Navigating Controlling Relationships

In each of our lives, we run across individuals who want everything to go their way. They have tend to have strong personalities, strong wills, and often strong egos that make them controlling, often narcissistic, and manipulative. Here I will discuss the ramification and what you can do to navigate controlling relationships more effectively. 

They might be a friend, spouse, relative, or even a boss, but people of this description often try to suppress us from voicing our opinions. When we are dealing with family members who have a history of being demanding, it is easy to become manipulated by them, sometimes to keep the peace or because other family members go along with their demands. Unlike with family, we can choose to have relationships with friends or not. But even elective friendships become toxic when one individual disregards the needs and feeling of the other person. These situations are not only frustrating but can also have an affect on our health and our morale. 

The Toll Of Controlling Relationships

These types of relationships take their toll on us physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. They can become the source of continued anxiety and frustration, creating stress that can become physically debilitating if it goes on long enough. These relationship stressors have been shown to cause chronic conditions, such as skin problems, asthma, and stomach or bowel issues.

With emotional relationships like these, we can lose our sense of self and self worth. The only way we can avoid these types of relationships and the negative feelings they engender is to empower ourselves and take control over the quality and tone of our relationships.

To appreciate an actual situation, let's discuss dealing with a friend who is never on time for scheduled meetings and appointments. This makes you feel disrespected and not valued. In addition, his being late also has ramifications for you, causing you to be late for appointments as well.With this scenario in mind, let's review some steps you can take to regain control of your time, your feelings, and your relationship.

Strategies

Start by being honest with yourself about how you feel when your friend or family member acts in a controlling and disrespecting manner. Decide how you would like to change the situation, and make a goals list of how you can achieve that outcome.

 An example would be to admit that your boyfriend's lateness really drives you crazy and is underminding your relationship and causing you resentment. Then, imagine a solution you can apply to change the usual outcome. Try discussing this strategy with others and see how explaining it either confirms or alters your strategy.

1. Be Specific: Be very specific about what is important to you in terms of what you are determined to change about your experience. It is important to be committed to your goals no matter how small or large they may be.

2. Express Your Opinions: If you are determined to transform a relationship, an important action step to take is not to allow yourself to stifle your opinions or preferences. Telling others of your goals and preferences anchors them into a deeper commitment. If your friend or boyfriend cannot be on time, then let them know you are willing to leave without them the next time they are late for an event. 

3. Don't Back Down: Be absolutely firm about your commitment to change your toxic friendship or relationshand. At the same time, don't be afraid to let go of expectations in the relationship. Often when we let go of our expectations, things have a way of working out on their own.

It is important to take control over negative or toxic relationships. Only you can empower yourself and take control over your life and your feelings. It takes effort and time, but it's worth it.

 

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A Healthier Relationship With Food

 

Our mood and our food are intimately connected. It's interesting that the emphasis is usually on how things from outside our bodies affect our insides when in reality so much of what is going on inside affects our outsides. This is really evident in terms of weight loss and weight gain. The way we feel about ourselves, our work, or our life, whether we are fulfilled or dissatisfied, has more to do with what or how much we choose to eat than eating a certain food affects how we feel.

One of the reasons diets don't work is because the "work" is being done on the outside of the problem instead of the inside. I have been a nutritionist for over 30 years and have seen thousands of patients who want to change the way they look or the way they eat.

When we start to "work" on the goal, within a relatively short period of time, they become aware of underlying feelings and emotions associated with not eating foods that "medicate" or mask their feelings. They often become discouraged because the feelings are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It is our human nature to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. It takes courage to truly tackle and confront the underlying issues of "food and mood." Rather than focusing on the outside of the problem, we need to focus on the inside instead.

Here is an exercise you may find to be of value. If you are dealing with mood or food issues, keep a journal for 10 days. Write down everything you eat. Also write about how you feel when you don't eat what you want and how you feel when you do eat what you want.

Just becoming more aware of what you are putting in your mouth, and how it translates to how you feel after you eat a particular food, can be the start of a healthier and happier relationship with food and your mood.

 

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The Heart: More Than Just A Pump

There is little question that the heart is a muscular pump that transports nutrient-rich blood throughout the body. This function is, however, just a physical aspect of what the heart does and what influences its function. As with all of our organs and systems, the heart is affected by five specific components: (1) physical (2) emotional (3) nutritional-biochemical (4) environmental and (5) worldview (spiritual).

Beyond The Pump

The first popular books to explore these aspects of the heart’s function include:  Heart and Soul by Bruno Cortis, M.D. and The Heart’s Code by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D. These two highly recommended books offer varying perspectives and insightful information on the heart beyond its role as a pump.

