Beauty From The Inside Out

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Do you find yourself doubting your beauty? A recent Dove documentary shows an artist sketching with his back to women as they describe themselves. After first completion of the first sketch the artist draws the women as an acquaintance describes them. The second rendering is strikingly more attractive than the first; participants recognize they see themselves far more negatively than others.  They are more beautiful than they think.

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My great grandmother, Nora Ellen (1862-1945) was a large woman with big hands and somewhat masculine features. When referring to her appearance, she good naturally quoted Ogden Nash’s popular limerick:

I am not good looking, by gar,
Others are handsomer far,
But my face I don’t mind it
For I am behind it;
It’s the fellow in front that I jar.”

What Is Behind Your Face?

How do you feel about your self? Are you constantly worried about what the fellow in front thinks?

Susan Tanner, who served as president of a Young Women Association wrote,Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.53.36 PM

“I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body, which was giving me so much grief. But over and over again my good mother said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”  Susan learned to forget the outside appearance and focus on others.

Get Up Every Morning With A SmileScreen Shot 2017-05-14 at 4.56.52 PM

Carole King, the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century, describes her experience in writing the song, “Beautiful.” Carole never had much confidence in herself and her appearance. Early in her career, she let others sing her songs and take the spotlight. One day, she was sitting on a subway in New York and realized that how she felt about others reflected how she was feeling about herself. The song came to her in an instant and didn’t contain the usual rhyming and stanzas..

The chorus of the song “Beautiful”:

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.03.13 PMYou’ve got to get up every morning With a smile in your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
The people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

A current successful Broadway musical, entitled, “Beautiful” describes King’s life struggles and eventual success.

You Are Beautiful As You Feel

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 4.57.26 PMYour body language can affect how others see us and influence how we see ourselves. Social scientist, Amy Cuddy has researched the impact of “power posing.” Cuddy states, “Standing in a posture of confidence can makes us more confident even when we don’t feel confident.” Cuddy recommends the “Wonder Woman” pose for maximum effect.

How Do We Keep A Smile In Our Face?

Give compliments. Compliments are a double blessing because both the giver and the receiver receive a positive emotional bounce. We add to each other’s storehouse of self-esteem by giving sincere, well-deserved commendation. Research shows compliments are as psychologically as rewarding as getting cash.

The more we compliment, the happier we are.

In Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

Lasting Beauty Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 4.57.07 PM

Great grandma, Nora Ellen may not be remembered for her good looks but her 30 year correspondence was recently donated to a national university collection. The letters contain family and daily routine of the Ream family ranch in Dingle, Idaho and provide insight into 19th century Western life. Many of the letters are love notes from her husband, Will, who loved her dearly.

Because Nora Ellen had sense of humor and saw beyond herself, we have a lasting legacy.  YOU ARE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU THINK!

(Nora Ellen and family are pictured on the right.  The Victorian Home in the photo was built by her husband and sons and is on the Historical Register. )

Camille Foster/801.472.7134/

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(Thanks to the Sherwood Hills ladies for their help and insights which contributed to the article.)

More on Wonder Woman Posing:


















Help Your Child Regulate Their Emotions

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Self Control

When a child is out of control, parents get controlling. But this reaction does not teach your child self- regulation. In the long term, an over control style can trigger resentment or rebellion in the child and does not create an internal locus of control.

The 1960’s Stanford Marshmallow Experiment has been the gold standard for impulse control.

The original experiment offered young kids a marshmallow but if they could wait 15 minutes they would be rewarded with a second treat.  Children who could hold out for a 2nd treat went on to lead productive lives. The apparent conclusion seemed if you could teach a child self control, they would be successful.

Stress Alters Impulse Control

According to the book, Self Reg by Stuart Shanker professor at York University and former president of the Council of Early Childhood Development, “If the child is hungry, tired or over stimulated, you can change the results of the marshmallow test.”

There is a difference from stress behavior and misbehavior. What are the signals when your child suffers from stress behavior?

