General Articles

The Power of Negative Thinking

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

shutterstock_141901189Sometimes a little Eeyore can save you a whole lotta heartache.  Here’s how you can turn that frown into a force for good.

Just a little personal anecdote: My daughter’s had some significant delays, particularly in speech (at age 2, she was already a year behind in terms of producing language.)  As a highly verbal person myself, this was a blow.  Sometimes I felt scared, sometimes I just plain felt down.

Recently, at age 2 1/2, she had an incredible language surge and I’m optimistic she’ll actually catch up to her peers fairly soon.  But it was after having intensive interventions.  If I had been engaging only in positive thinking, I might not have been as tenacious about getting her services; I might have just said, “It’ll all turn out okay, she’ll catch up.”

My point is, negativity–when properly channeled–spurs action.  Positivity alone can often lull us into complacency and inaction.

Now, how do you use your negativity to its best advantage?

1)  Acknowledge that your negativity has a basis in your present reality.  But realize that it is present, and not necessarily future.

As in, “Right now, things are not as I want them to be.”  It might even be, “At this moment, things really suck.”  Acknowledging that is the first step, rather than pretending otherwise.

Negativity can keep us out of denial, if used properly.

2)  Allow yourself a time-limited wallow.

It might be 15 minutes; it might be a day or two.  It depends on your circumstances, and your own internal processes.

The point is, you’re giving yourself permission; that keeps things within your control, instead of letting the negativity overrun your life.

It also respects your negative emotions themselves.  They’re happening for a reason, after all: Sometimes lousy stuff happens to us, and in order to move forward, we get to admit that.  Otherwise, we’re merely papering over what we know to be true.  Long-term, that’s not particularly healthy coping.

3)  Take stock of what you can do.

In the case I described above, I could research developmental delays and ensure that my daughter received proper services.  The sense that I was doing all I could, …

Finding Time for Yourself

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

violinMy husband and I were talking yesterday and remembering a quote from the movie “Parenthood.”  Steve Martin, father of three, tells his wife, “My whole life is have to!”  I said I feel that way sometimes, and my husband does, too–like everything we do is something we have to do.  Not a good feeling.

So in the grand tradition of those who can’t do, write blogs–here are my thoughts:

How to Handle Overwhelming Emotions

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

emoteI was just reliving my younger years as I worked on the Teen Angst playlist for Spotify, as inspired by my novel “Don’t Try to Find Me.”  Adolescence, for many, involves overwhelming emotion, in part because so many of the emotions feel new as well as intense.  What’s the best way to understand and cope with all these emergent feelings? In some ways, that’s the key developmental task of adolescence.

But for some people, the struggle continues on into adulthood.  They might hear themselves called “oversensitive”‘; they might often feel misunderstood or invalidated as a result.  This can lead to a difficult spiral that actually intensifies emotions that already feel like too much to handle.

So where to start?

Reconnecting With A Distant Partner

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

coupleI practice emotionally-focused couples therapy, which is about trust and security being the bedrock of a relationship.  The core question we’re all asking, on an emotional level, is: When I need you, will you be there for me?  Can I count on you?

If we sense–again, on a subterranean emotional level, possibly beneath our conscious awareness–that our partner is unreliable, or unreachable, all sorts of issues can ensue.  We might find ourselves more prone to stress, irritability, mood swings, sadness, anger, defensive detachment and emotional shut-down…If this sounds familiar, read on.

In every relationship, there are times when you’re closer and times when you’re further away.  Often, the distance resolves itself.  It was just a busy and/or stressful week (or month), and there’s no underlying relationship issue.

But if you’re finding that the distance has persisted longer, and/or you find you’re experiencing some of the symptoms I listed above, then it’s time to address the problem.  Start by  asking yourself what’s causing the distance.  Is it logistical?  About scheduling, or the overall architecture of your lives?  Or is it that one or both of you are in avoidance mode?

Sometimes there might be unexpressed hurt, frustration or anger.  Sometimes rather than speak up, people just pull away. This could be a lack of assertiveness skills, or it could be that in the past, efforts to resolve things have ended badly.  Maybe one partner is feeling like there’s no point in trying.

