Category Archives: Spotlight

How not to disturbed disturbing relatives

No! Don’t avoid them; meet them, those disturbing Relatives you must meet over the holidays. Neat them where they are intellectually and emotionally.


Why are those relatives so disturbing in the first place?


We care about them. Relatives are the ones we are related to. When you identify yourself you use names that connect you to your relatives. You don’t use words that connect you to your job or town in the same way. Thus they are important and give you your identity.


You have a long history with them. They are the ones you learned to relate to most intimately. That means you made mistakes and found ways to relate.


But the pains of those mistakes persist. You failed them and they failed you. Those failures left you with mistrust and defenses.


Do those defenses serve you or your family now? Probably not. Those defenses are where we restart when we meet again over the holidays.


We need to deal with those defenses, because we will be relating to these people for a long time to come. It was with these people that we learned to relate to others. And it is with them that we can learn to relate better with others.


When we meet people casually we don’t expect the relationship to last forever. Yet with relatives our relationships will last. Many of them were at your birth. You met most of them in your youth. They are expected to come to your funeral or you to theirs. That means these will be the longest lasting relationships you will have in your life.


So you need to make them the best relationships you have. No, I don’t say we should live only among family. Yet, it is among family that we can try out new ways of relating and see how our family members face the consequences.


Many of the problems we have among families mimic those we have among casual relationships.


So, why not use the holiday gatherings as a time to find new ways to relate? Ways of relating that work for everyone.


One of the biggest things people want out of relationships is respect. When we feel disrespected we have been taught to confront and demand that respect. The U.S. is fighting many wars because we don’t feel that others respect us. Our fellow citizens have been attacked because they are Americans.


On the personal level, what makes us feel respected?


The feeling of respect comes from being understood and how do we understand each other? Is it not by listening?


Listening is a skill that many of us could do better. In school we learned to parrot what the teacher said. But there is much more to listening than just the words that are used.


When we talk and act there are reasons for doing so. Those reasons stem from needs and wants. Often we cannot put words to those needs and wants directly. We are sending coded messages.


When we decode those messages incorrectly others don’t feel heard. Yet, we never pause to check if we are hearing correctly. I often find I am more in a duel, trying to mediate situations where what they say will be untenable. Does such a contest develop understanding and respect or antipathy?


If we wish to understand we need to let them expand on what they are trying to say. Questions like, “tell me more.” “How would that work out in a way that would be even better?”


While you are listening you need to ask yourself such questions as, “What does this person really need from me?” “How can I meet that need?” if you focus your attention on these issues and not try to defend yourself you will learn to understand why your relatives choose to vote for the other guy, or believe differently from you on the many social issues that divide us.


If there is time, ask them to tell you how they came to their stance on an issue. You may then be able to share your stories without saying one another might be wrong.


How else might you talk with your relatives in Peace while saying your own piece?


I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and the rest of the holidays.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,


I bet you think; you’re nice?

We all think of ourselves as nice people, but are we? How often do you see someone acting in a way you consider not nice?В Was that you recently? Did you cut someone off in traffic as you hurried to get somewhere?

I bet that you could be nicer. I bet you would like to be nicer. Here are some ways.

1 … accept yourself, you know you’re not the nicest person. You don’t like that, or you would have stopped reading by now. We all have rough edges that rub others the wrong way. We don’t like that about ourselves. Humans have tried to change that since the beginning of time.

2. …accept others; now that you admit to having rough edges realize that others have them too. When you encounter those rough spots rubbing together there is friction.

3. …. Be genuine; when you encounter that friction don’t let it start a fire. we sense that friction as anger or fear. . Ask yourself instead, “Is that anger or fear justified”?” usually the fear or anger lacks justification .take a deep breath and relax. You are safe, maybe.

4. … be curious; now that you feel safe you can be genuine in letting yourself be curious. What marvels does the world offer you?

When a stranger mentions, “how nice the day is”, he is seeking to connect with you, never mind that he is armed like Rambo. He seeks to connect, not kill. We all want to connect with others, so does he? Yet, obviously he fears something in the world. What is it?

