karen header 3

Karen's Blogs

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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

What Love Is and Isn’t

What-Love-Is-and-Isnt
Love is one of the mysteries of the ages. It’s a term bandied about so much that most of us have lost sight of what it means and, more important, what it doesn’t mean. We also assume that when a person says they love us, their actions will automatically align with this message. Unless we fully understand what love means, we’re bound to fall into trouble in our interpersonal relationships.  To consider its meaning, let’s go back to 1956 and the publication of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s seminal work, The Art of Loving (which I highly recommend reading). He says that “What matters is that we know what kind of union we are talking about when we speak of love. Do we refer to love as the mature answer to the problem of existence, or do we speak of those immature forms of love which may be called symbiotic union?”  “Infantile love...
Continue reading
0
  354 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Know Whom You Can Trust

How-to-Know-Whom-You-Can-Trus_20210228-221948_1
It’s not surprising that dysregulated eaters, who often have little self-trust, also have difficulty with knowing whether or not to trust others. Knowing who to trust is a learned ability, a skill. One way to assess trust is through verification. Another is by recognizing what people do when they feel guilty. I had a client when I worked at a Boston methadone clinic who stored his stash of heroin under certain railroad tracks, convinced that no one would ever catch him burying or retrieving it. When I probed for fear or a sense of guilt if he got caught, he insisted he’d be fine, that his clever plan would work. Fast forward to when he finally got arrested at those very same tracks digging up his stash and was frantic with guilt when I visited him in jail. He kept repeating how stupid he’d been and how guilty he felt that...
Continue reading
0
  409 Hits
  0 Comments

Beware of Becoming the Family Therapist

Beware-of-Becoming-the-Family-Therapist-
I’ve blogged about being the problem in your family and now want to talk to those of you who’ve taken on the role of family therapist. I don’t mean you went out and got yourself a degree in psychology, but that you’ve volunteered for the thankless job of solving the problems of everyone in your family. In truth, you may think you’ve volunteered, but my guess is that you’ve been recruited in subtle ways and are actually sacrificing your own well-being in order to fix the lives of your parents and siblings. When You Become the Family Therapist: Avoid these amateur psychology mistakes when tending to loved ones’ emotional needs by Kelsey Ogletree (AARP Bulletin 11/20, pp 36-39) explains the downside this situation poses. When you’re constantly trying to put out family fires—Cousin George’s drinking, Grandma’s depression, your parents contemplating divorce, or your sister self-harming—you run the risk of exposing yourself...
Continue reading
0
  383 Hits
  0 Comments

A Crash Course on Avoiding Unwelcome People

A-Crash-Course-on-Avoiding-Unwelcome-People
A subject that gets a major blast of air time in sessions is clients picking unhealthy people and suffering the consequences. They either complain (rightly) about being mistreated or are desperate for advice about how to get out of unhappy relationships. I spend so much time explaining how to identify mentally unhealthy people that I thought it would help to blog about them. Here are three easy steps to use to evaluate whether people are emotionally healthy enough to let them into your life as friends or lovers. Notice traits. Avoid rushing into a relationship and instead give it time to evolve. While that’s happening, observe the other person. Stop worrying so much about whether or not they’ll like or love you and focus almost exclusively on what kind of person they’re turning out to be. By nature, are they kind, generous, and thoughtful not only to you—and this is crucial—but...
Continue reading
0
  491 Hits
  0 Comments

Is It Hard Being the Mentally Healthy Person in Your Family?

Is-It-Hard-Being-the-Mentally-Healthy-Person-in-Your-Family
Most clients get very excited when they start to get psychological insights into how dysfunctional their family is. They’re determined to recover from past trauma, heal their wounds, and become more emotionally healthy. What they may not realize is that this is not necessarily what other family members want to happen. Parents and siblings might view this new-found wisdom and altered behavior as rocking the boat and upsetting the homeostasis of the family. In fact, what clients often find when they attempt to do what’s best for them is not support but a circling of the wagons and a tsunami of resistance.  So, instead of being cheered on, these clients are overtly and covertly pressured back into their old ways. Sometimes it comes as a surprise to them that they’re not getting pats on the back and other times they anticipate and are bracing themselves for such push-back. Either way, it’s...
Continue reading
0
  377 Hits
  0 Comments

