depression, while testosterone does the opposite

    >Depression affects blood pressure, blood clotting, the immune system and is a risk-factor for coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke (which are seen in younger ages and higher rates of men than women)

    >Loss of a parent in childhood and low-self-esteem are linked with depression in men

    >Children of a depressed parent were found to have a 50% increased risk for depression and a 5 times higher rate of cardiovascular disease

    >90% of the studies on anti-depressants are funded by pharmaceutical companies

    >1/3 to 1/2 of depressed patients that see a primary care physician are not accurately diagnosed

    >Sexual side-effects of SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can decrease over time, or can be aided through the addition of a second medication, or possibly treated via switching to a different type of antidepressant like bupropion

    Source: Harvard Medical School bulletin

    Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance

    National Institute of Mental Health

    5 Life Tasks for Achieving Quality of Life

    Clients often ask me how long it will take to resolve whatever issue that's impacting them at the moment. While I offer specific steps and a manageable "program" to address their particular situation, the reality is it's up to them. It's highly dependent on the type of changes they are willing to make. Are they only making superficial modifications or are they going deeper and allowing some genuine transformation to occur at the soul-level? (We refer to this as first-order and second-order changes--you need both.) Nonetheless, our brains tend to be wired to initially seek a Cliff's Notes version of healing. To satisfy that mental hunger, here are 5 life tasks put forth by Witmer & Sweeney (92) that reveal what needs to be accomplished to attain wellness and quality of life.

    Life Task #1-SPIRITUALITY
    Spirituality addresses the meaning or "breath of life" for people and may have a religious connection for some, but not all people. It is finding oneness, embracing the inner life, having a purpose, optimism, and value.

    Life Task #2-SELF-REGULATION
    This component is at the heart of many therapies. It is taking care of oneself and being able to have emotional responsiveness while having self-control. It also involves self-worth, realistic beliefs, spontaneity, intellectual stimulation, problem-solving and creativity, sense of humor, fitness & health.

    Life Task #3-WORK
    Work can be our vocation and involve our identity. It's how we choose to interact with the world. It is a life-span task (always evolving) and has measurable psychological, economic and social benefits.

    Life Task #4-FRIENDSHIP
    A basic need is a sense of belonging. This task relates to that need with social interest and connectedness, social support, health and interpersonal relationships.

    Life Task #5-LOVE
    Love-that creative fire inside the heart that inspires music, poetry and many good feelings. This task, however, involves more than the initial rush of infatuation. It is the deeper love that involves intimacy, trust, cooperation, and genuine commitment.

    How to Move on from War

    An anniversary arrives tomorrow. But it's a grim one--December 7th. Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered WWII. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it "a date that will live in infamy."

    How does a world get over the grief of the atrocities that happened in WWII? There are SO MANY victims and so much UNPROCESSED grief that gets handed down through the generations like genetic predispositions to diseases. We can heal by remembering the events and learning from the stories. For instance, The Shoah Foundation does an excellent job capturing moving accounts from Holocaust survivors and their families. We can honor them by listening and remembering and grieving the pain.

    There is a caveat though.

    Anger can fill us up along with a desire to take revenge when we hear of such unjust attacks on humankind. However, in order to truly achieve peace, our primal instinct to fight back needs to be checked by our higher level of reasoning. If not, we run the risk of perpetual escalation and nonstop violence. That's why we listen to the stories. We learn the lessons from the past and try not to repeat them. Remember the definition of insanity is doing the same behavior and expecting different results.

    Remember. Grieve. And don't repeat.

    7% of U.S. Workers have Depression, Costing $30-$44 Billion in Losses Each Year

    The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Report has released findings that 7% of U.S. workers (aged 18-64) experienced a major depressive episode in the last year. Report estimates reveal depression in the workplace costs U.S. companies $30 to $44 billion dollars per year. In addition, the research shows that depression rates in the workplace vary by occupation. The highest rates for depressive episodes in women were found in food preparation and serving related occupations (14.8%) while the highest rates for men experiencing a depressive episode were in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations (6.7%). The lowest rates of depressive episodes in both men and women were found in the life, physical, and social science occupations (2.3% for males and 7.2% for females).

