You can Ask Dr. Gayle about almost anything.
Q: How can I cope with the terrible current political situation?
A: Therapists Carl Jung and Hall and Sidra Stone taught us that what’s repressed and unconscious gets projected outward. This influences whom we fall in love with or attract into our lives until we make the pattern conscious and integrate it into the psyche. The Trump presidency is a painful revelation of the American shadow of prejudice and arrogance that needs to be revealed and healed. The silver lining of this storm cloud is a major uptick in activism and appreciation for the basic principles of U.S. government such as separation of powers and the importance of media and free speech. Trump’s sexism motivates women to take leadership as part of the wave of women leaders, as well as teens such as the leaders of #NeverAgain. The number of voters, including young people, will increase. Remember the old slogans “Be the change you want to see” and “Think globally, act locally.” Join a local progressive group, such as the national chapters of Indivisible, and help principled candidates get elected.
Q: Climate change is proceeding faster than scientists predicted but this EPA is rolling back regulations to slow global warming. What can we do about this?
A: Cities and states are providing green leadership. The Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 initiative encourages cities to commit to renewable resources and more than 58 have done so—more than half in the West. The Sierra Club estimated that these cities would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2030. These vanguard cities build more bike and walking trails, add hundreds of traffic roundabouts that save fuel, use LED street lights and smart traffic lights, update building codes, do flood mitigation, increase green space and renewable energy sources, recycle water, and expand recycling. Check out San Diego’s plan (https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/final_july_2016_cap.pdf) and lobby for similar actions where you live.
Q: I’m caring for an elderly relative and my own kids. How can I avoid being drained emotionally and physically?
A: The sandwich generation is spread thin, especially women, who traditionally assume the administrative and social responsibilities and physical tasks such as housework. A meme for parents to be “good enough” can be applied to all varieties of caregiving. Tell yourself, “I do the best I can” and don’t expect perfection. Ask for help and pay for help if you can. It’s important to recharge your batteries with time for yourself with exercise, a bath, a massage, my Mind Power workshop, and so on. Think of yourself as the harvest that nourishes the village. If it is neglected everyone suffers, so keep your larder filled.
Q: I get anxious about getting anxious. What can I do?
A: Keep an onion where you can see it to remind you that when you start feeling anxious, greet it. Think, “Good, I get to peel another layer of the onion. I acknowledge my anxiety. I bring you from the dark into the light to release. I’m an adult now and am in charge of how I react.” Natural remedies are discussed in my ebook Your Questions about Physical and Emotional Health.
Q: I’m obsessed with my ex, who has a new partner while I don’t. How can I get rid of those thoughts?
A: Acknowledge the thought when it comes up. Don’t try to push it down, but let it float up to the sky and disappear. It doesn’t work to say no to repetitive thoughts, so replace them with the thought “I have a permanent relationship with my higher power.” Select an icon or avatar that represents supportive divinity or nature to you and put it where you can see it, such as on your refrigerator. Also, create an imaginary ideal relationship with a media person who is most attractive to you, and plan what you’ll do on your next romantic date. Also gain perspective by acknowledging that if you had a romance you’d let go of thoughts of the past.
Q: My roommates are messy, but nagging them doesn’t work. What can I do?
A: Have a house meeting. List all the chores involved in running your household and divide them up fairly. List the jobs each of you most dislikes to see if someone else doesn’t mind doing the dishes or whatever you don’t want to do. You may want to rotate them, especially the ones no one wants to do, such as clean the toilet. Include consequences, positive and negative, for doing or skipping chores. You could also set aside time each week to put on fun music and clean house together, and then celebrate with a good meal.
Q: I’ve known I was a gay man since I was 14, but I was raised in a religion that believes homosexuality is a major sin. I finally had the courage to come out to my wife and kids. She divorced me so I’m exploring gay dating. I don’t know where to start.
A: Get involved in the local LGBT group and also get its recommendation for a counselor who understands what you’re experiencing. Be patient with yourself as you go through a second adolescence in which you re-create your identity. Don’t rush into dating and be safe. Remind yourself that you are much more than your sexual orientation.
Q: I’m afraid of not being a good teacher when I enter the credential program. What can I do?
A: Get feedback from experienced teachers who observe you teaching. Videotape yourself so that you can learn about distracting habits such as repeating a word, poor posture, or lack of eye contact. Practice makes perfect as in learning any skill. Before I taught my first college class, some kind friends allowed me to give my lecture to them to practice, which really helped with fluency and confidence.
Q: I’m in pain because of bursitis; acupuncture helps, but it wears off. Any help for me?
A: After getting a medical diagnosis and suggestions for treatment, I would overlay that with the power of thought as demonstrated in the well-documented power of placebo. It even has an effect when the subjects of the experiment know it’s a sugar pill—with even more impact if the pill is big and brightly colored. Clearly we’re seeing the power of the unconscious mind on the body. Neurolinguistic programming suggests changing the senses along the nerve pathways to the brain. One way to do that is to focus on the center of your pain and imagine breathing into it. If it had a color, shape, sound, and odor, what would they be? Imagine carrying your pain shape into a tunnel where you can see the light at the end. As you walk, change the color, shape, and sound. As you get to the end of the tunnel release the shape until it’s just a shimmer on the horizon and change your pain patterns. Also see https://www.mindtosucceed.com/How-to-change-your-habits.html.
Q: I need to lose weight but I’m embarrassed to go the gym and be in the pools where I can do the necessary exercise. What can I do?
A: Bring a big towel from home and wear it until you’re at the pool edge. Pick a regular time when you can go the gym daily so you don’t have to think about it, just like brushing your teeth. Use behavior modification by rewarding yourself with a small prize each time you exercise. When I was studying for a comprehensive exam for my PhD, I got a piece of cardboard and wrote down a book title after I read it. Such a simple reward actually motivated me to study. To stimulate your sense of humor, listen to the old song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
Q: I have insomnia. Solutions?
A: Bore yourself to sleep by repeating a positive mantra, such as “Om, deep relaxing breathing.” Don’t include the word sleep because it feels like pressure. Focus on your diaphragm as you breathe to get out of your head.
Q: My work takes all my energy. How can I get a life?
A: When you leave work and enter your vehicle or bike to go home, snap your fingers to separate from work or say something such as “Good-bye work, hello joy.” Visualize yourself surrounded by an iridescent energy bubble that’s separate from your workplace rather than remaining enmeshed in work. Schedule regular fun, such as taking a dance class at the Downtown Dance Studio where I go, time in nature, and quiet time to get some perspective and distance from work.
Q: I feel overwhelmed and scattered, partly because I have piles of family history filling a table waiting for me to record it for my family. What can I do?
A: Get a file cabinet and sort the histories in file folders in alphabetical order. Clutter is bad feng shui. Set a schedule for yourself, such as work on one story every Saturday afternoon. Breaking a task into small parts prevents your feeling overwhelmed.
Q: As the oldest son of a single mom, I was expected to be the substitute father to my siblings. Now I’m the head of my own family, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed and unsupported.
A: Think of yourself as a mountain of strength—but resting on a skateboard so you have flexibility. Take time to be by yourself, such as by taking a walk in nature, to renew your energy. Find a friend to take turns unloading your feelings without providing solutions.