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The official blog of familyWORKZ™

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.

June 29, 2009

Crisis of Infidelity

Filed under: Couples — Tags: — admin @ 4:35 pm

Infidelity is that hurt that is unspoken brought on by the one person who communicates with you best when not speaking.

Within every marriage lies an agreement that is mutually cultivated and serves as the foundation from which the relationship begins, prospers and, when neglected or broken, fails. The roots of this agreement are cultivated under a wide assortment of conditions: active discussion, constructive negotiation, or passionate play. The voices exercised when developing this agreement can range wide: soft and caring, sober and calculated, or just simply reasonable. This agreement conveys the very essence of the couple and it is what bonds the twosome together uniquely. The agreement is trust – that basic understanding that frames the couple’s relational code of confidentiality. In this sense, trust is meant to convey something more than just the rules of the couple’s contextual and intimate interplay (i.e., rules of engagement). With greater complexity yet with graceful and efficient motive, trust begins in earnest at that moment when the couple defines themselves more as “we” than separate and distinguishable “I’s.”

With the prodigal status of trust being bracketed in the manner described above, it follows that the ultimate breach in a relationship is when this trust is dishonored. When trust is broken or violated, a crisis of infidelity is created. The infidelity is the breaking of the agreement that invisibly ties and holds the couple together. The foundation of such an agreement is based loosely on the assumption that both parties will faithfully attend to the other person’s needs while balancing their own needs with the needs of the marriage. When this balance is disturbed by a trend of unrefined selfishness, faith in reciprocity, in general thoughts of being care about, and in the hope of a better tomorrow is lost.

In this way, infidelity is much bigger than adultery. It is less about one person’s error in judgment, with or without intent, and much more about a relational insult at a very deep and intimately contextual level that leaves behind an attachment scar.

Making the Marital Bed

Filed under: Couples — Tags: — admin @ 4:12 pm

The Chinese saying “Same bed, different dreams” directly speaks to the two-sided, complex interplay that exists between intimate couples and represents the emotional fulcrum point that precariously balances relational dynamics. The teetering nature of relationships seems to be lurking at every bend. It’s as if the marital balance can tip at any time and when it does or even before it does, sexual functioning and various other expressions of intimacy have changed, and usually the change has occurred at an imperceptibly slow rate.

“I just woke up one day and realized that we had drifted far apart,” is an example of a typical spousal expression of relational distance.

It is likely this type of relational drifting can be forestalled if the couple is able to listen more attentively to their non-verbal messages that are being uniquely expressed and shared in the marital bed. Different intimacy messages can be gleaned from the answers to the following questions:

“As a couple, do you go to bed together?”

“Do you touch while sleeping?”

“What is your lovemaking expressing?”

“Who controls the sexual interaction?”

“Do you talk in bed?”

“Who makes the bed?”

“Who messes it up the most?”

It is proposed that teaching couples how to remake their marital bed increases the likelihood of improved interactional joining that may effectively halt relational wandering.

In summary, the problems of a distressed marriage easily, naturally and unavoidably spill over into the sexual relationship. Sex and bedroom behavior may be issues that people prefer to avoid, but they can’t avoid them forever, after all they go to sleep with them every night.

The Day I Stopped Chasing My Tail & Began Listening to It

Filed under: General psychology — Tags: — admin @ 2:49 pm

When did I become myself? Under the umbrella of radical behaviorism (the experimental analysis of behavior that purports that all behavior is determined and not free) it is accepted that the organism becomes a person as it acquires a repertoire of behavior that are under the contingencies of reinforcement (reward and punishment; both positive and negative). Consequently, if believed, it follows that I have yet to become myself. More accurately, evidently, I persist in the habit of becoming myself. Another way of looking at this prismatic reality is that this organism uniquely called “myself,” is forever grateful to the combination of its genetic endowment (fueled by contingencies of survival), the material environment (selected by contingencies of reinforcement), and the social & cultural environment. In this way, I become myself due to the various factors that are pushed my way or into which I bump.

Turning the prism slightly to shed a more colorful light on this subject, which for me continues to fade in and out without increasing clarity, results in my understanding that radical behaviorism is flat out NOT interested in embracing a causal explanation of publicly observable behavior. Instead, an explanation for what constitutes “myself” boils down to the functional relation, or the contingency, between behavior and its controlling variables.

At the risk of hanging myself too far out on the metaphorical ledge, as long as I remain stubborn with the notion that “I am becoming myself” (‘an initiating doer, actor, or causer of behavior’), the radical behaviorist would insist that I forever will be chasing my self-ingratiating tail. Alternatively, I noticed that by craning my head around in the direction of my tail, sometimes, not often, I hear a voice whispering…”selection by consequences.” Or, is it saying, “consequences by selection?” The voice is hushed and the interpretation is difficult.

I think this phenomenon is much like teaching an old dog a new trick “accidentally on purpose.”

Punctuate Your Relationship

Filed under: Couples — Tags: — admin @ 8:18 am

To strengthen your relationship, try the following exercise.

This exercise is designed to deliver the message that the LISTENING and LEARNING are the two most effective tools available at your fingertips to build or rebuild your relationship. Separately, each tool is influential, capable of moving your relationship in the direction of loving engagement. Combined, learning and listening are unbeatable. They open up your relationship to a new conversation, to new possibilities, to a new reality.

