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Kathy Marshack News

Stumped by Your Aspie? How to Translate What They’re Trying to Say

Monday, July 18, 2016


If you’re stumped when it comes to communicating with your Asperger’s Syndrome loved one, here are some tips for translating what they’re trying to say.Communication – this is a topic addressed over and over again when I counsel family members who have Asperger Syndrome (Aspies) and is frequently the topic of discussion at our Meetup (Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD). Having raised a daughter with Asperger’s I understand the frustration many of you feel when you try to understand what exactly your Aspie is trying to say.

If any of you are familiar with Star Trek, you might envy the Universal Translator on board the ship that automatically translates every language and sends the translations directly to the chip implanted in the brain of every officer on the Enterprise. Wouldn’t that be helpful!

While a Universal Translator doesn’t exist, we do have another option: Always speak to the good intention, whatever it is, even if you are not sure. When you get a confusing message from your Aspie partner or child, always assume it makes sense somehow, someway. Trust that there is a good intention behind the message even if is speaking Aspie.

By maintaining a neutral position, you are better able to answer the question, “Why is he/she telling me this?”

When I get stumped by a confusing message from an Aspie, I use the phrase, “That’s right,” in order to bring me to neutral. The phrase reminds me that the other person is “right” in that they have a good intention, which has meaning to them. “That’s right,” also helps me know that I am “right,” in that I am capable of good intentions. You may not always be able to get the message translated, but at least being in neutral puts you in a much better frame of mind for the attempt.

Here’s a simple example. When my daughter Bianca was 8, she wrote me a note about trouble she was having at lunch at school. She grew up around my home office, so she observed that my office manager and I often exchanged written notes (even with the advent of e-mail). If I was with a client, Bianca would leave me a note, so that I would be sure to answer her when I had a break from appointments.

Notes became Bianca’s version of the Universal Translator. Her penchant for writing as opposed to talking with me should be noted. It is a typical Aspie trait to find comfort in the written word—because face-to-face communication requires empathy and the interpretation of confusing non-verbal messages.

So the next time you feel stumped by your Aspie, put yourself in neutral and then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I know about this person?
  • What is important to him or her?
  • What are their interests, beliefs and opinions?

Then do your best to speak to those things, instead of relying only on your interpretation of reality. If you want to delve deeper into understanding how to communicate with your Aspie check out my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)", you can download the first chapter for free. If you have questions about what you read I’m available for an online Q & A session.

 

Entrepreneurs - Money Problems Are Really Indicators of Bigger Issues

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Every entrepreneur experiences financial struggles, yet money problems arise because of how you think or what you believe about money and how you use it.Do you have problems with money? Actually that’s a misleading question. The fact is you really don’t have problems with money. Money is a neutral form of exchange. It’s neither good nor bad. Money in itself isn’t the problem. The problem is how you think or what you believe about money and how you, in turn, use it.

In situations of extreme dysfunction it’s not surprising that money problems surface along with addictions and domestic violence. As I have said several times, once one ethical boundary is crossed, it becomes easier to cross others.

Yet it’s equally true that not all problems in an entrepreneurial relationship eventually cause money problems. Some couples retain their financial wealth in spite of problems in other areas of their business and life. Still other couples are able to keep a problem isolated long enough to work it out so that the balance is restored before the consequences affect the pocketbook. In the case of dual entrepreneurs, money trouble may trigger events that upset the balance of their lives and business.

There isn’t an entrepreneur that hasn’t experienced financial problems. Perhaps your first venture fizzled out. Perhaps a change in the industry forced you to seek diversification. You may have had to borrow money to make payroll on at least one occasion. You may even have faced bankruptcy.

The American Dream is not as easy to achieve as the naive may think. It takes hard work and resilience—often a lot of resilience to fight back when the cash flow has dried up. When you have life and business plans, and when you’ve been attending to your stress level and keeping your developing progressions in a healthy balance, you can face money troubles with determination and creativity. Unpleasant as the task may be, healthy people do what they need to do. Still, you never know just exactly how you will survive a financial disaster until you face one.

