Psychology

A Sister is a Good Thing to Have

Maddening as they might be, a sister is a good thing to have. I should know, I’ve got one.

What’s a sister good for?

When we were young she was good for picking on, or, shame on me, for ignoring.

Now that we’re adults, I’ve found my sister to be a lot more useful. She’s good for lots of talk on the phone—she lives a thousand miles away.

She’s good for an honest opinion. Me, “What do you think of the new title for my book?” Her, “I don’t get it.”

She’s tops for creative ideas with fabric and other such. Bless her heart, she put up with me and made my wedding dress!

Keeping the family history alive too. Though sometimes we have different memories or perspectives on family events, it’s good to reminisce.

A sister is good for looking out for each other. We care deeply—that irrational blood bond—and we’ll always know that.

We just got to spend a few days together with the brothers-in-law, and it was amusing. Whereas I was usually the lead dog on family hikes, being the oldest, this time little sister was often in the lead and checking back with me to see if I was freaking out over the terrain, especially the series of ladders up a 35 foot canyon wall. (Not as bad as I feared.)

My sister has taught/is teaching me patience. After all, we didn’t choose each other. She was born into our family of four: Mom, Dad, little brother, and me. She was plopped into a crib in the heat of Texas, and I didn’t have a thing to say about it. Her arrival must have been quite a shock since it wasn’t long after that my parents pulled up stakes and moved back North. But, seriously, she must look stupefied at me sometimes and really have to put on her patient hat.

Everybody’s written about sisters. But nobody’s written about my sister—my unique sister.

My sister sent this card to me.

Thanks, Lisa! I love you too!

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Expectations of Spitting Dinosaurs

images“That wasn’t as cool as I thought it’d be.”

My grandson had expected the dinosaurs to spit at him. The ad promised there would be spitting dinosaurs.  But he had his cities confused—not at this particular exhibit.

Expectations. They can ruin our day.

Unmet expectations are bad enough—unacknowledged expectations can create a real ball of knots.

Let’s say a couple has the same argument over and over (who among us hasn’t?), and neither knows they’re working off different unacknowledged, unexpressed expectations. He expects she’ll go back to work after the kids are in school—why not?, his mother did. She expects he’ll do half the housework—her father did. Can you hear the arguments?

We run full blast, smashing up against our expectations, only to be disappointed. It’s no fun. If we have expectations that are met, well, we just think of that as things going along quite nicely, thank you.

Disappointments? Like the song says, “I just pick myself up and get back in the race.” That’s life.

But imagine running a race with poor eyesight—or, insight, as we say in psychology—learning to see inside oneself. Introspection. Self-awareness.

Back to my grandson. He got over his dinosaur disappointment in as long as it took to bounce to the next thing, which was ice cream.

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Eastin’s Harley Pothole Theory

At the Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dr. Eastin’s Harley Pothole Theory was born when, my first ride on my brand new 1200 Custom Sportster, I hit a pothole—a big one—smacked it so hard I thought I cracked the rim on the spoked wheel. The thing was, I was out in the country, no other vehicle in sight for half a mile in any direction.

Why did I hit it? It’s not that I didn’t see it! Reason: I was trying to avoid hitting the pothole, but I LOOKED AT IT TOO LONG!

When I took the Department of Transportation class to get my motorcycle license, I learned about this phenomenon. We go where we look, where we focus our attention. Therefore, when riding a motorcycle, one has to change one’s focus every so many seconds, or our body follows our focus, where we have our mind and our eyes. So to avoid hitting an obstacle, don’t look at it too long!

This was a great metaphor to pass along to my psychotherapy clients, since I’m constantly helping them THINK in more productive or deserved ways to drive BEHAVIOR that works better for them. Hence, Dr. Eastin’s Harley Pothole Theory.

One client said, “Of course, why do you think so many drunks cross the centerline and hit the oncoming car? They’re trying to avoid it and staring at it!” Another client, a pilot, told me it’s called TARGET FIXATION.

So, on a motorcycle, what you look at is where you go. (Don’t I know!)

And in life, what you think is how you behave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful?

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This wisdom was penned by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 book Molly Bawn, though the phrase has floated in some form through our literary history since about the third century BC. Truth in the perfectly crafted sentence.

Example: My dad thought his pug dog was beautiful. Sorry, but there’s an ug in pug. (Don’t go all schoolmarm on me—I know it’s u-g-h.)

Glaucous-Winged Gull

Glaucous-Winged Gull

Another example: My brother-in-law refers to seagulls as “winged rats.” True, they’re messy, noisy, and pesky, but I  find them captivating.

The day I took this shot, I must have taken a dozen photos of the raucous Glaucous. Then I tweaked and cropped those photos so I have enough for a gallery show.

