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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thoughts For A Sunday

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”
Robert H Schuller

Tomorrow is the important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.
John Wayne

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. Otherwise you trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.
Jim Morrison

“The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important decision. That's the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, and forge ahead!”
George S Patton

“The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.”
J K Rowling

“The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
John Stuart Mill

“Negative thinking is subtle and deceptive. It wears many faces and hides behind the mask of excuses. It is important to strip away the mask and discover the real, root emotion.”
Robert H Schuller

“ Nothing you wear is more important than your smile.”
Connie Stephens

“I think the most important thing in life is self-love, because if you don't have self-love, and respect for everything about your own body, your own soul, your own capsule, then how can you have an authentic relationship with anyone else?”

Shailene Woodley

Friday, September 26, 2014

Loving Relationships

Loving relationships are the most important factor in a man’s happiness, success, and ability to live a fully flourishing life.
And one of the most important factors in creating and sustaining these warm, intimate relationships is communication.
Unfortunately, how to communicate with one’s significant other in a healthy, positive way is something rarely taught to either men or women. As a result, many couples find that their discussions regularly turn into heated, unproductive arguments that ultimately damage their relationship. Angry fighting leads to distance and weakens intimacy. Yelling, sarcasm, insults, and name-calling undermine trust. This kind of pejorative communication creates defensiveness and alienation, which makes it nearly impossible for a couple to address their issues together. What starts as a conversation escalates into a fight in which the original issue gets forgotten, you lose track of what you’re even yelling about, and nothing gets resolved.
In contrast, couples who know how to discuss their disagreements in a healthy way are able to nip problems in the bud before they turn into big, relationship-ending issues. The key to this kind of positive interaction is what the authors of Couple Skills call “clean communication.” Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning, and Kim Paleg (hereafter referred to as MFP) define clean communication as “taking responsibility for the impact of what you say.” By being more intentional about their communication techniques and leaving out rhetoric that wounds one’s partner and creates defensiveness, a couple creates a safe place in which to honestly and respectfully work through their differences.
What are the principles of clean communication? MFP lay out 10 “commandments” to follow when you’re talking with your significant other. While the focus of this post is communication in a romantic relationship, much of this also applies to personal interactions in all areas of your life.
The 10 Commandments of Clean Communication
1. Avoid judgment words and loaded terms.
               “You’re acting so childish right now.”
               “Oh boo-hoo. I’m tired of your perpetual ‘poor me’ attitude.”
               “Maybe if you were more of a man, you’d be able to handle this.”
               “You’d probably feel better if you got off your fat, lazy ass and finally did something about it.”
When you’re having a heated argument with your significant other, it can be very tempting to level a real zinger at them – to use words and putdowns you know will wound them and push their buttons. Such zingers aim to point our their flaws and tear down their worth. They accomplish this mission – but at the expense of trust and intimacy.
2. Avoid “global” labels.
There are two ways to criticize someone – you can critique their character or their behavior. In criticizing behavior, you’re calling out something specific and temporary – something the person can realistically change. But in assailing someone’s very identity, you’re issuing a global label – a blanket condemnation of who they are at the core; they don’t just do bad stuff, they are a bad person.

Global labels can feel highly satisfying to hurl at someone when you’re angry and can seem completely justifiable at the time. In writing the person off as incorrigible, you also essentially absolve yourself of any responsibility for your issues as a couple: “We wouldn’t have this problem if you weren’t so selfish.”
But blanket condemnations of your partner’s character are anathema to a loving relationship. They will make her feel hurt and defensive, greatly hindering any chance of communication. Global labels also make your partner feel helpless – if the problem is rooted in their very identity/personality, changing will seem impossible to them. They’re liable to answer: “I’m sorry, but this is the way I am!” Thus, in using global labels you wash your hands of any responsibility for the problem, while at the same time, your partner will feel unable and unwilling to do anything about it either…not a recipe for effective conflict resolution!
Here are some examples of global labels, and how they could be better rendered as specific critiques of behavior instead of character:
               You’re so self-centered and only care about yourself.”  “In forgetting my birthday, I felt like you didn’t think about my feelings.”
               You’re such a bitch.” “Questioning my masculinity is a low-blow. I’d like to try to talk to you without the name-calling.”
               You’re always so helpless.”  “I know you’re having trouble figuring out how to download that app, but right now I need to finish this paper. If you still can’t get it, I promise to help you tonight.”

