Tag Archives: emotions

5 Common Myths About Emotions (that we can use as authors)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Jami Gold’s blog today talking about myths about emotions and how writers can tell better stories by understanding these misconceptions. Please hop over there and check it out!

But first join me in saying a huge Thank You to veterans!!

image by Moeez CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons

Happy Veterans Day!! (image by Moeez CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

5 Common Myths about Emotions

Homo sapiens have been sentient beings for thousands of years, and still we do not truly understand our own emotions. Yet we are fascinated by them.

Because, like it or not, emotions rule our lives. We all strive for happiness, and feel an array of emotions–anger, fear, sadness–when life thwarts those efforts.

Why do readers read? Some read solely to escape the emotional roller coaster of real life, but others seek to absorb themselves in the emotional lives of the characters so that they can better understand and live their own lives.

By understanding the misconceptions about emotions that we humans tend to believe out of ignorance or cling to out of denial, we can write better stories. By challenging these misconceptions and digging a little deeper into the human emotional experience, we can write enlightening and inspiring stories!

Read More…

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Achoo, I Think I’m Coming Down with a Depression

by Kassandra Lamb

Hapci-frDepression is considered to be the “common cold” of mental disorders because it is, well, so common. All of us get at least a little depressed at times.

If you’re thinking, Not me; I never get depressed, then you may have some misconceptions about depression. You don’t have to be extremely sad or down to be considered depressed.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–the bible of mental health professionals–the mandatory symptom required for a diagnosis of depression is a “depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day” OR “markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities.”

In other words, not wanting to do the things you normally want to do is depression.

During the summer of 2002, I spent most of almost every day on my back deck reading mysteries. I had cut my psychotherapy practice back to just a few clients, in anticipation of retiring the following year, and I was only teaching one summer class.

We owned a horse farm at the time, and there were ALWAYS projects that needed doing. Normally I loved projects! And I loved riding horses.

My horse farm in Maryland -- I still miss it (but not the icy winters!)

My horse farm in Maryland required a lot of upkeep. But I loved it! Still miss it (not the icy winters, however 🙂 )

But that summer I only did the projects that were absolutely necessary, and I had to push myself to do those. I rode maybe once every two weeks, and again, had to push myself to do so. My main trail horse ended up foundering, a disease that can be caused, in part, by inadequate exercise!

In September, I went to my doctor–who’d known me for years–for my yearly check-up. I told him how I’d spent the summer. He gave me a worried look. “Kass, you’re depressed.”

I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open at that point. And yet I knew he was right. How could I have lounged around all summer on my deck without realizing that I was depressed?

Because I hadn’t felt down or sad. I just didn’t want to do anything–which was totally not me. Usually I was full of energy and couldn’t wait to dive into projects.

Another misconception about depression is that it means there is something seriously wrong with you. Nope, normal human beings get depressed on a regular basis. (“Common cold,” remember.)

Depression can be caused by biological and/or psychological factors. People who chronically struggle with depression often have some biological factors operating against them. They may have inherited a tendency toward depression or bipolar disorder or may suffer from hormonal imbalances that affect mood.

The psychological factors can come from a variety of losses, from changes in one’s routine to the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. They can also be related to things from our past that we haven’t yet resolved.

My depression that summer was a combination of biological events. I have a mild case of bipolar disorder (inherited from my father), and I was entering peri-menopause, the period before true menopause when the hormones are all over the place. Often when the depression is more a matter of loss of interest in normal activities rather than a blatantly down mood, it’s biological in nature.

A psychiatrist friend of mine once commented that depression is a disease of fatigue. That is so true!

-Avoid_fatigue_-_Eat_a_lunch_that_packs_a_punch-_-_NARA_-_513896 pub domainAs I’ve aged, I’ve really seen this. Anything that makes me tired puts me at risk of becoming depressed–allergies, a slowed metabolism from a flaky thyroid gland, side effects of medications. You name it–if it slows me down, it depresses me.

So what can we do about this common cold of mental disorders? If it’s related to a loss, we may need to acknowledge the loss and let ourselves grieve (not as easy as it sounds; more on how to do this in our 11/17 post next month). If it’s more biologically caused, we may need medication to combat this.

But keeping the fatigue factor in mind, there are other things we can do. Getting enough sleep eating right, for example. I find that regular exercise also helps to combat the depression. Anything that is a natural stimulant to our system can help.

I’ve had depression on the mind lately because of the book I’ve been writing and editing–Suicidal Suspicions. I worried that it was too dark and, well, depressing. My early readers have reassured me that it isn’t. They tell me that the mystery, subplots, and moments of humor in the story keep it from becoming too heavy.

I hope you agree. Today is its official launch day! And it’s the last day that you can get it for $1.99 (tomorrow it goes up to $3.99).

SuicidalSuspicions FINALSUICIDAL SUSPICIONS, A Kate Huntington Mystery, Book 8

Psychotherapist Kate Huntington is rocked to the core when one of her clients commits suicide. How can this be? The woman, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had been swinging toward a manic state. The client’s family is threatening to sue for malpractice, and Kate can’t fault them since she blames herself. How could she have missed the signs?

Searching for answers for herself and the grieving parents, Kate discovers some details that don’t quite fit. Is it possible the client didn’t take her own life, or is that just wishful thinking? Questioning her professional judgement, and at times her own sanity, she feels compelled to investigate. What she finds stirs up her old ambivalence about the Catholic Church. Is her client’s death somehow related to her childhood parish?

