Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

A Comforting Ancient Story

March 25, 2009

My dear friend SanityFound sent me this ancient story to comfort and fortify me about my upcoming visit to my dying uncle. It did indeed comfort me, and it resonated with truth. I hope it helps some other reader here:

In ancient times it was believed that when someone gets an illness, someone who doesn’t die suddenly, it is God giving those that passed on a chance to be with those who visit the the ones soon to pass.  In ancient times those who loved the one who was ill would visit them, staying a while at their bedside with their eyes closed, just breathing and feeling. They said it comforted them feeling those gone already surrounding their loved one.

 God brings the angels who know the one soon passing so that they do not fear, and to give comfort to those visiting.

Constructive Criticism

January 22, 2009

peanuts-higher-criticismYou know you’ve been hit when you feel  stung, shot right between the eyes, express hurt, and the shooter retorts: “What’s the matter? I was just giving you a little constructive criticism!” This is their defense posture because now they’re feeling criticized by your reaction to their criticism.  It’s supposed to mean they were  “only trying to help you”.  

In the first place, if you’d wanted their opinion you would have asked for it. These people have never learned the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Worse yet, these are often the very same people who once taught us this very thing, but they think that because they’re our parents they somehow have an exemption.

Criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone based on perceived faults in them or their behavior. So constructive criticism is an oxymoron.

Destructive Criticism :

That haircut makes your face look chubby, dear.

Didn’t anyone ever teach you not to make disgusting noises when you eat, sweetheart?

Have you noticed that your gut is beginning to hang over your belt?

Honey, no offense but you sing like a baboon.

When are you going to learn that not everyone is interested in your long, boring stories? 

You really over indulge that child.

You’d better stop feeding her so much or she’s going to turn into a whale.

When I raised my son he got his underwear ironed.

Why are you wearing so much makeup? Did they have a sale down at Macy’s?

Most of us have been victims of such remarks at one time or another.  But you don’t have to stay a victim. You can have an a ready response in your arsenal should a shooter appear disguised as a friend or loved one.

The obvious one that I started with was “If I wanted your opinion I would have asked for it.”   But that doesn’t fit everyone’s personality style. Others might include:

“Thank you for your kind, gentle, and  sincere help.”

“You can withdraw your fangs now, I get the message.”

“I have a headache tonight. And I’ll have one tomorrow night too.”

“You’re beginning to sound just like my mother.”

You get the idea. Disclaimer: I’m not talking healthy communication responses here.  I’m talking good old fashioned getting even. Because once in a while, lets be honest here, it just feels good to take a shot at the shooter.

Would You Want to Know Your Therapist Has Lupus?

December 21, 2008

I struggle with this one since so often I have to cancel people out because I’m flaring.  I advise them that I have a chronic medical condition which unfortunately knocks me out. But I think it also sends the message to patients that my needs are more important than theirs. People are really great about it, but it bothers me that I cannot offer the consistency and dependability people need when they go to therapy. 

For example, I was flaring last week and told people I’d be calling them today, Sunday, to hopefully reschedule tomorrow. Well as it turns out I now have a cold and still need to stay at home.  It sounds so…flaky… and the STRESS of the uncertainty only makes me feel worse .  One thing about lupus is you need to really baby your body when anything comes on because your immune system cannot  defend the body against invading viruses, bacteria, etc.

Therapists are trained to only self disclose for the benefit of the patient.  I’m thinking that if they knew exactly what the medical condition is, they would understand why I have to frequently cancel and the uncertainty of when I can reschedule. But I’m not sure if I’m considering telling them for my benefit, so they won’t think badly of me, or theirs, so they won’t feel blown off and therefore feel badly about themselves. And then I’m afraid that if they understand the seriousness of my condition, it might scare them off…

So I’d really appreciate your input on this, especially if you’ve ever been a therapy patient. Would you want to know its lupus? How do you think this would make you feel? How might you respond?  Or is that way too much information?  Do you think the “chronic medical condition” is enough of an explanation?

Thanks for any help you can offer me here.

Am I “addicted” to the Internet?

November 10, 2008

I just read the psychology news brief in my sidebar:  Chinese Issue First Definition of Internet Addiction.  “Symptoms of addiction included yearning to get back online, mental or physical distress, irritation and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.  The definition, based on a study of more than 1,300 problematic computer users, classifies as addicts those who spend at least six hours online a day and have shown at least one symptom in the past three months.”

