Friday, December 17, 2010

Coping with Divorce ... by Russ Beck

Case Study

Mary,* a pleasant woman in her mid 40s came in feeling depressed and unsure of herself. She spoke of her 20-plus years of marriage to Bill as having been a struggle from the beginning. She said she even had doubts during the wedding ceremony all those years ago.

Mary expressed regret over everything except her three children: one married, another on a mission and the youngest, a junior in high school. At that point, what should have been a glorious time in her life—preparing to become a grandmother—was instead spent preparing for a divorce, going back into the workforce, and dealing with financial struggles.

Understandably filled with sadness, Mary came to me with questions about her future and her role as a Latter-day Saint woman.

At the heart of Mary’s dilemma was the self-doubt enveloping her. She doubted her ability to ever have a meaningful relationship with a man, she questioned if she was correct in pursuing a divorce, and she wondered if she could go to heaven when she died, because she didn’t “stick it out.” More importantly, Mary felt she was responsible for the pain her children were feeling due to the divorce.

Mary said Bill had been okay as a husband, but he never provided sufficiently for them. He moved from job to job and seemed satisfied at only earning minimum wage. According to Mary, Bill usually left a job because of some perceived wrongdoing by a manager. Mary reached her limit and insisted that he either provide for them or she would divorce him. Bill responded by berating her abilities as a wife and insisted she should sustain him, which according to him meant she should stay by him in all things. He further told her that she was causing the children to suffer and if they fell away from the church, it was her fault.

Mary cried several times as she related this story. She indicated maybe she should just resign herself to going back to Bill and living a miserable life because any other course of action would bring spiritual condemnation.


Mary continued for over twenty years in a bad relationship, hoping for it to improve. The great comfort in her life was her children. Now, however, the kids were starting to head off on their own and she was looking at living as an empty nester with Bill. This caused the lost hopes and dreams of the past to rush in on her as she came to the realization that he was not going to change. Bill felt happy with the status quo. He did not see any reason for change and believed Mary showed a lack of faith. In reality, Mary has endured her suffering for a very long time and it had finally reached a breaking point.

I asked Mary if she believed God loved her. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. I hope so.” I then asked her if God loved her children. To this, she quickly responded “Yes.”

It is often easier to see the good in others. Our intimate knowledge of ourselves causes us to view our faults and mistakes as if looking at them with a magnifying glass.

Mary told me that she had involved God in her decision. She believed He agreed with her decision and in fact that is what gave her the strength to move ahead with the divorce. Even with this knowledge, her critical life decisions were hard and required perseverance.

Real Life Applications

Living with a divorce or any other major disaster in our lives is a difficult experience comprised of numerous complex issues. We fair much better when we follow a few simple guidelines.

Include God in the Decisions: Any crisis will test the limits of what we can endure. We must put our faith into action by calling upon God to assist and guide us in our actions. Then, we must follow His will with trust and resolute firmness. We do not see the “big picture” of this life, but we can be certain that God does. Mary had the conviction of her heart that God was with her, yet she continued to doubt. Eliminating this doubt was the key to her future happiness.

Allow Family and Friends to Help: Mary’s children agreed with her decision and her son on a mission sent letters of support to her. Yet, Mary persisted in the belief that the divorce would ruin their lives. By worrying so much about that, she ran the risk of missing an opportunity of gathering the children close and forming deep, interpersonal ties that will bind them together forever.

Prepare a Plan for the Future: Now is the time to consider many options. Perhaps going back to school is an option? Maybe starting a business? Think outside the box, as we all have abilities and talents beyond working at a burger joint. The plan isn't just for the short term, but for the long haul. In this case, Mary's children were older and two were out of the home. She needed to consider that in her plans.

Visit with a Professional Counselor: This offers the chance to work through feelings and emotions in strict confidence. It also give the opportunity to gain objective viewpoints on future plans.

Recognize the Strength Within: Remember, life isn’t fair. We really should be glad for that, because in the unfairness comes an opportunity for growth. We are so much more than the mere flesh and bone we’ve become so accustomed to. Within, we are dynamic beings capable of miraculous achievements. Tapping into this knowledge enables us to navigate the rough seas of divorce, death, or other tragedies.

Until next time …

~ Russ

* Names have been changed.

-----© Russ Beck-----

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Long Distance Grandparenting ... by Russ Beck

In this fast paced, unrelentingly mobile world, we often find ourselves living in one location while loved ones are living thousands of miles away. In the case of being a grandparent this can be emotionally painful. The expectation we carry in our mind is one of Sunday dinners spent with the grandchildren laughing and playing. Although some fortunate people have this, the majority actually do not.

So, what are we to do then? We live in one place while our children have moved for work to another part of the country, taking with them our precious grandchildren. Certainly, we can attempt to move to the new location, but it is generally expensive and not a practical solution for many. There is always the problem of relocating, only to have them move again. Few, if any, of us have the financial freedom to traipse around the country following our children.

The one action we don't want to take is to do nothing. The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is all too true. We must face the challenge and be proactive in our attempts to maintain a relationship with our grandkids and have influence in their developing lives.

