Givers and Takers

A friend on Facebook recently posted on Facebook, and it brought together something my wife and I have been mulling. Are there just “Givers” and “Takers?” The gist of the post was a couple of health issues that kept her bed-bound for several months at a time and, except for her mom, no one visited. Her message to folks, commenting on the current lockdown, was to get over this intense, but relatively short coronavirus stay at home.

Via Facebook, I knew of one time, a surgery, and while responding with encouragement, I was not in Houston to even contemplate a visit. We are not close, but it still make me sad that no friends visited her. What led to this blog is, I am somewhat sure she is a giver having helped an elderly relative for many years. And I relate, having been a giver most of my life; I would now classify myself as a recovering giver.

Barb and I disagree a bit as she thinks most people are relatively balanced on the giver/taker continuum. I do know a few that seem balanced, but most folks I know are predominantly one or the other, and, I think, takers outweigh givers. Maybe because I have lived with so many takers and glad to love a fellow giver, I see the world more polarized in this area.

We all know takers, and while no one is always 100% a giver or taker, I have found that most takers only give when expedient for themselves. Many are narcissistic, but not all narcissists are flagrant takers. Where ever they are on the “taker spectrum,” I do not find takers ever having any doubts or concerns about being a taker; when deemed necessary to give, I see them as self-centered givers. While there have to be some, I have not come across any recovering takers.

I find that givers do reluctantly take at times, but only when they think it absolutely necessary. I know; been there, done that. So it is not surprising to me that, if my friend is a giver, she would not reached out during her recovery time to request something for herself. My wife is a “pretty much” a recovered giver; we jokingly call our tendencies to fall back into being a full giver, the “Chip and Dale” syndrome. After you, oh no, no, no, after you! Oh, no, no, no, I insist, after you! Etcetera!

Neither of us has lived with a predominant giver before and, while certainly not making us uneasy, it was very different! As I have said before, different is not either good or bad, but it can be somewhat disconcerting! We checked each other out in the way we were most comfortable. Being from Human Resources, she had me take the Myers-Briggs before getting serious!

Being a psychologist, I made us do a giver exercise; one of us talks for three minutes, saying all the wonderful things we like about the other and then switch. The one listening cannot say anything, just receive, and then it switches back for as many rounds as needed before running out of accolades for the other. Pure hell for a giver to sit and accept all those compliments without responding!

I initially theorized that givers do not like receiving because we think that will make us a taker, an anathema to our existence. But, as I have found out, that is incorrect. In the end, we givers cannot unconditionally give what we do not choose to sometimes receive. I call this healthy selfishness or healthy taking. So maybe we givers are not scared to be takers, we are just uncomfortable receiving!

Like Barb says, maybe some naturally fall in the middle, neither a taker or a giver. Are they simultaneously both naturally, or are there many more recovering givers/takers than I am aware? I do not know, but I will have to be more observant to find more normally balanced takers/givers!

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Is It True, …

I have written about the subject of discernment before we speak; some say it is a Socrates’ quote, some a Sufi adage, and others from an Indian guru: “Is it true; is it kind, is it necessary?” Too many do not follow this saying, especially on Facebook. One post the other day upset me tremendously because it involved a child, but luckily, not to their face.

I have mostly held my tongue these last several years, but the level of viciousness and hate on Facebook can be appalling, in particular, political posts. Unfortunately, I see as much, if not more, from my fellow Democrats; most troubling are those from my classmates in Spiritual Psychology!

I have never met this person, just taught yoga at the same shala, and she is the one that requested to be friends on Facebook. I enjoy most of her posts, especially her own and her children’s musical accomplishments. The one that disturbed me in particular read: “I learned today of a child who told their doctor that they are ‘missing school because of the Chinese disease.’ Racists raise racists, you guys.”

And then, of course, followed by the seemingly obligatory and equally judgmental and profanity-laced comments. So, first of all, her post is about second-hand information; nevertheless, there can be several reasons why this person would believe this, but it does cause the information to be suspect. How can she know what really was said?

It is gossip to discuss someone that is not present and, as this Facebook post does, when an evaluation or a judgment is stated, particularly a negative one. I am making an assumption here that this person is talking about a tween or younger, but begs the question, does she even know how old this child is? Very young children say things all the time that have nothing to do with their surroundings or the way they are raised.

I would offer that any child younger than tweens would probably not know most social norms, including very young children not being able to identify a noun or adjective as even racist. So let’s digress a bit here. For centuries, a plague or, now, a virus was named from the local in which it originated or first discovered. Who are these people to decide that this convention used by scientists and medical practitioners is now racist? They seem to be as small-minded as someone that would blame their Chinese neighbor for the Coronavirus!

Getting back to the Facebook post, the child could have picked up the phrase “Chinese disease” anywhere and repeated it. But this person still thought the child racist? Really, a child? Is this statement true?