From Rapture to Rupture

From-Rapture-to-Rupture
When we fall in love we generally believe it’s until death do us part. What we feel is a grand rapture. My mother used to tell me that love is the feeling you feel when you’re about to feel a feeling that you never felt before. Not very helpful for a teenager trying to understand her emotions, but most of us recognize what my mom was trying to tell me: romantic love is special, unique, like nothing else we’ve experienced. It's a kind of rapture, a state that both courses intensely through every cell of our bodies and also feels dreamlike and surreal. Love roots us in every aspect of the present while feeling as if it will last forever and that nothing ever came before. Let me give you an example. My client Ella, seeing me for marital problems, told me about when she first met her husband Lyle in...
Continue reading
0
  411 Hits
  0 Comments

You Gotta Have (a Group of) Friends

You-Gotta-Have-a-Group-of-Friend_20210205-123434_1
As an only child, friends were my lifeline to fun, connection and learning about myself. I can’t imagine my life without not only individual friends but belonging to a group of like-minded people. Granted that I’m an extrovert, but I know introverts who also enjoy the benefits of belonging to a band of friends.  Not every group of friends is right for you. Peers can lead you astray, down paths you might not have chosen without their influence and would likely not have traveled alone. If they’re doing unhealthy things and you hang with them long enough, you’ll end up doing them too. Like going out to eat with friends who all binge and overeat. If you’re not anchored to being a “normal” eater—especially if you’re trying to become one—you’re probably dooming yourself. Also, in a group you could become the scapegoat, the one that gets teased and blamed for all...
Continue reading
0
  503 Hits
  0 Comments

Beware of These Traits in People

Beware-of-These-Traits-in-People
Whether we like it or not, we all have what’s called a dark side, when we’re not putting our best foot forward and resort to irrationality and immaturity. But for some people this side is their only side. Their personality is composed of mostly unhealthy traits. “The Dark Core of Personality” highlights ones to watch out for and steer clear of in people. A team from Germany and Denmark calls these traits the General Dark Factor of Personality or D-factor. Morten Moshagen, professor at ULM University, describes it as “the basic tendency to maximize one's own utility at the expense of others, accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications for one's malevolent behaviors.” These people are anywhere from selfish to narcissistic to psychopathic. The nine factors that compose the D-factor are: “Egoism. The excessive concern with one's own pleasure or advantage at the expense of community well-being.Machiavellianism. Manipulativeness, callous affect and...
Continue reading
0
  618 Hits
  0 Comments

Beware of Projection

Beware-of-Projection-
You can’t know enough about projection if you want to live your best life. It’s a nasty little defense mechanism that humans employ to make themselves feel good and others bad. I’m pretty sharp at spotting when a client is projecting onto me, and I try to use my expertise to take note when it happens in my personal life. If you make it your business to recognize projection, you’ll improve your relationships and self-esteem exponentially. If you feel bad about yourself much of the time—defective, unworthy, unlovable—there’s an excellent chance that you have many people in your life who project their emotional garbage onto you. Projection happens when people tell you that you’re X (close-minded, uncaring, stupid, etc.) when they are describing a trait they possess. You know the kind of person I mean: Someone who could pinch a penny til it screams while complaining about the lousy tip her...
Continue reading
0
  580 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Know If People Are Keepers or Not

How-to-Know-If-People-Are-Keepers-or-Not-
It may be difficult to know whether or not to keep someone in your life—significant other, spouse, friend, or relative. Do you want to remain close to them or with them at all? Many clients entertain this dilemma and unwisely rely on self-trust or intuition to make decisions rather than rational thinking. Worse, they decide out of fear and anxiety. Here are some examples. A client is deciding if he wants to divorce his wife. Another wonders if she can continue to live with her emotionally stunted sister. A third is trying to figure out if an alcoholic friend is worth the trouble. If we live long enough, we’ll all face similar dilemmas, some of which will stress us out enough to trigger emotional eating.  One way to know whether someone is a keeper or not is to make a list of what they need to do over time to stay...
Continue reading
0
  847 Hits
  0 Comments

What Makes for Mentally Healthy Friends?

