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For Your Well Being: Hand in Hand

Sept. 22, 2011, Vol. 9 Issue 8

Dear Friends,

A few months ago, Dr. Oz did a show about colonoscopies. He admitted he had put off the procedure himself. He even admitted he had been a bit arrogant about it, as he felt his healthy lifestyle “protected” him. For the show, however, he put himself in the patient’s shoes, and his viewers got to go along for the ride. Much to his surprise, a polyp was found (and removed), and he very publicly and humbly demonstrated the importance of this important screening procedure. The best news is the message got out. I marched right into my husband’s den knowing he had been putting off this same procedure, and asked him to please make an appointment. Much to my delight he took action, and a few weeks later, I happily took him to the appointment. He came out with a tiny polyp removed (no problem), and, just as importantly, a happy (and acknowledged) wife.

So, please, ladies, never underestimate your power in influencing your husbands, sons, brothers, or any man in your life to take care of their health with screenings. In that spirit, I’m very excited to share a new cancer awareness and screening campaign with you. It’s being offered to hospitals nationwide, from the Spirit Health Group®, and it’s absolutely free. Yes, free.  Everything is on line. Check it out.

And then, on a related topic, a little talk about relationships.  Learning about “Love Cycles” from Linda Carroll has been a real eye-opener for me, and in this issue, you get a preview of her new book by that title.


Screenings for Couples:  HAND IN HAND

Did you know that more than half of all marriages end in cancer?  That is a startling statistic. It doesn’t have to be that way.  Early detection is the key. Hand in Hand, offered by  Spirit Health Group®,  is a cancer awareness and screening campaign to educate couples about the risks of gender-specific cancers and to motivate them to take action to protect themselves and the one they love from the threat of cancer. This community health campaign encourages couples to come in together for “couples screenings” for breast cancer (mammogram), prostate cancer (PSA) and other cancer screenings. Hand in Hand promotes the early detection required to help treat cancers more effectively.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. It will affect half of all men and one-third of all women in their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancer prevention, including healthy lifestyle habits and regular, recommended screenings are critical to reducing this toll.

Hand in Hand
was created to raise awareness and educate consumers, specifically couples, on the risks of gender-specific cancers and the benefits of education, awareness, screening and early detection. The program motivates couples to take action by scheduling appointments for cancer tests and screenings together, targeting both men and women to help ensure continued good health for themselves and their families. It includes both educational and promotional components, along with a comprehensive Implementation Guide to help hospitals successfully implement Hand in Hand in their communities as either a stand-alone campaign or in conjunction with existing initiatives.  It’s designed to build hospital oncology volumes and to expand brand loyalty and awareness – all free of charge to the hospital.

“Spirit of Women® is providing the Hand in Hand campaign to hospitals across the country in honor of our friend and partner in women’s health advocacy, Richard C. Ireland, founder of the Snowmass Institute. Richard lost his battle with prostate cancer in 2010,”  says Tanya Abreu, President and National Program Coordinator, Spirit of Women Hospital Network. “Hand in Hand is designed to promote early detection and prevention of cancer in men and women and to save lives, one couple at a time.”

To register your hospital to receive the entire Hand in Hand campaign at no cost or further obligation, whether or not you are a member of Spirit of Women, visit the Hand in Hand website today. To learn more about how Spirit Health Group is improving the health of women and hospital financial outcomes across the country, please visit the Spirit of Women website.

Linda Carroll:
Re-claiming Love, Potion and All

Remember when you were a kid, a tween, a teen, and weren’t sure about hand holding?  Will he, or won’t he?  Will I?  And that was before we started wondering about kissing and you know where this is leading . . . love and marriage, of course. And then reality. Marriage isn’t always, hand in hand, is it? It’s messy. What happens to the passion, the romance, the hot sex?  What can we do to bring back that hand in hand closeness so that we CAN support our spouses and significant others when the road gets rocky?

I was lucky enough last year to learn from an outstanding teacher, Linda Carroll, who speaks several times a year at the premiere spa resort, Rancho La Puerta in Mexico. I wish I could say I met her there, but the truth is she lives in Corvallis, Oregon, just an hour and half from my home, so our connection is local. Just a year ago, my husband and I participated in her Couples Course, and we were enlightened, validated, and re-ignited.

