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3 Steps to Resolving Conflict Within Your Family

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Perspective Triangle Strategy allows you to master your emotions.

The most intense conflicts generally happen at home, within our family, with the people closest to us. They are the conflicts that bring us the most pain, make us suffer, and distress us.

Whether it’s yet another shouting match with your teenage child, or a disagreement with your spouse, conflicts at home are the most challenging to face because it’s so easy to be held hostage by your own emotions.

How then, can we turn a difficult moment at home into an opportunity to build rapport with the people that are dearest to us?

A strategy that works and has helped many to shift from an unproductive state of mind to one that is more resourceful. It helps not to escalate the conflict further, which happens when you let raw emotions take over. 

It’s called the Perspective Triangle Strategy

When you need to set yourself free from negative emotions, negotiators suggest that you metaphorically "go to the balcony" and look at the conflict with some detachment. It’s easier said than done. But the perspective triangle strategy allows you to detach yourself and get some clarity. To get clarity is important, if you want to resolve a conflict and avoid escalation.

Here are the three steps of the Perspective Triangle Strategy.

Step #1: Your Own Perspective.

This step requires you to achieve a higher degree of self-awareness. You do so by asking yourself what’s really bothering you.

What pain are you trying to avoid? What are you protecting yourself from? Through the emotions and the behaviour you are displaying, what needs are you trying to satisfy? Are you looking to be significant to the other? Or to feel secure? Are you trying to connect with the other, or to feel connected with yourself (especially if you feel down, sad or depressed)?

Inquire, go deep into yourself, and clarify what the conflict is really about for you.

In fact, chances are that while the fight is about a specific issue, in reality you are after something that lies at a deeper level. So, what is it? Get clarity, and you will be able to come up with different options on how you can get what you really want.

Step #2: The Other’s Perspective.

This step is fundamental. It requires you to have empathy and through empathy to widen your understanding of what’s really going on.

Put yourself in the shoes of the other. For a moment, suspend your own judgment and do your best to see the situation you’re confronting from the perspective of the other.

What might influence the position taken by the other? What experiences shape his or her understanding? What’s going on in the life of the other? What needs is she or he satisfying with a particular behaviour? Is the other looking for significance? Or rather for love and connection? Is it a way to feel secure? In other words, what’s the real intention of the other party?

Go deeper and ask yourself: how might the other interpret my own words and behavior? What can I do differently, in order to meet the underlying needs of the other and at the same time satisfy my own?

When you combine the insights you gained from considering your own perspective as well as that of the other, you can have a better understanding of the issue at hand and the ways in which you can resolve it.

Step #3: The Third Party’s Perspective.

Often, someone from the outside can give us a fresh perspective about a problem you are trying to resolve.

In this step, you put yourself in the position of a third party observing the situation you are involved in.

So, imagine you’re sitting in a movie theatre, watching your conflict projected on a screen as if it were a movie. What is it all about?

What does the spectator tell you about your own behaviour and judgment? What is he or she seeing? What advice does the third party give you? What would she or he tell you about the other’s real intention? And so on…

Providing three different lenses, the Perspective Triangle Strategy allows you to get necessary emotional detachment, to gain valuable insights, and to have a broader and deeper understanding of the conflict. It allows you to shift from a victim position to a leadership position. By making you stronger, it empowers you.

Here is what you need to remember…

Change doesn’t start with the other. Change begins with you…from within you. In this sense, conflict can always be an opportunity: for better communication, for a dialogue about issues that matter, for a more authentic relationship, for self-growth…

Conflict is part of our life. It cannot be avoided. But it can be resolved, transformed, and experienced as a gift from life to become deeper and wiser individuals. Everyday you learn a little bit more about how to love….and how to be loved.

Risky Business: Internet Addiction

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Internet is a wild and wonderful place which has forever changed the way we live, learn, and work – but when a person can’t find a balance between their time online and their time offline, it can mean problems for their mental health.

