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 Makes for a Great Childhood?

What-Makes-for-a-Great-Childhood
I blog a lot about adverse environments in child-rearing, but what makes for a great childhood is equally as important. This blog is as much for those of you who still blame yourselves for your lack of success or happiness as for those thinking about how to parent future generations. According to “Children Are More Likely to Succeed If They Live in this Type of Environment”, parents can go a long way toward ensuring their progeny’s success. The main ingredient, according to the article, is positive connection, based on these categories: care, support, safety, respect and participation. If you’re thinking about your own childhood, how did things measure up? Did you feel physically and emotionally safe and well cared for? Did you receive adequate and age-appropriate support? Were your opinions and needs respected and did family members treat each other respectfully? Was there a strong sense of belonging in spite of...
Continue reading
0
  240 Hits
  0 Comments

Characteristics of Dysfunctional Families

Characteristics-of-Dysfunctional-Families
It’s sad when clients don’t know they’re in or grew up in dysfunctional families. It’s often in therapy or through self-help books that they learn how seriously dysfunctional their families are or have been. Here are some characteristics, though I likely left some out.  Addiction kills relationships—alcohol, drugs (recreational or prescription), shopping, pornography, work, etc. When addiction comes first, it leaves family behind and some of these behaviors can change parents’ personalities for the worse.It’s unhealthy when there’s triangulation in a family which involves one member pulling in another member to discuss an issue that’s really between them and someone else. When Dad tells you to tell Mom to clean the house, he’s avoiding conflict by not telling her directly.Keeping secrets is debilitating to a family because children sense there’s something wrong but are told nothing is. I know a family in which an uncle took his own life, but the...
Continue reading
0
  246 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Say Goodbye to Grievances about Your Parents

How-to-Say-Goodbye-to-Grievances-about-Your-Parents
Usually, Thanksgiving through New Year’s is the time clients grow most anxious about dealing with their parents and freak out about seeing—or not seeing—them. This year, parental panic popped up right before and after Mother’s Day, perhaps because the COVID pandemic prevented in-the-flesh get togethers until then.  So, wherever you are on the continuum of emotional separation from your parents, here are guidelines for growing yourself into having a mature, healthy relationship with them. Accept that your parents were or are anywhere from mildly to tragically flawed. Many of them suffered through rough to horrendous childhoods which left them ill equipped and unprepared to be wise, caring parents. They can’t give what they didn’t get.You deserved far better parents than you got, even if you had pretty good ones. You were an innocent child who was 100% dependent on people who may have had a hard time taking care of themselves, never mind...
Continue reading
0
  335 Hits
  0 Comments

Power Over or With

Power-Over-or-With
We all want to feel powerful to greater or lesser extent and there are different ways of achieving that goal. Some people build their inner resources, grow themselves to the best of their ability, and aim to share power with others. Other people try to dominate whoever they’re with to gain power over them.  Graeme Stuart says that power over “is built on force, coercion, domination and control, and motivates largely through fear . . . on a belief that power is a finite resource that can be held by individuals, and that some people have power and some people do not . . . Power with is shared power that grows out of collaboration and relationships. It is built on respect, mutual support, shared power, solidarity, influence, empowerment and collaborative decision making . . . Rather than domination and control, power with leads to collective action and the ability to...
Continue reading
0
  212 Hits
  0 Comments

Why It’s Hard to Reject Unhealthy People

Why-Its-Hard-to-Reject-Unhealthy-People
One recurrent issue with clients is helping them in choosing intimates who are more emotionally evolved than they are so they can grow into better versions of themselves. For example, Jarelle works hard in recovery from alcohol, drug abuse and to overcome a childhood of sexual and emotional abuse. He’s thoughtful, insightful, a college graduate, and wants badly to have a happy life though he feels hindered by PTSD and depression. His major problem is choosing people who wind up hurting him and then feeling victimized by them. Freud called this the repetition compulsion: people try to master past traumas by recreating a painful childhood relationship in the present in order to orchestrate a better outcome—which does not happen. Instead, Jarelle picks people similar to his parents, an act we call self-sabotage.    Part of the problem is that Jarelle’s parents (nearly his entire family) weren’t very kind and caring about...
Continue reading
0
  232 Hits
  0 Comments

