Tagged: need help

Gaslighting: The Stockholm Syndrome of Emotional Abuse and Manipulation

Gaslighting is a traumatic form of abuse by a psychopath, sociopath, or narcissist initially disguising themselves as a dear friend, a doting partner, a loving family member, or a supportive co-worker or supervisor. The main goals are to take away your power (usually with the hope of gaining it for themselves) and to deflect from their own issues and project them onto you.

The gaslighter might be a supervisor that thinks you’re gunning for their job, a partner or parent who wants to exhibit control over you, a friend who’s jealous of you, or a co-worker who thinks s/he’s in competition with you. They feel insecure and powerless and divert others’ attention from their own problems by focusing on, and exacerbating, yours.

Oftentimes, this makes them look like “the hero” because they “saved” you or have to “put up” with you and, over time, this gives the abuser more power and control. They’ll say things like, “It’s a good thing you’ve got me around looking out for you” or “What would you do without me?” It starts out seeming supportive and caring and the criticisms are very subtle.

The subtlety and impression of caring are what remind me of Stockholm Syndrome, because the victim not only doesn’t see it for the longest time, but can’t bring him/herself to think for a minute that the abuser would ever do anything to hurt them – let alone go to the extremes that they do. In fact, in most cases, the victim can’t imagine their lives without that person.

The abuser then begins to drop little hints here and there, saying, “Hmm…your partner has been running late an awful lot lately. I wonder why that is.” Or maybe something along the lines of, “Well, that presentation for work might not have gone that well but you’ll do better next time.” Only, you weren’t actually complaining (or noticing) that your partner was running late recently and you had felt your presentation was amazing.

Concern for you becomes the main focus, only the concern is imagined, or more likely created, by the other person to make you doubt yourself. The abuser will use a series of orchestrations to turn their allegations into “truths” to make the victim feel that s/he is the one imagining things, and that they’re “misinformed”, not remembering things correctly, not that bright, or even paranoid, delusional, or crazy.

So how do you know if this is happening to you?

1) You constantly second-guess yourself.
2) You find wedges between yourself and others you used to be really close to, yet you have no idea why.
3) You know that something is definitely wrong, but can’t pinpoint what or why.
4) You feel confused, hopeless, and joyless all the time.
5) You feel as though you can never do anything right.
6) You start to suspect the abuser is intentionally hurting you and are told by him/her that you are “imagining things” that are very clear and obvious.

If you think this is happening to you, it’s helpful to document the behaviors and activities. Keep a log of the things they say that seem degrading or dismissive or just don’t make sense. Look at the frequency and significance of the events and in what areas of your life they seem to be targeting, such as your relationship, your friendships, or your job.

Should you discover that you are a victim, immediately begin to break off ties. People who gaslight are either not aware that they’re doing it or have been doing it for so long, it’s become “normal” behavior to them. Most of the time, they don’t care and cannot be reasoned with. Don’t engage with them any longer and, when in doubt, review the documentation to reassure yourself that you are not going mad and that you are now back in control and aware of the situation.

Healing from abuse takes time. You can’t beat yourself up over it or take it personally. When this person is done with you, they will happily move onto someone else. You can’t blame yourself; they’ve done it before you came along. Therapy can help. Try your best to surround yourself with people who love and support you 100% unconditionally and activities that bring you joy.

Dealing with Difficult People: Part 3

BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER:

A person with borderline personality disorder, much like the narcissist, is most likely not working on the same maturity level you are, does not pick up on social cues, and knows little to no boundaries. Someone with this disorder might have lack of control over emotions, difficulty maintaining relationships, lack empathy for others, and avoid accountability for actions. Some tell-tale signs might involve cutting, substance abuse, shoplifting, or other impulsive behaviors.

HOW TO DEAL WITH SOMEONE WITH BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER:

Acknowledge the person’s feelings. If she has become suddenly very upset, you might say: “I see you’re quite upset. Can we discuss what’s going on?” Make your points clear and concise. If things get too elevated, suggest that the two of you revisit the topic in an hour or so and explain that you want some time to think about what she said. Try putting the responsibility back on the person and ask them for possible solutions. Don’t bow and bend to appease the person but, again, lead by example and stay calm.

EXAMPLES OF BORDERLINE PERSONALITY:

Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), Fatal Attraction (this example is commonly used and often criticized for being an extreme case and negative example); Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths), Six Feet Under; Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway), Mommie Dearest; and David McCall (Mark Wahlberg) Fear.

