Learning to Receive Feedback

“Every time you get off the phone with your mom you are in the worst mood!” Charles told his wife, Stacy. Stacy had just been stomping around the kitchen, running her fingers through her hair. She immediately tensed up and glared at him silently....


Afraid to Share with Others? Blush Away

I sat with my friend Becca at breakfast, while she blushed and told me a story that embarrassed her. Last week, one of her coworkers sent out a photo of his new baby. Without realizing who she was responding to, she quickly typed, “OMG, she’s so cute! I could eat her.” The message was sent to 124 of her coworker’s closest friends.

I could immediately empathize with her. I have had many times in my life where I wish I could take back a sentence or two and the horrific embarrassment that came along with the moment, but these are the moments that make or break friendships.

Chronic Anxiety

Finding Your Resting Smile Face

I sit shotgun in the car with my sister, who is driving us to lunch. She is trying to tease me that she forgot to complete a chore that she was supposed to do for my grandmother, but she just can’t keep a straight face and bursts into giggles.

My sister is the worst liar I’ve ever met… seriously, ever.

Her inability to inhibit a facial expression is legendary. It makes her quite lovable and easy to get to know, because everything she is thinking or feeling is written on her face. My sister is undercontrolled.

Chronic Anxiety

Fix Is the New F-word

“I know what I’ll do…” starts Emily, after she’s just finished explaining a story about a conflict with a co-worker.

“Hold on there,“ I interrupt. “Are you trying to solve the problem?” I smile.

Emily smacks herself gently on the forehead and giggles. “You caught me… again.”


Feeling Alone is Physically Painful

I remember coming home from the grocery store recently having been thrilled to leave the busy store and get back to the quiet of my own house. I walked in the door, put away my items and then looked around my kitchen. I was struck with a feeling of how alone and empty I was. The house was quiet, my cats were asleep, and I did not have a romantic relationship to distract from the aloneness.

I was alone with myself. I recognized a little tinge of panic creep up… okay a lot of panic… but I was sure to push it down quickly and promptly distracted myself with a TV show. I refused to let myself feel the discomfort of the loneliness.

The Physical Pain of Loneliness


Overcontrolled people can have fun socializing too!

My friend Gina called one night saying she was throwing together a game night at her house asked if I wanted to come. It was 8.30pm on a Saturday. I sat at home contently watching a movie by myself and planning to be undisturbed for the night.

At first I was a little shocked because I usually don’t get impromptu calls to “party.” My friends know that I’m a bit of a plan-things-in-advance stickler, but as I reflected on going in my relaxed state of mind, I thought, “This movie can wait. You love games, go play!” So after a bit of a pause, I accepted the invitation, and drove over.

I got to Gina’s around 9pm, and I realized that I was the first to arrive. She told most of her friends were at other parties and were coming a bit later. Gina was in the kitchen, putting together quite an appetizer spread and her husband was selecting the music and singing.


Stopping the Self-Hate Cycle

Recently I remember sitting in session with a client who was talking about all the ways he had failed his kids as a father.

I suggested that he might be in a self-hate cycle and he responded, “I don’t hate myself.” Hmmmm, call it what you will, but the way he was talking about himself was at the least unkind and at the most abusive.

One of the most pervasive issues that I see in my therapy practice is people beating themselves up. The pattern comes in all forms:
• an executive listing all his failings in his head, when he is reminded of one mistake
• a student thinking she should have done better on a test
• a man recalling a date and ruminating on what he should have done that he didn’t do
• a mother blaming herself for not having been more capable at a task
The list of self-hate tactics can go on and on. While it’s important to acknowledge mistakes and try and learn from them, it’s also good to know when striving for perfection becomes unhealthy.

The Self-Hate Cycle

You could consider that a self-hate cycle is actually an unhealthy overcontrolled coping technique. A cue comes in that reminds us of a failing. The cue could be something small like forgetting to return a phone call or something more emotional like a seeing a photo of an ex-spouse who you still wish you were with.

Then some sort of unwanted private experience occurs like a sudden headache, sadness, fogginess, anger, nausea, shame or many others. Next starts our social signaling. Maybe you get quiet, leave the room, distract yourself, work harder or start putting yourself down out loud.