Who? Me? Do nights count? Well….I’ve never counted how many hours a day I spend online.  But its a lot. I blog, read others’ blogs, go online for news, weather, telephone numbers, to shop, bid on my ebay beads, and find out lots of other information or research that interests me. I also email lots of friends, and belong to various professional listservs that I read to stay current in my field. The internet has replaced magazines as a source of leisure reading, and most of the major newspapers are now online.

I definitely get irritated when I can’t get at my computer when I want to, and I sometimes yearn to get back to it when I’m in a boring social situation. I doubt its 6 hours a day, but maybe I’m  in denial. Maybe my family will shock me with a group intervention. Though I don’t know where they’d find time since they’re all online too…

What amazes me about this news article is that they were able to tear the people away from their computers and into psychiatric units.  Unless…ew…they were taken involuntarily?

What do you think of this definition? And where do you fall according to these guidelines?

Great Parenting DVD

October 29, 2008

A couple I’m working with blew me away with a DVD they have of a pediatrician who teaches mirroring to young parents. Mirroring is literally just that, imitating the communication of the child so that he or she feels you’re speaking their language. The toddler then  feels understood, and cooperative.  He is Dr. Harvey Karp – the DVD is The Happiest Toddler on the Block.

Among other things he teaches mirroring of facial expressions, body language and sounds. His basic tenet is don’t talk to toddlers like they’re little adults because they’re not; their language skills are far more primal.  You have to literally  get down to their level. He also has another one, The Happiest Baby on the Block which I have not yet reviewed.

The results looked startlingly effective to ward off and/or stop tantrums.  His website is I can tell you one thing for sure. When my kids present me with grandchildren, this will be one of the first gifts I give them.

Here he is in action:


Couples Clue Phone #6

July 3, 2008

Too often, as adults, we forget to say three little words that mean so much to our partners. No, not the obvious ones.

I mean “I’m proud of you.” For some reason, we forget to say that, almost as if its a given to our partner. It isn’t. Trust me. Try saying it. Please be sure you have a particular example in mind because its absolutely certain he or she will ask, “Why???”.

Then when you say it, watch the subtle change of facial expression.  You will see that you have given a powerfully tender gift to the person you love.

The Memory Haves & the Memory Have Nots

April 11, 2008

I just read one of those great  articles that I wish I could say I wrote.  I didn’t. It was written by David Brooks and published in the New York Times. Very funny.  It is a real treat for boomers and anyone else starting to have memory issues. Here is an excerpt:

“Society is now riven between the memory haves and the memory have-nots. On the one side are these colossal Proustian memory bullies who get 1,800 pages of recollection out of a mere cookie-bite. They traipse around broadcasting their conspicuous displays of recall as if quoting Auden were the Hummer of conversational one-upmanship. On the other side are those of us suffering the normal effects of time, living in the hippocampically challenged community that is one step away from leaving the stove on all day.

This divide produces moments of social combat. Some vaguely familiar person will come up to you in the supermarket. “Stan, it’s so nice to see you!” The smug memory dropper can smell your nominal aphasia and is going to keep first-naming you until you are crushed into submission. “

You can find the full article at:

Romantic Voice Mail from my Alpha

March 5, 2008

I dialed in and never heard his voice….just a favorite love song of ours …sooooo nice…try it…your partner might like it as much as I did….

Couples Clue Phone #3 by Psychscribe

March 1, 2008


 What NOT to say: “Do you wanna go upstairs and fool around?” or “Do you feel like having sex tonight?”  Such direct approaches generally yield zip in the bedroom because they’re not exactly a turn on.  Better: when you’re feeling amorous, be seductive and romantic. I don’t have to tell you how. You know you  remember, and isn’t your partner worth the trouble? Not to mention the money you’ll save on marriage counselors.

Copyright 2008 Psychscribe

When the Woman in Your Life is Crying

February 26, 2008

I just ran across this wonderful piece by lirone.  Please, men everywhere, do read what to do When the Woman in Your Life is Crying . Women should read it too, both to feel validated and maybe to send it to your man.

Couples Clue Phone #2 by Psychscribe

February 19, 2008


 No matter how much your partner criticizes or complains about his or her extended family, don’t chime in. If you do, your partner will turn on you like a wolf foaming at the mouth.  We can’t help it. Its our nature to defend our blood kin. Must be some kind of evolutionary thing for safety.  Better to wait for another time to tactfully complain about a particular behavior to the person who bothers you. That way you keep your partner out of a nasty triangle which cannot do your relationships any good at all.

Copyright 2008 by Psychscribe

Couples Clue Phone #1 by Psychscribe

February 15, 2008


cluphoneNOIntro: I’ve decided to periodically give some very brief tips which may seem obvious to some, but not so to others who are embroiled in a battleground relationship…or at the other end of the spectrum, frozen solid….

