RUN LIKE HELL, CHARLIE BROWN! IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!

charlie brownIt’s that glorious time of year when not enough gets done.  Not at work.  Not at home.  And definitely not at school.

Even so, some people shop at the last-minute, delight in panic, and find delicious the challenge (and pleasure) that ensues.

Adrenaline addiction, I’m thinking.

I’m not suggesting that holiday shoppers who come to the party late are looking to score on the low, but adrenaline is the chemical associated with pleasure and addiction. Danger signals the pituitary and hypothalamus to secrete endorphins, opiod-like chemicals that squash pain and induce pleasure.  There you go.  Mmm, mmm, mmm!

To folks like firefighters, police, and spies, along with extreme sports’ flying squirrels and shredders, adrenaline is mother’s milk.

They’ll tell you adrenaline is motivating, keeps them goal-directed and tunnel-visioned.  Zeroing in on a SALE! sign like Snoopy on the Red Baron.  Okay, okay, so shopping isn’t really about danger.  But if you’re looking for a clean way to speed your way past Go on C and O rails, I’m just saying.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist who’s been in private practice for 20 years.  She and husband David and their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, live in Colorado Springs.  

© 2015, Being Heard, LLC

 

RUN LIKE HELL, CHARLIE BROWN! IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!

charlie brownIt’s that glorious time of year when not enough gets done.  Not at work.  Not at home.  And definitely not at school.

Even so, some people shop at the last-minute, delight in panic, and find delicious the challenge (and pleasure) that ensues.

Adrenaline addiction, I’m thinking.

I’m not suggesting that holiday shoppers who come to the party late are looking to score on the low, but adrenaline is the chemical associated with pleasure and addiction. Danger signals the pituitary and hypothalamus to secrete endorphins, opiod-like chemicals that squash pain and induce pleasure.  There you go.  Mmm, mmm, mmm!

To folks like firefighters, police, and spies, along with extreme sports’ flying squirrels and shredders, adrenaline is mother’s milk.

They’ll tell you adrenaline is motivating, keeps them goal-directed and tunnel-visioned.  Zeroing in on a SALE! sign like Snoopy on the Red Baron.  Okay, okay, so shopping isn’t really about danger.  But if you’re looking for a clean way to speed your way past Go on C and O rails, I’m just saying.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist who’s been in private practice for 20 years.  She and husband David and their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, live in Colorado Springs.  

© 2015, Being Heard, LLC

 

MY FAMILY IS CRAZIER THAN YOURS.

 

cartoon t;givingIn the month between November 26 and December 25 something odd happens:  Crazy families get crazier.

Giving Thanks, Spreading Light, Celebrating Culture, and Wishing for Peace on Earth are often replaced by the dread and fear of family fireworks.

Few families really are incident-free, although we figure it’s just ours that’s as dysfunctional as it is. While it might seem more comfortable to exclude certain family members to avoid celebratory disruption, what actually happens may be disrupting as well.

The classic struggle between expectations of “the way it should be” vs. “the way it really is” sets us up to have unhealthy negative emotions like sadness, guilt, anger, dread, and avoidance.

Shake the sugar plums out of your head and re-think your guilt:

The Throwback Effect:  Traditions, celebrated the same every year may be a reminder of past hurts, inviting behaviors that go way back.  Fight the impulse to side with your family against your partner; keeping  communication open is crucial.  Not everyone is happy at the holidays; no one has to be.

The Hallmark Effect:  U.S. companies will spend billions and billions of dollars on advertising this season, primarily on social media and television, to sell consumers on the notion that a perfect holiday can be purchased.  Movies — another holiday “tradition” — portray traumatizing family events as either funny or touching.  The constant stream of warm and fuzzy can lead to a very real mental health plague called holiday depression.

3 Monkeys Effect:  Pretending that crazy behavior isn’t crazy only makes you look crazy.  Minimizing reality for the sake of others’ comfort makes everyone uncomfortable.  Being honest is appropriate, even though ’tis the season for pretending everything is as it should be.

