A few years ago, I attended a half-day meditation retreat. I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d been going to this meditation center with some frequency. The center offered a weekly Buddhist-based 12-step support group that gave me some different perspectives on what has now become a tried and true but well-worn path to…

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“Racism…” he thinks, with a long, drawn-out sigh, filled with dread, despair, confusion, anger, sadness, pain, hopelessness. I am not talking about some hypothetical Man of Color. I am talking about me, when I think about racism, which is often, but probably not often enough. Now that I’ve narrowed it down for you, I will…

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There can be no question that we are facing something almost none of us have ever faced before—a sudden and dramatic change from the way we are used to living our normal lives. I am not saying this to alarm you. I am saying this so you remember that whatever you might be feeling right…

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Self-doubt is one of the most confusing and yet constant feelings we experience. It is everywhere, in nearly everything we do, big and small. Self-doubt is that little voice that says, “are you sure you should…? [have whole milk in your latte], or [text an old romantic partner who’s sent you a seemingly harmless text],…

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Some time ago, before writing the last couple of Blog posts on introspection, I had decided that there would be exactly twelve posts in this series. Twelve is such a nice, complete number. There are twelve months in a year. In the Bible, there are the twelve tribes of Israel and Twelve Apostles (okay, now…

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Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass   Having the capacity to hold and experience two opposing or contradictory feelings, thoughts and desires at the same time is human, very human. It is both a blessing and a…

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Having spent the last several months writing about “going inside yourself” (introspection), it occurs to me that I should take a breather and answer the question, “is there such a thing as too much introspection?” I want to say “no” because introspection is so much a part of my life as a therapist and a…

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In the last blog post, I described the difference between existence (you as you are right now) and being (you in the process of becoming what you want to be).  Being is preferable.  Being means frequently asking yourself where you are headed in your life, your head, your values and morality.  Being isn’t just about goals, although…

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  “Skynet… becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th.” From the Movie, Terminator II, 1991   I was on a bus at the age of 14, headed toward work. I was looking down at my hands. I was probably bored, and maybe high on something. I started to move my fingers, watching my…

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There’s this scene in the movie The Elephant Man that was transformative for me.  I saw the movie in my late teens.  In the movie, the main guy has a disease which disfigures his whole body, including his face.  In this particular scene, he is running from reporters.  I think he’s in a hospital.  At…

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Introspection Part 6, self-acceptance I recently said the following to a client struggling with shame: “The opposite of shame is not pride. The opposite of shame is self-acceptance.” Moving toward self-acceptance requires self-knowledge, which in turn requires introspection. In Part 2 of this series of blog posts on introspection, I attempted to lay out the…

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Now that you have some tools for accessing your inner self (See the previous blog post, Introspection Part 4), what are you supposed to do once you are “in there” (looking around within yourself)? Answer: find your “inner narrative”—the story you tell yourself about you and your world. That’s really it. Sounds simple, and it…

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It occurs to me that in addition to all the negative reasons one might not engage in self-exploration I noted in Part 3 of this series on introspection (fear of emotional pain, family or gender negative messages, avoiding  responsibility), some of us do not engage in self-exploration because we just don’t really know how to do…

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I hope I made a convincing case in Part 2 of this discussion on introspection—that exploring your inner life has some very tangible (and intrinsic) benefits, including predictability and flexibility (in how you interact with others). I hope I also made it clear that, without introspection, there is really no way for a person to…

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Every once in a while I run into a person who tells me they think introspection and self-awareness are a waste of time. I have even on occasion been told that introspection encourages negative feelings about ourselves, by causing us to dwell on difficult issues. I am almost universally so surprised by these ways of…

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A friend recently read my book, Firewalking on Jupiter. He liked it. He thought it was useful in a variety of ways. He thought the book did a pretty good job of explaining how to address different issues you might need to address depending on who you are and what you discover about yourself—things like…