3. Avoid “you” messages of blame and accusation.
As MFP put it, “the essence of a ‘you’ message is simply this: ‘I’m in pain and you did it to me.’ And there’s usually this subtext: ‘You were bad and wrong for doing it to me.’” When people slight us, it may be true that they are entirely, or almost entirely, to blame. But when you lead with that blame, the instigator will instantly erect walls of defensiveness that will make working through the issue together impossible. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend your significant other is not at fault when they are, it just means you use language that says the same thing in a different way – couching your message so that it actually has a chance to surmount their psychological walls and reach their brain.
To do this, you want to swap out your you-centered accusations for statements that emphasize “I” – how you feel when your partner does certain things. Here are some examples:
               You always leave the house such a mess.”  “When the house is so cluttered I end up feeling stressed out.”
               Your moodiness is ruining our relationship.”  “When I can’t predict your moods, I’m not sure how to approach you, and I feel like that’s eroding the intimacy in our relationship.”
               You’re always late and it’s driving me crazy.”  “I feel embarrassed when we arrive late to events.”

4. Avoid old history.
               “You’re just being ungrateful like always. Remember when I spent all weekend cleaning the house before your folks arrived and you never even said thank you?”
               “You don’t trust me? At least I’m not the one who cheated last year.”
               “It’s always the same damned thing with you. You’re sorry about spending too much on the couch, just like you were sorry for going over budget on the kitchen remodel, and sorry for spending so much on the dress for our wedding…”
When you’re addressing a certain problem, stick with the issue at hand instead of slinging mud, or engaging in what my friend calls “closet-fighting” — i.e., reaching back into the closet of your past for old grievances to buttress your current accusations. When we closet-fight, MFP write, “The message is: ‘You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re bad. You’ve always had this flaw, and it’s not getting any better.'” While talking about your history together may be useful when you’re both calm, MFP recommend sticking to the present when things are heated, as “anger turns references to the past into a club rather than a source of enlightenment.”
Resurrecting old beefs will ratchet up the intensity of your discussion, and will invariably send it off in a different direction and away from resolving the original issue. Plus, your partner will likely be hurt that you’re still holding onto something she thought you’d forgiven her for, and you both will feel like your relationship isn’t progressing. It’s hard to move forward if you keep rehashing the past; instead, let sleeping dogs lie.

5. Avoid negative comparisons.
               “You’re so irrational, just like your mom.”
               “None of my exes were ever as clingy as you are.”
               “Why can’t you be more fun like Derek’s girlfriend is?”
Being compared negatively to someone else sure can sting. We oftentimes want to think we’ve evolved past the flaws of our parents, so to hear “you’re just like your dad” feels like a punch to the gut. So too, our identities are very much based on comparing ourselves to our peers, and to have the person we love say we don’t stack up to them cuts at our sense of worth. Making negative comparisons also tells your partner that you’ve been thinking about someone else, and how that other person measures up to her, which can provoke hurt feelings and jealously.
6. Avoid threats.
               “If you’re going to act like that, then I’m not going with you to your parents’ house this weekend.”
               “If you can’t get your act together, then maybe we should get a divorce.”
               “If you don’t want to be more adventurous in bed, I can find plenty of other women who are willing to be.”
MFP write that “the basic message of a threat is: you’re bad and I’m going to punish you.” It’s a way of trying to compel desired behavior, but since it shuts down the whole discussion, even if it works in the short term, the underlying issue will remain unresolved. If your partner complies, she’ll only be doing it to avoid the consequences of your threat, and if she doesn’t, the argument is going to escalate and/or keep reoccurring.
There is a place for quasi-ultimatums in a relationship, but they come after you’ve completely exhausted every attempt to communicate and compromise about the problem in a positive way. Too often people resort to a threat as an easy way to resolve things, and will even drop the D word to scare their spouse into compliance.
An “or else” statement shouldn’t be thrown around, and it shouldn’t be punitive. That is, if your partner is unwilling to meet your needs, create a plan to meet those needs yourself, but don’t do so in a way that’s specifically designed to punish your partner. So for example, if you want to spend more time with friends, but your significant other won’t budge on giving her blessing, you might say, “I’m going to start spending every Saturday morning with them,” and then follow through on that action. A punitive ultimatum, on the other hand, would be something like deciding to skip out on a concert you agreed to attend with her, in order to do something with your buddies.
Your partner may come to accept the implementation of your ultimatum or it may drive a wedge in your relationship. If the latter, it may spell the end; clean communication offers the best possible chance of relationship success, but doesn’t guarantee it if you just aren’t right for each other.
7. Describe your feelings rather than attack with them.
Your demeanor can truly be wielded like a weapon. When we raise our voice, withdraw into cold hostility, adopt a sneering tone, or employ biting sarcasm, we can wound those we love. Especially when it comes to communicating with women, you would be surprised how a cutting tone of voice can make them feel almost physically hurt. Instead, do your best to keep your voice level and calm.
As you discuss what’s bothering you, describe your emotions as specifically as possible. “In so doing,” MFP write, “your partner can hear what you’re feeling without being overwhelmed or bludgeoned by it.” Here are some examples:
               “I feel disrespected when you make jokes at my expense when we’re out with your friends.”
               “I feel jealous when I see you texting your ex.”
               “I feel hurt when you ignore me when I come home from work.”

