Life According To Lenson Newspaper Column

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

When Mother Nature Strikes the Airport

By Eileen Lenson

January 18, 2014
UNITED STATES—This new year brought with it deadly blasts of arctic air, wreaking havoc

on travelers across most of the country. Record cold single digit temperatures that could cause frostbite in minutes forced school closures. The extreme cold caused train schedule disruptions, homeless shelters to be filled to capacity, and weather related deaths throughout the country due to exposure. Some of those most severely impacted by the coldest weather experienced in two decades were air travelers. Thousands of scheduled flights underwent extended delays and cancellations, creating days of chaos for stranded travelers.

Unlike the upbeat 52 researchers, scientists and tourists stranded for two weeks aboard the Russian ice-locked ship in Antarctica, not all travelers were able to cope well with the delays. Josh, a client of mine traveling for business, found himself grounded for two days at an airport due to flight cancellations. In a telephone coaching session, he reported feeling powerless, anxious and angry, while also concerned about missing important work related meetings due to his inability to travel. He needed help managing his stress.

I taught Josh three techniques for dealing with adversity.

1. Gratitude: We tend to go in the direction in which we are thinking. If we are experiencing events in a negative manner, then our outcome will likely be negative. Josh was certainly headed in this direction. I assigned Josh the task of ending each negative thought or comment with a positive statement. For example, to the end of the thought, “I hate being stuck here”, would have to added “…but I sure am glad I’m not stuck outside in the four degree temperature.”

Josh was skeptical, but he engaged in this task. I called him twice the first day to ask if he was remembering to complete his sentences with gratitude. Josh didn’t hit a home run with this exercise, but it was a new task and he felt it did stop some of the downward spiraling of negativity.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation: Sitting down, with eyes closed and hands on the lap, one begins by breathing deeply and slowly. One learns to be mindful of where stress is located in the body, and then gives it permission to be released. Any distractions or thoughts that enter into the process are gently acknowledged without judgment and then dismissed. One then begins to visualize stress being removed from the body, starting at the top of the head and progressing down through the eyebrows, lips, chin, neck, and so on through the fingers, belly, and eventually down through the feet and toes.

The entire process can take anywhere from five to 20 minutes. When practiced over a period of time proficiency is built with this skill, and eventually can be practiced with eyes open, even when standing. Josh eventually was able to use this technique when waiting in the long food lines and at the ticketing booth-counters.

3. Generosity toward others: When we are upset, our attention is nearly fully focused on that issue. In this case, Josh was preoccupied with concerns related to his travel, his work, and his inconvenience. His self-absorption was making his stress greater because his world was filled up with concerns about himself. Research has shown that being able to focus on something other than oneself is beneficial in reducing stress. One’s world is expanded, and no longer are problems the only thing focused on.

I charged Josh with finding an individual or group of other people at the airport who were stranded, and whom he could help. Although reluctant, he eventually found himself sitting in an eatery next to a young mother traveling with her four year old daughter. As any parent knows, traveling with children is challenging at best. But to be doing so alone, and then find oneself jammed in an airport for hours – or days – on end, could be the recipe for parental nightmares.

Sensing the woman’s frustration, and imagining how his own grown children would be coping in such a situation, he engaged the child in calming and distracting activities. Josh’s engagement gave the mother some much-needed relief. Surprisingly, Josh found his own blood pressure going down, and felt calmer and more accepting of the fact that he was going to be grounded in the airport for quite some time. He learned that he had a choice; to either fight it and be stressed, or accept and make the most of his experience.

With a small amount of planning, and a moderate amount of effort, anyone can learn to reduce stress. This is achieved by adapting to, rather than fighting, the truth that you have to be where you are at the moment. These stress reduction techniques will not make your problem go away. But fortunately, by employing the skills of gratitude, progressive muscle relaxation, and generosity, stress will no longer control you.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Helping College Students Cope With Divorce

By Eileen Lenson

November 16, 2013
UNITED STATES—Statistically, half of all married couples fall out of

love and eventually divorce. Many try to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’, hoping to spare them the pain of a broken family. When these emerging adults move out of the family home to go to college, the ability for the unhappy couple to stay together becomes more difficult, even intolerable. As the children were the glue that held the fragile marriage together, the marriage often falls apart.

When children leave the family home, parents typically find themselves assuming a lower level of importance in their children’s lives. Because of this, couples sometimes believe that successfully launched children won’t be impacted by parental divorce. After years of marital discord, unhappy parents assume it is finally the right time to divorce.

Your adult children may act like they don’t need or care about you, but they really do. At 18-21 years old they are still vacillating between desires to be independent and a yearning to feel taken care of. With that in mind, explain to your child what will take place during and following the divorce process, and what they can expect the impact will be on them. They will have questions such as where will their parents be living? Is the family home to be sold? Where will holidays and summer vacations be spent? Will the tuition continue to be paid?

Students have a lot of responsibilities and choices in the first years out of the family home; being responsible for waking up on time in the morning, learning to get along with roommates, building new friendships, making decisions about involvement with sex, drugs and alcohol, and dealing with a competitive academic schedule. Your divorce announcement may burst their protective bubble from childhood, leaving them feeling vulnerable. This vulnerability comes at the exact point in which they are starting to develop long lasting relationships. Their confidence in being successful at developing a long and lasting romantic relationship may be shattered. To compensate, and to feel more in control, they may respond by blaming one of the parents, or shutting down emotionally.

They may not want to share feelings and concerns. Talk to them anyway, even if they do not open up with you. Reassure them that you are always available to answer any questions. Assure them that there is nothing to be ashamed of, and encourage them to talk to their friends, roommate, dorm resident assistant, other family members, counselor, or clergy.

By the time your children have left the family home, they have been exposed, through friends, television and movies, to the potential take-no-prisoners battlefield of divorce. Prepare your children for what the legal process entails, but assure them that you and your spouse will be civil to each other. Assure your children that they do not need to make choices between parents. Do not discuss the negative issues involving your ex-spouse. Remember; your child is 50% the other spouse. If you trash your ex-spouse, you are also trashing your child.

During a divorce, parents are distracted and grieving. Children can misconstrue this to mean that they are no longer important to their parents. Make it clear that the parents are divorcing each other, not the kids. Also let your children know that they are not responsible for your happiness. It was not their job to keep the marriage together, and it is not acceptable for them to volunteer for that role. I have worked with college students who have put themselves at risk of flunking out of college, or have engaged in at-risk behaviors such as drugs and alcohol, to get expelled from school and have to come home and care for a parent.

Remind your children that their job is to have success and fun at college. If you are positive in how you speak about your future, it will give them hope. Encouraging your college students to play a role in decorating the room in your new home will make them feel a greater sense of belonging. Develop new traditions for the holidays, teaching your children that the future can be hopeful despite the loss of many familiar and predicable aspects of their family life. These behaviors communicate to your children that you have hope. Hope is contagious. Hope will help the entire family move through the parental divorce in a healthy and positive manner.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

The Empty Nest: What About Mom And Dad?

By Eileen Lenson

November 2, 2013
UNITED STATES—Parents are busy people, devoted to their children. As CEOs (Chief Everywhere Officers) of the family, they spend two to three decades juggling car pool, sports practice, music recitals, homework supervision, dental appointments, shopping, cooking, cleaning messes, and giving advice. By the time their children are juniors in high school; additional responsibilities are shouldered by the parents as they begin preparing their children for leaving the nest. Touring colleges and winding through the maze of college applications, exploring military options, or providing guidance for the child going directly into a career is foremost in parent’s minds.

Some parents, either due to denial that the day would be coming, or because they were so busy being parents, fail to plan for their child’s departure and next stage of their life. Prepared or not, when your role as parent is no longer requiring daily attention, empty nesting will occur.

When the children are finally launched out of the family home, parents often find it difficult to move forward. The impact of losing the role of daily active parenting is intimidating.

The stay at home parents may feel a loss of identity. Psychologists say it can take 18 – 24 months for the primary caretaker to fully adjust to being an empty nester. For parents who work, the adjustment period is often shorter, due to one’s self-confidence being enhanced in non-parental arenas. Empty nesting can be a fluid process, with children returning home for additional parental sponsorship.

Coincidentally, you and your child are going through a comparable life experience. You are both beginning a new life-stage. You are learning to adjust to a separation from your child, often one with whom you have conflicted emotions. You remember your son as that lovely little boy from days gone by; the one who used to adore you. But the child you just helped move out of the family home may have been acting sullen, withdrawn and testy over the course of several months preceding his departure. This behavior, which made it challenging for you to like him on certain days, was his attempt to individuate and become more independent.

Take your time with this transition, and enjoy the process. You now have the opportunity to focus on your own interests. Examine your values, and move in the direction that is congruent with them.

Connecting with others is one of the single strongest vehicles for helping you find your footing. Reach out to friends. Disclose your real feelings, concerns and confusion. It is important to not deny your feelings. Friends can offer validation. They know you, they’ve likely gone through similar experiences, and will help you in stressful times. Revitalize friendships with others from whom you have drifted away but respect, and with whom you enjoy spending time. Perhaps you lost contact with someone you have a high regard for because your family life did not intersect with theirs. If you share similar values, use this occasion to reconnect.

The role of parenting provides a sense of structure and purpose in life. To identify other means through which those needs can be met is the primary challenge at this time. It may be achieved through starting a hobby, avocation, or start a new career for the stay-at-home parent. Do not let age be your barrier. By taking care of yourself, you can expect to have several more decades of vital living.

Rediscover your spouse. The distractions of parenting may have created friction between you, or interfered with the ability to make your partner a priority in your life. Time spent redeveloping your sense as a couple; making time for each other, talking (not only about the kids), and rekindling fun and romance can result in meaningful opportunities for growth in the relationship.

Empty nesters are mature and come into empty nesting with a confident sense of themselves developed over years of raising children. They know that they have successfully launched their children into adulthood, and feel proud of their accomplishments. With proper planning, empty nesters will enjoy limitless opportunities for happiness in the future. Their happiness will be experienced in their relationships with their grown children, other family members, friends, and beyond.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Canyon News – Fear Of Flying: The Emotional Trauma

By Eileen Lenson

July 13, 2013
UNITED STATES—A considerable number of people died horrific deaths on July 6, 2013. Six from gunshot wounds in Chicago, 15 in a devastating Canadian train derailment, and dozens were said to have been killed following rioting in Egypt near Tahrir Square.

But the topic dominating the airwaves was the Asiana airline crash landing at the San Francisco airport, which upon impact ripped apart and burst into flames, resulting in the death of three people.

While the public predictably responded to news of the tragedy with shock and horror, many also speculate what life will be like for the surviving passengers. Will they experience temporary stress or long term emotional trauma?

Any traumatic event that occurs outside the range of normal human experiences can have serious, negative consequences. The results can range from normal anxiety that is time limited, to intense and potentially lengthy psychiatric difficulties, including extreme stress, depression, addiction, and long term grief.

Perception of the traumatic event will, in large part, determine one’s emotional outcome.

Some passengers will develop an intense hypersensitivity to stimuli that remind them of the traumatic event. The sound of a sputtering motor, the smell of gasoline, an innocent shriek from a nearby playground can result in a flashback of the airplane crash. The fear and anxiety accompanying these stimuli can be debilitating.

Some survivors will reevaluate their values and priorities. Having cheated death, they will no longer take life for granted. They may devote more time to personal relationships, be more tolerant and understanding of others, and appreciative of what they have. Some will feel that their lives are better than before the accident because of their renewed focus on living their lives with a deeper meaning. They may even find the event to be a division between how they view the quality of their lives ‘before the crash’ and ‘after the crash’.

Some will be more confident, seeing that they were able to rely on themselves to escape the airplane and cope with the emotional aftermath. These empowering feelings will result in their perception of themselves as being resilient and a survivor. They are likely to face future personal obstacles with a healthy, positive perspective.

Some will recognize their fear, and decide they do not want to surrender to the debilitating consequences of not being able to comfortably use air travel. They will resolve to face the situation directly, and learn about the various functions and sounds associated with airplanes. They will address their myths, no matter how silly they may appear, such as worrying about a wing falling off, or gravity pulling them out of the sky. In addition to working with the facts, they learn improved coping mechanisms, including relaxation techniques, distracting activities, and visualization.

Fear of flying is not new. There have always been air travelers who have flying related concerns, ranging from motion sickness, fear of heights, claustrophobia, ice on wings, wind shear, medical malfunction, to terrorism. Now, following the Asiana Airline crash, future air travel passengers are wondering if they need to add pilot inexperience to their list of flying related concerns.

Despite these catastrophic events and subsequent fears, it is important to know we can have some influence over our lives, even when impacted by a traumatic event. Our perception of a situation, and the coping mechanisms we use, will influence the swing of the pendulum between a good and bad mental health outcome. It is empowering to know that while we have no control over some circumstances around us, we can implement control in our response to a calamity.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Helicopter Parenting Children In College

By Eileen Lenson

June 14, 2013
UNITED STATES—The stores are overflowing with shelves of books providing advice for everything related to college preparation, including tips for excelling in entrance examinations, crafting a winning application, and scheduling campus tours. But a void in these books exists when it comes to the needs of the parents. Too few resources provide guidance on how parents can best cope with the emotional separation from their children.