Forewarned, Forearmed:    Chat with the potential offender beforehand. Say why you’d like them to join everyone else even as you set boundaries for acceptable behavior.  Here’s the important part:  Quietly stick to the boundaries you set.  If you won’t, the offensive behavior is bound to be repeated and you and your guests are bound to be disrespected — again.

Cut the Drama:  It’s not like you’re surprised so don’t act like it.  Being dramatic about something you expect perpetuates bad feelings between people, who are likely to take sides.  This is one way that horrible holidays have become part of your family’s tradition.

Handing out explosives:  Alcohol and stress are a bad combination.  Bad stress makes everything worse; alcohol makes crazy worse.  If you fuel trouble, it will come.  Monitor the flow of booze if you want to avoid a bad scene.

Change It Up:  Change the usual setting or location, menu, focus of the day or even the day itself.   Get away from a personal, claustrophobic focus in order to re-focus outward to community — friends, neighbors, even strangers.  Take turns hosting; share the day’s responsibilities (being sure to include children); organize a neighborhood carol-sing, skating party or sleigh ride; volunteer; stay home and forge your nuclear family’s traditions; go on a Christmas tree hunt; or choose an activity that centers on the holiday’s meaning, are all examples of refocusing.

Come Down Easy:   The time and money spent preparing for, and celebrating, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas is disproportional to the let-down felt when all that’s left is the mess. Remembering how that feels might be incentive to celebrate in other, less costly but more rewarding, ways.

Take a Nap.  The day will wear you out so come rested to it, especially if you have a disability or chronic illness.  Add a few minutes to steal away, catch your breath and renew your smile.

No other time of year is as fraught with “shoulds”.  As with much of what’s difficult in life — leaving certain people out in the cold at holiday time — is a hard choice to make.  It’s reasonable to feel guilt and sadness and to feel guilty and sad because you feel guilt and sadness.

What’s important is that you acknowledge the situation and your struggle with it.  You don’t have to do anything.  There’s always next year and the crazies are likely to happen again.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family therapist in Colorado Springs where she lives with her husband David and their two hooligan cats.

Cartoon © Donna Barstow, 2015 Used with Permission

© 2015 Being Head LLC

SOMETHING TRULY HORRIBLE FOR HALLOWEEN

Halloween_Ghost-9What do baby ghosts wear on Halloween? White Pillowcases.

Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers? No, they eat the fingers separately.

Where do fashionable ghosts shop for sheets? Bootiques.

What do you call someone who puts poison in a person’s corn flakes? A cereal killer.

What do you get when you cross a vampire and a snowman? Frostbite.halloween15

What do you get when you cross a werewolf and a vampire? A fur coat that fangs around your neck.

What does a vampire never order at a restaurant? A stake sandwich.

What does a vampire fear the most? Tooth decay.

Where did the vampire open his savings account? At a blood bank.

Who do vampires buy their cookies from?  The Ghoul Scouts

What do you get when you cross Bambi with a ghost? Bamboo.

halloween batWhat do you get when you drop a pumpkin? Squash.

What do you call a fat Jack-O-Lantern? A plumpkin.

What do you call a ghost with a broken leg? A hoblin goblin.

Why wasn’t there any food left after the monster party? Because everyone was a goblin!

What does a skeleton order at a restaurant? Spare ribs. 

Why should a skeleton drink 10 glasses of milk a day? It’s good for the bones.halloween3

Why don’t skeletons like parties? They have no body to dance with.

Why did the witches’ team lose the baseball game? Their bats halloween21flew away.

How does a witch tell time?  She looks at her witch watch.

What was the witch’s favorite subject in school? Spelling.

What’s the problem with twin witches?  You never know which witch is which.

What do ghosts serve for dessert? Ice Scream.

What did the mommy ghost say to the baby ghost? Don’t spook until you’re spoken to.

What did the mummy say to the detective? Let’s wrap this case up.

What does the papa ghost say to his family when driving? Fasten your sheet belts.halloween

What is a ghoul’s favorite flavor? Lemon-slime.

What’s a monster’s favorite play? Romeo and Ghouliet.

