Tuesday, June 28, 2011

4 Deadly Horseman in relationships

Dr. John Gottman is a researcher on couples therapy. He is well known and respected for his work at pinpointing factors that contribute to long-term relationships as well as behaviors that facilitate the demise of relationships. One of his metaphors that he identified was the 4 deadly horsemen in relationships; those behaviors that that bring about an end of a relationship (playing on the theme of the 4 deadly horseman of the Apocalypse, the end of the world.)

Criticism is focusing or otherwise only seeing the negative components of a partner. We all understand the basic negative impact of negative criticism. The non-verbal forms of negative criticism are sometimes as equally difficult to address. Ever get that “look” from your partner? Assertive communication is the path out of criticism. The difference appears small, but the implication is significant.

Defensiveness focuses everything on your partner’s mistakes. The defensiveness creates a barrier to admitting your own part of the conflict or struggle. This approach reflects the saying, “The best defense is a strong offense.” By avoiding your role in conflict, you project onto the partner all of the problems. Owning your behaviors, and taking responsibility for your part of the conversation is one helpful strategy.

Stonewalling refers to the avoidance of the partner, or passive-aggressive behaviors. In Minnesota, we call this “Minnesota Nice” where your words don’t match your attitudes/behaviors. Assertiveness is again a strategy to help you here. So too integrity is helpful, “saying what you mean and meaning what you say.” Uncovering or otherwise revealing your hidden/secret thoughts and feelings is necessary.

Contempt is the judgment that occurs in a relationship. Much of Gottman’s research has focused on the subtleties of how contempt shows up. It usually serves to demean the individual. Finding healthy ways to address the underlying issues is important. Taking responsibility for your thoughts/feelings, as well as developing assertive ways to communicate them is necessary. Being mindful of your judgment is necessary.

If you notice any of the behaviors in your relationship, seek help. Often one of these sets of behaviors is linked with others leading to a flood of issues to be addressed. As the saying goes, the 4 deadly horsemen don’t travel alone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daily Living a Life I Love

--turns out this is my 200th post.

As the saying goes, “Death by a thousand paper cuts.” Life, then, is created by a thousand moments of transformation. Living a life you live is based on a transformation of your daily life.

One of the assignments from the workbook is identifying values or virtues important in your life. These values are selected from moments where you feel inspired, reflecting on why you admire certain people, and a few additional strategies (see the blogs on pivot points, values, creating your future).

The current paradigm I emphasize is based on helping an individual make a choice between acting out or choosing something he/she finds important. Today’s blog is to also emphasize how you can cultivate the virtues on a daily basis outside of the crisis moments. The key in cultivating a life you love is to identify values to shape your behavior at all times. By cultivating these experiences on a daily basis, an individual will be able to move toward the type of life he/she desires.

For example, take the principle/virtue of courage. Courage has many definitions, and the one I like is, “Courage isn’t acting without fear, it is acting in spit of feeling fear.” This definition is helpful in shaping ALL of your behaviors moving forward. Asking yourself, “What is the courageous thing to do in this moment?” can help you overcome the small little fears in daily living. It might be as simple as assertively communicating your requests, saying yes when you mean yes, being honest about how you think/feel, being proactive (vs. passive), and a multitude of other behaviors. Courage may strangely be the opposite, depending on the circumstances. Courage might be simply waiting for the situation to naturally unfold, trusting others in their statements, or giving up control.

The value of expressing courage is to address the infinite times where you might feel the anxiety/fear/hesitation in your DAILY life. It is in the daily moments where we are fully alive. It is also the daily moments that become the building blocks for the times when we experience a major trigger/risk of relapse. The daily practice can help us respond to the larger events is a courageous manner.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matrix Trilogy as an analogy for life.

Lately I find that I have been referencing the Matrix Movie Trilogy. The movie is rich in symbolism, and is expressive of a great number of archetypes. Outside the gratuitous fight scenes (which could be metaphorical as well), I find a great many helpful metaphors that correspond to living a rich life. Here are just a few. If you have more, please submit.

