welcome to your unemotional side 2!

unneeded

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welcome to your unemotional side, 2!

welcome...
 
i'm really glad to see you!
 
you've found your way to the emotional feelings network of sites - "your unemotional side 2."
 
your unemotional side - get's its name because all of the emotion & feelings words begin with "UN"!
 
kathleen

your dictionary definition of:

 

unneeded

adj : not necessary [syn: unnecessary] [ant: necessary]

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There's a new site in the network! I am almost finished completing each page, but I can't wait anymore to tell you all about it! Please pay it a visit soon! It's an important topic!

 

nuture 101

 

 read my personal blog about living with emotional feelings!

 

http://livingwithemotionalfeelings.blogspot.com/

getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!

Independence Daze
by Camerin Courtney
July 14, 2004

"Do you need some help?"

I was carrying two bags of trash from my third-story apartment to the dumpster outside, and one of my male neighbors had reached the front door at the same time as me.

I met his gentlemanly offer of assistance with a genuine smile and breezy "Thanks!" Then I and my twin Hefty bags carefully navigated our way around him as he politely held open the door.

Later that day I gratefully watched my friend Tim install my mondo-heavy window-unit air conditioner. He hefted; I moved things out of his way. He wielded his cordless screwdriver; I stood by in silent tool envy. He wedged a block of wood in the window as a final securing touch; I clapped my admiration and appreciation.

I relay these stories to show that I can accept help from the male of the species. Really. I also share them as exhibits A and B in my case of confusion over being labeled "too independent" by several other males of the species. I've heard this specific accusation from male friends of mine, and I've also been a general recipient of this indictment from male readers of this column who write in to complain about women being "too independent these days."

Too independent? In some ways that seems like a contradiction to me. Like being too tidy or too happy. What's so wrong with it? Aren't there like a gazillion worse things to be too much of?

Sure, I admit one of the best lessons I learned in my twenties is that too much of an "I'll do it myself" attitude can lead to a lonely existence - lots of solo accomplishments and no one to admire them or share them with. I now view asking for help not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of wisdom about my abilities and limitations and about the beauty of interdependence.

And I'll admit that over a decade of having to fend for myself has prompted me to meet a few offers of "Can I help you with that?" with a confident, "No thanks, I've got it." Though I can't expect the polite offerers to know this, my main motivation for that response is more habit than raging independence. I'm just used to hefting, schlepping, opening, and fixing things for myself. And I'm trying to step back and graciously accept these offers more often than not.

I also recognize that women's roles have shifted markedly over the past generation or two. In my parents' generation, most women went right from their father's home to their husband's home. Their educational and work choices were somewhat limited. I was shocked when I heard my mom explain that when she went to college, the main options for women were nursing, education, and home economics.

Mere decades ago, women's financial, professional, relational, and political security rested mainly in the hands of their husband. I often forget that my ability to have a career and ministry pursuits, an existence several states away from my parents, my own car and solo apartment, my own bank account and 401K are largely new freedoms.

It stands to reason that all these changes and advances also have affected the way men and women relate with one another. Some women say men are intimidated by the strides we've made as a gender, by the new-and-improved modern woman who enters relationships with more education, financial freedom, work experience, and yes, independence to offer. Instead of intimidated, I'd like to think (or at least hope) men are simply confused about how to relate to us in these changing roles.

Another key lesson of my twenties is that men need to feel needed. By and large they like to have a specific role to fill, a specific task to perform. And with women filling more roles and performing more tasks on their own, I can see how that would lead to confusion in men … as well as lead them to leave our circles to go off in search of places where there are roles to fill and tasks to perform.

But this departure & the dating dearth and postponement of marriage that surely are somewhat related to this trend, have forced me and my female counterparts to be even more independent. Not always because we want to be, but sometimes because we have to be.

As a never-married 30something, I'm not going to sit back and let everything from my finances to my temperamental toilet go untended. I'm going to learn these new skills, make advancements in my career, buy my own car and condo, invest in a retirement plan. Putting life on hold until marriage doesn't seem like a good or God-honoring option.

Plus, I'd like to think these strides, skills, and accomplishments are good things when it comes to romantic relationships. Look at all the extra things I and my female counterparts bring to the table now. Men don't have to carry the weight of our security and identity anymore. Surely that's a welcome relief.

But instead of being seen as more well-rounded and less needy, often I'm just called too independent. And I'm not even exactly sure what that means. Am I supposed to still be living at home? Am I supposed to leave stuff around my apartment that breaks in a state of disrepair instead of going in search of my wrench or duct tape? Am I supposed to pass up a church leadership opportunity so that a man can fill it instead? Am I supposed to ask for assistance each time I need to heft my groceries up the three flights of stairs to my apartment? What does a "just right" level of independence look like?

Just because I do many things for myself doesn't mean I wouldn't gladly step aside and let a man do some of these things for me. I recognize there are things men are, on average, better at than women. I welcome their skills, abilities, know-how, strength, and intelligence. In fact, I'd be their biggest cheerleader and admirer in these things if we could simply find a way to come together and become a mutually beneficial "we."

Even if I would go so far as to say I don't need a man, wouldn't it be enough that I still want one in my life? Isn't a peer better than a "cling-on"? Isn't it a good thing that women now come with financial independence, careers, greater intelligence, and possibly even a few power tools?

To be honest, there are moments when I'm a bit tired of being both the woman and man in my household, of having to be an expert - or at least competent - at everything that needs to be done. I'm guessing guys are too. Surely we who understand how the Body of Christ is supposed to function - as people offering our gifts and strengths to the common, interdependent whole - can figure this out.

At times I suspect "women are too independent" is a cop out for men, much in the same way "men are intimidated by modern women" is for women. While there are probably kernels of truth in both statements, neither comes close to acknowledging the sociological, demographic, and relational changes afoot when it comes to gender roles. Maybe it's time we all dropped our excuses, however valid or not they may be, and together try to navigate a new healthy way for men and women to relate to one another.

So here I am admitting I need help. I need help from men to understand what "too independent" means and what I can do differently to let you know I really do value your strengths, abilities, and assistance. (Really, I'm hoping you'll e-mail me and let me know.)

I need those of you who are wary of these changes to even consider it a good thing that women bring more to the table in relationships these days. I need the women who take these new freedoms to the extreme and who live by an "I don't need no man" attitude to rethink how you view our brothers.

And I need God's help, to know how to navigate these tricky waters, how to respect others even in the midst of frustration, when to be strong and when to lean on others, when to stride ahead and when to stand back and applaud the menfolk in my life.

source site: click here

getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!

Dealing Constructively with Sensitivity Issues

Combining Warmth with Understanding

While focusing on someone not present

1. While focusing on a photo or on a thought of a close family member toward whom you have positive feelings or, if you have no such person in your family, while focusing on a photo or on a thought of a close friend

Recall your partner not taking you seriously when you said his or her behavior was upsetting you

  • Remembering how you felt, focus on your close relative and consciously decide, "I shall take you seriously, because you, your words, and your feelings are real, as in my own case when I said I was full or upset."

  • Affirm your decision, by repeating after the group facilitator, or by saying aloud by yourself,"I shall take you seriously."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

Recall a sibling or friend being afraid to comfort you when you were upset

  • Remembering how you felt, focus on your close relative and consciously decide, "I shall not be afraid to respond to you if you need me. Although I may contribute to your success or failure, I am not the sole source affecting your situation, as with my sibling or friend whose comfort I needed."

  • Affirm your decision aloud, "I shall not be afraid to respond to you if you need me."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

Recall your mother accusing you of irresponsibility when urgent business prevented you from doing the shopping before the store closed

  • Remembering how you felt, focus on your close relative and consciously decide, "I shall take in all the information about your situation, without jumping to conclusions. I shall do this because I wish to avoid overreacting or responding to something I have merely invented, like when my mother imagined I had forgotten the shopping."

  • Affirm your decision aloud, "I shall take in all the information about your situation, without jumping to conclusions."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

Recall your partner accusing you of not loving him or her any longer when you criticized something he or she did

  • Remembering how you felt, focus on your close relative and consciously decide, "I shall keep sight of the larger context of our relationship so as not to jump to a false conclusion over a tiny incident, like my partner did when I criticized his or her behavior."

  • Affirm your decision aloud, "I shall keep sight of the larger context of our relationship so as not to jump to a false conclusion over a tiny incident."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

Recall a relative offering to drive you to the airport and then coming so late that you missed the plane

  • Remembering how you felt, focus on your close relative and consciously decide, "Once I have decided to do something for you, I shall act straightforwardly. I shall do this because you experience your problem as something urgent, as I did when I needed to catch my plane."

  • Affirm your decision aloud, "Once I have decided to do something for you, I shall act straightforwardly."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

Recall your mother correcting the way you were chopping vegetables

  • Remembering how you felt, focus on your close relative and consciously decide, "I shall refrain from offering my unneeded or unwanted help, opinion, or advice. I shall do this because I do not wish to exploit you to gain a feeling of self-worth or of being needed, or to feel more secure by taking control of things, as with my mother who could not resist correcting how I chop vegetables."

  • Affirm your decision, "I shall refrain from offering my unneeded or unwanted help, opinion, or advice."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

2. While focusing on a magazine picture of an anonymous person

  • Decide, "I shall take you seriously, like when preparing a hospital patient for an operation."

  • Affirm you decision aloud, "I shall take you seriously."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

    • Decide, "I shall not be afraid to respond to you if you need me, like when teaching a baby to walk."

    • Affirm your decision aloud, "I shall not be afraid to respond to you if you need me."

    • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

  • Decide, "I shall take in all the information about you and not jump to conclusions, like when examining a child with a bruised arm."