THE KNOW-IT-ALL:

You know who I’m talking about. You might have a PhD in Psychology but they know more about mental illness than you do because they once read a pamphlet about depression. This person is overbearing, thinks he has all the answers, isn’t willing to listen to the opinions of others, and may even consider the fact that you have an opinion as offensive. He might be boisterous and loud, enjoying the sound of his own voice and assuming everyone else does, too.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE KNOW-IT-ALL:

Keep it respectful but do so without putting yourself down. If you must have a confrontation with him, do it when the two of you are alone so as not to bruise his ego. Gently offer alternatives to his line of thinking in a way he won’t misconstrue as being attacking.

Ask your questions in a manner of “seeking clarification”, rather than flat-out disagreeing. Ask for specific details. Provide some attention to the know-it-all (since that is what he is after) but not too much. If he is offering unsolicited advice or harping on a topic that is irrelevant to his business with you, kindly explain that you are not interested in discussing that topic with him and move on to something else.

EXAMPLES OF KNOW-IT-ALLS:

Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), The Big Bang Theory; Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons); Brainy Smurf.

Hope this helps!

Dealing With Difficult People: Part II

THE STEAMROLLER/BULLY:

A steamroller is a bully who is not flexible or open to ideas, in most cases. He might be confrontational, manipulative, and/or rude and, in some instances, use threats or intimidation to get his way. Disagreeing with his opinions might make him feel offended, violated, or even hostile – flying off the handle at even the smallest of details. Some paperwork filed an hour late on your part might result in a menacing phone call with a tone of voice more appropriate for if you had run over his dog with your car. The steamroller can escalate situations quickly and may even become violent or threatening.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE STEAMROLLER/BULLY:

You’ll want to make sure to keep the environment (and yourself) as calm as possible. Keep your tone of voice low and calm, make eye contact with the person, and make it a point to let them know that you want to hear them out and come to a solution, but that you want to be reasonable. Make it clear to the steamroller that you are not the enemy. This person wants to feel heard. Note that there is a difference in helping someone feel heard, versus helping him/her feel justified.

These are the best tactics because you are leading by example. If the person continues to become out of control and escalates into threats or potential violence, you might say something to the effect of: “I understand you are upset and I really want to help work this out or understand more about the situation. However, I think it would be best if we continue this at a later time.” Use a lot of “I” statements so the person does not feel blamed or targeted.

Stand your ground, don’t be apologetic, choose your words wisely, and don’t engage in arguments. Have an exit strategy in mind as soon as you sense escalation.

EXAMPLES OF STEAMROLLER/BULLY PERSONALITIES:

Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), The Devil Wears Prada; Scut Farkus (Zack Ward), A Christmas Story; Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson), A Few Good Men; Lt. Col. “Bull” Meechum (Robert Duvall), The Great Santini; and Regina George (Rachel McAdams), Mean Girls.

THE NARCISSIST:

Most misunderstand the narcissist as being an overly-confident individual. However, this person may have no self-esteem at all. It’s not about confidence or self-esteem necessarily – it’s about how this person sees the world. To the narcissist, the world does not exist in any form other than how it pertains to him.

Some tip-offs that you’re dealing with a narcissist might include grandiosity (or extreme sense of self-importance), a constant need for admiration, heightened fantasies/delusions about imagined successes, willingness to take advantage of others for his own gain, appearance of arrogance, strong sense of entitlement, sees others (wait staff, assistants, etc.) as “beneath” him and, therefore, treats them in a disrespectful manner, has unreasonable expectations of deserving and demanding favorable treatment, is often envious of others or imagines others to be envious of him, and possibly a lack of empathy for others.

You know someone like this. The type of person who might say, “Well, enough about me! What do YOU think of me?”

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE NARCISSIST:

Manage your expectations. Accept this person the way he is. Don’t expect to get comfort or support from the narcissist. Don’t get frustrated when he uses you to better his own situation, then falls off the radar. Don’t feel disappointed when you realize she only hangs out with you because she sees you as inferior.

You have to understand that the narcissist legitimately has limitations and that it is not about you, whatsoever. If this person is very important in your life, you will need other sources of support, comfort, and emotional stability. Be able to set good limits and boundaries so s/he does not take advantage of you. If this person is a co-worker and you need something from him/her, try to find an angle of “what’s in for them” to motivate them.