 Never try to talk your partner out of his or her feelings. Just last night for the umpteenth time a spouse in my office said  “But you really shouldn’t feel that way!” This never works because it is logic speaking to emotion.  Totally different languages.  You may think what you think, but feelings are feelings and the person has a right to them. No one ever talked a person out of how they feel. They may succumb to your logic out of sheer weariness, but trust me the emotion that follows will probably be worse than the one that is now stuffed. Better to try to understand, and express empathy. Your partner will love you for it, and love is what this is supposed to be all about, isn’t it?

Copyright 2008 by Psychscribe

Predictors of Divorce

February 11, 2008

John Gottman, a leading researcher in couples relationships, studied couples over time and came up with what he calls the Four Horsemen. Couples who used these communication styles were more likely to end up in divorce: contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness. What he suggests instead is to speak with respect rather than contempt, to complain about something rather than to criticize (attack)  the personal characteristics of the other person, responding to the partner rather than shutting down (stonewalling) and owning some part of the complaint as valid rather than being defensive. If you see yourself here you may want to work on your relationship or seek professional help.

Never Trust Anyone Past 30

January 18, 2008

In the hippie days, that slogan was everywhere: “Never trust anyone past 30.”  It was a dividing line…anyone older than 30 was considered “old” and not to be trusted because it was assumed they had a vastly different value system.  People who once touted that slogan became truly depressed when their 30th birthday hit. And I do mean hit.

I’m wondering if people will tell me where the dividing line is now, in your opinion? What age would be the beginning of  “old” and how old are you?  Boomers, young people (whatever age that is!) are all encouraged to reply.

 I really am curious, so thank you in advance for your replies.

Do You Remember Your Love Story?

January 14, 2008

I’m sure you do. And if you think about  it now…how you met….when exactly you knew you were in love…it feels really good, doesn’t it? How often do you remind your partner of this lovely beginning? The details, the music, the time of year, that special secret place….? Way too many couples let all this fade into history. Not a good idea at all. Because with the fading of the memories comes the fading of the romance that brought you together. Romance is a major nutrient for any relationship. We need it to keep the relationship alive, well and healthy.  

I don’t care if you’ve been together for two years or forty years.   Take the time, periodically, to light a candle, sit on the couch together, play your old songs, and remind each other of your love story. Every little detail. You’ll be delighted to discover what you each remember.  And then the most magical thing will happen. For a while, a very nice while, you will turn back time and be those same two people who saw only the good in each other. And felt all that chemistry.  And then…..who knows what might happen on that couch

Would you be willing to tell us about your love story?

Sarcasm is NOT ok

January 10, 2008

This is a problem behavior for many couples who come to see me. Sometimes they readily identify that they’re communicating with sarcasm. Sometimes I identify it and call them out on it. They’ll say “Hey, that’s just the way I am.” Or, “My whole family talks this way, its just a joking thing, nothing serious.” Well no. Actually it is serious. Sarcasm is communication with a bite. And bites hurt.

Sarcasm is not a personlity trait. It is learned behavior. Sarcasm often brings laughter to a group, at the expense of one group member…whoever was unfortunate enough to be in the sarcastic person’s line of fire.  But, group dynamics being what they are,   the sarcastic person is often the life of the party. This of course only reinforces the behavior and that’s understandable. But its still not ok. Sarcasm is communication with a bite. And bites hurt.

For anyone who thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing, that’s probably the sarcastic person thinking it. So let me ask you this: Has anyone ever been sarcastic to you?  Either on a routine basis or in a group? Try to remember how it felt to be at the other end of the sarcasm. Probably not very good. Probably awful.  So do you think your sarcasm helps or hurts your personal relationships and the people that you love?

Sarcasm is communication with a bite. And bites hurt.

Alpha Male Love Note

December 18, 2007

This is the email he left me this morning. This is the man I love.  I love what he did, how he said it, all of it. Bottom line is its nurturing and protective and we all need this in our relationships:

“Your car has a lot of ice on it.  I cleared the windows but do not put on the wipers until the car has warmed up.  You might want to go down and turn it on and leave it running for 15 min or so before you leave.   Watch for ice coming off when you are at speed.