Here are a few ideas to help maintain a long-distance relationship:

Learn and Use Technology
There is a great deal to learn with today’s technological advancements, presenting a challenge that's not to be feared, but rather to be embraced. Continuing to learn and stretch our capabilities at any age is beneficial. We gather skills, which improve our self-esteem. We are engaged in problem solving which has advantages in other areas of life, and we become positive examples to our grandchildren. Additionally, if we need assistance, we can usually turn to our grandchildren for help! This also improves our relationship with them. But, when using technology, don’t think one dimensionally—utilize several methods of communication.

The vast majority of people now have cell phones. Often our grandchildren will also have a cell phone of their own. Be sure to have their number and make sure they have yours. Call them when appropriate, but also learn how to send and receive a text. The youth of today communicate with each other in a variety of ways. Texting is one of the most exciting for them. It can be tricky to get the hang of it, but think of how pleased they will be when they receive a text saying, “Thinking of you. Hope you have a good day.” Most likely, a lightening fast reply of “u2.” will appear on our end.

We may feel like we're learning a new language with texting, but again, learning a new language helps keep our cognitive abilities sharp!

Once the major vogue, email has started to take a step back. However, it is important to remember that our goal is to have multiple methods of communicating with our grandchildren. So, send an occasional email. We should try not to be too lengthy, but be sure to convey love and concern for them, as well as express what activities we're doing. This is a chance to be a little more in depth than a text message, and allows for the development of a deeper relationship.

Computer Novelties
Send an occasional e-card from one of the many web sites available. There are a number of different kinds to choose from, and some cost money, while others are free. We also need to consider what types of things our grandchildren like so we can make it a goal to surprise them with a card that will appeal to them personally.

Sending photos by email is an excellent way of not only being more personal, but of giving them a digital file they can save and reopen frequently. Anyone unskilled in this area can check with a local senior center for classes or check with church members who may be willing to help. Again, we want to try to have the photo depict us involved in an activity. This gives the grandkids more info about our lives and our personalities. Remember, we are building relationships.

Look for fun, interactive web sites which allow sharing something together. With our granddaughter, we found a cute web site that allowed the user to build a little squid. She was able to decide the size and color, as well as name it. Once released into the digital ocean, it would have various experiences, some funny and some dangerous. Our granddaughter would call us and ask us to look up her squid on the computer and tell her what it was doing. It was great fun for all.

Web Cam
This amazing advancement allows real time face-to-face contact. We look directly into the eyes of our grandchildren and talk with them the same, as if they were sitting across from us. It is remarkably simple and affordable.

Started 7 years ago, this is now the leading Internet global communications company. Their program and system offers calling as well as video conferencing through the computer. It offers a great opportunity to maintain contact with the grandkids and is pocketbook friendly... you can do it for free!

Snail Mail
This is more of an old school type of approach, but it is still significant. Everyone still loves to go to the mailbox and get a letter or card. There is still something precious about written material. Perhaps it is the personal touch or the knowledge that it takes more time than a text or email and thereby signifies love. Don’t neglect the power or impact of this mode of communication.

All good relationships require effort. Today we have the advantage of utilizing multiple forms of communication to keep us in touch with our grandchildren who live far from us. The trick is to use several of the different means of contact and not just one. We may not be able to have them over for Sunday dinner, but we can be a part of their lives and in return, they can still be an important part of ours.

Until next time …

~ Russ

------© Russ Beck, 2010------

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Overcoming Pornography ... by Russ Beck

Last time we discussed the ravages of pornography upon the individual, family, and society. Now let’s take a look at ways of overcoming this insidious vice.

Have you ever tried to lose weight? I know when I decide to lose a few pounds, I immediately start to fixate upon food. Ice cream, cake, breads, mashed potatoes, and tons of other delicious treats become the focus of my thoughts. The moment I decide to force my will and overcome eating, I find I can think of nothing else but eating. This holds true for any habit we want to end. Smoking for example is one of the most difficult addictions to defeat. People would rather give up food than give up their cigarettes. So, what are we to do?

Ask Why
The very first thing to do is look inside and figure out why there needs to be a change. What is the motivation for change ... becoming a better person, saving the marriage, being a better father or mother, son or daughter? Is the motivation that's chosen strong enough to help overcome the whirlpool of temptation which will assuredly come?

Find a Reason
In my experience, the greatest motivation is "other" oriented. Attempting to accomplish any task for the purpose of another person or for a cause almost always gives added strength to the resolution to change.

I know a man who managed to quit smoking because he didn’t want his infant son to grow up and become a smoker. In times of stress or temptation, he was able to focus upon this righteous desire, look at his son, and receive added strength to overcome this powerful addiction. Ultimately, he did quit smoking and hasn’t smoked for over 30 years.

Being a part of a larger purpose gives the strength to overcome. Indeed, this is true in war. Those units which had a greater sense of brotherhood, fought harder. People are always willing to give more of themselves when it means helping others they care about deeply.

