The Last Thing You Want Someone to Tell You

There may be no more disagreeable remark you can make than to tell someone: “I know you better than you know yourself.” Why? Simply because such a comment is almost always taken as a put-down. So whether or not your analysis is correct, they’re likely to be offended. Or they may feel embarrassed or humiliated by your so authoritatively “dissecting” them.

Unnaturally Good: The Plight of the Goody Two-Shoes

There’s authentic virtue, and then there’s a kind of chronic, not-quite-credible virtue that doesn’t—and can’t—reflect the individual’s true nature. Their righteous words and actions, though perceivable as virtuous, may not come from their heart but their head. And what they say may belie what they’re really thinking—may not, in essence, “capture” who they truly are.

The Blissful Torture of Unrequited Love

Whether fast or slow, it comes on hard—as powerful as a bludgeon, but one covered in the softest velvet. It’s two-faced as well, like an optical illusion. And it’s also supremely paradoxical. How can an unreturned love engender such ecstatic, sublime feelings? Yet the chemical dynamics of reciprocation fantasies can be incredibly powerful...

How to Respond When Your Partner's Bark Feels Like a Bite

The closer your attachment to someone, the more an effect their words will have on you. So assuming you’re in a committed relationship, how your partner addresses you can closely connect to how good, or secure, you feel about yourself. Moreover, given the nature of intimate relationships, your partner is as likely to be reactive to your words as you are to theirs...

The Danger of Trying to Possess Who You Love

When you become passionate about something, or someone, you want to hold onto it, attach yourself to it, possess it. Fascinated or enchanted, you experience a high, your spirits soar. So naturally you desire to have the object of your attraction close by, to make it your own—and permanently. So what’s the problem with this? Unfortunately, just about everything...

Fake vs. True Forgiveness

Undeniably, forgiving others for their wrongs to you has many practical, as well as spiritual, advantages. But the problem is that too often it takes place in the head, rather than the heart. Primarily an intellectual act, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Rational, logical, and objective, it assumes—wrongly—that mental effort alone can talk the heart out of its feelings.

Are Your Boundaries Making You Miserable?

Sure, you need boundaries. And undeniably, you have the right to assert them—whether to safeguard your privacy, self-respect, or basic sense of decency. So it’s crucial to develop the ability and self-confidence to say no, or to tell others to stop doing what they’re doing. But what also needs to be emphasized is that some of your boundaries may be holding you hostage. . .

Make Time for the Pain

When someone comes into therapy essentially requesting a major mental and emotional overhaul, I typically warn them that we’ll be doing a lot of grief work. That is, if we’re to accomplish a major transformation of their self-image, they’ll need to revisit many of the times and places where their painfully felt insecurities and self-doubts originated.

6 Ways to Recreate, Not Just Salvage, Your Relationship

In my previous post, I emphasized that merely "salvaging" a relationship can’t lead to meaningful, long-lasting couples’ change. The main problem with such rescuing is that it focuses mostly on reducing the negatives between the two beleaguered partners. What’s really needed is for them to identify—and effectively address—the deeper dynamics of their relational distress.

Hypochondriacs—Might They Live Longer?

Surely, we all know (or know of) a hypochondriac. And a cyberchondriac—a colloquial term for hypochondriacs perpetually scouring the Internet for diseases that might fit their worrisome symptoms—have also become increasingly prominent. But might there be some practical benefits to being hypervigilant about atypical or anomalous bodily sensations?

9 Ways Your Old Programming May Be Holding You Hostage

When I speak of “old programs,” I’m referring to childhood decisions you made to better adapt to a conditionally accepting family. After all, when you’re highly dependent on your caretakers for comfort, guidance, and support, what could be more essential than feeling securely bonded to them? For you certainly can't function autonomously. . . .

Don’t Let Your Anger “Mature” Into Bitterness

All bitterness starts out as hurt. And your emotional pain may well relate to viewing whomever, or whatever, provoked this hurt as having malicious intent: as committing a grave injustice toward you, as gratuitously wronging you and causing you grief. For righteous anger is what we’re all likely to experience whenever we conclude that another has seriously abused us.

Don’t Just Salvage Your Relationship—Recreate It!

Positive connotations for the word "salvage" aren’t very favorable. For salvaging something typically involves rescuing it after it’s been all but lost or destroyed. Whatever is retrieved is hardly in the best shape. If you’re in a relationship that has seriously decayed, merely “saving” it from its final demise doesn’t mean you’ve made it all that much better.

Codependent or Simply Dependent: What’s the Big Difference?

Being codependent is hardly the same as simply being dependent. And in some ways it’s crucial that these two types of dependency be seen as distinct—as too often hasn’t been the case. Not, however, that codependent individuals aren’t dependent on others. So what's the peculiar dynamic operating in such relationships that makes them so tricky to understand?

Just How Dark Is Your Dark Side?

When we talk about our dark side, we’re generally calling attention to our most aggressive, or lustful, anti-social instincts. Acting out impulses that would disrupt others’ lives—if not downright decimate them. But what I’d like to suggest is that our darkest fantasies might not be anywhere as demonic as typically supposed.

