A Response to Recent Election Results

BallotAlong with millions of others I was watching the election returns on TV Tuesday night. The last two days have provided somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster for me, and I know I’m not alone. A large group of people were surprised by the election results, and are now struggling to find ways to both understand what happened and to choose how to move forward.

Some possible responses to these events are decidedly unhelpful: becoming angry, running away and hiding, remaining depressed. And moving to some South Pacific island probably won’t work for most of us!

The pundits and TV talking heads have poured over the detailed numbers and there seems to be somewhat of a consensus: the country is changing.

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Doctor, Doctor: Your Family of Origin

Three GenerationsYou can’t choose your parents. Or your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. If your family of origin was reasonably healthy you probably don’t think much about how you choose to relate to them. You look forward to family gatherings, and keep in touch between times together.

There is always some tension as young people grow up and leave home, but healthy families celebrate such transitions. While still connected, junior develops a life of his or her own. And you’re at least somewhat proud of your parents and the legacy they left you.

But not all families are so healthy. It seems some significant measure of dysfunction is the norm in most families. Volumes have been written on the topic, and the mental health field has provided numerous careers devoted to helping those from unhealthy families learn to function better now.

Growing up in a home with alcohol, drug use, rage, criminal behavior, or violence leaves permanent marks on your soul.

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5 Tips For Growing Up

5 Tips For Growing Up

Growing up is a process. Have you ever grown up in some significant way when everything was easy?

Probably not.

There’s the cliché that says, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I don’t believe that’s always true. Sometimes trauma can stunt our growth: child abuse, rape, severe poverty, and others. There are probably many variables that determine how one responds: genetics, time, age, support, personality, and much more.

I DO know that the times when I’ve grown the most have definitely been some of the most difficult. That doesn’t mean to say I’ve grown from every problem! But if I hadn’t had real almost-overwhelming challenges at times I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Sometimes I feel like Einstein when a fire destroyed much of his work. Far from feeling devastated, he is reported to have said, “Now we can start over!”

So what can we do to turn a problem, a tragedy, a loss, a trauma into a growth experience? These tips can help make the difference in growing up.

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A Big Enough Reason

Recovery ButtonMaking a change is hard. Habit, routine, addiction, convenience, or a thousand other reasons keep us doing the same thing over and over again, even if it’s terribly unhealthy. Or dangerous. Or even deadly.

It takes a big enough reason to endure the anxiety, setbacks, difficulty, or even pain that may be involved in making a lifestyle change. Sometimes that reason is positive, where the outcome you desire is enticing enough to work hard for. Sometimes that reason is negative, where the pain of remaining where you are is big enough to force a change.

We usually respond better to positive reasons for change. But when severe enough, sometimes a negative reason will do.

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A Time for Everything

The Byrds Turn Turn TurnThe Byrds sang it: “A time to every purpose under heaven.”

I wonder how many people who still sing Turn! Turn! Turn! realize that the lyrics were taken essentially word-for-word from the Bible, Ecclesiastes ch. 3. It talks about a truth that those of us who live in this super-charged ultra-fast over-connected society often forget.

As an OB-Gyn physician I rejoice when it’s a time to be born. But I struggle to not feel like a failure when it’s time for one of my patients, or worse yet a close friend or family member, to die.

I find myself looking for the time to laugh and dance. I struggle to embrace the time to weep and mourn.

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