Did I miss some context? I will agree that if the child did know what they were saying and meant it to be racist, he would have learned it from his parents or caregivers. But not only does this person have no shame in labeling a child racist, but she also doubles down and names the parents as racists with absolutely no corroborating evidence.

And then there was the juxtaposition with another recent post she made, talking about working at a church. I know there are some despicable churches out there, like the Westboro Baptist church. Still, most churches I know of, whatever the religion or denomination, do not condone judgments of anyone, least of all children. Churches, synagogs, and mosques tend to teach being kind to our neighbors; was this statement kind?

As a therapist, I always look at what a person says for the meta-message. While a possibility, I doubt she is a closet racist herself. Bitter, prone to judgments, hateful, I doubt it based on most of her Facebook submissions. I believe from her posts that she loves children and is a fantastic advocate for her own.

Most yoga instructors are not as traditional as I am, but I know she would not have been hired at that shala without adherence to basic yogic concepts. So I am perplexed at her meta-message or how she discerned what she heard to be explicitly racist; maybe she was just having an off day in these strange times.

I thought about writing her a message but then thought it best to blog on this topic. Unfortunately, as I stated in the beginning, there are too many hate-filled posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think all need to be called out, and some even condemned, but, I think, especially when directed at a child.

I will admit to seeing red over this post and that this my issue! I can seemingly justify my upset because I am a child therapist, but I know that I am, in some ways, unloading on this person. So while I believe what I have written is the truth and it is necessary to discuss wrongs I see, have I been kind? I hope so.

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Coronavirus vs. Tried and True Hygiene

There seems to be an issue I have noticed with families these days; they seem to think that children learn by osmosis, at worst, or by lecturing, at best. I wrote an article about this a while back (that I am still shopping around!), but had not thought of handwashing back then. At that time, I had not felt that this is an issue that I believe stems from those of us in the boomer generation.

There is a lot that I do not like about my parent’s and grandparents’ parenting, nor would I condone now. But while they taught us through intimidation, fear, and corporal punishment, by God, they did teach us! I remember in both junior high and high school, getting swats for any infractions, mainly by vice-principals and coaches. While I was not happy, I was glad they punished me in school and did not call home, that would have been ten times worse!

I find myself now in the middle of the continuum for this punishment. Unlike most in the developmental field, I do not think paddling should be totally discontinued, but only used as a last resort and never with anger. Unfortunately, we boomers then took parenting to the other extreme, and the next two generations are now clueless.

Two things are missing from most parents these days, teaching and knowing their role. I see most parents these days just lecturing their children rather than teaching them; think back when you were a child, did you like being lectured? And as a teen, you actively tuned out your parents, so why do they think the next generation will like being told what to do? Next, too many parents want to be their children’s friend and not their parent. Teach and then consequence when children choose to ignore you!

In my article, I said, “Like most mammals, humans learn through example. It always amazes me that we would never think of teaching a toddler how to dress with a lecture; we merely show young children how to dress over many months. The same is true of tying shoes, learning to speak, and, while learning to bake a cake might not take months, nevertheless, we demonstrate each step. And yet, after a certain age, we tend to shift from showing by example to telling how to do something with, at most, a onetime, halfhearted demonstration. While we might walk in with our children to supervise them brushing their teeth, do we not tend to tell just them how to brush their teeth? And then after a few months, we only tell them to brush while glued to the television (or worse, our phones) and then express shock and dismay when we catch them lying about actually brushing.”

And now, I just realized, we do the same with handwashing! Just like brushing teeth, get your hands under the water with them to show them how to wash effectively with soap. Worse, while most parents lecture, they do not take the time to lecture “why!” Why do we brush our teeth, and why do we wash our hands after working outside, going to the bathroom, or before we cook if it has been a few hours since our last handwashing?

Along with not knowing how to parent, the younger generations hygienically challenged. A study in Great Britain showed that “Although 95 percent of people said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands had bacteria on them.” Worse, 1 in 5 phones had E. Coli (from fecal matter) on them! Forget the coronavirus; I might not ever shake hands with anyone ever again!

Parents in the fifties and sixties might have been over the top with punishment, but they parented less severely than the generations before them. And we did learn basic societal rules, both cultural, “please and thank you” and other societal norms, and basic hygene, how and when to wash out hands. I saw a funny meme on Facebook this week that said, “Now that we have the correct way to handwash down, next week, we will tackle using our turn signals!” I do hope that, even after this virus is history, we will continue to wash our hands correctly!

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Rules Are Meant to be Broken

We have all heard the statement, “Rules are meant to be broken.” Like so much in life, there is both truth and untruth in its meaning. Of course, that begs the question, “Does that mean that ‘rule,’ too, is intended to be broken!”

