Handling Conflict With Difficult People

Handling conflict is never easy. Handling conflict with difficult people is nearly impossible, especially with the intelligent, articulate ones who can seem normal one moment and completely out of their minds on another. How does one keep their sanity, individuality and thought processes coherent when the one you are interacting with is normally logical and clear thinking, and then in an instant switches to a completely emoting state, with no logic attached to it? A complicating factor is when that person is in a position of authority with the power to make life decisions for others. This person then becomes the bully or the blamer I mentioned in one of my previous blogs. The confusing part is that they aren’t always the bully or the blamer. That would actually be easier to handle, as it would be more predictable.

The only way I have figured out how to handle this type of conflict is to be very clear about what I want. In this manner, I can determine the course of action over those areas I have control. Otherwise, I feel helpless and at the mercy of someone else who is not predictable in his or her actions or mannerisms.  In the past, this has led me to feel depressed and trapped.

As an example of dealing with conflict on the mission field, my parents experienced severe conflict while trying to deal with a very difficult, unpredictable co-worker. In an honest gesture of reaching out and being biblical, dad would be the first one to go the other when there was conflict, was kind when the other was mean, and did not react harshly. All were futile attempts, resulting in dad eventually leaving the mission field after eight years there. Prior to this, on another mission field, he had been loved and successful. In hindsight and with the tools I am addressing here, there were some things he might have done. Granted, the outcome might have been the same, but my guess is that he would have left feeling more empowered rather than defeated.

One of the things he might have done after he determined what he wanted to accomplish was to form a plan of action that put himself in more control. From this point on in the discussion, it is only my speculation as to what would have been effective, but the following are some general ideas:

Writing letters to the appropriate mission authorities. In other words, making more “noise”.

Setting firm boundaries without over spiritualizing as to whether or not it was being nice. To those who are sensitive to being godly, sometimes they fail to see that being too nice is actually enabling the other to remain in sin.

If there were others who shared similar goals, finding support through them and together making a plan of action.

Supposing that none of the above would work or were viable options, making an exit plan with as much detailed information and knowledge as to next steps would be very helpful and empowering.

Naturally, implementing some of the above ideas has the high probability of creating chaos, and many don’t want to or have the energy to engage at that level. On the other hand, because so many did not know what to do with that co-worker, last I heard, though he is in his 90’s, he still inappropriately meddles into the affairs on that mission field.

A caveat on the above considerations: some really smart bullies might take the information and feel empowered to continue in their agenda of destruction. The difference is that it is usually through control, fear and domination or intimidation that they are able to accomplish their objective. Those who are genuinely godly will be cooperative, considerate listeners, bringing peace and healing to the team.

Third Culture Kids and Arranged Marriages

TCKs face unique challenges when finding a marriage partner. Perhaps the clearest way to describe those challenges is to contrast monocultural experience of finding a partner to the TCK one.

For the monocultural individual, by definition they have experienced only one culture and way of life and thinking. Even if they are intentional in learning about other cultures, it is different than living, breathing, and interacting with it. A monocultural understands his or her own cultural norms of dating, personal space, and expectations surrounding the dating experience. They have a much easier time reading the subtle signs when another is either showing interest or disinterest. They have a greater facility in knowing when they are being taken advantage of or when the other has a genuine interest in them as a person. Additionally, most often they do not challenge their own cultural norms and happily choose a partner that fits within those confines.

By contrast, the TCK has lived in multiple cultures and learned different world views and ways of thinking. They have seen and perhaps experienced other norms of dating in their host country and may decide they prefer that way to the ones their parents’ value. They are much more likely to compare and contrast the two (or various) styles and criticize what they believe to be too narrow and “old fashioned” ways of finding a partner. However, one disadvantage a TCK often has over a monocultural, is in being able to read the underlying signals of interest, disinterest, whether what they are experiencing in the relationship is normal for the culture or if the other is simply taking advantage of the naïve TCK. Additionally, TCKs have a tendency to jump quickly and deeply into relationships since they have learned they do not have the time or the patience for the initial chitchat or what they view as superficial relationships. Because of this, they can attract others who interpret that as an invitation to cross relational boundaries. We all long for deep connection, but the frequent moves TCKs experience mean they either completely withdraw from relationships or move too quickly; either way potentially setting them up for heartbreak.