EXAMPLES OF NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITIES:

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), American Psycho; Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), The Godfather; (along the same lines) Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), The Sopranos; and Karen Walker (Megan Mullaly), Will and Grace.

Hope this helps! 🙂

Dealing With Difficult People…Part 1

We all know them. They’re out there. They might be our co-workers, our clients, our family members, our friends, or even our partners. What do you do when they’re people that have to be in your life?

For starters, there are different types of difficult people and, therefore, there are different ways to deal with them.

I had so many difficult personalities to go over, that I decided to divide this blog up into a 3-parter, so stay tuned…

THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE:

These folks always “believe” they are communicating, but nothing could be further from the truth. They mistake body language and facial expressions for assertive verbal communication. The behavior itself (an angry glace or an over-dramatic sigh) might be passive, but later actions (taking the last slice of pizza when they know the other person wants it) indicate signs of aggression. Note that the aggressive aspect is not punching or yelling – it’s more subtle, which is what makes it passive.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE:

I might encourage clients to be more assertive by pointing out that that I sense some tension from their behavior, tone of voice, or body language and I would ask them if they would care to discuss what’s going on. I will be very patient, compassionate, and understanding. I might explain the different types of communication and why it is important to learn to be more assertive and how others might be reading said behaviors, tone of voice, or body language.

In dealing with the passive-aggressive, remember that you are dealing with someone who is averse to having confrontation. It might help to try and be empathetic. Most of us aren’t born with the right tools to communicate effectively – it’s something we have to learn.

EXAMPLES OF PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITIES:

Lucille Bleuth and Lucille Austero, Arrested Development; Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Rosalyn Rosenfeld, American Hustle; Betty Draper, Mad Men

THE PESSIMIST/OR THE “REALIST”:

I used to be a BIG TIME pessimist, but I would have told you I was only “realistic” about things. My attitude was that, “If it can go wrong, it will” and that “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”. Looking back, I can hardly believe that’s how I used to go about in life.

A pessimist has usually already made up his mind to be the victim in most situations and isn’t really looking for solutions, but just wants to vent or complain. It’s much easier to stay stuck where you are and moan about the woes of the world than to accept responsibility for your part in it and do the work that needs to be done. And a lot of us get stuck in that mode from time to time.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE PESSIMIST/”REALIST”:

People who are stuck in negative thought processes often see the world as a very cruel and lonely place. Don’t perpetuate that for them. Try to treat them with compassion, but be careful not to get sucked in to their negativity. Try to point out the positives in a given situation, without seeming too much like a “Little Miss Sunshine”.

My rule of thumb is to offer up two suggestions when someone has a complaint or an issue. If I feel the person is working harder to explain why the suggestions WON’T work than they are listening to why they will, I disengage. I might even explain to someone that they don’t appear to want a solution and, therefore, I don’t see how I might be of assistance to them.

You know you can’t change a pessimist (unless they’re interested in learning how), so do your best to be mindful that this is just how the person is, be thankful you are not that way, and carry on with your day.

EXAMPLES OF PESSIMIST PERSONALITIES:

Dr. Gregory House, House; Red Forman, That 70’s Show; Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls; Frank Costanza, Seinfeld; Karl Pilkington, An Idiot Abroad; Oscar the Grouch, Sesame Street

Hope this helps! Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Loving the One You’re With: A Couples’ Workshop

Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner can be difficult with the stress of everyday life. BHC Assessment and Consulting can help you get that spark back into your partnership through addressing and working through the following issues:

• Sex
• Money
• Communication
• Taking Responsibility
• Building and Strengthening Trust
• Managing Internet/Social Media/Friends and Family
• Finding a balance between life, stress, and your relationship

Dr. David Baker-Hargrove, owner and principle of BHC, can help you with all that and more!

Whether you and your partner are trying to rebuild broken trust, improve your sex life, reconnect on a more emotional and intimate level, or are working through forgiveness, loss, or grief – Loving the One You’re With: A Couples’ Workshop was designed just for you!

The workshop will allow each partner to explore his/her role in more depth, learn and develop new communication skills, and assess and address issues with money, sex, trust, balance, and taking responsibility. Dr. Dave, a dynamic and engaging speaker and psychotherapist, will facilitate the group consisting of no more than 5 couples – allowing for an intimate setting, conducive to learning and growth.

