Archive for ‘Relationships’

February 15, 2013

The DISH Method: Develop Your Life Skills

by Dave P.

TrainingWheelsThe DISH Method was originally developed to help people overcome public speaking anxiety, but it also works to help people thrive in life.


You need certain skills to be successful in life. The most basic is relationships skills. Without them, you’re probably not going to be happy.

Your relationships skills actually begin while you’re still developing in your mother’s womb. If your mother experienced a lot of stress during pregnancy, her body had high levels of cortisol — the stress hormone. Cortisol has the ability to permeate the embryonic sac and affect prenatal brain development. You would have been born with emotional and cognitive problems, which would have had a big impact on your ability to succeed and be happy.

During the first few years of your life, you experienced a tremendous amount of neurological development. During that time, the parts of the brain that were exercised, grew, and the parts that weren’t used were “pruned.” If you weren’t attuned to your mother and father, your endorphin receptors were not developed sufficiently, which affected your ability to experience pleasure later in life. You probably experience less pleasure from relationships than most people and are less happy.

Child abuse affects a person’s confidence, self-esteem, cognitive skills, and ability to have healthy relationships. That’s too big of a topic to go into here, so I’ll cover it more in upcoming posts.

You develop many of your relationship skills while in school. How well you interact with your peers sets the tone for the rest of your life. If you had good friends and didn’t experience much rejection during that time, you built a sense of confidence in your ability to form and maintain close, personal relationships. But if you felt ostracized in school, it probably affected your self-esteem and your personal relationship self-efficacy — confidence in your ability to form healthy, close, personal relationships.

The good news is, your brain is plastic; it continuously changes throughout the lifespan — even into old age. No matter what your emotional or cognitive skill deficiencies, they can be overcome, but it takes work. Contrary to what many doctors would have you believe, there are no pill solutions. While certain medications can help in some cases, it takes hard work to develop your skills.


Unless you live in a socialized country, you need skills in order to be able to earn a living. Your best bet is higher education. While tuition costs have soared during the past 10 or 15 years, the cost of not having an education is much higher. University degrees open the doors to career opportunities.


Thousands of years ago, people attributed the things they couldn’t understand to supernatural forces. Today, science has unlocked many of the mysteries of nature. Through understanding of the world around us, we gain wisdom. Fear of the unknown has caused a great amount of suffering. Through study and understanding, we can rid ourselves of those fears.

Skills development is a never ending process

People who continue to learn throughout their lives are less prone to dementia. We can build and maintain our self-esteem by doing our best at everything. Self-growth provides meaning and pleasure in life. Never stop learning and growing.

February 15, 2013

A Valentine’s Day Talk About Relationships

by Dave P.

February 14, 2013

Show Gratitude For Your Relationships

by Dave P.

LaughingCoupleOur relationships are what make us happy. People who have good, healthy, close, personal relationships are generally happy people. Have you ever met a lonely person who was happy? I don’t think one exists. When you’re lonely, you’re in pain. When you have people in your life you can count on and who provide unconditional love, you feel like you can do anything. Or you’re willing to at least try to accomplish great things.

We can enhance our existing relationships simply by showing gratitude. Focus on the good aspects of the people in your life and discount the negative. Of course, if you’re in an abusive relationship, get the hell away from that person. When we first start dating someone or become friends, we see that person through rose colored glasses. We filter out the bad and show appreciation for the good. But over time, we start taking people for granted. We go through tough times, have fights, and develop a past — sometimes negative and hurtful.

We can be happier by living in the present. We can learn from the past and plan for the future, but our well being depends on our ability to live in the present. That especially applies to our relationships. If you continuously bring up the negative and complain about things that aren’t so perfect, you’re not going to be happy and the person you’re complaining to isn’t going to be happy. Find common interests. Have fun together. Remember why the two of you got together in the first place.

There is a common misconception that healthy relationships are about compromise. While compromise is necessary in politics, it’s not so good in relationships because when you compromise, nobody really wins. Have you ever compromised on a movie? One person wants to see an action-adventure while the other wants to see a romantic comedy, so you settle on a mediocre movie that has both?

Healthy relationships depend on taking turns getting what you want. If you’re lucky, you both want the same things. This time, watch what your wife wants to watch. Enjoy it, simply because she enjoys it. Doing so demonstrates that she is important in your life and that you want her to be happy. Next time, she should watch what you want to watch. Take turns getting your way. That is how everyone wins.

So on this Valentine’s day, show gratitude for the people in your life. Let them know that they are important to you. Have fun together. Let the other person win.

