Psych 101: Did You Grow Up In A Home With An Alcohol Abuser? Find Out Which Role You Took…

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 3 min read

ROLESWhen I was a teenager, my friend, let’s call her Gina, was placed in a psychiatric hospital for a short time because she was having thoughts of harming her mother.

People saw Gina as troubled. Yet, I had been over to her house many times and her drunk, wasted mom would yell at her, demean her, treat her like crap, and torture her with a cackling laugh when her daughter asked to do things like go with me to McDonald’s. Her father did nothing to help. I am guessing this went on for years before Gina reached her breaking point. She was promiscuous and got in loads of trouble.

Gina was coping with a severely dysfunctional family situation.

When a parent has an addiction, the people around that person adapt. Roles commonly develop in response to or as a way of coping with the frustration, tension, insecurity and instability created by the substance abuser. These same roles can develop with any other severe family trauma too—if a parent suffers from a mental illness, for example.

If you have dealt with the substance abuse, addiction or mental illness of a loved one or friend, see if you recognize any of these roles:

1. The Scapegoats. These are the family members who, in response to distress, choose to pursue self-destructive activities themselves. Rather than addressing the real problem (the parent’s addiction or illness), the family punishes this person, “the problem child,” and unfairly blames him or her for all the bad things going on. Gina was The Scapegoat.

Continue reading… »

I Still Hate My Husband: What’s Going On?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 4 min read

Poor Anne lost her head to her ornery husband. I hear he was a TOTAL narcissist.

I hate my husband.

The response to these four little (or big) words has been huge. This means there are a lot of women out there who are hating their hubbies. (I am sure the guys are feeling some bad vibes too … If Dateline is any indication).

First, let me say that it is normal for many people to go through periods of extreme tension in their marriages/partnerships. Hate is a strong word, and some couples never get to that point. However, extreme anger is part of the human condition. We do tend to show not only our best parts but also our darkest parts to those we are paired up with, especially if we are with them over a long period of time.

Here are some examples of really “hatey couples” in history and in more recent pop culture:

1. Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.

2. Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen

3. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger

4. Newt Gingrich and ex-wife Jackie

5. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in The War of the Roses.

Continue reading… »

What’s the New in Your New Year?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 2 min read

NewYearWhat’s the New you want to see this New Year? Sometimes people feel too afraid to make changes. It can seem be easier to hide behind a bad relationship, a bad job, or a bad lifestyle than it is to make new choices.

In my forthcoming book, Stop Giving It Away (Spring 2015), I introduce what’s called Detrimental Caretaking. Most women fall into the category of moderate detrimental caretaking, and it goes something like this. They …

  1. Complain that “there aren’t enough hours in the day.”

  2. Avoid conflict or saying “no” to others or demands placed on them.

  3. Avoid saying “yes” to things that are good for them or things they want, if it means sacrificing others needs for themselves.

  4. Draw unclear or no boundaries between their own needs and the needs of others.

  5. Have no one to delegate to, or don’t know how to delegate. Their motto is, “I’ll do it myself,” but it stems more from helplessness or frustration than empowerment.

  6. Have learned to skimp on or skip their basic needs — for well-being, nutrition, exercise and rest.

  7. Base their identity and worth on their giving to their spouse, possessions, friends, jobs, or the causes they lend their time to.

Detrimental Caretaking is about giving it away to the point that we lose ourselves. Once we’ve lost so much, we’re really not good to ourselves or to the people around us because we walk around feeling tired, sad, mad and resentful.

What are we giving away? Our energy, power, ideas, time, wishes, dreams, desires, comfort and accolades—any one or more make up most of every person. The “IT” in Stop Giving It Away is different for everyone. “It” could mean the freedom to do things you enjoy, honoring and exploring your true talents, or feeling comfortable being uniquely you. Sometimes “it” means your voice or your self-respect. Sometimes “it” refers to sex—but really, sex only falls into giving it away territory when you lose your self-esteem or self-respect in the process.

All women give it away. In the course of my work, I’ve discovered a pervasive, troubling pattern: that women, so prone to be the caretakers in any relationship and any interaction, often don’t know how to set personal boundaries or say no to their spouses, their bosses, or anyone else. Working to the point of depletion they “give it away.”