  • Affirm your decision aloud, "I shall take in all the information about you and not jump to conclusions."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

    • Decide, "Once I have decided to do something for you, I shall act straightforwardly, like when seeing someone carrying a heavy bundle and about to drop it."
    • Affirm your decision aloud, "Once I have decided to do something for you, I shall act straightforwardly."

    • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

  • Decide, "I shall refrain from offering unwanted or unneeded help, as when insisting on feeding the two-year-old with a spoon."

  • Affirm your decision aloud, "I shall refrain from offering unwanted or unneeded help, opinion, or advice."

  • Let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding toward the person

3. Repeat the procedure while focusing on a photo or on a thought of someone with whom you have a difficult relationship

While focusing on someone in person

1. While sitting in a circle with a group

  • While focusing on each person in turn at each step and directing the appropriate feeling at him or her, repeat after the group facilitator, or say aloud by yourself, the key sentences

    • "I shall take you seriously."

    • "I shall not be afraid to respond to you if you need me."

    • "I shall take in all the information about you and not jump to conclusions."

    • "Once I have decided to do something for you, I shall act straightforwardly."

    • "I shall refrain from offering unwanted or unneeded help, opinion, or advice."

  • With each person at each step, let the decision sink in and focus on feeling combined warmth and understanding

2. Repeat the procedure while focusing on a partner

  • One of the pair repeats to himself or herself the 4 key sentences used in the circle, while focusing on the decision

    • The person repeats the sentence aloud as an assurance to the other, while focusing on feeling combined warmth and understanding

    • The speaker focuses on feeling that the person accepts and trusts the assurance

    • The listener focuses on feeling, accepting, and trusting the speaker's warmth and understanding

  • Switch roles

    • For each of the 4 key sentences, the partners alternate: first one, then the other gives the assurance, with both persons focusing on the mutual generation and acceptance of combined warmth and understanding

While focusing on yourself

1. Repeat the procedure while looking in a mirror, by substituting the key sentences

  • "I  shall take myself seriously."

  • "I  shall not be afraid to respond to what I see or feel in myself, if needed."

  • "I  shall consider all the facts about my situation, without jumping to conclusions."

  • "Once I have decided to do something about my situation, I shall act straightforwardly."

  • "I  shall refrain from pushing myself to do something unneeded."

3. Repeat the procedure without a mirror

4. Repeat the procedure while looking at photographs of yourself spanning your life, by substituting the key sentences

  • "I  shall take myself seriously as I was then."

  • "I  shall not be afraid of dealing with how I feel about myself then, if needed."

  • "I  shall consider all the facts about my situation then, without jumping to conclusions."

  • "Once I have decided to do something, I shall act straightforwardly to deal with unresolved feelings."

  • "I shall not push the impossible; I shall forgive."

source: click here

getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!

That teenage feeling

Harvard researchers may have found biological clues to quirky adolescent behavior.

By Erika Packard
Monitor Staff
Print version: page 20

Parents of teenagers don’t have it easy. Door-slamming fights over phone use and friend choice, late nights spent lying awake envisioning benders or high-speed car chases, the futile feeling that everything you says goes in one ear and out the other. And as much as parents struggle, teens will attest that adolescence is no cakewalk for them either.

What’s happening during adolescence that turns many once-sweet kids into unruly rabble-rousers? At least part of the reason may be that adolescent brains process information differently than adult brains, according to research led by neuropsychologist Deborah Todd-Yurgelun, PhD, of Harvard University’s McLean Hospital Cognitive Neuroimaging and Neuropsychology Laboratory. She and her team are using neuroimaging to investigate the neural underpinnings of the emotional turmoil many teens experience.

And those imaging technologies are revealing brain differences that could explain teen traits that exasperate adults, including being impulsive, poor judgment and social anxiety.

Rebellious teen behavior could stem more from biology than stubbornness, says Yurgelun-Todd.

“Don’t assume that because you’ve laid out the argument or presented the idea that teenagers are interpreting it in the same way you’ve presented it,” she advises. “The frontal cortex is continuing to develop, and if you don’t have the neural structure in place, the adolescent cannot really think things through at the same level as an adult.”

White matter & being impulsive 

A teenager drives too fast around a curve and plants his car into a tree. Though he saw posted speed limits, heard parental admonitions and suffered through hours of driver’s ed training, in that moment behind the wheel, he acted seemingly without thinking.

The seat of such poor judgment might be found in the white matter microstructure in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, says Marisa Silveri, PhD, a psychologist in Yurgelun-Todd’s lab.

The frontal cortex is associated with decision-making, insight, judgment and inhibitory control. Silveri, Yurgelun-Todd and colleagues use diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine white matter micro-structure, the part of the brain that’s responsible for relaying signals between neurons in the gray matter.

During adolescence, particularly in the frontal cortex, unneeded gray matter is pruned away and white matter, made up of axons covered by a lipid membrane known as myelin, increases.

Similar to the concept of electrical wiring, adding insulation around a bare wire improves connectivity, and the thicker the insulation, the better the transmission of a signal from point A to point B,” says Silveri. “Myelination, or the insulating of axons, allows more rapid and efficient communication between neurons.”

The researchers used DTI to examine the integrity of white matter, with more coherent organization meaning that messages are relayed between neurons more effectively. In a 2006 study by Silveri, Yurgelun-Todd and colleagues in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Vol. 24, No. 7, pages 833–841), the researchers found an association between white matter organization and impulse control in both boys and girls.

Interestingly, white matter integrity in boys showed a stronger relationship with self-report of impulse control, a behavioral measure, whereas girls’ white matter integrity showed a stronger relationship with the ability to inhibit an incorrect answer, which is a cognitive measure. The study both underscored the role of white matter in impulse control and corroborated emerging research pointing to sex differences in the developing brain, says Silveri.

“We’re not saying we have found the reason kids make bad judgments, but we do think this is one of the mechanisms that contributes to why they aren’t processing information as efficiently as they should be,” says Yurgelun-Todd.

Social anxiety

As if struggling to make good judgments and rein in impulsive behavior isn’t challenging enough, many adolescents also wrangle with social anxiety. For some, seemingly inconsequential triggers, such as being asked to work an algebra problem in front of the class or hearing a collective snicker from the cool girls in the locker room can cause sickening unease.

Now, Yurgelun-Todd has found evidence tying adolescent social anxiety to brain development. In a 2005 study, in Developmental Neuroscience (Vol. 16, No. 15, pages 1,671–1,675) she examined the amygdala, which is associated with emotions, particularly fear. Yurgelun-Todd and her team showed 16 adolescents fearful or happy faces while scanning their brains in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.

They found that increased amygdala activity during the presentation of fearful faces related to higher social anxiety scores, but not with other aspects of anxiety. This finding suggests that adolescents and adults tend to attribute anxiety to different causes, says Yurgelun-Todd.

A lot of teenage behavior is about avoiding this anxiety of feeling left out and not being a part of things,” she says.

For further clues between the link between adolescent emotions and brain development, Yurgelun-Todd examines the prefrontal cortex, and a process she calls increased frontalization. As the brain matures in adolescence, the prefrontal cortex assumes responsibility for many of the cognitive processes - such as reasoning, planning and behavior control - that are initially performed in the more primitive subcortical and limbic structures, she says.

The development of the prefrontal cortex parallels improvements in cognitive control and behavioral inhibition as an adolescent transitions to an adult. Frontalization may underlie adolescents’ growing ability to think abstractly outside of themselves, and see themselves in the way others see them - which could contribute to the feeling of being constantly on stage and judged that many teens experience.

Isabelle Rosso, PhD, who also works in Yurgelun-Todd’s lab, and colleagues reported that as adolescents’ abstract reasoning skills increased, so did their levels of social anxiety. Part of abstract reasoning includes being able to take an observer perspective on one’s self and to make inferences about other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Although the emergence of abstract reasoning is ultimately a useful tool that allows adults to self regulate, in adolescence, it might contribute to higher vulnerability to social anxiety and other emotional disorders, says Rosso. “In adolescence, you start to become more self aware, and more able to think abstractly or hypothetically about other people’s thoughts and feelings,” says Rosso.

“But that may also allow you to have more social self consciousness, and worry more about what other people are thinking about you. It may open up new vulnerabilities in some adolescents.”

Implications & applications

Parents & school officials hungry for explanations of unpredictable teen behavior might find solace in the Harvard lab’s findings. However, Yurgelun-Todd cautions that just because there are neurobiological components to teen behavior doesn’t discount the effect of environmental or social factors, nor does it absolve teenagers of accountability.

“I am always asked, ‘Is there some maturational threshold that you can identify neurobiologically,” she says. “We are certainly nowhere near that scientifically.”

However, the recent research on teen brains has caught the attention of educators and the justice system, and Yurgelun-Todd has spoken widely to legal personnel on her findings.

“The juvenile justice system is very concerned with how to best help its adolescents,” she says. “My role is to educate the system to understand that many of our adolescents are not fully mature, and they do need help with learning how to make good decisions.”

Lab members also see their work as helping to identify adolescents at risk for substance abuse, depression, schizophrenia and other psychological conditions. “If we are able to identify high-risk kids early or before the onset of illness, we could become more of a preventative field, which could lead to changes in treatment strategies, an improvement in people’s quality of life, and, ultimately, reduced cost of psychiatric illness for society,” says Rosso.

The popularity of neuro-imaging, particularly in healthy adolescents, has exploded in the last 10 years, says Linda Spear, PhD, distinguished professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Binghamton. However, as helpful as imaging technologies are for allowing a noninvasive glimpse into healthy, living tissues, the old standby, animal research, continues to provide important insights, says Spear.