WHEN: Saturday, October 6, 2013, 9AM-5PM
*lunch will be provided*

WHERE: 801 N. Magnolia Ave.; Ste. 318; Orlando, FL 32803

COST: $350 per couple

HOW TO REGISTER: Call us at 407.963.4655 or e-mail us at sherrie@drdavidbakerhargrove.com

BHC Now Offers Group Workshops!

We Now Offer Group Workshops:

Transgender
Partners of Transgender People
Children/Adolescents with Chronic Disease States
Schizophrenia

Research has shown group psychotherapy to be very effective in helping people sort out and resolve issues they may be dealing with. Benefits of group therapy include realizing you are not the only one who struggles with a particular issue, learning coping skills from others who have similar life experience and the opportunity to plug into a network of healing. Group psychotherapy differs from support groups in that psychotherapy groups are led by a qualified therapist and follow a specific therapeutic format to facilitate growth and progress. Additionally, group psychotherapy is less expensive than one-on-one psychotherapy and can be an excellent choice for those with financial constraints. At BHC Assessment & Consulting, we offer the following groups in the form of informational workshops that will cover the following topics from meeting to meeting:

TRANSGENDER Workshop

1) Coming to Terms with being Transgender/Transsexual
2) Coming Out
3) Finding Your Support
4) HRT
5) “Fantalusions”
6) Coming Out at Work or School
7) “Passing”
8) “So You’ve Transitioned. Now What?”

PARTNERS OF TRANSGENDER PEOPLE Workshop

1) You’re Not Alone
2) How Can I Best Support My Partner?
3) Is My Partner a Narcissist?
4) Communication, Communication, and Communication
5) Are Our Problems Due to Transgender Issues, or is it Something Else?
6) Dealing With Your Own Identity?
7) Sexual Issues
8) Taking Care of YOU

CHILDREN/ADOLESCENTS WITH CHRONIC DISEASE STATES Workshop

1) Dealing with Depression
2) Coping with Anger/Irritability
3) Dealing with Denial
4) Feeling “Different”
5) Teens with Diabetes (Also Covers Substance Use)
6) Fighting Anxiety
7) Self Esteem
8) Overview

SCHIZOPHRENIA Workshop

1) Treatment: Where to Start
2) Self: Awareness, Acceptance, and Self Esteem
3) Dealing with Positive (or Psychotic) Symptoms
4) Dealing with Negative Symptoms
5) Dealing with Cognitive Symptoms
6) Relapse Prevention
7) Medication Management
8) Living Your Best & Fullest Life

Meeting Schedule

MONDAYS 4-6: Children/Adolescents with Chronic Disease States
TUESDAYS 5:30-7: Partners of Transgender Persons
WEDNESDAYS 1-3: Schizophrenia
THURSDAYS 5:30-7: Transgender/Transsexual Persons

Workshops are $20 per person and are held once a week for an 8 week period. Space is limited and reservations must be made in advance.

“Eat Right”

At BHC Assessment and Consulting, we always encourage the ESTE Model, created by Dr. Dave, for living a happier, healthier life. The Eat Right/Sleep Right/Think Right/Exercise Model is a very simple concept that’s not always that easy to do.

It’s a lot to take in all at once, so I decided to break it down and put my two cents in for each subject separately. Dr. Dave has done this as well, so check out his blog to learn more from him!

Eating Right is something I have been thinking a lot about recently. I began eating a vegan diet a few months ago and it has really worked for me. I know that a person can be vegan and still eat crap, but following that diet has tremendously helped me in my goal for eating healthier. I used to be the Queen of Junk Food with a weakness for Italian and, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I have 3 great Italian restaurants within close proximity to my home. I tried eating “healthy” throughout the week and exercising, so that I could justify having a pizza and/or calzone on the weekend. Would you believe I never lost weight or gained energy on that plan?

Being vegan helps me make better choices. I don’t do a lot of eating out, fast food or otherwise, these days. If I do go out to eat, it’s usually at a vegan restaurant. If not, I have to settle for a cheeseless, dressingless salad or, if I’m lucky, a hummus plate. But cooking from home has proven to be much healthier and more satisfying and has led to much better choices.

