Sunday, January 26, 2014

Near Death Experiences: Coming Home to Ourselves


In the winter of 1982, during my senior year in college, I underwent surgery for injuries related to a car accident. Three days after the surgery, I recalled an experience that occurred during the surgery. I recalled a tense atmosphere in the surgery room just as I went unconscious from anesthesia.
The doctor's last words echoed in my head, and the next thing I knew I was sitting up in total darkness being greeted by a being whom I had never before met. During the experience, I felt an exchange of incredible love with the being. I felt completely at peace with this being and felt none of the pain of my injuries. I was surprised to have the complete use of my limbs, which were severely injured in the accident.
  
I walked down a long, dark hallway with the being at my right side. During this walk down the hallway, I had the feeling of a completion of my life. Everything felt right. It was the same feeling one has when finishing a good book. In the process of reading a book, one is totally immersed in the
individual pages being read. However, when one finishes the book, one’s understanding broadens, giving one a sense of the entirety of the book. I experienced that sense of entirety, although I did not recall experiencing a life review. What I remember was a sense of completion.
  
At the end of the hallway, we came to a great wall made of black and red bricks. Both of us stood before the wall and at that moment, I was gripped with an uncomfortable feeling. I was told to touch the wall. I did not respond. I was told to do so a second time and once more I did not respond.
At the third request of the being, he picked up my arm and hand and asked me to touch the wall. I replied, “If I do, will I die?” The being then, to the best of my recollection, laughed and said, “You know that death is just an illusion; life is eternal. Now, touch the wall, I cannot do it for you.” At that moment, I perceived my paternal grandmother on the other side of the wall telling me to
not touch the wall and to go back, that it was not time. I lifted my arm and hand out of the being’s hand and said “no.”
  
Instantly, I felt a physical rushing of my etheric body through empty space while being told I would completely heal. I opened my eyes in the recovery room of the hospital. As foretold, my body did fully heal. I was left bewildered by the experience. Slowly, a mild anxiety crept over me. Had I
rejected an offer of heaven? If so, would I be re-admitted later? It was at that point that I began a journey that has eliminated my fear of death and has piqued my interest in near-death experiences while allowing me to incorporate it into my work
  
Human beings have always been fascinated with death and the possibilities of what lies beyond it. It is currently not possible for us to know what happens to the human soul beyond death, since one must die and not return. Passing through the boundaries that separate the living from the dead has been an activity relegated largely to spiritualists and shamen. They have historically served as intermediaries between the world of the living and dead helping us to handle our grief.

Many of us liken the process of dying to process of going to sleep. We describe the corpse of an individual as appearing to be sleeping. A terminally ill individual is said to be going to his or her final resting-place. We even use a euphemism for euthanasia with our animals, “putting them to sleep.” All of this implies a final and terminal extinguishing of consciousness. As a society, to be realistic about death is to view it as an irreversible final experience. It is the quintessential end of consciousness and self-awareness.
  
It is becoming more widely known that there are ordinary people who may have journeyed very close to the boundary between life and death and may have even glimpsed the potential for life beyond death. People who are believed to have had a close brush with their own mortality while perceiving
life beyond our own Earthly experience are said to have had a near-death experience or an NDE.
  
The near-death experience is a self-reported encounter with death. During the experience, such people claim to have traveled to an apparent world beyond the one that we know of in this physical reality. They often return with the belief that they had died and were returned to this reality for
some reason that is not always clear to them. With the advent of modern technology for saving lives so close to the brink of death, reports of such incidents are on the rise.

People who have reported a near-death experience often have been pronounced clinically dead for some period. During that period, such individuals may have begun what could be considered the journey to the realm of life after death. They might experience a separation from their bodies, meeting with other beings, and a life review. These individuals, however, perceive that they are not able to remain in that realm and for various reasons will self-report an experience of being called back into their body. For obvious reasons, we may never know with certainty what takes place after death; however, those who say they have undergone a near-death
experience may be able to tell us what happens at the border of the frontier beyond this life.