What-Makes-for-Mentally-Healthy-Friends
It’s easy to understand why we’d have problems with parents whom we didn’t pick and bosses or colleagues about whom we had limited choice, as they usually come with the job. But ongoing problems with friends, people we freely elect to have in our lives? It’s not even one-offs that clients complain about. Rather they vent about the same one or two “buddies” who drive them crazy or why they can’t seem to find the kinds of friends they want. Here are some patterns I’ve observed from my caseload over the decades. Picking friends who are victims and complain constantly about being treated unfairly, taken advantage of and how they’re put upon. Clients tending toward victim-think feel right at home. Surrounded by a Woe Is Me Club that does little actual problem solving and are poor role models for empowerment, clients avoid being accountable. They only ditch this mentality when they realize...
Continue reading
0
  601 Hits
  0 Comments

Does Your Family Focus on Problems?

Does-Your-Family-Focus-on-Problems
I often come across clients whose family focus is squarely on their problems. Everyone has to have some or there’s nothing to talk about. This is an example of the victim mentality, with each family member trying to outdo the others in calamities, debacles and bad karma. If this describes your family, it’s time to look at how you’ve been socialized and the negative impact it has on your life, as adults, even now. In families that overfocus on what’s going wrong in their lives, suffering is king (or queen). If your a/c went out, there’s a sister who’ll do you one better and describe not only how her a/c stopped working, but how the pool has some bacterial contamination that makes it impossible to take a dip. Then your mother will try to go you all one better and up the ante by describing how she had to be abulanced...
Continue reading
0
  666 Hits
  0 Comments

Outgrowing Caring What Your Parents Think

Outgrowing-Caring-What-Your-Parents-Think
I was (finally) cleaning out my files and found an article and a quote I’d saved that weren’t meant to go together, but do, beautifully. They’re for those of you in adult bodies who still think and act like children vis a vis your parents—dwelling in the land of childish wishes, hopes and resentments when you are as old as your parents were when they were raising you—and who would be immensely happier and healthier if you took your rightful place alongside your parents as independent-thinking adults. Unfortunately, the first excerpts are from a book I can’t identify, from chapter 8: Why Can’t You Get Your Parents’ Approval. Here’s what the unknown author says: “In particular, when parents use love as a conditional reward, they set the stage for their children to become approval addicts and, consequently, people-pleasers. This is called conditional parental love and it can be devastating to children...
Continue reading
0
  721 Hits
  0 Comments

Why You Get Stuck with the Wrong People

Why-You-Get-Stuck-with-the-Wrong-People
Clients often ask why they have so many emotionally unhealthy people in their lives. “I’m like a magnet to jerks,” one client insisted. Another asked, “How do all the ass-wipes in the world find me? What’s wrong with me?” If you think this way, you can heave a sigh of relief: There’s nothing wrong with you. But there is definitely something wrong with the way you select people to be in your life.  Here's what’s going on. There are a multitude of unhappy, mentally unhealthy people in the world. Are there more of them than of their opposites? I doubt it, but sometimes it seems like that. My own estimation, with no scientific basis whatsoever, is that about one-quarter of people are absolutely terrific, about one-half are okay, and one-quarter are those we need to watch out for. Mind you, I’m not judging people in this quarter. They turned out how...
Continue reading
0
  782 Hits
  0 Comments

Why Making Friends Can Be Difficult

Why-Making-Friends-Can-Be-Difficult
A complaint I often hear from clients is that it’s hard to make friends. I concur but believe that just how difficult it is depends on the meaning you give to the endeavor. As an only child with a very small extended family, I had to put great effort into making friends, so I know a bit more than most about the subject. Here’s what I’ve learned over the decades about why folks may not be interested in having a friendship with me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. People may not care for my personality or views on politics or religion, about which I’m quite upfront. While finding me pleasant enough, they might think that our values don’t mesh well enough to want to see more of me.People may not be looking to make friends. Most of the ones I meet and seek friendship from are really active and busy....
Continue reading
0
  851 Hits
  0 Comments

