Thursday, December 24, 2009

To Leave, Or To Stay?

In my most recent blog entry,I posed a question that someone sent me, requesting my help to decide whether to go or to stay in a marriage. This is Part 2 of my answer.

If you have sought marital therapy with a specialist in marriage and family therapy and you still are uncertain, the following questions can provide a kind of checklist for you.

Top 5 Questions to Ask Yourself:

1. Have you invested in understanding and improving your situation, or have you merely attended therapy? Worse yet, have you refused to get professional help completely? If you answered the latter questions in the affirmative, you have not been fair to your spouse, yourself, and any children whose lives will be impacted by your decisions now. Merely marking time in a therapist’s office will not help you be a better partner in your marriage or in your next relationship. And you cheat both your spouse, yourself, your children, and a new partner, should you decide to leave.

2. Have you taken responsibility for your part in the problems you are having? It is human nature to blame others for your situation. That way, you don’t have to change yourself. So you seem to get off scot free. However, it takes two to tango. It took two to create your situation, and you both need to invest in changing it. When you don’t step up and own your own contribution to the difficulties in the marriage, you give away your own power to change it.

3. Have you stopped blaming your spouse for everything that is wrong in your marriage? This is a close cousin to #2. There is no more blame when you have soul-searched and come up with your contribution to your problems. Take note. Assigning blame is not the same as accepting responsibility.

4. Have you owned your own feelings? Here’s a tip to remember. Starting sentences with “I feel that . . . “ is not the same as sharing feelings. Stated this way, it’s an opinion that masquerades as a feeling. To wit: “I feel that you shouldn’t work such long hours.”

5. Do you have a clear sense that you’ve done all I can, and it’s time to leave? If you can’t answer “yes” to this question, then it likely isn’t time to leave. In my experience both personally and professionally, people know when it’s time. They don’t have to “overthink” it.

As always, if you have difficulty applying these suggestions to your own situation, I offer a complimentary consultation. Just call my toll free number (888-546-1580) to arrange for it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“Knowing When to Hold ‘Em and When to Fold ‘Em”

Recently, I received a question from someone in cyberspace who asked for my help to know when to let go and when to keep fighting for their marriage. “After many years of counseling on and off, I’m still not feeling like I want to be with my spouse. How do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel?” The question was such an important one that I decided to offer some guidelines to help you answer it.

In order to provide the best help, I am blogging my answer in two parts.

First, I must offer a caveat. There is no right or one-size-fits-all approach to relationships. There are always exceptions. Use your own best judgment in applying these criteria to your situation. If you are confused, feel free to call my toll-free number (888-546-1580) for a complimentary consultation with me. I don’t have to tell you what an important decision you're facing. So it is best to give this question its proper due.

Dr. Beth’s Rules of Thumb for Sorting Out This Conundrum

Have you tried counseling? Especially with a long relationship, chances are that walking away without first seeking professional help can prolong your healing process. It leaves too many unanswered questions, most important of which is "Have we tried everything we can?" If you honestly can answer "yes" to this question, you have one indicator that you can go with a clear conscience.

Was it with a trained marriage and family therapist? This is an extremely important consideration. Why is that?

Several factors distinguish “real live” marital therapists from those who say they do marriage counseling.

o The graduate degree alone may not necessarily be relevant. Too often, people tend to disqualify those with a master’s degree in either social work or psychology in favor of someone with a Ph.D. or and M.D., just because they are doctors. However, the primary function of most psychiatrists (M.D.’s who have little or no supervision or training in providing psychotherapy) usually is prescribing medicines. Further, clinical psychologists typically have studied how to conduct research and how to diagnose and assign individual pathology. These don’t necessarily make them empathic and competent couples therapists. They may be. But they also can be analytical and lack the warmth required to create a safe space for delicate and often painful work.

o Having taken a course on Intro. to Family Therapy in graduate school does not make clinicians trained marital therapists. "Real" family therapists have studied marriage and family therapy, whether in graduate school or through an ongoing investment in continuing education courses.

o I recognize that many clinicians aren’t as fortunate as I was to complete two years of post-doctoral training in marriage and family therapy. However, if someone you are contemplating seeing can demonstrate an investment in making the paradigm shift from individual to systemic thinking, working with that type of person is best.

• A what shift? Because I already had a Ph.D. and had a psychotherapy credential (I was a Certified Reality Therapist), I remember how baffled I was in trying to make the shift in my way of thinking about relationships, psychotherapy, and my role as a therapist. In fact, I felt as if all I learned in the first semester of my post-doc was how little I knew! There is a qualitative difference in each approach.

o What that shift in perspective entails is learning to see relationships as an interlocking system of individuals who had formed a synergistic -– if problematic -- relationship that is larger than each of the individuals separately.

o That means that people unwittingly, usually unconsciously, cooperate in the creation and maintenance of the problems that are plaguing them and for which they seek professional help.

o Blaming one person, usually the identified patient, for all the family’s ills is not helpful at best and pathologizing at worst.

So the first question to ask yourself is in considering the question of going or staying is, “Have we sought professional help?” The next question is, “Have we found the best help possible?”

Even working with someone from a long distance who is well-trained and empathic usually is more effective and productive than meeting with someone who may have an alphabet soup of initials but who lacks the ability to see relationships as a system. These counselors tend to blame one person for all the problems and to let the other person off the hook. This does nothing productive. In fact, it creates a whole ‘nother problem.

Stay tuned for my next entry that will consider how to know whether to stay in a current relationship or, to go.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

“Highlights from a Holiday Formal Dinner Dance”

Paul and I got dressed to the nines last night and went to the Officers’ Club for a gathering of folks with whom we celebrate the holidays this way every December. I love to be with my husband any time, but it is especially exciting when he dons his tux and we step out. There’s something about that tux that brings out an extra measure of chivalry in him and that makes him even more handsome to me.

Anyone who knew me when I was a radical in my youth would be shocked that I married a military man. Paul, a career officer in the Air Force, retired and went on to pursue first a Master’s degree in History, then an MBA, and eventually law school in his 50th year. He indeed is very smart. And I like smart people who love learning.

The first person who caught my attention last night was a small woman in a wheel chair. She was with a group of friends and her husband and daughter who doted on her. I had seen her several times before at the Club, but I never had greeted her. My two friends with Multiple Sclerosis have sensitized me to what life in a wheel chair is like, so I was determined that, at least for a moment, she not feel invisible. I introduced myself and said, “Dare I even ask, do you have MS?” “Yes,” she quietly said and turned away. I wondered if I were out of place asking a stranger that question, as I stepped away to give her privacy while she struggled to transfer from her wheel chair to her place at the table.

