Facing a Scary Diagnosis

man with head in hands“You have cancer.”

Nobody wants to hear those words, but this year over 1.5 million people in the U.S. will become members of a club none of us wants to join.

Being diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s, ALS, or any other dreaded condition can knock you to your knees.

The emotional impact can’t be overstated.

Kenya McCullum writes about how to navigate the emotional landscape of a frightening diagnosis.

It’s worth a read if you or someone you know is facing a serious illness.

As a proponent of constructive wallowing, I’m quoted in her article. It’s here:

How to cope with a bad diagnosis

Getting Out From Under Parental Alienation Syndrome

upset boy with picture of parentsParental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is when one parent poisons a minor child’s attitude toward the other parent, usually during or after the dissolution of the parents’ relationship.

What PAS amounts to is children being used as pawns in a war between their parents.

The biggest loser in this scenario is the child, according to Kathy Hardie-Williams in her article on the topic (see below for the link).

If you were encouraged as a child by one of your parents to reject the other, I’d like to hear from you.

Is it possible to re-establish a connection to the rejected parent as an adult?

If so, what did you (or they) do to break the ice?

Please either post in the Comments section or email me directly.

My Gmail address is TinaGilbertson.

Here’s Kathie’s informative article, complete with a list of to-do’s for alienated parents:

When One Parent Alienates a Child from the Other Parent

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Replacing “Don’ts” With “Do’s” for Self-Esteem

sticky note on fingerAfter last week’s post on name-calling and how it ruins your self-esteem (and possibly other people’s as well), a reader called Multnoma left the following comment:

 Ok. I get that I am holding myself back by calling names. Even if only in my head. Or under my breath.
But it’s only another item on the list of what I shouldn’t do.
I don’t know what I *should* do. Where is the list for that?

Multnoma’s comment was right on the money; it’s relatively easy to come up with a “Don’t” list.

This is one of those times when mental health advice parallels physical health advice.

For example, we’ve all heard these popular “Don’ts” for health:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • High sodium
  • Refined sugar
  • Too much red meat
  • etc., etc., etc.

But there always seem to be differing opinions about what we *should* do…

  • Vegan diet, or everything in moderation?
  • More fruit, or less?
  • Reduce carbohydrates, fat, or protein?
  • How much fiber?
  • How much water?
  • Are supplements even helpful, let alone necessary?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

In light of conflicting opinions, at a certain point we’re left to rely on our own observations and intuition about our bodies.

For instance I’ve noticed that for me, there is such a thing as too much fiber.

Mike on the other hand is a two-legged fiber-processing factory. He can handle any amount, it seems.

Fasting is not my friend no matter how much I’d like it to be.

Others thrive on fasting and swear by it.

Ultimately, we all must decide for ourselves what works and what doesn’t when it comes to our health.

This is probably true for mental health as well.

Solutions Need Problems

If you wander the earth asking people what you should do, you’ll probably often get the response, “About what?”

This is because the answer to the question, “What should I do?” depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

In the physical realm, if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure I’m told that, among other things, you should reduce your salt intake.

If your blood pressure is fine but you sweat a lot, you probably need to make sure you get enough salt to replace the sodium that’s lost through sweating.

Different goals, different means.

If your goal is to improve your self-esteem, the basic “to-do” is to esteem yourself.

Self-esteem is an action.

But the “to-do” inherent in that action depends on what it means to you.

How do you show esteem?

Here are a few ways that esteem can be expressed:

  • verbal or written communication (e.g., “I like you; you’re different”)
  • generosity (donating your time, money or energy)
  • compassion (seeking to understand and commiserate rather than judge)
  • affection (inviting closeness; cuddling, caressing, smiling, gazing)
  • interest; attention (being enthusiastic about knowing the person)
  • admiration (recognizing qualities you appreciate)

Think about how you treat those you hold in high esteem. What are your go-to actions?

That gives you your answer, because once you know how you’d treat those people, you can treat yourself the same way.

Are you an affectionate person? Give yourself a hug.

Do you enjoy being generous? Give yourself a gift.

Are you interested in others? How about getting interested in yourself?

Try a little constructive wallowing; knowing your feelings is a shortcut to knowing your authentic self.

If you have ideas about how to practice self-esteem “do’s” rather than “don’ts,” please share them in the Comments section.

Many thanks to Multnoma, whose comment inspired this post.

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Negative Self-Talk: Both Cause and Effect of Injured Self-Esteem

looking in mirrorWe can be so mean to ourselves.

“Who do you think you are?”

“Well, THAT was dumb.”

“Just shut up right now; you’re making a fool of yourself.”

And on and on. Why do we do this to ourselves?

It’s learned behavior.

No one comes out of the womb thinking, “Geez, I’m such a pathetic loser.”

This week’s post explores the impact of name-calling — even inside our own heads — on self-esteem:

Break Bones? No, but Name-Calling Can Injure Self-Esteem

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It’s Not a Pity Party If You Criticize Yourself

woman looking in mirror criticallySelf-pity has a bad rap.

When people confess to me in therapy, “I had a pity party last week,” they’re usually embarrassed about it.

They look as if they’re admitting they made a mean face at a baby or threw a plastic cup on the freeway shoulder.

Their faces say, “I know I shouldn’t do that, but I did it anyway.”

Well, I tell them — and I’m here to tell you — there’s nothing wrong with self-pity.

If you’re going to pity yourself, though, for Heavens’ sake, pity yourself!

Calling yourself a pathetic loser doesn’t sound like pity to me.

Here’s a helpful definition that I swooped up from Dictionary.com:

“Sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy.”

Self-pity means doing all that for yourself.

“But I got myself into this!,” you might protest.

That’s irrelevant.

See the above definition? It doesn’t say, “unless the person got themselves into this pickle in the first place, in which case the sympathetic or kindly sorrow can be dispensed with.”

For more on this, check out my blog post this week over at my country house, PsychologyToday.com:

Self-Pity Doesn’t Look Like This

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Just Freaking ASK

asking for somethingI’ve written before about how it never hurts to ask for what you want, but…

Since Elizabeth Gilbert is a far better writer than I am, I thought I’d share with you a short article of hers that inspired me this week.

It was a timely read for me, because just the other day someone suggested I expand my work into an intriguing new arena.

My response was hesitant — not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I couldn’t imagine who would hire me.

Gilbert’s simple article inspired me to “just freaking ask” for the opportunity when the time comes.

I hope her words inspire you, too. The article is here:

How to Be Happier – Elizabeth Gilbert

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8 Ways to Treat Yourself Right

woman getting facialHave you ever thought of volunteering in order to feel happier?

I’ve definitely heard this idea from clients who are feeling stuck and miserable.

“I tried volunteering, but it didn’t make me feel better,” they tell me after the fact.

This doesn’t surprise me.

You can’t give water from a dry well.

We all need to fill the well somehow if we want to be generous and kind to others.

Recently I came across an article with some ideas on just how to do that.

Click on the link below to read it:

To Thine Own Self Be Kind: Eight Random Acts of Self-Kindness

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