When she senses that someone is following her, she wonders if she is truly losing it. Or is she getting dangerously close to someone’s secrets?

AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia   NOOK   KOBO    APPLE

ALSO PLEASE STOP BACK SATURDAY FOR OUR HALLOWEEN POST (AND THE LAUNCH OF KIRSTEN WEISS’S NEW BOOK)!!

KWeiss_Hermetic_5_25x8_5 72 dpi(Psst! It’s available for PREORDER NOW at AMAZON and KOBO ~ coming soon to B&N)

The Hermetic Detective, A Riga Hayworth Paranormal Mystery

A Monstrous Assassin. A Metaphysical Detective.

Housebound with five-month-old twins, Riga Hayworth just wants to get back in the metaphysical detecting game. But when she’s called to help an elderly woman, haunted and alone, a deadly threat follows Riga home. Can Riga prevent a tragedy and protect her family?

The Hermetic Detective is the seventh and final book in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels. Buy this book to finish the epic series today.

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series and has started a new cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries (coming soon).

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Happiness Is an Inside Job (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

(Note: I first posted this at the beginning of 2014. I’m re-posting it while I’m on vacation, with an update.)

The beginning of a new year is a time to look at where we’ve been over the last twelve months, and where we’re going during the next twelve. Was it a good year? Were we happy? If not, what will we do differently in the coming year?

Because happiness is the bottom line!

pciture of a happy man

(photo by Geo Pradeep–self-portrait of a happy man)

During my career as a psychotherapist I saw far too many people who were waiting to live, waiting to be happy, until they had achieved a certain goal. “Once I make X amount of money/become vice president of my company/raise brilliant, well-adjusted kids, etc. then I can be happy.” But life is not just about the final destination when we’ve achieved our goals; it’s also about the journey.

Those years of helping others figure out why they were unhappy and what they needed to do about it taught me that happiness is an inside job. Don’t get me wrong. Achieving our goals, obtaining a certain level of success–in whatever way we define it–is important too. But that alone will not make one happy.

The happiness or unhappiness caused by external things is fleeting. Ongoing happiness comes from within and is strongly influenced by two things. One is self-esteem–whether or not we feel worthy of being happy. I plan to address this topic next week.

Today I want to focus on the other factor–taking responsibility for our own happiness and making a point of doing what we want to be doing on a daily basis. This is the one that was out of kilter in my life a couple years ago.

I used to be really good about stopping every few hours and asking myself what I really wanted to be doing at that point in time. Note: I am not advocating shirking one’s responsibilities. What I ‘had’ to do was always factored in there, but I would try to balance it with periods of time each day when I was doing what I really wanted to be doing, i.e., what made me happy in that moment.

Another way of putting all this is that while we need to plan for and work toward our future goals, we also need to live in the present. But in 2013, I got caught up in living for the future. I kept thinking that if I could just work really hard today, I’d get enough of the pesky ‘haftas’ out of the way that I could have fun tomorrow. Sadly, the next day would have it’s own list of pesky ‘haftas’ and I’d find myself working long and hard again that day, and the next day and the next.

As 2013 was winding down and I finally got a major goal accomplished, it dawned on me that I’d spent an entire year of my life waiting to be happy. I know better!

Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I’d do a better job of time management, so I would have adequate time to write and edit–the parts of my job as an author that I really enjoy. I was fairly successful at doing that. I finished a novel and a short story, got both polished and published, and wrote the first draft of a novella. However, I worked 12 to15-hour days, 6 to 7 days a week to do it. I was so focused on the goals I’d set for myself in my writing career that I stopped focusing on being happy.

So this year (2014) I’m going to back off a bit on those goals. They’re still important and I’ll get them done. But I’m not going to be able to hustle for a few days or weeks or even months and get them all done and then I can relax and be happy. There will always be a new list of ‘haftas’ related to those goals, so I need to take some time to be happy, to stop and smell the roses more often along the way.

2014’s resolution: focus on one goal at a time, spend a reasonable amount of time each week working toward that goal, and every day spend some time doing exactly what I want to do that will make me happy that day.

picute of a rose

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES!!

There’s a reason why sayings like “today is the first day of the rest of your life” and “stop and smell the roses” have become clichés.There’s truth in them.

Update:  I did much better in 2014, and 2015 has been a great year so far!!

How about you? What are you going to do “the rest of your life” to make yourself happy? What’s your favorite way to “stop and smell the roses” along the way?

(Note: because I’m traveling I won’t be online every day, so it may be a day or two before I respond to your comments.)

Also, I have my new book available for preorder. With two quick clicks now, it’s ordered and it will pop up on your ereader when it’s released on October 27th.

It’s on sale for a reduced price during the preorder period. Just $1.99 (goes up to $3.99 after the release).

SuicidalSuspicions FINALSUICIDAL SUSPICIONS, A Kate Huntington Mystery, Book 8

Psychotherapist Kate Huntington is rocked to the core when one of her favorite clients commits suicide. How can this be? The woman, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had been swinging toward a manic state. The client’s family blames Kate and they’re threatening to sue for malpractice. She can’t fault them since she blames herself. How could she have missed the signs?

Searching for answers for herself and the grieving parents, Kate discovers some details that don’t quite fit. Is it possible the client didn’t take her own life, or is that just wishful thinking? Questioning her professional judgement, and at times her own sanity, she feels compelled to investigate. What she finds stirs up her decades-old ambivalence about the Catholic Church. Is her client’s death somehow related to her childhood parish?

