Monday, September 29, 2014

Are You Emotionally Attractive?

Author, Michael Port, used the term emotionally attractive to describe the internal energy we all have within us. I was struck by an epiphany: if energy ignites us and we are emotionally solid then others will gravitate in our appeal.

In my recently released book, “How to Depolarize Your Jerk Magnet” I write a variation of this thought but never describe it as emotionally attractive. When we demonstrate through care for ourselves as well as others, by default we become attractive to others. Being able to promote good feelings in and for others and enjoy who we are, allows others to love the way they feel when they are with us. These good feelings then awaken great feelings and people will want to naturally envelop us. Being emotionally attractive draws people toward us like bees to flowers. I distinctly recall a time while taking cared of my grandmother when others started responding to me favorably. We would be out and people smiled at me, opened the door or just greeted me pleasantly. I wondered why I was never aware of their responsiveness before. But then I realized, I wasn’t mindful of their presence because they weren’t there. They weren’t gesturing me because I was emotionally shutdown. It was my emotional attraction in the presence of my grandmother that they noticed. With her and the love I felt for her, I was soft, yielding and kind. Consequently, people could feel the warmth I had for her and it made them gravitate toward me. Soon after my grandmother’s passing, I noticed people had started ignoring me again. What was the difference? My emotional attractiveness dissipated with the loss of my grandmother. My spark, my energy evaporated and I had returned to my business-as-usual routine and people stop noticing me. The common denominator was me. To determine whether I was responsible for the unresponsiveness of others, I tested myself by pretending my grandmother was with me and then I would observe how other people responded. Every time without fail, when my energy was different so was the receptivity of the people around me. Amazing when I was welcoming and open others were willing to engage with me.

I want to share some of my insights in my next few blogs to discuss what I believe it takes to change emotional attractive by evaluating the following traits: Friendly, enthusiastic, awareness of others, giving, spontaneous, jovial, empathetic, positive, thoughtful and kind. You develop these characteristics and the world will notice you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Men: Are You a Sounding Board or Are You Sounding Bored

Men are conditioned from birth to fix damsels in distress—to be knights in shining armor and to ride off into the sunset with their fair maidens. The problem is that when women complain to their men they are only looking for a sounding board to vent—not to be rescued from peril. Women are encouraged to process their feelings outwardly to the masses and look for solace, empathy and a shoulder to cry on. Because men are trained to find answers they are often perplexed by their partners’ elevated emotions when they give them the let's fix-it-and-forget-it spiel. Most women aren’t looking for solutions…they’re looking for hugs. If men want to cure what ails their mates most often they just have to envelop them and let their ladies melt into their arms for warmth and comfort. Women often carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and sometimes, just sometimes they need someone to take control and let them know that it’s okay to be taken care of so they can feel safe and secure.

So men…the next time your ladies need to cry or vent be a sounding board for them. Stop getting frustrated or sounding bored because they won’t take your advice. Now if you've realized your ladies are drama queens in your castle you may have to accept that when you rescued these damsels in distress you’ve purposely sought out distressed damsels and you may need to admit that you made a mistake.  These types of women thrive o chaos and catastrophe but that’s on you because that’s what you signed up for.  Men and women are fundamentally different that’s why they are called the opposite sex but find the balance. There are actually women out there who don’t suffer from mental anguish. Just be forewarned that even they may just need some XOXO from time-to-time because that’s they way they roll. In conclusion if you want to fix a woman be her sounding board. It’s often that easy.

To learn more on how to find better relationships read Gents Getting Jerked at the end of each chapter of my new book How to Depolarize Your Jerk Magnet. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Our Past Does Not Define Us But Our Thoughts Do!

The differences between success and failure are self-esteem and worth based on our internal dialogue—the recorded messages from our past. As a result, some people become paralyzed by their past and allow the traumas of childhood to impact their self-image. Verbal, emotional, psychological abuses are internal wounds that need cauterized to stop the bleeding and heal.

As an individual who has withstood the test of time and been exposed to every imaginable abuse, I am here to tell you that our past does not define us but our thoughts do.  Our memories do not have to be a life sentence. To move beyond the pain know that what happened wasn’t done to us but rather at us. When we stop personalizing the abuse or owning it as ours, we can move along steady and strong. There is nothing we could have possibly done as children to warrant the maltreatment. The behavior or actions of others is their issue not ours. Children are innocent, pure and dependent upon adults. But now that we are emancipated, free or grown, we get to choose what we believe and think. We get to determine if the recorded information is fact or fiction. When adults hurt children they often are only repeating what they learned. To move beyond low-esteem and worth, you simply need to argue with the voices in your head. Take the propagating misinformation and back each thought up with tangible facts. If you cannot find the adequate evidence that proves you are worthless, stupid or selfish, the thought is erroneous. Here’s the even better news about self-imposed thoughts: if you find any facts that make those cognitive processes reliable then create a list of options that can disprove your case. Make the evidence circumstantial by leaving reasonable doubt. For example, I was a functional illiterate who was called stupid so…I learned to read, earned a master’s degree and wrote four books. When I make mistakes (like everyone else) I assure myself that as long as I learn a lesson it’s only a growing pain because when I don’t fail I don’t grow. Most parents do not consciously want to hurt their children and even those who do are in deep pain themselves. Release their hurt and move onto the life you deserve to have. It’s that easy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Honoring and Remembering Robin Williams

