THE MINIMALIST’S GUIDE TO NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions and it seems I’m in solid company: According to a 2013 CBS poll almost 70% of Americans don’t make New Year’s resolutions at all.

Except for runners in the Boston Marathon ready, set, go only one day of the year is foolishness. So forget January 1st.

Here’s what you can choose to do, whenever:

  1. Be specific. I’ll lose weight. or I’ll lose 3 lbs,.this month. See the difference?
  2. Think small. There’s a reason only 8% of Americans reach their goals.
  3. Think do-able. Want to travel more but don’t have the money or accrued time? Take day trips that are free or low cost.
  4. Schedule it. I’ll spend more time at the gym. or I’ll go to the gym 2x a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays before work.
  5. Keep track. C’mon, did you really do what you said?
  6. Mean it. Permanent change is meant to be life changing.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes working with couples looking for change within their relationships.  She and her husband David live in Colorado with their two change-aversive cats, Petey and Lucy. 

copyright, 2018, Being Heard, LLC

 

6 WAYS TO AVOID BEING A HOLIDAY BUTTERBALL.

It’s cookie season again!

DECEMBER 23, 2018KATHE SKINNER, M.A., L.M.F.T. EDIT

This is the time of year food is on our minds. Not just any food, but rich food, expensive food, once-a-year food. It’s when even the most disciplined among us vow to “wait until after the holidays”.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, half of Americans say they want to lose weight. With only a little time before the festivities begin the chances of being successfully svelte are, well, slim to none.

Here’s how to avoid being a holiday butterball:

Start early. Gold’s Gym memberships spike 40% in December and January, while the sad fact is that a hefty 80% of January joins quit within 5 months. If you’re serious about weight loss wait until February to get a membership. Statistics show that’ll improve your chances of success. Even more successful? Stick with the program all year long.

It”s not that the work is hard; the hard work is to keep going,

Dance to your own music. “Dealing effectively with stress” and “emotional regulation” are cited by 92% of 1,328 psychologists as the main reasons for their patients’ failures in weight loss. Emotional eating is a behavior learned in childhood when a sweet snack is an emotionally satisfying way to cope.

Who’s this for, anyway? Are you trying to please a critical parent, spouse, or friend who say you would be more attractive or successful if you lost weight? Putting your health first is, in the first place, about you. Addressing
underlying and longstanding messages are part of the mental health component necessary for mental and physical health.

Change defeating habits. While there are lots of reasons for societal obesity, some come from the choices we make every day. Good-for-you meals don’t have to be additive-rich, over-processed ones. Take advantage of federal law that requires calorie counts to be on menus. Buying gasoline and dinner at the same place are not healthy mealtime practice.

Rapid weight loss without healthy changes in diet and exercise is a chocolate-covered promise.

Keep it simple. Changes that are too complicated reduce chances for permanent behavioral alterations. Go easy; start slowly, feeling comfortable and confident to go on. Life changes don’t have to be complicated to work.

You can’t have it all. Even if you could, you can’t have it right now.  Reasonable thought often conflicts with desire. Unfortunately, ours is a society used to short attention-spans, immediacy, and instant gratification. True lifestyle changes are accomplished over time, with consistent practice, and lots of patience. That can be a poor fit in an ersatz society.

As tempting as it sounds, having our cake and eating it, too, isn’t realistic. More than genetics alone, successful weight control relies on the sometimes challenging choices we make for a healthy mental and physical life.

 Kathe Skinner is a private practice Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado Springs where she lives with her husband and two kitties.

Copyright 2018, Being Heard, LLC

BO KNOWS FOOTBALL, PARENTING

Father And Son In Park With American Football

Created for the 50th Super Bowl, Toyota has tapped the touchy-feely market by pairing pro football players with their children in a series of commercials about being a father.

Numerous studies show the relationship between early childhood trauma, attachment, abuse, as well as in utero treatment of the unborn fetus and the mental and physical health of adults.

There’s no question that how a child is parented makes an enormous difference in child development.

Debated are the effects of divorce, step-parenting, blended families, and single parenting on children.  In my view, the emotional health of the family unit casts more influence on the growing child than what the family looks like.

How a child turns out is affected by biopsychosocial factors:

  • Biological each child’s hard wiring and physical health (affected pre- and post-natally);
  • Psychological to include attachment, presence of abuse or indulgence, boundaries, rules, roles, exposure to trauma, etc., and;
  • Social factors found not only in the child’s experiences with the wider community and culture — religion, education, social environment, access to goods and services, technology — but also to support networks including family, extended family and peers.