When she senses that someone is following her, she wonders if she is truly losing it. Or is she getting dangerously close to someone’s secrets?

PREORDER NOW on Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia   NOOK   KOBO   APPLE

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series and has started a new cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries (coming soon).

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Is It About The WHODUNNIT Or The WHO? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m in editing hell at the moment, so I thought it would be a good time to offer up an encore presentation of a previous post. Indeed, this was the very first post I wrote here on the misterio press blog.

64px-Fingerprint_(PSF)Is it the whodunnit or the who?

In the last afternoon session at a mystery writers’ conference, I was drifting a bit as the long day was catching up with me, when the presenter’s statement jolted me wide awake.

“Mysteries are not about the mystery. They’re about the characters.”

My first thought: Say what?
Second thought: Dang, he’s right.

“Two weeks after the reader has finished a mystery,” the presenter continued, “they’ve forgotten most of the plot. But if it was a good story, they remember the characters.”

I knew, as a mystery reader, that this rang true.

But why is it true? my inquisitive, analytical little mind asked. I’m not sure I have the definitive answer to that question, but here are my thoughts.

People walking on sidewalk

photo by Linda Bartlett, public domain, Wikimedia Commons

We are surrounded by two things every day. One, we are surrounded by ordinary people–butchers, bakers and candlestick makers (maybe not so many of them anymore), doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs (yes, I actually do know an Indian chief).

Two, unfortunately in American society today, we are also surrounded by violence.

I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, which hovers around #12 on the list of worst crime cities in the country (after the recent riots, it may make it back into the top ten). When in Maryland visiting friends and family, my husband and I refer to the local Baltimore news broadcast as the “litany of murders.”

Okay, before you decide to click over to some less depressing blog, I am going to lighten up here.

So why in the world are murder mysteries and thrillers in the top three genres in fiction? (And they’ve been there for a long time!)

Cover of Black Mask magazine featuring the Maltese Falcon

Sept, 1929 issue of Black Mask magazine

Why do we turn to murder–that depressing, gruesome thing we hear about every night on the evening news–when we want to relax and be entertained?

Because we, as ordinary people, are fascinated by the idea of extraordinary things happening to other ordinary people like us. We want to see how the characters deal with the murder. If we find the characters engaging, if we can relate to them, then we are hooked.

When the everyday-person, could-be-you- or-me protagonist in a mystery is brave and daring, we are empowered. When s/he is scared, we swallow a lump in our own throats. When s/he is sad, our eyes tear up.

We project ourselves into these ordinary people who are struggling with out-of-the-ordinary situations. We are proud of their successes, mournful for their losses, terrified by the risks they must take, and relieved beyond measure when they are okay in the end.

We can experience these emotions and live through these experiences vicariously, without the real-life repercussions of such events. And often we grow a little and are strengthened, as the characters we have become immersed in are challenged and must grow or die.

In the past, when people have asked me why I love to read mysteries, I have said, “Because they are as far away from my own life as I can get. They are great escapes.” This is true, since I’m not in the habit of stumbling over dead bodies.

But I now realize that this statement is not the whole truth. I love mysteries because they are about people like me, but in situations unlike those I normally encounter in daily life. I love to see how these people (i.e., me) deal with the challenges of extraordinary events.

These are my thoughts. What are yours? Why do you love mysteries? Do you agree or disagree that they are mainly about the characters?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Best Way to Resolve Conflict

by Kassandra Lamb

A couple weeks ago, I posted about how to handle bullies, those who promote conflict for its own sake to make themselves feel better about themselves.

But what about more everyday conflicts? What’s the best way to handle all those times when we find ourselves locking horns with someone who has no more desire to fight than we do?

I saw this approach to handling conflict in a video in graduate school many (many, many) years ago. It’s stuck with me ever since. I, in turn, taught it to my psychology students. They often came back with reports of how well it worked with bosses, boyfriends/girlfriends, parents, etc. I think it is the absolute best approach to conflict resolution.

This angry lioness is assuming the other lioness is encroaching on her territory and will somehow keep her from getting her needs met. (photo by Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0)

This angry lioness is assuming the other lioness is encroaching on her territory and will somehow keep her from getting her needs met. (photo by Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia)

First, let’s realize what conflict is all about. It occurs when two beings assume that their needs/desires are mutually exclusive of the other’s needs/desires. “If you get what you want, then I won’t get what I want” is the underlying belief. But often, if we can stop fighting long enough to analyze the situation more carefully, we will discover that there is a solution that meets both parties’ needs.

This process makes that possible.

Here are the four steps, then I’ll give an example.

  • DISENGAGE:  This is the old “count to ten” adage. Separate yourself physically from the other person and take as long as it takes for both of you to calm down.
  • EMPATHIZE: This is more than just acknowledging the other person’s feelings. It’s truly putting yourself in their shoes and realizing how you would feel (in most cases, we discover we would feel the same as they do).
  • NEEDS ASSESSMENT: What does each party REALLY need? This requires digging beneath the surface. What the person is asking for/demanding may not be what they really need. Often it is what they think will satisfy their needs, when something else will also do so, and perhaps better.
  • SOLUTION: Look for a solution that satisfies each party’s needs COMPLETELY. Often we are told that in order to resolve conflict, we have to compromise, i.e., each party gives up something to get part of what they want. Well, sometimes that’s true. Most times, however, there is a solution available that gives both parties all of what they want. But we have to look for it.