While examining the reasons for quitting pornography, it helps to recognize how much it hurts loved ones. Those selling the filth of lust often peddle the belief that it doesn’t hurt anyone and is victimless. This is a great lie. Everyone is hurt by pornography. Those who suffer the most are immediate family members.

When considering the reasons for change, it's beneficial to reflect upon not only the behaviors to change, but also new behaviors to acquire to replace the old ones that are bound to pornography . Change is ever occurring, so thoughtfully consider life's current direction and where it will end up. Mentally ask, "Is this the person I want to be?"

Use Visualization
The best process for change is visualization. This means seeing one's self in the future as a person who does not view pornography. Picture the details of what this person does instead of watching pornography. Imagine even small details to the picture. How does he go about his day and how does he treat people?

Crystallize the view of that new self until that presence can be felt within. Do this every day, several times a day. Start living life as this person and soon, the necessary changes will be within reach and then, accomplished. Mentally rehearse how this "new you" would respond to temptations and consider how to better occupy time instead of spending it viewing pornography. The more detailed the visualizations are, the better equipped the mind is to handle the temptations when they occur.

Additionally, become re-involved with family. Spend time walking, talking, playing games, and loving the people that matter the most. In this lies a hidden strength that will generate great power in overcoming the longing to view pornography.

Monitor Your Monitor
To help with re-focusing on family, place a meaningful photo of loved ones next to the computer monitor. Listen to uplifting music, and never use the computer in a closed room. At night, if unable to sleep, go and read from a good book until sleep comes along rather than going to the computer in the dark.

I once had a client who read the Old Testament when he couldn't sleep. He found that he quickly became sleepy and returned to bed.

The process of change takes time but by consistent and persistent effort, success will happen! The key lies in proper motivation, visualization, and monitoring your monitor.

It has been said that life is not a process of having and getting, but of being and becoming. Always try to become the best person you can be.

Until next time …

~ Russ


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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes ... by Russ Beck

By the pricking of my thumbs,
something wicked this way comes.
Macbeth Act 4, scene 1

There is an oft-told story of a clever fox who sold fat, juicy worms to a bird. The cost was only a feather. At the beginning, it wasn't difficult for the bird to find a loose, unimportant feather to give in payment. Over time, however, the desire to find worms for himself lessened. He eventually lost the keen knack of treading lightly upon the ground and cocking his head just right, in order to see and hear the slight movement which revealed the presence of a worm. Instead, he continued to pay the price to the fox. Eventually, the bird ended up looking molted, with only primary flying feathers remaining. Upon pulling out a particularly painful and necessary feather, the bird lost the ability to fly. Then, the fox proceeded to eat him.

There is a similar situation in our society today, and its name is pornography. It's a pernicious, nefarious activity with deadly consequences, offering simple pleasure with just a mouse click or two and existing under the guise of not really harming anyone.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.” Truly, sitting just under the surface of pornographic pleasure lie many deadly hooks and barbs waiting to ensnare those who dare to enter its temping allure. Below are some of the consequences exacted by those who delve into the fetid arena of pornography.

Loss of Self-esteem
The overall appraisal of self and the resulting feelings of worth are called self-esteem. Becoming involved in a degrading behavior that elicits secretive conduct and runs counter to one's moral compass causes self-confidence to wane. Low self-esteem will show its effects in multiple areas of life. A common symptom is depression and feelings of worthlessness.

Loss of Sensitivity to Lovely Things
Just as hard physical labor can cause calluses to form on the hands, a constant bombardment of pornographic material will create spiritual calluses. This is a result of selfishness. The ability to look upon innocence is dulled as the mind surrenders to more vulgar appetites.

Loss of Compassion for Others
Another direct result of pornography is the practice of thinking more of personal wants and desires than the needs of others, even loved ones. Engaging in this practice too long creates a hard personality wherein satisfying one's appetite is all important.

Loss of Patience
As self-esteem declines, an individual involved in pornography becomes overly sensitive to perceived criticism and is easily irritated. Attitudes take on a paranoid flavor and there is increasingly less time and concern for others. Even innocent comments made in jest by family members are met with a harsh over-reaction. This explosion of temper causes undeserved, hurt feelings for family and friends.

Loss of Trust
The great keystone of any relationship is trust. It has been rightly said that it is better to be trusted than to be loved. Someone who is trusted is loved, but it is sadly true that it is possible to love someone that can't be trusted. When a peruser of pornography is caught, it marks the destruction of confidence and reliance in that individual. From that point on, all actions become suspect. The process of re-establishing trust is a long and difficult task. It can be done, but it is significantly better to not destroy the confidence of a spouse and family members.

Loss of Family
The ultimate tragedy is the dissolution of the family. Sometimes the loss of trust, coupled with the other symptomatic responses to involvement with pornography, result in divorce and the end of the family. Also, viewing pornography naturally leads one to fantasizing about sexual dalliances, and what the mind thinks on, the body acts upon. How many people would play Russian roulette with a spouse or child? None that have any common sense! Yet, exposure to this evil is just as deadly and carries consequences which may affect future generations.