“Imaging tells us which brain areas are more active at a particular time, but by and large, it doesn’t tell us the mechanism underlying the change, and we don’t know causally what is going on,” says Spear, who studies brain development in adolescent animals. “There is a lot you can do with fMRI and MRI, but with animal studies, you can start trying to dissect down and ask about causal changes.”

A combination of imaging studies and animal research will provide the most comprehensive view, says Spear. “I think the data Dr. Yurgelun-Todd came out with is very provocative,” she says. “Right now it’s a little bit early to understand the whole picture, but these new findings are very tantalizing.”

source: click here

to read more about this click here to visit the layer down under's page on "thinking or thoughts"

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getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!

Wondering What's in Her Head....

kathleen howe

 

I know you can understand what I'm talking about when I offer you the title of this article... I know you've wondered what's in your mother's head before. I know you've pondered upon her statements, decisions & rituals, just as most of us have. Why does she think the way she does?

 

Why does she do the things she does? If you've pondered these things before, I can almost count on you being over the age of 30. I believe that before the age of 30, we're most likely wondering about ourselves, why we think the things we do. But somewhere along the timeline of "not so young adult" and "midlife" we begin to ponder things about our parents.

 

I think that we begin to get the "greater picture" that we are not all inclusive of ourselves as an individual, but we're a "product," a combination of our parents, and other life factors that we encountered along the way. We begin to wonder why we are the way we are, and we begin to look for someone to blame our faults on, our negative traits on & all other dysfunctional life experiences on. We simply don't want to take personal responsibility for what we've done to ourselves!

 

I admit that I've spent the better part of my 40's trying to figure out who I am, why I am who I am, and discover what the hell an "inner child" is!

getting the info organized!

But, now that 50 is merely a slight turn into my very close future, I've leaned not upon my own understaning of my mother's past thoughts, beliefs and ways of doing things and I've begun to see her for who she's turned out to be. It's a very nice picture, that makes me wonder, "What's in happening in her head?"

 

Once again, I'm wondering about her, I'm wondering why she feels "unneeded." That seems to be her main concern with her life as I approach 50 and she approaches 70 years of age. After all, she's the mother of three grown children, grandmother to 13 grandchildren and very recently, has become a great-grandmother! How can a woman with so many little dependencies underneath her, feel "unneeded?" 

So, I've put on my pondering pants, because this subject is so deep, I'm sure I'll need my "high risers," "peddle pushers," or "capri pants" as they call them today, to keep from getting to dirty in all the muck I've gotta rake!

 

It wasn't that long ago, maybe a year or so that my mother announced to me that she was putting her house in south Florida up for sale. She'd been beaten badly, living in Ft. Pierce, Florida by several hurricanes and she'd found that living in south Florida wasn't as fun as it used to be. As soon as the blue tarp came off her roof, meaning the roofing company had finally after almost a year, finished re-roofing her house, she put the "for sale" sign up.

 

Within 48 hours she had an acceptable offer on her house. It was all happening too fast for me. I someone felt as though I was now the parent and she was the wandering teenager that I had once been in the 70's when I announced I was off for Colorado for an undetermined span of time, to go looking for America...  because now, she was telling me that she was going to leave Florida to go live in Wyoming of all places!

 

My very social, poker playing, golfing, church going, bell ringing, multi credit card carrying, shopaholic mom was going to live in a state that had one of the least populated land areas in the US. I wasn't sure, but I began to think that she was showing signs of either Altzheimer's or demetia.

 

She was packing it up to go clean house and "be home" for my younger sister and her two remaining teenage boys living at home. Somehow this wasn't registering in my "memory warehouse" too nicely, there wasn't a file cabinet labeled, "Mom's wildest adventures!" 

 

My brain just wouldn't accept the deposit of information being made into it concerning my mother's feelings of being, "unneeded!"

It was easier for me to believe, that she'd been watching the Discovery Channel's program on the next big sunami. You know, the big sunami that could hit the east coast once this big chunk of land falls into the ocean over in Africa! It's an awesome show, just don't let your mother watch it!

 

My mom had spent the better part of her life in Florida, I think about 15 years, taking care of her parents. They had moved there from upstate New York when my grandfather was diagnosed with Altzheimer's. My mother converted to catholicism as her father had always been a devout catholic, and she took very good care of the two of them for the remaining years of their lives.

 

My mother, being the oldest of 4 girls in her family and the only single one at the time, decided to take on the responsibility herself. She moved from her cherished New England, leaving all her Boston train friends, her ski chalet, and her favorite lobster haunts to live in the warmer climate, and devote herself to her parents' needs for however long they needed her. I was so proud of her when she decided to do it. It's the one thing I can honestly say about my mom, that I am really, really proud of.

 

After both of her parents died, within a few years of each other after they were married for over 60 years... my mom felt uneasy. I knew this was very true. My oldest daughter, now 28, kept her busy though. She had lots of friends as well. She had poker night with her girlfriends, traveling on many cruise vacations, and golf. She loved the weather, and my sister lived in the same town as well. Until, that is, a few years ago when she moved to a tiny little town 45 miles south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She and her second husband moved there to build the house of their dreams on a 10 acre plot.

 

Now there isn't a much needier person than my oldest daughter. She's independently needy. (read the article above about single girls! hahaha) That's my exact description of her. She has lived alone for a very long time now, and she likes to do things, "her way," but she's also one of the earliest forms of "drama queens" out there, being of that certain age, (her generation afforded us "valley girls" & 90210) that requires a stable "sounding board" for every decision to be made! Not only are decisions difficult to deal with, there has to be someone who can listen, quietly, to each and every detail of each and every adventure she partakes of! as well as the descriptive tirades covering her emotions & feelings of each said adventure as well!

 

Now that my mom's parents were gone, and she was retired from the Law Office she had worked for, she had all the free time in the world to be that very "needed" person for her granddaughter!

 

I can honestly say that my mom chose cleaning the "dream house," watching over the "St. Bernard dog, hound dog & very large cat" and living in the mother-in-law apartment over the garage, out in the middle of no man's land over being that sounding board. Hmmmm... I wonder why....

getting the info organized!

Still... after pondering all this info, I've come to the conclusion, that although my mother has always appeared to have been "happy," I guess she wasn't. I think she's still looking for happiness. Why else would she move all her furniture half way across the world at her age? Although her claim has been that she believes that she's the "most needed," out there in God's country.... she's actually the most "free" living out there.

 

She can hop on a plane anytime and go anywhere she wants to. She can get on a bus with a group of other "golden girls" and go off gambling and drinking free martinis in Nevada whenever she gets the whim to do it! She's looking for new friends, new adventures, new possibilities and opportunities now. She's almost 70 years old and she's humming Simon & Garfunkel's song....  "I'm off to look for America...." just like I was as a teenager.

 

Someone once told me that when our parents get older they revert back to children. Could this be happening? Is my mother beginning her actual teenage years now before going backwards even further into childhood? Is she finally sowing her wild oats that she needed to sow the year she got married at 19 and had me at 20? Could she be looking for a soul mate?

 

Wow... this pondering is really earth shattering... my mom & her soul mate, trekking off across route 66 in a motor home? Maybe that's the kind of "unneeded" she's been feeling. Maybe she's feeling, "unneeded" by a man, and she's tired of that feeling after being divorced for over 30 years. Hmmm... I guess I'll take my own good advice, open my mouth and ask her someday...

 

Can you imagine that? A child wanting to communicate with a parent? What's this world coming to?

getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!
getting the info organized!

The Patient's Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia 

Chapter 15: Improving Relationships and Building Support

Chronic illness creates stresses for most relationships. Relations with family, friends, coworkers and bosses, and even doctors are altered in ways that suggest that the area of relationships is another in which the limits imposed by illness can create new challenges for both patients and those around them. The discussion in this chapter outlines 8 common relationship frustrations faced by people with CFS and fibromyalgia and suggests strategies for dealing with them.

Frustrations & Solutions

Not Feeling Understood
Perhaps the most common relationship frustration is not feeling understood and not being believed when we say we are ill. Since CFS and fibromyalgia are invisible illnesses, we sometimes have trouble convincing others that we are sick and, in fact, have a serious illness.

Some people may respond to us with statements like, “But you look so well” or “I get tired, too.” We may be on the receiving end of well meaning, but unsolicited, advice. In sum, getting others to understand and accept our situation can be a major challenge.

Part of not feeling understood may be due to poor communication. For ideas about dealing with this frustration, see the section titled “Improving Communication” later in this chapter.

In addition to working on better communication, I suggest you consider using different strategies with different people. Some people you deal with may not need to understand your medical situation. For example, if you want to use a scooter at the grocery store, it is probably sufficient just to ask whether one is available, without explaining your medical condition. If someone calls to ask you to volunteer, it may be enough to say that your situation does not permit you to help out at this time.

Friends are in a different category. CFS and FM patients are sometimes successful in educating others about their illness, but most put limits on their efforts. If you think talking to others about your illness would help them to be more understanding and supportive, you might discuss it with them or give them something to read. The CFIDS Association of America has a brochure titled For Those Who Care, which is available from them and also can be downloaded from their web site: www.cfids.org. The Arthritis Foundation has a similar brochure for fibromyalgia.

Patients who have tried educating the people in their lives report that this approach often requires patience and is not always successful. They have experienced positive responses at times, but have also concluded that some people may never understand or be sympathetic.

As one person in our program said, “When I was first ill, I tried to educate everyone about CFS. Over time I came to see that some relationships were more central to my life than others. I also concluded that some people might never understand. I still make efforts to educate, but I’m more selective about whom I approach and I’ve accepted that some may never understand.”