Can Couples Therapy Fix What Ails You

Couples-Therapy
Couples therapy can be enormously helpful to partners stuck in unhealthy patterns, including dysregulated eating. It improves communication, enhances insight, reduces tension, and deepens intimacy. I’ve done a substantial amount of it over the decades and sing its praises. It may be just what you need to heal your eating problems. Couples come to therapy at different stages of their relationship and for various reasons. The initial stages of marriage or living together can bring up all sorts of major issues about dependence and boundaries. It can rekindle fears of abandonment and rejection as well as trigger traumatic memories. Having and raising children might also create tensions, especially about what it means to be a great parent and keeping intimacy alive within the couple. The later years of coupledom are full of transitions like children moving away from home and retirement or how to have a full, meaningful life without them—not...
Continue reading
0
  653 Hits
  0 Comments

No Good or Bad People

No Good or Bad People
Even while writing the title of this blog, I thought to myself, “Really, Karen, there are no bad people?” I could feel the pull of wanting to make that damning appraisal: He’s bad or she’s just no good. But, truth is, that approach is not a very effective, sophisticated or enlightened way of thinking about the world or ourselves. We are primitive beasts at heart, tribal and territorial: People are either friend or foe and to survive we’d better know the difference. Humans developed this approach when life was rife with danger. Sure, now, occasionally you hear footsteps behind you late on a dark night and feel frightened. But generally we don’t need to make snap judgments about whether someone will make us feel safe or sorry. Our lives are more nuanced. We learn this all-nothing way of assessing others in childhood. If our parents saw themselves as good or bad,...
Continue reading
0
  589 Hits
  0 Comments

The (Paradoxical) Attraction to People Who Are Controlling

Attraction-to-Controlling-People
Ever wonder why you or people you know choose controlling, demanding, full of themselves bullies, particularly for mates? The answer is more complicated and paradoxical than you might think. The people who make these choices generally grew up with a parent or parents who dominated their lives. The parent had to always be in charge, brooked no arguments, was critical, and dominated the relationship. One might think that children who endured this behavior would have had enough of it growing up and be turned off and shy away from controlling intimates in adulthood. Instead, they often seem drawn to them. This attraction goes beyond the behavior simply being familiar or clients disbelieving they deserve better, beyond being used to people treating them poorly and expecting this will always happen because there’s something defective about them.  Another reason is that being cared for by domineering people, particularly coupling up with them, makes...
Continue reading
0
  1408 Hits
  0 Comments

Really, You’re Allowed to Hurt Other People’s Feelings

Really, You’re Allowed to Hurt Other People’s Feelings
The theme of not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings runs rampant through therapy sessions. In fact, I doubt I’ve met a dysregulated eater without this mindset which goes along with people-pleasing and approval-seeking. When I tell clients that being emotionally healthy means sometimes hurting other folks’ feelings, they’ll often say something like, “Well, I know it’s okay, but” and then describe why they believe, deep down, that it isn’t. Occasionally, they’re gobsmacked, as if they’d never heard such an off-the-wall idea or considered it an option.  Bulletin: It’s okay to hurt someone’s feelings. Emotionally healthy people know this and expect it to happen. They do it when necessary as appropriately as possible and may feel bad but not guilty and they don’t freak out when someone hurts their feelings.  Many dysregulated eaters have learned to stifle their needs and desires or tolerate emotional hurt because they believe they deserve what’s...
Continue reading
0
  1193 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Deal with People Who Act Like Victims

How to Deal with People Who Act Like Victims
Clients often come to sessions totally exasperated at having had dealings with someone who acts like a victim when they truly are not one. These clients are frustrated and angry, feel victimized themselves and helpless to change others. In fact, they’re so stuck in the problem that they’re not really interested in my solutions. In a dysfunctional emotional domino effect, I end up both frustrated that clients aren’t listening to my solutions and helpless and spent because I don’t seem to be able to help them. When I have this “poor me” experience in a session, I know that therapy has gone awry and it’s time for me to reflect on what’s going on because victimhood can be a contagious condition if we let it be. Person A complains to person B so much that B feels put upon and needs to vent to person C. Person A usually feels better...
Continue reading
0
  952 Hits
  0 Comments

shelf new

EBProfessionalBadgeLarge

This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.  Privacy Policy