Seriously—Do You Have Someone Else’s Conscience?

The question posed in this post’s title may sound almost nonsensical. How could you possibly be a victim of another’s conscience? Still, ask yourself: Is your super-ego tyrannical?

The Fascinating Dynamics of Dread

If what you’re anticipating is something you dread, your anxiety over it can be nerve-wracking. Say, you’re on pins and needles to find out the results of your recent MRI. . . .

4 Key Reasons Grandmas Act Differently With Their Grandkids

My 30+ years as a therapist has led me to a curious conclusion about families: namely, that grandparents find it much easier to love their grandchildren unconditionally than . . .

2 Keys for Conquering Your Worst Case Scenarios

Sometimes our imaginations make our fears feel horrifyingly real. How can we counter this common tendency?

Want to Avoid Blow-Ups With Your Partner? Here's How

It’s hard to think of anything more crucial to your relationships—including the all-important one with yourself—than the awareness of what words and deeds set you and others off.

Why—With Humans—It’s All So Complicated

In relationships, all is relative. How could it not be when our perceptions of others are "preordained” by so many different factors. . . .

Might You Suffer from Reverse Paranoia?

As odd a phenomenon as "reverse paranoia" may seem, many writers have weighed in on this controversial concept. For it can be seen either as a valuable asset or, on the contrary...

3 Ways to Be Happy in Unrequited Love

By definition, an unreturned love is one-sided. But doubtless, the experience itself embodies two sides. On the upside, you’re enthralled, charmed, and captivated by the beloved. Your passion for them is exhilarating: an incomparable high. Regrettably, the downside of such ardor is every bit as intense—replete with agonizing feelings of loneliness, misery, and despair...

Do You Defend Your Partner’s Defenses? Here's Why You Should

We all need our psychological defenses. They protect us from experiencing an otherwise disturbing anxiety. Or an ancient sense of inferiority, or shame that may go all the way back to childhood—and that we’ve never managed to fully resolve. So when we talk about getting our buttons pushed, it’s about someone’s (however accidentally) triggering these uncomfortable feelings.

What If Your Most Cherished Ideals Collide?

Being true to yourself is all well and good. It certainly sounds crucial. But there are times when doing so is far easier said than done. For one of your most treasured ideals may not always jibe with another. In such instances you can find yourself, almost literally, torn in two—simultaneously trying to honor both these seminal values when they’re mutually exclusive....

Compromise Made Simple: 7 Handy Tips for Couples

Even if you marry the person of your dreams—the “one of all ones”—you still won’t live happily ever after. Humans that we are, we inevitably run into problems when our wants and needs don’t match our mate’s. And unless we become skilled in the fine art of compromise, in such situations our relationship can quickly degrade into feelings of dissatisfaction and discontent.

The Complex Emotion of Courage: Do You Really Understand It?

To most of us, courage is little more than confronting a dangerous situation without flinching. The individual exhibits valor and bravery: is assured, fearless, undaunted. Doubtless, we view courage as what heroes are made of. But, to begin to question the many conventional assumptions surrounding this attribute, let’s take a look at the following quote . . .

Kim Davis, Pope Francis, and the Moral Ambiguity of Courage

Exactly what was so compelling about Kim Davis’ court case that Pope Francis would squeeze her into his already crowded U.S. visit? On the surface at least, Davis’ illegally defiant behavior as a county clerk in Kentucky would hardly seem exemplary. Yet many have staunchly defended her--while others have contested her fundamentalist ideas about religious liberty.

Courage in Relationships: Conquering Vulnerability and Fear

It’s a profound—and paradoxical—truth that courage isn’t really courage at all unless there’s some fear attached to it. Without a moment’s hesitation before taking on something felt as hazardous, the act would exemplify not so much courage as foolhardiness or mindless impulsivity. As Mark Twain put it: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear."

Yogi Berra’s Mis-Quotes: Why They’re So Comically Endearing

On the advent of Yogi Berras’ passing this week at the age of 90, it seemed fitting for me to pay tribute to him here. But not so much for his being a sterling Hall of Fame catcher who helped lead his beloved Yankees to ten World Series victories, as for his wacky but so “winning” malapropisms—which over the years have delighted millions. . . .

What Does It Mean When We Stick Our Tongues Out?

Questions relating to sticking out one's tongue can be surprisingly complicated. For its meaning in babies and children may be quite different from adults doing the same thing. And there are so many nuances to it: Is the tongue sticking straight out? to the left? right? hanging down? curled? And what’s the accompanying facial expression and context in which it occurs? ...

