Hi there, and welcome! This advice
forum is intended to enlighten, educate and empower you. At present,
I can only answer queries under 150 words, due to time constraints.
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relating to specific topics have been
archived, and can be located under Articles,
or accessed through these links: Sex
& Love Forum *
Borderline Personality Forum *
Therapy Mishaps Forum
Personality Forum * Health
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What happens, if my therapist screws up a booking with me and
misses our session?
First, you should get a sincere apology! I personally charge my clients
for missed sessions (if I haven't received 24-hours cancellation notice,
and their failure to meet doesn't involve a true emergency). If it's
my error or screw-up, I compensate them--unless
it's due to an unavoidable emergency. [More letters like this
are archived here.]
Do therapists get upset when a client leaves?
Depends on the therapist. Personally, I'm always a bit sad when a
client terminates treatment before they're equipped to manage their
personal and professional life in a fruitful manner, but respect their
decision to leave. It's pretty disappointing to care for these folks
and see their potential, but have to accept that they'll likely never
Shari, my ex-boyfriend and I broke up about 2 months ago, because
I want a relationship that leads to marriage and family, and he doesn't.
We still see each other (for sex) and I still love him. My question
is, will he eventually come around, and commit to me--or am I wasting
my time, and being stupid?
I think this more about naivete and wishful thinking, than anything
else. If marriage and kids are truly priorities for you,
you'll begin searching for a man you can love, who shares those values.
If not, you're likely to remain precisely where you are,
and continue this relationship on his terms.
Can a fetus feel the mother's thoughts?
No--the fetus isn't a mind-reader, and doesn't feel thoughts!
What's true, is that he/she co-experiences the mother's emotions/feelings
I miss my therapist. I grew very close to her while I was in weekly
sessions, and felt she really cared about me (she'd check-in now and
then to see how I was doing). I kinda wish she were still doing this
from time to time, as I feel like maybe she's forgotten me (out of
sight, out of mind). What do you think?
I cannot speak for others in the helping professions, but can you
try to view this issue from a broader perspective than just yours
alone? You bring up an individual clinical choice that must be made
by every professional, and it's not a black or white issue.
Some clinicians 'send out the ships' if/when their practice gets a
little sparce, and you may hear from them at that time. Others maintain
a sincere interest concerning your progress after you've left treatment,
and wrestle with what it might mean to you if they make contact
(might you feel it's solicitous, do they not have faith that you're
doing fine, etc.). My sense is, if your well-being really mattered
to them, that doesn't stop when treatment ends. A 'pit stop' or occasional
session now and then if you feel a need for this
contact, might be helpful. [More letters like this are archived
Shari, I'm wondering if something's wrong with me. I have rape
fantasies when I'm masturbating or having sex with someone, yet I
don't really want to do the things I envision, that
always excite me and bring me to a speedy orgasm. Am I weird, or is
Relax--you're completely normal. Fantasies are simply explorations
into behaviors and facets of yourself, you'd likely never welcome
in reality (much like certain material in your dreams). It's sort
of like 'trying-on' a racey outfit you wouldn't allow yourself to
buy or wear. Domination fantasies are very normal--especially among
powerful, independent females. It's the one place they don't have
to be 'in charge.' Men in powerful positions might engage in sex play
with a dominatrix, for the same reason. There's no reason you have
to blend your fantasies with your real experiences, unless you want
to. [More letters like this are archived here.]
Hi Shari! I am not a therapist but an LCSW in hospice care. I
am currently working with a young woman who is my same age, and who's
terminally ill with cancer. She has a husband I have been working
with as well but very limited--usually around concrete stuff. Cutting
to the chase, I am attracted to him and he seems to be attracted to
me as well. I find myself having fantasies about him and need some
guidelines as to when or if ever dating him would be acceptable. I
have never ever felt this way about a client before,
and feel terribly guilty about wanting this poor woman's husband.
I can sure appreciate your predicament--but dating your client's husband
is off limits. I'm wondering how rich/rewarding your
personal life is, outside of your work.
Is your private time nourishing and balanced? Do you like and respect
yourself? Caregivers typically have poor/unhealthy boundaries due
to self-worth issues, like always putting the needs of others ahead
of their own. Their self-esteem is contingent on how well they take
care of everyone else, and self-care is usually foreign to them. Given
that you've implied this attraction is overpowering/uncontrollable,
I believe you're ethically obligated to request a transfer to a different
patient--in short, stop working with this couple.
