Ask Dr. Gayle Lotus Guide column
Q: I was deeply in love with a woman of another religion. Her family and community would never have accepted me, so we broke off our relationship. I married on the rebound because my wife wanted to and I went along with it. How can I make my marriage more loving?
A: Keep your love for your ex in your heart and pray for her well-being, so you don’t deny the reality of your caring or expend energy in repression. With your wife, tell her something you sincerely appreciate about her every day and decide to explore her psyche as if you were writing a book about her. What makes her tick? Think of ways to add to her happiness with thoughtful little gifts, volunteering to do work around your home, giving her hugs, and spending time checking in with each other. See The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman to see what is most important to each of you. If you believe in karma or destiny, ask yourself what do you two need to work out together?
Q: I have a hard time finding good gifts for people. Suggestions?
A: Create a gift box or file drawer. Keep your eyes open for gifts throughout the year when you’re shopping anyway. Thrift stores like the Shalom Free Clinic’s store in Chico recycle materials, give to a good cause, and have some unexpected gems. Consider gift certificates for services like my coaching sessions or DVDs or those provided by Lotus Guide advertisers. The best gifts are made in your kitchen or otherwise handmade. Here are some suggestions to get you started: http://www.bhg.com/crafts/easy/30-minute-projects/super-quick-gifts-to-make/#page=4
Q: Sometimes I get so frustrated I want to yell at my kids or smack them. What are more effective discipline techniques?
A: The most important principles that work for me are to let consequences teach kids rather than relying on lecturing, which they tune out. Give them lots of healthy choices so they feel they have some power and don’t have to rebel. Non-Violent Communication emphasizes understanding the need that underlies the behavior, maybe just the child’s need to relax and have down time or get undivided attention. Take regular time to listen to each other and have fun together. Colleges are talking about fragile “teacup” students who fall apart under pressure because they were overprotected and their time overstuctured by their helicopter parents, so let your kids make some decisions. Useful books are Parenting with Love and Logic; Children: The Challenge; and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk. (Readers, other favorites?)
Q: I agonize over making decisions, and agonize over agonizing. How can I simplify making decisions? It takes too much time and energy to proceed like this.
A: Write out the pros and cons of each option using logic. You might attach more points for factors that mean a lot to you. Sleep on the list and then feel which choice feels best to you. It may be useful to think out loud by asking a neutral friend to pretend to be a judge. You act as attorney for each option, changing chairs or hats as you defend each option. Also be aware of subconscious personalities that make it difficult to make decisions, such as a critical inner judge who makes you afraid that any choice you make will be wrong. Listen to that subpersonality and bring its concerns up to the light of consciousness, and then call on a more rational part. It may be best not to discuss the process with many others unless they are experts, as their opinions can muddy the waters. After you decide, stick to an agreement with yourself to wait a month before evaluating the choice. If you start to second-guess your plan, remind yourself “What is, is” and wait until the evaluation date.
Q: I’ve lived with the same partner for around 30 years. He’s very critical and controlling, but I care about him and am comfortable with our familiar pattern. Is it too late to start over without him?
A: Life is short, so much to learn, experience, give, and enjoy. You will want to face the end of your life looking back with contentment. Confront your partner using effective communication (“I feel __ when __ and I suggest ___ as a solution we can negotiate”). Don’t blame as in “You always ….”) Do this each time he offends you in order to give him the opportunity to change, although it won’t be pleasant. It’s important that you learn your lesson of being assertive and taking good care of yourself so you don’t have to repeat it in another context. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks, so start quietly looking for new home and saving money for moving if he isn’t kinder. Change can be scary, so acknowledge your fears of going out on your own and address them. Hopefully you have a trustworthy friend who can listen to you and provide encouragement. I’m at energy balancing and mini-readings every Wednesday at the First Congregational Church, available to encourage you to take good care of yourself.
Q: My boyfriend ended our relationship, but I still have loving feelings for him that keep me from opening my heart to a new guy. How can I move on?
A: Parents love more than one child, so you can keep your deep caring for your ex and also open your heart to getting to know a new man. It’s not either/or. We learn from each relationship, so I’d explore. We can learn and grow from each partner.
Q: I retired and am spending a lot of time in my pajamas without establishing a new routine. How can I get going in a positive direction?
A: Going to a gym every morning, or going for a walk or bike ride, can provide a new healthy structure to get going in the morning. It helps to have an exercise buddy to get started on your new routine. Explore volunteer opportunities that put your skills to use and help you feel you’re doing service for others. Take a class at the college or recreation center to learn something new, a good strategy for keeping your brain young. Where would you like to travel? Make a list of activities you wished you’d been able to fit in while working fulltime, and start investigating the top interests on your list. Do something constructive every day.