8. Keep body language open and receptive.
Even more than what we say, our body language conveys how we’re actually feeling. You may tell your significant other that you’re not angry and are willing to talk things through, but if your posture and facial expressions say otherwise, they will assuredly pick up on it. They’ll also likely match your defensive stance, and the discussion will get off to a rocky start.
To keep things amicable, adopt an open, rather than closed posture. Folding your arms, tensing your jaw, squinting, looking disgusted, balling up your fists, fidgeting in an irritated way, and rolling your eyes are all behaviors that make you seem closed off, hostile, and unwilling to communicate. Create sincere, inviting body language by relaxing your face, making warm eye contact, leaning forward, keeping your arms uncrossed, and nodding to show you’re listening.
9. Use whole messages.
Oftentimes, you may think you’re getting your message across to your significant other, but the result is a big miscommunication. They hear something much different than you intended. What we say makes total sense to us, because we have the entire context of it in our heads. But what actually comes out of our mouths may only be a slice of that bigger picture – a partial fragment that is then misconstrued by our partner.
To avoid this, strive to deliver “whole messages” when speaking with your significant other. Whole messages consist of 4 parts:
               Observations: “Observations are statements of fact that are neutral, without judgments or inferences,” write MFP. “The house is a mess,” vs. “I’ve noticed you’re a slob.”
               Thoughts: MFP describe this component as “your beliefs, opinions, theories, and interpretations of a situation. Thoughts are not conveyed as absolute truth but as your personal hypothesis or understanding of a situation. ‘My idea was…I wondered if…I suspected that…I worried that…The way I saw it was…’”
               Feelings: Describe your feelings in a specific way that doesn’t blame your partner. “I’m concerned about our budget,” vs. “Your spending is out of control and really stressing me out.”
               Needs/Wants: Too often we expect our partner to be mind readers, but as MFP note, “No one can know what you want unless you tell them.”

Here’s an example of a whole message: “We haven’t been spending as much time together [Observation]. It seems like you’ve been busier, and I don’t know if that’s just because your classes are hard this semester or you just haven’t been as interested in hanging out [Thoughts]. I’ve been feeling distant from you and confused about the status of our relationship [Feelings]. I’d like for us to be more committed as a couple and to know what you think about the future of our relationship [Needs].”
10. Use clear messages.
Just as a partial message can be misconstrued, so too can a “contaminated” message. This occurs when you mix some of the 4 elements together or “mislabel” them in order to disguise your real intent. Your partner might say, “Hmmm, that’s an interesting way to do it,” when they really mean, “You’re doing it wrong.” Or for example, you might say to your wife, “And here you are finally, late as usual.” You’re pretending to make a straightforward observation, but you’re really mixing in your judgments, thoughts, and feelings. It would be better to say, “I’ve been waiting here for 20 minutes. It seems like you struggle to be on time. When I’m left waiting I end up feeling frustrated and disrespected. Do you think you could make more of an effort to be on time?”
MFP note that one “effective way to contaminate your message is to disguise it as a question”:
               “Why didn’t you take out the trash last night?”
               “Is there a reason all the dishes have been left in the sink?”
               “Why don’t you take our finances more seriously?
               “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
The questioner adopts the posture of soliciting information from their partner, but they already know the answer and their feelings about it; they’re really just making an accusation and showing their disapproval for their partner’s choice. To be honest, it seems like women do this more than men (sorry ladies), perhaps because they’re often less comfortable being assertive.

Muddy messages create distance and contention in a relationship. Your partner either will not be sure what you’re driving at, or will take umbrage at your not simply saying what you mean. Give it to ‘em straight, and give it to ‘em cleanly.