Does Conditional Self-Acceptance Keep You From Being Happy?

Do you have a tendency to disavow compliments? Deny credit if what you accomplished was done with minimal effort? Or might you attribute your successes more to luck than to social skills, intelligence, or innate gifts? If any of these characterizations applies to you, you’re probably preventing yourself from experiencing what all of us most desire.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: The Many Faces of Narcissism

Are writers on narcissism perhaps too quick to declare this core personality attribute dysfunctional? For in one way or another, narcissistic traits exist in us all. And those seriously lacking in narcissism—as in healthy narcissism—may be just as troubled, and have just as badly distorted a self-image, as those pernicious individuals “super-saturated” with it.

Does Your Partner Have Rage Attacks? Here's What to Do

If, for whatever reason—or possibly no good reason at all—your partner is blasting you, what do you need to do? Granted, many therapists would simply suggest that you leave the scene. For, as a matter of personal dignity and respect, you’re hardly obliged to tolerate such abuse. But although such a response is warranted, it can actually be dangerous. . . .

To Love Someone, Do You Really Need to Love Yourself First?

It’s become commonplace to proclaim that truly loving another depends on first loving yourself. But just how warranted is this maxim? Is it backed by science or academic research? Or is it little more than folk wisdom—or maybe, pseudo-wisdom? I’ve sought to track down any authoritative studies on this so-intriguing topic and . . .

What’s Subversive About Today's Humanism?

Humanism—the not so radical idea that you can be good without a god—doesn’t particularly sound like the next big subversive development in politics today. But with their numbers rapidly growing, humanists are beginning to realize that they can play a major role in influencing governmental policy.

What Really Makes Narcissists Tick?

Among other things, narcissists typically come across as arrogant, manipulative, entitled, and woefully lacking in empathy. But if these defining features are understood at a deeper level—as powerful psychological defenses to protect them from experiencing a truly frightening vulnerability—a quite different picture of them emerges. . . .

What Makes Romance So Romantic (and So Doomed)?

Once a relationship, however sweet, tender, and loving, has been domesticated. it can no longer be romantic. For some of the crucial things that make romance romantic—though they include feelings of amorousness and affection—also contain elements doomed to decay. So what is it about Romance that makes it so wondrous, yet ultimately so impossible to hold onto?

The Secret Reason So Many of Us Procrastinate

There’s no way of telling just how common this form of procrastination is. But given the phenomenon of psychological reactance, it’s safe to say that at some point you’ve probably been guilty of it yourself. That is, of delaying something which not only would be good for you to do but which you actually want to do. . . .

Trauma and the Freeze Response: Good, Bad, or Both?

Almost everyone is familiar with the fight-flight response—your reaction to a stimulus perceived as an imminent threat to your survival. However, less well-known is the fight-flight-freeze response, which adds a crucial dimension to how you’re likely to react when the situation confronting you overwhelms your coping capacities and leaves you paralyzed in fear.

Parenting Without Punishment: A Humanist Perspective, Part 3

Tragically, since recorded history corporal punishment has been the “default” system for disciplining children. In the past century, however, evidence demonstrating its ineffectiveness has mounted to the degree that it can no longer—whether ethically or pragmatically—be justified. It’s therefore regrettable that today it's still common in the U.S.

Parenting Without Punishment: A Humanist Perspective, Part 2

Given the particular situation, children (like all the rest of us) are doing the best they’re capable of. So what are some ways that parents might effectively confront their child’s annoying, hazardous, or otherwise troublesome behavior—without, that is, having to punish them for it?

Parenting Without Punishment: A Humanist Perspective, Part 1

However exasperating a child’s behavior may be, it’s still—in most instances—age-appropriate. So when kids misbehave (according, that is, to grown-up standards), they’re prompted to do so primarily because of powerful forces in them they lack the cognitive development to control.

9 Ways to Talk Yourself Out of Unnecessary Guilt

Feelings of guilt arise from betraying your ethical standards. As a psychological phenomenon, though, guilt can be quite thorny. For if you’re afflicted with a tyrannical superego—one that feels compelled to torment you for the slightest perceived infraction—you’ll be haunted by such feelings even when you haven’t done anything that culpable.

Enough About “Inner Demons” Already!

Maybe it was the 1000th time I heard that familiar, but fictitious, explanation: “It must have been his [her/their] inner demons that made them do it!” that I felt the strongest urge to scream. Why? Simply because the errant thoughts and behaviors we’re all prone to can almost always be understood without alluding to satanic forces insidiously goading us from within.

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