5. … open yourself to the being of others; Rambo obviously wants to connect with you. Yet he dresses from a place of danger and fear. I bet he wants to share his fears. Can you stay calm as he opens those fears?

6. … be positive, if Rambo wanted to kill you, you’d be dead. He doesn’t want to kill. He wants to talk about the weather. He wants to connect. If it is raining, “We need the rain”, ignore the chance of floods.

When Rambo mentions the flooding, reply how it will wash away the dead leaves and branches. The streets will be clean.  7. … own your feelings, if you fear the flood will wash out the bridge say, “I fear it might wash out the bridge.” That will let Rambo make up his own mind.

8. … respect confidences, if Rambo tells you he fears that the Canadians will attack, accept it as his fear.   Let him tell you more if he wishes.

9. … accept complements simply, if Rambo says, “You are a nice person.”

Thank him and let it go.

So, even in your nightmares you can be nice.В Now can you be nice in the light of day? Try it and let me know how these ideas work.

Hint; if you really want to implement these get a partner, who will call you out when your naught and not nice.

As all Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach, Dr. DaveI bet you think; you’re nice?

You are gifted!

Yes you have gifts. You are gifted with gifts but you may not realize just what gifts you have to share with the world. You need to develop them. Most of us marvel at the skill of the “gifted” athletes at the recent Olympics. Yet, with all their gifts it was often stated that each of them has spent 10,000 hours in training. That is the equivalent of working full time for five years to achieve the level of skill we saw in the Olympics.

You might say I don’t have a gift. Yet each of us has the ability to do something that someone else can’t. Many bright and talented people can’t stand to do repetitive tasks. I got bored driving cross country, especially on the interstates. I would often create fantasies to keep from falling asleep. I am glad I don’t drive for a living.

Ask yourself these questions, what do you dislike doing? What can’t you do that you have to rely on others to do?” then turn them around, “What do you like to do that others don’t? What can you do that others can’t?” Answering these four questions will help you identify your gifts and the gifts you want in others.

Being gifted is not enough to be noted for a talent. I know an excellent Jazz performer. He has played some professionally, but doesn’t. He found the smoky bars and clubs unhealthy. He hated the traveling and odd hours. It was not good for his family. He sought another line of work.

Many of you may have noted that my writing is sporadic. In February and March, I let other things keep me from the computer. To make these blogs helpful for you, I will have to find ways to write regularly.

You may also have noted that I am better with ideas than with putting them on paper. There are words I keep misspelling.В I need to use a spellchecker and proof read the result. Even then I miss many obvious mistakes. I enlist the aid of a proofreader. That proof reader has a gift that I value. They can see mistakes that I miss. In fact I have a program so I can dictate the blog and not have to type it. The program makes fewer typing mistakes than I do.

Once you identify your gift and develop it you need to focus it to some goal. What do you value in this world? What do you want to see happen in the next five years? Then how can you use your gift to make that happen. If your gift is in organizing things many groups need people to keep record and organize their files.В Who is seeking to do what you want to see happen. Approach them and see how you might work together. В You can become an important part of the team.

Martin Luther King led the civil Rights movement. He could not have done it without others to show up and March. Others drove cars to bring supplies to the marchers. Still others cooked and arranged housing for the marchers when they came from out of town. Great things happen because many people join together to make them happen. The glory may go to a few, but they were able to organize many others to make it happen.

I would love to hear what your gifts are, and how you have used them.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave

Is your life in Harmony?