More children can turn out well-adjusted and happy when dads (and moms) provide positive parenting — even if they haven’t been parented well, or at all, themselves.

No argument is being made that all children can turn out wonderfully; there is too little control over the multitude and combination of factors that inspire dysfunction. It’s not foregone that those of us who experienced a less-than-healthy family environment will be less-than-healthy ourselves.  There’s truth to the saying, “I’m like this because my parents stayed together, so you just never know.”

Worrisome is the unawareness or reluctance many people bring to recognizing and creating a healthier family environment than they themselves had.  Parents don’t have to be robotic models of their own parents, though too many are.

Just as bad are parents who ride the pendulum to the other end of the spectrum, thereby encouraging lack of self-discipline and responsibility, materialism, boredom, entitlement, low frustration tolerance, and self-centeredness.  And there’s no proof that socioeconomic status predicts a positive parenting or family outcome.  Nasty custody battles seem to follow the money.

Summarized by a client who honestly believed that marriage meant there weren’t supposed to be any problems (and was angry and confused when there were) parenting is much the same.  Love does mean having to say you’re sorry:  a recognition you’ve erred, selecting out learned behaviors from reactive ones to conscious ones, along with changed behavior, are quantifiable and observable equivalents to saying “sorry”.

Despite all the self-help books, hugs, and positive modeling, parenting will never be a walk in the park.  But hugs, encouragement, and consistent positive modeling can ensure that moms and dads don’t have to walk in the dark.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes in couples work, especially with relationships affected by disability.  She and husband David attempt to parent their two children, hooligan kitties Petey and Lucy.  Kathe and David present Couples Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs.  Read about it and register at www.BeingHeardNow.com.  

Sign Up for a FREE Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week

copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

A FATHER’S DAY FANTASY

hefner and twinsFantasy’s a powerful thing.  It fuels the head trip of desire and compels the illusion of feeling good, even when there are no hands on.   Multi-billion dollar industries – from publishing to prostitution to porn – start here first.   

But how does the brain distinguish between what’s real and what’s imagined?   Scientists’ hypotheses point to the involvement of different areas of the brain and the multi-directional processing among them.  

Sexual fantasies are a solo adventure usually leading to release through orgasm.  For some the mind’s eye is enough to induce a significant physical event like orgasm.  Actual visual stimulation is so powerful that doctors’ offices getting sperm samples provide men with sexually explicit magazines as a way for patients to get it up and over with.   Humans are not alone:  Species that are down the evolutionary ladder from us also purposely seek out ways to feel good “down there”.  Elephants rub, monkeys twiddle away the hours masturbating, and male dogs lust after people’s legs.

Sometimes fantasy goes wild and boundaries are blurred, creating a new “reality”.  One example is the substitution of social bonds created by in-person interaction with texting, sexting, and hook-up sites.  We’ve always looked for love in the wrong places but it’s easier now; you don’t have to take a shower to “chat”.  Carried to extreme, fantasy never becomes reality:  the lure of being anyone you choose, often without consequence, is a strong inducement to stay impersonal.

It’s long been known that our brains are hardwired for pleasure, with specific neural pathways acting as highways.  As with anything pleasurable, the possibility of overindulgence, abuse, is possible.  While most brains have stopping, or surfeit, mechanisms, other brains are glitched to go wild.  Especially worrisome is the effect on young brains of unrelenting and ever-more-present societal messages about sex.  Young brains are not yet equipped with that Jiminy-Cricket-battle between the super-ego and the id; with this age group (and for some adults), the id wins almost every time.  Understandably there is concern for young people among parents, educators, and the mental health community.

The mental health and medical communities are concerned about the rise within the broader population of sexually identified mental health diagnoses as well as the rise in sexually transmitted disease.  It’s no longer unusual to know someone with herpes; it’s even been authoritatively predicted that in ten years over half of women and 40% of men will have contracted genital herpes.

Fantasy enables our addiction to the belief that if we can imagine it, we can make it real.  It sounds snappy when Sony says it, but those are dangerous words.  Not only because that’s not always true, but because it shouldn’t always be true..  Powerful as it is, sexual fantasy is just that.  Many of us are still hanging with Freud rather than updating our belief that it’s abnormal not to fantasize when bringing about orgasm. 