 

Here is the interview I gave on the topic of NDE's on Compassionate Conversations

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sexting: A flash that can last a lifetime


Harlequin’s annual survey reveals surprising insights on the impact of technology on romance today including:  43% of all respondents admitted to ‘sexting’. Though 65% of those women will only ‘sext’ while in a serious relationship, 36% of casual daters admit to sending a risqué message after just a few dates. 27% of all respondents had sent nude photos via emails or text messages

These statistics are not surprising.  The largest group that Sexts are between the ages of 13 and 26.  These people have grown up and come of age during meteoric growth of this form of digital communication.  They are not as suspicious of this medium as people who grew up without it.  Now, that may not be a good thing because it desensitizes them to the drawbacks of this technology.   If you grow up with something, you don’t generally see it as dangerous as it might be. 

Remember, adolescence is a time when kids are bucking parental norms in search of themselves.  Sexting is definitely a symptom of bucking parental norms.  Unfortunately, adolescents are also impulsive and often act without thinking through the consequences.  There are physical developmental reasons for this.  With the cameras and phones that can text on the same device, it removes the extra step of finding a camera that could give enough time to a decision that was made on impulse.

After getting away with it one time, it opens the door for doing it more.  For the moment, it appears that nothing bad happened.  So it can imply it’s OK to do.  This is not a true form of self-expression.  It is acting out impulses that bring a thrill.

The publishing of so many celebrities having been caught in Sexting only makes it more popular.  People, especially younger ones, have a drive to imitate their idols.  But it seems that the biggest factor in deciding to Sext for teens is peer pressure.  The statistic for women doesn’t surprise me.  The percentage of women who Sext is actually higher than it is for men.  This is probably because their male counterparts encourage such behavior or the women feel that they can entice him with such photos.  Men tend to pursue; women tend to say come and get me.  A naked photo says come and get me. 

I do believe the Sexting is not a good thing for the most part because it contribute to objectifying other people.  However, it is here and we just need to learn to deal with it as we do with most other forms of sexual expression.  I don’t believe that we need new or stricter laws.  Sexuality is part of human nature and we will only end up criminalizing people who really aren’t criminals and ruining their lives. 

Sexting can definitely come back to haunt you.  Once you’ve released a naked photo of yourself out on the World Wide Net, it is available for anyone to see.  Say, you send a naked photo of yourself to your boyfriend.  Then, you have a bad break up.  He gets angry and wants to make you look foolish so he sends out your photo to everyone on his list.  Now, it’s out there for the world to see.  Many employers are now going onto social media networks to research employees and potential employees.  They, too, can come across your naked photo that was taken many years ago.  What kind of impression do you think that makes on them?  Not a good one. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Psychological Challenges of College

Guest post by Marina Salsbury

The transition from high school to college can be a challenging time for young people, not only academically but also psychologically. There are certain stressors all students must face, but there are strategies they can use to deal with them effectively and in a positive manner. Whether at ivy league universities, local campuses, or even online colleges, students can get through school, be successful, and not become overwhelmed in the process.



One of the primary stressors is the anxiety that can come from changing environments. This transition time includes becoming homesick, making new friends, getting used to new routines, and an unfamiliar environment. Students may feel depressed, have low motivation, and problems sleeping. Students also may have trouble concentrating and changes in appetite.



Students can also become overwhelmed with the new levels of responsibility put on their shoulders. The workload from various classes, time management, and working a part-time job while going to school can be challenging. When you add in other day-to-day demands on attention such as cell phones, clubs, and sports, it can lead to overload for many students.



Academics alone are enough to give students high stress, especially when they're unprepared for the level of work they find themselves facing. Students with poor study skills may have received high grades during high school, but can become depressed and frustrated with the challenges of academic work at the college level when it's more than they expected or know how to handle.



When things get tough for many new college students, they often turn to drugs and alcohol to escape mounting stress. Parties and other social gatherings often offer free alcohol, even to underage drinkers. Students who drink excessively often show a sharp drop in academic performance, may become chronic drinkers, and risk the health hazards of binge drinking.



These psychological issues can be faced and dealt with effectively by students, especially if they know what resources are available. One of the most basic tactics is having someone to talk to when things get tough, to air frustrations and get solid advice on how to handle things. This can be a school adviser, friend, professor, or counselor on campus.