I’ve watched most of the health food documentaries on Netflix (and there are many I could recommend, if anyone is interested) and, from what I can understand, the healthiest diets tend to be whole foods, plant based diets and/or a Mediterranean diet. I am currently trying to figure out recipes on how to infuse the two, to maximize health benefits. In addition, I try to load as many fruits and veggies as I can into each meal and TRY to eat at least 50% raw. So, for example, if I have a vegan burger for lunch, I’ll add uncooked spinach, tomato, and onion. I’ve even learned that if there are some vegetables you don’t particularly like, you can “sneak” them in. I’m not a big fan of zucchini and squash. But if you grate them with a cheese grater, you can sprinkle them into any meal for additional veggie power.

I’m not necessarily recommending a vegan diet because it CAN be very difficult to maintain, feel isolating at times, and require a lot of time for research. However, I do believe that the more fruits, vegetables, plant based foods that you eat, the better off you will feel. I have lost about 10-15 pounds that I have kept off and have noticed a significant increase in energy.

Now, if you’re like me and have the best intentions of eating right, but have trouble with follow-through and find yourself cleaning rotting fruit and vegetables out of your fridge every other week, I have tips for that, too! You want to be realistic about what you eat. If there’s just one or two of you who eat the groceries, going out and buying a truckload of fruits when you’re not particularly fond of them (as I used not to be) won’t be helpful. Get one or two that you know will be eaten and cut it up/prepare it, and put it in a Tupperware container once you get home. When you’re packing food for a day at work or want a light snack, the containers are easy to grab and pack. If you don’t feel like preparing a big meal, you might even find this option more preferable than going out to eat or making something.

When you bring home vegetables you plan to cook, go ahead and cook them! Again, don’t get more than you’re realistically going to eat. But if you buy, say, broccoli and green beans, go ahead and cook them so they’re ready to go. All you have to do is heat them up and you’re done. Many times for lunch, I’ll just have a baked potato and lima beans.

If you have any health issues, you can google what foods help! I have a tendency for hypertension and have learned that eating such foods as bananas, spinach, beans, and even chocolate, help to lower blood pressure. I also recently had a musclular tear that turned into a painful inflammation – there are foods that help with that, too! Broccoli, onions, garlic, spinach, and pineapple all assist in reducing inflammation. Our society is very quick to use medications to treat every day pains and occurrences when, sometimes, the answer might be in your local market or, better still, your own back yard!

In fact, I would like that to be my next step: growing my own food. I have friends with gardens who take a lot of pride in, and get much enjoyment out, of doing so. If and when I move on to that phase, I will be sure to blog about it, for anyone who is interested.

I hope that anyone who reads this will find it helpful. Happy eating!

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A LEADER

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic for the last month or so. Many times, I have worked at a non-profit or some larger company and have felt as though I work my butt off to make some mystery person (a CEO, or an Executive Director, etc.) a ton of money, only to feel as though I’m thrown an occasional peanut as I run through a hamster wheel. That’s not very fulfilling to an employee and, in fact, is quite frustrating.

Oftentimes, I’ve worked in environments in which no one ever notices a single thing I do, unless and until I do it wrong. There was even one job that continued to give me bad reviews on my work, over a period of years. I realized when they gave a friend of mine (who was definitely on top of his game!) a bad review, that they did this so they wouldn’t have to give people raises. Talk about a poor business model!

It wasn’t until I came to work at BHC Assessment and Consulting that I fully understood the difference between a “boss” and a “LEADER”.

I met Dr. David Baker-Hargrove through a mutual friend on Facebook, of all things, when he was looking for an Associate Therapist. This is incredibly ironic as I learn, more and more, how our lives have been intermingled for years. Our assistant, Sherrie, used to bartend at Peacock Room on Mills Avenue where, for years, David and his husband, Robert, would go for happy hour, and I would arrive with my friends just after he left. I used to work for Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare in the Baker Act facility, where Law Enforcement Officers would bring in clients and I would stand with them as they signed paperwork. One of the papers inquired as to whether or not they had received CIT training, developed to help LEO’s deal with mentally ill individuals in crisis. I had always been fascinated with this program and talked at great lengths with officers about what they learned and how they liked it. Dr. Baker-Hargrove helped develop that program!

It was as though the universe had conspired to bring us together, at exactly that moment when he was looking for an Associate Therapist for his practice.

