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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday to WakeUpAndDreamCatalyst.Blogspot.com

Thank You for a Great 1st Year  WakeUpDreamCatalyst.blogspot.com
Thought for the Day: It is hard to believe that it has been almost a year, since I started this blog! As I post my last blog for 2012, it makes sense to look back over the year that was. There have been triumphs & heartaches. I have been honored to share my thoughts & feelings with you. It is hard to believe that on January 4th it will be the anniversary of the inauguration of this blog. My first post: Don't Wait for Opportunity to Knock, Just Open the Door & Find Her, had just 42 page views. The blog has come a long way since then. There have been almost 20,000 page views! It seems fitting to review the top ten posts of 2012.
Here they are in order of my fan's preferences:

# 1 The Hunger Games Parenting Nightmare or Opportunity 

















































































# 10 What Do You Get When You Combine Corporate Sponsors, NPOs, Academics & Entrepreneurs? 

The # 1 Post: The Hunger Games Parenting Nightmare or Opportunity has had close to 2000 page views! I almost skipped the movie due to all the hype about it & then realized that it was an important film for parents & teens to see.

I have enjoyed writing this blog more than I could have imagined. It has given me a place to share my dreams, encourage you & support multiple causes from anti-bullying campaigns to registering a cell phone to help save lives. I hope I have inspired you not only to dream, but also to act upon your dreams & start moving towards them.

Here are a few of the photos that I also enjoyed learning to make for the blog:

From the Dream On Wheels Tour Series
From The Next Big Thing Blog Hop
From The DreamBusters Series
Thanksgiving Tips



Learn to Fall to Learn to Stand Tall
Spotlight on Fears
Thank you all for reading & sharing your comments. I look forward to hearing from you & sharing with you in 2013 & beyond!

Happy New Year!

         Barbara

Saturday, December 22, 2012

5 Ways to Give New Meaning to a Blue Christmas


Thought for the Day: This holiday season is challenging for everyone. This week, like many psychologists nationwide,  I have been doing critical incident work with people in Connecticut impacted by the tragedy in Newtown CT. Whether people knew someone who lost a friend or family member or not, people are struggling with how to speak with their children, cope with & accept that they are grieving. Many people are not feeling like celebrating the holidays this year, which led to this post. Although I called these ways to give new meaning to a "Blue Christmas" they apply to whatever holiday you celebrate. Here are a few ways to find new meaning during this blue holiday season.

  
One of many memorials in Newtown CT
  1) Accept your feelings as part of the normal human reaction to a tragic event.
     Yesterday, I counseled a woman in Danbury CT who had decided not to celebrate Christmas this year. She did not know anyone who was directly impacted by the tragedy but was visibly shaken fighting back tears since she was at work. Like many of the people I have met with this week, she felt a form of "survivor's guilt." In light of the anguish that we can only imagine that the families who lost a loved one are experiencing, people feel that they should not be feeling the grief they are experiencing. What I have been telling people is that their feelings, tears, anger, numbness, sorrow are normal reactions to the trauma. Feelings are not right or wrong, they just are. They act like the safety valve on a pressure cooker to let off steam & keep the pressure cooker from exploding. Your emotions are a sign that you are a caring human being struggling with an inhumane event.


      2) Create a memorial ceremony as you begin your family's event
      There are multiple ways to take some time before celebrations begin to acknowledge those lost in this tragedy. A moment of silence, a candle lighting, a prayer, a walk by the beach, or writing & sending condolence cards together with your family and friends can help you acknowledge that this holiday is different from the past. There is a digital card that is being sent which has over 2 million signatures worldwide. If you wish to send an original paper condolence card or drawing prepared with your family, here is the address:  
                Messages of Condolence for Newtown
                P.O. Box 3700
                Newtown, CT 06470
       3) Start working to prevent future tragedies
       Although we cannot promise our children that there will never be other tragedies, there are natural tragedies & bad things do happen in life. What we can do is get involved in projects that will address the loopholes that compromise our safety. There are a multitude of ways to get involved in finding the solutions to a number of challenges facing our nation. You can write to your senators & congressmen about these & other issues: 1) reforming gun control laws; 2) advocate for increased mental health resources for children & adults with serious mental illness; 3) investigate ways to reduce violence on TV, movies & video games, especially those aimed at children; and 4) advocate for comprehensive year round educational programs that work towards tolerance & a reduction of bullying in our schools & society. In addition to writing campaigns, get involved in your community's efforts to develop programs that will increase safety in our schools & neighborhoods. Depending on the ages of your children, get them involved in the discussion & activities as well.
        4) Volunteer with people less fortunate than you
         Start a new family tradition and consider volunteering. You could sign up to serve food at a homeless shelter or visit an old folks home or hospital. Bring gifts to brighten the holiday for someone who is struggling. In addition to giving gifts to your family,  have all the members of your family bring something to donate to a charity. With your children go through their toys & clothes to find things that they no longer use that is in good condition & take it to a donation center before the holiday. (Take a look at some of the nonprofits benefiting from my book for ideas of organizations that could use your help.)
         5) As hard as it is to rejoice, carrying on is reaffirming life & not allowing terror or madness to destroy what is good in the world
         It is important to bring routines and structure back into our lives, especially for children to regain a sense of safety & trust in human beings. In the Diary of Anne Frank we learned of how a family in hiding from the Nazi terrorist regime tried to keep a semblance of normalcy, including celebrations of holidays. Although her life was cut short, she lives on in the hearts of millions who have read her diary or seen the play based on her diary.  Her message has been heard around the world. Her words have bearing today as we struggle with finding the strength to rejoice following such an unthinkable tragedy. We must help our children regain trust in mankind as Anne Frank did:
Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.
Anne Frank
          I hope these ideas will help you have a positive holiday experience with renewed resolve to make the world a better, safer, more peaceful place for all.
                 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Versus Mental Health Educational Cliff


