Exercises to Reduce Tension and Increase Positive Thinking

Stressed OutI was walking a client through several different techniques to reduce stress and tension and increase positive thinking. She scribbled down notes as we talked and we practiced each one. At the end of the session she said, “The way my brain is working, I won’t be able to decipher my notes. Can you write down a summary of what you taught me.”

That night I wrote up a description of each technique and after my fab wife edited it. I sent it to her. I decided to share it here incase it may be able to help someone else.

3×3: Each day write down three things you are looking forward to (future things) and three things you are grateful for (past or present things). Doing this in the morning or before bed works well but it can be done at anytime of day that works for you. Having a consistent time is usually helpful. On particularly difficult days it may be beneficial to do this more than once. Some days it can be hard to think of anything. On days like that, you might be able to look forward to lunch break, going to bed at the end of the day, or for depression to be smaller. You might be able to feel grateful for having all ten fingers and all ten toes and that your had a warm place to sleep last night.

Take a Breath Plus: When you notice yourself feeling tense, or negative thoughts are filling your head, take a deep slow breath while saying a helpful or calming phrase. For example, say “I will get” as you slowly breath in and then finish the phrase by saying “through this” as you breathe out. Repeat once or twice as needed throughout the day.

5 Minute Meditation: This exercise helps train your brain to notice when you are thinking about unhelpful things so you can shift to focusing your mind on helpful things (like work, positive things in your life, finding solutions, etc). It also helps calm your body, slow down rapid thoughts, and reduce tension in your body and much more. It is an expansion of the “Take a Breath Plus” exercise above.

  • Set a timer on your phone or elsewhere for 1 minute and start it.
  • Begin to take deep slow breaths as you repeat a calming positive phrase.
  • Focus on the act and feeling of breathing and your positive phrase.
  • When you notice your mind drifting to anything other than your breathing and phrase, bring your attention back to your chosen focus (breath and phrase). (Your brain will wander and initially it will be difficult to notice when it does. That’s why you set the timer.)
  • When the timer goes off, notice what you are thinking about. If you are thinking about your breathing and phrase, great job. Continue to the next step. If you are thinking about something else, that’s OK. Continue to the next step.
  • Set the timer for another minute.
  • Resume deep slow breath as you repeat your phrase
  • Repeat steps 2-6 for a total of 5-6 minutes.

As you get better at catching your wandering thoughts you can gradually set the timer for longer intervals (2 minutes, 3 minutes) until you can consistently go for 5 minutes and be able to catch yourself each time your mind wanders.

Posted in Anxiety, Attitude, Depression, Focus, Grateful, Mind, Mindful, Stress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do Humans have Negative Brains?

Have you noticed how our brains tend to notice the negative things in life more readily than the positive? Ever wonder why?

13625420One theory that attempts to explain this is an evolutionary explanation based on the theory of natural selection. It advocates that over millions of years of evolution, the mammalian brain has evolved into our modern human brain. It posits that animals/humans with a negative neurological bias (or vigilance as I refer to it) were more alert to possible dangers and therefore survived longer and reproduced more frequently than the non-vigilant members of their species. Vigilant animals passed on their genetic predisposition more frequently. Eventually non-vigilant animals died out because they were not fit enough to survive in a dangerous world.

I have never believed this explanation. For one reason, there is no fossil evidence to support macro evolution. For another, neurologists have found that the amount of positive or negative bias (or vigilance) a person has is impacted most significantly by environmental factors early in life. This includes the levels of neurotransmitters present in the mother’s blood stream during pregnancy. It also includes the bias of early “programming” during the first 6 years of a persons life as a child observes how his or her parents respond to her and how they respond to the world around them. (As fascinating as neurology is, it is not the topic for today’s blog so I will end it’s discussion here).

I believe that our Creator designed our brains with this vigilance or negative bias. This belief used to prompt me to wonder why the loving Creator would design our brains in a way that generates so much pain and misunderstanding. But Genesis 2 and 3 gives us a clue to our design parameters, and answered this question for me.