The TCK has experienced a life that is far different from their parents, so it could seem unreasonable that they are requiring them to act and live as if those experiences never happened. For the parent, it could seem confusing and even somewhat fearful that their child does not readily adopt their values, or rather, the expression of those values. And so the fight and resistance begins.

The key ingredient is for both sides to have respect for the other’s point of view, even if they do not agree with it. One way to accomplish that could be for the TCK, as a good observer of culture, to ask his or her parents where that cultural expectation came from and how they see it as having greater value than others. Since it is often difficult to explain our own culture, one way to gain valuable knowledge is through research. Learn those cultural roots of arranged marriage partners and discover the underlying value. By doing so, the TCK is showing interest, respect and value of their parent’s worldview. Additionally, the parents chose to expose their child to a different culture, so to expect them not to be affected by that is naïve. This is key in advancing a conversation and being heard. He or she has a greater opportunity of taking the underlying value and showing how that can be expressed in other ways, those that fit with the TCKs experience. I cannot stress how important it is for the TCK and their parents to come to an amicable way to settle this difference. Whomever the TCK chooses to marry, he or she is marrying into another culture: the cultural values in parenting, marital and career expectations, and so much more. So often the young adult can forget or overlook this important factor. They are marrying far more than just their spouse, as the extended family has great influence on the marriage, even if they are not physically present. 

Part of this blog was quoted in the Wall Street Journal. 


Adult Third Culture Kids and Non-Third Culture Kids Relationships: How do they work out?


·       Do you ever wonder how non-TCKs and TCKs get along much less have lasting relationships?

·       Do you find yourself jealous or slightly cynical of those who seem to have close friendships and wonder how they got there?

·       Do you question how TCKs in relationship with non-TCKs have managed to reconcile their different worldviews and ways of thinking?

I’m a Third Culture Kid married to a monocultural man…

I live in both worlds: I’m a TCK married to a monocultural man from Colorado, where we’ve raised four children, all born in this beautiful state. You might benefit from hearing how I have learned to juggle both ways of thinking, perhaps you will glean something from my experiences and observations and how my life has become richer for it.

Searching for the common thread

My basic premise is that if we, as TCKs, approach the world looking at how much we have in common rather than how much we differ, would go a long way in resolving some of our relational difficulties. We would see that everyone longs to be heard, understood, be in relationship, have friendships and feel valued. With that in mind then, as we look for opportunities to establish common ground, we will find the world to be a richer place.

Why do we fail to connect?

Many TCKs express a longing to connect, but feel they fail miserably, claiming fear of rejection and abandonment. In the following paragraphs, let us look at some practical ways to implement the ideas of connection, friendship, and relationship.

Practical ways to implement:

1. Are you judging their “narrow-mindedness“?

When we instantly judge someone because we don’t like their narrow-mindedness or because they do not appreciate how big the world is and think only of their own “petty” interests, we create an instant barrier and cease to be open-minded ourselves.

2. “You can’t understand.”

Conversely, when we firmly and stubbornly believe that no one could possibly understand us, we have already created a situation that precludes anyone entering our world.

I often think TCKs complain of Americans’ superficiality without really getting to know them as individuals. I know I did. I compared my global lifestyle to what I perceived as their dull, shallow way of thinking. On the one hand, it’s hard not to make those comparisons and complain, especially when Americans can present us with many opportunities to object to their way of thinking! At the same time, I have discovered friendships here in America that are deep, meaningful and rich.

3. Laying aside our prejudices

Granted, it took some time to develop those friendships. First, I had to learn to lay aside my own prejudices, my own knee jerk assumptions and arrogant reactions in order to listen to their hopes and dreams. I discovered that many had the same aspirations I did: connection, significance and hope for the future.