The first step is the easiest of them. Steps 2 and 3 are harder, especially if you do them right and really dig beneath the surface. But if those steps are done properly, often step 4 isn’t all that hard.

Here’s the example I used with my psychology classes. For anyone who ever dated, it will strike a chord. Most of us have been there, on one side of the dispute or the other.

Jane and Phil, both full-time college students with part-time jobs, have been dating for several months and have committed to an exclusive relationship. More and more often lately, they have been fighting over how much time Phil is willing to spend with Jane.

Jane says: “I feel like you don’t appreciate me. You want me when you want me, but the rest of the time you expect me to sit on a shelf, waiting for your phone call. I feel like you don’t love me as much as I love you.”

Phil replies: “I do love you, but that doesn’t mean we have to be joined at the hip. I need some time to myself sometimes, and time to hang out with the guys. I’m starting to feel smothered here.”

My students had little trouble coming up with a way for them to Disengage. Their best suggestion was that Phil and Jane should take a day or two off from each other, and then make a date to sit down and talk about the problem when they were both calm, rather than when emotions were already running high.

young couple sitting apart on bench

photo by Elizabeth Ashley Jerman CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

When I’d ask about the Empathize step, I’d almost always get this response: “That’s easy too. Phil is feeling smothered and Jane is feeling neglected.”

“No,” I told them. “That’s not good enough. They each have to step into the other’s shoes. Phil needs to imagine how he would feel if half the time he wanted to get together with Jane she said she’d rather be doing something else.”

The students admitted that he would probably feel neglected.

It’s a little tougher to get Jane to empathize with Phil. The question for her is: “How would you feel if Phil wanted to be with you every waking moment, even when you want to wash your hair or when a friend calls for a heart-to-heart talk?”

I’d ask the class: “Ladies, have you ever had a boyfriend who was clingy and always wanted to be with you?” At least half the female students would raise their hands (as would I since I did indeed have a couple boyfriends like that).

“Drove you crazy after a while, didn’t it?” I’d ask. They’d all nod. “Jane has to imagine this scenario and realize she’d feel smothered too.”

Now for the toughest step in the model, the Needs Assessment!

Phil is relatively easy. He has stated his need–for more alone time and time with his friends (assuming he isn’t intimacy-phobic and just using this as an excuse…hmm, another good idea for a blog post. *stops to jot that down*)

Jane is tougher. On the surface she’s saying she needs more time with him, but look again at her words about her feelings. She feels unappreciated and wonders if he loves her as much as she loves him. So is it more time with him that she really needs?

There would always be a pregnant pause in the classroom at this point. Then someone would get it. “She needs reassurance that he loves her.”

“Bingo! Now for the Solution. How can Phil give her that reassurance without spending more time with her? Because that does not meet his needs.”

The ideas would fly around the room. “Text ‘I love u’ or ‘thinking of u’ several times a day.” “Buy her flowers.” “Leave her little notes to find, like in her textbooks or on the windshield of her car.” (That one is my favorite!)

Jane might even be content with less of Phil’s time, if he’s giving her these reassurances of his affection.

This process works like a charm most of the time. If you remember to use it (which I often don’t, sadly).

What do you think of it? How do you tend to deal with disputes?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

BULLIES

by Kassandra Lamb

Bullies have been on my mind lately for two reasons. One, they play a role in both of the stories I’ve been working on lately, one of which is releasing today (more on that in a moment).

Two, a friend of mine has been dealing with one lately–a forty-something adolescent who thinks it’s okay to disturb the peace in the neighborhood and harass those neighbors who object to his behavior.

Wikibully (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Wikibully (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

What motivates bullies?

I’ve wondered about that ever since first grade, when I was playing on the school playground by myself one day and an older girl–probably a fourth or fifth grader–came at me out of the blue and shoved me to the ground.

I wasn’t hurt and she walked away again as quickly as she’d come, so I didn’t even have time to feel scared. I was mainly just shook up. But I can still see her angry, sneering face in my mind’s eye, after all these decades.

I was amazed that some stranger wanted to do that to me. And I still am.

The other thing that amazes me is the frequent response to bullying expressed by those in authority–that the parties involved should “work it out amongst themselves.” This shows a total ignorance of how bullies operate. They count on others abiding by the rules, as they blatantly break them.

Here’s the dictionary definition of bullying: using superior strength, influence or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

Let me put on my psychologist hat for a moment and try to explain the motivation of bullies. They are insecure people who have figured out that they feel better about themselves when they are lording it over others. The problem is that their insecurities run very deep. So like a drug, this “fix” of power through intimidation of others only feels good for a brief time. Then their insecurities come roaring back, and they have to compensate again and again by bullying somebody.

Trying to “work it out” with them is often viewed as a sign of weakness, and eggs them on instead. (If you’re thinking “That doesn’t make any sense,” then congratulations, you do not think like a bully!)

This was my friend’s experience (we’ll call him Bill) when he confronted the neighbor who was racing his unlicensed four-wheelers, with no mufflers, on the vacant lots and streets of their rural neighborhood. Bill’s complaints about the noise, exhaust fumes and potential fire hazard (flames were coming out of the exhaust pipes while being driven through winter-dry underbrush), were met with the proclamation that the neighbor (we’ll call him Jack) “would ride wherever and whenever he damned well pleased.”

Jack then started intentionally riding around in circles on the lot next to Bill’s house for hours on the weekends.

So Bill bought the lot (he been thinking about doing so for other reasons anyway).