Cars come equipped with dashboard messages to tell them when their engines are hot, fluids are low or gas is running out. We need to learn how to monitor our internal dashboards when stress occurs.

The emotional engine is working too hard if the child is:

  • Chronically irritated
  • Can’t calm down
  • Constantly anxious

If we push them at the stress point to get cooperation, we are likely to just get shut down. Children who seem to lack motivation are chronically hypo-aroused.

Ask yourself, “Why now?” The three areas to check for clues:

  • Hungry?
  • Tired?
  • Clothing Texture?
  • Temperature?
  • Lighting?
  • Noise?
  • Too busy of a schedule?
  • Bored?

Cope by teaching how to Self Regulate:

  1. Read the signs and reframe the behavior
  2. Identify the stressors
  3. Reduce the stress
  4. Become aware when you’re overstressed
  5. Figure out what helps you calm, rest and recover.


1. Deep Breathing

Older Children: Breath deeply like Darth Vader

Younger ones: Pretend you are blowing out birthday candles. Deep breathing can shift brain activity from a negative bias to a positive one.

Read this out loud teach your child techniques:

There is a path from your nose to lungs. Underneath your lungs is a big muscle that draws the fresh air in and pushes the stale air out. Your ribs are around the lungs to protect them; they expand and contract with each breath. When we breathe in, we get a burst of energy that makes us alert. When we breathe out we feel calm.  

Can you feel the cool breath inside your nose as you inhale and the warm breathe inside your mouth as you exhale? Can you feel your lungs filling up like a balloon?

Take 10 slow deep breaths.

Can you feel your worry lessen as we do the breathing?

2. Name it and Tame it:

Teach your child how to describe feelings their feelings. Research shows if you describe and talk about your emotions, it lessons the emotion in your body.

3. Visualize:Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 3.11.48 PM

Place glitter in a jar to represent angry feelings. As you watch the glitter slowly drop to the bottom of the jar, let of the angry feelings. You can also use a snow globe.

Another method: Ask, what color are your angry feelings? Can pick a crayon and draw them? Can you change them to blue? Research shows coloring in color books also reduces stress.

4. Distract:

Notice something in your immediate surrounds, here and now to take thoughts to another direction.

5. Change Body Temperature:

Take a bath, play in the sprinklers or eat a popsicle.

6. Avoid blue spectrum devices:

Especially avoid I pads or computers before bedtime, they ramp up brain activity. Video games are junk food for the brain. Even though the children sit quietly, their brains are highly activated.

7. Calm Yourself:

Children pick up on our feelings of stress—mirror neurons; we need to calm ourselves down. Phone a friend, walk away, drink water, count to 10, etc.

8. Teach CALM:

There is a difference between calm and quiet. A child can be quiet but have surging beta waves, which is a sign of arousal; but when a child is calm, we see slow and rhythmic waves, which is a sign of deep relaxation.


Here are some suggestions:

  • a calm down box
  • Pillows,
  • stuffed animals,
  • books,
  • soft music

9. Change Routine to Play for a few moments—let them move:

We tell kids who aren’t concentrating, “Sit still, stop fidgeting, be quiet, pay attention. But in many cases, we should be saying, “Move around, fidget some more, hum to yourself, close your eyes. They have a developmental need to move!

Red light, green light is a good game to help them learn to pay attention.

10. Be aware of overstimulation:

Slow your speech, your conversations, and interactions especially when you give instructions—one piece of information at a time. Scheduling too many activities stresses children. Kids need tons of “down time”. Give them play time, quiet time and rest time and children’s behavior often improves dramatically.

11. Reduce the intensity of stimuli:

Loud sounds or bright lights may produce alarm in your child. Too many children in a small area can stress you as well as your child.

12. Teach Child to Recognize Internal Stress:

Help your child recognize when a game or activity helps them release tension and feel calmer. (Do you feel stiff like a robot or relaxed like a rag doll now?)

