How to Untwist Twisted Thinking Patterns

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Channel stress in healthy ways.

People think that all stress is external.

You or someone you know may be walking in these shoes: a single parent with two out-of-control teenagers; facing upheaval at work or job loss; raising children with autism or a disability; or caring for an elderly parent or spouse while raising children and juggling work, home and other commitments.

Clearly these situations create stress. Stress from others’ challenges spills into your life. Stress from your challenges spills into others’ lives. Now add twisted thinking patterns or what are also called cognitive distortions.

What a lot of people don’t realize, is that how you think and what you think about a situation help determine the level of stress you feel. David Burns, a noted psychiatrist, came up with a list of cognitive distortions. Burns found that when people interpreted events in certain ways, they tended to get more upset.

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Some People Love Conflict and Drama

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

I used to have this problem with this restaurant behind me. When I would attempt to ask for their help to resolve the issue, they would eitherjournalofjerks-2 ignore me or react with screaming and yelling. It was a resolvable issue and I often wondered why they didn’t just resolve it sooner. Why all the drama?

I do think that some people enjoy the drama of conflict. They get off on it. They like the adrenaline, the cortisol, the rage, and the energy that it brings. Even the indignity of the perceived slights must fill some type of need.

Drama in the Neighborhood

As an example, my friend Amanda regales me with constant hilarious stories of the drama in her neighborhood. People there are often angry and hatin’ on each other. “So and so didn’t ask so and so to the party, and she was caught hiding in the bushes watching us from the windows.” The  stories are better than Real Housewives shows. And it isn’t just the women doing this stuff.

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The NFL And Domestic Violence

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW
O.J.Simpson had allegedly multiple police reports alleging domestic violence before his ex-wife was murdered.

O.J.Simpson had  multiple police reports alleging domestic violence before his ex-wife was murdered.

I worked in a battered women’s shelter for several years early in my social work career. At one point, we had a woman hiding at the shelter whose husband had had a successful career in sports. He was so well known that the police were reluctant to help her. She was scared to death of being murdered by him. She was right to be scared of him.

I am a big proponent of efforts to challenge domestic violence as a norm that we accept.

Recently, I stumbled upon this movement by an organization called Ultraviolet. Read about how this NFL player is a purported predator who beat his fiancee’ and then got a weaker sentence from the NFL than if he had received a tattoo. He gets to miss two games and he gets paid for it. As a punishment? Are you kidding me? I can see it now. A big plate of nachos, a beer, and laughter while he contentedly watches the game from his La-Z-Boy. Lucky dude.


I received an email that encouraged me to call the NFL and I did. You might consider doing this too. Here’s what the email from Ultraviolet said:



NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a shockingly short suspension for running back Ray Rice, who was arrested in February after knocking his wife out cold. Hotel surveillance video shows him dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator. Since the NFL’s decision came down, reporters, sports analysts, and even comedians have criticized it as far too lenient. It’s time the NFL takes domestic violence seriously.

I made a phone call to the NFL–can you dial 212-450-2000 and join me? It takes just a few moments. Then record your call here:



I was once a victim of domestic violence when I was a naive college girl. I was a 19-year-old who unknowingly dated a guy who turned out to have this issue. Sadly, I found out later that he had been violent with previous girlfriends and that his mother was a sufferer of long-term abuse. (The cycle continues.) Sometimes, I look on the internet to see if he has killed anyone.

Interestingly, if this NFL player had hit someone and dragged them out of an elevator because of their race or because they were gay, we all know the consequences and the media uproar would be intense. Somehow, our world has become complacent and desensitized to violence against women. It is so normal it seems kinda’ normal.

Just a thought.

Take care,cherilynnvelandSM


Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at Could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.





Pic from Wikipedia.

How Do You Know If You Are Drinking Too Much? Functional Alcoholism And Motherhood

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Stress often puts mothers at risk for abusing alcohol.

Think About It

I am an addictions counselor in addition to my job as a mother. Here are the things I most commonly hear from other mothers about alcohol.

  • How do I know if I drink too much?
  • Is it a problem if I really look forward to a glass of wine at the end of a hard day? I mean, it is just wine and it really helps with my stress.
  • I know I shouldn’t drink so much because alcoholism runs in my family, but I do it anyway.
  • I know alcohol isn’t a problem for me because if it ever was, I would just stop.
  • I could never, ever imagine my life without alcohol or wine. There is no way!

