Your Boundaries Aren’t a Weapon to be Used Against You

Uncategorized Nov 21, 2018

Can you please do something for me? Would it be ok if I asked you for some of your time, your money, your energy? Would you mind making a sacrifice so that I could avoid having to do something that I am perfectly capable of doing myself?

If you're anything like me, you want to say “yes” every time someone asks for something from you. I really want to do whatever is going to make someone happy, and I bet you often feel the same way. However, we know that if we did this, we'd never have any time, money or energy to meet our own needs.

A woman I know, Lisa, once told me, "The biggest problem with telling my mother no is the 'hurt-silence.' It lasts about forty-five seconds, and it always happens after I tell her I can't visit her. It's only broken by my apologizing for my selfishness and setting up a time to visit. Then she's fine. I'll do anything to avoid that silence."

Lisa's mother has turned Lisa's personal boundaries into an offensive weapon that she can use to get...

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How We Find Safe Relationships with Others

Uncategorized Nov 10, 2018

After 30 years in the profession of helping people, I have come to understand something: we cause much of our pain by the people we choose. In every kind of clinical issue that psychologists deal with, relationships are a big part of the picture in some way.

Consider these questions:

• Are you experiencing the same problems or feelings that you’ve experienced in previous relationships?
• Do you find that you continually pick people to fall in love with or become close friends with who hurt you in some way?
• Do you find yourself wondering if there are any “good ones” out there?
• Do you often go through periods of emotional turmoil as a result of choosing someone who wasn’t good for you?
• Is “How did I get myself into this?” a frequent question you ask yourself?

A lot of people can relate to these feelings. Their relationships leave them lacking in some way, leaving them to wonder why they end up in the situations they do....

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How to Care for Yourself After a Divorce 

Uncategorized Nov 07, 2018

Divorce is, by definition, a loss. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for divorce speaks of “cutting or severing a bond.” Something has been lost. The loss is real, genuine, and deep, and it must be grieved. 

Grief is accepting the reality of what is. It is internalizing the reality of the severing of the marriage bond on both the intellectual and emotional levels of the heart. That is grief’s job and purpose – to allow us to come to terms with the way things really are, so that we can move on. Grief is a gift. Without it, we would all be condemned to a life of continually denying reality, arguing or protesting against reality, and never growing from the realities we experience. 

When you allow yourself to embrace the sadness and shed the tears for what you have truly lost through divorce, then you can move on to a new phase of life when grief tells you it is time. It is important to note that those who have not fully grieved the losses of...

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Understanding the Pain that Comes From Your Family of Origin

Uncategorized Nov 06, 2018

Amanda had a problem that I had seen countless times before. This thirty-year-old woman would return from a visit to her parents’ home and suffer a deep depression. When she described her problem to me, I asked her if she noticed that every time she went home to visit, she came back extremely depressed. 

“Why that’s ridiculous,” she said. “I don’t live there anymore. How could the trip affect me this way?” 

When I asked her to describe the trip, Amanda told of social gatherings with old friends and family times around the dinner table. These were fun, she said, especially when it was only family. 

“What do you mean ‘only family’?” I asked. 

“Well, other times my parents would invite some of my friends over, and I didn’t like those dinners as well.” 

“Why was that?” Amanda thought for a minute and then replied, “I guess I start to feel guilty.” She...

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Here's Why You Feel Stuck, So Let's Change That

Uncategorized Nov 01, 2018

Do you ever feel like you're stuck on a path that's not leading you where you feel you ought to be going? Sometimes we can get stuck in these comfortable grooves, which because they are familiar, feel safe, but maybe aren't actually all that good for us.

Change is hard. Often, change carries a fair amount of risk, and risk is something many of us avoid like the plague. However, it's important to consider when taking a risk might be worth it. Likewise, ponder whether what you need to gain a fresh perspective on your life, goals or relationships is just the right kind of change.

Part of recognizing this opportunity to improve your circumstances is just seeing the needs you have. You have to regularly undertake a self-evaluation and question whether your needs are being met, and whether you're going the direction you want to be going. If you're not, it may be time for a change.

Be vulnerable, be open. Other people often cannot see that you need emotional support, or that you're...