Your natural inclination might be to help this man through difficult
times ahead, which could actually heighten your enthusiasm--but there
may be danger ahead for you. This
married man is unavailable. He
will not be ready or able to Love again, until he fully grieves the
loss of his wife--which could take some years. At best, you'll be
starting a romance with someone who has lots of unfinished emotional
business, and you'll be the 'transitional relationship.'
He could very well dump you, as soon as he recovers from this terrible
loss--because he'll associate difficult/painful memories of his wife's
sickness and death with You! Study this
article, and get a grip on yourself.
I've begun dating a woman who's telling me she has borderline disorder,
or BPD. She says she's afraid of hurting me, and that I should be
cautious. I like this gal a lot, and she's totally gorgeous and sexy--so
I'm not sure what I should do.
Believe her. [More letters like this are archived
My son is three years old, and I fear he may have Aperger's Disease.
He laughs when his little sister (18 months old) falls down, and seems
to have no empathy for her when she's upset or hurt. Should I get
him tested, and how do I go about managing this problem in my child
if it truly exists?
Have YOU ever laughed uncontrollably when a good friend trips and
falls, because it looks so comical? You
know you shouldn't--but you can't help it! This kind of
thing happens to everyone now and then, whether we want it to or not.
We do not learn empathy (the ability to relate to another's feelings)
until we're older. This is a developmental crossing, that's navigated
roughly between the ages of 9 - 12 years old (provided
there are no major upsets or crises that inhibit this growth). Developmentally
arrested people (Narcissists and Borderlines) haven't successfully
negotiated this phase of their growth, and (consequently) their emotional
development is stunted.
Adore your kid, cut him some slack, and allow him to grow up a little,
before you 'diagnose' him with issues that may be inconvenient for
you to manage. Reading books on infant development is extremely
useful, and so are parenting classes. In short, get educated about
the most important job you'll ever have.
Thanks a million for your Borderline Personality site. These materials
have helped me make sense of what happened to me in my most recent
relationship, and take myself off the hook, for most of the things
I've been blaming myself for. Truly, you are a godsend. Keep up the
good work, as I'm sure there are a lot of guys out there like me,
who've made it their fault it didn't work out with
Well first, you're welcome--but this isn't actually a 'Borderline
Personality' site, nor was it ever intended to be. While there are
thirteen BPD articles at present that speak to this disorder,
there are other clinical
issues addressed on this wellness site that touch on topics unrelated
to Borderline Disorder. I can only write about what I know about--and
that's seemed to work pretty well so far. I'm glad my BPD materials
have been helpful, and best wishes.
Your articles on Borderlines have provided so much clarity and
relief, I can finally let myself off that hook, and
move on with my life. I found the links to your site through BPDfamily.com,
and my experiences on that board have been very helpful as an adjunct
to your materials, but I'm concerned. Skip has put some pretty nasty
comments about you up on the site, and it's hard to understand why
he's done this, considering how many people you've obviously helped!
I just don't get it--what's his problem??
Insecure people often need to throw a shroud around your
flame, to make their own glow a little brighter. That poor little
man's attempts to discredit me seem to be back-firing, as he's making
himself appear small/petty. Other letters/responses concerning
this issue have been posted
here. I hope these will clear up any confusion you might feel,
after reading Skip's rantings. I'm not the least bit troubled by all
that--so you needn't be either.
Okay, I am a psychologist who won't seek out therapy because "I'm
suppose to know it all" right? Well, I too am wounded (which
is why I was so attracted to fixing others) and until this week, believed
that I was "all better." Twenty years ago, I was in an intense,
all-encompassing 4 year relationship in which I was codependent. I
never really dealt with the break up--which is a pattern for me (burial
of stuff). However I did deal with my codependency through amazing
therapy and was able to prevent it from occurring in my present relationship
(married 18 years). So my life is cruising along, and I get an email
from the old flame--and suddenly I have turned into a complete and
utter JELL-O HEAD! I'm a naïve 17 year old love-struck puppy
again!!! How can this be? Can co-dependency be re-ignited? How is
it, that I can be so put-together in all respects, and then ignore
my better judgment in terms of corresponding with him? I really think
if it weren't for the geographical distance, I would be powerless
to stop myself from seeing him. Deep breath...I am so shocked by my
reaction to this situation and ultimately scared of my loss of control
where he is concerned. Any recommendations, books, websites you think
could be helpful? Please know I don't expect you to fix this, I just
need a place to start. Thank you.