Jack reacted poorly to the new fence and “no trespassing” signs on the property. He intentionally ran into the fence, yelled at and shoved Bill. Jack then raced his unlicensed vehicles up and down the paved, county road in front of Bill’s house and on the other vacant lots beyond the one Bill had bought.

Other neighbors gathered and were flabbergasted by this man’s childish behavior. Bill took pictures of these events and then called the county sheriff’s department.

The sad part of the story was the deputies’ response. These were not bad cops. They were trying to do their jobs as they thought best. Which is the saddest part of all. This is a typical response by authorities to bullies, unless and until the victim is seriously hurt. And this response allows bullies to continue to do their thing.

To the report of the shove: “Did he knock you down? Were you hurt?”
“No.”
“Well, then we can’t do anything.”

(Note: Bill is 66 years old; Jack is in his mid 40s. So it’s okay for people to intentionally shove senior citizens as long as they aren’t hurt?)

To the report of him riding his unlicensed vehicles on county roads: “We have to see it ourselves in order to ticket him.” This, despite the fact that Bill had pictures; the deputies wouldn’t even look at them.

To the report of Jack running into his fence and intentionally tearing up the property just beyond it: They pointed out to the neighbor that he had no right to damage others’ property.

Then they told my friend he should “work this out” with his neighbor. Bill’s response was that this had already been attempted and they were now long past that point.

Bill persisted and finally the officers went to talk to the neighbor. Jack has been marginally less obnoxious since then.

Say no to bullying (image by Andrevruas CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Say no to bullying (image by Andrevruas CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Again, I’m not trying to paint the deputies as bad cops. I suspect they thought they were handling the situation appropriately.

But these attitudes have to change if we are going to put a stop to bullying in our society. We need to “Just Say No” to bullies. In other words, those in a position to do so need to stand up to bullies and make them cut it out!

This is for the bullies’ sake as well as the victims. Until a bully learns that s/he can’t deal with insecurity by being a bully, they won’t even try to deal with it any other way.

Here are some tips for how to handle bullies.

How to advise a child who is being bullied or who witnesses bullying:
1.  Calmly walk away if you can. Tell someone. Parents, teachers, coaches. Keep telling people until someone listens and takes action.

2.  Know that you are not a wimp, sissy, weakling or loser no matter what the bullies say. Don’t let insecure bullies define who you are!

3.  If you are being physically attacked, yell and make as much noise as possible. Bullies don’t like to get caught.

4.  If you are being verbally attacked, walk away. Don’t hit the bully no matter how tempting it may be. Some bullies intentionally egg others into violence, then report them to school authorities as if they were the innocent victim. Report their verbal bullying to teachers, etc.

5.  If you witness bullying, don’t laugh. That just eggs the bullies on and it isn’t TV or a movie– a real person is being hurt, either emotionally, physically or both. Indeed, don’t stick around at all; don’t give the bully an audience. Instead, go find an adult to intervene.

For adults encountering an adult bully:
1.  Don’t show your fear. Try to maintain a demeanor of calm and confidence.

2.  Get away from them if you can, without significantly compromising your own needs, rights and desires. Ignoring a bully sometimes takes the wind out of his sails.

3.  If you stand up to them (my preference), do it quickly, calmly and firmly.

4.  Give them an out to save face if possible. Don’t back them into a corner if you can help it.

5.  Try reverse psychology. Ask them to do the exact opposite of what you want. You want them to go away, so invite them to sit down and talk things over.

6.  Call the authorities and keep pushing until you get results.

Adults dealing with grown-up bullies is the subject of my new novella, Ten-Gallon Tensions in Texas, which officially releases today. It is just 99 cents for today and tomorrow only! It goes up to $1.99 on 3/25/15.

Please check it out and then talk to me in the comments. Have you ever been bullied? What strategies for dealing with bullies have you found effective?

cover of Ten-Gallon Tensions in TexasTen-Gallon Tensions in Texas, A Kate on Vacation Mystery

Town secrets, an old nemesis, a corpse–what else will show up at Skip’s high school reunion in Texas?

When Kate and her husband arrive in his hometown for the event, they discover that new disputes have been heaped on top of old animosities. Tempers flare, fists fly, and before the evening is out, Skip stumbles upon a dead body.

Fortunately the town’s sheriff is an old buddy of his, but will that keep him from becoming a prime suspect? Trying to uncover the real murderer leads Kate and Skip to uncover long- buried secrets instead, and their names just might end up on the killer’s must-die list.

Also, the 1st two books in the series, An Unsaintly Season in St. Augustine and Cruel Capers on the Caribbean, will be 99 cents through the end of the March.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series and the Kate on Vacation mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Forgiving My Body — #BOAW2015

by Kassandra Lamb

This post is part of The Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest, sponsored by the marvelous August McLaughlin. After you read this, hop on over to her site for some other great BOAW2015 posts–some that are funny, some that are serious, some that are some of both. And there are prizes! Woot!!

BOAW2015 logo

logo by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson

Why is it that we so often fail to appreciate what we have until we lose it?

Unlike way too many women in our society, I have always had a fairly decent body image. I know I’m no beauty but I haven’t broken a mirror yet.

The fact that I didn’t disliked my body was borderline miraculous since I didn’t like my inner self all that much during my high school and college years. But in my youth, I took my health and my natural slenderness for granted.

After a round of therapy in my early twenties, I learned to love myself. But I still tended to take my body for granted.

Me at 30, with my 3-year-old son.