13. Let them have Safe Place:

Every child needs a nest or a burrow to feel safe, a “positive time out. “(I hid underneath my parent’s bed as a child.)

14. Let them Yell!

A recent study reveals that yelling when we are physically hurt can actually interrupt pain messages being sent to the brain. Yelling releases tension.

12. Look at age appropriate guidelines, avoid unrealistic expectations:

Ever say to your kid, “Don’t throw that!” and they just throw it anyway? Research suggests that the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence.

For example, 56% of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden, whereas most children don’t master this skill until age about age 4. Realizing kids can’t always manage impulses because their brains aren’t fully developed can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.

Children can concentrate for the amount of minutes they are in age.

13. Revere Nature:

Reconnecting to the simplicity and beauty of nature is calming to our souls, takes walks, smell the breeze, plant gardens, and do yard work together.

14. Practice Impulse control:

It is muscle that grows stronger the more you use it. Train them to do jobs around the house. Keep encouraging them to try. Developing self-control is a long, slow process.



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Camille Foster/801.472.7134/

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Helpful Children’s Book:

Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee MacLean ,  Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt 

Additional Sources:






Grit: The 4 Letter Word For Success


What is the single most important quality for success?

Turns out the answer may be a simple four-letter word called GRIT.

Dr. Angela Duckworth studied first year candidates at West Point Academy to see if qualities needed for school success could be determined prior to admission. Acceptance to West Point is vigorous; you need excellent grades, leadership skills and a congressional recommendation. 10,000 candidates apply for the honor and only 4,000 get recommendations. It can be argued that one has already proven grit before class begins. However despite a rigorous acceptance policy, a certain percentage drop out every year.

Duckworth was hired to quantify character traits by candidates with successful West Point completion. Her research showed it wasn’t IQ, social support, economic status, talent or life experiences—all attributes usually a seen as success markers. But it was students who scored high on the “grit” scale.

What Is Grit?

Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Duckworth also adds, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.


In a classic movie, “True Grit”, (1969) A 14 year old girl hires John Wayne ‘s character, Rooster Cogburn, to go after her father’s killer. She hires the aging US Marshall because she believes he has “true grit.” Wayne says, “True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.”  (Spoiler alert ****He does get his man and avenge the wrongful murder.)

The Finnish people say sisu, which loosely translated means, “reach into your gut and figure out a way to do it.”


Even if we aren’t Finnish, we can teach the attitude of sisu. Lindsay, a young mother reported,

“After circling the parking lot at least five times looking for a parking spot, I muttered, ‘I give up’…. to which a little voice piped up from the backseat, ‘Mom! Gibsons never GIVE UP!’


The Gibson Family had incorporated a family culture of grit.

Gritty people dig deep and stick with tasks year after year. They have the passion and determination to work at their goals like a marathon and not a sprint.  They have courage, resilience and character.

How Do You Build Grit?

Grit is the rate with which you increase your talent with effort. It requires a growth mind-set. We have to be willing to fail and start over again with lessons learned.

Grit requires:

  • Deliberate practice
  • Intentional problem solving
  • Feedback
  • Measuring
  • Evaluation

As the Kaizen business model for quality emphasizes continuous improvement, the Grit process requires constantly asking, “What can I refine here?” You have to be open to criticism and willing to work at daily improvement. You can’t get hung up on perfection but work consistently for excellence.

Gritty people love what they do; they don’t feel controlled or compelled to do it. They have the “I’ll show you response.” Grit is like a muscle that grows with effort. You can improve your grit quotient and you can teach through example.

Camille Foster/801.472.7134/

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Thanks to Lindsey Gibson for sharing her parking lot story and allowing me permission to share it!

Additional Sources:

5 Characteristics of Grit:

Angela Duckworth Ted talk

Also helpful is the research on marshmallows and children.  Read more here:

What Scrooge Teaches Us About Anxiety

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


A Christmas Carol was first published in London in December 1843. The beloved story tells of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter old miser, who is transformed to generous gregarious gentleman after his former associate, Marley, shows him 3 ghostly visitations—the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and The Ghost of Yet to Come.