We humans seem to have a unique capacity for music. Birds may seem to sing but each of their songs conveys a particular message. Bird songs are more like phrases. “I am looking for you.” “Get out of my territory.” And other messages,

Some years ago my cousin and I went camping in the Boundary Waters here in Minnesota. As we drove up we listened to a tape of Loon calls. Loons are birds that live on Northern Lakes. They will let out a call and then dive below the water. Thus, as you look across the lake for the source of the call, you feel you are going “Looney”.
Each Loon call has a particular meaning. Since, loons are nocturnal animals. My cousin and I got little sleep as we listened to the messages the loons were giving to each other.
So much for loons. Neither they, nor the wolfs that howl, seek to harmonize. Yet people do, both in our personal lives and our relationships to others.
So, how can we harmonize our lives?
A chorus will have several voices, typically Sopranos, Altos, Tenors and Bases. As they construct a chord one voice will sing a note. Each of the other voices will then sing a note that has a unique relationship to that first note. These notes will resonate with the first so that they regularly reinforce and cancel the first one out. This creates an other note. The whole things are pleasing to hear.

Our lives have several parts just like a choir. I divide them into Physical, Emotional, Social and Spiritual. We can choose any one of these to be the basis our life. When we are socializing, our physical body allows us to relate in ways pleasing to others. We adjust our emotions to support the social interaction. (How often do you catch yourself when tempted to make an unwelcomed remark?) The spiritual also takes a back seat to the social.
Like a musical composition the various voices of your lives take turns being the basis of the harmony in our lives. Sometimes we care for our body, like eating or bathing. At other times our bodies have the melody, like in playing sports or dancing.
When the various voices of our lives are not in harmony we get a dissonance. That comes out in the form of physical illness, emotional stress, social discord or spiritual isolation.
How do you find this metaphor in your life?
In future blogs I will explore this metaphor more if you share your experiences I will try to incorporate them into the blogs.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,
Coach Dr. Dave

Ways to be Likeable

“If you’re unlikeable, it’s you against the world.
If you’re likeable, it’s you with the world at your side.”

This is so true, but how often do we feel liked? What ways might you try to behave to be more likeable? Where might you look for ideas?

I bet you are like most people. So who do you like? What characteristics do you see in those you that you don’t see in those you dislike?
The first thing I notice when I look at those who I like is they like themselves. They are not sad and upset with themselves. I naturally
want to comfort those who are sad, but I tire of doing it all the time. I would rather be with those who feel happy.

People who are happy seem to be easier to be around. They are comfortable meeting others. They say hi and are offering their hand, if not a hug. They seem kind and courteous. They say Please and thank you, just like they were taught.

Yet they seem to be able to go beyond the simple courtesies our Mothers taught us. They seem to be able to fit into the group. They notice how others around them behave. They don’t cut others off in conversation, unless everyone is doing that. If others always let certain people talk, they do the same.

If you really want to be liked remember,
“It’s easier to see what someone is really like
By how they treat their inferiors, not their equals.”
(S. J.K. Rowling)

Likeable people seem confident. They give an air of positivity. They know they can do what it takes to get the job done. That doesn’t’ mean they won’t get help and recruit others in the task. I would rather join in a task than just stand there and watch, even when the other person can do it by them self.

Some mistake arrogance for confidence. What is the difference between
confidence and arrogance? Both know they can do the job. Arrogant people seem to have an attitude that others can’t do the job, or do it as well as them. This can be difficult for those who have struggled to master a task. You naturally want to show off. When kids do it we praise them, but as adults we need to unlearn this. Otherwise we will come over as Arrogant.

Confident people are also relaxed. They aren’t afraid to let others try.
That doesn’t mean they let others struggle unnecessarily. They might say, “Would you like a hand with that”, instead of “let me do that.”
We tend to like people who we can trust. That means many things but goes back to courtesy. They don’t let us down. If we are trusted, we know what is expected and do that.

When we speak we expect others to listen. Do you like to be ignored?Then don’t ignore others. Some people don’t know when to relax and stop talking. Then we have to find a nice way to ask them to, “let others play, too.”Yet, do you like others that ignore what you just said? Instead

acknowledge what they dais and if you don’t know much, ask a question? Be careful not to challenge their point of view, until you know they won’t feel attacked. There is a time for debate and never a time for argument.

