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?

End Procrastination for Good: How to Revise Your Life Script

If you weren’t conflicted about doing something, you’d do it, right? The problem is that much of the time, as regards tackling a task or pursuing a project, you’re of two separate minds. One part of you knows it should be done and is ready to do it. The other part, and for any number of reasons—eight of which I’ll enumerate below—doggedly resists your best efforts.

What Does Donald Duck Have To Do With Anger Control?

Anyone who’s watched old Disney cartoons knows that Donald Duck is all-too-easily provoked to fits of temper. And perhaps what stands out most about Donald’s squawking tantrums is how ludicrous they make him appear. In fact, the angrier he gets, the more impossible it is to take him seriously.

8 Situations When You Should Keep Your Mouth Shut

There are many situations where it’s extremely difficult not to respond, especially when someone has just pushed your buttons. But in tense, problematic circumstances it never makes much sense to respond—or better, react—impulsively. What’s needed is a moment to reflect on whether your instant reaction, if expressed, will make things better…or, more likely, worse.

Can Your Body Express Multiple Emotions Simultaneously?

All feelings–vs. thoughts–have a certain physiology to them. You cannot experience an emotion without at the same time experiencing a corresponding bodily sensation (or sensations). And each of your emotions resides in a particular place(s) in your body–their “native home,” as it were. Unless you feel an emotion so intense and overpowering that it’s all over your body

Can You Feel Two Emotions at Once?

Have you ever felt happy and sad at the same time? Or experienced an emotion as bittersweet? Or had feelings so mixed that you were compelled to vacillate between two courses of action—or reaction? If you can relate to any of these possibilities, this piece should help you better understand those times when you're feeling uncertain, confused, or ambivalent.

Contemplating Infinity: 6 Sets of Illuminating Quotes

The physical—and metaphysical—topic of infinity can be reflected upon in various ways. Yet, in examining a multitude of quotes on this most fascinating subject, I discovered a delimited number of themes. And regardless of how divergent some of the quotes below might seem, my main criterion for including them was that they be intellectually or emotionally stimulating,

Inside Every Introvert Is...an Extrovert

Many people would view my title as oxymoronic—as in, “Introverts can be charismatic?! Really?” But that’s only because in our predominantly extroverted culture, there seems to be a not-so-hidden bias against inward personalities. Yet not possessing the more sociable qualities of an extrovert hardly means they lack the essential components that make people charismatic.

The Rarely Recognized Upside of Anger

I’ve published so much on anger’s toxicity that it may seem odd that I now feel the need to write something far more positive about the emotion. Not that I don’t continue to see anger as in most respects hazardous—to your relationships, as well as your physical and mental health. But there’s one aspect of anger that, at least in certain contexts, makes it invaluable.

Every Couple's Key to Peace

In employing the term “understanding” here, I’m not referring to some impersonal, objective comprehension of your partner's viewpoint. Rather, it’s used to signify an empathic, open-hearted appreciation of where they're coming from. And such a humane understanding can make all the difference in your relationship, regardless of how much you actually agree with each other.

The Vampire’s Bite: Victims of Narcissists Speak Out

Because narcissists don’t think or feel like we do, it’s really not possible to establish a mutual relationship with them. And because we can hardly help but expect them to respond in ways similar to our own, their dissimilar reactions can confuse and surprise us--at times, deeply upset us as well. . . .

9 Enlightening Quotes on Narcissists—and Why

Whether as a character trait or a full-fledged personality disorder, the nature of narcissism just teems with irony and paradox. Take, for example, this ambiguous quote that, without explanation, may well seem baffling: “I thought narcissism was about self-love till someone told me there is a flip side to it. . . . It is unrequited self-love.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Emotional Ventilation

This post complements my earlier piece, “The 12 Virtues, and Vices, of Venting.” In that post I suggested it might not be very prudent to air out your frustrations directly to the person who caused them. Here I’ll elaborate on this notion while suggesting—if such ventilation is necessary and potentially beneficial—just how to most effectively confront your "provocateur."

6 Virtues, and 6 Vices, of Venting

Any scrupulous appraisal of airing out your frustrations with others must conclude that its value—practically as well as ethically—is somewhat ambiguous. Undeniably, emotional ventilation has many positive features. But just as indisputably, such venting has its negative aspects as well.

Unconditional Love is Possible—But Only From Yourself

I’ve long contended that to have a conflict-free relationship, what’s necessary is to create a clone of yourself (though if you’re “straight,” one that’s gender-opposite). And then, of course, marry that clone. But, at least for the foreseeable future, such technology isn’t yet available...

The Downside of Compassion

In deciding how to act, you have every right to give top priority to your own welfare. But assuming you're a caring, considerate person, if your rightful behavior causes pain to another, you're likely to experience some very distressful feelings…

Between Therapist and Client: The Great Divide

For clients, perhaps the single, most valuable function of therapy is the unprecedented freedom of expression it allows them. Assuming that the therapist is competent, clients have full license to share themselves without fear of criticism or negative judgment. In stark contrast, therapists themselves are governed by an enormous number of constraints.

How Fair Is Your Marriage?

What—or who—determines whether or not a marriage is fair? The simple, though perhaps surprising, answer is that finally it’s what any particular couple agrees on is fair. But much of the time partners’ subjective assessment of relational fairness is that it’s not really that equitable at all...

What If Your Ambivalence Can’t Be Resolved?

There’s a common belief that with the right mind set virtually all conflicts are resolvable. But in many instances, making such an assumption is simply unrealistic: a fiction, a fantasy. As a therapist, over the years I’ve encountered many situations in which a client was struggling mightily with ambivalence. And no simple resolution to their dilemma existed.

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