My Writing

I’ve done a lot of writing.

RR_MockupWebMy newest book is The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad. and I recently published a workbook connected to it titled, How to Make an Apology You’ll Never Have to Make Again.   Click here to find out more.

I also have another self help book, Constructive Conflict: Building Something Good Out of All Those Arguments and two novels: Fate’s Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic and Intersections.

My blog is below. I’m currently working on two series, The Reflective Eclectic and A Field Guide to Feelings, as well as occasionally re-posting old favorites, called the Old Posts series.

What my tennis coach taught me about change

Old Posts

Can reading a blog help you stop the madness?

It can’t.

You can’t learn to play tennis by reading, either. You’ve got to play.

I took tennis lessons once. The coach asked me to show him my serve. I hit a few. I looked over and saw him shake his head. “We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

First, he had me put my racquet down and practice tossing the ball. He showed me what I was doing wrong. I was bending my elbow, causing the ball the ball to go behind me where I couldn’t hit it well. He showed me how to toss it right. “Keep that elbow straight,” he said. He watched me toss the ball until I did it correctly. “There,” he said. “Now toss it that way two thousand times, then it’ll be automatic.”

My tennis coach understood how to effect change. First, he had to break down the process of serving a tennis ball into parts small enough for me to focus. Just the toss. Then, he knew that to break old bad habits and create new ones it is necessary to repeat the new habit over and over again. How many times? I don’t know if two thousand times is the precise number necessary. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot.

So, if you take this process and apply it, not to serving a tennis ball, but to the way to handle madness, you can see there’s a lot of work to do. First, you must know what sanity is and compare it to what you’ve been doing. You have to know how to do it right to know what you’re doing wrong. Then you have to practice doing it right, over and over again, until it’s automatic.

Let’s say you’re an alcoholic. You’ve gone to AA and gotten a list of phone numbers of recovering people you can call whenever you feel like drinking. They’ll talk you out of it. So, what you got to do is to call them when you have what passes for a reason to drink. It’s a very simple operation, as simple as tossing a tennis ball while keeping your arm straight. If you call them once, you’ve achieved a small victory. If you call them two-thousand times, you’ve changed a bad habit into a good one. It may now be automatic.

It would take me about less than half an hour to toss a tennis ball correctly two-thousand times, thus creating a good habit quite easily. It’s not so easy when you train yourself to call your AA friends. You would have to have two-thousand urges to drink and two-thousand phone calls. That would take years. This is one reason why so many people relapse, so many people say change is impossible, and so many people give up. But, change is possible. It just takes persistence.

By the way, my tennis coach went on to show me other things I could use to improve my game, but what really stuck with me was how to perfect the toss. That was the only thing I learned from those tennis lessons. It turns out, that’s all I needed to learn so that I could beat the people I was likely to play. If I ever turn pro, I’ll have to see the tennis coach again to learn the right way to do other things. The same thing goes with learning to stop the madness. Very small changes, if they’re the right changes, can make a huge difference. But, you’ve got to play.

 

Is Your Doctor Going the Way of the Family Farm?

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I used to be a farmer. I should say, I used to be a farmer the way farmers used to be. I raised pigs, chickens, goats, and cows. I tried to raise ducks and geese, but they flew away. I had a quarter acre garden and grew acres of buckwheat and corn. I helped the neighbors put up their hay, cut their wood, and tap their trees for a share. I butchered my own livestock, made cheese, and picked and pressed my own apples. I built barns, walked fence, pruned grapes, and fixed my own truck and tractor when they were broken down, which was often. That’s how I used to be a farmer.

That’s not the way people farm anymore; not usually. Farming is now a big business. They have big tractors, big fields, big silos, and big, big, big debt. Farmers are often employees, answerable to people who are not farmers and have never seen the farm; who sit in glass towers in the big city and move money around. I had a small farm. The most livestock I had at any time was thirty-five pigs, a couple dozen chickens, ten goats, and a couple cows. Farms these days will have thousands of swine, tens of thousands of hens, hundreds of milk cows, and seldom any goats; but they will have only one kind of livestock on each farm. Everything is specialized and ruthlessly efficient. Continue reading

How to Make an Apology You’ll Never Have to Make Again

Apo Book Cover 4If you’re in the doghouse and would like to get out, today is your lucky day. I just published a new book that can show you how: How to Make an Apology You’ll Never Have to Make Again.

This is the third in a series, all designed to help you have more satisfying, and less damaging relationships with the people you love. The first was Constructive Conflict: Building Something Good Out of All Those Arguments, followed by The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad.

This one is different in that, when you complete it, you will become the co-author of your own, personalized book. It’s a workbook, in other words. I lead you through exercises that will prepare you to make an effective apology and transform yourself into the person who never commits that misdeed again. Reading this book is a lot of work, but if you’re the type of person who repeats his transgressions, even though you want to change, then it’s worth it. Today is, indeed, your lucky day.