Photo by Lisa Brewster

In Genesis we read that the forbidden fruit came from the”…tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity…” (Genesis 2:17 AMP). The serpent tells Eve that as soon as she takes a bite of the fruit she will know “… the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity.” (Genesis 3:5 AMP). The bible does not precisely contrast this post-disobedience state of knowing with what humans experienced before disobedience entered the human condition. However, based on descriptions of the Garden of Eden prior to “the fall” it is safe to say it was an existence of only the good and blessed side of the equation. God created us to live in this ideal environment where we both: 1) had a close, securely attached relationship with Him, and 2) were without awareness of danger. In Eden there was no needed for vigilance. Danger existed in the universe, but until Eve and Adam took bites of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they lived in innocent unawareness of evil or calamity.

Prior to that bite, the first humans only knew goodness and blessing. They had not been exposed to any opposite to compare or contrast good with. But once their “eyes” were opened, the world was nolonger completely safe and the need for a vigilant brain emerged. In that moment, our brains early warning system was activated for the first time and has remained active ever since because we began to experience evil and calamity.

The Father created us with capacity for vigilance because He knew we would need it to survive the many dangers we have faced over the years after the fall. He designed us with DNA that is responsive to the world we are born into by creating a genetic mechanism for reducing or increasing our level of vigilance. (The levels of cortisol and other stress chemicals in a mother’s body during gestation trigger or inhibit genetic expressions that either increase a brains’ vigilance and aggressive nature or decrease them.)

In addition to this sudden awareness of danger that activated our vigilance system, in that same moment Adam and Eve also experienced their first separation from the Father. Before this they walked daily in the garden with their creator. They went from having a perfect, securely attached relationship with the Father, to – at best – an insecure attachment with The Father due to a self inflicted attachment injury. Sin (living the way they wanted instead of the way God designed them to live) became a wedge that Adam and Eve drove between themselves and the Father. (More on this in the future.)

photo by  Miyuru Ratnayake

photo by Miyuru Ratnayake

In that same moment, God also enacted His rescue plan to restore us to connection with Him. This involved sending His Son to make possible a new connection between Him and us. (Unfortunately this connection is unstable at best because of the consequences of our self centered nature.) Eventually He will fulfill that plan when He completes a new heaven and a new earth and returns for us. Then His people will live forever in a world where there is no evil or calamity. We will live with a restored securely attached relationship with the Father were there will be no need for vigilance ever again.


I welcome feedback, critique, and constructive criticism. 



Posted in Mind, Neurology, Theology & Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Not About Me (a eulogy to Doris Evalee Eames)

Doris Evalee Eames & Granddaughter Leilani Easter Eames (LEE) minutes before she passed into heaven.

Doris Evalee Eames & Granddaughter Leilani Easter Eames (LEE) minutes before she passed into heaven.

My mom passed away one year ago yesterday. I’ve had a lot of time to think about her life and how to sum it up since I started writing her eulogy a year ago. One of the phrases that has come to sum up many aspects of her life is, “It’s not about me.” I think of this phrase in two ways. First it captures her motivation; most of what she did, she did to glorify and serve her Heavenly Father. Second, it reflects her self-sacrificing nature. Both meanings clearly emerge in her eulogy below, that I gave at services for her in Kenny Lake, Alaska and Goldendale, Washington.

How do you sum up 84 years of life for the woman who brought me into the world, fed me, changed me? In the end she couldn’t feed herself and her children had to care for her.

Doris and Wayne Eames

Doris and Wayne Eames

How do you capture the lives she has touched, changed? Starting with the life of her little brother who was orphaned with her on Christmas eve when Mom was 9. The life of her sweetheart and husband of 66 years. Her six children, 17 grandchildren, ten great grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles. The list goes on.