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CDR! The Secret Behind You Being Out Of Your Mind Stressed, Angry, Or Depressed

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Desperately Wanting Better 277490538_074d7d5b01

Whenever you give it away, do too much, take on too much for another, or enable dysfunctional behavior, you unwittingly set into motion that wave that builds momentum and cannot be stopped until you still the waters — or watch the wave crash like a tsunami.

Put a mechanical device under enormous pressure and it produces an undesirable, unintended misfire that can result in reversed energy and serious damage — something like a rubber band on an overstretched slingshot snapping and hurting the person who uses it.

That’s exactly what happens with a Give It Away Girl  backlash, except that it manifests in a wave of resentment and anger for another person, directed back at the self. Over time, this resentment produces so much pressure that it needs a release and the Give Away Girl either explodes — “Crazy woman!” … “What’s her problem?” … “She’s so overemotional!” Or, she implodes, collapsing into a black hole  I call a CDR, or Codependent Depressive Rage.

 If You Are Feeling Upset, Could You Be In the Middle Of A Codependent Depressive Rage?

I think back to my 20s, when I saw my girlfriends become heartbroken and sick after a relationship dissolved. 

One incident comes to mind. It happened right after my boyfriend’s roommate dumped his girlfriend, Lori. To say she didn’t take it well is putting it mildly. I’ll always remember it as the “Condiment Confrontation.”

Lori was positively distraught that Dave had dumped her. She was so distraught that she lipsticked the front window with DAVE PARKER LIKES BLONDES, BRUNETTES, REDHEADS and ANY OLD BARFLY, then hid out in the bushes with gallons of ketchup that she later poured on the sidewalk. Why ketchup? I don’t know. But ewww.

I always wondered why this successful professional had been reduced to sneaking in the bushes and chucking ketchup like an adolescent in a food fight.

This was a case of CDR, which came with non-stop crying and obsessing, weeks sometimes months of depression, and climaxing with rage and hyper-focus on the relationship.

Certainly, losing a relationship feels terrible. But for those who experience CDR, their extreme reaction is partly because of their self-neglect and sacrifice. 

CDR happens in other situations too. Like, with one’s work. I knew one friend who gave of herself to her job endlessly. She stayed late, she bent over backwards to help and support the company. She stayed even when things got abusive and very, very bad. She thought she was just being loyal and committed. Those are excellent qualities, right? Well, the dictator/new director sacked her in an ugly way. She went into a terrible tailspin and couldn’t sleep from the obsessive anger and hurt. This was as a result of codependent depressive rage.

Sometimes, you can give up too much. CDR is a good wake-up call. The good news is there is learning and growth that a does of CDR provides. If you are putting others needs in front of yours, I suggest that you imagine a worst case scenario, and then decide if your efforts are worth it. If not, scale back a little.

Take care,



Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at Could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.

pic from Compfight.

How Much Does It Take To … DEF To The Rescue

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

dailystretchDEF To The Rescue

Someone once said to me, “I don’t know how women, especially mothers, do all that they do.” I assumed he was impressed with the juggling and how good we are at it.

Yes, we women know how to take on projects and we get things done. Often, we don’t know when to quit and we stretch ourselves thin.

Since we aren’t slowing down as much as we really should, I’ve devised an anti-stress strategy that might help (and certainly can’t hurt). I call it DEF™, which stands for Daily Ease of Functioning.

For those of you new to DEF™, tasks, activities and projects are scored based on how much they contribute to wasted effort and energy. When something makes life more complicated, it gets a bad DEF™ score. When something makes life easier, it gets a good DEF™ score because there’s less work involved with that choice.

If you feel really busy, overworked, stressed, tired — and a lot of people do —  making life easier simply makes the most sense.

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Why You Should Stop Saying You’re Sorry

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

SorryPostWhy do women apologize more frequently than men? Well, I have my theories. This older article at Scientific American is interesting too.

I hear women say they are sorry several times a day. They say it when they cross your path in the grocery store. They say it when their pen rolls over to your paper in a meeting. They say it sometimes when they make eye contact with you and they’re near your space. ” I am sorry.” Some of these sound silly? They bump into you. They say they’re so sorry.

I appreciate the kindness and the respect. However, there is a power disequilibrium at play here. After all, when was the last time you ran into a bunch of guys who apologized profusely. Try picturing Donald Trump or the president saying, “I am sorry. How rude of me.” {Squishy, concerned affect}. See?

Well, that’s how a lot of smart women walk around. They apologize for everything.

I am not immune. It used to slip out of my mouth a lot too, until I started thinking about it.

Are You An “I Am So Sorry” Girl?

