Manners and Mental Health

It is difficult to admit that I visited McDonald’s at midnight this past week, mostly because I am a long way from my teens and aware that the product quality may not be the best choice for my physical wellness. Nutritional value aside, I did not expect to experience such disdain for people, human disconnection and absolute dishonour at this giant retailer’s hands?

There was a day when manners were expected by everyone, especially every staff member employed by the Golden Arches conglomerate McDonald’s.

At fifteen, I appreciated the opportunity to be employed by this company, making it possible to afford food and housing at a very difficult time in my life. I recall being offered the job, but only, as the manager said “if you cut your hair“. Yes, I had fairly long hair in the mid-seventies and that was not considered appropriate for working in the food service industry. We were also required to use manners for every request. The front staff would call out; “Six Macs please” (twelve or twenty-four if it was busy) and, as a grill person, I was required to respond; “Laying six Macs thank you“. This was required for Macs, Fries, Quarterpounders and even the Filet-O-Fish. You may get a caution or two but manners were an essential part of the McDonald’s staffing philosophy. Essential meaning do it or you do not work here!

McDonald’s strives to offer the same experience at every store in every country so I hope what happened to us is not spreading globally. Still today, their Canadian website offers McDonald’s staffing vision (see below) of top quality service which is a direct contradiction to our experience;

“Our People Vision”

“At McDonald’s® Canada our People Vision is for our people to feel valued and proud to work here. In fact we aim to be the best employer in every one of our Canadian communities.”          https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca/careers/our-people.html

Manners Optional ? – Ask Macdonald’s

So what did we experience and was it as bad as we think it was? You be the judge. Just after midnight we had the idea to get a cone so we pulled into the drive through at Crossroads McDonald’s – Weston Road and 401. It took nearly ten minutes to approach the ordering sign alone. Either we really wanted a cone or the fact we had not way to exit influenced or patience? When we arrived to order a really upbeat and friendly automated voice greeted us followed by silence. We asked “Are you there” with another half minute of silence broken through by what sounded like a very depressed young lady’s voice… “Yes, what do you want”. The reverberation and distortion in the speaker system was also unusually high.

We placed our order which was not responded to with a thank you that is so commonly spoken in retail and fast food services. The woman did not even say the usual “please pull up to the next window”? Ok, maybe she is just having a bad day? We then waited for ten more minutes to get to the window to pay. What happened next was appalling. The young girl opened the window, went out of her way to not make eye contact, reached out her hand for our money, took the money, gave the change and closed the window without a single word spoken or any semblance of kindness or caring. The young girl later opened the service window and handed us our food, closing the window again without saying one word during the entire interaction… no please, no apology for a twenty-five minute drive through wait and no thank you at all.

Am I making a big deal over something small or is this discourteous approach to retail becoming all too commonplace? I have experienced this at a number of places over that past few years. Are employers resigned to not expect their staff to great people politely, to use common courtesy and to act happy about their decision to shop at their stores? Is it too much effort to train staff due to high turnover in low or minimum wage workplaces? I think NOT!

When I was struggling as a young teen, I was angry, upset, frustrated to be living on my own and quite comfortable with being rude to others fairly regularly. I was in an “I don’t care” mode almost daily. I had more “Stinkin Thinkin” about myself and others, than probably any other time in my life, but, when the manager said “cut your hair” and “you must use manners consistently” I had a decision to make – eat or keep being rude. Nine months of following the courteous and polite requirements at McDonald’s (circa 1973) taught me the importance of manners. I had to “fake it to make it” for manners to become a real part of my life.  Eric Erikson identified this stage of personality development as the identity crisis.  Successful completion of this stage involves the young person’s development of a clearer understanding of who they are, relative to others, their likes and dislikes and their place in the world.  Erikson postulated that a failure during this stage would inevitably lead to role confusion.  Role confusion is certainly one of the factors in life that contributes to anxious and depressed mood.