Words cannot express what words cannot express, as the saying goes. And no words can capture the richness, depth, compassion, and selfless service of this woman, this saint. It’s impossible to sum up 84 years in a few minutes. Maybe I can capture a glimpse of Mom’s heart and life. When you look at how she invested her time, it’s not hard to tell what was important to her. Her relationship with Jesus, her family, the men, women, and children she ministered to.

Medicine Lake Bible Camp, MN where Doris and Wayne met.

Medicine Lake Bible Camp, MN where Doris and Wayne met.

I’ll start with her relationship with her savior and Lord. In Mom and Dad’s 50th Anniversary video, Mom shared that in bible school she came to a moment when she knew she had to commit to going all the way with God if she was to have real peace in life. At that moment she committed to do anything and go anywhere God asked her to go, even if it was to the mission field. God honored that choice and despite huge tragedies and struggles (some of which you heard about from my brother Dan) she had that peace. One of my nieces commented to me while family was together in WA, that with all that happened to Doris, losing her parents at a young age, battling MS, and others, it would have been easy to become bitter and angry at God and to have turned against Him. Many others my niece knows have, but Grandmama drew closer go God through those struggles and that closeness and dependence brought peace and strength.

Wayne and Doris at their home on Willow Lake, AK on their 60th Anniversary.

Wayne and Doris at their home on Willow Lake, AK on their 60th Anniversary.

In addition to her relationship with Christ, Doris was also a devoted wife and mother. On her death bed, when I arrived to see her, her first concerns was for me, a tired traveler who had just flown down from Alaska. “You must be weary from travel, go lay down and take a nap.” she told me in just above a whisper, after I gave her a hug and a hello.

Mike, Rebecca, Wayne, Trish, and Doris on the family transportation in the Philippines.

Mike, Rebecca, Wayne, Trish, and Doris on the family transportation in the Philippines.

As she would have been the first to admit, she was not a perfect mom. She made mistakes that she deeply regretted. However, most mistakes were made in an earnest desire to do what she thought was best for her child or children. She once told me, that if she knew then what she knows now, she would not have sent her older children to boarding school on the mission field in the Philippines. Back then, few understood the importance of attachment bonds between parents and children and she thought she was doing what was best for them.

Rachelle, Doris, and Brian. Christmas 2007 at Willow Lake, AK.

Rachelle, Doris, and Brian. Christmas 2007 at Willow Lake, AK.

I asked my oldest daughter, Rachelle, about a favorite memory of her Grandmama (my daughter’s name for my mom). She told me about making cut out cookies with play-dough looking sugar cookie dough with Grandmama at her home at Willow Lake. That was Grandmama’s last Christmas at her home in Alaska almost four years ago. My greatest sadness today is that my two daughters will not have more years of memories with their Grandmama.

One favorite memory of mine was on home service where we would visit supporting churches and individuals. I think this was when I was in 1st grade. As we traveled cross country in our pickup and camper, four across on the Bench seat of the pickup (it was just Mom, Dad, Dan, and I by then), Mom would read the Chronicles of Narnia to us. And when she would fall asleep her head would tilt back with her mouth open. Dan and I would put pieces of chocolate or fruit in her mouth to wake her back up to read more.

Mike, Rebecca, Doris, Wayne. Trish, Dennis in San Diego 1992.

Mike, Rebecca, Doris, Wayne. Trish, Dan, and Dennis in San Diego 1992.

After I was an adult, Mom shared with me the internal struggle she had had when I was in high school. I was going through a long mysterious illness. Because of my illness, she often had to care for me or take me to doctors’ appointment during hours I would have been at school. Normally she would have been engaged in ministry while I was at school. At times she felt guilty that she was taking care of me instead of ministering with someone from the church she and Dad were starting. But one day, she told me that God spoke to her, and reassured her that caring for her family was ministry also.

Family Reunion for Doris and Wayne's 65 1/2 Anniversary in Goldendale, WA.

Family Reunion for Doris and Wayne’s 65 1/2 Anniversary in Goldendale, WA.

