Sunday, October 27, 2019

Resilience - Not a Dirty Word

Image Credits
Creator:Timothy L. Hale
Credit:U.S. Army Reserve Command

Copyright:Public Domain

Resilience. It can be a good thing.  I know, at least in one of the counties where I try cases, “resilient” is a bad word when it comes to children. I beg to differ.  Resilience is defined by our good friends at Merrimack-Webster as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”  We, of course, don’t want our children exposed to high conflict situations, but it happens, even in intact families.  Even as we don’t want our children to experience adversity, without it a child doesn’t learn how to deal with it or with change.  Most of us would rather our children are exposed to little disappointments in order to become resilient, but that doesn’t always happen; sometimes big and ugly things are on the horizon.  I think we do children a disservice when we don’t teach them resilience, because then they do not become resilient adults.

Resilient adults make good clients Here in the Trenches.  Their minds have a plasticity that allows them to roll with the punches.  They don’t play the helpless victim; they work on strategies to try to solve their own problems.  They know that their time in the Trenches is finite and that there’s a different tomorrow once they leave us.  Not all of my clients are resilient.

Of course, that raises a whole different question, why is it that some people thrive through adversity (and are resilient), and some do not?  Why do two people exposed to the same situation internalize it differently?  I don’t know.  What do those people who thrive have that others don't?  If you aren't naturally resilient, is there any hope of change?

Luckily, the folks at the Mayo Clinic think you can improve your resilience.  Here are their tips:

Tips to improve your resilience

Working on your mental well-being is just as important as working on your physical health. If you want to strengthen your resilience, try these tips:
  • Get connected. Build strong, positive relationships with family and friends, who provide support and acceptance. Volunteer, get involved in your community, or join a faith or spiritual community.
  • Find meaning. Develop a sense of purpose for your life. Having something meaningful to focus on can help you share emotions, feel gratitude and experience an enhanced sense of well-being.
  • Start laughing. Finding humor in stressful situations doesn't mean you're in denial. Humor is a helpful coping mechanism. If you can't find any humor in a situation, turn to other sources for a laugh, such as a funny book or movie.
  • Learn from experience. Think back on how you've coped with hardships in the past. Build on skills and strategies that helped you through the rough times, and don't repeat those that didn't help.
  • Remain hopeful. You can't change what's happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future. Find something in each day that signals a change for the better. Expect good results.
  • Take care of yourself. Tend to your own needs and feelings, both physically and emotionally. This includes participating in activities and hobbies you enjoy, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and eating well.
  • Keep a journal. Write about your experiences, thoughts and feelings. Journaling can help you experience strong emotions you may otherwise be afraid to unleash. It also can help you see situations in a new way and help you identify patterns in your behavior and reactions.
  • Accept and anticipate change. Expecting changes to occur makes it easier to adapt to them, tolerate them and even welcome them. With practice, you can learn to be more flexible and not view change with as much anxiety.
  • Work toward a goal. Do something every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Even small, everyday goals are important. Having goals helps you look toward the future.
  • Take action. Don't just wish your problems would go away or try to ignore them. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action.
  • Maintain perspective. Look at your situation in the larger context of your own life and of the world. Keep a long-term perspective and know that your situation can improve if you actively work at it.
  • Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.Restore an inner sense of peace and calm by practicing such stress-management and relaxation techniques as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, visualization, imagery, prayer or muscle relaxation.
You can become more resilient, and as you do, you are modeling resilience for your children. Children need that every bit as much as they need you to model appropriate conflict resolution.  Take care of yourself. Take care of children.  If you do, you will spend less time and money with me and be more satisfied moving you life forward.  Here in the Trenches.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cheater, Cheater?

A friend of mine reposted the above photo on her FB wall the other day.  It prompted a lively debate. Some people posted that if you were planning a surprise for your partner, you might delete messages. OK, they have a point, but we all know that’s not what the statement in the photo is about.  To me the operative words are “gotta delete.”  I can think of reasons why I might want to delete messages, for example if I said something unflattering about my partner to another person in a fit of pique at them.  Of course that I couldn’t say whatever I wrote to my partner and that I shared our private business with a third party (who is not my therapist) are entirely other issues, but again, not the point of the statement in the picture.

An individual posted that the statement is  “wrong! They can be harmless but ppl get mad over nothing.  Avoiding a fight is not cheating.”  This person is correct that it’s not cheating.  It’s not.  That said, that you feel you “gotta delete” texts is a huge red flag.  When you have to edit what you say to ward off a pointless fight, that’s a sign of an unhealthy relationship and coercive control.  When your partner is “super jealous,” that is an example of a incomplete emotional development, and again, many times an excuse utilized to exercise coercive control.  This person went on to say that “you know how young men are.”  Uh, no.  My son is a young man, and I would be concerned beyond belief if he engaged in this type of behavior.  I’d be asking whether he had a concrete, articulable reason not to trust his partner, and if not, I’d strongly suggest therapy. That type of behavior is not just boys being boys - it is never excusable.  Staying with someone who acts in this way is also a sign of a need for therapeutic intervention.

Let’s look back at the statement in the picture.  I would add to it that if you delete your call history, talk to someone only in the wee hours of the morning or when your partner isn’t around, you’re already there.  Here in the Trenches what we see time and again are physical affairs that occur after long periods of heavy secret communications.  I understand that you are entitled to have private communications with other people.  Heck, we all are and we do.  I don’t condone your partner demanding to see your text messages (I am drawing a distinction between asking to see them because of prior unfaithfulness and demanding to see them, even with adequate cause).  That behavior’s not appropriate either.  The point of the statement in the photo is that if you feel you have to make sure your partner doesn’t know you are communicating with a certain person, have to make sure that your partner doesn’t see the extent of your communication with a certain person, or have to delete the content of your communications with a certain person, you are being unfaithful to the relationship.  Is it adultery? No, not because you’re not being unfaithful, but because adultery is defined by state law and in all states I know of, requires the physical act of sexual intercourse and marriage.