I sure hope the management and owner(s) at Crossroads McDonald’s behave better manners than those staff last Thursday night. I have my doubts though as I have come to learn that staff often mimic or follow the way they are treated. Perhaps this is why www.Hiringtowin is listed right on their sales slip. Right on their careers web link below, they state;

Careers | McDonalds Canada – McDonald’s https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca/careers.html

“We believe the best people in the world work right here.”

I believe, if McDonald’s management had not expected me to be polite during my middle teens I would not have been just like the staff I had the displeasure of meeting the other day. Sadly, I may likely have never realized the value of being polite, the impact that using manners has on how I feel and, possibly, I may have never grown to expect this from our children, colleagues and staff?

Being nice to one another is one major way we can improve our mental health. Research shows that being kind, altruistic and using of polite, personal gestures helps both the receiver and the sender feel happier and more satisfaction.

Manners matter McDonald’s and every other retailer out there. When you insist upon this you help staff and customers feel better. Please change your training expectations accordingly to foster improved overall wellness.

 

 

There is no word or title to describe me

It occurred to me recently that there is no title for me that my ex-husbands new children can use when referring to me. There is not a single word to describe ‘my-half-siblings-mother’ or ‘my-fathers-ex-wife’ in the English language.  This made me think of how important titles are to me and that each one comes with a built in group of expectations and beliefs — mother, daughter, sister, friend, partner, step-mother, cousin, niece, woman, professional…ex-wife.

Yup…despite trying to fulfill as well as I can on all of the expectations of all of these titles, I still ended up as an ex-wife. Which is a title that I did not want. I am keenly aware of the beliefs and expectations that people have of someone with the title of ‘ex-wife’. Especially my ex-husbands’ beliefs and expectations.

So this thought that I need a title for what my ex-husbands new children can call me seems important to me. These titles tell us and the rest of the world how we relate to one another and what they can expect from us. A title is helpful and makes it simple and straightforward for people to lump us in to their own thinking so they can move on with their day.

I most certainly don’t want to take up anyone’s time by trying to describe the complex-messy-fullness that is my life and the relationships and people in it. It would be so much easier to just say a word and everyone – including me – can immediately understand the relationship.

The fact that I am thoughtful about what my ex-husband’s children will call me is a sign of my growth and progress.

6.5 years ago my thoughts were occupied with my immediate survival of being heartbroken.  With two very young children I was worried about waking up each day and doing the next thing required of me. I had a new title – single mother.

And then, as time went on, my thoughts and energies were devoted to the process of living each day and trying…trying, to fulfill on these new titles that I grappled with wearing. Separated, ex-wife…high-conflict divorcee. I was living each day doing the best I could trying to wear all of the new expectations and

beliefs about these titles that I would never have chosen for myself. This violent shove into a new reality was more than I thought I could handle. I did my best.

We were stuck for years in our roles and titles as ‘ex’s’ in a ‘fight’. Not ‘fight’ in the messy yelling kind of way (although we’ve had our moments); more a ‘fight’ in the legal wrangling kind of fight. We added ‘client’ to our list of titles. Our divorce lawyers happily became our guides through the family court system.

We had a couple of legal issues, but mostly we just didn’t have the skills to

resolve issues with our enemy — a new title we both wore. Enemy. Nemesis. Again, living up to the beliefs and expectations of these titles for one another.

We both believed that we were doing a great job of insulating our children from our battle. We didn’t argue in front of them. We were exceedingly polite when we did speak. We effectively ignored each others’ spouses, but again, we would never be overtly rude! We did not think we spoke badly of the other parent. We both believed we were doing a great job protecting these beautiful children from our inner, legal and financial turmoil. We were both fighting the good fight. Doing what the family law system tells us is the right way to serve our children. This allowed us to add “martyr” to the long list of titles we were accumulating through this process.

