Monday, August 31, 2009

Loving Problematic Spanish

In June 2009, publisher Jordi Nadal, owner of Plataforma Editorial in Barcelona, Spain, published the Spanish edition of the book I wrote with my brother, psychotherapist Bill Klatte -- It's So Hard to Love You -- Staying Sane When Your Loved One is Manipulative, Needy, Dishonest, or Addicted (New Harbinger. 2007.) -- a book for people dealing with difficult personal relationships.
The Spanish edition, Que Dificil es Quererte, is discussed in an article by Clara Bassi for Consumer Eroski, a general interest online magazine from Spain. Based on an email interview between Clara Bassi and me, the article is entitled "Como convivir con un ser querido problematico." 
Clara Bassi's article can also be found at , a website called Bahia Noticias, originating in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Follow the links above to buy the book, read the article, and explore the online magazines.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dealing With Difficult Relationships -- in six languages

When my brother, psychotherapist Bill Klatte, and I published our book It's So Hard to Love You -- Staying Sane When Your Loved One is Manipulative, Needy, Dishonest, or Addicted (New Harbinger 2007) a couple of years ago, it was a most exciting accomplishment. Our purpose in writing this book was to help people learn to deal more effectively with difficult relationships. It has been gratifying to see the book being accepted by over ten thousand English readers.

Over the past several months, It's So Hard to Love You has also been published in Polish and Spanish. The Polish title is Jak kochac klopotliwych bliskich? and is published by sensus. Que Dificil es Quererte was published in June 2009 by Plataforma Editorial in Barcelona, Spain.

Speakers of French, Arabic, and Finnish will also be able to read It's So Hard to Love You in their own languages in the coming months. Keep an eye out for these other three editions.

Word Wonder -- alone

1. Without company; solitary. To live alone

[From the Middle English word al one, meaning "solitary." The word "solitary" comes from the Latin word solus, which means "alone."] - Funk & Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary

The words "alone" and "solitary" are so interwoven and laden with negative meanings that some people feel panicky at the very thought of being alone. Such fears can come from childhood trauma, personality traits, addictions, depression, and so on. Being alone is sometimes tied to feelings of not being safe, of being vulnerable, or of punishment, as in solitary confinement. It's also tied to beliefs that if we are alone, we must be less valuable than others who "have someone."

But look again at the definition of "alone." It simply means solitary, which means "living, being, or going alone." It does not have to mean "lonely," "lonesome," or "less than." Such ideas have been piled on top of these words...but you don't have to accept old definitions.

You can redefine your ideas about being alone. In fact, most of us need time alone to recharge, to get to know ourselves, to rest. You can choose your own definitions for words and for your life.

Word Wonder -- stupid

6. a general term of disparagement

[From the Latin stupidus, which means "struck dumb" which, in turn, comes from stupere, which means "to be stunned"] - Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

"Stupid" is such a loaded word! Yet you can see from its history that its meaning has changed over time. At first it meant "to be stunned." When we're stunned by an event or have received shocking news, we are easily stunned into silence -- struck dumb -- not stupid, just speechless.

Human beings can be nasty, and somehow, somewhere, that word stupere began to be used as an insult. Unfortunately, insults stick really well. So now, the word "stupid" is thrown around for all sorts of reasons and as a result of many actions and inactions. "He's so stupid." "How could you be so stupid?!"

This hurtful word is intended to make someone feel inferior. Many people learn the incorrect lesson that they are inferior to others, so they learn to accept -- and dish out -- the label "stupid".

But you can rethink your use of this word. You can distance yourself from its negative definitions by considering the following:

* Taking your time to speak is not stupid.

* Being different is not stupid.

* Lack of knowledge does not equal stupidity. Do you know anyone who knows everything? I don't know how to repair a car, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid; I just don't know how to repair a car.

* Making a mistake is not stupid. Every single human being makes mistakes, and some of them are very useful. Microwaves were accidentally found to melt the chocolate in a scientist's pocket. Silly putty was found by mistake when scientists were seeking a substitute for rubber. Somebody clumsily fell through an old floor and found King Tut's tomb. A woman who thought chunks of chocolate would melt and make the cookies chocolate made a really delicious mistake when she found out the chunks didn't melt completely.

Even if your mistakes don't lead to major discoveries for humankind, they still do not make you stupid. Ask yourself, "Would it help if I change what I'm doing so this doesn't happen again? What can I learn from this? "

You are not stupid. Period. You don't have to accept this label, and you don't have to fling it at anyone else.

