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  You may also log onto his award-winning self-help audio site at 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


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  For free listens and self-help audios log onto

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  For information on Dr. Jim’s self-help series and for free samples, log onto

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.        

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Healing from A Divorce or Breakup

First of all, talk about your loss with people who are willing to listen.  You might even want to seek out a licensed therapist to help you through this time.  It’s important to let yourself know that you can and will make it through this time. 

Stick to your daily routines.  Continue to eat, sleep and exercise at the same times you always have.  If you don’t exercise, now could be a good time to start.  Exercise causes our bodies to release endorphins that serve to help us feel better. 

You may feel that you will never love again.  You may feel you were foolish in having trusted that individual.  You may have felt that he or she was the “right” one for you and there will never be another.  None of those thoughts is true. 

There is not just one person out there for you; there are many right people out there for you.  If someone is ultimately not with you, then they were definitely not the right person.  The only thing true about that relationship experience is that you probably learned something about yourself that you can take forward into future relationships.

It’s your thoughts that determine your happiness, not the person you’re with.  Just stay away from idealizing or demonizing the other person. 

Stay away from alcohol or drugs they will only make the recovery from your loss more difficult by adding their own required recovery time to your healing process.  They only complicate the healing process. 

Don’t block the memories, allow yourself to feel as they come up and pass.  Allow yourself to grieve and cry and spend time alone when you feel you need to. 

It’s OK to Look at pictures of the two of you and feel the pain, and cry.  But set a time limit on yourself for doing this, say to only 5 or 10 minutes.  Then when the time is up, tell yourself you are done with that for now and change your thoughts by distracting yourself with something else more interesting or pleasant.

Do not seek revenge against this person. 

Rebound relationships help you to get over the old guy/gal.  They last about 90 days.
Isolating yourself from the world does not protect yourself or identity.  You need to be in contact with others.  Allowing yourself to be vulnerable actually protects your self better, because it allows others in and they enhance and validate your experience of other. 

How you position yourself when telling others of your break up will direct the way they respond to you.  Just tell them factually about it.  And say, “This is something I needed to do for myself and I would like to have your support, and if you are not able to, then let’s not discuss it.“

To mothers tell them that you love them for raising you right to know when to protect yourself and do what you need to do.  This is not an experience of failure, but rather and experience of success in learning what is right for you. 

For more information on Dr. Jim's award-winning self-help audios with free samples, log onto  For videos and more information on handling your thoughts and feelings, and to obtain free audio affirmations, log onto his website at   You can check out his Facebook page at 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Does It Mean If A Child Rejects One of the Parents?

Is your child rejecting one parent? In divorce or separation, 10% to 15% of children expressed strong resistance to spending time with one of their parents, and this may be increasing in our society. It may be the father or mother. It may be the parent the child visits, or the parent where the child lives. Is this the result of abuse by the rejecting parent? Or is this the result of alienation by the favored parent? The idea that one parent can alienate a child against the other has been a big controversy in Family Court over the past 20 years, with the conclusion that there are many possible causes for this resistance. Most courts take reports of alienation very seriously and want to know if this is the result of abuse for alienating behavior. Resistance to spending time with the parent is always a serious problem. This needs to be investigated, fully understood, and treated with counseling in many cases. Otherwise, the child’s future relationship may be much more difficult.

Is this the result of abuse? The first concern of the courts is protecting the children. If there are reports of child abuse as the cause of the child alienated behavior, the judge may make a protective order restraining contact with the rejected parent, such as a temporary order for supervised visitation. If you are the rejected parent you may feel that the supervised visitation is unnecessary or insulting. Yet this may be your biggest help, as someone neutral can observe the child’s behavior and your relationship. Often the judge will say that he or she will not make any assumptions and wants more information before understanding the cause.

Is this the result of parental alienation syndrome? It is important to know that the courts across the country have not adopted the idea that there is such a syndrome. A syndrome requires a generally accepted cause-and-effect and there are many possible causes of the chill of child’s alienated behavior, up abuse by parent, alienating behavior by parent, lack of emotional boundaries by rejected parent, lack of emotional boundaries by a favored parent, developmental stage, outside influences, etc. Also, despite alienating behavior by some parents, many children are not resistant to spending time with the other parent. So it is not accepted as a syndrome. However the courts generally recognized that some children are alienated, they just don’t know the reason automatically and often want more information.

What are the signs of an alienated child? Children were not abused, but are alienated have emotionally intense feelings but vague or mirror reasons for them. A child might say, I won’t go to see my father. Yet she might struggle to find a reason he doesn’t help me with my homework. Or he dresses sloppy. Or he just makes me angry all the time. The child might say, I hate my mother yet again the reasons are vague or superficial she is too controlling she doesn’t understand my dad these children complain that they are afraid of the other parent, yet behavior shows just the opposite space–space they feel confident in blaming or rejecting a parent without any fear remorse. Some of them speak negatively of the rejected parent to others, then relaxed when they are with the rejected parent. Others run away, rather than spend time with the rejected parent. All these behaviors are generally different from those of truly abused children, who are often extra careful not to offend an abusive parent, are often hesitant to disclose abuse and often recant even though it’s true.