We ended up being very angry, bitter, broke, suffering – all titles I wore proudly to show the fight was worth it. Fighting endlessly with the only result being that one of you loses is stressful and painful. It’s frightening. For some reason, we also felt like our children didn’t see or feel our fear. After 6+ years in the family court system we were at an impasse.

Family counselling became a way out of the wet paper bag that was our lives…no judge could solve our issues. No two lawyers would encourage us to just speak to one another! We were ingrained in our titles of warriors and enemies. Then we began family counselling.

The humbling experience of family counselling began in earnest…with bi-weekly appointments and tension that you could cut with a knife. We all met together, the four of us; me and my spouse with my co-parent and his wife. We had to deal with our titles and our beliefs about one another. We had to learn how we would speak to one another and the basics of human interactions. We said our fears out loud. We listened and heard one another for the first time. We got angry. We got resolution. We got to laugh. We cried. We reached…agreement. An agreement about how we wanted to co-parent going forward.

 

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Through this process I have come to accept that we all carry another title…a title that overrides any of us as individuals. We are a SYSTEM. Each part of the system is critical. We all have roles in the system. We each have impact on the others. This was a humbling thing to accept  because you can not stay enemies with someone your system/team depends on! You need them to be happy and healthy so that your children, and ultimately the system can thrive. We are a family system. None of us chose it. None of us know how to do it well. We are all learning. We are all figuring it out as we go.

Through the process of accepting the system  I could still name my roles in the system. Mother. Partner. Co-parent. I was defining how I wanted to look and feel in these roles and with growing confidence we were all wearing our titles with some pride. We were developing new expectations for those titles in our system.

Which brought me to the realization that started this entire thing…there is not a word for me and my role in the lives of my ex-husbands children. What do Luke and Emily call someone who loves them simply because they were born my children’s sibling? What title would apply to someone who values and cares for you as part of a family entity that all works together?

I have heard that the number of words a society has for something indicates how important it is to the society. Is it true that my role in their system is not important? That can’t be because I have seen evidence of the fact that we are a system. And I have empirical evidence that all of our lives are improved with the acknowledgement that we are a system. A living and breathing and evolving system that must work together to the benefit of everyone in it. Does everyone else get a title except me?

Looking back on all of the titles I have worn during this process I have to wonder…do these titles actually help us? Are the beliefs and expectations for each role even true? Do titles alone describe the value of each role in the system? Have these titles and beliefs that society puts on all of us helping us forge ahead in this new world of blended families, problem solving with the enemy, and embracing the fact that we are a system…that no individual is more valued than another?

No!!! Living up to these titles might be the reason we stayed so long as a failing system.

I choose to see this lack of a name and title as liberation…we can all define my role in their little lives in a way that works for us in our system – no expectations or set beliefs. If my role is not immediately clear and understood by others, that’s okay because maybe in describing the role I play to others we can all move the needle on how we understand and name people in a blended family system. How we can move past the titles and become valued parts a system that thrives. It is not perfect, but it thrives. It is not our choice, but it is our reality. I, for one, am ready to break out from the titles and beliefs and expectations everyone has of divorce and blended families and I want to say….”I’m ready to try this in a way that honours everyone in the system. In a way that honours me”

Who needs a title when I have a name. They can call just me Karen  🙂

 

(editors note: this post was submitted by a mother, co-parent, person … who was brave enough to imagine, seek, find and adopt a different outcome after separation and divorce)

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 Are You Getting The Love You Crave?

One of the greatest resources for marriage and family is the book by Harvile Hendrix (Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. – ISBN 10: 0-8050-6895-3) and, in the twentieth anniversary edition, joined by his wife Helen Lakelley Hunt accurately titled “Getting The Love You Want”.  This is a brief summary* aimed to get you interested enough to buy the book and use it, along with the exercises and maybe even a therapist to make your romantic relationship into the best love of your life.