While we’re talking about being unfaithful, are there other areas of your life you hide from your partner?  My grandma used to cut the tags off clothes she would buy and quickly put them in the back of the closet for a week before wearing them, so that when grandpa would ask her if the dress was new, she could honestly say it had been sitting in her closet for some time.  Grandma’s story was part of the family lore, but it was cheating, not by the time we came along, because by then grandpa knew what she was doing and it was a game, but back when she started it when they had no money and that dress could make a huge difference in their daily lives. Financial cheating is not just embezzling money, buying a new car without discussing it, or withdrawing all of your retirement savings; it’s also the little stuff like hiding the credit card statements or lying about how much something cost.  Sure, you could be like that person on FB and say that it’s just to avoid a fight over something little, but we know in our hearts that’s not true.  We know there’d be a fight because what we did was dishonest, and instead of working on the underlying problem, we chose to lie about it.

Shall we talk parenting?  Of course we shall, because that’s my favorite topic.  How many sitcoms have revolved around something a parent did wrong with the children, which they made worse by lying about it to the other parent?  Here in the Trenches, co-parenting is hard.  it’s hard because we might not have agreed with our partner’s parenting decisions while we were together.  It’s hard because maybe our child was conceived when we didn’t really have a relationship with the other parent, and we ended up having a child with someone with whom we do not share values. It’s hard to say to the other parent that you’re not going to do it their way, explain why, and attempt to come to a compromise, so some people cheat.  They lie about the children’s bedtimes, what they had for dinner, how well they supervised them, whether they checked their homework.  They lie because they know the other parent won’t agree with them or because they have previously agreed not do the very thing they have done.  (Sort of like investing your intimate self with a person who is not your partner when you’ve promised to invest those very things in your partner.).  When you lie like this to the other parent, you are eroding the foundation of a strong co-parenting relationship rather than investing in the hard work necessary to provide your children with the parenting structure they need to thrive.

The lie, the deleting the text, erasing the call history, and cutting off the price tags are not what makes you unfaithful - the realization that you HAVE to do those things means that you know you are doing something that is wrong.  It may not be what I think is wrong or the person next to you thinks is wrong, but it is wrong for you, your relationship or your family.  It is wrong for the continuation of a relationship of trust.  It deprives you of the ability to build a stronger, more effective relationship.  It is cheating.  It is being unfaithful.  Even if you never have a physical affair.  Here in the Trenches.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Value of Coaching

Yesterday, I ran the Tampa Bay Whiskey Run 10k.  I really trained for this race.  I joined a coaching program and followed it religiously.  Sure, there were bumps along the way:  I had twinges in my hips here and there that caused me to take a few days off; I ran some workouts too fast or too hard and needed more recovery.  Even with the bumps, I felt really prepared for the race.  Then, the unexpected happened:  Daughter decided she shouldn’t run because of her lack of training; the weather was much warmer than planned, with no breeze.  I wanted to run the race in under one hour. That didn’t happen. I ran it in 1:00:50.  So close, yet so far.  Still, I’m really pleased.  Why?

I could have been unhappy that I didn’t meet the goal I set for myself.  I could have felt that because I  didn’t meet my goal, all that training was for nothing. Sure, I’m disappointed that I missed my goal by less than a minute.  Let’s look at the positives.  I set a new personal record for that race distance, by six minutes, which is huge.  That means I ran each mile a minute faster than I ever have.  I ran a race under less than ideal conditions, by myself, with no one to talk to and nothing to listen to, and finished strong. I look great in my post race picture (why is it I look better in my workout photos than I do in the ones for which I preen?).  I see the value of the coaching, I didn’t die doing speed and distance work, so I was fit enough to race under adverse weather conditions.  All good things.  I’ll break that one hour mark in the next race.

Here in the Trenches, it’s disappointing when a relationship doesn’t work out. Especially when children are involved, there are a lot of life adjustments that need to be made.  No one thinks it’s ideal to have their children with them less than all the time.  It’s hard to share children with someone with whom you no longer share a life and with whom your values may differ.  There are so many things outside your control, especially what happens at the other parent’s house.  It’s anxiety producing, and heaven knows no one needs more anxiety.  What are parents to do?

Take steps to reduce the anxiety, of course.  In the Trenches, like with my running coaching, that means hard work.  It means thinking about the variables in your children’s lives.  It means having discussions with the other parent.  It means working through your anger and disappointment enough to co-parent with the person with whom you share a child.  It means developing a framework and a process to do that.  Helping you find solutions, coaching you through the process, teaching you to regroup when things don’t go according to plan - that’s our job in the Trenches.

Even though we can all parent, just like we can all run, sometimes you need a professional to help you do it better and more effectively, and to handle life’s curve balls.  Professionals don’t let you take the easy way, when it is not the better way.  They hold you accountable to your higher self, because we all know there are days when we’d rather do what’s easy.  They give you the tools to keep yourself doing what you ought to do, and to be able to regroup when things don’t go as they ought.  They cheer you on when things don’t go well and when things do.  The right professionals are an investment in your children’s healthy future.  Sure, you can do it yourself - for years I ran without a coach.  It was so much better and effective with one, and didn’t cost as much as I thought.  Just a thought.  Here in the Trenches.