For me, the more apt statement is, “There are exceptions to every rule.” But which rules? There are different levels of external rules, household, society, religious, educational, governmental, etc. Now to add to the complexity of this conversation, not only the spoken/written rules we learn but all the unspoken rules. A therapist friend in Taos always liked to say that children know all the unspoken rules in a home by the time they are four.

Those are rules we learn to conform and fit in, but then how about those rules we place on ourselves. These can lead us to present ourselves in two ways; I will never dress that way again because of all the criticism I received (especially from peers), and I will always dress that way because of all the criticism I received (especially from parents)!

While we always have a choice to conform or not to conform to other’s rules, but there is usually some punishment involved determined by the severity of the breach and the authoritarian level of the rule maker! The discipline we receive can range from time-out to execution!

For most of my life, I was a “color inside the lines” kind of guy. Known rules were comfortable because they gave me a sense of who I needed to be. This pattern was definitely due to my mother, whom I jokingly say hit the trifecta to be a “drill sergeant” disciplinarian, full-blood German, black/white personality, and a Scorpio, loving to be in a position of authority!

For me, life was more comfortable learning the rules as fast as I could and then following them. This was especially true with my mother but extended into most areas of my life. My undergraduate is in engineering with clear delineations of solutions; an I-beam spanning X feet and carrying Y load has about as absolute an answer as you can get. However, when I went into the MBA program in finance, my world was rocked. A finance prof said of a problem, “there are many answers to this question!” Huh?!?! I quickly switched to accounting with their friendly, useful rules!

If we choose to grow and continue to learn about life, at some point, we may start questioning why we follow specific rules, whatever their flavor. I remember another prof in grad school saying that she and all her sisters, like their mother, always cut off the end of a ham before cooking it and finally asked why? Their mom said it was because her oven back then was small, so she had to use a small pan. Even with a larger oven, they all still cut off the end!

So we need to ask ourselves why we do everything we do? Examination and questioning do not just belong in the formal classroom, but also the real-life class. Remember, too, even the best thought out rules do not always apply. Thirty miles per hour may be the perfect speed for a road, but if we need to get to the emergency room to save a life, we are going to break that rule.

Closed systems, whether mechanical or our brains, do not take in new information; open systems do, and they are continually adjusting to new situations. To become more aware, we need to be curious, conscious, present, and be honest in our inquiry. If not, the rules we choose to break may not be for our or society’s benefit.

All this musing on rules came up recently due to a colleague who is just beginning to date again after many years of marriage. Like me, after my divorce, he wants to have a loving relationship. One woman, he thought perfect, told him that she’s not comfortable dating anyone who hasn’t been post-divorce for a few years. A sage rule usually, as we have to undo all our old habits from a prior relationship and learn who we are without another; my friend thought he might stop dating for a while.

While this rule might serve her (and most) well, I reminded my friend that, unlike 99% of the people out on the dating circuit, we had done a tremendous amount of deep self-reflection as part of our education. I was lucky, lucky, lucky, to quickly find a woman that was matching my authenticity, and he might have to date longer. However, to stop dating will probably ensure he does not find someone!

We cannot become our true selves without shedding the rules that have caused us to adapt our true nature to conform with others. Many rules we live by, if scrutinized, only helped us to fit into some group and do not support our being our authentic selves. “Question authority” is a famous slogan attributed to the psychologist Timothy Leary; I would say, “Question rules.”

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Why do we like demeaning jokes and stories?

Several years ago, I wrote a blog on how most jokes are mean. I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said:

Help Requested: A friend of mine has two tickets for the 2020 Super bowl.

A friend of mine has two tickets for the 2020 Super bowl. They are box seats plus airfares and hotel accommodations. He didn’t realize when he bought them that this is the same day as his wedding – so he can’t go. If you’re interested and want to go instead of him, it’s at St. Peter’s Church in New York City at 5 PM. Her name is Donna. She will be the one in the white dress.

The technical term for this kind of joke is a paraprosdokian, where the punch line is totally opposite from what is expected. And, I have to admit, I laughed because of the juxtaposition. And then, I had to ask why did I laugh? If we stop to give this any thought whatsoever, there is nothing remotely funny about this scenario, especially for a relationship therapist!

There is almost no one that would put another, someone we supposedly love, in this situation. And we certainly would not want this done to us by someone who supposedly loves us! So why would I laugh at this meme?

Typically, when another person is trying to be funny, we join in the laughter. This could be the amateur “class clown” or the professional comedian. As I wrote before, when they direct most of their “jokes” at themselves, we take this as witty self-deprecation. We also laugh when the subject of their “humor” is directed at someone; however, if that someone happens to be us, we tend not to like the resulting humiliation and do not find the joke to be funny in the least!