The situation is different with medical providers. It is reasonable to expect that your doctors believe your illness is real, know about your illness or show a willingness to learn about it, and treat you with respect. For suggestions on how to find understanding and sympathetic medical care, see Chapter 5.

getting the info organized!

In terms of family, I would suggest you think of overcoming any lack of understanding as a long-term project. Some people in our groups have said that they have been more sympathetic toward other people’s difficulties after asking themselves how they would have understood CFS or FM before they had it.

Just as we need time to understand and adapt to our illness, so too others need time to comprehend what we are going through and to figure out the implications for their lives. One person in our program who wanted to educate her husband and children about CFS gave the CFIDS Association pamphlet mentioned above to her husband and adult children, asking that they read it as their birthday present to her. She reported that, one by one, they developed an understanding of her illness and limits, but that the process took a couple of years to complete.

Your situation is different if you have school aged children. If they know you are sick, but don’t understand your illness, they may fear that you will die or they may blame themselves for your suffering. By discussing your condition with them, they can replace fears with facts.

Consider using the 4 guidelines offered by Dr. Julie Silver. She suggests that you:

1) tell your children the name of your condition;

2) explain something about the illness (for example, that it is not contagious and not anyone’s fault);

3) describe the expected course of the illness (that it is likely to continue, but will be manageable); and

4) outline its effects and reassure them of your commitment to them (that you still love them despite being ill, and will do what you can, even though your activity level may be limited by the illness).

A final strategy for reducing frustration from not feeling understood is to create new sources of support in your life, including from fellow patients. See the section at the end of the chapter called “Building Support.”

getting the info organized!

Pressure to Do Too Much
Because of a lack of understanding or for other reasons, others may pressure us to do more than our bodies can tolerate. Feeling sick and being dependent makes it much more difficult to be assertive. Sometimes we adopt others’ expectations for ourselves as our own and make our situation more difficult by pushing ourselves too far. Guilt over not being as active as we and others would like can feed into our doing too much.

Pressure to do more than is healthy can be addressed both through changing our expectations for ourselves and by being assertive with others. Often we impose unrealistic expectations on ourselves. An approach to overcoming this difficulty is to define our limits, as described in the chapter on the energy envelope, and then to gradually learn to live within them, as outlined in the chapter on pacing.

The adaptations are both mental and physical. As described in the section “Mental Adjustments” in Chapter 13, we need to redefine our expectations for ourselves, adapting them to our new limits. Also, we can profit by making activity adjustments as described in Chapter 10. These changes may include using short activity periods, spreading activity through the week, and integrating rest into our lives.

Assertiveness means setting safe limits for oneself, then communicating them to others. Make clear to yourself and to others the consequences of your trying to meet old expectations: intensification of symptoms and postponed improvement. Be as specific as possible in asking for help if others offer assistance. For example, you might ask if they would do grocery shopping, make a phone call, or drive you to a medical appointment.

It can be difficult to be assertive if you feel dependent or fear abandonment. If that’s the case for you, it may help to practice saying your request to yourself or someone you trust before making it to the person whose help you want. In presenting your request, it may help to acknowledge that you understand the other person’s situation. You might say something like, “I know my illness makes your life more difficult and that some things I say and do may be frustrating.”

One student in our groups was able to communicate her limits to her family using a 1 to 10 scale. In her system, a 1 meant “as good as I used to be before I got sick” and 10 means having to stay in bed all day. If her family asks her to do something or to go somewhere, she may respond by saying “No, I can’t; it’s a 7 day.”

She has found this practice both helped her family understand her situation and helped her learn pacing. Here are other thoughts about limit setting from people in our program.

Setting boundaries and keeping them set are big challenges for me. For years I have had “welcome” tattooed on my forehead, as if I were a doormat.

When invited by friends and family members to come over or do this or that, I am honest with myself and decline such invitations if I know I am not up to the certain activity. I just give a simple explanation that “it might be too much for me today” or “I am not up to doing that at this time” and let it go at that. I have found that telling the truth is so much better on both sides than accepting the invitation out of guilt and suffering with it.

getting the info organized!

The Loss of Relationships
With serious illness, you have less energy for everything, including relationships. This basic fact about CFS and fibromyalgia makes it likely that some relationships will change or even end. This is one more example of how the limits imposed by illness force us to be selective in what we do and to set priorities.

I suggest that, in the face of limits, you practice relationship triage: a conscious and deliberate process of making explicit decisions about whom to include in your support network, concentrating on the more valuable or necessary relations and letting others go.

One place to start your evaluation of your support network might be with the fact that CFS and fibromyalgia can make you feel more vulnerable to those who are negative or demanding. The cost of spending time with such people may be great enough to convince you that relationships with some people should be limited and relations with others are not worth maintaining.

You might think of your relationships as a series of concentric rings. In this scheme, the inner ring contains the most important people in your life, typically family and closest friends. People on the outer ring are casual acquaintances. In between there may be one or two other rings of people with varying levels of importance. You may develop different approaches to people in various rings, concentrating on those in the inner ring. Relationships on the outer rings may be easier to let go of.

The approach being suggested is summarized by Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford, who writes about relationships and chronic illness as follows: “Save your energy and use the illness as an excuse to disengage from unwanted social obligations. Simplify the relationships that are necessary but unrewarding, and eliminate the ones that are unnecessary and unrewarding.”

Here are some examples of relationship triage from people in our program.

I have made my circle of friends much smaller. I have excluded people who I feel I have been having one-sided friendships with. It was difficult to let go, as I once valued their friendships a great deal, but I have decided I need to put myself first, which is a new concept to me.

I try to limit contact with hyperactive people, negative people, skeptical people, and demanding people.

Some relationships are just too costly for me, and I need to let them go. If the person is causing me a lot of stress, making no attempt to understand my illness or just taking more from the relationship than giving, I can’t continue to put my previous energy into it. When the person is family, I’ve learned to back away as much as I can, but it may not be an option to completely cut them off.

During a time of loss, it is especially useful to create new relationships, especially with people who understand what you are going through. Getting to know fellow patients can be especially helpful. For ideas about creating new relationships and strengthening old ones, see the section titled “Building Support” later in this chapter.

Another strategy for responding to limits and the loss of relationships is to embrace solitude. Serious illness often forces people to spend much more time alone than before. While some find solitude frightening or boring, illness can provide an opportunity to develop new solitary interests. Some patients, recognizing that they will be spending less time with people, have seen the situation as a chance to do things like reading and art work that they didn’t have enough time for earlier in their lives. See, for example, JoWynn Johns’ article “In Praise of Solitude,” which is posted at our website. Two other students in our program had this to say about having more time alone because of illness.

I have really found that I enjoy having solitude. I never had time to do the things I loved the most. I was always in the fast lane, and by the time I got to do something I was far too stressed to enjoy it.

I actually enjoy spending a lot of time alone. After many years of activity and socializing, it is great to have time to pursue my intellectual interests. I like the luxury of not having to hurry. I read a lot, do simple household chores, watch TV, and work on my jewelry hobby. It is great to have the pressure to produce lifted from my shoulders.

Feeling Undependable
Unpredictability
can create relationship problems, as we may not feel confident about making commitments or may be forced to cancel out of engagements, often at the last moment. Being undependable because of the ups and downs of illness increases our stress and creates frustration for others.

You can make a positive response to this problem by moving forward on two fronts. First, by applying strategies discussed in the chapter on pacing, you can smooth out the chronic illness roller coaster, bringing more predictability to your life. Pacing is based on understanding your limits and then living consistently within them. The chapter on the energy envelope offers several ways to determine limits. The chapter on pacing shows how to translate that understanding into a more consistent and predictable lifestyle, reducing the number of times you have to cancel social commitments.

The second strategy for dealing with unpredictability is open communication. People in our program have reported success in discussing their situation with family and friends. They stress that it is helpful to express the value you place on the relationships by saying something like, “I enjoy getting together with you and would like to maintain our friendship” and also to prepare others for possible cancellations by saying things like, “I have an illness with unpredictable symptoms that makes me less dependable than I would like to be.”

Isolation
Having a serious illness often leads to a sense of isolation. The isolation can be both physical, because of spending more time alone, and psychological, because of feeling different from other people.

One strategy for responding to isolation is acceptance. If you have a moderate to severe case of CFS or fibromyalgia, it is very likely that you will have less social contact than before and instead spend more time alone. For ideas about putting solitude to good use, see the discussion of solitude in the section above on loss of relationships.

On the other hand, you may be able to reduce your sense of isolation by adjusting how you socialize. You may be able to keep some relationships alive by substituting phone calls or email contact for in-person meetings or by adjusting the frequency or type of in-person get togethers. For example, instead of going out, you can ask people to visit you at home. Or you may get together for shorter periods of time than before, in quieter surroundings or with fewer people at a time.

A strategy for dealing with the sense of feeling different from other people is to build friendships with fellow patients, people who understand you because you share an illness in common. For suggestions on how to meet CFS and fibromyalgia patients, see the discussion of support groups and classes in the section on “Building Support” later in the chapter.

Guilt
Guilt is a common response to having CFS or fibromyalgia. We may feel guilty about not being able to work, thus depriving our family of income, or about not doing as much at home as we used to. Living in a society that emphasizes productivity, guilt about doing less than before is common. It is appropriate to look at your situation in a realistic way. If you live with others, your illness probably has caused a redistribution of responsibilities in your family. But it is also helpful to remember that you are not sick by choice and illness has imposed limits on what you can do.

Guilt is one response to the losses imposed by illness. (For ideas on working through loss, see the next chapter.) You can turn feelings of guilt to positive use if you use them as a motivation to take good care of yourself. Strategies such as pacing, getting adequate rest, taking medications and controlling stress can help you improve so that you contribute at home to the extent feasible.

