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ourWORKZ

The official blog of familyWORKZ™

July 29, 2009

Big Money – The Power of Context

Filed under: Couples,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 6:47 am

Most of the time what couples fight about, what families quarrel about, what individuals complain about is what is right in front of them. Whatever is up close and personal, perhaps it’s a lack of money or a spouse coming home late or a child using an ugly word – this is what gets our immediate attention. And, this is what grabs our energy. With the child we might say sternly, “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again!” When money runs low we might say to ourselves, “Why can’t I ever get ahead; what’s wrong with me?” To the tardy spouse we might say, “If you’re going to be late again, don’t bother coming home at all!” All of these thoughts end up in the same place – being disconnecting.

Why? Because all of these responses makes someone the problem, instead of making the problem the problem.

So – how do we change this situation?

The short answer is by looking past the problem into the background. Let me share a story about “Big Money” to help you understand the power of context, which is best explained as that which is going on in the background, not the foreground.

A small child, let’s say she is four-years-old, goes to the hairdresser with her mother, who is kind of in a grumpy and distracted mode. The child is given a seat in the front of the beauty salon where she can pretty much see everything that is going on. So, the child does what she does best at four years old – she pretty much watches everything that is going on while she pretends to be looking at a book.

When the child’s mother is finished and comes to the register to pay, the child says, “Mommy, you look beautiful.” The mother responds with a smile from this collision with an unexpected compliment. But the smile goes away quickly and the mother returns to her routine and pays for the hairstyling. At the very end of this transaction, the mother reaches into her purse and gives a dollar to her daughter and asks her to give it to the hairdresser. Not understanding the purpose of this extra step, the daughter asks what the money is for and the mother says it’s a tip. The daughter, true to her observant form, asks “What’s a tip?” The mother replies, “It’s something you give a person when they make you feel good.”

Instead of walking directly to the hairdresser, the child detours back to her seat and reaches into her sparkly pink purse for something. After fishing around for a long moment, the child finds what she is looking for and then goes to the hairdresser and gives her the dollar and a quarter.

Becoming curious about this transaction, the mother asks the daughter what the quarter was for and the child replies, “I liked the way she made me feel when she turned you beautiful so I gave her the “biggest” money I could find.

Obviously, this child has a poor concept of the value of money. Or, does she?

Perhaps the child’s ability to see what is going on in the background allows her to more fully and honestly appreciate the “context” of the moment. By comparison with the mother’s tip, which was given out of habit, the child’s gift was more proportionally generous because it was given from a different context, it was given from her perspective of big-hearted generosity.

How might the concept of “big money” change your point of view as related to a lack of money, a husband who comes home late, or a child that uses an ugly word?

July 15, 2009

Is Divorce Correctable?

Filed under: divorce — admin @ 3:11 pm

Divorce is an unsettling blend of chaos – stress, disequilibrium, and crisis – with a dash of hope. The challenge inherent in working with a system that is divided into opposites is the lack of a consistent and positive focus. When perceptions shift rapidly between the certainty that blame engenders and the curiosity of the unknown, an imbalance is created. Once imbalanced, our human tendency is to return to our default mode of operating by doing the same thing over and over. Typically, our first reaction is to protect our self and not give up our turf. In a word, we become “tough.”

By reputation, divorce is a dramatic event braided by a slow process of drearily repetitive attacks and counterattacks of negativity. When the interactional dynamic becomes saturated by one partner’s tendency to give off more negative than positive energy, the other partner will be unknowingly influenced by this force and, without conscious awareness, become increasingly negative. In this way, negativity begets negativity (a process called negative affect reciprocity). The end result is an interactional cascade bundled with increasingly intolerable, undiscussable, and unimaginable tension. Without resolution, the problems remain unchanged as resentments soar and the cycle of unending misery persists.

The good news is that if “it” (the divorce and its trailing ugliness) was human made, then it is human correctable.

The biggest threat to a divorce-soaked family is chaos. In this way, the divorced couple easily, even understandably, loses sight of their core business – to bring value to that which they most value, their family. These thoughts reflect the foundational principles associated with the concept of valuableDIVORCE. If interested in learning more about this process, visit the familyWORKZ homepage and see if something, anything, surprises you. The key to inducing change to occur is to first get the other person’s attention. Then, if you are willing and able to combine imagination, guts and courage, then you might have a chance. But, be forewarned, you will have to become a different type of “tough.”

July 7, 2009

Day-to-Day Shocks

Filed under: Couples,divorce,Individual,parenting,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:43 pm

When life goes “according to plan” there isn’t much to complain about. In fact, one might argue, under such conditions, life is good. But is it really?

Think about all that you most remember. Do you recall with vivid detail those moments when life is undisturbed by disappointment, frustration, or rejection? When life is running its course and the expression “smooth sailing” best describes your situation, are flashbulbs going off capturing these events? The answer is most likely “no.”