February 7, 2013

Exposure therapy: Experience life

by Dave P.

You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play
~ Steve Forbert

There’s only so much progress you can make by reading or listening to advice. You can develop an understanding of your issues, and you can accept them. You can recognize that it wasn’t your fault if you were abused or bullied. But you’re not going to overcome your problems unless you get out there in the world and experience life.

An obvious application is that of public speaking anxiety. You can develop your skills and self-efficacy that you can deliver a speech competently. You can deliver your speech to your dog, your family, or friends. But until you get out in front of an audience, you won’t be exposed to the elements that cause public speaking anxiety, and those are people!

People, for the most part, are harmless. The chance that anyone in the audience is going to cause you any physical harm is minuscule. Emotional pain activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain, though. Having the right attitude is essential to avoid a negative reaction, and that deals with not worrying what people think about you. People might not like your physical appearance  your voice, or your style. No matter who you are, there are going to be critics. If you like yourself and you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what others think.

The DISH Method applies to all aspects of life. DISH stands for: Develop your skills, Incorporate your personality, Stop the negative thinking, and Have fun!

To be able to enjoy yourself in social situations requires social skills. You need to be able to carry on a conversation, have something interesting to say, and be able to say it. Some people claim that don’t know what to talk about, which is why they hated socializing. The world is a fascinating place. There is a lot going on out there. All you need to do is open your eyes and learn about it, whether it has to do with people, places, or things. Develop a passion for learning and understanding. Learn how to convey your interests to others. If you have a passion for what you’re saying, so will others. If you are trying to impress others with your knowledge, though, you’re not going to win friends or influence anyone.

Incorporate your personality into everything you do. Your individuality is what makes you interesting. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Live authentically. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re wasting time by not living up to your potential.

Stop the negative thinking. People with low self-esteem too often discount the positive and focus on the negative. They think people are just being nice if they get a complement, and they believe that their successes are anomalies. Failure is their natural state of being. They learn that they are helpless — that no matter how much effort they exert, they’re destined to fail. Because of that, they often do fail.

You are the star of your life. Until you accept that, you have very little chance of being happy. Sure, we want others like us;  our relationships generate happiness and allow us to manage stress. But the main thing is that you like yourself, and you can only do that by being the kind of person you would admire and respect. It involves dignity, self-respect, self-assertiveness, and self-growth. It’s about setting goals — both short and long term, and working towards their attainment. Goals lead us forward in life. Never stop learning.

Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” I repeat that quote fairly often because it’s too easy to forget and get bogged down in the muck and mire of life. We have the ability to experience pleasure in almost any activity — even work! One of the keys is living mindfully. Even the act of washing the dishes can be an enjoyable experience when performed completely in the present. Observe the sensation of the water running over your hands. Observe the sounds and smells. If you become efficient at the task, you can achieve a state of flow, which generates even more pleasure.

Attitude is everything in life. If you go into a situation so afraid to fail that you’re anxious, you are not living up to your potential. But if you recognize that you are the star of your life and that you’re not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations, you can’t help but win. But as the old saying goes: “you cannot win if you do not play.”

February 5, 2013

Theory of relativity: in life, everything is relative

by Dave P.

I’ve made a lot of progress during the past 10 years. I’m happier, I’ve gotten my public speaking anxiety under control to the point where I can actually enjoy delivering a presentation, and my performance anxiety no longer prevents me from playing music in song circles — something I’ve wanted to do for decades.

But that doesn’t make me a great public speaker or performer. If someone else had the mental and emotional state that I experience when doing those things, they might seek out professional help! For me it’s an improvement. For someone else, it might be a setback or handicap. Everything is relative to how things were previously.

A woman in my Toastmasters group was criticized by a relatively new member for not moving around enough when giving a talk last week. Previously, she would just stand in one spot, barely moving. Last week she used the stage more than she had ever done so before, so relatively speaking, she did well.

We all want to be happy, but happiness is relative. If at one time, you suffered from clinical depression but are no longer depressed, you feel a lot better; you’re happier than you were, even though relative to others, you don’t seem to be very happy. People don’t go from being depressed to happy overnight, but we can become progressively happier.

I’m far happier now than when I was unable to get a restful night’s sleep. I suffer from central sleep apnea, which means my brain sometimes forgets to tell my body to breathe. (Obstructive sleep apnea is an actual physical problem where your airway is constricted.) I’m on oxygen at night, which helps. When you’re unable to get a restful night’s sleep, you really don’t want to do anything because you can’t think clearly, you feel lousy, you say stupid things, you have no energy, people don’t like you, and you don’t like yourself very much. I still have an occasional bad day, which is frustrating, but for the most part, I’m optimistic and am now able to do things that I was unable to do before.

