The Intriguing Upside of Manipulation

In an earlier post for PT I considered the legitimacy of using manipulative tactics if they were executed for another’s welfare. Just recently, I felt obliged to take note of an elaborate response to this piece. For of all the many comments I’d received on my more than 200 posts, I saw this one as perhaps the most originative--not to say, the most cunning and pragmatic.

The Real Reason Why Couples Use Baby Talk

It's been said that “the very essence of romance is uncertainty.” Assuming that this curious perspective is on target, what might be some of the most effective ways that lovers reduce their doubts—even though, ironically, such doubts might be intrinsic to their romance? What might help enamored partners assure themselves they were every bit as loved as they were loving?

Can Your Therapist Be Your Friend?

Though so-called “dual relationships” are typically frowned upon by the mental health community, most therapy clients require a close, trusted friend almost as much as they do a therapist. So how can such a professional—ethically and practically—function simultaneously in both roles?

What Should You Do When Your Judgment Is Impaired?

There’s a supreme irony here. If your judgment is temporarily impaired, then—now afflicted with such a deficit—how could you possibly know it was impaired? And realistically, how could you even be expected to act prudently in a state where cautiousness or circumspection may totally elude you?

6 Signs of Narcissism You May Not Know About

Pathological narcissists project onto others traits and behaviors they can’t, or won’t, accept in themselves. Because they’re compelled to conceal deficits or weaknesses in their self-image, they habitually redirect any unfavorable appraisal of themselves outwards—unconsciously trusting that doing so will forever keep at bay their deepest self-doubts.

Is There Something Unethical About Beauty?

The people we identify as truly beautiful represent such a small minority, such a marked deviation from the mean, that we might legitimately view them as “aberrations.” So just why are matters of physical attractiveness so important? Simply because beautiful people—purely through happenstance—have all sorts of built-in advantages that most of us can never lay claim to.

How Do You Know What's Good Enough?

How can you tell whether what you’ve done is good enough? Or what would make it good enough for you? Doubtless, personal standards come into play here. But where do these standards originate? Did you unwittingly absorb your parents’ unrealistically high requirements of you as a child? Or are your “good enough” criteria aligned with your deepest beliefs and ideals?

The Three Surprising Types of Spontaneous Orgasms

It’s fascinating that spontaneous orgasms—meaning sexual climaxes occurring independent of any physical stimulation—“embody” three distinct forms. It’s also intriguing that such episodes are not necessarily experienced as pleasurable. As strange as it may seem, in sufficient quantity and intensity they’ve even led people to suicide.

Giving to Get vs. Griping to Get

It’s really baffling how many of us act as though we believe that deprecating our partner will help us get what we want from them. Why? Because venting frustration by grumbling or growling will probably be experienced by them as a personal attack. And their almost knee-jerk reaction will either be to defend against—or counter-criticize—their perceived "assailant."

The Paradox of Seduction

Seduction, and the so-called “Art of Seduction,” is laden with ambiguities and apparent contradictions. So much so that it might almost be viewed as a paradoxical phenomenon. Similar to rape, it’s undeniably manipulative. But, contrasting with rape, it implies a certain curious mutuality—connoting at least some degree of consent.

Surprise! Your Defenses Can Make You MORE Vulnerable

Your psychological defenses are designed to reduce whatever emotional disturbances are beyond your present capacity to handle. Still, unless over time you gain conscious control of these knee-jerk, self-protective mechanisms, they’ll remain with you indefinitely. And way past the point that they serve any useful, shielding function. . . .

The Perils (and Benefits) of Taking Each Other for Granted

Frankly, few things are more comforting than having a partner you can take for granted. On the other hand, there are potential risks in being “blessed” with such a person: risks to the other person, the relationship, and ultimately to yourself. So what are the pro’s and con’s of such a secure (seemingly immune) relationship?

Anger Always Makes Sense

Were there times when another person’s anger seemed unreasonable to you? Exaggerated? Clearly disproportionate to what the situation might warrant? For that matter, have there been times when the intensity, or duration, of your own anger took you by surprise? This post will explain why all anger—however seemingly illogical—can yet be grasped as rationally based.

What You Should Know About Advice-Givers

Some people show greater interest in solving your problems than their own. In such cases, what might these self-appointed, habitual advice-givers be revealing about themselves? Actually, much more than you might realize.

Are You Your Own Sex Object?