Marley’s ghost who is forever cursed to wander the earth dragging heavy chains, crafted by a life time of greed and selfishness. Marley says:

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard…” 


The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to scenes of Scrooge’s childhood where he was innocence and kind but then moves forward showing him neglecting his fiancée Belle. When Belle realizes Scrooge will never love her as much as he loves money, she ends their relationship.  Scrooge is forced to see her see her happy without him with her large close family on a recent Christmas Eve.

Ghost Marley wishes Scrooge to understand our past cannot be changed. But there is hope in the future with the visit of the Ghost Of Yet To Come.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”

The Ghost Of Yet To Come

Scrooge decides to change; he awakens the following morning, filled with joy, love and generosity in his heart. He remembers his over-worked employee, Bob Cratchit with a turkey and pay raise. He becomes a 2nd father to his crippled son, Tiny Tim and our model today of the spirit of Christmas.

How Do We Have A Scrooge Epiphany and learn the lesson of past, present and future?

Have your ever wondered what you would see if Marley’s Ghost visited you? Do you have past mistakes you refuse to change? Do you withhold generosity from others ignoring their suffering? Are you a workaholic not seeing joy in the present?

Clients suffering from anxiety are challenged to shift their thoughts from the future and stay in the present moment, which is a good temporary strategy. But you also need forward planning in order in ensure the best outcome.

The reality, as Scrooge learned, is you have to keep all three—the past, present and future in mind to avoid a life of regrets.

You need to stay in the past long enough to recognize mistakes, the future forecasts the outcome, but power is in the present moment; the power is now.  As T.S. Monson said,

The Past is behind, learn from it.  

The future is ahead, prepare for it.

The Present is here, live in it.

Honor Christmas in your heart. Recognize the lessons of all your ghosts. Here is my favorite Christmas quote:

This year, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”   –Howard Hunter


Camille Foster, LCSW

Contact Me: 801.472.7134/

Here is an interesting interview with famous quarterback, Steve Young where he talks about his struggle with anxiety (6.50 on the moniker).

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See also my post about living in the present moment:





How the Science Of Empathy Turns Presidential Elections



The recent loss of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid will certainly be the subject of numerous data analysis studies for many years. Why the country turned down the female in the Clinton pair is an interesting question likely layered with multiple causations.

Two Ionic Catchphrases

But as a daily observer of human behavior there is one factor that stands out to me; the philosophies contained in the phrase “the basket of deplorables” uttered by Hillary and the iconic phrase from Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.” Both expressions caught on and inadvertently defined the candidate.



Bill was an upstart politician in the early 90’s, one of many Democrats trying to unseat the Republican president, George H.W. Bush. After recent triumphant in the Gulf War, George was riding a large wave of popularity and many believed his re-election was unstoppable.

While heckled on the campaign trail, Bill responded with his now iconic phrase, “I feel your pain.” He repeated the phrase again while accepting the democratic nomination. And during the debate between George H., he turned the momentum by convincing the audience, he did feel their pain.


In contrast, Hillary had a lifetime of tireless public service. Few apply for a job with a better resume. But in the exhaustion of the fall campaign at a fundraiser in New York, she stated, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-1-55-24-pm

Her apology was even less convincing; she agreed her percentages were off but states, “I understand your outrage, but I’m unmoved by it. If the basket fits…”

In a brief 32 words, Hillary managed to portray herself as arrogant, aloof and completely unable to see Trump supporter’s viewpoint—she lacked empathy.

Empathy Connects People

Consistently in my practice, I see the advantages of empathy. People don’t need to agree but they bond when they feel understood. They become angry when misunderstood or mocked.

When you empathize with me, or “feel my pain,” my sense of identity is connected to yours. As a result, I feel greater in some way and less alone. I may well, as a result, also start to empathize more with you, feel greater compassion and create as George H.W. Bush said, “kinder, more gentle world.”

