How to stay away from proving and defending during the holidays

Bill’s tip for November: Staying Happy for the Holidays

Here come the holidays! As adults we often feel the pressure to make these next months special, expecting to give to and receive from family and friends Hallmark tinged moments filled with warmth and closeness. Often these desires do not match up with the realities of spending time with those we care about. The cold fact is that, if mismanaged, ’tis the season to be disappointed.

Inviting key players from our pasts into our adult lives can make sparks fly

Why? Because when we are around the reminders of our pasts (despite our solemn pledge to ourselves not to) we often regress into the roles we played as children. Growing up, we were not yet powerful enough to go it alone, so we had to prove ourselves and defend ourselves in order to get the external attention we needed to survive.

Regardless of this attention being positive or negative, the focus of others was vital to our well-being because we needed others to guide us through our development. “The best little boy in the world.” “The smart one.” “The bad girl.” “The funny one.” -These were the array of adolescent personas we assumed or were cast into in order to get our caregivers’ and peers’ vital attention.

Fortunately, we have matured, and, as adults, we are up and running independently. Unfortunately, the long established family communication rules and operating systems are rarely updated and, so, remain steeped in history. We (or they) show up and these old ways of perceiving each other resurface: We find ourselves expecting and abiding by the past instead of enjoying the present.

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People struggle because they do not accept their circumstances

People get the definition of acceptance wrong all of the time. Acceptance does not mean agreement: We do not have to agree with the politics, judgments or expectations of our families. Acceptance is about putting our struggle down – not needing to prove our point or get another to understand us. The best way to feel close to another person is to stop trying to convince them to see things our way. When we entrench ourselves in needing to be “right”, what we are actually doing is imposing “wrongness” on the other person for having another belief or viewpoint. This only creates emotional distance. I often tell my clients the goal of a successful interaction is not to prove or defend yourself. Your task is simply to be yourself.

So instead of setting an agenda this year, why not just decide to enjoy the many different perspectives and experiences your family members have collected and are excited to share with you. Consider it your opportunity to witness the show-and-tell of yester-year from the comfort of being all grown up.

Phillip’s tip for November: Bringing Bipolar Home (Part one of two)

The Numbers: It’s estimated that 5.7 million Americans are Bipolar. This disorder typically becomes apparent during puberty when hormones are raging, wreaking havoc on a person’s life -creating both personal and professional relationship conflicts, especially when misdiagnosed or misunderstood. However, having Bipolar disorder is not a reason to give up hope for a happy life or a reason to stop living: Many highly creative and successful people have been Bipolar and there are effective treatments available.

What is it? Bipolar Disorder (historically called Manic Depression) occurs when certain abnormalities in the circuitry of the brain’s pre-frontal lobe create extreme shifts in mood, energy and/or perception. This can cause an inability to manage one’s surroundings, make prioritizing information impossible and decrease the awareness one has of predicting the consequences of one’s actions.

Learn the signs and prepare emotionally: A Bipolar person’s moods most often cycle between manic and depressive symptoms. During a manic phase, one’s irrational thoughts can rule and one’s personality can drastically shift. Helping you or someone you know cope with bipolar symptoms (especially mania) can be challenging because one often becomes agitated or hyper-logical, arguing with you when you suggest corrective measures.

Try not to take it personally! If you are the brunt of someone’s Bipolar mood swings or outbursts, try not to personalize what the person is saying: Imagine losing your perspective and having an inability to understand consequences. Realize, containment can be necessary during a manic episode and understand that it may be better to rationalize with this person when behaviors have subsided.

Through it all, remember the Bipolar individual is a friend or family member and could use your love, support and compassion. -Be aware that this disorder is not about you!

Note: The above article is only a simple beginning of the complex topic of what it means to cope with being Bipolar. The key is proper diagnosis and treatment. Talk therapy can be a helpful tool.Treatments will be discussed in next month’s newsletter. Feel free and contact me for more information in the meantime at 310-779-2456.

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