SUMMARY   by H. Holt & Company

One of my main realizations in Getting The Love You Want was that the two individuals in a relationship need to let go of the illusion that they are the centre of the universe and learn to see each other as equal partners. There are indeed two people in the relationship. When two individuals surrender their centrality, something unexpected occurs – the relationship itself  becomes the center. Once that fundamental shift occurs, they can begin to work with the unconscious purpose of their relationship, not against it. They can begin to accept the fact that being in an intimate love relationship calls forth all the unresolved issues of their childhood, and that they can learn how to work together to resolve them.  We are born in relationship, we are wounded in relationship, and we can be healed in relationship. Indeed, we cannot be fully healed outside of a relationship.  This is the idea that resonated with so many couples.

  • The first step is become more conscious of our old wounds. We look into the past for evidence of how we were denied adequate nurturing and how we repressed essential parts of our being. We do this through therapy, prayer, and reflection, and by becoming more astute observers of everyday events.  As we gather new insights, we share them with our partners, because we no longer assume they can read our minds.  When our partners share their thoughts and feelings with us, we listen with understanding and compassion, knowing that this sharing is a sacred trust.  Gradually we start to “reimage” our partners, to see them as they really are wounded children seeking salvation.
  • Once we have this more accurate image, we begin to redesign our relationships to heal our wounds.

“To do this, we first build an atmosphere of safety and trust.  By closing our exits, renewing our commitment to each other, and deliberately pleasuring each other, we create a safe and nurturing environment.”  

We add to this feeling of safety and validation by learning to communicate openly and effectively.  As we overcome our resistance to this new way of relating, we begin to see our partners with even more clarity.  We learn that they have fears and weaknesses and desires that they have never shared with us.  We listen to their criticisms of us and realize that these illuminate our own darkness.  We tell ourselves: “My partner has something to say about me. There is probably a measure of truth in this comment.”  Gradually we come to accept the fullness, the dark and the light of our own being.

  • The next step in the healing process is perhaps the most difficult: we make a decision to act on the information we are acquiring about ourselves and our partners and become our partner’s healers. We go against our instinct to focus on our own needs and make a conscious choice to focus on theirs.  To do this, we must conquer our fear of change.  As we respond to our partners’ needs, we are surprised to discover that, in healing our partners, we are slowly reclaiming parts of our own lost selves.  We are integrating parts of our being that were cut off in childhood.  We find ourselves regaining our capacity to think and to feel, to be sexually and spiritually alive, and to express ourselves in creative ways.
  • Dec 16th 2008006_editedAs we reflect on all that we are learning, we see that the painful moments in life are in reality opportunities for growth. Instead of blocking the pain, we ask ourselves: “What  truth is trying to emerge at this moment?  What primal feelings are hiding beneath these feelings of sadness, anxiety, and frustration?” We learn that the underlying feelings are pain and rage and the fear of death, and that these feelings are common to us all.  Finally, we find a safe and growth-producing way to express these powerful emotions and no longer allow them jeopardize our relationships.
  • One by one, the elements of our marriage that were once unconscious-the fears, the anger, the childhood needs, the archaic pain-are brought to the surface, first to find acceptance, then, ultimately, to be resolved. As our wounds heal and as more hidden parts of ourselves come into our awareness, we have a new sense of our inherent unity and wholeness.

For more information on how to get the love you want contact us today!

* This brief summary was originally published by Henry Holt and Company and the entire summary can be found at: http://www.peace.ca/gettingtheloveyouwant.htm

I Feel All Alone

Sometimes, we find ourselves in a place where we feel we cannot go on. The people in our lives do not seem to be enough or we aren’t enough? What are we to do in this #dark place ? Writing or expressing our emotions artistically can help both with getting them out and also with reaching a place of new understanding and awareness. Using poetry, art and music provides a healthy expression of the wide range of feelings (all of which are normal and useful). Artistic avenues also provide some relief and the opportunity to share our grief and struggles with others who may be suffering.

