Stop the World !!

Stop the World!!                                                                                                                              ~ Lessons from when the Universe hits the Pause button ~

Currently, I, you, and the world are in one of those Stop the World moments, literally!  The Universe has stopped the world dead in its tracks and put all our lives on pause.

It reminds me of a Broadway musical from a long time ago, “Stop the World: I Want to Get Off” that featured a somewhat pathetic character, Littlechap. It follows his life from birth to death in vignettes. Each of these segments ends with a significantly painful or traumatic event in his life and is punctuated with his yelling out, “Stop the World!” and then he walks to the front of the stage and talks to the audience about the event and introduces the next phase of his life that he is pivoting into.

It was a huge success due to its wonderfully poignantly funny script, great acting, and memorable lyrics, still sung today including, “What Kind of Fool Am I.” I believe, though, that it also struck a chord with most of its audience because it reminded them of the many segments of their lives and the times when they would have loved to shout out, “Stop the World!” and take a pause to reflect, regroup,  and figure out the next course of action. I know that is what I remember every time I hit a juncture in my life.

Sometimes those moments have come due to my doings or the doings of those around me, like a business that goes out of business. At other times it is caused by things totally unexpected, out of my control and unappealable, such as a near-catastrophic auto crash I sustained about a year ago that totaled my van, which after the van stopped spinning 180 degrees and doing a 360 degrees side roll, landing back on its wheels, I was able to shut off the ignition, undo the seatbelt and walk out of. Deprived of my means of transportation and somewhat disabled by hip and joint trauma, I had a Stop the World moment, which allowed me to reflect on my life, both personal and business, as it was just prior to the accident, evaluate the merits of continuing where I left off or choosing to pursue a new course. I chose the latter and returned to my passionate, first love. I restarted my private counseling practice from which I had digressed in favor of chasing what turned out to be a dead-end non-opportunity.

I have been noticing that there are three different ways people are dealing with this virus caused pause. The first two are very unproductive and potentially tragic. They either sit and do nothing, depress themselves and vegetate or more tragically, they become full of fear and panic over things they most likely could prevent by following the safety guidelines.

The third way of dealing with these current crises involves looking at it as a gift of a mandatory time out given by the Universe. It is a rare opportunity to take stock and review our lives as we were living them prior to this pause, and to evaluate the merits of continuing as is or making some mid-course corrections.  Then we have the rarer luxury of being able to, uninterruptedly plan and gear up for the next episode of life.

So here are your choices. You can sit there and grumble, moan, and groan about what a raw deal you have been dealt, not being able to work, to go to your meetings, having to semi-isolate, and the like OR you can engage in high drama and go into a panic about how you are going to die even after you have self-isolated for the 14 days OR you can become generatively proactive and use this time to gear up for your amazing future.

When faced with setbacks and what normally are perceived as doom and gloom events, I have trained myself to first, take a couple of nice deep breathes, slowly exhaling each of them to get in a relaxed, unstressed state, and then ask two critical questions that get me on and keep me on track:

The first one is, “OK, now what?”  The tone and delivery of this question is one of genuine curious inquiry. (The other way of asking this is the totally unproductive, self-victimizing, “OK, now fu*kin’ what!!!!) Asking this in a curious way puts me in creative planning mode with usually great results.

The second question once I have finished the above creative process is, “Now where was I?” which puts me back to the reality of the current footwork that I was engaged in, just before I digressed into future thinking. That one-two punch is my secret sauce for exquisitely walking thru all adversity, misdirection and temporary dead ends and then quickly getting back on track.

So what are you going to do to capitalize on this enforced study hall in which you find yourself?

©2020, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, ILAADC

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author” and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman received both his B.S. degree in business management and his Master of Professional Studies in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a Certified, Level IV, Addictions Counselor), a Licensed Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor, and an Internationally Certified Clinical Supervisor. He is also a Certified Hypnotherapist and a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Jason is in private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 35 years. He coaches and counsels business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions to, work and live at their exquisite best.His specialties include enhancing self-esteem/love, increasing self-confidence, and building successful relationships.