Pearsall’s book explores in depth the emotional function of the heart and its “L” energy. Pearsall describes and clearly explains the impact loving has on a heart that loves. He also explores the effect this love exerts on the recipient of the heart’s “L” energy.  His presentation on the human heart’s independent electrical system (also known as the atrioventricular bundle) gives us an understanding of how the individual heart muscle has an emotional life of its own.

Cardiovascular Research

The current research on cardiovascular disease contains a surprising body of information. It shows that the single greatest factor affecting your chances of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease is not high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, a diet high in sodium or fat, a type A personality, anger, or rage.

Instead, as reported in the Science News Journal, the statically-documented, single most predictive factor of death by heart malfunction is: hopelessness. And it has been shown that stroke risk in women is also significantly linked to hopelessness.

What About The Broken Heart?

Broken heartedness occurs when the heart’s desire has been thwarted or eliminated and the heart is left without hope of fulfilling its desire. It’s been said: “Where there is life there is hope.” But without hope, our dreams perish and our heart breaks.

Although lifestyle elements like exercise, a healthy diet, weight control and having a purpose in life are all part of being heart healthy, it now appears that the primary, most important factor is keeping hopes alive and not giving up on our dreams. Without them, we lose our purpose and the joy for living.

The Power of Hope

A healthy heart is a hopeful heart. When you smile, you cannot be sad or hopeless. Prove this to yourself. Think a horrible thought, then really smile and see if you can think that same thought while you are smiling. You can’t.

When we smile, we tell the heart and brain that life is good and worth living. As the saying goes: “Be happmy be healthy.” When we have fulfilling and successful relationships, our hearts experience the “L” energy we all desire.

Our relationships provide us the L-energy we require; we need to nurture and cultivate the best relationships we can.

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Learning To Forgive

Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves that helps us live more peace-filled, healthier lives.It has been scientifically proven to decrease depression, increase hopefulness, decrease anger, increase self-confidence, improve relationships, and decrease stress. It may also reduce physical symptoms of illness, decrease heart disease and increase immune function. There are many excellent books on the subject to assist with and facilitate the process of forgiving the unforgiveable.

Healing Power

Dr. Luskin is the author of the book Forgive for Good, and a world renowned researcher on the subject of forgiveness. His scientific studies demonstrate the healing power and health benefits from the process of forgiving others for actual or perceived transgressions against us or those we love. Dr. Luskin was the lead researcher on a study in Ireland that included individuals from both sides of Northern Ireland’s civil war. These individuals had all lost a loved one due to this civil conflict. 

In his groundbreaking book, “Forgive for Good”, he outlines what forgiveness is—and, what it is not:

  • “Forgiveness is for you and not the offender”
  • “Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you”
  • “Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel”
  • “Forgiveness is a trainable skill – just like learning to throw a ball”
  • “Forgiveness is a choice”
     
  • “Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness or poor behavior”
  • “Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful has happened”
  • “Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the offender”
  • “Forgiveness does not mean giving up your feelings”

Learning to forgive starts with understanding the true nature of forgiveness.So then what does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness means being willing to find new ways to experience “justice” and to choose not to be victimized by other’s choices or actions.

A New Perspective

It can also mean experiencing an event from a different perspective, which allows us to reclaim our life from the depths of our suffering, loss or despair. This leads to the recognition that while people can do the unimaginable, much of what we experience in our lives is perceived hurt of rejection that causes us not to forgive another. Perceieved meaning that the hurt we feel might not have been intended. 

 

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Are You Stressed And Gaining Weight?

What Causes Stress?

If you find yourself feeling stressed and gaining weight, you are not alone. Prior to the early 1970’s, the majority of family units were structured as a one wage earner household where the male worked and the female stayed at home taking care of the house and family. Driven largely by social and socio-economic factors, all of that has changed. Now, the overwhelming majority of families include both parents working. We find ourselves on a treadmill of more work, more responsibilities, more demands and non-stop scheduling that has many of us in a state of physical and, at times, emotional exhaustion.

Added to the mix is our competitive culture, which often lends to isolation or “them against us” thinking. Isolation of this nature causes additional “hidden” stress. The perennial truth is that the whole world is one family. It is said that there is only one disease: the disease of separateness. The root cause is separating oneself from the awareness that as a member of the human family, we are one living collective organism. The drama created by a “one up” or “one down” dynamic, which we find in competitive societies, can lend to the exhaustion and the psycho-social behavioral issues that contribute to overeating.