Listening and learning – think of their opposites. The reverse of listening involves the actions of ignoring the other person, being distracted by something else, or merely failing to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. Either way, this style of interaction is corrosive and, if repeated enough times, contributes to relationship failure. Flipping the learning coin over reveals the relationally destructive activity of judgment. In a phrase, judgment is the equivalence of “having a closed mind.” To open one’s mind involves a willingness to learn, to discover, or otherwise be available to better understand the other person’s perspective.

In this exercise there are two roles to be played. First, the reporter; the person who has been selected to sniff out a story, collect juicy information, and write a compelling story. Second, the source; the person who possesses privileged and valuable information. Without the source, the reporter is unable to write the story. Without the reporter, the source’s story remains untold. The key is for the reporter and the source to work together by moving toward one another, allowing each other to be influenced by the other person, and stay focused on being honest, respectful, and courageous. The point of the exercise is for the reporter to learn something new about the source by enticing the source into full disclose about something that matters.


The REPORTER is provided with one extremely powerful tool to get to the bottom of the story – a question mark. That is, the only thing you can do is to ask questions. No judgment; no opinion; no feedback – just questioning. Be aware that this tool is tricky. At first, it seems rather harmless and inefficient. But with practice, the tool gets sharper, more useful, and let’s the reporter dig deep down and find the real story. One caution – because of the danger involved in using this tool incorrectly, there is one rule that must be obeyed: be kind. Remember, you may need to rely upon this source in the future for another story. Otherwise, anything goes. It’s usually helpful to relax and just be yourself, remaining completely true to who you are. Ponder your curiosities about the story, about your relationship with the source, and dig in.

Your Tool – a question mark that let’s you get the whole scoop.

Your Method of Inquiry – you are permitted to say anything as long as it is in the form of a question. [HINT: by asking questions that begin with “what” and “how” your tool becomes even more powerful]

Your Only Rule – be kind, be kind, be kind.


The SOURCE, the person who holds the story deep within, is obligated to disclose information that helps the reporter get to know the real story, the back story, in a way that has never been told. The only tool the source is allowed to use is a period, a powerful device specifically made to help the source get to the point and stay on point. Again, because of the danger involved with a novice using this tool, the source is given two rules, otherwise, anything goes. First, answer every question without increasing the distance between you and the reporter. Second, keep it short. Remember, the power of the period lies in its purpose – to complete a thought.

Your Tool – a period, to help you stay on point and get to the point.

Your Rules: 1) Answer every question without increasing the distance between you and your partner.

2) Keep it short – refrain from going on and on. Stated another way, STAY ON POINT AND GET                          TO YOUR POINT, SO THAT YOUR POINT IS MADE!

Words of Wisdom to Help You Get the Real Scoop:

A – Truth without compassion can destroy love.

B – When attitudes are hostile, facts are unconvincing.

C – We win respect when our words fit our feelings.

D – Reason and logic do not satisfy our emotional needs.

E – Without compassion and authenticity, techniques fail.

F – Our values should support faith in one’s own feelings and the courage to stand alone when necessary.

June 22, 2009

Popcorn Psychology

Filed under: Individual — Tags: — admin @ 2:50 am

What we know to be true about our self, our situation, and our future can be whittled down to a few basic kernels.

Kernel One: What we know to be true about anything and everything is configured based on the way we see a situation. In this way, our vital and most basic worldview is uniquely and profoundly shaped by perception.

Kernel Two: Perception is grounded in what we have learned. It is our learning history, therefore, that colors our ability to make sense of nonsense. Unfortunately, we do not always swiftly remember what we have learned. In fact, we have forgotten much more than we will ever remember. But we do hang onto what we forget – at least whispers and threads. The repository of our forgotten knowledge is our unconscious mind.

Kernel Three: Related to the above situation, it is the stuff in the back of our minds that becomes the source of our personal quirks. While our everyday mind is working swiftly and efficiently by accessing logical and emotional judgment, our view of reality becomes uniquely twisted by the forces of deception, delusion, and distortion. The mind is not interested in being crowned incomparable, but it is highly motivated to be seen as logical, steady, and blameless.

Kernel Four: Since our view of reality is prone to impression management (seeing the world based on templates of past impressions), learning and unlearning are equally tricky. If learning requires unlearning, and we don’t have readied access to what we have forgotten, how does new learning occur? After a certain point, do we ever learn anything new or merely experience a revised version of what has been forgotten?

What additional kernels come to your mind?

June 15, 2009

Time Juggling

Filed under: Couples,Families,Individual,parenting — admin @ 10:33 am

Without even noticing, one of our greatest challenges is how we juggle time.

Time is, at once, ever present and invisible. It simultaneously helps us to keep our lives organized while making us feel pressured and full of doubt. In this way, time is fickle and judgmental – it is something that can be either on our side or against us. Time can “run out,” exist in ample supply (“don’t worry, there’s plenty of time left”), or it can be something that we have too much of (“will this never end?”). Time can run fast or be idle – as in “standing still.” Time can disappear (“where did the time go?”). Time can mysterious (“does anybody have any idea what time it is?”). Time can be deceptive (“I had no idea it was getting so late”). Time can even be elusive (“where did the time go?).

In this sense, time is tricky.

To get a grasp on time, think of time as three balls. Next, give a unique name to each ball. Call the first ball the “past,” the second the “present,” and the third the “future.” Now, ask yourself, “are you good at juggling time?” Or, do you occasionally drop the ball? If so, which ball are you most likely to drop? What is the cost of dropping one or more balls? How would your life be different if you became better at juggling?

If there is a fourth ball (I think there is), what name would you give it? Hint: think Einstein.

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