Q: I just got engaged. I’m still in shock, particularly when I start to think about the planning of a wedding! Can you help me get started?
A: I’d delegate tasks like food preparation to family members and friends, using guides for reducing wedding expenses that can be found on sites like frugaldad.com and forbes.com. I’d save money for a great honeymoon trip or house down payment rather than have a lavish wedding. The beauty will be in the depth of feeling, the ceremony, friends and family, and the dancing afterwards, rather than expensive catered dinner and alcohol. I’ve performed weddings on a ski slope, on Mt. Lassen, in backyards, and in the park that were very meaningful and inexpensive.
Q: I have panic attacks, am anxious, and have trouble sleeping. How can I get on with my life and feel better?
A: When you feel a panic attack coming on, instead of resisting and fearing it, acknowledge it. Walk it out, swim it out, do something physical as you would deal with a muscle cramp. Exercising every day can help relieve some anxiety and also makes it easier to sleep. Natural remedies are suggested by Kathi Kemper, MD, in Mental Health, Naturally: Eat breakfast and whole foods, avoid caffeine, take vitamins B, C, D3, and minerals including calcium (not citrate) and magnesium, fish oils for omega-3 fatty acids, GABA, and Theanine found in green tea. Dr. Kemper also recommends Tryptophan and 5-http, and calming herbs like chamomile and valerian. Julia Ross provides more natural remedies in The Mood Cure.
Q: I’ve gone off anti-depression meds after 15 years and am getting overwhelmed by feelings. How can I cope?
A: Your emotions have been suppressed and need to be acknowledged and released. Be aware of the grief or anger and breathe into it. It helps to physically release in a safe place, as by kicking cardboard boxes or pounding pillows or watching a touching movie and crying. It helps to have a caring neutral listener, a good friend or therapist so you feel safe. I always recommend EFT (http://www.garythink.com/eft/). Re-evaluation Counseling also provides simple ways to discharge our fears and anxieties. Accept the release of sadness, anger, guilt rather than being afraid of them, just as you accept vomiting if you eat toxic food. Find a therapist who is comfortable with you releasing old negativity.
Q: I have trouble saying no to any request from others, so I’m feeling depleted. Also, I have trouble getting organized. Suggestions?
A: Think of the highest good of others; if you rob them of the opportunity to learn how to do a task, you deprive them of a needed lesson. Think of yourself as a deserving part of the creation who deserves good care. Read about codependency to be more conscious of the compulsive feelings behind taking responsibility for others and neglecting yourself.
Buy a bunch of folders, sort your papers in them in a box or filing cabinet, and keep them in alphabetical order. Any new paperwork that arrives is immediately acted upon and then filed. Do not let piles accumulate. If it’s a bill you can’t pay, put it in a folder for pending accounts.
Q: I’m a middle-school student. I can’t get myself to turn in assignments or to care about doing well in school. Any hope for me?
A: You may be making an unspoken statement to your parents about something you’re unhappy about in your family. Is there something that bothers you that you can explain to your parents? Do you have test anxiety? I put together a guide to test success that I’d be glad to share with you and readers–just email me. Think about future careers that appeal to you rather than just what your parents want in the good grades department. You will need a good job to help support your future family. Does your desired field require a college education? Most high-paying jobs do. Although it seems far away, you’ll soon find yourself applying for college and will want options that school success provide you.
Q: I’m in a custody battle with my son’s mother. She does everything she can to make things difficult for me and speaks badly about me to my son. How can I win this fight?
A: She probably won’t change, so you need to change your reactions. As long as you expect fair and rational behavior from your ex, you will be disappointed and upset. Expect her to obstruct in any way she can and be amused at how creative she can be in creating conflict. Separate yourself emotionally by viewing the conflict like a chess game, anticipating moves your opponent might make and how to counter them. Try to have some humor about how she and her attorney operate. Also, remember that our difficulties are small compared to people living in Afghanistan, South Sudan, or urban slums anywhere or under the bridges in our town. It’s not good for your health to be upset and angry. Also, talk to your attorney about the illegality of alienation of parental affection. See http://www.cadivorce.com/california-divorce-guide/parenting-through-divorce/parental-alienation-syndrome.
Q: My husband did the classic mid-life crisis event of leaving me for a younger woman. I am devastated. Will I recover?