Why do we do this? Staying stuck in past patterns can feel comfortable, like an old sweatshirt you put on when it’s cold—no need to change, face fears or get out there and challenge yourself. Just stay stuck.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.”

What kind of changes do you want for your life in the New Year?

Take care,

cherilynnvelandSMAbout the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook pageand/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.

I am PMSing! What P-M-S really stands for…

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 2 min read

“What? Are you having your period or something?” “She must be on the rag.” Hmmm…

A 2005 Medical News Today article detailed the results of the Men’s Attitude of PMS survey – in which one finding511361871_86b4e89f78 was that 12% of men believe PMS is not real and that “it’s all in a woman’s head.”

I don’t think so. However, there has been little research to find out what is causing women to feel this way.

For your average women who isn’t suffering from more severe symptoms, getting your period simply sucks. It is usually accompanied by the following:

1. agitation, moodiness

2. sadness and depression

3. cramping

4. chocolate cravings

5. weight gain and bloat

Yuck, this is no fun for anyone.  However, depending on the woman and her PMS experience, I like to reframe the acronym PMS to the following:

Continue reading… »

Saying No! The Secret To Getting Over The Guilt

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 2 min read

guiltWomen often ask me what the secret is to setting a boundary or saying “no” to someone and not feeling guilty and bad about it—as if this was a really big secret. Perhaps they are thinking, If I say it like this, maybe she won’t get mad, or If I phrase it just like this, maybe they won’t think I am being mean.

Evidently, a lot of guilt has been going around. Here’s a little of what I heard recently:

  • “Cherilynn, how do I tell my step-siblings that I don’t want to drive to Naperville (an hour away) on Christmas? We don’t talk. We don’t even like each other, and I feel resentful that I am the one who always has to drive out there! I am getting too old for this.”
  • “I was in traffic for two hours with screaming kids, so I turned around. I told my sister we would not be there for the family dinner. She isn’t speaking to me and now I feel terrible!”
  • “I can’t say ‘no’ because I feel so stressed and anxious afterward. What is the trick to avoid feeling bad when I disappoint other people?”

Continue reading… »

Go Away Winter Blues

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 2 min read


“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” ~ Victor Hugo

I used to hate the winters here in Chicago. I still talk about them like I hate them because it makes for good comedy, me being from the Deep South where I did not even own a wool sweater!  I am cold here in the winter. All of the time.

“How cold are you, Cherilynn?” I  get so cold at night I have to wear winter hats. My ex sister- in- law once exclaimed, “Are you going to bed or are you going hunting?” when she saw me in all of my flannel gear. Exactly.

This cold-dark thing could kill a girl’s optimism, laughter and bounce. However, there is beauty and joy you CAN find in the winter. How? Here’s what worked for me…

  1. Fill up on vitamin D and get sunlight however you can. I often get dressed in winter warrior wear and go for walks down by the lake. This ensures I get at least 15-20 minutes of sunshine. If you are indeed a seasonal affective disorder person, get one of those lights and let me know if it works. I have heard it does.
  2. Catch up on your reading or listen to fun music. If you don’t already have a winter listening list, make one. Fill it with fun music that has felt good from years past. You will smile.
  3. Use the yuckiness outside to accomplish something inside you have been procrastinating. Clean a closet; organize the garage. Do not wait for motivation. Just do it. You will feel so good afterward.
  4. Notice the beauty. Just because you have been told that cold, dark days are bad doesn’t make them so. There is beauty in the soft flakes of the first rain/snow. The world gets so quiet when the snow is cushioning sound. The trees stand tall and strong with their dark trunks, without the fluff of leaves blocking them. There are a few bird “hold-outs” that occasionally can be seen. Aren’t their stories intriguing? My sons and I go on architecture walks in the winter, and we try to pick out interesting details on all the houses and stores that we ordinarily run past.
  5. Enjoy activities you normally enjoy in the summer. I love swinging in the park with my kids.

Have you ever read the story by Ray Bradbury called All Summer In A Day? It is a book about a little girl named Margot who only gets to see the sun for a few minutes in her lifetime. However, the bullies decide to lock her in a closet at school when the sun finally shines. She never gets to see it. Poor thing. Find that sun.