Even though your life may not be as out of control as the lives of some, you still may be alarmed by the stories you hear and these may alert you to changes you need to make in your own life. My book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and Home provides many Self-Assessment Exercises that can guide you as you build your own personal and couple power plan for total mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being. If you have questions about what you read, I’m available for an online Q & A session.


Yoga PLUS Exercise Improves Mood Faster than Exercise Alone

Monday, July 11, 2016


Yoga plus Exercise Improves Mood Faster than Exercise AloneHave you noticed that familiar words and names elude you sometimes? If you’re over 40 be assured that this is a common occurrence. While some memory decline is inevitable over time, there’s much we can do to slow it down by how we live and move our bodies.

We’ve known for some time that staying physically active is crucial to mental wellbeing. Interestingly, a New York Times article recently reported on how you can intensify the effect of exercise by adding yoga and meditation to your weekly routine.

In one study, people suffering from depression were asked to meditate before they went for a run. In an amazingly short period of time, they showed greater improvements in their mood than those who did either running or meditation alone.

Another study
, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, showed that all participants performed significantly better on their cognitive-thinking tests after increasing their exercise. However, only after adding yoga to the 12-week exercise routine, did the mood of the participants significantly improve. Exercise alone was not as affective in altering moods.

They also did brain scans on both groups (only exercise v. exercise plus yoga), which showed improved communication between the brains areas involved in memory and language skills. People who practiced yoga had developed more communication between parts of the brain that control attention, suggesting a greater ability to focus.

Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. who oversaw the study noted that the reduction in stress hormones and anxiety likely played a substantial role in the improvement, as well as, an increased level of biochemicals in the muscles. I encourage you to read the entire article here.

If you have severe depression or trauma-induced depression, yoga in conjunction with working with a professional who has special trauma therapy training might be a better treatment for you. Sometimes yoga brings up too much painful stuff to be handled without therapy. If you’re ready to try this treatment and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.


How to Cope as our Aspies Get Older

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Aging in those with aspergers is uncharted waters, so learn how to help them, while at the same time caring for yourself emotionally – 7/14 teleconference.We have so little information on what happens as Aspie's age. (For some helpful hints, read Liane Holliday Willey Ed.D article about caring for her own aged Aspie father entitled, Supporting Elder Aspies.) We have even less information on how to help the NTs who are aging along with them. There are health issues, legal issues and financial issues, but the most profound is the despair that no one understands or can help.

Over the years, our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup group has had had many discussions about these mind numbing relationships and how to care for yourself emotionally in relation to a spouse or adult on the Autism Spectrum. In the July teleconference we’ll discuss how to care for yourself as aging moves to the forefront. Disability, health problems, financial security, housing and so much more confront us as we age, but the issues are dramatically compounded when living with an Aspie.

Even if you are young or middle aged, I’m sure you have had fears about what will happen to you or your children if your aging Aspie should deteriorate further . . .or worse if they have to take care of you!

Please, join us in this discussion of how to prepare for this stage of life. You are not alone, even if you think you are. The teleconference, Aging with your Aspie, will be held on Thursday, July 14th at 2:30 PM. Click here to register. You must be a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD to attend this free, international teleconference.

Read more on my website: Asperger Syndrome FAQ’s.

More Advanced Truths that Stimulate Healthy Communication

Monday, July 04, 2016


Learn these more advanced truths that stimulate healthy communication and avoid the communication traps, such as “but he said’ or “that’s not what I meant!”Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, whether we’re talking about friendships, marriages, or business partnerships. When you combine these relationships and your business partner is also your best friend and spouse communication skills become even more critical.

Earlier I wrote about two truths when it comes to communication: 1) the explanation used to describe a person or situation is not the person and 2) people do not operate out of sensory experience, but rather out of their interpretation or map of reality.

Today we’ll explore two more advanced truths that foster healthy communication:

#3 All people mean well or have good intentions.

This advanced truth is often hard for people to swallow. It’s that all people mean well or have good intentions. Remember that these are useful presuppositions, not absolute truths. It’s useful to believe that at any given moment your partner is doing the best he or she knows how. If you at least credit your partner for operating out of his or her map of reality to accomplish desirable goals, then chances are the person will feel respected. From respect comes trust, followed by the desire to communicate with you to reach a mutually satisfying agreement.