Thought for the day: As the country struggles with the tragedy in Newtown CT the debate about the fiscal cliff has been pushed to the background. One can only hope that the events will keep the physical & emotional health & well-being of our children in the foreground. Hopefully we will all take a long hard look at how well we are doing in caring for the mentally ill in our society. Are we teaching our children to treat one another with respect & without prejudice? Are we jeopardizing the safety of our children while protecting adults' rights to bear arms? Were our forefathers expecting people to carry semi-automatic guns?

We cannot bring back the innocent lives lost, but we can take action to try to prevent similar attacks from occurring. On Sunday I saw a play called Falling in NYC. It is a powerful depiction of the complex issues a family is forced to deal with while raising an 18 year old son who is on the spectrum of autism. Although each child suffering from severe autism to mild asperger's syndrom is different, they raise serious questions which were even more striking in light of the Newtown tragedy. What happens to children when they "age out" of the system & families cannot find appropriate supervised living situations? The facts surrounding the shooter's history & his diagnosis are not clear yet, however, this is not the first time that someone who was potentially dangerous slipped through the cracks & caused senseless loss of life. Today, a Huffington Post article raised the question: Did Fear Of Being Committed Lead To Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting?  If you are near NYC, I urge you to see the play, Falling, before it closes at the end of this month to understand the struggles of raising a disturbed adult in a society that does not have enough adequate resources to help them.

Schools across the country are also struggling with budgetary cuts & focusing on academic achievement while neglecting social & emotional health issues. Our children are dealing with bullying & prejudice (I have written extensively in previous posts about bullying in our schools.) which can lead to disgruntled angry responses among children who become loners & outcasts among their peers. All too often school systems ignore or deny the existence of bullying or they have one time programs to remedy the problems. Short term interventions following the suicide of a bullied student or death of a student due to drunken driving, is not enough to combat the problems facing our children. Parents need to advocate for ongoing comprehensive programs that work with both the bullies and the children who have been the targets of bullies. 

Merchants, film makers & television producers must also strive to use restraint & self-censorship when it comes to the marketing of violent video games, movies & TV shows. Do our children need to be encouraged to shoot realistic targets with high powered video rifles? Psychological research documents the negative effects of such games & movies on normal children.  Aimee Tompkins summarized The Psychological Effects of Volent  Media on Children  ironically, on December 14, 2003 & found that: "The American Psychological Association says there are three major effects of watching violence in the media (i.e.: video games/television) children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, children may be more fearful of the world around them, and children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or hurtful ways toward others." The impact on the mentally ill child or adult is simply multiplied. As parents & responsible citizens, let the game manufacturers & media know that you want them to curtail & discontinue such games & reduce the amount of explicit violence in the media.

The Huffington Post report this morning that Walmart Guns Out Of Stock Following Newtown Massacre is extremely disturbing. How many more homes will now have weapons within reach of children & potentially violent disturbed individuals? We must make sure that our representatives in Washington take this alarming trend to stockpile weapons in their deliberations. Yesterday, a client told me that at gun ranges there are lockers to store arms. Perhaps that is a way to keep them away from the hands of those who could use them to do harm. 

It seems like years ago, but on November 2nd I wrote a Post called: Whether the Glass is 1/2 Empty or Half Full, Make the Most With What You Have Left. Today, I am writing about what to do when the glass is shattered. The glass was shattered last Friday & we are all struggling to glue the pieces back together & find our way back to sanity to regain trust in our society's ability to protect our rights for life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.  

These are not easy problems to resolve. They are complex & the solutions will not be quick or easy; however we must make sure they are addressed & that the discussions continue when the media stops reporting about the tragedy. Although our hearts are heavy this holiday season, I encourage you to continue to dream of & work for "Peace on earth, good will toward men." Regardless of your religious affiliation, we all need & can be inspired by the words & music which have additional significance this year. I will never think of the song Rock of Ages in the same way as when I heard the words this year that say: "And your strength broke their swords, when our own strength failed us." Although we may feel that alone our strength may fail us, together, we must find strength to believe in miracles & take action to make them happen. By voicing our concerns & searching for creative solutions to the challenges we face, out of this tragedy, may we find the strength to build a better safer world.

Please share your comments, thoughts & ideas of ways to work together to solve these challenges.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown: What Can Parents Do When They Are At A Loss For Words??


Thought for the Day: As the cold hard facts of the tragedy in Newtown CT are revealed on the news, the pictures are heartbreaking.  We all struggle to make sense of a senseless crime against defenseless children & teachers. There are more questions than answers swirling in everyone's heads. Some of the questions may never be answered. In this day & age with television's instantaneous reports, when trauma strikes we are all traumatized. Parents watch horrified & do not know what to say to their children. Today I will share some thoughts & coping skills, but I will also raise tough questions & would like to hear your thoughts as well. (It is a longer post, but bear with me & make sure you read the questions at the end.)