A recent study in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) showed that clinicians who showed empathy to patients improved their motivation to stick to treatment plans and lowered malpractice complaints and improved heath outcomes.

Social psychologist Dacher Keltner, takes this idea further in Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. In it, he explores Darwin’s little-known work on human emotions and argues that survival is not based on the fittest but on who among us is the kindest.

What do we take from this in our personal lives?

Listen to others—truly feel their pain. Don’t marginalize those with who you disagree. Empathy is not only vital in presidential races but in communities and families as well. Be kind.



Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW 801.472.7134

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Check out Provo’s mayor’s call for more civility in government:






















Holiday Survival Guide For Difficult Family Members

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Nearly every family tree has a few nuts. Typically large holiday gatherings are when they shake loose causing havoc and hurt feelings. The prickliest relatives are those who are self-centered, pessimistic, domineering, critical, impatient, angry or all of the above. Do these characteristics sound like anyone you know? Or someone you wish you didn’t know?

No one wants to get stuck in difficult or hostile conversations during the season of brotherly love. Besides not showing up or over-eating at the dessert bar, what are some good strategies to keep the events memorable and strengthen family bonds?

1st rule: Nothing is personal.

If you were walking down the street and a person with an oblivious mental handicap shouted something offensive to you, would it hurt your feelings? Would you take it personal? I have asked this question to many clients and all of them replied, “No, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. I would realize that man on the street was handicapped and his opinion would not bother me.” The same logic holds true for a relative who makes a tactless comment about your favorite holiday sweater. Most likely the opinionated relative has a social impairment. Don’t take it personal, smile and move on.

2nd rule: Talk about the concepts where you agree instead of the details of disagreement.

For example if you are conservative and left-wing Aunt Sadie says, “The conservatives are ruining our country, we must elect liberals in the next election.” It would be foolish to argue whether or not the conservatives are ruining the country or to give your opinion on your favorite candidate. Instead simply say, “Yes, it would be good for citizens to get knowledgeable and involved in the next election.” Citizen education and involvement are an area where you both agree. Choose to talk in areas of agreement instead of wallowing in details of disagreement.

3rd Rule: Plan to listen more than you talk.

Dale Carnegie in his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” If you show genuine interest in your relatives, it is surprising how easily conversations flow. You can show others you care by asking questions, giving sincere compliments and listening without interrupting.

4th rule: Have an exit strategy.

Drive yourself to the party or gathering so you are in control of the length of stay. Holding car keys in your hands will create a mental shift. You are not a victim trapped by Uncle Fred’s long story you are choosing to engage. You are making a memory with an old man who may not be around for next Christmas. If you feel your personal resources tapped and your social good will low, then graciously thank the host or hostess say good-bye and leave. Family gatherings with difficult people can be demanding on our personal skills. But keep in mind the four rules. You may find the nuts can be cracked and you can keep your self esteem.

Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW


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This article was also published:

Deseret News.com

You may also being dealing with a bi polar personality.  Read more about it:


Considering Marriage? Ask Yourself These Important Questions


Before you decide you’re in love, go through these questions and think about the character of the person you find attractive.

Sometimes it helps to have a roommate, mother or another objective person give their opinions, as you may not be completely unbiased.

Do not confer with your partner during the initial assessment they may not see the issues clearly or they may minimize valid concerns.

        What is their family background?

  • What is the relationship like between his/her parents?
  • How does his/her family solve conflict?
  • Do they confront issues head on or do they smooth things over and pretend it didn’t happen?
  • Of the two parents, who’s opinion do the kid’s value the most? Why?
  • How are you like your potential mother-in-law/father-in-law?
  • Are the potential in-laws conservative or liberal in their approach to religion?
  • Does this match how you feel?
  • Would you be comfortable being married to someone with the personality of the parent of the same sex as your partner? For example if you are female, look at their father. If you are male, look at their mother.
  • What would you not like?
  • What do you like?
  • What do the siblings of your partner think of him/her?
  • Do you like his/her siblings?
  • Does he/she genuinely like children?
  • How was the discipline style in their family? Authoritative or permissive?
  • What parenting style are you comfortable with?

