Q: I’m facing one difficulty after another, like being caught in a shore break and not being able to get out from under the waves. Any way to feel better?
A: Look at hard times as your best teachers and a catalyst for change. For example, when I was graduate student teaching a junior high class, I wanted to give them freedom and respect. What resulted was paper airplanes and chaos. I learned from this so in my first paid teaching assignment, I was strict and they respected me though I was only 22. In another job, I had a vindictive punitive boss, who hassled me with petty actions like trying to move me to an office that was designed to be a large closet, going through my files when I wasn’t there, etc. I left and it opened up wonderful opportunities. Being lucky means you flow with the Tao and stay centered so you can listen to your higher guidance.
Q: How can I encourage my mother to stop enabling my brother in his alcohol and drug addiction issues?
A: Go to Al-Anon and get support from people who are dealing with the same problem. Point out that supporting his habit hurts him and she needs to expect his anger when she withdraws support. Suggest she get help from Al-Anon to stay strong in helping him get healthy.
Q: I work with difficult complaining people who drain my energy. What can I do so I don’t come home so tired?
A: Do active listening, saying, “It seems you’re upset about so and so. Take this squeeze toy and squeeze out your frustrations. I’ll join you.” This would only work with someone with a sense of humor. Limit complaints. Interrupt and ask the complainer to brainstorm possible solutions. Read books about how to work with difficult people such as Difficult Personalities: A Practical Guide to Managing the Hurtful Behavior of Others (and Maybe Your Own) by Helen McGrath and Hazel Edwards.
Gain perspective with humor, for example, create a secret game just for you to see which of the complainers can voice the most complaints in a workday.
Maintain your vitality by taking time for fun, exercise, sleep, being in nature, and fresh food. Limit perfectionism for when it’s really necessary.
Clear your office energetically; start with visualizing your office at a nurturing, cheery color. When you’re alone, clap, rattle or drum along walls to stir up stagnant energy. To assist in cleaning out stagnant energy, assemble an earth element—flower or salt; air—incense, water element–spray essential oils in water, fire element–candle. Place them in various corners of your office.
Q: What advice would you give for dealing with anger after a long drawn out family issue that was mental health related? The person became delusional while off medication and has taken months to start getting back to normal. It has been hard to get back on track as a family.
A: Mental illness is a disease, so I’d think of your family member as if he or she had a stroke or heart attack. Have compassion. Also, have a discussion including the mental health professional about what stressors are especially difficult and might set off delusions, so as to protect against them. Plan enjoyable family activities to bond again as a family.
Q: I have ongoing pain from slipped disks. Suggestions?
A: Try a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) technique where you ask yourself, “If my negative feelings had a color, shape, smell, and sound, what would they be?” Then change each aspect and imagine the new form moving away from you, disappearing in the horizon. He reported back:
It just took me a little time to get there. The color worked the best. What also helped with the pain was belly breathing and breathing into and out of the area of pain and treating it as a friend that needed help. I have also enjoyed the audiotapes on pain meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is humorous that I have become aware of so much, but it took a major pain to get me to slow down to pay attention.
Q: I met a guy who I’m ambivalent about because he lives in another state. He called me last night and then texts me and plays a bit with my mind. I think I’ll email him to let him know I’m looking for commitment.
A: I wouldn’t put something like that in writing. It’s too soon to talk about commitment. Just stay in the moment with it, and enjoy it. Email is NOT a good way to deal with delicate issues since you can’t fine tune what you say in responses to the other person.
Q: How can I learn to accept flaws in a potential future mate?
A: None of us are perfect, including you. Can your flaws work together? Are the good points worth the struggle to learn to live with the shortcomings? Do you share enough goals and values? I’d suggest you both take the Keirsey and Bates Temperament Test. It will help you appreciate your differences and similarities. It’s easier if you’re similar on two out of the four categories; it’s really a struggle if you’re different on all of them.
Q: How does someone let go of someone who is so bad to him or her but they are blind to it?
A: Sometimes we need to experience difficulty before we learn the lesson. A bad relationship can be like a drug addiction; the addict has to experience pain before it’s worthwhile to quit. You can point out to your friend what you observe, ask her or him what need that relationship serves, provide feedback to what your friend is feeling, and then let it go unless violence and other abuse is involved.
Q: is it okay to move out and separate from my husband without attempting to resolve conflict?
A: If abuse is involved, yes. Otherwise, no, because we pick the familiar in our partners. Better to become conscious of your relationship baggage and how to let it go or else you’ll repeat the problem with the next person.
Q: What is a good way to address problems with your spouse when it comes to doing equal amount of housework and taking care of the children?
A: Make a list of everything involved in running a household: cooking and shopping, cleaning, bills and finances, yard, vehicles, social activities (greeting cards, gifts, get-togethers), etc. Attach points to each task, with more points to least enjoyable tasks like cleaning bathrooms. Take turns picking tasks until everyone has equal tasks, including kids. Decide on consequences for not doing your job and rewards when everyone has done their job. Try to make something like family housecleaning fun by putting on dance music, having contests, and wearing costumes. Point out that husbands experience more sex and romance when they do their share around the home.
Q: My nephew is struggling in school, not listening or minding any sort of authority. My sister asked me to take him in for his next school year, the ninth grade, to see what my husband and I can do with him. Should I do this?
A: Children, especially non-compliant ones, are very stressful on a marriage and family. You and your husband need to talk this over very carefully. If you decide to take your nephew, I’d sit down with him and jointly decide on a contract of what behavior is expected of him, such as going to school every day, doing his homework, doing a daily chore around the house, and seeing a counselor. Has he been tested for learning disabilities? He may be acting out because he feels like a failure. He needs to be involved in an activity where he feels successful, like a sports team or music lessons. Include consequences for not following through and rewards if he does his work. If he won’t agree to the contact, I’d research a boarding or alternative school that could give him structure.
Q: Why do people fall out of love? Or why do people let themselves fall out of love? Why do I feel like that sometimes? Is it me or the bigger picture?
A: We start with infatuation and adrenalin-like excitement. Then endorphins kick in for a comfortable bonding. Relationships go through stages, ebbs and flows. When couples talk about working at their relationship, it means hanging in through the difficult ebbs, like illness, or having a baby. The work also means scheduling in time for communication and fun. It’s natural to go and out of love, but remember you need to be creative about bringing enjoyment to your relationship.