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Communication Styles The way we communicate with each other is usually based on our perceptions of a situation that tell us how we need to express ourselves to get what we want from that situation. Communication “styles” (or approaches) can be broken down into four categories: “passive,” “assertive,” “passive-aggressive,” and “aggressive.” You can see from…

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I am always thrilled when a client brings an insight to me that reflects an understanding of their issues at a fairly deep level, especially when they are able to use language they find helpful to explain how they use their insights to address their own difficulties. So, please, if you are either a client…

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A client struggles with self-doubt. Don’t we all. Yes. Of course we do. In this case, though, the self-doubts were emotionally devastating for her. She asked, “how do I get rid of it, this self-doubt?” Fair question, in light of her present difficulties with it. I pointed out that, like all feelings, self-doubt is a…

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Where does moral conviction originate? Does it come from within? Is it instilled in us from something external? How does it arise? Do we need to pay attention to it, foster it, grow it, encourage it, for it to gain strength? Or, does it exist of its own accord, making itself known when the time…

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Being stuck in your life is nearly always the result of making a decision to do nothing to change your circumstances. I say “nearly always” only to account for those very rare situations in which you are really completely unable to change anything about your current status (like, say, you’ve been in a car accident…

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In my most recent blog post, I charted some of the course of moving into and then out of the victim role as an essential and healthy process for dealing with trauma. I wrote this in part due to a conversation I had with a few therapy colleagues at a conference about trauma and healing.…

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When is a victim truly a victim, as opposed to when someone merely thinks they are a victim? Why do we question this? Probably because, often enough, we hear someone claiming “victim” status when they may not actually be a victim at all. Their justification for claiming “victim” status comes through blaming someone or something…

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Power is morally neutral. Power is neither good nor bad. Power just is. It is part of the universe in which we live, part of the human condition, part of life. Power is: the capacity to achieve a desired outcome. One way to think about power is to compare it to a force in the…

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Morality is about other people. If morality is about other people, then our obligations to other people and their obligations to us plays a very central role to morality.

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“You can only coast in one direction.” In case the meaning of this statement doesn’t sink in right away, take a moment and think about it. Imagine you’re on a bicycle. You’ve stopped pedaling. You’re coasting. This won’t last long unless you are going down, only down. Going straight or uphill, you’ll stop coasting pretty…

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In a recent blog post I discussed the process of “Defiant Morality” leaving for another blog the related process of “Defining Morality,” which will be the topic of this blog post. Defining Morality might be described as the opposite side of the spectrum from Defiant Morality. Defining Morality is this: “in any given situation, do…

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I have for some time been considering how to approach more directly my thoughts on morality—on what is “good” and “bad” when it comes to human decisions, including their behavior, beliefs, attitudes, and judgments. I have wanted to write about this topic directly, but have hesitated. The problem has been that is in my nature…

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People fear pride, which is weird, and a bummer. Pride is good. It even seems a little sad when someone tells me they fear letting themselves feel pride. Pride is simply a way of telling ourselves we have done something worth doing, and maybe we have even done it well. So why do we fear…

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We all say we don’t like to be judged by others, and yet, let’s face it, we all judge others. Does this make us hypocrites? Not necessarily. It depends on what you judge and how you use judgments. There are a couple of different ways to judge and to be judged. There are also different…

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Desire for personal growth, and the kind of change that comes with it, is usually driven by a recognition that things as they are now are somehow unsatisfactory, problematic, or just more difficult than we want them to be. Somewhere there is a situation that needs changing, a problem to be resolved, a challenge to…

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I am in the mood to offer a very ambitious thought and then try to explain it, knowing the thought is far too broad and complex to have any hope of an adequate explanation in just a few pages. It is likely that the subject will occupy my thoughts to some degree for the rest…

