Friday, October 24, 2008

To Vote Or Not To Vote?

If you have not yet decided whether or not you're going to vote, perhaps I can help. Time is running out. Although this may seem like an easy decision to make (it is for me), it may not be so easy for everyone. As you know there are some very serious issues this time around. We're fighting 2 wars, though the media is not discussing this much lately. Our economy is bad, and it seems like it can't get much worse. A lot of people have lost their jobs, and many families are suffering. It's depressing. I think most people will agree that our health care system is in dire need of improvement. It is actually worse than many other civilized countries. And something needs to happen regarding caring for our environment better (whether you believe in global warming or not), including our use of energy. So there are certainly enough things that need to be fixed, or at least addressed.

Now, many people who voted last time may feel that your vote was wasted because you didn't get the guy you wanted. Those of you who did get the guy you wanted, may be unhappy with his performance the past several years. And then there may be folks who want to be loyal to their party, but are not happy with that choice. So my suggestion is simple. If you want things to be different, vote for the person you believe will make things different. (If you don't want things to be different, please read the first paragraph again.) However, if your guy doesn't seem like the one who's going to fix things, and you don't want to vote for the other guy for some reason, then I think it's ok not to vote. There, I said it, and I believe it. I think it's ok not to use your vote if that is your informed choice, and it seems like it may make things worse. However, consider this statement that I read in Men's Health Magazine recently. "They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. (Andy Warhol)"

One last thing. Linda and I went to vote last week. We agreed that it was a momentous experience.

And thanks to those of you who have made comments on my recent postings. I really appreciate it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

PSYCH 101: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months" (in a child or adolescent) which includes at least 4 of the following: often loses temper, often argues with adults, noncompliance with adults' requests or rules, deliberately annoying people, often blames others for their own mistakes, is touchy or easily annoyed, often angry and resentful, is often spiteful or vindictive. Also this behavior severely interferes with the child's functioning in the various important areas of his or her life, including family, social, and academic functioning. This young person also has significant problems with authority figures, for example parents, teachers, coaches and other adults.

It is difficult to identify any one particular reason that a child develops ODD. Usually as an infant they were irritable, colicky, or difficult to soothe (but not necessarily). Children suffering from other problems, including ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and learning disabilities can develop ODD, or similar behaviors or symptoms. A certain amount of oppositionalism is normal in the developing child (for example the "terrible twos"), and early adolescence is also a time when a certain amount of defiance or argumentativeness is normal. But ODD takes this behavior to an extreme. These children are typically not physically aggressive, but often are quite verbally aggressive.

What do you do if you have a child who seems to fit the above description, or has tendencies towards behaving defiantly beyond what is tolerable by you and your household? Because a kid who is angry all the time, or tends to "forget" rules or chores, or "didn't hear" you the 10 times that you gave an instruction and then gets mad at you for reprimanding their disobedience, can be very stressful. Once you acknowledge that you have a child with such issues, you have to change your approach. Yes, again, it falls on you the parent to make things right. Don't fight with them. In fact make it clear that the fighting is a problem, and develop alternative ways to resolve conflict. This will also help him or her learn healthy conflict resolution. Make sure that rewards for appropriate behavior, and negative consequences for oppositional behavior are in place, and understood by everyone. It helps a lot if your child has input into developing these. And although the rewards can flow as freely as you can manage, don't go overboard with the punishments. This means don't ground them nor take their toys/cell phone/etc. for too long. And be consistent, but flexible as needed. Your child should feel that they get the opportunity to try again to get it right. So praise their effort, and don't hold a grudge. Spend time listening, and talking to them about things that matter to them.

ODD describes behaviors of children and teens, but of course the habits that get developed can persist into adulthood. Handle this problem when they're young before they start getting into trouble with the law (or other authorities). They won't grow into that adult who has the anger management problem, is always losing their job, or having other problem relationships. Of course it will require patience. It really helps to have a same gender role model, who can calmly help point out the problems with this type of behavior and help develop alternative ways for the child to get their needs met.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This past week I learned of two stories in the news that saddened me. A 90 year- old woman in Ohio shot herself in the chest (twice, and survived), because her house was being foreclosed on. A few days ago a 45 year-old man in California killed his family and then himself, because his financial situation was so bleak. The economy is bad, and it is hitting us hard. I'm not going to let it make me crazy, and I encourage you to not let yourself be overwhelmed by it either. I want to suggest two things. One, is that we do have to survive financially. However, I'm hoping that the struggle will diminish in '09 when we have a new president. So, I'm going to exert some control over our future economy by voting (FREE) in a few weeks. Two, I don't feel that I have to allow the global economy to dictate my life. I've changed my perspective to focus on my PERSONAL ECONOMY. That means I get to determine what is most valuable to me in MY ECONOMY. So paying my bills, trying to save, and cutting back (see my blog of 7/10/08: "Turn Off The Lights") where I can are still important. But more important to me is my happiness. Your PERSONAL ECONOMY can be rich! As we all know, money can't buy happiness. And, yes, the best things in life are free.

Let's first address this change of perspective idea. Your perspective (free), your way of looking at life, is yours. You OWN it. You get to use it however you want. I suggest using it to change your focus to happiness as a priority in these hard times. Use it also to look at how you manage the important relationships in your life. Love (free) makes you happy ("All You Need Is Love", 9/22/07). Have more, and share more love in your life. Spend time with friends. Fix broken relationships, if possible ("Forgiveness", 10/1/07 ).

A walk on the beach (free) makes you feel good. It is relaxing, helps you de-stress, and helps you have a sense of inner peace (free). Very important in these times.

Pets are really good at lifting your mood. A friend of mine, going through some difficult times, told me the other day that visiting the Humane Society (free) for 30 minutes totally brightens his day. My brother-in-law and his wife, visit there regularly and enjoy interacting with the pets. My wife, actually, can get happy interacting with pets in the elevator, on the street, or in someone else's car.

Small things can have a big effect on how good you feel. Find things to do that make you laugh (free). Learn (free) a new hobby, or a new athletic activity. You may be surprised how much it helps your state of mind to help others, to volunteer (free).

Look. If you can't find some way to lift your spirits during these trying times, give me a call (free). Hey, just by reading this blog you've enjoyed something free. Receiving free professional advice, ... PRICELESS!