The Angst Season

Happy autumn and Happy Thanksgiving. For many people this is the start of the holiday season and for many people Thanksgiving is the holiday they look forward to as it doesn’t seem to carry the baggage of other holidays. When I take a history from new patients at the beginning of therapy I ask people if there is a religious belief system which played a part in their lives growing up and is there one now. “I’m not religious I’m spiritual” is a common answer and I often think of Thanksgiving as being representative of this understanding which people have of themselves. For many people Thanksgiving may have religious significance and for others it is a time to have a sense of gratitude for whatever they experience as bounty. In psychotherapy offices this is also the beginning of the “angst” season when people express concern about being with family members they don’t like, don’t get along with and people they would not choose as friends. This may sound harsh but I have heard it so much so consistently over the years that I accept it as a truth for some folks. If the person believes that it is just too … Continue reading

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“you can’t possibly know I feel” & other ways to prevent kindness & understanding

I am often interested when people reject kindness, empathy, compassion, sympathy or help by saying “you can’t know how I feel because you haven’t gone through exactly what I have so you can’t possibly understand or help me”. I have never had erectile dysfunction, for the obvious reason, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know what it is like to have my body sometimes not work and the fear and helplessness which can happen as a result. Sometimes another will have had to “walk in our shoes” to completely understand our distress but not always. Suffering is universal and the often lighthearted throwaway line “I feel your pain” has a lot of truth. Perhaps it is part of the human condition to see our problems as unique beyond others understanding and trust only those who have our same experiences. A result of that faulty thinking however is feeling shame which can lead to thinking something to death believing that if we just understand it, whatever it is, that it will change on its own and the discomfort will go away. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come to my office saying “I know what I am … Continue reading

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Anxiety Plaque

A woman I have worked with in my office recently talked about how her anxiety builds up and overwhelms her. I said to her that it sounds like she has “anxiety plaque” you know the bacterial stuff which builds up on our teeth if we don’t brush and floss. She thought that described her anxiety exactly and said “you need to write about that.” So here it is, my first blog post in a long time. Anxiety is very complex and runs the gamut from being late to a lunch date because of traffic, to waiting for the results of a serious medical test. The problem is than many of us react in the very same way regardless of the reason. There is no modifying or mediating the response, just zero to sixty! I think that this kind of anxiety is made worse by the constant use of technology which because of how we use it doesn’t give the opportunity to contemplate for a moment how we might want to act; we just react, when a more measured response may be the best option. Skip a beat, lower the shoulders, breathe, all which takes way less than a minute, then … Continue reading

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On Staying Too Long

I love this quote from Charlotte Bronte’s book Jane Eyre: “I can live alone if self-respect and circumstances require me to do so. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me which can keep me alive if all the extraneous delights should be withheld or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.” I had a print with this quote in my office for years and so many men and women asked for it that I made copies to give them. I think that it applies to so much more of life than living alone. Good examples of this are staying in a job or career which just doesn’t fit, may never fit or simply is no longer right. Keeping a friendship which is no longer friendly and makes you feel bad. This applies to family too. Someone will be talking to me about a family member who causes them extraordinary pain. I ask “would you be friends with this person if she/he was not a relative.” Usually the response is instantaneously “no.” This is a tough one because then what often follows is “but they are family.” Why … Continue reading

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On Being Responsible

Hello, and welcome to my website and blog! From time to time I will post thoughts, notions and ideas which I think you may find useful or at least thought provoking. People sometimes say “I need to be responsible and own what I do.” Yes, that seems right a lot of the time. But it needs to be sincere. Many of us wince when a public figure after doing something wrong, or really, really wrong piously says “I take full responsibility” and you just know that they do not! But in our interpersonal relationships we also need to let others be responsible as well as keep our own house in order and sometimes we need to “own it a little less.” Give the other party the room to own their part and not feel like we always have to have control.

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