I became a reluctant expert on helping children & families deal with trauma when I was a young psychology student working on my Master's thesis in Israel when the Yom Kippur War broke out. I was also a young parent of two whose husband was in the reserves for close to a year. Hundreds of school children lost their fathers in reserve units like my husband's in the Sinai. My professor, Dr. Esther Halpern, was also my adviser on my Master's Thesis. She encouraged me to focus my thesis on ways to help children cope with war, father absence & the death of a parent during war.

I remember my concern about doing research on the subject. How could I ask children who had recently lost their fathers about how they felt about their father's death & then disappear from their lives?  She told me that as a psychologist & I would need to talk to children & adults about all kinds of difficult issues in their lives & that if a child needed additional help we would let the teachers know. She also asked if I had ever spoken to a teacher or even a stranger who had touched my life & helped me even though we only spoke once. I will never forget how grateful & surprised those children were that I asked them about their fathers. They told me that most people avoided talking to them about their fathers at all. I believe the interviews helped those children cope with their loss.

It is far more pleasant to work with people on reaching for their dreams, however, there is a time & a place for everything. Although I am a pacifist, the lessons I learned about disasters & war, have been used each time tragedy rears it's head. When it occurs,  I know I can help people through the worst of times. I am a strong believer in finding words & other ways to help people cope with loss & tragedy. I may be the only psychologist in the USA who asks every new client how they were impacted by 9/11 & the wars that have followed, but I know that the impact of trauma can be felt many years later.
Elementary School & Gunman are words we don't expect to see in the same sentence
No matter how many times I have helped people in the midst of a tragedy, I too am at first blindsided by feelings of terror, anger, sorrow, shock & disbelief. Although words fail us as adults, we must find the strength to help one another & our children through the tragedy.  When words fail us, being there, holding one another, saying that we do not know what to say is important, both for the mourners & for their supporters. We must find ways to express our feelings, since we cannot cope with our feelings if we do not know what they are.

On Friday, I was called by Cigna EAP & asked to help  employees working at a corporation in Stamford who live in Newtown. I rescheduled my clients & will be there Monday & Tuesday. Late last night a journalist, LA Bachelor , who lives in North Carolina, but was raised in Connecticut, called & asked me to come on his radio show to address what parents can do to help their children following this tragedy. We spoke at length & I look forward to helping his listeners on Monday 6-8 PM. Just two weeks ago I was speaking on another radio show helping parents struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Given my experience, stepping up to the plate & speaking or volunteering to help using my expertise, is one of my coping mechanisms. You too can find ways to help that will help the survivors & help you at the same time. (I will post the information about the radio show, where you can call in questions as well.) (Post a comment & your e-mail if you would like to be informed about the show.)

Those of you who have been reading my posts know that volunteerism & activism is something that I encourage & support. It is too soon for solutions, but it is important to ask the tough questions & that we all advocate to make changes that will help prevent tragedies like Newtown from happening. Let your children know that you will be searching for answers, asking the questions of your leaders, & fighting for programs that will help.

I saw the movie Lincoln last night & was struck by the parallels between President Lincoln's challenges facing the tragedy of the Civil War & President Obama fighting tears as he consoled our nation following the tragedy in Newtown. We as citizens, parents & grandparents need to advocate for our leaders to help lead our country to find ways to prevent the senseless attacks on innocent people in schools, churches, & movie theaters.

We are all hearing about the fiscal crisis. Are we ignoring the mental health & emotional crisis that is plaguing our society? Are we placing too much emphasis on grades & academic achievement & ignoring the emotional well being of our children? Are we expecting knee jerk responses & band-aid solutions to work following tragedies when long term ongoing comprehensive programs are what's needed? The shooter in Newtown was around 10 years old when 9/11 occurred. In the news they are now saying that he had Asperger's syndrome or a personality disorder. How do trauma like 9/11 & the constant barrage of movies, video games & news coverage of violence impact on all children but in particular on those with emotional issues? As parents, you can demand more comprehensive crisis prevention programs to address all kinds of issues from bullying to learning differences, to prejudice & intolerance of differences. You can encourage the gun control debate about your children's rights for life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness versus the right of citizens' to bear arms including semi-automatic weapons.

Please feel free to comment & share your thoughts.




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Take The New Year's Resolution Challenge

                                              This Year Take The New Year's Resolution Challenge Instead!                                                                                       Photo From Facebook.com
Thought for the Day: As 2012 draws toward a close, how many of you made New Year's resolutions last year like the list on the photo above? How many of those resolutions have you kept true to & actually accomplished? How many have fallen by the wayside or been forgotten completely? Are you looking for New Year's resolutions that will really work & help you improve your life significantly? I decided to challenge you to try an alternative to New Year's resolutions. I am so confident that it will work that I will give a free 1/2 hour phone consult to anyone who buys the book between now & January 31, 2013. Read on to see how & why it will work & why I am suggesting that you try it this year.