#4 The person with the most flexibility has control of the system.

The fourth advanced truth is that the person with the most flexibility has control of the system. For example, when your child is screaming in the supermarket, it’s likely that you will not be able to get her under control by asking politely. Just at that moment when you are begging her to cooperate, she throws herself on the floor or knocks several items off the shelf as you push the cart by. If you become embarrassed by her display, you may be tempted to punish or bribe her. You may also try to leave the store as soon as possible, making apologies as you fly out the door. If you take any of these alternatives, you have allowed yourself to operate according to your child's terms. Therefore, she has become the person with the most flexibility, and she is in control. In other words, whatever she does will get a response from you.

On the other hand, if you ignore the tantrum, continue your shopping, or leave the store immediately without giving your daughter what she is demanding, you are the controlling element in the system. You have remained in your reality and have exercised more flexible options than she has. Similarly, when you have a conflict with your partner about business or home life, you are at an advantage by remaining flexible.

By embracing the basic and advanced truths of healthy communication, you have many more options available to you to listen to and understand your partner, and to move both of you toward a mutually agreeable solution.

If you…

  • make time to communicate,
  • refuse to stray off the topic,
  • listen to the well-intended meaning behind your partner's words and actions,
  • remain open to the prospect that you could be wrong,
  • recognize that your partner is so unique that she or he will surprise you daily,
  • are willing to change even though you have always done things a certain way in the past,
  • and refuse to compromise but press for a win-win solution,

then you will be better able to guide yourself and your spouse away from conflict and toward appropriate solutions.

If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you live elsewhere, we can also discuss best communication practices for entrepreneurial couples via a secure video Q & A session. Learn more by visiting Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.

Have a Family Member with Asperger’s? How to Speak Aspergian

Monday, June 27, 2016


People with Asperger’s Syndrome have their own language – they speak in code words or have an unusual system of speech, but you can learn ways to connect.Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? It takes a lot of hard work. To be able to think in another language oftentimes takes years of practice. The same is true with learning Aspergian.

Speaking Aspergian is a powerful tool in your relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome. It's not so much speaking the language of your Aspie as it is understanding theirs. With this understanding, you can neutralize everyone's distress. When you’re detached from the emotional meaning of the communication, it’s much easier to guide the conversation to a mutually agreeable place.

For example, Aspies don't have empathy. They positively hate it when I say this but it’s true. If your Aspie doesn't have all of the elements of empathy, it’s the same as Zero Degrees of Empathy as you well know. Your Aspie may have cognitive empathy, or a rather flat logical understanding of the facts, but they struggle to connect it to the emotional meaning. Or they may be highly sensitive and cry at the drop of the hat, but be unable to speak about their feelings. Or they may care deeply about a social justice or personal cause, but be unable to connect with others on the issue.

Disconnects between emotions and thoughts, no awareness of the intention behind human behaviors, using idiosyncratic words that carry no meaning for others, . . . these methods create a kind of language that can seem impenetrable. Autistic children seem to have a language of their own that no one can fathom. Autistic adults, even our high-functioning Aspies have the same unusual language patterns. Once we break the code, it’s much easier to communicate and relate.

Our next low cost Video Conference will be on the topic: How to Speak Aspergian. It will be held on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 9:00 AM PDT and again on Thursday, July 28 at 3:00 PM PDT. There are still a few spots left, so if you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD please sign up soon to ensure you get your spot.

Bring examples of the mysterious language of your Aspie for our discussion. Even if your Aspie uses a different code word than another Aspie, the system they use is the same. But the real goal is more than understanding their code; it is also to reduce distress and find a way to connect with your loved ones.

Is a Fear of Flying Keeping You from Living Life Fully?

Friday, June 24, 2016


If you fear flying and it’s keeping you away from visiting loved ones, attending important events, or career obligations, then it’s time to conquer the fearRecently, one of my readers shared a valuable resource with us, and we’d like to share it with you. It’s an article entitled: The Psychology of the Fear of Flying and How to Overcome It.

Many people refuse to board a plane. They would rather not go to an important event rather than confront their fear of flying. Or they opt for the more inconvenient or time-consuming means of travel such as automobile or train.