Me at 30, with my 3-year-old son.

I was blessed with a high metabolic rate that gave me lots of energy and allowed me to eat just about anything without worrying too much about my weight. Occasionally, I’d get close to my “panic weight” and I would go on a moderate weight-loss diet for a week or two and get it back down.

In case you’re starting to hate me about now, read on…

At age thirty, I became a therapist and started counseling women who were struggling to feel good about themselves and their bodies. I finally realized–intellectually at least–how lucky I was to have both a high metabolism and a healthy attitude toward my body. But emotionally I still didn’t completely get it.

In my late thirties, I developed symptoms that pointed toward early menopause. My doctor ran some tests. It turned out that Graves disease (i.e. a hyperactive thyroid), not menopause, was causing my hot flashes, dizzy spells and muscle fatigue.

For the next three years, I struggled with this disease. Medications had little effect. My endocrinologist recommended having my thyroid removed. I resisted, not wanting to be dependent on synthetic hormones for the rest of my life.

I had more and more problems with muscle fatigue. I would start a project on the horse farm we owned at the time, and halfway through it I’d become so weak I could hardly walk. I was forced to give up the Aikido lessons I loved.

My now over-revved metabolism kept me awake at night, leaving me tired but jittery during the day. I described it at the time as my engine racing but I couldn’t get it to go into gear so I could actually accomplish anything.

For the first time in my life, I hated my body. It had betrayed me. I was still relatively young–just over forty–and yet most women in their fifties had more energy than I did.

Finally I gave in and agreed to the thyroidectomy. This is done via radioactive iodine that gradually destroys the thyroid. For the next six months, as my thyroid tissue diminished, I fluctuated between hypothyroidism (low hormone levels) and what my doctor defined as normal.

But it didn’t feel all that normal to me. Each time the hypothyroid symptoms would become noticeable (weight gain, fatigue, hair falling out), the doctor would increase the dose of my synthetic hormones.

Age 50, at my son's college graduation

Age 50, at my son’s college graduation.

But each time this happened, I gained a few more pounds before things stabilized again. By the time all was said and done, I was 45 pounds overweight. And my “new normal” was a lot less energetic than I was used to being.

Eventually, I came to three realizations. One, slender was a thing of the past. My goal weight is now 15 pounds higher than my “panic” weight was in my youth. Two, I had to adjust to my new energy level if I wanted to enjoy life again. And three, I had to forgive my body, and in order to do that I had to face the anger I felt toward it.

I knew as a therapist that you can’t just talk yourself out of feeling a certain way. Emotions must be acknowledged and vented, no matter how illogical they are, before they will dissipate. So I finally let myself fully admit how pissed I was at my body.

Finally, my anger ran its course and that cleared the way to adjustment. I faced the fact that the reserve tank of energy, that most people can tap into when needed, just wasn’t there for me anymore. I learned to pace myself–to allow recovery time in between demands on my energy.

I grew to be okay with my body again, not necessarily loving it, but not hating it either. For the better part of two decades, I assumed that was as good as it would get–a truce between me and my body.

Only recently have I realized that instead of taking my body for granted, I had started to ignore it, pretending that it wasn’t really “me.”

A year ago I decided that, for health reasons, I needed to lose some of the excess weight. (I had lost weight a few times before but it would gradually creep back up; my body is the poster child for set-point theory.) This time I needed to lose it gradually so my set point would adjust along the way. I doubled my exercise and moderately decreased my calorie intake.

The plan is working. I’ve got ten pounds left to go. And I’m enjoying the increased energy (still not what it used to be) and I’m feeling healthier overall.

But recently I started to feel something else again. And this is the main reason I decided to write this post.

I’m starting to feel connected to my body again. It is part of “me” again. And I realized it always has been, whether I liked it or not. By ignoring it emotionally, I was deadening myself to part of myself.

I feel good about being in my body again. I feel lighter (emotionally as well as physically) and happier.

For many years as a counselor, I preached to my clients that one’s worth does not come from one’s packaging but from what is inside that package. I still believe that, but I’ve come to realize that our physical well-being is definitely tied to our emotional well-being.

It’s all “part of the package”–inside and out!

Have you ever felt betrayed by your body? Were you able to forgive it eventually?

(Don’t forget to check out the other BOAW2015 posts!)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Cruisin’ the Blogosphere (and a Contest)

by Kassandra Lamb

book cover

I’m gallivanting around cyberspace over the next couple weeks on a blog tour for my new thriller, Fatal Forty-Eight. And I’ve got a contest going through the 8th of December! (see below)

Here’s the remainder of the schedule:

Tuesday, Dec. 2Marcy Kennedy’s placeSometimes Truth is Weirder than Fantasy

Thursday, Dec. 4Jennifer Jensen’s blogThe Story Behind the Story

Saturday, Dec. 6 –Sue Pilski’s Between the Pages & Beyond — an Author Q & A

(I’m postponing the post on Are Psychopaths Born or Made? until after the holidays)

The stops in the blog tour that have already happened (please stop by and check them out):

Joanne Guidoccio’s Second Act SeriesConflicting Passions

CC Andrew’s Writers Who Read seriesKassandra Lamb

Jami Gold’s blogThe Psychology of Emotions

K.B. Owen’s blogCriminal Minds and the History of the FBI

And now to the contest:

silver charmTo celebrate the release of Book 7 in the Kate Huntington Mystery series, I’m holding a contest. Sign up here to win prizes! You can enter multiple times.

