Mad As Hell: Part Four

Help, I live with someone who has anger issues!

We all know people who express their anger loudly and aggressively. They think that’s the best way to handle it and society as a whole has supported that notion. ‘Let it all hang out’ was the treatment of choice for angry feelings since the olden days and it seems we’ve been stuck there. Until now.

Recent research insists that a more regulated expression of anger is best. Dr. Jeffrey Lohr, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas explained this to an incredulous NPR reporter:

“The more you get angry, the angrier you get. And, so, researchers across the nation are now on a campaign to recast our view of anger expression. Sadly [!], even screaming is now out of vogue because arousal just increases your arousal. So no more screaming at your family.”

“Now, to be clear, Lohr isn't pro-repression. Repression, he says, can also be bad for you. The key is to speak out your anger without getting emotional about it. Basically, we're not supposed to yell at anyone anymore. In fact, Lohr claims the immediate sense of release we get after screaming or breaking plates is an illusion.”

Therefore you would think that asking your loved one to express their anger more reasonably is a good thing. But what if they don’t buy it and go on screaming anyway?

Whenever we have relationship problems we think: “If only he/she would do thus and such, everything would be great.” Not likely to happen. Our power to change anyone but ourselves is teeny-weeny. So we get frustrated, maybe even angry, and the stress and tension in the relationship gets even worse.

What we do have power over is how we respond to anger expression and how we understand it. So here we go…


And You Thought Doodling Meant Not Paying Attention!

doodlesThe seminar I attended last week was really good. Dr. John Ludgate did an excellent job presenting advanced cognitive behavioral technique in an engaging manner.

But, no matter how good a presenter Dr. Lugate was, after lunch it took Herculean strength to keep my head from hitting my notepad and there's only so much bad hotel coffee a person can drink.  So I took strong measures.

I doodled.

Bored? Try Doodling to Keep The Brain on Task

Cooking With Gas!

She actually has an electric stove but she instructs us to, "Turn on the gas," which, of course, everyone did in 1935.  Just when we need to learn how to cook for a depression along comes Clara. Nothing fancy about Miss Clara!  Ninety-one years old and one of the most popular chefs on the Internet. Her kitchen should be in the Smithsonian and her cookware looks authentically depression era as well.

Clara personifies many women I've known who cooked exactly the same way – my mother, grandmother, my mother-in-law…so many. My maternal grandmother sent us to the back yard to gather apples and in a snap she'd create a mountainous latticed crusted apple pie worthy of Butterwoods. In fact, Butterwoods wishes they could make a pie like my grandmother's! 

In Clara's fashion, my Mom rarely used a measuring anything. It was always 'toss in a bit of this, throw in a handful of that'. If a cup of anything was needed a real cup was used, nothing calibrated. Out of the sparest of ingredients these women created the comfort food of our dreams.

Clara shares her recipes, technique and wonderful stories about growing up during the Great Depression.  Mangiare!

Great Depression Cooking With Clara blog
Great Depression Cooking With Clara online video show

” *YAWN* What Did You Say? “

Whenever people call me for a referral I encourage them to be picky about who they choose for a therapist, whether it's me or someone else. That's one reason I offer a free initial consultation. I know what a big commitment it is emotionally and financially to enter therapy. Wouldn't it be irresponsible not to pay attention to the therapist's credentials, training, philosophy of treatment and that harder to define trait – fit?

And then there's the deal breakers. I know it takes guts, but if your therapist habitually does any of the things on the list in this article talk to him/her about it. After all, we work for you. Not the other way around.

Twelve Very Annoying Things Therapists Do

12 Ways I Blasted Stress Yesterday

  1. Stopped procrastinating and finished post for PsychCentral.
  2. Closed the laptop and walked away.
  3. Got in the car. Opened the sun roof (a big deal in WNY, trust me).
  4. Plugged in iPod. Set it to 'shuffle' mode. Surprise me!
  5. Sang loudly with the Pointer Sisters all the way to the barn.
  6. Enjoyed blue sky and puffy white clouds.
  7. Got to barn and breathed in sweet horsey smell.
  8. Heard Annie, my mare, nicker at me, anticipating carrots.
  9. Fed Annie carrots.
  10. Brushed Annie off for fifteen minutes (she's shedding).
  11. Took a walk and hand grazed her in the sun.
  12. Smiled all the way home.