Exhaustion and Obesity

The tipping point at which our bodies can no longer compensate for or adapt to the stress is based in large part on the threshold of nutritional competency and the state of integrity of our nervous systems. When our central nervous system, which governs every cell in our body and makes life possible, is not working efficiently, we have a decrease in bodily function and a decrease in the ability to adapt to the world.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS, is rampant in our culture today and growing at an alarming rate because of the over stimulation and increased demands placed on our nervous systems. Add to this inadequate nutrition and a decreased ability of our bodies to digest and absorb properly because of the stress, and we see the building blocks of the epidemic of chronic disease currently being reported.

The Hard Results

What is so shocking for us as American’s is that while we live in one of the most affluent societies ever to exist on earth and have one of the most technologically advanced medical systems, we are ranked at approximately 26th in the “World Health Olympics”.

This is not the failure of our medical system but, in fact, our collective societal failure to live in our bodies mindfully and respectfully, taking time for rest, proper nutrition, reflection, intimacy with self and others and serving the common good of all. It is this imbalance that leads us to chronic stress, which leads to physical and, if you will, spiritual exhaustion that is producing the levels of chronic disease and rampant obesity we see today.

 

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The Root Of All Misunderstandings

When couples are asked what in their relationship makes them feel fulfilled, the answer is inevitably that they feel “understood and cared about." Contrary to what many believe, misunderstandings are not the real problem in our relationships. It is not the misunderstanding that creates bad feelings and unhappiness in relationships, but rather not feeling that the person care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

In order to feel loved, we must experience that others understand us and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If our significant others do not understand or get who we are and how we feel, we are left with a feeling of being misunderstood. It can also lead to feeling alone because only someone who truly knows us can truly love us for who we actually are.

When we are in a relationship, we do not want to continually explain ourselves to another person, or justify our values, beliefs or the choices we make. If, after a time, that person cannot be present with us, listening and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship quickly deteriorates. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

Being present

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening to them and that you are really “present” to them as well – meaning that they have our full attention. And by giving them our full attention, we can more authentically understand how they feel and what their point of view and opinions are about the important discussions that make up all relationships.

A key component of active listening is reflecting back to the other person what we understand they were communicating to us, so that we can be sure that we understand and not misinterpret their communication. When we do this, we ask questions to clarify, such as “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you had said it didn’t matter if I went or not?

By working together so that the listening partner and the speaking partner both understand that clarifying their understanding of what is being communicated and also participating in active communication as well as active listening, the relationship can take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment.

Effective communication is always the key to avoiding misunderstanding and nurturing any good relationship.

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The Connection Between Brain Function, Behavior, And Your Emotions

There are three parts of the human brain, referred to as the "triune brain." Paul D.MacLean, an early research director for the National Institute of Mental Health, postulated the Triune Brain Theory. It states that the human brain is a product of three stages of evolution and is actually three separate brains that have evolved into one brain over long periods of time.

Three Parts

The first section [the lowest portion of the brain] is comprised of the top part of the spinal cord, the medulla oblongata, the pons, and the cerebellum. MacClean calls this “the reptilian brain.” As he stated, “at its base [the human brain] was a variation in the elaboration of the reptilian brain."

The limbic system [located in the mid-portion of the brain] states MacClean, "was an elaboration of the new mammalian brain from the Jurassic period". He termed it the "mid-brain" or the neo-mammalian brain (new mammal).

The upper most and largest part of the human brain, the cerebral cortex, encompasses our logic centers, our "intellect." MacClean termed this portion "the neo-cortex" (new cortex).

Fundamental Behavior

The Reptilian or "vegetable brain" [recall the autonomic nervous system functions], is fundamentally concerned with homeostasis, which is involved in regulating all of the body functions that allow each of us to be human, get up every day, and live our lives. If you do not have a well-functioning lower brain, if you have a tumor, if you have a trauma, if you’re in an accident, if something happens to your brainstem, you may no longer have the capacity to control the day to day homeostatic functions to maintain your life.

Interpreting Information

Embedded inside the Limbic System is a structure identified as the Reticular Activating System, which has pathways as well as neurons traveling throughout the lower brain, up through the medulla oblongata, across the Limbic System, and into the Neo-Cortex or the "thinking brain".

The Limbic System and Reticular Activating System interpret sensory motor messages that are "incoming" from the person's environment. It is in this portion of the brain that we not only interpret the "incoming stimuli and information," but we also select methods for survival and adaptation.

Here is where it gets exciting to put the anatomy and physiology of brain function and the psychology of personality together!

