Have a question about a quality of life issue?
Lotus Guide Column for July 2012
Q: I just got dumped by a guy I was madly in love with who had been affectionate and warm. I thought I was going to marry him. He got drunk, hit me for the first time, and has refused to talk about so I can have closure. How can I cope with such a shock?
A: Keep in mind that we have multiple subconscious personalities. One part of him did love you, but his feelings for you triggered other parts that he couldn’t handle. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung explained that when we repress unconscious feelings without making them conscious and understanding them, they project on others like a movie on a screen. It feels to me like he has controlling women in his family and his defensiveness made it impossible to open up to another strong (although not controlling) woman. Your only fault was scaring him with his intense feelings for you. It seems he’s afraid of being emasculated and one way for him to stay safe is to stay detached.
Treat the end of the affair as you would a death. Allow yourself to acknowledge the stages of grieving—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You might want to have a ritual funeral with a friend to support you, something as simple as throwing rocks into water to release fear of being alone, anger at being dumped, confusion, and feeling ungrounded about the abrupt ending. Eventually you’ll feel grateful that his “lava” erupted before marriage and children. Write in your journal about patterns in your romantic relationships and what you learned from this one, such as the need to look deeper beneath a surface of charm and warmth. This experience clarifies what you’re looking for in a partner so you will not be fooled by appearances.
Q; I’m really messed up on the guy I’ve been seeing. We were talking for a few hours a day and it became apparent that he wasn’t going to give me the monogamy I was searching for. Time is helping the connection fade, but I really like him. Why is this so dramatic? Is he acting when he tells me he loves me?
A: See the answer above about sub-personalities. It’s so dramatic because it’s off and on, and uncertain, which creates anxiety and intensity. That can be confused with love when it’s just uncertainty. The core issue is to figure out why you’re attracted to unavailable men. Imagine living with a good guy and be very aware of any fears that come up, such as I’d lose my freedom, I’d end up like my parents, or I’d be bored. Your choices reveal that the problem is not the guys but who you find attractive.
Q: I’m a man in a happy relationship in Oregon but am dismayed that lately I’ve had performance problems in the bedroom. What’s up—or not?
A: Classic sex therapists Masters and Johnson found the main barrier to satisfying intimacy is going into observer mode, thinking, “How am I doing?” The main sex organ is the brain, so engage it by fanaticizing. For example, think about a movie star you’d most like to make love with as if you are with two women in one. Also consider what men’s liberationist Herb Goldberg pointed out in his classic book The Hazards of Being Male: In his chapter on “The Wisdom of the Penis” he asks that men consider the emotional context of their sexuality rather than thinking of the penis as a separate performance machine.
Q: I get disgusted with myself when I revert to overeating or the habit of smoking before I go to bed. How can I feel better about myself?
A: I am a big believer in substituting rather than just saying no. Repressing a desire amplifies it over time. If a child is playing with something unsafe, we give her something else to do rather than just taking the toy away. If you want to relax and feel full, drink herb tea with a drop of stevia and some coconut milk. Exercise. If you need to chew out anxiety, make popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast or eat an apple with cheese slices, or celery and almond butter. Talk with a therapist about cleaning out the underlying anxiety.
Q: I met a guy online who says he only stays with his wife because she’s ill, that he plans to get a divorce. His site also indicates he’s bisexual. I know these are warning signs but he’s a fabulous lover and I like him. What should I do?
A: Be logical. Do not get involved with a married man with a poor me story. There are good single men out there. If you were his wife how would you feel? Do you really want to be get enmeshed in a lie? Better get tested for STDs. No good can come out of this.
Q. I’m having a business dispute with a person with a Ph.D. and therapeutic background who is aggressive, paranoid, and rude, threatened legal action from the onset, and says I’m not taking him seriously. How can I handle this and why is a smart person acting so irrationally?
A: Don’t descend to his level of discord; model the kind of behavior you expect in a professional setting. Using Non-Violent Communication’s suggestion to identify underlying need, it looks like he told you he needs to feel respected and have control. Whenever possible, tell him you respect him for…the clarity of his demands? Honesty? Also, tell him you expect collegiality and civility, a polite way of pointing out his errors without using the blaming word “you.” Can you find an area of agreement? Benjamin Franklin suggested this as a tactic when in conflict with a difficult person. Daniel Goleman developed the notion of Emotional Intelligence, explaining in his book that non-cognitive skills are as important as I.Q.—although he may be smart, your colleague is lacking in the former. When dealing with an irrational bully, it helps to have an ally; you may need to consult an attorney since reason probably won’t get him to back off.
Q: I have a critical judgmental sibling who is coming to visit me. How can I shut him up gracefully?
A: Use an assertiveness technique and simply repeat a phase like, “Your visit is about having fun. Let’s stick to what’s enjoyable for both of us.”
Q: I have a major life decision to make and flip from one possibility to another. How can I decide?
A: Take your time; wait for certainty. Start with the logical approach and list the pros and cons of each option. To tap into your intuition, ask a clear question before you go to sleep and write down your dreams. Interview people who might have useful information to help make a wise decision but know that the final decision is an internal process.
Q: I’m a medical professional who would like to include more holistic health practices. What resources do you suggest?
A: Dr. Andrew Weil provides books, a website, and holistic training for medical professionals at the University of Arizona. Check his website fwww.drweil.com for specific health problems and his remedies. Include Dr. James Balsch’s books in your library, some co-authored with a naturopath or a dietician. The People’s Pharmacy radio show and website also has current information. http://www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: I can’t get going on a job search. How can I make myself get down to business?
A: Plan to spend 30 minutes a day or more on the Internet on sites like Monster. Use behavior modification; give yourself a simple reward when you follow through, like taking a short walk. Have a friend you can call to report on your progress. Approach the voices of procrastination like a chess game; what tricky moves do they come up such as, ”I must clean my room,” or “I need to take this phone call?” Laugh at them and start the job search.
Q: I’d like to make money with a clear conscience to know I’m not support tobacco and oil companies, sweat shop labor, etc. How can I do this?
A: Check out http://www.socialfunds.com. /It also offers a free guide to investing in socially responsible mutual funds.
Q: I’m a new mother. My mother-in-law tries to be helpful but she does it in a critical way. It bothers me and I don’t know how to handle it.
A: Try turning everything into a positive, as in “Thanks for your concern/suggestion/observation.” You don’t have to defend yourself or say anything more than that. You can also limit conversations, saying something like “The baby needs my attention now.”