In their article, you’ll see whether fear of flying is a phobia or a rational fear. You’ll also discover a number of triggers and how the psychology of a fear of flying works. It also discusses ways to overcome the fear of flying. Here are a few highlights:

  • Curb your imagination.
  • Think about the destination, not the journey.
  • Meditate to calm yourself.
  • Challenge negative thoughts.
  • Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol and caffeine.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Talk to the cabin crew.
  • Learn about what is triggering your anxiety.
  • Study positive information about flying and the fear of flying.
  • Talk to someone about the problem.

I also appreciated the information for helping children overcome their fear of flying so that it doesn’t become a phobia. Here are a few highlights:

  • The most important thing to do is to talk to your child and to slowly introduce them to the thought of flying.
  • Explain what turbulence is, fog and other things which might affect the flight.
  • Take them to the airport to watch real planes take off and land.
  • Let them bring a comfort item, books and toys for distraction.

Miami Helicopter also shares a vast amount of sources, so you can learn more. I encourage you to read their article. I can’t imagine the richness of life I would miss if I refused to fly. Fears and phobias can be overcome. If this is something you struggle with and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please feel free to contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Conquering Fears and Phobias.

The Art of Detachment - Self-Care Tips for those in an Asperger Relationship

Monday, June 20, 2016


The Art of Detachment - Self-Care Tips for those in an Asperger RelationshipLiving with a mate who has Asperger’s Syndrome is filled with stress. You love them but they are unpredictable. You never know how they’ll react to an ordinary situation.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that many NT (neuro-typical) mates report a variety of psychosomatic and immunodeficiency illnesses, such as migraines, arthritis, gastric reflux, and fibromyalgia. When the body is regularly thrown into a state of alarm, the over-production of adrenalin and cortisol wreaks havoc with the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral on the need to care for yourself first. This may seem impossible at first, because of the chaos of family life. But it is essential and possible if you learn the art of detachment.

Detachment is learning to protect yourself from all of those not-so-ordinary moments. It doesn’t mean you stop caring about your loved ones. It simply means that you:

  • Stop taking it all personally.
  • Stop worrying if you’ve covered all the bases.
  • Stop beating yourself up for your flaws.
  • Stop expecting more from your AS spouse than he or she can give.

When you learn the art of detaching, you actually free up some energy to care for yourself. And that creates the energy to make better decisions instead of flitting from crisis to crisis.

There are two methods for achieving detachment:

1. Emotional self-care is doing all of the healthy feel-good things you can fit into your day. If you notice that you’re drinking, eating, or smoking too much, you need healthier self-care. Make it a point to always plan healing rest and recreation in your day, too.

2.Cognitive self-care consists of education. When you can’t fathom what’s going on with your Aspie, and they’re accusing you of things you didn’t do, stress increases. It’s bad enough to be misunderstood. It’s quite another to try to operate without a frame of reference for the misunderstanding. Even though it’s work to read a book and to attend psychotherapy, knowledge is power.

When I was learning to deal with family members with ASD, there weren’t that many resources. So I founded a Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. It has helped many cope as they connect with others living through he same experiences. Check it out and if it feels right for you, please hit the “join” button.

Advanced Truths of Healthy Communication for Couples

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Two advanced truths of healthy communication – t he explanation used to describe a person is not the person, and people operate out of their interpretation.Having counseled couples for over thirty years, I’ve come to appreciate that communicating effectively is more of an attitude than having specific skills. The skills seem to emerge when your heart is in the right place. In one of my books, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home, I shared advanced truths of healthy communication to help couples become better communicators.

Embracing these truths will assist you so that you can (I) more clearly define the problem or topic of discussion, (2) more accurately listen and understand your partner, and (3) develop even more flexibility and expediency in accomplishing your communication goals.

There are four advanced truths of healthy communication. In this post I will focus on the first two:

#1 The explanation used to describe a person or situation is not the person.

We all build hypotheses about our partner in order to understand and respond to his or her behavior. For example, one couple I worked with faced a communication breakdown (their names have been changed). Kurt wanted to move to get a promotion and his wife Trish refused to leave even though she’d been willing to relocate in the past. You see Kurt assumed that Trish always followed his career moves because she put his career before her own.