Is pornography really a victimless endeavor? It is not. The list of those injured is long. It is a modern day plague upon our society and especially upon families. The old saying of playing with fire doesn’t quite seem adequate. Perhaps it truly is more like playing Russian roulette, only with a fully loaded gun!

Just as the witches in Macbeth were able to see "something wicked this way comes," it's easy to see that the wicked vice consuming our society is pornography. The question often asked is, "What can those who are ensnared do to free themselves?" The road isn't easy, but it can be done, and I'll discuss a few thoughts on that in an upcoming article.

Until then …

~ Russ


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Does Going Back to School Ring a Bell?

© Russ Beck

It has been many years since attending my last class in graduate school. The most notable and formative years, however, were from grade school through the end of high school, while passing through the gauntlet of tests, homework, gym, dating, and a myriad of social and academic challenges.

Being so far removed from the rigors of attending school, you would think it would play a small role in my life but that is not the case. During times of stress I still dream about being late for a class and running around the halls trying to find the right classroom. Or, another dream is that of running out of time and trying to remember the combination to my locker. But, my most nauseating dream has me sitting at a desk in a class where I have no idea what is being taught, knowing the teacher is about to ask the class a question and praying she won’t call on me.

Do any of these dreams sound familiar? This is just one indication of the impact school years can have on an individual.

As adults, we are well aware of the tremendous stress our places of employment put upon us. We worry about keeping our job or we complain about having our job. We say we work for an idiot or we're the supervisor of idiots. And most of us feel we don’t make enough money.

But, are we aware of the stress our children endure in their jobs as students? They encounter a host of difficult situations during those most formative years. Children can be bullied and afraid for their safety. They can be struggling with maintaining grades or feeling they don't have any friends. Or, feeling the friends they have are not loyal.

I think we can find that the school years are a time of not only learning educationally, but a time of learning who we are and who we might want to be. As parents, we can offer help for our children in several ways.

Pay attention to your children's behaviors. Are they different than they used to be? Are there signs of excessive worry or concern? Is it simply nervousness at being in a new grade? Or is there a real problem?

Take time to visit with your children and hear what their concerns or accomplishments are. Not only does communicating help them to establish a good relationship with you, but they will also be learning a valuable lesson on how to be a good parent. My father passed away almost 18 years ago and I still have times when I wish I could call him and discuss what is going on in my life. We need to take advantage of the precious gift of time we have now while our children are young.


Let them know that you are on their side. Whatever you can do to help their world be safer, more secure, and make a little more sense, will do wonders for helping to ease the stress of their lives. Ask questions, dig around a little, and make sure you understand what the issues are in their lives, and then offer to do what you can to help.

Lastly, those of us who are LDS can utilize the Priesthood and offer a blessing to each of our children at the start of the school year. It is an opportunity where, as members of the church, we can do our best advocacy work by imploring the God of Heaven to be with and protect our children. They, too, will feel of this and know of not only our love, but of God’s love as well.

School years can be difficult, but they are actually a great preparation for life. The lessons learned during that time remain with people throughout their lives. And the relationships we establish with our children during their school years can remain for eternity.

Until next time …

~ Russ


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Friday, July 9, 2010

Five Tips to Strengthen Your Marriage ... by Russ Beck

Photo © Jason Hutchens, Wikimedia Commons

In today’s difficult world, it is often hard to take time to smell the roses. Too often we feel so thrust upon by the thorns of adversity that we neglect the very essence of our potential happiness–our spouse.

The magazine, Psychology Today, defines marriage as “…the process by which two people who love each other make their relationship public, official, and permanent. It is the joining of two people in a bond that putatively lasts until death, but in practice is increasingly cut short by divorce.”

Unfortunately, the divorce rate is far too high and seems to be growing. Couples are leaving each other for any number of reasons. I once had a couple in counseling that were on the precipice of divorce and one of his major complaints consisted of the way she squeezed the toothpaste. He started each morning with a little irritation that grew and festered until he only saw her as the source of all his frustration in life. The solution of having "his" and "hers" toothpastes never occurred to them. Of course, there were other issues, but it was very interesting that this was the focal point for his side of wanting a divorce.

In 1995, a comprehensive review of research on marriage indicated that the best predictors of divorce are negative interpersonal interactions, such as lack of respect for each other, frequent expressions of anger, and similar destructive behaviors.

What then is a couple to do living in a world where divorce is becoming so widely accepted? How are they to find joy and happiness?

As with all things of importance in our lives, the answer lies in work. We need to recognize that work is good. Without work, we do not grow. It doesn’t matter if the work is our job, our garden, our church calling, or our marriage. We have come to think of work as a negative, and that play and fun are the only positives. We need to re-frame the way we think and feel about work.

President Spencer W. Kimball, past leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “Two people coming from different backgrounds learn soon after the ceremony is performed that reality must be faced. They must assume responsibility and accept new duties. Some personal freedoms must be relinquished, and many unselfish adjustments, must be made.”