Last example: I’ve actually heard snakes called beautiful by some misguided, weird, downright blind people. Believe you me, you won’t find a picture of a snake on this blog!

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It’s Too Darn Hot!

Here in Wisconsin we’re having a hot, humid, horrible patch. It makes me want to scream. Don the striped pajamas and be a prisoner in my house. But instead of our usual inertia and complaining about the weather, last Sunday we hopped in the air conditioned truck and took off on a drive in the country. We ended up at a beautiful county park that was new to us.

The breeze was just right to keep the horse flies and mosquitoes at bay. I wandered down to the lake where a family of geese scuttled into the water. Too hot for a walk, I ambled around the edge of wildflower meadows, snapping photos. The profusion of flowers was breathtaking.

We ended our day sitting on a patio overlooking a river, eating a gelato—a double.

The day got me waxing philosophical. If I had stayed indoors, cowering from the heat and humidity, I never would have delighted in the wildflowers. In fact, I would have missed the peak bloom of the season.

There’s a life lesson in here somewhere.

Fill in the blanks for yourself.

“If I had……, I never would have…….”

 

 

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Let’s Hang on to What We’ve Got

ATT00064

Having one of those days? Decades? Seems the world is conspiring against you? Join the club.

One of the myths we’ve had to grapple with is that we could expect to live as well or better than our parents did. They told us that would be true.

This recession has been a shock. Multiple factors of happenstance, corporate greed, and personal avarice gone wrong have eroded our bank accounts and altered our lifestyles. Yes, there are signs of a recovery, but it hasn’t trickled down very far.

Stress. Makes us do weird things—turn inward, get angry, in general, not BE NICE. Living feeling cheated, victimized is like having a burr under your saddle blanket.

But, like I said to a client: “You’re not where you want to be, but are there ways in which you’re where you need to be?” She perked up like a lightbulb switched on.

This involuntary step back has given a lot of us the opportunity to reassess the values we’ve been living by. Reevaluate “wants” versus “needs”. Gain a sense of pride in less is better, confidence that we’ll be OK, reprioritize.

The Finns have a word, sisu, which means “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.” I’m half Finnish, and, by golly, have I got sisu.

The song says, “Let’s hang on to what we’ve got,” but do so lightly. You may have to share, or give it up. But you’ll be OK.

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Thinking + Thinking = Nothing

Strange math. But it’s true.

I learned this equation from a psychotherapy client years ago. She proved the theorem when she was trying to lose weight— she said, “Thinking + Thinking = Nothing.”

Seems obvious. No action, no results. An equation that applies to just about everything.

We still don’t know for sure how Stonehenge was built, but we do know the builders didn’t just think about it, they did it! An amazing accomplishment.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

But Thinking + Action = Accomplishment doesn’t have to be gargantuan. Look what a friend did. Aren’t they gorgeous! She wanted to knit, and she did. Diane inspired me to take knitting action too. It’s not as hard as I thought.

Diane's Norwegian mittens.

Diane’s Norwegian design mittens.

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You Can’t Go Home Again

You can’t go home again. Thank you Thomas Wolfe. Trying to recapture what’s gone is elusive at best, but the trying can be fun.

I recently got back from another foray into my past—a trip to England. A saudade fix. If you want to know what that means, check back on a previous post,Saudade, A Deep Longing”.

We visited my former neighbors from the ‘70s who now live on the south coast of England. My how England has changed. It’s so crowded. One of the things I loved about England when I lived there was the pace of life: slower than in the US. Not anymore, at least in the population centers, which seems to be all of the south of England.

The quaint little villages have changed. Incomers, people not from there, are putting up lovely new stone cottages, filling in the spaces between the existing cottages. Stone rabbit warrens. Some houses are so close to the road that if the occupant opened their front door they might clip off the wing mirror of a car whizzing by, or so it seems.

Traffic is frightful. My husband calls the one-lane country roads “hedgeroads”, because they’re bounded by ancient stone walls covered with vegetation. The way you negotiate the roads with two-lane traffic is that someone has to back up to a passing point or wait in the nearest one for the oncoming traffic to pass. When that works (driving on the left, mind you), it’s fine, but we were turned back on one such road where there was an accident involving a lorry (truck) and a car. The locals drive their familiar roads as if they’re in a grand prix, so we timid non-left drivers hold our breath and drive on. I’ve often said we need a big red “Y” sign on the backs of our rental cars denoting “Yank”.

Yet it’s a challenge. I’ve got the driving out of Heathrow down, but the getting back to the rental car drop-off is another matter. So far I’m 0 for 3. But if we make the same mistake we made this last time, we’ll know exactly where we are.