Another positive response to guilt is working to improve communication within your family and, if you work, with your employer. For some ideas, see the section “Improving Communication” later in this chapter.

Finally, consider developing new interests, as described in the next section.

Feeling Unneeded
If we are not as active as before and others step in to take our former roles, we may feel unneeded. Not feeling needed is part of the grief experience triggered by loss. Coming to terms with loss and moving beyond it to build a new life is one of the greatest challenges of long-term illness.

Serious illness brings pain and suffering, but it also offers the opportunity to reevaluate your life and to recast it in a new way. Some patients come to see their illness as a spiritual journey. Students in our program have often told us that while they would not have chosen to be ill, they consider themselves better persons because of it. Being ill challenges us to find new meaning in response to a situation of pain and loss. By developing a new self-understanding, new relationships and new ways to contribute, we can respond positively to the challenge of loss. (For a more thorough discussion, see the section “Creating a New Life” in the next chapter.)

Feeling Dependent on Others
Our limits may feed fears that we will become dependent on others. When we don’t have the energy and independence we once did, we may be fearful that, in the future, we won’t be able to take care of ourselves or that those on whom we depend may leave us.

One response to these fears is to submit them to a reality check. Fibromyalgia is not a progressive disease and the majority of patients improve. While it is true that a relatively small number of CFS patients decline over time, the most common outcomes are improvement or stable symptoms.

Other people often feel helpless when they think about our illness. By giving them something specific to do, you can do them a service while helping yourself. But there are some dangers as well. If you receive more support than you need, the help may reinforce a sense of helplessness. Also, asking too much of one person can lead to resentment and caregiver burnout. For ideas on how to create sustainable support, see the “Building Support” section later in the chapter.

People are often thrilled when I ask for help in clear, practical ways. But I feel challenged to say what I really need without laying heavy expectations on them.

Improving Communication

Serious illness alters dramatically the financial circumstances of most families, forces radical changes in how household tasks are divided up, and drastically reduces the number and scope of activities the family can do together. If you live in a family, a healing approach to relationships can begin with acknowledging to yourself, and then to the other members of your family, how your illness and behavior affects them.

Just like patients, family members, too, can feel isolated and helpless. They may experience loss, because, like you, their dreams may be on hold because of your illness. And they may feel abandoned or feel frustrated at the restrictions on their lives. The unpredictability of symptoms and mood can affect others, as we may cancel plans at the last moment or respond with inappropriate emotion.

One step toward easing strains in your relationships is to acknowledge that your illness creates problems for others. Your symptoms and moods, for example, may make you unpredictable, and your limits may force others to take on additional responsibilities. Express your appreciation for their efforts. Acknowledge that the illness can make you unreliable. Out of respect for other people, warn them that you might have to cancel on short notice. To help maintain the relationship, tell them that you value them and that canceling a get together does not mean you don’t like them.

Take responsibility for the problems your illness creates for others. For example, if your illness makes you moody, make a list of things you can do to help yourself feel better so that you avoid inflicting your moods on others. When you are feeling irritable, you might listen to music, take a walk or have a brief rest.

I have found that identifying my part in miscommunication or a problem is very helpful.

I make time for my marriage. I’ve found that even if I’m too tired for us to do anything, if I just talk with my husband or sit next to him instead of in a separate chair, and pay attention to what he wants to say, then our relationship is much smoother and happier. He in turn is much more thoughtful of my circumstances and my needs.

Poor communication creates frustration in all relationships, whether with family, friends, coworkers or doctors. Working to improve communication can help increase understanding, uncover unrealistic expectations, and aid cooperative problem solving. Here are some general suggestions for achieving good communication. (For ideas on working productively with your doctors, see Chapter 5.)

1. Pick a good time. Select a time for important conversations when both you and the other person will be at your best. Find a time when you will not be distracted by pain or brain fog, and the other person can give good attention as well.

2. Be grateful and respectful. Treat the other person with respect, acknowledging his or her support and effort. Avoid demeaning comments, sarcasm and blaming. Acknowledge your part in shared problems. A healing approach can begin with your pointing out your limits and the things you do that make the other person’s life more difficult. Show appreciation for the other’s efforts.

3. Practice problem solving. Focus on the difficulties caused by your illness, rather than personalizing problems. Think of “gripes and solutions.” Each person describes a complaint, and then you both focus on what can be done to solve the problem. Work on only one or two problems at a time.

4. Test your understanding. From time to time, check whether you have understood the other person’s position by restating it in your own words. Good communication depends on each person’s understanding the other’s views.

Building Support

Because being ill is so difficult, feeling understood and supported is a balm to the soul. Students in our groups report seeking out contact with fellow patients and also valuing the support and friendship offered by others as well. Creating new relationships, especially with fellow patients or others who are empathetic, can be a powerful antidote to frustration in relationships. Also, talking about your illness to friends avoids overburdening your family. And having friends with the same illness may give you the opportunity to help others, which can boost your self-esteem.

Support Network
In thinking about how to meet your practical and emotional needs, consider putting together a network of people who can help. Author Devin Starlanyl suggests that such a network contain at least five people. Some may offer practical help, such as grocery shopping, housecleaning or driving. Others may be companions for outings, such as a visit to a restaurant or a night at the movies. Still others may offer emotional support by listening and offering reassurance. In any case, it’s wise to have several people to fill these various needs, so that one or two people don’t feel overburdened and burn out.

A Confidant
It can be especially helpful
to have a confidant, one person to whom you can turn for emotional support and an objective view of your life. That person could be your spouse, a good friend, a fellow patient or a doctor or therapist. I was fortunate to have such a friend. We set aside some time on the first of each month to discuss how I was doing. We each assessed my status using the Rating Scale from Chapter 1, and then reviewed my logs for the previous month.

I learned much from the discussions, recognizing patterns I wasn’t able to spot on my own. Just as important, the meetings communicated that I was not struggling alone with my illness, but rather that there was somebody who cared about me and wanted to help me get better. And she said the sessions helped her to feel useful, counteracting the sense of helplessness often experienced by people close to those who are seriously ill.

Support Groups & Classes
Contact with fellow patients can counteract isolation and provide an experience of being acknowledged and supported. Such contact can be a way to feel understood, comforted and inspired. Support groups can provide information, such as names of local doctors who treat CFS and fibromyalgia.

Also, groups offer a way to be helpful, thus counteracting the loss of self-esteem that often results from illness. And, finally, they can offer models of successful coping with illness, thus dispelling fear. Similar experiences are available now on the Internet, at online chat rooms and message boards.

A word of warning: While support groups may be very helpful, not all provide a positive experience. Some groups are negative in tone, reinforcing a sense of victim-hood. Some groups are dominated by one or a few people. Other groups, however, focus on responding positively to illness and insure participation from all members who wish to speak.

I suggest you evaluate your experiences in groups based on the effects they have on you. Contact with fellow patients, especially in a group, can be very powerful. When such contact is negative, it can reinforce isolation and a sense of victim-hood. In a supportive atmosphere, it can be helpful and even healing.

Contact with other patients may leave you feeling upset at times, but the discomfort should be followed by a new perspective on your situation and increased confidence about your ability to manage the illness.

A good group is one in which you feel a sense of belonging, which gives you something positive to take home (either inspiration or practical tips), and which offers models of living successfully with illness.

The CFIDS Association of America maintains a state-by-state list of CFIDS support groups in the United States. They will mail a list of groups in your state at no cost. (You can contact them at 800/442-3437 or email your request to SupportGroups@cfids.org.)

The Arthritis Foundation sponsors fibromyalgia support groups in many places and offers an online directory of their groups at their website: www.arthritis.org. For other lists of fibromyalgia support groups, see the website of Immune Support  (www.Immunesupport.com/supportgroups/) and the site for the National Fibromyalgia Association (www.fmaware.org).

You may also be able to find support groups listed in your local newspaper or locate them through the patient education departments at hospitals, clinics and medical centers.

Self-help classes for people with CFS and fibromyalgia include our Internet course and the in-person Arthritis Self-Help course offered by the Arthritis Foundation. The latter course includes material for fibromyalgia patients.

Professional Support
Psychotherapy helps some people with CFS and fibromyalgia. A sympathetic therapist can provide a confidant’s level of caring and offer an outsider’s view of your situation. If you’re interested, you might look for one who specializes in working with people who have chronic illness. A local support group is often a good source of leads. Therapy can also be helpful for couples. It can offer a place in which the strains created by living with long-term illness can be addressed.

References

Silver, Julie. “Chronic Pain in the Family,” Fibromyalgia Aware: May 2005: 40-42.

Spiegel, David. Living Beyond Limits. New York: Times Books, 1993.

Starlanyl, Devin and Mary Ellen Copeland. Fibromyalgia & Chronic Myofascial Pain: A Survival Manual. Oakland: New Harbinger, 2001.

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MEN AND SUICIDE... WHY?


by: Robert Ross

Robert Ross is a freelance writer/researcher who specializes in men's issues.

"Oh my dear sons, why, why? Why do you chose to die, in such numbers. . . without a song, without a sound, without a sigh. Why, why?"

 

- Anonymous -

In 1935 my mother's brother committed suicide, to this day she claims it was an appendicitis attack. She doesn't want to think about it or talk about it. I never met her brother, it was only by accident that I learned of his tragic death. My mother's reaction was understandable, but the question of why so many men choose to end their lives is still a mystery.

Regarding suicide & men, the statistics are staggering. The overwhelming majority of suicides are committed by males. The figures tell the tale; a tale of male problems, perhaps too extensive to address & too painful to talk about.

Suicide & men is not good party conversation, not good conversation period. Like my mother, we, as a society, seem to go about our business not wanting to examine or openly discuss the issue.