Some online statistics

  1. 88.5% of us are Internet users.
  2. Yet less than 40% of the world has Internet access.
  3. 40% of young adults (ages 18-24) use social media in the bathroom.
  4. An estimated 75% of us use a smart phone, tablet or mobile device to get online.  

For some people, going online becomes an addiction

There is no one definition for internet addiction; however, it is generally agreed upon that people who are addicted to the Internet have trouble filling personal and professional obligations because of their online activities, and their use of the Internet causes strain on relationships with family and friends. People who are addicted to the Internet often experience negative emotions or withdrawal symptoms when their Internet access is restricted.

Internet Addiction may also be called computer addiction, compulsive Internet use, Problematic Internet Use (PIU), Internet dependence, or pathological Internet use. Researchers estimate that 6% of people are addicted to the Internet.

There are 5 types of Internet addiction:

  • Cybersexual: Cybersex and Internet porn
  • Net compulsions: Online gambling, shopping, or stock trading
  • Cyber-relationships: Social media, online dating, and other virtual communication
  • Gaming: Online game playing
  • Information Seeking: Web surfing or database searches

Why do people become addicted to the internet?

Accessibility: Most of us can get online easily and almost immediately, at any time of day or night.

Control: People can go online when they want and without other people knowing, causing them to feel in control.

Excitement: Going online gives people a sort of "high." The suspense of bidding in online auctions, gambling, or playing games can be especially thrilling.

The combination of accessibility, control, and excitement make the addicted person want to continue going online.

How is internet addiction related to mental illness?

Adolescents who struggle with Internet addiction often have other mental health problems like alcohol and substance use, depression, suicidal ideation, ADHD, phobias, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and/or aggression.

Adults who are addicted to the Internet are also likely to have depression, anxiety, alcohol problems, compulsive behaviours, sleep disorders, ADHD, anger issues, and/or dissociative experiences.     

There is debate about which comes first for people, Internet addiction or the co-occuring mental health problem.

Are you dealing with Internet addiction?

If you agree with most of the statements below, it may be time to seek help:

  • I think about being online almost constantly. If I'm not online, I'm thinking about the next time I can be or that last time that I was.
  • I need to online longer and longer each time before I feel satisfied.
  • I have tried to control, reduce, or stop my internet use, but haven't been able to do so successfully.
  • I feel irritable or depressed when I try to reduce the amount of time that I am on the Internet or when I can't get online.
  • The way I use the Internet has threatened a relationship with someone I care about, my job, or my school work.
  • I lose track of time when I'm online.
  • I sometimes lie to important people in my life about the amount of time I spend, or the types of activities I participate in on the Internet.
  • Being online helps me to forget about my problems or improve my mood when I'm feeling sad, anxious, or lonely.

How is Internet addiction treated?

Some professionals classify Internet addiction as an obsessive-compulsive disorder, while others liken it to an impulse control disorder. Therefore, there is no one specific treatment for Internet addiction.

Internet addiction treatment aims to create boundaries and balance around Internet use rather than eliminating it entirely. However, if there is a certain app, game, or site that seems to be the focus of the addiction, stopping its use may be part of treatment.

Therapy is almost always incorporated into the treatment of Internet addiction. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and group therapy are common.

Medication may be used to manage symptoms of underlying mental illness and control intrusive thoughts about going online.

Exercise may be incorporated into Internet addiction treatment to ease the effects of reduced dopamine in the brain resulting from restricted Internet use.

Take control of Internet use

  • Take breaks. For example, try to take a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of Internet use.
  • Fill your free time activities that are physically intense or require a lot of concentration to distract you from thinking about going online.
  • Don’t bring your smart phone or tablet with you when you leave the house.
  • Keep track of non-essential Internet use (use that isn’t related to school or work) to see if you notice patterns. Do you go online when you are bored? Are you going online to relieve feelings of loneliness or depression?
  • Make a list of things of things that you enjoy doing or need to get done that don’t include the Internet. If you feel tempted to go online, choose an activity from your list instead.