Putting It All Together To Survive

We know the neo-cortex is our thinking, intellectual brain – our "smart brain" – and most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually yet they are emotionally dysfunctional in the extreme. Our thinking brain would presume that being "smart" or intellectually capable would exercise dominion over one's emotions, however, the missing piece of information here is that our emotions actually are a survival adaptation mechanism that each of us individually develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning. Nothing is more powerful in the human being than its drive to survive! Hence, our emotions win the day in the battle between thinking and feeling.

It is critically important for each of us to understand that our emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first 0-5 years of our development. Our familial "input" taught us, as did Pavlov with his dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers.

Your Brain And Relationships

This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by the thought process, as the thought process for humans is the "newest" component to our primordial brain. It is in the adaptive portion of our brain where we form our "personality" and where we become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.

When we understand the possibility that the interpersonal issues that frustrate us may come not from "being difficult" or having "bad intent" but rather from our drive to survive and our interpretation of the stimulation and environment we were conditioned by, then we can begin to be "kinder and gentler" towards ourselves and others.

In summary, our emotions are the way we learn to live and survive in our world. We cannot "think them" into changing, but we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives.

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Mastering New Beginnings

"Happy New Year" is a greeting that fills us with anticipation, excitement and hope. The anticipation is for the new beginning we feel as the ball drops and we say good-bye to the past and look forward to the future. Our excitement is for the many possibilities that may lay ahead in the coming year and the hope is for a better twelve months than those that came before.

What are some simple, positive and productive actions we can take in this New Year that will support our optimistic January resolutions?

Clean The Slate

Cleaning and organizing your home space is one of the most positive ways to start the New Year. It has been shown in numerous studies that a clean, organized environment provides a sense of relaxation and calm and also helps us to be more productive because we are more organized. This results in a more efficient work or study outcome.

Spend Less

Commit to spending less and saving what you don't spend. Setting a goal of saving a realistic amount of money each month and achieving that goal by spending that much less is an empowering and satisfying way to take more control over your finances. It also reinforces the idea that you can transform your saving/spending patterns without much stress and strain.

Eat Better

Eat less processed foods and more living foods – this is not only a healthy resolution but also a cost saving one as well. We as Americans enjoy an abundant lifestyle and have the highest obesity rate in the world to prove it. By focusing on life-giving, plant-based foods, we nourish our bodies. And, we save a lot of money by not buying high priced processed and often non-nourishing "foods."

Give Back

Identify an organization, charity or cause that you can either provide a small but heartfelt donation or voluteer time to. Participating in meaningful assistance to others is rewarding on many levels and is good for our health as well as our sense of contribution.

Each New Year is an opportunity for a new beginning…and life, it is often said, is a series of new beginnings.

 

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Fulfill Your New Year’s Resolution With Mindful Eating

Three studies provide an interesting, proven tool to help you fulfill your health-related New Year's resolutions. Not unknown in other parts of the world is the idea of addressing the first step to food digestion. This is an important factor in reducing excess body weight. Mastication, or simply put – chewing, has a significant effect on the hormones of our gut; which in turn affects energy intake, metabolic caloric use, and overall body weight.

Mindful, Conscious Eating

The studies support the practice of mindful, conscious eating and the physiological and biochemical improvements to nutrition and wellbeing, when a moderate rather than a “grab and go” eating lifestyle is followed.

The various studies focused on the following objectives: one being to compare the differences in how chewing was different between lean and obese subjects. Another was to evaluate if eating the same meal at varying speeds of mastication would result in different postprandial (after eating) gut peptide responses. The third study’s objective focused on how staggered, compared to non-staggered, meals affected hormone and appetite dynamics, food pleasure, and the resulting energy intake.

Manipulating Eating Habits

The three studies utilized volunteer subjects and were conducted at clinical research facilities. The first study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1, 2010. The study subjects were 17 healthy adult males who were evaluated on the varying lengths of time they took to consume a meal. The first meal was consumed in 5 minutes and the second meal in 30 minutes. After each meal, the levels of gut hormones were assessed in the subjects, measuring the results for each of the meal durations. The conclusion of this study was that eating at a moderate rate, compared to a rapid rate, produces an increased anorexigenic gut peptide response, which resulted in a loss or decrease of appetite compared to the subjects who ate more quickly.

This is probably not a surprise to mindful eaters who, in many ways, eat their food as a form of meditation, chewing much slower than the majority of us do. They not only tend to enjoy their food more but also decrease their appetites and moderate their bodyweight. The second study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011. This study contained 16 lean and 14 obese young men who were the subjects of the study. There were two components to this particular study. The first component observed and investigated whether the obese subjects displayed different chewing patterns and factors than the lean subjects. The second component explored how the number of chews per each mouthful of a meal affected the subject’s energy intake. Two sittings of the same meals were consumed by each of the study subjects throughout the course of the day. The study used two specific amounts of chews per swallow. Each subject chewed one mouthful of food 15 times before swallowing, and then during the second meal of the same food, each subject chewed one mouthful of food 40 times before swallowing.