    The NSDUH Report is an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

    Depression and Hormones in Women

    Treating depression in women is not always easy when so many factors can contribute to an unhappy mood. Some are family related, like a difficult marriage and parenting challenges. Other influences can be money, work stress, environment, discrimination, long commutes to and from work, transportation challenges and more. In addition to these issues, a woman may also have an underlying hormonal imbalance that can lead to fatigue, symptoms of depression, and trouble with weight gain. If you're experiencing these symptoms, be sure to get a complete medical physical and have your doctor check your blood work for thyroid functioning and other hormonal factors. In addition, you might want to reconsider that next bite you're putting into your mouth. It turns out that soy can be harmful for women with high estrogen, often found in women with uterine fibroids and endometriosis. For more information about a diet that aims at decreasing the exacerbating side-effects of endometriosis by eliminating soy among other foods, click here.

    Psychotherapy + Medication Shows Best Results

    Another research study shows that people experience best results when they undertake a combination of medication with psychotherapy--in this case, it is adolescents that have had a major depressive disorder. The study, published in the October 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that when adolescents received antidepressants in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) over the course of 36 weeks, they recovered faster than those who were receiving CBT alone.

    The study was funded by funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Click here to see full press release.

    Tips for Communicating with Technology

    Mobile phones, Voicemails, Emails, Instant messaging, and Short Message Service (SMS or text messaging) provide easy access to people. The downside is that there is an expectation of immediate feedback. The communicator is forced to wait for a response. When no feedback is reciprocated, psychologically some people begin to feel ignored or rejected. They may respond in a number of ways—demanding, sulking, angry, withdrawn and distant—that, in reality, are motivated by the underlying fear of being ignored and rejected (or angry if the lack of response is sabotaging something important).

    This is a normal dynamic that unfolds in any communication. Communicator sends a message (i.e., speaks) and receiver provides feedback to communicator (i.e. speaks back or nods) within an appropriate time frame (which happens in seconds face to face). But the problem with technology-aided communication is that there is no generally accepted rule for appropriate response time. We simply haven’t developed agreed-upon etiquette for this new form of communication.

    In the older days, before answering machines, people were informed to let the phone ring 10 times before hanging up. Any more or less would be rude. There were also strict rules about not calling people during dinner hours. These rules of etiquette and others were promoted in schools, neighborhoods, communities, businesses, etc. and everyone seemed to grasp these social mores. The rapid development of technology hasn’t provided time to develop new norms, so miscommunication and misunderstandings have increased alongside the technological advancements.

    What can you do? Develop norms in your communication sphere. Let the people you communicate with know how you communicate. Lay some ground rules, like informing them when you check emails and how late they can expect a response. Let them know what’s on your plate. For instance, are you a student that will not be available during finals week? Are you in a business that requires you to submit shareholder reports every quarter and tend to be unreachable during those times? Perhaps you’re an attorney and inaccessible when going to court. Or you’re a new parent with a different sleep schedule because you’re taking care of an infant. We all experience time periods that require uninterrupted attention and it impacts our ability to be responsive. Letting people know about your personal “time zone” will help them to be less intrusive and more supportive during those times.

    Some methods for announcing how your personal time zone works can be personal communication, email notices and automated replies, voice mail greetings, and announcements through social networking sites like MySpace or micro-blogging services like Twitter. However you do it, communicating about your preferred communication method, availability and general response time will alleviate a lot of frustration for you and your social sphere. The flip side is remembering that the person you’re waiting to hear back from is probably experiencing some demands in their own time zone, so relax and be patient because it’s probably not personal.

    Commenting on Family Policy Needs

    We seem to have forgotten about the importance of childhood, play, and each other's feelings in our fast-paced, goal-oriented society and, unfortunately, it's had serious consequences. Divorce rates, crime rates, mental health diagnoses, and more can be directly tied to this mentality. As an example, an enormous amount of research has come out in the past two decades that explains the impact childcare has on an infant's nervous system and emotional regulation (which translates into behavioral patterns later in life--think crime and depression). Thus, focusing on INFANT care and promoting LONGER maternity AND paternity leave, improved childcare education, and helping to reestablish the family/childhood as a priority is key.

