Thriving Launch Interview–Don’t Miss It

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Relationship Communication – Marty Babits

Being interviewed by Luis Congdon and Kamala Chambers, hosts of the popular podcast, Thriving Launch, was exhilarating. Previous guests on their program include Harville Hendrix, Stan Tatkin, Marianne Williamson and many others.

Luis and Kamala ask great questions and create a friendly and compassiontate mood. Together we explore what makes three-dimensional communication work so powerfully. Please enjoy, like, share.

Stop Waiting for the Right Moment to Meditate

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5 ways to practice active meditation

I found myself sitting on my couch this weekend feeling that I really needed to take some time for myself, some down-time. Simultaneously, I felt that the need to get up and do something because my thoughts were flying wild, bouncing from one topic to the next. Before I committed to any activity I took the opportunity to look over Adrienne Glasser’s latest piece, the guest blog presented below. It’s effect on me was calming and energizing. Her wise and compassionate words helped me. I offer these same words to you and trust that they will be helpful to you:

used w/permission Adrienne Glasser
Source: used w/permission Adrienne Glasser

If you’re anything like me, your mind won’t be still for a second. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to stop thinking. What a bummer!  But a true meditation practice allows for thoughts to be part of the experience. Even then, the slowness of sitting sometimes feels intolerable.  In many instances, I can’t tolerance sitting. In those moments, despite my strong belief in the great value of meditating, it seems like a waste of time. Other things seemed more important.

In my 20’s, family illness filled my time, I was confronted with crises of life and death. I needed an active meditation practice and was introduced to Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditation. His practice of mindfully washing dishes was helpful to me. I found that my amped up nervous system could get a respite while in motion. I practiced activemindfulness and eventually learned to resume a seated meditation practice.

Recently, I became a mother for the first time and became preoccupied with worries concerning my newborn’s vulnerability. My sitting meditation practice fell apart as I felt speeded up with worry and unable to calm myself without physical movement. So I once again adopted an active mindfulness practice, one in which I used motion to help release tension. Many of the active mindfulness practices fall under the umbrella of what Buddhists call the Noble Eightfold Path or “The Middle Way” (like this blog!)  This path is a practice of: Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. “Right” meaning an intention of non-harm (not as in right vs. wrong).

Below are my current favorite ways to practice active mindfulness that are part of The Eightfold Path. I hope these practices below will be an alternative to what Ethan Nichtern calls “The commuter” in his book The Road Home.  The commuter runs to ease her pain. The running from one quick fix to the next only fuels this suffering. The practice of The Eightfold Path through Active Mindfulness allows for a bit more slowness and presence that can ease suffering, even if we are noticing seconds of stillness in action.

1. Mindful Presence

Throughout the day I turn my view to being fully aligned in the moment with another person. This can be practiced through mindful listening in a conversation with a friend or loved one (Right Mindfulness) or pausing before speaking (Right Speech).  Recently I practiced Right Effort, just having a loving presence towards others. I would start my practice with feeding my infant daughter and radiating my care for her to others, extending that presence to family, friends, clients and even strangers.

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Curious About Cuba?

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Between the grandeur and the grunge, is there a Middle Ground?
2 cars pik

When was the last time you sat down to a breakfast and were served a platter of sliced mango, guayaba, pineapple, banana and watermelon?  How about eggs as you like them with sautéed onions, toast, and café con leche as your second course?  That’s desayuno(breakfast) in Cuba.  It’s standard, in the fancy hotels as well as the down-home places.

Alternately: Who would think that a taxi ride from one part of the city to another amounts to a not-to-be-missed tourist outing? Nobody describes the New York cab experience this way.

Other cultures feature qualities that complement and potentially correct imbalances that we experience within our own. Increased familiarity between nations helps us negotiate differences. The Middle Ground speaks to an area in-between cultures that allows mutual understandings and compassion to emerge. Comparing and contrasting customs refreshes our outlook on ourselves.

Go to Cuba with your partner or—if single—on your own, prepared not to lose yourself, but to find your earthy spark.