The end of high school marks one of the most conflicting phases of life for a parent. For 18 years, most parents have deferred their own needs and desires in favor of protecting, feeding, nurturing, bandaging, cheering, carpooling, attending recitals and playoffs, supporting, and teaching their children. Then rather abruptly, they are faced with the symbolic end of their offspring’s childhood and left experiencing a painful void as the children venture off to their next phase of life.

Relinquishing control of children is the task at hand when they leave home to go off to college. Yet this relinquishment is the painful parental paradox. Transitioning from being completely involved in all aspects of a child’s life, to experiencing life as an oftentimes uninformed outsider, can result in a loss of identity. Letting go means a change in your role and being out of the information loop. No longer will you know if your son or daughter is getting enough sleep or dating someone undesirable. Nor will you be able to talk to the health clinic, the professor, or even the university registrar about your child’s issues, due to confidentiality.

Unfortunately, some parents have a particularly difficult time accepting these new boundaries when their children leave the home. Unable to find the balance between guidance and interference, they continue to remain enmeshed and desiring to solve their child’s tribulations. These are known as the helicopter parents. They’re the ones proofreading their child’s papers, calling the resident advisor regarding a roommate problem, and challenging professors about a grade their child received.

The helicopter parent’s love is love on steroids. Like any good medicine, overdoses of involvement framed as love, is toxic. College is the time for students to learn how to make their own decisions, make some mistakes, and learn a lot about how to resolve matters on their own. If we want our children to be able to write their own reports and memos after graduation, and be able to withstand the pressure of making mistakes, these are lessons best learned when 18 to 21 years of age in a safe environment of college.

No parent will live long enough to intervene and rescue his or her child forever. Striking a healthy balance by doing less now means children will be able to do more for themselves later.

Remember that your child is taking a part of you with them when they go off to college. You have taught them well. They are moving to the next stage if life with the values, social skills and expectations that now make them self-reliant and independent.

Celebrate this opportunity for your children to grow. Your children are moving out of the family home and making new friends, but they still need your love. You are their anchor. They will turn to you when they need support. Talking to them like an adult and helping them figure things out for themselves enables your children to develop a healthy sense of autonomy. This autonomy will serve them well for the rest of their life.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

The Power Of Caring: Tragedy In Boston

By Eileen Lenson

April 20, 2013
UNITED STATES—The 2013 Boston Marathon was interrupted by a gruesome act of terror. The marathon finish line quickly transformed into a highly emotional situation following resounding booms from two horrific explosions. One hundred and eighty-three men, women and children were wounded. Three other innocent victims were killed. Many victims, who lost limbs and suffered severe injuries, face a future of multiple corrective surgeries.

With hundreds of thousands of spectators, and scores of contestants, the scene could have quickly reduced to chaos and confusion. Instead, the overwhelming reaction of many attending the marathon was to altruistically look out for each other. Instead of panicking, videos and attendees report that people purposefully ran into, rather than away from, the direction of the blasts.

People acted rationally and intuitively, employing skills so that others could be saved. Strong men quickly organized to pull the fallen scaffolding off of victims trapped underneath. Others carried the badly wounded to safety. Mothers consoled other parent’s children. People tore up their own clothing to make temporary tourniquets for the injured that were bleeding.

The community also responded with a tremendous outpouring of support. Neighbors brought water and food for first responders. Restaurants provided free food to the stranded. Runners offered to donate blood to local hospitals for the patients needing transfusions. Temporary shelter in homes was offered to those in need.

Many who had taken pictures or video around the time of the blast voluntarily supplied their cameras to the FBI, in the remote possibility they may have captured information that could lead to the capture of the perpetrator of the terrorist attack.

All tragedies are not equal. It is more difficult for people to adjust to a tragedy that results from an intentional man-made as opposed to natural event. The fact that people at the Boston marathon responded with courage and a strong impulse to selflessly help others rather than themselves does not mean that they will easily resume a sense of normalcy without behavioral and emotional difficulties in the weeks and months to come.

While there is no one ‘right’ way to react to the stress of surviving such a horrific event, stress needs to be reduced so that people can view their community as safe and predictable. Two long distance runners, Frank Shorter and Bill Iffrig, looked at what they could control, as opposed to avoiding events, in an attempt to resume a sense of normalcy.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Palestinian terrorists staged the first attack on a sporting event, kidnapping and killing 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team. American Olympian, Frank Shorter, was nearby, but consciously decided to continue participating in the Olympics. He went on to win the first United States gold medal for long distance running in 64 years.

Bill Iffrig, a 78 year old participant at the 2013 Boston marathon, fell over from the force of the blast from the first bomb. He got up with assistance from a medic, and although scratched and shaken, insisted on walking over the finish line.

Shorter and Iffrey demonstrate the qualities of long distance runners; determination, commitment, and an ability to keep focused on a desired goal. They chose to keep running as a healthier option to avoiding events that potentially could have brought devastation to them. Finishing the race is no guarantee that individuals with violent political agendas will not cross paths with them again. Shorter knows that all too well, as he was one of the nearly 30,000 runners in this year’s Boston marathon.

Today, we Americans will do well to learn from the acts of the Boston marathon runners, spectators, and surrounding community. They showed determination and commitment. Their power of caring demonstrates that while evil exists in our world, and sometimes penetrates our neighborhoods, our choices will preserve our empathy for humanity. In the end, it is the compassion we feel for mankind that will be the best defense against terrorism.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Ridding Yourself Of Anger

By Eileen Lenson

March 30, 2013
UNITED STATES—How often have you been hurt by the words or actions of someone else? Do you remember how you felt afterwards? Anger? Bitterness? Resentment? Stomach aches and headaches? Raised blood pressure and loss of sleep? If the hurt was large enough, you may have even attempted to protect yourself from future hurts by making a decision to not allow yourself to be vulnerable again.

The problem is that protective emotional walls cannot differentiate between good and bad emotions. Unable to filter emotions, they prevent all feelings from reaching or being expressed by you. This means that not only are you protecting yourself from the hurtful words and actions of others, but also from the happiness of everyday life.

An absence of experiencing emotions results in an emotionally unfulfilling life. It is for this reason that it is important to let go of anger. This is not about becoming a doormat, or denying the importance of your feelings. On the contrary, letting go of anger towards others is the fastest, most reliable and sustainable way for you to be content again.

When angry at another person for doing something hurtful to you, you become the victim. The problem with being the victim is that it renders you helpless. If helpless, you are at the mercy of everyone else.

Instead, reframe the hurt experienced from the other person and see it as most likely tapping into a hurt experienced in your past. That previous hurt resulted in your learning to believe something about yourself that you want to avoid. You don’t know that this belief may not be based on fact, but it unquestionably hurts.

Maybe the hurt came from someone who said something to make you feel unlovable, unattractive or unintelligent. Maybe it was an action, such as feeling abandoned by the noncustodial parent when your parents divorced, that made you feel unwanted. Or perhaps being bullied when growing up. Feelings arising from such experiences create the deepest wounds.

It is important to know that avoiding the painful feeling by putting up the defensive armor, especially that of anger is not necessary. If you spend some time, and explore that hurt you don’t want to experience, you will see that it becomes less of a threat to you. It is the avoidance of that feeling that is causing you the need to resent others.

You may be able to see that the comment was hurtful because you are choosing to connect it to that previous hurt. You now have the ability to face the pain you have stuffed inside and avoided over the years. Now, instead of resenting the other person for something said, you can choose to see the other person as needing your compassion rather than resentment. Perhaps the other person is coming from his or her own place of pain, and only knows to feel better by hurting you. In the past, you probably never considered that the other person was also hurting. Now you can see that it is not you that is unacceptable, but rather, it is the other person who harbors the fear of being so.

With this understanding, you no longer have to hold onto anger towards others. You don’t have to build protective walls because you are no longer afraid of what others think about you. The most beautiful insight is the awareness that you know that you are worthy, and other’s comments cannot negate that truth.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Get The ‘Love’ Back In Your Relationship

By Eileen Lenson

March 24, 2013
UNITED STATES—Remember the wonderful feelings you had when your relationship with your spouse was fresh and exciting? The initial weeks, months, and perhaps even the first few years of being a couple were filled with upbeat feelings about yourself, your loved one, and life in general.

Everything was easy when love was at its best. A client of mine refers to this point in her relationship as feeling “light.” It is the feelings people longingly wish for years later, when the same relationship is characterized more by criticism, apathy, and resistance, than by love, openness and trust.

Cynics claim that the joyous feelings experienced in a new relationship cannot sustain themselves over the course of a lifetime. That theory garners support when observing controlling, angry couples, who have been married for a lengthy period of time, communicate with each other. But it does not explain the happiness and joy some couples successfully share, decade after decade of marriage.

The secret to getting the love back in your relationship is not about more being done for you, but rather, to acknowledge and value your partner. Think of how good it feels when you are acknowledged and valued by someone in your life. If the validation comes from your boss at work, you feel more confident about your capabilities. In turn, you are probably more motivated to work harder, or more creatively. You probably feel more open to your boss, and are more receptive to communicating and sharing ideas. Your happiness doesn’t just remain inside of you. It radiates outside, to your expression, style of walking, and tone of voice. You are more likely to have a smile on your face, a bounce to your step, and a cheery, optimistic quality to your speech.

Your boss, who gave you the validation, becomes the recipient of your upbeat, positive response. He is also likely to feel happier about himself because you are communicating reciprocal validation, which in turn results in his feeling more positive towards you. This example, of the boss giving an employee positive feedback, and the impact it has on both the employee and boss, reflects the ability an unhappy couple has in rebuilding the loving communication in their relationship.

In my life coaching practice, I work with unhappy couples. Each one is hurt, and protects his or herself by building barriers in the form of anger and blame. Each one typically views his or her spouse as being critical, complaining and unappreciative, and wants me to ‘fix’ their partner.

What these couples fail to see is that they can build a relationship of love through focusing more on themselves than on their partner’s flaws. If a positive comment can generate happiness and openness in someone and that person in turn feels happy, more confident, and accepting of the other person, then inversely, a negative comment can destructively push the two people further apart with each spoken sentence.

Getting the love back in the relationship involves communicating acceptance of the other person for who he or she is. Being judgmental, rejecting or controlling is destructive behavior that simply makes the other person more defensive, and it isn’t effective. The recipient of this communication is not likely to change, and both people in the relationship become hurt and angry.

Conveying acceptance will bring back the love. You will find you can communicate better than in the initial days of courtship, because now you have the skills to both prevent the barriers being built, and the skills to convey acceptance, caring and love.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

What Made Christopher Dorner So Hateful?

By Eileen Lenson

February 23, 2013
UNITED STATES— Southern California was gripped in horror earlier this month when Christopher Dorner, a fired LAPD officer, went on a revenge-filled killing rampage. Dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound, Mr. Dorner no longer terrorizes society. Yet, we will be remiss if we do not perform a psychological autopsy of what made him view the world with hate. By understanding Mr. Dorner’s emotional state, we may have the opportunity to prevent a future senseless mass tragedy.

Mr. Dorner’s 5,000 word manifesto provides insights into his psychological wounds. He recalled perceived injustices stretching from his first days in elementary school through his unsuccessful career at the LAPD. Based on his manifesto, it is likely that apparent repeated cruelty or indifference from others resulted in Mr. Dorner developing a belief early in life that he was not good enough. Instead of viewing other people as having shortcomings, Mr. Dorner likely became judgmental and disapproving of himself. When this was happening, his view of the world became distorted. Although not based in reality, he perceived other people as being a threat to his emotional well being.

To protect himself against not feeling acceptable to others, he developed protective armor. The armor, which consisted of walls of fear and hyper-vigilant protection against possible mistreatment, was a double edged sword. It protected him from feeling vulnerable around others, because he remained in control. But because he avoided taking risks in relationships, the armor most likely prohibited him from being able to trust in others.

Sadly, he continued to live with his perception that he wasn’t good enough. These self perceptions influenced how he viewed the world around him, and the actions he took. It probably accounts for his lack of intimacy with others, as evidenced from reported estrangement from his family and friends.

People who are holding onto their anger based on the way they have been treated by others can be helped. Mr. Dorner’s focus was on blaming others. If he had changed the focus, and had examined himself instead of blaming others, he would have stopped being the victim. As a victim, he essentially gave all his power away. By examining the situation openly and honestly, he could identify what was at the core of his upsets.

Often the identified incident is not what upsets an individual, but what it symbolizes. If his psychological armor was protecting a fear from early childhood that he wasn’t worthy, then every negative experience he had in life would risk validating this painful fear. By dropping the armor, he could have looked at exactly why each incident caused him such distress. He would have been able to develop a clearer perspective, and more realistic evaluations of each circumstance.

Mr. Dorner’s distorted perceptions of the world resulted in sabotaging his life. As a result, he probably never learned to successfully deal with disappointments, frustrations, or unfairness. Changing his view of the world could have enabled Mr. Dorner to have more happiness and less bitterness. Redefining his experiences could have helped him feel differently. For instance, instead of labeling others as being vindictive or hateful, he could have chosen to view them as lacking the ability to do anything differently. He could have realized that others were doing the best they knew how. He could forgive others for not knowing more, and accepted people for who they were, flaws and all.