Robin Williams brought us great laughter and joy, but perhaps at his own expense. Some of the most talented people use humor to mask the pain engrained so deeply with their torment. As a substance abuse counselor, being present during the unveiling of their anguish is always heartrending, powerful and overwhelming.  Those who love Robin might want to blame themselves but his work here was over. It’s nobody’s fault. I once heard, “You didn’t cause it, you couldn’t control it and you couldn’t cure it.” Substance abuse is not the problem, it’s the symptom and in many cases addiction is a coping strategy to survive. He was always up. He was always on. That’s not how the human body works. It needs respite. It needs calm. Frankly, I am impressed with how long he was able to stay here. My guess is that his death would have been so much sooner had he not had his lovely wife and children. They are the reason, in my humble opinion, that he made it this long. Their love made him want to live and I hope they can someday embrace his desire to be with them. In multiple interviews I heard people stating that suicide is a selfish act. It’s only selfish if people interpret, rationalize or decide their feelings are more important [which is selfish] than the person actually suffering. If Robin had cancer, was in excruciating pain and chose to stop taking chemotherapy, nobody would blink an eye. They would bless and support his decision. Nobody would blame him for wanting to stop the pain; nobody would judge him or second-guess him because they would know that he gave it his darnedest to stay here as long as he could. Depression is like a malignant cancer and is very real. Please join me in a moment of silence and find it in your hearts to thank Robin for his amazing contribution to this world, his strength to carry on as long as he did and his courage to understand his limitations. In my opinion, Robin was a gallant knight who conquered what he set out to achieve and his time to let someone else carry the torch has arrived. God bless you Robin Williams, you are now the angel in heaven that you were here on earth.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Raise with Praise

Praise cost nothing yet its value is priceless. Everyone feels good when they can embrace their potential. Criticism doesn't always feel great. I say take the problem out of problem/solving. Essentially we have about 2 minutes of attention span with our kids and spending 1.5 minutes telling them what they've done wrong only gives us a half a minute to legitimately solve the issues at hand. What I've learned over the years is that people in general strive harder with positives and every negative can be turned around. Our brains pick up language that compels us to act on the words. For example if I told you right now to not think about how much money you paid to the IRS, what would you be thinking?  Therefore, when you tell someone, "Don't run!" the brain hears "Run!!!!" That's why kids do exactly what we tell them not to do. Start telling them what we want. Shift some of the following:

Don't throw the with the sand (that's what we want, right?)
Don't hurt the gentle with the cat (that's what we desire)
Stop yelling...use a quiet voice (that's what we need)

Every don't can be turned into a do. It just takes some reframing with time and attention. This works with your partner and friends as well. Tell them what they are doing right and they'll strive for better.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Intimate Terrorists

A discussion on the talk show Outnumbered and an online article from the HuffPost reported research claiming women’s aggression is just as violent as that of men. I'm perplexed as to why we want to continue finding someone to be the villain.  Courts already struggle with calling it domestic violence because of the implications and consequences that label brings. We are at an impasse; our heels are dug in so deeply that fault has become the objective.  I once spoke on a panel where men were cheering the praises of research with findings very similar to these. One audience participant proudly announced, “It’s terrific to finally know that men are right!” I retorted, “Why do we have to be right, why can’t we just make it right?” I knocked him off the blaming bandwagon and it was hard for anyone to argue my suggestion as it made sense.
Nevertheless, it seems someone has to be wrong, which creates a lose/lose situation in which nobody can really win. Family violence is everybody’s business and responsibility to thwart...everyone deserves to feel safe regardless of gender. We would be foolish to pretend that society doesn’t endorse violence whether is patriarchal, matriarchal, racially motivated or from affluenza (a disease sparked by wealth and privilege)…we see it everyday. Perhaps the difference now is that women’s aggressive behavior is being glamorized, promoting more violence. The study also noted that women are most aggressive toward men, while men are more aggressive toward other men. So what? Violence is violence no matter how it's packaged. We have bred protective instincts out of our DNA by rationalizing that couples fight, relationships are hard or finding a damsel in distress is good for the soul. It’s not. Let’s recognize the word stress in distress and stop minimizing poor communication skills by writing them off as bad days. Behavior is progressive and gets worse over time when people aren't given boundaries and limitations. The study also focused on young people in their late teens and early 20s. This is a time when hormones are raging and the brain's frontal lobe is not fully developed. These young adults aren't always capable of recognizing consequences. They don’t have a voice yet. They haven’t fully emancipated from their parents to develop healthy coping skills. They haven’t matured or discovered who they are yet. Is it fair to research an under-developed population and treat them as representative of stereotypical behavior or to make blanket statements that one sex is more aggressive or controlling than another? What’s the point? We need solutions not more problems. The money used for this study can have been better allocated to programs that teach resiliency, protective factors or assertiveness training.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Failed to Death Commentary, Part I: Caseworker Burnout

