Thank you

You didn’t have to love me like you did
But you did, but you did.
And I thank you.
Issac Hayes

When I say “thank you” I mean it as it is intended. Thank you for helping me. We probably don’t say it enough. We don’t acknowledge those people who do the simple mundane tasks or even those who go out of their way to do more. For whatever reason, we have decided that thanking people isn’t all that important. We move on to the next thing that we are doing. For those who still have these words in their vocabulary, thank you for using them!

It’s good that we take the time to thank people. However, there are some people that we would never thank. These are people that we feel hurt, resentment and pain towards. These feelings are the venom that pervades our souls with blackness. We are much more likely to use some other two word greeting than the kind and gentle “thank you”. But what if I said “thank you” to this resented person? What if the “thank you” could actually help ME?

If we have venom towards an ex-partner, family member, boss etc, these feelings follow us everywhere. They invade our day, our night, and our sleep. We constantly bombard ourselves with these intense feelings. We can’t stop thinking about the damage that has been caused. In the worst of circumstances, we are engulfed when thinking about the upcoming family gathering, work meeting, sporting event. There is no way that we could possibly be in the same room as that person, let alone in close proximity. By constantly obsessing about this person, we are giving him/her tons of power. This person is “taking up rent free space in our heads”. We can do something different to make it better for us.

Doing something different implies taking a risk. The risk involves thanking the person for their help. For example, I have to ask my ex-partner to pick up the kids from swimming class. My automatic thoughts might be “I have to ask this person to do this; s/he should know the schedule and should be volunteering to help. I mean after all s/he did to me…..etc”. My healing and empowering new thoughts can be “I’ll ask him/her to pick up the kids”. When the ex-partner fulfills the request, all I have to do is say “thank you”. I don’t have to rant, rave, harangue, tell everybody about what a jerk -off my person is. All that is necessary is a thank you.

When we use our own power instead of a reaction to the past, or obsess in the voluminous rent free space zone, we get to have a new version of ourselves. The partner may or may not see the difference but we end up of free of agita, anxiety, rage, hurt and resentment. This healing “thank you” gives us the freedom to change, the freedom to be better, and most importantly, the freedom to be myself. Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone said it best “thank you for letting me be myself again”

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Don’t You Want Me

In the fall of 1982, I was a graduate student in Baltimore, Maryland.  Every morning, I got up early to go to my job that started at 7AM.  From work it was onto class at 4PM .  This was what I did every day for 6 months straight.  Part of my morning ritual was listening  to the radio en route to work.  It seems that I heard this song every morning:

Over 30 years later, this song is still playing on the radio. I hear this song today  differently than I did then.  This song has a therapeutic theme which I have heard many times.  For example-

How many of my clients :

  • have told me this story?
  • got involved with a controlling possessive person only to have to extricate themselves from that relationship?
  •   did not or could not get out of that relationship?
  •   have been with that “love of my life” only for their partner to drop them and move on?

It’s always interesting how people choose their partner.  In previous blogs, we focused in on the communication patterns that stirred up “old stuff”.  I  often wonder what each person looks for in a relationship and what “old stuff” is contributing to that decision.    I’ve worked with countless number of women who grew up in addicted families and married another addicted person.  It was a familiar match made in hell.  I’ve worked with men who had a cold, rejecting, hurtful, mother who married a woman who was cold, rejecting, and hurtful.  Some of these decisions were consciously made.  The person thought that their partner needed fixing or that they would get better.  Other times these discoveries were made in my office after the fact.  Regardless of the motive, the question that I hear is “why did I do this”?  “Why did I marry him/her?”.

Michelle Weiner-Davis is a therapist, and author of the book Divorce Busting.  Her approach is to save marriages  because of the costs, both financial and emotional, of divorce.  However, when people are married to the wrong person, or have a dysfunctional, magnetic connection to a partner, those marriages can not work.  The cost of staying is far greater than the cost of leaving.  Staying in bad marriages, strips self-esteem, self- worth and self- love.  People tend to deal with these partnerships through “quick fix band aids”–addictive behavior, infidelity,  or by developing physical illnesses or mental illness such as anxiety or depression . These costs are chronic, painful, and some times leads to worse problems.

The “Should I Stay or Should I Go” decision  is difficult and scary.  It requires weighing out the  advantages and disadvantages of staying or going.  If you follow the Divorce Busting     approach,  you stay and you work it out.  If you are in a dysfunctional, painful, empty relationship, you have a lot of thinking to do.  Don’t You Want Me Baby is a painful refrain full of rejection; it’s also a song of getting away and getting healthy.