Links to relationship & personal growth sites

Learning and Violence - extensive website on the effects of violence on people's ability to learn
Manitoulin Family Resources - a community service provider for women, children, and families on Manitoulin Island and the northeast shore of Lake Huron (Espanola and surrounding area): children's services, women's shelter, 24-hour crisis line, court support services, counselling, outreach

New Harbinger Publications - psychology and self-help books since 1973

Ningwakwe Learning Press - First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit literacy and education resources

Ontario Women's Directorate - provides focus for government action on issues of concern to women

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's So Hard to Love a Manipulative Person

Do you have a loved one who tries to manipulate you? Maybe you're not sure if her actions are legitimate or not. Maybe you feel like you're to blame for the lack of harmony between you. Or maybe you feel like you're going crazy almost every time you try to talk to this person.
Well, before you can learn to deal with a manipulative person, it can help if you're clear about what manipulation looks like. Here are five common tactics of this sort of crazy-maker:
  • seems to stubbornly refuse to understand you when you explain something
  • arranges situations to make you look foolish
  • says one thing but does another
  • tries to "make you" feel responsible, inadequate or guilty
  • brings up problems or requests in front of other people, making it hard for you to be honest or to refuse
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be dealing with a manipulative person. So what can you do? You can begin to take control of your part of this relationship without giving up, giving in, or belittling your loved one in return. By adjusting your thoughts and actions, you can improve how you feel about your crazy-making manipulator and deal more effectively with his behaviour.

You have many choices in how you think about and act toward this person. Consider the following responses to the five examples of manipulation listed above:
When she seems to stubbornly refuse to understand what you're saying:
  • Your thoughts --> Remember that though you've spoken as clearly as you can, you cannot force anyone else to understand you, whether they're genuinely trying to comprehend or not.
  • Your actions --> Say your piece only once. More than that might just be helping her frustrate and manipulate you.
When he arranges a situation to make you look foolish:
  • Your thoughts --> However embarrassing this is, know that his (or anyone's) opinion of you is far less important than your opinion of yourself.
  • Your actions --> You can remain silent or state calmly that his version is not the whole story. Then you can leave the situation or stay, depending on your preference.
When she says one thing but does something else:
  • Your thoughts --> You might need to learn not to count on what she says, even if she seems sincere. You don't have to let her sincerity or deceitfulness rule your choices.
  • Your actions --> Don't base your plans on her plans. Make your own plans, which can include your loved one if you choose.
When he tries to "make you" feel responsible, inadequate or guilty:
  • Your thoughts --> Remember that no matter how much you love this person, and no matter what he says, you are in charge of your own choices and feelings.
  • Your actions --> You can say something like, "That seems to be how you see it, but I see it differently." Then do or don't do whatever seems best to you in that situation.
When she makes requests or statements in front of other people that feel embarrassing or difficult to respond to:
  • Your thoughts --> Keep in mind that manipulative people want to feel superior and on top of things, but that you do not need to accept their actions or let them determine what you say or do.
  • Your actions --> You might stay silent, or you might calmly say something like, "This isn't a good time for us to talk about this, but I'm willing to talk about it later."
These few suggestions can give you some ideas for taking a new direction. You do not have to allow anyone else to manipulate your feelings, thoughts or actions. Why they do this is less important than how you respond, so put your valuable energy into creating new responses, and you'll find new energy to live your life -- no matter how your loved one chooses to live his or hers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Choice is Yours

A few years ago, I was dealing with a difficult family situation that was bringing on a lot of stress, frustration and resentment. As I wrote and doodled about the situation in my journal, I printed a question in big, stressed letters: "So What Am I Going To Do About It?". I think I wrote and printed it several times, taking out my frustration and confusion on the paper and pen.

After a while, I noticed all those capital letters and wrote them down, too: S-W-A-I-G-T-D-A-I? The acronym looked almost like a word, and I pronounced it "swag-tuh-day." I thought, Well, Kate, what are you going to do about it? SWAIGTDAI? I spent a while coming up with possible answers to that question and slowly worked my way out of my frustration and confusion. The situation didn't go away instantly, but I found ways to handle it that worked for me and didn't include striking out at anybody.

I told my family about SWAIGTDAI and how it was helping me focus on my options and strengths, and we started to use it in all sorts of situations. We quickly found it can also work when you say it -- with love, not sarcasm -- to someone else: SWAYGTDAI? So What Are You Going To Do About It? Both versions of SWAIGTDAI are meant as gentle and firm reminders that we have choices, even if we can't see them at first or don't like them.