In other words, we must work at building a valuable relationship which will pay multiple dividends of joy and happiness in the years to come. Just as you would not expect much to come of a garden where you watered and weeded only every other week, so too with the marriage relationship. It must be nurtured and cared for regularly and consistently.

Listed below are five suggestions for strengthening a marriage. If practiced routinely, they will help the most important relationship in your life to grow and flourish.

Listen to Your Spouse
In most of our conversations we miss what someone else is saying because we're so busy thinking about what we want to say. For example, when you meet someone for the first time, how difficult is it to remember their name? We must work on really taking the time to quit whatever it is we are doing (computer game, texting, watching TV, etc.) and pay attention to what our spouse is saying. We live in a world where “multitasking” is held up as a skill to be sought after, but in reality, we need to recognize the need to give our spouse our full and undivided attention.

Give to Your Spouse
There are a great many pressures on our time. We sometimes feel as though we are being split into a million little pieces which are given to an endless array of tasks. From our places of employment, to tending the kids, to volunteering service, we are constantly giving of our time and abilities. It is therefore vital that at the top of our list for giving should be our spouse. Too often just the opposite is true and we end up with too little to give to the one to whom we’ve pledged our eternal devotion.

Surprise Your Spouse
Think of ways to show your spouse you're thinking of them. In our world of mass communications, there are many creative ways to accomplish this. Texting, email, written notes in a lunch sack, e-cards, notes on the pillow, small gifts, etc. All of these are just a few of the many ways you can say a quick, “I love you” to your sweetheart.

Compliment Your Spouse
Like the song of old, you must, “Accentuate the positive.” Our world can often turn negative as you listen to all the calamities caused by nature and by man. Our anxiety for the future rises and it is too easy to only see the bad. You need to be sure and tell your spouse how much you appreciate all they do for you. Tell your spouse how attractive they are to you, both physically and spiritually. Let him/her know that their daily acts of service to you and the family do not go unnoticed. Be swift with a kind word and appreciative praise.

Be Faithful to Your Spouse
You must be faithful and loyal to your spouse in all your daily actions and conversations. This includes not only physical fidelity, but emotional, as well. As you go about your daily routines, care must be taken to remain true to the covenants you've made.

The most important person in your life is your marriage partner. By adhering to the five tips above you can work at building a lasting relationship which will provide a bounteous harvest as the years pass by.

Until next time …

~ Russ


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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Avoiding Addiction Triggers

© Russ Beck, May 2010

The other day while working in the house, I heard my dog, Corky, barking from the kitchen. This was not his normal bark telling me there was a stray cat in the yard, nor his answer to a neighbor dog, calling out the latest news. This bark had a little bit of distress to its timbre. As I walked into the kitchen to locate the source of his difficulty, I noticed him staring intently at the full-to-the-brim kitchen trash. I'd intended to take it out earlier that morning, but it slipped my mind. Corky pointed his nose at a napkin, hanging over the edge and just at eye level.

The little dog loves to chew on napkins. He not only chews on them, he shreds them, leaving tiny bits and pieces all over. Sometimes he even eats them. However, he knows this love affair with napkins is a forbidden activity for him.

Just what was he trying to tell me as he barked and stared at the temptation? From past experience, I knew he was calling for help. He really wanted that paper dessert, but he also knew that he would be in trouble if he took it and shredded it all over the kitchen.

I told him he was a good boy, then I emptied the trash, thereby removing the temptation. He calmed down and went about his normal routine.

There's a good analogy for all of us in that story. How often do we see temptation, then flirt and toy with it, only to succumb in the end? Why flirt with temptation when it would be better to avoid it or seek help in overcoming it? And how much stronger is the temptation when there's an addiction involved?

Once an addiction has started to become a part of someone's life, there are many situations which have the potential to draw them back into the web of addiction. How aware they are of these triggers and how they deal with them ultimately determines their success in not returning to addictions.

For most people, a major trigger is stress. This can be stress from a job, family, unemployment, neighbors, etc. Stress is a killer in many ways, but for someone overcoming an addiction it is deadly. Learning how to live with stress and not use the familiar addictive coping mechanisms from the past is hard. Recognizing the stressful situations gives us the opportunity of choosing the next course of action and not just reacting to the stress in old destructive patterns of behavior.

For example, I love eating ice cream. However, I need to lose a few pounds and I’m diabetic, so I need to be careful about what I eat. If I have a difficult day at work and then come home to find the wind has blown shingles off my roof and flung the pine tree into the street, I know I’ll be stressed. If next I go to the store thinking I'll pick up something quick for dinner before I start cleaning up the shingles, and instead I start to walk slowly down the ice cream aisle, I’m placing myself in danger. Additionally, if I pause to look at the different varieties of ice cream, I’m increasing the level of danger. Ultimately, I’ll open the door, handle the ice cream container and before long, it’s in the cart and in my tummy in short order.

That example makes it clear that the more we are able to identify what our particular triggers are, the better we’ll be able to develop new coping measures.

