January 2017

The Power of “No”

Saying “No”. I have witnessed a surge in the past couple decades with people struggling to use this word, as if there is a severe allergy to the sound. It seems that there is always a reason or justification for why one cannot utter “No” to someone, even though they clearly know they should have. Although American ethos was built on the “Yes, I can” mentality, it is not a healthy approach to long-term happiness, especially in relationships. Saying “Yes” to everyone will take toll on your body, health, and mind.

Saying “No” to a request or demand holds a negative connotation for some—as if one is denying someone a critical need. Perhaps some respond reflexively to their inner critic: “Your mother raised you better”. Helping others requires that you have adequate resources yourself. Unfortunately, many of us neglect ourselves because in our estimation, somehow, someone else needs us more; therefore, we erroneously put aside our needs to care for others. In the end, neglecting ourselves is not respectable, it is not noble, and it is most definitely unwise.

In order to help others, you must be adequately charged; this requires spending time gaining the energy necessary for you. Then and only then can you serve others. If you do not take care of yourself, eventually you will run out of steam… it is simply inevitable because you are human. Self-sacrifice has its price.

Solution: learn to say “No”. Call it your Vitamin N. You might feel a twinge of guilt. That’s OK; the guilty feelings will eventually dissipate when you realize that choosing to care for yourself doesn’t make you selfish or unloving. Not everything someone needs from you trumps what you need to do for yourself. Understand that you cannot please everyone at all time. People will adapt if you say “No” once in a while; they will find another way to get help or realize that their perceived need was merely a want. Moderation is key, of course; make sure you prioritize time each week to include self-care, not just caring for others.

Screenwriter, filmmaker, communication and lifestyle expert Nena Tenacity reports that “Successful entrepreneurs are aware that their biggest downfalls are not saying ‘No’. Bypassing everyday urgencies and focusing on important issues starts with a simple skill and a small change by learning how to say ‘No’”. Helping others is honorable; however, help when you can and respectfully say “No” when you cannot. Do not neglect your needs; you deserve to be taken care of too.

My follow-up article, The 10 Situations to Say “No” to Improve Your Life, will focus on moments where in order to be successful mentally, physically and emotionally, you must practice saying “No”.

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Am I Allowed to Say “I’m Jealous”?

Admitting jealousy has been taboo in Western civilization for centuries. Presumably, culture has associated jealousy with weakness and sin; after all, envy is one of the seven deadly sins. Why are we as a society so scared that we can’t even admit to ourselves that we are jealous at times? Esther Perel, a therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, developed the notion from her research that “This is a culture that does not tolerate the (jealousy) emotion.”

This may be unfortunate in some ways. Jealousy can be like any other emotion we experience—while risky, it can serve a unique and positive purpose within certain parameters. Jealousy can bring about awareness – awareness of a present phenomenon and gives us the sense that it is changing. It forces us to confront certain feelings and push us to act on them. Why are we so afraid of jealousy? Jealousy is in one aspect merely a warning bell to let you know you may be losing someone very important to you. Feeling jealousy often forces you to refocus your energy toward a relationship that needs to be nurtured.

Jealousy is actually one way to improve your romantic relationships, says Erica Slotter, a professor of psychology at Villanova University. Dr. Slotter explains, “Jealousy is usually defined as the emotional reaction to a threat to one’s relationship from a real or imagined romantic rival. It differs from envy in that it always involves a third party.” Jealousy can cause you to act on this threat – to express your feelings more, to fight for someone you feel you may be losing.

Jealousy and envy are not synonymous; while similar, jealousy involves a perpetual fear that someone may no longer see you as more important than someone else. This may be very difficult for those who feel insecure. Jealousy may be a feeling that is so charged and intense that may actually be painful for some. Jealousy can cause lower self-esteem and induce destructive thoughts that prevent some from opening up to others.

For many people, jealousy implies a power imbalance, causing tension. Jealousy usually doesn’t come alone – it may be accompanied by anxiety and depression. “In its most extreme form, jealousy can be exceedingly damaging— it’s the leading driver of homicide of romantic partners, particularly of wives, girlfriends, and exes,” says David Buss, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex. Of course, if you feel jealous too frequently and if it interferes with your ability to live your daily life, seeking the help of a mental health professional can help you understand and process your emotions that have spiraled out of control.

Perhaps a little jealousy is a good thing wrapped in some risky emotions. It can help us re-value our partner a bit more if we know there are partner-poachers on the prowl. Jealousy keeps us from becoming too comfortable; perhaps there are changes we need to make to keep our partner interested. “When there is a threat and people become jealous, that jealousy motivates them to engage in behaviors that interfere with the partner going somewhere else,” says Edward Lemay, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland.

Don’t be necessarily afraid of a little jealousy; it might be a warning sign that indicates a problem in your relationship. If managed properly in an otherwise healthy relationship, it can become part of the regular courting process. Some women learn how to stimulate jealousy in a healthy manner, while some men—particularly Alpha men—learn how to utilize that jealousy to drive them to succeed, provide, and seek to please their partner.