What is their emotional behavior like?

  • How to they deal with disappointment or defeat?
  • How do they treat your opinion?
  • How do they work through conflict with others?
  • If you say you never have conflict, this is impossible. You have either not spent enough time together or one of you is giving into the other one. Which one of you is it?
  • Why is that person letting go of their opinion?  How will this affect the long-term health of the relationship?
  • Do they have a temper? What causes them to lose it?
  • Do they have the ability to see two sides to an issue?
  • Do they give you sincere praise and compliment you frequently?
  • Do they have an optimistic outlook on life?
  • Do they walk into a room and assume others will like them?
  • Or are they anxious in their outlook on life and unsure how others perceive him/her?
  • Do you ever catch yourself parenting them?
  • If so, how often? Why are you attracted to someone who has not grown up?
  • Do they come through on their commitments to others and you?
  • How do they handle disappointment or frustration?
  • Do they take responsibility when things go wrong?
  • Do they respect your boundaries in the physical relationship or are their needs paramount?

Do they have a career path?

  • What are their grades or training?
  • Do they have the self-discipline to achieve goals?
  • Do they understand what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do they have a clear and realistic path for a career?
  • Are you comfortable with the life style of their career?

How unselfish are they?


I love the song, “Make You Feel My Love,” written by Bob Dylan–perfect pitch, rhythm and melody to woo the one you love.  It is sung by Billy Joel, Neil Diamond and Adele.  But this version by Bryan Ferry with his soulfulness, speaks to me.  Listen to it and ask your self if your lover cares this much for you.

How mature are you?

Go back and ask yourself these questions and see how you rate as a life partner.

After fairly evaluating the questions, make a list of your concerns and talk them over with your potential partner. No one is perfect; most of us have flawed family backgrounds but a defining characteristic of good marriages is the ability to work through difficulties. See if your beloved can address your concerns. If the red flags remain, rethink your commitment to the relationship or contact a professional for help.


Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW


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Other articles that may be helpful:

The Surprising Role Of Surprise In Mental Health



The value of surprise

Recently, I was asked to speak at a retirement home to folks now living in the last quadrant of their lives. My subject was the value of surprise and its link to happiness. I challenged my audience to do something during the week that would shock their children.

They looked at me as if they hadn’t heard correctly and needed their hearing aids adjusted. In a nursing home the routines are fairly predictable, such as Bingo at 4:00, Dinner at 6:00, and Bedtime at 8:00 pm. To say their lives are predictable is an understatement and many suffer from depression.

Surprise helps us remember

Regardless of our age, human brains are prepared and organized to handle the next event that is likely to materialize. Most of the time, the events occur as planned. But in the odd moments when the unexpected happens, our brains fires off new receptors. The neurological response heightens our awareness making the event more memorable.

Ask anyone who was over the age of 5 in 2001 where they were when the plane hit the World Trade Center and likely then will have a vivid memory of the day. The Baby Boomer Generation could also respond to the question, “Where were you when John Kennedy was shot?” Details of unexpected emotional events stay with us long after the event has passed.

Surprise promotes a pleasant feeling

Observers of human nature have long known if an experience has a surprise element, it is far more powerful and makes us happier. Jerome Kagan, PhD, notes: …The secretion of the molecule dopamine in response to an unexpected event is accompanied by a pleasant feeling.

Some examples:

  • Unexpected praise from a boss is far more effective than if it is anticipated.
  • Gambling is enticing because of the intermittent reward.
  • Music, theatre or art that has a “twist” is more compelling than similarly well-done works that are predictable.
  • Sports games where the under dog won are long remembered over a game where the winner was favored.

