Ever Felt Backlash For Being An Assertive Woman?

By Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Jessica Chastain as CIA agent May,a in Zero Dark Thirty.

Just saw the Zero Dark Thirty movie again on cable. It is a movie about the decade long hunt and killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Exciting movie! I loved the main character of Maya, the CIA agent who was supposedly behind this capture. Her role was of a very  strong female. This is rare for Hollywood.  Although the movie is supposed to be fictional, some of the storyline matched the true narrative  in the Navy Seals memoir, “No Easy Day” by Mark Owen. Therefore, I give parts of this characterization  some credibility. In addition,  an internet search about the real CIA agent  behind this story revealed several credentialed journalists espousing that this female CIA agent really exists.

There is much about Maya’s characterization to admire. In the movie, Maya is a smart woman who did not let her co-workers eschew her successes. As an example, there was a tense conference room scene where the head of the CIA comes in to talk about Obama’s secret hideout. Maya is at first ignored and relegated to a back seat, not even allowed to sit with the other men at the conference table. At one point, the CIA Director looks around and asks who the girl is. Without hesitation she quips:

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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.

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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 www.stopgivingitaway.com 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 www.stopgivingitaway.com 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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  • 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,...
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