We also laugh when something untoward happens to another person, such as stepping off a curb into a deep mud puddle. This type of occurrence is textbook schadenfreude; we feel both superior to the other since we are not the one humiliated, and also a bit guilty because we would not like to be in that situation. Again, the critical position is, we do not want to experience what we just found funny.

I know this can all be said to just being human, but why? Maybe I am obsessing over the topic of this mean joke, but why do our egos so desperately need to feel superior to another? Why are our egos so unloving that we take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation? Especially when we hate being humiliated, I have not done any research on this, just musing on the subject.

I give a communications talk were I list shaming and humiliation as a leftover negative tool to control first children, and then adults. Shame and embarrassment deeply hurt; unfortunately, their use can then lead some, especially teens, to commit suicide.

A half century later, we are still a long way from the plea in a 60’s song:

Come on people now
Smile on your bother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.
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Do the best you can until you know better.

Several experiences lay behind this blog. The first was a coming across a Maya Angelou quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” All of us have memories of doing things that we wish we could change; this seems particularly true of learned behavior from our family of origin. When we are young (and for this blog, I am stating anyone under 25 years old), we have usually not had the opportunity to “know better.”

All life is about learning; even a single cell animal will learn and then shy away from something that, in the past, it has found to be toxic. For humans, most of our learning is first from our families, and then peers, schools, churches, and then finally our workplace. Further, there are two types of education, formal and observed. Formal can be our parents teaching us to not pick our noses due to societal norms or from an instructor in a class or a sport.

When children are trying to walk, they typically do so not because someone is actively teaching them to balance and put one foot in front of the other, the child is just imitating what she observes. Do not underestimate the power of observed behaviors, such as unspoken family rules, that are more implicitly learn as opposed to explicitly learned.

The most straightforward example is race; humans are not born racist. Place a white two-year old child into a room of two-year old Asian, Latino, and/or Black children, and they will all just start playing. The same is true for a child of another race placed into a room full of white children. Bigotry is learned, either formally or observed; this leads to the second experience.

The second recent experience was when I was asked to write an endorsement for a book, and in it, my friend talks about staying with his grandfather one summer; his grandfather was a sharecropper in Tennessee starting back in the 1930s. Along with all the familial bonding and great activities like camping and fishing, his grandfather schooled him on his racial prejudices. As he states, “He was my grandfather, and I trusted him, and I didn’t know any better.”

Luckily, my friend lived near San Franscico, and when he returned, he realized there were other opinions about race. He realized he could choose to love his grandfather, relishing being taught how to fish, etc. and also to choose to reject other ideas his grandfather held that he did not like. Wow, what a concept; we can love and respect someone for some parts and reject others.

This ability does not happen before about the age of seven; all younger children are black-white thinkers. That is why a child will tell his mon that he hates her when she does not give him the candy he wants. There is no, “I can love my mom for all the wonderful things she does for me and not like that she refused me candy!” What does this say about those adults that now tell us we must take all or nothing of people?

Why condemn those that did not have the blessing of a counter view when they were young and continued their learned behavior into adulthood before changing? Rejecting family norms is extremely hard, and those that do should be honored for improving, not shunned for repeating the mistakes of their elders before learning new behavior. That is genuinely becoming “Woke,” not this judgemental condemnation we hear today.

The third experience is my growing up in the south, albeit not the deep south, but still very racially prejudiced. I grew up where everyone I knew was biased, my grandparents, parents, neighborhood friends, and peers. Was I sometimes cruel with people who were different? Yes; this included not only those of other races, but homosexuals (not that I knew any back then, but I learned they were “bad”), those with mental and physical issues, even the socially inferior, the “white trash.”

I am not sure why, but at some point, I no longer bought into this pervasive groupthink. Partially, this might have been going to a Catholic elementary and high schools with blacks, Hispanics, rich, poor, and (oh my God) Jews (I still did not know any gays!). I found I did not think in those terms any longer. Interestingly, I would not call it acceptance, but more like irrelevance and that later became an issue in my psychology training, but more on that later.

So in 1971, I had a black roommate as a freshman at a Texas state university. Back then, this was unheard of, and I remember seeing another incoming student’s application where, under roommate preference, he had written “White.” When I had read my application, I thought that question meant if you had a friend going to school and wanted to room with them! While I do not remember my parents saying anything about my roommate, my grandmothers were appalled!

After his 50th birthday party, I mentioned to him that another attendee had remarked how extraordinary our rooming was and had asked me what his family thought a “mixed” roommate situation? The good news is that, back then, I had not had any thought about him being black; the bad news is, in my racial irrelevance thinking, it never occurred to me his family would be concerned about him having a white roommate at a predominately white university. Jon told me that when he first called home, and they asked, he replied (and I am paraphrasing), “I am not sure he even has realized I am black!”