In the end, the protective armor Mr. Dorner established for the purpose of protecting himself from feeling hurt, betrayed him. The armor enabled him to continue harboring the incorrect image of himself, based on beliefs he developed from negative encounters with others at an early age. With intervention, Mr. Dorner could have learned to drop the armor and discover that he did have value. Instead, his distorted view of himself and life resulted in a life of troubled relationships, the assassinations of police officers and their family members, and in the end, his suicide.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

By Eileen Lenson

December 30, 2012
UNITED STATES—In the moments and days following the horrific Newtown school shootings that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, the typical reaction of survivors was elation to be alive. But for some, the upcoming months will bring nightmares, repeated mental images of what they have witnessed, self-blame, depression, and even thoughts of suicide.

Survivor’s guilt is the strong feeling of guilt that people experience when they feel they did not deserve to survive a circumstance in which others died. For some, it is feelings of self blame, believing that that they did something wrong, which resulted in the loss of life of others. Faculty and students, parents and family members, as well as neighbors and first responders, are at risk for experiencing survivor’s guilt.

School teachers routinely refer to their pupils as “my students,” and higher ranking administrators refer to their staff as “my teachers.” Educators typically view their role as being an extension of the family. Parents entrust their children to the school faculty, who in turn devote considerable resources, both intellectual and economic, to ensure the safety of students in their care. Following the shootings, school personnel may feel they failed in their duty to protect their students and faculty from harm. Instead of viewing themselves as fortunate that they successfully hid below a desk as the assailant walked by, or relief that they were able to safely hunker down with their own students elsewhere on the campus, they may feel the anguish of guilt that they failed to protect or rescue others that had been entrusted to them.

Neighbors living on adjacent streets to the school may experience feelings of survivor’s guilt. They are able to go about their daily lives in a happy manner, but are visually impacted by the murders. Memorials for the murdered accumulate on the school grounds, and normal routine is replaced by reporters descending on the neighborhood. The school, once a place filled with the sounds of children remains eerily empty and silent. The anguish for neighbors is that despite their proximity, they had no power to prevent the assault.

School mates and siblings of the deceased children may conclude that inasmuch as the shootings could have happened in their classroom rather than the victim’s classroom, they wonder, “Why not me?” They try to make sense of why they deserve to live, but others do not. Exacerbating the situation are the memorials and discussions of the deceased, in which they are spoken about in an idealized manner. If the children from other classrooms feel they do not measure up to the deceased, they may feel unworthy. This unworthiness may result in the children feeling they do not deserve to live and that the wrong child died.

In addition, young children often exhibit ‘magical thinking,’ the belief that their actions can cause unrelated actions. Much like the childhood game of ‘step on a crack, break your mother’s back,’ so can surviving children believe they did something to cause the horrific event at their elementary school.

First responders may experience survivor’s guilt because they were unable to stop the shooter sooner or because they were unable to save a mortally wounded child. It is not uncommon for first responders to feel helpless and guilty that they couldn’t prevent more loss of life.

No parent expects to outlive their child. It goes against the natural order of life, and parents may suffer survivor’s guilt as a result. Loss of one’s role as parent to a treasured child can lead to feelings of insecurity, confusion and emptiness. Oddly enough, survivor’s guilt, which includes shame and emotional pain, offers a stabilizing way for parents to offset these feelings. It provides a sense of meaning and structure in an otherwise uncertain and helpless period of time. It also serves to connect the living with the deceased.

Feelings of personal responsibility that are temporary and last only a few days do not present a problem to survivors of shootings, such as occurred in Newtown shootings. However, if survivors continue to feel responsible, they risk getting stuck in the destructive feelings of guilt. If, despite indisputable facts that point to their not being responsible, their guilt is not resolved, they will not be able to proceed through the healing process of coping with loss.

Unresolved survivor’s guilt can be fatal. Even though all evidence can show that a person is not responsible in any way, shape or form for another person’s death, the irrational feelings of responsibility can cause a person to contemplate suicide.

People must examine their guilt feelings directly if they are going to be able to successfully resolve these painful emotions. It is impossible to understand why some people should die in a tragedy while others are fortunate to live. It may never be understood, and answers may never be forthcoming. Learning to accept things we can’t understand or change is necessary in moving forward.

Feelings of guilt may be helping survivors cope with the loss. However, it is important for survivors to understand that it will not diminish the memory of those who have died if the survivors find value in being alive. Treasuring life and being happy does not mean that the deceased is at risk for diminishing in value or being forgotten. Rather, by being aware of one’s own mortality, people can re-evaluate their priorities and choose to live life with more meaning and purpose. This can turn their survival into a gift. They can devote time towards projects that honor the deceased. They can develop skills that would never have been explored had they not had the life changing experience.

People experiencing survivor’s guilt tend to isolate themselves. Reaching out to people who appear withdrawn, and speaking with them about the events in a non-judgmental manner can help them begin the process of reconnecting with life, living, and other relationships.

Unresolved survivor’s guilt can be fatal. Even though all evidence can show that a person is not responsible in any way, shape or form for another person’s death, the irrational feelings of responsibility can cause a person to commit suicide. Guiding people who are experiencing survivor’s guilt into getting professional help, such as with a psychotherapist, clergy, or life coach can help immensely, for a little intervention appropriately timed can mean the difference between good and bad mental health. Professional help can offer those with survivor’s guilt develop a more realistic interpretation of the situation. Survivors can learn to accept that circumstances were out of their control, and that they did the best that they could at that time. Professional help can also help the survivor with gradual acceptance and increased self-compassion. This will help survivors go forward with joy and a different, but meaningful, view of life.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Helping Kids After Elementary School Massacre

By Eileen Lenson

December 16, 2012
UNITED STATES—Only months after the horrific massacre in a Colorado movie theatre, the unthinkable has happened again with a deranged gunman committing mass murder. This time, the victims include an entire kindergarten class and school personnel in Connecticut.

Despite the outpouring of support to survivors and their loved ones from communities throughout the country, there is no way to relieve the bereaved of their pain. Few can understand the ability of one individual to be responsible for so much hatred and violence towards defenseless people.

Parents from Connecticut to California want to know how to help their young children move through this event with as little permanent emotional trauma as possible. They know that frightening events such as these cause children to lose their innocence. No longer can children view all schools as being safe, nor all adults as trustworthy.

In the initial days and weeks following the murders, children will react differently based on their age and social situation. The age of children and their developmental stage will influence their ability to understand the traumatic event and response. Children younger than seven years old have difficulty comprehending the permanency of death. They may ask repeated questions in an effort to grasp the concept of death. Anticipate temporary regression in young children, such as reverting to bedwetting or thumb sucking. Older children, age seven to eleven may fear abandonment and become clingy, whiny, needy or act out.

If they are afraid of the dark, allowing them to keep a light on in their bedroom at night as it reduces anxiety about the ‘boogey man’. Teenagers often turn to their peers for support at this time, preventing parents from knowing if they have concerns that would best be addressed. Teenagers may appear to be strong and sophisticated. But if they become overwhelmed and view the world as being unsafe, they may retreat from wanting to eventually leave their parents. Or, they may cope with their fears by engaging in reckless or illegal behaviors.

There is no specific guideline for how each child will, or should, respond. Children who tended to be verbal before the shooting may continue to be verbal, talking to parents endlessly about their thoughts and concerns. Permitting children to talk about their feelings is beneficial. It lets them feel valued and helps them organize their emotions.

Encourage children who are quiet to talk, letting them know that anything they are feeling is acceptable and that you are there to listen to them. For those who are particularly reticent to talk about their feelings, having them draw a picture or write a story can help in processing their feelings. Ask the child if he or she would like to explain their work to you, and receive it non-judgmentally.

Some children may not appear to be affected, and not demonstrate reaction. One should not assume they are unaffected, as they may respond in very different ways, at a different time.

Children, who have experienced the loss of a loved one, significant family stress, or a previous trauma, will be at higher risk following a new trauma. Parents of these children need to be aware of the added stresses they will be facing and closely monitor them.

Children hundreds of miles away from the scene of a tragedy can become victimized when it is brought into their living rooms through television reports. Children can be traumatized by such reporting and should be kept away from repeated television coverage of the massacre. Dinner table conversations about the shootings may similarly affect children. Ensure that the dinner table is a nurturing environment by not discussing the elementary school trauma.

Children who feel overwhelmed by the elementary school shootings are likely to exhibit behaviors including reliving the experience, avoiding people or places that remind them of the trauma, disinterest in activities that previously provided happiness, irritability, distraction, somatic complaints, or concern about the health and welfare of family or friends.

Children need to trust that their parents are the ‘go to’ people when they want information. Help reinforce this notion by choosing your words appropriately for the age of your children. This will ensure that your messages are received in the manner you planned. If you feel you are upset about the situation at the time, be honest and tell your child you are upset rather than denying your feelings and saying you are ‘okay’. By doing so, you are modeling acceptance of painful feelings and how to manage them appropriately. Children are likely to hear partial information or misinformation about the tragedy from others. It is important that you have open communication with your children so that they can verify rumors with you.

Do not overload children with any more information than that which they are requesting. Prepare them in advance for any changes that may be taking place as a result of the event. This provides them with a sense of control and mastery of their own lives at a time when the universe seems to be spinning out of control. Do not feel you need to do it all alone. Enlist the support of a trusted friend, clergy, or family member to help.

Getting back to normal patterns is important for children. Children feel safe when familiar structure is provided. Resume studies, music practice, and shopping for Christmas gifts. Keep regular sleeping and eating schedules in place. These activities will help kick- start their natural resiliency.

Ensure your children are receiving support from others in their social sphere. Passive activities such as going to the movies with grandparents, reading a book with parents, and playing with friends helps children recover from the trauma.

Take heed in the saying, ‘As go the parents, so go the children’. Parents need to remember to take care of themselves following a traumatic experience, because children are taking cues for coping from them. Reach out for support from clergy, friends, or professionals. Seeking psychological help does not imply mental illness or weakness. Rather, it can help you will find the strength to better cope with emotional problems your children may be experiencing.

Children need reassurance that they are safe from another horrific event, and that their world is safe and predictable. Parents can use this as a teaching opportunity to let their children know that while there are bad people in the world, they will do everything possible to protect them. Guiding them through this trauma by being supportive, providing abundant hugs and kisses, spending time together, and listening non-judgmentally will help children learn healthy coping skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Divorced, Wanting A Norman Rockwell Holiday

By Eileen Lenson

December 6, 2012
UNITED STATES—Most people share a similar vision for the perfect Christmas. Typical ingredients include devoted family members lovingly exchanging gifts, laughs and conversations, while the young children squeal with delight when opening their presents. Unfortunately, divorced parents are usually court ordered to share visitation rights over Christmas. As a result, each parent misses the joy of being with his or her children on Christmas every other year.

Holidays needn’t be an annually repeated disappointing and angst-ridden experience. Instead, consider making a new tradition by inviting your ex-spouse to your home for the holiday celebration. Swallow your pride, hurt feelings, and anger. Remember that you’re not asking for reconciliation. Keep your eye on the goal: spending the holidays with your children rather than longingly wishing they were with you.

For this plan to work, several details must first be resolved.

1. Agree to not fight

Tell your ex-spouse that you plan to put aside your personal issues, and you hope that he/she will do the same. Fighting may have become the most familiar manner in which the two of you know how to communicate with each other. Plan ahead to not get sucked in if your ex-spouse ‘pushes your buttons.’

2. Recognize that you cannot control other people, just yourself.

What you can control is how you choose to react to others. If your ex-spouse communicates in a negative way, it does not mean that you must respond in kind. Rather, respond in a way that is consistent with how you want to be. Do not allow other people to define you.

3. Assume 100 percent of the responsibility for making the holiday work.

This is not the time to focus on blaming your ex-spouse. Instead, focus on what you need to do or say to make others feel comfortable and welcome. Surprisingly, you may find that your commitment to assuming responsibility will have a positive impact on your ex-spouse. Your ex-spouse will find that he or she does not have to be defensive, and instead may respond to you in a more generous, accepting manner.

4. Let go of toxic feelings.

Do you continue to harbor hostile feelings towards your ex-spouse? If so, these feelings are toxic to you. Consider reframing your thoughts into a more constructive perspective. Can you find sympathy for your ex-spouse? Can you decide you no longer choose to invest that type of anger? Can you ask yourself how old that anger tape is in your head that has been playing, and if it is relevant any longer? Remember that you are choosing to be in the same room with your ex-spouse because of your children. It is no longer about winning or losing, but about making the children happy.

5. Invite a ‘holiday orphan’ to join in your holiday celebration.

Do you know someone from the neighborhood or work that has no place to go for the holiday? It is always a kind gesture to think about others who would otherwise be alone. In addition, introducing someone new in the mix can keep everyone’s party manners in the forefront, thereby keeping tempers in check and interrupting negative family dynamics.

If you do not have custody of your children on Christmas, and inviting your ex-spouse over is not possible, there is no reason why you cannot celebrate Christmas with your children on an alternative date. Meanwhile, plan ahead and fill the traditional holiday with an activity that is positively exciting. Take advantage of ski slopes being less crowded. Or catch up on those movies you always meant to see. Refuse to dwell on yourself pity and instead do something kind for someone less fortunate.

Modeling cooperation and maturity is far better for your children than having them exposed to unhappy, competing, bickering parents. Building a new tradition for your family of tolerance and inclusiveness is the gift that keeps giving. Your efforts and behavior will not go unnoticed on your children, and this will become the Norman Rockwell painting of their childhood.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Surviving The Dark Side Of Thanksgiving

By Eileen Lenson

November 13, 2012
UNITED STATES—You’re not alone if you’re concerned about the craziness that may characterize your Thanksgiving dinner. For many, the reality of Thanksgiving is stressful; often far from the idyllic family meals portrayed by media.