Why do alienated children feel so strongly?   Alienated children generally show intensely negative emotions and absence of ambivalence. New search on the brain suggests that this may be the result of the unconscious and nonverbal transference of negative emotions from parent child. The parents intense angry outbursts, even if they are rare, intense sadness and intensely negative statements about the other parent may be absorbed unconsciously by the child’s brain, without the child even realizing it. The child then develops intensely negative emotions towards the other parent, or anyone the upset parent dislikes, but doesn’t consciously know why. This may explain the vague or minor reasons given by alienated children for intensely rejecting a good parent. This spilling over of negative emotions from upset parent the child may have begun years before the divorce, so the child is very tuned into the upset parent, and automatically and instantly absorbs their motions and point of view.

Does custody make a difference? If one parent has almost all the parenting time, then the child will not have his or her own experiences with the other parent to know that he or she is not bad. Most states expect children to have substantial time with both parents except in the cases of abuse. Ironically, the amount of time is generally not the biggest factor. The biggest factor is if one parent is constantly spilling over intensely negative emotions to the child about the other parent, while the other parent is following court orders and not addressing these issues at all. For this reason, children can become alienated against either a noncustodial parent or custodial parent. This can be either the father or the mother. It’s like a bad political campaign, with one side campaigning hard and the other side not campaigning at all.

How can you prevent alienation? You might be alienating your child against the other parent or against yourself, without even being conscious of it, especially during a divorce. Here are seven suggestions:

1.    Positive comments: regularly point out positive qualities of the other parent your child

2.    Repairing comments: all parents’ magnetic negative comments about the other parent at times. If you realize you made such a comment, follow up with a repairing comment. I just spoke negatively about your father. I don’t really mean to be so negative. He has many positive qualities and I really value your friendship with him. I’m just upset and my feelings are my responsibility not his and not yours.

3.    Avoid reinforcing negative comments: healthy children say all kinds of things, positive and negative, about their parents, even about abusive parents. If there is abuse, have it investigated by reversals. If not, be careful that you’re not paying undue attention to the negative comments and ignoring their positive comments.

4.    Teach problem-solving strategies: if your child complains about the other parent’s behavior, unless it is abusive, suggest strategies for coping: honey, tell your father something nice before you ask for something difficult. Show your mother the project you did again, she might’ve been busy the first time. If you are upset, maybe you can just go to your room and try not to listen and draw a picture instead.

5.    Avoid excessive intimacy: children naturally become more independent and self aware as they grow up. Be careful not to excessively intimate with your child for the child’s age, as this may increase an unhealthy dependency on you. Examples include having the child regularly sleep with you in your bed beyond infancy, sharing adult information and decisions, and excessive sadness at exchanges or how you miss the child when he or she is at the other parents house.

6.    Avoid excessive comparisons: when you emphasize the skill or characteristic that you have, don’t place it in comparison to weakness of the other parent. You each have different skills and qualities that are important to your child. By comparing yourself positively and the other parent negatively you can inadvertently influence your child. Remember that your child is a combination of both of you, and thinking negatively of one parent to the child may think negatively about half of him or herself.

7.    Get support or counseling for yourself: it is impossible to go through a divorce without getting upset some time. Protect your child from as much as possible by sharing your upset feelings with adult friends and family, away from your child. Get counseling to cope with the stress you are under.

Article Author:  Bill Eddy, JD, LCSW, and Mediator

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

In-laws, Stepchildren and Other New Marital Delights

It has been said that marriage is the process of finding out what kind of person your mother-in-law would have preferred so this writing is devoted to assist you in handling difficult situations that could arise with relatives around the wedding. 

First and foremost, when dealing with your future in-laws, remember to be polite.  Engage respectfully using please and thank you, even if you are not accustomed to doing so.  Remembering these niceties will help you to score big points with your future in-laws and may also help to smooth away the inevitable bumps in the road as the family constellation changes through the marriage.

In most cases, in-law relationships are more or less harmonious.  However, if you are feeling a little uncomfortable with your prospective in-laws, you might benefit by making a concerted effort to get to know them.  You might find it helpful to invite them to join you one on one in a pleasant activity that will allow for conversation such as going out for coffee together, or shopping.  Cooperating with each other during a constructive activity such as preparing a meal together or doing some house chores together can build a history of positive interpersonal experiences between the two of you that will form the basis of pleasant memories together.  It takes more than time for love and respect to build between a spouse and an in-law.  It takes a collection of positive togetherness experiences. 