What works for you? What’s not working for you? In the meantime, here’s some helpful music from George Winston. Enjoy.

Take care,

cherilynnvelandSMAbout the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook pageand/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.

For more information or to arrange a speaking engagement or small group, contact Cherilynn at Stop Giving It Away the book will be published Spring 2015. 

Hosting A Holiday Party With Your Partner? How I Survived The Pre-Party Stress

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 3 min read

I had a Holiday Party this weekend and it was fun, but the pre-party prep is always stressful.  There are a million things
Holiday Partyto do and not enough time. Between basketball games and running through the holiday traffic, it is tense.

The Tension Is On

Usually, my husband and I fight a lot when we are putting on a party. We are both pressed to get things done. Therefore, somebody gets all crabby and freaks out. After 20 years, we are better in sync, but we have our moments.

Here are a few of the stress-inducing shenanigans from the pre-party prep:

  1. I asked my husband to replace the lightbulbs for the living room, and he got these glowy bulb things that made the living room look like a European discotheque. Not cool.
  2. My husband ate the cookies I had carefully bagged into separate containers for the cookie exchange I was headed to right before the party. (The head cookie countess counts them veeerryyy carefully to make sure we all pull our share, so showing up minus the eight-dozen I had promised was a definite no-no.) So, when I caught him  digging into one of the counted out and closed containers I had left by the door, I yelled, “Stop, right there, mister!”
  3. Then, right before the guests arrive he dragged a ladder through my living room to add more lights to the tree. Ahhhh!!!

Continue reading… »

I Hate My Job: The Power of Negative Self-Talk

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 3 min read

negativityAre you hating your job right now? Perhaps you are doing or thinking in ways that are sure to make you feel less worthy, stress you out, and take away your ability to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Negative self-talk (NST) might be part of the problem. NST is quite productive in all the wrong ways. As described above, it can leave you feeling down in the dumps. It can also fuel the fires of resentment.

Getting down on yourself
“How did I miss this? I am so embarrassed!”
“I am terrible at this.”
“Why am I here?”
“I am a failure.”

Getting down on people around you
“Why does so and so get to do that and I don’t?”
“F that. I hate this place!”
“I can’t believe they expect me to do_____”
“Such assholes!”

Feeling resentful once in a while is understandable considering the high level of work and personal stress people handle every day. Mistakes will happen for everyone at some point. However, if you are reading into every situation as an opportunity to hate your company, your boss or your coworkers, you are generating strong negative energy, stress and maybe even hostility. Spreading misery to others is just as hurtful as holding it all in.

Through no fault of your own, you may feel like an island where you work. You may work in an unhealthy culture where leadership and teamwork are lacking. You still have one person on your team. That’s you.

Neutral, helpful messages to consider
If situations are challenging and stressful, and problems arise, start with neutral approaches such as:

“Let’s get this problem fixed before we discuss it any further, okay?”
“Wow. This is a definite issue that I will look into and get back to you on, once I have more information.”
“I can see that you are upset. Let’s figure out a solution.”
“Here’s a way to resolve this…”
“Here’s how this project went well. Here’s what I might do differently next time.”
“Thank you for your feedback. I will give it some thought.”

Neutral statements are usually helpful for you and for others. They project a steadying, problem-solving attitude.

Now, if you are doing nothing to stop yourself from feeling resentful and hostile, it will just cause more and more negativity in your life. Those feelings may even spill over into your personal life. Either get a new job, or change your thoughts about the job. In the meantime, try to catch yourself when you are thinking so negatively, and add a positive statement to lighten the load, or think of a neutralizing statement.

Coping with the challenges: How are you treating yourself? Others?

We get up and start each day with a set of coping tools—some good, some maybe not so good. Our coping tools are shaped by our life experiences, including how we grew up.

Once we’ve been pressed and pressured to our limits, we find we’ve exhausted our ability to cope. This is when situations begin falling apart by way of hostility, backstabbing, gossiping and the myriad other ways people act out when they’ve reached their personal breaking point. Just think about the unhappy (I don’t mean depressed) people you know, what they do, and the circumstances in which other people are hurt or negatively affected.