Win a $20 Amazon gift card, a silver charm or key chain (winner’s choice) and a signed paperback copy of any of the Kate Huntington full-length novels (again, winner’s choice).

key chainThe contest runs through December 5th! The winner will be announced the following week. (If the winner is outside the U.S./Canada, a gift card of comparable value may be substituted.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is Your Brain on Stress (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

Eeck! I just realized I have no post written for today. The other misterio authors will tell you that isn’t like me. I’m organized to the point of being annoying obsessed awe-inspiring.

I’m pretty stressed out right now, getting ready to launch a new book, and I am NOT one of those people who thrives on stress and deadlines (which is why I try to be organized waaay in advance).

So I decided that an appropriate “encore” post for today would be one that I posted almost two years ago. It explains why some of us thrive under pressure and others, like me, collapse in a little puddle.  ~~~

Why is it that some of us perform better under pressure while others are more likely to buckle under the load? Was it how the person was raised? Were they taught to believe in themselves? Did their parents and teachers push them to keep trying when they encountered obstacles?

We tend to assume that one’s ability to work well under stress is a function of character. But that’s not what brain research is telling us. It may be much more about differences in how our brains work–differences that are dictated by genetics.

A PET scan of a brain showing a very high level of activity (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists have identified a specific gene, the COMT gene, that may dictate more than anything else whether we are the ‘push through the stress and shine’ type of person, or the one who collapses on the floor and feels like a failure when the load gets too heavy.

This may sound like bad news, but I’m not sure it is. Knowing that something is beyond our control can help us figure out a work-around. More on the real-life ramifications of this in a minute. First, let me try to boil the research down into a few paragraphs so I don’t bore you to tears.

This COMT gene controls how quickly a certain neurotransmitter, dopamine, is removed from a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain where our most complex reasoning occurs–problem-solving, moral decisions, conflict resolution, anticipating long-term consequences, etc.

Brainstorming with the prefrontal cortex

(Okay, it’s a lame cartoon. Give me a break. it’s hard to make the brain funny!)

Dopamine is the brain chemical that helps us think clearly by inhibiting unwanted thoughts and allowing us to concentrate. But to do this, it has to be at optimal levels. Too little and we are overwhelmed and distracted by random thoughts. Too much and the thoughts we want to focus on are also inhibited, i.e., our brains are too shut down.

There are two versions of this COMT gene, one that clears dopamine away slowly and one that removes it quickly (it’s originally released by the neurons, i.e., nerve cells, in the brain). Under normal circumstances, people with the rapid-removal version are at a disadvantage; their dopamine levels are often too low. The folks with the slow-removal version often have an advantage, and do better in school for example, because overall their prefrontal cortex thinks more clearly.

However, things change when you introduce high stress levels.

The study that tied all this together was done in Taiwan where researchers determined which gene was present in 779 junior high school students who were about to take a difficult entrance exam that would determine the quality of high school education they would receive.

The students with the slow-removal gene tended to have higher grades in school than those with the fast-removal gene. But when the stress of this high-stakes test flooded their prefrontal cortex with dopamine, their brains couldn’t remove it fast enough. Now their thinking was impaired by too much dopamine.

The fast-removal students (the ones with the lower grades in school) scored an average of 8 percentage points higher than the slow-removal students on this test. Their brains could handle the stress better, get rid of the excess dopamine, and allow them to excel.

(from en.wikipedia, public domain)

So what are the real-life implications of this? If something is genetically programmed, we can’t change it, but we can learn to cope with it and work around it.

If you were one of those kids who crashed and burned on big tests and class presentations, or if you have a child who falls into this category, you should find it comforting to know that this is not a character flaw. Knowing something is not our fault can help us be more matter-of-fact about dealing with it. It is what it is.

So how do we deal with it?

1. Stop beating up on yourself for not coping well with pressure. You’re not dumb, morally deficient or mentally ill. Your brain just works differently than those who thrive on stress.

2. Be selective about the types of situations you expose yourself to. Forcing yourself to deal with high-stakes situations is a set-up for disaster. For example, marketing, where you have to give make-or-break presentations to clients on a regular basis, may not be the best career choice.

I suspect that both my son and I have the slow-dopamine-removal gene. We both got good grades in school but tended to score rather mediocre on high-stakes standardized tests like the SAT.

My son had his heart set on a certain college. But his SAT scores were not high enough to get a merit scholarship despite his almost 4.0 GPA. At our insistence, he took the test again, without much improvement (despite tutoring beforehand).

If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have insisted that he take the SAT a second time. I would have gone immediately to our alternate plan. We found a couple other schools that did not place as much importance on SAT scores. He got accepted into the honors program at one of them, and received a scholarship!

3. Use stress management and relaxation techniques to help lower your stress level, and thus your dopamine production, in high-pressure situations.

More on how to do this are in these posts: Relaxation Made Easy and When Does a Stressor Become a Stressor?

So talk to me. How well do you perform under pressure? Do you think you are a fast-dopamine-removal or slow-dopamine-removal person?

How can we help our kids adjust and learn to cope if they tend to fold under pressure?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Two-Sided Sword of Ambition

by Kassandra Lamb and K.B. Owen

I woke up the other morning with the subject of K.B. Owen’s new release, Unseemly Ambition, on my mind. My muse had apparently spent the night pondering the question: What happens when ambition, normally a good thing, is no longer reined in by a conscience?

