Because you are tired of whining and want to age in a positive manner, I solicit your real-life questions and concerns. My intention is not to provide medical or psychotherapeutic treatment on this site. This is a public form of education, not psychotherapy. Having said that I am interested in your questions regarding aging, emotions, relationships, human behavior, and thinking processes. I cannot respond to all questions but if your question is selected, I will post it along with my response here. I look forward to hearing from you. Note, only your first name will be used on this site. We will never publish your email address.
Q: I realize that I am pretty perfectionistic…as was my mother, and her mother. Is this genetic? Cathy A: Since I am not a geneticist I am unaware of an exact “perfectionism gene”…but it actually would not surprise me. It would certainly be appropriate to consider perfectionism as a “t......... more »
Q: As a mom I always seem to have time for others (family/friends), but not for myself. How do I create time for myself and not live like a martyr? Beth A: Perhaps the first thing to look at is where this comes from. Did you learn this independently or from your family system? Pretty good chance......... more »
Q: We are having some pretty conflicted times at work. I have tended to blame certain individuals for bringing drama into the workplace. While some employees certainly are drama kings and queens, I am beginning to wonder if this is really an issue of leadership? As a manager, whenever I try to talk ......... more »
Q: My husband and I have been having quite a few arguments lately. How can I defend our children from the negativity? Megan A: Megan: Well…IT DEPENDS. Certainly if there are aggressive and scary fights, you have a lot to be concerned about. If the two of you cannot control yourselves, you m......... more »
Q: I have had chronic neck pain for the past two years. I have been cleared medically but I have the pain every day. Even the heavy-duty opiate pain meds aren’t helping much anymore. Help. Pain in the Neck A: Dear Pain in the Neck: Assuming you feel confortable with the thoroughness o......... more »
Q: I am currently going through a divorce that has gotten nasty. I am convinced my husband is simply trying to destroy my social and financial life. I am beginning to hate the man I once loved. I am conflicted about my feelings. Boy do I ever want to strike back hard! Strike Back ......... more »
Q I am a grandmother of two older elementary school age children. One of them seems to be coming out of control. My daughter and family only live a few blocks away and hence there is easy access between our two families. The oldest granddaughter has now entered puberty. The once charming little g......... more »
Q My 50-year-old son is a mess. He has been into drugs, alcohol, prison, and rehab three times. A few months ago he left his wife and went to the streets again. He keeps calling us for money…of course for drugs. When we decline, in order to press his point he constantly yells and swears at us a......... more »
Q I am convinced my wife is messing with my mind. For example, if I ask her to do something and she agrees, she will often not follow through. When I question her, she says I never asked her. That is just one of many such examples of her behavior. Sometimes I feel like I am loosing it. I know we ......... more »
Q I recently attended a memorial service for my mother. This is the same person who spent my early years convincing me that I was the reason for all her physical ills. The real trick was when she also convinced me that I too was ill…when I was not. I don’t know if she had the power of hypnoti......... more »
I have had chronic neck pain for the past two years. I have been cleared medically but I have the pain every day. Even the heavy-duty opiate pain meds aren’t helping much anymore. Help.
Pain in the Neck
Dear Pain in the Neck:
Assuming you feel confortable with the thoroughness of your medical workup (i.e., no tumor), there may be a psychological and/or behavioral component to your pain. Chronic pain (over 6 months) is real. It is not “just in your head”. I would suggest two considerations: 1. Have you become addicted to the opiates? After two years of use, the answer is likely, yes. Because of the issue of “tolerance” it typically takes more and more medication to achieve the same desired effect. Oddly enough, your opiates may even make your experience of pain worse. 2. There are powerful body/emotional patterns, which entangle people when using opiates. I encourage you to find a psychologist that deals in pain management to work with your physicians and help you untangle this mess.
Q: My husband and I have been having quite a few arguments lately. How can I defend our children from the negativity?
A: Megan: Well…IT DEPENDS. Certainly if there are aggressive and scary fights, you have a lot to be concerned about. If the two of you cannot control yourselves, you may want to find a professional to help you. If there is violence, you need to keep yourselves and the children safe. Perhaps temporary separation is needed. Violence should never be condoned. It is appropriate to call 911 and get the law involved as needed. It is not uncommon for children to experience levels of stress when parents participate in terrifying behaviors.