How Co-dependence Wrecks Your Life

How-Co-dependence-Wrecks-Your-Life
Care to guess what percentage of my current clients are co-dependent? A whopping 76%. I made this count after reading an article (written for clinicians) on the subject: “The Neuroscience of Codependency for Client Understanding and Treatment.”  Due to learning maladaptive patterns in childhood, you are co-dependent if you: are overly selfless and trusting, repeatedly put others’ needs first at your expense, over-empathize and over-identify, often are taken advantage of and victimized, and surround yourself with your opposite type—narcissist or sociopath. The article’s author, Mary Joye, maintains that, “Abandonment, abuse, neglect, parental addiction, death of a parent or any childhood trauma can result in a lifetime of grasping for love like a frantic infant or to become submissive to a narcissistic or demanding partner.” Sound familiar?  Joye explains the neurobiology of co-dependence, that is, how it affects people emotionally, cognitively and physically from infancy on: “If a child does not experience...
Continue reading
0
  309 Hits
  0 Comments

You’re Only as Healthy as the Company You Keep

Youre-Only-as-Healthy-as-the-Company-You-Keep
I’m often amazed to hear about clients’ unhealthy friends—substance abusers, unstable people with mental or physical health problems who refuse treatment, dangerous risk-takers, perpetual victims in abusive relationships who won’t acknowledge problems or leave, and narcissists who take advantage of clients financially or emotionally or both.  Clients tell me story after story about these “friends” and come up with all kinds of reasons they keep them in their lives: feeling sorry for them, having been friends for years or since childhood, their possessing many redeeming qualities, or friends having no one to care for them. Clients accuse me of being coldhearted when I suggest that these so-called friends don’t add much to their lives and take away a lot.  I explain why it’s hard to detach from friends or at least reduce contact or closeness with them. Sometimes clients have too much compassion for them. Or they overidentify with them. Or...
Continue reading
0
  273 Hits
  0 Comments

The Dilemma of Parent Care

The-Dilemma-of-Parent-Care
Years ago, between writing books on eating and building my therapy practice, I tried my hand at writing novels and screenplays. Although none were published or produced, I see the story line of one script play out over and over in my clinical work: that of adult children taking care of parents who abused or neglected them in childhood. Many of these clients don’t even realize the dilemma such a difficult situation presents to them. Here's what I’m talking about. In my screenplay an insecure, introverted 20-something, raised by her widowed father who sexually abused her, ends up taking care of him when he develops Alzheimer’s. She’s never processed the rage she feels at him nor her fierce yearning for an apology for the unspeakable harm he did her. In fact, part of her reason for taking care of him is to get the love and caring he failed to give...
Continue reading
0
  241 Hits
  0 Comments

Seeing is Believing

Seeing-is-Believing
I love this quote by poet and author Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Why is that so hard for so many people to do? It seems like a simple enough concept. Here are examples of what I mean. Decades ago, I had a boss who bent over backwards to be nice to some staff and was dismissive and sarcastic to others. Naturally, the staff was split in two about how we felt about him. I was one of the people he was always nice and respectful to, but I would cringe when he tore into other staff during staff meetings and other functions.  So why was I surprised when one day he got angry at me for a perceived slight and began waging war against me? Didn’t he show me just what he was capable of by the disdain he showed to...
Continue reading
0
  295 Hits
  0 Comments

Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families

Adult-Children-of-Alcoholics-and-Dysfunctional-Families
I came across a list of 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic in our local Sarasota Herald Tribune. If one or both of your parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol (or even gambling, pornography, or the internet) or suffered from mental illness, you’re likely to have some or many of these traits. Many are traits of dysregulated eaters as well.  The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic  We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our abandonment needs.We live life from the viewpoint of victims, and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.We have an overdeveloped sense...
Continue reading
0
  451 Hits
  0 Comments