Linda is a practicing psychologist, with an intense interest in people and their stories, but her insights come primarily from examining her own life and relationships.  A wise, compassionate and funny woman, Linda shows her audiences unexpected possibilities, rekindling hopes and dreams with light, love, and levity. There’s a twinkle in her eye and an intensity to her presence that lets you know that she’s the real deal — and you’re really going to learn something — not because she thinks she’s so great, but because she brings out your own greatness.  Her ability to express normal stages of marriage and to suggest alternative ways for a couple to go through them, empowers members of her audience to alter their own relationships just by hearing her suggestions. Considering that 50% of marriages in America end in divorce, this is a topic with the potential to alter thousands of lives. Linda’s program, “Love Cycles,” based on her forthcoming book, would be the perfect tie-in for a special event to bring couples to your hospital to share the Hand in Hand program. To learn more about Linda, please read her full bio and watch a video on our website.
Nobody says it better than she does, so with her permission, we bring you the introduction to the book where she explains the five stages. I’m reprinting it in 2 parts.  Here’s the first installment.

LOVE CYCLES

by Linda  A. Carroll
Copyright 2011, All rights reserved, do not use without permission of the author.

Love Cycles is the book that would have aided me in various stages of my own journey.  It is the book I wish I had when I was eleven years old, feeling the first surge of hormones at the sight of a particular boy. Having no basis for understanding healthy attachment, my feelings for him became an obsession; I was convinced that the pounding in my heart and my inability to think of anything else meant we were destined for each other. It is the book I wish I had in my twenties, when I fell into a series of inappropriate relationships with men who were altogether wrong for me.  Mistaking a shared need for connection, protection, and intimacy for the sign of a soul-mate, I found myself in marriage after marriage—three before age 30—that ended in acrimony and sadness.  It is the book I wish I had at forty when, after years of soul-searching, my heart and head told me I had found the right person. But we had few skills to deal with the endless conflicts that emerged between two strong-willed, opinionated people.  My husband and I, now married for twenty-five years, were committed enough to find teachers and practices that set us down the path Love Cycles describes.

This book emerges from my thirty years of practice as a therapist. Over these years of listening to individuals and couples describing their intimate relationships, I began to notice a distinct pattern.  While each relationship had its own distinct dynamics and challenges, they all seemed to follow a similar cycle—the cycle I came to describe as “love’s four journeys.”  The steps of this unfolding passage can be found in ancient archetypes, ballads, poetry, opera, and mythology—all of which I draw on in describing the stages of love. But Love Cycles also springs from my own circuitous, slow path toward creating a healthy partnership. As someone who has struggled mightily with every aspect of intimacy, and who has firsthand experience of love’s intensity, danger, and promise, I offer my hard-earned wisdom and the humility that accompanies it. After hearing my “checkered” life story, someone once said to me about creating a strong relationship, “If you can do it, anyone can.”  It is this essential optimism about love’s renewing power that animates Love Cycles.

In Love Cycles, we explore love as a series of stages, from romantic bliss to rude awakening to disillusionment and even despair, and then finally, to a decision which may lead to a new sense of rich connection. We do not always move progressively through these stages, in one steady progress upward. Love’s journey takes a form more like a spiral, where we can find ourselves back in earlier stages even after a long relationship. Learning the dangers and wisdom of each stage gives us insight into the path ahead, allowing us to take the “long view” of our relationship, even when we feel mired in conflict. It reminds us that learning to live with, and love, another person is hard; but from this difficulty arises wisdom, growth, and abiding connection.

Here, I outline the stages of Love Cycles, offering a glimpse into the book’s guiding premise.

Stage One: The Merge
Falling in love feels more like a miracle than anything else I know.  The rational mind may tell us that when we step through the doorway, there will be minefields and sinkholes. Experience teaches us that the initial frenzy won’t last, that pain and loss will inevitably follow.  We are dimly aware that we may even discover parts of ourselves that we don’t want to see, or expose ourselves to new vulnerabilities.  No matter.  Even when we know, logically, that we are with the wrong person in the wrong time and the wrong place, we long to say yes to the pleasure that is romantic love.

Just as the infant merges with her mother after birth and cannot tell the difference between them, just as the new mother lives in constant awareness of her newborn child, holding her during the day, listening for her at night, so it is with new lovers.  Boundaries melt away, and the sense of “we-ness” is all there is. The similarities seem profound, the conversations endless. If something occurs that points to our differences, at this stage we romanticize them, seeing them as the “right” differences. Everything suggests that we were meant for one another.

