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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

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The sins of our Fathers

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Recently I had the experience of spending 3 weeks on a vacation road trip with my mother – in my best recollections I think this was the most time we have ever spent in each other’s company since I left the womb. Was it a great, enlightening and joyful bonding experience? Not really but it definitely was educational and it left me pondering a cultural psychiatric joke, “It’s always the Mother’s fault!” I always laughed at this thinking and living by the motto that we are not responsible for what happens to us as children but we are responsible for how we let it effect us as adults but now I am wondering – how much responsibility can we really assume and how much blame can be placed on those that raised us?

I am not talking nature versus nurture, I am talking strictly nurture here so by the terms mother, father and parent I am referring to any and all possible childhood caregivers – those that instilled in us by intent or example, our values, morals and behaviors. These are the people that we learned from – some we learned who and what we wanted to be, others we learned who and what we didn’t want to be and from all we learned coping behaviors, habits and attitudes towards life that may or may not have positive influences on us as adults.

It has never been a secret to anyone and I have certainly never been shy about sharing my history and maladjusted youth with anyone who asks but I have always been very, very careful to assume the responsibility for my choices, behaviors and consequences squarely on my own shoulders saying that my parents did the best that they could with the tools they had at the time and resolving them from responsibility but now I am beginning to question that logic. Did they really? We all want to believe that our parents love us unconditionally, that even though they may not be perfect that when the chips fell and we needed them that they would be there, that they would risk life and limb for our protection and wish us nothing but happiness and a better life than they had. We all have that desire to believe that behind whatever mask they wear, our parents are June and Ward Cleaver underneath and deep down they believe we hung the moon. I certainly feel that way about my children but I am beginning to believe that some do what they do because they don’t know any better and would improve if only they knew how and then others just don’t give a damn – biology or not.

Think of all of the things that our parents teach us, I mean beyond how to ride a bike and throw a ball? Most of the things we learn comes from watching them not by them actively teaching. As we get older and lose a parent or see our parents age, we begin to see them in a different light – perhaps we feel obligated to protect them or care for them as they become more and more vulnerable as they get older and perhaps ill. Maybe after death we don’t want to speak ill or soil the positive memories with the bad ones or we feel guilty or ashamed even having those thoughts and memories because we were taught to honor our mother and father, to respect our elders and to believe that above all else, daddy knows best. Whatever the reason, I think that many of us – well at least me – have let my parents off the hook for far too much and assumed more of the burden and responsibility for the past than I ever should have had to. Forgiveness is one thing. Acceptance is another – but refusal to acknowledge or willful ignorance, well those are other things all together and I don’t believe that either is healthy – at least that is the realization I am coming to.

How many of us have unresolved issues with our parents? Things that we wish we could have, should have or had the strength to say? How many of us cringe when we find out mom and/or dad are coming for a visit? How many of us revert to behaving like rebellious teens when in their company? I used to think that this was just the way things were supposed to be and perhaps for the majority it works but after 3 weeks of close quarters, it is hard to hide behind a mask of social acceptability and willfull blindness to those behaviors – I am sure it runs both ways and in 20 years my children will probably say the same thing about me but it is my goal that their issues will be far less hurtful and the pain will run much less deep. I pray that their issues have to do with constant nagging over keeping their room clean, their choice of hairstyles and my reaction to them smashing my car – these issues we can hash out in 30 years and have that enlightened bonding experience some can only dream of. Some, like me.

How do you address those things you learned that have caused pain, anguish and hardship? How do you explain and try to gain understanding or have them understand their effect on you without everything dissolving into a ‘It’s always the Mother’s fault!’ scenario? how do you walk away when you realize that they don’t care what their past and current behavior did or continues to do to you? How do you make someone care? Is it even worth the pain, energy and turmoil to continue to try? When you are linked through a parental bond is there any cosmic law that says you HAVE to be a part of their lives, that you as a child cannot just wash your hands of them and begin again on your own vowing to be a better parent? Is it possible that the only meaning they were ever supposed to have in your life – the only lesson they were even destined to teach was to show you how not to be? I wish I knew the answers to these questions. I wish I knew where the responsibility of a child ends or if it was ever supposed to begin in the first place.