Why Parental Validation Is Essential

Why-Parental-Validation-Is-Essential-
Validation is another one of these subjects that I talk a great deal about with clients. It’s so crucial to healthy emotional development that I can’t believe I’ve never directly blogged about it. The topic came up when I was taking with a client about her having near constant extreme self-doubt. If you’re someone who’s always looking for the right answer and frequently engages in second-guessing, you probably suffer from a lack of childhood validation, “the recognition and acceptance of another person's thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable.” Here's how the issue came up with Ming, the above-mentioned client. She said that no matter how often her boyfriend told her she was beautiful (and she is!), she never felt it. This insecurity had led to her having one quick affair and living with a constant, nagging feeling that she wasn’t attractive enough. She also admitted to being somewhat over-zealous with...
Continue reading
0
  376 Hits
  0 Comments

Why It’s So Hard to Give Up Wanting Parental Love

Why-Its-So-Hard-to-Give-Up-Wanting-Parental-Love
If you’re hoping to win your parents love and attention or change them in any way, you are not alone. One week not so long ago, I had intense conversations with five (adult) clients on this subject when they were upset by feeling rejected, abandoned, shamed, invalidated, or simply dismissed by a parent. The best news I could give them was that all 7.9 billion people on the planet, along with all our human predecessors, have struggled, to greater or lesser extent, with this very same issue, including yours truly. Although we may seek love and approval from others, yearning for it from parents is in a class by itself. We will frequently turn ourselves inside out to get a scrap of praise or avoid a tongue-lashing, far more so than we do with folks who aren’t our parents. This is true whether we live next door to them or across...
Continue reading
0
  527 Hits
  0 Comments

Yes, You’re Allowed to Disappoint Other People

Yes-Youre-Allowed-to-Disappoint-Other-People
Many people have the odd belief that they should never disappoint others. The belief runs rampant in the eating disorders community. While it’s clear to me how this irrational belief came about, the concept of it being okay to disappoint others often comes as a surprise to clients. If you’re an adult walking around the planet trying not to disappoint people, finding out that you no longer need to think this way may shock you too. Where else did you learn that disappointment is a no no but in childhood. Here’s an example. Say, you’re an amazing artist and an outstanding soccer player but not so great in math which disappoints your dad who hoped you’d grow up to become an accountant like him. He lets you know frequently that he’s sad/upset/disappointed and, as a child, this makes you feel terrible because you love Dad and feel like the cause of...
Continue reading
0
  452 Hits
  0 Comments

How We Learn to Trust Others

How-We-Learn-to-Trust-Others
Do you trust people in general or are you wary that others won’t have your best interest at heart? Do you believe the world is a caring place or do you see it as fraught with dangers so that you need to remain on guard? Simplified, is the world safe or scary? A more relevant question may be whether you recognize that your view isn’t a matter of fact or fiction but simply what you learned from experience growing up. How else can we explain that Holocaust survivors still believe in the human capacity to be and do good or that some people will go to their graves believing that a dark cloud hangs over them although they’ve lived reasonably normal, uneventful lives?  Whether you view people as trustworthy or not and the world as safe or scary depends on what your family of origin was like. Here are some questions...
Continue reading
0
  578 Hits
  0 Comments

The Good Enough Parent

The-Good-Enough-Parent
Those of you who read my blogs know that I’m all about “good enough.” No one needs to strive for perfection in parenting. Parents can be imperfect and still do a great job with their kids. In fact, The Good Enough Parent Is the Best Parent. The term “good enough mother” was coined by British psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott. Psychologist, scholar, public intellectual and author Bruno Bettelheim later expanded the concept to “good enough parents.” Here are some tips:  Don’t strive to be a perfect  parent or expect perfection from your children. Cut yourself and others slack and have compassion for yourself and others. Mistakes and failures are learning experiences, not character defects or self-worth arbiters. Respect your children and try to understand them for who they are. Good enough parents “see their children as complete human beings right now, and their job as that of getting to know those...
Continue reading
0
  650 Hits
  0 Comments

