Monday, October 17, 2011

Good vs. Evil: A Challenge of Self-Exploration; Book Review of “The Devil and Miss Prym”

The act of doing something ‘good’ can be defined as something virtuous, kind, sincere, courageous, quality, nice, or beneficial. This can be agreed upon by our collective society, as well as Webster’s dictionary. Why do people do good deeds? Is it simply out of the sheer goodness of their hearts? Is it because society tells us to ‘do the right thing’? Or, do people do good things to avoid being labeled as the disrespected alternative: bad. Paulo Coelho, author of the international best seller “The Alchemist” searches deep within the human soul to define ‘goodness’ down to its bare root.

In “The Devil and Miss Prym”, Coelho introduces a shady character (“The Stranger”) who enters into a small town to stir up trouble. The character, haunted by the terrible grief of his past, losing his family to the hands of terrorists, is determined to see if there truly is ever such a thing as pure goodness, or do people simply perform good deeds to avoid the evil that resides within every human soul. Old Berta, a widow who passes her days watching the small village, stays quiet and removed from the town. She has the ability to see ghosts, which is why many people accuse her of being a witch. As Old Berta is gazing over the village one day, she sees a man approaching the town. This man, The Stranger, is not travelling alone. Unbeknownst to him, he has another thing accompanying him that only Old Berta can see: the devil.

As the readers journey through the book, they also meet Miss Prym, a young woman who is bored with the little village, and has been looking for her ticket out of there! The Stranger shows Miss Prym 11 gold bars, and tells her that they will be given to the village if they kill someone. Conflicted with this situation, Miss Prym eventually tells the village people about the gold bars. In fear of being killed themselves, the village people come to a mutual agreement that Old Berta will be the one to be killed, since she is already old and widowed, and not much use to the village anymore. As the people gather around a sedated Old Berta to shoot her, Miss Prym steps in and decides that there is no justified reason for killing her, and that all humans have a choice and set of control over all their own actions. The Stranger has been shown that there may still be goodness in the world after all.

This book is a wonderful wake-up call for anyone in need of more self-exploration. Why do we do the things we do? Are we happy with who we are and the decisions we make on a daily basis? Where do we see ourselves headed over the next few years with the decisions we continue to make in the present? For every action someone makes, there is a consequence (which could be good or bad). One way to gain intrapersonal skills is to examine the mind and heart. Does one think one thing and then do another? If so, the body is out of tune, and there should be something done to bring the mind and spirit back to its homeostasis. Without this inner balance, there is conflict, turmoil, guilt, confusion, sadness, anger, mistakes made, and consequences to be paid. I encourage you to read this book if you find yourself at a difficult point in your life. The key to happiness is having balance and a healthy control over your decisions and emotions. I challenge you to strip down the definitions of good and evil. Then ask yourself why you think, so, say, and feel the things you do. If you do not have the answer, begin to seek. This will bring great peace and harmony into your life and may also help you to understand others as well! After all, if we do not understand ourselves and one another, then who will?

Good luck on your personal journey!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Self-Image: A Battle You Can Overcome

I'm currently taking a class in Psychology and we are doing a report on anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. I figured this would be a perfect topic to discuss here in the blog because so many people, both males and females, struggle with self-image issues every year. To some, the challenges of perfecting the "ideal body image" is so tense that it costs some people their lives. I found a perfect example on YouTube from the Dove commercial (many of you probably remember this commercial) to show people, especially the young adolescents, why reading Cosmopolitan should not tell you what you are supposed to look like. Those women are so done-up and digitally enhanced that the outcome is almost alien to what the person actually looks like in real-life. Take a look at this Dove commercial, and then tell yourself that you are beautiful, you are REAL, and you are YOU, which noone else in the world can be. That is something beautiful.

Below is the website to view the Dove commercial.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Live Life with No Regrets

Are you living your life with no regrets? Enjoying every moment and valuing each day as a blessing? With the 9-11 anniversary less than a month ago, and hearing sad stories of death, loss, struggle, illness, I have been thinking about choosing life with no regrets.