Stimulated and utilized in moderation, jealousy can be a healthy emotion.

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Healthy Sexuality in Young Adulthood: The Bell Tolls for Thee

Anyone privy to social media has witnessed evidence of how times have changed in the dating world. Courtship is almost nonexistent for today’s youth. Technological advances have made casual dating and hook-ups as accessible as ordering pizza. The culture of our youth has been gradually shifting since the Sexual Revolution; one of the key markers: marriage is often pushed back until one’s 30’s. Unfortunately, the viewpoint held by many young adults is that committed relationships imply that one must settle down. “Hook-ups” seem to be more than a trend; it is the official way emerging adults are “dating”.

Convenience allows for quick access to express physical sexual pleasure; however, the psychological toll is devastating. Kinsey Institute researcher Justin Garcia and his team from Binghamton University concluded that “Hookups pose a significant threat to the physical and psychological health of these young individuals”. Garcia and his team investigated the unintended emotional consequences of short-term sexual relationships; their results are shocking, although they should not be surprising.

Generally speaking, short-term encounters (especially if they are frequent) pose huge risks to all parties involved. In regard to physical health – STD’s are the primary concern; unintended pregnancies follow closely behind. Mental health is weakened and damaged, often due to loneliness and the resulting depression or anxiety that stems from a sense of meaninglessness. Depression prevalence is higher among those who partake in casual relationships rather than long-term committed relationships. Garcia’s team reported other common reactions that occur as a result of this life style, including regret, disappointment, confusion, embarrassment, guilt, and low self-esteem.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Garcia found that a plurality of men considers short-term relationships to be positive, while for women, it is seen as a mixed bag—both negative and positive. Mentally, women often report that short term relationships or hook-ups violate their private, subjective standards. Ironically, Garcia’s team reported that both men and women experience “feelings that tend to be more positive before and during a hookup, and more negative afterward”.  Kinda like that second slice of pie after the holiday feast.

Casual encounters tend to fuel the narcissistic tendencies that plague today’s youth. It seems as though the “selfie-culture” that took root over the last few years has crept into the dating scene. It would appear courtship and courting rules no longer apply. Most adolescents and young adults don’t even know what “courting” is.

A parent’s role in this arena of life is critical. Parents of adolescents and even young adults should not abdicate their roles as counselors, cheerleaders, and support system. Do not forget that you are the Alpha parent; it is your responsibility to educate your children in order to help them make wise independent decisions. Of course, having these types of conversations with your older children and teens is uncomfortable, awkward, even torturous. However, they are critical. Stay informed about your children’s lives and help them manage them. Mainstream culture should not be the primary parent, preparing your child for adulthood. That remains your solemn duty until well into young adulthood.

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Give Children Time to Play!

By: Olga Zavgorodnya

Dr. Peter Gray, a researcher in bio-psychology, Professor at Boston College, and author of Free to Learn and Psychology, explains that “Most problems in life cannot be solved with formulae or memorized answers of the type learnt in school. They require the judgement, wisdom and creative ability that come from life experiences. For children, those experiences are embedded in play”.

The general consensus is that within the last few decades, children have less and less time to play. Whether the cause is parents who overbook their children with extracurricular activities or do not allow time for play because they believe there is no room for it, many children are left with too few interests in life. For many children, technology has stripped them of the desire and ability to go outside and play. They have become excessive bored.

What a tragedy this is. The severe repercussions that result from not having enough play as a child are manifold. As Dr. Gray explains, creativity and critical thinking is learned through play, not through academic settings. Those who did not get enough time to play report a decreased ability to navigate or feel comfortable in social settings—they have very little experience or confidence around others. Others report difficulty with interpersonal relationships, especially those related to courtship.

Many species in the animal kingdom—especially mammals—learn life skills through observation and play. They learn how to make tools and how to live within their established social structure. Predators tend to play more than prey because they have more skills to learn such as hunting – they cannot survive if they merely rely on instincts.

Dr. Gray reports a distressing and dramatic correlation: “Children’s opportunities to play has been accompanied by an equally dramatic increase in childhood mental disorders”. Having academic or “book” knowledge is not enough to be a happy and fulfilled person. Books cannot replace the experiences a child has while playing with others. Invaluable lesson – such as learning to share, learning how to empathize, play fighting (which teaches self-control and restraint)—are only available through engagement with others, which happens primarily during play. Considering that human beings are social creatures, one might think that it is an essential skill that needs to be acquired.

An important factor to remember is that through play, children learn what they like, what their passions are, what they are good at. Children need to be given free time to explore and discover those things. Children must be given the opportunity to critically think on their own, to figure out their problems on their own, to make mistakes– and learn from them!

Put away the video games and turn off the TV. Your child will balk at first and likely complain, but sooner than later, he or she will begin playing—the natural activity that helps them learn and grow more than any classroom or structured activity.

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