Category Archives: Personal Stories

Glaring is Good for a Relationship

glare

Its been a year or more since my husband Patri and I have had a capital T Talk.  In our prior four years of marriage we had them fairly frequently.

What changed?  A lot has changed.  We’ve both done a ton of personal growth work.

One thing I do that’s very different now than before, is that I glare at Patri often.  The way I figure it, is that this glare has taken the place of words.  Instead of trying to figure out what is going on between us that has me irritated, I just express the irritation.  The moment happens, and then we move on with our lives.  This, as opposed to before, when I would use words to convey when I was displeased, and Patri would end up arguing with those words, causing a cascade of misery.

Glares are much better than Talks for my marriage.  When I glare, Patri usually gets the notion of what I don’t like, and that’s plenty of communication.  When we had Talks, I’d end up in tears and Patri would stonewall and have elevated pulse for quite awhile before he regained balance.

The glaring probably wouldn’t be as effective for communication if we didn’t know each other as well as we do.  However, being transparent with how one is feeling, in the moment, can really save people a lot of grief at whatever stage their relationship is at.  Glaring is not something I do intentionally, its an unconscious expression of how I am feeling.  I’ve started doing it more because I’m getting more comfortable expressing my feelings in the moment when I feel them, and I’ve become more comfortable with my husband over the years and don’t censor myself with him.

Don’t Give Up!

coaching mother and childSomething I’ve seen a lot of with coaching is just how much people can do when they don’t give up.  A situation seems hopeless, and then when my client digs deeper and discusses the issue with me, solutions and ideas just naturally arise, when everything had seemed so bleak.

My training is to not buy into my client’s Saboteur.  When the client tells me that things are hopeless, even when I really believe their story, I hold out and help them try on different perspectives, or help them process in a way that makes life a little easier to deal with.

I just had a personal experience where something hopeless turned out to be not as such. My husband and I are expecting a baby, but we’re not doing it the old fashioned way, we’re having a surrogate have our child! I can’t breast feed because I’m on heavy medication, so it was looking as though the baby was not going to have milk, which I was pretty sad about. Milk from a milk bank is prohibitively expensive.

Eventually it dawned on me that I could put an ad for milk up on craigslist! As it turns out, one of the craigslist responders told me about this site. I have already found someone from the site who has promised to donate us a few hundred ounces :)

It occurs to me now, that if I had thought to have my coach work with me about that seemingly unsolvable problem, that I would have probably realized that I had options even sooner.

Do You Live Out of the Box?

Out of the Box CoachingPeople with alternative lifestyles are people who think outside the box.  Some of us are forced to think outside the box early on because of the ways in which we differ from cultural norms.  For example, I was raised Jewish, and I can recall as far back as kindergarten wondering why I was told to believe one thing when almost everyone else I knew was being told to have different basic assumptions.  This led to my questioning the tenants of religion, and of what I was ‘supposed’ to believe in general, before I was even in grade school!

People who are gay know from a young age that they are different, and start questioning the world based on their sexuality.  People who aren’t suited to the standard mold of monogamy at some point realize this and question the societal image that everyone needs to find one soulmate and never have deep intimacy or look sexually at another person again.

Carving your own path has benefits and costs.  A benefit is that you are free to create a life that is uniquely suited to you, a unique individual.  Nobody is exactly like you, or has had the exact experiences that you have had.  You as a unique individual, having those unique experiences, create your memories and the building blocks that your present and future are built upon.   The more freedom you have in your ability to imagine and pursue a life that is more specifically suited to you, the more engaged and fulfilled in life you have the possibility to be.

When my husband and I bought our home, we went all out with the customizations.  We are part of an intentional community that is made up of 2 bedroom apartments, but we wanted to have a family, with four bedrooms, so we combined two apartments to make a larger space.  I also painted murals on the walls, and bought Ikea furniture that exactly fit the living space.  Since the two combined apartments had two kitchens, we turned one kitchen into a fifth bedroom that we rent out to a wonderful housemate.  We love our home, and especially that we get to live with good friends as our neighbors.  The community we have is something we have that we really value, which most people in suburban cities miss out on.

A downside to all that freedom is that when you go off the beaten path, you don’t have the cumulative wisdom of society to build upon.  Over the centuries people have experimented with many different ways of doing various things, and they’ve collectively learned what sorts of things do and don’t work, for the goals that they’ve set out to accomplish.  When you’re choosing your path on your own, there are probably going to be assumptions you make that don’t take into account realities that our ancestors dealt with, that will bite you in the butt by not heeding.

One problem with our wonderful living space, which we didn’t realize ahead of time is that our one remaining kitchen isn’t really big enough to have five rooms worth of people sharing it comfortably!  We manage, and in retrospect we’d still make the same choice, to convert the second kitchen, but the cramped kitchen is an example of a consequence we didn’t see coming.  Likewise, the murals drawn directly on the walls, instead of on canvases that can be moved, and the Ikea furniture being earthquake safe bolted to the walls, means that we can’t redecorate very easily.  After a few years I would like to redecorate, but I can’t put furniture in certain places or it will block the murals, and it would be a real pain to move the furniture in the first place.  The bolted furniture and the unmovable paintings are something I probably would change in retrospect, although they’re not a big deal.

Carving your own path requires more thought and figuring things out becasue you’re doing things in a new way, so having friends, mentors, psychologists, coaches, and other people to help you figure things out is really important.  If we had hired an interior decorator when we designed our living space they might have foreseen some of the issues that we didn’t.