On the other hand, children do need to learn how to deal with conflict. There are of course negative and positive ways of managing said conflicts. I have worked with several adults who “never” heard their parents argue. These people are woefully unprepared to deal with conflicts in their own life.
So, yes…it depends.
We are having some pretty conflicted times at work. I have tended to blame certain individuals for bringing drama into the workplace. While some employees certainly are drama kings and queens, I am beginning to wonder if this is really an issue of leadership? As a manager, whenever I try to talk to my boss, I just get snapped at. I think he is pretty burned out. What to do?
What to Do
Dear What to Do:
Whether conflict is at work or in the family, it is usually most helpful to look at the broader picture. That brings up something called “Systems Theory”. While Systems Theory can be pretty complex, the basic premise is a bit more understandable. Rather than just being concerned about specific problems (thought important), perhaps is best to take a systemic approach. As an example, our body will typically get along just fine when we come down with the flu. That is unless the entire immune system is compromised. People who die of the flu usually have a deeper systemic problem.
If your boss is “burned out” this could be evidence there is a greater systemic issue in the organization. Remember, your department is also part of the larger whole system. What if you could get your boss interested is a conversation concerning the broader needs of the organization. The issue at hand problem may be at your department level, but perhaps it would pay to look at the broader picture.
Having said all this, it would helpful for you, as a manager, to having a trusting relationship with your boss. Perhaps you might try to ask him pertinent questions regarding anything you may do to “make his work easier”. Then hold on and see what comes your way.
As a mom I always seem to have time for others (family/friends), but not for myself. How do I create time for myself and not live like a martyr?
Perhaps the first thing to look at is where this comes from. Did you learn this independently or from your family system? Pretty good chance you were taught this through the actions of others. Did your parent’s actions model this “martyrdom”? Or perhaps was their style the opposite; not giving any time to the kids? If so, your behavior may be compensation for what you did not get. Either way, you likely came by it “honestly”.
Is it okay for you to take time for yourself? Some people feel guilty for being “selfish” which isn’t really being selfish at all. The fact is that we must take care of ourselves first (just like on the airlines) before being of help to our family and friends. If we are out of balance, we will be snarky and resentful. Of course that is no good for anyone.
I am currently not in a good place in my life. Two weeks ago I had a retina detachment in my right eye. That resulted in blindness in that eye. I am angry and scared about my future. Even at 53 years of age, I have been pretty active…until now! This aging stuff really sucks. Where does “positive aging” fit in for me?
Steve, I am so sorry to hear about this very important health issue of yours. It will be very important for you to be in touch with your psychological grief, rather than attempt to deny it. We tend to think of “grief” for those who have lost a loved one. While that is true, the fact is that grief is a process for any “loss”. Processing the loss of health, a marriage, death, and even retirement (for some), is vital.
There is an abundant amount of material out there in the form of books (on tape) and talks. While there may be “grief groups” in your area, chances are that their focus may be on loss by death, rather than your type of loss. Not “processing” the loss can lead to unwanted consequences like depression or anxiety. That of course would be adding insult to injury.
At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-like, I want you to know that your life is not over. It may be altered, but adaptation is the name of the game. I personally have three friends who have, as adults, lost the sight in one eye. One is in his late 50’s, one is 73, and the other 84. All three have had to make creative adaptations. All three are doing fine in life. They all drive short and long distances, and two have continued participating in the recreational activities of their choice. As a matter of fact, I have just spent the past couple of days fly-fishing with one of them. While his depth perception is a challenge while wading the river and tying on a small fly, he manages well. In fact he caught more fish than I this very morning. Believe me, I am showing him “no mercy” in our little competition for best fisherman of the day!
I encourage you to take the required time to lick your wounds and then move forward with gusto.
This morning I read your article entitled Confluence of the River. While I liked it, I found myself feeling sadness and guilt. You see I am in my second marriage of 22 years. My wife had two children from a previous marriage and then we had our own child together, all boys. Here in Chicago I have had a very busy business in commercial real estate. I have been so busy in my career that I haven’t had time to take the boys fly-fishing or even learn myself. The teen years were horrible with my stepsons. Bad attitudes, drugs, discipline problems, running with the wrong crowd at times. I tried to be a strong disciplinarian, as my parents were with me, but the boys just grew to resent me. In all truth I have resented them too. Now that they are all young adults I am looking for a different relationship.
