Are You Dating Your Device?

"Research by the Nielsen Company found that the typical American adult spends, on average, ten hours and thirty-nine minutes per day interacting recreationally with screens." Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Deviced 

You probably don't need a psychologist to tell you this is having a huge effect on all of us. But in Doreen Dodgen-Magee's book Deviced, she helps us reflect on what this means for our relationships, our creativity, and our ability to feel resilient. She asks us to think about our relationship to our devices.

And yes, that's exactly what it is - a relationship.

I felt disturbed by this book. Disturbed in a very good way. She talks about our "embodied lives" and what is at stake for us as we spend more and more time in digital spaces. I am really struck by the word embodied, and that boundary, or lack of boundary between an embodied life and a digital one. I can't shake the idea out of my mind - how much we interrupt our embodied lives.

She raises concern about how our devices are affecting our ability to maintain eye contact. Imagine the ripple effect in every relationship and our ability to bond and feel cared for and connected with others.

An added value in this book is the significant research she has gathered for us. Every question I have ever wondered about regarding technology's impact on our psyche has been answered in this book. She includes a wide swath of research from the speed of images, video violence, porn, attention span, impact on children, overwhelm, digital overload, radiation, etc. 

Are you concerned about the radiation that leaches off your phone? I will never use my phone when it has one bar after reading the research she has gathered up in this book. 

Her exploration of how the immediacy of getting answers online is impacting resiliency is stunning. Having spent a lifetime of work on helping people develop their resiliency, I am learning how our digital spaces are undermining our embodied resiliency.  I feel compelled to share this book and get us all into a different and deeper conversation.

This book will make you ask yourself some questions. I am certain many will change their habits after reading this book. There is something very impactful about the way she has laid out what is  understood in research and the impact on our embodied selves.

This is a worthy and disturbing read. 

Psychological Warfare In America

I write and teach on the subject of boundaries. I’m also a family therapist and I am looking at what is happening where I live through that lens. I see what is happening in my country as much more than a struggle over boundaries. At this time, I see what is happening as psychological warfare.  I didn’t make up the term ‘psychological warfare’. It’s a very specific set of strategies aimed against people. 

As I watch the divisiveness in my country, it is a divide that is rapidly expanding. Each expansion seems to drop us lower and lower. Into what? How can this be taking us anywhere good? The evidence of the divides is everywhere. Our sense of truth is distorted beyond recognition. Lying is a big part of psychological warfare. 

In the old days, the big channel for communicating your psychological war message was radio, leaflets, and posters. And let’s remember, that was effective. But now, social media and other channels provides an endless stream of opportunities for propaganda 24 hours a day. Imagine the increased efficacy.

Another of the weapons being used is DARVO.

“DARVO stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender." The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim’s role and turns the true victim -- or the whistle blower -- into an alleged offender.” Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D Professor of Psychology at University of Oregon, Fellow 2018-19 Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Let me make DARVO clearer. A few years ago, Colin Kaepernick takes the knee to protest how black people and other minorities have been treated in America. The DARVO twists his personal protest into a statement that he is offending veterans and is un-American. He was taking a knee for victims. Then suddenly his action is distorted into he is victimizing others. That is a classic DARVO.

And Colin Kaepernick’s protest turned into a media storm to just push out as much as possible, an “interpretation” of his action. Rather than focusing on the issues he was trying to call attention to.

Once you see DARVO - you’ll see it over and over again. The victim is suddenly turned into a perpetrator. We are being saturated in DARVO messaging in our country. Every single day.

In psychological warfare, atrocities are used to demoralize the population. Demoralizing - making you give up and feel hopeless is a weapon of psych warfare. The children separated from their parents at the border is an example of a modern-day atrocity.

Propaganda is used to influence the values, beliefs, emotions, reasoning, motives, or behavior of its targets. The goal is to win the hearts and minds. There is nonstop talk of a “base”- which base do you belong to?  One of the things we keep hearing over and over is the word “un-American”. Who is un-American? Americans are not un-American.

It’s not just that we are polarized. It’s that we are being made crazy. EVERYTHING is being used against us. Most importantly, each other.

Step back and ask yourself, who does all this divisiveness serve?

Who gains from this psychological warfare on our country?

Stand back and think about your strategy for a psychological war. A war is going on. It is being waged on all of us. How will you deal with it?

It is possible that the core freedoms of our country and our constitution can be taken from us in a psychological war. Ask yourself who wins. 

The way I am getting through this is I refuse to be dragged into battle against family members and friends who have different beliefs than me. I will stand up and stand with others. I will also  try to figure out why there is a psychological war being waged in America. I urge us to stand together.