3 Tips for Making Your Life Better!

There is a vast body of knowledge out there when it comes to self help. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • I highly recommend the book Non-Violent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg for learning to better understand your own feelings and needs, communicating your feelings and desires, and for learning how to understand and empathize with other people’s feelings and needs.
  • Keeping a gratitude journal is a nice way to hone your positive thinking skills.  Here’s mine.  I’ve found it so refreshing that I’ve been keeping it since 2003.  I noticed a big shift immediately once I started it (I wrote in the log 5 or more times/week for almost three years).   I started actively looking for things to put on the list.  Throughout my day my mind was attuned to looking for things to be grateful for.  Eventually given more time, I’ve become more grateful without consciously trying.  Throughout the day I often think about things I’m thankful for unprompted.
  • The Feeling Good Handbook provides great insight and practice for skills to improve your quality of life.  In coaching as I’m trained by CTI, we term that voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough as “The Saboteur.”  David D Burns addresses The Saboteur by helping you understand how it is working in your head, and he gives you tools for helping to reframe your thoughts in a more constructive manner.

Sometimes you can speed along self-help by hiring a trained professional to guide you in your personal quest for fulfillment and happiness. Life coaches such as myself are trained with techniques anchored in what has shown to bring people a richer, more grounded and more fulfilling life. Some of these techniques are based on studies that have been scientifically demonstrated to make people happier. Other techniques are based on wisdom that is too complex for modern studies to boil down just yet. The more complex wisdom has so many different facets that are so individualized to the person that is being worked with, that it cannot be isolated into little pieces to be tested.

By hiring a professional you are receiving the expertise of someone who has spent years of their time studying what it takes to make you happy, so that you can benefit from their knowledge, since that person will have done the studying already and can pass along the wisdom in a way that is personalized to you.

Success

Yet another one of my clients is thinking about cutting down on his coaching sessions because his life is going so well :)

You Can Recover from Crisis

My mom was in a car accident a couple of months ago, and she ended up in critical condition at the hospital.  Incidents like that in the family effect so many lives. 
 
My life went on hold for about a month and a half.  I went off my diet, set aside the process of fixing my sleep problems, stopped writing for my journal and newsletter, and just focused on flying back and forth to see my mother and be there for her. 
 
I’m finally catching up on my life now.  What I’m learning is that things do get better with time.  People had told me that it was okay that I let the rest of my life go while this crisis was going on, but I didn’t believe it.  I told myself that I was out of control and just needed to pull myself together.  Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to pull myself together then.  However, I did pull myself together given more time.  My schedule is still more complex than it was before the accident.  I’ve had to incorporate frequent flights across California into my life, but once I got used to it, I was able to adjust my life accordingly. Now I’m doing the same things after the accident as I did before it, even with the added complications. 
 
Human beings are really resilient and adaptable with a little patience. 

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John Gottman’s Magic 5 to 1 Ratio

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy. -Guillaume Apollinaire


John Gottman is a researcher who is famous for his book, The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work.  Gottman’s writing has stuck with me.  I read his books years ago, and still find myself referencing them.  A key to my marriage is Gottman’s 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions, which he explains in this video:

I used to spend a lot of time working on my marriage, but it stressed my husband out.  At some point he commented about how draining all this work was for him.  It was then that I remembered the 5 to 1 ratio.  I decided that the best work I could do was to stop doing so much work, and just enjoy time with my husband, Patri.  And it worked!  Patri and I have enjoyed our marriage very much since I had that revelation, and he has not complained of feeling stressed about putting effort into our relationship.

Because Patri is getting so much positive energy from our relationship, he doesn’t mind the occasional effort toward improvement.  As Gottman says, the 1 in the 5 to 1 ratio is important too.  He explains in one of his books that couples with no conflict tend to separate just like the ones that have too much conflict.

I find the ratio of 5 to 1 for positive interactions to negative to be useful in all of my interpersonal relationships.  If I have an argument now, I make a point of initiating some positive social interactions to keep the balance.

You need the positive in order to have something good to work on.

How to Own Your Relationship

Jason was having problems with his girlfriend.  He wanted her attention, but she didn’t feel she had the energy to give him more of her attention, and she told him that he was annoying her when he requested more of her time.

He came to coaching wanting to figure out how to not annoy her.  What I told him is that this already puts him behind the 8 ball.

“You don’t want to not-annoy her, you want to attract her!”

This reframe helped a lot.  Because he’s now coming from a place of feeling empowered to change his situation, he’s able to empathize with her about how she really cares about the relationship, and that she is trying to make things work.  From this new perspective, he feels that he’s able to contribute to work on the relationship with her together, instead of just working to get her attention.

Discover The Power of Gratitude

Carrie came to her coaching session feeling distressed about her eating habits. She has a problem with compulsive binging. She has worked hard and created a great strategies for dealing with her problem, but she still loses control on occasion.

The most awful part of the binging is how hopeless and alone she feels. She tells herself that she’s a freak — inhuman, and that no one would understand.

In the coaching session we explored many different perspectives that she could take about her eating. We explored a couple of perspectives that helped her feel better after the fact, but weren’t very helpful in the moment.

Eventually she came up with a perspective that resonated with her. She loves understanding and helping people. She focused on the connection that her eating disorder provides her: it helps her connect with other people who feel similarly. And in this way, it helps her feel part of a larger whole instead of being isolated.

She found a genuine gratitude for the gift of human connection that her hardship has given her, and we explored ways in which she can remind herself and take actions to bring this light into her life when she’s feeling dark.

How to Gain Insight With Experience

Paradoxes have historically baffled me, because when I thought about them in my teens, they seemed so obvious. I could give a logical explanation for any supposedly deep paradox that I heard.

Something I’ve learned, at this point in life, is that experience and knowledge help me understand notions that I was completely oblivious to in my teen years.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I still don’t know what I don’t know.

My strategy in the now for being as enlightened as possible, is to leave room for what I don’t know. I am aware that there is much more to life than I am aware of, so I draw my conclusions lightly.

What is something that you both know and don’t know?