When we say someone is an ambitious young man or woman, that’s meant as a compliment. We’re saying that they are going to work hard in life and probably accomplish great things. And if we say that someone “lacks ambition,” we’re putting them down, indicating that they are practicing one of the seven deadly sins: sloth. They are being lazy, cruising through life. We may even view it as an intrinsic flaw in their character.

1725 engraving of "The Lazy Student"

“The Lazy Student” 1725 copper engraving by Johann Georg Puschner

A synonym for ambition might be goal, or even dream. And we’re supposed to have goals and dreams. The only times in life when someone is allowed to not be ambitious are childhood and retirement. And even then, although it’s not expected, we still applaud ambition when it occurs.

Many of my younger writer friends complain about the reactions they sometimes get from others (sometimes even total strangers). Some people tell them to “stop wasting their time” and “get a real job.” These critics don’t see writing as a worthy ambition. “You’re just sitting around all day writing.” As if crafting words were the same as eating bonbons.

I have never gotten that reaction. When people ask me what I’m up to these days and I tell them, their response is always positive. “Wow, that’s so cool!” Why? Because I’m retired from two previous careers as a psychotherapist and college professor. So I’ve already fulfilled the requirement to be ambitious. Now, my efforts to write are seen as a bonus ambition!

But ambition has a dark side. What happens when one is so obsessed by their ambitions that they become ruthless?

I’m reminded of a famous incident 20 years ago, when those close to a champion figure skater conspired to take out the competition via a physical attack. In 1994, Tonya Harding’s ex-husband and her bodyguard hired a man to attack Nancy Kerrigan and break her leg. Their ambitions were successful in the short term. Kerrigan was forced to withdraw from the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, leaving the path open for Tonya Harding to win that event.

Stamp of Azerbaijan--Nancy Kerrigan skating

1994 Azerbaijan Republic stamp honoring Nancy Kerrigan

Kerrigan, fortunately, recovered from the attack, her leg only bruised rather than broken. She continued her career and won or placed in other champion-ships, including winning a silver medal in the 1994 Olympics.

Those who had engineered the attack ended up in prison, and Harding avoided jail time only by pleading guilty to hindering the prosecution of those men. Her career was over. The U.S. Figure Skating Association conducted their own investigation and determined that she knew about the attack in advance. They stripped her of her 1994 Championship title and banned her from skating.

In this case, the overly ambitious were caught and punished, and their intended victim recovered relatively unscathed, but that doesn’t always happen in the real world. Indeed, when we stop and think about it, much of the evil in the world is perpetrated by those who have crossed the line to the dark side of ambition.

When ambition is no longer balanced by ethics and compassion for others, it becomes ugly… and unseemly. But fortunately, in both the real world and in fiction, there are those who are willing to stand up to the overly ambitious, such as K.B. Owen’s intrepid Concordia Wells.

Your thoughts on the two-edged sword of ambition? Have you ever felt its bite? Talk to us in the comments, but first here’s K.B. to tell you more about her new book, and a contest. Woot!! (Psst, it’s okay to have the ambition to be one of the twelve winners. Make sure you enter multiple times. That’s allowed.)

Hi, K.B. here. So excited to tell you about Concordia’s latest adventure…

book cover UNSEEMLY AMBITION, A Concordia Wells Mystery
by K.B. Owen

A murder…a missing boy…a secret society’s bold and deadly plot.

It is 1898, and Professor Concordia Wells turns to an old ally when her good friend, the eleven-year-old Eli, disappears after his mother’s murder. Complicating Concordia’s desperate search for answers is the ever-watchful college dean, who has recently learned of her past “lady sleuth” doings. It also doesn’t help that Concordia’s own school colleagues are not above suspicion.

Despite the dean’s close scrutiny, the lady professor presses on with her unseemly inquiries. Far more people are in jeopardy than the loved ones she seeks to protect, and now there is no turning back.

Available at:     AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE      KOBO     SMASHWORDS

And in paperback as well!

Ready for a little “Unseemly” giveaway?

We’re ready to celebrate the recent release of the new Concordia Wells mystery, Unseemly Ambition, and we want you to party with us!

K.B. Owen mysteries logoPrizes: ebooks from the series, a signed paperback, promo goodies (Post-It pads, candy tins), and even the opportunity for folks to collaborate with K.B. to name a character or pick a distinctive trait for a character in book #4, Unseemly Haste! She’ll be randomly drawing twelve winners overall. If any of the winners live outside the United States or Canada, she’ll substitute a gift card to Amazon because of the prohibitive postage for certain items.

When: between now and January 31, 2014. Winners will be announced on February 6, 2014.

How to get your name in the drawings (choose from any or all of these): 

1. subscribe to K.B.’s newsletter (those who have already subscribed will have their names automatically entered);

2. write a review on Amazon or BN for any of the Concordia books (your name will be entered TWICE for each review, and if you’ve already left a review in the past, drop her a line to confirm that you want her to enter your name in the giveaway, either in the comments or email: contact@kbowenmysteries.com);

3. send her a pic of yourself (to the address above) with any of the Concordia books (on your e-reader or in print)…or, if you feel camera-shy, send her a pic of one of the books “in the wild.” She’d love to see where Concordia has traveled to! She’ll post them on her Unseemly Readers page;

4. leave a comment on today’s blog post, and any she writes at kbowenmysteries.com. There will also be the opportunity to comment on upcoming guest posts K.B. writes (to be announced).

Remember, your name can be entered more than once, so participating in multiple ways will increase your chances of winning!

 K.B. Owen is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 4 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.