     I'd like to invite you to read my book & start your Dreamer’s Education. When you follow the directions on how to enhance your DQ (Dream Quotient) & develop your personal DPS (Dream Positioning System) you will learn to to navigate your way to a dream filled life. If you are looking for New Year’s resolutions that can last a lifetime,  make a difference in your life & help the world, the Wake Up and dream Challenge will show you how.
    The book will teach you what former clients, like L.D. learned :
            “Life is tough. It presents challenges all of the time. My first scary challenge that knocked me down was when I got Multiple Sclerosis in 1993. After addressing the physiologic,al portion, many fears and irrational behavior developed. Because of Dr. Lavi, and my time as her patient, I was able to get back on track and enjoy my life despite knowing I would have MS the rest of my life and would need to work hard to manage and control it. What Dr. Lavi didn’t know until now, is that she helped me again, when I faced stage-3 cancer years later. Her guidance and effective dream-planning ideas stayed with me all these years and helped me again through an even more frightening time of horrific cancer treatments. I would l not be who I am today without her help and guidance." L.D.
photo from perfectbucketlist.tumblr.com
         The challenge presented in the book is on multiple levels. Every reader who buys the book, is helping themselves meet & overcome their personal challenges & create a life filled with their passions & dreams. The book will give you a step by step guide to chart your way using the DPS or Dream Positioning System. Once programmed your DPS will go onto automatic pilot helping you move towards your dream destinations, like the GPS in your car until you reprogram it.
      If you take the challenge, you are also joining a larger challenge to help change the world. Dr. Lavi is donating 1/2 of the profits from every book sold to one of the amazing “dream nonprofits” featured in the book. They are helping people from all parts of the country reach their dreams despite all kinds of obstacles. 
     Here are stories & videos about five of the programs. One of the nonprofits, Higher Ground  helps couples  like Julio & Maria, whose story is included in the book. Julio is a recovering war hero, blinded during battle, who spent a week with Maria in an intensive recreational therapy program. The week was followed by a 3 year follow up to make sure their lives were changed:
     "Six months after joining the HG family, Julio called the staff. He was so excited that he could barely contain himself. “I just got back from seeing Maria and the kids. No one came to pick me up! I left the hospital, went to the train station, walked to the house, and surprised Maria at the door. I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF!” The HG staff was brought to tears when Julio said, “You have heard of the snowball effect? I believe that sometimes that snowball can defy gravity and gain momentum and mass as it rolls uphill. My snowball started on top of a mountain in Idaho, followed me home to Florida, through blind rehab, and will be with me when I stand next to my wife at the altar.”
      Elimination of Prejudice helps college students fight prejudice on colleges across the USA & Canada. It has helped fight prejudice since 1895. The Blind Judo Foundation  enhances blind athletes' self-confidence & helps them reach for their dreams (See clip about one of their participants above). Syd Mandlebaum founded Rock & Wrap It Up, an organization that wraps up unused food from sports venues, rock concerts & movie sets. They then distribute it to shelters, so that they can focus on rehabilitation programs for the homeless.  Boaz & Ruth rehabilitates ex-convicts & people who have lost the will to live. Take a look at a video about one of their graduates & the Sunny Days thrift Shop operated by graduates (See clip above). To read about the other 16 nonprofit organizations, go to www.WakeUpAndDreamChallenge.com.
     The book is available on kindle on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wake-Dream-Challenge-ebook/dp/B008VEUOIA for $9.95. There is one version for each nonprofit, enter the name of the nonprofit & The Wake Up and Dream Challenge to purchase the right version & donate to the charity of your choice or in print ($26.00) on Kiwi Publishers (the print version is available for arrival prior to Christmas).
     To help you reach your dreams, I am offering a 1/2 hour free phone consult to anyone who purchases the book between now & January 31, 3013. If you are looking for a way to make your New Year's resolutions work once & for all take my New Years' Resolution Challenge. You can use your 1/2 hour free consult while you develop your DPS (Dream Positioning System) or at any time in the future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Thought for the Day: Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith & try something new. Perhaps you will discover The Next Big Thing!



     Today my blog is very different. It is longer than my usual posts, but it is also part of something bigger than usual. Last week, Rev. Dr. Sharon Jacobson invited me to be part of a blog hop called The Next Big Thing. I've never done a blog hop before, but I decided to try it & see how it works. The purpose is to help readers discover the next great book or author; i.e., the one they will be compelled to read or the author who's work they simply can't put down. I had never heard of Sharon Jacobson's work before, but her inspirational bent connecting her experiences with food to spirituality sounds intriguing. I am looking forward to reading something outside of the norm for me. Her current book The Zenful Kitchen, is stories about food, family, friends & life changing moments related to sharing food. It is not a cook book, but there will be some recipes along with stories about how food & good company has changed her life. Check out Sharon's latest book & blog. What is exciting about this blog hop is the opportunity to learn about authors from various genres & styles. Her work might be the Next Big Thing, or perhaps mine is. Who knows?
       Since the Wake Up and Dream Challenge is non-fiction, thinking about my work, based on questions that were designed for fictional writers was a creative exercise for me. It put my work into a totally different perspective. So, this week, I am going to answer 10 questions & tell you about how The Wake Up and Dream Challenge grew & developed into the book it is today. It also gave me some great inspiration for photos, I hope you like them as well! Of course, as always, feel free to comment & ask me questions to keep the dialogue going.

 

1) What is the working title of your book? 



     The working title for my next book is: Jack of All Trades, Master of Many. I am too busy letting people know about my 1st book to work on it yet, but the ideas are brewing! My next book will illustrate how people are accomplishing multiple dreams. Hopefully, my readers will share their stories of how my current book helped them become Jacks of All Trades and Masters of Many.