When should we forgive the sins of our Fathers? When should we forget? When should we absolve and when should we just walk away? If we have toxic friendships, a sibling or cousin who continually hurt us in the past or even continues to do it in the present we all know we need to cut them from our life like an infected abscess but what happens when that toxic influence is a parent? Do our responsibilities then change? Are we continually obligated to support, care for and assist them in their old age even if they did little for us in our youth and continue to infect our present? Do we owe them unconditional respect, protection and love or are parents just like everyone else and only deserving of what they earn and reciprocate?

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Monday, October 25th, 2010

Have you ever watched a group of lobsters together in a tank or even a pot? They snap, crawl, step and push each other out of the way as they all fight to get to the top. They step on the little ones, pile up on the weaker ones and just as soon as one of them starts to pull themselves out – they rest latch on and pull them back down. It is interesting to watch but what is even more interesting is watching people around us and comparing their behavior to that of the lobsters.

Does it sound familiar? Do you know of anyone like that? Are you like that?

The human version of the lobster is someone who tries constantly to bring others down, hold them back and instead of rising to the top of the pot on their own strength and merit, get their by stepping on others and keeping them down, or if they can’t do that, holding others back so they aren’t alone at the bottom. Think about it – I know it sounds familiar. There is always someone ready, willing and able to point out the negative, to never look at or celebrate your accomplishments, never celebrating theirs either – just comparing it to others’ failures. People who feel that it is easier to bring others down than to lift themselves up.  These people, these lobsters suck the energy and the positivity out of everyone and everything around them. When you have something exciting to share, you avoid them because they will have something negative to say about it and burst your bubble…. sound familiar now?

Politics is a prime example of my lobster theory. How often to we see candidates and even elected officials campaigning not FOR themselves, but AGAINST the others? Ads on television and radio – everywhere talking about what the other people did wrong instead of what they have done right? Whenever I see someone engaging in a smear campaign I have to laugh because they are so caught up in their own lobster mentality that they don’t realize that what they say and do about others says more about themselves than anyone else. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see people who feel that they should be in a position of leadership and representation be able to stand on their own merit instead of dragging others down from the top of the pot and stepping on them to keep them down?

More than just in politics though – we see these types of behavior in everyday life. I made a post on my facebook page recently talking about how excited I am for an upcoming vacation. One person’s response was “It must be nice!” and I replied, “Yes it is!” Of course it is or I wouldn’t be excited about it, but we all know that isn’t what she meant – it was a lobster response to someone else’s happiness, a comment that had no other meaning but to lobsterize someone’s excitement and make them feel guilty for doing or having something that others may not.

Some people will say “You shouldn’t brag!”  or “You’re just rubbing my nose in it!” But even those comments are lobster words. Why shouldn’t someone be able to express excitement, joy or pride at their own accomplishments? Why should others have to tone down their enthusiasm for their successes in order to avoid offending other’s self pity? Nothing is stopping others from achieving their goals, dreams and desires so why should we be responsible for how they feel about their own life and try to down-play ours? I think that allowing others to pull us down from the top of the pot makes us just as bad as they are – if they pull us down to their level, if we let them keep us there, we are just as bad as they are and we will all stay in the pot together!

What would happen if we all decided to stop worrying about other’s actions, stop comparing ourselves to them, stop minimizing their successes and instead actually celebrated with them? If they have done something or have something we would like, wouldn’t we get closer to having it for ourselves if we changed our comment from “It must be nice!” to ” That is awesome! I would love to do that, can you tell me how you did?” And instead of being pulled down into the pot, the person holding on to the rim would turn around and start pulling others up!

One of my keys to survival throughout so many trying and difficult times has been to follow the mantra, “Don’t be a lobster!” That means that I will pull myself up, not step on others to get their pr pull anyone down on the way  – focus on my own strengths, acknowledge my weaknesses and improve them, never being afraid to ask for help when needed. When I see someone facing a challenge that I have already overcome, I turn and offer to help them with the tools that worked for me, just as someone one step above already helped me. When people start with pettiness, trying to bring me down instead of pulling themselves up, I ignore them henever possible, sometimes I will even say “Don’t be a lobster” and leave them shaking their head in confusion, basking in their own negativity.