That is all fine and dandy, but according to today’s “Woke” culture, my black roommate should have condemned me for things I said before I met him, before I knew better. My best friend should have been outraged that I had told my share of derogatory Mexican jokes! And because I stupidly repeated gay jokes back when I was young, my gay cousins should shun me now.

If either my roommate, best friend, or cousins had asked me if I had ever been homophobic or racially insensitive, even cruel, in the past, I would have admitted it and apologized to them. They did not, because they accepted me as I was when I knew them, not who I was when I was an adolescent. However, I will never apologize to anyone else that wishes to judge and condemn me for my past actions; as a teenager and young adult, I did the best I could, and when I knew better, I did better.

I mentioned earlier about my irrelevant thinking about race, sexual orientation, etc. While this did serve me to be accepting of people for whom they are, it did not help me when I began practicing being a therapist. I remember being in a dyad with a fellow student, somewhat “swarthy” and having a “foreign” last name. While my therapy was excellent, and he remarked that I had helped, he also mentioned he was Armenian, and that I had not taken his ethenic background into consideration. So while my not seeing people with a racial, ethnic, sexual orientation lens leads to public acceptance of all, in a therapeutic relationship, it could be harmful! I now do better!

Humans are always learning; if we choose not to continue learning, we stagnate. And, for me, part of learning new behavior is to reject hurtful behavior in others. But only if they have not learned and choose to be hurtful now, not what they did back in their early years.

To those “Woke” revisionists, I will close with another Maya Angelou quote…
“Just do right. Right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, but it will satisfy your soul. It brings you the kind of protection that bodyguards can’t give you. So try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity.
Take up the battle. Take it up.
It’s yours. This is your life.
This is your world.”

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Healthy Living II

To continue with this three-part series, let us take a minute to revisit my supposition from the last blog, humans in our “civilized” world are not living naturally. Again, it does not matter if you believe humans have been around a few hundred thousand years or God made us 6000 years ago, our human bodies were designed to live a certain way.

Also, for the sake of this discussion, we will look at the last 6K years in which humans lived. For 95% those years, humans lived the same when it came to our sleep habits; wake up at dawn and go to bed at dusk. Sure, there were full moons and then fire and candles to extend our being able to function after the sun went down, but those were limited.

Unfortunately, we tend to look at our past like Hollywood has shown us. Maybe kings had hundreds of candles available to party hearty late into the night, but no one else did. A fire allowed workers to ply their trade until dusk, and then be able to eat and visit for a while. Candles enabled us to have some “me” time in our corner or possibly our room.

But think more in-depth about this privilege. No one went down to the convenience store to get wood for a fire and for most of that time, people did not get candles at the store either; you chopped wood (and a couple of hundred others were competing with you for that wood if you lived in a town) and handmade the candles. If you are flipping a switch to turn on a light, or now, a fire, why not enjoy staying up late? Sure, we do have to pay for the electricity and gas, but even those are cheap by history’s standards.

If you were chopping wood for every fire you had and collecting oil or wax for every candle, we would, just like our ancestors, only use what we absolutely needed. When the wood or candles were gone, we would suffer as people did for most of antiquity. So what does this have to do with healthy living?

We need sleep! Like it or not, our bodies need about eight hours of sleep a night. Because we have read about or know folks that can get by on less, we tend to think we can too, when, in fact, we cannot. Bottom line, one relaxing weekend, sleep until you wake up refreshed! You now know how much rest you need each night, and whatever that amount is, work backward from when you need to get up; that is the time to go to bed.

I am not going to go into all the areas that are affected when we do not get enough sleep as it is an extensive list; we have all felt the early signs of too little sleep. Fatigue, listlessness, slow thinking, and being clumsy are only some lesser problems we will encounter. Heart disease, diabetes, psychosis, and bipolar disorder are the next readily observable issues of chronic sleep deprivation.

Regrettably, there is much more, much of it unseen until too late. Over those eight hours, the body repairs different areas to restore our systems. Just as you would not schedule three work activities at the same time, the body does not schedule significant repairs concurrently while we are asleep. When sleep is cut short, so is some repair; muscle repair, memory consolidation, cellular repair, and the release of hormones to regulate growth and appetite are just a few of the patches that can be disrupted by too little sleep.

We know children need eight to nine and a half hours of sleep, but teens almost as much. Perversely, their brain development also means they do not get sleepy until later! Any parent of a teen knows they can sleep until at least 10:00 AM if allowed! As usual, the school districts are still working on old information; elementary school needs to start at 7:30 as those children are awake earlier and high school should begin at 9:30 to accommodate a teen’s physiology!

And there is more! The quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity. Again, think about how humans have lived for thousands or millions of years. We worked during daylight, ate, relaxed and then went to bed. There was no television, computers, or other things competing for our attention. Worse, the blue light that is given off by TVs, iPads, etc. simulate daylight and makes the brain think it should still be active.