A: In the long run, you’ll think good riddance. In the meantime, allow yourself to grieve but also kick up your heels and do what you’ve wanted to do and couldn’t. Eat lemon meringue pie for breakfast and enjoy your freedom. Plan a trip to someplace you’ve always wanted to go with an interesting group. Get support from friends, a therapist, a grief group, and a massage therapist. It’s always harder for the spouse who feels rejected because it brings up our unresolved feelings back to middle school dances when we didn’t get asked to dance by the cool guys. Use your current pain to clean up these old residues with a therapist. Finally, make sure you have a good lawyer and stay involved with the legal dissolution.
Q: I beat myself when I make a mistake. How can I give myself a break?
A: We’re on the planet to make mistakes because that’s how we learn. Since no one is perfect, it’s part of the human condition. The point is to not repeat them, and to think before we act, although core issues usually need to be repeated imperfectly until we get it.
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Q: I’m planning a large conference and get anxious.
I continue to have difficulties with multidimensional dreams messing with my certainty that I am fully embodied. Oh well. My sister in law says I should just go with it, and enjoy my multi-dimensional, Escher like translations of reality in dreamtime. Or just accept and enjoy the idea that consciousness/ co creation is a lot like a cross between beautiful soap bubbles and barnacles/coral. Gag!
I think all you can do is make sure you spend some time with him weekly with the intention of grounding him to the earth in Chico, and help him clean out stuff bit by bit…
Hey Gayle, I worry about my father’s mental stability. He is so disconnected from reality, driven by fear, manifested into hoarding and outbursts of anger. Any thoughts? Jen
Hey Gayle, I just had a heart to heart with Chris and he doesn’t want kids. I’m giving him time to soul search, but I know the end result….another break up. We’ve built so much together, and I should have known. I really feel stupid we just bought the house. I was really in it for the long haul, now I have to start over… I’m devastated! Any thoughts, what do you see? Jenn
Q: I feel empty, without feelings, without beliefs. What can I do to find meaning?
A: Depression is associated with feeling hopeless and empty. The question is which is the chicken and which is the egg? Consciously separate from unhappy relatives and friends by imagining each person in his or her own energy bubble of light. Know that you can’t heal a parent or other person; you can offer support as a good listener but only as long as you don’t feel sucked into their distress. It’s easy to get depressed over human nature with over one billion people living in abject poverty, ongoing wars and destruction of the environment, so focus on the heroes who are making a difference in your community and globally, as described on http://www.youth-leader.org/. My personal belief about the meaning of life is that just like all creatures we are here to evolve, plus provide service for others, and enjoy the creation. Difficulties are an opportunity to get stronger, especially be aware of patterns you attract as they point out a lesson your unconscious mind wants you to learn.
Q: I’m working long hours and have two young sons, feeling drained and tired.
A: Make a list of what nourishes you, simple things such as a bubble bath, a nap, a walk in nature, or buying flowers. Schedule these activities on your calendar so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Spiky energy from trauma, listen to classical and new age, print out heartmath coherent, be conscious of spike
I don’t believe that I can make someone else happy. It has to be internal. Rich people aren’t happy, so having things doesn’t bring joy in the long run. Maybe you need to take some anti-anxiety herbs. Look under anxiety in the attachment. Keep me posted.
Can’t sleep. When I close my eyes I see fragments of my sad memory of my mom crying, the things she had to go through. All the sad stuff. The pain is excruciating and suffocating. Can’t breathe easy. Why everything was the way it was? Why did god place wrong destinies to our lives? I am nothing close to the son she needs now. If god had given her a different son, the son she wants, who would bring her all she needs, then she would be happy now. Why me? Why put me in the wrong place? I am supposed to help her but I can’t do anything now.
Q: Hank: I grew up in a guilt-based religion with critical parents, so I carry around some fear and anxiety about not doing things right. As a middle-age man, how can I get free of this old pattern?
A: A simple mantra is to say today’s date.
Q: I get into drama when I have single roommates and feel lonely when I live with a couple. How can I find an enjoyable living situation?
A: If patterns repeat, there are a mirror to an unresolved kink in your unconscious, so examine if the drama has a repeated theme, like feeling left out or having different comfort levels with chaos. If you understand what draws you to certain people, you can make wiser decisions about roomies.
Q: I’m overweight, have diabetes and hypertension, plus an injury that keeps me from working and having health insurance.
A: Can you swim as a form of daily exercise to lower your weight, which will help with all your physical ailments? The Shalom Free Clinic is a wonderful weekly source of medical care where you can get some free medical attention.