In praise of sexual fantasy: 

  • Leads to sexual activity, conjoint or solo, and that’s a good thing;

  • By inducing orgasm the body rids itself of stale sperm, an evolutionary advantage;

  • Orgasm reduces blood pressure, aids sleep, counts as exercise, lowers heart attack risk, lessens pain;

  • Can infuse a dulled relationship with newness;

  • Takes us on a journey we probably otherwise wouldn’t be capable of;

  • Stimulates creative thinking;

  • Enables us to practice social skills;

  • Offers an escape from criticism that may induce self-consciousness or an inability to function sexually;

  • Makes us feel good about ourselves, powerful, potent, and desirable;

  • Enhances relationship;

  • Mostly, sexual fantasy Is fun.

Sex is the adult version of play and fantasy is our way of looking forward to playing.  As thinking beings we need fantasy, daydreaming, and imagination as a pathway to our best self.  Fantasy is a pleasure in itself. 

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist whose private practice focuses on couples, especially those whose relationship is impacted by visible or invisible disability or illness for whom sexuality is often a significant issue.  It’s probable that childhood exposure to an overly enthusiastic dog is the reason she’s a cat person.  Then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  With their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, she and her husband David live in Colorado Springs where she maintains a private practice and where she and David co-instruct Couple Communication Workshops.  

Copyright 2015, Being Heard, LLC

A SAD AND SOGGY SPRING

rain woman

Rain rain go away

come back again another day in another month

Too much of a good thing is too much.

A nursery rhyme sung over and over comes to mind.  Too much gray becomes black.  And too much rain dampens the most cheerful spirit among us.

Scientific studies about the impact of weather on mood are inconclusive because there are so many factors.  Results of a study using Dutch teens, for example, may not translate to American adults: so is one study right and the other wrong?  Not necessarily.  When apples and oranges are compared, in this case Dutch teens vs. American adults, broad assumptions can’t be made.

Such is the problem with making sweeping statements with little data.

Take the question of weather affecting mood.  The short answer is “not always and not for all people”.  Nevertheless, enough studies assert that the weather does indeed affect some peoples’ moods. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder — SAD for short — which is an apt name, considering.

What seems true for more people is that when weather is persistently unusual mood is affected.

Here in Eastern Colorado the wettest spring ever is making people already sensitive to depression, well, depressed.  It’s not just flowers who miss 8 hours of sunlight; people who weren’t SAD before rain, gloom, and chill were on the daily weather menu are sure as heck sad now.  And cranky, too.

This is Camp Watchogue weather; I didn’t like it when I was 8 and I don’t like it now.  But this is Colorado; give it another couple of weeks and we’ll all be complaining about how darned hot and dry it is.

I can’t wait.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice on Front Range of Colorado.  She specializes working with couples, especially those impacted by invisible or visible disability.  She and her husband David will soon be in Arizona in hopes that Colorado dries out in the meantime.  Their kitties Petey and Lucy have been unaffected: it’s just another good reason to find a cozy spot and go to sleep.  She and David teach Couples Communication Workshops throughout the year.  You can find them at http://www.beingheardnow.com or at www.coupleswhotalk.com.

copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

DO YOU NEED YOUR THERAPIST TO BE HUMAN?

robot“I can’t work with someone who’s broken,” he said calmly.

The young man had just read my Disclosure, a description of rights that, as a Marriage & Family Therapist, I’m legally required to give all clients.  Although it isn’t necessary, my Disclosure also relates that I have multiple sclerosis; I don’t want clients to wonder whether my stumbling is about a liquid lunch.

Broken, he said.  BrokenI never imagine anyone thinking of me as “damaged” – hell, even in my most self-pitying moments I don’t think of myself in that way. 

I was temporarily speechless; did he really say that? 

“Tell you what,” I said when I was sure my response wouldn’t betray my hurt, “think about it until next time.”  Then I went home and cried.

At our final session he admitted what had evidently been in his mind for the three months we worked together.  He was glad he’d given me a chance.  “I found out I was broken, too,” he told me.

That young man understood that no one is perfect, not even therapists.  That healers can be in need of healing, too.  By making it “normal” to have flaws —  even serious or disabling ones (his anxiety and my m.s.) — the young man was able to let go of the stigma of emotional distress, the impossibility of being perfect, that was behind his anxiety in the first place.