15 Things You Should Give Up to be Happy

Monday, November 12, 2018

How to Find Happiness

Here is a list of 15 things, which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier.  We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. 


1. Give up your need to always be right

There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question:

“Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”  Wayne Dyer.

What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?

Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?

2. Give up your need for control

Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu

3. Give up on blame

Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.

Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk

Oh my.  How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset?  Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating.  You are better than that.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle

5. Give up your limiting beliefs

Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!

“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind.” Elly Roselle

Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do.

6. Give up complaining

Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism

Give up your need to criticise things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.

8. Give up your need to impress others

Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.

 We are all different, yet we are all the same.

9. Give up your resistance to change

Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.

 “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell

10. Give up labels

Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different, and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer 

11. Give up on your fears

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it.

12. Give up your excuses

Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.

13. Give up the past

I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all, life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

Life is a journey not a destination.

14. Give up attachment

This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at it with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and selfless, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist), you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene.  You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations

Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live.  They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them.  They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling.  They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives.  They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need…. and eventually they forget about themselves.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.


Forgive to Give

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Often we think that forgiveness is something we do for someone else, but actually forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. Because it takes more energy to hold onto hurt, guilt, anger, resentment than it does to forgive. When we forgive, we experience peace of mind and free ourselves to move on and move forward.

Stop Being Judgmental, Start Being Compassionate

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Have you ever thrown dirty looks at a parent whose child is throwing a tantrum? Stared in horror as someone bites into a greasy cheeseburger? Nodded mutely at a friend's tale of career/relationship/family woes and thought she was making a crazy choice?

We've all been there. Frankly, anyone who says they haven't been judgmental is probably lying or in denial, since few of us are so self-evolved that we don't pass judgment on others.

In fact, it's often healthy foodies who are some of the worst offenders. A research study recently found that people exposed to pictures of organic food made harsher moral judgments than those who were shown photos of comfort or neutral foods.

The thing is, being judgmental is not a behaviour that serves us. Let's face it: we judge others because we need to feel better about ourselves. It may make us feel superior or secure in the short-term, but the long-term stress of never feeling good enough can lead to a host of health issues.

Being non-judgmental, can lead to lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress-related illnesses.

13 Signs You’re a Judgmental Person

Here are some signs to look out for:

1. You believe that everyone is out to get you.
2. You expect other people to be consistent all the time.
3. You struggle to see beyond a person’s flaws.
4. You easily skip to conclusions.
5. You struggle to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty.
6. You’re intolerant of people unlike you.
7. You’re generally pessimistic about life.
8. You tend to believe people are either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
9. You struggle to truly appreciate or see the beauty in others.
10. You have low self-worth.
11. You feel anxious around other people.
12. You’re suspicious and untrusting.
13. You have a strong inner critic who judges you.

So here are a few handy ways to tame the judgment.

1. Explore your self-talk and journal about it!

Your self-talk involves all the thoughts you have about yourself in waking reality. Take some moments during the day to tune into what types of thoughts you’re having. Good opportunities to do this often happen while interacting with others, going to work, looking at yourself in the mirror, or making a mistake. You can also use your emotions to hook yourself into your inner talk. Whenever you’re feeling upset, depressed, insecure, or anxious, try to pause and focus on your inner talk. What thoughts or assumptions are behind your feelings?

Next, in a journal, record your self-talk. Do this every day, without fail! Try to find common themes or patterns that reveal your underlying core beliefs. For example, you might discover that you often think about how “stupid,” ugly, worthless, or weird you are. These beliefs will give you something to work with.

2. Accept the ugly, weird, messy parts

Easier said than done, right? But by slowly and steadily working to accept yourself, you become less critical of others as well. Self-acceptance is about honouring and allowing space for all that it means to be human. Instead of putting yourself up to high standards, self-acceptance is about realistically looking at yourself, understanding why you are the way you are, and embracing who you are at a core level.

