Self-Help: How Women Can Better Self-Nurture (cont.)

Moderator: How important is one's childhood in determining how capable she is of self-nurture?

Domar: I think it's somewhat important. I've certainly seen patients in the last few years who had childhoods which made them feel completely unable to self-nurture, often, the oldest daughter of large families. And everyone can learn. For a lot of people, it's a tremendous relief that goes along races, ages, levels of socioeconomic status. It's a woman thing.

Moderator: How did you start on this self-nurture teachings?

Domar: I've been teaching mind/body for a while. At one of my first groups in 1987, my co-leader was sick and the subject matter we were supposed to cover was too difficult for me to do by myself. And, he said, "teach what you feel comfortable teaching." So, I thought that the one thing missing from our curriculum was teaching women how to be kind to themselves and take care of themselves. But it's no coincidence that I started writing this book when my daughter was 4 months old, because becoming a mother really puts the self-nurturing issue into focus.

Moderator: Explain the relationship quadrant for us.

Domar: Basically, if you are in a relationship with somebody, and let's say it's a relationship between a woman and a man, both of you have two states of being, either okay or not okay, Which means there are four possible options, you're okay, he's okay, which is great. You're okay, he's not okay, which means you're still fine. You're not okay, he's okay, which means you're still fine. Or, the dangerous quadrant, you're not okay, he's not okay! And, this is the one you want to identify and work on preventing. And the example I gave in the book, or one of several, was of a couple that I had been seeing who were separated and they identified their quadrant, her two states were either scattered or together. And he was either a nice guy or a jerk. What they found was that three quarters of the time, they were fine. But when she was in a scattered phase and he was being a jerk, they got into trouble. So they worked on identifying and preventing that dangerous quadrant. So, he became a jerk (he was a lawyer in a trial) and she became scattered when she said yes to too many people. So they realized that if he had a trial coming up, she needed to say 'no' more often, or if she was in a scattered phase, he had to work really hard not to be a jerk when he got home. And it worked, identifying that quadrant. I've used it with numerous couples.

Moderator: This must mean that these couples are great communicators. Most couples aren't. How does this work?

Domar: You don't actually need both of them to do this. Most people in a relationship know the two states and you can figure out your own. The key is to figure out that danger quadrant and try to avoid it. It also works with kids and parents. I've found out the hard way that she's (my daughter) is obnoxious or cooperative and I'm impatient or patient. So, if she's in an obnoxious mood, I need to work hard to stay patient and if I'm in an impatient mood, I need to work hard with activities to keep her from getting into an obnoxious mood.

Moderator: How does self-nurturing work for single women, especially women who want to be in relationships?

Domar: Because it's so hard to be single -- I was single for a long time and hated it -- I encourage single women to write down their thoughts and feelings. A lot of them time we project our pathologies into new relationships and that doesn't help. So if you can get some of your craziness out on paper, you won't need to subject a new man to it. I fact, the very first time I tried this with a single woman, she found it such a relief to write about her insecurities and hopes and dreams and all the things she didn't want to talk about with a man on the first few dates. And she found very quickly she could enter into a healthy relationship and got married rather quickly.

Moderator: What would you say to someone who thinks the connection between mind and body to be overstated, and not important enough to solve major health problems (i.e., infertility)?

Domar: I think there is a reality in terms of there is SOME mind/body connection. Anybody who's ever watched a scary movie and noticed their heart speed up has to acknowledge that's a mind/body connection. Your brain is watching the movie, but your body is responding. I think there's a huge danger in overestimating the impact the mind can have on the body. I think that this came up in the 70's when cancer patients were taught imagery techniques and encouraged to imagine that their white blood cells were like Pac Men and could "eat up" the cancer cells. The danger of such an approach is that your average cancer patient can do imagery perfectly and yet not be able to heal themselves. And, then will feel guilty that they clearly didn't do the imagery right. I strongly believe that most disease has an organic basis. I also believe that stress can make many diseases worse. And so why not learn mind/body techniques to improve your sense of comfort? If it happens to reduce your physical symptoms, so much the better! I would never allow a patient of mine to pursue mind/body techniques rather than traditional modern medicine. It's always in conjunction. I think the best medicine is a combination of the two approaches.