Life Isn’t Less Messy Because the Holidays are Here

Uncategorized Dec 16, 2017

The holidays can be a tough time for people that are feeling down. If you're not feeling holiday cheer, many people think you're a grinch.

But not everyone wants to “deck the halls” and sing “fa-la-la-la-la.”

Some people get the holiday blues every year, whether because of some bad memories or past experiences that they haven't dealt with, or simply because of the stress. Others have experienced misfortune recently: a bad breakup or the loss of a job. Likewise, people dealing with serious depression don't get a break from their demons just because Santa is coming to town.

It's important to remember that life doesn't stop happening to people just because there are Christmas lights out. Life can be messy and real, and we have to make room in our hearts to understand that some people are dealing with a lot this season.

One of the worst things we can do to people is to tell them how they should feel. That's a one way communication and it invalidates that person's...

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Why that Narcissist You Know Won’t Get Far in Life

Uncategorized Dec 15, 2017

I had a very interesting conversation recently with a leader who accomplishes a lot and is very driven and effective. I have always been a fan of his work. We were working on a project together, and he made a reference to a particular work habit of his, logging almost every thought he has about his work into a very complicated matrix in a journal, and I asked him about it. Nothing wrong with carrying a little book around and jotting down good ideas when they come. But this was much more; it was obsessive. He said, “I think it’s probably part of my anxiety disorder.”

I inquired more, and he told me that he had been managing a significant anxiety disorder for some time and had relied on a number of tricks and habits to keep it in check. As I listened, I couldn’t help being moved by how much effort it must cost and how distressing it must be for him to manage this condition. I also couldn’t help wondering how much better his life and work could be if he...

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Understanding the Relationship Between Codependents and Addicts

Uncategorized Dec 12, 2017

In the last several decades of addiction treatment, one of the most powerful discoveries has been the role of the codependent in addictions. Basically, researchers learned that an addict needs a codependent to enable staying addicted. But beyond that, codependent people continually find themselves in relationships with addicts. In my experience with codependents, I’ve often heard, “Out of all the people in the world, I will be drawn to the addict before anyone else.”

One reason for this attraction is that there is a match. The addict does not take responsibility for his life, and the codependent feels responsible to take care of people who are not taking responsibility for themselves. So the addict and the codependent will be drawn to people who fill their needs. And it works … for awhile … until …

When the codependent finally asks the question, “What is it about me that always draws me into this kind of relationship?” Then she...

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Self-Esteem is Not the Most Important Thing to Build in Your Child

Uncategorized Dec 12, 2017

Self-esteem is a sensitive topic for parents, and they’re careful to build it into their children. Does it help? Can you actually build it, and what does it do?

People who talk about building positive self-esteem in a child are often trying to cure the child from the feeling of a “bad self,” or they’re trying to prevent the child from developing a “bad self” by having the child see herself solely in a positive light. This is a confusing idea for several reasons.

First, it places the security of the child at risk by basing it on her positive performance. The concept of self-esteem hinges on a child being able to see herself positively. What happens when her performance is not positive? What happens if she fails?

If the goal is to see ourselves in a “good” way, what will we do with failure? How can we maintain this “positive view” in the light of badness and failure? One answer is to have more positive than negative. Another...

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How to Teach Your Kids to Connect with Others

Uncategorized Dec 12, 2017

One of the coolest things we ever see is children playing together, having fun and laughing with joy. It’s a pleasant feeling when we see children playing together in unity. It warms our hearts.

But as a parent, as wonderful as it is to see my kids playing with their friends, I also see it as a psychologist. And the psychologist in me knows that it is not just a nice thing to see our children having friends. It is crucial for their future, as the ability to create and maintain good relationships is one of the most important skills that anyone can have. Research has shown that it is related to our happiness, goal achievement, success in almost every area of life, physical and spiritual health, financial well-being, stress resilience, and on and on. So, I want my kids to have fun with their friends, but I want it more than for today. I want it to be a part of learning an ability that they are going to need for the rest of their lives.

And that brings us to a question, “How...