Watch Out for These People

Watch-Out-for-These-People
Several times a week I have discussions with clients about being mistreated by others. This is because not everyone is as mentally healthy or as nice you are. If you often end up being mistreated by people, my guess is that you’re hanging with friends or family who are emotionally greedy or needy or both. Here’s an example of what I mean. Shawna runs herself ragged taking care of others who rarely extend themselves for her. Her grandmother calls her several times a week to complain about her life and many are the days that Shawna spends her lunch hour as a paralegal running errands for her. Then there’s Shawna’s car-less best friend who is constantly begging her to take her places. She frequently asks to borrow Shawna’s car or crash at her apartment when she has a row with her boyfriend. Shawna is the go-to person with family and friends...
Continue reading
0
  721 Hits
  0 Comments

How Object Relations Theory Will Help You

How-Object-Relations-Theory-Will-Help-You
I often use object relations theory to help clients better interact with narcissistic people, especially their parents or bosses. It’s a complicated theory and I focus on one particular concept that fosters improved understanding of how others operate. The theory describes the internalized view we have of others: do we see and treat them as if they have their own needs and wants that may be different from ours or do we perceive them as objects (a part of us) to be used for our own gratification. Stop a minute and think about people you know and how you feel around them. If you feel seen, heard and valued by someone, they probably have an internalized view of you as a unique, separate person from themselves (good object relations). However, if you feel unseen, unheard and devalued, they probably objectify you (poor object relations). Here's an example. I had a client...
Continue reading
0
  807 Hits
  0 Comments

Why Keep Asking Why People Won’t Change?

Why-Keep-Asking-Why-People-Wont-Change-
Why questions can be helpful in understanding yourself and others. “Why do I think I need to eat watching TV?” and “Honey, why don’t you like historical novels?” are fine questions which will likely give you fruitful information But some “why” questions aren’t meant to seek new information and have a purpose which you’re probably not aware of.  “Why won’t they change?” may be the most frequent question I’m asked. What drives it is usually not avid curiosity and it may not even be a quest for new information. When you ask, “Why hasn’t he changed when I’ve asked him a million times not to talk about my weight?” or “Why hasn’t she changed when I’ve begged her not to hurl questions at me the minute I walk in the door from work?” what you really might be wanting to know is: am I worth someone doing things differently, don’t they...
Continue reading
0
  787 Hits
  0 Comments

Time to Learn How to Detach

Time-to-Learn-How-to-Detach-
Most clients think of detaching from others as breaking off a relationship or not caring about another person, but neither represents true emotional detachment which is another sort of animal. When we detach, we may or may not still care about the person, spend time with or live near them, or continue contact.  Detachment is a mental/emotional state of indifference and emotional disconnection. Have you ever read a book or watched a film in which you were mildly engaged with a character but didn’t greatly care about what happened to them? When we detach, we feel as if we’re seeing someone from a distance. Detachment is a neutral space where you don’t feel personally connected to someone’s actions or let them disturb you. Here's an example. My client Charles, 34, has a highly narcissistic father who expects complete allegiance and wants to control his life. Living within a few miles of...
Continue reading
0
  822 Hits
  0 Comments

Do You Expect People to Read Your Mind?

Do-You-Expect-People-to-Read-Your-Mind
Most of us think of mind readers as entertainers who insist they know what you’re thinking and go to great lengths to make you think so. That is not the kind of mind reader I’m writing about here. This blog is about a family dynamic in which members are supposed to be able to read each other’s minds and are chastised for not doing so. For instance, my client Jay-Lynn’s mother asked her to pick up a gift for her own father’s birthday. “You know the kinds of books he likes, sports and stuff,” her mother told her. Jay-Lynn wasn’t sure exactly what to get him, but she squeezed out some time from her busy schedule to pop into Barnes and Noble to search for something that seemed appropriate. She was excited when she arrived home to show her mother her purchase. When she held up the book her mother said,...
Continue reading
0
  846 Hits
  0 Comments

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.