Another way that she served her family was in the way she welcomed new family members. When my siblings and I married, she had a way of communicating love and acceptance to in-loves (her term instead of in-laws). I know this meant a great deal to my wife and others.

Several of the stories that were shared with my brothers and sisters this past week have involved several of us discovering Mom as more than just a parent. For me this started when my brother Dan and I were digging through a box of family treasures Mom had hidden in the back of her closet. (Mom and Dad were away at the time.) We found a hand-tinted portrait of her from high school. Dan and I both said “wow, mom was good looking back then.”


Evelyn, Julie, Leilani, Jessica, and Michelle in Goldendale, WA for Doris’ memorial service.

Anyway, when Kit, our hospice nurse, asked Mom what she wanted for this phase of her life, Mom responded that she wanted to have her family with her. That desire was granted as she passed away in the presence of her husband, 5 of her 6 children, three grandchildren, and a son in love and daughter in love. By the next day all six kids were together along with 4 in loves, 11 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild. As much as I know that meant to Mom, I know that being reunited with all her children and grandchildren in eternity is an even greater desire.

Mom has spent her life ministering near selflessly to others. I cannot count the number of people who have experienced God’s love though mom’s cooking. The countless women who she led in bible studies, the phone calls and visits from women in distress at all hours of the night and day.

As often as Mom is complemented for her hospitality, I know this was always a bittersweet complement to her because food and lodging was just a means to a deeper spiritual end for her. Listening, encouraging, praying… ministering to the eternal needs of people was what really mattered to her. This is her legacy, not her sticky cinnamon rolls or green bean tater-tot casserole.

There was one particular family that Mom and Dad invested many hours in. The family lived with us on a few occasions. I don’t think their marriage would have survived with out Mom’s encouragement and counsel at various times. Mom helped the wife patiently pray for various areas of her husband’s life, including that he would become a believer in Christ. And in God’s timing he did. This woman also elicited one of the few complaints I ever heard Mom make about another person. After one of the family’s visits, I heard mom exclaim, “How does she do it, no matter where I hide a few special treats for my family, she finds them!”

One measure of the impact Mom had on the world around her is the hundred plus cards that arrived at her home in the week after her passing before I returned home. I’m not sure where they are hanging them now, when I left they had just about run out of space for cards. Another measure is the many adopted adult children who call her “Mom.” Both of these are an inadequate measure. One adopted daughter (in her card to my Dad) recalled some wise advice Mom had given her when she and her husband headed to the mission field overseas that she frequently returns to. Another “adopted” daughter was making plans to visit Mom in Washington when she passed and afterword she wrote….

[omitted because I don’t have permission to publish it]

I wonder how many of mom’s adopted children are here this afternoon.

Several nights before her death I watched mom’s breathing. Sometimes it was rapid and shallow. Sometimes slow and shallow. As I sang to her and prayed for her, occasionally she would have long pauses between breaths. After five or ten seconds I experienced intense conflicting feelings that grew until I saw her chest start to rise again. For 15 or 20 seconds there was an intense mixture of joy and panic in the same moment. On one side, her pain and struggle would be over, and her lifelong desire to be with her savior and with her mommy and daddy again would be fulfilled. On the other, I knew I would miss her deeply and would miss the opportunities to have my daughters experience more of her love.

Her last breath came a little more than a day later, and I miss my Mom. I still wish my daughters had more years of experiencing her love for them. Yet I am immensely thankful that her constant pain is over and she is hanging out with Jesus her savior and with her own Mommy and Daddy.

This afternoon it is a great day to be alive. For those of us who are in Christ, today we don’t mourn. We celebrate Doris Evalee’s Eames’ life, and we look forward to seeing her again.

Family after Doris' memorial service in Goldendale, WA, Oct 8, 2012.

Family after Doris’ memorial service in Goldendale, WA, Oct 8, 2012.

Oh, and to my family members who left Goldendale without an adequate supply of Mom’s used plastic bags or cottage cheese containers, I brought some with me to slip into your luggage before you leave this time.

