Tag wisdom

51 Truths (as I see things anyway)

I recently saw a blogger use the occasion of his birthday to write a list of tips that equaled his years. I thought that such a good idea that I didn’t want to wait until my birthday to do something similar. So, this is my top 51 truths. One caveat–which I feel somewhat apologetic for and which will be obvious as you read on: while the large majority of these statements are supported by research findings, others are merely personal beliefs that are not testable by science.

1. Self-care is an act of love towards one’s children.

2. Effective discipline = effective teaching.

3. Self-entitlement has many faces, but two common ones are expecting others to protect one from the consequences of one’s choices and expecting that others, if they are fair, will give one the outcome that one wants because one is a good person who tried hard.

4. Behind just about any action of abuse or neglect is pain.

5. At the end of everything, how well we love is what matters the most.

6. Avoiding avoidance is generally advisable when the avoided thing, person or situation is not truly dangerous.

7. More determinative of mood is what we think about what has happened, not what has actually happened.

8. Being kind to others is a great mood enhancer.

9. We loose IQ points when we get angry.

10. Show me someone who is not engaged in an internal battle and I will show you someone whose life is in shambles.

11. Being in a successful long-term marriage is one of the most difficult things a human can try to do.

12. The greatest pain is having one’s child die.

13. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s fear.

14. We get use to just about anything. One of the many things this teaches us is that we need to mix things up lest our sex life become mundane.

15. Single parenting in a two-parent household is a symptom.

16. Becoming physiologically and psychologically calm on a daily basis promotes many health and psychological benefits.

17. “Physical activity” is a much more effective term than “exercise.”

18. Fast food is generally poisonous, though it may take a long time for the effects to become obvious.

19. We are suffering from an epidemic of sleep deprivation, across the lifespan.

20. The large majority of kids, teens and adults who could benefit from evidence-based mental health services do not get it. This truth is even harsher for minorities and the poor.

21. We parents love our kids so much it makes us lunatics some of the time.

22. The practice of a spirituality correlates strongly (and positively) with multiple physical and psychological benefits.

23. If Heaven exists (and I believe it does), there are no institutions there.

24. When we don’t know what is motivating another person’s irritating behavior, our own mental health is nurtured when we assume she or he has good cause.

25. Adaptive rituals produce positive illusions.

26. Men are generally simpler creatures than women.

27. There are many more ways to promote misery than there are to promote happiness.

28. Corporal punishment can usually be aptly labelled “undisciplined discipline.”

29. Willpower, when used in isolation, is not a very reliable tool for changing harmful habits.

30. The more we learn the more nuanced we become.

31. Understanding how well a person can do things when he or she doesn’t feel like it can tell you a great deal about his or her success in both vocational and personal arenas. This is why teaching such skills to our children is a top parenting activity.

32. Heaven exists outside of space and time, which makes it very difficult for us to think and talk about what it is like.

33. Crisis = (pain/2) + (≥ opportunity/2).

34. Using addiction to deal with pain is like drinking ocean water when on a life raft: certainly understandable but it makes things worse.

35. We parents are shepherds, not sculptors.

36. Having kids quadruples the importance of having a good maintenance schedule for a committed relationship. (I’d write something higher than quadruples but I had a hard enough time spelling quadruples.)

37. If swimming is the activity that uses the most physical muscles forgiveness is the activity that uses the most psychological muscles.

38. What an apple is to a pediatrician, positive one-on-one attention is to a child psychologist.

39. Simultaneously pursuing self-interest and effective political service is like trying to iron clothing underwater.

40. Addiction is a jealous, cunning and harsh mistress that isn’t satisfied until its victim is left with nothing else.

41. An important mistake we make in thinking about race is to suppose that being impacted by someone’s race is the same thing as being racist.

42. Show me someone who is critical and unloving towards others and I will show you someone who is critical and unloving towards himself or herself.

43. Though they vary, we all have our limitations and when we exceed them we break.

44. No engaged parent can be generally happier than his or her least happy child.

45. Improving someone else’s life, without them knowing one did so, is glorious.

46. Well-conceived mission statements can help one to make many decisions about how to spend one’s time and resources.

47. Considering a difficult decision from the context of one’s deathbed can promote clarity.

48. That which is loving is of God. That which is not loving is not of God.

49. Empathy tends to soften anger.

50. Going through an effective psychotherapy is like being reborn.

51. Show me a spiritual person who is generally physically active, getting enough sleep, eating a good diet, executing his or her top talents in service to others, and being loving in his or her personal relationships and I will show you someone who is wise.

I enjoy receiving all comments, but would especially  welcome others sharing truths I have left out. Also, if anyone would like me to do a subsequent blog post on any of these assertions, I’d enjoy hearing about that as well.

Where Are Your Wells of Wisdom?

I’ve been doing psychotherapy continuously for the past 24 years. In this time I’ve come to think of each person’s psyche as a cottage in a forest. My client–which can be a family or an individual–and I initially collaborate on an assessment of whether the cottage needs repairs or remodeling. If so, we partner, guided by science, and do that. This kind of work on cottages has characterized the lion’s share of my career. However, it has recently dawned on me that most people (and perhaps even all) have wells of wisdom located around their cottages. When they access these wells they can usually figure out how to proceed when life gets complicated, stressed or confusing.

Some clients know where their wells are without my help. I can see the paths they’ve worn from their cottage to their wells. When thirsty, they go to their wells without much thought, just like someone might make a daily commute without much thought; such people make many decisions in a way that promotes love and self-actualization. However, I find that most of my clients do not know about the existence of their wells, never mind how to access them. Therefore, one of my jobs, as their therapist, is to help them both to find their wisdom and to get in the habit of accessing it.

Let me give a few examples, keeping in mind that people differ regarding where their wells are located.

One person I knew could access her wisdom by imagining how she would look upon a given decision from the context of her deathbed. The gift of death to the living is perspective. Realizing this my client would wonder how her deathbed self would wish for her to proceed when she was facing a difficult decision or a complicated situation. This allowed her to be wise, even if her chosen course sometimes brought her into conflict with other here-and-now agenda (e.g., keeping a clean house, defeating someone with whom she was arguing, purchasing a new car).

Another person I knew could access his wisdom by imagining what advice he would give his son if his son, some years later on as an adult, came to face the same dilemma or problem. It was fun watching him go from complete confusion to complete clarity as he traveled from his cottage to this particular well of wisdom.

Another person I knew would imagine what her therapist would say about a particular problem. She had worked with this therapist for about 18 months and found his Buddhist/mindfulness perspective wise and enlightening. As she had internalized his voice, she only had to envision what he would say to find the right course of action when life became difficult.

I now have woven this principle into my practice. Yes, many cottages need repair and remodeling and, as a therapist, I have a valuable role to play in that regard. (I’ve also subjected my own cottage to such work on two occasions.) But, I’ve learned to assume that many people have more wisdom hidden inside themselves than they realize. It only takes finding the well and then remembering to go to it enough so that the journey becomes automatic when thirst arises.

Do you know where your well is? Do you realize how much wisdom you have inside of you? If not, maybe a therapist can help you to discover it. For a referral click here.

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