Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Memory of those who serve

In the 55 years of my life, I’ve watched quite a few war movies. When I was younger, they didn’t impact me the way they do now…perhaps because at this stage of my life I have begun to understand the sacrifice that is made by each and every person who puts on a military uniform and heads off to a war, or a police action, or whatever it is that governments decide to call it when they send human beings off to face the hell that is armed conflict. Over the last few weekends I’ve watched the Clint Eastwood movies, “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Flags of our Fathers”, only to be reduced to tears, not only at the end of each story, but most of the way through them. I have always had an emotional response, no only to war movies, but each time I think of those who have put themselves in harm’s way so I can live the way I live in such a wonderful country. My heart fills with such gratitude that I can only express what I feel with tears, at least that is what I think it is. I know there is also a measure of sadness that comes over me as well, because to even be able to feel a little bit of what these people must have experienced is overwhelming to me.
I remember when I was 19….my mom, dad and I took a trip back to Washington DC. It was the year before the bi-centennial so many of the touristy places were closed or semi-closed for cleaning, repairing or something so they would be ready for the celebration that was to take place the following year. One of the days that we were there, we decided to visit one of the civil war battlefields at Manassas, VA. Even then, when I stepped out onto the battlefield, I felt such a sense of grief for what had gone on there. It was as if, on that quiet day, there was a solemn spirit in every tree, every bird….and on the wind, it carried the memory of what had happened there for every visitor to feel. I have never forgotten that day. Since then I have come to understand some of the terrible and frightful things that happened during that war. I have letters written home from a great-great grandfather who fought for the Union army that described his loneliness and how much he wanted to hear from his family. William Tecumseh Sherman said “War is hell” and on this day so many years later, I must say that I agree.
Six years ago I had the privilege of going to Hawaii to visit the Arizona memorial. The day I was there was December 6th and I was on the first launch that took visitors over to the memorial that day, so accompanying us was a compliment of servicemen from each branch of the service. Their task that day was to place a wreath on the memorial, so we had been instructed as to how to behave while the short ceremony was taking place. It was very moving, and of course I cried.
We’ve all seen the Pearl Harbor movies so are familiar with what happened and what the memorial looks like, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the understanding of what had happened for so many of those men. As I watched the movie that they show you before going over to the memorial, I saw, for probably the first time some original footage from the attack that you just don’t see in the movies or on TV. I saw men jumping into the water from burning ships….jumping into water covered with oil that was burning as well. Can you imagine what that is like? Can you imagine how frightening that must have been to not only jump into burning water, but to have to decide, while under the water, where you are going to surface for your next breath of air, when everything is on fire? Where is there a place on the surface that is safe to poke your head up, where you won’t breathe in flames or diesel fuel? For several brief moments I allowed myself to imagine….to feel what it might have been like for them and I was overwhelmed. The sense of that moment stayed with me as we entered the launch and were taken over to the memorial. Once the wreath was placed, we were free to walk around the memorial, look at the pictures and visit the sanctuary where all the names of the missing and the dead were written on the walls. Again, it was a sobering time, but for me, although I was moved by the surroundings, I wasn’t as moved by the atmosphere as I was by several gentlemen who were standing quietly, searching the wall for the names of their buddies who had died on that day so many years ago. They had placed flowers on the memorial, but as they turned to go and walked past me, the pain in their eyes, the tears on their cheeks said more than words could ever say. As a counselor, I could see some of what was underneath and I cried for them as well. These men were never given any kind of emotional help, to allow them to process through the immense amount of emotion that must have come, not only from that day, but in the days after. The grief that comes from knowing people you served with, who were your family and had died so tragically…the guilt that sometimes comes from being a survivor….the shock of going through such an overwhelming series of events. Human beings aren’t prepared or equipped to go through that kind of thing alone, yet this generation of men did just that. My heart broke and still does for what they went through.