A. It appears there's some unfinished business here. I believe that
when we resolve an issue, it doesn't re-ignite; true emotional
growth would insure against this happening. You seem aware of your
issues--but my sense is that you may still be unwilling to heal
them (standard therapy doesn't come close to touching on core trauma
issues, which drives codependency--among other addictions). Alice
Miller has influenced my work a great deal. Her books--especially,
The Drama of the Gifted Child is pretty dense, but well worth
the read. I also suggest that you read my keystone
piece, from which nearly everything else on this website emanates
(including my material on personality disorders). On a practical level,
I'd say there might be deficits in your marriage, which have rendered
you susceptible to pursuing this former flame (but perhaps you've
'buried' your awareness of those, too). In short, I'd interpret this
'event' as a catalyst for more healing and growth. My sense is that
your emotional development got stuck at 17 years old (or earlier).
I think my girlfriend might have extreme Jealousy Disorder. Her
moods shift a lot too, and I'm wondering if this is due to a bi-polar
disorder. Should I try to get her to a doctor for help?
First, there is no such thing, as 'jealousy
disorder'--extreme or otherwise! Both these issues can be associated
with Borderline Personality
Disorder, so begin exploring that, by clicking on the Borderline
Forum link at the top of this page. Click on my Article's
link for more on this issue. You'll find twelve titles (at present)
about BPD, and I'm sure they'll help you understand why this relationship
has been so troubling and difficult. You can also read about Bipolar
Disorder while you're visiting, as this article will help you
discern the differences between a mood disorder and a personality
disorder. Concern for what to do about your girlfriend's condition
is premature at this point. Right now, just try to educate yourself.
I've read somewhere, that narcissism is an "abnormal love
for one's self." Would you say this is true?
Nope. There's a plethora of misguided 'information' on the Web written
by folks who have absolutely no foundation for discerning psychological
issues--much less, personality disorders--and this one comes
under the banner of; don't believe everything you read. Narcissists
live with a lot of self-loathing, and they're extremely insecure/fragile
at their core. This fragility forces them to adopt a grandiose 'false-self,'
to compensate for their lack of a healthy, well-developed
ego, and real self-respect/self-love. You might interpret this as
confidence--but it's a defense/smoke screen, to mask their vulnerability.
How do I get rid of a Borderline I've been seeing for about two
Tell her/him you're deeply devoted/in love, and you're anxious to
move to the next phase of commitment (just kidding--well, not really).
A Borderline's nature is paradoxical;
they'll push you away the instant they feel pressure to reciprocate
your emotions, move toward commitment, or attach. Think about how
a healthy/sound person would respond to you, and expect the opposite.
[More letters like this are archived here.]
I feel like my first and only therapist whom I've been seeing
for almost 2 1/2 years has abandoned me, rejected me, and could really
care less if my life is in crisis. She and I are not meeting anymore
after 1 1/2 years of 90 minute sessions twice a week and one year
of 60 minute sessions twice a week. The circumstances surrounding
the end of our sessions primarily involve financial issues. I have
serious abandonment and rejection issues due to my childhood experiences--my
therapist is the one who brought this to my attention. She said she
knew I was afraid she would reject or abandon me, when she'd go on
vacations or had to go out of town--and kept assuring me she wasn't
going anywhere. I know this relationship is a professional one, yet
I really don't understand how a person is supposed to help someone
with abandonment issues, then say in a session, "we're just taking
a break and after you catch up with the bill, we can start working
together again." She's aware of my situation at this time, and
says I'm in crisis. I guess its true. I won't list all the major everyday
issues I'm facing along with all the childhood stuff that has contributed
to my being diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety issues. I've
been looking online to see if I can understand how this happened so
suddenly. I worry that I will not apply anything she taught me, because
its hard to believe any of it will help--when I can't believe her
when she says she cares, or that she will not abandon me. She goes
on with her life and is not going through what I'm going through because
I let my guard down and trusted her, and she can't possibly care,
because she said she'll be open to seeing me when I'm basically not
in crisis. Why would I need to see her if and when I'm better and
earning more money? I guess my question is, how am I supposed to believe
in therapy and apply the "tools" if I don't believe the
person means what she said? My second question is what can I do myself,
to deal with this huge loss? I haven't allowed myself to trust someone
ever, on that kind of level. It was so hard to trust her anyway. I
wouldn't even look at her when I was talking because I was afraid
her body language would betray her and her honesty, as she kept saying
she really cared and wouldn't reject me.