If you’re that partner, examine this more deeply.  Think about what it would mean to your relationship to never deal with what’s bothering you.  How far would it go?  To separate bedrooms, separate lives?  If you’re assuming the feelings will just dissipate (if that’s what you’re hoping for), but it’s not happening, you might need to go to Plan B.  That could be forcing yourself to have some hard conversations.

If you’re the other partner–as in, noticing the pull-away–it might be time to ask some questions.  Consider how to do this in a supportive, rather than a demanding or attacking, way.  Remember that what we all want, deep down, is to feel loved and …

Why Your Teen Might Not Talk to You (Until It’s Too Late)

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

kitchenTeen suicide is way more common than you’d think.  1 in 12 teenagers have attempted suicide, according to a 2012 report.  And the idea that people who talk about killing themselves are not actually going to try has long been proven to be a fallacy.  If someone is talking about it, then they’re thinking about it, and thinking about it is a step toward doing it.

But if your teenager is talking to you about those thoughts, consider yourself lucky.  That’s an opportunity for you to get help and instill hope.

What if your teenager seems unhappy but isn’t talking to you?  You probably want to create an opportunity.

Is Your Partner Controlling You?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

fingerSome abuse is obvious; some is much more subtle.  Domestic violence is about a pattern of control and coercion, which might mean emotional abuse only with no physical component.

If  you have a sense that something is not quite right in your relationship and in the way your partner is treating you, then please read on.

Being Honest With Yourself

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

boredAre you in the habit of fooling yourself?  That could mean procrastination (“Oh, I’ll do that later” when deep down, you know you won’t.)  It could be convincing yourself to settle for something, pretending it’s good enough, when deep down, you know better.  Maybe you’re struggling with addiction, in which case deceiving yourself and others can become a way of life.

A lot of us would never lie to others the way we lie to ourselves.  And sadly, lying to yourself can be most detrimental of all.  Here are some suggestions on how to stop the self-delusion and improve your life.

Generation Like: Why “Liking” Can Be Dangerous For Your Teen

Friday, February 21st, 2014

likeI just watched the PBS Frontline Generation Like.  It was eye-opening in terms of how teens’ “liking” is becoming big business–how what  teens call empowerment is really part of a giant corporate marketing strategy.  But what I came away thinking about is just how much teens liking is about a desire for self-definition, and to be liked themselves.

Adults are certainly not immune to this.  We all want to be liked.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping this post would garner likes, retweets, etc.  But my self-esteem, my identity, and my social world aren’t on the line if that doesn’t happen.  For teens, though, it can be.  And that’s where the danger lies.

So what’s a parent to do?

Raising Happiness by Lowering Expectations

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

bikeOver the course of a lifetime, it can be rewarding and motivating to dream big.  But day to day, it might be better to expect little and be pleasantly surprised.  Here are some ideas of how to scale back expectations in order to increase happiness.

Fighting New Year’s Regrets

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

santaMany people greet the new year with renewed hope and a sense of purpose.  That’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about.

But for some, the new year is about regretting what came before–all the missed opportunities and mistakes of the previous year can flood back, sometimes becoming debilitating.  Here are some ideas of how to cope, if you tend to be among the regretful.

1)  Start with an honest and searching inventory of the previous year, and of yourself.

When people are feeling more depressed, that tends to show in their perspective.  They might screen out the good and be overly focused on the negative, in themselves and others.  So if you are depressed, it might be better to have a trusted friend or a therapist try this with you.  They can bring more balance.

Taking inventory means thinking about what you did this year, as well as what was done to you.  Assess how you treat others, and consider how that affects the way you feel about yourself.

It’s also time to think about the people you allow into your life and how they’re impacting you.

2)  Look to the future, rather than the past.   Be compassionate toward yourself.

It’s very hard to change if you’re beating yourself up for your previous mistakes.  You’re likely to become more depressed and paralyzed.

Instead, recognize that it’s normal and human to fail, to make mistakes, and even to behave unkindly.  If you want to become a better person, it starts with self-compassion.

3)  Focus on things that are most open to change.

What I mean is, some traits are more resistant to change.  That doesn’t mean they can’t be worked on, but it makes sense to work on other things first.  Small successes can be very meaningful.

So make a list of what you want to have happen this year, and then break it down into achievable objectives.  Start with the easiest things on the list, and work your way up.  Each success builds on the last, and that can increase self-esteem.

4)  Give yourself credit.

Even if you don’t like a lot of things in your life, …


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