I still disclose my disability to clients although the passage of twelve years has made symptoms apparent that were once easy to hide.  I fundamentally believe that clients who come to therapy often do so because they feel alone with how they feel; as Roy Orbison sang, the feeling is that we’re the “only one” who experiences the depth of pain we do.  How secretly pleasing to know that the someone who slips-up, isn’t always self-assured, or doesn’t always behave the way the experts’ books say is your own therapist!

How healing to know you’re really not the only one.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples work, especially with those whose relationships are impacted by invisible disability or chronic illness.  She’s been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years.  At home in Colorado with David, her husband, and their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, no one in their household believes in Kathe’s perfection.  Find information about the Skinners’ upcoming Couples Communication Workshop at www.beingheardnow.comand Kathe’s other dynamic practice and programs at coupleswhotalk.com.

Image Courtesy of supakitmod at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2015, Being Heard, LLC

SOMETIMES YOU OUGHTA BE SCARED

clown hugBells should go off in your head if you’re walking in the woods and a clown in a bunker’s offering free hugs.  

Or when your guy grabs your shirt, slams you up against the wall, and says you don’t wanna make him angry.

And the whole theater’s screaming at that dumb young thing not to open up when the doorbell rings at midnight and nobody’s expected.

I’m not generally an alarmist although my husband David would disagree.  I do worry about fire starting in a trash barrel where he’s dumped grass clippings.  Or being afraid things are gonna blow up.  Or when I feel eyes on me when I’m working late by the open window in my first floor office and I can’t help myself I just have to look.

One summer my panties started disappearing off the clothesline, hang-up calls began right after my soon-to-be-ex left the house, and the guy across the street would make a racket so I’d look up to see him standing naked in his doorway.  When the phone rang at 2 one morning and the soon-to-be hustled me into the dark backyard I thought yeah, sure, I’m gonna get whacked — he had lots of, uh, connections; I didn’t for a second believe the police were evacuating the neighborhood.  But they were.  That spooky ass guy shot a neighbor who was coming home from shift work.

A bit after I rented out my condo, the woman whose doorway was a few feet away from mine was strangled at home then dumped in the woods. The daughter’s boyfriend went to prison for murder in a sordid story worthy of a bestseller.

Like people in an abusive marriage or those who return from war, I can talk about what’s happened to me as if it had happened to someone else.  Traumatic stress is often numbing and, whether the stress is long- or short-term, the need for self-protection can make us look (and be) detached and dispassionate.

Danger exists in trusting others even as protection is so desperately needed.  Laying down the guise, being vulnerable and exposed, is almost literally a deadly challenge that many won’t choose.

Traumatic stress is so often unexpected — who would set themselves up to be traumatized? — we cannot prepare or protect our psyches from it.  A system-wide shock indicates that everything in our world — most especially those to whom we are vulnerable like spouses, parents, children, friends as well as surroundings that once felt safe — is now suspect.  Add to that the invisibility of chronic, traumatic stress and the difficulty of  recognizing or relating to it adds to misunderstanding and further isolation and loneliness.

Traumatic stress can be vigilance run amok.

The experiencing, fearing, seeing, remembering of violence and harm can derail our thoughts and emotions, often forever.  Like someone who puts and keeps themselves in line for abuse, or those who think themselves immune to repeated horror, all of us need to realize that horror commands a price.  Similarly, we need to know that sometimes, not always, we can predict nasty experiences and seek to avoid them.  Problem is, the invisibility of stress disorders can mean that some people are less in control than it seems.  The creed of healthcare workers, protectors of public safety, combatants, and others who serve reinforces our expectations — and their own — about invulnerability.

Sometimes, vigilance is underrated.

Putting ourselves in charge, like not hanging out with somebody who slams you against a wall, is a proactive step to avoiding traumatic stress in the first place.  And when you can’t avoid getting bummed out, talking with a professional helper can expiate what may be stuck in your head.  That’s necessary if you want to be able to live your life without looking over your shoulder for clowns.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice who specializes working with couples, especially those for whom invisible disability — like PTSD — is part of their relationship’s mix. She and her husband David hold Couples Communication Workshops that help inoculate couples from the stress that a poor relationship can bring.  Register now for the lateswt workshop at www.BeingHeardNow.com

© 2015, Being Heard, LLC