Friday

You’re Not Wrong. And Neither Is Your Partner

Here’s how to stop treating your marriage as a zero-sum game

Everybody gets one housekeeping pet peeve, and here’s mine: Stuff left in the sink. My husband’s pet peeve is: Stuff left on the counter. 

Just…no. (Image credit: StockSnap at pixabay.com)

OBVIOUSLY, I’m right. I cite as my authority: Sink Reflections, the organizational book that make Marie Kondo look like a rank amateur.* This is me: “Sinks are work areas, not storage bins. How do I fill the water pitcher when there are dishes in the sink? I’m just gonna set this stuff over here to the side and…”

His authority? “I just installed this counter. Don’t ruin good butcher block!”

Tuesday

Which Ugly Kind of Jealous Are You?

Consumed by the green-eyed monster? There’s a better option.

Until I landed in Europe, I lived just one town south of earth’s two richest humans. Gotta admit: It was sometimes a struggle to keep envy in check.(Hubby and I moved from our Seattle ’burb to a Paris ’burb last year. Now our neighbors down the road are only earth’s third-richest human, and earth’s richest woman. So much better.)

Of all the ways people differ from animals, this may be the most telling: We human folk can get really strong, dark, even obsessive feelings when we notice that other people have what we don’t. (Sure, animals steal one another’s food — I’m looking at you, crows — but they don’t spend months or years suffering, plotting, and gloating over it.)

Monday

Just Say Yes -- To Everything. Including Your Kids.

Musical quarter note containing a sad face
Why start on a down note? 
(Image credit: needpix.com)

The Black-Belt Communication series provides step-by-step tools and scripts for solving all of life’s communication problems. In this episode, we solve relationship negativity.

Have people stopped inviting you to events? Is nobody asking your opinion about anything? Do you call yourself a “realist”?* Have two or more people used any of the following words to describe you: cynical, no fun, downer, pessimistic, too busy, defeatist, never has time?

Hey, Negative Nancy and Problem Pete: We need to talk.

Sunday

Two Ideas Will Change Your World


Little girl with a surprised face




Who knew language could be 
so surprising? (Photo credit: 
Josh Engroff, 2012)
A casual comment dropped at church blew my mind

One of the many wonderful things about living abroad is this: New language; new thoughts.

We now live in France, my hubby and I. And so the church services we attend are conducted in French. 

My nascent French requires me to mechanically translate each word of the service. I don’t catch everything. But I do seem to learn at least one useful thing from any given homily. F’instance:

Tuesday

Twelve Things to Do This Christmas Besides Gossip




What good’s a family gathering 
without a little family gossip? 
(Image courtesy of 
Tophee Marquez from Pexels)
Spread some holiday holiness by being better than before
Merry Christmas. Did you hear about Uncle Frank? Also, I just saw what Trump said to Pelosi…Wait till you read this!

Yay! Another family gathering where everyone not in the room is on the menu. Who needs roast beef when we can chew up the reputation of absent Cousin Drew? Why mash potatoes when we can smash celebrities and politicians?

Friday

The Beauty of the Four-Sentence Cover Story

How to hold on to your privacy without severing relationships
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
I have an uncomfortable secret, and no, I don’t want to tell you about it. But we’re friends, and aren’t friends supposed to tell each other everything?

Or worse, we’re not friends, but you’re nosy, we work together, and if I don’t spill, you’ll bitch-shame me to our colleagues and persuade them I’m not a team player.

What to do?

Monday

Knock, knock, knocking at Heaven's Gate

Create the self you wish to be.
This used not to be controversial: That we pilot our own ships.

But the zeitgeist has changed.

Disempowering Beliefs
One of the recurring counseling problems we see in our office is the belief that there's nothing to be done about bad things: poverty, substance abuse, environment, health, crime, human freedom.

Wednesday

Rip Up the Dark Web of Narcissism

Rip up the Narc Web
One of our therapeutic specialties is combating narcissism. We’ve studied the behavior for years and are particularly concerned with the large number of adult children of narcissists who come in to our practice in deep pain over problems with their family of origin.