October 30, 2012. Kenny Lake Chapel, Kenny Lake AK.

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Attitude is Everything

Dave Merrill repeated this phrase to us parent chaperones throughout my daughter’s three days of adventure camp.  The old adage proved true during the mid-May camp out in “less than ideal” conditions at Denali National Park.2013-05-16 22.48.49

To start with, we arrived to discover the tent sites in the campground had not been cleared of snow and ice as the park staff had promised four days earlier. This meant most of the 20 tents had to be set up in the plowed gravel parking space in each campsite. The only space left for my daughter‘s tent was a sheet of ice after more than a foot of snow was shoveled off the tent site.

2013-05-16 13.24.53Then, the main hike up Mount Healy had to be changed to a walk along the gravel park road due to high winds and intermittent snowfall.

Finally, rounding out the challenges, we awoke the last morning to discover fresh snow falling and covering the tents.

2013-05-17 07.05.26Through out all the adversities, snow, and cold the parents kept up a positive outlook and the kids had an unforgettably fun experience. A couple of my daughter’s highlights were seeing her first grizzly bear, seeing Mt. McKinley, and meeting “Candy Clause” with Snickers and Reese’s in his pack half way through the hike.

Imagine what a different experience these third and fourth graders would have had if us parent chaperones had started to whine about the park staff, the cold and snowy conditions, and the canceled hike. Forty-four students would have followed our example and endured 3 days of misery that they would someday need therapy for.

2013-05-16 12.42.29Each day, we all have the opportunity to influence the attitudes of coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends. Will we follow Mr. Merrill’s example and create an atmosphere of anticipation and adventure? Or will we generate an environment of misery and gloom? The choice is yours.

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Stop Headaches With Out Meds

The number one reason people in America visit a doctor is pain. This ranges from pain Headachefrom a broken bone or other physical injury, to chest pain from a heart attack or panic attack, to pain from an ear or sinus infection. One of the most common pain complaints that doctors see is headaches or migraines. In most cases, you will walk out of your MD or DO’s office with a prescription for pills to make the pain go away. However, many doctors in Europe see pills for headaches as a last resort because they often increase a patient’s sensitivity, to headaches and in many cases cause rebound headaches.

I recently received training to treat headaches and migraines with an innovative new approach that does not use medication. It incorporates pressure point treatment, breathing, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). So far, each of the people I have treated with active headaches have reported their headache to be completely gone or nearly gone after about 30 minutes of treatment. Those that I followed up with the next day have reported their headache was completely gone shortly after the treatment ended. My first patient reported almost daily migraines for the past 20 years that she had been on numerous different meds to prevent or stop. Botox was her most recent addition to help prevent migraines and she said it seemed to be helping. At her second session she reported that she was having fewer migraines. She reported the biggest benefit, however, was the experience having a migraine that was coming on be stopped and disappear without turning into a full migraine. It gave her hope!migraine

Integrated EMDR (the name for this approach) is not a magic bullet to cure all future headaches and migraines. However, phase I of the treatment has been clinically proven to be more effective than medication in stopping an active severe headache or migraine. Phase II has substantial anecdotal support of decreasing the intensity, duration, and frequency of severe headaches and migraines.

If you live in the interior Alaska, give my clinic a call at 452-3600 to schedule an assessment and discover migraine relief.

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Living a mission

English: Target

English: Target (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night as I was finishing the final episode of of Live the Life Radio, I played back about a 5 second transition and was convicted by two words from my own voice at the close of the show. The words were from my mission statement (see below) that I ended the program with: “Total Commitment”.

I am in a season of struggle the past few weeks.  I know where I want to be but I don’t know how to get there. In the midst of this struggle I have been settling for good enough in several significant area of life. I have not been living total commitment to my savior or my wife. I have been doing just enough to get by. Just enough to keep thing from toppling but not enough to move either relationship back toward passion and authentic connection. As I write this, I am still struggling with what it looks like to live my mission in the midst of current struggles. Today my prays have shifted from, “Lord, help me through the day,” to “Lord, draw my heart to you so that I may see your path through the valley.”