Then I had to recognize that these men were not the only ones who dealt with this kind of pain. There was the Korean War and Viet Nam. Each of these combat situations afforded the servicemen and women who served in them their own unique brand of trauma. I grew up during the Viet Nam war and I remember watching the news every night and listening to Dan Rather report on how many hundreds and thousands of men had died that particular day in the war. They don’t do that kind of thing now, but it was an every day event at the time. Viet Nam was an unpopular war and I remember how tragically the protestors took out their opposition to the war on the returning soldiers. They were cursed and spat upon, as if they had no feelings and didn’t need our acceptance and gratitude for what they had gone through. Yes, disagree with the government, but it was not necessary or appropriate to show such contempt and hatred for those who were coming home from their own versions of hell abroad.
From each of these wars, we had and still have generations of brave soldiers who live the trauma of war every day in their minds. It has not been until recently that any type of help was offered that could bring peace to the chaos of the PTSD as we call it now, or the shell shock as it was called in WWII or battle fatigue as it was referred to in the previous wars.
After watching these two movies about Iwo Jima, the horrors of war are brought to the silver screen in all their hideous glory and I cried again. I can’t even begin to explain why, except my heart continued to break for the pain it caused and there is still that overwhelming gratitude that I feel when I see what courage each one had to be able to do what they did. No, I didn’t know any of the soldiers who died in the Pacific theater, but my mother did. Many of her friends were killed on Iwo Jima, Guadal Canal and Saipan and I know from the stories that she told over my lifetime, she was not the same after their loss.
I think what touches my heart more than anything is that the men and women who presently serve and have served in our military understand, at least to some extent, what they are looking forward to when they serve in combat and they have chosen to do it anyway. Yes, there was a time when joining the service wasn’t voluntary…I remember the draft as well as anyone my age, but the majority of them faced their duty with great grace. War is hell…just being in its presence changes people on a fundamental level. There is no one who goes through combat who comes out on the other side the same. I believe that is also what my tears are for. How do we, as civilians, ever repay someone for changing who they are, for bearing the pain of seeing someone you love get blown apart or die in your arms, for going through the “dark night of the soul” while we stay in the comfort of our homes and hear about it on the news? I just don’t know that we can, and that breaks my heart as well.
There was a line at the end of “Flags of our Fathers” that said, “Heros are something we create, something we need. It’s a way for us to understand what is almost incomprehensible… how people could sacrifice so much for us…but for my dad and these men, the risks they took, the wounds they suffered, they did that for their buddies. They may have fought for their country, but they died for their friends…for the man in front, for the man beside them, and if we truly wish to honor these men, we should remember them the way they really were…….
I have never served in the military, although I have people in my life who I care very much about who have. I’ve never been in combat, so I don’t know if this profound sentiment is just a line in a movie or if it represents what our troops really feel…..but as I watch snippets of history such as this, and feel the love in my heart for the people who are in my life that represent these special men who have fought and died for our nation, my heart fills with gratitude, I grieve for their loss and celebrate their lives…….and I cry.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