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20 Identifiable Traits of Female Narcissists

According to the largest study ever conducted on personality disorders (PD) by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), 6.2% has NPD [Narcissistic Personalty Disorder](Stinson et al. 2008).  Of the people meeting the criteria for NPD, 62 percent were men and 38 percent were women (Stinson et al. 2008).

Since 38 percent of NPDers are women, it would be good to know what makes them different.

Here is a nice behavioral list: (Walsh  2010: http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2010/06/28/relationshipstrategies/20-identifiable-traits-of-a-female-narcissist/)

 

Physical Appearance

 

  1. She dresses provocatively, flaunting sexually suggestive body parts.
  2. She focuses attention on makeup and hair, even for the most mundane tasks or events.
  3. She is overly confident about her looks. Research shows that narcissists are no more attractive than other people, but they believe they are much better looking than other women.
  4. She places high value on brand names, and feels entitled to wear “the best.” She frequently purchases new clothing, and does not distinguish between wants and needs.
  5. She is more likely to have plastic surgery, most commonly breast augmentation.
  6. She enjoys being photographed, and often asks others to snap her picture. She enthusiastically shares the best pics of herself on Facebook or other social media sites. She will sometimes invest in a professional photographer for a portrait that she uses on Facebook or for online dating.

 

Personality/Character

 

  1. She insists on being the center of attention, and is often the most charming person in the room. Narcissists are very outgoing and excel at marketing themselves.
  2. She often seeks favorable treatment, and automatic compliance. She believes that she is special, and that she deserves fame, fortune, success and happiness.
  3. She is highly materialistic.
  4. She is prone to envy, though she presents as supremely confident. She seeks opportunities to undermine others, and enjoys sharing confidences about how the two of you are better than others.
  5. She is convinced that others are envious and jealous of her, and often uses this excuse for her lack of real, intimate friendships. When her friends enjoy successes of their own, she finds ways to punish them by downplaying their achievements.
  6. She lacks empathy, and even common courtesy at times. She puts others down, including you. She does not hesitate to exploit others.
  7. She is very competitive.
  8. She believes that she is intellectually superior to her peers.
  9. She blames others for problems. Narcissists don’t believe that they make mistakes, and lack the ability to process shame.
  10. She displays a haughty attitude when she lets her guard down or is confronted. She will act impatient, arrogant and condescending. She will often excuse her own shortcomings by claiming that others are pressuring her or expecting too much of her.
  11. She is dishonest and often lies to get what she wants. She will never admit this.
  12. She is “psycho:” She engages in risky behaviors, has an addictive personality, and is prone to aggressive behavior when rejected. (Note: This is most common with Histrionic Personality Disorder.)
  13. She is unpredictable in her moods and actions. You have trouble figuring out what she wants and where you stand.
  14. She is capable of short-term regret, and will apologize profusely if backed into a corner. However, she will quickly rationalize her behavior and return to narcissistic patterns.

A person does not have to have all 20 characteristics to meet NPD criteria

 

 

 

Boundaries

Having boundaries is a significant sign of  having a good healthy self.  If I feel good about myself, then I want to associate with people who keep that good feeling going.  However, if I don’t feel good about myself, I may allow people to treat me badly, and as a result feel bad.

Here is a list of behaviors that demonstrate unhealthy boundaries.  Identify which one(s) you do, and identify:

1) the origin of the behavior

2) how the behavior has effected you

3)what you can do the change you behavior

feel free to comment on  this list

 

 

 

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The fight, Part 2,- The Final Round

If you missed part 1 you can read it here

Announcer  “I’m here at ringside and in an unprecedented move, the fighters are returning to the ring.  Disease looks confused, but is never one to turn down a fight.  Mary, in a very nontraditional decision, has asked all of her handlers and doctors to go back to the dressing room.  They can only watch this fight.  No doctor or handler can step in. There is no referee. It’s only Mary vs. the Disease”