What can you do?

First, if work stress is weighing heavily on you, keeping you from sleeping at night or pushing relentless negativity, see if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP provides a professional you can talk to about what’s going on. You can also pursue help on your own through a licensed counselor.

Second, tune in to your support network, the people closest to you in whom you can trust to listen. Ask for help with the responsibilities you have outside of your work challenges.

Third, take care of yourself first and give up trying to control what’s going on at work, a lot of which is really out of your control.

cherilynnvelandSMAbout the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook pageand/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.

For more information or to arrange a speaking engagement or small group, contact Cherilynn at Stop Giving It Away the book will be published Spring 2015. 

Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts Especially For You

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 2 min read

I just read a newsletter with this great idea in it: Gift to yourself this holiday! This good advice comes from colleague, Arlene Englander, LCSW, at The Wellness Source.


Arlene writes:
Each holiday season we make a list of gifts to give to family and friends to show our love and appreciation for the role they play in our life. Invariably, we neglect to put our name on the list. We ignore the importance of loving one’s Self. The truth is, it’s necessary to love yourself first, in order to really love others.

Why do we disregard our virtues and overlook our intrinsic worth?
Typically, we are harsh and critical toward ourselves because as children we were taught to accept the disapproval directed at us by the important people in our lives. Holding on to that dismissive treatment when we become adults, perpetuates it. Fortunately, we can alter the pattern.

Instead of criticizing ourselves, we can commend ourselves for doing the best we can; we can wake up in the morning and feel we deserve to have a good day; we can recognize that we are deserving of love; we can do loving things for ourselves; we can love others and let others love us. It takes time. It’s a practice. And it can be done.

Arlene’s list of the attributes of self-love
Follow your heart.
Teach with praise rather than criticism.
Do not presume you are responsible for someone else’s life.
Have a higher purpose to give your life meaning.
Live in the present.

The takeaway
We give the world our light when we incorporate these attributes into our daily life.

Arlene’s words of wisdom are helpful during the holidays and always. Stick with me.

Giveaway Girls and self-love
Caring for yourself is important and challenging, especially in a world where women are encouraged to care for others first. We put ourselves on the back burner over and over again. Eventually, we feel resentful and angry, not only with the world, but with the people in our world.

Can you relate to any of the following?
1. Instead of following your heart, you live through others: your children, your spouse, your boyfriend or partner. You live according to someone else’s terms or even their demands. Sometimes it feels like someone or something else is running your life.

2. You judge yourself—how you look, how much money you make, something you said, for the way someone treated you. You see yourself as less than, rather than enough.

3. You’re a fixer, or you work tirelessly to cover, compensate and take care of other people’s situations, problems and feelings.

4. You’ve had major challenges in life and it’s hard to see the good that can come of any of it.

5. You live in the past. Rumination is a way of life. Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, rather than thinking about solutions, living for today and tomorrow. Or, you just can’t seem to move forward with your life from where you are today.

Any and all of these take the love out of life. Fortunately, we can alter the pattern. I know this because I have seen just about everything that can happen to people through my years as a social worker in the inner city and in the rural South and through my many years of private practice. I also know the holidays can be especially difficult.

Take a small step today to show yourself love. What will it be?

Take care,

cherilynnvelandSMAbout the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook page and/or subscribing for updates. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.

For more information or to arrange a speaking engagement or small group, contact Cherilynn at Stop Giving It Away the book will be published Spring 2015. 

Pic by comp fight.

Take Your Therapist With You These Holidays: 6 Tools To Help You Enjoy This Time

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW • 3 min read

Santa Girls

Here are some comments I have already heard from other people about the upcoming holidays:

  • “Bah humbug!”
  • “I can’t stand that song, ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year.’ Really?! Who is he kidding?”
  • “I kinda see the holidays as a heavyweight boxing match. Once you get through round 1, you better gear up for round 2.”
  • “I start really pumping myself up for the holidays and then around December 15th I just feel disgusted with it all. How is this about the real meaning of Christmas anyway?”

I know the holidays can be challenging. For this reason, I want you to take some therapist advice with you as you run around managing the occasion.

Continue reading… »


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