There was only one young military man present with his tall, beautiful wife. Decked out in his Marine full dress uniform, he was quite handsome himself. After dinner, he and his Grandfather, dressed in his old Marine uniform that still fit, had their picture taken together. They stood at least 6 inches apart, making sure they didn’t touch. On the spur of the moment, I playfully said they should take their picture again with their arm around each other. The older man said not unkindly, “No. We’re Marines!” as if to say, “Perish the thought!” I thought how sad it is that he and Marines' unspoken rule deprived these two men of the affection everyone needs and deserves. Later, I bought the young man a beer. He told me he’s frustrated that he has to wait six months to be deployed to Afghanistan. “I can’t wait to go!” he said.

I love flirting with one man in particular, always careful to do so in Paul’s presence so I send a clear message to both of them that I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. I am blessed that my husband trusts me and is not in any way jealous or possessive. This gray-haired gentleman impishly stepped over to our table and playfully invited me to “dump” Paul so he and I could get together. I said it wouldn’t happen, and he trounced back to his table in mock horror, turning around to wink as he rejoined his wife.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening, beyond basking in my husband’s love and the magic of the evening, was encountering a woman sitting at the bar with her husband. I spotted her immediately and instinctually was drawn to her. She was reflexively rubbing her shoulder, so I knew she was in pain. I went over to her and asked her permission to touch her hands. When she agreed, I pressed some acupressure points. She noticed a slight decrease of pain. When I picked up her other hand, I was shocked to find a bulbous and swollen knuckle, the telltale sign of someone struggling with severe rheumatoid arthritis. I merely put my hand gently over her knuckle, continuing to talk softly with her and joke with her husband. When I took my hand away, her knuckle was noticeably less swollen and red. I had moved some of her energy that had log jammed in and around that knuckle. But I am convinced that the warmth of our human contact was the major factor in this.

On the way home, I couldn’t stop myself from telling Paul what a lovely evening I had had, how much I love being with him, and of my love for him. I have tears in my eyes now as I write. I hope I never stop appreciating what a gift our marriage and his love are to me.

If you wish to take a look at some pictures taken of us last night, here is the link to my Facebook page.

Paul and I wish you warm holidays and a fulfilling new year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Nurturing Gifted Children"

Current research indicates that spanking actually lowers kids’ I.Q.

Who knew?

I had known that spankings can do psychological harm to children and damage their relationship with their parents. But I didn’t know the impact was even more widespread than that. If spanking lowers kids' IQ, then by inference, it impedes their school performance and in general, their ability to get along in the world. And it creates an aggressive response in those children who have the misfortune to come in contact with a parent's belt or open hand.

Let me say from the get-go that the majority of people who become parents feel the weight of the responsibility that comes with it. Not to mention the weight of being on call when their child needs them 24/7. They take their responsibility seriously. Most are well-meaning, loving parents, even when they mess up and lose their cool. Or even when their kids push their buttons and they "wig out."

That is just regular, garden-variety kids. Rearing intelligent, intense kids can be especially challenging. It takes a special knack to parent them. By definition, intellectually gifted children are intense. The more intellectually gifted the child, the more intense he/she is. Which means that he/she feels everything more deeply, reacts more strongly, challenges more vociferously, has greater emotional needs and requires more intellectual stimulation than the average bear. These are the kids whose achievements most people admire. But it can be quite a challenge for parents to nurture their growth to adulthood.

So let's tip our hats to the parents of those children who give us a run for our money, who ask us questions we don't know the answers to, and who feel things more poignantly than others. And let's high five those kids who are naturally intellectually curious, smart and sometimes smart-alecky, and most assuredly who love whole heartedly.

One of them likely will find the cure for cancer, how to extract oil from the ground without devastating it, or write the next Great American Novel or storied music as Mozart did at age 4.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

“The Top 5 Signs Your Marriage Needs Help”

You’ve just had a fight with your spouse. Is this a harbinger of a brewing storm? Or is it normal? How do you know when your marriage needs help?

I have seen marriage from every possible camera angle. I've worked with couples to save and heal their marriage before it becomes irretrievible. I’ve worked in premarital couples counseling to help the smart ones assess their strengths and identify their weaknesses as a couple. I have done couples counseling with folks who’ve been married for five months or 40 years. Sometimes, they seek my help for marriage enrichment, and sometimes because their marriage is in trouble. I have done divorce and post-divorce counseling to help couples stop recycling the same problems in their divorce that precipitated their divorce. And I have been a divorce mediator for couples who seek a saner way of divorcing, and an arbitrator for couples who insist on continuing their marital conflict long after they have divorced.

From all this experience, I offer the following 5 major signs that your marriage probably is in trouble.

1. When you and your spouse continually rehash the same argument, you probably need marriage help. Whether you literally fight about the same topic,or the dynamics of the fight are the same, your marriage is in trouble. In healthy marriages, couples know how to address their issues with each other before they become ongoing problems that tear at the fabric of the marriage. So if you find yourselves having an old, familiar argument that goes nowhere, you are wise to seek couples counseling before you dig a rut so deep that it is impossible to get out of it.

2. If arguing and fighting are the primary way you and your spouse emotionally connect, your marriage is in danger. In a strange way, fighting is "safe" because neither of you has to feel vulnerable to the other when you are in conflict. Yet fighting generates an intense connection. However, this mode of connecting becomes emotionally – and sometimes physically – dangerous. If this description fits your relationship, your marriage definitely will need professional help.

3. If you find your self-esteem eroding since marrying your spouse, your marriage is becoming too emotionally costly for anybody’s good to be left the way it is. Of course, your marriage isn’t necessarily the only challenge to your self-confidence. But especially if you sense that your spouse is deliberately undermining you, you are in danger of losing yourself in your relationship's dysfunction. This benefits nobody, and you likely will need couples counseling to help reverse this corrosive negative dynamic.

4. If it seems like everything and everybody is more important to your spouse than you, this makes for very lopsided investments in your relationship. Maybe you tend to feel that way anyway because of difficult prior experiences that had nothing to do with your spouse. In this case, ideally you would need your spouse’s help to heal that old wound while you both work on becoming more equal partners. Further, if you have married a very self-centered spouse, you definitely will need professional help to correct this increasingly untenable situation, if indeed it is correctible.

