Interesting Update To Last Post

Yesterday – in light of millions taking to the highways for Memorial Day weekend – CBS Sunday Morning mirrored my concern about road rage as a symptom of mental dysfunction. CBS does not share links to its full segments. Here’s a link to the page where you can read a transcript and access component video.

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Mental Health Awareness Month: A Daily Reminder

2016-05-24 01.52.34May is “Mental Health Awareness Month.” I’m glad that mental health awareness has a month, but I believe that it’s critical to keep the awareness going year round. An article in the New York Times earlier this week reminded me of something that most of us experience on a daily basis that will keep the need for better mental health in our society top of mind.

The article, by Matt Richtel, appeared in the science section and addressed behavior on the roads – specifically with regard to what we commonly refer to as ‘accidents’. The story began, “Roadway fatalities are soaring at a rate not seen in 50 years, resulting from crashes, collisions and other incidents caused by drivers. Just don’t call them accidents anymore.”

The article stated that this is the position now taken by a growing number of safety advocates, including grass-roots groups, federal officials and state and local leaders across the country. Richtel described their campaign to change a long standing mentality that they say trivializes the single most common cause of traffic incidents: human error.

According to Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “When you use the word ‘accident,’ it’s like ‘God made it happen!’”

No. People make it happen. Every time I get into the car I expect that I’ll be subject to tailgating, horn blowing, carelessness, aggressive lane changing, speeding and other dangerous behaviors from drivers around me. These drivers are of all ages, ethnicities, genders and socio-economic backgrounds. It’s not an exclusive club.

I’ll bet that I’m not alone in this experience and that you are also aware of being put at frequent risk. This post is intended to create awareness of how these behaviors connect to mental health – or a lack of it.

Back to the article. Mark Rosekind went on to point out something that I say in my office multiple times a week: We define our experience of everything by the language – the words – we attach to the experience!

Everyone does this and that is how we arrive at our perceptions, interpretations, attitude and conclusions! But what if thinking, emotions, attitudes and negative over-reactions are based in unhealthy thinking and ways of relating to others?

None of us is perfect! We all make mistakes and, on occasion, act in ways that we later regret such as angry words directed at someone we say we love or care about. That’s not what concerns me.

The road behaviors described above that often lead to crashes are very mentally unhealthy. They are the result of emotional immaturity, fear, anger and other negative emotions. These are at the root of defensive, toxic ways of relating to and treating others — with total disrespect and disregard!

Behaving aggressively behind the wheel provides some degree of cover. It’s anonymous; unless, of course, it leads to a collision and causes property damage and personal injury or death. Then it becomes personal real fast. Regardless, such behavior and its underlying causes never leads to anything good and it makes personal dignity and self-respect impossible.

Consider this. If someone is behaving that way with strangers, it is surely present in their close relationships, which means that in the marriages and parent/child relationships such people have, no one feels safe, no one feels truly loved. Everyone involved, especially the one acting out, is left feeling emotionally isolated and lonely.

This is often an ingredient of addiction. And that’s a particularly good reason to steer clear of aggressive drivers as much as possible. It’s highly likely that their practices are fueled by alcohol or drugs.

I know most of my readers are to some degree self-aware and take responsibility for their behavior. But if you know someone — or are someone — who exhibits these tell-tale driving behaviors you and everyone else will benefit from raising your mental health awareness.

Please share this post with anyone who you think could benefit. You never know when you may be able to plant a seed that will take root and grow.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend. There will be many, many cars on the road!

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The Presidential Election – Character Matters!

Character Matters!

Character Matters!

I don’t know about you, but with months left before the election it feels like we’re being bombarded by media drama that makes it hard to cut through to the facts. How do we make sense of this to decide which candidates we’ll support?

Politics aside, from a psychotherapist’s perspective, I look at character. What does that mean – character? Mature character includes a collection of the qualities that demonstrate sound mental health. Some of these are:

• Respect
• Honesty
• Responsibility
• Kindness and compassion
• Empathy for others
• The ability to forgive
• A loving personality

Recently a friend asked me to watch the video of a speech by a political figure of a party other than my own and to give him my opinion. Although I did not agree with some of the man’s political ideas, I could report to my friend, that he seemed to be a person of good character according to the list above.

Why is this important? Because it takes people of character to work together to solve the complicated problems we face today. It takes people whose political mission is driven by a true desire to do something good for others, rather than someone whose plans are a cognitive and emotional manifestation of dysfunctional and immature personality traits:

• Grandiosity
• Arrogance
• Negativity
• Disrespect toward others
• Chronic defensiveness
• Over-aggressiveness
• Narcissistic self-absorption
• Failure to accept responsibility

I hope this point of view will give you another way to evaluate candidates in the current political season and make the whole process less daunting.