Last year Channel 9 News, in conjunction with the Denver Post, presented a series of news stories called “Failed to Death” that brought to light the system’s inability to protect children from abuse and neglect. I was so relieved at the news teams' courage for speaking up for the sake of the children. This blog series pays homage to those reporters who were brave enough to speak out against a system that is failing these kids to death.

Recently, I spoke at a conference where the topic addressed resiliency in victims of abuse. What I have witnessed over the years is that families will thrive when you incorporate the five protective factors: nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development, parental resiliency, social connection, and concrete support for parents. Most parents don’t start out wanting to hurt their children but many have grown up in abuse themselves and have never had healthy habits role modeled to them. I have taught a court ordered parenting class for almost fifteen years and I can count on one hand the parents that didn’t care and had no business raising children—all of the others did. What does that tell us about how we are approaching this critical issue? Maybe—just maybe—we need to repackage our services to families and start looking at treatment as healthy and right for them rather than viewing the help as a punishment. They don’t know what they don’t know…until we educate them. How many times have we heard that knowledge is power?

For years, I have proposed that we order the entire family to treatment when Child Protective Services becomes involved or when children witness family violence, as family systems are much like ecosystems…when you change one part of the environment by ordering only one parent to treatment the entire unit becomes imbalanced—and it doesn't work! There are many other advantages to mandating the entire family to treatment besides the obvious—good mental health. This series will share how we can reduce caseworker burnout, save time and money in the court system, take the guesswork out of mandatory arrests for the police officers and redirect child abuse convictions through education—all while achieving the goals to build healthier families.

Today, we will address caseworker burnout and the negative impact their decisions can have on the family system. The emotional tolls experienced by workers who have to cope with extreme exposure to child abuse is horrendous and could significantly traumatize these professionals subjected to such atrocities. It’s no wonder the caseworker burnout rate is between 1-5 years. Therefore, when families get caseworkers that have been serving in their positions for 15-20 years, goals of customer service and family reunification might be low priority or even nonexistent.

At a conference, a caseworker supervisor indicated to me that 35 positions had become available and that the department had to hire and train new personnel to fill the vacancies. When I challenged why the money was being allocated for new caseworkers rather than revitalizing the ones already in place the supervisor frustratingly retorted, “That's a great question.” What I sensed from the conversation was that caseworker development is much like puppy mills where we produce an over abundance of professionals, place them in extremely untenable and harsh conditions, mistreat them and then release them—permanently tainting these fundamentally caring individuals. I have seen these highly educated and motivated people quit and work as bartenders and bus drivers. They enter this field because they have a passion for kids and then the system breaks their spirit. My recommendation is that instead of taking the dwindling dollars to unnecessarily train new personnel, use the resources to protect our most precious commodities—the children and the superheroes who save them. We could create team-building programs, respite retreats, better collaborations and staff appreciation days. Burnout impacts these professionals’ ability to objectively advocate for their clients, which doesn't bode well for the families. In fact, children are needlessly being ripped away from their families and our system is creating deeper levels of trauma—that we have to pay for later when the children grow up. I repeatedly hear from parents that their caseworkers have threatened to take kids away unless they leave their partners. Others have been advised that caseworkers had found a “more suitable” home for their kids. This…is…not…the…goal. The objective is to keep families together. When most caseworkers trained for this field, I’m confident that they wanted to help families, but the inevitable exhaustion and trauma they experience causes significant problems. When I address these solutions in a professional training, the caseworkers wholeheartedly agree that they love their job, but they are tired. This is a solvable issue if we envelop and nurture the invaluable resources that we already have available to us.

In Part II of this series, we will discuss the child-abuse-conviction approach and how it often causes more harm than good. We will provide alternative solutions that could work.