The 3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner

These three all-too-common phrases relate to remarks—whether well-meaning or not—virtually guaranteed to antagonize your mate. Regardless of your motive, the likely reaction to such ill-chosen expressions will range from their going completely silent on you to their exploding at your seeming lack of empathy and understanding. Frankly, men are more guilty of imprudent . . .

Better Sorry Than Safe?

I’ve long been intrigued by clichés that, while embodying precious nuggets of wisdom, contradict other clichés. So we have “better safe than sorry,” yet also “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” How, then, are we to reconcile these opposing verities? The physicist Niels Bohr once reflected that "the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth."

Don’t Call Them “Rape Fantasies”

Study after study has revealed that one of women’s most popular erotic fantasies is being raped. Yet the fundamental dynamics of such fantasies has almost nothing to do with such a heinous act—which isn’t simply aggressive, but coercive, violent, and at times life-threatening. A woman’s feeling scared out of her mind is hardly conducive to sexual arousal...

The Moral Ambiguity of Bliss

So what could be so bad about feeling good—I mean really, really good? Unfortunately, like so many other, all-too-complicated things in life, the whole notion of bliss is replete with ethical contradictions and inconsistencies.

Where Are You When You’re “Beside Yourself”?

The expression “I was beside myself” is one of our language's most intriguing idioms. And the mental state—or better, feeling state—it refers to bears a peculiar resemblance to the splitting of schizophrenia. Still, this familiar phrase is hardly to be taken literally. So just what essential part of you suddenly makes a guest appearance when you're feeling this way?

Do Men Mostly Prefer Breasts—or Buns?

When Playboy was in its heyday, women’s breasts reigned supreme (and rather large ones at that). But over the past several decades it appears that the media generally has been paying increasingly greater attention to the lower region of women’s two dominant anatomical protrusions. So might it be possible that more men actually prefer to ogle a woman’s buns than her bust?

To Save Time, Go Slow!

Many common expressions support the paradoxical claim that to go fast, it’s best to go slow. One of my favorite comes from the 12-step model of addiction recovery--which goes: “Failing to plan, we plan to fail.” In the hurry to progress with something as quickly as possible, it’s all too easy to neglect or short-circuit some aspect essential to its successful completion.

Attention Couples! Here Are 5 Ways to “Get Crazy” Together

Because we live in a competitive, work-driven society, adult play gets far more lip service than actual practice. Yet research has repeatedly shown that couples that play together stay together. Still, saddled with the manifold responsibilities of being a grown-up, kicking back and getting crazy—or “crazy romantic”—with your partner may rarely make it to your "to do" list.

Is Humanism Hedonistic?

Humanism has a particularly noble, longstanding history. Nonetheless, its secular, non-Christian orientation would seem to constitute the main reason that right-wing pundits like to attack it as immoral—and link it negatively to hedonism. For as Greek Hedonism was literally pre-Christian, today’s humanism might (at least symbolically) be seen as post-Christian.

9 Reasons It's So Easy to Be Misunderstood

How many times have you thought you were communicating clearly, only to discover that your words were taken in a way you never could have imagined? And likely, more negatively (though, at times, more positively, too). Here are eight varying explanations as to why the communication that you delivered might be quite different from the communication actually received.

Do You Need to Be Liberated From Your Past?

Do you feel free to be yourself? Have you ever been told that you overreact to others—or perhaps that you underreact to them? In one way or another, behavioral programs that were adaptive for you in childhood may be continuing, however irrationally, to govern your behavior as an adult. And if this is the case, the present post may offer you some "actionable" insights.

Can You Give Your Spouse as Much Love as They Don’t Deserve?

So when does your partner’s behavior least warrant your affection and caring? Maybe when, under the circumstances, their anger seems completely unjustified? when it’s exaggerated, ill-mannered—or experienced as just plain mean. Or maybe when you can’t help but regard them as being totally unreasonable: rigid; stubborn; dense; surly; disrespectful; passive-aggressive . . .

Can You Be Fulfilled by Desire? Three Illuminating Examples

Consider that—quite literally—your dreams are comprised of visual and auditory hallucinations. But thoroughly “wrapped up” in them, you can’t help but experience them as real. Fantasy and reality are no longer separable: they’re fused, indistinguishable. And in your most pleasurable dreams, what’s being dramatized is the fulfillment of a personal wish. . . .

Confronting Others: For Their Sake, or Your Own?

Far too often when we confront someone, we’re not considering how our requesting (or demanding!) that they change will actually benefit them. Rather, in the moment our sole concern is for ourselves. And this is the case whether our encounter is contrived to offer us an advantage over them, advance our particular preferences, or simply make us more comfortable with them....

LeBron James to Cleveland: "I'm Coming Home."

If there’s such a thing as a city's "psyche,” then Cleveland’s just got a boost beyond anything other than their Indians’ winning the World Series back in (gasp!) 1948. So how can a single individual--namely, basketball superstar LeBron James--have such a monumental effect on so many people?--as though all of Cleveland’s citizenry just won an Olympic gold medal?