Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Story Teller

At lunch the other day, an elderly woman (we will call her S.T., as she is the original Story Teller), came into the restaurant where I was eating; S.T. was eager to share her story and did not wait for others to ask “how are you”?  S.T. was meeting a couple of friends, and S.T. could not even wait to sit down at the table, before sharing the big news in her life. 

S.T. was moving to a retirement community that had condos (I could not help but overhear, and I’d like to think if I had stopped to introduce myself, she would not hesitate to tell me her story too).  She described a 2-bedroom condo that was almost identical layout to the one she was currently living in, so all the furniture would easily fit into the new condo. 

S.T. was also very proud that she was close, but not “in” the main administrative building.  This would give her the support she was looking for, but also the independence she was not ready to give up. 

S.T. talked of her new place, with such animation and emotion that it was difficult not to get sucked into her conversation.   Just as the final details were being told, another friend came and sat down.  And before this new arrival had the chance to settle in, S.T. started her whole story again!  With all the same intimate details, with all the same emotional nuances, and with the same passion.  So, within a very short period of time, S.T. had shared her story twice, and twice was able to process this big change in her life.

As a man, I admire her greatly for her ability to be so open and vulnerable.  Growing up, whenever there was a gathering of family or friends, the men talked about the weather, sports, or news in the living room.  There were lengthy discussions about batting averages, winning streaks, player and team comparisons, and endless comments over how the weather was especially hot, cold, wet, or dry.

Why didn’t they talk about difficult issues at work?  Why didn’t they compare notes over marital issues?  Why didn’t they share stories of worry, fear, anger, or anxiety?  Why did they have such defensive walls around them?

Would sharing their experience not have given them the same relief the S.T felt? 

Just like women, men experience the same sense of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear, and will experience a sense of relief by sharing their story. 

If a man would have been the one moving, he stereotypically would not have said much unless asked.  Even then, the answers could have been “fine”, “good”, “almost done”, but not many “I’m worried” or “I’m relieved” comments.  In fact, the famous TV character, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, would probably just have grunted a time or two in order describe his experience. 

So, let’s give ourselves permission to be strong and brave, and let’s start to share our stories.  After all, it WILL lead to a happier, healthier, and a longer life.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

No Crying at Funerals

Growing up, I noticed that people in my community would watch the relatives of the deceased, noticing if they did or did not cry; and passed judgment on that behavior.  For example, if a widow did not cry while her husband was eulogized and laid to rest, people would quietly whisper to each other “She is being very strong”.  

WHY?  Why do we do this to ourselves?

How is it that during a funeral service, a congregation sits and judges rather than hugs and supports?  How is it that a person is not able to display genuine and raw emotions in what could be argued as one of the most difficult day in a person’s life?  Why does our society think running away from our emotions is strong and brave?

I argue that embracing your feelings is strong.  I argue that tackling difficult life events head on only increases long-term happiness.  I argue that you are brave for wanting to be vulnerable.  I argue that the relationship with yourself and others will be infinitely better by seeking help. 

Who is a safe person in your life?  Who can you call?  Who will listen to your story?  If no one comes to mind, please call a professional counselor; it could save your life.

In order to live Happier, Healthier, and Longer, let’s start to process difficult life events, support each other through trauma, and congratulate someone for going to therapy.  After all, they are the strongest among us.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Alone vs. Loneliness

In all of the research regarding this topic, it boiled down to this:  Alone is a state of being and loneliness is a state of mind. 

Let’s unwrap this a little.  Alone is a state of being; something you physically are at that time and in that space.  For example, if you are home by yourself, you are alone; if you are on a golf course with no one around, you are alone; and if you are at the office and everyone has gone home, you are alone.  In each of these examples, being alone changes when another person enters the space you are in.  When alone, you have the ability to change from being alone to not being alone simply by inviting someone into your space. 

Loneliness is a state of mind, meaning an emotional state of being, or when we feel emotionally disconnected from the people around us.  Let’s use the same examples as before.  If you are home and the house is filled with family or friends but you don’t feel you can open up, you are feeling lonely; if you are on the golf course with 3 others in your group but feel disconnected, you are feeling lonely; if you are at an office Christmas party, surrounded by co-workers and no one wants to hear more than “fine” when asked “How are you?”, you are lonely

Loneliness is much harder to remedy, because of the complexity of feeling in sync with another human being.  Loneliness is difficult to change because of our own resistance to being vulnerable and acknowledging these painful feelings.  Finally, loneliness is challenging because of the skills required by two individuals to want to be emotionally connected.

Robin Williams once said, “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all along.  It’s not.  The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”  Whether you are alone or lonely, it is worth your time and effort to process your state of being as well as your state of mind.  Telling your story can only lead to a happier, healthier, and longer life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Power of Vulnerability

A colleague referred me to René Brown’s Ted Talk.  She is an inspiring researcher that not only found ways to help all of us watching, but also herself.  Here are some of the highlights of her talk:
  • Connection is what gives purpose and meaning to life
  • Shame is the fear of disconnection
  • Do you believe you are worthy or belonging, being loved, being connected, to be imperfect?
  • Do you have the compassion to be kind to your self first… then to others
  • Let go of who you should be, and be who you are
  • Vulnerability is beautiful, but not always comfortable
  • Vulnerability is the birth of happiness, joy, creativity, belonging, and love
  • Blame is the a way to discharge pain and discomfort
  • We make everything uncertain…certain
  • The more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we become
  • We try to perfect not only ourselves, but also our children
  • We pretend that what we do does not effect others
  • René Brown wanted the audience to learn:
    • Let yourself be seen
    • Love with your whole heart, without any guarantee
    • Practice gratitude and joy
    • Tell yourself, “I AM ENOUGH”

To watch the Ted Talk in it’s entirety simply click on this link (

Go out there and practice some or all of what René Brown was trying to teach.  You will live a Happier, Healthier, and Longer life. 

Talk It Out, not It Tough

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Risk of Toughing it Out

There is no way around dealing with life events.  Some are easy to process, others are difficult, and some are traumatic.  No matter what the event, we use learned coping skills to be able to move forward.  There are many people, especially men, who have decided that “Toughing it Out” is their way of coping, rather than “Talking it Out”.  But, what are the consequences?

An article by Dr. Jonier, describes how depression is a real worry when “Toughing it Out”, and the results can lead to decreased physical health, increased aggression, and intense irritability.  All can damage the relationships with kids, a spouse, friends, and co-workers.  Dr. Muller wrote that “Toughing it Out” individuals dealing with trauma, such as PTSD, often revert to drugs, alcohol, or suicide.  In fact, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that each year over 40,000 Americans die through suicide, and 70% are middle aged white men. 

The isolation and loneliness that comes from “Toughing it Out” not only can decrease happiness and ruin relationships, but can also be lethal. 

Take charge of your life,
Improve your relationships,
Decrease your emotional pain…

Seek help & “Talking it Out”