Mad As Hell: Anger and the Economy

Part Three: Dealing With Anger Over the Long Haul

No one is able to say how long we will be dealing with this economic crisis. Chronic anger about the economy can spill over to our everyday lives in such a way that it poisons our peace of mind and the very relationships we depend on to shore us up in times of trouble. To get tips on how to cope and prevent anger from eroding our well-being check out my latest Mad As Hell post on PsychCentral.

Photo courtesy of Kingfishpies

Happy Norooz, Happy New Year & Happy Spring

Norooz (or Nowrooz) is the New Year holiday in Iran. Norooz means 'New Day' which is what the vernal equinox gives us as our days get longer than our nights.

Spring is full of celebrations of renewal. I love the Persian tradition that honors this day as the beginning of a new year. My birthday is in April, making me an Aries, the first sign in the astrological calendar and literally a new year for me.

Yesterday at the end of a long, eventful week I was pretty drained. Then I saw a flock of robins hopping around the purple heads of crocus in an otherwise fallow flower bed. Children were outside, some playing basketball in the driveway, another learning to ride her bike solo, people walking their dogs.

Some of us are still waiting for our re-birth celebration, but the days of lent grow shorter and the hope we embrace in witnessing nature come alive again lightens our burden.

Happy New Day, Happy Norooz!

Photo courtesy Robert_C

Happiness Is Not The Goal: Resiliency Is


I'm not happy, I'm cheerful. A happy woman has no cares at all. A
cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them. 
~Beverly Sills

Years ago I told a patient that my goal for her was not that she be happy.

She looked at me as if I had grown antlers all of a sudden. I had not gone nuts. She was ready to understand that the hallmark of mental health isn't happiness. It's resiliency; that quality that gives us the confidence that we can weather whatever life throws at us and be OK.

Would I be a good therapist if I said our goal in therapy was to be happy every day? No, it would be totally irresponsible. Do not trust anyone who guarantees you forever happiness or a sure win in the lottery. In both situations the odds just aren't with you.

What we can do in therapy is provide the tools to build and sustain a resilient self-esteem, one that allows flexibility and strength of spirit. Happiness is the great, big, fat cherry on top that we get to savor when we're in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. Resiliency is for all seasons.

Photo courtesy of Alight

2:00 in the Morning: The New Witching Hour

When people tell me they have trouble sleeping they mean they're waking up
at two in the morning, worries on an endless feedback loop playing in their head. That was me last night. For our ancestors, having insomnia meant still being awake at midnight. Today too often we haven't even gone to bed until midnight, forget about being asleep. 

It's always my goal to practice what I preach about healthy living but what the hell, I'm human. Insomnia is not a stranger to me [Sleep and Your Sanity] and once in a while I have a relapse.

Last night I had a dream about a marital therapy session not going well. I woke up trying to analyze what it meant. Were my interventions effective enough? Was I approaching the problem from the right angle? Of all the things to worry about, why this, why now?

What it really meant was I needed to turn off my brain and get some rest! So I prayed that God help me help this couple and eventually I fell back to sleep.

Michelle Slatalla in the Style section of the New York Times today, wrote a very nice piece on what it's like for a middle aged woman for whom sleep is elusive. Her frustration made me smile with recognition and I took comfort in what her experts had to say. 

photo courtesy rekha

My Double Life: CH3 BioSystems, LLC


You may not know that I lead a double life. Either I'm very lucky or completely nuts to have two work-life passions:  Explore What's Next, my clients, writing, consulting and presentations AND CH3 BioSystems, LLC, the biotech company I co-founded with my husband, Dr. John M. Aletta.

Being responsible for not just one but two small businesses can be nerve racking… (ugh, do I have to say it?) especially in these tough economic times (I swear if I hear that phrase one more time I might have to scream).

So why do it?

Mostly it's exciting, exhilarating and clear that this is what John and I are meant to do. Occasionally I hear: Aren't you too old to be an entrepreneur? To which I have to think they really don't get it. Entrepreneurship has no age; it's a calling, like the priesthood. You just know this is your path and all limiting factors are just obstacles to get around.

Some people tried to discourage us pointing out that the entrepreneurial lifestyle is far from glamorous. And they're right, it's not for everyone. For us things haven't changed all that much. We've always been hard workers, that's just how we roll. Often, after dinner, the dining room table is cleared and out come the laptops. We might get less sleep and have to hold meetings over the weekend. We count every penny (who doesn't?). And we are very happy.

I'm proud to be in the ranks of the American small business owner. Hardly a day goes by when I don't hear some expert saying it will be small businesses and the American entrepreneurial spirit that will re-build our economy.

To which I can only add: From your mouth to God's ears.

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