A Negative Person No Longer in my Life

As I’ve written on numerous occasions, NEGATIVE people should not be in your life. They can be a drain on a positive force and the energy they emit can be harmful to the soul. Occasionally, one has little choice (i.e. family members) although usually the decision is in your hands.

Recently, the wife of a friend wrote a negative and mean-spirited comment about me in a public forum – words that were unkind and had a tinge of jealousy to them. I quickly responded to her with a positive yet clever line that put a spotlight on her disparaging comment. She had no worthwhile response after so she wrote “Whatever”.

Being a long time friend of her husband, one would think she would show more respect. If her comment had been sarcastic or funny, I would have embraced it.  It bothered me because of its mean and negative nature.  Publicly or privately, most people I know would never use her words to another.

After our initial introduction over a decade ago, it was:

A) Irritating in the way she frequently jumped into conversations to make her point, especially when she was on the outside of the conversation.

B) Not fun to be around her unpleasant nature.

C) Not surprising when others expressed similar feelings about her.

Interestingly, her husband is a great guy - admirable and one of the most genuine men I know.

Some years back, she also spoke to my mother disrespectfully - words and tone. Her husband made her apologize immediately as he knew her words were inappropriate and unkind. My respect for him grew even more when I heard about how he handled the incident.  Actions like hers should never be tolerated.

Since I carry no hate in my heart, her positive side must be brought to the surface. She’s been married a long time and they have kind and well adjusted children. I’ve rarely met children as pleasant. Collectively, they have created and nurtured a beautiful family.

I realize that I will encounter her in the future as my friendship with her husband will not be broken although my correspondence with her online or by phone will not emerge again. It’s a shame as she has displayed some friendly moments in our infrequent banter online.

I’ve rarely encountered a person with such negative energy. For all practical purposes, she is no longer in my life. Negativity (even small in size like this incident) wields a silent dagger and I won’t allow it to grab hold of me. 

I’m hopeful that she is humble enough to change or get help one day. She has a plethora of blessings and a life to be grateful for. If she’s not careful, her disposition could dampen or spoil the quality life that she has worked so diligently to create.

I wish her well.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

A beautiful fountain on the campus of Lund University, Sweden

Only Love Can Conquer Hate

After seeing the aftermath of the Oslo, Norway bombing on TV and hearing about the people who were gunned down at a Norwegian youth camp on Friday, I immediately thought of the profound Marvin Gaye song “What’s Going On”.

Similar thoughts echoed in my mind on 9/11 in New York City as I was there on that horrific day. Those lyrics helped to sooth my soul in my Brooklyn apartment that morning.

When our complex world rears its ugly head, a song’s eloquent words can be uplifting.

Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today

(video of Marvin singing)

The terror could be as large as the 2004 Madrid, Spain bombing or Oklahoma City, USA in 1995. Or it might arise insidiously, like the evil nature of numerous banking organizations - companies that were instrumental in creating the worldwide financial crises.  It could be the racism of a father who threatened to disown his daughter if she continued to see me or the evilness shown between members of the same family. It could also be the hate of a dictator ruining a nation or a government that cares more about its wealthy citizens than the vast majority of poor/unemployed people.

We won’t all agree on the whys of such hate and terror although it's safe to say that people who engage in these types of evil acts probably didn’t receive enough love in their childhood or formative teenage years.

When people want to know what they can do to help improve the world or contribute in times of crises, I usually let them know that loving more frequently or deeply can help our children, families, friends and the world in ways we might never imagine.

I’m a loving man who was fortunate to have loving parents although I know I need to do more……we all need to do more. Giving of one’s time or financial donations to those less fortunate is crucial although providing love consistently throughout our daily lives is just as important.

Unfortunately, terrorism is here to stay and hate will always be around.  So what can we do to combat it?


In my opinion, the most important act of love for fighting hate is to ensure that we are loving our own children as much as possible so they will be grow up to be good, secure and happy people - individuals that will make positive contributions in their future years.

Secondly, we must be aware of our daily actions. We should be more conscious of how we treat people whether we know them or not, the manner in which we judge others, the way we use our words (verbally or written) and the impact we have on our children or youth. You can always look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I loving enough?”

The little acts of love can mean a lot.

Recently, I've been giving my young son and daughter a kiss and hug every morning when I wake up. I haven’t always done that but I plan to make it a ritual. That little act of love usually brightens up both of our days and can only help in making my children more loving and secure.

Big acts of love are a necessity as well especially with positive leaders that can make a difference. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela changed our world for the better and the central theme of how they went about helping others and fighting inequality was based in love. Mandela spent 27 years in jail and came out a loving man; that fact is never far from my mind and inspires me.