People also like to be known, use their name. If they wish to be formal the be formal and say MR. or Mrs. This goes back to the blending into

the group. Informality may be accepted from some people and not others. I noticed this among fellow physicians. To the general public they were Dr. and to each other we used first names.

People always likes to Laugh. A sense of humor is liked. But this can be difficult if you don’t know your audience. Some people are sensitive about things that others take for granted. Puns usually are safe, but putdowns are very dangerous. They might be offended for an absent friend.
Lastly, we enjoy being with those who enjoy us. In addition to laughing we enjoy being enjoyed.

So if you wish to be liked:
•Like yourself
•Be courteous
•Blend in and accept the group’s standards
•Be confident but not arrogant
•Be trustworthy
•Know who you are with
•Make them laugh, and
•Enjoy them

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Vitamins are they Vital?

Do you feel like the person you would like to be? Do you eat like you know you should? Does your diet lack some important nutrient? Of course you feel the answer might be yes. So take vitamins and you will correct this flaw in your life.

That is why vitamin and mineral supplements are such a big business in the US. The average American spends over $100 a year on such products. In fact I took my vitamin this morning. But then, is that really necessary?

As I have aged my metabolism has slowed. If I eat like I did at twenty, I would really be obese.В In fact I doubt I could avoid obesity if I eat as the dieticians recommend.В I am probably missing some vitamins or minerals.

Yet, much of the vitamin and mineral supplement I take shows up in my very yellow urine. Yes urine is yellow, but not that yellow. If you doubt this stop your vitamins for a week, and then restart them. Your urine will go from pale yellow to a bright yellow.

Is the American diet deficient in some vitamins and minerals?

Yes, the American diet is deficient. That is why milk is fortified with Vitamin D and salt with Iodine.В We debate about adding Calcium to orange juice.В The limited usual dietary supply of these three elements cause health problems in many Americans.

The average person suspects they are suffering from some other vitamin or mineral related ills and takes supplements “just in case.” These illnesses are not as dramatic as scurvy or rickets. Neither are the vitamins or minerals toxic.

There are many problems with this debate. The science lacks the rigor of most medical studies. The products fail the quality standards of prescription medications. The motivation to correct these flaws is lacking.

Faced with all the marketing and uncertainty what are we to do?

What is causing you trouble? Is it the worry or the lack of vitamins? That is hard to tell. Worry and stress are part of our lives. Worry leads to many illnesses. Those illnesses are common and have many causes. They also have many potential ways of prevention. One can’t do all that might be done, without spending so much time worrying as to have the worry become the problem. So, relax. Listen to a trusted source. Try to follow that source’s advice. Being relaxed will often help you better than more or less vitamins or minerals would.

When you get a cold you will want to do something. If you think Vitamin C will help take some. Just be sure to drink plenty of water. The first problem with high dose vitamin C is the possibility of kidney stones. Lots of water will reduce that risk. It is really hard to get too much water, and with a cold mild dehydration is common.В The second is possible rebound Scurvy when you stop. The Scurvy is transient and will be in the form of cracking at the corner of your lips. Now that your worry about whether or not to take Vitamin C is over, you will relax. Relaxing will help your body heal quicker.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave

Ps. I welcome sharing and commenting.

The Hospice Cure?

People in hospice are living longer than expected, according to a recent Washington Post article. Why is that? It’s because for-profit hospice companies are recruiting less ill patients, or patients not really dying. In my experience as a geriatrician, many chronically ill people have lost most incentives to keep them alive.

Why might Hospice Cure a dying person?

In my experience as a geriatrician, I saw that seriously ill patients often became isolated. As we become ill we cut back on our social contacts. With a cold or flu that is certainly wise. However, after heart attack or stroke there is no reason to avoid social contact. Yes it might take more effort, but can yield benefits that make it worth it. Have you ever gone to a party feeling bad only to enjoy yourself and forget your ills?

As we get older our bodies stiffen up. We are aware of more aches and pains. Most people past 60 have some osteoarthritis but for some people it doesn’t cause problems. Doctors can’t explain this. I have seen very deformed knees that did not ache and seemingly normal knees that were crippling. It seems that some people with osteoarthritis have adapted very well and others not as well. Those who adapted live full lives, the others are shut up in their illnesses.