Why do men kill themselves? There are no easy answers. But there are common threads that weave their way thru many of those who choose to take their own lives. I talked to 3 people who had someone close to them commit suicide. It wasn't hard to find these people. Those dying are our brothers, our uncles, our fathers & our friends.

Janet comes from a family of 2 sisters & 2 brothers. Originally from Idaho, the family moved to California for a better life. Her brother recently committed suicide. He was 21. He enjoyed writing, especially poetry. Tall, thin, a bit shy in public, he wanted to be liked & went to great lengths to try & please people.

His suicide wasn't a spontaneous act. He had purchased a gun a few weeks before his death, an obvious indication that he had made the decision to bring his life to an end. When asked her thoughts on the reasons for her brother's suicide, Janet explains it this way, "My brother was depressed, he was on medication & he was drinking a lot.

He'd been threatening suicide, so it wasn't a surprise when it happened." Janet talks of the symptoms, was asked for her thoughts on the reasons for his suicide, she explained it this way, "I really don't know why, he was depressed, not happy, I guess he felt useless."

Depression seems to be a common symptom among those that commit suicide. Why Arnold was depressed is the question left unanswered. He was retired, the children had grown & left the house & the family had enough money to live comfortably thru an inheritance.

Suicide & men. Why? Volumes have been written on the subject of suicide. We tend to think about it as a fact of life, affecting both genders equally. This is not the case.

We need to start looking at it as a male issue. By doing so, the truth about why men commit suicide in much greater numbers may be revealed to us.

By focusing on men, we may be able to see the answers more clearly. Women attempt suicide more often then men, but men succeed. We need to study those that succeed for the answer. There are answers & there are solutions. We just need to start looking.

It's clear that men have more demands placed on them at an earlier age. The competitiveness that's built into the male culture & society's demands on men to be protectors, providers & superstars, all are contributing factors.

The nation's laws which require that men register to defend the country if needed, add to pressures. The community's need for protection usually is met mainly by males. We value those men that achieve individually & ignore those that don't. We encourage men to "tough it out" when confronted with problems. These factors together may be the reason for the alarming male suicide statistics.

Dr. Warren Farrell, author of The Myth Of Male Powerl devoted a chapter in his book to this issue of suicide. Dr. Farrell believes that men commit suicide in far greater numbers than women when they feel , unneeded, or they feel they're a burden on society.

Men have spent their youth training to be achievers, to be providers & protectors & never learned the skills to deal with the humiliation that comes with failure in any of these areas.

Whereas women are often encouraged to develop nurturing skills, taught to help each other through life's traumas, men are rarely taught these skills.

Upon reexamining all 3 of the people I interviewed, Dr. Farrell's theories appear to hold. Although the interviews were simplistic in nature, there's a thread that weaves its way thru all 3 deaths.

That thread is the sense of being , unneeded, or a burden to those around you. Kathy's father, no longer the provider, felt unneeded. His family had grown & left. He, from a generation that didn't seek emotional help when needed, who stormed the beaches of Normandy, needing to bury emotions deeply to survive, didn't have the wherewithal to say "I need help."

Feeling unneeded, depressed, like a burden on society, a burden on his family, he ended his humiliation the only way he knew how. Janet's brother lost at love & was unemployed (unloved & unneeded). He failed & perhaps the humiliation was too great. Phil's relationship had ended & he felt .

The depression & the medication added up.

Unfortunately, when men lose at love, there are no "Lost At Love Shelters" available. There are no widely advertised government sponsored support groups for men in emotional pain.

No men's studies departments in major universities to turn to for answers. And since men aren't generally trained in nurturing skills, they're not likely to have found many male friends who are trained listeners, trained nurturers. Men are taught to be strong & go it alone. Unfortunately their problems are often too great to handle alone.

What are the facts about men & suicide? In 1990 there were approximately 25,000 reported male suicides as compared to 6,182 females. Men commit suicide on average 4 times more than women.2

Older men commit suicide about 1325% more then older women.3 In other words, for each older female who commits suicide, 1325 males also committed suicide.

Suicide & men, it's a tragedy. We hear of Vincent Foster in the White House committing suicide in a park in Washington, or O.J. Simpson's threat of suicide on the freeways of Los Angeles & consider it just a part of life, not a male tragedy.

Perhaps the real tragedy is that society isn't ready to focus on yet another group of victims, especially when that group (men) have been blamed for much of society's ills. Kurt Cobain (from the rock group Nirvana) commits suicide & we shake our heads & say "well, that's just life, must have been drugs or something" & then we wait, wait for the next one, shake our heads again & wait.

Hopefully the tragedy doesn't come too close to our own lives, while we wait. But perhaps, while we wait . . . we can talk about it & in talking, begin the process of solving the tragedy of men & suicide.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Arthur Flint.

SPECIAL NOTE:

I read your note on Male suicide on the web. Just wanted to clarify something for you. If older men commit suicide at a rate of 1325% that of older women, that means that for every one woman who does it, 13 men do, not 1325. I'm assuming that was just a typo that you might want to correct. Otherwise, it makes the rest of what you say a lot less credible.

A reader

Thank you for your observations (October 2001). The author of this article has long since disappeared. It was originally posted some time in 1996. We assume your criticisms are correct, but we can not verify this with the author. --- Thanks

 

Bibliography:

1. Farrell, Warren, Ph.D, The Myth Of Male Power (Simon & Schuster, 1993).

2. National Center For Health Statistics, USBH&HS/NCHS, Vital statistics of the United States.

3. Ibid.

Copyright @ 1995 by Robert Ross, All Rights Reserved

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The Role of Emotion

Emotion has taught mankind to reason.

Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747)

Learning Objectives

      Provide a framework for understanding the purpose of emotions

      Discuss the concept of emotional identities and how they affect each of us

      Provide categories of emotions viewed as strong versus weak

      Explain the value of many emotions                         

I’ve devoted a lot of time to laying groundwork in order to get to this point in the book. We’ve spent time on power structures, communication patterns, historical perspectives of power and how emotion influences outcomes. 

We’ve looked at dichotomies that often result in an unfounded and often unproductive exchange of emotions. Do you believe that there are any unneeded emotions? If it helps, return to the list of emotions and create your own list of emotions that you feel aren’t necessary.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I feeling what I am feeling? What possible purpose could this feeling have?” Most of us have wondered why we feel as we do. However, we often forget to ask, “What can I learn from this feeling?”

Instead, we often try to hide the emotion or run from it. Emotions play a fundamental role in life. What do emotions do for our lives? They help us to form relationships, experience growth, and evaluate our performance. Besides that, they prompt us to learn and sometimes prompt us to quit, fight, cry, lie, and/or to hide.

A reason for feeling

Did you ever wonder how long a person would live if they could not feel fear? Why would someone want to apologize if guilt was not present? Why would someone miss the company of others if they could not feel sadness? We couldn’t appreciate life if we couldn’t feel these emotions.

Unfortunately, many times we’re unable to pick and choose the emotions we feel, but we try to select how we display them. I often tell those I teach and counsel that everyone feels all of the same emotions; how we them makes us different. As was discussed in the dichotomy of strong versus weak, we learn to perceive these emotions differently, and depending on how we perceive them, we will show them differently to others.

Are we a society of manipulators? As I mentioned earlier, we favor rational thought instead of expressing emotion.  We must consider emotions as they pertain to dealing with life issues, but logic is an integral part of that process.

In addition, when emotion enters into the process, it is important to make sure we consider the emotions in balance with logic. Often people try to use logic, or they become carried away with emotion, but they do not seek the balance in understanding that emotion can be a healthy part of an interaction.

Most emotions have a logical place, depending on the situation. If we can consider what the emotions are trying to tell us, then they can often help us to understand how to address the issue. As a result, instead of responding in a reactive manner, we need to learn how to respond in a proactive manner.

We often speak with logic instead of feeling; we are not vulnerable if we are not feeling. Through logic, we can mask emotions and defend ourselves from threat. This type of communication exists between children and world leaders alike and at all levels in between.

As such, communication has become a cat and mouse game, sometimes with deadly results. We often mistake arrogance for pride, and believe in the nobility of martyrs. But if we look at these martyrs more closely, we may see that many died out of fear to express their true feelings. It seems that emotions and logic do not mesh well; although it may not want to do so, it may be in your best interest to consider the notion that there could be a logical purpose for each emotion.

Many of the clients I have worked with often feel that fear, shame, sadness, and guilt are worthless feelings. They feel that if these emotions did not exist, they would be much better off. Upon further discussion, they often find that they cannot do without these emotions. Instead, they realize that they chose to deal with the emotions in an undesirable manner.

If we think about each emotion without clouding our judgment with emotions, we would be able to see that all our feelings have a purpose. There are two major viewpoints regarding the development of the human race: creationism and evolution.

Creationism centers on the belief that our “Creator” made us as we are. Evolutionism asserts that over a long period, we have adapted to our surroundings and became the humans of today. Perhaps we should think of the development of emotions from these same vantage points. If we believe in creationism, then we more easily accept the idea that all emotions are natural and serve a purpose.

We could then say that our challenge is to understand each emotion and master their meanings. If we believe in the concept of evolution and/or do not wish to consider a divine purpose for our emotion, we may consider that our emotions have also evolved and they have enabled us to survive. In this case, it makes sense to try to understand the roles they play in our life so that we can see how they may contribute to further growth and evolution.

Emotional Mastery Versus Control

You may have observed my use of the word "master" in reference to emotion. I discriminate between the terms “master” and “control.” How we view these words and apply them to life can impact our quality of life.