5. If you find yourself just not liking your spouse any more, something is going very wrong. I am not talking about the temporary feeling everyone occasionally experiences when you are convinced that marrying your spouse was the dumbest decision you’re ever made! Rather, if this feeling is persistent and gets worse, you definitely will need professional help before there is nothing left between you.

In conclusion, while there certainly is no one-size-fits-all approach to assessing and improving a marriage, I hope this gives you some guidelines. If you are uncertain as to how viable your marriage is and what can be done to improve it, remember that I offer a complimentary consultation to help you assess your situation. Just e-mail me at to request your appointment.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Finding the Right Therapist"

At least once a month, I get e-mails from forlorn people who have read my book LONGING FOR DAD: FATHER LOSS AND ITS IMPACT. In one such letter, a woman told of her husband's ongoing battle with depression. After reading the book, she finally had an explanation for his debilitation depression. As I read another letter written by a man in Dubai who was pleading for help, tears rolled down my cheeks. Soon to be a father himself, he realized that he would not be up to the task unless he dealt with his father's abandonment of the family when he was 2 years old.

The e-mail I got today told of having just finished reading LONGING FOR DAD. He recognized the need to get help to heal his father loss, because of "its unexpected continuation into adulthood.... I have tried to get help with a couple of therapists, but they fall very short of actually understanding my issues and helping me to deal with them. How do I find someone to talk about these issues [with] that understands the issues you've discussed in your book?"

I have maintained for years that whom people choose as their therapist is second only in importance to whom they choose to marry. How does the average consumer of psychotherapy services know whom to choose as his/her therapist? This is a particularly important question when issues are old and cut deep such as father loss.

Here are my top 5 suggestions for helping you determine who is the best professional to see.

1) Don't be afraid to ask the prospective therapist if he/she has had personal experience with your issue. Of course, don't expect for him/her to go into chapter and verse. But knowing a subject from a textbook and knowing it personally are two totally different things.

2) Ask the prospective therapist his/her beliefs about the place for feelings in his/her therapeutic approach. If you need to heal trauma such as a father's death or abandonment, it is not possible to truly do that without experiencing your emotions about what happened. If the proepective therapist indicates a theory of therapy that doesn't allow for feelings, you are in the wrong place.

3) Ask yourself how it feels being in this person's presence. If his/her demeanor detached and intellectualizing, it's not a good sign. Did you feel like you clicked? What does your gut tell you? Then trust your intuition to tell you if you are in the right place or not.

4) How good a listener is the potential therapist? Is he/she attempting to really tune into what you are saying, or is he/she looking around, watching the clock, or otherwise preoccupied? One of the most therapeutic tools a therapist can possess is the ability to create a "holding environment." This is a safe place for the expression of strong emotions. And in order to accomplish this, you need to be able to feel like the potential therapist is with you and not elsewhere.

5) Don't worry about whether the professional has an M.D., a Ph.D., an LICSW, a marriage and family therapist, or a master's in counseling. The degree matters far less than the 4 elements I have listed above.

If you would like a free consultation on choosing the right therapist for your issue, especially if it's sensitive, I invite you to call my toll free number (888-546-1580)for a complimentary consultation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

“Managing the Holiday Blues After Divorce"

Expect the first holidays after a loss of any kind to be difficult. In fact,any “first times” can be expected to be hard, for example your first anniversary or birthday without your spouse. That’s just the way it is. Even if the divorce were your idea and you’re glad the marriage has ended, you probably will feel like a fish out of water during the first holiday season you spend apart.

Since childhood, we wait expectantly for holidays as a time of surprises and togetherness. Most families overtly or covertly agree to ignore Aunt Bernice if she were too much “in her cups” at the dinner table. And everyone colludes to not encourage Uncle Fred if he holds forth too long and heartily about the next year’s elections, high taxes,or corporate greed. Family is family, and any misbehavior generally is ignored in favor of family unity,harmony and preserving the family's Currier and Ives and Norman Rockwell holiday pictures.

Extended family members also can have difficulty with a former family's absence. If a family member sides with your former spouse, as my mother did for a time when I divorced my first husband, the pain is intensified. And even if no one does, you can expect to feel like a fish out of water when it seems like everyone else is coupled and celebrating together.

Ten Tips For Being Single Again For the Holidays

1. Don't push yourself to go out and fake being sociable. Give yourself permission to do what feels good to you. If that means going out but coming home when you have had enough of pretending you are not hurting and are having a good time, then do that. If it means staying home and taking a bubble bath by candlelight, do that.

2. Don’t get prematurely involved with someone just because you don’t want to face the holidays alone. At the least, you will be bored and waste your time. At the worst, you’ll get hurt again because this is a vulnerable time when you are susceptible to choosing someone out of desperation.

3. Don’t sleep with anybody just because you are lonely. That will only confuse you at a time when conflicting feelings are swirling around you anyway.

4. Don’t expect people who have never been divorced to understand why this is such a difficult time. This is especially true if you initiated the divorce. They just won’t get it unless they’ve faced that prospect themselves.

5. Don’t go on a wild, break-the-bank spending spree to make yourself feel better. You’ll only feel miserable when the bills come.

6. Don’t change the subject away from your grief. The sooner you reckon with and resolve your feelings about the divorce, the sooner you genuinely will be able to more forward.

7. Do use New Years as a time to take stock of what is good in your life despite the divorce. Set your own goals to aim toward in the coming year to help you make sure it’s a better one.

8. Do ask for support when you need it. Sometimes that means crying on a friend’s shoulder. Sometimes it means taking a long, cleansing walk with a trusted advisor. Sometimes it means having a cup of tea and talking about anything but the divorce or your former spouse. You’ll know what you need. Honor it.

9. Do make your own plans for the holidays themselves. Plan fun activities with people with whom you feel safe. Go visit special relatives or friends with whom you can be yourself.

10. Do realize that this, too, shall pass. Your life will normalize. You will feel like yourself again.

In the meantime, be patient with yourself. Love yourself a little.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 Magical Daily Minutes That Will Improve Your Marriage

If you are like most married people, you work, take care of your children, worry about paying your bills and staying healthy, and spend a lot of your “free time” on laundry, grocery shopping and home maintenance. Working on your marriage and strengthening your bond as a couple may not even make your to-do list.

But what if I told you that devoting just ten minutes a day to your spouse can produce magical results?