What’s a haunted chicken? A poultry-geist.

What happened to the guy who couldn’t keep up payments to his exorcist? He got repossessed.

What is a vampire’s favorite holiday? Fangsgiving.

What is a vampire’s favorite sport? Casketball.

What kind of streets do zombies like the best? Dead ends.

Who did Frankenstein take to the prom? His ghoul friend.halloween13

Why did the skeleton cross the road? To go to the body shop.

When does a skeleton laugh? When something tickles his funny bone.

What did the skeleton say to the bartender? I’ll have two beers and a mop.

Where does Count Dracula usually eat his lunch? At the casketeria.

Who does Dracula get letters from? His fang club.

What has webbed feet, feathers, fangs and goes quack-quack? Count Duckula.halloween 5

What do birds give out on Halloween night? Tweets.

What do you call two spiders that just got married? Newlywebbed.

What do Italians eat on Halloween? Fettuccini Afraid-o.

What’s it like to be kissed by a vampire? It’s a pain in the neck.

How does a ghost say goodbye to a vampire? So long, sucker!

What do you call a witch’s garage? A broom closet.

What do you give to a pumpkin trying to quit smoking? A pumpkin patch.halloween1

How do monsters tell their future? They read their horrorscope.

How are vampires like false teeth? They both come out at night.

What’s a vampire’s favorite fruit? A necktarine

What is a vampire’s favorite ice cream flavor? Veinilla.

What did the three vampires order at the bar? Two bloods and a blood light.halloween 00

Why did the vampire go to the orthodontist? To improve his bite.

Who are some of the werewolves cousins? The whatwolves, the whowolves, and the whenwolves.

Why are most monsters covered in wrinkles? Have you ever tried to iron a monster?

Why do mummies have so much trouble keeping friends? They’re too wrapped up in themselves.

Why don’t mummies take vacations? They’re afraid they’ll relax and unwind.

mummy1-2Where do mummies go for a swim? The Dead Sea.

Why do mummies make excellent spies? They’re good at keeping things under wraps.

Why did the ghost go into the bar? For the Boos.

Why do ghosts like to ride elevators? It raises their spirits.

What’s the favorite game at ghosts’ birthday parties? Hide and Shriek.

Why did the game warden arrest the ghost? He didn’t have a haunting license.

What kind of monster is safe to put in a washing machine? A halloween-clip-art_09wash and wear wolf.

What do you get when you cross a black cat with a lemon. A sour-puss.

What do you get when you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin Pi.

What do skeletons say before they begin dining? Bone appetit!

What happens when a ghost gets lost in the fog? He is mist.

Why don’t angry witches ride their brooms? They’re afraid of flying off the handle.halloween5

Who won the skeleton beauty contest? No body.

Where do baby ghosts go during the day? Dayscare centers.

HERE’S A GIFT I WANT YOU TO HAVE!

couple heart cartoon

For as long as I can remember, the rule of Christmas-gift-giving was there was only one big gift.  Underwear, knee socks, paperback books, cd’s, or Chapstick didn’t count – even if they got put in one big box.  That last Christmas with my ex-husband was no exception.  Small but very pricey, my big gift was 2 tickets to see the Celtics play the Knicks.  

Thing was, I didn’t like basketball. Still don’t.

He’d broken the cardinal rule of gifting:  Give a gift the other person wants to get, not the one you want the other person to have.

That was the last holiday we shared.

I’ve been married to David for 29 years now and we give “conscious gifts” about big things, like a trip.  That way, big-ticket gifts aren’t saved only for holidays, so we’re not forced to give because the calendar says so.

Giving is something we do consciously, and all the time.  Often consumables, inexpensive surprises show up at our house almost every week.  Those little gifts are small and consistent ways we’ve found to show love to each other.

With the insight of a married couple and the experience of Certified Instructors for ICPs Couple Communication program, Kathe and David teach a 12-hour Couple Communication Workshop throughout the year.  The next class begins September 24, 7-9 pm.  Register now; Workshops are small and fill up fast. 