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Empathy is a very important part of my role as a therapist. Without it, the therapy relationship would feel and even be, robotic, mechanistic. What makes therapy human, connected, real, interesting and therefore valuable to the client (and me) is my ability and willingness to try to imagine what it would be like to be…

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It’s done!  I have finished my book.  The official title is “Firewalking on Jupiter: A Therapist’s Guide to Fearless Self-Discovery.” I have published it through CreateSpace, which is part of Amazon. This announcement might seem like a shameless plug. I suppose in a way it is. I want people to buy the book because I…

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Setting goals is something is an important and early part of the therapy process.  As part of the goal-setting process, I ask questions like these: “How will you know when you are ready to be done in therapy?” “How will things be different in your life?”  “How will you feel about the problems that brought…

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Let’s say you find a sibling, an in-law or some other family member you have in the past found particularly irritating; maybe you disagree with their values, politics, religion, or their lack of filters (e.g. when they drink).  Now let’s say you only see them once or a few times a year, like during the…

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As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it probably comes as no surprise that a significant portion of clients are couples who want to resolve issues in their relationships. Although the kinds of issues that couples bring to therapy vary greatly, there are certain common elements to the process of working with couples that are quite…

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In this first of a two-part discussion of therapy with couples, I will explain some of the options for arranging the structure of the couples therapy. The second part of the discussion will delve into the process of working with couples in therapy. I will explore some thoughts about why couples therapy works and sometimes…

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A search for the definition of the word “tenacity” first brings up “stubbornness.”  It works for a starter—except we think of stubborn as a mostly negative trait and I want to write about the positive aspect of tenacity. Sometimes, though, there is also strength in stubbornness. While on a walk a few years ago with…

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The process of therapy is different for every client.  All clients have different needs, goals, issues, personalities, levels of development, self-awareness and expectations.  It is important for me to cater my approach and processes in therapy to the individual needs of all unique clients.  No one approach fits everyone. At the same time, there are…

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What kind of therapist am I? There are many different kinds of “therapy.”  There is “physical therapy,” “massage therapy,” “art therapy,” and the list goes on.  Technically speaking (and I do not like this term because it is sounds so weird), I am a “psychotherapist.”  Would you want to call yourself a “psychotherapist?” I am…

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What is therapy? As a therapist, I continually ask myself basic questions about therapy.  What is “therapy?”  When does therapy work?  How do I know it is working?  What is the ultimate point of therapy?  Am I doing all the things I should be doing to help make the process as valuable and beneficial to…

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This is a modified version of a chapter in the book I wrote about my childhood. The book is called, “Twelfth Child.”  It is not published, but now and then I use parts of it when I speak and bits and pieces of it have shown up here as part of blogs and in other…

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This is a story of a Christmas Miracle about our precious little dog, Julian. For those of you who do not celebrate Christmas, either because it is not consistent with your culture or belief system, or because you for other reasons simply choose not to participate in this holiday, please bear with me. I actually…

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Kurt Vonnegut, that great American writer and thinker, once said that humanity’s greatest inventions included the United States Constitution and 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (he also included Robert’s Rules of Order—but that seems really weird and isn’t relevant to this blog’s topic).  As someone who was engaged in a legal career for over 15…

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Several years ago, I started saying to myself “I’m just some guy” in therapy to remember I don’t know more about my client than they know about themselves. The phrase was also a reminder that there are other therapists who are just as good or better therapists than I am, and a client is always…

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Clients are often (justifiably) concerned about getting stuck or dwelling on their past for months or years as part of the therapy process. Sometimes clients have a concern that therapy might encourage them to rely on their past as “an excuse” for whatever their issues might be in their current lives (“I can’t get my…

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One of the most important things I think I do as a therapist is to remind clients that their feelings are almost never either all “good” or all “bad.”  When I discuss feelings with clients, I do not merely ask, “how does that make you feel.”  I ask, “what does that feeling tell you?”  “What…