One teen did just that! She sent her poem in to share… with the hope it may help others not feel so alone

#Heavy

heavy eyes
heavy shoulders
heavy weights upon my shoulders
i realize this is not normal.
but what really is normal?
not me, i see, everything around me
smiling happy,
joyful, pleasant.
and happy.
this word.
what is it?
it’s blurred within the space it’s supposed to fit.
what am i doing?
i’m trying, i’m trying
but all i’m doing is colliding
with the thoughts inside my head
they crowd me,
they surround me and i can’t get away
they love me, they hug me and they kiss me & they tell me that everything will never be okay.

i’m running as fast as i can but the truth is i’m not getting anywhere
and i’m jam packed between the voices of society and screams inside my head.
they tear me apart
and i’m aware of every single look and every stare
it makes me crave to know if every little string of hair is in place.
and i know i’m out of place
i’m displaced
i’m misplaced
and i’ll be replaced
but i wont be retraced.

but i’ll put on that straight face
and walk through the crowd everyday.
listen to the voices of society saying everything will be okay.
this word
what is it
it’s blurred within the space it’s supposed to fit
what am i doing?
i’m trying i’m trying but all i’m doing is colliding
with the thoughts inside my head
they crowd me.
they surround me and i can’t get away.
they hug me they love me
they kiss me and they embrace me
and they tell me that everything will never be okay.

        -Teen Girl

Photo credit: jzlomek from morguefile.com

Or Hard Road Ahead?

Should you find you are struggling in your marriage, you may land upon this post. Like so many, you have likely grown frustrated and complacent in your marriage to the point where you are considering options. In addition, you may not feel loved, respected nor valued in your marriage.

Negative thoughts may have already begun to creep into your head; thoughts such as: “Maybe I married the wrong person?” or “I just can’t get through to her/him”.  Others like “There’s got to be something better out there for me” and “what’s the point in trying anymore?” pull you further from your spouse and solutions.

Well, if any of these sound familiar beware! There is a strong wave of evidence that confirms our thoughts are not our own and they also are not fact. Our opinions, ideas, notions and beliefs have been gradually loaded into our mind (super hard drive) over the course of our entire lives by others, all experiences and situations, through every one of our senses: every single sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and feeling we have ever been exposed to.

So before you take that giant leap out of your romance, marriage and family, you may want to explore your thoughts and experiences a little further. It may be you are being driven by unconscious thoughts and patterns from your past; patterns of interacting that predate your marriage?

Think about it. Why is it the negative voice only gives two options when we are unhappy in our romantic relationship; “Stay and be miserable” or “Leave and he happy” ?  What about the just as plausible options of ‘leave and be miserable’ and ‘stay and work on being happier’ ?

Maybe that negative voice, I like to call “stinking thinkin”, just wants to trick us into poorer choices and less healthy outcomes? I often say that little negative voice (or virus) doesn’t have to “get” the kids… it only has to get the parents arguing, disagreeing, fighting and then splitting, then it has the kids.

Why not ask yourself, “Have I really done everything I can do?” Then consider how many books you have read on the topic or people you have used to find helpful solutions. How much coaching or counseling have you really been open to? Why not look into Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” or one great resource by Harville Hendrix; “Getting The Love You Want”

In other words, have you really done all you can or are you just taking what seems to look like an easy escape route from your relationship? Caution! Very, very rarely does something truly magnificent come from an “easy” route.

If you’d like assistance to achieve a more fulfilling marriage contact one of our counsellors today!

 

Photo credit 1: earl53 from morguefile.com

Photo credit 2: pippalou from morguefile.com

Dec 16th 2008006_edited(submitted by a young blog contributor)

Having been in a relationship for four years, the question comes up quite frequently. When are you getting married? Are you ready to take the next step? The problem I am having with marriage is that I am only 22. Fresh out of university, I am about to embark on a career path that could take me anywhere. How can I commit my life to someone this early with so many unknowns.