Some powerful places to start with self-acceptance include:

  • Taking care of your body and health
  • Writing your own affirmations
  • Journalling about how you feel
  • Making a list of everything you appreciate about yourself
  • Getting in touch with your inner child
  • Removing toxic people from your life
  • Surrounding yourself with supportive people
  • Reading self-help books
  • Doing one self-loving thing each day
  • Learning how to forgive yourself
  • Exploring the nature of toxic shame

Commit to any number of these practices every day and you will begin to see the results soon.

How anxiety has become a modern epidemic

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Everybody feels anxious at some point in their lives; starting a new job, trying to impress a date, sitting an exam, we expect to feel agitated and nervous, the butterflies fluttering in our stomachs. But for those suffering from anxiety or panic disorders such feelings are much stronger and more frequent. There is usually a sense of danger or threat, of not being able to cope with what might happen. Or it could be more of an ‘irrational’ fear - a “what if” – or what some people call ‘nameless dread’ that can take in every catastrophe imaginable.

And anxiety is more common and harmful than we may want to admit, according to the findings of a major University of Cambridge report, published in the medical journal Brain and Behaviour. More than 8 million people in the UK suffer some sort of anxiety disorder and women and people under 35 are especially affected.

We viscerally respond to perceived threats, just as our ancestors did, when hunting for food was a life-threatening excursion. These days the most dangerous thing most of us do is drive a car but our brains will still default to “fight, flight or freeze” when faced with danger and that’s what causes our cortisol levels to rise to unhealthy levels.

“These reactions are instinctive,” “they aren't the result of conscious thought.” But the symptoms feel very real. People suffering from anxiety disorders often experience irritability, dizziness, nervousness and sleep badly; they may get breathless, sweaty, shake and have nausea and diarrhoea as their bodies respond to the cortisol washing through them.  At work they might steer clear of any chance of confrontation, or shy away from taking on anything difficult in case they fail. Socially they may opt out of arrangements at the last minute, assuming that no one will want to talk to them.

People can also end up simply ‘fearing the fear’. Some clients who are doing well with their therapeutic treatment but can’t stop themselves thinking: what will happen if the anxiety returns? “This type of anxiety is actually the most threatening of all because it often appears when everything seems positive, and as such it can be extremely destabilising.”

Until now conversations around mental health have tended to focus on depression, but the report last week, which was a review of 48 studies from across the world suggested anxiety could be a much bigger problem. The US scored the highest number of people affected by anxiety - 8 in 100 - while in East Asia the figure was 3 in 100.  It found that more than 60 million people were affected by anxiety disorders every year in the EU.

People with anxiety tend to be hyper-vigilant to negativity and worry excessively about the future whereas those with depression tend to dwell on bad things about themselves. Many researchers now believe that a lack of dopamine – linked to reward and pleasure – is related to depression, but not anxiety.

But the big question is why it is becoming such an issue now, specifically affecting those born since 1980. One theory is that we are while we are digitally connected, we are less connected to each other.  Daily life is also less communal and collaborative particularly when compared with life a few hundred years ago. And yet, we all want to be accepted and liked. Being excluded from a group to which they want to belong is a real terror for many young people today. Millennials may call it FOMO (fear of missing out) but it is also fear of being left out.

Added to this are millennials’ fears about the future: will they be able to find a good job, afford to live independently, buy their own homes, so they too can have marriages and families like their parents did?

So what can be done to alleviate anxiety? Therapy.  It isn’t always comfortable or easy, but it certainly helps people to find a happier place.

NICE recommends that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is suitable treatment for people with anxiety or panic disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). But this is largely because CBT is the style of therapy that has the best research data behind it. The Counselling Directory statistics on mental health say that anxiety is the most frequently stated problem by people seeking therapists, and many different types of therapists and counsellors treat people - adolescents and adults - for anxiety and panic disorders. As one therapist told me ironically, “It’s anxiety-depression - almost one word, and it’s everywhere.”