4. Everyone has something to contribute.

When we as TCKs set out to approach life with the worldview that everyone has something to contribute to our knowledge and growth, no matter how initially aggravating they may seem to us, we will find our journey on this earth much more pleasant and far less isolating.


Eight Types of Grief and Mourning

"Did you know there are flies that lay eggs under your skin?!" my friend exclaimed. I was horrified to learn this truth when I was a kid growing up in Brazil. I had seen tarantulas, spitting frogs, seen hairy multicolored caterpillars, tried to catch geckos by their tails and been bitten by more bugs than I cared to know. But this news really grossed me out. "Really?" I said. "Ewww".  My friend went on to tell me they had seen this odd growth, gone to the doctor, who lanced the wound and then flies emerged. 

I liken the eight types of grief and mourning to those fly eggs that get under the skin. It takes identifying and acknowledging so the wound can heal. I will define each one so you can recognize them, and begin to be free from their effects. (I wish to acknowledge Lois Bushong's book, "Growing up Everywhere and Nowhere", 65-66 as the source for some of the following concepts).

1. Abbreviated Grief and Mourning

This grief is real, but it is short lived. It occurs when there is no perceived time to grieve, the loss might be minor, there is no strong attachment to the loss, or it is seen as a gain. 

This occurs in many situations. For example, if you were moving from a very small town to a big city, you might view the move as exciting and adventurous. You will no longer be able to eat at the local diner, but you don't mind exchanging that for the culinary delights you will experience in the big city. 

Perhaps where you are going the styles are different, but you don't care because you didn't like the local styles that much anyway. Or maybe you won't be able to buy a certain brand of your favorite ice cream, but you look forward to the new flavors. 

Sometimes grief in this situation occurs because the move happened so quickly, there was no time to think about being sad, much less process it. Perhaps guilt creeps in because you think you should feel something, but instead feel nothing. 

2. Anticipated Grief and Mourning

Grief of this type is when you know the move is coming and are already dreading the goodbyes. You would rather avoid them altogether, hoping that by pretending the move isn't really going to happen, dealing with the grief also won't occur. 

Teenagers and young adults often experience this when they hear they are moving to a new school, city or country. It happens when they are nearing graduation from high school or college. Some may miss their favorite coffee shop even before the move. 

Sadness creeps in, as well as irritability and anger. It is really tempting to try to shut off all the emotions in order to cope with the stress of upcoming change. 

3. Ambiguous Grief and Mourning

Ambiguity in any situation means it is hard to pin down exactly what is bothersome. When it comes to grief and mourning, it means the losses are hard to define and therefore also hard to identify. It could mean never playing in a certain park again, or never going back to the ocean. Perhaps it means going down that street where you played as a child is not possible. Or maybe the store you loved to shop in has been demolished. 

Ambiguity makes it hard to fully grieve the loss because it seems so inconsequential and insignificant.  But those losses accumulate and you burst into crying jags, temper tantrums or go into emotional shut down.

4. Delayed Grief and Mourning

In a move, delaying grief seems the most logical thing to do. "I don't have time to be sad or depressed, I've got a house to pack!" Perhaps a student learns that a loved one has died, but then protests, "It's finals and graduation is next week, no time to think about the loss!" 

Only later does the grief hit them, and it may be in the middle of the best day they've had. All of the sudden, there is an overwhelming desire to cry over the most trivial loss, such as an earring or a button. 

5. Exaggerated Grief and Mourning

This type occurs when there is a cumulative effect of losses. Perhaps your dog died, you lost your job, and you had to move to another city, all in a short time. It could also happen when you've had a lifetime of losses, unprocessed grief over many years, often due to frequent moves. 

Then comes a day when you feel overcome by sadness, grief and mourning. Depression may set in. Crying jags occur. Having difficulty getting simple tasks done, and focus is gone. Anger may be a constant companion, and life seems unfair. 