We don't know what tomorrow will bring. There are no guarantees. Live each day as if it were your last. Do the things you want to do. Say the things you need to say. Spend time with those you love. Set goals and accomplish them. Don't wait for tomorrow - live today with no regrets!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Take Control of Your Time!

Do you ever find yourself asking, “If I had two more hours today, I could finish everything I wanted to get done!”? After working, school, chores, sporting/club events, etc, the clock says “bedtime” and those extra activities you wanted to get to today will just have to be pushed back (again) to tomorrow…hopefully tomorrow. There is never enough time in the day! I have a brilliant quote that I want you to let soak into your head: “you always have time for what you make time for”. There is a reason you are so busy that you do not have a free moment; that reason is simply you! Whatever you are engaged in currently, did you choose to do that? In America, we have the freedom to choose whatever we want to do! We can choose if we want to become an executive and push 60-hour weeks, or we can choose a career path with minimal demands. We can choose to take more classes and stay up all night studying, or we can choose to skip happy hour and replace it with an earlier study time. Marriage and children are also a choice, and you should love them all for what they are worth to your life, even if things may get a little chaotic in the house from time to time. American is so very lucky to be able to participate in these freedoms. I encourage you to seriously take note of the power you can hold over ‘time’. Let me reiterate my earlier quote and emphasize the fact that you can personally control your time.

Now that you understand this concept (and you are leaping up and down with joy that you just took back your life), how can we get to where we want to be? Here are a few options:

· Create a reasonable list of things that you want to accomplish on that particular day, and then review your schedule to see when you can designate time in your day to actually do those tasks. This works especially for visual learners, because they can clearly see when they will have time on their daily calendar to complete all the things on the to-do list.

· Cut out an activity/job/etc. that you do not need to do and replace that time you had with something valuable, such as spending time relaxing with your spouse and/or children, or working on fixing that darn sink that has needed repair!

· Wake up a half hour earlier than you normally would, and use that time to do whatever you wish to get accomplished (i.e. jogging, reading, watching TV, catching up on some laundry, etc).

· Eat healthy and drink plenty of water. While this may not necessarily help you to take control of your time, a healthy diet can help you to feel at your best and thus enjoy what you are doing with your time!

· Find an accountability buddy. No matter what you wish to have more time to do, there is more-than-likely someone else out there who wants to do that too, or who may be intrigued by your idea. Having a friend to complete your activity with will push you harder to make time to do that activity and you will know that you have someone else who is counting on you to do that activity with them! This will give you more of an incentive to follow-through.

· If after reading all of these suggestions and you are still thinking that you still have just too many commitments to attend to, see if you can ask a friend or family member to help you with one of your activities. This could be something as simple as asking a relative to pick up the children from school, which could give you those extra minutes to go on a jog, clean the house, mow the lawn, or go to the grocery store. Also, if you can afford it, check into hiring a professional!

If you implement these suggestions into your daily lifestyle, you will see changes, and you will be a much happier and relaxed being. Just remember, you always have time for what you make time for!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Adjusting to Change

Autumn is a season for many changes. Students are going back to school, teachers are going back to work, and everyone is starting to hang up the summer beach towels and preparing for the fall’s new schedule. If you are like many Americans, the word ‘schedule’ sounds like it is suffocating you from the easy-going, free-spirited summer lifestyle you just enjoyed. Sure you enjoy a little bit of a guideline to life, but how can you get pleasantly acquainted with this change you need to adjust to? Lifechanging Counseling has 5 simple tips to help you enjoy harmonizing with your new schedule.

1. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours has many positive effects on the mind and body including boosting positive mood, energy to get through the day, and the ability to focus.

2. Eat breakfast. Fact: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast within the first hour after waking kick-starts the body’s metabolism, helping it to work faster throughout the day. Eating breakfast will help you focus on your morning tasks, not on your moaning stomach. Did you know that eating an apple for breakfast actually gives you more sustaining energy than a cup of coffee? The natural sugars in an apple give your body the pick-me-up without the crash.

