Category Archives: Psychology

Let’s Hang on to What We’ve Got

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Having one of those days? Decades? Seems the world is conspiring against you? Join the club.

One of the myths we’ve had to grapple with is that we could expect to live as well or better than our parents did. They told us that would be true.

This recession has been a shock. Multiple factors of happenstance, corporate greed, and personal avarice gone wrong have eroded our bank accounts and altered our lifestyles. Yes, there are signs of a recovery, but it hasn’t trickled down very far.

Stress. Makes us do weird things—turn inward, get angry, in general, not BE NICE. Living feeling cheated, victimized is like having a burr under your saddle blanket.

But, like I said to a client: “You’re not where you want to be, but are there ways in which you’re where you need to be?” She perked up like a lightbulb switched on.

This involuntary step back has given a lot of us the opportunity to reassess the values we’ve been living by. Reevaluate “wants” versus “needs”. Gain a sense of pride in less is better, confidence that we’ll be OK, reprioritize.

The Finns have a word, sisu, which means “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.” I’m half Finnish, and, by golly, have I got sisu.

The song says, “Let’s hang on to what we’ve got,” but do so lightly. You may have to share, or give it up. But you’ll be OK.

Thinking + Thinking = Nothing

Strange math. But it’s true.

I learned this equation from a psychotherapy client years ago. She proved the theorem when she was trying to lose weight— she said, “Thinking + Thinking = Nothing.”

Seems obvious. No action, no results. An equation that applies to just about everything.

We still don’t know for sure how Stonehenge was built, but we do know the builders didn’t just think about it, they did it! An amazing accomplishment.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

But Thinking + Action = Accomplishment doesn’t have to be gargantuan. Look what a friend did. Aren’t they gorgeous! She wanted to knit, and she did. Diane inspired me to take knitting action too. It’s not as hard as I thought.

Diane's Norwegian mittens.
Diane’s Norwegian design mittens.

You Can’t Go Home Again

You can’t go home again. Thank you Thomas Wolfe. Trying to recapture what’s gone is elusive at best, but the trying can be fun.

I recently got back from another foray into my past—a trip to England. A saudade fix. If you want to know what that means, check back on a previous post,Saudade, A Deep Longing”.

We visited my former neighbors from the 70s who now live on the south coast of England. My how England has changed. It’s so crowded. One of the things I loved about England when I lived there was the pace of life: slower than in the US. Not anymore, at least in the population centers, which seems to be all of the south of England.

The quaint little villages have changed. Incomers, people not from there, are putting up lovely new stone cottages, filling in the spaces between the existing cottages. Stone rabbit warrens. Some houses are so close to the road that if the occupant opened their front door they might clip off the wing mirror of a car whizzing by, or so it seems.

Traffic is frightful. My husband calls the one-lane country roads “hedgeroads”, because they’re bounded by ancient stone walls covered with vegetation. The way you negotiate the roads with two-lane traffic is that someone has to back up to a passing point or wait in the nearest one for the oncoming traffic to pass. When that works (driving on the left, mind you), it’s fine, but we were turned back on one such road where there was an accident involving a lorry (truck) and a car. The locals drive their familiar roads as if they’re in a grand prix, so we timid non-left drivers hold our breath and drive on. I’ve often said we need a big red “Y” sign on the backs of our rental cars denoting “Yank”.

Yet it’s a challenge. I’ve got the driving out of Heathrow down, but the getting back to the rental car drop-off is another matter. So far I’m 0 for 3. But if we make the same mistake we made this last time, we’ll know exactly where we are.

I continue to resonate to my toes with England and all things English, but we may have to make the next visit to the Scottish Highlands where there are more sheep than people.

Buses wedged together for five hours—it’s crowded in the south of England!

A Little More Couple Psychology

If you want to be in a better couple relationship—here’s a news flash—BE NICER!

Happy Ever After
Happy Ever After

This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Men and women have been bickering since that incident with the apple.

I often tell my couple psychotherapy clients that I’d like to stamp three words on their foreheads—backwards—so they can read them when they look in the mirror.

  • RESPECT
  • KINDNESS
  • CONSIDERATION

There are way too many people who are disrespectful, mean, and self-centered. I like Dr. Phil’s bluntness: “How’s that workin’ for you?”

Marriage should be a safe haven.