According to some, the dark side of Thanksgiving is alive and well. A mother-in-law serves a peanut butter pie, knowing ingesting peanuts could cause her daughter-in-law to go into anaphylactic shock. An aunt gets drunk and tells in detail, to anyone she can corner, the torrid details of her most recent divorce. A brother holds a family Thanksgiving hostage by arriving two hours late and further sabotages the dinner by forgetting to bring the dessert as promised.

These situations, which include manipulative, controlling, critical and dismissive behavior by the difficult people who are with us, cause us stress at the very time we anticipate being happy and contented.
You have the power to make dreaded past Thanksgiving dynamics different this year!

It isn’t the situation that causes us stress, but how we deal with it. For instance, the difficult family members will always be at your Thanksgiving dinner table, but they can only negatively affect you if you allow them to ‘push your buttons.’

Most people behave as they do in an attempt to get their needs met. Sometimes they accomplish this by using undesirable behaviors that, unknown to them, cause your teeth to clench and blood to boil. However, it is human nature to move towards that which feels good. So this year, instead of reacting to the negative characteristics of annoying guests, focus on their positive behaviors. Rewarding the positive behaviors and ignoring the negative may influence them to modify the undesired behaviors.

Think about how you have related to difficult Thanksgiving guests in the past. If it was with defensiveness, consider changing tactics and engaging with empathy. Convey acceptance instead of resistance. Listen for a positive morsel to which you can respond with positive feedback. Feeling that they are accepted by you will result in their feeling more validated and ready to listen to your views.

Last, use empathy to find tolerance of the people who annoy you. Ask yourself why the others have to resort to negative behavior to get their needs met? Ask yourself what other people are afraid of? Perhaps the mother-in-law is afraid of abandonment from her only son. Or maybe she feels she doesn’t measure up to her daughter-in-law’s expectations. Your body language, as well as gestures and actions, can favorably impact on this behavior. Smiles, offers of help, responding in a quiet, non-defensive and unemotional manner, being open to discussion and tolerating differences all convey acceptance of other people. Feeling accepted, they may modify their troublesome behavior.

Thanksgiving dinner will be what it is meant to be. A room full of family, friends, neighbors, and in some cases, strangers, who come together in hopes of enjoying a hearty meal whilst creating cherished experiences. Changing your view of the others, realizing that no one is perfect, and that the difficult person’s behavior is not about you, means that you do not have to personalize their idiosyncrasies. By detaching yourself from their behavior, you no longer need to react as you have in the past.

Before you settle into this year’s Thanksgiving feast, take pause, and scrutinize yourself. Is it possible that you are, or have been, someone else’s dreaded and annoying Thanksgiving dinner guest? If so, reflect on what you are attempting to achieve, and how you can accomplish it in a more productive manner. You have the power to make the personal changes that can result in this Thanksgiving dinner being a wonderful experience and success for everyone.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Don’t Forget The Survivors Of Hurricane Sandy

By Eileen Lenson

November 3, 2012
UNITED STATES—Most people share a similar vision for the

perfect Christmas. Typical ingredients include devoted family members lovingly exchanging gifts, laughs and conversations, while the young children squeal with delight when opening their presents. Unfortunately, divorced parents are usually court ordered to share visitation rights over Christmas. As a result, each parent misses the joy of being with his or her children on Christmas every other year.

Holidays needn’t be an annually repeated disappointing and angst-ridden experience. Instead, consider making a new tradition by inviting your ex-spouse to your home for the holiday celebration. Swallow your pride, hurt feelings, and anger. Remember that you’re not asking for reconciliation. Keep your eye on the goal: spending the holidays with your children rather than longingly wishing they were with you.

For this plan to work, several details must first be resolved.

1. Agree to not fight

Tell your ex-spouse that you plan to put aside your personal issues, and you hope that he/she will do the same. Fighting may have become the most familiar manner in which the two of you know how to communicate with each other. Plan ahead to not get sucked in if your ex-spouse ‘pushes your buttons.’

2. Recognize that you cannot control other people, just yourself.

What you can control is how you choose to react to others. If your ex-spouse communicates in a negative way, it does not mean that you must respond in kind. Rather, respond in a way that is consistent with how you want to be. Do not allow other people to define you.

3. Assume 100 percent of the responsibility for making the holiday work.

This is not the time to focus on blaming your ex-spouse. Instead, focus on what you need to do or say to make others feel comfortable and welcome. Surprisingly, you may find that your commitment to assuming responsibility will have a positive impact on your ex-spouse. Your ex-spouse will find that he or she does not have to be defensive, and instead may respond to you in a more generous, accepting manner.

4. Let go of toxic feelings.

Do you continue to harbor hostile feelings towards your ex-spouse? If so, these feelings are toxic to you. Consider reframing your thoughts into a more constructive perspective. Can you find sympathy for your ex-spouse? Can you decide you no longer choose to invest that type of anger? Can you ask yourself how old that anger tape is in your head that has been playing, and if it is relevant any longer? Remember that you are choosing to be in the same room with your ex-spouse because of your children. It is no longer about winning or losing, but about making the children happy.

5. Invite a ‘holiday orphan’ to join in your holiday celebration.

Do you know someone from the neighborhood or work that has no place to go for the holiday? It is always a kind gesture to think about others who would otherwise be alone. In addition, introducing someone new in the mix can keep everyone’s party manners in the forefront, thereby keeping tempers in check and interrupting negative family dynamics.

If you do not have custody of your children on Christmas, and inviting your ex-spouse over is not possible, there is no reason why you cannot celebrate Christmas with your children on an alternative date. Meanwhile, plan ahead and fill the traditional holiday with an activity that is positively exciting. Take advantage of ski slopes being less crowded. Or catch up on those movies you always meant to see. Refuse to dwell on yourself pity and instead do something kind for someone less fortunate.

Modeling cooperation and maturity is far better for your children than having them exposed to unhappy, competing, bickering parents. Building a new tradition for your family of tolerance and inclusiveness is the gift that keeps giving. Your efforts and behavior will not go unnoticed on your children, and this will become the Norman Rockwell painting of their childhood.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Life According To Lenson

By Eileen Lenson

October 7, 2012
Baby Afraid Of Grandparents Q: Recently, we were visiting my parents. My 10 month old daughter screamed bloody murder every time one of her grandparents tried to hold her. I was so embarrassed. Am I doing something wrong as a parent that she behaves this way?

A: You needn’t worry. Your daughter is reacting appropriately for her age by demonstrating separation anxiety. It is a healthy instinctual reaction to being separated from you as she learns to crawl and explore. You can expect this behavior to resolve itself by around three years of age. Rest assured there will be plenty of time for your parents to hold and spoil her. Son May Have ADHA Q: My son is in third grade. The teacher has told me his behavior is disruptive, and that he most likely has ADHA. My neighbor’s son was diagnosed as having ADHD several years ago and is on medication. I think he looks listless. I don’t want my own son to look drugged, and don’t know if I should try to change who he is. What are my risks?

A: Children with attention deficit behavior (ADHA) often exhibit fidgety, restless or aggressive behavior. Their poor attention spans can lead to disruptive behavior, resulting in problems with peers and adults. The long term result can be the development of a negative self-image, which can lead to academic and social problems.

Medications needn’t leave the individual looking drugged. Rather, they can correct a biochemical imbalance and help your son to be able to focus on his tasks and prevent him from falling behind in the classroom. I highly recommend that you share your concerns with your son’s pediatrician, and consult with a psychiatrist who specializes in working with ADHA. Husband Lacks Confidence As Father Q: I just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Surprisingly, my husband’s reaction is that of disappointment. He is afraid he won’t know how to be a good father to his son. His own father left when he was only 2 years old, and his father was abandoned by his father when young. Is my husband doomed to repeat history?

A: It will help your husband to know that he has a lot more control over his relationship with his son than he did with his father. Being able to verbalize his concerns is a good start. I suggest your husband build his confidence by reading books on parenting, attending parenting classes, and observing how other fathers interact with their children. Showing his love and support for his son by providing food, shelter, affection, attending school events, and spending time together will build the love and trust between father and son. Being there to teach his son values and manners as well as respect for others will also help ensure that your husband will build an intensely positive relationship with his son and interrupt his family legacy of bad dads. Competitive Parents Q: I am a stay-at-home mother of a four year old daughter. We belong to a play group. I find some of the other mothers to be very competitive, bragging about their kid’s achievements. If I mention something in confidence that worries me about my daughter, they tell their kids, and it gets back to my daughter. Do I have to just button my lips when I’m with these women?

A: Stay at home mothers can receive a lot of support when interacting with other moms at a play group. Unfortunately, some mothers use these opportunities to compare one child’s achievement against another. Oftentimes the source of this competition comes from the parent’s insecurities. My recommendation is to enjoy the positive aspects of these relationships. Make sure you are not contributing to the competitiveness by speaking exclusively of your own child. Make it a point to recognize and compliment the other children’s achievements. When competitiveness rears its ugly head, simply deflect the issue by changing the topic. Temper Tantrums Q: Yesterday it happened again. I was grocery shopping with my toddler. She grabbed a bag of cookies and put them in the shopping cart. When I told her that I was not going to buy cookies she went into a full blown temper tantrum. Other customers were staring at us. I was so embarrassed. I ended up yelling at her, but she only got louder. Should I have allowed her to have the cookies, punished her, or given her a time-out?

A: Two year olds and temper tantrums are a common phenomenon. If you approach the tantrums in a calm and clear manner, your child will in time learn appropriate behavior. The key concept to remember is that toddlers want to be in control, and the parent’s job is to assure them that they know how to control the situation. I suggest that when a tantrum is underway, attempt to talk about the situation in a way that your child can understand. Let your toddler know that you understand her position, but firmly explain why you cannot accommodate her wishes. If she continues with her tantrum, despite your best efforts, remain calm and continue with your shopping. Most likely the other customers in the grocery store are not judging you. They are remembering their days shopping with a challenging toddler.

Never give in to your daughter’s demands, as you will be rewarding negative behaviors. Continue to take her on your shopping trips. Consistency in your response, rather than punishment, is the best way to address and resolve your daughter’s temper tantrums.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Brother Killed by Drunk Driver

By Eileen Lenson

September 21, 2012
Do you have a question about something in your life you would like to learn, change or solve? Submit your questions to life and business coach Eileen Lenson.
Drunk driver kills brother Q: A drunk driver struck and killed my older brother last month. He was on his way to work at the time, never expecting that he would not ever be able to kiss his wife, see his daughter grow up, or be able to live to see old age. I am of course grieving his loss, but I also am so angry at the driver and all other drunks on the road. I can’t sleep well, or focus properly at work, and I know my boss is getting impatient with me.

A: I am very sorry for your loss. Experiencing your brother’s death would be difficult enough, but it is compounded by the fact it was caused by a senseless and avoidable act on the part of a selfish and irresponsible driver.

Everyone grieves differently. The sudden loss of your brother makes the grieving more difficult. The fact that he died as a result of a criminal act also complicates your bereavement process. The legal process can be prolonged, which will impact on your emotions as you go through the grieving process.

Make sure you do not ignore your feelings. Identify those with whom you can share your painful feelings. Holding in your feelings and not expressing them can prevent you from healing emotionally. Taking care of yourself will ensure that you are there for your sister-in-law and niece as well as yourself.

Expressing yourself through writing can be helpful at this time, and is another way of managing your feelings in a healthy way. You mentioned the anger you have at the drunk driver. Consider sitting down and writing the driver a letter – never to be mailed – about your feelings. Include how important your brother was to you, how much you miss him, and your thoughts about the driver’s responsibility in this tragedy.

Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission in the coming months to let go of some obligations that are burdening you. Expect a roller coaster of emotions. Some days will be more difficult than others. Anticipate dates that include your brother’s milestones, such as his birthday or the anniversary of his death to be challenging. Schedule activities for those dates that involve surrounding yourself with caring friends or family to help you through those moments. You may find that using these sad times of loss to do something meaningful in his memory is helpful. Contribute your time to one of your brother’s preferred causes, or work on a scrapbook of memories for his daughter.

Unfortunately, the only way to get over your grief is to go straight through it. It may be tempting to self medicate by turning to prescription medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol. Abuse of chemicals will only result in your inability to work through the stages of grief, and you will be stuck with unresolved grieving. The result can be that when another loss occurs in the future, you will find yourself grieving both for the new loss as well as the loss of your brother. The unfinished grieving for your brother will compound the grief you are experiencing for the new loss.

Make sure to take care of your physical, not just emotional health. If you haven’t much appetite, make the meals you do eat count. Snack on small healthy foods. Exercise, or at least go for walks. One final note: don’t be afraid to experience enjoy and celebrate the happy moments in your life. Happiness will not erase your feelings for your brother, but will be the way to take care of yourself. Elderly Husband Resents Wife’s Dependency Q: As a senior citizen I thought I’d be happier at this point in my life. The problem is that my wife is very dependent on me. Six months ago she broke her hip, went to rehab and received physical therapy. But the residual weakness in her leg has resulted in physical limitations. Never a real confident woman, she now is afraid of something happening to her. As a consequence, she wants me to accompany her to everything she is involved with. It is escalating to the point where she wants me to schedule her medical appointments, even though the limitations are in her legs, not her dialing finger. I try to be supportive but I’m feeling resentful and more like the hired help.

