Saturday, June 7, 2014

Getting Jennifer Lopez Unstuck: JLo and the brain

Recently I was asked what I would say to Jennifer Lopez in light of her recent break-up from Casper Smart.  Here is my answer:


1.  The bad news is that your children will be effected by this break-up. While you may have grown tired of Casper Smart, your kids didn't have that luxury.  Young children don't have a clear understanding of why or how someone is here today and gone tomorrow.  So even if he was just a bit player in their lives, his absence from their home will be felt.  If Casper is quickly replaced by the next yokel that switch will further compound their confusion.  I would advise you not to introduce the twins to new boyfriends until June 2015.  And then, only introduce them to men that you have been seeing for more than six months.   

2.  According to the April issue of InStyle Magazine, you have said:

"Look, I don't love being alone. I don't. I can't beat myself up for that. What I have to do is figure out why I don't like it. Why am I not OK being alone? And can I ever be OK facing that?" 

Please do NOT beat yourself up.  Actually, the "why" is not even important. The bottom line is that we are pre-programed not to be alone. Its in our DNA, our brains, and in our nervous systems. Alone meant death to our ancestors. Humans survived for thousands of years by sticking together. And, women survived by having physically strong partners who could protect and feed us (and our young).  My guess is that the idea of "being alone" (uncoupled) triggers an unconscious fight/flight/freeze response in your nervous system.  That reaction puts you in an anxious or dysregulated state that is relieved when you put a man in the picture.  However, this is a vicious cycle since you are picking your men with you reptile brain's survival instincts and your limbic system's hormone wash.  If instead, you were picking men using the reason and logic of your neo-cortex you would make much better choices.   

3.  Want to get unstuck, break the patterns, and become comfortable with the concept of being alone?  (Comfortable with the concept of being alone means knowing that you will be safe even if you are alone. When you feel really safe (without a man) you will be able to use the reasoning and logic of the neo-cortex to pick a man.)  Here's the Action Plan I recommend:

(a) Write down the "stories" of your last five relationships.  You are a choreographer.  Put the choreography of your relationships on paper. Then look through them in order to find the patterns and themes that are common in all (or most) of them.  Where were the red flags?  What were these men asking for that they weren't getting?  What were these men saying that you chose to ignore?  When you are done, you will know a lot more about who you what kind of partner you are, what you bring to the table, and where you want to go.  

(b)  Find a therapist who practices Somatic Experiencing.  (The work of Peter Levine.)  This is not talk therapy as we know it.  Instead of talking, you will be able to explore the physical sensations, as well as the pre-verbal/non-verbal experiences, of being alone.  

If you do what you did, you will get what you got.  Please take some time to change your action plan before the next Mr. Wrong happens along. 

Hasta Luego, xoxo, Elinor

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Awakening Your Conscious Conflict Ownership

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” - Anais Nin

Our conflicts are our best teachers.  Few of us grow, change, or learn without conflict.  Conscious Conflict Ownership is the ability to clearly see different aspects of a conflict, including how you created or co-created the situation, where you are, and where you could be.  Like a mirror, Conscious Conflict Ownership, helps you see your blind spots and unconscious patterns.  This reflection allows you to gauge your position and posture, and adjust and improve your standing.

There are four things you can do to increase your Conscious Conflict Ownership.  If you follow these guidelines you will soon be able to grasp the lessons your conflicts provide and incorporate those lessons into your life. 

1.  Take a Step Back and Reflect.  When you step back from conflict you can see the bigger picture and reflect upon your part in its creation.  Doing this will help you develop your insight and critical thinking and increase your willingness to be accountable for your own actions and reactions, rather than blaming others.  When you have time and space, try this two-step exercise:

o   First, write down or otherwise recount the story of a significant conflict you faced from the perspective of the person on the other side.  Think of this as a role play exercise:  you are an actor, playing the role of the other person.  Imagine what this person might say about what they saw, heard, or felt.  Consider all the factors that this person lives with.  Describe how the stressors of their life might have impacted them.  Think of ways that they might justify their actions based on their circumstances.

o   Next, figure out what the two of you have in common.  Is there any place that your goals complement one another?  For instance, in the workplace you may both be perceived as childish or catty if you continue to fight.  If you can put your differences behind you, both of your reputations will benefit.  Knowing that you both want the same thing – for instance, to look good to the boss – doesn’t mean it’s an either/or.  You can both accomplish this goal.  Believing there is enough to go around will enable you to stop fighting for crumbs.

2.  Don’t take it personally.  In “The Four Agreements:  A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” Don Miguel Ruiz, a leader in the conscious awareness community, tells us:

“Don’t take it personally.  Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” 

It’s easy to fall into the take-it-personally trap.  In reality, everyone is focused on their own little world.  Knowing “it’s not about me” allows us to accept things as they are, avoid irritation and hurt, and find a sense of freedom. 

3.  Be aware of your physiology.  Physical sensations and emotions provide important messages.  But we have been programmed to ignore them.  The subtle rumblings of feeling dismissed, discounted, disrespected, disenfranchised, or otherwise devalued can build-up to the point of no return.  However, when you address these sensations, which are actually part of the fight or flight survival response in your nervous system, before you are propelled into explosion, you can avoid conflict drama and come out the winner.