“The bell rings and the fight is on.  Family and friends look on as Mary’s condition has weakened.  She can hardly stand in the ring.  She is exhausted and wobbly.  The clock ticks by.  Each second seems like an hour.  In spite of her feeble state, Mary  keeps challenging Disease to hit her.  She chides Disease for being weak.  She challenges Disease to take his best shot.  Disease laughingly throws a few punches.  The weakened Mary goes to one knee on the first punch.  Mary gets up.  She challenges Disease to hit harder.  Disease obliges and Mary goes down again.  Mary gets up.  Barely able to stand, and barely able to speak, she gestures to Disease to hit  her again.  Disease, again, throws a punch which knocks down Mary.  Remember no referee, no handlers, no doctors at ringside, no one can stop this fight.  It’s a brave, last stand for this warrior who is clearly no match for a strong Disease.  Mary gets up again!!  Family and friends at ringside are teary.  They cannot do anything to stop this.  They are watching Mary fade away.  Minutes later, there are no more punches, there are no more gestures, there are no more comments.  The fight is over.”

Mary fought her last round. She was a gallant fighter who survived and lived against all the odds.  She managed to get knocked down, get up, fight and live. She continued to do this for many years.  However on July 10, 2013 she was no match against a strong disease.

All fighters who have fought their last round get memorialized with a 10 bell salute in order to remember their time in the ring.This one is for Mary:

10 bell salute

In the sport of boxing, we cheer for our favorite fighters in each of their fights.  We relish their victories, and root for their comebacks when they lose.  In real life, we do the same.  The major difference, however, is that when a person loses, there is no rematch, and the losses are more painful.   What this tells me is that we have to rely on the basic tenet of any type of recovery; we have today.

 

 

 

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Convince Yourself That Change is Possible and It Is What You Want

This article is reprinted from:

http://expertbeacon.com/convince-yourself-change-possible-and-it-what-you-want/#.UaODgNhZ6Kl

How many times have you said things like: If only I could lose these five pounds, I’d feel so much better. I would love to stop smoking, these things are so expensive. I want to go to the gym. I want to get in good shape for the summer.

If you’re like most people, you’ve had conversations like this about many things. Unfortunately, you haven’t figured out how to take that huge first step. Some of you have plunged ahead only to have the next step be the one that brings your change momentum to a screeching stop. Here are some ideas that will help you to start the change process.

 

 

 


Do think small change

People inevitably think about change in large chunks. This viewpoint is a setup for failure because if your goals are too big, it’s easy to become frustrated. Think about making your changes small – lose 1 pound this week, go to gym once. If you succeed with this goal, your can take on a bigger goal next time.

 

Do some part of the change

Sometimes when people make the decision to change, they feel overwhelmed. They don’t know where to start. Should I stop drinking, eat better, lose weight, work on my relationship? Sometimes it’s just good to do some part of the change. If I want to stop drinking, maybe I should: read about not drinking, read about celebrities who have stopped drinking, or remove all the alcohol from the house. These are all examples doing part of the change process.

 

Do the opposite of what you usually do

This is called the opposite theory. Let’s say that your goal is to meet the woman of your dreams. You continue to go to places to meet this woman and strike out every time. Opposite theory would suggest that you stop looking. Do activities that enhance your well being. Mister or miss right will show up when you are not looking for him or her.

 

Do keep good data of your change

Treat your change process like a good research experiment. Write down your starting weight and other measurements like BMI, etc. and do regular weigh-ins. Log in your data weekly so that you can see the change. Your perception of the change may be different than the facts. Stay with the data, not how you feel.

 

Do allow yourself to be ambivalent

Not everyone is sold on the idea of change. In fact, most people are not. There is usually the healthy part of the person that wants to change. There is also the safe and comfortable part of the person who does not. This is normal. There is no reason to beat yourself up about things that you should want to do but don’t, like “I should want to lose 25 pounds”. You will find your way when you are ready.

 


Do not beat yourself up for perceived failures

Change is hard. No one is perfect. No one changes perfectly. Change is always 3 steps up and 2 steps back. People learn more about change from their setbacks than from their success. Be gentle on yourself, accept that these setbacks are part of the change process.

 

Do not have unrealistic expectations

It’s easy to fail when you have set up way too big a step of change, “I will lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks” for example, or “I will be divorced by the end of the month.” Be realistic, the old adage “slow and steady wins the race” is applicable here.

 

Do not sabotage your successes

Ambivalence is the battle between the healthy part and safe part of yourself. Sometimes when people are succeeding in their battle to change, they set themselves up their failure – the all you can eat buffet when on a diet, the bachelor party when stopping drinking, etc. Identify the risk factors that could lead to a setback and don’t put yourself in harms way.