Dr. Baker-Hargrove has been many things to me since I first met him, almost a year ago. He’s been an invaluable means of support, my biggest cheerleader (aside from my mom), sometimes my therapist (lol), a role model, an inspiration, and the very example of what I would like my own life to be. He IS my boss, but I never think to define him as such because he is SO much MORE than that – he is a LEADER.

In this past year, I have struggled with a fear of public speaking. He has helped me try to identify the causes of the anxiety, he has taught me how to “sit” with the anxiety. He has encouraged and supported me in joining Toastmasters to get the exposure therapy I need to overcome the fear. He has invested so much in helping me with this fear, which (by the way) is something I merely identified as a personal goal for myself.

But will overcoming this fear help the business? What do you think? I will be giving my first presentation at the Metropolitan Business Association (MBA) this month to speak about BHC and what we do. We are going to doctors’ offices to provide trainings on mental health screenings, which could result in referrals. I’m due to give a presentation at Harbor House in the next couple of months. I give speeches at Toastmasters about what we do and why it’s so important.

Dr. Baker-Hargrove came to speak to my MBA RED (Referral Exchange Development) group a couple of months ago about the business consultation packages we offer and he, of course, nailed it. The only angle he didn’t cover, that I want to address here, is his LEADERSHIP – which makes it all possible.

In other jobs, I felt held down, held back, kept out of the loop, unappreciated, undervalued, underpaid, and sometimes even threatened or bullied. Under Dr. Baker-Hargrove’s leadership, I feel encouraged, supported, inspired, energized, motivated, challenged, respected, and (most importantly) FULFILLED. If you own, manage, run, or supervise a business and your employees don’t feel that way about you – I’m not saying you’re doing it WRONG, but you could be doing it BETTER.

No wonder Dr. Baker-Hargrove just won MBA BUSINESS MAN OF THE YEAR!

I am dedicating this blog to him in my appreciation and congratulations. No one deserves that honor more than him because he is truly one of a kind. I am so proud to work for and represent the business he has built, BHC Assessment and Consulting. I believe in what we do and love the fact that we truly help people to lead better, more successful lives. I take pride in the fact that we are truly professional, run our business on time, and provide exceptional customer service. I am thrilled with the fact that we do SO MUCH MORE than just therapy. We provide attorney services, business consultation packages, Transgender Inclusive Workplace Trainings, Mental Health Boot Camp, and more – all in an effort to better the community, as a whole. And that’s an AMAZING feeling! And it all comes from dedicated, true leadership.

Congratulations, Dr. David Baker-Hargrove!

COMMUNICATION 101

I’ve worked with a lot of children over the years and what I’m finding, more and more, is that I have to TEACH them how to have a conversation! Getting answers to simple yes or no questions feels like pulling teeth sometimes and often a kid doesn’t even answer but just shrugs his/her shoulders or make an inaudible “I don’t know” type of grunt. I recently started thinking long and hard about this and realized that in our age of technology, kids spend the majority of their time on the internet, playing video games, and watching tv. Without social interaction, people have a hard time feeling connected to others and don’t know what to say to them.

A lot of adults have communication issues also, especially in terms of being passive aggressive. So we THINK we’re communicating something when, in reality, we’re not because the other person is not getting the message. I recently went back to a little formula I learned in a psychology class in high school to help a couple:

“I feel/felt _________________________ when ________________________ because _____________________________________. I wish that ________________________________________.”

Let me tell you how this does NOT work:

““I felt very angry when you wouldn’t let me go outside to play because I really wanted to go outside to play. I wish that next time you would just let me go outside to play.””

A better way to say it would sound like this:

“I felt frustrated when you wouldn’t let me go outside to play because I had been in school all day and just wanted to go out for a little bit. I wish that I could have at least 30 minutes to be outside after school before I start my homework.”

The latter sounds a lot more reasonable and is more likely to strike up a compromise with the person on the other end. The formula really helped my clients because they were communicating to each other in a way that did not put the other on the defense. When you’re explaining how you feel, you’re taking ownership of those feelings and not blaming someone else. When you say what happens to cause you to feel that way and why, you’re giving the other person an opportunity to change or alter the behavior that bothers you. If you make your “I wish that…” part of the formula a suggestion for a compromise, you will find that the other person is more willing to listen to you and work with you on the issue.

It’s just a simple thing and it feels pretty forced at first but, if you practice it, you’ll be a better communicator in no time!