Not being a lobster doesn’t mean you go through life seeing only rainbows. There are problems that need to be addressed, issues, heartache, mistakes, and bad days, and sometimes it is all you can do to keep just one toe out of the pot, but as long as you can hang on with that one toe, you can pull yourself back out again and start all over, pulling others up with you along the way, stronger and wiser for the experience. So the next time someone tries to drag you down or you think of doing it to someone else stop and think – do you really want to be a lobster?? Because the one thing all the lobsters in the pot have in common is that they all get cooked eventually!

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Going to Extremes

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

One of my favorite things to do when travelling (and I travel often) is to people watch. People fascinate me – how the dress, act, look, and interact with each other. On a recent trip I couldn’t help but notice a few things about the women that I saw and it made me wonder if what our society is missing could be as simple as a redefinition of normality.

When it comes to physical appearances, I probably ‘check out’ more women than an adolescent boy. I believe that it is a professional requirement – keeping up with trends, body image, composition and attitudes that women extend to both themselves and others. What I noticed during this trip is that there seemed to be very few women that I would classify as ‘normal’ when it comes to weight and body composition. And what I classify as normal for women is somewhere between 21% and 30% body fat and for men, between 10% and 20%. These are healthy levels and should be what society deems normal as far as weight goes. What the scale says and what those dreaded BMI charts in the doctor’s office say should be irrelevant – as should 95% of models and celebrities we see touted as the ‘ideal’ figure as most are so below the healthy body fat level it is scary.

When I was looking at the women around me, I saw some very disturbing things – either I was looking at women who were visibly overweight or obese or women so incredibly low in body fat that I could see protruding bones. Neither of these extremes are healthy or should be acceptable to any woman concerned about health and longevity. It isn’t about appearance – it isn’t about what size looks good in the latest fashions – it is about what is healthy and anything to an extreme is not.

Beyond our appearances, let’s take a look at behaviors. I have clients that come to me looking for some reason why their 0% fat diet or their Carb-free diet isn’t working for them or why their 12 vitamin supplement and 900 calorie a day diet isn’t getting them the results they seek. And the same answer is my reply to all of them – we need balance in your life. In what we do, what we eat, what we drink and how we look. Women are meant to have body fat – at least 20% – it is how we are made to look, made to reproduce, made to live. Our bodies are made to utilize fat, carbs and proteins to achieve optimal performance and health – amazingly enough, we need 55% of our calories to come from complex carbs every day and between 20-25% of those calories to come from naturally sourced fats. Is it really that surprising that our bodies won’t work or look the way they are supposed to when we cut either of those out?

My fitness clients are also shocked when they realize that muscle-bound bodies, 6-pack abs and not an ounce to jiggle isn’t mine and shouldn’t be their fitness goals either, because even exercise can be taken to an extreme and do more damage than good. Professional athletes – especially women who work their bodies into a rock-hard machine, dropping body fat in exchange for muscle and touting 6-8% body fat like many Olympic Calorie athletes do, shouldn’t be the ideal figure for our fitness goals. At those levels, while performing like well trained machines, our bodies will not function right – women can sacrifice not only their outward signs of femininity such as breasts, hips and curves, but may also run the risk of reducing their ability to reproduce with lack of menstruation, inability to lactate and so-on.

the first thing I do with a new client is to encourage them to through out their bathroom scales – weight means NOTHING – it has nothing to do with health and it shouldn’t be how we set our goals. We should be focussing on body fat and general health – getting our bodies to function properly and in balance so that they can do what they are designed to do. Extreme behavior promotes extreme results and when it comes to health – extremes are never a good thing.

Let’s start focus sing on the middle ground, looking good to ourselves, feeling great about ourselves and doing what we need to do to balance our lives in every way possible – Emotionally, Mentally, Physically & Spiritually. Only when we are in balance will we be able to see who we were truly meant to be, as individuals and as a society.


Posted in Diet Therapy, Fitness, General, Mental Health, Weight Loss | 20 Comments »

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