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Control is defined as: (verb usage) “4. To exercise authority over; direct; commands 5. To hold back; curb; restrain.” (Noun usage) “1. The act or fact of controlling; power to direct or regulate; ability to use effectively 2. The condition of being directed or restrained”. The most appropriate definition of the term Master is defined as: (adjective usage) “3. To become an expert in.

I noticed that several of the definitions for the word “master” contain the word “control.”  But the aspect that makes these words different is what I would like to focus on, for a moment.  The act of becoming an expert indicates several things.  Words like understanding, appreciation and management seem to lend themselves to the notion of mastery.

In contrast, “control” may cause us to think of a time, place or situation but doesn’t seem to imply understanding or appreciation.  It is likely that you know of two types of managers in the business-world or in social dealings. One type of manager directs people through mastery of the task at hand and understands the goal; this manager knows and appreciates the talents of the employees he or she manages.

The other type of manager controls or commands and orders his or her employees to do tasks that they may not be skilled to perform. Businesses want their employees to be happy and productive and, above all, to work as a team; management through mastery often accomplishes these objectives.

The need to control often comes from the desire to avoid experiencing fear. There is a simple logic behind having control. If I can control everything around me, I can control which emotions I will feel, and I may avoid feeling fear. To master our emotions, we must do a few things. We must understand, appreciate and manage the perception and expression of emotions in a manner that is respectful to us and to others.

If we can accept the idea that each emotion exists for a reason, then we can find the value that each emotion can have in our life.  Finding this value may allow us to understand our feelings and express them in more adaptive ways. The expression of anger does not have to involve yelling or violence; sadness does not have to involve crying; fear does not have to involve hiding or avoiding.

If we listen to what our emotions tell us, and understand what our emotions mean, we can respect them and they often fade. But if we ignore what our emotions tell us, our feelings build up and may result in a display of negative behavior. People sometimes resort to shouting and physical violence if they cannot get their point across. Likewise, our emotions may incite the same types of behaviors in us if we ignore them.  

Is it possible to express true feelings without extreme behavior? If we understand our feelings, we can express them in a rational manner but still convey what we feel. It is important to understand that we can express true emotion without shouting or the threat of violence.

We may associate strong emotion with aggressive words or acts, but don’t confuse these behaviors with the actual emotions. Similarly, simply because a person can state their feelings in calm manner does not mean they are insincere. As this discussion continues, think about true emotion and what true emotions mean.

Newborn feelings

We will look at the theory of emotional development before further discussion of the purposes for our feelings. Newborn babies feel emotions and some would agree they babies have emotions before birth. In short, we express emotions at the time of birth. Babies do not understand their emotions; but they quickly learn that certain behaviors evoke certain responses from other. 

Do infants know the differences between emotions? They probably do but cannot use words to express these differences.  Babies want to feel loved and accepted. If someone loves and accepts a baby, they help to assure the baby’s survival. Even before we can seek love and acceptance, we must survive. This implies that sometimes a baby’s need for survival overwhelms her need for acceptance. The baby has no means of expressing her survival needs except by crying or yelling.

The people around the baby may not respond to her cries with love and acceptance, but will likely feed her. Depending on the feedback she receives, she may experience confusion, frustration, and other emotions without understanding them; but she gets what she needs to survive: food

Let’s assume that at the moment of birth, a newborn is fully aware all emotions but cannot understand or express them. Since babies have no worldly experience, they may have no need for an unconscious or subconscious. There is no one single definition for the unconscious and/or subconscious in literature. I will use these terms interchangeably in this discussion, but some authors differentiate between them.

For our discussion, I will use a definition for unconscious from Webster’s New World Dictionary, which is, the sum of all thoughts, memories, impulses, desires, feelings of which the individual is not conscious but which influence his emotions and behavior.

As the conscious & unconscious develop, a child receives feedback from his environment in many ways. They learn the relationship between actions that gain rewards and those that evoke punishment.

If we want to feel loved and accepted, then we might learn to try to reject parts of our self that do not help us attain these things. As we mature, we may experience many aspects of that our conscious mind cannot store; in this case, we need to place some events and experiences out of our conscious awareness.

Therefore, the subconscious develops out of a need for storage for our experiences and emotions. We tend to repress events and emotions that we wish to forget, did not receive love or acceptance from, or couldn’t understand. As such, we begin to create an internal hierarchy of emotions and experiences to which we may or may not have immediate access.

In the illustration below, the human is a large sphere of energy. Each emotional experience becomes a deposit of energy that we may use or store.

The smaller spheres in the unconscious indicate these experiences. The varying size of each sphere shows the relative power or importance of each sphere of our experiences. If a person wants to keep an experience or emotion out of the conscious mind, he must expend energy to keep it away. In doing this, the need for defenses arises.

Commonly, we use one of two ways to defend emotions and experiences that we want to protect. We can use emotions to intimidate other people or other emotions. The other means of defense involves a logical approach that might seek to outwit other emotions and individuals.

We use defenses to guard emotions and to fend off certain experiences. We also use these defenses to protect us from external attacks. Depending on how the subconscious perceives a threat, it may call on defenses to protect aspects of itself from threats to the structure. Defense tactics will differ from person to person.

As stated earlier, through life events, a person may learn that emotions are bad, wrong, and/or weak. Over the years, our conscious mind learns to rely upon logic as a medium for processing communication. In this manner, if the conscious mind only needs reason, in theory, life should be easier to figure out and deal with.

Emotions may become taboo to the conscious mind. Although the conscious mind may seek to block emotions, it never fully succeeds. This situation is similar to a person standing on the other side of a fence calling you names. You hear what they say and, although you cannot see the source of these insults, the words still hurt.

You may try to distance yourself from the fence, but you can only go so far, because the fence surrounds you. In other words, we cannot escape our emotion and memories, but we can make every effort to avoid them. It is usually only a matter of time before we have to deal with them, in some capacity.

Let us continue this fence metaphor. Imagine the individual calling you names felt a strong need to let you know he was there; he may have a difficult time knowing whether you can hear him because he cannot see our reaction.  He may decide to try to tear down the fence. If that does not work he may dig a hole under the fence, or set the fence on fire (if he feels desperate enough).

Besides these things he may try to find more people to make noise to get our attention. In relating this to a person, research indicates that people who do not deal with emotions often have other health problems such as heart problems, cancer, etc.

The relationship between these factors and repressed emotions is too high to ignore. We can view this situation as our emotions’ way of telling our logic-based conscious mind that it is time to listen.  It is clear, however, that people fail to listen to these emotions and blame their health problems on things like diet, smoking or genetics.

In order to consider the cause of disease, we need to look at theories about what causes disease. One important theory is The Diathesis-Stress Model of disease. This theory asserts that people contract a disease when they are predisposed and experience an amount of stress that activates the disease.

Without these stressors, or if the strategic group of stressors never occur, then it is less likely that the person will develop the disease. The Diathesis-Stress Model is similar to finding the weakest link in the chain. It does not matter how strong all of the other links of the chain are, if there is a single weak link, the chain will break. The weakest link goes unnoticed unless we stress the chain.

Whether we realize it or not, we often use our emotions to manipulate others. We may use anger to intimidate, sadness to invoke fear, guilt to receive pity. Relationships become troubled when we question the sincerity of the emotions of others. In Chapter 3, I referred to strong versus weak dichotomies used during conflicts. During a conflict, we use emotions such as anger, rage or even humor to protect our sense of power. It is worth noting that in a conflict, emotions that seem “most powerful” do not appear initially.

If you focus on the expression of these emotions, there is always some display of a weak emotion shortly before the conflict. As such, we see that a protective emotion always appears in the wake of a weaker emotion. We need to understand the main purpose of these protective emotions; this information may help us to resolve conflicts. Taken further, there are unique features to each emotion that are important to discuss.

Concept of Emotional Identities

We often hear many different “voices” or “opinions” within us at any one time. We should not confuse these “internal voices” with those of schizophrenics’. The degree, to which these internal voices affect us, as well as the verbal content of the voices, may cover a range of expressions. At the point where these “voices” interfere with our thoughts or suggest harmful behaviors, they become pathological.

I have developed a theoretical perspective that we all exist within the range of having a single identity to having many identities. If we only contained one identity, then we could expect to respond the same way in similar situations, much as a computer program operates. We do not respond the same way every time; there are many times that we may do something and wonder why. In such cases, we may feel as if someone else took over and acted in our place. This model is difficult to prove through research.

Since we are all different and may have many several identities, no two people will respond the same way in a research setting. It is likely you have seen books on the “inner child” and other similar titles. In addition to inner children, so, too, could there be adolescents and other identities. This theory can be used as a model to aid in understanding why we do the things we do, since logic from a single identity model often defies explanation.

Do most adults have more than one identity? If so, why? Most likely it is because throughout our lives, we repress emotion and experiences. Instead, adults often have many different points of view. The extent an individual isolates his emotion falls somewhere in a range of values. We use a range of value to indicate a person’s level of emotional disconnection. On this scale, the extreme represents those people with multiple personalities.  We call this diagnosis Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.).

Perhaps you have seen movies or books like Three Faces of Eve and Sybil.  These provided  examples of a person who has different personalities and the core personality is not aware of the others.  Such a situation is common for people with this condition. During the periods when an alternate personality assumes control, the person often blacks out and cannot recall what happened.

Through therapy, the client may learn about the existence of these other identities and how they express themselves. D. I. D. creates some interesting psychological issues. Some clients with D. I. D. tend to form some identities that are psychologically adaptive and are very clearcut from other identities. Since the personalities are independent, they do not influence each other.

Looking back at the illustration, let us think about the hierarchical structure of emotions and experiences within the subconscious mind. We will discuss internal power struggles in more depth in later chapters. A person’s emotional hierarchy dictates which emotions a person expresses and which ones he/she hides. How do we form these emotional hierarchies?