As a marriage and family therapist, I know how important this “couple time” is, not just to husband and wife but to children who gain when their parents are in a happy and stable relationship that centers on them and not on their children.

Everyone has ten minutes to spare, whether at the beginning of the day or after they come home from a day of separate activities to reconnect with their spouse for what I call “the daily magic ten minutes.” Doing so will set the remainder of the day or the evening right for everyone in the family.

Couples with toddlers and very young children can do this too. Of course, they will need to make sure their children are safe when they plan their alone time. If your children are slightly older, you might make this new habit into a game. I urge parents to tell their children playfully, “Unless the sky falls in, or a whale eats you up, or there’s blood, please don’t interrupt us. Mommy and Daddy need to take a break. But we’ll be done in ten minutes.” Put a timer where they can see it so your kids will know when the time is up. If you have children who are old enough to watch their siblings, you can pay them to baby sit while the two of you go off to seek a quiet place to chat with each other.

Daily Magic Ten Minutes Rules
You and your spouse are taking the time you deserve and need in order to keep in touch as spouses and as people once again – and not as parents or employees. As a result, certain topics are off-limits.

No talking about what the children did that day or what happened at work.
This is precious time you are taking for yourselves, perhaps in your bedroom with the door closed, perhaps over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

Talk about whatever you want unless it's problems. If the ten minutes allotted turn out not to be enough, pick up the discussion again the next day right where you left off. Or contract for more time later in the evening.

Some topics you might want to explore together as you get used to this new habit are: books you want to read, trips you’d love to take, hobbies you would like to pursue, purchases you would like to make, thoughts about where you would like to live when you retire, and what you might like to do when you reach retirement age.

Whatever you talk about with your spouse, I hope you have fun with this new time together. Sooner or later, children leave home. And when yours do, you will find that your empty nest will not be a problem. Instead, it will present a continuation of your ability to deepen your relationship with your best friend, the person you married.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Create a Family Tradition for the Holidays

There are various times in our lives when many of us are forced to be away from the others that we love. Illness or injury requires us to be in the hospital or advancing age may cause the elderly to be in a senior citizen facility.

These situations during the holiday season are much more difficult to face than other times during the year. It costs nothing but time to schedule a visit to a hospital or senior citizen facility to spend an hour or two with the residents.

Ask the nurses who would be appropriate to visit at the hospital and ask the staff at the nursing home to suggest someone that receives very few visitors and go spend 30 minutes asking questions about their memories of the holidays past.

You can help them relive special happy times by simply asking, what was the best Thanksgiving you ever had or what was the best Christmas you ever had.

My husband’s best Christmas was when he was 7 years old and this is his story as told to me.

Christmas is the season of memories, of joyous gatherings, of renewal of the spirit and sense of wonder. I have recently thought of what was my favorite Christmas memory and without hesitation this Christmas stands out as the absolutely most wonderful Christmas ever.

My favorite Christmas was in December 1949. This event made that particular Christmas memorable beyond all others. I received a gift of love from afar in the form of a package from my favorite aunt and uncle.

School was out for Christmas vacation, ending just the day before at noon. It was Saturday, the day before Christmas and I was outside playing in the yard when the green truck with red trim and the gold letters REA stopped in front of the house. I did not pay much attention as many REA trucks had stopped there before to deliver packages to the Flower shop and greenhouse across the street and none had ever brought a package to my house. I continued to play until the deliveryman closed the door of his truck and with a brown package in his arm he started toward my house. Up the walk he went toward the front door. I ran and jumped on the porch just as he rang the doorbell.

I asked, “Who is that for?” “Master Paul Moe,” the deliveryman replied. “That is me, I exclaimed.” “This package has to be signed for, can you write your name, the deliveryman asked?” “No, I stated matter-of-factly.” That was when the door opened and my mom was at the door. Mom took the package and signed the receipt.

“He told me that was mine, can I open it now?” “No, you have to wait until Christmas to open this, mom said.” “Why do I have to wait until tomorrow, I asked?” “Because the package says do not open until Christmas,” mom answered. My excitement was evident. I wanted so much to at least hold this unique gift delivered by the man in the REA truck. Mom said, “stay outside and play, dinner will be ready in less than an hour and if you come in you cannot go back out.” I remember wondering, where did it come from, what is in that plain brown paper wrapper. Waiting would not be easy, I was sure I could not wait to see what that REA deliveryman had brought for me.

Later I went into the house and under the tree was a new box wrapped in silver paper with the image of Santa Claus sprinkled liberally over it and a tag that said to Master Paul Moe. As I walked toward the box I heard the stern voice of my father. “Stay away from that tree and leave all of the presents alone until tomorrow.” “It’s mine I whined, why can’t I even touch it.” “Leave it alone until tomorrow, if you know what’s good for you,” my father warned.

For the rest of the day and evening that package sang its tantalizing siren song to me and many times I heard the sharp rebuke from dad, mom and my sisters, ”GET AWAY FROM THAT TREE AND LEAVE THAT PRESENT ALONE!” Going to bed that night with that gift so close but so far away was torture. Christmas arrived as always very early in the morning in the Moe household and all of us kids ran down the stairs to see what Santa had left under the tree.

I went straight to that miracle that had arrived the day before. Inside the silver paper with Santa’s image was a card that read, Merry Christmas from your Uncle and Aunt. Before me was a pop-gun with three corks and a target. The target had 7 figures suspended from a round metal bar and each when it was hit would roll over the bar and bring any to the outside with them. If you hit the exact center all seven targets would roll over the bar and it was a perfect score.

I laid out the target and lay on the floor taking aim and fired the first cork. It hit a target and two of the silhouettes rolled over. I reset the targets, aimed and fired my pop-gun again and miracle of miracles all seven of the targets rolled over simultaneously. A perfect hit and perfect score from a gift of love delivered from afar by the REA deliveryman. I never got a perfect score with that toy again and never again did the green truck with red trim and gold REA letters stop to deliver a package to our house.

The memory of that gift delivered from afar, the smell of the Christmas turkey cooking in the kitchen, the warm glow of the tree all alight still form the image of what Christmas should be in my mind.

If your own holiday is not going to be that marvelous I have created a free gift for signing up to be on my newsletter mailing list. It is called Hot Holiday Tips for 2009. I have listed 8 survival tips which you will receive as a thank you for signing up. To get your own Free Holiday Relationship Survival Tips when you join Dr. Beth's email updates go to Click on JOIN near the top left of the page enter your first name and email address and you will receive instant access to my free gift.