    Understanding Depression

    Clinical depression has been reported to affect 19 million Americans each year. Those are the numbers we know. Other research has indicated that only half of the people with depression seek help. Of those seeking help, approximately 74% are reported to see a primary care physician instead of a mental health professional. Depression was improved for about 80% of those who sought treatment. The bottom line is that a whole lot more people can receive help IF they seek it.

    It's not always biological...
    The cause for clinical depression can vary, as documented causes include Genetics and Biology, Situational (divorce, financial problems, job loss, loss of a loved one), Chronic (chronic abuse, discrimination due to gender, ethnicity, physical differences and abilities), Co-occurrence (co-occurring with other medical conditions such as post-partum depression after giving birth, lifelong illness or terminal disease), Side-effects (from other medications), Cognitive (negative thinking patterns and rigid belief systems), and Co-Morbidity (exists with other conditions like Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).

    Best treatment...
    Because depression can be instigated from a number of causes (along with depression's ability to create a number of consequences in one's life such as difficult relationships, potential job loss, decreased self-esteem, etc.), the best treatment includes a mix of medication and psychotherapy and lifestyle/environmental changes. Ideally, one will find a therapist that serves as a kind of case manager that works in conjunction with a psychiatrist and/or primary care physician. Some of the best therapists take a holistic approach and can help you with basics like communication skills, financial responsibility and career counseling to deeper issues from family stress, thought patterns, and trauma and grief recovery.

    Depression Symptoms...
    First, there is probably something to investiagte if you're wondering about depression in yourself or someone else. Here's a list of symptoms you can explore, but talk it out with a professional for the best diagnosis.
    * Changes in appetite or sleep (either more or less of each)
    * Changes in cognition and activity (memory, speech, physical activity)
    * Decrease in energy
    * Loss of enthusiasm for activities, daily routines
    * Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    * Difficulty thinking, making decisions or concentrating
    * Recurrent thoughts of death or thoughts about suicide (esp. plans or attempts)

    Having three or more of these symptoms is a cause for concern. Any recurrent thoughts about suicide or death is an urgent call to seek help. Talk to a professional about your symptoms and their length of time...especially if you've noticed an increase in any or all of your symptoms.

    For more information about depression, check out Mental Health America. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

    When Expectations & Beliefs Collide

    When working with clients, I find that there’s one lowest common denominator to many of the struggles they are experiencing. Yet, oftentimes, connecting to that underlying influencer is not a short, direct route. Rather it’s a meandering discovery that conjures up past memories, reflections, disbelief, fear, intrigue and a host of other reactions that seem almost nonsensical. Sometimes, it feels like a complete waste of time to even look for a “cause” of some struggle when forgetting about it provides the greatest sense of relief. That is, if you can forget about it. Usually, it teases and cajoles you into waking up. That unsettled, discontented feeling lingers no matter how much joy surrounds you, no matter how fast you run, no matter how many distractions and self-indulgences you seek.

    It’s complex and unnerving, so how could I dare suggest something as simple as a lowest common denominator? What is it?? My experience (personal and professional) reveals that a conflict between one’s expectations and one’s belief system lies at the heart of most struggles. Ahh, but it’s not that simple. We are born into this world and our respective cultures inheriting years (centuries of generations) of conditioning to believe and behave in a million ways we’ve never examined. We may feel liberal on the surface but find we have deep-seated, culturally-enforced rigid beliefs that create the struggle.

    Think about how you view struggling. Deep down, do you believe that struggling (or suffering) makes you a better person? For example, do you expect not to suffer but inwardly believe that you need to suffer in order to be loved, saved, and okay with yourself? How about love. Do you expect love but inadvertently inhibit it by taking it for granted or demanding something of it? Work? Do you expect to see yourself as separate from your work while allowing it to actually define your identity (feeling shame if it’s not good enough or proud if it brings you lots of wealth)? These questions and many more begin to identify your surface self and your unconscious “conditioned” self. Aligning the two creates congruence and harmony. So, perhaps you can allow the struggles to provide you the opportunity to learn about those underlying conflicts.

    While you’re at it, try reading some inspirational and thought-provoking novels that reinforce some of the joys and struggles, hope and fears you’re experiencing along your journey. Check out authors like, best-selling and award-winning Paulo Coelho or Mitch Albom.