A: Probably what started out as helping your wife temporarily has evolved into a full blown dependency on her part. A physical trauma, such as a broken hip, can amplify both positive and negative personality traits. You mentioned that she was “never a real confident woman”. It is likely that the experience of the past six months has made her less confident in her own abilities and more reliant on you.

Help your wife focus on her strengths. Evaluate together with your wife and either her physical therapist or physician, what she is capable of doing and what tasks she truly needs assistance with.

It is important for you to not enable her dependent behavior. Because of your love for her and sense of responsibility, you may agree to do things for her that you increasingly resent. Dependent individuals tend to not be self-starters, and may resist initially. I suggest you remind your wife that maintaining as much independence as possible is important for her.

Celebrate your wife’s accomplishments with her, large and small. As her confidence grows so will her self-esteem. This in turn will result in her being more willing to take on various tasks, thereby relieving you of the feeling of being suffocated by her dependencies. Empty Nester Lacking Purpose and Direction : I am married with 3 children, all grown and out of the home. My husband travels out of town for work. When he goes to the Far East, he is gone for two to three weeks at a time. I find myself resenting him when he is gone, and we fight constantly when he returns home. What should I do?

A: It is possible that as an empty nester, you had a different vision of how you would be spending your child-free years. Your feelings about hisabsence indicates to me that you may be lacking a sense of purpose and direction at this transitional point in your life.

Assuming your husband has no control over the frequency and duration of his trips, I suggest you accept this reality and focus on developing your life with a focus on autonomy. Resenting the things that you cannot change makes you a victim.

Victims are powerless to change things. Instead of blaming others, look within yourself. As a mother and wife you have undoubtedly concentrated much of your energy over the past couple of decades on meeting the needs of your family. Sometimes in the process of caring for children and a husband, women lose sight of who they are as individuals. As empty nesters, they need time to discover their own personal interests and passions. With trial and error, you can gain clarity and move through this next phase of your life with focus and passion.

Work at identifying what you value, what you want to achieve, and what is on your bucket list that remains unfulfilled. Take the steps to meet these personal interests. Plan on an exploratory trial and error process during which you research classes, activities, community services, mentoring, religious affiliations, etc., to better understand what you would like to do.

Once you are in control of achieving your personal happiness, you will find yourself less dependent on your husband to provide you with a sense of purpose. As your self-increases, your resentment of him will decrease. Taking ownership of responsibility for your own happiness and personal growth, you will find the limited time you do share with your husband enhanced.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

My Mother Is Unbearable…

By Eileen Lenson

September 11, 2012
LOS ANGELES—Life coach Eileen Lenson provides advice and support to readers who want to improve their lives. This issue addresses questions about an overly controlling mother, parents who lose their home and more.

Q: My mother is overly involved in my life. I used to like it when I was young, because it made me feel special and more loved than my siblings. But now, as an adult, I am resentful of her interference in my life. She is critical of my friends, my boyfriend, my neighbors…pretty much everyone in my life. I used to trust her judgment about people, but am beginning to realize that she has successfully sabotaged my relationships to keep me close to her. How do I break free?

A: Unfortunately, parents sometimes target a specific child as an emotional crutch, expecting that individual to take care of them, rather than vice versa. You are demonstrating good insight into how unhealthy the relationship has become for both of you. As an adult, you are entitled to live your life as you wish, without her approval.
I suggest you nicely, and matter-of-factly, explain to your mother that she did a great job raising you, and that you now realize it is important to make decisions as an adult, even if she does not approve of them. Assure her that in no way does this mean you are abandoning her, but that you want to live life fully, as you are sure she wants you to do.
Expect that she will protest, and perhaps try to manipulate you to prevent these changes. Recognize that she may be coming from a position of fear of abandonment. With the passage of time, she will see you living a happier and less resentful life. Your shared time together will be less conflict ridden. A byproduct of your personal growth may be your mother learning to take care of herself better, developing new friends, and discovering new activities to participate in.
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Parents lose house; son loses their love

Q: My elderly parents recently lost their house. After 20+ years of living in their home, it was foreclosed. As if that wouldn’t be bad enough, it seems that I’ve lost my mother and father as parents. We used to have a nice, friendly, and caring relationship. I’ve tried to help them as best as I can. I’ve even gone to the bank with them, hoping something could be worked out on their mortgage, but it didn’t help. I bring them meals from time to time, and help with the electric bill. Now they both seem angry at everything, but especially at me. What can I do? I’m finding myself getting irritated and short with them now.

A: It’s likely that your parents are grieving the loss of their home and everything it symbolized for them. At a time in their lives when they were expecting stability, they are facing uncertainty. As if that wasn’t enough, they are experiencing a role reversal with their child. After years of providing support, encouragement and financial support to you, they may be feeling the shame and humiliation of depending on you for emotional and financial support.

Be patient with your parents as they adjust to their losses and changes. If possible, try to identify other ways they can make contributions in your life. If they can participate in an activity such as babysitting grandchildren, or a project such as helping organize your garden or your photo albums, they will be reassured they still have value and meaning in your life.
Finally, attempt to have an open discussion with your parents about your unconditional love for them. They may be relieved to have the opportunity to express their worries openly with you. Personal growth and increased closeness can be the byproduct of misfortune, if you work to make it happen.
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Finding oneself after divorce

Q: My husband divorced me last year. At first, I was shocked and upset. Then, I realized that my life had been in a rut, and that I wasn’t so happy being married to him. He was very controlling, and insisted we always do what he wanted to do. Over the years, I seem to have forgotten who I am, and what makes me happy. I have tried to change things by being open to new opportunities that I might have previously overlooked. But now it seems that I am wasting a lot of time and energy, exploring different paths. What do you recommend?

A: The process you are going through in moving forward is exciting but understandably scary. As you go forward, realize that you are learning more about yourself as you expose yourself to different experiences. With this newly acquired information, you will be able to make better choices.

Over time, you will learn how to better trust your inner voice. This will help you in making authentic decisions that will help you calibrate the correct path you wish for your life. In the meantime, keep in mind that even an experience that is not rewarding can enhance your personal growth. So long as you look for what you can learn from an experience, there is no downside.

There is a saying, “The life you are living is the life that you have created. If you don’t like it change it. Nothing will change it for you.” The significant message here is that each of us has the power to make changes in our lives. But all too often we view ourselves as powerless and victims of external circumstances or other people. I commend you for owning the responsibility for changing the aspects of your life that are not making you happy. Embrace the exploration process and enjoy!
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Mother-in-law is a unbearable

Q: I really, really, really, do not like my mother-in-law. She never cut the apron strings with her son – my husband. She tries to come between us, and undermines my role as his wife. When I am home, she finds fault with everything; my cooking, my appearance, and even how I discipline my dog. I can only take so much from her. I thought that over time, she would learn to accept me and become nicer. That didn’t happen. Instead, I get stomachaches when I think of her coming over my home, and resent her immensely. I find that raising my voice to her is the only thing that gets her attention and interrupts her negativity towards me. My husband wants me to have a civil relationship with her, but I don’t see any signs of her changing her behavior.

A: Your problem is experienced by many. Just because you love your spouse does not ensure harmonious relationships with their family. The secret to transforming the out-laws into in-laws involves re-examining your perception for how you view your responsibility in this relationship.

It appears to me that you are waiting for your mother-in-law to change. Under these circumstances, that is highly unlikely to occur.

Your despair in not being able to have a civil relationship reflects a feeling of powerlessness. This is because you are seeing her as responsible, and you as the victim. I am not saying that she is correct in how she relates to you. But by blaming her, and seeing her as unbearable, you become the victim. Victims are powerless and remain stuck and unhappy in their relationships, and nothing changes.

I don’t want that for you! Recognize that while you have no power to change your mother-in-law, how you relate to her will influence how she responds to you. By assuming full responsibility for the relationship – your conversations, behavior, and responses – you will find her responding in a healthier manner to you.

The effort you put into assuming responsibility for your communication and behavior when relating to your mother-in-law will bring about more positive experiences than the resentment and fighting that you are currently encountering.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Now My Girlfriend Doesn’t Trust Me…

By Eileen Lenson

August 26, 2012
LOS ANGELES— Do you have a question about something in your life you would like to learn, change or solve? Submit your questions to life coach Eileen Lenson.

Q: I went out a couple of times with other women – work related – but it was dinner meetings and I didn’t tell my girlfriend because I didn’t think it was a big deal. She found out, and now she doesn’t trust me.

A: The foundation for any relationship is trust. When your relationship hits the proverbial pothole in the road, you’ve got to have to have that foundation of trust, or your relationship will falter. To be trustworthy, make sure your actions match your words, and you do what you say you are going to do.

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Q: I am an attractive, 27 year old single woman, and would like to find my soul mate. But every time I date a guy for more than a couple of months, I find myself getting bored. I think I’m too much woman for them.

A: It is likely that you are not permitting the men in your life to know you. Take the risk in the relationship by communicating who you are. Self-disclosure lets your date know who you are, what you need, how you feel….in other words, it reveals who you are. Through self-disclosure, your date will likely reciprocate with improved communication. Intimacy will replace the superficial relationships that have resulted in boredom with your previous relationships.

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Q: I take care of other people’s dogs in my home. I make it very clear when they drop off their dogs that pick up time is 7pm. I have one couple who frequently come 8 or even as late as 10:30pm to pick up their dog. I’m so tired by that time, and am resenting them. But I really do like their dog.

A: I’m glad you like the dog, but don’t let your feelings cloud your business relationships. The owners are taking advantage of both your bond with their dog and your passivity.

You did the correct thing by clearly contracting with the dog owners as to the time of pick up. Now, you have two choices. You can either develop a late pick up fee, with incremental late fees for every additional 15 minutes of dog sitting you are required to do after 7pm. Or, if no amount of money can compensate for working beyond 7pm, give the dog owners a written notice with their first late pick up that you will no longer be able to dog sit for them if it occurs again. In either case, I recommend you provide a written explanation of your policies prior to a dog owner contracting with you for dog sitting services. Clean contracts provide for good communication and healthy, lengthy, positive working relationships.
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Q: My wife has gained a considerable amount of weight in the past 16 years of our marriage. She complains about her physical appearance and has tried a variety of diets. When I try to help her by throwing out the fattening snacks I find in the pantry, she goes ballistic. Do you think she’s just hormonal?

A: Even if you had the combined expertise of a physician and dietician, your wife would likely be upset at your removing the goodies. Instead of trying to take control of your wife’s overeating problem, try to be supportive. Your wife’s weight is her problem. She needs your support and for you to understand her. It is when you think you can fix her problem that you’ll run into difficulty.

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Q: My parents had an unhappy, distant marriage. I’m getting married in a couple of months, and want to make sure I don’t want to go down the same path. Any suggestions?

A: You are more likely to have a loving, intimate relationship with your spouse if you try to think about what your spouse needs from the relationship as much as your needs.

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Q: My wife complains because I don’t appear to be happy. I admit that I am irritable, don’t like my job, and prefer to watch TV alone in the evenings. Is she just caught up with the self-help hype?

A: Authentic happiness has positive impact on all aspects of our lives. Genuinely happy people experience a serenity in the world, and tend to be more compassionate and generous to others. Physiologically, they cope better with stress. The value of happiness is real. Acknowledging one’s unhappiness is a good place to begin. I suggest you explore with your wife (or a life coach) barriers to being happy, and ways that you could enhance your own personal happiness.

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Q: I’ve noticed a pattern developing in my life, and I need help. My husband and I moved away from the community of our childhood because of his job transfer. We now live 1,500 miles away from family and friends. He loves his new job, and likes the people he works with. I haven’t found a job yet, and have tried to make friends with the neighbors on the block. I’m always asking them to get together for lunch, to go shopping, or just come over to chat. The problem is that they’ll do this once or twice, but then they come up with excuses why they can’t come over again. They never call and invite me to make plans together. I miss my close, intimate conversations I used to have with my friends and family, and find myself crying nearly every afternoon. I am beginning to resent my husband for moving us to such an unfriendly community.

A: Moving is one of the greatest stresses in life. It is understandable why you are feeling lonely. You have lost the emotional support that provided positive feelings of acceptance, value and social connection.

Unfortunately, while new and meaningful relationships can be developed, you have to find patience. It is possible that you are so eager to fill the void of meaningful people in your life that you are coming across as demanding and dependent. New relationships have to develop because of commonalities, not need. They may be pushing you away because of the expectation you are placing on them.

Developing new friends comes through common interests. Researching the community and getting involved with activities that interest you will help you find like-minded, compatible people. Just be cautious to keep a balance between being friendly verses overloading them.

Keeping a journal of your progress in your adjustment to your new community might help. It will allow you a mechanism for ventilating about your anxiety, as well as help you to chart your progress over the passage of time. Good luck!

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Psychologically Safe From Colorado Shootings?

By Eileen Lenson

July 22, 2012
When a heavily armored assailant burst into a dark movie theater this week,

killing 12 and injuring another 58, most people in the United States were geographically far removed from the suburban Colorado scene. Yet, even though most of us were among the fortunate ones, not having to experience the horror of fearing for their lives, or watching others get injured or die, many were deeply impacted by this event.

Two days following the movie theater mass murder, I received a new client. “I can’t stop crying, I can’t seem to focus on anything, and I don’t know why, “the 42 year old woman tearfully explained. In our session I learned that her son had died suddenly, four year prior, in a drive-by shooting. Watching the Colorado news broadcasts about the unexpected loss of lives brought back the grief and powerlessness she had felt when her son died.