What was your own most memorable Christmas? Please share by posting the memory in the comments.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Couples and Secrets

Recently, I received a reporter’s query asking for my thoughts about Couples and Secrets. Ironically, I had just finished taping a segment for "Relationships 101" on the impact of family secrets on individuals who remain in the dark about very important parts of a family member’s – and therefore, their own – history. I thought I’d share the reporter’s questions and my answers. Perhaps they will provide some guidelines for managing secrets in your intimate relationships.

Is it okay for couples to keep secrets?
It depends on the nature of the secret. The only instance I can think of where keeping a secret is acceptable is when disclosure of it would only hurt a partner. For example, sharing how many lovers you’ve had previously and how good the sex was is in this category. Divulging such information could unnecessarily bruise your new partner. This is especially so if the partner has self-esteem issues.

What secrets should be shared?
It is essential to disclose family secrets or salient information about your past. To not share such information, only to have it discovered later, will feel like a bait and switch. This could cause your partner to question your veracity about everything. For example, a parent or grandparent’s mental illness, having terminated a pregnancy, and having filed for bankruptcy are pieces of information that must carefully be shared.

When do you open up and share? Before or after marriage?
Of course, it is always a risk to divulge any highly vulnerable material. And it should be shared before a couple marry. This allows both partners to decide whether or not they still want to be in the relationship in light of this disclosure. Just as the partner on the receiving end of the information gets to decide, the person sharing also has decisions to make based on the partner’s reaction. If, for example, an individual shares her decision to terminate a pregnancy and her partner flies into a rage and begins preaching hellfire and brimstone, that person won’t feel very safe for disclosing other sensitive information. Then this could severely compromise the relationship.

Do you wait to share a secret until you know you’re in a committed relationship?
Disclosing delicate information like a personal or family secret can become an avenue to strengthen the bond of already committed partners or facilitate their making a commitment.

If you are uncertain about how to manage a personal or family secret, feel free to call my office (888-546-1580) for a free consultation. I can help you decide how to proceed in everyone’s best interests.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are You Emotionally Divorced?

It is a common misconception that people are divorced the moment the judge signs the legal documents. Not so. While they may be legally divorced, now comes the hard part. Being legally divorced is only relevant from a logistical standpoint. Yes, there is important paperwork that needs to be done. The Social Security Administration and credit card companies need to be notified. One or both spouses need to move out. Time sharing guidelines for any children of the marriage need to be negotiated. Extended family members need to be told. There are myriad ways that each of you needs to begin to create a life apart from the other. But all of this doesn’t necessarily mean you will be divorced in the most important way: emotionally. Being emotionally divorced is a process that occurs over time.

How can you tell if you are emotionally divorced?
• You no longer cry at the drop of a hat about your lost spouse, marriage, in-laws, or time with your children.
• You are no longer angry about what happened – or didn’t.
• You feel neutral about your spouse. The attachment to him/her as a spouse has dissipated, even if you still are friendly and cordial.
• If you have children, you are committed to and able to cooperatively co-parent with your ex-spouse.
• If you have residual anger, hurt, or sadness, you are able to set that aside in favor of cooperatively co-parenting with your spouse.
• You can talk with or about your spouse without blaming him/her or yourself for the end of the marriage.
• You have accepted responsibility for your part in the marital dysfunction and divorce.
• You have developed a live-and-let-live attitude toward your former spouse.
• You have released any residual resentment or longing to be reunited.

In short, when you have accepted and grieved the end of the marriage. Only then are you genuinely ready to move on.

Do these sound too hard to attain? Do these markets seem Pollyanna or pie in the sky? Then keep working on it. They are worthy goals toward which to strive.

Those who share children with a former spouse and who are forced to interact with him/her can expect to have a more difficult time with post-divorce recovery than childless couples. In the later case, you can walk away and never have to interact with him/her again. People in either situation who remain angry, vengeful, and blaming are stuck emotionally. Resentments that burn like red hot coals pose a grave risk to your psychological life going forward. You will gain nothing but loneliness and bitterness.

It is a common misconception that love and hate are opposites. On the contrary. They are merely heads and tails of the same coin. Love and indifference are opposites. Lack of any particular feeling one way or the other about a former spouse, except respect for him/her as a human being, is the goal toward which to strive. Then you will be emotionally and legally divorced.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Unhappy Marriages Cost Businesses $6.8 Billion a Year

All businesses are concerned with boosting productivity and reducing health care costs and employee turnover. This combination has become even more crucial in today’s competitive and challenging economy. Often missed, however, is the significant economic cost businesses actually bear for carrying employees on the payroll who are unhappily married or undergoing divorce.

Whether corporate America notices it or not, employees in failing relationships are costing it about $6.8 billion a year. Employees with relationship woes are frequently absent or sick, present at their desks in body but not spirit, or just too stressed out to do their jobs properly. Stress-related problems cost corporate America $300 billion a year.

What is more, couples who aren’t getting along are more likely to be troubled by domestic violence in an attempt to “solve” their conflict, which costs corporate America $7.9 million in lost work days each year. In addition, employees in such relationships are more prone to substance abuse problems, anxiety and depression that, in turn, lead to higher health care costs.

As bad as failing marriages are for corporate America, the financial fallout for divorce is no better. A 2006 research study found that the projected cost to a company of an employee making $20 an hour who gets divorced is more than $8,000. In fact, recently divorced employees spend eight percent of their work days away from work because of relationship-related issues. That is the equivalent of being absent from work an entire month!

Even more telling, researchers have found that it can take as many as five years for employee productivity to return to what it was before an employee got divorced.

So far I have examined what happens to employees in troubled relationships who stay on the job. But what happens if the stress of a bad marriage or difficult divorce leads an employee to quit? The financial impact of this situation varies depending on whether the employee occupied a blue collar position or managerial post. A company forced to replace a blue collar worker will spend 150 percent of his/her total benefit package to do so. Meanwhile, the true cost of replacing a manager is 250 percent of his/her total benefit package.