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Time Doesn't Heal All Things, but Here's What You Can Do

Uncategorized Nov 01, 2018

Somehow this idea that time heals all wounds has become a very popular one, and yet that kind of thinking can be a big source of pain for a lot of people (especially those with an infected tooth!). Time passing by itself doesn't do much for us at all. It's all of the things that we do that changes us, for better and worse, as we accumulate experiences. For those of us that accept the passage of time but resist making any changes, we shouldn't expect to see much difference.

If someone breaks your heart, and you don't do anything to address the emotional trauma that person has created within you, sure, over time, you might not think about it as much. But it will never be too far from the surface. Those emotional wounds will be ready to rip right open again at the slightest suggestion of any kind of similar trouble.

If someone at work violates your trust in a way that compromises your standing with your boss, do you think those changes are going to heal with time? No, you're going to...

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No One Can Make You Feel Guilty — Guilt Trippers are Manipulators

Uncategorized Oct 31, 2018

When is the last time someone made you feel guilty even though you know you shouldn't have felt that way?

Guilt is a difficult emotion. It's not actually a feeling the way that sadness, anger or fear are. It's our conscience punishing us by saying "You are bad."

Guilt comes mainly from how we have been taught in our early socialization process. Because of this, sometimes we fill guilt when we shouldn't. Feelings of guilt can appear when we haven't done anything wrong, per se, but maybe we have violated some internal standard that we have been taught. We have to be careful about listening to guilt feelings to tell us when we are wrong, for often, the guilt feelings themselves are wrong.

Guilt distorts reality. Rather than feeling 'bad', we should consider the impact of our actions. Has my action actually hurt someone? Why do they feel hurt? Could I have done something differently? Should I have?

Sometimes we feel like we're doing something bad or something mean when we set up...

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Don’t Keep Going Back to Failed Relationships

Uncategorized Oct 29, 2018

Have you ever had a relationship where you weren’t getting what you needed or wanted? Or one where you were getting things that you didn’t want? Certainly you have. The question is, what did you do? Did you try to continually figure out what to do right, so you would get what you need? Did that work? We’ll explore the common human dynamic of trying harder with people when it isn’t going to work and talk about a better way to get what you need.

This is the story of the Coke machine. I want you to think about a vending machine for a moment. What do you do with a vending machine? You approach the machine, and there’s a little slot where you put your money, and there are all these choices...Coke, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, etc. You need something from the machine! You need something to drink! So you think, “AH! Finally. I found the Coke.”

So you approach the machine. You reach inside your pocket (note: this inside is important, because I’m...

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How Living in Misery Can Actually Be Good For You

Uncategorized Oct 28, 2018

Your brain doesn’t move you toward pain, and yet pain is one of your biggest and best motivators. If you are afraid of the dentist, even though you want healthy teeth, you avoid going as long as you can chomp on food without wincing. But when it starts to hurt at 3 a.m., you go the next day. Endings are like that. We tend to execute them when we get a tummy full of the misery. To the degree that we can stay distant from it, we don’t get moving.

I once worked with a CEO who had a significant need for an ending to an ongoing quality problem in his company. It was so significant that he had prioritized it as the number-one issue for their next five years’ growth and competitive position. When I came on the scene, it had been a “focus” for about three years, yet no progress had been made. It had to do with some disconnects between manufacturing side of the business and the service-delivery and customer-facing side, with the usual rock throwing that happens...

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When Fear Actually Hurts You

Uncategorized Oct 27, 2018

Just as there are smart and dumb risks, there are also helpful and useless fears. Like any emotion, fear serves as a signal to us. It alerts us to potentially dangerous situations and prepares us to take proactive action. That is why there are physiological component to fear: increased heart rate, adrenal surges, and muscle tension. These responses prepare us for flight from harm. So, fear is helpful when there is a truly dangerous situation ahead of us, and when we need to take evasive action.

At the same time, some fears are useless to us and keep us from the risks we need to take. These usual fears are not about reality, but more about misperceptions and distortions we have in our heads. We need to learn to pay attention to the one and get rid of the other.

For example, I love rock music, and used to play in a band when I was a student. When I grew up and started working, I figured that my playing days were over, and I resigned myself to being a listener, not a performer. One...

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