6. Inhibited Grief and Mourning

If the losses are not processed, they will show up as headaches, stomachaches, and unexplained illnesses. Stress is hard on the body, and stuffing the grief, shoving down the pain, only increases the likelihood that it will show up somewhere in the body as a physical ailment. 

7. Normal Grief and Mourning

Processing grief is different for everyone, taking anywhere from 3-24 months. Since everyone processes grief differently, each family member may be at a different stage in their grief. Allowing for those differences is an important part of healing. It may also depend on each one's perception of the loss. For one the loss may feel minor, for another much more tragic. 

8. Unresolved Grief and Loss

This occurs when the history of losses has not been processed. It is prevalent among those who moved frequently as children and then as adults they feel the cumulative effect of those continuous changes. Difficulties forming lasting relationships, feelings of rootlessness, underlying anger and resentment may be evident in their lives. 

What To Do About It

We all process things differently. Some are verbal processors, talking about the issue until the subject is exhausted. Others like to write in their journals, some like to express themselves through some art form. I suggest picking a particular time in your life you believe has not been processed and use one of the above ways and begin to express it. 

Processing grief and mourning should not be done in isolation. We need each others' love, care, attention and compassion to help us heal. However you process, be sure you share it with someone who cares about you. 

If you find that your grief remains firmly lodged within you, you may need to seek the help of a therapist. Don't hesitate to contact me, I can help. 720-201-5030



Raised Multicultural, Raised Monoculturals

"Sometimes I feel like I don't belong in my own family!" I recently said to a friend. This may sound strange to some, but to my friend, she got it immediately because she too had felt the same dissonance. What causes this? It's when someone who grew up in many cultures starts to parent, and then realizes that the experiences are so different, it is hard to connect. It's like learning a new culture all over again. 

For example, I had to ask my kids about prom and homecoming. I had grown up in an entirely foreign school system. What were the rules and expectations? Dress code? What was the proper time to show up? When should I expect to pick them up? Hidden costs? Oh so many questions, I felt embarrassed asking them! I was the adult, I should know... yet I didn't know who to ask without feeling stupid. 

Then of course there were questions my kids could not answer for me: What was the role of PTO or PTA and what was the difference? If my kid was bullied, what were my recourses? What did Boosters do and what did it mean if I got involved? Should I let my daughter be a cheerleader, or were there aspects of that subculture that would create body image problems for her? 

Then there was the whole global perspective. When my kids would tell me they met someone at school who was from Africa, I'd say, "Which country?" They'd give me a blank look, a "not this question again" look, because like so many North American kids, Africa is a country. 

When they began studying history, we would have conversations on how each country writes history from their perspective. I told them it was important to learn, but with the knowledge that there is always at least two sides to the story.

I knew this, because I studied Brazilian history in Brazil. From that perspective, the Portuguese exploited Brazil's natural resources, tried to rule over them and make laws from across the ocean; how they fought and won their independence.

Then I moved to Portugal and studied that same history from the Portuguese perspective. Now the history was that the Brazilians didn't know how good they had it, they were selfish and ignorant. The Portuguese had given them so much. According to them, the king's son who had grown up in Brazil, was a traitor because he fought for their independence. It was eye opening to read those two perspectives, both claiming to have the "real" truth. 

I could go on and on about all the things related to raising kids in a culture in which I did not grow up. Many immigrants face similar issues. So much of culture is taken for granted, so no one really thinks to explain it. Because I spoke flawless English and looked American, I was automatically expected to know the American school system and all its culture. When I did not, I would get strange looks and suddenly feel like an "outsider" with a twist: I was an "insider" until I opened my mouth and asked questions. So I often tried to figure it out on my own. 