As a marriage and family therapist and relationship consultant, I am offering these figures not just to illuminate a little-known problem, but also to suggest a solution. I believe it is imperative that all executives concerned with the welfare of their employees realize that the health of employees’ marriages is directly correlated with the health of their business’s bottom lines. Companies can not afford to turn a blind eye to or ignore the marital problems of their employees. Instead they must look for creative ways to help their employees improve their relationships. This will be a win-win situation for everyone. The employees and their spouses can enjoy the benefits of a strong union. And their employers stand to gain stable and happier employees who are more able to make a strong contribution to the day to day operations of the companies for which they work. Of course, then employees and their families are spared the high emotional cost of marital turmoil and divorce as well.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happily Married Employees Are Good for Business

Employers care about a lot of things that relate to their employees, who are, after all, their most valuable asset. But how many of them have discovered that happily married employees actually increase their business' profitability? Sadly, the answer is not very many. But that situation is changing because an increasingly growing body of research points out the many benefits that companies achieve when their employees are in stable relationships.

Among the many benefits you can expect are:

Happier and healthier employees. Happily married men, for example, are absent fewer days and stay in their jobs longer. People in good marriages tend to practice healthier lifestyles, so they avoid being out sick. That means they are less likely to tap expensive health care services.

Greater commitment. Happily married couples who both work outside the home have been found to have a stronger commitment to their employers. This is especially important given that the average employee will change jobs seven times in his lifetime.

Younger employees. It’s astonishing but true. A happily married male is the equivalent of 18 months younger than his biological age. Meanwhile, a happily married female is about six months younger than her chronological age. Younger, healthier employees not only use fewer health care services, but also they also bring more enthusiasm to work with them every day.

More productive workers. Researchers have shown that employees who have good relationship skills – like the ones needed to sustain a fulfilling marriage – are among the most productive, even when they are exposed to significant stress at work.

Workers who get better over time. Many things deteriorate over time, but not so with employees who come from long marriages. Their performance actually improves with each year they remain married.

Workers who sing your praises. Companies that support their employees’ emotional needs through sound corporate policies are prized by employees. They recognize that such a company is an excellent place to work. Not only are they reluctant to move on to greener pastures, but also they are also likely to spread the word to others about what a great place it is to work. Of course, having that reputation is priceless and will make attracting new employees a lot simpler.

One more thing. If these “intangible” benefits still don’t convince you that the health of your employees’ marriages is your business, then perhaps this next fact will make the difference. For every dollar a company spends on physical and relational wellness programs, the return on investment will be huge – and that’s not factoring in the increased happiness of the couples involved. One study involving nine companies ranging in size from 50 employees to 50,000 employees found that the return on investment was nearly 500 percent. Other studies place that figure even higher, at close to 700 percent.

I hope that reading this information leads you to explore this topic further and to learn what companies are doing to make strong marriages their priority.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Costs of Low Trust at Work and at Home

“Our distrust is very expensive.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bestselling author, Stephen M.R. Covey, wrote a wonderful book called The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. An M.B.A., business consultant, and CEO of FranklinCovey, Mr. Covey unapologetically talks about the importance of trust in a business context. He takes on the myths that trust is a soft topic and is too risky and potentially costly for businesses.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Among the multiple costs of low trust in business are speed and efficiency decrease, taking productivity in the same direction. Thereby, costs increase, as does corporate sabotage. Teamwork to produce high quality products is diminished and is replaced by covert cooperation to create a negative culture.

Yes, Covey acknowledges, there is a risk in trusting people. But clearly, there’s an even greater risk in not trusting. Covey refers to this as “the low trust tax.”

How do these concepts map over to personal relationships?

There are typical makers of low trust marriages, such as extramarital affairs, constant conflict, stonewalling and general lack of cooperation on matters that should be faced jointly. But there are more subtle indicators of low trust relationships as well.

In low trust marriages, people don’t disclose important information. While they may readily offer up the mundane parts of their day and of their existence, they withhold the important and real stuff: their hopes, dreams, fears and feelings.

Little wonder these people become bored with each other and with living like roommates, or detached siblings, or their children’s chauffeurs. Being lovers and confidants who have each other’s backs eludes them completely.

With each passing month, the alienation grows, taking on a life of its own until one or both spouses scream, “Uncle! I can’t take it anymore!”

Now their pain provides a prime opportunity for the couple. Yes, you read that correctly. An opportunity is created by admitting there is a problem, before it’s too late and the emotional cancer has metastasized too far, and the walls are too high and too thick, and the numbness has crept in so thoroughly that there is no longer any will to work to change. These are the more subtle, insidious aspects of a low-trust relationship that too often make those marriages a statistic.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to join the ranks of, as the nineteenth century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men [who] lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Each of us gets to choose.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

7 Deadly Sins Against Relationships

I have devoted my professional life for over three decades to helping people improve the quality of their relationships and their lives. Recently, I have begun thinking about how to summarize the best and the worst things people do in relationships.

In my most recent book, Marriage Isn’t for Sissies: 7 Simple Keys to Unlocking the Best Part of Your Life, I list and discuss the 7 most essential skills people need to possess in order to have a satisfying and healthy relationship.

Those 7 Keys are:
1. Deepening Trust Affair-Proofs Marriages
2. Taking Time for the Daily Magic Ten Minutes
3. Setting Good Boundaries Keeps Everyone Safe
4. Sharing Feelings Enhances Intimacy
5. Fighting Fairly Solves Problems and Builds Intimacy
6. Healing Past Hurts
7. Cultivating a Nurturing, Close Sexual Relationship

Here are the 7 Deadly Sins Against Relationships.

1. Emotional Reactivity. When individuals are unable or unwilling to respond to each other and to the world in a calm, reasonable manner, situations easily degenerate into explosiveness and misinterpretation of each other’s words and intentions. This typically occurs when people grow up in a family where individuals are poorly differentiated. These couples have difficulty getting genuinely close because emotions are weapons that are used to create distance. Therefore, feelings drive a wedge between them.

2. Being controlling. There is a vast difference between being controlling and being in control of yourself. Controlling people have a high need for structure and order as they define it. They leave little or no room for others’ needs and opinions. They often overtly are tyrants. But they also can be the more subtle – and more infuriating – kind of controller who gets his/her way by passive aggression and manipulation. By contrast, people who are in control take responsibility for themselves, their emotions, and their lives.

3. Blaming and Shaming. People who use this strategy to get their way generally seek power over their spouse, partner, or children. It is a defensive strategy so they can remain “safe” by being holier than thou. What they don’t realize is how they give away their power to improve situations in the process. It is only in taking responsibility for ourselves and for our actions that we claim the full measure of control of our lives.