For fun, clink on the following link below and look at the pictures:,29307,1626481,00.html Do they entice you to want to eat or not? If weight, or over-eating is a problem, or you believe you have a food addiction, which pictures might be a trigger for you and which ones wouldn't?

One trick in objectively identifying triggers is called mindfulness. It means to become aware of ourselves in a non-judgmental manner so we can be more objective without being accusatory. Techniques such as meditation, prayer and quiet reflection are ways to accomplish this. Another good technique is keeping a journal. Combined with these are deep breathing and listening to peaceful, relaxing music. Mindfulness exercises place us in a position to view ourselves in a more lenient fashion. They also offer an opportunity to choose our future actions in a calm state of being.

All of these mindfulness behaviors assist us in tending the garden of our mind. It is important to remember that just as an unattended garden will produce weeds, so too will an unattended mind.

To bring us back to the example in the beginning, with Corky, the dog, I now try to be more like him when I notice old, destructive behavior patterns starting to surface. I bark for help from those around who love me.

Try the tips that I've mentioned above and see if they don't help ... no matter what you're trying to overcome.

Until next time …

~ Russ


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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Am I Addicted to My Addictions?

© Russ Beck, May 2010

Photo: Dorina Andress (Eberswalde), Wikimedia Commons

Last month's article elicited a comment from Anonymous, who asked if emotional eating is considered an addiction. As I thought about it, I felt compelled to address the issue.

Years ago, the term addiction referred specifically to the use of drugs and alcohol. Both of those create a chemical dependency which causes the body to require more and more of the drug/alcohol in order to reach the same level of desired result. When the user stops taking it, the body goes into withdrawal, which is a very painful physiological process. In many instances, without proper medical intervention withdrawal can lead to death. For example, an alcoholic who drinks excessively may go into a drunken stupor and have DTs (delirium tremens). Ultimately, the individual may experience hallucinations, along with severe, life threatening neurological and physiological changes.

The American Psychiatric Association gives the following indicators for addiction and dependence (three or more of the following in a twelve-month period).

1.Tolerance as defined by any of the following:
• a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect
• markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance

2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
• the characteristic withdrawal symptom of the substance
• the same or a closely related substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended (loss of control)

4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use (loss of control)

5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance or recover from its effects (preoccupation)

6. Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use (continuation despite adverse consequences)

7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (adverse consequences)

Today, however, the word "addiction" has taken on a much broader meaning, and a new term is floating aroundbehavioral addiction. This idiom covers all addictive actions which are not in connection with alcohol or drugs. It's now common for people to refer to a vast array of addictions:
Eating (particularly junk food)

These are just some of the “addictions” which have been mentioned in the news. There are recent articles about tanning beds being addictive and even the addictive properties of salt. In the midst of all this, some scientists are quick to blame genetics, and on April 26, 2010, the BBC reported on a study that states individuals can blame their genes if they smoke too much.

It seems there is no end to the number or types of addictions.

The difficulty with the above behaviors being classified as addictions is that there is a denial of the concept of personal responsibility. Can one really be addicted to a behavior? Or is it perhaps not an addiction, but a developed habit with psychological dependencies that make it very difficult to break? When someone is actually addicted to a drug, there is a real loss of control over at least a portion of his/her actions. The individual can’t help himself, because he is, after all, addicted. Addicts generally have to go through a detox process where the substance abused is reduced until none is needed.

And therein lies the real conundrum with behavioral addictions.

In my experience, most people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs deny it for a very long time. People with “behavioral addictions” are quick to say they are addicted. The question is ... if both are real addictions, why is there a difference between the two? Is the difference an indicator, or just happenstance? This is an issue that Anonymous needs to ponder, as well as considering what is to be gained/lost by saying emotional eating is an addiction. However, regardless of addiction or habit, in order to break the cycle there are triggers which must be recognized and dealt with. Perhaps that's an issue that in Anonymous' case is key to changing the emotional eating pattern.

Triggers are a certainly a topic worth pursuing, and so I'll use them as a starting point for my next discussion.

Until then …

~ Russ


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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Musings on Change

© Russ Beck

Photo by Aude, Wikimedia Commons

The past week I had a discussion with a fellow therapist. He said he wanted to change his eating habits. His waist was expanding and walking across the Utah State Hospital campus proved to be a challenge for him. I listened as I thought about my own past struggles with change. It is a difficult process and without proper motivation, it’s darn near impossible to accomplish.

I remember one such event when in my younger years, I decided to change the way the refrigerator door opened. It swung from left to right, which blocked the way into the kitchen. A minor inconvenience, but something I wanted to alter by having the door swing from right to left.

One Saturday morning I gathered my tools together and started the process of taking off the door. I knew I needed to move swiftly as the cool air wafting down upon me reminded me it was still full of food. Unplugging the white behemoth so the motor did not run constantly, I began the process of re-hanging the door.

After an hour, and several scraped knuckles, I managed to get the door on the way I wanted. I paused for a moment and admired my handiwork, amid the now much warmer food. Dusting myself off, I put away my tools and waltzed into the computer room to tell my wife what a great job I had done. She mumbled something, waved her hand in the air and went back to typing the newest chapter in her book.