As I reflect on my experiences, I expect my struggles are shared by many parents who grew up in another culture. The school system is a subculture that has its own rules, governance, expectations, and dress code. If the kids' parents are foreigners, be it an immigrant, Third Culture Kid, Military Brat, or any number of other cultural backgrounds and experiences, they may be unaware of the new rules, and a culture clash ensues. I wonder how often disciplinary problems, homework issues, or lack of parental involvement could be alleviated by having a "Welcome to Our School" day, a shortened version of  "welcome week" at colleges and universities. This would be open to all who wanted to learn more how the school functioned, expectations, definitions of words that only schools use, like PTO and PTA, Boosters, and others.  It could include a breakout session on making a good transition from the old to the new system. Perhaps out of this a resource panel or group could be formed, a place where the newcomers could go to get their questions answered without feeling stupid.

Does anyone else think this is a good idea? Would parents and schools benefit from this?

Comment below! I'd love your feedback. 





Marital Culture Clash

When we first meet someone, we see the "tip of the iceberg":  What they look like, their gender, the language they speak, the clothes they wear and perhaps something about the kind of work they do. As we get to know them we dive a little below their surface values, beliefs and priorities: the kind work they do and why that matters, how they perceive themselves or others, and their general beliefs about religion or God. As the relationship develops, conversations may arise that have to do with deeper values: How working long hours has significance, the implications of family connection versus ultra independence, or how experiencing deeper connection causes anxiety.  Finally, in bits and pieces, we begin to learn the reasons behind those decisions and beliefs. This takes time, for often the individual may not even be aware of them. This is because they form part of the "implicitly learned, unconscious, difficult to change and subjective knowledge" part of the personal cultural iceberg.

Let's make this real and how it plays out in marriage.

One day William meets Kathleen. She moved frequently, her family traveling extensively, and she and her brother followed her parent's careers all over the world. Bob thinks Kathy's upbringing is exotic and is drawn to her close family unit and seemingly stable upbringing. However, Bob is unaware that Kathy has a hard time forming lasting relationships because she never really learned that skill as a global nomad. There simply wasn't time. What she longs for is connection and stability, to begin to build her own sense of home with her husband and children. What she doesn't realize is that by putting down roots, it also means that she has to learn a different relational dynamic.

Kathleen is drawn to William because his family provides what she believes is stability. He still lives in the home in which he grew up, he can show her the school he attended, the church he went to as a boy. She also sees that his family has financial stability and what she believes is a sense of community, for everyone seems to know William's family. 

After just a few months of getting to know each other, William and Kathleen get married. However, neither one learned how to identify nor communicate their underlying needs and beliefs about those needs. Soon they will experience what I call "marital culture clash". Bob had entered the marriage believing that working long hours was the most important thing to ensure a secure future; Kathy believed putting down roots and having stability was worth sacrifice of time together. 

What neither of them realized was that what they actually longed for was meaningful connection. They had never discussed his beliefs about money, their assumptions concerning intimacy, or her priorities of family. Because of their own childhood hurts, they both had a deep fear of not being fully accepted if they revealed those things to each other and became truly vulnerable. It seemed very risky. 

From another perspective, there is the underlying belief that identifying the top reasons for marital fights, one only needs to come to a compromise on those issues and this will resolve marital spats. I believe this helps, but only to a degree. It isn't until each partner understands how the other views those issues from their cultural background that a lasting shift happens: why those things matter, what makes them matter, how they impact their worldview, and when and how those views were formed. It is in this dialogue that couples find intimacy, belonging, and the ability to work out their differences. 

Finally, another useful way to look at marital problems and disagreements might be to consider the Johari Window. 

We have those "open areas" that we know and others know about ourselves such as our food preferences, our style, our religious beliefs.

The "hidden areas" are those parts of self we keep from others, at least for a while. Perhaps our family secrets, our emotional triggers.

The "blind areas" could be our anger outbursts that we justify but others see in a different light; our emotional manipulation that we put on a positive spin because we get our way without seeming to harm anyone. 

Finally the "unknown" are places we don't see and neither do others. Nevertheless they still make themselves evident in knee jerk reactions, inability to see another point of view, or snide remarks that do not seem to have connection with the present circumstances. 