Love you”

Defining Moment with my Teen

December 16, 2007

I remember how utterly terrible those teen years were.  Beyond awful. Beyond my worst nightmare. My adoring little sweetheart, mommy’s sweetheart,  had turned into a teen-zilla. Challenging me, pushing me, defying me, screaming at me. Our cozy little condo had turned into a war zone. What had felt like a warm, loving home had morphed into an atmosphere of what can only be called hate. I admit it. She shouted she hated me often enough, and truth be told, I felt the same way.

I felt despair for a long time. Until one nite when she stormed past me into her bedroom, slammed the door, and sobbed and gulped into her pillow.  And I heard her despair.  That’s when the old mommy instinct finally resurfaced.

I realized that not a kind word, not a gesture of affection, had passed between us for so long that I could not even remember when. I tapped on her bedroom door and sat on the side of her bed.  I gently asked her if I could please talk with her.   She lay there, looking at the ceiling and wiping the tears away.

“I just want to tell you, sweetie, that I can’t remember the last time I told you that I love you….and I do. I love you very much. I want you to know that even though we fight about your behavior and my rules, I think you’re an amazing kid and I am very proud of you. …and  I still really would like to be able to give you a hug….?” 

My little girl picked up her arms and we hugged, fiercely, with both of us now in tears.  I can’t say everything changed after that. We still fought, but the atmosphere of hate had vanished.  I tried to remember to say something nice to her every single day.  She started to smile again. And the descending spiral we’d been sinking into was reversed by me. The mom.  After all, that’s a mom’s job, isn’t it?

Are you NOT on speaking terms with a sibling?

December 8, 2007

In so many families the kids polarize, right into adulthood. They cut each other off and let the childhood dynamics ruin the present and the future.  It affects everyone, because where once there was a sibling  (and aunt, uncle, cousins, etc.) now there is a ghost. 

What do the children learn from this? To solve problem relationships in the same way. Is that what we want for our kids?  The important thing to remember is the old adage: let bygones be bygones. Because once your parents are gone your sibling is the only person who lived, and survived,  your history with you.

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Relationship

December 4, 2007

Several years ago Pat Love Ed.D. and Sunny Shulkin Ph.D., two Imago trainers and therapists, published a book titled How to Ruin a Perfectly Good RelationshipBelow is part of their list of some behaviors they identify which can, indeed, ruin a relationship:

  • Control everything and everyone
  • Never take the blame yourself; instead, make your partner wrong
  • Make it a habit to spend more money than you have
  • Win every fight, even the ones you couldn’t care less about
  • Keep score
  • Use threat often
  • Find your partner’s weak spot and use it against him/her
  • When your partner tries to please you, find fault with their efforts
  • Hold fast to the belief: “If you loved me you would know what I want”
  • Demand your partner remain faithful but refuse to meet his or her sexual needs
  • Use silence as a weapon
  • Pretend that you don’t hear
  • When your partner tries to apologize, bring up more complaints
  • Refuse to give information
  • When you realize you haven’t given your partner some important info, insist that you did
  • Claim to be the only one interested in the relationship
  • Never ask for help
  • Confide only in friends
  • Take it personally when your partner wants time alone
  • Discount your partner’s physical complaints
  • Give advice where it isn’t welcome
  • Never pick up after yourself
  • Refuse to seek help for your depression
  • Refuse to talk
  • Focus on changing your partner
  • Focus all your needs on sex
  • Take all problems as further proof that the relationship will not work
  • Put your friends before your partner
  • Keep romantic gestures to a minimum
  • Focus on your partner’s faults and deny your own
  • Let days go by without a kind word or loving gesture
  • Practice verbal abuse
  • Do not listen to your partner’s ideas or suggestions
  • Ask your partner to share feelings and when s/he does, EXPLODE
  • Start conversations when your partner is busy, or better yet, exhausted
  • Let disagreements fester
  • Say what you think your partner wants to hear, then do as you please

What do you think? Do you find yourself here?

Consumerism Christmas & Your Relationship

December 1, 2007

For most people, this is the time of year when you expect to  exchange pretty good gifts with  your  partner or spouse. Your Person. Usually its a materialistic gift of some kind. Whatever the budget can manage, stretched tenfold, is often the norm .

Because to be brutally honest in our materialistic society, the amount of cash  spent has come to mean just exactly the amount of significance the giver accords the receiver.  I’m not saying I agree with this, I’m just commenting on  what I see. So…if you give diamonds, and recieve a candy filled mug from the local drug store…well…you might need to take a look at that. 

Not that I’m against material gifts. Actually …well……….things….stuff…girlie goodies…so if Santa is reading this please do NOT steer that sleigh in a different direction!