CURSES AND BLESSINGS

“If you could go back in time and talk to your 10-year-old self and say anything, what would you say?”

This was the question asked at a recent Table Topics contest at Downtown Toastmasters. With my icebreaker speech fast approaching and the topic having to be myself, I had been wondering what to talk about. In a matter of days, I discovered that this simple question led me on an interesting journey, worthy of speech material.

I thought very long and hard about the answer to this question. Before too long, I noticed a trend in how there were a lot of things I would have told my 10-year-old self NOT to do. I thought about a lot of guys I should NOT have dated. There were jobs I probably should NOT have taken. Goodness knows, there are even more things I should NOT have said. But there were two instances in my life that stuck in particular – poor choices I had made, resulting in some pretty harsh consequences.

I decided that the first thing I would have told my 10-year-old self NOT to do, is get a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. I knew I would never be the next Stephen King (yes, he was my favorite author at the time), I would never want to teach, and I didn’t have the backbone to take on all the rejection and criticism a career in creative writing laid out ahead of me.

I used that degree to wait tables at Amedeo’s Italian Restaurant for the next 5 years upon graduation. While I had fun and met some interesting people, I didn’t do myself any favors in establishing a career or furthering my education.

The second thing I would have told my 10-year-old self would be to NOT move to England in 2008. At that time in my life, I was perfectly happy. I was a Forensic Case Manager for a Pre-Trial Release Program and LOVED it. I was working toward my master’s degree in mental health counseling, running a non-profit organization, had a very active and enjoyable social life, and I gave it all up to skip across the pond on a 6 month work visa.

On the day I was supposed to walk at my graduation ceremony, I was flying to London instead. I spent the next 6 months in Newcastle and had a blast. However, my degree didn’t transfer over there and, unable to find work in my field (even through volunteering), I had to resort to telemarketing.

I came back to the US 6 months later with $36 to my name. I had to go back to North Carolina, the last place I wanted to be, and it took me about 2 years to get back on track in my career and move back to Orlando. While others with whom I had graduated were finishing up their license in mental health counseling, I didn’t want to move forward with it in NC, knowing the plan was to go back to Florida.

So those “mistakes” were the big ones.

I felt pretty satisfied, for a short time, that I had my speech. But then I got to thinking more about it and began to wonder: What if I hadn’t done those things?

We all know from watching “Back to the Future” that if you change one tiny detail, the whole thing gets screwed up! And here’s the realization: I like my life, exactly as it is. I love my job, I love Orlando, I love being part of the Metropolitan Business Association, I have terrific friends, and an amazing family.

And thinking about things from that angle, those “mistakes” don’t seem like “mistakes” at all!

Who knew? I still use my creative writing skills. I write this blog, I’m working on a treatment model for schizophrenia to help other mental health workers, and I occasionally write poems about the services BHC offers at our MBA meetings. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the creative writing classes and workshops I attended, made a lot of friends, and had some incredible professors and teachers.

Even the time I spend at Amedeo’s, I can’t regret. Boy, do I have some great stories from that time in my life! I have recently reconnected with a lot of my co-workers from back then on facebook and am not surprised to learn of the interesting, successful lives they are leading. I look at that period of my life as one of wonder, creativity, freedom, and FUN.

And moving to England? I had always wanted to live another country. It was an item on my bucket list and I checked it off. I made friends through my work there that I still talk to today and I try my best to go back every year as I consider some of those friends I made to be family. I have a room in a lovely home in Newcastle with my name on it, where I am welcome any time. I love England and will forever consider it to be my second home.

Being back in North Carolina for that time was no mistake either. I got to spend a lot of time with my parents, sister, nieces, and extended family. I was able to attend a lot of important family events that I would have, otherwise, been unable to do. During that time I also worked for an Intensive In-Home program that was remarkable and met (and, I think, assisted) some wonderful families who were going through a rough time.
So, when I look at things that way, those “curses” were actually “blessings”. And THAT became an even better speech! But now that my perspective on these events has changed, I have to RE-answer the question.

What I would say to my 10-year-oldd self is this:

“Dream big. Follow your heart. Be yourself. Never march to the beat of anyone else’s drum. You are going to grow up to be a unique and wonderful person. You are going to have some amazing life adventures and meet some fabulous people along the way. While your path is going to take you on the scenic route, as long as you do what you enjoy, it will always lead you to the right place. Your life ahead of you is FULL of blessings.”