Mission Statement:

Because of who loved me first, and
Who I am… I am living the life I was created for…

I am creating passionate, intimately connected, and totally committed relationships with my wife and daughters and inspiring the same from them.

I am raising the bar for marriages and families and empowering my neighbors to live the life they were created for—lives filled with passion, intimate connection, and total commit.

I am doing this by
• Counseling individuals and couples
• Writing what you put on my heart to share
• Delivering Marriage and Family retreats and groups
• Developing Mentoring Networks
• Equipping and releasing other leaders to do the same.

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Spring Cleaning for the Mind

It’s easy to accumulate a great deal of clutter and mess in our homes over the winter. Spring brings a great time to exchange the darkness and dirt with light and order.
The same is true of our minds.

I have a friend who detests Fairbanks winters. He thinks it is too cold most of the winter to get out and do anything. He spends much of his time from October to April grumbling about the cold and snow and how there is nothing to do. By March he’s built up a huge amount of negative clutter in his mind that is taking a toll on him physically (fatigue, frequent sickness, stiff and sore) and mentally (crabby, irritable, depressed). Even on warm sunny days when the temperatures reach close to melting, he is still so negatively focused that he won’t go outside with his family.

Someone recently told me about the new SUV his wife had purchased this winter. She was enjoying the car until a recent bout of 50 below weather froze it solid when the head-bolt plug-in at work malfunctioned. She got it towed home to their garage to thaw out. It’s still the same new car, but her attitude has changed. All she sees now is what’s wrong with it.

Brain, computer art

Image via Wikipedia

Whether the negativity you have accumulated comes from darkness, cold and snow, or from family, job, or other parts of life, the clutter takes a toll on your body and mind.

When you live a negative-focused life you grow the negative wiring in your brain. A negative focus stimulates the release of cortisol into your blood stream. According to neuropsychologist Rick Hansen, this increase in cortisol does two significant things:

  •  Cortisol makes the amygdula portion of the brain more sensitive over time. This means it takes less irritation to set you off.
  • Cortisol makes the hippocampus shrink. This results in less ability to calm the amygdula and slow down your reactions.

This becomes a vicious cycle. Your warning system for potential danger develops a hair trigger and the brakes to slow down the warning system get less effective. When you get in this cycle, it becomes harder to notice the positive things that happen and your mind becomes cluttered with negativity. Here are three of the ways I teach clients to reverse this process that you can use at home.

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

Tune Your Mind to the Positive
Step 1 – Notice when good things happen. This is the toughest step. It might be a good tasting steak, a funny joke, or waking up feeling rested. It might be something bigger like getting a promotion, your child winning the science fair, or booking tickets for vacation. At first you might not be able to notice good facts in the moment. If so, start by taking a few minutes before bed to review the day and identify two or three good experiences. This can begin to tune your awareness of good events.  Gradually you will begin to notice positives more quickly.

Step 2 – Appreciate or enjoy the experience for 10 to 30 seconds. Take time to experience what you are thinking and feeling at that moment (or if you’re starting out with a daily review, what you were thinking and feeling when the experience happened). Kind of like when you take a bite of an amazing dessert or a sip of good wine -you slowly savor the tastes instead of immediately gulping it down.

Step 3 – Soak it in. Imagine you are a sponge, as you soak in all the flavor, joy, laughter, sense of accomplishment, pride, etc from that moment. Image you are adding another gold nugget to a treasure chest in your mind.

Develop Gratitude and Expectation
Take time each morning or evening to write down 5 things that you are grateful for (past or present) and 5 things you are excited for (in the future). You can use a notebook, sticky note, smart phone, or whatever.