But if weekly therapy sessions are not for you, there are many small changes that can help move the dial on your anxiety.

  • Take time out to relax;
  • Learn to breathe through your panic;
  • Try mindfulness meditation;
  • Don’t try to be perfect. 

Also take a hard look at your diet and exercise regime. Australian clinical psychologist Dr Lynette Roberts at the UTS Graduate School of Health in Sydney said this week, ”There is a lot to suggest that imbalances in gut bacteria are linked with changes in mood and behaviour. Studies involving probiotics are already showing they can arrest the thought processes that make people more vulnerable to mood disorders.”

Exercise is another good defence often lessening the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. And that’s just what’s available now.

There may be more anxiety about, but we are constantly coming up with new ways to combat it. The important thing is: if you don’t deal with it, anxiety can be seriously life-limiting, and that’s no fun at all.

How to help your teenagers revise for exams

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From avoiding threats and promises to fostering good sleeping habits and banning screens at bedtime helping your teenagers to revise is a challenging time for most parents -

‘Revision can become all about the end goal, so all of you may need to remember that learning for its own sake is also a valid pursuit.’

1 Ask if they need help. Help that’s not needed or asked for isn’t about their agenda, it’s about yours.

2 Do not buy books of revision tips and thrust them in front of your child – it’s too late and will just be something else for them to worry about. By all means buy books that help you cope with the runup to exams so you don’t become another source of stress for them, but keep them hidden.

3 Films can ignite interest in a dusty subject as long as they realise that some artistic licence is used. But also search YouTube for good past TV programmes that cover relevant subjects.

4 BBC Bitesize is a brilliant, free online resource: it covers key stage 1 to GCSE (40 subjects at GCSE) and encourages a fresh look at a subject. You can pinpoint weak areas, read about them and then be tested online. The great thing about this website is that your child can also go back over the old ground of previous levels if they need to fill in gaps in their knowledge without looking stupid in front of anyone else.

5 Tear (short) articles out of newspapers that are irrelevant to revision but will make them laugh.

6 A whiteboard is a good thing to buy because there’s something liberating and fun about them. The fact that what’s written on them can easily be rubbed out encourages discussion and silly pictures – great for out-of-context thinking. Get them to teach you (or younger siblings) what they have learned – this is also a good way to find out what they don’t fully understand.

7 Try to encourage out-of-context thinking. A child who learns things by heart but doesn’t really understand what he’s learned won’t be able to answer things they weren’t expecting.

8 Don’t use threats. Teenagers are only too aware that if they fail they may “never get a job” – they don’t need more stress. Remember the encouragement you gave them as toddlers when they did the simplest task? Well, don’t do that either but be a bit more like that. Encourage the effort they are putting in.

9 Revision can become all about the end goal, so all of you may need to remember that learning for its own sake is also a valid pursuit.

10 Don’t promise one big prize at the end of it all, but – if you want to provide incentives – little ones along the way. Although be aware that Alfie Kohn (author on several books about education) says “carrots and sticks reduce people’s interest in whatever they were rewarded/punished for doing”. That said, something to look forward to never made anyone sad.

11 Provide meals at regular times so they have a routine to build their revision round. Don’t be upset if they want to eat while revising if they are on a roll. Vitamin C is said to support the adrenal glands (which take a pounding at stressful times). Don’t forget regular water consumption. Some studies show that water aids concentration. Provide a bottle with a straw – they may be teens but everything tastes better through a straw.

12 Sleep is vital to consolidate what’s been learned during the day. Make sure your teen gets out into the sunlight – this will help to regulate their body clock. Make sure their room is pitch black for sleep – light interferes with melatonin production (the hormone needed for sleep) but blue light – such as that emitted by smartphones and tablets – is especially disruptive so no screens before sleep for an hour is a good rule for winding down.