     The Wake Up and Dream Challenge is the title of my book. The working title while I wrote the book, however, was Wake Up and Dream. It was not until I thought I had finished the book that the title changed (and  then it took a year of additional work to complete the book). When I applied my own techniques, I realized that I wanted the book to do more than teach people how to accomplish their dreams. I wanted it to help non-profit organizations help others reach their dreams as well. I set out to find creative organizations that make a difference in the lives countless people. Since the book is self-published, I share 1/2 of the profits with these amazing charities. The inspirational stories of how they make dreams happen are included in the book.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book? 
     The idea started when I learned a goal setting technique that I began to use with my clients. Over the year I changed the technique & observed the way it helped my clients overcome all kinds of obstacles & transform their lives. I felt compelled to share their stories & the techniques that helped them with a larger audience. The techniques are simple, yet profound & powerful. It gives people a way to turn their wildest dreams into manageable action plans.

3) What genre does your book fall under? 

     It is a combination of Psychology, Self Help & Inspirational genres.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

     I only chose 3 of the former clients portrayed in the book. All of the clients stories are based on the lives of real people, but their appearance & other identifying details have been changed to protect their confidentiality, so using actors is not a bad idea. Here's a  a short description of each of the "characters" & why I chose a specific actor to portray them. 
     I could see Kathy Bates playing Jody. Here's a description of Jody on the day I first met her:
             "It was a stormy day when Jody first came into my office; her curly
        black hair was damp and frizzy, showing all the signs of the dreary
        landscape outside. Jody was an over-weight, fifty-year-old, whose
        wrinkled face made her look at least ten years older than she was....
        Beginning her story, Jody apologized for her tears and wiped
        her eyes, revealing the dark circles she had tried to mask with an
        overabundance of make-up. There was a proud, intelligent woman
        struggling to maintain her dignity inside this cheerless figure; a woman
        who never thought she would need to see a psychologist.
        As she looked around nervously, Jody stared at the door and
        seemed ready to bolt for freedom. Pausing, Jody tilted her head towards
        the floor as if she wanted her foot to stop tapping so that she could
        compose herself. In almost a whisper, she said, “I’m not crazy but I’m
        at my wits’ end. Sometimes I think about putting my head in a gas oven
        and simply ending the pain."
     I chose Kathy Bates for her ability to capture the shame, hopelessness & despair Jody felt when she first came to see me. The book tells how she regained her will to live & discovered how to thrive despite chronic pain. I believe Kathy Bates could portray both the depression & the joy, strength, & gratitude the new Jody exuded after she learned how to wake up and dream when she was "pinching herself" to be sure she was not dreamng.

     I'd choose Julia Roberts to play the part of Linda's transformation from someone who was trapped in her own self doubt to
a woman who discovered her creativity & power as a thought leader &  teacher. I had helped Linda's daughter in therapy, but did not know Linda well before she called for an appointment for herself. Here's a brief description of Linda's first session:
           Linda was a striking forty-three year-old redhead, who dressed
        in a simple ‘classic’ style. Her tailored suits were a bit conservative,
        although she always added a splash of color with a scarf or an
        interesting piece of jewelry. When she arrived, this bright and well
        educated woman sat stiffly on the edge of the couch in my office, as if
        she was afraid to get too comfortable. On the phone, she’d provided no
        clue as to the purpose of her sudden visit, so I waited patiently for her
        to tell me what was wrong.
            Slowly, Linda began to open up, but avoided all eye contact as
        she spoke. It was obvious that she was working especially hard to stay
        composed. She would slow down her words and take deep breaths,
        acting as if she were trying desperately to hide any signs of fear,
        anxiety or sadness as she spoke about her life. Linda had always felt
        awkward in social situations; this was how her ‘confession-type’ speech
        began. Her husband was a business and finance expert and, because of
        his occupation, he traveled for speaking engagements around the world.
        Even though Linda sometimes accompanied him, she tried desperately
        to avoid going with him whenever she could. In essence, she never
        knew what to say to her husband’s business associates. She felt as out
        of place and awkward as her daughter had in high school.   

      This was Linda before she learned how to stop living in other people's dreams.  Today, Linda is a lawyer teaching law & traveling with her husband whenever she can. I think Julia Roberts could show the changes in this combination of Pretty Woman & Erin Brockovitch-like transformations.
      For George, I had to pick two actors, I'd need a combination of a young Joe Namath or any of the strong ex-football players turned actor & Denzel Washington would work. Since I don't know Joe Namath's career very well, I needed to add Denzel Washington for his ability to show strong emotions which he did so well in his latest film "Flight."  Here's a bit more about George's character:
             George was a strikingly handsome man who
        worked out daily, and owned the muscles to prove it. His friends fondly
        referred to him as the “jolly blond giant.” Unlike most twenty-one year
        old men, George had known what he wanted to do with his life for as
        long as he could remember.
             His father had been an EMT and George wanted to follow in his
        footsteps. George had wanted to go directly into the profession, but his
        father had insisted that he go to college in order to get a well-rounded
        education. Impatient to get started in the field he loved, George became
        a volunteer EMT, worked part-time on weekends and had been looking
        forward to graduating in a few months to start working full-time as an EMT.
            A month before he came in to see me, everything in George’s
        life changed. A call came in for a three-car accident on Interstate 95
        South. He had responded to similar calls in the past, but this time was
        far different for George. An SUV filled with college students crashed
        into a truck, flipped over into oncoming traffic, and was then hit by a
        van. The only survivor in the SUV was the driver who was bruised,
        dazed and drunk.
            George couldn’t get the images of the crash out of his head. He
        had always loved his job as an EMT, but now he suddenly dreaded
        going to work.