Now, I believe the principle that everything makes sense—it may not work, and you may not deserve it—but there’s a reason people think, feel, and do everything.

We think and act based on anger, hurt, fear, lack of self-esteem, arrogance—a pile of junk—some of it old, some of it new.

The point is, even if it’s familiar, neither you, nor your spouse deserve it.

The first step is to recognize what isn’t workin’ for you—and then start changing what you think and what you do.

BTW, I didn’t say that would be easy—just worth it.

For more about couple therapy, read “A Little Couple Psychology”.

Cristine Eastin © 2013

Review, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”, by Anna Quindlen

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Part review, part discourse on the topic at hand, here’s what I thought of Anna Quindlen’s bestseller.

Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of nonfiction, but “Lots of Candles…” is worth a read. Quindlen writes with candor about the experience of growing up and growing old(er) as a Baby Boomer woman.

A confused generation of women—we Boomers were raised by mostly traditional mothers and fathers, then thrown into the Women’s Liberation Movement, coped with marriage to men raised by traditional parents, slammed into motherhood and careers, crashed against the aging and deaths of our parents, and now have come to rest in our sixties. It’s been exciting to be part of an era of such change, but exhausting.

What Quindlen misses, and this is a good thing for her, is the phenomenon of serial marriages to which our generation has fallen prey. Married to the same good man for decades, she views the cultural mess of marriages from a distance and can only write about it journalistically. We’ve perpetrated serial attachment figures on our children to the point they no longer trust relationships. Worse yet, another consequence is that, as parents, our children are afraid to set boundaries with their children, to say “no”, for fear the kids won’t love them. Shame on us Boomers. (If this doesn’t apply to you—well done!)

A Pulitzer Prize winner, Quindlen’s an exceptional writer, though I got annoyed with the 75¢-New York Times-words. I wrote a doctoral dissertation, so I can use big words, but I don’t like reading with a dictionary to hand or guessing at the nuance of a sentence more than once a chapter.

Quindlen’s memoir is a glimpse into the life of a woman who has so far navigated the Boomer experience pretty well. She’s one of the pioneers of our era. As I watched an episode of BBC’s “George Gently” in which child sexual abuse in the 60s is depicted correctly as the crime that never existed, I’m grateful for the movers and shakers like Quindlen.

But…Quindlen extolls the era as one of choice for women. True. However, some of the choices we made were really stupid—short-sighted and self-centered—free love wasn’t free at all. We’re still counting the cost.

It was hard growing up a Boomer woman—exciting, but hard. A lot of what shaped me was in reaction to anger and resentment. Seems like I vacillated between outraged “Why not?” and passive acceptance. I remember a cartoon with two toddlers, a boy and a girl, looking down the front of their own diapers—”Oh THAT’S the difference in our salaries!” Not funny. Still isn’t. My boomer friends and I were often at war with our expectations and our desires.

So, are we now Invisible Women? Yes, I think we are—certainly we’re invisible to younger men, (that’s creepy anyway)—but also in the workplace. Age discrimination hasn’t changed one bit. In these economic times it’s tough when many older women find themselves in need of a job.

Too often we’re invisible in our marriages as the shared guilt of taking each other for granted sets in after years together.

Some of us seem invisible because we’ve just quieted down—either worn out or finally content. The next generation is making the noise now, the noise of entitlement as they scrabble toward their dreams. They too deserve their day.

Quindlen strikes a chord in us—”Never give up!” said the frog, its hands around the heron’s throat.

To that end, never giving up, I’ve created a Facebook Page you might be interested in if any of this resonates with you—”Full Pitcher Christian Women…because you can’t pour from an empty pitcher.”

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Full-Pitcher-Christian-Women/421200524619882?ref=hl

Quindlen says she wants more. Me too!

Cristine Eastin © 2013

2013, A New Year

Screen shot 2013-01-01 at 11.03.31 AMIt’s a new year. All the holiday hype is over, and we can settle down and get on with it. If I hear one more bit about shopping I think I’m going to scream—CHRIST-mas! Seems like we have to dig through quite a discarded pile of wrapping paper to find Christ in Christmas anymore. But that’s another soapbox for another time.

2013 is new for me. I’ve taken a leap off the social media cliff and started a Facebook Page. The few times I was brave enough to jump off the high board at the pool I had to remember to hold my nose or get a snootful. So here goes.