What's most surprising is

Sunday

Watch Out for Human Projectors

Is it true, or are you projecting?
For good or bad, humans tend to believe other people are like themselves. If they say most people cheat or lie, they’re projecting. If they say most people are honest or generous, it’s likely they, themselves, have those qualities.

If you generally believe the best of people, be cautious about surrounding yourself with people who reflexively think the worst of others.

* * *
Click here to be notified when our book, The AiKi of Self-Awareness: How a Therapist Uses Emotional Intelligence to Heal Marriages, is available.

Research source:
Wood, D., Harms, P., & Vazire, S. (2010). Perceiver effects as projective tests: What your perceptions of others say about you. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 174-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0019390

Tuesday

Stop Spinning; Start Listing

Ever feel so overwhelmed -- or agitated -- that it's hard to think clearly? 

Whether it's relationship conflict, financial worries, fear, anxiety, or the stress of daily life, it's common for people under pressure to experience racing thoughts -- sometimes to an almost vertiginous degree.


That state of confused thinking actually -- and paradoxically -- creates even more confusion, anxiety and stress. Thoughts spinning out of control feel a lot like life spinning out of control.

Scattered Thinking? Make a list!
Filling pages with random thoughts 

feels cathartic,
but clarity of thought requires lists.
To resolve scattered, racing thoughts we offer a practical, mindful, quick fix: Make a list.

Pulling out a sheet of paper (or opening a blank document) is a deliberate, conscious act that allows you to slow yourself down, and beginning a list prompts you to start organizing your thinking.

We advocate mindfulness as a critical component of good mental health. Mindfulness improves your internal states, and produces subtle, positive mood, energy, and behavioral shifts.(1) As you mindfully create lists you begin to feel rational, calm, and confident. List-making is itself a creative act, focusing attention and stopping the mind from automatic, habitual patterns of agitated thinking. From this state it becomes possible to slow your breathing, observe yourself, calm your thinking, and stay in the moment. 

Bonus: Lists become to-do lists, and when things get done, you build your sense of accomplishment -- a big part of healthy self-esteem. 

(1) Miklowitz, D. J., Alatiq, Y., Goodwin, G. M., Geddes, J. R., Fennell, M. J. V., Dimidjian, S., Hauser, M., and Williams, J. M. G. (2009). "A Pilot Study of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Bipolar Disorder." International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 2(4), 373–382.



Saturday

A Rash of Rashness

When we counsel clients in difficult relationships, one of the curious patterns we see is a tendency toward impulsivity. We've seen it so often, in fact, that we've begun to believe it may be the most malignant of all relationship behaviors. 
Impulsivity: The Root of Regret. 
Considered Decisions Bring Joy.

Impulsive people say and do hurtful things to the people they love, and tend to suffer problems at work, with law enforcement, and in completing projects. If you look back at your own regrets, you'll likely find that nearly all of them arose out of an impulsive act.

When people are able to master their impulsivity, wonderful things start to occur in their marriages: Escalation ends, hearing happens, defensiveness discontinues, and intimacy is initiated.


New research backs us up. A study out of the University of Georgia finds that among married couples, there is a significant correlation between high levels of impulsiveness, and low levels of marital satisfaction and commitment. Impulsivity is also correlated with high levels of verbal aggression.(1)  


Bottom line? Slowing down is a fast fix for many relationship problems. And it's a fairly easy correction: Just take a deep breath, think carefully before you speak, and watch intimacy grow! 



-----

(1) Lavner, J. A., Lamkin, J., & Miller, J. D. (2017). Trait Impulsivity and Newlyweds' Marital Trajectories. Journal of Personality Disorders, 31(1), 133-144. doi:10.1521/pedi_2016_30_242

Monday

Optimism: The Happy Fix for Stress and PTSD

Happy and you know it? Congrats! New research out this month demonstrates, once again, the power of optimism to make life better. One new study shows that after traumatic events, optimistic people are better equipped to cope with intrusive thoughts and anxiety, and -- unlike their pessimistic peers -- don't develop avoidance, numbing, or "dysphoric arousal." (1)
Pronoia: The Optimistic Belief that People 
Like You, and Conspire in Your Favor

Another new study finds when performing stressful tasks, optimistic people are better at perseverance, and also have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. (Lower levels of cortisol are correlated with happiness and positive affect.) (2)

So jump on the positivity bandwagon to stay happy and healthy!