     The contradictory combination of George's striking physical strength with the paralyzing fears, phobias & depression would be the challenge for any actor. Denzel Washington could also bring to the screen George's new found passion & purpose which ensued after working on his DPS (Dream Positioning Syatem). 
      I'm not sure who I would pick to play me in a movie. My first thought was Meryl Streep, however, I have not liked her portrayals of therapists in the past. Perhaps Susan Sarandon or Sally Field. Personally, I find most actors & actresses do not do too well as therapists.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
     This book will teach you how to 'dream it forward' & navigate your way to your dreams at any age regardless of financial, health or personal challenges.
 
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

    The book was 1st self-published on Lulu. A new edition, supported by my new website, WakeUpAnddreamChallenge.com, was launched  yesterday! Here's a link to the hot off the press press release. Kiwi Publishing is my new publisher, however, I am keeping my publishing rights so that I can still share the profits with the "dream nonprofits" featured in my book. By switching publishers, I was able to significantly lower the price of the book for my readers without lowering the profits shared with the non-profit organizations.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
     The first draft took only a few months to write; however, it lay dormant for a few years before I decided to rewrite & publish it. The revisions & addition of the nonprofit profiles which I added took about a year and a half to two years to complete.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

     It is part Chicken Soup for the Soul and Happy For No Reason.

9) Who or What inspired you to write this book?

    Witnessing my clients as they achieved amazing transformations & accomplishments inspired me to write this book. Before I assigned any of my techniques to my clients, I used them myself. I knew that they worked because I saw how they helped me expand my horizons, but I was not stuck before I began using these tools. When I saw how it helped people who had been in dire straights reach their dreams, I knew I needed to share them with a wider audience. I know that it is not a good marketing strategy, however, this book is really appropriate for people from all ages, educational & socioeconomic levels. My college interns find it can help them change their lives. People in mid-life crisis see it as a way to redesign their lives. Retirees see it as a way to find new beginnings.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 

 
      Don't let the word challenge stop you from choosing this book to help you reach your dreams. Just by buying the book, you are already joining my challenge to make a difference in the world & helping others reach for their dreams. Although the stories of my clients are inspirational, the techniques are down to earth, easy to understand & accomplish. When you take the time to work on your Dream Positioning System (DPS) you will be amazed at what you may discover about yourself & your aspirations. The techniques will free you & allow you to consider ways to do things you may have never imagined doing before reading the book.
      Thank you again, Sharon! Can’t wait to read your newest book, The Zenful Kitchen.
Be prepared to explore new interesting authors!
Watch next week for these five new authors joining the Blog Hop:  Ashley Fontainne, a new best selling fantasy novelist, if you like dragons & fairies, you will want to explore her books; Smadar Belkind Gerson, a genealogist who also happens to be my daughter, published my grandmother's journal & continues to uncover hidden treasures of family history; Troy Lewis, tells the true story of how a stranger saved the his life & started a chain reaction which has saved the lives of others; Donnetta Quinones, a doctoral student in Psychology whose book is in the planning stages as she completes her degree & helps students reach their potential; & Bruce Judish, who writes historical fiction & critiques Christian fiction. You won’t want to miss reading about these wonderful authors upcoming projects. They will be joining the Blog Hop next Wednesday, December 5th, so be sure to check them out then. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving & 6 Mental Health First Aid Tips



As We Celebrate Thanksgiving, many people are still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
Thought for the Day: The day before Thanksgiving I was interviewed on a radio show, "Pay It Forward" with Josephine Geraci on how to cope with the trauma of Hurricane Sandy. Josephine lives on Long Island & grew up in Staten Island. She contacted me on Monday to ask that I come on the show & offer some advice to help all the people on the east coast who have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Although my schedule was filled with pre-holiday minutia, I agreed to do the broadcast. To me it felt like the perfect way to give to others just before the Thanksgiving weekend which is very hard following such devastation. Because of the short notice, many people did not get to listen in live, however the broadcast can be downloaded here: bit.ly/Y4dMCr

As part of the show, I offered some tips to help people deal with the aftermath this & any trauma. I thought I'd share some of the tips here. On the 1 hour radio show, you can hear more about how you can help yourself, your family, friends,  children, neighbors & co-workers deal with the stresses that arise due to trauma. 
Picture of the home of another facebook friend

The picture on the right was from a facebook "friend" whom I've never met. It is heartbreaking to imagine having to sort through a lifetime of belongings, photos & mementos & to tear down homes they have built & cared for for years. Often we don't know what to say or do to support them. On the show, we discuss what you can do to help yourself & your loved ones.  

One of the psychologists/authors that I have "met" via linkedIn & facebook wrote to apologize that she could not listen in because she is too busy packing, packing, packing. I wrote back & found out that her house needs to be gutted. I was able to extend some words of support to her. We are all able to do something, little things can mean a lot to those who have been impacted. Here are a summary of some of the Mental Health tips I gave on the show.
 