Shock Jock, Howard Stern, has made a career out of surprising radio audiences with his comments. People listen to him because they never know what he will say. Stern has fought with sponsors for years over his sensual comments but he does attract a large following. In this year’s presidential election, Donald Trump, a political newcomer has garnered unprecedented news coverage because of his unscripted off beat comments.

If you feel flat or if life is boring and uneventful:

  • Buy an unexpected gift for your sweetheart
  • Wearing a new color or perfume
  • Visit another country or new location
  • Try a new cuisine
  • Learn a new hobby
  • Talk to a stranger on the bus
  • Practice random acts of kindness
  • Listen to an unscripted political candidate with a flair for drama


Everyone can benefit from an unexpected dopamine rush. Try it, you may be surprised at the pleasure response.  It can help with depression.

Surprise works at any age:

It is true that as humans’ age, they lose some of the neurons that secrete dopamine. Seventy year-olds are less motivated than 20-year-olds to visit a new place, meet a new person, or view a novel artistic production because the intensity of the pleasure is diluted. But listening to my speech, everyone in my retirement home smiled when I suggested they do something unusual that would scandalize their children—yes, they were capable of a dopamine rush!

Camille Curtis Foster Contact Me: 801.472.7134/

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Source:  Psychotherapy Network, May/June 2016

Thanks to my adventure-loving husband who always inspires surprise.









ADHD Or Just Too Much Sugar?

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As the holiday season approaches, many parents become concerned about the amount of sugar their child consumes, especially at Halloween.  At your home if children giggle and can’t sleep at night, if couch cushions are often used as punching bags, if your walls have mysterious dents or if you notice blue sparkly glitter suddenly appear on your oriental rug, you may be frustrated.  When most kids are about half way through their trick or treat Halloween candy and many parents are asking themselves, “Is my child normal? Could they be hyper- active or have they just eaten too much sugar?”

Evidence suggests that sugar does not make a child hyperactive.  

Yes, sugar can give all of us a temporary boost but it does not make any one “hyper.”  Parents who believe their children are less hyper when they take away sugar may have just behaviorally motivated the child to
act calm so he or she can occasionally eat donuts without criticism.

While it is common to joke about ADHD, only about 3%-5% of the population meets diagnostic criteria for the disorder with males out numbering females.  More than likely your child’s inordinate energy, inattentiveness and impulsive acts are age appropriate.  

Knowing that your child is within a normal range may not help your frustration or annoyance as you make home repairs so what is a parent to do?  One helpful concept to keep in mind is that of “mirror neurons.”  Scientists have recently discovered a set of neurons in the human brain called mirror neurons.  When you see an action or an expression completed by someone else your brain automatically fires the nerve cells necessary to get you ready to do the same task.   For example, if you wave good bye to a small child, they automatically raise their hand too.  When you see someone yawn, it is difficult to suppress one yourself because your mirror neurons are at work.

Mirror Neurons

These neurons help us with motor learning but they are also connected to our emotional centers too.  We can see the emotion on another person’s face and experience a similar feeling helping us relate to their experience.   Empathy is an important social and relationship regulator but sometimes in family settings, mirror neurons go array.

If a mother comes into the house and sees a blue sparkle mess on her expensive rug, her face and voice convey a strong negative response.  The child is young and inexperienced at emotional interpretation and doesn’t think, “My mother still loves me, she just has temporary anxiety over the cost of replacing her nice rug,” instead the child catches the intense feelings of the mother and in that moment either experiences shame or anger or both.  

Recover From Stressful Moments

Dr. Jane Nelson, author of Positive Discipline, says that parents need to give themselves permission for a “time out” at stressful moments.  During their “time out” the parent can practice the three R’s of recovery: recognize the situation, re-gather their thoughts and resolve the problem.  After a quiet moment of reflection a parent may be able to express themselves appropriately and problem solve.  When the parent then approaches the child in a calm loving manner both parties can come up with solutions.  When blame and anger are absent, lasting solutions emerge.  The child learns empathy, problem solving and responsibility for their actions.  