He can be contacted at http://Stage2Recovery.com, jason@s4mm.com or 213-804-4408

The 10 Steps for Turning Your New Year’s Resolutions into Accomplished Wins

The 10 Steps for Turning Your New Year’s Resolutions into Accomplished Wins

Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV

Here we are at Resolution Time again! This is the time of the
year when we ritualistically take stock of the year almost over,
to assess our accomplishments and make resolutions for the
coming year. Too often we find that the new resolutions we are
making for the coming year have a deja vu feeling about them
because they very closely resemble last year’s resolutions that
were never done. That is a very depressing way to start a new
year! If you can relate to this, here is a proven method to
ensure that a year from now you will be celebrating your winning
Year.

The usual way of dealing with resolutions is in terms of goals
and goal fulfillment. That is a set up for failure.
Unfortunately a list of goals or resolutions is little more that
a list of dreams and wishes. The problem with dreams and wishes
is that they are usually made with the unconscious idea that
they will be completed via a magical cure or miraculous
fulfillment of them. That must be what they are thinking because
rarely when folks make a list of resolutions and goals to
accomplish do they attach to them the concrete steps needed to
take them to completion. That dooms them to failure.
I propose a new way of making your resolutions this year. I
propose that you adopt the sports metaphor and view each
resolution as a possible winnable game worth playing. Let’s look
at them the same way you would look at fulfilling one’s desire to
win in a sport or a game of mental or physical skill —
baseball, for example. Here are the steps necessary to win at
the game of baseball (assuming you never played but resolve to
do so):
a. You would first question if the resolve and desire was strong
enough to give you the energy and stick-to-it-ness to persevere
through the process of learning and acquiring the skills to win.
Do you want to play the game because of an inner fascination
with it or are you doing so because it will satisfy someone
else’s desire for you to play the game. If it is the latter,
your chances of learning and winning are slim. Even if you do
win, it would be a hollow one and looking back, wouldn’t seem
like it was worth the effort.
b. Assuming that you really, really have a strong desire to
learn and win, the next important step is to decide what part of
the game, what position, you want to specialize in. To do that
you might have to try out all the positions to get a feel for
which ones you have a natural aptitude and as important, which
ones you enjoy playing the most.
c. Having figured out the position, such as “pitcher,” you then
need to acquire the skills of the game.
d. It is very important, at this point to make sure to work
through all your inner game issues and conflicts (thinking “I never was
too good at sports”) that might sabotage your best intentions.
e. Next comes getting the proper equipment and joining a team.
f. And finally, continuing to evaluate how you are doing and
what more needs to be done, learned or practiced to get to the
win at the game of pitching in a baseball game.

Didn’t I leave something out of this scenario? Would you ever
think you would be able to effectively accomplish all that
planning, learning the skills, practicing and evaluating the
progress of becoming a winning baseball pitcher without having a
coach? Not likely! Sure, you probably could arrive at the skill
and knowledge needed to win, given much time and
experimentation, but are you willing to spend years
rediscovering what’s already known? If you are willing to do
that, that’s nice, but you would be playing a different game,
the game of reinventing the wheel. With sports, having a coach
is an accepted part of the equation of winning. Most champion
sporting figures, as well as champions in all walks of life have an
expert who teaches them the game and coaches them as they apply the teachings,

The 10 Steps to Win the Resolutions Game
So now looking at your new, New Year’s Resolutions from the same
perspective as we just did for winning at sports, here are the 10
steps to playing your resolutions to win this year:
1. List your Resolutions in terms of winning a game, using the
following format: “I want to win at the game of __________
(doubling my income, cleaning out the garage, etc.) by
__________(a specific date) and answer the following questions
about each one you just wrote:
2. Make sure that you have described your Resolution in a way
that you know exactly what is the outcome you desire. The
following are the guidelines for developing a well-formed
outcome.
a. State it in positive terms. The mind drops the word
“not” out of sentences, so saying, “I do not want to be so
judgmental this year,” is heard by the mind as “I do want to
be…….” Much better to say, “I want to be more accepting of
others this year.”
b. State what it is that you can accomplish by your authority,
by your actions and with the resources that you have or can
acquire. Resolutions that require other people to do something
is a set-up for failure.
c. Use descriptive words that relate to the senses (seeing,
hearing, feeling words). How do you see the outcome; what would
you or others be saying when you achieved it; how would it feel
to get it? Avoid generalized or abstract words. “I want my
property to be more secure,” is way less effective than, “I will
install a video surveillance system.”
d. Contextualize your outcome.
Specifically, in what context do you picture the outcome –
where, with whom, when, and how will you get it?
3. Is this game winnable?
4. Did you give yourself enough time to realistically accomplish
it?
5. Assuming it is winnable, is this game worth playing? Will
winning this game be important to you? Do you really want to or
need to win this one? Is it winnable but really someone else’s
game that would be worth THEIR PLAYING rather than you? Is it worth it for you
to play it for them? Answering “no” to these questions are
indicators of non-starters or, at most, winnable games
(resolutions) begrudgingly played and not a prescription for
having fun. Having fun is the real reason for playing and
living, isn’t it?
6. Do you have the skills and resources to accomplish the
resolution? If not, you need to alter the finish date to have
enough time to get your act together? What are the steps you
need to do to accomplish and win this game?
7. Are there any parts inside you that are either subtly or
screamingly suggesting that either you can’t win at this game or
you ought not even attempt this one? Until you address their
concerns and satisfy them, they will sabotage your best efforts
and create failure.
8. Remembering that the environment always wins!Do you have
all the tools, working space, equipment and
positive support of friends, family and/or business associates
you might need to win this one?
9. As you progress towards the final end date of the game, how
are you going to know how well you are progressing and what more
do you need to do to end up with a win? In other words, how
are you going to keep score of your progress and make the
required mid-course corrections?
10. Would it be helpful to have a coach that could co-create with
you, and when needed guide and teach the necessary skills, to
have this be a winnable game worth playing? (Hint: Probably!)
Having a coach IS the winner’s edge!