That night, I woke up around 3 am to use the restroom. On the way, I shuffled into the kitchen to get a glass of cold water from the fridge. Still more than half-asleep, my mind was on autopilot. Pausing in front of the door I automatically reached for the handle. What a shock when my hand slammed into the door where the handle used to be. Biting my lip to keep from saying something the rest of the house would hear, I opened my eyes wide to figure out just what had gone wrong.

Now, fully awake, I muttered to myself about changing the dumb door and all the accolades of earlier faded away like wisps of smoke from a dying fire. I realized what a mistake this had been. Rubbing my sore hand, I returned to bed where I spent the next hour staring at the ceiling, fully awake. I thought about what a waste of time this project had been and how tired I would be at work tomorrow.

After an especially long day at work, I got home, gathered my tools once again and prepared to rectify my problem. My wife looked at me, shook her head, and proceeded to fix dinner. I knew she was impressed with me and probably would say so to the other sisters in the ward.

As I unplugged the refrigerator and lifted my wrench in preparation for taking the handle off, I opened the door just a crack. A blast of cold air swept across my face. Coming to my senses, I hesitated, and pondered what I was about to do.

This was nuts. I knew the reasons for switching the door in the first place were valid. Why had I changed my mind? Moreover, why was I so quick to put things back as they were before?
Closing the door, I walked into the family room to contemplate my situation.

OK, I made the change because it would make for easier access when taking items from the refrigerator to the kitchen for meal preparation. It only made good sense. So what went wrong? I thought again about last night when in sleepy stupor I hit my hand causing me to wake up and have a difficult day at work due to lack of sleep.

Then it came to me. Even though I knew that over time I would adapt to the new way the door opened, I still had to go through the transition time and it would be “painful.”

I laughed at myself and resolved to endure the transition in order to achieve my desired goal.

It has now been many years and another house ago since that event. I still marvel at how difficult making such a minor change was in my life. We all need to recognize the transition stage of change is hard and there will be a large desire to go back to the way things were, but we must persist. Whenever we decide to make a change in our life, the transition time will be long and difficult. It can, however, be overcome with patience, persistence, understanding and proper motivation. By sticking it out we will eventually relish in the harvest of positive change.

Until next time …

~ Russ

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Borderline Personality Disorder

Alfred Adler, founder of Adlerian Psychology

Case Study

Bob,* a clean cut, twenty-two year-old college student sat attentively in the chair. He came to see me with several of his roommates, who were sitting in the waiting room. Bob was the one chosen to be their spokesperson.

“It’s about Sean,” Bob said. “He’s a nice enough guy, but he keeps us all going at one another, and we’re constantly running around trying to help him out of his difficult situations.

“Last night Sean was fired from his job at the pizza parlor. He said all the other workers hated him because he was a good worker and they were jealous. Now, he’s upset because it means he doesn’t have enough money for school and he’ll have to drop out. We all talked about ways to help and things he could do, but he always comes up with reasons why they wouldn’t work.”

Bob slumped back into the soft recliner. “We’re tired. This has been going on all semester. My grades are going down the tubes. We think he must be bipolar.”

I questioned Bob about his knowledge of Sean’s past. According to Bob, Sean was an abused child who felt alone, and his parents divorced near his eighth birthday. Sean lived with his mother, but sometimes ran away to live with his father, who ignored him in favor of drinking and carousing. Sean attempted suicide in high school by taking aspirin, as well as cutting on his wrists with a razor.

Sean’s roommates felt bad for him and wanted to help. Bob said he was the one who actually found the job for Sean at the pizza parlor, only three weeks ago. As we talked, Bob leaned forward, desperate for assistance. “What can we do? Isn’t there some medication we can give him if he's bipolar?”

I doubted a Bipolar diagnosis, and believed Sean suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, so I asked Bob, “When Sean is down or angry, does this last for a week or more?”

“Oh no, he can be mad one minute and then singing a song the next. His moods swing like crazy.”

“OK,” I said. “Has Sean ever gone long periods of time without sleep and felt OK?”

Bob gazed out the window as he gathered his thoughts. “Well, I really don’t know. Sometimes, when he hasn’t been home all night, we suspect he's been out partying. Then when he does show up, he skips classes and sleeps all day.”

“And do you all agree that Sean needs your help?”

Bob swallowed and said, “Actually no. Two of our roommates feel he is just a large pain in the rear and needs to get his act together. They think we’re helping him too much, but we argue about it. We all went to high school together, except Sean, and were best friends, but now those two are going to move to a different housing unit next semester. The rest of us felt helping him was the right thing to do.”

I asked Bob what he knew about Borderline Personality Disorder and he said he was unfamiliar with it, so I explained, and told him his answers about Sean's behavior were more indicative of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, not Bipolar.


Bob needed to ask himself a very important question: When is too much help not helping at all?

