Celebrating Family Meals

Family meals bring us together, nourish us, and uplift our spirit.  All too often, however, family meals can create a lot of stress. With whom can you get together?  Are you stressed out from buying all the stuff and the work?  Are you worried about family arguing and people getting along?   Listen to the teleconference by three wise women as we help you to: Be grateful, co-create, and celebrate.

Samantha Shields, a home energy specialist gives her insights on simplifying, and managing the challenges of time and stuff.  Dr. Alice gives you tips for gaining cooperation and building positive family energy. Dr. Jane, a cultural anthropologist, will help us reflect on family meals and the larger community.


Wise Words for Creating solutions That Work forAll

Here in St. Louis, the doldrums of winter are giving way to spring. Buds are appearing on the trees, blades of green grass pushing out of the ground, and flowers are bursting into bloom. Everywhere new growth is beginning to emerge. In celebration of new growth, this post focuses on the emergence of solutions that honor the the best of ourselves while adapting to change in meeting the needs of all.

A True Confession

Successful Relating:
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice Vlietstra, Ph.D.  Editor

February 2005

In this issue:

1. Welcome
2. A True Confession
3. Seligman’s New Story
4. Your Story
6. Announcements

1.  Welcome

The theme for the e-newsletters this year is "Creating a New Story."  Many times our feelings about our relationships are not about the actual relationship, but rather about our stories concerning those connections.  What would you say if you were to tell a story about your most successful relationship?

To give you an idea of what I am talking about, I am going to tell you a story.   It concerns a prominent leader in the field of psychology.

2. A True Confession

This is my favorite story from Martin Seligman.  It took place in his garden while he was weeding his rose bushes with his five-year-old daughter, Nikki.  Nikki was having fun throwing the newly pulled weeds into the air, all the while dancing and singing.  Seligman, very focused on clearing the area of weeds, yelled at her for messing up the garden.  Nikki walked away and came back a few minutes later saying,

"Daddy, I want to talk to you.  Do you remember before my fifth birthday?  From when I was three until when I was five, I was a whiner. I whined every day.  On my fifth birthday I decided I was not going to whine any more.  That was the hardest thing I ever have done.  And if I can stop whining, you can stop being a grouch!"

At the time, Seligman was a world famous researcher on depression,
and practiced his techniques for combating depression, called
“Learned Optimism," every day.   Despite all of his well intentioned
attempts to rid himself of his negativity, his "grouchiness" persisted.

He had to admit to himself, he really was a grouch.  Nikki’s words were
true.  His daughter had hit the nail on the head, HIS head. At that moment
Seligman decided to commit himself to a different way of relating to his
beloved daughter.  As a result of this experience, the concept of
Authentic Happiness emerged.

3. Seligman’s New Story

It became very clear to Seligman that his role in raising Nikki was not about correcting her shortcomings. He realized he had become "a walking nimbus cloud in a household radiant with sunshine."  As Nikki became aware of the negative consequences of her whining, she decided to stop it.  As Seligman became aware the negative consequences of his grouchiness, he decided not only to stop it, but to redirect his focus.  Nikki was a precocious child, socially intelligent beyond her years.  His focus on the positive aspects of her personality, he believed, would instill in her the self confidence she would need to navigate the stormy seas of life. 

I was delighted by Seligman’s touching account of his relationship with his daughter.  Both were courageous in their interactions with each other. His daughter was courageous in confronting her father and mature in her ability to see the negative consequences of her behavior. This incident helped Seligman’s relationship with his daughter and was a catalyst for the new concept of "Authentic Happiness." Their relationship became much more authentic and was based on mutual respect and admiration.    

5.  Your Story 

There is much we can learn from Seligman’s story.  You can start by thinking about your relationships in a different way before you talk about them with others.  I suggest that when you think about your painful experiences, that you consider the strengths that emerged in the process of overcoming those challenges.  Consider the joyful experiences as well.

A focus on the painful aspects of our past does not allow us to acknowledge and accept the gifts of the present. If we keep our focus on the broader, more spiritual lessons contained within our life stories, we become more authentically happy, and we will feel more connected with others and to our community.  

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

References:  Seligman, M. E. P.  Authentic Happiness, New York:  Free Press, 2002, pp 28-29.  

5.  Announcements

Successful Relating for Singles:  March 10 - April 17th. Grace Church, 7:00 -8:30, Call 314-291-6647, Ext 2112, to sign up.  Explore new ways to find the love of your life, and the life that you love.

Hearts Alive!  Soul Esteem Center, April 18, 25, May 2, & 9, 7:00 - 9:30 PM.  Flyer forthcoming or call 314-729-2855 for information. 

© Copyright 2005 Alice Vlietstra.  All rights reserved.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating
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