Tony Robbins is in My House

Liam Neeson in Star Wars Episode I

Liam Neeson in Star Wars Episode I

“Your focus becomes your reality,” or so says Liam Neeson’s Jedi to a young Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode 1.

The dialogue noted above is related to the power of positive thinking. This term — which originated as the title of Norman Vincent Peale’s controversial 1952 book — is now the slogan for the self-help movement.

Book cover courtesy of

Book cover courtesy of

But does it? Does glass-half-full, positive thinking, really matter?

These sort of questions have come to mind as BR seems to have morphed into the 9-year-old version of Tony Robbins.

In the last week or so BR is regularly giving me high fives for effort, calling out such encouragements as “nice try” or “nice one.” He has offered comfort by telling me, “at least you tried.” Unfortunately, there have been some flashes of negativity and a couple of minor meltdowns as well, but I bet even Robbins, Dale Carnegie, and Ekhart Tolle get frustrated once in a while.

My wife and I were discussing our positive little guru the other night. One question arose. What has inspired this?

Now don’t get me (or my wife) wrong. It’s nice to see BR so positive though watching him call out encouragement to the baseball players on the Wii is amusing.

Anyway, we could not answer what has gotten into BR. He did start a social skills camp the other day. The camp’s philosophy is based on the comic book You are a Social Detective by Michelle Garcia Winner, Pamela Crooke and illustrated by Kelly Knopp. The purpose of the book/camp is to help children become good social detectives by using their “eyes, ears, and brains to figure out what others are planning to do next or are presently doing and what they mean by their words and deeds.” ( My wife swears these books have helped BR to become more aware socially. I think the camp has had an effect but this ‘everybody-is-a-winner-type attitude’ began before the camp.

But does being positive really matter? Well, Michael F. Schier certainly thinks so. Schier is the co-author of a seminal 1985 study, “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies” in Health Psychology. In an interview from April 20th, 2012 that appeared in The Atlantic, Schier said, “I think it’s now safe to say that optimism is clearly associated with better psychological health, as seen through lower levels of depressed mood, anxiety, and general distress, when facing difficult life circumstances, including situations involving recovery from illness and disease.”

Martin Seligman who wrote a book in 1990 entitled Learned Optimism concurs that there are many benefits to having an optimistic outlook. Seligman says that, “Optimists are higher achievers and have better overall health.” On the other hand, “pessimists are more likely to give up in the face of adversity or to suffer from depression.” Seligman, similarly as Schier, believe that optimists have better coping strategies and are more easily able to overcome setbacks. Most importantly, Seligman believes pessimists can learn to be optimists.

Chart is courtesy of

Chart is courtesy of

It seems clear there are benefits to having a positive attitude. After all, don’t we all prefer to be around happy people? So while I am uncertain over the exact reason and benefit of BR’s positive attitude, I do enjoy the results. Great job, BR!




Incomplete. There is work to be done. Where are you going? The job isn’t finished!
Are you the type who hates leaving things in the middle? The job can’t wait. The chore must be completed.
For a long time, I have been the “I’ll take a break when the work is done” sort of person. I could count on one hand the amount of books I started but did not complete. I took my lunch as late as possible because I did not feel comfortable eating when there was work to be done.
Break – who needs a break? I took pride in this. I puffed my chest out – I am productive. I fully believed that this is what adults were supposed to do. If you acted differently, you were soft or just were not fortunate enough to have my constitution.
If you have the junior Freud in you, ….

THIS IS PART OF A GUEST POST, to read the rest of INCOMPLETE, follow the hyperlink:  Madhouse Guest Post

Happiness on The Edge of the Seat

December 31, 2003 – With just a few hours to go till the New Year, my 6 month pregnant wife and I have escaped the frigid Northeast temperatures and are in the tiny Metro Twin theatre on 99th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. The cramped seats require anyone over 5’2” and 120 pounds to curl into his/her seat like the last clown to get into the Volkswagen.

My wife — who was definitely showing at that point and peeing more often than a grandparent who has an extra cup of coffee  before bed — was clearly above the comfortable height and weight level.  She was actually on the edge of her seat throughout the movie. But not because of her size. She could not get enough of the movie – The Two Towers, part two of The Lord of the Rings saga.  (She still brings up her herculean fete, “I stayed on the edge of my seat and didn’t pee once!!!”, when someone mentions LOTR) Out of concern for her (and the baby), I repeatedly gently tapped her to push her back into her seat. Nothing doing.  While I also loved the movie, my favorite part was seeing how much she enjoyed the movie.