Sean lived in a world of chaos and he perpetuated that through his behaviors. It wasn’t that he wanted to suck others into a vortex of confusion and frustration, but because that was his world, others unsuspectingly became entrapped in it.

At that point, Bob was so involved with trying to solve Sean’s problems that his world was turned upside down—he was exhausted and frustrated. Yet, no amount of intervention on Bob’s part would ever be enough to “save” Sean.

I told Bob he needed to extricate himself from his relationship with Sean and try to salvage his relationship with his friends. Once Bob understood this, he was visibly relieved.

Real Life Applications

Whenever we find ourselves “shooting someone else’s bullets,” and constantly fighting their battles for them, we need to stop and examine our situation. This is especially true when we are shooting those bullets in the direction of lifetime friends and family.

How to help in difficult relationships:

~ Setting limits: As in all relationships, it's necessary to establish boundaries. No one should be expected to give to the point of losing all that is important. The borderline personality is known for burning out relationships and causing friends to end up as enemies.

~ Communication with others: The case study above shows the need for active communication on the part of all who are involved in the chaos. If friends and family are not on the same page, then relationships can be split and a dear price will be paid. In this case, Bob was able to reconnect with his friends and together they all set limits in their interactions with Sean.

It is difficult in life to draw a line in the sand when it comes to helping others. However, an exhausting relationship may indicate the possibility of a borderline personality. Well-intentioned, good people can often become overwhelmed through their interactions with those suffering from a mental illness, and professional intervention may be the answer.

Until next time …

~ Russ

* Names have been changed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Forgiveness and Trust ... by Russ Beck

Sigmund Freud

Case Study

Jane* slid into the soft leather office recliner. With her elbows on her knees she held her head in her hands and told me she would be crying, except there were no tears left. Her reservoir was empty, depleted from many consecutive days and nights of weeping. After several minutes of silence, she raised her face to look at me. Her weary brown eyes evoked deep compassion within me as I leaned forward in my chair to listen more intently. With a long sigh she stared at the floor and then related the following story.

“My husband had an affair with a young woman he met on the Internet. It went on for a couple of months. I found out about it one day while checking the computer. He had been staying up late into the evening saying he had work to do, but he was consistently coming to bed later and later. I finally got suspicious and while he was out I checked the emails.”

“He finally admitted to it and we’ve worked all through that now. It’s been several months ago. He even went through Church discipline. He’s back to taking the sacrament and we even went to counseling with the bishop several times.”

I nodded my head as she looked up to see if I was still listening.

“Well, anyway, that’s all in the past. Three nights ago he stayed up late to work on some things and I asked him what he was doing. Donny* got all upset and yelled that he had been doing everything he was supposed to be doing. He told me he went through all the embarrassment of meeting with the bishop and having some restrictions placed on his priesthood. He told me I said I forgave him and that I should have more trust in him. Then he stormed out of the room and went to the computer room in the basement.”

Jane gazed into my eyes and said, “I guess I need to learn how to forgive.”


It is easy to get the concepts of forgiveness and trust confused. Many people believe they are the same, when in reality they are completely separate. Both are essential to our spiritual and emotional wellbeing, yet they become entwined in a concept we call love. Herein lies the difficulty in clarifying the difference between forgiveness and trust.

I asked Jane if she had ever purchased a car and she had. I also asked if she would be upset with a car salesman who intentionally sold her a lemon. Again, she said she would be. In working through this scenario Jane admitted she would never buy from the unscrupulous car salesman again. When asked about forgiving him if he came to her and said he was sorry, she thought and said “It wouldn’t be easy, but I would forgive him.” I then asked if she would buy another car from him after that. Jane mulled this over for a long time. The battle between forgiveness and trust raged within her. Finally, she looked at me and said, “I guess so. I’d have to, wouldn’t I?”

I told her forgiveness is a divinely inspired attribute and is freely given. Trust is an essential component of relationships and is earned. It is perfectly healthy to be able to forgive the car salesman and yet still not trust him. Perhaps over time the salesman could regain her trust through other interactions, but the act of forgiveness does not grant immediate and complete trust.

Real Life Applications

We all interact constantly with a wide array of people. Many, we care for deeply. In such cases we are more apt to forgive and trust more easily. But when we are intensely hurt by someone we trust, it takes a good deal of time for that trust to be re-established and this is nothing to feel guilty about. Forgiveness can come much quicker, and indeed we are commanded to forgive one another. Forgiveness involves mercy more than it does trust.

Learning the difference between forgiveness and trust:

~ Forgiveness is a Godlike quality. Jane had a strong belief in God and knew she wasn’t perfect. She, like all of us, desired to have the Lord’s forgiveness. A prerequisite to obtaining this is forgiving others.
~ Trust comes from actions. We understand the Lord has counseled that “The tree is known by his fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) We must look beyond mere words and examine behaviors in order to give trust.

Over time Jane was able to realize that a healthy relationship involved all the aspects of love, forgiveness, mercy, and trust. She also understood that trust lost is not easily regained. Her true task now consisted of teaching this principle to her husband, Donny.

Until next time …

~ Russ

* Names have been changed.