Happiness

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Hob-Nobbing

We got a late start for breakfast on Sunday morning, which landed us shoulder-to-shoulder with half of Nashville, Indiana in the tiny waiting area of Hobnob Corner. An eighty-something couple followed us as we squeezed through the door; the group behind them were left to wait on the sidewalk.

My wife is a serial eavesdropper. She says it’s research for writing; I say she may be overly interested in the business of others–nosy. Regardless, the way we were crammed together, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation between the eighty-somethings beside us.

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.      “I don’t think there is anyplace else.”

He shifted from one foot to the other. Tried to stand on his toes to scope out the room for tables with potential for opening. And then made a second pass . . .

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.     “It won’t be that long. Here she comes.”

The waitress secured a count for each group waiting, including the party of two, eighty-somethings and us. She made no comment or promise regarding wait time. He grumbled and returned to his shifting from foot to foot.

Third pass . . .

Mr.       “You want to go someplace else?”

Mrs.      “You can’t even wait five minutes!” She rolled her eyes in disgust and marched out the door.

I smiled at Debi and said “We just got our next blog.”

I would guess that the pattern in this conversation between the Mr. and Mrs. eighty-something was set long ago. Neither was direct or honest with their partner about their wishes. Obviously, he did not want to wait in line. He wanted to go someplace else, but never directly said so. He wheedled her into making the decision to leave.

She wanted to wait–eat pancakes at the Hobnob–understandable. But rather than saying “I want to wait. This is important to me,” she tried to redirect him, pacify him, even misguide him into believing that The Hobnob was the only place to serve breakfast in Nashville on Sunday. Simply not true and he knew it.

Maybe he was living up to a reputation of impatience or maybe he was in physical pain or couldn’t tolerate the sardine conditions. Who knows? Because he never told her. He just asked her the identical question three times until she gave up in frustration.

I hope they found a decent breakfast and were able to enjoy it–we certainly enjoyed ours. But the sad thing is, he probably paid for winning that stand-off. She was obviously disappointed and angry. She may have told him off on the way down the street or more likely, she waited until their adult kids were around and announced, “Your dad is such a grumpy old man that he wouldn’t even wait in line for five minutes for breakfast at The Hobnob on Sunday.”

The conversation is classic. Two people who clearly have a desire but are unwilling to clearly communicate it. They behave in a passive-aggressive way rather than being open with one another.  Closeness is sacrificed as the couple accumulates grudges that keep them at a “safe” distance. Intimacy suffers. I see it every day in my office and I couldn’t resist sharing this simple, yet clear example.

The wait, by the way, was about twenty minutes and with all the people watching and eavesdropping opportunities, it felt like five. For me, the wait time was irrelevant. I wouldn’t think of asking, “Do you want to go someplace else?” I know better.

The Dread of the Office Party

As I often do, I chose this topic in response to recent sessions. This post is specially written for the 1 in 8 people who suffer from social anxiety so intense that it interferes with normal daily activities. Most of us experience some heightened sense of nervousness in social situations but some are so highly anxious that they isolate themselves when possible and become physically ill at the thought of attending a necessary social situation, often attached to the workplace. The phobia stems from an intense fear of being judged by others. Clients report their fear is compounded by an obsession that others are watching them and will notice. Physical symptoms are often manifested in the form of an upset stomach, diarrhea, sweating, trembling, dizziness or rapid heartbeat.

I recently listened to a bright, talented, successful young professional share his struggle with an upcoming event he was dreading. Attendance was required by his work. I applauded him, as I do all of my clients, for being brave enough to admit his struggle and seek help. We identified specific causes of the heightened stress surrounding this function and potential ways to relieve the anxiety.

Causes:

  • This function was out of the normal work environment, resulting in a fear of being in a new place.
  • This function was outside the comfortable routine of the workplace.
  • A heightened fear of others noticing his anxiety.
  • Loss of control.
  • Fear of being trapped.
  • Fear of saying/doing something awkward. Humiliation.