In the realm of personality disorders, the DSM-IV TR lists a total of nine. Some of them are well known and some of them are not. The ones that most people are familiar with are the anti-social types which are commonly called serial killers or psychopaths. Narcissistic and Borderline Personality disorders are becoming more well known in our day and age as well. However, there is another disorder that is worth noting, considering the perfectionism that is becoming so standard within our culture. The one I am speaking of is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.
There are no personality disorders that are ever diagnosed in children, however personality disorders are characterized as being pervasive over the lifetime. What that means is that even though the disorder may be recognized in its total extent once the person is 18 or older, in my opinion, when you look back over the person's early life as a child or adolescent, there are indicators there that can point toward these disorders in later life. For example, no psychologist or counselor would look at a child who abuses animals, mistreats insects etc and say they are serial killers, that would be inappropriate. However, when you look back over the lives of known serial killers, you will more than likely find that type of behavior. Individuals who are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder usually have childhoods that are filled with problematic behavior, exaggeration and mis-perception, but it needs to develop over time in order to see the course develop. It is the same way with OCPD. The person with this disorder is very rigid, preoccupied with rules and is unable to engage in the spirit or principle of a thing...they only see the rule. That doesn't mean that every child who is preoccupied with cleanliness and rules is going to grow up with this disorder, but it can mean that parents should pay attention to this behavior and do their best to bring a sense of balance to their child's life. puts it this way:
"Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is a condition characterized by a chronic preoccupation with rules, orderliness, and control. This disorder is only diagnosed when these behaviors become persistent and disabling. The individual with this disorder often becomes upset when control is lost. The individual then either emotionally withdraws from these situations, or becomes very angry. The individual usually expresses affection in a highly controlled or stilted fashion and may be very uncomfortable in the presence of others who are emotionally expressive. The person often has difficulty expressing tender feelings, and rarely pays compliments.
The individual's chronic preoccupation with rules, orderliness, and control seems to prevent many of the complications (e.g., drug abuse, reckless sex, financial irresponsibility) that are common to some other personality disorders. Occupationally, the individual tends to be a high achiever with an excessive devotion to work. However, inflexibility, perfectionism, preoccupation with detail, and inability to delegate work may seriously interfere with the individual's ability to complete a given task. The individual experiences occupational difficulties when confronted with new situations that demand flexibility and compromise."
OCPD differs from Obsessive Compulsive disorder in the following ways:
1. OCD is an illness with symptoms that change in severity over time, while OCPD reflects an overly rigid personality style that does not change much over a person’s lifetime.
2. OCPD is not associated with the obsessions and compulsions that are so prominent in OCD. Although people with OCD and OCPD might both carry out repetitive behaviors, the underlying motive is very different. While someone with OCD might repeatedly write out lists or organize items around the home to keep a catastrophe from taking place, someone with OCPD would be more likely to do these activities to increase their efficiency or productivity.
3. While people with OCD usually want to get rid of their symptoms, it is not uncommon for people with OCPD to see nothing wrong with their behavior and to feel that “other people” are the problem. Likewise, although people with OCD will usually seek help for the distress caused by their obsession or compulsions, individuals with OCPD will usually seek treatment because of conflict between themselves and family and friends related to their need to have others conform to their way of doing things.
4. People with OCPD often have very rigid views on “right versus wrong,” and this rigidity may extend to spending habits; people with OCPD are often described as miserly. Neither of these is a defining characteristic of OCD.
5. In comparison to those with OCD, people with OCPD tend to be more ruled by perfectionism and have a higher need for order and control in both their personal and professional lives. It is not uncommon for individuals with OCPD to become irritated by others who do not value order, perfectionism and exactness to the same extent that they do. Because of this perfectionism, it is not uncommon for people with OCPD to be overly devoted to work.
(comparison taken from
This particular disorder can be categorized in a nutshell by understanding that people with OCPD live entirely in their heads, often to avoid the pain of life that is seen as out of control. They are preoccupied with excellence, perfection and production, to the extent that the feelings of those around them are insignificant. Their connection to their hearts has been mostly cut off which gets in the way of deep, intimate relationships. As with most of the personality disorders, feelings are "done" rather than "felt". Often, individuals who are Christians come into counseling because they don't understand why their relationship with God seems so distant. They view others who seem to be able to hear God speak to them, feel His presence and have a productive prayer life and may wonder why they can't "do that".
When you look at the world with the understanding of OCPD, you may see some different things. This is often a very lonely existence, made up by working harder and harder at production and excellence. The question then begs to be asked, does our society...the one which places SO MUCH emphasis on beauty, perfection and success...does it create and feed disorders such as this? What do you think?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Can You Tell if Someone is Lying?