One does not need to be in physical harm’s way to experience traumatic stress. Disruptive emotional upset can occur from watching the television news, and hearing repeated reports about how unprepared the moviegoers were for an assault that included exploding tear gas canisters, bullets and body armor.Hearing government officials discuss recommended changes in movie theater security brings to light how powerless attendees in large gathering places are in preventing such calculated cruel behavior. The fact that this is the second mass murder in Colorado in recent times, the first being at Columbine High School, reminds us that such events do happen repeatedly and unexpectedly to the innocent.

Everyone will respond differently to this latest horrific event. To some, the upsetting reactions may be brief, and dissipate as the news coverage dies down. These agonizing feelings may reoccur when news coverage increases, such as the trial or the anniversary date. Or, as in the case of my client, a re-occurrence of a related incident.

Common emotional reactions may include sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, irritability, and withdrawal from friends and activities.While the range of reactions to a horrendous experience will vary, some behaviors can serve as red flags that the person, such as my new client, requires professional help to recover from the trauma. People struggling with the emotional repercussions of a trauma can often benefit from professional help. They may experience flashbacks, feel emotionally numb, depressed, be easily frightened, and suffer memory loss. Their sleep can be affected with insomnia and nightmares. They may have difficulty functioning at work, finding any quality in their personal relationships, or even finding joy in life.

It is not a sign of weakness to experience symptoms, or to reach out and receive help. Many of our nation’s finest – including military returning from fighting in wars overseas – find the need to receive professional help following exposure to incomprehensible horror.

To help oneself and other family members, here are some things you may experience and suggestions:

1. Expect young children to regress temporarily. Under stress, children may temporarily revert to the behaviors of a previous developmental stage, such as thumb sucking or become clingy. The child should not be reprimanded for this but instead be supported.

2. Young children are egocentric, and may believe that they are the cause for parental upset. Assure children that they are not responsible for what occurred.

3. Children will take their lead from their parents. If the children are able to see their parents moving ahead with their lives and keeping a normal routine, they in turn will adjust more quickly.

4. Limit exposure to repetitive reporting of the news related to the shooting. It can be emotionally overloading for children as well as adults. Children may interpret each repeated reporting to be a unique shooting.

5. Keep up a normal routine as much as possible. Avoid the inclination to withdraw and isolate oneself. Routine provides structure, and structure is comforting.

6. Be mindful of eating correctly and exercising regularly.

7. Talk to others. Repressing one’s feelings will not make the hurt go away, and will result in a delayed recovery.

8. Be tolerant and patient. Don’t judge yourself or others for their feelings. All feelings are valid.

9. Sometimes people feel guilty being happy following a national tragedy. Schedule time for fun and enjoyable activities. It is an important part of the process of moving forward.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Family Feuds

By Eileen Lenson July 14, 2012
BEVERLY HILLS—J:” I haven’t talked to my sister in over 15 years. She owes me money and

refuses to pay me back. She says I shouldn’t have to worry about money, since my parents paid for my college education and not hers. But that’s not my fault. Mom and Dad knew she would have just messed around in college and wasted their money.”
Family feuds have been around since the beginning of time. The bible story of Cain and Abel’s disastrous sibling rivalry reflects family conflict at its worst.

Whether starting over something small or significant, feuds can continue long after the cause of the argument has been forgotten. In my life coaching session with estranged family members, there are several recommendations I make to help reconcile a family feud.

1. Since one cannot fix something that isn’t broken, it is imperative that the real problem is identified. Sometimes the argument is not about what is being discussed, but is something deeper. It can feel safer to argue about money, for instance, rather than the meaning that money carries, such as love, importance, or power.

2. Remember the better times with the family member. Do you really want all the good experiences and potential for future positive feelings to be discarded based on the feud?

3. It is very difficult to fight, if one isn’t fighting. Remember the children’s toy, Chinese handcuffs, where two people each insert a finger in a bamboo tube shaped cylinder? If one person tries to quickly pull his finger out too quickly, the bamboo tightens around both people’s fingers, making withdrawal impossible. On the other hand, if either person withdraws his finger slowly, the bamboo tube remains loose and withdrawing fingers is easy for both participants. Like this child’s toy, the more resistant one person, the more immovable the other person becomes.

4. Try being the flexible one for a change. Give to the other family member your time, attention, and care. You are 100% responsible for your own behavior, and are not responsible for others. However, your behavior will influence the other person. Any change with regard to being less resistant, will in some manner influence the other family member.

5. Consider the feelings, wants and needs of the other person with the same amount of energy you place on your feelings, wants and needs. In other words, develop empathy for the other person’s position by putting yourself in his or her shoes.

6. You don’t have to be right to win. Watch out for competition and power plays. Consider different options for how both of your needs can be met without competing. Focus less on the fact that you feel you were wronged, and more about how you can use this opportunity to grow.

Unfortunately, all too often it takes a major crisis for people to recognize what they have lost. Do not wait, as some unfortunately do, until a life threatening illness reminds you of the potential that could still exist in the estranged relationship. Look for the gift that can come following a reconciliation with the estranged family member. It may very well be a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Taking The Stress Out Of Moving

By Eileen Lenson

July 1, 2012
BEVERLY HILLS—We are frequently moving. The circumstances vary, from political refugee,

to corporate relocation, to housing bust victims. Despite the reason behind the change, the stress of moving can be experienced by anyone moving to a new community.
The amount of stress experienced can depend on the motivation for a move. If spouses are moving because one is accommodating the other’s corporate relocation, the experiences will be different. One has the support of the company, along with a ready made social network, and challenging new experiences. At the same time, the partner’s needs may not be met, resulting in greater vulnerability to stress.

When offered an exciting career promotion, requiring a relocation from Los Angeles to Portland Oregon, Mr. Stenger readily accepted the new position, anticipating greater opportunities and happiness for his wife and three young children. Engrossed in the challenges of his new job, Mr. Stenger did not notice that it rained two out of every three days during the lengthy rainy season. However, Mrs. Stenger became increasingly isolated, depressed and angry with each passing week. By the end of the first month, she was referring to Portland as Portpuddle. The children, picking up on their mother’s bitterness, started acting out. The oldest child started fighting with his siblings, the middle child’s grades dropped at school, and the youngest began experiencing nightmares.

The changes in social relationships, work settings and support systems make moving one of life’s greatest sources of stress. Mrs. Stenger had moved once as a child, following her parents’ divorce. An unhappy experience, she learned to associate moving with loss and stress. Her anxiety regarding the move to Portland was influenced from her past unhappy experience. Unfortunately, she had not developed the coping skills and healthy perspective about moving that would have facilitated a successful move to Portland.

Regardless of one’s past experiences, moving can progress positively if the following issues are considered: Develop New Coping Skills: When moving, plan for a period of readjustment. Coping skills formerly used may not be applicable in the new home. For instance, if you used to walk along the beach as a stress reducer when you lived in California, you will need to develop new coping skills if relocating to Kansas.

Develop New Social Connections: Personal connections with others provide a buffer against life stresses. Anyone undergoing a move understands the value of receiving emotional support from a caring person. The social net-working sites help maintain close and meaningful relationships. But to fully adjust to the move, new connections must be developed. It is a slow process, and can take months to develop meaningful relationships in a new community. Initiate contacts rather than waiting for them to reach out to you. Let people know you want to connect with them. If you have children, volunteer at their schools or sport groups. Connect with colleagues from work. Get involved in your synagogue or church. Initial loneliness can be tempered with acceptance that the process of developing new relationships will take several months. Accept Your Feelings: Moving from one area to another is typically linked to emotional feelings include sadness, anger or depression. It can also be experienced physically, including headaches, stomach upset, edginess and fatigue. These feelings are real and valid, and it is important to accept them. Not doing so can result in self medicating with alcohol, or increased stress with one’s spouse or children. Grieve Your Losses: It takes time to build memories and familiar relationships in the new environment. Until such time, the new home likely feels more like a house than a home. It is common to grieve losses during this transitional period.

Spend some time reflecting on the positives from your former home. Grieving your losses is better than to denying your feelings. Separating from the familiar is difficult, and if you don’t properly grieve the losses, you may act it out.

Help the children say good-bye to their former home and do not minimize their concerns. Have a good-bye party. Encourage computer contact, phone calls and visits to their former friends.

Think about what you miss the most from your former community and see how you can go about getting those needs met. You will then be emotionally available to throw yourself purposefully into integrating into the new community.

Be Aware Of Cultural Factors: The receptiveness you receive from the community will help in establishing roots for your family. It can be painful moving into a community that is the polar opposite from the one in which you previously lived. Claudia: “I thought I’d never adjust those first few months in Iowa. What a culture clash! Born and raised in Los Angeles, I thrived on the intensity and variety of the restaurants, cutting-edge everything, beaches and always having new people to meet. At first I felt bored and excluded in my new Iowa community. They are less mobile, and have extended families to spend time with on holidays, evenings. I didn’t feel accepted. I was incredibly lonely and bored. For me, it grew into a personal crisis resulting in more unhappiness than I have ever previously felt.”

By determining how to tap into the community to develop personal connections, Claudia was able to develop new traditions and rituals important in preserving her confidence and feelings of self worth. Now instead of shopping the malls, she participates in teaching a youth theatre class in church. This activity led to relationship-building with church families, who in turn started inviting her to join their extended families in barbeques. “I really felt I’d made the transition to Iowa when a family I know invited me to join them for Thanksgiving dinner.” Exercise: It is easy to give up exercise because there are so many chores, boxes to unpack and arrangements to be made. Exercise is important during these times. Stress is reduced by exercise by reducing the body’s feel good chemicals and reducing pent up energy. Talk And Listen: Talking and listening to each family member, and encouraging open discussions will help with the adjustment. By identifying everyone’s concerns, the family learns how to pull together and help out each other during this period of change.
Share information about the move with children based on their age and maturity level. Younger children benefit from information being provided in bite-sized amounts. This helps prevent their becoming overloaded. Focus on the positive aspects of the move. Empower them, by letting them know what control they can have over the move, such as decorating their room, or getting a family pet. Give understandable information about the move that won’t burden or worry them. Walk the youngest children, hand in hand, through the house, describing each room for them, and in particular, show them where each of your bedrooms will be, where the kitchen table will be placed, etc. Encourage questions.

Encourage the younger children to draw pictures of their new home or bedroom and ask them to discuss their drawings. Their words will let you know if they have uncertainties that need to be addressed.

While it is human nature to fear the unknown accompanying moves, it is also human nature to thrive on change.

Claudia’s comments about her move reflect the personal growth that can result from stepping out of one’s comfort zone: “I don’t know where I’ll end up living in the future. But my two dramatically different geographical and cultural experiences has taught me so much about myself, and helped me reevaluate my values. I now believe that the answer for happiness is not based on where I am living, but what I am doing to make my home a success.”

Client names were changed in this article to protect privacy.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Effects Of Divorce On Children

By Eileen Lenson

May 20, 2012
LOS ANGELES—Divorce is a far reaching, life-changing event for children. Despite the fact that approximately 50% of first marriages and 67% of second marriages end in divorce, it is a traumatic, rather than routine, experience for children. Their view of a normal and predictable life is shattered, their family stability is fractured, and they are at risk of losing the carefree days of childhood.

Divorce results in altered relationships between children and their parents. Parents may not have the emotional energy or time to address the needs of their children as they are preoccupied with their own emotional pain. Former stay-at-home mothers may be seeking employment, and when they come home after work they are stressed and tired in the evening. Fathers often need to relocate and are distracted by the process of settling into a new home. Sometimes they avoid contact with their children because they are embarrassed to have their children see the smaller home and reduced standard of living which they must endure.
To successfully survive a divorce, children need mature guidance from their parents. Without it, they will harbor fears of abandonment and rejection. With it, they can learn about healthy ways to manage stress, grieving, and treating others with respect.

Recommendations:

1. Allow the children to remain in the house and have the parents move in and out each week until the children are 18 years old. This may be perceived as a radical idea, but such cooperation between parents would enable the children to avoid weekly upheaval of moving between two households.

2. Keep your children’s routine as unchanged as possible. Keep them attending the same school, clubs, and scout troop.

3. Don’t fight with your ex-spouse in front of your children. If your ex-spouse refuses to stop fighting, don’t get pulled into it. Keep your focus on your child’s mental health.

4. Keep healthy boundaries between adults and children. Do not use your child as a confidant. Do not share aspects of your ex-spouse that caused the marriage to fail. Remember: your children are 50% your ex-spouse. If you tell your children that their other parent is bad, they will internalize it as you saying they are bad as well.

5. Do not allow children to try to fill the role of the absent parent or expect a child to become a surrogate spouse. Examples include a daughter cooking meals for her father, or a son trying to become “the little man of the house.” Kids need to be kids.

6. Talk directly to your ex-spouse. Do not triangle in your children to these conversations by making the children messengers. Do not withhold visits to your children from your ex-spouse’s family. Remember that you got the divorce, not your children. They will do well to be surrounded by the same social network.

7. Talk directly to your children. They need to hear from you on the phone and see you in person. They need to spend time with and engage in activities with you. No stepparent can replace you. Reassure your children that you left your spouse, not them. And then act like you mean it. Spending unstructured time with your children will give them the opportunity to ask questions that are worrying them. Give them permission to ask you anything.