Methods of Relief:

  • Recognize anxiety and the causes thereof.
  • Visit venue ahead of time to practice drive, secure parking information, and familiarize with the environment, limiting many unknowns.
  • Set an acceptable limited time of attendance.
  • Drive separately securing freedom to leave at will.
  • In advance, allow yourself permission to temporarily remove from the situation to text someone for support, listen to calming music, or meditate for a few minutes if feeling highly anxious.
  • Vow not to rely on liquid courage.
  • Claim an affirmation to repeat or write on a slip of paper as a reminder. Example: “I am not what others think of me.”

I cannot emphasize enough how effective it can be to meditate prior to an event, focusing on positive visualization.  See yourself having fun. Laughing. A successful outcome to the evening. The more we can replace worry with positive visualization, the better we will be.

I recommend meditation and positive visualization to everyone, but for my highly anxious clients, I prescribe it. It is not necessary to “know how” to meditate nor is it necessary to dedicate large blocks of time to benefit from the practice. Consistency is the key. Just five minutes once or twice each day is an great beginning. Free apps for beginners (Calm) and You Tube videos of meditation instruction are abundant.

This young man, as with most clients I see for social anxiety, did benefit from the tools we worked together to create. He was successful in not allowing fear to control his evening.

Next week: Fear of public Speaking, a form of social anxiety.

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” ~W. Clement Stone
October 12th, 2015|Anxiety, Depression, Fulfillment, Happiness, Holidays, Individual Therapy|

Marriage–A Renewable Resource?

Allow me to begin with a reminder that these blogs are written with the purpose of opening discourse, an encouragement to consider a fresh perspective. They are not research pieces, nor are they ever presented as “The Answer.” Most often ideas spring from discussions I have with clients–especially issues I hear repeatedly.

Roughly half of the couples I see for marital therapy report that their marriage has grown stale.  The vitality they once enjoyed in their relationship is gone.

They report:

“We never thought we’d be here. Never.”

“We miss us. We miss what we used to have.”

“We are not having fun anymore.”

“We have become roommates.”

Typically, they are mentally and emotionally drained. Burned out by responsibilities of their respective careers, kids’ schedules, and keeping up with a home. They once shared the joy of a deep connection; now they share a sense of living tired, overwhelmed, and hopeless. Unhappy, they blame each other and the marriage, resulting in hurt and frustration.

I praise couples for their bravery and willingness to be vulnerable, seeking to improve their marriage before they reach a crisis situation. They’re in the “We’re-okay-but-we-know-it-can-be-much-better,” category.

I always ask clients what they want to hire me to do. Often partners hire me to guide them as they rediscover the fun and enjoyment they once found in their marriage.

The process begins with the following steps:

  • Acknowledge that the marriage needs attention.
  • Sharing and respectfully listening to each others’ perspective on how “we got here.”
  • Review what initially attracted them to one another.
  • Commit to change from the current routine.
  • Examine leisure time–entertainment.

Many couples spend little, or no, time together–alone. They are either with the kids, friends, or family. They cannot recall the last time they did something fun, just as a couple.

I question, “Suppose your marriage was a resource, what are you doing to renew it? Sustain it?” Marriage may be viewed as a renewable resource, but not one that replenishes naturally. We are not solar powered.  The wonderful passion and vitality of a relationship may be consumed to the point of depletion if we do not recharge regularly. We must engage in relationship resource management. Healthy marriages are sustained by a commitment of both time and energy. Happy marriages are treated as a priority.

Stepping into a therapist’s office, openly admitting that your marriage is not the source of joy that it once was is difficult. Sadly, for some, awkward and embarrassing. But for many, it is the first step in renewing a highly valuable resource.

From We’re No Fun Anymore by Schwarz and Braff, “It is not that couples are not playing and having fun because they are angry and resentful; they are angry and resentful because they are not playing and having fun together” (xiv).