Full Pitcher Christian Women—that’s my Facebook Page. If you click on the link in the top right widget, you’ll zoom right to it.

Why? Countless times I’ve told my women psychotherapy clients, “because you can’t pour from an empty pitcher“. Women especially are prone to pour, pour, pour until they’re drained, then pour some more.

Join me. Let’s drink from the well the Lord has for us—and refill.

Cristine Eastin © 2013

Rant on Technology

I’m steamed. Technology has its good points, but it’s also making life increasingly stressful. Not news, but do we do anything about it?

Here’s what I mean. Remember, I’m a psychotherapist—a client related frustration about her teen’s time on the phone. It seems the girl and her friends were all sitting in the back seat of the car texting, not talking to each other—just one example of the phone excess. I asked the mom if she’d ever considered putting limits on the young teen’s phone use, like no calls or texts after a certain time in the evening. It had never occurred to Mom. I asked if the girl’s phone was in her room at night, alerting her to every text message at all hours. Mom said, “Maybe that’s why  my daughter doesn’t sleep well.”

Then the next day another client related not sleeping well in general and being upset in particular by an email that pinged in during the middle of the night. She sleeps with her phone on the bed by her head.

Now, I’m not breaking confidentiality here because this hardly describes any specific person any of you would recognize. It’s an epidemic. These are smart, responsible people—but a little like lemmings rushing en masse off a cliff.

I even suspect, though I’m not the medical expert, that we haven’t begun to see the neurological consequences of all this cell phone use. The young, developing brain has got to be affected. The brain actually continues developing into young adulthood and never really stops working on itself like we formerly thought. So was popping popcorn with cell phones faked? Or does it matter since excessive cell phone use can’t be good for us anyway?

It’s not just cell phones close to the brain for hours, it’s the constant bombardment and stimulation. Years ago research determined the number of images per second the brain could absorb. The number we’re exposed to now in commercials and videos must border on enough to create a flicker rate to trigger an epileptic seizure.

This issue is similar to violence. Since the 1960’s research has shown that violence begets violence. Thank you, Albert Bandura. But has that consistent research finding done anything to alter the violence portrayed to children? Far from it. In fact, at a conference at which a friend presented on this topic to titans of the industry in the ’80s, the consensus was—they didn’t care—violence sells.

Technology sells.

Then there’s inattention while driving. How did it ever happen that one can talk on the phone while driving? Split attention doesn’t work while hurtling in a guided missile of a vehicle. Oh, that’s right—it sells.

We doomsayers can wail all we want. Isolation in the guise of social media. Instant messaging (or whatever the current buzzword is) means instant relationship, means not a real relationship. How does empathy fully develop in the absence of body language and eye contact?

Wailing isn’t going to do any good without action. My generation, the if-it-feels-good-do-it generation, is reaping what we sowed in serial attachment figures for our kids. Those kids, now parents, are afraid to tell their kids “No” for fear the kids won’t love them. No wonder. What’s the next act of the drama?

A teenager, who shall remain nameless, was playing a game with me; she picked up her cell phone a few times to fire off no doubt meaningful replies to just-received texts. I suggested she put the phone away. “Auh,” she said with a huff, “That’s the way we are. Get used to it.”

No thanks.

Which brings me to referring you to a blog I read—Dr. Dennis Hensley, director of the professional writing program at Taylor University. Doc Hensley  is nothing short of a writing guru, if you take the second definition in my dictionary— an influential teacher or popular expert. Read what he has to say about technology. I like his choice of the word “vapid”: offering nothing that is stimulating or challenging.

One last thought—an ad on the side of a bus read—”Ignore your teeth, they’ll go away.”

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Saudade, A Deep Longing

Saudade–I have a bad case of it. Wikipedia defines this Portuguese word as, “…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”

Sigh.

My saudade sighs are for England.

In my mid-twenties I lived in Beaconsfield, England: halfway between London and Oxford. This was my house—minus the two-story addition on the right where the brick is darker and plus masses of tall Queen Elizabeth roses. My house must also have a new name, or no name, since one chimney was removed. The Post Office once directed a friend visiting from Geneva to my house when the friend said, “I think her house is called ‘Two Stacks’.” How quaint.

For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of the love of friends—a heart that’s got a chunk of it shaped like England into which only England and things English will fit.