Although the 50s was a very misogynistic era, at least with my lens,  marriage was simple because it operated by fulfilling the goals of one career path. The man went where the work was and the family moved along with him. In no way am I implying that we should regress back to the social system we maintained in the 50s and 60s. But in recent years, there is a degree of complexity we have added to the pursuit of our “soul mate”.  Marriage is a traditional construct that we are attempting to apply to a modern society. Seeing as nearly half of them fail, something has made maintaining a marriage more complicated. It is the norm for both sexes to pursue demanding careers in order to “make something of themselves”. Even though the individual may feel like the perfect person for you, if their life and goals do not fit with your career projection, it may be destined to fail.

Globalization has made it simpler and sometimes necessary to work/study in different countries to progress in many careers. Many job interviewers have told me that to climb the corporate ladder you need to be “mobile”. In order to become established in a career, you need to be tenacious and willing to put in the hours. But, putting so much time into one area of your life inevitably causes other areas to suffer. Even with Skype, Facetime and other forms of virtual communication, it doesn’t seem to be enough for a long-term and long-distance relationship. Through the screen, so much of the physical and emotional companionship is lost. Is it possible to maintain a marriage with someone effectively without living at least in the same city? They are supposed to be your best friend, that person you share your day with over dinner. Sure, a few months is manageable, but a few years seems a lot less likely to succeed.

This is why I see marriage as such a daunting step in the progression of my relationship. Perhaps career path is just another factor that needs to be clearer in order to find and decide upon that special someone. If your career is very time consuming, maybe you either need to find someone with a more passive focus on their career or sacrifice your own pursuit of professional self-actualization for that special someone. In a society that teaches hard work leads to happiness and success, maybe there is no room for a significant other while in your 20s?

Coping After Breaking Up  –  What Can I Do?

One of the most difficult things to do when a relationship ends is to let go of the strong emotional ties that we may have for our ex-partners. It is hard not to think about what they are doing or thinking, how they are feeling, or whether they are okay or as miserable as we are. We have spent so much time making decisions that revolved around them adjusting that framework afterward takes time as well as intentional effort.

When is it time to stop investing our emotion into a dead relationship? Intentional effort is needed to identify when our thoughts hopelessly gravitate toward our ex-partners overshadowing the fact that most of the evidence points to ‘its over’. Easier said than done so how can we begin to heal and adjust?

Some strategies may include:

  • Allow yourself the right and time to grieve the loss as this is a normal process that is as essential to being human as breathing.
  • Creating and repeating uplifting / affirming statements about ourselves when we catch ourselves emotionally over-investing in.
  • Identify an emotional over-investment in our ‘dead’ relationship and do three push ups, sit ups, squats etc. (consider how fit we might become 🙂 .
  • Take three to five deep breaths (20 seconds each -> 5 inhale, 7 hold & 8 exhale) thinking of a positive during inhaling and a negative when exhaling (e.g. inhale calm… exhale upset)
  • Plan schedules heavily with activities to refrain from having “free-time” for a few weeks or even months
  • Increase self care activities (biking, bathing, reading, music etc.) catering to your personal likes and interests can be helpful distractions.

The biggest steps involve finding ways to intentionally redirect our emotional investments away from our ex-partners toward ourselves and others. Being loving to ourselves is so important even though this is difficult after a break-up. Positive  and caring thoughts and actions can prevent us from slipping into self-loathing, ‘stinkin thinkin’ and hyper-criticism which rapidly increases feelings of despair and hopelessness. Also, finding ways to do loving things for others (also called altruism), volunteering time to family, friends and even strangers is a great way to redirect emotional investment and soften the impact of grief and loss.

Making an investment in counseling is another form of self care. You can discover additional strategies for coping as well as new intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to help build healthy, exciting and enduring relationships. If you want to find out more contact one of our counsellors today!

 

Photo credit 1: clarita from morguefile.com
Photo credit 2: pippalou from morguefile.com