1) The names of many characters/features: The Oracle, Neo, Mr. Smith, Architect, Trinity, and Zion. Each has additional meanings beyond simply referencing the characters.
2) Life is a choice. You choose your worldview, and you choose how to respond to everything within your worldview. Sometimes we may not be fully aware of the choices, but even within our subconscious, we are making choices. (The blue pill or the red pill.)
3) The Promised Land is not what you think (Zion as the promised land).
4) You can recreate your life. Every moment of insight/growth changes the matrix of your life. You recreate your life when you continue to grow/live. (The scene with the architect, and the statement there were 6 previous Neos).
5) Awareness allows us to see connections others cannot perceive. Our insight/awareness provides us a larger consciousness within the world. We see the linkages where others see nothing. (Neo’s ability to see when blinded.)
6) What you are paying attention to may not be the most important thing in your life. (The lady in the red dress as a distraction.)
7) Think outside the box. What we think may limit our choices is simply an illusion. There are many more options than the two options we think we have. (The scene with the architect).
8) Anything is possible. This may require us to envision a new reality, but once designed, it is a series of choices that move us toward the new possibility. (The influence of the Oracle, and the statement, “You play a dangerous game here.” The ending is different from the expectation; no spoiler here!).
9) Find something in your life worth fighting for that gives purpose/meaning to your life. (For Neo, it is his love to Trinity and commitment Zion).
10) When you find the core to your purpose, you will choose to face what appear to be insurmountable odds. You will discover your response to the question, “Why?” “Because I choose to?” (The ending fight scene between Neo and Mr. Smith).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What are you keeping secret?

In my therapy approach, I often ask, “What are you not talking about?” In my opinion, this is one warning flag associated with a possible treatment issue. If there is any historical or current event, topic, behavior or concern that a person isn’t talking about, it’s something that needs to be investigated.

Without a doubt, the key in a therapy process is the application of wisdom to discern who are your support people, as well as timing of a disclosure, etc. But, I have concerns when I hear clients say, “No one can find out.” or “I wouldn’t want _______ to know about this.” I also use those statements to help clients identify boundaries. If you say those things regarding something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. In the end, responsibility is about taking on the ownership of your behaviors and interests and sharing them with others.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My June 7th interview on Chan 9 News

Click on the title to view my interview on Chan 9 news. As my mother said, you look so serious.

Do I have a cybersex problem?

A question in the recent public sphere is how does a person know if they have a problem with cybersex. Based on the research, simply going online for sexual material isn’t a problem. Research suggests 80-85% of people have no problem. As an example, most people use alcohol with no problem. And many users of alcohol never move onto drug use. In other words, for many people, alcohol use is not a problem. The same can be true for cybersex. But how does one know? The following are some things to consider.

1) Does it “feel” like a problem for you? If so, try to uncover why it feels like a problem.
2) Have you tried to stop, and failed? Explore why.
3) Often cybersex issues aren’t about the cybersex behaviors, but expressive of other issues such as relationship, loneliness, depression, boredom, anxiety or other concerns. How present are these issues?
4) In what way have your behaviors put you at risk for consequences including legal, emotional, relational, financial or employment consequences
5) What, if any, consequences have you experienced?

The website internetbehavior.com has a screening instrument you can also complete. It has about 25 questions to consider. A copy of the instrument is also in the book Cybersex Unplugged. In reviewing your responses, you’ll start to get a sense if it is a problem or not. When in doubt, seek help to help you figure this out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It’s not about the sex.

I was asked if someone could/would engage in cybersex behaviors without actually meeting a partner in real time/face to face as Rep. Weiner acknowledged. The short answer is, “yes.” The reason is that the cybersex behavior isn’t always about the sex. Why do it then? To that question, there is no easy answer. Below is a list of other reasons that people might use to engage in cybersex behaviors.

1) Boredom
2) Loneliness
3) Fear of cheating
4) Shame
5) Jealousy
6) I didn’t cheat since I didn’t meet
7) It’s a break from the hard work of the day.
8) Horny
9) My partner isn’t around
10) It’s just a fantasy, it’s not real.
11) No one will find out.
12) Excitement

One of the tasks in treatment is to figure out the deeper motives that shape an individual’s behavior. It is a process of discernment and discovery. In the workbook, we highlight 3 groups of reasons: thinking errors, feeling triggers, and high risk situations. Each then becomes a source to intervene in the cybersex beahviors.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What we can learn from Rep. Weiner

1) This can happen to anyone. Rep. Weiner is one more person in a long list of individuals who have sexual health concerns.
2) Don’t lie. When something happens, the truth will eventually come out. It is better to get everything out right away.
3) Other will be hurt by your behavior.
4) Sex is still a scandal. Our sex negative society still has a strong reaction to sexuality. If we got rid of every politician who lied, well….
5) Sexual compulsivity problems aren’t limited to meeting others. Problems can include cybersex behaviors such as chatting, “harvesting” pictures, or even engaging in the online hunt seeking a thrill.
6) The Internet is not private. Anything you post in electronic forum is public. Period!
7) A problem is an opportunity to start the process of changing your life. If you’re stuck in denial, you are stuck.
8) Get help if help is needed. Regardless of what is said in the press, we really don’t know the entire story. Resources are available. Check out AASECT.ORG or SASH.NET for therapists/resources.