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.

Don’t Confuse Revenge With Justice: Five Key Differences

The terms revenge and justice often get muddled. And that’s hardly surprising, for in the course of history they’ve frequently been used interchangeably. As meanings alter and evolve over time, the connotations of these two words have increasingly diverged.

Five Biggest Problems With Revenge and Its Best Remedies

This post will lay out the reasons that—both ethically and pragmatically—your viewpoint on revenge should be decidedly negative. I’ll back up my own unfavorable perspective on this all-too-frequent phenomenon by including a large variety of quotes that, to me, represent the wisest, most incisive thinking on the subject.

What If You Hate What You’re Good At?

It may seem counter-intuitive that you could be highly skilled at something, yet actually loathe it. Most of the time if you really dislike some subject, process, or activity, it’s because you’re not particularly adept at it. But it’s hardly uncommon to detest (or come to detest) what you excel at…

Praise as Manipulation: 6 Reasons to Question Compliments

As long as another’s praise doesn’t sound patently insincere, you’re likely to welcome it. Being richly recognized for what you do—or who you are—just feels good. It’s wonderfully confirming, as reassuring as it is validating. But praise has its dark side, too. . . .

The Anger Thermostat: What's the Temperature of Your Upset?

Sometimes just thinking about your anger can help you to regulate it and keep it from escalating. Additionally, assessing the intensity of your negative emotional arousal can assist you in determining how best to lower it--unless, that is, you can't resist the self-validating sense of righteousness (or adrenaline rush) you get from this most fiery of emotions.

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.

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