4.  Keep moving forward, with heart.  Acknowledge your mistakes, make positive suggestions for the future, follow up when appropriate, and ultimately learn from (and avoid repeating) your missteps.  When you engage in this forward motion, without harsh self-talk, you will find yourself open to the lessons that your conflicts can provide. 

Yes, aligning your mindset to embrace Conscious Conflict Ownership is no small task.  But, it’s worth the work.  When you are able to look at an existing conflict, see your individual contributions to it, and change your position, attitude, actions, or reactions, you may find that the conflict has gone away entirely, seemingly on its own.  Ultimately, Conscious Conflict Ownership will bring you pay-offs that include improved relationships, a reduction in the amount and intensity of your conflicts, and a better understanding of yourself and your world. 

My Wedding Gift To Kim Kardashian

May 24, 2014

Dear Kim,

Congratulations!!  The third time is a charm!

Marriage is difficult.  Every marriage presents some unique challenges and there are some common sticking points that almost all marriages share.  Read on.  Here is what you need to know as you enter into your new union. 

1.  Marriage is loaded with conflict triggers.  No surprise there.  You’ve been around the block and accumulated some baggage.  Be prepared to sort out on-going questions about joint/individual finances and inner-circle loyalties.  Having survived two divorces it will be easy to fall into the call-it-quits-at-the-first-hint-of-discomfort-trap.  But, I know that a third break-up is NOT what you want.  So you need to be prepared for the inevitable conflict.  Get rid of those happily ever after fantasies and roll up your sleeves for the real world. 

2.  Find a shared vision for your marriage and your future.  Talk about your goals and dreams and be prepared to negotiate the plan that will take you there. 

3.  Figure out and use your love languages.  Which of the five love languages - acts of service, shared time, gifts and money, physical affection, or words of praise - speaks to you?  Which speaks to Kanye?  Make sure you both hear your language on a regular basis.  (See Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate)

4.  Clean-out the clutter.  Items that hold strong emotional charges to your previous life can be intrusive and draining.  Your physical space should be a shared space that you hold together.  Neither of you should feel like a visitor in your home.

5.  Get comfortable holding difficult conversations.  Avoiding tough issues allows them to fester and grow.  Instead, when you are faced with a challenge designate one of you as the speaker (the presenter) and one as the receiver (the listener).  The speaker should speak in the “I” focusing on his/her experience; avoiding blame and fault finding.  The listener’s job is just to listen and understand, not to fix the situation.  If talking is too difficult start off by writing each other letters.

6. Live within your means.  You already know which one of you is “the saver” and which is “the spender.”  Put “the saver” in charge of all joint funds.  Sometimes partners equate money with a sense of value.  So when you are negotiating spending priorities remember that money spent does not represent how much you value one another. 

7. Put each other first – before North, your parents, siblings, friends, and work.  A spouse who feels that they are in second place will ultimately becomes resentful.  And, that resentment eats away at the connection.

8.  Work together as a team.  Marriage works best when the partners don’t see things in terms of a win-lose balance sheet.  A sports team is most successful when everyone pulls together for the common good – so is a marriage.  

9.  Keep your expectations in check.  Don’t expect it to be easy.  Don’t expect Kanye to be perfect. And, don’t expect him to do/say/be what you want him to do/say/be.  Forget your expectations and focus on the positives instead.

Call me if you need a mediator.  Remember I can do a sisters-in-conflict case too.

Best regards, Elinor

Monday, June 2, 2014

Who Wants To Be A Mediator?

Dear Elinor,

I think I am a natural mediator but I do not have a legal background.  How do I become professional mediator?  What kind of time commitment would I need to make to the job?  It is something that I could do in my free time?  Where do I get trained? 

Thanks, Sally

I am often asked about the requirements for becoming a Professional Mediator.  As I see it the best mediators have a natural talent.  I can teach strategies and explain the reasons that certain techniques work, but if a mediation trainee does not have a passion for this work they just go through the motions.  

Here is what I think you need to know about the business of mediation:    

Starting a mediation practice is like starting any other professional practice.  It requires time, energy, and a good marketing plan.  Part of the plan has to be the brand (or the niche).  What would your mediation niche be?  In other words, who is your target market?   

Mediators, in Florida, work in three settings.  Some work in court-annexed programs as either court employees or contractors.  Some work for administrative agencies - again either as employees or contractors.  And, some market themselves within the private sector to attorneys or unrepresented individuals.  

In Florida we are big on using mediation as a component of the litigation process.  Today, most court cases (of all types) are settled in mediation instead of going to trial.  We have not made fantastic progress on using mediation as a stand alone process.  There is great potential if you can figure out a way to promote mediation outside the courthouse.  

Here is what I think you need to know about mediation training:

Often people who attend mediation training simply want to add the credential of Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator to their resumes.  Where else can you find such an impressive credential for $495, 3 days of training, and 2 days of internship?  Sometimes consultants take the training because they want to be able to expand their offerings.  And, sometimes people are sent to the training by their companies/organizations as they can then go back and use their new skill in the workplace.  You can learn more at

Best, Elinor   

Elinor Robin, PhD
Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator and Mediation Trainer