13 Spread-out revision is more effective but cramming may be all you have got at this stage. Revision can still be divided into 20-minute bursts with 10-minute breaks.

14 If your child gets stressed, respond to the right hemisphere. This half of the brain governs emotional non-verbal thought (the left deals with order and logic), so don’t plough in with practical solutions to an emotional problem. Give them a hug instead and reassure with touch and soothing sounds. You can go on to practical solutions (and appeal to the left side) once they are calm. Equally, if they ask a practical question, don’t respond with a “there, there, it’ll be OK”.

15 If all else fails, exams can be taken again but a child’s self-esteem – if shattered – can take years to rebuild. Be nice to them.

The 5 Types of Couples

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Drawing from over four decades of research data John Gottman has been able categorise couples into five types:

  1. Conflict-Avoiding,
  2. Validating,
  3. Volatile,
  4. Hostile, and
  5. Hostile-Detached.

In his book Principe Amoris: The New Science of Love, Gottman uses love equations to explain his discoveries.

The three happy couple types (Conflict-Avoiding, Validating, and Volatile) come from Harold Raush’s landmark book Communication, Conflict, and Marriage, in which Raush analyses interactions between partners to discriminate happily from unhappily married couples. Each type is very different from the others, and each type of couple has its benefits and risks.

Of the two unhappy couple types Gottman has been able to identify in his Love Lab, Hostile couples stayed unhappily married, while Hostile-Detached couples eventually divorced.

Do you know what type you are? 

1. Conflict Avoiders

Conflict avoiders minimise persuasion attempts and instead emphasise their areas of common ground.  They avoid conflict, avoid expressing what they need from one another, and congratulate their relationship for being generally happy.  An important aspect about conflict-avoiding couples is in the balance between independence and interdependence.  They have clear boundaries, and are separate people with separate interests.

This is not to denigrate the quality of the areas where they meet and depend on one another. They can be quite connected and caring in those areas of overlap where they are interdependent. While they are minimally emotionally expressive, they maintain a ratio of positive-to-negative affect around five to one. Their SPAFF (Specific Affect Coding System) weighting is not overly positive, but not bad at all. Their interaction is good enough for them.

2. Volatile Couples

Almost the exact opposite of conflict avoiders, volatile couples are intensely emotional.  During a conflict discussion, they begin persuasion immediately and they stick to it throughout the discussion.  Their debating is characterised by a lot of laughter, shared amusement, and humour.  They seem to love to debate and argue, but they are not disrespectful and insulting.  Their positive-to-negative ratio? Five to one.

There is a lot of negative affect expressed, including anger and feelings of insecurity, but no contempt. They have no clear boundaries around their individual worlds, and there is enormous overlap. While they have to argue a great deal about their roles, they emphasise connection and honesty in their communication.

3. Validating Couples

The interaction of these couples is characterised by ease and calm.  They are somewhat expressive, but mostly neutral.  In many ways they seem to be intermediate between avoiders and the volatile couples.  They put a lot of emphasis on supporting and understanding their partner’s point of view, and are often empathetic about their partner’s feelings.

They will confront their differences, but only on some topics and not on others.  They can become highly competitive on some issues, which can turn into a power struggle.  Then they usually calm down and compromise.  During conflict, validators are only mildly emotionally expressive.  Once again, the ratio of positive-to-negative affect for validators averaged around five to one.

4. Hostile Couples

Hostile couples are like validators, except there are high levels of defensiveness on the part of both partners.  In Gottman’s Love Lab, the husband was usually the validator and the wife was the avoider. That was based on influence function shapes.

There was also a lot of criticism, “you always” and “you never” statements, and whining. During conflict, each partner reiterated his or her own perspective.  No support or understanding was offered for either person’s point of view.  There was lots of contempt.  All Four Horsemen were present.

5. Hostile-Detached Couples

These couples are like two armies engaged in a mutually frustrating and lonely standoff.  They snipe at one another during conflict, although the air is one of emotional detachment and resignation.