One of the “fuzziest” concepts in the entire field of human sexuality is autoeroticism (or autosexuality). Despite the term’s familiarity, there’s little consensus on what it actually means. Does it denote a lifestyle preference, or general sexual orientation? Or does it allude to nothing more than the simple practice of masturbation? . . .

Why We All Need a Fairy Godmother

As children, there were times when all of us felt alone: Not feeling any positive connection to those around us. Not feeling listened to, appreciated, encouraged, or validated. Or not feeling safe or protected. In short, times when we experienced extreme vulnerability—completely unable to feel loved, or secure in our own skin.

The Package That Is Sam, Sue . . . and All the Rest of Us

It’s rather curious how we talk about individuals as “packages”—endowed with qualities as miscellaneous as a bag full of groceries. For that matter, it seems equally peculiar to refer to people (ambivalently, no doubt) as “mixed bags.”

Contemporary Humanism and Spirituality, Part 5

In emphasizing that humanism doesn’t represent some kind of star-gazing, New Age, airy-fairy movement—and that its philosophical tenets are solidly grounded in rationality and science—humanists may inadvertently have created a false dichotomy between reason and emotion. In their idealism, they may inadvertently have portrayed humanism as overly cerebral.

Contemporary Humanism and Spirituality, Part 4

So what, exactly, is the case that’s been made against incorporating the whole notion of spirituality—however secularly defined—into the humanist lexicon? For many humanists still frown upon employing that term to describe their lifestyle and ethical philosophy.

Contemporary Humanism and Spirituality, Part 3

In Part 3 of this series, I'd like to describe how various authors have sought to portray a "secular spirituality"—to characterize it as discrete and, if anything, purer (and possibly more virtuous?) than the spirituality exemplified by organized religion.

Contemporary Humanism and Spirituality, Part 2

Spirituality of a humanist nature can be viewed as essentially harmonious with a variety of secular life orientations (e.g., the scientific). It actually "complements" them by adding to them a more emotional--and idealistic--dimension.

Contemporary Humanism and Spirituality, Part 1

It’s obvious that if the notion of a “humanist spirituality” is to take hold, it needs to be defined in a manner that vividly distinguishes it from spirituality as portrayed by institutionalized religion.

How Rational Are “Rational” Marriages?

As a psychologist who’s worked with innumerable couples, it’s a phenomenon I’ve witnessed many times. And it’s really saddening to see: A marriage based on reason, logic, and “good sense”—that, ironically, has proved untenable.

Anger—How We Transfer Feelings of Guilt, Hurt, and Fear

It can be extremely tempting to try to escape blame or criticism by counter-blaming your attacker. But while Impulsively projecting mistakes, or misdeeds, onto another may safeguard your ego, it typically creates far more problems than it solves.

Atheist vs. Atheist—What?!

Most people would probably assume that an atheist is an atheist, period. After all, individuals who don’t believe in God are, at least in their unbelief, essentially the same, right? But there’s a subtle—yet crucial—difference in degrees of incredulity that can meaningfully distinguish one person’s atheism from another’s.

The Golden Rule, Part 4: Dreams of Utopia

If humans could regularly demonstrate the "conscientious caring" of empathy, we'd reach an ethical summit as yet unknown to humankind. In which case, what was right--and what was loving--would be harmoniously fused. But. . . .

The Golden Rule, Part 3: Its Uncanny Resilience

Recognized by all major religions and humanistic ethics alike as an essential moral imperative for living an honorable life, the golden rule has yet been subject to all kinds of caveats and attacks. In this post I’d like to advance some commonsensical arguments to counter the objections to its basic validity—which finally I see as more “academic” than real.

The Golden Rule, Part 2: What's It Missing?

Part 1 of this 4-part post highlighted various ways in which the laudatory, much-acclaimed golden rule might be misapplied—at times, disastrously. Complementing that piece, this post will attempt to describe what this so-familiar dictum leaves out. For in the end, its ambiguities and omissions disqualify it as a foundation for any comprehensive ethical system.

The Golden Rule, Part 1: Don't Take It Literally!

The golden rule mandates that we treat others as we'd like them to treat us. What moral principle could be simpler, or more elegant? Yet the rule's very simplicity has made it highly vulnerable to attack--as too simple, maybe even a bit simple-minded. . . .

Memo to Therapists: “It’s the Motivation, Stupid!”

Independent of their client’s professed goals, therapists must regularly zero in on their client’s session-to-session willingness, or “drive,” to actually achieve them. Nothing is more critical than therapists’ doing everything they can to keep a client’s motivation for change as committed and intense as possible.

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