    Options for Life after Retirement

    Have you ever looked up the definition for retirement? It says withdraw. Retire also means to strike out. Sounds so final...like death itself. Perhaps that's why estimates from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) show that only 29% of employees have an Individualized Retirement Account (IRA). Who wants to save for a potentially meaningless period in one's life--especially if it involves a nursing home down the road? This is not a slight against nursing homes, but it is an opportunity to share about a possible alternative.

    New Hampshire-based Extended Family is a refreshing and hope-filled solution that promotes people living in their own home. They serve as a kind of agent, or concierge, to your needs. For a relatively small membership fee, members have access to 24-hour nursing care and access to the Extended Family network of services, which include a range of health care practitioners, counselors, dieticians, yoga and exercise instructors, drivers, gardeners, housekeepers, catering or a personal chef, and even handymen and carpenters that can retrofit your home to adapt to your personal needs.

    What fascinated me most about this alternative was learning about the "Nursing Home Paradox" from company founder and registered nurse, Barbara Trimble. Apparently, the leading causes for entering a nursing home in the first place are from falls and medication misuse. Yet, the top two incidents among nursing homes are falls & medication errors. In addition, research shows that people live longer, healthier, happier lives when they get to stay at home. (Much of the research I have read in family therapy and counseling echoes these same findings.) Armed with this information and a fresher holistic approach to life care, Barbara Trimble and executive vice president Bern Terry along with the rest of the Extended Family team strive to give their clients the dignity, respect and care all people deserve.

    Think you have to move to New Hampshire to receive these services and retire gracefully? No. They're expanding through franchises. To learn more or find out if an Extended Family is opening in your area, click here for contact information.

    When Sacrificing for Career & Children Hurts

    When reading the news, I can always count on seeing a story that revisits some enduring debate. What diet is truly healthy? How much television is okay for children? Should Mom or Dad quit their jobs and stay home to raise the kids? The latest instigator to the last question is Leslie Bennetts, author of "The Feminine Mistake."

    Bennetts asserts that leaving your job (regardless of gender) may hurt your career in the long run...and thus your family. One of the increasingly common scenarios she points to is when a middle-aged stay-at-home woman (or man) finds herself (or himself) divorced and suffering from decreased income potential that tends to result from a career hiatus taken to raise the kids.

    What's interesting (and less discussed) is the parallel situation when a man (or woman) has dedicated his/her career to a company (sacrificing time with family, taking on health risks from chronic stress, making necessary moves for the job, etc.) and then gets laid off. A similar shock-grief-identity crisis takes place that can also impact income potential.

    The reality is that men and women in both scenarios are dealing with valid dependency and identity issues that are made worse by their sacrifices. The real solution is getting congruent with one's values, having a sense of self that's outside of marriage, career and parenthood, and then making an investment of time and energy in each aspect of one's life--self, family, career, community...and spirit. My personal view is that it's a human mistake when any of these areas in our lives are sacrificed. We are role models for our children and what are we ultimately teaching them when we perpetuate the work OR family myth? It's about both work AND family (with self in tact). Perhaps more workplaces would provide better flex time if we, as a culture, embraced a commitment to work AND family AND self and stopped expecting the old paradigm of one breadwinner and one caretaker.

    Finding Meaning through Erikson's Life Stages

    The meaning of life is a giant topic--one that has preoccupied theologians, philosophers, scholars, and humankind throughout time. All kinds of theories have been posited, but have you ever noticed that your own personal viewpoint has changed over the years? For instance, your 5 year-old self might have said that the meaning of life is about learning the alphabet in order to have recess while your 19 year-old self may have suggested that meaning is about finding love. Whatever the answers, it does seem to change over one's lifetime. That's why Erik H. Erickson was pretty brilliant when he suggested in the late 1950's that people experience specific "psychosocial stages" during their life. Some of these stages borrow (but slightly differ) from Sigmund Freud, while others are added to address all of one's living years. Many lifestage theories have come about since Erikson, but you'll find strong similarities. This post is dedicated to Erikson and remembers his original stages. Take a look at them and think about how they match up to your life experiences.

    0-18 months
    Trust vs. Mistrust

    Does infant have enough loving and nurturing to develop a sense of trust or does infant become distrustful when not consistently nurtured or heard? According to John Bowlby's Attachment Theory, this is where a secure, avoidant or anxious attachment comes into play.