Students should also set up times to visit family and friends during breaks and holidays. This helps keep a strong support system in place and reduces feelings of homesickness. It's also important for students to know it's normal to feel stressed and anxious at the outset of college, and that other students are often feeling the same way. Getting to know a variety of people and being active in a group can help to reduce loneliness, establish a sense of belonging, and build a support system away from home.



Students who have problems with time management, academics, and study skills should take advantage of academic support services on campus, including tutoring, writing assistance, counseling, and related services. These people can put students in contact with resources to help them improve, can assist in creating a schedule, and provide other valuable support.



Another basic key is being well rested and eating a healthy diet. This makes it easier to concentrate, keeps energy levels up, and reduces the likelihood of health issues. Tied to this is exercise, which is an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety as well as bolster physical health. Students can get involved in intramural sports or use gym facilities to keep in shape. Setting aside time for regular exercise can greatly help to improve students' daily lives.



Socialization doesn't have to be a source of anxiety, either. When entering a social situation, students should avoid unreal expectations about their own behavior, appearance, or what other people will think. The best way to meet new people is by getting involved in a group that shares a common interest, perhaps an athletic club or possibly a gathering related to a particular field of study. This makes talking with others easier and reduces the challenges of a completely foreign social scene.



Students who are active in their education, have strong support systems, and pay attention to their health have more enjoyable college experiences. They benefit from knowing about and taking advantage of the many support resources universities provide for them. By recognizing when to seek help and doing so early on before problems become too large for them to handle alone, students can reduce anxiety, control academic issues, and ensure they don't turn to destructive habits to avoid the psychological challenges of college.


For more information on Dr. Jim and free affirmations and downloads, log onto his website at www.LAtherapist.com.  You may also log onto his award-winning self-help audio site at www.TheDrWaltonSeries.com for help with anxiety, relationships and life changes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Quick and Fun Personality Test


Here is a brief personality test that I have created and copyrighted.  I give it out to my clients in my private Family Therapy practice to help them understand their core values and the personalities.  Knowing your personality profile can be helpful in understanding everything about yourself from choosing a career and knowing what methods of relaxation you might respond best to.  

Rate how closely you agree with the statements below and add up the total your score then match it with your personality chart at the bottom.  Then, click on the link at the end that will take you to an in-depth explanation of your score.  This is a great self-help tool.

Scoring by Points:
Never – 1
Sometimes – 2
Half the Time – 3
Most of the Time – 4
Always – 5

Questions:

1.          How often do you initiate sex?

2.          How often are you the first to apologize?

3.          Do you enjoy makeup sex?

4.          Do you enjoy sex with the lights on?

5.          Are you comfortable with a hug from a stranger?

6.          Do you enjoy traveling to new places and meeting new people?

7.          Do you enjoy public displays of expression and affection?

8.          Do you require others to go with you to the movies?

9.          Do you easily express your emotions and feelings toward others?

10.         Do you enjoy spending money on yourself?

11.         Does your handwriting slant to the right?

12.        The perfect evening for me is leaving home and meeting new people...

13.        How important is the label of your clothing?

14.        How important is it that others like you?

15.        How often are your hands warm?

16.        I enjoy being busy...

17.        I enjoy working with my hands...

18.         For me, form over function is important...

19.         I don’t sweat the details...

20.         How easy is it for you to overlook the flaws in others?



If your score is...

(Click the link to the right for an in-depth description)
20 – 35  You're the Introvert
36 – 51  You're the Inquisitor
52 – 68  You're the Trouble Shooter
69 – 84  You're the Trailblazer
85 – 100 You're the Performer
All rights reserved Copyright 2009 James E. Walton, Ph.D.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