What It Takes to be In Relationship

Every now and then I read a book that I wish was required reading for all, and the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F Heller  is one of those books that has something for everyone.  As a marriage and family therapist, I see lots of relationships. There are many reasons why people struggle in their relationships and seek counseling, and one of the big reasons has to do with attachment science. Of course, no one comes to counseling saying “we need help with attachment science.” But nearly every couple comes in saying they want to work on communication.

When I dig into what kind of “communication issues” a couple is struggling with, what they really mean is “attachment science”.

I recommend this book for you if:
-you are in a relationship and you would like to work on communication.
-you are in a relationship and feel like you’ve gone around and around the same issues.
-you are not in a relationship, but you are in the dating pool because it will help you sort out what you are really looking for and how to recognize it.

This book takes you on a discovery to figure out which attachment style gets triggered in your brain in a relationship.

Do you know which of the 4 types of attachment you use?

“Secure; you feel comfortable with intimacy with your romantic partner and don't obsess much about the relationships or your partner’s ability to love you back.

Anxious; you crave intimacy and closeness but have a lot of insecurities about where the relationship is going.

Avoidant; you feel uncomfortable when things become too close and intimate and value your independence more than the relationship.

Combined; if you are uncomfortable with intimacy and very concerned about your partner’s availability, you have a rare combination of attachment anxiety and avoidance. (Only a small percent of the population have this type of style)” from the book Attached 

Ok, maybe you found yourself in a hot second. Why read the book?

You can learn how each attachment style will enhance your happiness or misery.

Did you know that the majority of people in the dating pool are avoidant?
The reason there are so many avoiders in the dating pool is that people who attach securely are usually in a committed and satisfying relationships. The key word here is satisfying. Why sign up for a miserable relationship?

If you spend some time getting to know your attachment style and that of others, you can aim for satisfying. Yes, you can learn new ways to respond to what feels automatic for you. You can move between attachment styles to create the kind of relationship you truly want.

If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to meet your needs, you will feel tormented.

Yes, of course as a grownup it is up to you to also know yourself and do your self-care. When you are in relationship, you still need to do your self-care, but you get to have something else too. Deep in your brain there is a mechanism for attachment and that is about how we care for each other.

I think this book will be eye-opening and give you a sense of empowerment and possibility.

*Warning: The authors do NOT have a strong background in boundary work. They  assume that there is just one kind of boundary and avoiders use it to create isolation. Huh? Well just ignore that. In my experience boundaries are essential for self-care, for understanding what you each need, for intimacy and connection. So just ignore their stuff on boundaries as you read. If you want to know more about boundaries, read Transform Your Boundaries.

And even with this limitation, I highly recommend this book.

Is your hand up?

I was speaking at a national medical conference and I asked the audience, “How many of you are a model of self-care?” 
Four hands went up.

This is the usual response at conferences. When I ask this question, it is a moment of truth. And the audience responds with an honest reckoning of where they are with their self-care. They are being real.
I am posing the same question to you.
Are you a model of self-care?
What does that mean?
It means that you prioritize taking good care of yourself and others can look at you and literally see your self-care. You model it for others.
Modeling is extremely important if you are leading or managing a team.
Your self-care shows on your body, attitude, and how you feel.
You are calm, unhurried. 
You do not carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. 
You are eating healthy, getting the 7 hours or more of sleep your body needs. 
You are not stressed or overwhelmed.
You are running on a full tank inside, not an empty one.
Your day ends and work stops within reasonable hours. You are not overextended in your work hours. 
You have time each day for simple pleasures and do things that give you joy. 
You may have health needs, but you are doing everything you can to take the best care of you concerning your health. 
You have quality time for your relationships.
You have practices such as meditation and journaling, and make time for reflection.
How do you get from here to there?
This is what growing your boundaries is all about. When you do the work, it shows.
I get emails all the time from people who see a big difference in how they are treating themselves. Here are some of their self-care breakthroughs:

Do what is needed to live well with a health issue.
Taking time for beach walks.
Saying No to working extra hours.
Speaking their truth to a family member.
Declining events that interfere with their precious family time.
Sticking to their budget.
Taking time to think before making a big decision.
Pursuing a dream and making their dreams real.
Trying new things that help them with self-care.
Making time with friends.
Not getting snagged by someone's anger.
Not obsessing about what other people think or feel.
Going to counseling when they are hurting and worried and scared.
Asking for help, letting others in.
Taking time to be alone.
Listening to their soul. 
The pay off is big for those of you on this journey with me.

Boundary work is not one size fits all. If you are willing to do your inside work, you will hear your own truth showing you the way to what you really need for your self-care.

The hardest part is to trust yourself and listen to your truth. 
Next time I ask the question I want to see more hands up. 
For now, I just want to know, is your hand up? 
If not, it is time for you to do the transformative boundary work. 
Please check out my online classes and book, Transform Your Boundaries to help you.