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A Christmas Story


It has been several years since my Dad’s passing but there is one Christmas gift he gave that I remember more than any other.  Years later I still feel enormously grateful for the gift he gave me that never faded, never worn out and never failed to be a gift that sustained me throughout my life. I hope all parents will remember the meaning of this story as you contemplate what to give your children this season.

When I was 9 years old I asked for a Lionel train for Christmas. I wanted that train so much that I couldn’t think of anything else. I dreamed about it day and night, imagining what it would look like speeding along its miniature track. Nobody else in my neighborhood had a Lionel. I would be the first to own one, and that I believed would make me special.

On Christmas morning I woke up when it was still dark and tiptoed past my sleeping brother. The stairs creaked in our apartment so I stayed on the edges, hoping to keep the magic moment to myself. A light was on in the kitchen and I peeked in to see my father sitting at the table, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. He looked up at me, something shifted in my heart and I knew there would be no train under the tree.

Without a word I ran into the living room and stood before the Christmas tree. Blinking back tears and still believing in miracles I hoped the train would just suddenly appear before me. Maybe I missed it, I thought, picking up boxes and shaking them. Maybe it’s in a closet or maybe it’s outside on the porch.

“Arthur.”  My Father’s voice was gentle as he kneeled down next to me. “We could not afford the train. I’m sorry, because I know how much it meant to you.”

He put his hand around my wrist and squeezed, a gesture he used only when he was discussing issues of the utmost importance. “You may not understand what I am about to say now, but someday you will” he said. “On this Christmas morning, with just you and me in this room, I would like to give you a gift far greater than anything money can buy. I want you to know that I will always love you. No matter what happens in your life, I will always be with you, believing in you,supporting you,cheering for you. No father could ever love a son more than I love you, and that love will never rust or need repairs-it will always be yours, now and for the rest of your life.”

I must have given him a look of doubt and perhaps confusion-How can love make up for a Lionel?-for he squeezed my wrist tighter and leaned toward me. I breathed in the familiar, bittersweet odor of Chesterfields and Maxwell House coffee, mixed with plenty of sugar and cream. “Believe me  Arthur,” my father said, “this will come to mean more than any other gift I could give you, I promise you that.”

This Christmas, many years later, it is still the best gift I could have ever received. His love, even after he is gone, lives inside me in a very powerful way. Try to give the gift of eternal love this season, it is truly everlasting.

What is your favorite Christmas Memory? Please share it via comments below.

Connect with me on Twitter @DocAPC

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

Author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience

The Top 10 Ways to Balance Your Success in 2010

  1. Spend less time looking in the mirror and more time improving your character.
  2. Be more focused on being morally correct and less on being politically correct.
  3. Talk less and listen more, suspend your need for recognition and you’ll receive more of what you desire.
  4. Curb your temper, aggression always reveals insecurity, assertion speaks to a desire to resolve difficulties.
  5. Be other focused, give more without calculating your return and rich friendships will follow.
  6. Realize the New Year will bring surprises, something will happen you could never predict, give up the desire to control all outcomes.
  7. Expand your empathy, develop better listening skills and you’ll always attract quality people.
  8. Regularly anticipate what would make those close to you feel special and take action.
  9. Arrogance and entitlement, the “me focus” attitude will leave you alone and in despair.
  10. Always remember that humility and gratitude will bring you respect, love and loyalty from others.

The Amazing Power of Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand and respond to the unique experience of another. In my 30 years of clinical experience, I have learned that empathy is unquestionably the most important capacity for a successful personal and professional life. It facilitates all day-to-day encounters. Empathy is also essential to creating real intimacy and satisfying long term relationships.

Sympathy and empathy are often confused. Sympathy is an involuntary feeling-the passive experience of attempting to console in a general sense.

Empathy is an active process in which you try to learn all you can about another person rather than having only a superficial awareness.

We all have an innate capacity for empathy. When we are not treated with empathy, the capacity atrophies, like a muscle that is not used. When we are treated with empathy, our unique personality honored, we learn to be empathic; the muscle increases in mass and strength.

Here are some guidelines to develop empathy:

Ask open ended questions.

Closed-ended questions limit or manipulate the other person’s answer, automatically introducing a power play. The respondent can choose submissive agreement, combative reaction or sullen refusal to play along.