Do what our ancestors did and relax with a book, review the day, or actually talk with someone! Turn off all electronics, dim the lights, and give your body 30 – 60 minutes to adjust to going to bed. And while some folks can sleep with the television on, but they are a tiny minority. Finally, eat light at night to give your body one less thing it needs to do while you are asleep. If possible, grab a 20-minute nap after lunch, some call this a power nap. It will do wonders for your energy level! Oh, but you say, I don’t have any of those issues with my five hours of sleep and no nap!

Unfortunately, just like eating non-food items does not result in immediate obesity, losing an hour or two of sleep every night does not affect us significantly in the short term. The long-term effects are just as debilitating as poor eating. There is an old saying, “I’ll rest on the day I die.” Well, studies have shown that without adequate sleep, you will be “resting” much younger than those of us getting a full eight hours!

Just as eating sugar once in a while is “therapeutic” to a well-lived life, a night or two on the town until the early hours can be a reward for managing our work schedule. We need to live a mindful life that enhances our health overall!

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Healthy Living

My health club trainer is giving a multi-week nutrition class, and I popped in the other day to give my 20-minute “two-bits” on how to improve nutrition. My perspective comes from common sense biology, the psychopharmacology class I took, and my personal experience; let’s take a look at the biological section today.

When looking at what the body needs, it does not matter if you believe humans have been around a few hundred thousand years or God made us 6000 years ago. Interestingly, for all practical purposes, humans have only really been “civilized” for 6000 years so that is the number we will use. So what does “civilized” mean; it is the demarcation from being only hunter-gatherers to building permanent structures to live in and cultivating food to augment what we found.

For 5,800 for those 6K years, our diet did not vary much, and everyone was pretty much a vegetarian, not by choice, but by necessity. Some proteins if you were decent enough at trapping, hunting, or fishing! For all those years, their diet was mainly wheat and barley with some other grains like millet and sorghum, some roots and tubers, and to a lesser degree, berries and fruit when in season. Bottom line, many humans starved to death in winter and, most of the time, lived mainly hand to mouth.

Drying food for storage has been around forever. “Canning” has been around for about 3000 years. Food storage in actual cans started just two hundred years ago. If purchased, food mainly came from specialized vendors, but a general store in the 1800s would mostly have flour, sugar, dried foods, beans, jerky, and some seasonal items.

Sugar production has been around since the beginning of civilization; Egyptians began domesticating honeybees and Indonesians have been cultivating sugar cane for over 6000 years! Until recent history, sugar was not readily available, the main issues being the expertise at beekeeping and the quantity of sugar source plants, and then the refining needed to produce a pound of sugar. Folks that went to all that effort were not keen on sending it around the world until the price of sugar went up sufficiently in the early 1800s!

For most of the world, that meant to have some sweets risked getting stung raiding a beehive or waiting until local fruits ripened. Biologically, we still have bodies that are used to meager portions of a mainly plant-based diet. Our bodies are programmed to gorge ourselves when food is plentiful since we might be on the edge of starvation a few months later!

Therefore, the quantity of sugar the body had to deal with for 5,800 years did not exceed the body’s ability to regulate the adverse affects of sugar with insulin production. However, even back then in wealthy societies, we can see old pictures or paintings of obese people and read stories of their poor health. Our bodies need us to limit the amount of sugar our distant ancestors ingested!

Studies show that sugar has been linked to the obvious, cavities, weight gain, and obesity, but also inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, depression, certain cancers, liver disease, and arthritis. I used to hear people say they stay away from sweets because they are “empty” calories.

If only they were empty, sugar is extremely harmful, but it acts over time. If we eat a poisonous mushroom, we will know immediately that our body is rejecting toxic food. Sugar sneaks up on the body, and we tend not to realize the sugar caused our health problems. No need to entirely deprive yourself of sweets (although that is the most healthy solution), limit it to a couple of sweet items a week.

We take for granted how plentiful our grocery shopping experience is now. I feel there is a quality issue with picking fruits and vegetables when green to sell in stores, but the quantity is fabulous. In 1999, I had a foreign student daughter from the Slovak Republic that was amazed at what she could find in a grocery store compared to back home.

So these issues, plus another, are what our bodies must cope with now; generically positioned to engorge ourselves in a time with too much food and too much sugar. And now add in non-foods! Generalized poor health and obesity took off in the late 1960s with the introduction of corn syrup, what I call a non-food.

First, I had a naturopath tell me back in the ’90 to limit the amount of corn I ate, as it is just pure sugar, but corn syrup has a double whammy for the body. One is adding to the massive quantity of sugar we now ingest, and the other is that corn syrup is not a natural food. Biologically, our bodies are not meant to eat this much sugar or man-made products!