Working this process with each of the items on your list of
Resolutions will allow you to weed out the ones that are just
hope-for-things, other people’s hope-you-do-for-them-things, and
the not-realistic-to-win-at-things. That will leave you with a
list of winnable games (aka resolutions) AND a plan for winning
them. This will ensure that next year at this time you won’t
just be celebrating a New Year. You will be celebrating the
successful conclusion of a Winning Season of Your Life! (I  will be         celebrating too, because I only win when youwin.)

©2006, rev. 2020, Jason Wittman

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information are included.]

*About The Author* Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor

Endurance is the Key to Winning The Parents Game

[Although this article was originally written for my parents of teens clients, the message is equally applicable to just about any caring relationship, so if you don’t have kids, just substitute a relationship that applies to you, like your partner, your employees, your clients, etc.]

Endurance is the Key to Winning The Parents Game

 I recently read a very short yet very important book , “The Dip,” by Seth Goden. Although it is written mainly for business people, the concept totally applies to parenting of teenagers. Seth postulates that in most enterprises there is a period of time before winning or success happens when it seems like nothing is happening and that future effort to achieve success would be in vain. He labels that period, “the dip.” He contrasts that with other similar feeling situations, “The Cliff,” where the enterprise is about to crash and burn and “The Cul-de-Sac,” a dead-end situation that no additional effort will ever produce results. He explains that in the latter two conditions, quitting is the appropriate action to take because it frees people to then go and find a winnable game to play. In contrast, for truly winnable games in business and life, there is a period where we do the footwork and pay the dues until success and winning happens. That period can be lengthy.

Since all three of the situations feel the same when we are in them, the skill comes in being able to determine which is which. When it is determined that we are truly in a Dip, that’s when perseverance and endurance becomes the critical skills to prevent quitting before the miracle. He quotes a famous marathon runner who sets in his mind the conditions that must happen before he will quit a race. The runner does this because otherwise by the 23rd mile, all the regularly occurring things like thirst, fatigue, muscle aches and the like will be used by his mind to manufacture a plausible reason to quit. Using that as an example, the author says that conditions where quitting ought to be the option of choice need to be set before the endeavour starts. If and when it is time to quit, the quit need to be premeditated and planned out. Quitting should never happen at times of high emotion because rational courses of action are never made well at those times.

Although Mr. Godin did not have parenting of teenagers in mind, his theory totally applies to this very serious enterprise or game, as I like to call it, of raising teenagers. I firmly believe most parents who failed at raising their teens quit prematurely. These parents misread all the negative things that teens do to themselves and their parents, such as repeatedly getting in trouble, ignoring parental advise, ignoring their parents and worse, as being evidence that there was no chance of a successful ending or win. They felt like they were in a “Cul-de-Sac” and they quit! Parenting of teens is a perfectly winnable game when the entire teenage years and experience is understood to be a colossal, long term Dip. The win comes when they finally make it through the Dip and emerge as wonderful, responsible adults.

When I say long term, I mean it. The currently agreed upon definition of the length of adolescence by the youth worker community is thirteen to twenty four years old. My own son emerged at almost twenty-eight and many of the young people I have been working with in my youth programs since they were middle teens have taken as long.