One friend keeps a notebook at her station in a bank. As she goes about her work and thinks of something, she jots it down. By lunchtime she usually has a complete list and on break she e-mails the list out to friends. In the two years that I have know her, she has only missed a few days.

My wife and I do a simple version of this with our kids as part of our dinnertime routine where we each share one grateful and one excited. One research project demonstrated that people who do this daily for three months have significant growth in the positive centers of their brain.

Olympic BeachRemember and Relive
Take a few minutes to relive a good memory. Notice the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, tastes, and emotions from the memory. My wife and I have been using this for years when we are feeling disconnected or angry. I might start by describing our first walk on Beach 4. As we relive that day- the sun setting over the ocean, the rush of the ocean waves, the smell of seaweed and salt, the feel of the tiny pebbles under our feet, the salty taste in the air- the positive feelings of peace, connection, and tranquility return.

Posted in Belief Systems, Depression, Mind, Neurology | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Soldier Comes Home

English: A 3rd ESC Soldier is welcomed by thei...

Image via Wikipedia

The first group of soldiers in the Striker Brigade stationed at Fort Wainwright returned home this week. They will be followed by thousands more over the next two months. In honor of their return I will be airing a conversation with Staff SGT Bob that I recorded last summer while he was on R&R. The interview will be broadcast the next two Saturdays on KJNP 100.3fm/1170am. Recordings of the show will be posted on Live the Life Radio on the Archive page after they air. You can listen to a brief excerpt from the show here.

Below is a repost of my reflections on my Conversation with Staff SGT Bob last summer.

I attended the birthday party of a friends kid on Saturday. My friend on two weeks of R&R from Afghanistan. This is the third deployment for my friend (I’m going to call him Bob). Sometimes as we talked, it sounded like each deployment got easier because he and his family had been through it before and knew more of what to expect. But at other times as we talked, it was apparent that each time it also gets harder.  The year-long separations accumulate and weigh heavier on the family each time. The personal effects of repeated exposure to combat add up.  As I interviewed Bob for an upcoming Live The Life Radio show several things stuck out to me:

1: No matter how many soldiers and spouses I talk with, I will never fully grasp how hard the soldier’s job is, and how much of a toll it takes on the soldier and their family. I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices they and their families all make to serve our country.

2: The needs of the soldier and his or her family don’t always fit into my “normal” ideas about healthy family relationships. For example, I am an advocate for openness and free communication in marriage. For a soldier who has shut down most of their tender emotional side during the deployment, this probably is not possible or wise when they first return home. The picture I got from Bob was of a soldier who’s body and mind are wired and primed to look for possible threats and to respond instantly. At home this conditioning can quickly escalate a simple misunderstanding or slight disagreement into an intense fight in a matter of seconds.  Bob recommends letting issues or offenses go without response during R&R and the first several weeks or month after returning home from deployment. He says it’s not worth the risk of escalating a little thing into a huge thing.

3: Every soldier’s and every family’s experiences and needs are unique. Every time I talk with a soldier, spouse, or child I find some parts of their story that fit the map that I have developed in my mind of what military life and deployment are like. However, I ALWAYS find parts of their story that do not fit my map and require me to revise my ideas about the challenges they face and how to deal with them in healthy productive ways.

4: I was struck by his desire to be the man who God created him to be, the challenges to grow in that direction while in a combat zone, and his commitment to make quite time aside with God a priority on R&R and after deployment. He says that during deployment, everything is reduced to the basics and he finds it difficult to do more than hold onto what he had spiritually before deployment. Alone time plays a huge role in Bob’s shift from an identity almost entirely tied to his job as soldier, to a more global identity. Bob says he can’t be the man, husband, father, or friend he wants to be at home, with out considerable time alone with God.

As I think of Bob and the myriads of other soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors who sacrifice so much for our country, I am awed, and find it difficult to express my respect to these men, women and their families.

Do you have a friend or loved one who is living the life they were created for amidst military deployments? Tell us about your hero in the comment box below.