Always look at the list of ingredients on everything you purchase to see what you are eating; you will be amazed at the amount of sugar and corn syrup in almost every can, jar, or package in the grocery store. Forget the known sweets like cookies, soda, and candy; I have even found added sugar in organic peanut better! Worse, sugar is almost always near the top, meaning it is one of the primary ingredients.

And now for unnatural food; everything seems to be labeled “all natural” these days. What I mean by natural is food found in nature; corn syrup is not found in nature, it is produced in a factory. Even if we are eating something “natural” and found in nature, don’t be deceived into thinking it is food; arsenic is natural, poisonous mushrooms are natural, and so are cockroaches. Are you going to eat them? Once I saw a sign at a pet groomer, “All natural pet grooming!” Whoa, I cringe thinking about what unnatural pet grooming entails!

If the ingredient list on a can, jar, or package contains an “ingredient” that has 15 letters, but only three vowels, it is man-made. If it has corn syrup on the label, it is man-made. Do your body a huge favor and do not eat it, you will feel better, be healthier, and live well.

You might want to check out the books, documentaries, and videos of Michael Pollan, whose website states, “Writes about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment.” In his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan says not to eat anything your grandmother [or, depending on your age, great-grandmother] did not eat. That means, if there are more than five ingredients listed on the package, it is too man-made.

Biologically, the body has an amazing ability to repair itself; a lung surgeon once told my dad (trying to get him to stop smoking) that if he cut into a former smoker that had quit seven years earlier, he would not be able to tell the patient had ever been a smoker. But whether smoking, overeating in general, and especially sugar, or ingesting man-made ingredients, the body can only keep up trying to protect itself when not overwhelmed with poison!

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There’s a new sheriff in town!

When I was growing up in the 60’s, my best friend was in a blended family; a regular occurrence today but very rare back then. Further, his dad had converted to Catholicism to marry his first wife, and then his second wife and her child converted before their marriage! Their family was very Catholic, the oldest son eventually becoming a priest, and I remember my mother saying folks that convert to Catholicism usually are more devout than those of us raised Roman Catholic.

Since then, I have found this to be true of most people in most things. When my mother stopped smoking, she did her best to convert every smoker into quitting. When she began to smoke again, she may not have tried to convert anyone, but she was scathing with anyone that said something to her about her smoking. Most folks that make life-changing decisions, addicts, religious, political, etc., are passionate in their conversion; one of mine is the subconscious. I chuckle now when remembering in my late twenties/early thirties saying to my ex, “If you think my actions are controlled by some hidden part of my brain, you are crazy!” Now, I would postulate that there is very little we do every day that is NOT influenced by our subconscious. Studies show that when meeting someone for the first time, subconsciously our minds have already taken in their posture, shape of their body, and evaluated the position of each of the 43 muscles in their face to pre-judge how we think they will act!

Likewise, in every situation we find ourselves, the subconscious immediately references past circumstances that were similar, influencing how we will react today, including when most memories, both conscious and subconscious, are formed, before we are seven years old. One psychologist I know describes this as, “Every five year old knows the unspoken rules in a house, most of which deal with not pissing off their parents!” And the memories just keep on coming, by 21, we have stored more information than is in most encyclopedias; like an iceberg, the conscious memories are only the tip!

Those “unspoken rules” are implicit memories, those that are subconscious. Most all think of memories as held in the mind; conscious memories are called explicit, mental, or declarative with implicit memories being deemed unconscious. Somatic psychotherapists differentiate implicit memories as not only mentally subconscious but somatic, meaning held in the body; these implicit memories somatically reveal themselves in what we call “character structures” or an “adaptive self.” In her book, Body Psychotherapy, Tree Staunton stated, “We have to remember that character structure is a defense—a defense against contact and relationship now as much as a defense against experiencing a past injury.”

As I have noted in other blogs, I attend a quarterly relational somatic workshop; initially, it included both somatic psychology instruction for a couple of days and then deep therapeutic sessions for each participant. After ten years, it has evolved into primarily the deep work, including the two facilitators, with the teaching piece coming from all of us after a therapeutic session. This past workshop, I started with my wanting to be more disciplined in my commitments, both physical like exercise and yoga, but also mental, like getting these blogs out more timely!

We found the cause behind the symptom of being undisciplined to be a very early implicit memory, which I will call, “What’s the use?” My early life until three years old was basically safe because we lived with my grandparents, but I did not feel safe around just my mother. As a raging co-dependent, I tried hard to please her, but nothing worked; so along with my consciously trying even harder, I subconsciously knew nothing would ever work, so why even try? In my deep process work, we found a dead area surrounding my heart.

Somatic memories are formed in a relationship, so it takes a relational somatic effort to access them and release them. Since the way out of an issue is through the issue, the other participants worked on my body while talking to me and then I had the inspiration to have one of my fellow somatic therapist pound on my chest, to the point of almost bruising it. Just as pushing on the chest can restart a physical heart, my emotional heart reawakened with his pounding!