Kate and Brett MCKay

Getting To be With Yourself

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
May Sarton

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers - but never blame yourself. It's never your fault. But it's always your fault, because if you wanted to change you're the one who has got to change.”
Katherine Hepburn

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.”
Ernest Hemingway

“You are who you are when nobody's watching.”
Stephen Fry

“Don't think about making life better for other people who don't even deserve you, rather, focus on making your life the best, for yourself and those who love you.”
C Joy Bell

“The ability to observe others without evaluating or judging is the highest form of intelligence.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti

“We don't realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.” You just have to find it.
Elizabeth Gilbert

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.”
Soren Kierkegaard

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”

William Shakespeare

Enda Kenny Ploughs Line Furrow

The autocratic style employed by the Taoiseach is causing disquiet and he would do well to take stock before becoming his government’s biggest liability, reports Special Correspondent Michael Clifford
WHO’S going to bring down the Government? Alan Shatter? The former minister for justice is to appear on tonight’s Late, Late Show, and is expected to be wielding a knife. Even if he is armed, precedent suggests that any wound he may render will not be fatal.
What about Martin Callinan? The former garda commissioner knows where one body is buried. Could Callinan reveal that, in fact, the missive delivered to him the night before his resignation was the metaphorical revolver and bottle of whiskey? If he was given the impression that he better go before being pushed, then Kenny has a problem. Any taoiseach seen to be acting above the law in such a manner would find his tenure in office untenable.
What about Enda Kenny? Is it possible that the biggest liability to Enda Kenny’s government is now the man himself?
The controversy over IMMA-gate (See, there’s modern art for you. “I’m a gate”) reveals plenty about Kenny’s vulnerabilities as a leader. His little plan to appoint Seanad nominee John McNulty to the board of Irish Museum of Modern Art until the man’s election to the Upper House in a few weeks’ time was, above all else, entirely stupid. Forget for a second the contempt displayed towards the museum. (Would alpha male Enda ever show the same level of contempt to a sporting body?).
Leave aside the laughable pledge to be transparent about State board appointments.
Ignore the hypocrisy of using the Seanad to raise McNulty’s profile ahead of the general election, after he attempted to abolish the House on the basis that it was cynically being used for that purpose.
Pretend that Kenny actually gives a fig about gender imbalance, when he ignored the three female candidates nominated by the party to fill the Seanad seat in order to install McNulty. Just leave aside all that the above says about Kenny. More than anything else, the ploy was plain stupid.
Comparisons have been made with Fianna Fáil’s reputation as strokers, but this is wide of the mark. No Fianna Fáil leader would ever have been as stupid as that.
How did Kenny think he’d get away with it? When the smoke cleared on the stroke, disgruntled bodies were lying all over the place, in the arts community, within his own party, and among those concerned with gender balance in politics. It was inevitable that it would get out.
Apart from that, he didn’t even do his research. A board member for IMMA is precluded by internal rules from running for election. McNulty acknowledged this yesterday when he announced his resignation from the board. By the way, how will IMMA survive the loss of this valued director, who did so much for its sustainability through all the days he was a member of the board?
Kenny is not stupid. He has issues with grasping detail of policy but, since assuming the leadership of Fine Gael, he compensated for any such shortcomings by displaying a sound political antenna.
No more, though. The power appears to have gone to his head. When asked by RTÉ’s Catriona Perry in Rhode Island on Tuesday evening why he hadn’t selected one of the three women nominated for the Seanad run, he replied: “It’s the right of the leader of the day to decide who should be nominated.”
So he did it because he can do it, because it’s his right to do it, rather than for any discernible reason beyond base politics. He did it because he’s the top dog. He did it and he made a hames of it.
When a leader reaches that stage of remove, he or she had better be equipped with serious political ability, the kind of ability that Kenny has yet to display. This, after all, is a Taoiseach who rarely submits himself to interview, or even debate during election or referendum campaigns.
Some of his sloppiness can be put down to a thinning of the ranks in his praetorian guard. No longer is Big Phil around to tell him what to do, or Alan Shatter to dazzle with his advice, or even James Reilly, who’s off sulking after being shafted from the Department of Health.
Kenny’s other problem is rumbling among the backbenches. On Wednesday, at the parliamentary party meeting, up to 15 members expressed disquiet at the affair. This in a party where dissent is barely tolerated under Kenny’s leadership.
“People are becoming disgusted by the way Fine Gael is run,” Fine Gael TD John Deasy told yesterday’s News At One, referencing the meeting. “We’ve a Taoiseach who likes to give his mobile phone number out to the world but doesn’t engage with criticism.”
Notwithstanding Deasy’s reputation as a maverick under Kenny, his comments may well have struck a chord in the party ranks. The autocratic style employed by Kenny can be traced back to the attempted heave against him in 2010, when the alleged bright boys in the party rebelled against his shortcomings, and lost. Since then, Kenny has neutered any criticism of his style or substance, but the IMMA-gate affair has shown up glaring shortcomings, not to mention a complete disregard for any political integrity he claimed to possess.
“The calculation from the Taoiseach is that he can do pretty much anything he wants right now,” Deasy told RTÉ. “Because as long as the economy improves, people won’t care, and maybe he’s right.”
Maybe he is, but there’s only so much political capital that can be frittered away by any leader. Kenny would want to take stock, or he might become a liability, just like those he shoved overboard when he perceived them to no longer be worth retaining
Michael Clifford

Photo Minute: A great World

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Photo Minute: A Bit Bloody Crowded In Here!!!!!