I'm very sorry that your treatment has come to this unfortunate halt,
and I understand how dreadful this feels to you. Therapists find it
really difficult to terminate with clients, particularly in the midst
of a crisis--financial or otherwise. I cannot imagine this was an
easy choice for your clinician, and it's likely that she put it off
for as long as possible, as there was already a balance owed. We pay
a therapist for his/her time and expertise. We cannot possibly pay
them to 'care' about us--that either comes with the territory of who
they are and how they work, or it doesn't. When a therapist treats
a client without remuneration for his/her time, it potentiates resentment
with that relationship--which responsible professionals want
to avoid at all costs. In addition, seeing you for free might
enable you to remain 'victimized,' and stuck exactly where you are.
First, try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater; your trust
has been undermined, and that's a big deal--but after all that consistent
care, I'm guessing that you've come away with a degree of benefit.
Second, give yourself permission to cry, and get to some anger. Referrals
to low-fee or donation-only type counseling sources/clinics should
have been provided until you're back on your feet, and can resume
with her. Perhaps you can ask for this, or look into local resources
for yourself. [More letters like this are archived here.]
My husband of 23 years has just been diagnosed with BPD. I have
noticed a huge change in his moods/behaviors over the last few years.
I want to divorce him, but am not sure how to proceed. He's very mentally
and emotionally abusive, and at times been physically abusive. Any
help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
First of all, I'm very suspect
of this diagnosis. Late onset of Borderline Personality Disorder is
unusual and unlikely. My sense is that you've either somehow overlooked
his abusiveness for more than two decades and it's reached critical
mass--or there's something else at work, which is making it impossible
for you to coexist with your husband. Has he been fully examined by
a medical doctor? Has anyone bothered to rule out
male menopause as a possible factor in reference to his moods/behaviors?
This must be explored, as he's in mid-life, and hormone imbalances
or deficiencies can play havoc with his head, and yours as well. Diminished
Testosterone levels can cause depression, irritability, weight gain,
hot flashes, lack of impetus/motivation, decreased sex drive, short
temper, etc. We've got to consider the big picture here, before you
jump ship. Has he experienced severe head trauma in the past few years?
This could also trigger Borderline symptomology later in life. Read
to determine if BPD is really the culprit, and then consider a phone
session or two with me. [More letters like this are archived here.]
I've been seeing a therapist who keeps telling me I should focus
on my feelings--but I'm not aware of feeling anything.
Am doing something wrong, or could it be that I'm with the wrong therapist?
It's frustrating right now.
Therapists who aren't connected to their own feelings, will
have difficulty helping you learn how to identify, decifer
and connect to yours. In any case, I'm sensing this may not be the
best therapeutic fit for you. [More letters like this are archived
Shari, what does it mean, when someone you're dating tells you
they're afraid of hurting you?
It means you should be emotionally cautious! First of all,
it's an arrogant statement to make. Secondly, this might be their
subtle way of warning you of what lies ahead. This person
has obviously had these experiences before, or why would this even
come to mind? Over all, I'd say you should be careful with your heart--or
(according to this person) it could easily get broken.
Is narcissism the root of OCD?
Not exactly. Narcissism stems from emotional wounds in childhood,
that made it necessary to shut-down/discard feelings in order
to survive. If one is disconnected from his own feelings,
how can he relate to somebody else's? This lack of empathy
is the core of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD can be considered
part of OCD, but it's not the cause of it. Anxiety disorders
and OCD have a lot in common, with respect to etiology
(how they're acquired).
Hi Shari, I am trying to recover from codependency, and am currently
faced with a big decision. Up until a month ago, my husband of 8 years,
and I had really been struggling--to the point of seriously considering
divorce. I had even started applying for jobs and looking for a place
to live elsewhere (in another state). We started going to couples
counseling, and things have been better, but then I got a letter in
the mail inviting me to take a test for one of the jobs I've applied
for. I'm fearful of losing out on the opportunity, since things have
only been better for a short time, but do not want to undermine my
marriage. Our counselor thinks it would be a good exercise in my recovery,
since my husband is clearly not going to support my decision to leave,
and I have never done anything in my life without someone's approval.
He does not agree to this, and basically gave me an ultimatum (even
though he says he's not), that if I go, it's a deal breaker for him.
I love my husband, and want to trust that things will continue to
get better--but I realize that as a codependent, I have to stop putting
others before myself. Any thoughts on this? Thanks
I appreciate your dilemma, but I'm on-board with your couples therapist.
Sounds like your husband is using some potent emotional blackmail
against you. He must be feeling very threatened by
your burgeoning sense of Self. Given these eight years of
strife, and this very brief respite from all that pain, I'd say it's
worth exploring this job for yourself. Might be good/useful to reflect
on the strengths of this marriage(?) while you're away. If you give
in to your husband's ultimatum, you are betraying yourself--and your
most important relationship must be the one you maintain
with You. Otherwise, you're dying a little each day.