If you cannot think of an activity, offer to assist them with a task or project they are working on.  Choose one that will allow you to spend time together and engage in conversation.  If you run out of ideas on what to talk about, you can always ask them questions about themselves.  I can assure you, that most people find talking about themselves an endlessly fascinating topic. 

It can be difficult for parents to let go of their children and see them leave home.  Sometimes, this means that one or both parents have difficulty respecting the boundary of the newly formed bond between a husband and wife to be.  They may interfere in the relationship in a bid to not lose their beloved child to the new spouse.  Their interference may be a bid at attempting to control their own feelings of what they perceive as their child’s abandonment of them.  It is important for the survival of your relationship to draw a boundary around your relationship as a couple and to insist that it be respected. 

If this becomes the case, you will need to speak to your parents.  It is the responsibility of the spouse whose parents are intruding to speak to them.  If it is your parents, put the onus on yourself and not your partner and politely set some limits with them.  Be polite, but firm.  You may also find it helpful to ask them what the situation was like for them when they were married.  In the course of the discussion they may find that their behavior with you relates back to their own marriage experience.  It could be a healing experience for you both. 

Sometimes, difficulties arise from family members due to a mixed faith marriage.  If this happens to you, approach the topic directly with your family.  Again, be polite but firm.  Difficulties arise when families fear the loss of their beloved family member.  Reassure your family that you are still the same person you have always been and that you will continue to value your own beliefs and that you respect their beliefs and will continue to respect their beliefs even after marriage.   If they continue to frown on your decision, you can just agree to disagree on that issue.  Remember, this marriage is not about them.  It’s about you.  You may have to remind them and yourself of that fact. 

Nothing can be worse at a wedding than when relatives are fighting with each other.  Once again, you may want to remind them that this wedding is not about them, it’s about you.  Ask them to put aside their differences for one day and to cooperate with you on your wedding.  You don’t need to fix it for them.  Just ask them to cooperate with you and put their focus away from each other and onto your event for just one day. 

It can be very trying having to deal with all the wedding plans while handling arguing relatives at the same time.  This kind of stress can cause tensions to rise between the engaged couple.  If this happens to you, then you need to take a break from dealing with the wedding plans.  Give yourselves some time together where you are not dealing with the wedding in any manner.  Go out and do something fun together.  There will be plenty of time to work on the wedding later.

In fact, it’s a good idea to have a date night with each other once a week through the process leading up to the wedding.  This would be one night a week where you do something enjoyable together that has nothing to do with planning the wedding.

And since communication is so important, after you are married, I suggest you continue the practice of date night even after you are married. 

If this is a second marriage, and children are involved, understand that the welfare of the children comes first over the new spouse.  Children may fear the loss of their parent to the new spouse and act out in ways for attention.  This is to be expected.  Reassure them that they will be as important to you after you are remarried as they are to you right now. 

To improve the likelihood of family cohesiveness and harmony after the wedding, it is important for your fiancé to begin to develop a one on one relationship with each of the children before the wedding.  Invite him or her to spend some alone time with each child doing some activity that the child find enjoyable.  Doing this, your fiancé will begin to build a history of positive interaction with each child.  If they are old enough, include the children in the ceremony in some way. 
After all, the new spouse is marring more than you.  He or she is marring into a family.  The children’s inclusion in the ceremony will reassure them of their place and importance in the family which may be threatened by the entrance of a new spouse.

Some men have difficulty understanding that the children come first and he comes second, and that it will continue that way even after marriage.  This is just the way is it and should be.  He needs to clearly understand this before the wedding.  If he is not willing to go along with that, then you might need to re-consider your wedding plans.  Whether it is an intact or blended family, the best interest of the children always comes first.

Along with the great joy that a wedding and all its preparation can bring, it can also be a time of sorrow when a beloved parent is absent for the celebration due to their untimely passing.   For individuals going through such an experience it is perfectly normal to feel some sorrow while in the midst of their great joy.  Under these circumstances, it is healthy to hold onto both the feelings of joy and sorrow at the same time.  For these individuals, their wedding can be bitter sweet.  If this is your situation, you may find it helpful to speak with your beloved fiancé about your feelings.  Talking out your feelings of sadness over the parent’s absence may actually help to bring you both closer.  Give your sadness a place, but don’t let it take over the wedding.  As you give yourself permission to feel the sadness, give yourself permission to also feel the joy of this wonderful experience that you so richly deserve.  Remember, this day is about you and your partner.

As a way of easing some of the feelings of sorrow and helplessness under these circumstances, it may be helpful to write a loving letter to the absent parent introducing your partner.  In your letter, express your love for both the absent parent and your fiancé.  Include what you would like the parent to know about the person you are marring.  Let the parent know what you have learned from him or her and how you carry that with you in your new life.  Let them know that you will always love them and that they will always be with you in your heart. Also, let them know, in your letter, what you will tell your children about them.
Then, if it is conducive with your religious beliefs, you may choose to symbolically invite them to the wedding by reserving a place for them at the ceremony.  They will be right there with you.  You may share your letter with your partner if you choose.  That is up to you.  After the wedding, you may choose to burn the letter or store it away along with the other mementos that you save from the wedding.  Again, it is up to you how it is handled. 