To Be An Orphan

It is interesting to note that universally children raised in institutions or orphanages in the western world have on average an underdeveloped IQ of 20% less than those in foster care for obvious reasons: the lack of any love, belonging, family, or meaningful individual attention. The children here, the undeveloped IQ would often prove to be the least of their challenges, and in Ireland and other countries it could be fatal as well, and too often it was.

The success in all other fields for their cousins, the foster care children, are better overall: 40% become homeless, 60% are convicted of crime, and 48% are long term un-employed; yet over 70% of them want to attend college.

The global problem is that children, no matter what the label attached to them or the circumstance that left them orphans, can only cry in despair. It is the hardest sound to ignore, that of a crying child no matter what colour, creed or circumstance. It is also a growing problem that is being ignored partly because of the sheer scale of it today: 153 million orphans have lost one parent and 18 million have lost both.

Whatever about the countries that have orphans, and all of them do, most of these children become very easily influenced and pliable to joining gangs, violent extremists groups, and any alphabet soup of others that usually have a very negative point of view starting with a ‘them and us’ hard line attitude. It is their first family and often their last. A bond that is hard to break and if they do not break it a solution will be found in another institution called prison.

It costs a staggering £100,000 sterling per year to keep a prisoner in the UK. This sum is relevant to any country whether rich or poor. The prisons become colleges for crime in an environment that replicates orphan youth. They are really just a home away from home. It replaces the problem of not having to ask for help outside, as social rejection becomes an insult they cannot take anymore. When that line is crossed little empathy or sympathy waits on either side of it. A rejected and angry child without any means of simple and basic emotional support will prove to be a more than a handful when they become adults.  

It costs a lot less than £100,000 per year to change the life of an orphan child and should not be left to the fickleness of charity. It is a government responsibility and a time bomb if ignored. For the child with food, a more stable citizen is formed in the long term if personal space is given with the sustenance of counseling to see through the fog of their less than ideal circumstances. Material and emotional poverty cannot be that easily separated. On an international level the solution in helping orphan children is urgent and beyond an emergency for it affects everyone whether they ignore it or not.

Barry Clifford

Photo Minute: The White Carmargue Horses Of France

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saying Sorry Can Really Be The hardest Word

Saying sorry can really be the hardest word and often the most costliest in terms of time, money and emotion. Take the many mentioned public cases of hospital malpractice. In most of these settlements financial liability is paid out but admission of guilt is not given. This also applies to many religious abuse settlements and goes to the heart of the banking crisis and white collar crime as well. The problem with all of these cases and many more in the end is that there is no one to blame for a crime has not been officially recorded or committed. It subdues if not kills the will to change too.

The word ‘official’ has been a favorite get out of trouble card in the short term for Ireland but never the long term. You cannot realistically change any type of behaviour unless the offending behaviour is acknowledged by the accused offender even if not accepted by the offended. So the pain goes on in the absence of sorry; it goes to the heart of many social and family problems as well.

I know someone that fell out with her sister over 40 years ago. When pressed what it was about, this woman could not genuinely remember and yet her sister passed away recently without this rift ever being explored, or more importantly, healed. Why is anyone so afraid of this word ‘sorry.’ It could be argued that pride stands in the way for acknowledging that one was wrong goes against the false perception that one is perfect. If anyone was perfect it would a first sign of deep imperfection and a lot more. Social presumptions and traditions is part of the delay is saying sorry.  There is also another part of this, and that what was imagined as a wrong by one against another had been seeded in a lie by someone else for all sorts of reasons starting at random with jealousy as a motive.

There is a very true saying: ‘You can protect yourself against a thief but cannot protect yourself against a liar.’ There may be two defenses against it that can reasonable work. One is cultivating within oneself that what others think about you does not matter. The higher that discipline the more it helps, but most in reality do care what other people think to a greater or lesser degree; the optimum degree is nil. The other is saying sorry first for what is the point of being right if you cannot get along and getting along is all about compromise.

Showing feet of clay first is often a good precursor to another person showing theirs. It is anti-climatic as well as it is often wondered why it was not done earlier. Losing a good friend because either of them just could not say sorry is a reminder of life is lot more simple than that. Keeping it simple in anything and admitting you made a mistake is healthy thinking that can enact change with others and yourself first.

Barry Clifford