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Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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How to Eradicate Bedeviling Thoughts

All 8.1 billion of us on the planet struggle with bedeviling thoughts to greater or lesser extent. Effective management depends on your view of them and the effort you put into governing them. What’s your take on thoughts? What’s their purpose? Are they facts or truths? Are they all created equal? You must seriously consider and answer these questions in order to be in charge of your thoughts rather than the other way around.  Neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett author of the groundbreaking book, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, calls the brain a prediction machine which works nonstop to keep us out of harm’s way. Emotions and thoughts are constantly interacting with each other, surfacing as considerations that either float in and out of awareness or bombard us. Some are automatic reactions to the present (wow, they’re hot) and others are memories that intrude because...

How to Love Your Highly Flawed Self

To be mentally healthy is to know yourself extremely well and still manage to like yourself. These are two distinct but strongly related feats. In truth, some people are so afraid they won’t like themselves if they dig too deeply into their psyche that they barely scratch the surface of self-knowledge before making a fast retreat. These are people who insist they don’t need therapy and it’s a bunch of hooey, anyway, and who pretend to have enormous self-knowledge when it’s obvious to anyone who’s been with them for five minutes that they’re clueless about themselves. The first part of the equation, knowing yourself, is easier than the second. Self-examination begins with recognizing your challenges and weaknesses as well as your strengths. The goal is to hold both at once. One would think it’s more likely that positives would shoot to the surface and we’d need to reach deeper inside to...

Guilt versus Guiltiness

I never thought of there being a difference between the words “guilt” and “guiltiness” until I read an article distinguishing the two which made a big impression on me. In it, psychotherapist Orna Guralnik explains: “Guilt entails feeling bad for having harmed another; guiltiness is the preoccupation with yourself—whether you are or aren’t guilty. This preoccupation is all about warding off shame, which blocks concern for others.”  If I’m understanding Guralnik correctly (what reader can ever really know the mind of the writer?), guilt is your heartfelt pain for having harmed another, that is, you hurt because you hurt someone, as in “I feel your pain.” Guiltiness is getting hung up on having caused someone pain, which ends up being self-referential and self-serving. Whereas guilt is all about what the other person feels, guiltiness is about what you feel.  An example of this distinction is former clients Kendra and Mikhail who...

Responding to Unwanted or Inappropriate Questions

Decades ago, a near stranger asked me why I often wore neck scarves. True, this was my habit and that of many others, as was the fashion back in the 1980s. I’m sure I mumbled that I liked how they looked or some such, but this woman’s question never struck me as coming from curiosity. It rang of judgment (as I got to know her, it turned out she was a preachy sort) which irked me. Recently, when a client described how her mother keeps asking her why she doesn’t want children, I thought of the scarf interaction and how people often ask questions that are clearly inappropriate or unwanted. Fortunately, in my clinical training, I was taught to answer inquiries of a personal or impertinent nature with another question: “Why do you want to know?” I’ve used that response over the decades well beyond my professional arena, asking it softly,...

How to Make Friends

I’ve blogged a good deal about making, choosing and keeping friends and the red flags to pick up on in relationships. Friendships require close attention which starts before you become friends and continues during the span of connection—because either of you may change for better or worse at any time, calling for relational recalibration. As an only child, I learned early on to be on the lookout for potential friendships. At 76, it’s deep-seated habit. Whenever I meet new colleagues, neighbors, friends of friends, strangers or whatevers, I automatically think about whether they’re friendship material. The only place I don’t look for friendship is with clients, though it doesn’t stop me from considering whether I’d wish to be friends with them if such relationships weren’t taboo. If you’re looking to make friends, keep your eyes wide open at all times. Think of people you interact with regularly in the office, at...

Why Boundary Setting Can Be Difficult

It’s not surprising that the topic of boundaries surfaces often in therapy—and in life. In one day, three sessions dealt with the subject. The situations varied greatly, illustrating the importance of attending to boundary issues wherever they crop up. This starts with having healthy beliefs about your ability to set and maintain boundaries while understanding that nuanced circumstances dictate nuanced responses. The first example is a client in her early twenties, a victim of emotional abuse and neglect in her family, who sometimes gets frozen in a victim mentality. We were discussing how she occasionally chooses toxic friends and her difficulty finding mentally healthy ones. At one point, she described people habitually asking her to do things for them, her complying, their never reciprocating and, therefore, not knowing how to respond to requests. I mentioned that she consider whether someone would do the same (or had done it) for her before...

When Dysfunction Seems Normal

My client Ronni works as a barista at a coffee bar that’s poorly managed. Managers come and go, her schedule is changed from week to week, and she’s often asked to fill in for missing employees. Her goal has been to try her hardest to be flexible and do a good job to please her managers. My goal has been for her to return to college. My client Marlena always seemed to find jobs where she was physically abused by a boss or co-worker. She was never badly hurt, just a shove, light slap or having keys or the like thrown at her. It was almost uncanny how this happened in job after job. When I made comments about unwanted touching, especially with aggression, being totally unacceptable, Marlena would shrug and say, “Oh, it’s not so bad. I’ve had worse.” Want to guess what these clients had in common? They both...

Stuff Happens

Months ago, as I was ironing, my beloved iron sputtered and died. After trying various ways to revive it, I grumbled, “Ugh, now something else is broken. I’m so tired of this happening.” Then the light bulb in my head flashed on to remind me that “s**t happens” because that’s the way of the world—always was, always will be—and our wish that life would simply roll merrily along without a hitch is merely self-serving foolishness.  Objects break or get lost, people and animals get sick and die, deals fall through, plans turn to disaster, weather trumps plans, and if things can go wrong they almost surely will. We know this on some level, don’t we? We experience the process ourselves and see it happen to others every day—and yet we still cling to the fantasy that we’ll have predictable, perfect lives. If random stuff happening weren’t so difficult to bear, it...

Overcoming Fear Leads to Reparative Experiences

Is your fear preventing you from having reparative experiences? I hope not, because fear not only keeps you stuck in victim mode, but also ensures that you stay there. On the other hand, you could do what some of my clients have chosen to do: face your fears, push past them, and improve your future along with your view of yourself.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A client, Andra, a veteran with PTSD, found it hard being social after suffering a military sexual assault. Since then, she’s had two abusive relationships, but also has been determined to overcome her fear of men. Recently she was at a social event where a male vet was sexually inappropriate with her. This time, instead of ignoring his mistreatment and freezing or fleeing in fear, she stood up for herself and told him off. After sharing with other male vets what happened,...

Values Clarification

One of my favorite courses in social work school was called Values Clarification (or something similar). Most people have never heard of the topic. Neither had I. But it’s a crucial life skill in understanding yourself and your place in the world. Good Therapy defines values clarification as “a psychotherapy technique that can often help an individual increase awareness of any values that may have a bearing on lifestyle decisions and actions. This technique can provide an opportunity for a person to reflect on personal moral dilemmas and allow for values to be analyzed and clarified. This process may be helpful for self-improvement, increased well-being, and interactions with others.” An understatement of its usefulness, in my humble opinion. Values come up all the time in and out of therapy, but we don’t generally call them that. Instead, we say: my beliefs are, I think that, what’s right (or wrong) is. When...