Post Trauma Mental Health First Aid Tips
      1) Talk to people about the traumatic events. It is therapeutic even if it feels repetitious. It also allows others to support you. Know that holidays will be hard & try to be with people especially during the holidays. If you don't know what to say, give a hug & just be there with them. Watch kids for a few hours. Bring food just as you might to help a friend who is moving or after an operation.
      2) Take care of yourself: make time to relax, exercise, eat well, meditate. When we are under stress we often push ourselves to the limit & forget to take time for ourselves. Ignoring our need for rest can be counter-productive & leave us even more exhausted, overwhelmed & less able to do the tasks at hand.
      3) Help others who are less fortunate, it will help you as well. Take a look at how one woman,
Vanessa McHugh of Queens, made a difference following the hurricane: The Pizza Patrol. Even a phone call to a friend to speak with them & see how they are doing can be helpful.
      4) Look for what you have to be grateful for instead of focusing on what you do not have. Take a look at some of my older posts: Whether the Glass is 1/2 full or 1/2 Empty Make the Most of What You Have Left or this one How A Motorcycle Accident and a Fire Rekindled a Dream.

      5) Be patient with yourself, it takes time to recover from losses. Although we all would like to put a loss behind us & move on quickly, our psyche takes time to recover from any loss or trauma. The average time needed to recover from major losses is a year. Grieve when you feel sad, don't ignore it. It will pass & lessen as time goes by.
      6) If you are having trouble sleeping, have headaches or other physical issues, or frequent flashbacks that do not seem to be lessening over time, speak with a professional. Even if you feel that you or your family are coping with the trauma, it may be helpful to get a mental health check up with a therapist to talk about how everyone is coping with the stress of living through a traumatic event.

I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of this Thanksgiving weekend! As always, I'd love to hear your reactions, comments & feedback. If you have questions, feel free to ask me as well. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving, Alice's Restaurant & Paying It Forward


Thought for the Day: Yesterday while driving home from NYC I turned on the radio. The program was playing folk music written for Thanksgiving. It began with a short clip from Alice's Restaurant & went downhill from there. I was amazed that there were no good songs for the holiday. So I decided to do something different this time. I'm posting the original recording of Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie for you to enjoy & asking if anyone knows another good song for Thanksgiving. I would love to have you post it here. If you can't find music, perhaps there are some great poems or short stories. Please share them.

It is interesting that Alice's Restaurant is also a peace song written when our nation was at war. I am thankful that our troupes are exiting from the wars we have been fighting, although I am anxious & saddened by the violence in the Middle East & the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran. As we give thanks for all that we have, I also am saddened by the difficulties people are suffering in New York, New Jersey & Connecticut. On Wednesday I will be doing a radio show on how to reduce the impact of traumatic stress on children & families. The program, Paying It Forward with Josephine Geraci will air Wednesday 11/21/2012 from 10 - 11 AM EST at www.toginet.com  & will be available to download after the show. If you listen live, you can call in with questions. I hope that this will help those still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy during this Thanksgiving week. It is one way of giving to those hurt more by the Hurricane than just the inconvenience of losing power for a week.

So send me some songs, stories or poems about Thanksgiving, listen in on Wednesday if you can & have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sex, Lies & Political Gridlock - Is Negative Campaigning Endangering Democracy

Thought for the Day: I usually try to avoid sex & politics in my blog, facebook & as a psychologist; however, given the increase in negative campaigning I wonder whether democracy is becoming an endangered species & felt compelled to write about it. Although you may feel compelled to write from a partisan perspective, please refrain from doing so. I have tried to address the problem as a non-partisan psychological commentary, I hope I will inspire you to question what is happening in political campaigning on both sides & to search for creative solutions to the problems addressed.

After an election campaign filled with negativity, I felt a need to encourage people to set aside their differences & join forces behind the government to start fixing the economic crisis that the nation is struggling to overcome. I posted the above photo (which I saw as an olive branch) on my facebook page & on 2 Bellaire High School Alumni groups that I frequent. On my page, people took the post in the way it was intended, liked & shared it 35 times.

On the Bellaire High pages the responses were strikingly different. Around 135 comments & "likes" followed. They have continued to appear daily on the two group pages. To my surprise, the photo & my original comment hoping for people to join together, triggered all kinds of partisan & derogatory comments. It brought up stories of conspiracy theories & mud slinging that I will not repeat. A few people tried to respond to these comments; however, the negative comments continued to come. I merely said that I was taught that regardless of which candidate wins, it is important to find ways to accept the results of the democratic process & find ways to compromise & work together.

Being a psychologist is a blessing but it can also be a curse. I'm not a political analyst, but find myself trying to apply psychological theories to understand the powerful reactions to the photo on facebook. I also began to wonder if the political gridlock in Washington & the divide occurring in our society could be somehow connected to the damaging psychological effects of political advertising.  To do this I did some research on advertising, although it is by no means comprehensive it reflects what experts in the field are saying about political ad campaigns. I encourage you to read some of the articles I reviewed to help understand this complex topic.

