Thursday, November 29, 2007

Spinning Your Wheels


Growing up in a small town offered plenty of back alleys and dirt roads. After a thunder- storm, some dirt roads would have a large pool of water at the bottom of a hill. It was always a thrill to drive through these “ponds” with my Dad’s ten year old 66 Chrysler. You could never be sure whether or not you were going to splash your way through the water, get stuck in the mud or flood out the engine.

At some point, everyone gets stuck. Then you get to learn the art of rocking your car back - n - forth to get unstuck. Life is a journey that offers moments of pleasure and times of feeling stuck. Like automobiles, there are tricks to getting unstuck in life.

Kenneth Halstead, Family Therapist and College Chaplain wrote a book on going from stuck to unstuck. He states that we must discern between “problems” and “difficulties.” Problems are solvable. They have a solution. Difficulties are something that people must live with and accept. Trying to solve a difficulty results in misdirected energy and increased frustration. Living with a problem that has a solution is tragic. Here are three ways we can get stuck and mired down.



  • "Oversimplifying" - When folk try to deny a problem exists they turn a “mountain into a molehill.” Usually there are warning signs of distress of being stuck but they are ignored. Action steps are needed but fail to be engaged.

  • "Isn’t It Terrible” - Trying to change a difficulty into a problem is in effect turning a “molehill into a mountain.” This level of “wheel spinning” results in taking action that is not necessary and makes life even more difficult.

  • “Unintended Results” - Addressing problems at the wrong entry point provides unintended results. It is a failure to distinguish at what level the situation needs to be addressed (molehill, mountain or mountain range). Usually, beginning with the simplest solution and explanation is the most effective. Assuming a problem has “deep dish” causes and taking action at a level of major intervention can paradoxically make the problem worse.

A friend shared with me how stuck he felt regarding conflicts that would occur with his wife while driving together. What would normally be disagreements at home would lead to intense and painful arguments in the car. He couldn’t understand why the polarization occurred only in the context of the automobile. The simplest solution provided lasting results. After a few simple observations regarding power dynamics and emotional safety, he concluded not to discuss issues that could lead to an argument while driving together. A simple agreement on when and where to handle disagreements practically eliminated highly charged arguments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Winter Blues


Winter Blues, Winter Depression, February Blahs, Mid December Funk are all common references to what is described clinically as Seasonal Affective Depression. Some folk experience a milder version that is sometimes referred to as Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder (another way to say borderline). The symptoms are very similar to Major Depression. The difference is that the blues and depression are triggered by the decreasing sunlight beginning in the fall and ending by late spring (variance depends on your sensitivity and geographical location).

Warning: Possible "TMI" (To Much Information)
There is still some debate regarding root causes, but research seems to be leaning towards the impact of decreasing sunlight on the Pineal Gland in the brain. Melatonin and Serotonin balances get out of whack and result in the symptoms listed below. About 5 % of the populations have full-blown SAD. Another 14% has enough symptoms to be listed as borderline. Most folk are probably feel the effects as lower energy levels.

My symptoms can range from very mild to moderate. I have found the use of Light Therapy (what my friend Larry calls his “grow light”) to be very effective. Energy, mental focus and positive mood increase usually within five days of sitting in front of the Light Box.
One informational Web Site list the symptoms are as follows…

· Sleep problems - oversleeping but not refreshed, can't get out of bed, afternoon nap needed
· Overeating - carbohydrate craving leading to weight gain
· Depression, despair, misery, guilt, anxiety - normal tasks become frustratingly difficult
· Family / social problems - avoiding company, irritability, loss of libido, loss of feeling
· Lethargy - too tired to cope, everything an effort
· Physical symptoms - often joint pain or stomach problems, lowered resistance to infection
· Behavioral problems - especially in young people

Below are web sites that will provide you with more information than you probably need. The two therapy lights that I have purchased over the years can be found at Apollo Lights (http://www.apollolights.com/).

Web Links
http://www.webmd.com/depression/tc/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-topic-overview
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195
http://www.lumie.com/help/quick-guides/sad
http://www.normanrosenthal.com/
http://www.nosad.org/