This past Sunday my family and I went to the movies. A couple of weeks ago we watched Despicable Me. We all enjoyed it and knew right away that the sequel would be in our summer plans.

metwoWe found our seats in a half full theatre just before the movie began. Each of the boys took out their snack packs and settled in ready to be laugh.

Oh my G-d, did they laugh! BR, the fidgety type, was glued to his seat. He was so enthralled by the movie that he didn’t complain when I started dipping into his popcorn and drinking some of his soda.

SJ, on the other hand, could not sit still. Every time the Minions (for those who have not seen either of the movies but saw one of the billion commercials, the Minions are the little yellow guys) came on the screen, he was on the edge of his seat. His whole body shook as he cackled. He could not take his eyes off of the Minions.

I enjoyed the movie. It was funny and sweet plus those little yellow Minions guys really are amusing. However, the greatest part of the movie was watching my childrens’ reactions. During chunks of the movie, I found myself watching the boys. After all, what’s better than seeing your children happy?

Sooner than I realize, my children will grow up, and it will take much more to make them happy. When they do grow up, I hope there will be moments when I can see them look as happy as they did watching Despicable Me 2.

Oh yeah, one last thing. I have a hunch what the theme of SJ’s 7th birthday party will be – Minions.

What about you – when is the last time you saw your children very happy?


I have been following Holly’s blog, Surviving The Madhouse, and enjoying it for some time now and am so happy to have her provide a guest post.

Holly is a single mother of two teenagers living in Ontario, Canada (she is described as a “weird Canadian”). With introspection and a quirky, kooky sense of humour, Holly shares stories of living with mental health illness and parenting children with mental health illnesses. An involved and loving mother, Holly is a dedicated advocate for child youth and family mental health.

Thanks again to Holly and remember to check out Surviving The Madhouse to read more of Holly’s work.

Here’s Holly.

I call my blog ‘Surviving the Madhouse’ with the tag line ‘Raising kids with mental illness with love, affection and humor.’ I call it the Madhouse for several reasons. First, I have children (all the parents are nodding their heads, “we love’em, but they can drive us to the brink”). Second, I have children who fall into the category of special needs. Third, both my children are very bright and very witty (also see lippy, mouthy, and smart aleck-y), which can be maddening from a parental perspective (again, all the parents are nodding their heads). Fourth, between the three of us, we have a combined total of 10 mental health diagnoses (it’s always interesting here – see also zany, wacky, and unconventional).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “surviving” part of the Madhouse. I’ve been in survival mode for a long time, most of my life in fact. Unfortunately, the same is true of my kids. I am a survivor of childhood abuse, as are my children, and I spent 12 years in an abusive marriage. The children’s father was not a kind man, and he left many invisible scars on our souls and psyche. It has been six years, and we are still battling the ghosts of his temper tantrums, rage, and viciousness.

Living a life in survival mode is tiring. It drains one’s energy and leaves one feeling listless. It is often a challenge to find the joy and beauty of life when one is constantly on guard, leary and never fully trusting/living. I have been doing this my whole life, but I used to be much better at pretending I wasn’t living like this. In fact, I had accepted it as the only way to live. However, watching my children live life this way distresses me.

However, being distressed doesn’t help anybody. So, the goal is to go from “surviving” to “thriving”.  I’ve read a ton of positive and enlightened proverbs – “be the change you want to see in the world”; “you are not your past”; “have an attitude of gratitude” – in hopes that something would just click, and I would begin to feel the blossoming of a more fulfilling life. Of course, we all know it’s not really that easy. It takes a lot of effort to be the change; to see the future; to be grateful for all things.

During the 18 months of intense therapy I participated in, I learned that our childhood experiences “stamp” themselves onto our psyche. Victims of childhood abuse often respond, even as adults, from the perspective of a wounded child and this becomes the instinctual response to life.  This often leaves the adult unable to process emotional situations from a cognitive, logical or “adult” perspective (makes you wonder about that really immature guy in the mail room, doesn’t it?).

George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” I worked very hard, for a long time (and spent a ton of money) learning how to do just that – change my mind. Or, more accurately, change my thought patterns, but I still have a long way to go before I am thriving.

In the end, it all comes down to choice. I can choose to let that scared, little girl trapped in her nightmare control my actions now or I can choose to take a moment, breathe, and think calmly and rationally. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but I’m working on it because I want my children to know, without a doubt, that the world is full of wonder and joy. That life is for thriving not for surviving.