Remember what they teach you on airplanes: When the oxygen mask drops
down, put yours on first--and then, attend
to those around you! I'm sensing your husband's threats are hollow--but
if he's looking for a 'deal-breaker' to help him exit this
union, I'd say this one's as good as any. You GO, girl. [More
letters like this are archived here.]
My narcissistic boyfriend is moving in with me, as his wife is
divorcing him. How likely is it, that he'll change for me?
Don't hold your breath, dear. You can't fall in love with someone
for their potential--but must accept them for Who they are
(and aren't). In short, if you like the product, you buy the whole
package! The narcissistic behaviors you've observed toward his wife,
will likely be acted-out with You. And then, there's always the question;
if he cheated on her, how can you trust that he won't
do it to you? A wife who doesn't try to fight for her marriage, wants
to be rid of that guy. Sadly, I think you're in for some rough
I have been thinking about writing this letter for many months
now. I was involved with a female who abruptly left the relationship--someone
I was involved with for many years. The trauma of this left me seriously
ill. Up to this point in my life, I'd always enjoyed forty-eight years
of very good health, save for liver disease--the cause of which was
never determined. I had a spontaneous remission (liver enzymes all
went back to normal). I only noticed that I was tired from it, and
this went away--still, it never really slowed me down. This
illness however, left me dead in my tracks, to where I couldn't
practice. During this sick time, I came across your article,
AT ANY COST. I should've realized this person I was involved with,
was very clearly exhibiting these (BPD) traits. I believe that at
the time I read your article, not only did it lead to my recovery--but
that it actually saved my life. In the midst of this
illness--and being a healthcare professional myself, it didn't seem
logical to me, that merely reading something posted on the Internet
could have this effect. At that point, I wasn't sure this was a reasonable
conclusion. In some way, my logical professional
mind still wants to doubt this fact--however, I cannot. In retrospect,
I recognize that your article did indeed, save my life. I now accept
this as fact--and that's why I'm writing to thank you for your efforts.
After saving a few lives myself, Thank You for saving mine.
You're welcome. I believe that the mind, body and spirit are inseparable.
In Chinese medicine, the liver is considered our body's
storehouse for anger. It would seem as though this issue might
have had you dismissing instincts, intuitions and perceptions having
to do with certain feelings you had to put away in childhood.
was originally written for psychotherapists. Read it a few times,
and take it slowly. Each paragraph is very dense
with meaning, and should be gradually ingested and integrated.
How do I know if I'm in a codependent marriage?
A healthy marriage
is where partners are interdependent, meaning they mutually
depend on each other to meet/balance various needs. An example of
a codependent marriage
can be observed in this couple: The wife is a shopaholic (compulsive
spender), and the husband's a compulsive
overeater. The wife keeps candies and pastries around the house--but
doesn't let her husband eat them. She functions as the Food
Police in their relationship. He knows he's got to monitor/curb
her shopping and spending--or go bankrupt! Thus, he has become the
Shopping Police. Each of them is micro-managing the other's
behavior under the guise of caring/love--but it's really
about their narcissism, and need for control. [More letters like
this are archived here.]
Dear Shari, do you have any advice for dating a Borderline?
Hello, I am a 34 year old married mom of three kids and I just
realized that I am lonely. I suffer from depression, migraine headaches,
stomach problems and panic attacks, and I always have to be caring
for something to fill an empty gap. I have not had an easy life and
my husband and I have had a lot of problems, but we are trying to
work through them. Our kids are 16, 13 and 10 and have their own mind
sets, like most kids that age. I want to know why I have to always
care for someone/something to make me feel happy; it makes me wonder
about the article
I read on your site that sounds almost exactly like me, but my
childhood was fine--it was when I became a teenager, that things got
bad. I'm in my 2nd marriage; my oldest daughter who's 16 is from a
previous marriage, but my husband's her father since she was 2. I've
been with him for 13 years, and we've always had some kind or problem
financially or emotionally, and it even got physical a time or two.
I have made some big mistakes during our time together, but he's still
with me. I want to understand why I feel I'm not needed anymore--and
why I keep trying to fix that void and be needed, so I can become
happy. Can you help me?