8. Use this traumatic family experience as an opportunity to help your children learn how to cope with loss. Help them learn how to express their feelings of grief and anger by letting them know you are there for them. By doing so, your children can grow up with a love and respect for both parents, and enter adulthood with a healthy sense of themselves and will become happy and well adjusted adults.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

How to Successfully Exit A Marriage

By Eileen Lenson

May 2, 2012
By Eileen Lenson BEVERLY HILLS—You’re unhappy in your marriage and ready to call it quits. Hopefully, by the time you reach this juncture you have already discussed your discontent openly and honestly with your spouse, and attempted marital counseling.
BEVERLY HILLS—You’re unhappy in your marriage and ready to call it quits. Hopefully, by the time you reach this juncture you have already discussed your discontent openly and honestly with your spouse, and attempted marital counseling.

Despite this approach, many come to the realization that the passage of time has incurred too much hurt, damage and disappointment, and their marriage is not salvageable.

Because no two marriages are alike, a hard and fast recipe for how to tell your spouse you

want a divorce does not exist. Sometimes it is not about her being a bad mother or him being a poor provider. Yet, lack of cause does not reduce the emotional pain because divorce is much more than dissolution of a legal contract. It is the death of all the lifelong hopes, dreams, and plans a couple once shared together.

When informing a spouse that the marriage is over, respect and sensitivity to the partner can establish the direction in which the divorce process takes place. If children are involved, it can establish the foundation for a workable communication between the two parents.

Consideration of one’s spouse includes the time and setting in which the intent to divorce is presented. Select a time void of interruptions and when children are not around to witness the discussion. Have the conversation near the beginning of the day, rather than at night time. The more surprised the spouse is by the news, the longer it will take to adjust. Judgment and emotions become frayed when combined with exhaustion and stress. Having the initial discussion in the daylight, when both spouses are refreshed allows for ample time to come to terms with the new reality.

Children are often afraid of the dark because of the ”˜boogey man’. As adults, we still have some of that little boy or girl deep inside of us. When faced with an emotional trauma, former feelings of insecurity and fear from childhood can creep back, further validating the importance of purposefully selecting a proper time and setting for discussing the dissolution of one’s marriage.

Being honest with yourself as well as your spouse is imperative. Discussion of the spouses’ deficits in the marriage should be done in a non-hurtful manner. Rarely is the spouse responsible for the entire failure of the marriage. Own accountability for your contribution. Avoid drama, as it will only result in revenge and greater emotional and financial losses. If you have made the decision that there is no hope for the marriage, then rehashing past disappointments will serve no purpose other than cause more feelings of upset.

It is not uncommon for a spouse to initially experience denial that the marriage is over. Threats of divorce may have been tossed around in the past, but as nothing came of it, the spouse may believe that this is but one more expression of discontent. This spouse may believe there is time to make requested changes; that the marriage is salvageable if the unhappy partner will stay and work on the marriage. Such reactions are common, as the one wanting to exit the marriage has been thinking about this decision for a long time, and the possibility of divorce may have never crossed the mind of the person just now being informed.

The emotional pain experienced by the breakup of a marriage can be influenced by previous unresolved experiences. Prior losses that were ”˜stuffed’ rather than properly grieved can come back unresolved, magnifying the current loss. Additionally, if divorce is perceived to be a personal failure, one’s self esteem will be negatively impacted.

Common emotional reactions include anger at the partner for breaking up the marriage. Anger may be expressed through retaliation ”“ using the children as pawns, tarnishing the spouses’ reputation in the community, or striking out in a financially punitive manner. If the spouse presents a physical danger, having the discussion in a public setting and making preparations to move to a safe setting should be considered. If the spouse threatens personal harm, get professional help.

The rejection, expenses and social upheaval associated with divorce create animosity. It is the rare couple that can remain friends post divorce, especially if one partner wants to work on the marriage. Hopefully with time, the other spouse will come to accept the unhappiness that existed in the marriage. Acceptance of this reality, along with shared ownership of responsibility for the marital problems, is important for reducing the anger and blame. This step will be valuable for divorced parents of young children.

Compounding the decision to dissolve a marriage is the extended family and community attempts to persuade a couple to not divorce. Friends and family may like the spouse, and do not want to lose that relationship. Friends may feel threatened. Divorce serves as a looking glass into other couple’s own lives, resulting in uncertain feelings of vulnerability and durability in their own marriages. Friends may feel threatened by continuing a relationship with the divorced couple as sexually available individuals. Friends may take sides, resulting in the loss of much needed emotional support. The religious community may oppose the divorce. Parents of the divorcing couple may feel guilty that they did not raise their child properly. Or they may feel their child’s partner’s rejection of their child is a rejection of them. This guilt and rejection can be expressed as anger.

The challenges for a couple going through a divorce are monumental, because the losses are multiple and deeply felt. Being fair in how possessions are divided, and being cautious to not triangle others into the marital discord is difficult. But the one quality no one should lose in a divorce is character. Character is the one thing you have full control over when leaving a marriage, and will serve you well as you rebuild your life post divorce.

Part 2 coming up next: Impact of Divorce on the Children.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Happiness: We All Want It

By Eileen Lenson

April 15, 2012
BEVERLY HILLS—Happiness. We all want it. We are all searching for it. But how many of us succeed in finding it?

As children, our parents attempt to give us the recipe for securing happiness. Their ingredients may include getting a good education, marrying rich, or obtaining a myriad of other concrete goals. A few weeks ago, millions of people across the country were united in believing they would be happy if they had the winning numbers to the $600 million lottery.

But as many former lottery winners can corroborate, material goods do not guarantee happiness. And ironically, many people hovering around the poverty line self-report being very happy. So why the conundrum?

I coach my clients that happiness is not always determined by the concrete or measurable things in their lives. Rather, happiness is achieved by being immersed in activities that are consistent with one’s values. This includes the quality of personal relationships, being passionately engaged in a career or another activity, having a spiritual connection, and a good dose of fun and laughter.

At first glance, one might assume Steve Kinney to be the sort of man that subscribes to the belief of happiness being found through the collection of tangible things. After all, he is the owner of an international Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company, and works hard to achieve professional success in a competitive marketplace.

While Mr. Kinney describes himself as being a “happy” man, he says that wasn’t always the case. He discovered that happiness has to be earned, rather than obtained by passively collecting things. He succeeded in finding happiness by being fully invested in life. He found a way to satisfy his values, which include relationships, doing for others, and engaging in pro bono work in an unrelated field.

According to Mr. Kinney, “I was working for a Fortune 100 company, and found that it wasn’t making me happy. I realized that a lot of things I want are just ”˜wants,’ rather than things I really ”˜need’ in life. For me, it is all about people, whether I’m doing work for myself or pro bono work.”

“When I get outside of myself, and start serving other people,” he says, “happiness just seems to come, and it flows and it’s endless. People start coming up and doing nice things for me, and they say nice things to me.”For Mr. Kinney, as for others, when you give of yourself it can be rewarded with immeasurable happiness in return.

While Mr. Kinney finds happiness in being selfless, he acknowledges that challenges pop up, and when they do, it is typically between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. These negative, troublesome feelings vary, including stress, self doubt, discontent or fear. His immediate reaction to “fixing”these feelings is to think about acquiring material possessions. “When I find myself thinking, need, need, need, I realize that fear is getting in the way of my selfless giving,” says Kinney.

He has learned to change the vicious cycle of the middle-of-the-night troublesome feelings into a virtuous cycle. “A vicious cycle is all about negativity,” he points out. “The more energy I put into it, the worse it gets. It is the opposite of positivity.”He uses conscious awareness of his feelings, emotions and behaviors to turn these feelings into a virtuous outcome, so as to ensure that he remains headed towards goals that are consistent with his values and will bring him happiness.

Smiling, he shares what he calls “the dirty little secret about giving: “A mentor told me that when you give something to someone, you get back more in return than you gave.” Kinney reports that the process of thinking and doing for others “is so powerful, it is boundless.”As a result of doing for others, his appreciation for what he has increases, and his wants decrease.

Like millions of others, Kinney recently got caught up in the fantasy of picking the winning numbers for the largest lottery on record. However, he dealt with his purchase of lottery tickets less conventionally than most. He bought 20 lottery tickets and promptly gave all of them away. Some went to friends, one to the cashier selling lottery tickets, and some to strangers on the street. He kept none for himself. But in his heart, he feels like a winner. And he is happy.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Why Crime Victims Get Victimized Over And Over

By Eileen Lenson

April 01, 2012
Alone in her upstairs bathroom, Maria hesitated. She heard a scratching sound outside her window, but since she lived in a gated community, she wasn’t particularly concerned. After all, she reassured herself, her dog would alert her to the presence of an intruder. Discounting the sound as being caused by the wind brushing tree branches against the windows, she proceeded to step into the shower.

To her horror, everything she had previously believed about her personal safety evaporated when she exited the shower. As she reached for the towel, she saw a man standing on a ladder, pressing his face against her bathroom window, watching her. Maria’s screams startled the intruder, who fell off the ladder and escaped.
Like victims of crime I have worked with for over two decades, Maria will be changed forever by this traumatic experience. The extent that her long term response will result in good or bad mental health will be influenced by the responses from the first responders, family, friends and community.

Typical immediate emotional reactions to being victimized by crime include shock, anger, fear, anxiety, depression, and sleeping and eating changes. Oftentimes, survivors ruminate on the incident over and over. Short-term cognitive changes also occur, including confusion, memory loss, and poor concentration.

The police are typically the first responders to a crime scene, and their role influences the well-being of the survivor. In addition to getting the facts about the crime, police can help the victim take back control of their lives by providing suggestions on how to assume responsibility for personal safety, such as better home security measures, calling a locksmith, preparing for any legal follow-up, and referrals to community crime victim support groups.
Crime victims can be victimized a second time, this time by police, if the victim is not addressed in a supportive, nonjudgmental manner. In Maria’s case, the police responded quickly, but the interviewing officer’s body language communicated boredom, and combined with the superficial investigation, it conveyed a lack of concern. Already traumatized, Maria’s normal coping mechanisms were not functioning well, and the police officer’s reaction compounded the anger and grief she felt following the crime.

Family and friends are the victim’s support system, and can help by being nonjudgmental, listening without interruption, and simply showing compassion. Caring friends and family often feel the need to dispense advice, or relate the incident to a personal experience, but this can inhibit the victim from being able to verbalize his or her feelings, and may be interpreted as being judgmental.

My goal as a life coach was to help Maria take back control of her life. The first task was to reduce her fear of being victimized again. By contacting a locksmith to install locks on her backyard gates, and blinds on her windows, she began to take control of her physical safety.
The second task was to address the anger Maria felt towards the police. She met with the commanding officer at the police station the following day to discuss the problems she encountered with the responding police officer. Several deficiencies were identified during that meeting. Remedies included the responding police officer being dispatched three days later to Maria’s office to apologize, CSI being sent out to dust for fingerprints, and Maria being interviewed more thoroughly about the crime.

The third step was when I helped Maria understand that ironically, she had to help her family and friends understand what emotional support she needed from them. Her support system is in shock and will react according to their own experiences and coping mechanisms. Maria learned that a friend minimized her crime because she felt vulnerable as well, and denial was a coping skill that worked for her. Another friend gave unsolicited advice, which felt judgmental to Maria. Rather than feeling angry, Maria asked her friend to simply listen, and give a supportive hug. Had Maria not done this, she would have felt an invisible barrier between herself and her support system, and her recovery process would have been complicated and taken longer.

The final step Maria took was to initiate a community awareness of the crime. Organizing a community meeting with the local police on personal safety gave Maria the opportunity to feel more empowered and no longer a victim of her intruder.
There is no guarantee that Maria will never again be victimized by a crime. However, with the tools she now possesses for coping with a crime, she is unlikely to suffer long-term psychological trauma.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Do Women Pay A Price For Wanting The Entire Package?

By Eileen Lenson

March 14, 2012
BEVERLY HILLS — Women are jugglers, moving masterfully to keep all of their roles and responsibilities sailing smoothly and effortlessly through the air. These roles include a career, raising kids, volunteering as scout leaders and PTA participants, tending to the physical and spiritual management of the household and family recreation/vacation directors.

Two questions come to mind when I work with these women in my office. What is the quality of involvement with each role they take on, and how is it possible that women can be all things to all people yet not physically and emotionally running on empty?

It is not the number of choices women engage in that makes them happy, but rather the ability to be successful in them and to feel fulfilled, most of the time. Being fulfilled will result in feeling less stressed, resentful and tired. The result will be greater success in the roles you choose to assume.

3 Tips for Gaining Control of Your Life

1. Delegate: What is the point of attending your child’s sporting event if you are so tired you are fighting a nap? Or being so distracted by work pressures that a day at the beach with your kids is filled with checking your I-phone for messages?

2. Engage in the activities you find most personally rewarding. Identify what parts of your life bring you the most happiness, allow you to be most creative, and increase your self-esteem. In other words, what can help you be true to your authentic self?

3. Cut out roles that complicate your life but do not add value to the things or relationships that are important to you. Women often erroneously believe that cutting out a role will make them feel guilty. Being overly involved in a myriad of roles does not provide a feeling of being in control. Rather, it can overwhelm and drain you. It is experiencing a sense of effectiveness and success that provides satisfaction.