One of the most marvelous aspects of this stage is not just the idealized way that you see your partner, but how idealized you yourself become. Your patience seems eternal, and your interest in the other rarely wanes.You feel you can listen to his stories forever. In the shelter of your love-bubble—and in the adoring mirror of the other—it is easy to think you can sustain these qualities under stress.

In many ways, the advent of love is akin to a religious experience, as the philosopher William James once described it: An oceanic feeling, when everything comes together, oneself, everyone else, the world, and divinity, it is like the feeling that you get when you stare out at the infinite reach of the ocean: it is a little frightening, but it is also awe-inspiring and exhilarating.

There is sacredness at this stage in a relationship. It is not simply an illusion. You truly are able to see or sense the spirit of the other. Just as important, you experience your own potential, and how delightful it feels to live with an open heart, bountiful compassion, and unconditional caring. That feeling is a spiritual experience. And although some of the feelings associated with these mystical beginnings do not last, the best of them may be recovered, once we learn to traverse love’s rocky roads, and if we have chosen our partner well.

To select wisely, we must realize that our romantic feelings alone do not signify that the beloved is a good partner for us. We must learn to identify qualities in our partner that can outlast the initial pleasures of the “merge,” and to cultivate those qualities in ourselves. For no matter how strong the madness and the positive life changes it precipitates, we cannot stay in a continual state of merging.  Somehow each of us must find our way back to ourselves.


Stage Two: Disillusionment

Sometimes, like a bolt of thunder, the realization comes to lovers that they are not entirely perfect for one another. Sometimes awareness slowly dawns that there are more differences between them than they first knew. Like a crack of light pooling through an open door, the realization might be able to be quickly shut out, as we reassure ourselves that everything is still blissful. The first fight can even become a romantic memory; a story retold between lovers like a good myth, with easy laughs that signify their union has not been challenged. But at a certain point in every relationship, we begin to settle into the awareness that we are different people with distinct needs that cannot be perfectly assimilated.

Humans are annoying, and living with another person necessarily brings challenges. It is during this second stage that the promise of pure perfection crumbles as we face this fact. Spending every moment with the other becomes less pleasurable, and we may find ourselves longing for time alone. Some of the traits we fell in love with in our partner begin to irritate us. Her gregariousness looks insincere, his reliability seems rigid. We begin to criticize, and to notice that our partner is critical of our habits and behaviors as well.  We fall prey to what I call “infinity loops,” the bane of every relationship.  She who fears rejection discovers that he fears intimacy.  As he pushes her away, his aloofness makes her feel abandoned, and she may attempt to draw nearer, which in turn makes him retreat further. And round and round we go.

As these differences emerge, they may feel more threatening than they actually turn out to be. That is why this stage tends to be the “silent stage,” the step in love’s journey that goes largely un-discussed. We find ourselves smoothing over differences, fearful of broaching them with our partner, let alone our friends and family.  We may secretly worry that these differences are a sign that the relationship is incompatible, that our partner is not who we hoped.

Though painful, illusion as it dies permits us to move closer to the possibility of real, abiding love.  As romance recedes, we can learn to steer through difficulty in ways that deepen the relationship rather than damage it.

Intrigued?  Stay tuned for the next issue of For Your Well Being with the next three stages:

Stage Three: The Struggle

Stage Four: The Decision

Stage Five: Finding Wholeness

To learn more about Linda and her topics, please visit our website,  or give me a call at 503-699-5031.


The Clock is Ticking…

I’m sneaking in every last second I can of deck time. There’s something so enjoyable about breakfast, lunch or dinner outside under the trees, in the fresh air — especially breakfast on the weekend (and make that blueberry pancakes!). I’m also most grateful every time my husband and I step out on a trail. We’ve done a lot of day hikes this summer — at the Coast, Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge, and Tillamook Forest in the Coast Range.  We have an abundance of great hiking in every direction from Portland, and we’ll be out this fall getting on every last trail we can — like squirrels storing up experiential nuts for the winter ahead, we’ll have our memories to tide us over until spring. While it doesn’t snow on a lot of trails here in Oregon, it gets pretty slippery in the rain. If you are of like mind, happy trails to you!  And if you are not, I hope you’ll do whatever it is that makes the memories that will bring you smiles on cold, rainy or snowy winter nights. Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,
Barbara

PLEASE NOTE: The information shared in this e-news is designed to help you make informed decisions about speakers and the programs they offer. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment prescribed by a doctor. If you suspect you have a medical problem, seek competent medical help.

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