What are the benefits or remaining active?

The main benefit of an active life is the self-image of health. When I can shop and do other things by using a bus I don’t feel the loss of driving. When I get to the gym I am among others who are enjoying strengthening their bodies.

There is a large social benefit from getting out. I go to a book group regularly. The others bring their printed books. I recall what I heard while listening to the book and my thoughts about the book. In the time I have attended this group I have made several friends. If I had let the difficulty of transportation and low vision stop me, I would have missed out on the friendships.

Those who are shut in by illness are cut off from friends and family.В When people recognize that they are dying, they enter hospice, which brings renewed support. The hospice teams are available in person and by phone. They have a network of supporters who will sit with a person and do chores.

Hospice changes the focus from Cure to Care. This was the biggest change I noted when I became a Geriatrician. No longer could I expect to cure an illness. In fact I often had to decide which symptom to address, recognizing that other illnesses would be left to run their courses.

Our society is very isolating. We no longer live in multigenerational groups. Families are separated by distance. Many divorced or widowed people live alone with personal contacts limited to what they can organize.В If someone misses a group gathering, soon they will be forgotten.В The news of their entry into hospice may bring renewed contacts.

Humans are social animals. Infants who don’t get physical contact with care givers soon die. Kids are always in contact with each other. They wrestle and roll together on the floor. Adults too need physical contact. Hugs are usually welcomed and enjoyed. Even a hand shake can enhance the experience of meeting a stranger. We can take stock of someone we meet by the strength of the handshake. Physical labor makes one’s hand strong and well-muscled. Confidence is communicated by willingness and taking the lead.

Thus the social supports and contacts Hospice Care provides might be just the Cure a person needs.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave,

Author of the forthcoming book: “Recipes for Lemonade (thriving through disability): Dr. Dave

S Personal Recipe”

Loneliness: how to overcome Loneliness

Everyone feels lonely some time, but how can we stop feeling lonely? Researchers investigated this in a study recently reported on by NBC news. The question was does loneliness make us seek things or do things make us lonely? They found for some it works both ways, but not for all. Do you use shopping as a way to combat loneliness?

Loneliness is surprisingly common, with 20% of Americans saying their lonely at any one time. About one third suffer from chronic loneliness. Loneliness increases stress high blood pressure and possibly premature death. So how can we combat loneliness?

In this study they divided people’s approach to material items into three groups. There were those who liked having things for the sake of the things themselves. Second group like things for the social status they brought. And the third group never felt they could have enough stuff.

Those who like things for the sake of the items tended to be happier and not as lonely. For them getting new things did not make them lonelier nor did loneliness seem to make them want more stuff.

For the second group that sought items for social status shopping brought only short-term gains their increase in social status was short livedВ and they soon felt lonely again. В This seem to be a recurrent spiral. Loneliness made them seek things. Things eventually made them lonely again.

The third group seemВ to beВ stuck in loneliness. Buying things did not make them happier. And being unhappy seem to cause them to be alone with the things. They could neither have enough stuff or enough friends.

How can you become less lonely?

We can think of several ways to be less lonely. Shopping was the example in this study. But we can think of the lonely man sitting in a bar. Or “all those lonely people” sitting in a church in the Beatles song. These may be attempts to get ourselves out among other people but are they really satisfying our need?

What lonely people seek this connection with others. While watching a movie in a theater may seem more connected than watching at home is it really satisfying our need? Isn’t what we really need, getting together with those people and talking about how we feel about the movie and how the movie made us feel?

It would seem that the solution to loneliness is in connecting with people and sharing with people. Not in just being around people. How do you connect with others?

As always feel free to comment and share this blog.

As All Ways, Seek Joy

coach Dr. Dave

author of the upcoming book “Recipes for Lemonade (Thriving through Disability): Dr. Dave’s personal recipe”