4. Jealousy. People who are jealous to a fault are either highly insecure, extremely controlling, terrified of being abandoned, or all of the above. Jealousy is different from envy, which is a normal human emotion. Jealousy carries emotional freight. and is not endearing. In fact, it backfires, often serving the unconscious function of creating psychological and emotional distance in a relationship. It is a significant barrier to intimacy.

5. Negativity. The renowned marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that for every 1 negative comment couples make to each other, there should be 5 positive comments to counteract the impact of the criticism. Yet some couples seem to subsist on a steady diet of negativity, sometimes disguising their intent saying they are being honest with each other. They may be honest, all right. But it is not an intimacy-generating sort of honesty. Furthermore, viewing the world through a lens of scarcity and negativity, perhaps more than anything, is contagious. It eventually infects
both parties with despair and hopelessness.

6. Unfair Fighting. There are three main earmarks of unfair fighting. They all involve defensiveness. First is "hitting below the belt,” that is, using previously shared information as a weapon against the other person. This can be extremely brutal if it is flung at your partner in the midst of a fight. Second, attempting to control conversations and the other person so no vulnerability is required. Third, self-righteously blaming the other person for all problems in the relationship. A close cousin to this Deadly Sin is accusing.

7. Stonewalling. This is one of the most detrimental sins in a relationship. When partners stop openly communicating and become stone walls to each other, all overt communication stops. It is replaced by anger, conflict, and isolation that smolder inside each person. As partners add stones to their wall, they become more and more alienated from each other until the cracks in their relationship eventually become unrepairable. Then an emotional – if not an actual – divorce ensues.

If you have any questions about these 7 Deadly Sins – or
anything else – feel free to call my toll-free number
(888-546-1580) for a free 20-minute consultation.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Murder in the Military

What on earth happened at Fort Hood, TX, yesterday?

As inscrutable as the actions of the shooter Major Nadal Malik Hasan seem, there are some possible explanations. Although there may have been other contributing factors, two stand out in my mind.

When I practiced marriage and family therapy in a northern suburb of Chicago, my office was near Great Lakes Naval Training Station and Fort Sheridan, an Army post that has since been closed. This was within 7 years after the U.S. left Viet Nam. Some soldiers were still haunted. Some veterans became my patients because I saw them with their spouses. They had been referred by a psychiatrist who said they needed “talk therapy.”

It is not commonly understood that relatively few psychiatrists do psychotherapy with patients. Instead, they are taught to diagnose patients’ conditions and administer medications to treat the symptoms in somewhat of an assembly line fashion. Which explains why most outpatient psychiatric appointments are 15 minutes or less.

I can only imagine psychiatrists’ frustration. Most of us in the helping professions go into the field because of a wish to help. However, if, in their training, they are not given a range of tools beyond their prescription pad, it is easy to imagine they could become overwhelmed by the daunting task of treating vets with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

All of us who work with traumatized patients from whatever source, whether it’s childhood sexual abuse, an early and lengthy hospitalization, a sudden death in the family, victims of torture, a death from a disease that seemed to drag on and on, rape and the like know that witnessing their agony can take a toll on us.

For example, one patient I treated had been a medic in the Viet Nam War during the Tet Offensive, one of the bloodiest conflicts of the war. Imagine the horror he had seen. And the helplessness he must have felt when he could not save his fellow soldiers who died before his eyes. To intensify his impotence, he had spent his first year stuck in a crib in an orphanage where only his basic needs of food and clean diapers were attended to. I shudder to imagine the helplessness and isolation that baby experienced. As research on infants in Israeli kibbutzim found, a large number of the children died if they were only fed and diapered by multiple caregivers and not cared for by their parents. This, of course, caused them to change their child care arrangements.

For me to still remember that patient almost decades later means he clearly made an impression on me. And no doubt, the cumulative effect of his story and countless others subjected me to Compassion Fatigue or Secondary Stress Disorder. Fortunately, I have not been undone by what I have seen and heard.

But Major Hasan apparently was not so fortunate. As a psychiatrist, he worked with vets going to Iraq and Afghanistan and those returning and was about to deploy himself. No doubt, he had been bombarded with soldiers’ stories, worries, fears, nightmares, flashbacks and suicidal thoughts and actions. So much so, that I surmise he chose “death by cop,” attempting suicide by putting himself in harm’s way stateside where he had control, rather than have to experience what he inevitably would work with there. And he almost succeeded.

In fact, he did not die. He lies in the hospital on a ventilator today.

The other factor that must have contributed to his “losing it” was loneliness. Paradoxically, the life of a mental health practitioner can be a lonely one if you are single. “How could that be? You’re with people all day every work day.” We are. But if we are good at what we do and responsible enough not to meet our own needs through our patients, it can be lonely indeed taking care of everyone else.
To intensify the loneliness, Dr. Hasan was single and had no children. No one was at home to help him debrief, or hug him, or distract him, or just be with him. Having been in the military since high school, I suspect that the Army had become the family he didn’t have.

Let me be clear. I do not condone or excuse Dr. Hasan’s actions. Forty-three people are paying the price for his cracking under pressure. However, being able to understand and explain something is not the same as excusing it.

As President Obama said yesterday in a briefing after the Fort Hood massacre, it is indeed “ … horrifying that these soldiers were hurt by their own people.” Then on CNN this morning, there was news of 8 people being killed in a high rise in Orlando, Florida.

What kind of country are we becoming that murder-suicide seems to be the way for lonely, lost people to grab their 15 minutes of fame at the expense of other people? And that violence seems to becoming the norm for “solving” issues?

Please comment after reading this post. Let’s talk.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Launching Kids

“Schoolmasters and parents exist to be grown out of.”
John Wolfenden, Sunday Times, London (7/13/1958)

My husband and I went on a date to see Phantom of the Opera again. And 10 days later, I still have Andrew Lloyd Webber’s powerful music and Charles Hart’s haunting words stuck in my head.

At intermission, I mentioned to my husband the father-daughter theme that was coming up. He scoffed at the idea, saying the musical was only about lovers. He shook his head in mock horror saying, “I’m married to a shrink!”

However, in Act Two, he began to see the theme he hadn’t previously caught in his four prior viewings of Phantom. Initially, when Christine sang, “Wishing you were somehow here again,” the reference is sufficiently vague that we are not sure whether the “you” is Raoul, the lover of her dreams, or the Phantom, the father figure in whose underground lair she has shared a life.

That’s usually the way it is when children leave home to go out into the world. They feel torn.

