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.

Chronic Anxiety

7 Steps to Make It in a Relationship with a Paranoid Partner

If your partner has paranoia, it may wax and wane over the course of the relationship, but likely it will always be present in the background. Paranoia tends to manifest as a desire for control at all costs. In romantic relationships control seeking can show up in many different behaviors: information gathering, question asking, searching, reorganizing, spying, tracking, accusations of falsehoods, trap setting, or going through another’s phone and computer. Usually a combination of these actions is present.

The paranoid person may not think that these behaviors are strange and may even try to convince you that they are sensible actions in a relationship. Don’t be fooled by this way of thinking. These are anxiety reduction techniques at another person’s expense.

No one can ever know everything about another person, and who would want to??!! For example, do you really need to know every bodily function your partner has, or that they think your mother is a b-word, or even that a waiter broke a plate during lunch. Of course not. That’s why we edit and/or share given each unique life situation.


Caught in a Paranoid Love Relationship

“You’re cheating on me, I know it.” For many men and women in romantic relationships, this statement is all too familiar. Being accused of something false is not only shocking, but hurtful and leaves the accused person with a huge decision about how to react. Do you defend yourself, ignore it, or try some other crafty reaction? What was once a safe, committed relationship is suddenly a paranoid trap.

Many significant others report being blindsided by the paranoia of their partner, but there may have been subtle clues that the paranoia was forming.
- “Where did you get that new perfume?”
- “Who is Bill from work?”
- “You really like sex, don’t you?”
- “What did you do while I was visiting my parents?”
These types of questions might be more than just a partner’s curiosity when followed by unfounded accusations.

Paranoia vs Jealousy


Pushing Through Pain: aka Too Much Impulse Control

I am in yoga class and have just been silently congratulating myself on my amazing Crow pose (resting my knees on my upper arms, feet up, with just my palms touching the ground). I’m thinking how awesome I have become at this posture and really feel secure in it.

And then, I fall.

Epic failure style. My nose plants into the wood floor and blood starts spewing on my mat and the ground. I barely react, other than to take my towel and hold it to my nose until the blood flow subsides.

Neither girl practicing next to me says a word, so I think, “Oh it can’t be that bad.” I return to my yoga practice, while little drops of blood fall onto my mat. When I finish class, I realize that not only is my nose still bleeding, but now it’s throbbing.

Finally the girl next to me looks over and says, “Your nose looks really swollen, I think you need ice.”

I say, “Oh it’ll be fine, I only live a mile away.”

I walk out to my car and casually look at myself in the mirror… OMG, my nose is twice it’s normal size and all red. I think it’s broken. The doctor I go to see confirms it’s broken and I silently question why the hell didn’t I leave class when I got hurt?

Too Much Control


What to Do When List-Making and Over-Planning Take Over Your Life

Last Christmas my client, Laura, shared how she bakes bountiful amounts of holiday cookies for co-workers, friends, and family. She meticulously plans her grocery store shopping list by combining the list of ingredients she needs for each recipe together, and then making one huge shopping trip. The list might take her two or three hours to get together over two or three days.

Inevitably during the shopping trip, Laura forgets an ingredient that she had failed to add to her list. Usually it is not one of the big items such as flour or sugar. It’s the unique item like candied ginger or mint extract that fails reach the basket. The pain on her face as she told me her mistake making and forgetfulness was heartbreaking.

Laura prides herself on her excellent organizational skills and when things don’t go as expected, she said that she sometimes cries or even throws a bowl across the kitchen. She said that feels like the whole experience of cooking is a waste of time, if she can’t make the recipe right.


How to Stop Isolating and Connect with Others

“Thank God for Walgreens,” my friend Jessa said over wine one night. “I spent the whole day in my house yesterday writing and hadn’t spoken to a soul or seen anyone. I was just going mad.” Jessa is a freelance writer friend of mine who has tremendous medical issues that often keep her stuck in her house.

“I never thought I would be so happy to have to go buy tampons and say hello to the clerk ringing me up,” she finished with a giggle. As I chuckled at her comments, it made me reflect on how much we really need other people. Excuses for Isolation

In my private practice I hear all kinds of reasons why people are isolated:
• I don’t have any friends;
• I like being by myself;
• I don’t know where to meet people;
• I’m afraid of being rejected;
• I’ll start yoga after I lose some weight;
• I have to study;
• I hate driving in traffic; or
• I’m not smart enough to start a class like that.

Whatever they say, let’s face the fact that these are excuses to keep ourselves stuck and avoid socializing. They even become habits. We get pretty good at convincing ourselves that these are legitimate reasons to become a hermit. Guess what, you’re not fooling anyone!

Of all the clients in my practice, the ones that are the most depressed are those that have the fewest social interactions. What may have started out originally as a setback like losing a job, having a major illness, or going through a divorce, evolves into a life style.

Let’s take isolation at its most extreme form: solitary confinement. A forced punishment designed to break someone’s spirit enough so they keep in line and follow rules in prison. Being alone like that is so bad that it can make even the most hardened criminals straighten out for a while. The sad thing is that people are putting themselves in states of solitary confinement every day. Maybe by their own choice or thoughts of what they can or cannot do based on rigid thinking, being overly cautious, or lack of openness to try out something new.

Breaking the Isolation Cycle


Making Friends with Making Mistakes

I drowned my phone in a pool and dropped my computer at work, both in the same month.

During the phone incident, I felt embarrassed as I watched a friend fish it out from the bottom of her pool. The computer debacle happened at work. I set my bag down on my desk and it toppled over, shattering my MacBook screen. That time I was angry. Angry at my bag, the desk, and any other inanimate object that could receive my blame.

I also blamed myself for being so stupid as to put the bag down in a way that it could fall over. Expensive little “mistakes” to make, but that’s what they were, mistakes.

While I realize that these types of errors happen to people every day, they don’t happen to me! I am very conscientious and take care of my belongings. I remember thinking that these types of mistakes are beneath me.

How arrogant!!!!

Yet there’s some truth to it.

Being Overly Cautious

I tend to be overly cautious about my belongings and take care of them like they are national treasures. Being hyper-vigilant affords me many headache-free days, but when I do break something or loose things, I go into a full shame spiral and beat myself up. I even went so far as to punish myself for dropping my smartphone by not buying a new one for a month and using an old version.