How to Make an Apology You’ll Never Have to Make Again is available only in ebook at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Helping Brains Talk to One Another

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Here’s something that’ll surprise you. Other people know you better than you know yourself.

It surprised you, didn’t it? That just goes to show that people can predict how you’ll feel.

Upon that counterintuitive claim rests David Schnarch’s new book, Brain Talk: How Mind Mapping Brain Science Can Change Your Life & Everyone in It. Shaky ground, if you ask me. We all have our blind spots; but, there’s no way anyone, even your best bud, knows you like you do. Schnarch goes through considerable pains to say that introspection, observing your own thoughts and behaviors, is rife with errors. True enough; but knowing the mind of others would be rife with those same errors. Continue reading

How to Get Out of Quicksand

Old Posts

I was walking along the beach one day, having a nice vacation, when I stepped into quicksand. It wasn’t a deep pit like you see in the movies, the kind that can swallow a horse and rider, but it was quicksand, just the same. I soon was in up to my knees, just like in the movies. The more I struggled to pull my feet out, the more stuck I became.

Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that you get more entrenched in your issues the more you try to solve them; just like quicksand. You have a library of self-help books, have seen a score of therapists, attend groups, seminars, and yoga classes, you take medicine, and practice mindfulness. All this and you are still anxious. In fact, you’ve gone from being anxious to being anxious about being anxious. If your method of escaping is similar to my method of getting out of quicksand, you will get more stuck. You’re doing it wrong. Continue reading

The Psychological Immune System

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

Germs abound. No matter where you go, there are people sneezing and coughing all over you. Despite this, no one gets infected as often as they could. In fact, studies show that even when researchers place a flu virus directly in a person’s nose, at least sixty percent of the time the subject will not get the flu. What prevents people from getting sick more often than they do? You know the answer, it’s the immune system.

Stress abounds. No matter where you go, there are awful people and intolerable demands. Threats loom; just look at the news. Why don’t people crack more often than they do? There’s a psychological immune system just like there’s a physical one. What is this immune system? It involves your feelings. How do you build it up? Learn to listen to your feelings and use them to manage your stress.

When you’re tired, go to sleep. Hungry? Get something to eat; something good that will nourish you. Going too fast? Slow down. Sleep deprivation makes everything worse. Hunger makes you want to bite someone’s head off. When things go too fast, you can’t keep up. All this is stressful. Get the sleep and the food you need and learn to pace yourself and you’ll eliminate most of your stress. Things will still happen. There will still be awful people and intolerable demands, but you’ll be in better shape to deal with them.

How about the other feelings? What is anger trying to tell you? It says you’re powerless. Frustration? You’re trying to do the impossible. Sadness? You can’t rely on what you lost anymore. Fear says warning. Disgust says avoid. Joy tells you there’s something good. Pain is what you get when you go beyond your limits. Feeling stupid is what it feels like to learn. All your feelings are coded messages. Learn the codes.

Did you think these feelings mean something different? For instance, do you believe that anger means someone did you wrong and you must make it right? It could mean that, too. Set things right, if you can; but, when you become a crusading angel for justice, you won’t be lowering your stress, you’d be increasing it. It’s your choice. Either lower your stress or make things right. If you chose to lower your stress, listen to how your anger is trying to tell you, you are powerless and stop trying so hard.

When the body gets invaded by a virus and succumbs to the infection, the immune system learns to recognize that virus. It doesn’t want to make that mistake anymore. When stress gets to you, do you learn from the experience? Do you get better at recognizing the stress and developing more effective ways to combat it? Many people don’t. They keep on doing the same things that don’t work, expecting different results.

Some people have an overactive immune system, an allergy. In that case, their body fails to recognize that a foreign organism poses no risk. It thinks a piece of pollen is a flu virus and fights against it. An over-active psychological immune system regards every fear, pain, and discouragement as something dire. They’re not. Sometimes the feelings get it wrong.

The chronically anxious person takes every fear as a warning that something terrible might happen. His overactive psychological immune system thinks something harmless is a threat. The few times something terrible does happen, the fear is reinforced. The many times nothing terrible happens do not make as much of an impression. The anxious person’s overactive psychological immune system ends up creating more stress by not correcting itself when it gets false positives.

The chronically depressed person is doing the same thing with feelings of hopelessness. She thinks things are hopeless when they are not. When they turn out better than expected, she never gets the memo and goes on believing every discouragement is a dire threat. She has an overactive psychological immune system that, by ignoring false positives, may create the very hopelessness she incorrectly thought she had.

So, in summary, if you want to lower your stress, listen to what your feelings are saying about the things that give you stress; but test those feelings and correct them when they turn out to be wrong.

The Table

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Continuing my series on objects in my office, today I’d like to write about the table I keep my computer on. This table probably never thought it would bear a computer in a therapist’s office and be used to write such high-falutin stuff as this. It began its life as the kitchen table of my grandmother; we called her Grand Mae, and I think of her whenever I think of the table. Continue reading