I started thinking about it after I encountered another “I am sorry” girl during my eyebrow wax. Stephanie (not her real name) asked me if I had any specifics she needed to be aware of before she poured on the hot wax. I told her to please not wax the top of my brows, “They get all zitty if you go there,” I explained.

She sympathized. Then we got to talking. We were laughing and gabbing, then she got distracted. Stephanie then put wax on top of my brows, even though I had asked her not to. You could have thought she had just started the great Chicago fire.

“I am soooo sorry. I can’t believe I did that. I feel terrible. Oh my God! I am soo sorry,” her poor voice  squeaked. She then proceeded to sweetly say she was sorry at least eight times. I finally had to stop her. “Stephanie, please don’t say you are sorry anymore. I accept your apology and it is no big deal.”

My guess is Stephanie has some self-esteem  challenges. Or, at least she takes on way too much emotional responsibility for others. Stephanie is not unlike a lot of other women in that she is probably a very kind, compassionate caring person who easily feels too bad for stuff she really shouldn’t feel bad about.

Here are three good reasons to save your apologies for important moments. Or, at least to be more mindful of how much you apologize.

Saying “I am sorry” all the time:

1. Tells your brain and everyone else you are a sorry person.

Brains that hear “I AM SORRY” over and over only recognize the words that “YOU ARE SORRY.”

2. Gives away your power.

Poor Steph was really beating up on herself for a simple mistake. A simple, “I apologize.” Or, ” I made a mistake,” is a mutually respectful way to identify an error, say that you regret it, then it is time to move on.

3.  Tells others that you may have low self-esteem, or at least that you are feeling really bad and guilty. 

This is only useful if it is something you should feel bad about. My experience is that most women are overly responsible and feel they are at fault, even when they are not. This is surely a societal dynamic where we feel pressured into this less powerful role. Not our fault but very present, even though we are surely not aware of it. The “I am sorry’s” you see all around you are a surefire indicator.

How to avoid giving up your power when you apologize:

  • Be sincere.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep your head up, body language strong and when you are wrong promptly admit it.
  • Use your apologies wisely and use empowering words like “I apologize,” or “I regret that decision.”
  • Stop apologizing for dumb things, like asking for water. Say “excuse me ” instead.
  • Don’t take ownership of problems when they really aren’t your fault.
  • Pay attention to powerful people whom you admire. How do they convey regrets?

In Stephanie’s case, a sincere, “I apologize Cherilynn. I inadvertently did exactly what you asked me not to do because I was distracted,” would have been sufficient.

CHALLENGE: Try to go a whole day without saying “I am sorry.” For some compassionate, smart, caring women, that can be quite a challenge! Let me know how you do.

Take care,cherilynnvelandSM

Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at Could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.




The Trouble With Heart Trouble For Women

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

My friend Shannon’s mother had a heart attack this weekend. Luckily, her mom is okay and they discovered she had severe blockages that had been occurring for a long time. Shannon’s heartsmother reported that, in hindsight, she had been experiencing heartburn for years and had felt a marked decrease in her energy level over the past few months. She was too busy to get it checked out.

Incredibly, the heart attack hasn’t set her mom back in the slightest. She is up, ready to get back into the swing of going and doing and is refusing to rest. My friend Shannon is annoyed and frustrated at her mother’s refusal to take care of herself.

What Shannon and her mother didn’t know is that women are very different from men in how they treat themselves with regards to heart difficulties. Here are some interesting facts every woman should be aware of:


1. Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

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I Hate My Husband! Angry Feelings In Relationships & Welcome To The Thunderdome

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 11.11.10 AMI had lunch with a friend recently. He explained that he was seriously struggling in his marriage. He thought he needed to get a divorce because he disliked his wife so much. He  said, “I really almost hate her, Cherilynn. There is no way this is normal.”

They just had a baby, they were both working full-time and barely making their monthly bills after suffering from severe financial setbacks. Understandably, they were overstressed, overburdened and they were fighting a ton.

“Oh, puullease…” I said to him with a mouthful of Panera Greek Salad. “Who doesn’t hate their spouse sometimes?! Suck it up, buddy. That is what marriage is all about. Welcome to the Thunderdome!”

(Do you remember that 80′s movie starring Mel Gibson? The one set in the future and Mad Max fights to the death in a very large cage? Check out this YouTube  reenactment of the Thunderdome fighting. Look familiar? Exactly.)

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6 Big Things To Remember About The First Year After Your Divorce/Separation

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Jessica writes an excellent blog called Single Mom Nation.(See #6). I highly recommend.