The following morning, I had a dream where I saw someone dressed as law enforcement. When I asked him who he was, he replied, “I’m the new sheriff!” At first, I felt sad as I have had too many authoritarians in my life and told him I did not want another. He replied, he was “Sheriff Alive!” Wow, what a confirmation of the work I/we had done!

As in most deep therapeutic healing, the old personality has been fighting this new change; after all, it kept me safe for 60 years and has no frame of reference in how to live with this new aliveness. Slowly, however, my old defenses are succumbing to a new paradigm, and I am exploring the new freedom of living as I was meant to live, being fully alive. Indeed, there is a new sheriff in town!

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What’s in your cup?

A few interesting occurrences happened when I last visited my dad in an assisted living facility. I saw something earlier in the day on Facebook about spilling coffee. The vignette talked about if we were walking with the cup full of coffee and we got bumped, would it be coffee spilling? The answer of course is yes, but only because there was coffee in the cup. What if it was tea, soup, flour, or marbles? The point being, we spill whatever’s in the cup, and then the meme likened this cup to ourselves. So if you are inconvenienced, what spills out of you? What are you carrying that will come pouring out when someone inconveniences you?

So later, I took dad downstairs to dinner, which is a bit of an arduous task for my father who has emphysema and is on oxygen. With many stops to catch his breath, made worse because he breaths through is mouth when the oxygen goes to his nose, in the past I would have become very impatient at best or angry at worst. I would have been blaming him for smoking and not taking care of his health and now it makes a three-minute journey into 15 minutes. That is what I carried in my cup back then, lots of anger. Now, I just stay in the loving and enjoy be present with him; I like my cup much better now!

This metaphor was enhanced twice more when we finally made it to the dining room; there was a line waiting to get in and so we were standing there talking. A woman, also in a walker, comes up behind us and engages me in light conversation. She then asked if a table for four becomes open, could she join us? In the past, because I was so externally focused, I would have felt duty-bound to accept her request in order not to disappoint her, even if I did not really want her to join us for whatever reason.

That, too, was a cup I carried around. I am so lucky to now have, as I have stated in other blogs, what I call “healthfully selfishness.” I don’t get to see my dad that much and I want to maximize my time with him. I nicely thanked the woman for her invitation and politely begged off explaining why. To her credit, she graciously accepted; whether this is because I phrased my declination in a non-threatening manner or she too was internally focused, I can’t say. And then the next interesting occurrence happened.

A couple of women came up behind the lady I had been talking with, and a bit of an altercation started. The woman I had been speaking with accused the woman behind her, also in a walker, of running into her. They exchanged a couple of words and then even began to get personal! Literally like children, “Yeah, well you never smile!” “I do so!”

I almost started laughing out loud not only at what was being said, but because the woman I had been talking with actually had run into me with her walker when she first got in line! We tend to project on others, either negatively or positively, when we do not want to confront behavior we don’t want to see in ourselves. In this case, a woman who had encroached on my space and not wanting to see herself as rude, unaware, etc. jumped all over the woman behind her doing the same thing! Anytime (and I don’t tend to use the words any, every, etc. often, but in this case, it fits) we feel an emotion, it is a signpost to our internal state of being.

If we become angry with someone, it is because we see in him or her what we choose to deny in ourselves. Humans are a relational species, and we are constantly acting as mirrors for those around us and then the other person also acts as a mirror for us. When we accept this, we begin to use our emotions for what they are, a wake up call for internal introspection that we need to address. If my wife says something and I find myself reacting, I don’t see what she said as criticism, but wonder why I am taking it as criticism?

While we tend to see this more easily when the feeling is negative, it also works in reverse. If there is a person whom you admire, they too are acting as a mirror and showing you that you have the same positive traits within yourself that has you respecting them. Do you recognize this as reality or do you say to yourself, “I wish I were like them!”

The last idea I want to cover is the “coincidence” that happened, seeing the Facebook item and then having it acted out for me several times. Most people, when they observed something coincidental, tend to think that two random occurrences just amazingly happened at the same time. However, the “co” indicates joint or mutual; so instead of being happenstance, coincidental actually means the two incidences are working together to call our attention to what is occurring. We accept this when there is a hyphen in the word, such as co-ownership, co-writer, or co-morbid.

Certainly, there are words that start with “co” that do not mean joint, such as command or conscientious. But the hyphen has disappeared in some words such as coincident and cooperation. So reading that little vignette on Facebook and then witnessing the altercation behind me was truly co-incidental; it could not have been better scripted! When I was bumped from behind, forgiveness spilled out of my “cup.” Even if I didn’t voice any forgiveness, conversing politely showed my forgiveness. But when the lady doing the bumping was herself bumped, anger spilled out.

What’s in your cup?

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