Twenty-first century people seek a refuge from fear and a respite from unnecessary risk. However, avoidant life-strategies leave us adventure-deprived. Approaching unfamiliar settings mindfully expands attitudes. Openness to new experiences and the learning that comes with them serves us well in keeping our outlook—including the way we connect with our partners and friends—vital.  This is a prime motivation behind time-off travel. Scene change can lift us.

Here are some prominent features of the island:

The People: They are friendly, warm and engaging. Conversation flows easily—especially if you know some basic Spanish. If not, the will to get an idea or question across is usually sufficient for making connections. Talk with Cubans and you will understand ways in which they feel enriched: universal health care and education are roundly praised and highly prized. And you also will learn that they feel depleted in other respects—Cuban citizens are prohibited from entering many tourist areas unless they are performing a service. They are banned from most hotels and resort areas unless employed there. Inter-city travel around the island is not openly prohibited, but is organized in such a way that inhibits spontaneity.  Internet availability is not yet common.  The locals I spoke with exude pride in their country and history but if asked about changes they’d like to see, they speak at length.

The Cars: Predominantly American, made in the 1950’s, the autos on the island reflect reverence for U.S. glamour. Convertible Fords, Plymouths and Chevrolets ramble down the road. Their bold curves and fin-styled rear ends parade by in the too-sparse breeze. They will turn your head and prompt you to point your camera. For $35 CUC an hour (approximately $40 US dollars) the swankiest of these can be rented, along with an experienced driver to serve as tour guide. The drive around Havana is as splendid as anEsplendido—Cuba’s honey-dipped, pyramid-tipped, top-tier cigar.

Many physicians, college lecturers, language specialists, and so on, can—and do—increase their income by serving the tourist trade.  Our escort throughout the capital was a former veterinarian who increased his income eight-fold by hosting sightseers in his hot pink Ford Fairlane convertible.

Other areas of note and renown:

Lisa Martin, used w/ permission
Source: Lisa Martin, used w/ permission

Music: ubiquitous and magnificent. You see and hear players  and singers on many corners, in the plazas and parks, in bars and restaurants and even museums.

Currency: The US dollar gets hammered in conversion. You lose approximately 13% value. Wiser, at this moment, is to bring Canadian dollars to Cuba and convert them to CUC pesos with an approximate 3% conversion rate; you save 10% of your cash.

The Conversation About Race and Racism in America

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Yes to Peace -c by Inamel- shutterstockWe are grieving. Stunned, as a nation, by the recent killings of African-American citizens and stalwart uniformed police officers. Where is the middle ground in this situation?

All lives matter.

We ask ourselves: Philando Castile was shot to death after being stopped for a broken tail light in Minnesota. Was justice served? Was justice meted out to  Eric Garner for the crime of selling loose cigarettes on the Staten Island street corner? Alton Sterling was pinned down on the ground beside his vehicle and then shot at close range.  Was that the execution of justice? Or just an execution? Major decisions about these tragedies have yet to reach final adjudication.

Rudolph Guiliani claims that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is “inherently racist.” He reasons that affirming the importance of black lives is “anti-American” because it does not declare the value of other ethnicities and races. Isn’t that a little like insisting that the statement, “I love to eat salad in the summer” means the speaker eats no salad between Autumn and Spring?

This transformation of the slogan—an affirmation of the worth of African-American  lives—into a put-down of all other groups flips its meaning one hundred eighty  degrees. It exemplifies the kind of doublespeak that George Orwell featured in his thinly disguised critique of Soviet authoritarianism, 1984.

Doublespeak breeds confusion, suffering and deceit. Therapists work to clarify misunderstandings, reduce suffering and unravel deceit and deception. That is the rationale for including this discussion here, in a blog that typically focuses on matters of interpersonal communication and relationships.

An atmosphere of openness and emotional safety is as necessary to keep a marriage vital as it is to a society that aspires to embody democratic ideals.

The media is filled with pundits and pols who speak of pursuing “a conversation on race.” Yet that conversation peters out when parties are interested in scoring debate points against one another rather than acknowledging and appreciating what each is trying to get across to the other. The key objective of public discourse on race is for both sides to feel heard, not for each side to feel scolded, corrected or devalued.