(1) Birkeland, M. S., Blix, I., Solberg, Ø., & Heir, T. (2017). Does optimism act as a buffer against posttraumatic stress over time? A longitudinal study of the protective role of optimism after the 2011 Oslo bombing. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, And Policy, 9(2), 207-213. doi:10.1037/tra0000188

(2) Binsch, O., Van Wietmarschen, H., & Buick, F. (2017). Relationships between cortisol, optimism, and perseverance measured in two military settings. Military Psychology, 29(2), 99-116. doi:10.1037/mil0000146

Sunday

True Things

Other People Are Allowed 
Their Faulty Perceptions; 
There's No Need to Respond.
No great person has been universally loved. Spending precious time trying to change other people's opinions of you is a Sisyphean task. Better to put your energy into being your best self, and let other people's opinions fall where they will.

* * *
Click here to be notified when our book The AiKi of Self-Awareness: How a Therapist Uses Emotional Intelligence in Relationship Counseling, is available.

Saturday

Martial Arts for the Mind - say, what?

What do we mean by the term "Martial Arts for the Mind"?

Know nothing at all about martial arts? Oh, c'mon. You've seen a Jackie Chan movie, right? No? How 'bout the Karate Kid? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Kung Fu Panda?

Even if movies were your only exposure to the martial arts, you probably already understand some basic principles of the form.

The martial arts are philosophically grounded in theories about awareness, predictive moves, and stepping away from trouble. AiKiDo, the model we reference in AiKi Relationship Training, is particularly focused on ideas such as resisting the natural tendency to defend in the same way we're attacked. Our AiKi technique teaches communication moves such as pulling when pushed, or pushing when pulled, or -- best of all -- stepping aside to avoid relational conflict altogether.

AiKi Relationship Training coaches you in techniques to sidestep verbal attacks, avoid quarrels over silly nonsense, and tackle problems without triggering your partner.

It's a mind thing
You want to play Neo in your own life? Stay tuned to the AiKi Relationship Training channel, and we'll show you how!

Thursday

An end of fighting? Really?

Well, yeah, actually.


Sometimes, when we promise clients they can actually stop fighting, forever, and build marital intimacy,* they look at us skeptically...Almost as if fighting and intimacy go hand-in-hand, rather than contradict one another.



But here's the cycle we observe with clients who use our technique: Friendship. Peace. Laughter. Intimacy. Joy. More friendship. More peace. More laughter. More intimacy. More joy.


There's a process we can get behind. Therapeutically, that is.

_____
*Intimacy: It's not necessarily a euphemism for sex. (Well, it can be. But not here, not in front of the children, please.)


Tuesday

What is this "AiKi" Thing?

What's the story with that weird "AiKi" word at the top of the page?

Well, set yerself down fer' a spell, and let us spin ya' a yarn:


The character 合 (pronounced Hé in Mandarin, Hap6 in Cantonese, and Ai (eye) in Japanese) means to join, to blend, to combine, to fit together. 

The character 氣 (pronounced Qì/Chì in Mandarin, Hei3 in Cantonese, and Ki (key) in Japanese) suggests spirit, life force, energy, breath. (This idea equates with the Hebrew word נִשְׁמַת־, nishmah, which means breath/air/spirit, and describes the life force breathed into the creation of mankind in the book of Genesis.)

Together, those two characters, Ai and Ki (eye key), suggest joining the spirit, relational harmony, and interacting with another human being, without conflict. That concept of AiKi means blending without clashing, having intimate connection without triggering your partner. 

It's the foundation of our communication training program.