Whether or not you remember childhood events that made you
sense that your worth/lovability depended on always putting others'
feelings and needs first, it's a learned reflex. Loneliness
is about your lack of connection to You. Your memory of when things
got bad as a teen, likely involves your normal phase
of Self-discovery--and needing to individuate, and
separate from your parent's control. It appears they've won that
battle. Your self-esteem issues require focused, therapeutic work
to resolve, but begin by sitting with your empty/dead feelings when
they come up; these sensations have driven your addiction
to taking care of others. Start tolerating these feelings for ten
seconds at a time, before you bury them with another activity--it'll
make you stronger! Escaping these difficult feelings, has led to your
body's ailments and panic
issues. You've run from these your whole life, but they've colored
all your behavior patterns and choices. This trouble that's
surfacing now, is driven by your kids being less dependent--leaving
you more room to be, and not do.
Feeling needed cannot fix depression! If it could,
you would have been celebrating a far happier life, many years ago.
Re-read my article, until you can hold onto/integrate those concepts;
my codependency forum
will be useful too!
Shari, thanks so much for your article on borderline
men! Your candor and humor are really appreciated, as are your
insights. I love this piece, and will be looking forward to new installments.
My pleasure. Enjoy.
I feel a deep, overwhelming need to be loved--to the extent I
feel I'll push people away with it. It's scary to live with this feeling,
and frightening to think about living with someone else, too. I'm
Your concern is shared by many. This "overwhelming need"
you describe is deeply entwined with painful yearning and longing.
These are the sensations you learned were an integral part
of loving as a small child. In addition, those early experiences left
you feeling unlovable/unworthy of having your cravings for
love returned or reciprocated. Core trauma (healing) work helps you
come to accept and like yourself, so this desperate need
for another's attention or love is in balance with how you
feel about Yourself. Begin here.
Shari, how do I help a man with attachment issues?
If you're dating this man, you don't. Instead, try finding someone
who's emotionally available. If you're his therapist, and
you are not working with core issues in your practice, refer
him to a practitioner who is! In any case, this
piece should help.
I think my toddler has ADD/ADHD.
How do I know for sure?
It's far too early to be considering a diagnosis like this! Read some
books on infant and child development, learn how to respond
to your child's needs, and accept that your comfort
and peace will be inconvenienced for awhile; it comes with
the job (and privilege) of being a good parent.
I see that you've mentioned Landmark Forum on
your site, and I've been thinking of checking it out. I can't tell
from your writings, if you think The Forum is a worthy endeavor or
not, and would like to get your 'take' on this.
The Forum, The Meadows and other programs/retreats of this type can
be helpful--for some. Landmark's
methods are pretty crude, and even brutal. If you're fairly whole
and emotionally healthy, you might be able to withstand this experience,
acquire new awarenesses and insights about yourself, and utilize some
of the tools you get there. Group venues like The Meadows
pry the lid off a Pandora's Box in your psyche--but can't help you
heal/come to terms with the painful material you unearth. No
'quick fix' can. It's like the scabs get loosened from unhealed
early trauma, and you're left bleeding--so you're asked to
sign-up for more! If you've struggled to survive or felt empty
most of your life, and you think these costly programs will fix
those issues, it's unlikely you will be able to benefit from
this experience--which inevitably leaves you with more
shame, than before!
I've just met a woman (online) I'm excited about. We've had several
hours of phone contact, and we're going out in a few days. I'm wondering
if it's too soon to bring her flowers. What do you think?
A. I think you should trust your instincts--but as you've asked for
my advice, it seems there's ambivalence between what you want
to do, and what you think you should do. Women's feelings
can differ about flowers. My personal opinion is that You're
enough to begin with, and more may seem like you're trying too hard
to impress. I know a man who consistently gives presents to women
he barely knows (hoping he'll be liked/accepted). This compensatory
behavior is rooted in self-worth issues. Once you develop a deeper
interest and sense it's reciprocal, flowers are a lovely
Hi Shari, my sister and I are very close, but she's always complaining
about the same issues over and over (ad-nauseam),
and her negativity's getting on my nerves. I try to listen patiently
and offer suggestions, but it seems she just wants to gripe about
this stuff, rather than doing anything about it! When I've tried to
change the topic or get off the phone, she gets really mad and starts
shouting and swearing at me, saying I don't care about her (which
isn't true). I hate making her mad, but I feel trapped. How I can
handle this better?
This appears to be a no-win situation--meaning, you're
damned if you do (listen to these constant complaints) and damned
if you don't! Continuing to lend her your ear, reinforces poor behavior.
Taking the best care of your own needs is the healthiest
way to deal with a no-win struggle, and may involve distancing yourself.
Assure your sister of your love and support, but make it clear that
you're no longer willing to engage this way. If she won't take any
actions to resolve her difficulties, she's obviously content
to maintain them. Let yourself off this hook.