I am firmly convinced that the main key ingredient of successful parenting of teens is the understanding that we will be there for them for the duration. Period! This is probably the one area of life where quitting is not an option. That said, there are times and situations where it might appear to your teens that you have quit because you have refused to have anything to do with them while they are participating in some outrageous act of irresponsibility. If you are doing so because you feel that is the best strategy or tactic to either get their attention or to let them have a necessary negative lesson, you are not quitting parenting. On the contrary, you are being a great, concerned parent. 

There are times when we, at parents, have to retreat and allow our kids to fall on their faces and experience the feedback that they are on the wrong road. Until they have that experience, they are not teachable. As parents all we can do is to allow the process to happen and pray that their negative experiences will teach the lesson without any lasting long term negative consequences. This is probably the worst time, emotionally, for parents and the most critical time for their kids. It is the time that many parents let those emotions run their actions and make one of two bad decisions. They either go and rescue their kids before the lessons are learned or they quit being parents. The first decision robs their teens from really experiencing the results of their actions so they never get the message that change is necessary in the way they think and do things in their lives. Without getting that message, they will never ask their parents for the guidance on how to change. I hope it is obvious how this decision is disastrous to the teen and to the parenting process.The second decision, that of quitting being a parent is even worse because that means that the teens are never going to be able to receive the parental support and guidance that they will eventually seek and need.

When working with teens on their own and when parenting my family, I thought of myself as a patient opportunist. I needed to patiently wait for those windows of opportunity, those teachable moments, when there was a request for coaching or teaching. That’s what parenting of teens is all about. There are times when those windows of opportunity might be years apart. We only fail as parents if we are not around to be parents when those windows appear.

There is an old saying that when one is knee-deep in alligators, it is very difficult to remember that the original mission was to drain the swamp. All the trials and tribulations of adolescents are just alligators. The mission is to parent them through The Dip, that minefield called adolescents and onto a wonderful adulthood. The key to persevering through this long Dip is to keep that mission always in mind, especially when all you are seeing are alligators.

©2019, rev. 2020, Jason Wittman, MPS

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information are included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He can be contacted at jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

A New Old Way of Thinking about Relationships

A New Old Way of Thinking about Relationships

[from my forthcoming book, “Prescriptions for Successful Living” ]

In Eastern philosophy, there is a way of conceptualizing relationships that I find to be very useful. Simply stated, it is that “We are always in relationship with everyone in the Universe. The only thing that changes is the form and no form is better or worse than another, It is just different.”
If we can look at our relationships through the light of this definition, all the drama of change and break-ups and the like disappears.

When both parties understand and embrace this concept, they will be able to make the adjustments as their relationship’s form changes. Most people readily embrace change as long as the relationship is changing in accordance with their plan or wishes. The trick is to equally accept and accommodate the changes when they are different than our desired outcome.

©2020, Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC

Codependency in Relationships

Codependency in Relationships

 Many relationship problems have codependency as the root cause. My general premise is that for a relationship to work, each party needs to have so much love for his or her self that there is an excess that can then flow into the other party. What happens in relationships where the couple is regularly battling is that either one or most likely both of them are lacking in the self-love area. Usually, that is described as “that empty hole inside of me.” In the worst case scenario where both parties have less than adequate self-love, they are both looking to the other to “fill that empty hole.” The problem is that neither of them has enough love for themselves, so they have little or none to give to the other.

 People with low self-love tend to be very self-centered, “It’s all about me!” They are so needy that they are constantly making demands on their partners for attention. They become very jealous when their partner pays attention to anyone else. This jealousy isn’t necessarily sex-based. It can form over the partner’s hanging out with old buddies. It’s “but why aren’t you with me?” When this is happening on both sides of the relationship, it is easy to see how recriminations and battling can occur. 

 In codependent relationships, hardly anybody leaves regardless of how heavy the conflict. To explain the reason for this, it is important to look at how codependency functions as an addiction. Whereas people with substance addictions use the alcohol and drugs to deal with the hurt of little of no self-esteem and love, codependents use the attentions of others for the same reasons. As with substance addictions, as long as the drug is there, the internal ache is gone, withdraw the drug and there is an instant craving for more so as not to have to deal with the empty feelings. In the case of codependency, a person or a partner becomes the drug. As long as that other person is there, the emptiness is filled. The codependent person will do any and everything to make sure that the other person continues to fill that need. This includes staying in very destructive relationships long after a well functioning individual would have bailed out for self-preservation. “I know this is a lousy relationship, but it is better than nothing!” is the way a co-dependent mind thinks. 