But, along with last year’s New Year’s resolutions, we forget all about the living, breathing  entity between the couple popularly known as “the relationship”.  We forget to nurture it, protect it, feed it and give to it. We don’t give it the same effort as we do for the children in our lives.  So I would suggest to you, in view of this theme of consumerism Christmas, that you give the gift of  time to your relationship for Christmas. 

Down time, love time, massage time, attention time,  talk time, relax time, music time, candle time, cuddle time…

Because if “time is money” and “money talks”,  what exactly  are you saying?

How Do You Define Forgiveness?

November 30, 2007

 An awful lot of people say things like, “That’s ok ….what you did….its alright. I forgive you.” Think about it. How often do you hear someone profusely apologizing, and the other person saying “No,  that’s ok! Don’t worry about it!”  The injured party is actually trying to make the person who hurt them feel better!   Actually, most of the time, its not alright. It could be something as trivial as someone stepping on your toe – that’s not alright. It hurts! Or someone accidentally spilling coffee on  your white shirt.   That’s not alright.   It burns AND ruins your clothing.

It is not ok to hurt someone intentionally or otherwise. (Bear with me please, I will get to my definition of forgiveness in a minute.) This becomes an important concept in my work with couples. Or adult children of alcoholic/abusive/fill-in-the blanks damaging parents.  I do believe forgiveness is neccessary in a wounded relationship in order for any healing and growth to take place . But to say or mean it as I’ve described it actually minimizes the painful behavior by implying, in essence, that it wasn’t that bad (when it was).  It also minimizes the very person doing the forgiving.

A better concept, I think, is this: When hurtful behavior has occurred, an emotional debt is owed. Just ask anyone you know who has gone for months, years,  resentful of wrongdoing by a loved one.   They’ll tell you how much they are owed. They will also tell you how impossible it would be for the person who hurt them to pay them back.  And they are right. By now the emotional debt is probably higher than the gross national debt. Forgiveness in my mind is being willing to write off that debt and start over. When you say “I forgive you” its about wiping the slate clean,  accepting the apology and remorse of the  person as they are now, having renwewed faith in the person, and moving forward.  It means you’ve processed the hurt,  felt the emotions, and started healing. These words should not be said prematurely in an anxious attempt to make things better because to do so will make things worse.

You have one hour to live…

November 29, 2007

….and you can make one…just one phone call….the most important phone call of your rapidly ending life.  Who will you call, and what will you say that you never said until now?

Lupus – The Spoon Theory

November 27, 2007

This link is offered for anyone who has lupus and would like to be able to explain the fatigue aspect of it  in a non-medical way. It is also offered for anyone who would like to understand how someone so ill could look so…normal!  (or why someone who looks so normal when they come to your house for dinner does not get up to help you with anything!)(

Partners as Mind Readers ???

November 23, 2007

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to  happen. Though it’s amazing how many people expect mindreading in a relationship. Particularly women. See, we women think we can read our partner’s minds, and can’t understand why its not reciprocated.

The good news is, obviously, that no one can read anyone’s mind. That’s not communicating, that’s  very wishful, and not very helpful, thinking.

Example of woman thinking she’s mindreading: Husband is watching tv.  Gorgeous, sexy female appears on screen. Wife mistakenly mindreads,aloud: “You’re thinking about how much prettier she is than me, aren’t you? You’re thinking you’d really like to have sex with her, admit it! If you COULD have one time out on our commitment, you’d be with her, wouldn’t you?”

 Now, the poor guy was really wondering if tonight is a green light with his wife  but now he doesn’t go for it because he is too busy denying her accusations.   She gets mad at him for “lying” to her, and now he doesn’t dare come on to her because he’s already insulted her  (he has no clue why) when really she wants him to mindread that she wants him to come on to her….. but has chosen a less than effective way of communicating this to him…

Better would be: Honey, I feel so insecure when I see those gorgeous women on tv. Do you still want me like you used to? I guarantee you’ll both get what you want with this straightforward approach!

Example of male mindreading: The man gets into bed and, figuring the bed is a mating mat even though he’s been advised hundreds of time to the contrary, mindreads that she really wants him tonight and is just too shy to come right out and say it (see above). He jumps her bones and either gets shoved off or she plays dead through the whole thing (admit it, women: for spite).

Better: subtle communication works best here. Offer a back rub, or a foot rubScience Articles, and very slowly work your way to the desired destination. Give her some time to enjoy the relaxation and get in the mood. Minimal communication would be: does that feel good? Telling her why you love her or her specific physical attributes communicates that you still think she’s hot.

Don’t expect her to mindread how sexy you think she is. We never get tired of hearing it.