3. Think positive! Robert Merton came up with the first psychological definition of self-fulfilling prophecy. He said that a false definition of a situation may convince a person to act in that preconceived behavior, which can make the original false idea come true. So, approach your new adjustment challenge (whether it be school, work, or just back from vacation) with a smile. Tell yourself that today is going to be a great day, and list your reasons why. You may be surprised how the people around you begin to notice the positive energy you give-off.

4. Exercise. Make time for a 30-minute walk with friends or family. You will gain quality social opportunities, and the endorphins (the “feel-good” compounds in the brain) trigger a positive feeling in the body.

5. Prepare. Get everything you need for tomorrow (such as your lunch) prepared the night before. Doing this will help you to not feel bombarded with tasks first thing in the morning.

These five simple steps can help you adjust to your new fall schedule with ease and delight!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is There a Risk of Autism in Siblings?

In the past couple years, there have been many proposals thrown to the public on autism and its onset. Some say it is a result of a child vaccine, others say it was the pregnant mother’s diet, and even more say it is a result of taking anti-depressants during pregnancy. While none of these have been dismissed yet, one thing has recently been shown to be true: if one child is diagnosed with autism, it is likely that a future brother or sister will be autistic as well. The largest study yet on children with an autistic sibling found that the average risk of a brother/sister also being diagnosed with autism was almost 19 percent. Children who had more than one sibling with autism had an even higher risk of being autistic: a significant 32 percent. Even though these results highlight genetics as a determining factor for autism likelihood, they still offer hints at environmental factors that could also explain autism in siblings, such as influences in the womb. If you are concerned about your child/children possibly being autistic, talk to the school counselor, or teacher. A key factor is catching this as early as possible. Research has found that if a parent detects the early signs of autism (i.e. abnormally large head circumference, missing crucial language development milestones, or lacking basic communication skills), there can be great benefits from taking advantage of therapies as soon as possible, which can help treat some of autism’s symptoms.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"The Help"

Yesterday at about 3pm, I was sitting at my computer, ready to post my blog about the highly-acclaimed novel-turned movie The Help. For some reason, though, something told me it still was not quite finished. So here is my "new and improved" message to you, part two.
Last weekend, I saw The Help with my family. There seemed to be a unanimous sense of approval coming from the audience; the movie was "up to par" at exemplifying the early '60s in the South. However, after reading another author's take on the movie, my perception of the film's wide-spread acceptance was nothing more than a complete delusion. Instead of applauding author Kathryn Stockett for a job well-done at writing the women of The Help's true stories, some African American women were unappreciative and somewhat resentful by the fact that a "white woman told a black woman's story". Was the story not told, nonetheless? I was baffled by the reactions I was reading! One woman wrote that a white woman could never know what the African American women experienced.
Kathryn Stockett's primary purpose for compiling these true stories of The Help into a book was not to cause an uproar against the white race, nor was it written to promote a handicap for African Americans. Stockett wanted her listeners to relive these historical and heart-wrenching events to soak up the lessons of courage and liberation! Rather than waste time and effort arguing at who wrote this inspirational story, let's come together and look at how far Americans have pushed and fought to get where we are today from just 50 years ago. One woman beautifully wrote: "If we look seriously at what is happening in America today, there is a need for that knowledge. There is a need for that connection. There is a need for seeing the spirit and determination of those people." This was said by an African-American woman whose husband was gunned-down on his front lawn in Jackson, Miss. in 1963. It is a precious gift to live in today's America, where men and women can vote; people of all races can attend the same schools and universities; mothers can also be working professionals; fathers can shamelessly be stay-at-home dads; and people of all religions are free to practice their choice of spirituality. Let us not forget who we are as a society now. To have history is to have a road map for the future. I encourage you to listen to the morals of the story from The Help and take them it for what they are really worth. We each have one life to live. Live yours, love yours, and let others do the same.

If you feel that you or someone you know may be struggling with a social or a personal battle, Lifechanging Counseling would love to help be that extra guide. Give us a call today or visit our website! Also, be sure to sign up to receive your free book, written by Ms. Jama Thurman, LPC herself!