This week's vlog highlights a concept I discuss in my book: personality disorders. People with a personality disorder look and act in most ways like everyone else, yet they can cause serious pain to those closest to them.
To learn more about this "pathology masquerading as normalcy," watch this week's vlog.
Do you have any traits of a difficult person?
If you have a difficult relative, you probably have a history of repetitive and unproductive conversations with them. Watch this week's YouTube vlog to learn how to be a "smarter fish" and not take the bait!
I am happy to announce that I will be starting a new video blog series on my YouTube channel. Visit my YouTube channel to see my first of many vlogs.
It's the season of giving! I'd like to gift you a lasting value idea. Here is a gift that truly keeps giving....
Man-made space satellites are a bit like people. They are assembled with extreme care and precision in a single-purpose environment in which they must not remain. Then, with great effort and drama, they are launched into the environment for which they were designed.
The primary service of my psychology practice is individual psychotherapy. Many people call it counseling or consultation, but, by any name, the goal is to create tangible positive change in my patient’s life. In other words, to turn your challenges and dilemmas in life into building blocks of a better you.
Working as a therapeutic team, my patient and I accomplish this transformation by improving their psychological skills. These include self-awareness, assertiveness, courage, empathy, commitment, regulation of emotions, and clarity of values and goals.
Psychotherapy is very much like remodeling the most central room in your house. Let’s say you realize that your bedroom, your kitchen, or your family room simply no longer meets your needs at this stage of your life. You are keenly aware that this room must be improved for you to feel contentment and fulfillment at home. It is time to remodel.
Of course, updating the wiring, plumbing, or floor plan means some wallboard will have to be removed. The exposed areas are not always pretty. Likewise, the psychological skills I mentioned live in a place in us that cannot be reached formulas or by medicine, so we’re going to have to look under the social veneer we all have. There will be dust and inconvenience, perhaps even temporary discomfort, as we grieve old losses and remove old barriers. This is how we create and bring light into new spaces.
Your house is not identical to anyone else’s house. Your psychological needs are not identical to anyone else’s. Therefore, every remodeling job and every psychotherapy plan is a custom project. Your house is updated by hand, one brick, stick, and nail at a time. Your heart is healed one cry, one insight, and one courageous step at a time. We do it through a series of totally confidential conversations. It takes a little time, but the results last a lifetime. That remodeled center room in your psyche will be yours, with you wherever you go in life, forever.
If the center room in your psyche is not a place of contentment and fulfillment, I hope you will call me. Let’s talk about working together to keep you moving forward.
The creation of my new book, Loving Hard-to-Love Parents: A Handbook for Adult Children of Difficult Older Parents, has been a journey of growth for me.
The journey began in late 2015, when the concept of CODOP (adult children of difficult older parents) congealed. I realized that I had worked consistently with adult children of difficult elders since opening my practice in 1982. Despite my total immersion in this work, I did not identify it as a discreet topic with its own body of knowledge until 2015.
Many reasons supported my decision to write a book about CODOP. My own practice had seen hundreds of real families who embodied this phenomenon. Working with these families had allowed me to learn their dilemma in depth, and observe which of their approaches were helpful and which were not. The results of my passing on track-proven approaches to subsequent families validated their robust utility. Finally, it was painfully obvious that the families who came through my practice were just a sliver of the population of families who needed these approaches. For all these reasons, I resolved to write a book.
In parallel with starting the book, I began speaking about CODOP to professional and lay audiences, and holding CODOP support groups. My confidence in the meaningfulness of the CODOP program was progressively strengthened by the strong positive response I found in these audiences.
Undertaking the book launched me onto a learning curve. I decided to forego the challenge of finding a publisher, and instead to self-publish. Of course, I had no idea how one does such a thing, so it was time to start exploring online and finding kind and knowledgeable people who would answer my hundreds of beginner’s questions. With their help, by fits and starts, I wrestled my new learning into this plan:
The journey included many emotions:
So, this has been my journey, my transition, into independent authorship. Like every transition, it involved learning new skills, processing many emotions, and putting in the raw work of time, effort, and money. Like everyone else in the world, I had to GROW INTO my next stage.