All the above has the potential to raise the awareness of our need for deeper communication, for it is there we find connection and meaning. In that place we have the potential to smooth our rough edges, to become authentic, and learn the meaning of loving another person and to be loved, even though we are imperfect human beings. 

Family. Who Needs Them?

Growing up like I did on three continents, my concept of an extended family was rather unique. My parents' peers were my "aunts" and "uncles" and I called them by that appellation. "Uncle George" was a prankster, and loved a good joke. He also always found an opportunity to challenge dad at a game of chess. "Aunt Irma" made us laugh and was fun to be around. She has great writing skills, and in her 80's, is currently writing her memoirs.  As a kid, "Uncle John" was a fantastic uncle because his blood relatives had money, and so he built a vacation house. Since we were his "real" family, we benefitted from that beautiful home! 

So given the previous paragraph, it might seem strange to you that I also really loved the fact that I felt connected to my blood relatives in a way that my other "overseas family" could never match. My mom and dad were from Iowa and Nebraska respectively, and in that part of the country, whom you were related to was a topic of lunch conversation. I was always fascinated by my blood cousin Charles' ability to point to someone and tell me how they were my third cousin once removed. How in the heck could he keep track of that?? Also, apparently my parents were related because a cousin of my dad's married a cousin of my mom. In the small towns of Iowa and Nebraska, those things still mattered.

I remember visiting my grandma in the very small town of Buffalo Center, Iowa, and loving the fact that I could go to the local mercantile, and when the merchant asked me (an obvious outsider) whom I was staying with, I would proudly say, "Grandma Jergens!". Somehow, I felt connected to that part of the world. I think this was an important aspect for me, a global nomad. It gave me roots, even if they barely kept me in place. 

Does family really matter, especially extended family? Perhaps the real question should be, how does family matter? 

In our individualistic North American culture, so many of us live really isolated lives. We each try to forge our own paths, make our own mistakes, see our way into the future. We shrug off help from our family, viewing it as an intrusion. Or perhaps in an effort not to appear smothering or overbearing, we back off from involvement in our relatives lives, thinking we are doing them a favor. I think the underlying reason is fear. Fear of love, fear of being hurt, fear of being rejected. It is easier to claim that we are doing them a favor by staying away, than risk the potential rejection by being involved. 

What if we could maximize both aspects of "family"? Those who are blood relatives and those whom we are close to, who form our "real" family? I think both have their place. We need those who appreciate us for who we are the way we are. Sometimes our blood relatives can give us that; sometimes it is another type of family born from social or religious circles. Blood relatives give us the perspective of time and place. We were born in this generation because of who came before us. Those with whom we choose to associate, to call family, are necessary too because they provide us with a sense of security, love, and connection. When both those things occur in one "family", then we are truly blessed. 

Taking all of the above and thinking of your future, what kind of "family" do you want to be? Do you want to be a connected family of where your blood relatives are your best friends? Is it still possible to make that happen? If not, can you begin to form your own "family" where the Cheers motto is in play: "where everyone knows your name"? 

It takes intention and planning to be part of a family, above and beyond merely sharing genes. The most important aspect of being in a family is shared experiences. Find the time to share struggles with your loved ones, play games, tell stories. Over time, those experiences take on a life of their own, providing a safety net in times of trouble and a hammock in times of joy.

What Do MIL, FIL, DIL, BIL and SIL Have in Common?

In-laws of course! When I first married, I had no clue that I was also agreeing to be part of an entire family system where I didn't know the rules. Whether or not my in-laws were present, they showed up in my husband's worldview, behaviors, habits, likes and dislikes. I was unaware that "for better or worse" also meant having to deal with the clash my own worldview, behaviors, habits, likes and dislikes created with my husband's. Sometimes it felt like a detective, on the hunt for clues to my husband's behaviors, especially the ones I didn't like. It was easy to point fingers and poke fun at the in-laws. It wasn't so easy to accept that my own family system wasn't all it was cracked up to be. 