For example, if a family member steals from me, I have several choices in how I respond:
  • scream and yell
  • cry
  • talk calmly with the thief
  • tell everybody in the family about it
  • not talk about it at all
  • give the silent treatment
  • kick the person out
  • call the police
  • not call the police
  • etc.
Some of those possibilities might seem so obvious that they don't look like choices at all, but they are. And every one of them is in my power to act on or not act on, even though the whole situation and my possible reactions might feel difficult at the time.
Every day, every hour, and minute brings choices for us to make. We can make choices that work for us or against us. We can think, feel, and act in ways that ease a tough situation or make it harder. So when you feel confused, frustrated, or just plain stuck, ask yourself, "SWAIGTDAI?" Then be willing to try the answers you get.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Build a Short Fence in Your Tough Relationship

Some relationships are tricky. You ride up and down, in and out, and still you hang on as best you can, even when the going gets tough. If you have problems with somebody you love – your spouse, son, aunt, friend, or whomever – you know how exhausting and scary this roller coaster ride can be.

Relationships like this are described well in these lines from the song, “Put Some Love into It,” by
The Laws, a married duo from Seeleys Bay, Ontario, Canada:

Life can be a bed of roses,
Sometimes it’s just a bed of nails.
You’re up one day, down the next, it never fails.

People want their relationships to bring love, companionship, fun, support, and happiness. But if you're in a relationship that brings the opposite -- chaos, worry, sadness, frustration, hurt -- you might be feeling very discouraged. So what can you do to smooth out the ups and downs of your difficult relationship? How can you feel more peaceful and less worn out?
...By changing your approach and your thinking. You can consider new ideas, learn new skills, and change your actions. Take a look at this:
Imagine that you have next-door neighbours whose messy yard really bugs you and even messes up your yard. Their weeds broadcast seeds that take hold in your lawn. Their overflowing garbage can smells awful, and their dog drags the refuse onto your porch. They never cut their grass. Rusting cars and old appliances fight for space in the front yard. But as much as their stuff bothers you, are you going to go over there and weed the garden, haul the junk to the dump, and cut the grass? Not likely. Why not? Because it's their mess, not yours.
The same is true for your troublesome loved one's life. It's his mess, not yours -- even though it sometimes messes up your life and even though you love him. So since the mess is not yours, and you didn't cause it, and you can't control it, how about trying something different?
Here's a useful tool to help you do that. Picture a short fence, about knee height, standing up between you and your problematic loved one (between your yard and his messy yard). Now, each time your relative or friend gets drunk or yells at his kids or gets fired, picture yourself walking right up to that short fence. But you do not step over the fence, even though it's low enough for you to do so. You stop at the fence because whatever is on the other side belongs to your loved one, not to you. Picture yourself feeling love for that person, and then turn around and walk away. Find something to do that pleases you. Get a hug from somebody else. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Do something that helps you stay on your side of the short fence and respect that your loved one's life (messy yard) is theirs to fix, not yours.
Here are two examples of how to stay on your side of the short fence:
  • If your sister comes over when she's drunk and wants to drink your booze, don't try to convince her to stop drinking. You could tell her you'll talk with her when she's sober or when she decides to get help, but you won't help her drink. Your short fence reminds you that you cannot control her drinking, and her drinking problem isn't yours to fix.
  • When your husband gives you the silent treatment because he's angry with you, remember that how he reacts to you is not yours to fix. You did not make him choose that reaction, and you can't make him change it. Even though the silent treatment can feel painful and confusing, you can choose to stay on your side of the short fence by getting on with your daily activities. You might calmly tell your husband that you're prepared to talk when he's ready and that you're not allowing his anger to make you feel punished. You have things to do, and you're going to enjoy your life with or without his silence or his participation.
An important key to the short fence is that you stay "in your own yard" without pointing your finger at your loved one. The short fence is not an excuse to hurl insults or blame from a safe distance; it's an opportunity to let go of anger and blame and to make positive choices for yourself. It gives you the energy to live your life and, if he decides to change, to be ready to move forward together.
The short fence can help you remember that each of us has his or her own life to live. We are each responsible for our own choices. We cannot change or control anyone but ourselves. With troublesome loved ones (TLOs for short), life and love can certainly feel more like a bed of nails than a bed of roses. However, by living your own life as well as you can (by staying on your side of that short fence), you can start to grow some roses and offer your TLO a healthier form of love. And then, as the Laws’ song goes on to say:

Love can help you climb a mountain,
Take you where you want to go.
No need to be afraid,
So have a little faith, in something we already know...
Don’t hold nothin’ back,
Remember what we’re living for,
And you’ll get so much more.