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A Letter to my 12-Year-Old

Uncategorized Dec 11, 2017

Dear Lucy,  

How proud I am of you! You have turned into and are turning into such an amazing, incredible, loving and lovable person. I love watching you, being with you, listening to you, learning from you and much, much more. Your presence lights up a room, and when you are around, heaven has taken a moment and touched us all. I love you.

So, as you turn 12, I have asked myself, "What is 12 about? What does a 12-year-old need to be able to do to really be 12? Just because a body is 12 does not mean the person is, at least on the inside. They may be 4 and just wearing a 12 year old's costume, looking like they are 12. But 12 has some very important aspects to it. It is a time of completion, and a time of growing up that will have meaning for the rest of your life. In light of those kinds of thoughts, here is my test for you to answer the question: "Am I 12?"

I do not expect for you to answer 100% on the whole list, nor 100% on any given question all of the time. None of us...

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Why Your Significant Others Hides Their Feelings

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2017

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she said, referring to the grim financial realities he had been hiding.

“You never told me you were feeling alone,” he said, referring to her reason for getting involved with someone at work.

“I didn’t know you didn’t want to go,“ she said, referring to his resentment at going to her parents’ for the holidays.

“You always seemed happy,” he said, referring to her complaint in counseling that her marriage felt dead.

Sound like things you have heard before? Sound like things you have said before? You know the experience of being surprised that someone close to you felt a certain way, and you had no clue. It happens in a marriage! Sometimes one partner doesn’t hear when the other is trying to communicate something important. But at other times the communication is not so clear after all. And often when the hidden feelings are uncovered, it is too late.

Why People Hide Their Feelings

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The Best Thing a Couple Can Do for Each Other

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2017

Acceptance has to do with being able to relate lovingly and without judgment to everything about your partner. It is embracing the reality of his or her strengths and weaknesses, gifts, and imperfections. It does not mean that you approve of everything about your spouse, but it means you are willing to relate to all of him or her without condemnation, even those parts with which you don’t agree or of which you don’t approve.

Sexuality requires you to be open and exposed, with all your blemishes and scars. Acceptance creates an environment in which you and your spouse are aware of what the other lacks, but you don’t allow those imperfections to stop the flow of love and gratitude for each other. You are so much in love with the character and soul of your beloved that accepting the body is a small thing. However, if you don’t convey acceptance, or your partner does not feel acceptable regardless of what you say and do, then your spouse will tend to hide,...

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Having Boundaries Means Taking Responsibility for Our Choices

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2017

Any time is a great time to take stock of boundaries in our lives and renew the desire to take responsibility for our choices. This leads to the fruit of “self-control.” A common boundary problem is disowning our choices and trying to lay the responsibility for them on someone else.

Think for a moment how often we use the phrases, “I had to” or “She (he) made me” when explaining why we did or did not do something. These phrases betray our basic illusion that we are not active agents in many of our dealings. We think someone else is in control, thus relieving us of our basic responsibility.“I really need you to watch your nephew,” Tiffany said.

“What does she mean by ‘need to’?” Kyle thought to himself.

“Adam has been out of town for work. I’ve got a million things I’ve got to do, and I think you should help me out here. I’m you’re sister, and you should do this for your...

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How to Raise Mentally Strong Kids

Uncategorized Nov 30, 2017

It’s easy to get so caught up in day-to-day issues, like homework and soccer practice, that you forget to look at the bigger parenting picture. Kids need skills to overcome challenges and rebound from setbacks and without proactive guidance, many kids aren’t developing the mental muscle they need to become mentally strong adults.

Here are three ways to help your kids develop the mental strength they need to reach their greatest potential:

1. Teach your kids to think realistically.

Kids struggle with the same kinds of unhealthy thoughts as adults. Catastrophic thinking, self-doubt, and harsh criticism are just a few thinking errors that rob kids of mental strength.

When kids express their concerns out loud, many adults are quick to say things like, "Quit worrying" or, "It'll turn out fine," when kids express concerns. And while that may give kids a temporary reprieve from their harsh inner dialogue, kids aren’t learning how to develop healthier self-talk.

The...

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