Copyright, 2015  Being Heard, LLC

 

 

How to Guarantee a Marital Argument

What’s easiest to do is sometimes the worst thing to do.  

Take getting on the wrong side of your partner.  It’s surprisingly easy to do; all you have to do is be right, or think you are.

Being right is easy:  None of us would intentionally put out there something dumb.  Our minds might change on further thought or discussion, but in the immediate we’ll stand by what we think.  But getting testy enough to argue even when we know we’re wrong has more to do with vulnerability — more accurately the perception of vulnerability – than with reality itself.  In a relationship, perception is reason enough.

While it’s true that few of us would choose looking foolish – at work for instance – it’s romantic relationship that touches our core.  It’s our fall-back, the default, the given.  Since we’re invested emotionally, when we think our partner thinks badly of us we want to change his or her mind, so we argue.

So what is it about being right?

1.  It’s threatening when you aren’t believed.  Get ready to rumble.  Not many of us like being doubted, especially if it replicates a know-it-all sibling or parent.  Because of that unconscious link to the past, a reaction is automatic thinking that’s thought-out poorly. The strength of the reaction is a good indication of the perception of threat.  My husband consistently  leaves the scene emotionally (flight) most times I correct his actions in the kitchen; while saber-toothed tigers that look like his dad are now extinct, I bet he’d respond the same way if one showed up.

2.  Acknowledgement is important.  Ever feel totally helpless trying to convince your partner you really are right?  Or that something that’s been attributed to you isn’t true?  How much we’re willing to defend ourselves is proportional to the force with which we’re accused, as well as how satisfying it is to be right after all, both are behaviors modeled and learned in family of origin.  Asking “What’s it to ya?” is reasonable for what is (and was) at stake is only cosmetically about the two of you. 

3.  It’s not about the relationship if it’s only about you.  What’s missing in a selfie is that there’s only one person in it.   Relationship isn’t a selfie, it’s a twosie so that anything that has to do with the marriage isn’t only one way or the other.  It might be you have all the reasons in the world to defend your turf but having the playground to yourself isn’t very much fun.  You can be too rational.  It doesn’t matter if everyone else in the world takes your side, the person who matters most to you doesn’t.  Relying on reason in an emotional situation is like comparing apples to oranges, only more crazy-making.  Make no mistake:  anyone who thinks actions/reactions in an intimate relationship aren’t about emotion ought to dis-enroll from the Mr. Spock School for Relationship Excellence.

Being in a permanent relationship is a whole new way of being, the best part of which is not having to be alone.  It’s a no-brainer that togetherness doesn’t thrive on aloneness.  It’s consequential that most couples I work with can’t remember what the argument that brought them to see me was about. 

The next time you two argue, it’ll be worth it to wonder if any of these insights brings you to something more profound than who really was in charge of packing the sunscreen.   

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist whose specialty is couples work, especially with those whose relationships are impacted by visible or invisible disability.  Married to David for almost 30 years, she’s grateful for the relationship lessons she continues to learn.  They live in Colorado with two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy.  Learn more about Kathe at www.coupleswhotalk.com and about the Couples Communication Workshops the Skinners offer throughout the year. 

Copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

5 WAYS BUSY COUPLES BUDGET FIGHTING

couple smiling bwMost couples still rely on two incomes, not just to pay for extras like dinner and a movie, but to cover bills.  And even though finances make the top 3 of what couples fight about, it takes more than an economic implosion to make couples cranky.

Smart relationships know that money isn’t the only thing that’s limited: time and energy are, too.   Budgeting what’s in short supply helps insure that resources are there when needed.  That’s the wisdom behind budgeting the time to fight.  Budgeting makes partners examine what’s really important to hold onto so that fighting is a storm that passes, not a 3-day hurricane that sleeps on the couch.

Here’s what healthy couples know about how important it is to budget fighting:

1.  They understand the need to keep fighting in the budget.   Fitting fighting into a relationship budget is just as important as allocating any other resource.  Didn’t know fighting was a resource?  It is.  Fighting clears the air, demonstrates passion, expresses problems and aims at solving them, and risks vulnerability in order to build trust.  At the same time, smart couples know to draw the line on smothering each other with agreement.   Budgeting for fighting recognizes the need the relationship has for vulnerability, safety, honesty, respect, mutual responsibility, and trust – and to know they’ll never be perfect at it.

