10 Steps to Letting Go of Resentment

Resentments embody a basic choice to refuse to forgive, an unwillingness to let bygones be bygones and bury the hatchet. We review and rehash our painful past, even as we profess to want to let go of it.  We cling to the need to be "right," which overrides the capacity to heal and be at peace with ourselves.

Tiger Moms and Tiaras for Tots: Depriving Children of the Joys of Childhood

Just as beauty pageant moms teach their children that their value is based on physical attractiveness, Tiger Moms teach their children that their value is in academic overachievement. Children, however, need to prepare for adult life by navigating the struggles of being a child in a social world. 

Thanksgiving: The Empty Chair of Family Estrangement

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and we all hope for warm and friendly family gatherings. Sadly this is not the case for many families in which dysfunction or grief can cloud the holiday and if we allow it, make it one of the most miserable days imaginable. When some family members have cut ties with their relatives, the empty chair stands out like a sore thumb.

Black and White Thinking and The Ground Zero Mosque

Muslim extremists who saw the world in a very black and white way orchestrated the 2001 terrorist attacks, but according to Bill O'Reilly on yesterday's broadcast of The View, "Muslims killed us on 9/11." O'Reilly implies that all Muslims are terrorists and universally waging Jihad against the U.S.

Find Freedom in Forgiveness

The dictionary definition of forgiveness is "to cease to feel resentment." Living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting and hoping that the other guy get sick. Resentment refers to the mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it that goads or angers us. We don't replay a cool litany of "facts" in a resentment; we re-experience and relive them in ways that adversely affect us mentally, emotionally, physiologically and spiritually in very destructive ways. The inability to overcome resentment probably constitutes the single most devastating impediment to repairing close relationships. 

The Manufacturing of Madness: Profits Before Progress

Drug companies have been instrumental in promoting psychiatric diagnoses designed to market drugs. These corporate giants persuade consumers that a gamut of what may be common human feelings can be interpreted as serious psychopathology. They even invent diagnoses in a way that will best sell costly and profitable drugs. People suffering from emotional problems are often duped into adding to corporate profits and become distracted from the possibility of making progress in coping with their pain.

Do You Really Want to be Rich, Thin and Have Lots of Sex?

Actions speak louder than words. Our words are conscious; they are intentional responses to our feelings and impulses and how we were socialized. Our actions, however, often bypass the process of mindful cognition that choose our words and are the result, instead, of the pull of our unconscious minds.  You'll benefit greatly from observing your actions rather than your words, for then you will understand your unconscious, which, in deed, has a genius for getting what it wants. 

Trapped In America: You Do Have a Choice

There are certain themes that emerge in the course of the daily practice of psychotherapy and the one I've been hearing most lately is the feeling of being trapped. Patients who come to see me experience entrapment, being cornered in sexless marriages, dead-end and unrewarding jobs, debt, and these days, all too often, unemployment. Despite the energy and persistence people put into striving for freedom from entrapment, they need the reassurance that they are most often not to blame and that their feelings of diminished self-worth, franticness, and ineptitude are situational rather than due to personal failure or inherent flaw. Validation of clients' feelings, I find, encourages hope, reduces depression and reinforces determination and persistence in resolving their problem and feeling free.

Are Action and Altruism the New Narcissism?

I find in my practice that patients are now very open to spiritual and moral interventions in addition to traditional psychological treatment that focuses on resolving inner conflict. Expressing warmth, generosity, gratitude, and appreciation in the face of conflict is, like most of the tools of twenty-first century psychology, tremendously empowering. Many of us discovered that inborn resilience is itself an effective tool for coping with trauma, a realization which then led to reparative actions and altruistic behaviors.

10 Tips to Beat the Holiday Blues

As we approach Thanksgiving, we're starting a five-week period called "the holidays." We're supposed to look forward to the holidays and hope that they will be a time of happiness, friendliness, fellowship, and harmony. Yet often our anticipation and excitement turns into feelings of depression, commonly called holiday blues.

Poisonous Parents: Should You Cut Them Off?

Dr. Richard A. Friedman writes an excellent article in the NY Times called “When Parents Are Too Toxic to Tolerate.” The most valuable point he makes is that therapists have a bias to salvage family relationships, even when the relationship is abusive and hurtful to our patients. I am a therapist who has worked with many people in this situation as well as having experienced a family rift myself. Many years ago I was also a therapy patient and experienced exactly what Dr. Friedman is talking about.

Humble Men and Confident Women Are More Successful

The humble man and the confident woman are the two people you'll find when you encounter a couple that has survived and thrived together over time. 

Upload Character When You're Hard-Wired to Worry

As you can see in the picture, "Anxiety," is the title of this past Sunday's New York Times magazine cover story.  The thought bubble above the woman's head is not legible but it says, "Am I going to be laid off? If the black and white picture of the worried woman with the yellow background and bold title weren't enough to catch my attention, the woman's thought rang true for sure: it's a fear I'm hearing in my therapy practice every day now.  Underneath the headline in smaller black lettering the author invites us to explore whether anxiety is reactive or simply reflective of our brain wiring.

Why Women Want Their Man To Be A Caring Caveman

In reality, a strong man is tolerant, flexible, generous, faithful, and competent without believing he's omnipotent, and more interested in being close than being worshipped. Women may fall and fall hard for a bad boy with a big ego, but are then devastated when that man is not protective and reliable, fun and funny, kind and accessible. What women really want is a "Caring Caveman," a man like Denzel Washington

Yes WE Can Therapy

Any collaborative relationship, whether it be a therapist and patient, a close loving intimate relationship, a business or a nation, requires all parties to be in what therapists call "a working alliance." A working alliance is, in effect, an agreement between two or more people who have made a clear-cut commitment to working toward the benefit of the relationship, the WE.