Codependency is one of those addictions that only becomes a problem when it crosses the line from a need to a habit. As with another one, compulsive eating, they only become problems when one switches from it being a want to a compulsive need. With overeating, it is the difference between eating to live and living to eat. In all well functioning relationships, there is a degree of give and take where one might be giving a bit more than their level of comfortability would normally allow. Because the other party also does similar things, the payoff of having a well functioning relationship overrides any loses, it does not cause any grief. In codependent relationships, obsessively serving the other person’s needs and likes crosses the boundary from just being a nice, supportive and loving partner to one driven by the fear of losing.

There are a number of things that are very helpful to overcome codependency. They include becoming actively involved in either/or of both Codependents Anonymous and Alanon. Alanon is a specialized niche of codependency where the partner is or was an addict or alcoholic. Both are great, supportive organizations. Alanon has been around for a long time so, especially if your partner is or was an addict or alcoholic, it would be the place where you will find the most support from folks who have been walking the walk for a long time.

Also, as with all addictions, the root cause of this one is low or no self-esteem/love/worth so for long term recovery and to prevent switching to another addiction, working on one’s self-esteem and building up one’s self-love is of super importance.

©2019 Jason Wittman, MPS

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information are included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He can be contacted at jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

The STOP! Technique

The Stop! Technique

There’s a wonderful technique for effectively interrupting negative self-talk and getting you back on a positive track. As with most techniques and methods I write about this is one I use for myself. Before I describe the “Stop Technique,” itself, I need to set the stage, so to speak, by explaining what is going on in the mind when negative self-talk is incessantly occurring.

Although I am sure that brain scientists would not be able to find in their research what I am about to describe, I find this is a useful way to explain what is going on in our minds when negative thoughts abound. The mind operates like a committee of parts (or voices.) Each part has specific tasks that it is responsible for. Some of the prime players are the creative part, that invents new ways of doing things and the protective part, that wants to make sure that the person will remain OK and will do whatever it thinks is necessary to protest the being t keep it safe. It is this latter one that sometimes, in an effort to ensure that we remain OK will go to extremes. I view all the parts as benevolent in that they are doing what they do because they think they are acting in our best self-interests. Sometimes though, the methods they adopt and utilize to achieve their goals are lousy ones.

For instance, the part that keeps folks smoking cigarettes actually has good intentions. It wants the smoker to be at ease while being alert as well as giving him something to do with his hands in uncomfortable social situations. Cigarettes do all of those things but unfortunately, the smoker gets slowly destroyed in the process. Good intention – lousy choice of method.

The same is true for that part that keeps generating negative self-talk and paranoid thoughts. Its good intention is to protect the person against doing or thinking anything that might lead to failure or disappointment. A lousy method though because it causes inaction or over-cautiousness which can produce that ultimate failure that it wanted to prevent.

With this in mind, here is the “Stop Technique.” When I become aware that that part of the mind is engaged in incessant negative self-talk or conjuring up doomsday scenarios about current activities, potential partners or current projects, I engage the three-part “Stop Technique.”

The first thing I do is, either out loud or to myself if there are others present, to say, forcefully, “STOP!” I say it in the same voice as if I wanted to command a child who keeps nagging and nagging me to do something for him to the point that I am ready to do grave bodily damage, to shut up. As I say “STOP!” I take my hand, palm forward and push it out and down (towards the little demon). I say and do this with enough force and positive intention that it will get the child, or in our case, the mind, to stop making noise at least for the moment.

Step two is to use this period of silence to take a deep breath and go inside and talk to that part of the mind that is generating the negativity. Acknowledge and thank it for its good intention and let it know that you received and considered its messages. Then invite the part to quietly observe how your new ways of doing things are working out, letting it know that it could always, in the future point out impending problems, but at this point, just observing without comment would be appreciated.

The final step in this process is to say to yourself, “Now where was I?” which will bring you and your attention back to whatever footwork you were doing before the negative thoughts or voices interrupted that process.

This may work for you that first time through. The chances are, though, it might take repeated efforts before the inner mind understands that you will no longer be sidetracked by negative thoughts.

©2019 Jason Wittman, MPS

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information are included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He can be contacted at jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408