I have been very gratified by the book’s reception so far. There will be a gala launch party in late August at Belmont Village in Dallas. Stay tuned here for details as the date approaches. I hope you’ll attend!
An early step in the writing of my new book, Loving Hard-to-Love Parents: A Handbook for Adult Children of Difficult Older Parents, was a review of files of patients I had seen in my practice over the previous five years. Among these, I found dozens of cases of patients who were struggling with a difficult older parent. My notes detailed the unpleasant behaviors of these parents, and the themes running through these cases became the backbone of my book.
My father would now be 98 years old had he not passed away in 1998. He was a fine guy who had a really good life.
Many readers are already familiar with Simon Sinek’s blockbuster book, Start with Why, and his excellent YouTube video about it. If you are not, Google them right now. Sinek proposes that every person and every enterprise know their why, their what, and their how.
What is my why? As I have blogged here before, my work as a psychologist is fashioned around this principle: the reason we all face so many struggles and dilemmas in life, love, and loss is so we will learn from living and grow from learning. In short, LIFE IS FOR LEARNING AND GROWING!
My what is that people can learn and grow their way into every transition and adjustment demanded of them. The right psychological concepts, insights, and skills are critical to making this possible. You could say that it is all about E-X-P! That is, many important applications of this principle are captured well by words that start with exp-.
Learning and growing involve EXPediting:
Learning and growing also involve:
How refers to accomplishing these lofty goals through our daily activities. The how for my practice consists of the various services I provide. However, each of us also needs a how for our individual life. What specific habits do we practice to keep ourselves growing? What is your how? How do you ensure that your progress toward becoming an EXPert on yourself stays EXPonential and never EXPires?
If you want help with your why, what, or how, give me a call. What Sinek began, we will complete!
Imagine this common scene. At a gathering, Bob sees his friend, Bill, for the first time in two months. After the handshake and hello, Bob asks Bill, “How are you doing?”
A Jewish proverb says, “God could not be everywhere, so he made mothers.” Parents turn the raw fruit of their wombs and loins into people. It is indeed creation. Done well, it is God-like. Done poorly, it is not pretty.
I have seen the full range of quality in mothers.
At one extreme are the heartbreaking depictions of parenting gone wrong, which I hear about in my practice. For example:
“Mother has always been beautiful and wealthy, but unforgiving, unrelentingly demanding, rejecting, consuming, smothering, and angry. She never once told me she loved me. Dad married her for her beauty and learned fast to keep his head down.”
“Mom was impossible. Incredibly selfish and mean, she abused us mentally and physically. She was secretive but expected us to read her mind. We often got the silent treatment, knowing she was unhappy with us but not knowing why or how to fix it. There were frequent spankings. She teased us and would humiliate us in front of others. She had no friends, but ruled our home totally.”
At the other extreme are the many wonderful mothers I have been blessed to observe in my own family and in my circle of friends. These women have been or still are beloved and respected both within and beyond their immediate families for their wisdom, kindness, stability, and hard work.
There is also a middle ground. Children do not need perfect parenting. They just need good-enough parenting. Given the basics, the sufficient minimum, a growing child can finish the job on their own, albeit often with the help of additional adults found along the way.
A 2009 post by Tim Sanford titled The Real Job of Moms on the website, focusonthefamily.com, describes this concept well. I paraphrase it here:
“What is a mom's primary job? The most important assignment a mom has is to nurture her children. This means enabling them to develop fully by pouring life into them. She models joy and passion. Nurturing is filling your child up with aliveness.
A nurturing mom takes time to play, read, and take pictures when the toddler's spaghetti ends up on the head instead of in the mouth. She enters the child's world to see things from his or her perspective. She provides empathetic understanding from a position of strength and support. She finds balance between the healthy desire to give kids freedom and the God-given urge to keep them safe.
Nurturing is not about ‘doing it all’ or doing it perfectly. It's about doing the best you can — without losing yourself or driving yourself crazy. You can't control the results, but you can stir in the right ingredients. You can seek to know your children as individuals, different as they might be, and bring out the best in each.”
Happy Mothers Day!
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.
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