The Resilient Relationship: Is Money the New Sex?

Since the near collapse of the U.S. economy money problems seem to dominate and endanger relationships. Love, romance, and sex have become secondary presenting problems of new patients and emerge as symptoms of breaches in a couple's financial partnership. The two biggest issues again are quality and quantity but of money, not sex and financial infidelity.

When You're in Love, Words are Not Always What they Seem

When I see couples in therapy, at some point I will invariably hear: "no one has ever spoken to me as hurtfully as she did last night." Or "He says such horrible mean things to me. No one's ever talked to me like that and I won't put up with it." Variations on this theme abound. Sometimes people acknowledge the behavior within themselves, and with horror: "I can't believe I spoke to her that way.

Once a Parent, Always a Parent: One Mother’s Resignation by Literary Defamation

Children are, in my book, off limits when writing about personal experiences.  This week I was shocked and appalled by a story in a British newspaper about an acclaimed writer named Julie Myerson who decided to write the story of her decision to cut off all ties with her 17 year old son. Because he refused treatment and became unmanageable to live with, she took the advice offered by drug abuse experts to throw him out of their home and in effect, to disown him.  To put it another way, she resigned from her job as Jake’s mother. 

Turn In the Hate Card and Find Your Better Self

The day after I saw protestors picketing Jane Fonda on Broadway Sean Penn eloquently expressed himself about the anti-gay protestors at the Oscars. A reporter asked Penn what he would say if he had a chance to talk to those protesters. "I'd tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self, you know. I think that these are largely taught limitations and ignorances," he explained. "It's very sad in a way, because it's a demonstration of such emotional cowardice to be so afraid to be extending the same rights to a fellow man as you would want for yourself."

Virtue Therapy: Right Actions Create Right Feelings

The psychology profession has, for the most part, stayed away from using dialogue of people's virtues or morals as a therapeutic intervention.  A commitment to virtuous behavior eliminates the futility and pain of blame and accusation, a chronic problem for people in relationships. Doing the right thing can shortcut endless discussions of an awful childhood, a partner with perceived faults, and the tyranny of the super-ego, the conscience.

Music Soothes the Soul: Coping With Economic Crisis

World leaders are unveiling new economic plans daily as are both our presidential candidates. My economic plan: struggle, fight, persevere, get a perspective, stop feeling sorry for yourself, focus on gratitude and give something back to the world. Additionally, you can do what I did to cope with my own economic anxiety:I started a "Yikes, We're in a Recession." tape. You can do the same: listen to the music and rock and roll your way out of the economy collapse blues.

Enough of the Blame Game: Can Psychologists Stop the Meltdown of the American Economy?

In a speech about the current state of affairs, President Bush blames Congress, especially the Democrats. In fact, in a recent speech, he uses the word blame twenty one times in less than three minutes. According to Federal Reserve Chairman Bem Bernanke it's matter for psychology. I agree. Scapegoating will not solve our current economic debacle. Psychologists know that personal accountability and cooperation between all concerned will help get us out of this crisis.

Do YOU Live With an Injustice Collector?

There's something about Sarah Palin (seen here with some Barbarian friends) that's been bothering me. I realized she's an Injustice Collector. Her resentment at her ex-brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, loomed so large in her mind that it took precedence over governing the state of Alaska. Firing Walt Monegan, Alaska's Public Safety Commissioner, because he refused to fire Wooten, meted out the revenge she sought. In her capacity as Mayor Of Wasilla Alaska she also fired a top law enforcement official. Their crimes seem to be disloyalty and having a mind of their own.

9/11: Never Forget, But Is It Always Helpful to Remember?

In an article in the London Times this week, journalist Catherine Bruton writes about what she calls 9/11 Fatigue. "The story is about the more than 3000 children who lost their parents in the 9/11 attacks." writes Bruton. "It’s just one small item in the media blitz that occurs around September 11th each year."  In a web search done randomly for the last few days, I’ve discovered that one article about 9/11 is being produced every minute on the days preceding the anniversary.

The Psychological Evolution of America: King's Dream and Today's Choices

When people talk about how they've changed while in therapy, greater tolerance is often cited among the benefits of treatment.  Given America's current choices for nomination to the highest offices in the nation, it's evident that our nation has gone through a psychological evolution.   Its as if we as a country have gone through a psychotherapeutic process and emotionally matured.  Our tolerance and embracement of diversity has led us to become more virtuous as a group.

Why Powerful Women are Sexy and Have the Happiest Marriages

Despite the popularity of books about men loving and marrying "bitches", it's really powerful and strong women that men love. We get turned on and not only want to bed powerful women, we want to spend the rest of our lives with them.

From Pathological to Positive: A New Psychology for the Twenty First Century

These days when people come to my office, I'm not interested solely in rooting out their painful personal and familial issues. Building on their strengths, positives, and moral, ethical, and spiritual beliefs is much more helpful, I've found, in overcoming psychological and interpersonal problems.

Holy Family Rift, Batman:

Batman star Christian Bale was arrested this week in London. He was charged with assault by his mother Louise and sister Sharon who told reporters "It's a family matter," and refused further comment. The family feud allegedly went from verbal assault to physical abuse on the eve of the film premiere of the new Batman film, Dark Knight. There’s now a plethora of controversy and commentary on the Internet about the veracity of these allegations, with frequent references to disputes over Bale’s fathers’ estate and money in general.

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