If you want to know how to spot someone who is being dishonest, just ask any mother! Often you hear moms say, "you have a neon sign on your forehead that tells me you're lying!", or I've got eyes in the back of my head...I always know what you're doing!" How many of us have ever heard those things? Well, if you don't have an extra eye or are unable to notice that neon sign, there are other ways to gather clues about someone who is being dishonest.

The first thing to bear in mind is what kind of a person you are dealing with. When dealing with people who lie, they often fall into one of 4 categories, according to Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, Ph.D. Dr. Dimitrius wrote a book called "Reading People" and she says that people are either occasional, frequent, habitual or professional liars. If you are dealing with someone who is an occasional or even a frequent liar, their body language is usually a good indicator of whether they are telling the truth or not. These individuals don't practice being dishonest and they usually know they are being dishonest when they tell a lie and that makes them uncomfortable about what they are doing. These individuals can telegraph their dishonesty by fidgeting, a change in their voice tone or inflection, signs of nervousness, sweating, shaking, leaning forward or inappropriate familiarity such as back slapping or getting too close (invading personal space). Shifting or wandering eyes are also signs of dishonesty.

In looking for these clues, it is important to look at the person in the context of who they are, their character and what their normal patterns of communication happen to be. That is why mother's are so good at catching their children in lies....they know their children and they know how they normally communicate. A person who is being truthful is usually calm and has a relaxed manner about them. Even if they are being asked difficult questions, their delivery doesn't change a lot from their normal communication style. When a person launches into dishonest communication, they may act differently, pause when they normally wouldn't pause or their speech may become more rapid, heart rate and breathing increases. It used to be thought that if a person looked up and to the right they were calling on memory, but if they looked up and to the left in a conversation it meant they were lying. That is not necessarily so...if you look up and to the left, you are drawing on creative processes of expression and those can be truthful as well as untruthful. Try it for yourself.....sit still for a minute and then move your eyes up and to the right. How does that feel? What kinds of thoughts are you getting? Do the same to the left....there is a difference in feeling isn't there? To me, looking up and to the left feels more like I'm trying to construct something, figure out how to explain myself.

Habitual and professional liars are much more difficult to spot. The most obvious reason for that would be that they lie so often that they may not realize they are doing it or that it becomes natural for them. Pathological liars (professional liars) have perfected dishonesty to an art and it is often very difficult to detect a lie without some corroborating evidence, or detecting some slight flaw in their stories. They have no problem maintaining eye contact and are calm, cool and collected as they spin their stories. When you add a lack of conscience to the mix you are dealing with a very, very dangerous person.

Things to remember are that people can become nervous when confronted. Confrontation is a form of communication which can bring on a level of dishonesty, especially if the person is uncomfortable with conflict. The thing to pay attention to in these situations is the consistency or inconsistency of the nervousness or defensiveness. If an individual is consistently nervous over the course of a difficult conversation, that would weigh on the side of an honest person who is simply nervous.

There are no set of behaviors that can be trusted as being foolproof, but the more you learn about people and the more you observe them, the better you will get at it. Of course, there is intuition and when all else fails, there is always mom! To learn more about this subject, get a copy of the book "Reading People" by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, PhD.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Internet Dating

There is a special place in my heart for the subject of internet dating relationships. I have seen examples from both sides of the spectrum, but for the most part, I have to say that the internet is not the place to meet potential partners. If I had a nickel for every couple that I've seen in my office with significant issues who met over the internet, I'd probably have a couple dollars. However with that said, there are some important things to consider before using the internet as a relationship tool.

First of all, communication over the internet is not complete. Complete communication involves speaking, hearing, intuition, body language, voice inflection and other non verbal aspects that are too numerous to mention. With the internet you get written communication which in reality is only better than no communication at all.

Secondly, the internet provides a large universe of dishonesty. People can be anything they want on a website or in an email and it is often very difficult to see through some of the predatory tools that are used to lure women (sorry ladies but its mostly women) into relationships. Individuals with certain personality disorders like narcissism, or anti social are very, very adept at appearing to be something they are not and keeping the image going over time....even to the point where you meet them in person.

Thirdly, Christian internet chat rooms are no guarantee that the people in them are emotionally healthy or even Christians. Just because you meet someone in a room that is labeled "Christian" really means nothing. Someone with no conscience would have no trouble going to those types of internet sites to prey on women simply because people there may be more trusting than in other arenas. These individuals are called "predators" for very good reasons and in all reality there are many more of them out there than anyone would like to imagine.

The truth is that good quality relationships, for the most part, are going to be found the old fashioned way. It is a much better means of judging character and integrity than through the written page. There is no guarantee that people won't be fooled by con artists, but there are much better odds when you can see someone face to face than when you can't! This is one of the reasons that I find these sites so predatory to young people. They don't even have life experience to fall back on.

So, in closing, if you are going to use the internet as a relationship tool, at least don't make the initial part of the relationship online. And here is another tip that I'll just throw in for free.......don't end a relationship, argue or try to solve an interpersonal problem through text or email. Everyone involved needs the full spectrum of quality communication in order to deal with the emotional problems in their lives...those kinds of things are best left to face to face communication.

Happy communicating everyone!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Star Trek

I have to admit....I'm a trekkie from a long way back. I just enjoy the world of Star Trek...especially the new Star Trek movie. As my daughter can attest, I was very skeptical of the idea of a prequel, but once I saw the new movie, I was very impressed. Any of you who enjoy Star Trek, I hope you have seen it. However, that isn't why I'm writing, per se.

Star Trek is one of the ways that I get away from the stresses of life. It seems that the level of stress - nationally, locally and on the home front has increased exponentially over the last year or so; I see it affect people in my world in all sorts of different ways. Star Trek is just one of the ways that I use to deal with that kind of stress. You can't get away from it because it is all around you, you feel it in the workplace, at home, in groups that you belong to and it takes it's toll on you emotionally and physically.