Why is it that when we are sailing along and perhaps “on top of the world” our brains aren’t enjoying the high life with detailed recollection of such grand times? The short answer is that when life remains the same, regardless of its quality or lack thereof, our minds begin to shut down because it already knows what it knows and there is no reason to remain interested or active. Stated differently, consider that are minds are basically pattern-recognition machines. They look for information against which to compare against what it already knows – a template. When sensory information is collected, even a small piece, that appears to match a previous experience, it’s as if the mind says “voila” and it goes back to its resting position. Think about, for example, two simple dots drawn on a blank piece of paper. One might believe that it is a straight line that is being contemplated. However, the mind remains uncertain. However, when a third dot is introduced that is equal distance from each other, the mind sees the outline of a geometric figure and the person responds by saying “triangle.” Once the mind becomes convinced that it is right, it goes on to other things. In this way, when our lives are doused with comfort, our minds respond by going off-line or at least transform into a more acquiescent state.

Turning our attention to relationships, which is where most of our human drama occurs, if it is true that our minds are keenly interested in differences, change, and adjustment, why is that this is the same stuff that most upsets relationships? This conundrum can be explained referencing the Doom Loop. Think about our lives being arranged along two axes, which comprises a 2×2 matrix. On axis-X, there are two situations: “what I like” and “what I don’t like.” On axis-Y, there is “what I’m good at” and “what I’m not good at.” When “what I like” intersects with “what I’m not good at” the outcome is excitement. When we apply ourselves in this zone and eventually acquire some skills, then we move into the “Comfort Zone,” which is made up of “what I like” and “what I’m good at.” However, when we stay in this zone too long, we eventually stop liking whatever it is that once gave us comfort. In this way, we move from the comfort zone into the Boredom Zone. It is in this zone that trouble begins brewing. If we don’t do anything constructive about the situation, then we shift from the boredom zone into the Doom Zone – consisting of the combination of “what I don’t like” and “what I’m not good at.” Returning to the issue of relationship dynamics, think about a situation in your life that is best described by the Boredom Zone.

Perhaps you have been playing golf your whole life and the luster of this game no longer appeals to you like it once did. In a word, you have become “bored.” Once bored, it is easy to take your eye off the ball, lose your concentration, and your score begins to noticeably suffer. In this way, you have entered the Doom Zone. Similarly, relationships can be measured in accordance with the zone you most find yourself in – Excitement, Comfort, Boredom, or Doom. It is in the comfort and boredom zones where our minds begin to shut down. Interestingly, by comparison, it is in the Excitement and Doom Zones where our minds become most active. Related to this phenomenon, it appears, at least to the mind, that there is not much difference between these two zones. In fact, the distance between the two zones is really a matter of perception and attitude. The difference is made clear when what you “like” and “don’t like” is analyzed carefully.

Using this concept of our mind’s pattern-matching predisposition, when the day-to-day shocks of life’s uncertainties confront you, contemplate which direction your mind leans. Does it become excited for the challenge and remain in a learning mode? Or, does it become frightened and defensive, preferring to judge the situation and, thus, become closed minded.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to be more in-control of life’s day-to-day shocks, instead of being controlled by them? The difference lies in one’s state of mind – having a mind that is either in learning mode or judgment mode. In both cases, according to how our minds make memories, flashbulbs will likely be popping. Your role in these momentous events is to determine whether the memory is worth savoring or will end up being more unsavory.

What kind of flashbulbs have been “POPPING” in your life lately?

July 3, 2009

Antidote for Anxiety – Marriage Therapy

Filed under: Couples — admin @ 3:21 pm

The notion of marital therapy serving as the foundational paradigm in the treatment for such anxiety disorders as agoraphobia, OCD, social phobia, PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorders appears, flat out, right on target. The inclusion of the spouse in the treatment environment as an additional support structure as well as improving the very underpinning of the person’s primary relational connection, the marital relationship, appears to be bothy therapeutically intuitive and consistent with the belief that treatment of such conditions requires the development of a generally supportive interpersonal background.

But, and this is a big but, an essential aspect of this antidote is contingent upon possessing or developing an anxiety-reducing spouse. It is proposed that this is easier said than done. Beyond the big hitting forms of anxieties listed above, it is easy to list numerous events that occur in the everyday rhythm of marital life that occasion situational jitteriness and, therefore, can and do serve as seeds for much bigger problems in the future, such as alcohol abuse, general medical illnesses, midlife crises, loneliness, workaholism, and economic hardships, to name but a few.

How do you develop an anxiety-reducing spouse? Ask your spouse to join you in therapy and focus on teaching him or her how to better meet your most important emotional and psychological needs – belonging, intimacy, and feeling special.

July 2, 2009

Moral Muscle Building

Filed under: General psychology — Tags: — admin @ 9:38 am

A useful moral muscle-building exercise is to try to depart from cliché and move closer to your truth by considering the truth held by others. By doing so, it is argued, we begin to unfold the spellbinding layers that surround our intuitive or reactive sense of what is the truth, which, in turn, nudges us away from our charming and well-cloaked secret weapon – self-deception.

It is said that the truth cannot lie, but if it could, I have no doubt it would lie somewhere near the midpoint between one person’s truth and the other person’s truth. In this way, truth is unlike alcohol and is NOT best served or consumed in moderation. So, if one’s instinctive truth cannot be fully trusted and the other person’s truth is similarly equivocal, then where does the truth lie? While this debate is heated and has been discussed over millenniums by minds much greater than my own, I would like to believe that the key is to find distance from judgment by becoming more open-minded and more willing to learn from a situation as opposed to becoming critical, complaining, and comparing. This is most efficiently accomplished by blending your truth with the truth of the other person and identifying the common ground.

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