Divorce Girls,

I have had friends and clients go through divorce. For some, they are so excited and pumped it is kinda bizarre to watch. For most, it can be challenging and traumatic. In fact, last month I attended an excellent divorce training titled “The Trauma of Divorce”. Very enlightening.Yes, divorce is terribly difficult, but it is an incredibly rich time of learning, growth and change. Knowing what to expect empowers.

Here are some recommendations for adjusting that my clients have used to help them through that first year:

1.Expect to be overwhelmed by  the newness of every experience.

Depending on how long you have been married, many experiences will feel different and awkward. Expect this. For example, when you attend a party or an event that is typically coupled, without the presence of a partner, it may feel uncomfortable. Holidays may seem new with new traditions to make happen.

Know this going into it and give yourself permission to notice the feelings that this brings up. Do you feel like people are staring at you? (They probably aren’t.) Are other people acting weird around you? (They might be, because they don’t know what to say.) This awkwardness will pass. Noticing the feelings and honoring them within you will enable you to walk through these situations with strength and poise. You can do it.

2. Watch out for the idealizing of other ideal families or “marrieds”.

One of my clients was at an amusement theme park with her kids by herself. It was the first “new family” outing without her spouse. She reported that it was hard seeing all of the two-parent households laughing and appearing so happy with their children. Despite this, she and her kids had a blast together.

It is expected to be feeling that loss. However, a lot of what you see on the outside has nothing to do with what is really going on in these people’s lives. Family units come in all kinds of numbers. The important thing is that you love each other and that you live your life in truth and to the best of your abilities. Anytime we compare our insides with what we see “out there,” it can be unnecessarily torturous. Stop yourself if you start down this road of thinking.

3. Don’t buy into any negative stigma.

There is still a negative stigma around divorce. I am a child of divorce. I remember being stigmatized for that. Some friends’ parents wouldn’t let their kids come over to my house anymore because my parents were divorced. I was deemed a child from “a broken home.” Interestingly, these children could play at other homes where the parents were violent alcoholics who bullied and harmed their children. However, they happened to be married so they were viewed as acceptable. In addition, I have seen couples married for 30, 40, 50+ years who can’t stand each other and are miserable together, but everyone claps and coos at their anniversary parties. Hmm…. See what I mean? Society’s values are often not foolproof.

There is still something of a societal stigma attached to divorce. It is ridiculous. Try to detach.

4. As you make decisions on your behavior every day, focus on your kids or the next best action for you in the long run and short run.

If you have kids, do what is best for them in any interaction with your ex. If you don’t have kids, still keep focused on the short-term and long-term benefits of your decisions. Is it worth it to make that last snide remark? Probably not. Practice detachment from angry, inappropriate stuff. Try to do unto your ex as you would want to be done unto you. That way, you don’t have to add shame and guilt about your actions to the pile of stuff you are already dealing with. Make yourself proud.

5. Expect to go through periods of good, capable, “up-to-the-task” days, then suddenly switch to periods of intense paralysis.

When paralysis hits, you will be unmotivated, you may put things off, you may not be able to make a decision. This is OK.

I have had so many clients and friends describe these strong feelings of not being able to do anything for significant periods of time after their divorce. One client described just staring for days on end at the boxes she needed to pack. So many people have described this to me that it must be a stage of the grief that occurs. If you find that this happens, don’t panic. You will get done what needs to get done. You are just going through something. Relax. Go with it. See if it passes. It probably will.

6. Get support.

Last but definitely not least, you have to get support. Repeat. You have to get support. If you weren’t in counseling or therapy before the divorce, now could be a good time to start. Build your support network through friends, church, synagogues or support groups. For many, divorce really is as traumatic as death, only without the societal recognition that a funeral might have. You may feel very alone. It is temporary and you will get through this and eventually thrive.

Log onto some great blogs and connect with others to inspire you. I love this one for single moms called Single Mom Nation. There is tons of stuff out there for people needing direction on the divorce process. Here is a Top 10 List for Divorce info.

In addition, there are so many upsides to being by yourself. New life. Starting over. Your rules. Wahoo! Try to keep your eyes open for these gratefulness opportunities and enjoy the upsides. Game on.


Take care,

Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago. She also blogs about home, work, life and love at Could you take the time to kindly follow me/Cherilynn on Twitter? Connect on Facebook too? I would really appreciate the support! And don’t forget Google Plus.


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Recent Comments
  • Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW: I am going to check out your book.Sounds interesting.
  • Melissa Diane Hudson: A great article. It reminds me of my most recent book, “Hell in Heels: Jealousy,...
  • oldblackdog: I like the article, and especially like the comment from Edward. To me hate is something virulent,...
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