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Valentine’s Day: A Sweet Reminder

Learning is Required.It’s a time for sweetness – and yes some spice. You know what I mean — so make it nice.

This day’s a “Sweet Reminder,” to say I love you.
Of course you’ll say it once – but show you really do.

Look deep in their eyes, with your words full of love,
then show them it’s real, beyond and above.

There’s little time for anger, no sad goodbyes,
no accusations, confrontations or questioning about why.

If it’s love you want, true love – the “Real Deal,”
then give your heart and give it for real.

More than a card, jewelry, pretty clothes or some art,
show them kindness today, you’ve got to start.

A promise is a promise, but to make it last,
treat them with respect and forgive pain from the past.

It’s always time, if you want to really know,
how to share great love – how to make it grow!

Reach down deep for courage, way beyond old pain,
it will hurt of course, since memories of old wounds do remain.

But it’s on the other side of your fear, you’ll find what you want,
so go there now, an open mind – a generous heart.

That’s where real love hangs, that special gift,
where there’s no more running or remaining adrift.

If the one you say you love, is at last the one for you,
now is always the time to give your love anew.

Stop defending – no pretending, it’s not a game,
for those who refuse, yesterday and today are just the same!

So keep love in your heart and you’ll find your way,
to “Love Everlastng” this Valentine’s Day!!!

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A Different Kind of New Year’s Resolution!

Matthew - We become what we think about.This post – our first “How To’s and Tips” in 2016 – is appropriately about New Year’s Resolutions. It was inspired by a recent conversation with a dear friend. After reflecting about the year that was coming to an end, he said I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I’m going to “try” to lose some weight!

I looked in his eyes and said, “If you want to be successful you need to loose that word ‘try’! It’s what people say to excuse – in advance – yet another projected failure related to a familiar problem.” My friend is very bright, honest and responsible, so recognizing the implication of my comment we shared a good laugh together.

Can you remember times when you have said you were going to “try” to do something – anything? Ask yourself what you meant by that word. We don’t “try” to do anything that we actually succeed at. We “do it”!

Have you made any resolutions for 2016 that are about something you want? This “How To’s and Tips” may help you succeed.

First, as illustrated by the conversation with my friend, pay close attention to the meaning of the words you attach to your resolutions. The words we attach to our thinking, feelings and intentions have much power over what we will actually do! This is never more important than when we are talking about changes we intend to make in ourselves!!

Do the things you tell yourself or others actually constitute a promise you keep?
They should, or consider this: “If you always do, what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten!” Said differently, “Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result is the definition of ‘crazy’!

If you have made a new year’s resolution and want this one to be successful, ask yourself, “What do I really want – and – will I do whatever it takes to make it happen?”

Here are a couple of common new year’s resolutions and the essential changes you must make to succeed!

1. “I will try to lose weight!” This is the most common New Year’s resolution. To succeed, you must make permanent changes in your eating habits. Of course, regular exercise helps. It’s also necessary that you change the way you think about food, recognizing the emotional connection you have with what you eat and drink. For many, food becomes their drug of choice, consumed to quell emotional pain. To achieve permanent weight loss, return food to its actual purpose – healthy nutrition, needed to live. Your food choices may continue to include food that is delicious. But social connections with food and drink, as well as the portions you consume will surely need to be adjusted with daily attention to calories, carbohydrates, sugar and fat intake. This is nothing short of a lifestyle change. And if the weight loss is to be permanent, the lifestyle change will need to be a permanent commitment! If it isn’t, you are likely to yo-yo up and down. You will need to identify all the triggers — boredom, loneliness etc. – that send you to the refrigerator and learn how to make healthier and more responsible choices at such times. What you put in your mouth will need to become something you remain conscious about, eating for physical health and not emotional comfort or social ease.

Resolving true food addiction is the stuff of therapy, but hopefully the information here will get you thinking about weight loss in a more effective way.

2. “I will try to be a better husband/wife, parent, friend!” If you are sincere about this and not merely reacting to the expectation or demand of others, you can succeed in this, too. It will require you to look at who and how you are through the eyes and experiences of another! Of course it will need to be someone you respect and are able to believe has your best interests at heart. Your ego will get in the way of your recognizing those things that are not easy to see. If you refuse to listen because making yourself vulnerable is too scary, you are not alone. Nevertheless, you’ll need to learn how to listen in such moments, despite your fear. The fact is that what you want is on the other side of the experience of learning something about how you present yourself to the world that you may not have been aware of. That’s the first step in pursuing positive change and growth, if that’s what’s required to improve the relationship. If you listen respectfully to understand what the other person is experiencing and what they want in the relationship you share, chances are they’ll be more willing to do the same for you.

As you keep your resolutions this year, you’ll also gain a new and greater feeling of self-respect!

Happy New Year and Happy New You in 2016!!

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