I would encourage you to find good ways to deal with the stress in your lives, even if you can't get away from it. De-stress your life as much as you can...if your schedule is over committed, take a look at it and see where you can bring more balance to your life. Over commitment is a very good way to sap physical and mental energy. Another excellent way to de-stress is to bring your daily life into a good balance of time - try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day. If you don't vary your schedule more than an hour in either direction, you avoid the effects of "jet lag", which is very difficult for the body to adjust to on a daily basis. Eating at close to the same time, three times a day builds a balanced flow that is peaceful to your physical and mental well being.

Other ways to escape from the daily stresses that can afflict us are the use of deep breathing techniques, meditation, prayer and those "mini-vacations" that disengage us from life and allow our minds to wander and diving into the world of Star Trek for a Saturday! Breathing techniques such as square breathing bring the heart rate and blood pressure into a more peaceful and balanced place. It doesn't have to be for a long time, perhaps 5 or 10 minutes a day, but just the practice of doing these things gives you a feeling of balance that is good for the soul. Irregular heart rates, shallow breathing and high blood pressure can mimmick panic and feelings of anxiety that build stress into our lives that can easily be avoided.

Exercise is also a convenient and inexpensive remedy to stress. As we are heading into Spring, the days are getting a little longer, the weather is warming up little by little and the sunshine is coming out more. Getting out, walking and being in the sunshine gets those Vitamin D levels moving in the right direction which also makes us feel better. Fresh air, sunshine and a change of pace from being in the car, sitting at a desk or behind a computer can be just what is needed to refresh our minds and bring the peace we need.

In closing, I want to bring to your attention the fact that walking is more than just exercise for our physical is bi-lateral stimulation for our mental and emotional selves as well. Bi-lateral stimulation is the means by which our creator built into us a natural processing mechanism. Walking can help work out those emotional issues you have been dealing with, help figure out a problem that needs to be solved or just help process through the stress of the day because it is the way our bodies naturally deal with stress. What we don't get worked out during the day, we work out at night through REM sleep in our dreams. Our bodies are magnificent creations and we have quite a few avenues that naturally help us deal with stress if we are willing to use them.

I really encourage you in the next few weeks to take advantage of some new ways to be peaceful each day and see how you feel at the end of two weeks. You may be amazed at what happens! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

360 Degrees of Reality

Now that the flurry of New Year activities has subsided, it's time once again to get down to the business of life. New year resolutions have either been tossed aside or continue to be a goal out in front of us, but I know that there is one thing that I continue to see, no matter what time of year it is...that is the idea of what is real and what is not. As a counselor, I have the opportunity to speak with a lot of people and the one thing that I can count on is that everyone believes that their version of reality is the correct one. Depending on your state of mind, hormonal balance, food allergy response etc reality can change dramatically.

So, if we have a sense of reality that has as many facets as there are degrees in a circle, what is real? Answer - life doesn't change as fast as our emotions do. What is real should be based on what is consistent over time, what produces good fruit over time. In regard to people, what is real is based on the things about them that don't change. Our personal identity doesn't is the way God made us. If you are a musician, you will always be a musician. If you have brown eyes, you will always have brown eyes. Basic values that you hold near and dear very seldom change and if they do, they change very slowly, over time.

If you want to do something good for yourself this year, get to know who YOU are and then live your life congruence with who you are. You can only have confidence in yourself if you know who you are. Once you know that, you can admit your strengths, your weaknesses and have fun with life. You will know the type of person you want to have as a friend, the type of career you want to have and where you want to go in life. It doesn't work the other way around, in my opinion.

The important thing is understand that everyone has an opinion, but it is your opinion about yourself that matters. If you know who you are and life is going well, then you have the optimum balance. If you know who you are and life is not going well, then you can consider other opinions about what might need to be changed, but it is ultimately up to you to decide what to do next.

This is not to say that we are alone in the universe and God has no place in all this. On the contrary, He has much to do with it. He made us, He knows us better than we know ourselves and He is a resource that we don't often turn to for this type of information. I would encourage you to go to the Source, the one who holds the blueprint for your life and begin to explore the wonderful, unique creation that is YOU!