Dealing With Your Partner’s Explosive Anger: 4 tips to help you find and use your voice

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blue eye watchingDoing nothing in the face of this problem is not an option for Amy. Yet she realizes that if she responds without considering her options mindfully, things can get worse. She is committed to trying to work things out with Kyle but feels that she is approaching her limit.

[Note: Although his outbursts are frightening Kyle has never struck either Ora or Amy.]

The situation: Ora, 11-year-old daughter of Amy and Kyle, had the lead part in the after school ballet. Kyle was out of town on business and missed the show. When Amy told Kyle that Ora had felt disappointed that he’d failed to attend he became irate. He pounded the wall with his fist so hard that he dented it and injured his hand.

He bellowed, “I do everything I can to give everyone what they need but it’s never enough.” He went on, “Can I be in two places at the same time? You are the meanest and most self-involved person I’ve ever known. I can’t believe you are telling me this the minute I get home after an exhausting trip.” As he continued screaming his face grew contorted and turned red.

Later that evening, Kyle apologized to Ora and Amy for the way he’d lost his temper. In a sense, this represented a step forward for him because usually when he became enraged, it took longer for him to regain composure.

In spite of her belief that Kyle does not intentionally try to unnerve either of them, she feels desperate to put an end to his outbursts. Amy feels drained and defeated. The damage to their daughter’s sense of personal security is palpable to her.

  • What response on her part would be most productive?
  • What approach(es) would likely be most destructive?

Tip #1 is an advisory. Do not make use of the Fool’s Golden Rule. The Regular Golden Rule is the one we all know well. It states that you treat your partner as you want to be treated. The fool’s gold rule goes like this: you have license to treat your partner the way he or she treats you. Amy knows from experience what this approach brings: additional chaos.

Why do I mention this approach given that it is so unproductive? Because it feels intuitively right to many partners. They seek to match what they do to what has been done to them. If you are hurt you want to exact pain from your partner. If you are intimidated you want to see your partner squirm. This impulse is easy to understand. But when the common denominator of your interactions are guided by this matching principle* you find yourself in a downward spiral of acts that cause and then compound disconnection.

Disconnection activates the neural circuits associated with anger and withdrawal. This activation can get more or less intense but it never crosses the tracks and creates connectedness. To get to that place you have to break from the disconnection mode and bring a different neural circuit into play. In other words, if you are in a reverse gear you can reverse quickly or more slowly but you cannot move forward.

In the past, what Amy had done in reaction to Kyle’s explosions was to demand a cogent explanation for why he allowed himself to discharge his anger so recklessly. And then she would demand reassurances that he would not, under any circumstances lose control of his temper again.

Kyle stated earnestly that he wanted to meet these demands. And what did his response amount to? Lip service. Why? Because he was not on the cusp of being able to deliver what she was demanding.

To get to where she wanted him to be they would have to go through a process together. He would have to make a conscious intention to stop the outbursts and to follow through with learning and practicing techniques to help him do so.

Amy might get him to go for therapy or anger management classes but there would still remain a distance between where he was, given his make-up and behavioral patterns, and the desired goals. And if she was too angry to believe in the possibility that he could manage effective change than their relationship would loom as part of the problem that breaking this anger pattern posed for them.

By approaching him with zero-tolerance demands, although her demands were just and understandable, Amy, in effect, matches his recklessness with her own. Faced with a challenge he had no real chance of fulfilling he becomes angrier. He feels increasingly inadequate. He feels shamed for not being able to do what both he and Amy wanted him to do: control his anger. The shame compounds the anger problem significantly and must be acknowledged and understood with compassion.

Conversation that starts with a demand for him give a solemn promise to never repeat the offending behavior had failed this couple numerous times. By the way, another couple might have success with this strategy that failed for Amy and Kyle. It can work for some couples depending on how prepared they are to make the change. But for many, couples like Amy and Kyle, something else is needed.