In reality, Kurt's promotions opened career doors for Trish also. Furthermore, moving to a new town every few years when she was younger and childless was not a problem for Trish. But with twin daughters to care for, a desire to put down roots in a community, and a career of her own that she loved, Trish demonstrated another side of herself that did not fit Kurt's explanation of her. As Kurt expanded his consciousness, both he and Trish learned that there is more to their partner than one simple explanation.

#2 People do not operate out of sensory experience, but rather out of their interpretation or map of reality.

Because we build hypotheses, we tend to operate in the world as if our internal maps (i.e., hypotheses or explanations of reality) are the truth. We forget that we developed these internal maps after gathering information with our senses. Once the map is built, we sometimes ignore future sensory experience in favor of our presuppositions.

Therefore, the second advanced truth is closely aligned with the first advanced truth. Knowing that you and others are operating in the world according to your own interpretation of reality releases you to notice what facts or real experience contributed to a specific behavior.
For example, another couple (names have been changed), Karla and Mike, had been ignoring their own senses with regard to Mike's alcohol abuse. They ignored how much he drank. They ignored the irrationality of their fights. They ignored the effects of alcohol abuse on their children, employees, and friends. With the incredible success of their business, and moving into a brand-new million-dollar house, Mike and Karla felt as if they were on top of the world without a care. It seemed a contradiction that they would have serious problem at the height of their financial and material success.

Yet Karla was shaken to notice her sensory experience when Mike shattered a liquor bottle against the living room wall. Then all of the other sensory clues she'd been ignoring fell into place, too. It was time to adjust her map of reality to include the possibility that the husband she loved was an addict. Similarly, Mike's map of reality changed shortly after Karla confronted him.

Keeping these advanced truths in mind will put your heart in the right place so you begin to trust that you and your partner really are on the same side. In an upcoming post I’ll share two more advance truths for healthy communication.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay not to have all the answers and to ask for help. For the couples I mentioned in this post, the communication breakdown was so severe that they were unable to achieve any solutions until they asked a professional for help. If you need help communicating with your partner, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you live elsewhere, we can also discuss best communication practices for entrepreneurial couples via a secure video Q & A session. Learn more by visiting Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.

Emotional Granularity - Putting a Name to Your Emotions Leads to Greater Health

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Emotional Granularity - Putting a Name to Your Emotions Leads to Greater HealthPeople who have more nuanced views of their emotions are healthier. When you can put a name to an emotion like feeling righteously indignant versus just generally feeling bad, you are more in tune with your feelings.

The psychological term we use for this ability to pinpoint your exact emotion is “emotional granularity.” It means you experience the world and yourself more precisely. And there are a lot of benefits to increasing this skill.

People who have emotional granularity are less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. They have better relationships, make better decisions, live longer and are healthier.

The New York Times recently reported on a study conducted by Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University. They asked hundreds of volunteers to track their emotional experiences for weeks or months. They discovered something very interesting.

They assumed that people with higher emotional granularity were just better at recognizing their emotional states. Instead they learned that the brain proactively constructs your emotional states before you’re aware of it. The brain doesn’t respond to the world in some predetermined way. It anticipates what might come next, based on a past experience. This means you get to program your emotional responses as you choose.

If you can translate your feelings into a specific emotional term that you can act on, then you don’t deplete your store of energy needlessly. Dr. Feldman Barrett likened our energy supply to a bank account. When there’s a real threat, then the withdrawal of energy translates into a meaningful action. Afterward, you can resupply your energy reserves through rest and nutrition.

On the other hand, when there’s a constant feeling of badness, it drains your account. There are no reserves of energy left for when it’s needed. You’re overdrawn. This leads to feeling trapped and overwhelmed, increasing the likelihood of mental and physical illness.

You can increase your emotional granularity by becoming more skilled in identifying the nuances of your emotions. How many emotional concepts do you have in your vocabulary? I encourage you to write down a list of new words to describe the emotional states you experience. You’ll give your brain a larger toolkit to work from, which will give you more emotional flexibility in coping with what life throws at you.


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