Where are the future Dr. King's and Mandela’s? Are they even out there? We may never see men with their loving power again although we need courageous and ethical leaders who can fight for the injustice and hate that is far too prevalent around the globe.

When the world makes you wonder “What’s Going On”, fight back with a tiny, small or big dose of LOVE in any way you feel might make a difference. Love your children, Love others and spread Love whenever and wherever you can. In addition, be grateful for the love you have in your life - as we know, it can be gone in a heartbeat.

So many lost souls slip through the cracks and into the abyss when all they might have needed was the comforting touch of a caring person in their life.

If you know a troubled soul (family or otherwise) that can be helped by your intervention, don’t be afraid to lend a helping hand. Your outreach may push him/her in a positive direction and prevent them from committing future acts of violence like the gunman who killed those innocent souls in Norway.

Marvin on judgement:

Father, father, everybody thinks we're wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we've got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today

I implore you to listen to “What’s Going On” (video link above) and remember to keep love glowing brightly and passionately in your heart.

Only Love can Conquer Hate.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Joe and the Juice

Famished and walking to my late morning flight at Copenhagen airport, all I could think about was getting some food in my system.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon a sandwich and juice place called “Joe and The Juice”.

It was sizzling from the start:

--  Young, hip and personable staff
--  Spacious and stylish dining area
--  Soulful music
--  Great selection of drinks and food

The ambiance and welcoming staff made me think to myself, “I’m glad I chose this place”.

Most importantly, the food was fresh and super tasty. My tuna mix, raspberry/apple/ginger smoothie and latte gave my soul the boost of energy it so desperately needed. I stayed an extra 30 minutes just to soak in the atmosphere.

More companies need to focus on the customer, especially if they are interested in long term success. At this location, Joe and The Juice exquisitely show what a great consumer experience should be.

I’ve been back several times since and was equally as impressed.

If you find yourself near a location (Denmark and United Kingdom), I implore you to visit and welcome the experience.

You won’t be disappointed.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

 My delicious latte that morning!

An Article EVERY Parent Should Read

This insightful article was published 4 years ago by the Washington Post yet couldn't be more timely for the modern day parent. I love this quote:

"Let's shore up boundaries and let them be kids in the kid zone. And let's allow them to experience some of life's disappointments. Let's talk on the phone and go out on weekends with our friends. Let's start worrying less whether our kids are happy all the time and more about whether we are enjoying them and ourselves. Let's get a life in the parent zone."

The article (and link) is below in its entirety.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

A Lost Art: Instilling Respect

By Patricia Dalton
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, September 11, 2007 

There's been a fundamental change in family life, and it has played out over the years in my office. Teachers, pediatricians and therapists like me are seeing children of all ages who are not afraid of their parents. Not one bit. Not of their power, not of their position, not of their ability to apply standards and enforce consequences.

I am not advocating authoritarian or abusive parental behavior, which can do untold damage. No, I am talking about a feeling that was common to us baby boomers when we were kids. One of my friends described it this way: "All my mother had to do was shoot me a look." I knew exactly what she was talking about. It was a look that stopped us in our tracks -- or got us moving. And not when we felt like it.


These days, that look seems to have been replaced by a feeble nod of parental acquiescence -- and an earnest acknowledgment of "how hard it is to be a kid these days."

In my office, I have seen small children call their parents names and tell them how stupid they are; I have heard adolescents use strings of expletives toward them; and I remember one 6-year-old whose parents told me he refused to obey, debated them ad nauseam and sometimes even lashed out. As if on cue, the boy kicked his father right there in the office. When I asked the father how he reacts at home, he told me that he runs to another room!

It came to me like a lightning bolt: Not only are the kids unafraid of their parents, parents are afraid of their kids!

What ever happened to the colorful phrases our parents relied on to put us in our place? "Keep your shirt on." "On the double." "What do you think we are, made of money?" "Because I said so." "If you want sympathy, look it up in the dictionary." Or one of my personal favorites: "Don't bother me unless you're bleeding," which a friend's mother said to her six kids when she sat down to read before dinner.

The Honor Is Yours
Today's generation of children is the most closely observed, monitored, cherished and scheduled in our history. They are also the most praised. Families are smaller, and there are fewer children upon whom parents can beam their attention.

Today there are moms and dads who aren't just parents -- they believe in "parenting." They read volumes and volumes about how to be good parents and view parenting as both an art and a science that must be studied and updated and practiced self-consciously. Letting children run around the neighborhood and be bored some of the time is anathema to them.