I continue to resonate to my toes with England and all things English, but we may have to make the next visit to the Scottish Highlands where there are more sheep than people.

Buses wedged together for five hours—it’s crowded in the south of England!

Categories: Psychology, Travel | Tags: , | 4 Comments

A Little More Couple Psychology

If you want to be in a better couple relationship—here’s a news flash—BE NICER!

Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After

This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Men and women have been bickering since that incident with the apple.

I often tell my couple psychotherapy clients that I’d like to stamp three words on their foreheads—backwards—so they can read them when they look in the mirror.

  • RESPECT
  • KINDNESS
  • CONSIDERATION

There are way too many people who are disrespectful, mean, and self-centered. I like Dr. Phil’s bluntness: “How’s that workin’ for you?”

Marriage should be a safe haven.

Now, I believe the principle that everything makes sense—it may not work, and you may not deserve it—but there’s a reason people think, feel, and do everything.

We think and act based on anger, hurt, fear, lack of self-esteem, arrogance—a pile of junk—some of it old, some of it new.

The point is, even if it’s familiar, neither you, nor your spouse deserve it.

The first step is to recognize what isn’t workin’ for you—and then start changing what you think and what you do.

BTW, I didn’t say that would be easy—just worth it.

For more about couple therapy, read “A Little Couple Psychology”.

Cristine Eastin © 2013
Categories: Psychology | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Rant on Technology

I’m steamed. Technology has its good points, but it’s also making life increasingly stressful. Not news, but do we do anything about it?

Here’s what I mean. Remember, I’m a psychotherapist—a client related frustration about her teen’s time on the phone. It seems the girl and her friends were all sitting in the back seat of the car texting, not talking to each other—just one example of the phone excess. I asked the mom if she’d ever considered putting limits on the young teen’s phone use, like no calls or texts after a certain time in the evening. It had never occurred to Mom. I asked if the girl’s phone was in her room at night, alerting her to every text message at all hours. Mom said, “Maybe that’s why  my daughter doesn’t sleep well.”

Then the next day another client related not sleeping well in general and being upset in particular by an email that pinged in during the middle of the night. She sleeps with her phone on the bed by her head.

Now, I’m not breaking confidentiality here because this hardly describes any specific person any of you would recognize. It’s an epidemic. These are smart, responsible people—but a little like lemmings rushing en masse off a cliff.

I even suspect, though I’m not the medical expert, that we haven’t begun to see the neurological consequences of all this cell phone use. The young, developing brain has got to be affected. The brain actually continues developing into young adulthood and never really stops working on itself like we formerly thought. So was popping popcorn with cell phones faked? Or does it matter since excessive cell phone use can’t be good for us anyway?

It’s not just cell phones close to the brain for hours, it’s the constant bombardment and stimulation. Years ago research determined the number of images per second the brain could absorb. The number we’re exposed to now in commercials and videos must border on enough to create a flicker rate to trigger an epileptic seizure.

This issue is similar to violence. Since the 1960’s research has shown that violence begets violence. Thank you, Albert Bandura. But has that consistent research finding done anything to alter the violence portrayed to children? Far from it. In fact, at a conference at which a friend presented on this topic to titans of the industry in the ’80s, the consensus was—they didn’t care—violence sells.

Technology sells.

Then there’s inattention while driving. How did it ever happen that one can talk on the phone while driving? Split attention doesn’t work while hurtling in a guided missile of a vehicle. Oh, that’s right—it sells.

We doomsayers can wail all we want. Isolation in the guise of social media. Instant messaging (or whatever the current buzzword is) means instant relationship, means not a real relationship. How does empathy fully develop in the absence of body language and eye contact?

Wailing isn’t going to do any good without action. My generation, the if-it-feels-good-do-it generation, is reaping what we sowed in serial attachment figures for our kids. Those kids, now parents, are afraid to tell their kids “No” for fear the kids won’t love them. No wonder. What’s the next act of the drama?

A teenager, who shall remain nameless, was playing a game with me; she picked up her cell phone a few times to fire off no doubt meaningful replies to just-received texts. I suggested she put the phone away. “Auh,” she said with a huff, “That’s the way we are. Get used to it.”

No thanks.

Which brings me to referring you to a blog I read—Dr. Dennis Hensley, director of the professional writing program at Taylor University. Doc Hensley  is nothing short of a writing guru, if you take the second definition in my dictionary— an influential teacher or popular expert. Read what he has to say about technology. I like his choice of the word “vapid”: offering nothing that is stimulating or challenging.

One last thought—an ad on the side of a bus read—”Ignore your teeth, they’ll go away.”

Cristine Eastin © 2012
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