We can have better relationships if we work at it, and relationships are the number one determinant of a person’s happiness. And it’s really not that difficult. Just show gratitude for people’s good qualities and don’t pay so much attention to their shortcomings. That’s what we do automatically when we begin a relationship, but over time, we often focus more on the negative and the things that irritate us.

My wife just called me for lunch! Gotta go!

January 31, 2013

Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave

by Dave P.
January 31, 2013

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

by Dave P.
January 9, 2013

Stop the negative thinking

by Dave P.

Much of the anxiety we experience when speaking in public is self-induced. We see people in the audience as a threat. Most people are not a threat. Unless you happen to be speaking at a psychopath convention, the threat you perceive is all in your head.

Too often, we’re overly concerned with what others think of us. We want people to like us, to think we’re intelligent, competent, honest, and hard-working. And we’re devastated when they don’t. We try to live up to other people’s expectations. Some people are forced into careers chosen by their parents, spouse, or even society. We want to be respected for what we do, and our occupations define who we are to a great extent.

Many people work at a job just to pay the bills and just bide their time until retirement age when they can finally do what they want. That’s not living. That’s wasting time. Sure, we need to earn a living and provide a good life for our families, but we also need to be authentic. When we’re trying to be someone we’re not, we’re not living up to our potential. We only have a brief time on this earth and not living up to your potential can create existential anxiety.

When we devote an abundance of our time to negative thinking and worrying what others think about us, it becomes a bad habit. The way we think affects the actual structures of our brains. The parts of the brain used for negative thinking grows and the parts used for positive thinking shrinks. The brain is like the muscles in our bodies; the parts that are exercised grow strong and increase in size, and the parts we don’t use tend to wither away.

Read more…

December 24, 2012

Thrive During the Holidays!

by Dave P.

The holidays can be stressful for people with SAD, but there is no reason to suffer. We can thrive during the holidays and enjoy family, friends, co-workers, well-wishers, and other social contacts by adapting a positive attitude.

Happiness has been scientifically proven to be contagious. When you’re happy, you make others happier, who in turn make even more people happier.

Show gratitude for the people in your life. Unless you’re dealing with a psychopath, sociopath, or total narcissist, everyone has some redeeming qualities. Focus on the good as apposed to what you find annoying. It will make you happier as well as the people around you.

Being self-conscious is actually selfish behavior. It makes you anxious, it makes those around you anxious, and it acts as a people repellent. Your discomfort can also make you a target for bullies. Being self-conscious is a lose-lose proposition for everyone involved. So why do it?

Instead of being self-focused, try to offer something of value to the people you encounter. It can be something as simple as a smile, a joke, an interesting story, or a helping hand. Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling down, sometimes all it takes is a smile from someone to change your day and get you out of your funk? You can do the same for others.

As Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” Any time you enter a social situation, tell yourself, “This is my life and I’m going to have a good time.” You’ll be happier, and you’ll make the world a little bit better by doing so. We can find meaning in making the world a better place, even if you’ve improved the day of just one person.

And always remember: This is your life. Be the star of your life. You are not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations.

Check out our new website! We’re planning two workshops for January: one specifically for social anxiety and another for overcoming public speaking anxiety. Come join us at the workshops. Thrive in life!

January 20, 2012

Happiness Workshop: Relationships

by Dave P.

Our next workshop will be on February 11th, 2012. This time we’ll continue with positive psychology theories on relationships.

Humans have an inherent need to love and be loved; it’s something that aided us in survival as a species. Those of us who suffer from social anxiety often have difficulties forming and maintaining personal relationships, which results in loneliness, more anxiety, and sometimes depression.

We talked a little about the importance of social support networks in our stress management workshop. For this workshop, we’ll be working from the research conducted mainly by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky. She explains several methods for acquiring and maintaining healthy relationships in her book The How of Happiness.

You’ll also have the opportunity to engage in some CBT exercises such as introducing yourself to the group and participating in the discussions. Participation is always voluntary in our groups; you’re never under any pressure to say or do anything. But you will get more out of the group if you do participate. Exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for social anxiety and is usually the behavioral component of CBT.

Also, if anyone ever wants to work on something one-on-one, feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to help. I’m available via email, Skype, or we could meet in a restaurant or coffee house.