    18 months-2 or 3 years
    Autonomy vs. Shame or Doubt

    This is where the child begins to recognize their independence. A parent's reaction to this stage can create feelings of autonomy and self-esteem or, it is suggested, that an over-bearing and punishing parent can make child feel doubt, shame and lead to lower self-esteem throughout life.

    2 or 3-6 years
    Initiative vs. Guilt

    This is an extension of the previous stage where a child recognizes independence and takes initiative through individual acts. Child begins to develop a sense of responsibility over their own actions. Again, it is suggested that a parent's reaction will result in a child feeling guilty about this expression of independence or validated to take initiative.

    6-11 years
    Industry vs. Inferiority

    Typically, a child at age 4 will begin to play with (interactively) other children. Similarly this stage involves a child developing a sense of self-worth via interactions with peers. In addition, teachers and the educational environment play a critical role in helping the child to feel encouraged and industrious or insecure and inferior.

    11 years-teen years
    Identity vs. Identity Diffusion

    Not surprisingly, this is the most well-known stage of identity development. The teenager develops an identity by literally trying out different "selves" and finding one that fits. Peers, role models and social pressure play a part in this developmental stage.

    Late Teen-Early Adulthood
    Intimacy vs. Isolation

    The preoccupation with this stage is developing close relationships and achieving intimacy. Think marriage, partnership, family, religious commitment, career achievement...and fear of being isolated and not obtaining goals.

    Middle Adulthood
    Generativity vs. Self-Absorbtion

    Assuming intimacy has been achieved, generativity now takes hold. How can one give back to their community and feel their contributions are worthwhile? The other side of the struggle is that one does not give back and remains self-absorbed.

    Late Adulthood-End of Life
    Integrity vs. Despair

    This last stage is about looking back at one's life, facing death and overcoming despair. Integrity is about integrating the experiences of one's life and finding a sense of satisfaction and meaning.

    July 4 Striving

    The United States Independence Day (July 4th) is almost here. It is a day that celebrates independent statehood. A day for celebrating the achievement of democracy and freedom—freedoms that are sometimes taken for granted. But rather than just remembering the day as a great victory, I think of it as a day of striving. A day that serves as a reminder and challenge to continually reach toward a better civilization, like one does when stretching toward the stars in the sky. For instance, you may recall that when the U.S. Declaration of Independence declared certain truths as “self-evident, that all men are created equal,” women and African-Americans were not “equal” with white men. Yet, determination and striving for “equality for all” resulted in Constitutional amendments and a broader understanding of “human” equality. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Racism and discrimination are rampant, entrenched and even stealth in the most liberal. So, when you look at the fireworks this holiday (or any evening you look at the stars), think about ways you can strive for human equality and better relationships in your life, family, workplace, community, and even around the globe…

    Lesson from Gen Next

    Judy Woodruff gathered the perspectives of 16-25 year olds (aka Generation Next) across the United States for her documentary, "Generation Next: Speak Up, Be Heard", currently airing on PBS. One interesting facet revealed is that in spite of the changing economic, sociopolitical, environmental, and other national and global conditions facing Gen Nexters, this group tends to be more open and accepting of others. This could indicate a positive step toward growth. For instance, according to Bowen Theory it is a measure of psychological health to accept differences in self and others. Often it is our own internal anxiety that cannot tolerate differences in others because we somehow feel threatened that we need to change to be like them or that they need to change to be more like us. Bowen calls it differentiation of self. Differentiation looks at the self first before responding in judgment to others. As Lao Tzu put it, "He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened." Here's to wisdom and enlightenment for Generation Next and all of the generations...

    Imagine Day of Peace

    Who comes to mind when you mix peace with politics? Think Viet Nam war and music. Add in assassination. How about December 8th? Has John Lennon come to mind yet? Aside from any political debate (politics and peace do seem a bit like oil and water), one can always appreciate a message of healing. Yesterday's edition of the New York Times contained such a message when Yoko Ono publicly asked for forgiveness and called for the anniversary of her late husband's death (December 8th) to be remembered as a day of forgiveness and healing. This follows the release of the documentary, The U.S. v. John Lennon.