My husband's enmeshed with his mother, which has put a big strain
on our relationship from the beginning. He'll always run to take care
of her needs, and they talk 8 or 9 times a day (she's in good health,
incidentally). Regardless of what's going on with us, he takes her
calls--even when they've interrupted our lovemaking! He's sarcastic
and verbally abusive with me, and we often end up fighting. I've tried
to get along with his mom, but she constantly finds fault with me,
and acts cold or indifferent. My husband and I have been trying to
conceive, but I'm now starting to question if I want to stay in this
marriage. Any insight or advice you can offer is greatly appreciated.
Men who haven't been able to separate from their mothers make poor
husbands; essentially, they're already married. An enmeshed
mother feels jealous of her child's attachments, and tries to undermine
them. Very likely, her needs always had to come first during
his childhood, and she's interfered with every aspect of his existence.
Under these circumstances, his sense of closeness is confused
with engulfment or loss of Self, which can lead to
pent-up frustration and rage. It sounds like these feelings are being
directed at you instead of where they belong (you're the
less threatening target--he can't risk being abandoned by
Mom). Unless/until you establish a loving and stable foundation in
this marriage, put the baby plans on hold. Try to have a heart
to heart with your husband about how unhappy you've been. If
you're both willing to try couples therapy to strengthen and repair
this connection, that's a good start. If not, your options seem pretty
My doctor has added a 'sub-therapeutic' dose of a mood stabilizer
to my existing antidepressant therapy. I'm wondering if this makes
sense, and why I should even bother with it.
Everyone's system is somewhat unique, in terms of how various meds
affect them. If your antidepressant hasn't been managing your symptoms,
switching to another, or adding a mood stabilizer can enhance your
therapy--particularly if your doctor suspects there's a bipolar
issue. Some people do very well on minimal amounts of these drugs,
and have unpleasant side-effects when they increase to a standard,
or 'therapeutic' dose. Trust your physician for now, and you can
reassess this issue in a week or two.
Shari, what happens to a fetus, if the expectant mother has a
An isolated panic event probably won't do much harm, but anxiety issues
are seldom isolated. If there's been one panic episode, we're
automatically inclined to worry that this horrible incident could
happen again, and a level of anxiety remains. My article
explains how these issues are acquired, and discusses fetal
impact as well.
How do I confront my parents about their toxic behavior?
First, let's accept that what's held you back from doing this, is
a natural fear of abandonment. Let your parents know how their words
and actions make you feel. Be as specific as possible, which
can go something like this; "when you say these things, it makes
me feel; small, worthless, unloved, etc., which is very hurtful."
Toxic parenting stems from deficits in emotional development, meaning
that empathy was never learned/acquired. Check my Borderline
and Narcissistic Personality Forums (at top) for more about these
I just wanted to thank you for your article on
I've read lots of other material on this topic--but felt yours was
like reading a personal case study on me! The part I was most affected
by, was when you talked about taking these drugs "discretionally,"
or as needed. For many years, I've resisted considering medication
as a means to help myself with these symptoms--but now, I think I'm
ready to explore this. Thank you so very much for helping me understand
that this option is available! SW, Alabama
You're very welcome.
I think I may have a fear of success. Each time I get close to
a goal, I lose interest or sabotage myself in some way. Is there a
way to overcome this?
What most people interpret as a "fear
of success," is actually a fear of disappointment,
if their plan for achieving something fails. It's far easier to fantasize
about 'probable' outcomes resulting from our efforts, than to put
them to the test--and not have them work out! Certain issues and/or
beliefs left over from childhood may be contributing to this difficulty,
and it can be very helpful to explore this therapeutically. Individuals
with attention deficit
issues are especially prone to losing interest/enthusiasm
for their aims, and this is exacerbated by the cyclical
nature of this (neurological) disorder. Stay out of thinking about
the result/outcome, and just take some action!
I've slighted someone who's a friend. I really want their forgiveness,
but don't know how to ask for it. Can you help?
State exactly the things you have in your note to me, and
sincerely ask your friend if she/he is willing to forgive
you. Remember the Nike campaign? Just do it.
I read your forum
entry from a woman complaining about her "stay-at-home"
boyfriend (as you put it), while she supported the two of them. What
about all the women who expect us guys to support
'em, while they spend our money shopping and having lunch with girlfriends?!
Men usually vary on this kind of thing; some are comfortable providing
for women in this way, and some are not. I try to respond to the concerns
each individual describes in their contact with me, and if a man
had written with this problem, I would have replied similarly (with
the exception of stay-at-home mothers, which is the
toughest full-time job there is)! I believe this issue is
more difficult for females to accommodate, due to cultural
aspects inherent in our masculine and feminine roles and archetypes.