Now, over 30 years later, mom of four and a mother-in-law (MIL) to two, I have gained perspective from both sides of the equation. Perhaps the following tips will help you gain some insight or ideas on how to improve your current relationships.

The first one is to be intentional about what my "kids-in-law" really like, or how they feel loved. Is it time spent together? Gifts? Acts of service? Getting to know their love language and acting on it, goes a long way. Naturally, this would apply both ways. If you have a MIL or FIL, find ways to reach out in their love language.

Second, keep negative criticism and unsolicited advice out of the picture. As a parent who loves their kid, we want our kids to learn from our mistakes and not go through what we did. However, giving advice is rarely, if ever, welcomed. First ask if they want your opinion. If not, let it be. 

If something negative really must be said, then layer it with positive ones. A spoonful of sugar really helps the medicine go down. 

What do you do if you are in the position of getting that unasked-for advice? This is where good boundaries come in. First, consider whether or not the message is warranted and if you want to accept it. Then set your boundary around that. I remember my FIL stepping in to discipline my children when they were young. I asked him politely to let me know if my kids were bothering him, and I would take care of it. I wanted to be in charge of my kids' discipline, but I didn't want to ignore his opinions on the matter.

Third, if you can find common ground with your in-laws, forming an alliance, then you have someone who can help you through difficult times, instead of an added stress. Ideally, in-laws can give you insight, support, love and appreciation. I know this does not always happen, but consider the impact a poor relationship will have on your marriage. Then you will have a lot more to deal with as you try to solidify your relationship with your mate. Remember, you are marrying far more than just the one you love. 

For further help and information, please contact me at 720-201-5030

How Do We Become Happy?

Do you find yourself thinking that this world is only going to get worse, that the news is never good news, and sometimes get overcome with fear for the future? I know I have. I can easily get stuck thinking that life will only get worse and that my present life is full of hardship and stress sprinkled with a few good moments.

I have known for years that I should not let my circumstances dictate my happiness, but they did anyway. Life was hard and I could find plenty of evidence to support that belief. I only had to turn on the news for five minutes or glance at the headlines, and could say with confidence, "See! it's all going to hell in a handbasket!" Then I would look around me and see further evidence of a world gone awry. Friends and family who struggled with depression, sickness, broken relationships, divorce, even death. Good news of any sort seemed temporary, a fleeting shaft of light through the cloud of doom, soon to be gone. 

I "knew better" than to focus on the negative and would make valiant attempts to refocus, to redirect and to try to look at the positive. However, I never seriously considered that looking at the negative was a habit, a way of thinking that was clouding my perspective; that changing my habit required work on my part. Until I saw a TED talk that inspired me to help me see the benefits of a positive outlook on life.

Shawn Achor asserts that " The absence of disease is not health". He goes on to state that getting to health means we need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. We so often think we will be happy when we are successful, but then when we reach our goal, we set new goals, and happiness becomes elusive. We think we will by happy when we lose weight, get a promotion, graduate or get married, that we will finally be happy when we are wealthy. Achor states that instead, training our brain to be positive turns on the dopamine center in our brain, which means our creativity, energy and intelligence all rise.  Who wouldn't want that? 

Based on Shawn's suggestions, I decided to take on his 21 day challenge. For the next 21 days, I will do the following four things: 

1. Write down three new things each day for which I'm grateful.

2. Journaling about one positive experience I've had in the past 24 hours. 

3. Meditate to slow down and focus on one thing. 

4. Do random acts of kindness, such as sending an email praising or thanking those in my social support network. 

Who would like to join me? Send me an email at allculturalcounseling@gmail.com and let's encourage each other! 

To become inspired and motivated further, watch Shawn's Ted Talk: Happiness Factor


For further help and information, please contact me at 720-201-5030





Transitions. What does the name dial up for you? Perhaps “life transitions” such as getting married, starting a new job, or having a baby. Those are all definitely transitions. However, if you are a global nomad, a TCK, a military brat or perhaps you work for an NGO, you have all the “normal” transitions such as having a baby and changing jobs while also moving to another country.