In talking with a number of my younger patients who are living with their girlfriend or boyfriend, I noticed that there was a reluctance to talk to their significant other about their commitment to the relationship and about marriage.  These young people seemed to be waiting for the right time to bring it up and were not sure that he or she was the one to live with for the rest of their lives.  They were hesitating even though it was clear that they were in love and respected and valued each other.  In exploring this with them, I was reminded of research showing the high percentage of people who live together that become depressed.  I was also reminded of the time in the past when there was an abundance of newborn babies up for adoption and to encourage adoption the agencies gave the parents a 6 month return policy.  Yes, they could return the babies within 6 months, no questions asked.  The agencies anticipated that certainly no one would return a baby.  They were wrong.  Many did.  So why did they? One factor seemed to be that the expectation was established that the parents might want to or need to return a baby.  As anyone who has been a parent knows, babies are wonderful and very frustrating. So, having a bad day with your baby can lead you to use your return policy.  Hard to believe?  Well, living with someone can also become like a conditional experience as you decide if they are worthy of a lifetime commitment.  Of course, just as babies can be very frustrating at times, so can our significant others [and so can we be very frustrating to our significant others].  Should that be enough to call off the whole thing?  Of course not.  However, if we and our significant others are not able to look at ourselves and become aware of our own doubts and insecurities then we might be tempted.  Human relationships are too important [precious] to treat like something that is returnable.  Believing in ourselves can help us to trust our feelings and recognize when we have made a commitment to another and let that person know.  

I wonder if uncertainty about relationships and a lack of a recognized and spoken commitment to each other is one reason that marriages have become so dominated by rituals that distract from the opportunity to share the joy of their relationship with their friends and relatives.  These rituals will not act as glue for the relationship.  So, if you are openly commited to your significant other you may end up with a simpler [and less expensive] wedding! Since I have two daughters, I am hoping that this is true.



When some of my patients told me that they were taking baby steps to try to change unhelpful patterns of their behavior. They were making small changes and hoping to gradually makes changes.  They all  told me that it was not working.  I thought that there was something not right about baby steps = small steps.  I then saw a toddler of one of my patients stand up and take some steps.  The toddler was delighted.  It looked like baby steps are actually big steps in that everything changes when you [a baby] have been crawling and then start walking.  So, baby steps really means making big changes in what we do and making it clear to ourselves that we really want to make a significant change in our behaviors/coping.  If we only take small steps, our brains do not recognize this as a committment for a change and so maintains the old pattern of behaviors.  To change patterns of our behaviors we must  make it clear that we want a change and baby steps are the way to go!



My wife and I recently watched [again] the movie "Juno."  It portrays the life experiences of a teenage girl who becomes pregnant and decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption.  The relationship of Juno to her parents, boyfriend, girlfriend and future mother of her baby, are all beautifully portrayed.  After the movie, I thought about "And a child shall lead them."  This is from Isaiah 11:6 in the old testament of the bible and is thought to refer to the second coming of Christ when all pain and suffering is gone and all creatures get along.  I believe that I thought of this because of the wisdom that Juno shows about relationships, love and what is important in life.  She grows in self-awareness [and confidence] and by sharing this with others [eg. by just being herself] she gives others the opportunity to grow in their own self-awareness and be transformed.

My own children and children who have come to me for help, have repeatedly shown me their ability to see things clearly.  I have learned to listen carefully to children and I have gained in my own self-awareness. Children trust themselves [if we don't get in the way].  As adults, we often have to relearn trusting ourselves.  Our children can help us, if we let them.  And a child shall lead them, your child can lead you.


Be grateful when someone upsets you.

Recently, a young adult patient concluded that "it's not external."  She had this awareness after we had been trying to understand the reason for conflicts in her life.  It had become clearer to her that when she was upset with others, it was really something about herself that was bothering her.  At first, this idea seemed weird and not true.  However, over time it became clearer to her that when she was "taking things personally" when interacting with others, it was really about her.  She then concluded that "it's not external."  

So, maybe when it feels "personal" when people do things that upset us, the personal may really be because it reminds us of something about ourselves that is bothering us.  So, I guess it really is personal. Being aware of the real meaning of "personal" when we "take things personally" can allow us to see our own feelings of vulnerability or uncertainty.  This in turn can allow us to realize that we have choices about how we view ourselves and how we react to others.  

So, I guess we should thank others when they upset us.  I wonder.  At least we might consider being grateful that others upset us.



When I was in college, I used to frequently change answers on tests.  Almost every time I ended up changing a right answer for a wrong answer.  Studies have found that abut 80% of the time we change right answers to wrong answers.  I only stopped doing this after one of my professors would go over my test in front of the class and point out the number of times I did this.  So, I stopped changing answers on tests but I then caught myself analyzing things and using a pros and cons list or getting the opinions of a number of people, to help me to make decisions. None of this seems to work.  I have come to believe that my first impression is the best one to go with.  I have had to learn to recognize my first impression or intuitive understanding of things as I can quickly think of another answer and tell myself that it is my first impression.  

I believe that our brains have stored lots of information that is ready for us when we need it.  We just have to trust these first impressions and act on them, even if we don't have a paper trail of how we came to this understanding.  Try it and see what happens.