Perhaps after reviewing your life, you may want to substitute the saying “having it all” with “less is more”. The number of balls you juggle is a personal choice. The number will predictably change from year to year, and will be influenced by other events in your life. Remembering that it is not the quantity, but rather the happiness and satisfaction derived from each role, will help you maintain the proper balance, and live life as a truly successful woman.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Terrified of Growing Old?

By Eileen Lenson

February 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES—It is Oscars time again! As exciting as it is to watch the young, beautiful movie stars on television, it may serve as a painful reminder that our own youth is in our rear view mirror.

Loss of sexual drive, insomnia, decreased cognitive function, weakness, wrinkles, money woes, dependency on others ”“ all too often these are the associations we have with old age. We spend a lifetime striving for independence in all spheres of our lives; physical, social, financial, and emotional, and are terrified that old age will steal that independence away.

For many, the fear of aging will be worse than the actual aging process. This fear can result in energy being put into denying one’s aging with women erasing all signs of facial wrinkles, men chasing women young enough to be their daughters, and both genders engaging in activities that are better suited for younger bodies.

If we learn the facts, aging won’t be so scary.

Physical health: Lifestyle choices we make today can influence our physical well being in old age. According to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Health Care, “many of our changes are caused not by the aging process but by disease, environment, and lifestyle. The good news is those physical changes occurring from these factors can be prevented or slowed down by taking action now.” Exercise can keep muscles strong and muscles flexible. Sunscreen can prevent some cancers

Emotional health: self-esteem associated with work, loss of relationships with colleagues,

Cognitive abilities: The brain is a ”˜use it or lose it’ organ. Don’t let it atrophy ”“ learn, learn, learn. Challenge your intellect much as you would your body in a physical activity.

Work: You may be retired, and not going to the office any more. For many, the loss of contact with colleagues results in social isolation, intellectual starvation and a loss of purpose in life. Take your work skills and become a mentor or consultant, or use this opportunity to start a new work path.
Recreation: If you lose an activity due to a physical limitation, replace it with another. Choosing to engage in no activity will place you at greater risk for depression and dementia.

Social: Enhance your life by connecting with others, be it family, friends or community. People who get involved with others and share their knowledge and experiences with others have an improved sense of well being.

Sex: Sex provides a way to enjoy emotional intimacy, increase circulation, and reduce anxiety. Our bodies have changed over the past decades, but along with those changes comes increased wisdom and maturity. Focusing on giving and taking in the cherished relationship will help reduce your self-consciousness.

We have a considerable amount of control over the success of our aging process. By focusing on receiving fulfillment in productive activities and discovering new interests, we will maintain meaning in our lives, which will foster happiness and a healthy self esteem in old age.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

The Loaded Weapon In Your Medicine Cabinet

By Eileen Lenson

February 19, 2012
LOS ANGELES—“I knew I couldn’t do the crack cocaine anymore because it is illegal. So I took prescription drugs instead. Hey, these pills were prescribed to me. I thought I could handle it and they’d be safe,” assumed Jim, a 34-year-old man undergoing his second inpatient chemical dependency treatment program.

Jim discovered firsthand the silent epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that prescription drug abuse is causing more deaths in the United States than heroin and cocaine combined.

Despite the fact that the number of deaths from prescription painkillers has tripled over the past year, society continues to view the drug war as being with illegal rather than prescription drugs. Schools and parents continue to caution children about street drugs, while missing the hazards lurking in their own medicine cabinets.

Teens have been reported to attend parties with prescription medications pilfered from their parent’s medicine cabinets. These stolen medications are taken to “pharm parties” to be consumed with friends. Partiers risk accidental overdose and even death. Depressants can result in increased blood pressure and suicidal ideation. Stimulants can cause nervous tics and hallucinations. Painkillers can cause stomach bleeding, nausea and respiratory depression.

The disastrous loss of many notable Americans to prescription drugs—ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson and now quite possibly Whitney Houston—drives home the fact that legal medications are a cure for diseases while their use can also lead to a disease that kills.

others of the prescription medication abusers inadvertently become enablers of addiction. They do so by not challenging the prescription medication abuser for fear of being rejected. Others help cover up the addiction because they want to protect the user’s career or reputation or they want to protect their own position as a satellite of the addict. Tragically, these interactions enable the progression of the disease.

The addict’s significant other must recognize he/she cannot passively wait for the person to see what the disease is doing. It will not happen, because the medications have a corrosive effect on his or her ability to objectively appraise his/her condition. Quitting without proper treatment can result in being overwhelmed by awareness of the painful feelings that were suppressed by the medications, as well as awareness of his physical and emotional deterioration. The cycle of shame, guilt, and subsequent relapse can result.

This society’s wake-up call to examine its misunderstandings, tolerance and excuses about prescription drug abuse has sounded. We have witnessed enough personal tragedy and premature loss to know that the pattern of pathology in sustained chemical dependency is predictable. It always ends in a downward spiral.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Love Coaching

By Eileen Lenson

February 12, 2012
By Eileen Lenson BEVERLY HILLS—It will soon be Valentine’s Day, America’s love day. Yet the couple in this article, like so many others, describes their struggle in keeping their love for their partner alive.
BEVERLY HILLS—It will soon be Valentine’s Day, America’s love day. Yet the couple in this article, like so many others, describes their struggle in keeping their love for their partner alive.

(Cases are real, but names and identifying information have been changed to protect confidentiality.)
Scenario

Rhonda: “My marriage has come to resemble more of a business relationship than the loving relationship we had when we got married 14 years ago. Michael used to make my heart flutter when we first started dating. He was considerate, complimented me, and we shared the same dreams in life.

He has three boys from a previous marriage, and I had hoped that we could become a happy family together. But now, his time is spent at his all-consuming job, coaching his sons’ soccer teams two evenings a week, and with his hiking club on weekends. I’m feeling like the hired help.

I really wanted my marriage to work, especially since my parents were obviously unhappy with each other. I remember my childhood consisting of my mother busy volunteering at the church and managing a gift shop on weekends. When home from work, my father could be found drinking beer and working on his endless projects in the garage. They seemed to have little interest in having family fun with my sister and me.

I don’t want to end up like my parents. I don’t want to stay married to Michael if we aren’t in love.”

Michael: “I love Rhonda and want to make my marriage work, but she is making it very difficult. Nearly every day she reminds me of how I show her less attention than I do to my children. Despite what she says, I don’t think of her as the hired help. But she increasingly is pushing me away. In fact, last week, she started sleeping in the guest room.

When one of my kids and I are sharing a laugh, Rhonda will make a snide remark or rolls her eyes. She’s making it more difficult for me to want to spend time with her. Quite frankly, I don’t know how I’d manage her hostility on the weekends, if I didn’t have some time away with my hiking club.”

Lenson’s Assessment:

Love is the strongest and most satisfying emotion that people experience. But many couples, like Rhonda and Michael, risk losing it all for unnecessary reasons.

Rhonda came to this marriage for the wrong reasons. She expected Michael and his children to make up for all her childhood disappointments. Failing to receive what she wanted from Michael, she started making a check list of disappointments and was further stressing the relationship by being disrespectful and hostile.

Rhonda had to learn to love herself before expecting to find a truly loving relationship with Michael. It was not up to Michael to fill a void in her childhood. Once she learned to assume responsibility for her own behaviors and feelings, she felt more powerful and in control of her own life. She learned to express her wants and needs more directly to Michael. This resulted in Michael understanding her needs. He responded by establishing a better balance of time spent between work, family, and time alone with Rhonda.

Michael learned that because of his first failed marriage, he was avoiding taking risks of true emotional intimacy with Rhonda. He also saw that he was falling into the trap of getting busy with individual activities, which served as distractions from his unsatisfying marriage. He invited Rhonda to join his hiking club.

When a couple does not commit the time and attention to each other, love is threatened.

Stress and anxiety had created a wedge between Rhonda and Michael. For them, the cure was learning to take risks with being vulnerable with each other. Slowly, they learned to better trust each other by being honest in their communication and consistent in their consideration for the best interests of each other. This step led to a better foundation of emotional intimacy. They learned that true love is more than the expression of affection, words, or a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Like a plant, love requires constant attention, or will wilt and die.

Outcome:

Michael and Rhonda recognize that love needn’t be complicated, and now have the awareness of what it takes to keep their love alive. They are appreciative of the fact that feelings are fluid, and were able not only to rekindle their love, but deepen the quality of their shared intimacy.

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.

Psychological Fallout In Miramonte Aftermath

By Eileen Lenson

February 12, 2012
LOS ANGELES—”I thought the teachers were blindfolding the kids, giving them lollipops, putting roaches on their faces and killing them,”confided eight-year-old Darcy.

Like all children, Darcy has a creative imagination, and while no children were killed, it is clear that all is not right in the hearts and minds of the children at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles. The reported horrors of exploitation and abuse rapidly unfolding have captivated the nation’s attention. Parents view their children as their dearest treasures, and make immense sacrifices to provide the best in life, including love, protection and education.

Now, many parents of the approximately 1,500 students are wondering how their innocent, defenseless and dependent children could have been betrayed by the school employees into whose care they were entrusted. They’re angry, scared and in many cases, feeling guilty that they were unable to protect them.

Not only are the children affected, but the trust and emotions of the parents have been shattered. One mother, Karina, lamented, “The administration is not telling us where they are shipping our old teachers. Some of them were good people and they were like family to us. Every teacher here today is new. We don’t feel safe just because they are new.”

Arrests of the alleged perpetrators and the dramatic action of removing all staff is a step in the right direction. But as each affected parent knows, the boundaries between this school and home have weakened. Each day is now filled with parental angst about the alleged emotional, physical and sexual abuse, wondering if their child was a victim, and worried about how this disruptive event will impact their child’s future.

These parents have good reason to be concerned. Children need to learn that the world is safe and that authority figures, such as teachers, police and firemen, are to be trusted. A child that has been abused learns that the world is not a safe place, and is at greater risk of not being able to develop trust and intimacy with others as an adult.

“What the parents would like is for the old teachers to come back and work with support from the psychologists,”said another parent, Maria. But to make it work, it is becoming increasingly clear that the parent-teacher-student culture of the entire school needs to be evaluated and repaired. As evidence, during this interview one sixth grader alleged that the former principal used to call the students in grades four through six who had not completed their homework assignments “stupid and idiots.”She had never spoken of this to her parents. It is clear that information and truth in the Miramonte Elementary School saga may flow slowly, as even the older children are reticent to report events to parents or authority.

Abuse is damaging, but does not automatically decide one’s fate. Some fears and worries expressed by children today will be mild and transient, based on the child’s developmental stage. Removing the offending teachers will likely ameliorate symptoms in others.

Children look to their parents for support and guidance. If the parents demonstrate successful coping skills, so do the children. Damage to all children can be shortened by ensuring a strong, healthy relationship with parents. Certain family dynamics enhance the long term risk factors for the children, such as families which, prior to the school abuse, exhibit social deprivation, parental separation, or chemical, physical or emotional abuse.

All children are born with a particular temperament. Some children’s biological makeups make them more vulnerable to stresses. Their sense of powerlessness can be reduced by participation in sports and success in school, as these successes increase their self esteem.

Knowing their children may have been abused by staff has made the parents victims as well. The parents need the community’s empathy to regain control, and facilitation.

We can demonstrate our empathy for these parents by putting ourselves in their shoes and imagining the crisis of emotions they are experiencing.

We can help the parents regain control of their lives by showing them how to assertively influence the course of direction that takes place at school with regard to communication, inclusion and transparency. Karina suspects that a parental request for cameras in each classroom was denied “because then all the other schools would want them too, and that would be too expensive. The government has money for war, but no money for our kids. That’s wrong.” Parents need to know how to communicate their requests to authorities rather than feel victimized.

And finally, we can help these parents facilitate the conditions for resolving any ongoing concerns regarding their children’s mental health by providing sufficient counseling and education. In this large school, the children are separated into three tracks. The parents who have children in the two tracks that are not currently in the classrooms complain that they are not permitted to attend meetings and are less informed as to what is taking place.

Fortunately, there are no absolutes about children being damaged by abuse. As children grow, and move through various developmental phases, it is possible to repair much, if not all, of the damage inflicted by abuse. These children can grow into adulthood having unaffected social, sexual and interpersonal functioning.

Maria stated what is probably on every parent’s heart: “Send good people who are good teachers, not bad people who are bad teachers.”

Parents can be empowered if they know the indicators of children experiencing difficulty following an upsetting event in his or her life, so they know when to reach out for professional help. Below is a partial list of common behavioral and psychological manifestations:

Behavioral
Sleep problems, nightmares
Phobias
Somatic complaints: (stomach and headaches)
Verbally or physically aggressive (sad kids often act mad)
Repeating abusive acts to other children or seductive
School refusal
Attention seeking behavior
Declining grades

Self-mutilation
Running away
Delinquency
Vandalism

Psychological
Guilt, humiliation, shame
Lowered self-esteem
Mood swings
Secretiveness
Sense of being different from others
Feeling violated
Feeling responsible for the situation in any way
Feeling isolated
Separation anxiety
Depression

Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private

practice. Prior to becoming a life coach, Eileen was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 year. Over her career, Eileen’s writings include the book, Succeeding in Private Practice: A Business Guide For Psychotherapists (Sage Publishing), contributing author to Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society, and writer for multiple magazines and newspapers throughout the country. For further information or to schedule an appointment, write to her at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com, or visit her website at www.LensonLifeCoaching.com, or call her at 949-244-5100.

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