I long to return: a longing so strong it feels as if it might pull my heart right out of my chest and stick it to some place in England.

I run back to England as often as I can—to the dreary weather, the quaint houses, the endless footpaths, the English way of life—and to friends.

Almost every day a friend and I walked our dogs here. Public access to private land gave us miles of hill and dale for the dogs to run, providing the dogs didn’t bother the livestock. The only time that almost went wrong was when I watched helplessly as a stud donkey chased my dog. Fortunately my dog ducked under the fence an inch ahead of the hoofs.

Sigh.

I long to walk in England. Tramping the sidewalks in my rabbit warren urban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve just clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration. “Progress!” she spat out in disgust.

Sometimes my English friend and I ate lunch here, both dogs resting under the table—the Royal Standard of England. I had already had a taste of living overseas by this time, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two ski seasons, but the Royal Standard was an eye-opener. I understood why England viewed its American step-children as unappreciative of history. Part of the Royal Standard was 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.

England has changed  tremendously since I lived there. The pace of life has almost caught up to the US, horrible blights on the architectural landscape have gone up, economic stress is rife, and the country struggles valiantly with ethnic diversity. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge, convenient grocery store.

Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.

I know all this saudade silliness flies in the face of  Paul’s wisdom: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). It’s not that I’m not content in the State of Wisconsin. But, for some reason, God put this love of England in me. I do know that my next novel will be set in Scotland and England. If I can’t live there in reality, at least I can live there in my imagination.

If only they wouldn’t drive on the left!

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Buck Up, Little Camper

We all need encouragement now and then. I think this seldom-used, maybe archaic phrase is so cute. “Buck up, little camper.” I picture a little kid getting a parental chuck under the chin. The kid’s lower lip pulls back in place, and parent and child smile warmly at each other. “Now run along and play,” says the parent.

This picture of grandpa and grandchild that I took in Mevagissey, Cornwall, England, has that sweetness about it. (Hurray for telephoto lenses.)

Today I read Christian author Jan Watson‘s blog. She talked about “recharging” in God’s Word when your battery’s low.

Here’s the verse I’ve been plugged into lately, reading it over and over—Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I relax when I get to “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I’m reminded that I can’t get there myself and therefore don’t have to. Ah, what a thirst-quenching drink.

Then, since we are what we think, I repeat “trust, joy, peace, hope” to drill those words into my thinking and thence into my doing.

But what do you do when you’re too tired to even drag yourself to the well? Tired unto tired out. No self-condemnation, no despair. Lift your chin toward your heavenly Father for that encouraging, “Buck up, little camper.” And lean your tired head into the Father’s hand and rest.

* * * * *

BTW—to you women who love Christian historical fiction, you MUST read Jan Watson. Her series starts with Troublesome Creek. Jan is clearly anointed to write for us.

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Get the Picture You Want

If a picture says a thousand words, here’s the story behind this photo, taken while on a walk in Lyme Regis, England.

In the dark age of cameras I used a single lens reflex camera, and I got pretty good pictures—I knew how to get the photo I wanted.

Reluctantly and belatedly, I joined the digital era and decided to try a digital happy snapper. It was light and easy to travel with. But frustrating. I’d see the photo I wanted, push the shutter release, and by the time the message got to the pea computer brain of the camera to actually take the picture—the moment was gone—and I got some other photo. Like the one below.

I did my research and switched to a digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR). It’s heavy, but worth its weight. Duh, most of you are thinking. Bear with me.

Then the other photography problem I’ve always had needed to be dealt with—just take the darn picture and stop hoping for something better, before I lose it altogether. So when the calico cat looked at me in a mirrored pose of her concrete buddy, I immediately snapped the photo without worrying if her eyes were in focus or if I had it composed the way I wanted. I got it! A little post-photo cropping, and I had a photo I was thrilled with.

The two photo examples were taken with my DSLR. In this case I actually did want the shot with the kitty’s head in the fountain. I decided I’d better shoot before the cat jumped down and I lost the opportunity for any cute shot. And then I was rewarded with her look at me before she took off.

There’s a metaphor for life in here somewhere. Take the darn picture—make the decision—and don’t over-fuss with getting the details right, or the opportunity may pass—or something like that.

Cristine Eastin © 2012