In his Love Lab, usually there was a validator husband with a volatile wife.  Escalating conflict will occur between two validators, but then one of them will back down.  But will the volatile let the validator withdraw?  Absolutely not.

So, why does the hostile-detached couple eventually divorce?  Why doesn’t the hostile couple?  Could it be that the answer has to do with the second phase of love, the establishment of trust phase?  The love equations have an explanation: Hostile couples (validator-avoider) regulate their negativity, while hostile-detached (validator-volatile) couples do not.

Welcome to Holland

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I was shown this story recently and I thought it would be good to share it and hopefully it will help others to appreciate what we have.

Welcome to Holland - By Emily Perl Kingsley, 1987

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

6 Signs You Over Analyse Everything

Friday, December 01, 2017

More people are prone to overthink and analyse than they will readily admit. While sometimes the thorough approach to problems and tasks can be helpful, the mind can race away and starting working against itself and goals.

Not being able to contain one's mind can be scary and detrimental to anyone's life.

Obsessive patterns and non stop analysing can lead to more problems like severe depression and anxiety disorders. Women (57%) are more likely to overthink than men (43%).

The same study showed that overthinking was prevalent in young to middle aged adults. Results showed that a whopping 73% of 23-35 year-olds were identified as over thinkers.

Do You Instinctively Second Or Triple Guess Yourself?

While you have checked your math or reasoning before, you check it again and again. It's almost compulsive, but you are afraid that you made a mistake and don't want to look foolish or let anyone down. Fear of potential failed outcomes drives the person into a panic.

Take deep breaths and grow your awareness of particular stressors that trigger this fear. Do thorough research to combat your irrationality. Fear has trouble standing against fact. Busy yourself with positive activities: creating, sharing, exploring and spending time with loved ones.

Are You Constantly Analysing Everything?

It doesn't matter what it is, or how tired you are, you can't turn your brain off. It picks up anything it can, and immediately starts to dissect and explore it. Even when you don't want to, you have to try to distract it or through tremendous effort stop it momentarily.

Well if you are going to overthink, might as well be productive with it. Set aside time, say fifteen minutes, in which you document the thoughts or speak out loud to yourself. This takes the nervous/fearful energy and habit and transforms it into a positive and productive one.

Do You Usually Take Things Personally?

You try your best all the time and try to account for everything. When something slips through the cracks you find yourself on the defensive, even when unprovoked. Even when you know the person doesn't mean to be insulting or rude, any offhanded comment or criticism is taken as an affront.

Are You A Perfectionist?

Everything has to be your definition of perfect. It has to look like, work like, act like, taste like exactly what you envisioned, with out fail. You have no patience for compromise, as you have looked at the issue from every angle and your way is the best way.

Perfection is impossible and the pursuit of the impossible will not fare well for those involved. In small increments, move away from 'This must be perfect', to 'I did my best'.

Does The Uncertainty Of The Future Scare You?

The uncertainty of 'what could be' or 'might be' scares you incredibly badly. It is the reason that you double check everything, and am always on alert. Despite your best efforts, nothing you can do eases the agony of even the slimmest possibilities.

Try this. Anytime you find yourself bogged down in thought, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Focus on nothing but your breath, bringing around a meditative state. Count your breaths, up to ten. Anytime you start wandering into the future, pull your attention back to your breath. You cannot control the future.

Can You Not Detach From Your Thoughts To Sleep At Night?

People have trouble sleeping at night for varied reasons. Your inability stems from the same thing, night after night. You go over and over a past event, problem, future obstacle or emotion. You analyse it incessantly and tirelessly. You even remark to yourself that this process is going nowhere, especially as the night wanes on and you get more tired.

Set aside an hour before you go to bed and write your thoughts down. Feel free to doodle, write fiction or whatever suites you! Burning away some of that energy in an productive and creative way can help relax the mind.


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