For example, the closed-ended solution: “Do you think my solution is unreasonable?’ might be answered with “I guess not” or “Yes, as usual” or even stony silence. Whatever the reply, the interaction creates a winner and a loser. There can be no common ground or genuine exchange of information.

The open-ended question, in contrast, “How do you see a solution shaping up?” conveys respect for another’s opinions. It initiates a dialogue that can lead to real communication and understanding.

Slow down.

Easing the pace allows volatile emotions to be tempered with thoughtful reflection. We can then grasp the whole picture, not just a narrow, unconstructive focus.

Avoid snap judgments.

It is natural to categorize behaviors based on our own past experiences. But people constantly change.

Don’t jump to conclusions about anyone’s current mental or emotional state, no matter who you have encountered with similar features or mannerisms.

Obstacles to Empathy

Accusations such as “You always react that way” or “I can read you like a book.” Such statements are a turnoff to others and can block you from discovering the truth.

Pay attention to your body. Our nervous systems talk to each other; some researchers define empathy as a nervous system state which tends to stimulate that of another person. When a mother plays with an infant, their hearts beat in time. When one person raises his voice, the other’s heartbeat speeds up.

Consider past experiences and the current circumstance. Strong emotions often emanate from previous, still-unresolved conflicts. Difficult conditions can also affect behavior. Ask yourself: Am I reacting only to the receptionist’s unfriendly manner or to her strong resemblance to a cold, critical figure from the past.

Is the receptionist curt because she dislikes you or because her demanding boss always overbooks?

Let the story unfold. Of all the skills involved in empathy, listening requires the most concentration. It also rewards you with more productive conversations and greater knowledge. Think how much more open and cooperative you feel when you are truly heard rather than cut off or thoughtlessly categorized.

Strategies for better listening

Become all ears. Letting your mind wander, rehearsing your own words or mentally arguing deafens you to what is being said.

Remain unbiased. We all have stereotypes that interfere with our judgment. The most important “truth” is what you hear in the current moment.

Physical health.

Remember moments of empathic connection reduce tension, lesson release of stress hormones, reduce blood pressure and most importantly widen the lens we see the world with. We ultimately realize we are all more alike than we are different.

What is The Curse of the Capable?

Lady Working

I have been treating high achievers from all walks of life for over 30 years. From single Mom’s rasing three children and working full time, to corporate executives, to professional athletes and media personnel it is about people who keep doing and doing but for some hidden reasons they feel dissapointed in life.  They never quite get to a place where their life is balanced and they don’t usually feel they recieve the love and respect they work so hard to attain. What happens when you do everything you can and you still don’t have a balanced, healthy life? You feel Cursed, don’t you?

Our new book and coaching courses will give you the tools to change your story, drop the weight the past and become liberated from the Curse in the process.

The process consists of four stages that lead to greater health and well being. The first stage is Uncover Your Story, the one that was created from compelling, yet inaccurate informtion and why it’s not serving you. The second stage is Discover the Consequences of Your Story; it describes the concept of Performance Addiction and the thinking that was born out of your fictional story. The third stage is Acknowledge The Six Trials of Adulthood (expectations, regrets and unfulfilled dreams, control, fear, intimacy, and community) that are amplified by this addiction and their effect on your behavior and we conclude with the 4th stage-Change Distored Thinking, which analyzes the distortions in thinking that result from the Curse.

Our Balance Your Success Membership site is launching soon, join us and do the work and you will likely emerge with the level of health you have longed for but never had the guidance to attain.

Connect with me on Twitter @DocAPC

The Power of Empathy

empathy1

The Power of Empathy shows how people can use empathy as an assessment tool in all their relationships. Empathy can signal when people are well-intentioned and when they are deceitful. It can shield people from manipulative strangers and strengthen the bonds between loved ones. It is an emotion that has been overlooked, underused, and misunderstood for too long. Both prescriptive and narrative, The Power of Empathy provides a practical framework for anyone to use empathy to better his or her life.

Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli believes that empathy is the driving force behind love-and that its power goes vastly unrecognized by most people. His book, The Power of Empathy, is an important new resource for people who hope to enrich their emotional lives, improve their communication skills, and explore the spiritual dimensions of the human capacity for love. While traditional relationship books emphasize loving each other and oneself, Ciaramicoli and Ketcham argue that they overlook the critical fact that love itself needs help-and that empathy is the solution.

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