7 Steps to Quickly Assess for A New Friend or Mate

In this fast paced world, we don’t always have the luxury of time when it comes to deciding whether or not we want to invest into getting to know someone.  All too often, we meet people at work or at gatherings for brief periods and may be missing real opportunities for a good friend or love relationship because we didn’t dig a little deeper.  We can all use some help when it comes to making a decision on whether or not we should look more closely at the possibility of a relationship.  Here are seven time saving steps to look into when meeting a new potential friend or mate.     
      1.  Can you talk easily with this person about a variety of topics?  Introverts have more difficulty with this task so they might be forgiven for this.  
     2.  Does this individual ask you questions about yourself and show interest in your responses?  This shows interest in you as a person and bodes well for future encounters.  
     3.  Does this person have an aspiration that he/she is actively pursuing?  Just talking about a goal does not count here.  They must be making some kind of progress on achieving what they desire.  Are there any signs that their actions or abilities are in conflict with actually achieving the stated goal?  
     4.  What are his/her first thoughts when they wake up in the morning? People will often think about those things that are important to them when they are waking up.  But, the mood they awaken with is an indication of their temperament.    
     5.  Will this person help a stranger?  This indicates their sense if civic duty, as well as, their ability to respond empathically with others.  Without empathy, they are never going to connect with you in a meaningful way.  Now, a narcissist might help out a stranger as well, but only if it bolsters his public image.  You can suss out a narcissist through questions 2 and 6 if they slip through this question.  
     6.  Can she/he discuss an embarrassing moment with you?  If not, then they are not willing to be vulnerable and are more interested in creating an image for your consumption rather than being a real human being with you.  They may actually expect the same from you too.    
     7.  Are they genuinely happy for a friend who is successful? This is important because envious and negative people have a difficult time doing this.  They view another's good fortune as it relates to themselves, against which they do or don’t measure up. These are the kind of people who have the potential to sabotage another in defense of their own inferiority feelings.                                                                                                                    For more information on Dr. Jim log onto his website at www.LAtherapist.com.  For free listens and self-help audios log onto www.TheDrWaltonSeries.com.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Danger of Narcissism and Acting


The danger of method acting is that the actor is trying to replicate real life emotions by drawing on real life experience.  For most actors this is not a problem but an incredible skill that furthers them in a stellar career.  However, there are those few who confuse the conjuring up of other personalities in the name of acting with their own personal identity. 

By looking for approval from others to determine the value of the actual self, actors can take a wrong turn that can lead to a self-destructive disavowing of their own imperfections and personal growth.  This leads them down a road to where they are rewarded to the degree that their selves do not count.  When this occurs, the individual loses the ability to distinguish the difference between self and other.  Any separateness is then seen as a sign of weakness that must be eradicated.

If an actor becomes hung up on their image, they cannot distinguish between an image of whom they are pretending themselves to be and the image of whom they actually are.

When this occurs, the individual identifies with he idealized image of the self and the actual self-image is lost.

The denial of actual feelings becomes the disturbance.  They minimize their own feelings while taking on an “acting as if” quality to the feelings that seem to be expressed.  Their behavior is not motivated by actual feelings; rather their behavior is contrived and calculated to enhance their own sense of grandiosity in the eyes of others.  These people are predisposed to depression. 

The actual self-image, to these people, is not acceptable.  Their bodies are not living aspects of themselves, but rather they view their bodies as instruments made to bend to the will of the mind.  So, the body works as a slave to the mind to express the intentions of the mind devoid of feeling.  It performs like a machine or statue without a true sense of self.  Expression is contrived rather than organic. 

If an individual’s ego becomes inflated by success, they lose touch with the reality of their body.  Many people have public images based on their accomplishments or social position; this does not mean that they have a disturbance.  They do have a problem if they begin to base their own personal identity on the contrived public identity instead of on their own internal drives and bodily feelings.

So, it is important for actors to maintain a certain public image that their fans expect of them.  However, it is equally important that the actor does not abandon his or her own true identity for the public identity in their personal life.  If this occurs, there is a disturbance between the imagined self and the actual self.  This would lead to loss of self, grandiosity, and sever depression. Seeking out a qualified therapist would be a good first start to resolving this.

I was recently asked a question about Heath Ledger and whether his celebrity status led to his suicide.  I responded by hypothesizing that his ego probably took possession of his character as a defense against feelings of separateness and neediness through his recent divorce.  Both separateness and neediness are seen as a weakness that must be eradicated by an individual who has lost his true identity.  By possessing his character in a grandiose way, he may have denied his own true and personally unacceptable feelings.  The more grandiose he grew, the deeper and more hidden the depression probably grew. 

He was able to express rage through his character without expressing sadness or fear.  His apparent taking on the character off the stage was probably intended as a defensive maneuver intended to frighten others and insulate him from having to express genuine emotion. 