Tip #2 addresses this question: What can Amy reasonably expect from her husband? If Kyle can acknowledge that he has a problem this would represent a significant breakthrough at this point. Rather than to expect him to eliminate his anger-problem altogether this is an objective he might be able to accomplish. Can he stop blaming Amy for his rage and demonstrate self-focus? Can he show that he is serious about making these difficult (for him) changes? If so, he can give her assurances that he is working on changing what he can as quickly as he can. If he is not working on changing with a professional, he can commit to getting help. What he can’t do is say that it will never happen again under any circumstances. Yet this is what Amy repeatedly insists is a non-negotiable demand. She says, “Kyle, you need to tell me that it will not happen anymore. Ever. I can’t keep going through this.” Comments like this trigger Kyle’s fears of abandonment. Continued conversation—not blaming tirades—are needed to re-establish trust and reinstate a basic expectation of seeing one another as allies rather than adversaries.

Tip #3 advances what I call the Compassionate Couples Golden Rule. Here is how it works. Amy resists issuing the stern rebuke and the threat that she has reached her absolute limit, unless she is truly at the point where she is ready to leave and that is not the situation at hand.

Note: the threat to leave Kyle gets issued and then Amy relents only to reissue the threat. What she wants to do is jump start the real change process. The threats do not accomplish this.  They benefit no one.

Instead, she can say something like this to Kyle: “I want to understand what is going on inside you when you lose your temper because I want to do what I can to help you control it better. And I want to protect myself from you when you feel that way. I need to do both things. Please believe me, I do not want to shame you. You apologized to me for punching the wall and all that. I accept your apology. I know you don’t want it to happen again. I certainly don’t either but if it should I want us to handle it better. And I want us to handle it together. I do not want you to feel more guilty than you probably already feel. I want to understand what it’s like for you on the inside so I can do a better job of being helpful to both of us.” She looks at him to see whether he is listening. Satisfied that he is, she continues, “If I understand it, I’ll probably also feel less rejected by you in those moments. I don’t know if you realize that one of the reasons that your out-of-control anger hurts me so much is that it makes me feel you are completely unreachable. I actually miss you in those moments, even though I am also furious at you for what you are doing. “

As I have noted in another article when a conversation begins with a certain tone—like compassion—it inspires a back and forth that continues the theme. When a conversation starts with blaming and finger wagging it tends to stay on that track. The good news in that is that each new conversation gives partners the chance to start productively.

Tip #4 highlights the need for give and take between partners. Compassionate give-and-take can overcome anger problems so long as there is a conscious commitment to creating emotional safety. There are other words for what I call emotional safetymindfulness, serenity, patience, humility—these are all facets of the same mindset.

Internal flexibility is needed if we are to transform potentially destructive energy, angry impulses, into the stuff of connection. In order to stay clear of the downward spiral of tit-for-tat you’ve got to strive for generosity. This is not a moral precept. It is an operational principle for three-dimensional communication.

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Cognitive Dissonance and Gun Violence: Peace of mind cracks into pieces

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Life-of-Pix-free-stock JPG-peoples-object-explosion-SERGIOROLATwo thoughts, each canceling out the other, housed in one brain—that is cognitive dissonance. Such a state of mind is painful. The conflict saps the subjective experience of the affected person. And polls show more and more that we all, especially when confronting the issue of gun control, are affected.

How so? Consider the no-fly list compiled by homeland security and the FBI.  It is composed exclusively of individuals’ names who are, to a person, believed to be a threat to the public safety. This list blocks these individuals from boarding planes in any U.S. airport. Professionals, in their official capacity have judged them dangerous enough to warrant their being rated as potential terrorists. Hold this paragraph in mind: it constitutes Thought-Number-One.

The second thought that many of us are forced to hold in our minds at the same time? The potential terrorists can purchase military grade weaponry. They are free  to buy assault rifles. The only restriction arises if they lack cash. The weapons are not cheap. But if they have the currency, credit card or an acceptable personal check,  they can buy. Let’s say that this paragraph amounts to the Thought-Number Two. Together, Thoughts One and Two, make for the altogether contemporary state of cognitive dissonance with which so many of us suffer. It stymies people when they are asked to believe something that they cannot believe. What is unacceptable, what cannot be believed, is that nothing can be done about this situation.

This issue, at this time, is one of the few things that unites Americans. According to ABC News, ninety percent of adult Americans oppose the idea that those on the no-fly list are NOT prohibited from buying arms. ABC News, along with other credible sources, states that even Republicans—to the tune of eighty-five percent—take issue with the notion that a person can be placed on the no-fly list but not put on a no-buy list. Add this for good measure: eighty percent of registered Libertarians agree.