By the next song, the father-child theme clearly emerges when the Phantom sings to Christine “…wandering child, longing for my guidance.” And then, “Our games of make believe before are at an end . . . . “ And, “Past the point of no return . . . .

Singing forlornly of his life without her, “. . . no kindness, no compassion anywhere.” Then of “the infection that poisoned our love!” presumably referring to Raoul’s love for Christine that will take her away from the Phantom and his dismal existence without her.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

It is just as hard for parents as it is for their children when kids leave home.

As my wise and unselfish mother told me one of the times I left home, “Parents can’t hang onto kids.”

Those “helicopter parents” who do are selfish and haven’t done their job of getting their children and themselves ready for them to leave home and start their own life.

So when the season of graduations from kindergarten, middle school, high school, and college, and of summer weddings, blushing brides and earnest grooms, parents need to remember my mother’s sage words.

It is parents’ job to prepare their children to fly on their own while holding their place in the family. Then kids can come back for the emotional pit stops they need to eventually fly completely on their own.

For parents, it is a loss. And grief is inevitable. But if you have done your job well, your children will come back to visit. They will want to stay connected.

If you fight them, they will stay away at their own peril.

So learn to let go, as painful as that can be. That is the kind of parenting your kids need from you now.

Don’t make seeking their own destiny “the infection that poisons our love.”

We never outgrow our need for our parents. We just need them differently as we mature.

If you are having trouble letting go as a parent, or figuring out how to find your own way in the world, remember my offer of a **Free** half-hour of coaching by phone.

Feel free to write and take me up on my offer to I will need your name and email adddress to I can provide you with the time to call and a toll free number to reach me

Dedicated to your health and happiness,

Dr. Beth

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What Kind of Universe Do You Inhabit?

There are two basic ways to live life. One is with a mindset of Abundance. The other is with a Scarcity mentality.

One or the other of these is the prism through which you view the world.

What makes this significant? The lens through which you view the world shapes your entire perception and version of reality.

Do you believe the world is basically a trustworthy place?

Oh yes, you know there are bad guys out there. And bad things do happen to good people. But you have faith in people’s ultimate goodness. And even the worst of times will turn around. That peace in its various facets will come again. So you don’t skulk around, certain of danger lurking around every corner living your mental and emotional life in a bunker.

It is no surprise that people who look for negativity in life find it. They attract negativity into their lives and then bemoan their bad luck, or other people’s evil nature, or how it’s not their fault.

Or are you open-hearted and open-handed because you believe in the transformative power of love and in people’s innate goodness? If your basic belief is one of abundance,
you don’t hesitate to give of yourself and your resources. As a result, good stuff happens to you because you attract it into your life. Your know your life is Abundant, even in stressful or lean times. And you amplify life’s gifts by being grateful for the blessings in your life.

So begin today to develop an Attitude of Gratitude.

Sure, you may be counting your pennies at the grocery store. Be unable to take your usual summer vacation because of the effects of an economy in turmoil, or the kids will get fewer holiday presents. But if you are a citizen of the United States, Canada, or anywhere in the Western world, you are blessed with freedom simply by the accident of birth.

Celebrate that.

Dedicated to your health and happiness,

Dr. Beth

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let Your Brain Make You Better!!

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667

Is your mind your greatest resource? Or does it mutiny like a motley crew on a pirate ship?

What is the difference between your mind and your brain?

Is it possible to actually change misfiring circuits in your brain that keeps you running in place like a caged gerbil, coming back again and again to the same place, never seeming to get anywhere?

Can you create new neuron connections in your brain that build brand new pathways of thought?

Does your mind have to change your life by sheer dint of will or can you enlist the help of your brain?

Is it possible for you to be in charge of your mind plus many brain functions?

These fascinating questions and more were discussed when I spoke with my guest, Dr. Rick Hanson, on “Relationships 101”on Dr. Hanson is a neuropsychologist and the author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. But it could as easily be called Neuroscience for Dummies. It’s that readable. And Dr. Hanson is that understandable.

Link in to the podcast at to hear me tell a sweet story from a neurological perspective about the game my grandson and I play. And how I worked with a couple to resolve trauma in the wife’s childhood, thereby rewiring her brain and putting her restructured mind in charge of her life.

If you are the type who loves “Ask Dr. Science,” I think you will find this show both fascinating and touching.

Please do post a comment. I sincerely would love to know what you thought of this conversation.

Is there a specific topic you would like to have discussed by an expert on "Relationships 101" or on this blog. Write me at and leave me your suggestion. I would love to have my discussions relevant to my audience.

If you have a question you’d like to ask me, go to and leave me your question. You will get an answer your questions from me personally. I promise.

Dedicated to your health and happiness,

Dr. Beth

Monday, November 2, 2009

Like Cats Chasing Their Tails

“In human affairs, the best stimulus for running ahead is to have something we must run from.”
Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change, 1964

Who needs t.v. when you have a kitten in your house?

Our kitten, Ben, has an elaborate game of the old standby for cats: the Chase the Tail game.

Running faster and faster around in circles, sometimes he gives up on ever catching that darn tail.

Other times, he sneaks up on it and pounces while his tail plays hard to get.

But he grabs that darn tail between his legs, sometimes nipping at it, other times combing and stroking it after he catches it.

Then his tail surrenders.

Yes, Ben has many strategies for catching the mischievous, elusive tail.

And so do humans.

Sometimes our “strategies” are designed, however unconsciously, to keep us running around in circles after tacking one foot to the floor, bemoaning our misfortune that nothing ever changes, that our spouse, or child, or boss, or co-worker, or sibling only wants to fight, or won’t listen, or doesn’t care, etc, etc.

Other times, we won’t allow ourselves the sweet pleasure of success because no one else in our family has accomplished much. We simply haven’t had a role model for success, and we don’t want to risk being shunned by family members who struggle or are jealous.

Or because then we might be expected to reach even higher.

Or because of our fear of failing. You can ask most elementary school kids, and they can tell you that you can’t fail at something if you never try.

Yes, we, too, can develop elaborate games of keeping ourselves stuck.

And, of course, these games get us to the same place where Ben ends up: No where.

Are tired of being a cat chasing your tail but you don’t know where to start or how to stop?

Feel free to contact me by e-mail or at my toll free number, 888-546-1580, for a free consultation.

I would be happy to have you take me up on my offer of a free consultation.

Dedicated to your health and happiness,

Dr. Beth