This power may have been used to deny his hidden, and self-unacceptable, feelings of helplessness and dependency on others.  The more he engaged in the character, the more it would have reinforced his underlying insecurity and the more lost his actual self would have become.  This, in turn, may have been what led to his suicide.

Most actors are able to avoid such confusions of actual vs. false selves.  However, they must remain alert and vigilant to the danger.  They must remember to remove the public image self when in the presence of their private lives.

For more information on Dr. Jim, log onto his website at www.LAtherapist.com.  For information on Dr. Jim’s self-help series and for free samples, log onto www.TheDrWaltonSeries.com

Monday, August 15, 2011

Setting Boundaries with a Friend


I'm posting a Guest Post by Allison Gamble:

Setting Boundaries with a Friend

Let’s call her Lisa. Lisa was my best friend. A promiscuous version of myself. And that was alright - funny, even, with the crazy situations she found herself in - until she set her sights on my roommate. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to know that’s where it got hard.

Friends are essential in everyday life. We depend on our friends to help us in tough times and laugh with us in happy times. Unfortunately, sometimes friendships can cross a line. Finding Lisa’s black lace garters in my living room? Definitely a boundary crossed. Detailed accounts of Matt’s sexual prowess? Another boundary crossed. Lisa roaming the apartment in the sheet off his bed? I found my boundaries shrinking in around myself closer and closer as she crossed every comfortable line in the sand I’d drawn around myself. Then, when my boundaries outlined a tiny square in the center of my bed, she decided to come in one day and lay down next to me to talk. I didn’t have a roommate and a best friend anymore. I had two roommates, and no space to myself.

To paraphrase Paula Cole, where did all my boundaries go?


Tips on Setting Boundaries

•            Make strong expectations of cleanliness
•            Set specific days of the month for bills to be paid
•            Ensure clear boundaries of personal space
•            Establish a firm understanding regarding dates and visitors

Sounds easy right? Think again. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to rock the boat. It was easy to stay quiet and let Lisa have run of the house. But in their sex-haze, Matt would leave dishes in the sink for days, and I made the mistake of washing them myself, murmuring to myself in anger at this violation of my basic rights as a bill-paying resident of this apartment.

That’s where I went wrong. When you’re setting boundaries in your relationships, the most important element is letting everyone know just where your boundaries are. I shouldn’t have assumed that Lisa knew that it wasn’t appropriate to go into my room after we had redefined our relationship. When we were friends, she had spent the night in my bed with me, happy as kittens in a basket. After we had redefined our relationship - at parties, I introduced her as “Matt’s girlfriend,” not “my friend” like I had for years - I needed to tell her that I wanted my space back, that she could go into my room when given permission, not whenever she felt like it. I should have told Matt how I felt about Lisa spending the night every night. I gave away my voice, and no one could read my mind.

One of the trickiest situations is to have a friend move into the other’s home. They can be the best of friends; however, living with each other can drastically change things. They will learn personal things that probably did not want to know about the other person, and vice versa. It will be necessary to learn to share not only the TV, bathroom, washer/dryer but also bills and household chores. It’s wise to take on a roommate as far as money goes; but a person will need to ensure that the boundaries are clearly laid before the roommate sets up housekeeping.

Of course, friends do not have to share a home or even an office space to have respectable boundaries set. Our world is filled with technology that makes most people accessible whenever or wherever we may be. Because of the technology tsunami, many friends find it difficult to set boundaries on their personal time. Maybe I would have been okay with Lisa had I not been at the ready with a cellphone whenever she texted. Or maybe not. Either way, I needed to tell her that I needed space, and eventually I did.

When I finally opened my mouth to speak up for myself, Lisa and Matt were surprised. I seemed okay with everything. Of course I did. I was repressing my feelings in favor of theirs, and I let myself be miserable when I should have spoken openly and honestly about what I needed. My relationships with both of them are slowly rebuilding. We’re not as close as we used to be, but that’s no more their fault than it is mine.

Robert Frost opined that “good fences make good neighbors.” Does it mean that we have to be uncivil about it? Not at all. It does not mean that we have to be a door mat, either. Real friends enjoy each other within the given boundaries of friendship. When both sides respect the other, they can expect a lasting relationship.        

For more information on Dr Jim log onto LAtherapist.com.  For free audio listens and other products, log onto TheDrWaltonSeries.com