2.  They develop the budget together.  Fighting all the time is as unhealthy as never fighting.  But how much is too much and what should fighting with each other look like?  Wise couples agree that two rules are universal:  Never include abuse of any kind – verbal, physical, emotional, sexual; and resist the impulse to involve children, even grown children, by seeking their advice or comfort, or downplaying a partner.  Partners benefit from skills like self-talk, time-out, and self-calming techniques.  After that, couples develop their own best-fit ways of fighting.

3.  They learn to budget effectively.  If you haven’t had experience budgeting, or haven’t been successful at it, listen up:  The best way to get in over your head is to spend more than you take in.  Saying you “don’t have time for this” and relying on a relationship credit card doesn’t work for long.   Busy couples explore and express what each needs in order to stay connected.  They regard the needs and wants of each partner as an important budget item.  These couples don’t spend time on jealousy, blame, disregard, or distrust.  Clearing the closet of hidden agendas keeps you aware of what’s happening.  They avoid finding out later that something’s wrong now.  Think of fighting as a steam valve that periodically releases pressure from building up to dangerous levels.

3.  They prioritize fighting with other budgeted items.  If it’s true that the average couple spends about 20 minutes of time together per day then any busy couples’ time is limited.  Saying “can we talk?”as you’re getting in bed violates the budget unless both partners have agreed beforehand to take time from one place (sleep) and put those assets into another (problem-solving). Is watching television as important as catching up a partner’s day?  What about personal time?  Where does “shared activity” fit in?  How about lovemaking?  Limited time together means, perhaps unfortunately, that we aren’t yet as rich in available resources as we’d like.

4.  They evaluate the budget from time to time.   A budget that works is one that reflects reality.  Changes in a couple’s life affect the stress levels that so often predict fighting.  Budgets are reflective of relationships themselves, which are dynamic and colorful.  Tuned-in couples know this and pay attention.  They learn that the circumstances that made for an argument can disappear with understanding, humor, and choice. They set limits, describe rules, and delineate what’s important and how important something is.

A bloody nose is an attention-getter, forcing you to pay attention to what’s standing in front of you.  Successful couples don’t need to bloody each other’s noses:  They know that expressing healthy disagreement is as important as food in the ‘fridge; that there are rules to fighting, especially ones about abuse; and that a good fight clears a path to what’s really going on.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist who works primarily with couples, especially those whose relationships are affected by visible or invisible disability.  Her Russian/Sicilian temper and David’s passive-aggressive style have challenged them to come up with a “budget” that works for their marriage.  They live in Colorado with their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, whose fur flies only in fun.  Read  about the Skinners’ Couples Communication Workshops at www.beingheardnow.com and about Kathe’s couples programs at www.coupleswhotalk.com

copyright, 2015 Being Heard LLC

Be Direct! Ask for What you Want and Need….

Fiunny, David and I were just talking and he finished a sentence for me. That happens often enough that my expectation is that he not only finishes my sentences, he knows beforehand what those sentences are. When he’s not on the same page — not even in the same book — I’m angry at him. And when he really really really doesn’t get me, I’m really really really angry.

Translate anger into hurt, which of course is what lies beneath anger. The angrier, the greater the hurt. Translate more and up pops vulnerability which, in an intimate relationshiop, is powerful enough to shut down the whole show.

Another challenge that comes with being in love.

Daily Muse

LabrynthDo you have a challenge when it comes to asking for what you want? Do you feel like you have to do everything alone? Do you “hint” at your wants and needs hoping someone “picks up on them?

More importantly do you refrain from bringing up what you want and need because you don’t want to “bother” or “burden” someone else?

“From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.”~Amanda Palmer

It takes a great deal of courage to be direct and ask for what we want and need. The Amanda Palmer quote really sums it up nicely. Many of us are challenged asking for help. We don’t…

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