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News for February 2013

“Helpful” People and Ethical Dilemmas

Sometimes people can cause problems for us by solving problems for other people. Usually this is not the person’s intent; however, by trying to help someone else their solution winds up shifting the problem to another person or creating a new problem for someone else.

This brings about its own challenges. If the person that the problem is being shifted from is someone you care about, how do you handle it? It introduces an ethical dilemma. It is right to take care of yourself and push back on the solution, but it is also right to help other people.

There is no formula that you can plug a few variables into and get an answer. You do not want always to choose yourself at the expense of others, but it is equally unhealthy to always put the other person first.

If you choose the latter and are always self-sacrificing, you will never take care of your needs and cause harm to your own health and damage or even prevent yourself from recovering. If you always choose the former at worst you risk bringing harm to others, at best you come across as not really caring about the other person and damaging your relationship. You need to evaluate each situation as they occur and try to find a middle ground when possible.

If we look at Dr. Kidder’s book, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, he provides nine steps for dealing with ethical issues. These steps are meant as a guide to help in making ethical decisions and not necessarily a step-by-step instruction manual.

  1. Recognize that there is a moral issue.
  2. Determine the actor.
  3. Gather the relevant facts.
  4. Test for right-versus-wrong issues.
  5. Test for right-versus-right paradigms.
  6. Apply the resolution principles.
  7. Investigate the “trilemma” options.
  8. Make the decision.
  9. Revisit and reflect on the decision.

Like the skills we learn through DBT, the process of resolving ethical dilemmas require practice and commitment. The value and benefit we gain from the practice and commitment are worth it. It is worth it because the more we are able to live in moral alignment, studying true to our values, the more ethical we live the more we improve the quality of our life, the lives of those around us and reduce our stress.

Edited: February 19th, 2013

Major Stressor and Anxiety

Right now I am facing a big challenge. Recent events at my apartment complex have left new feeling threatened, unsafe, victimized and like my wife and I have no right to privacy.

The place we thought and wanted as our home for the foreseeable future no longer feels welcoming to me. The complex instead fills me with hatred, rage, disgust and contempt. Other than one person in the office, my feelings about the complex extend to the staff.

It seems that we have no right to expect privacy. Not only do we not have that right, but people who are looking into our apartment from outside can dictate what we do in our home. We are the ones who get yelled at, not the people looking into out apartment. When I went to check the mail on Monday there was a note from complex on my door. When I opened it said we were in violation of our lease and if we didn’t fix the problem they would evict us. This upset me a lot since it had some generic reason with no details of what we needed to fix. This was the first I had ever heard of a problem.

I talked to the office yesterday and found out what it was and was once more told if it happens again we would be thrown out. They also allege that they sent out two prior warning. Two warnings I never saw. They of course say they have copies of the notices. I should have asked for copies then to make sure they really had them. By now they have had plenty of time to put something together and back date it. I am on my way home and dreading checking the mail. I am so worked up over it that I am having chest pains and an upset stomach.

Edited: February 6th, 2013

Non-Traditional Sources of Help

When we think about various sources of information that can help us and inspire us, we typically think of the more obvious sources, for example, we think about sources like therapists, psychology texts and journals, and things like faith and prayer. While those are definitely good sources, they are not the only places we can find help, inspiration and inspiration.


In this article, I will briefly talk about a few non-traditional sources. I am planning to talk about the various items in more detail over the next few months, as well as a few others not talked about in this article.

One non-traditional area is ethics.

Currently, I am re-reading a book by Dr. Rushworth Kidder, which I first read in 2008, titled How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. As I read the book, it reminds me of how many things I found valuable for improving my mental health.

Using this book add an example, it explores the concept of how to deal with situations that are not cases of right vs. wrong, but rather cases of right vs. right. The very concept of there exist situations where both choices are ‘right’. The basic concepts within the book can be expanded, with some thought, to apply to other areas in life. Even beyond that though, the book itself does help with how to resolve ethical dilemmas. Figuring out how to resolve any kind of dilemma makes our lives easier, it removes a stress point.

I plan to write more about this book, as well as Dr. Kidder’s book Moral Courage in the coming months.

We can also find help by identifying our personal strengths and talents. When we come to understand what our strengths are, we can look for ways to use those strengths. This is very different from finding out our weaknesses are, and more uplifting. I can think of hundreds, literarily, of things, I am not good at, but that only helps a little and looking at the list can be depressing. However, if I find the things that I am the strongest in, it is by its very nature positive rather than negative. It also lets me look for things that I can excel in rather than telling me things to avoid because I might fail at them. It sets me up to succeed and thrive as opposed to preventing me from falling. There is a significant difference between succeeding and not failing.

The difference between succeeding and not failing will be a topic of a future entry as well.

One last area that I am going to touch on is learning to read body language. I know that this sounds like one that is way out there, but learning to read body language can be a very useful tool for us. A person’s body language can tell us a lot about a person’s feelings about a situation, whether they are being open and honest, closed off, angry, etc. I personally think this is a very important to learn about and master. While we may be better than the other groups at telling when a person is expressing negative emotional facial expressions, we do not do so well with identifying neutral or positive expressions. Being able to read body language, including facial expressions, can help evaluate any given situation.

Understanding body language also allows us to be aware of the image we are projecting. In either case, reading other people’s body language and being aware of what our own body language is saying, allows us to reduce confrontation with other people and lower our stress. It can help make life easier.

Below are a few books that I have found useful over the years.

  • Moral Courage –   Kidder, Rushworth
  • How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living – Kidder, Rushworth
  • Strength Finder 2.0 –  Rath, Tom
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths – Buckingham, Marcus and Clifton, Donald O.
  • The Definitive Book of Body Language – Pease, Barbara and Pease, Allan
  • Enhanced Detection of Emotional Facial Expressions in Borderline Personality Disorder – Schulze L. · Domes G. · Köppen D. · Herpertz S.C.  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23006779)



Edited: February 2nd, 2013


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