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With Lincoln’s birthday coming up, I want to thank him for his great influence on me, my life, and my therapeutic philosophy. It might be a bit of a cliché or just plain obvious to be a big fan of Abraham Lincoln.  I mean, who isn’t, right?  Hating Abraham Lincoln would be like hating cute…

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For many of us the Holidays are a time of happy memories and family-focused fun. The planning of extended family get-togethers can be a chance to see people we miss and love and only see once or twice a year. For others, it is a time of difficult memories, of disappointments, or just general stress,…

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Several of my clients have been sufficiently successful in their careers that they are required to manage other people, even when, in some cases, they did not want to have to manage others.  In discussing with clients the difficulties and issues of managing other people, and in my own experiences managing others, I have learned…

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In part 1 of this series of blogs on the relationship between depression and anxiety, I discuss how they are often related by their both being a response to a difficult task or issue.  In Part 2, I describe how depression and anxiety become such problems when dealing with difficult tasks or issues. Finally, in…

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In part 1 of this series of blogs on the relationship between depression and anxiety, I discuss how they are often related by their both being a response to a difficult task or issue.  In Part 2, I describe how depression and anxiety become such problems when dealing with difficult tasks or issues. Finally, in…

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In part 1 of this series of blogs on the relationship between depression and anxiety, I discuss how they are often related by their both being a response to a difficult task or issue.  In Part 2, I describe how depression and anxiety become such problems when dealing with difficult tasks or issues. Finally, in…

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In my first installment on this topic, I described the current model of “mental illness,” which seems to be the dominant focus of the mental healthcare profession. Rather than focusing on what constitutes a “healthy” mental state, the medical model and insurance driven services have led the mental health profession to identify “what is wrong”…

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During my first session with clients, I often suggest to them that while they are thinking about which therapist might be a good fit for them, they ask themselves this question, “how does this therapist define what constitutes ‘mental health’?”  I wonder to myself, if asked that question during an initial session or phone call…

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Special Blog Post: Resources for Coping with Mental Health and Covid-19 A word about confidentiality in my blogs. In the following blogs there are numerous examples of clients in therapy struggling, coping and overcoming different mental health issues. I offer them to illustrate points, to add some interesting ideas, to make the whole enterprise of working…

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During my first blog entry on authenticity, I explained what the word and concept of “authenticity” means to me.  I left unanswered the question of why “Authenticity” is important.  My aim here is to take a shot at trying to answer that question. I want to thank a client who offered to allow me to…

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Yesterday, I visited with my mother for a few hours, showing her a bit about how to use the internet beyond email. She recited a line from a poem to offer some insight into a relationship issue we were discussing. She only knew one line, but didn’t know the rest of the poem, or who…

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ADHD and Therapy: Beyond medication, giving a voice to distraction As a family therapist who works with parents of children with ADHD, I often stop and ask myself, “what am I doing with my clients in therapy that medication is not doing by itself.” My clients with ADHD benefit greatly from therapy even when it…

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Why do we have anxiety? We experience anxiety when we want control over outcomes that are important to us. In this sense, anxiety itself is not a problem. A professor back in graduate school had a saying about anxiety: “without anxiety all rabbits would be dead on the railroad tracks” (if they didn’t jump like…

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Of course it is, but sometimes you wouldn’t know it by what clients tell me during their narratives of how they feel about themselves or other family members who become angry. Listening to an interview on NPR a few years ago, a psychologist said, “anger is a moral feeling.” I can’t remember anything else he…

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Clients often express either doubts about not loving themselves or outright inability to feel love for themselves, which in all cases has been related to physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse.  Its as if they’ve learned that experiencing this kind of trauma prevents them from loving themselves, which in turn prevents them from loving others and…

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I can safely say nearly all of my clients have issues that would be far less important to their daily feelings of well-being if they were able to establish more consistent and healthy boundaries with the people they are close to in their lives.  What do I mean by “healthy” boundaries?  Boundaries in which you…

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