Often, our interactions with society and family influence these structures. You may find that during a conflict you cast aside your belief system in favor of one more commonly used in society.  So, these events are often influenced by two of the dichotomies we mentioned earlier: strong versus weak and win versus lose.

We may consider our emotional identities and, in doing so, find that they add another dimension to our understanding of complex behavioral and emotional patterns. From this perspective, we will examine the purpose of emotion.

Summary

In this chapter we have continued to establish a case for why we feel what we and do what we do. Some of these ideas may be difficult for you to swallow, but I ask you to read on with an open mind. I think that we all can recognize when we have had many different thoughts at the same time, but it might be the case that explaining the idea of emotional identities may be too much. That is up to you to determine.

Questions: 

  1. Can you think of some instances wherein “undesirable emotions” served their purpose to your benefit?  

  2. Do you recall situations that led you to make an effort to reject your feelings in favor of logic in order to maintain control of a situation?

  3. We commonly realize that we have different facets to our personality.  Does it sometimes seem that at various times, different facets become more dominant?  If so, how does it affect your attitude or actions?

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How to Make Elderly Parents Feel Needed

June 2008 by Sophie

Parents who are busy raising their children during their formative years do not often stop to consider what will happen when their children grow up and move away and how this will change their own lives. But the sad fact is that many elderly parents end up feeling unneeded once their children have grown up and established their own careers and families. What can you do to let your elderly parents know that they are still needed?

Ask for Advice

Elderly parents often dwell on what they cannot do and how their age has brought about new challenges such as decreased mobility, increased fatigue and poor health. As such, they often feel that they are useless and that there is nothing that their grown up children need from them. But even if your own schedule leaves you with next to no time to spend with your parents, you can still make them feel needed by continuing to ask them for advice. It doesn't matter if you are 30 or 50; parents will continue to view you as their little boy or little girl who needs to be given advice. But when asking for advice, make sure that it is a genuine query such as asking your mother for her famous beef stew recipe. It is wrong to invent a problem just to give your parents the satisfaction of "solving" your problem for you. Draw from your parents' storehouse of knowledge and wisdom and you will soon see a change in their outlook on life.

Keep In Touch

As parents age they sometimes find that their adult children have less and less time to spare to be with them, which can make them feel isolated and alone. Rather than grow apart as you lead separate lives, try to maintain contact with your parents. Distance often makes it hard to see one another on a regular basis. But even if you cannot see each other regularly, continue to call your parents or write them a letter from time to time to let them know how much you care. Elderly parents will feel more needed if they can see that they have real value in the eyes of their children.

Even though a lot of elderly parents will not have any small children left to raise not hearing from their adult children and not playing an active role in their lives can make parents feel worthless and as if they are no longer needed. Discerning adult children will see that there is an important part that they can play so that their parents do not feel this way.

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Making Custody Work

Although custody arrangements are finalized, smooth sailing from that point on isn't. With primary custody comes the dilemma of keeping the parent living outside the home involved in the children's lives. The parent who lives outside the home may be battling feelings of loneliness. She may wonder how to remain a part of her child's life without day to day visits. This can be further complicated if miles lie between a parent and her child.

Parents who have a joint custody arrangement face the challenge of creating balance and similar rules between two households. They attempt this while trying to maintain a strong sense of security in both homes.

Unfortunately, there are no written guidelines to make these arrangements easier. Following are some ideas to help you. Not all of them will be applicable to your family form. Try the ideas that make the most sense for you.


Sole Custody - Keeping The Other Parent Involved

It is a difficult task to not let your feelings for your ex influence his visiting arrangements. Many times a parent is angry, hurt and resentful. Visitation can become a means of getting back at your ex-partner. Sometimes this is a conscious choice, but most often it occurs subconsciously.

Your feelings aren't necessarily your child's. Your child has the right to form his own decisions and the right to see and love both of his parents. You can help by encouraging the other parent to remain in your child's life. Doing this isn't easy. It requires you to put your feelings aside and to focus on your child's needs.

Your encouragement is important. The non-custodial parent may be feeling cast aside, unneeded or unimportant. These feelings may cause him to not pursue a relationship with his children. Instead of waiting on him, try to encourage his visitation. Remember, you are focusing on your children now.


Ways to promote the non-custody parent/child relationship

Don't ridicule. Children will often keep different hours or eat different things when away for a weekend. Don't ridicule the other parent because their style of parenting is different. Instead, bite your tongue. Will staying up a couple of hours late on a weekend night do any permanent damage? No. If you ridicule the other parent, she may feel she is parenting "wrong" and eventually visits may begin to decrease.

Try being flexible. If visits are rare, try to be a little more flexible in your visitation schedule to encourage increased visiting.

Discuss issues together. If your child is facing a problem in school, social life, or at home, let the other parent know. Think it through together. The other parent will be pleased to know that you value his opinion in parenting issues.

Keep the other parent posted. Send copies of report cards, drawings and graded papers on a regular basis. Kids often won't share all these things if they have limited time with the other parent. It is up to you to keep the other parent informed. Purchase a dozen or so 9x12 envelopes and a book of stamps. Let your child write the parent's address on the envelope and decorate them with stickers or crayons. Then have her place items from school or home in the envelope and mail one envelope a week. It may help to keep a pad of post-it-notes near the envelope for writing quick messages. This gives your child a way to feel connected with the other parent throughout the week.

Say thanks. Even if the kids are a little late getting home, or didn't take a full nap... say thank you.


The Non-Custodial Parent

There may be a sense of relief when leaving a bad relationship. That sense of relief can quickly be replaced by guilt, frustration or anger as you try to understand your role in your child's life.

Your role remains the same as a mother or father. You still need to provide the same guidance and love. The only difference- you will not be doing it in person each day- but on a visitation basis. Don't underestimate your importance to your children. Though you are not living with them day to day, they need you as much as always.

Here are some ideas for staying actively involved in your child's life:

  • Call the school to get on the mailing list. Ask that copies of your child's report cards, achievements, problems, etc. be sent to both you and the other parent. (Or ask the other parent to supply you with these.)

  • Set up a visitation schedule and keep it. Buy your child a pocket calendar and highlight the days she will spend with you. This way she can look at the calendar and know when she will see you next.

  • Encourage your child to bring homework or school projects with her on visits. This will keep you up to date on what your child is learning and allow you to help her study or do research.

  • Have a set of "necessities" at your house for your child. Have a toothbrush, favorite stuffed animal, socks, extra clothing, etc. This will make your house feel more like "home" versus going away for a weekend.

  • If you have more than one child, schedule some one on one time with each during visitation periods.

  • Stay positive. Picking up and delivering your children may be a difficult task. The custodial parent may always have a few words of wisdom for you. Be polite and listen-- but don't let anyone take away from the relationship that you are maintaining with your children.


Long Distance Parenting

Long distance parenting can work successfully with a little effort from both parents. Here are some ideas to try....

  • Purchase large envelopes and write little notes on a daily or bi-daily basis to your child.

  • Pick up little mementos that you see. These need not be expensive items, just little things to let your child know about your location.

    Take photographs monthly. Your child will be more comfortable being able to "see" where you are.

  • Provide your child with envelopes with your address and postage. He can collect school papers, projects and notes to send your way.

    Consider getting your child a
    SPARC Card. This way your child can call you at any time from anywhere without having to explain to anyone who he is calling and why.

  • Budget for visits. No matter what the reason for the distance-- it is the parents' responsibility to make sure enough money is allotted for plane, bus or train fares.

  • For younger children, tape record a new bedtime story once a week. If your child has a computer, consider getting "on-line" and communicating through e-mail and chat rooms. This can be a lot less costly than phone bills and it provides a way for sending letters instantly.

  • Find out what your child is studying in school. Try to find items that he may want to share with his class or incorporate in a school project.

    With a young child, start a round robin story or letter. You write 1/2 of a page and then send it to your child. She writes 1/2 a page and sends it back to you. This can help younger children feel comfortable writing.

(For more ideas on long distance parenting consult Long Distance Parenting by Miriam Galper Cohen, 1989, NAL/Signet.)


Joint Custody

Vicki Lansky reports in her Divorce Book For Parents that joint custody is becoming a more common form of parenting. In 1980 only three states accepted joint custody. Now it's the presumption or preference in every state-- 38 states through legislation and the other through Supreme Court case precedent or attorney general rulings. In a study of New York metropolitan parents after a year of shared custody, 80 percent said they would recommend it, even though only 7 percent reported no problems with the arrangement.

Joint custody seems to work best with older children who can handle moving between homes. Younger children need a sense of security which can be hard to create in a joint custody arrangement. The starting point is to create open communication between both parents.

  • Decide on house rules. Keep house rules as consistent as possible between homes.

  • Decide on allowance.

  • Get out your calendars and sort through extra-curricular activities. If your child signs up for swimming-- can you both work picking him up into your schedules?

  • Go through your child's events day by day. Try to sort out any rules or scheduling conflicts that might arise in advance.

  • Focus on a pick up/drop off ritual. What time can you expect one another? (It is a good idea to give the kids a little warning, too. Let them know 30-45 minutes before hand to get ready to go to Mom or Dad's.)

  • Know that if a child seems distant towards the end of a visit he is probably preparing for the transition to go to the other parent's home.

  • Meet regularly. Be open to meeting each month and discussing how the kids are doing. Do this in a "businesslike" manner when the children are not present. If you sense problems or difficulties with the arrangement or a difference in household rules, bring them up! Letting them sit and stir will only cause an uproar later.

For more ideas on Joint Custody refer to: Joint Custody and Co-Parenting: Sharing Your Child Equal by Miram Galper Cohen (1991, Running Press.)
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