 

Do not feel that this is your only time to get it

Most people have several attempts at failed change before they get it right. All of these failures are actually success, because they give good information about the triggers that set up failure. They also highlight when change will be tough. When you are ready, you will succeed.

 

Do not get frustrated

It’s easy to get the “f*ck- its” about the change process and go backwards. Have patience with yourself and recognize that change is hard work. Allow yourself to have setbacks. You are human right? Remember the best hitter in baseball fails 7 out of 10 times. Have some stick-to-itiveness in the process.

 


Summary

It’s easy to do the same old same old over and over. It’s familiar, predictable and safe. You can have so much more but you have to take that first BIG step. Be aware that you may have pitfalls, but recognize that they are opportunities for learning. No one fails at change, they just get better at it. You can be safe and miserable or take the risk and be happy. You know which one works best. Hopefully you’ll pick the change side. Always remember that change is possible.

ExpertBeacon. Expert advice for the everyday crisis

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GPS

As a resident of New Jersey, many of our roadways leave a lot to be desired.  Some are constructed with little logic others are just long roadways filled with construction and repair.  The worst of these however is the four way dance of hell: Rt 17/ Rt 4/ Garden State Parkway/ Rt 80 intersections around Paramus.

The other day I had the misfortune of driving in this area, but fortunately I had my GPS.  I plugged in the address and I was off to my destination.  When it said turn left, I turned left.  When it said make a right, I followed the command.  Blindly trusting my GPS, I followed her every direction and sure enough, in spite of the the tortuous  and confusing area, I reached my location.  Upon completing my mission, I reflected upon my blind faith of this mechanical device. I  made a decision to  turned my directionality over to my Garmin.  I thought about how interesting this is–many people will trust a machine to make them safe but do not listen to their internal GPSs to help them with important life altering decisions.  Why is it that we are so willing to turn left and right on the highway because Garmin says so, but are so unwilling to go left or right in life?  Why do we negate our own “gut feeling” and do unhealthy, illogical or irrational actions?

A typical GPS answers the questions:

Where am I ?

How do I get to my destination?

How long will it take to get there?

Many people come into my office asking similar questions.  Some of them do not know their “destination”- they just want it to be different from where they are right now.  Many of them have been “off course” for many years and have come to therapy for some map guidance.  They have been ignoring their own internal GPSs.   This has led to issues such as addiction, infidelity, depression or anxiety.  Some of them are so lost they cannot make a simple left or right; they are stuck.

How does a person begin the process of using their internal GPS? For many people this will be a hard task.  Some people are so distant from their internal mechanisms, that they either do not listen to their inner voice, or the voice they hear is a critical, self-destructive one.  They need to change their self- loathing  sounds to ones that have positive affirmation and positive self-talk.  Other people have GPS settings that are other directed.  These people lack confidence in their decision making and need lots of reinforcement and approval from others.  They need to work on healthy risk taking and challenging their “catastrophizing  what if” thoughts.  When people challenge these thoughts, they discover the world hasn’t ended and they are more competent than they initially believed.  Regardless of the degree of the issue, the person needs to rediscover their inner self and work on the belief that they are ok.  If they develop that inner confidence they can take better care of themselves.

For the sake of my own self care, I’m glad that my excursions to driving hell are minimal. On these occasions, my external GPS gets me to where I need to be.  Although working with an internal GPS is not quite as easy as putting in an address, the outcome of getting to where you need to be is quite rewarding.  Remember change is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert a long time movie reviewer with Chicago Sun-Times died yesterday after a long battle with cancer.

Roger was also a recovering alcoholic who in August 2009 told his story about his recovery.  His blog should be titled “AA 101” because he tells about  how AA  works from his own perspective.  There are AA program related materials as well as you tube videos that accurately describe alcoholism and recovery in movies.

Read the blog here

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Favorite books

My office is full of conversations.  Many are sad and painful.  Others are joyous and happy.  When a client has lots of pain, particularly in the beginning stages of therapy, they need as many resources as possible.  I will often recommend that a client get a particular book in order to continue their progress between our sessions.

At my pinterest  account, some of my favorite and most recommended  books are  pinned.  They are listed with a brief comment about each book. You can find the list  here.

Let me know which ones  you’ve read that have been helpful .  If there are ones that are not listed, let me know those as well.  Happy reading!!!

 

 

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