America's capitalistic economy relies heavily on advertising.  ($129 Billion on (TV, Print & Online advertizing) in 2011) On the presidential campaigns "this year, according to a fresh report to investors from Needham and Company’s industry analysts, television stations will reap as much as $5 billion—up from $2.8 billion in 2008."  That means that about 15% of the total advertising spenditures in the USA will have gone to TV ads for the presidential election. In 2010, TV ads for House, Senate & gubernatorial elections was $2,870,000. The 2012 spending on these races is expected to grow significantly. Certainly, the numbers alone in the midst of unemployment & recession are unsettling. One wonders how the advertising dollars might improve the economy or education.  However, the content & lack of accountability for it's psychological impact on our society is even more disturbing.

Is it wise to market political leaders as if they were products? It is common knowledge that "sex" & the image of popularity & success sell products. Our greatest presidents, prior to the age of television advertizing were not necessarily handsome or photogenic. Would Abraham Lincoln have been elected on his looks? If his marriage (or the marriages of other great presidents prior to the explosion of television) had been scrutinized would he have been elected? How would the camera or negative ads have treated FDR's physical disabilities? The camera was not kind to Eleanor Roosevelt, but she was one of the most eloquent & influential first ladies our nation has ever had.  In light of their leadership, America might have missed the opportunity to be led by many great leaders if they had been judged by their appearance & not their words & actions.

An even bigger concern for me is the blatant use of lies in political campaigns. With the myriad of ads on both sides & the lack of fact checking by the news media, it often takes months for the truth to come out about ads that influence the outcome of elections. In “Timeless Rules for Advertising and Marketing,” March 26, 2010, bighow.com, David Ogilvy, advertising icon, called political spots “the most deceptive, misleading, unfair and untruthful of all advertising.”  Robert Spero reports that Ogilvy believes “political advertising ought to be stopped. It’s the only really dishonest kind of advertising that’s left. It’s totally dishonest.” (Robert Spero, The Duping of the American Voter (New York: Lippincott & Crowell, 1980), 4.)

The worst type of political advertising is negative advertising (a form of advertising that is rarely used in commercial advertising). The goal of negative advertising is to put an opponent in a negative light. Negative ads, despite the fact that they are often false, have been found to be highly successful at raising doubts in voters minds about a candidate they may have been leaning towards supporting.  Therefore, it can be tremendously effective, even if it does not generate a single new voter for the candidate who placed the ad. If it pushes the undecided voter not to vote at all, it is seen as a victory for the creator of the ad. I believe, however, that all negative advertising is a defeat for the democratic process.

Psychologically, it is better for a candidate to be on the offensive, rather than on the defensive. So, there is an advantage to a politician to be the first to attack an opponent with a negative ad. Quick response is important as well. The cost of responding to a negative ad continues to increase the cost of political advertising. Therefore, the candidate with the most money has the advantage, regardless of whether the negative ad is true or bogus. As voters, do we want our elected officials to buy our votes by lying about their opponents? Do we want good candidates to lose elections due to false accusations that only see the light of day months after the election?

Posted on Facebook on the day of the election
Not only do negative ads influence the outcome of elections, according to Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols negative television advertising accentuates, "extends and enhances" the problem of citizen apathy. A study by Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar demonstrated that the "main consequence of negative ads is that it demobilizes citizens and turns them off from electoral politics, if not public and civic life altogether." The trend is toward “a political implosion of apathy and withdrawal.” (Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar, Going Negative (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 11–12.) Can democracy survive with apathetic citizens? Are we in danger of making people feel that their vote does not matter & that their leaders are not trustworthy? Is negative political advertising simply propaganda encouraging prejudice & dividing our society?

Many people assume that the news media will "fact check" the ads & inform the public about the "truth."  Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, reporters tend to report on the negative controversial ads as sources for news stories. McChensey & Nichols report that one study found that only 1% of TV news campaign stories critique any political advertising. If a candidate wants air time on the news programs, they need to buy ads & make them controversial. Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols conclude that "television journalism has all but abandoned its duty to provide some sort of balance or corrective to political advertising... They are part of the problem, not the solution."

As far as I know, we know very little about the residual effects of being bombarded with negative ads. As a psychologist, this effect is of concern to me.  Are all Americans, Democrats & Republicans, having been exposed to negative & untruthful ads continuing to act as if the ads are true. Could this play a part in the gridlock we see in Washington? Does the conscious & unconscious residue from the powerful negative ads continue to encourage both sides to be polarized against one another? Has it led to increased apathy & distrust of our leaders on the part of voters & politicians alike? CNN reported from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, that the 2012 voter turnout was 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004. Voter turnout was only slightly higher than in 2000, the turnout rate was 54.2%. An estimated 126 million people voted in the 2012 election. Ninety three million eligible citizens did not cast ballots. Although the depressed economy may also have led to lower voter turnout, is negative ad campaigning making it worse? For democracy to work, all citizens need to be involved, educated & believe in the process. As negative advertizing budgets have increased, gridlock, polarization of politics & apathy of many voters have also increased.

If the advertising community itself believes political advertising should be stopped, should we not at least demand more scrutiny of political ads accuracy & accountability? We have regulated advertising for products & have magazines to help consumers choose between products. However, there is no "Consumer Reports" magazine to help voters check the accuracy of political ads. I don't have the answers, but the questions are important ones for us to address regardless of our political leaning if we are to find a way to address this important issue.

As always, I would love to hear your opinions & ideas to find ways to increase respect, end the gridlock & find ways to make sure both the democratic process thrives & our great nation prospers.