Camille Curtis Foster


(originally published in the Deseret News 11/2011)

Brain Locked: How to Self-Soothe When You Feel Anxious Or Depressed


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Fight, Flight or Freeze

Do you ever get deer-in-the-head-light-syndrome? You know you should move but you feel frozen and stuck. You are immobilized, just like the wheel on the computer screen that keeps spinning, and you don’t know how to reboot and move forward.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.44.57 PM

Stay In The Present Moment

Anxiety does not exist in the present moment; anxiety is in the future. Depression is about thoughts of the past. Neither exists in the present moment. Bring yourself into the “here and now” or the present. Doing so will push you through your paralysis and calm you.

Here Are Some Suggestions

  1. Count backwards and name an object in the room.   For example, 10-lamp shade, 9-rug, 8-clock, 7-lamp…
  1. Change temperature, recalibrate by washing your face in cold water or taking a hot shower. For over 500 years, the Finnish have sworn by the benefits of the sauna where you sit in a small room, on cedar wood, sweat like a racehorse and then jump into a cold lake giving yourself a major brain reboot.
  1. Try to shift your brain gears from emotion to logic. A helpful phrase to repeat is “I am observing that I am feeling…” If you name it, you tame it. More here: 
  2. Put together a sensory kit with items to help your brain shift using your 5 senses.
  • Touch—soft or silky piece of fabric
  • Taste—lifesavers, or gum
  • Hear— motivating music
  • Sight—-a sentimental photo or interesting artwork
  • Smell—use a favorite perfume or lotion. You can also light incense or scented candle.


  1. Try vigorous exercise. Do you remember scene in the movie where Forest Gump is so discouraged he just begins to run? He ran and ran until he couldn’t remember why he was running. Think, “Run Forrest, Run,” and start an exercise program to sweat daily.
  2. Meditation. Just as your computer gets stuck displaying the symbol of a wheel twirling, your brain gets locked when you give it too many commands. Slow down, clear your mental tray by meditating and taking deep slow breathes.
  3. Have a good self-care program: avoid caffeine, get appropriate amounts of sleep, avoid junk food and find a hobby you enjoy.
  4. Be your own Thought Police—-examine your beliefs.If you catch yourself thinking, this is horrible, this can’t happen, this shouldn’t happen to me, etc. Try adding the word “YET.” This simple word opens your mind to additional options and creates movement.For example if you are worried about a relationship issue you may think, “It is horrible Jane doesn’t like me, it mustn’t happen and YET, I do have other friends.” The concept of yet leads your mind to possibilities. Your internal threat estimator may be off causing catastrophic thinking. The situation might not be as bad as you think.
  5. Recite from memory
  • A lost skier reports he kept his composture by reciting the 23rd Psalm until rescuers found him.
  • The Saratov Approach” is the true story of two Mormon missionaries, serving in the Soviet Union who were kidnapped in 1989. The movie portrays them staying calm by reciting their memorized missionary discussions.
  • A family who experienced tragedy when their boat overturned stated they kept composure by singing church songs learned in youth groups. They were in the lake all night and several from their group died but they kept calm.  Yes, the religious implication in these stories is powerful but there is universal application demonstrating the concept of refocusing your thoughts through memorized phrases, songs or chants.  AA members recite, “God give me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference,” as a soothing mantra.

10 .Develop an attitude—talk back to that anxiety or depression and find your inner sass!  It will pull you out of “victim thinking.”

Fight? Flight? Freeze? Next time you are worried or distressed, try self-soothing using these 10 techniques.


Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW

Here is an interesting interview with famous quarterback, Steve Young, where he talks about his struggle with anxiety (6.50 on the time marker).

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Recommended reading:

Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life by Stephan P. Hales

The Art of Meditation by Daniel Goldman

Many thanks to Dr. Betty McElroy for the “and yet” concept.