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Parenting the Personality

Wow, it’s been way too long since my last post. My new radio show is taking up much of the time I would use for writing. I’ve got a couple of posts in the works but in the meantime…

Today’s post is a guest reblog excerpt from this week’s guest on Live the Live Radio.

Myers-Briggs Personality Theory, phase four: a different 4 Groups
(Based on Dominant Processes)
By Amy Jane Helmricks

Young children can be divided into four groups, just as adults can, but because their types are still developing the groups are designated only by dominant process: N, S, F or T.

Children whose dominant process is N tend to be very imaginative, seeing possibilities, thinking of the future, frequently storytellers and often lost in their own world. They can be very focused on things others don’t notice, and still miss the obvious. These are the kids who genuinely don’t notice they’re stepping on the only book left on the floor.

Children whose dominant process is S tend to be very grounded and practical children. Their wants and delights are physical: bright colors or quiet spaces, building towers and watching how they fall. Their distractions and distresses, also lean to the physical: the cold, a stickiness, or stone in the shoe. They have a high attentiveness to the information gathered through their senses: tastes, textures, sounds sights and smells.

Children whose dominant process is F tend to be very aware relationally, either with regards to how their behavior affects others, or how others’ behavior affects them. Compassion, people-pleasing and cries of unfair are all things that seem to show up “early” in these children.

Children whose dominant process is T tend to be very confident. They know what they want and frequently how to get it. They value competency, proof, and proving themselves. They are often more interested in things than people, and can seem mature for their age, based on their lower emotional volatility.

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Unless we’ve trained ourselves differently, we tend to view differences as a threat. After all, they’re making a different decision. They must think my way is wrong, and where do they get off…?

It is frequently helpful to consider how many different “right ways” can exist.

There is a delightfully maddening story in the book All Creatures Great and Small where the author’s eccentric boss hires a secretary to manage the veterinary business’s records and billing.

When this tough, no-nonsense lady comes in, she nearly has a fit when she sees the way money is currently kept: spilling out of a pot on the mantle. She works everything into order, but the boss eventually takes her to task about how her cash box is no good when it doesn’t contain cash.

Ultimately, I think letting people be different is granting them their own dignity. A chance to fail on their own terms. Because at the same time you are giving them the latitude to succeed in a way you might never choose to try.

Some things we might scold a child for, or try to “train” out of him or her, can be early manifestations of preferences that truly are values-neutral. Just because they aren’t choices we’d make doesn’t (by itself) make them bad.

For example:

Read the rest of the blog here.

Also in this article:
Ideas for S-oriented children
Ideas for N-oriented children
Ideas for F-oriented children
Ideas for T-oriented children

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Focus- It’s a powerful thing. It can enable us to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. It can cause despair and disease.

I’ve been doing an exercise with some of my clients and friends lately. First I have them stand, put their dominant arm out parallel to the floor and make a fist. Then I test their strength by pushing down on their wrist and telling them to resist. Next I ask them to think about something they are good at or like about themselves and to resist as I push down. Sometimes the person demonstrates a little more strength than baseline. Often I can’t tell the difference. Lastly, I tell the person to think about something they are bad at or don’t like about themselves and to resist as I push down on their wrist. Many times, I can immediately push their arm to their side with little resistance.  There is always a significant decrease in their ability to resist. Most respond with a comment like, “That’s amazing, I had no idea!” Some people ask to do it again (and get the same results). A few people are skeptical and claim I just push harder the third time.

A recent research study found that when people engage in problem talk (talking about how bad things are, what’s wrong with life, the world, etc) their cortisol levels increase. Cortisol is a stress hormone. The higher a person’s cortisol level is, the more likely they are to experience depression or anxiety. In other words, you can talk yourself into depression or anxiety.

SATISFACTIONDepending on what you focus on, you can increase your strength or steal your strength.

Depending on what you focus on, you can make yourself stressed out and depressed or you can make yourself content and satisfied.

It’s your choice. What will you choose today?

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