Chew More, Eat Less

The outcomes of this study were as follows: regardless of their body mass being either lean or obese, the subjects had ingested almost 12% less food (11.9%) intake after the 40 chews per mouthful meal than after the 15 chews per mouthful meal. This registered trial study concluded that using improved meal chewing interventions could prove to be a useful tool in reducing and combating obesity.

Much has been written about lower body weight and the French diet, as well as the eating habits of other countries and cultures compared to our American grad and go fast food lifestyle. These studies confirm something that has been apparent to other cultures, and even in earlier decades in the U.S.

Decreasing Hunger

The third study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011, goes on to confirm that: staggered meals, where there were pauses in between the total consumption of the entire meal, resulted in a decrease of hunger, an increase in food reward, and greater satiety than in meals that were consumed without pause and at a faster rate of speed.

Our focus today in the U.S. is on reducing obesity in both children and adults, as well as addressing the growing epidemic of type II diabetes and metabolic syndromes, with their resultant increase in adult pathologies. Each of these conditions is directly linked to the over consumption of food. These studies are an invitation to our national culture to re-assess our fast-paced lifestyle as a means to reducing the leading health issues of our day.

If simply by slowing down how quickly we put food into our bodies we can save ourselves from individual and collective suffering, it would make sense for someone to start a campaign to ensure more time for kids and adults to eat a good breakfast, take a longer lunch and enjoy a more leisurely dinner.

Rewarding Success

It is usually the simple things in life that bring the greatest rewards. Rather than worrying about the number of calories we are putting into our bodies, it might be refreshing to shift our attention to our chewing habits, which have proven in these studies to reduce food intake by 11.9%, decrease caloric uptake, improve one’s food satisfaction, and enhance greater satiety.  A lot of reward – for not a lot of effort.

Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011; vol. 141; no. 3, 482-488
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011; vol.94; no. 3, 709-716
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1,2010; vol.95; no. 1, 333-337

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End Of The Year Relationship Tune-Up

As one year ends and another readies to begin, it is the perfect time to assess our relationships and initiate a "Tune-Up". Given the ever growing demands of our daily lives, it becomes very easy to overlook the “care and feeding” of our intimate, family and long-term relationships. Relationships have been shown to have a significant impact on our health, happiness and longevity; taking care of them and keeping up on their maintenance are essential.

Taking the time to have a “tune-up” for your important relationships is worth the effort. Here are some simple but important interpersonal behaviors that will help tune up your relationships and add to the fulfillment and satisfaction you desire from them. 

Conflict resolution

Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but the ways we handle and respond to it are not. Some of us try to avoid dealing with conflict, while others want to immediately resolve things head-on. Instead of trying to avoid conflict, it can be constructive to objectively write down our thoughts and feelings.

We can share them with the other person in a way that expresses how we feel and in a style that makes us comfortable, possibly in a letter, greeting card or email. For those of us who tackle conflict head-on, it can be helpful to take a step back and discern if this issue is something that must be resolved immediately or whether we can give ourselves time to process what has occurred, allowing us to see the conflict from the other person’s perspective.

Respecting The Others Person’s Experience

Respecting your partner’s or friend’s experience of a particular conflict doesn’t mean you “go along to get along” or that you should not express your own experience or feelings about it. It does mean that you respect and consider the other individual’s unique experience of what has occurred. Recognize that he wants to be seen, heard and valued just as much as you do.

By being open to accepting what the other person is feeling and what he has experienced, you send the message that you sincerely care about his feelings. And, while you may not agree with those feelings, you bring integrity to the relationship that allows the other person to be who he is and express feelings in a safe and non-hostile environment.

Learning New Communication Skills

There is no doubt that communication in all types of relationships can make or break them, but changing how we relate to one another is easier said than done. This difficulty stems from inherited or past communication patterns that can quickly lead to hurt feelings or emotional disconnection. What’s more, most people don’t have the knowledge, skills or the time to invest in changing how they behave. Learn new skills to enhance your relationships and watch them flourish!

 Would You Rather Be Right Or Be Loved?

An important question to ask when we dealing with conflict in a significant relationship is: Would you rather be right or be loved? This simple litmus test can help reveal a balance and a win-win situation for both the parties in a conflict. It also allows us to reflect on what is important in both our life and in our relationships.

 

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