Historically, males were the protectors and providers for the family;
in earlier times, there was no question that a man's wife
and children would share the fruits of his labor, and be the recipients
of his bounty. Times have changed, and so have our needs. Today, many
couples equally share financial weight for the relationship--or
they split these responsibilities according to respective incomes.
I seem to need/crave a lot of affection. Is something wrong with
No, nothing is "wrong" with you!
We all have different needs for physical contact, which is also
reflected by our animals/pets! This individual level of need
is generally with us from childhood; some kids require a great deal
of affection/attention, and others might not like being touched or
held (which can be difficult and frustrating for parents). Most people
fall somewhere in-between, where there's a considerable margin for
personal preference. Look for partners who are demonstrative
with their loving feelings, so this part of you can be nourished/satisfied.
Shari, I'm faced with a very difficult dilemma. I recently went
out with a man I'd met online, who (as it turns out) is dating a friend
of mine! During our dinner conversation, he told me he'd been seeing
someone for awhile, but "not seriously." When he mentioned
her first name and where she lives, I nearly choked on my food. To
say the least, I was shocked and almost speechless! I told him off,
and said I didn't want to have anything to do with him. My problem
is, I know that my friend thinks this relationship is more substantial
than it is, and I'm afraid of hurting her by telling her the truth
about this schmuck! I'm also afraid she'll get mad at me
for revealing this information. HELP!!!
How would you want this handled, if you were in your
friend's position? A true friendship sometimes involves risk;
this means being willing to go out on a limb to save someone you care
about from harm or more pain! Let your friend know that you have
something difficult to tell her, and approach this very sensitively.
If her natural instincts/intuitions haven't already alerted
her to this issue, she could be in denial. This means she won't want
to believe you--and may choose to maintain that relationship!
If she's shocked and angry that this man's been cheating on her, she'll
be compelled to do something about it. Either way, you've (courageously)
demonstrated solid caring, by being honest with her. If she 'shoots
the messenger' and rejects you, I'd be seriously questioning
how much she has valued your friendship!
My doctor has put me on an antidepressant (Zoloft), and I'm feeling
tired and listless. I've called his office to see if this is a side
effect of the drug, but they haven't gotten back to me. Is this a
normal reaction I'm having, and will it pass?
Zoloft is an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor), and you're
having a fairly typical response to it. Leave another message
for your doctor asking if it's OK to take your medication at a different
time of day--and request that someone please
get back to you on this immediately. In the interim, read important
information pertaining to this issue, here.
Having recently joined with an investment firm, I'm in need of
clients. I'd really like to approach my friends and acquaintances
about opening or building stock portfolios with me, but it feels a
bit awkward. Is there any way to offer my services, without seeming
like I'm trying to sell them on something, and alienating
These kinds of situations are always a bit tricky--but honesty
is the best policy, regardless of what you're promoting.
If you're contacting active/close friendships, let them know you'd
love to assist them if they ever decide
to go in this sort of direction, and leave it at that. If you're wanting
to pitch an old or former friend/associate you haven't spoken
to in a long time, do not make up some bullshit excuse
for reconnecting. Leave a brief message requesting they phone you
back, if your outreach misses them. If/when you actually connect,
let them know that besides wanting to 'catch up,' you're
excited about this new endeavor and wanted to share it with them,
in case you might be of service one day. This keeps the contact
'clean,' so the other person doesn't have to feel like you've
got a hidden agenda (using them for your own gain),
which I've discussed in relation to a Landmark
Forum issue. It's a more authentic and (potentially) productive
approach for both of you!
I've recently started law school, but I'm not sure this is what
I really want. My dad and grandfather are attorneys, and it's sort
of a family tradition to build a law career. Since I was a kid I've
always loved cooking; I feel very drawn to culinary
school, and sense it could be a better fit for my talent and interests,
but I don't want to let my family down. I'm really struggling with
this right now, and not sure what I should do about it.
First, your parents and grandparents have already lived their
lives, and made choices that were congruent with their needs/desires.
Perhaps it's time for you to consider doing
the same! For now, this doesn't have to be a black or white issue
(to be or not to be a lawyer); dabble around in
the 'grey area' for awhile with some structured learning
in cooking/baking classes during your spare(?) time, while in law
school. Doing so will be a good test of your motivation/passion, and
give you a better sense of whether (or not) this profession might
be a solid fit for you. Making a terrific omelet is very different
from having what it takes to become a masterful chef, but
sticking your toes in these waters should assist you in determining
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Shari Schreiber, M.A. All Rights Reserved.