So my question is, do you have any ideas about what I might do now to make things right between the “boys” and myself?
Ted, first let me congratulate you on being so perceptive and honest about your situation. As you say, it has not been easy. Blending two families together is one of the hardest social tasks on earth. There are so many factors working against that “confluence”.
Frankly I don’t think it is ever too late to begin mending relationships. You mentioned that you took the role of the strong disciplinarian. Even now that the “boys” are older I wonder if you are still taking that posture? If so it will likely continue t breed contempt. Now may be the time to take a different role: mentor, friend, equal? What about mustering your courage and having a frank discussion with each of them, or perhaps even writing them each a letter explaining (not giving excuses) how you feel?
When the children are young it is typical to introduce them into OUR world of interests…like fly-fishing was for me. But we must realize they may not like that which we are interested in. We can’t force them to like something they just don’t. Rather it is better to find an area of THEIR interest and adapt ourselves to fit their interest. After all we are the adults. So what, if they like baseball and we don’t. If one child does, that is what is important to them. Also remember that one size does not fit all.
Now that the guys are older, the same principle of modifying ourselves to their interests still fits. Each of the guys may have a different area of interest. That also gives us as parents, the opportunity to diversify our interests as well. Yes even for those of us who are busy.
Finally, if the relationships are not too bruised and grandchildren do come along, you might have a second chance with the little ones. Have fun.
My wife and I are in our mid 60’s and have noticed an increasing trend when we are with other couples. Before long in the evening, the conversation turns to our various ailments. Some ailments are minor and others are significant. Is this normal?
Ben: Actually, this appears to be quite “normal”, at least in the statistical sense. The old saying, “misery loves company” rings true in this case. While we might consider it negative thinking, I believe it can actually be a positive process…if not drawn out. Part of the reason socialization is so important to we humans is for the emotional support we gain from our “tribe”. For one thing, bringing up a frustrating or scary health issue and finding that others are going through the same, similar, or worse experience can be normalizing for us. Of course, as we age, our bodies tend to decompensate. That is the sad fact. Knowing we are not alone in this process is comforting for many people.
Another factor, however, is that we may find ourselves inspired by others who are in better shape. When we see their waistline or hear of their heightened activity levels, we may be spurred on to kick our activity and fitness level up a notch.
I subscribed weeks ago; have yet to see a copy. Tim, where are you????
I am right here Jack, just waiting to have a conversation with you.
Tim, I recently found myself at an intamate, outdoor music festival. I was quickly reminded of the freedom I so often sought after in my youth growing up near the music rich Bay Area. This concert was full of very creatively dressed 20 somethings, skin showing, capes flowing, crowd jumping. I found it ironic that now, as I age, I’m that older gal who lets the young pass me to the front, I don’t need the costumes, I’m more confident in myself than ever as I absorb the tunes, smile and appreciate being alive. I was reminded again how there seems to be secrets to aging out there. I think music is one of them. We All togeather as a crowd transcend our selves, our ego, our day to day and get washed into the music, the jam. Could being stuck on ego encourage bad aging?
You bring up a couple complex thoughts. If I understand you correctly, you suggest that the sought after FREDOM of your younger years may not have actually been found at those fun filled events of the crowd. Now that you are older you appear to be driven by internal vs. external forces (e.g., you don’t need the “costumes”). Perhaps now that your are more mature you are able to internalize the music as part of yourself, rather than that of the crowd?.
“Being stuck on ego” may mean different things to different people. I take the stand that the ego is not a “bad” thing. In fact the ego itself is an important stabilizing force in the psyche. It is only when the ego goes “rogue” that we get in trouble. When someone is described as having a “big ego” that is because the psyche is out of balance. Likewise, when we are obsessivly worried about what the crowd thinks of us, we are out of balance the other direction. Ideally as we age our ego gets better as the administrator of the psyche. Indeed, anytime the ego does not continue to mature in a healthy way, we could expect bad aging.