When we are exposed to gun control policies that render our ability to reason irrelevant, that say, in effect, that our desire to protect our friends and family is unimportant, then we are hard-pressed to feel that those responsible for current policies care about who we are or what we feel. Read More

Can Love Live Out Loud and Proud? A therapist’s struggle

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Source: stocksnap’

We have come a long way towards greater acceptance for the LGBTQ community in America. Despite those gains—as Orlando attests–we have a long way to go.

Today’s guest blogger writes in anonymity. She is a certified Psy.D in Psychology who treats a full-time caseload in an agency affiliated with a mainstream church. Her supervisor has advised her that if she were to “out herself” in an article in Psychology Today, her clients would transfer to someone else. Nonetheless, she has written extensively and with keen insight about her situation. She demonstrates candor, has researched her subject formally and also recorded perceptive observations of her experience as a therapist and as a woman. In her own words—-

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9 Steps to Surviving a Partner’s Betrayal

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What should you do after discovering that your partner has had an affair? And what should you not do? Couples therapist Myrna Reisman-Moreno, LMHC, today’s guest blogger, provides practical advice to make dealing with the pain a little easier:

Source: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock

You discover your partner had an affair. Panic, confusion, mental and physical pain put you in a dark place. Advice floods in from family and friends, books, and the Internet. Your life divides—Before the Affair and After the Affair. No matter how much your unfaithful partner voices his or her regret, you remain unsatisfied and your mistrust lingers.  Click here to read more

5 Ways a Group Can Help You Get What You Really Want

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Today’s guest blogger, Zoë Entin, LCSW is a relationship expert in private practice in Manhattan. She is currently completing advanced training in the FACTS (Family And Couples Treatment and Training Services) at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy. For the past decade and a half she has worked with adults and adolescents educating and counseling them about relationship abuse, healthy relationships and respectful breakups.

Whether this is related to work, romance, or family, a lot of clients, friends and associates have spoken to me recently about  finding themselves in a place they hadn’t envisioned or desired for themselves. As I listened to people talk about this I realized the need for a forum to explore why the sentiment is so common. Dr. Bella DePaulo’s book, How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, helped me broaden my perspective on the scope of alternative living situations that are becoming more popular in our country. It led me to consider how many of us hold onto ideals that, in some cases, have destructive consequences . This led me to ask myself, “What could I do, as a clinician, to make a positive contribution to this situation?” I decided to start a group for women who struggle to reconcile where they are in life with where they plan or planned to be. Here are five reasons members benefit from joining this group or another like it.

Reason Number 1: Challenging Your Perspective

One of my clients spoke at length about her frustrations around still being single. She is “very clear” about what she wants but feels that all the good partners are taken. Further exploration reveals that, although she says she wants to be in a relationship, she rarely socializes and is not participating in any activities that might help her meet new people.  A group is a helpful way to challenge how we see the problems we face. Someone who is stuck in a place of fear and self-doubt might be able to assist someone else who hasn’t yet become aware that they are experiencing a similar mindset. This change in perspective can help clarify life goals. It also can help establish a compassionate perspective on how to attain them. Many people believe they want one thing but when they dig deeper into their thoughts and feelings they realize that they’re more conflicted than they realized. Having a sounding board, as you have in a group, can help separate superficial objectives from more important aspirations.

Reason Number 2: Strength in Numbers

So many of us feel that what we’re experiencing is unique, happening to ourselves alone. It’s easy to feel this way when you look around and feel bombarded by “proof” that other people have attained what you believe you want. This can result from a social media contact or from everyday interaction with others. Comparing and contrasting our situation with those around us can provoke feelings of isolation and stress if we are focusing on what we consider to be our deficits. Having a place where we can share experience—including feelings of aloneness—and hear others speak of their struggle with the same issues can be liberating. It’s easy to assume that the people who look happy have no problems or challenges. That’s rarely true. The perspective I’m describing has proved to be especially helpful to clients who are unsure about whether they want to continue in their marriage for fear that they might run out of time to build the family they had hoped for. Hearing other people share similar experiences normalized what they felt and, in the end, helped them to identify the direction that made most sense for themselves.

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