Many parents these days don't expect their children to contribute much around the house, although they do expect them to achieve outside the house. They have strong beliefs about what makes children successful and happy-ever-after, and underpinning those beliefs is the concept that they -- the parents -- are all-important in this quest. Such parents believe that self-esteem is the key to lifetime success, and to this end they compliment their children a lot.

They are egalitarian, and they believe families should be democracies. Needless to say, they don't give orders. They believe that children will do things when they are ready to. They ask their child politely if he or she will do something and are surprised and dismayed when the response is "no."

It's as if parents have rewritten the Fourth Commandment to read, "Honor thy children."

And, boy, are they paying for it.

When a teacher, pediatrician or therapist suggests that perhaps these "parenting" behaviors are not helping but in fact causing harm, such earnest parents can be hard to convince. They don't want to have to hear that their New Age concepts for raising kids not only do not work, but actually are prescriptions for disaster.

'Scrumptious'? Please.
Let's take the constant parental praise. I first noticed it when my three children were small, and I would hear mothers lauding their kids' incredible artwork or rich vocabulary. I can recall one mother who brought her 6-year-old to my office after the school observed some social difficulties. "Isn't she scrumptious?" she said, in front of her beaming daughter. (I made a mental note to myself: This may be part of the problem.)

After all, there is a difference between appreciation, which is from the heart, and flattery, which is from the mouth.

Starting in the mid-1990s, a team led by psychologist Carol Dweck did a series of experiments on fifth-graders over a 10-year period. One study compared two randomized groups of children in a classroom setting. In one group, researchers attributed children's achievement to their effort and in the other to their intelligence. Those praised for their hard work, it turned out, were more likely to attempt difficult tasks and performed better than those praised for intelligence. Children who were told that innate intelligence is the key were less likely to expend effort and take risks, perhaps because they were trying to maintain an image that they felt was not under their control.

A later study that Dweck conducted among seventh- and eighth-graders confirmed these findings and found that an effort mind-set also led to higher achievement, as measured by math grades.

More-serious concerns were raised by a 1996 review of 200 studies on self-esteem by Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University. Rather than promoting success, he found that an "unrealistically positive self-appraisal" was linked to aggression, crime and violence.

It all makes a therapist long for the days of the good old inferiority complex. And for parents who could put children in their place. Some interesting research on interpersonal attraction has shown that self-confidence in combination with some degree of vulnerability makes a person more appealing to others. Unshakable self-regard is a liability. And dominance is the kiss of death.

Over-parented and under-disciplined children can also have trouble later as young adults with the process of separating from home and creating an independent life. Kids who were constantly praised often become thin-skinned adults who have trouble taking negative feedback on their job or in their personal lives. And I have had more than one client over the years who was positively indignant when a boss expected him or her to be at work on time and to call in sick only when necessary.

Kids who were told, "You can do anything," may have extremely high expectations that can be hard to attain in our multifaceted modern lives. In her 2006 book, "Generation Me," Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, documented an enormous rise in young people's expectations from the late '60s to the late '90s. Twenge refers to a quote from the character Tyler Durden in the movie "Fight Club": "We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very [ticked] off."

Maybe it wouldn't be so painful if parents would sign on to the following manifesto: Let's expect more help from our kids around the house and withdraw some of our frenetic investment in their academic, sporting and social achievements. Let's shore up boundaries and let them be kids in the kid zone. And let's allow them to experience some of life's disappointments. Let's talk on the phone and go out on weekends with our friends. Let's start worrying less whether our kids are happy all the time and more about whether we are enjoying them and ourselves. Let's get a life in the parent zone. And last but not least, let's resurrect an old concept: Father and Mother Know Best. ?

Patricia Dalton is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Washington. 

A lovely path to paradise in southern Sweden

A Photo Capturing the Essence of Summer

Since 2004, my wife and I have spent summers in a small village on the sea in southern Sweden. After the birth of our children, we continued to do so. The past few years, we have been spending them in our own country home in the village - located a one minute walk from the water.

It's a lovely and calm village with its own tennis club and golf course. In addition, one can kite surf, ride horses, feed sheep, jog on soft paths or simply relax on the white sandy beach. Since the age of 2, my wife has been fortunate to enjoy all her summers in this picturesque place.

In 2006, I took a random photo (below) that not only captures the essence of our summer but could serve as a postcard for the joy, beauty, freedom and relaxation that summer can provide.

It's one of my favorite photo's.

Livet är bra (Life is Good!).

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The coast of southern Sweden by the sea - Tuva and Alma in 2006.