This exercise is an honoring of the deceased relative and in the honoring of that individual; you have honored your relationship with them and by doing so, you have included them in your wedding experience.  This exercise is not limited to a deceased parent.  It may be used for working through feelings with any individual whose absence has left a void in your special day. 

For more information on Dr. Jim and free couple's communication information, affirmations and downloads, log onto his website at  You may also log onto his award-winning self-help audio site at   For Information on Dr. Walton's Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Practice, log onto


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forgiveness: A Call to Sacrifice

All of the people and things around us serve as mirrors for ourselves.  Nothing can cause us to feel something we are unwilling to feel.  The feeling we feel towards someone must originate within ourselves.  No one, outside of ourselves, can control our thoughts or feelings.  We are the source of our feelings, we are the source of our fears, we are the source of our hurts and we are the source of our forgiveness. 

Within relationship to another is found the projection of our own internal, unsettled conflicts.  It is through the forgiveness of that other, that we resolve our own internal discords.  Others serve as a mirror to our own soul.

The exercise of forgiving others is an exercise in forgiving ourselves.  Forgiveness unchains the unyielding heart for the freedom to live and love again. 

The nature of forgiveness regenerates life.  Forgiveness is not found in judgment, it is found in acceptance.  Through acceptance, the workings of struggle are released.  That which is unnecessary is released.  That which is wisdom is incorporated. 

Forgiveness allows change, for after forgiveness, nothing remains as it was but is moved forward towards wisdom.  For wisdom is knowledge without bitterness.

Forgiveness is a call to sacrifice.  We sacrifice that which we wish could have been for seeing the sacredness of what is now.  In sacrifice, we are called into the realm of the sacred.  We have the opportunity to acknowledge the sacredness of our relationship with another.  Life calls us to take an extra step into deeper understanding of who we are through our relationship with another.  These are the experiences that add value and depth to our lives. 

As with all true sacrifice, it comes from a place of selflessness, carrying a gift in the form of connectedness to life.  In those moments of connectedness, we feel our connection to God, the Universe and Life.  That connectedness is the only currency of value that exists. 

Recognizing this value brings its own reward:  a deeper understanding of ourselves adding to our sense of aliveness.  The sacrifice of forgiveness allows us to experience our connectedness to that love.  There is love in everything, but our connection to it is a choice. 

For more information on Dr. Jim and free affirmations and downloads, log onto his website at  You may also log onto his award-winning self-help audio site at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How To Make Friends... Even if You're Not Sure How

We’ve all heard the adage, to have a friend you first have to be a friend.  This is absolutely true, but what does that mean?  Often, we don’t know what it means to be a friend.  Most people made friends easily when they were young.  They went to school and mixed with a lot of people their own age five days a week.  Many, went on to after school activities and met and related to even more people.  Most people made at least one friend given these circumstances. 

As we grow older and leave school, we have far fewer opportunities to make friends.  When we leave the highly social structure of the school environment for the work environment we find ourselves increasingly more isolated.  We get up, go to work, come home, feed the dog or cat and go to bed exhausted.  Not much time or energy left to devote to making friends.  The longer we continue on this path the more accustomed to this routine we become and the more isolated we become.  If we don’t devote some energy into making friends, we will find ourselves alone. 

I tell my patients that there are seven pillars that hold up a good friendship.  Those are respect for one another, acceptance of the other, non-criticism, listening, being emotionally present, support for the other’s goals, and our accepting their influence. 

When making friends remember to relax, smile and make eye contact.  When you smile at someone, they have a reflex response to smile back.  If you don’t believe me, try it out on a stranger.  They average person will have a reflex response to smile back.  It started when you were a baby and continues to serve you today.  

Introduce yourself to people and then initiate that you get together.  Go out for coffee or lunch.  Find out what interests them and ask them questions about it.  Explore to see if you can find some common interests.  Keep the conversations light and cheery.  Stay clear of heavier more emotionally charged topics like politics and religion for the time being. 

Where might you meet new potential friends?  Join organizations that you have interest in, join a sports team, join a choir or dinner club.  There are also activity clubs such as hiking or camping clubs.  Join Facebook or Twitter.  Even has a section for just making friends. 

There are many things you can do to make new friends.  But the most important thing you have to do is to take some action.   Get off the couch and become more active in circulating with other people.  Making friends is like riding a bike.  You may be a little rusty, but once you’ve learned how, you never forget.  That reminds me, biking clubs are a good way to make new friends too!

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