Category Archives: Interpersonal relationships

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed

We all have those days where just waking up goes wrong. Whatever it was; the dreams, the weather, the dinner the night before, the day gets off on the wrong foot. The thing we have to remember as we start to get going is that it is just a feeling. It isn’t who we are, and shouldn’t be how we act as we move through our day.

It is easy to fall in to the bad day. All you have to do is treat everyone around you the same way you feel; crappy. You just take your bad mood and your frustration out on the people around you as you move through your day.  It is easy to see all of the small bumps and frustrations of the day, frustrations that normally would slide right off your back, as the universe just digging the bad day in deeper. You can cut people off in traffic, snarl at the grocery clerk, and be impatient with co-workers and friends while you yell your frustration to the stars for waking you up in a bad mood. It leads to greater and greater frustration both for you and those around you, compounding the bad day. It leads to more bad days, resentments and hurts.

There is another option. It takes a little bit of digging, a lot of patience with yourself, and a lot of patience with the people around you. Begin by looking for the beauty of the world that you would normally see. If you would see the beauty of the clouds even on a rainy day, try to find that beauty. If you would find humor in the irony of the news, try to find the humor. When you greet the grocery clerk with a smile even though you’re grumpy, instead of returning your grumpiness they smile back at you. When you tell a joke to your co-worker even though you want to snarl at everyone, they laugh and even if the day doesn’t get better, it sure doesn’t get worse.

It is natural to want to kick the people around you when your down.  We see people around us that aren’t in a bad mood and we feel alone.  We see people around us that ARE in a bad mood, and we feel frustrated that they are dragging us down.  It really does just make the day worse.  Finding the strength to be nice to those around us when having a bad day doesn’t always make the day lighter and easier to bear.  Often though, as we fake the good mood we make the good mood.  At the very least, it rarely makes the day worse.

It is also important to drink a good deal of water, eat healthy even though you want Krispy Kream, avoid alcohol even though you want to drink your frustrations away, and exercise.  The you of right now may be angry while you’re walking, frustrated when you’re drinking water instead of wine, and just down right bitter when you can’t have your donuts.  The you of tomorrow will thank you, and you are a good deal more likely to be in a better mood the next day when you aren’t hung over and bloated from trying to digest a ton of soda and junk food.

We all have bad days.  Sometimes we have bad weeks, or even months.  It is absolutely possible to make it worse for ourselves.  If we treat the people around us the way that we feel, if we try to pull people in to our misery so we feel a little less miserable, we start a slide it can be difficult to get out of.  When you’re in that place find one person you can be nice to, even if you’re neutral to everyone else because you’re having to work to not bite everyone’s head off.  Find the one thing you can find beautiful, magical or funny in your day.  It will probably help you pull yourself out of the funk of the day, and if it doesn’t it rarely makes the day worse.

Just be you!

I was speaking with my chiropractor (AKA my torture guy) and he was talking about how his wife talks in her sleep, and will answer the questions honestly through her subconscious that she will lie about while she is awake.  Now, as far as I can tell he is playful with this and doesn’t use her sleep-talking for nefarious purposes, but he did share something that he thought was cute and funny but can create large difficulties in relationships.  He asked her if she really wanted to go to Canada, and she admitted in her sleep that she doesn’t.  When awake, because she knows he wants to go, she says yes.  This folks, is a relationship killer.


It seems harmless, doesn’t it?  Telling your partner what they want to hear helps us validate them and make them feel more connected to us.  Right?  But what happens when they go to Canada and do his chilly outdoor adventure, when she really wanted a tropical paradise.  The first, second, even 4th time this happens it probably won’t be a big deal.  But if she never says anything, never stands up for her own wants, wishes and would likes and instead always allows him to have his, she will eventually become resentful.  The anger will build.  I have watched this happen in couples, and then all of a sudden one partner is raging at the other. When asked why, the raging partner usually yells something the equivalent of “Because we always do what YOU want to do!”.  Yes, well, did you ever say what you wanted to do?  Did you ever stick up for your wants, wishes and would likes and he just ignored them, or did you just ignore them yourself until the frustration built to a boiling point?


I see this not only in relationships but in friendships as well.  We have this belief that we need to validate each other.  We have a belief that we need to have the same likes and dislikes or our partner or friend may decide we aren’t what they want and then we are left alone.  We fake desire or interest in something to make ourselves move attractive and desirable.


A repeated topic in the therapy sessions this week has been the work “acceptable”.   We will do a lot and contort ourselves in to strange emotional positions to be considered acceptable by others.  We will lie about who we are, our likes and dislikes, even our hair color just to be “accepted”.  The difficulty with hiding who we are to be accepted is the resentment that comes when you keep sacrificing yourself for others over, and over and over. It also creates problems when people that like you for the lie that you show them all of a sudden have to find a way to accept the new you. In all reality they probably would have liked you for the real you (and if they wouldn’t have, then you probably like them for the wrong reasons anyway) and will just be frustrated that you lied to them.


If you are attracted to someone and they won’t like you for who you are, it isn’t going to work. There is no way around that, no way to make it work. You aren’t able to lie forever, no way to sacrifice your identity forever. It will make you resentful and angry, and is a disservice both to yourself and to the person that you like.


We all want people to see the best in us. We want to be accepted and liked. For most of us, who we are as individuals is actually not that bad, and when you show your true self, people will like you. If there are parts of you that people really don’t like, instead of hiding them and lying about them, change them. Be honest with who you are, it will make you and your partners and friends happier in the long run.

We want to punish neglegence, not failure

Negligence – Definition:

noun: negligence; plural noun: negligences
1. failure to take proper care in doing something.
“some of these accidents are due to negligence”
failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.

Failure: Definition

noun: failure

lack of success.
1. an unsuccessful person, enterprise, or thing
o plural noun: failures
o “bad weather had resulted in crop failures”

2. the omission of expected or required action.
o “their failure to comply with the basic rules”
The owners of my martial arts school have a 7 month old baby that they bring to the evening classes. She is one of the cutest and sweetest babies I have ever had the pleasure of being around. She is currently working on being able to sit up without support and learning to crawl. There are a ton of failures. Last night she forgot to use her arms in her attempts to crawl and scooted across the floor on her head. If she is sitting without support she falls frequently. She is failing over and over again in her attempts to learn to sit up and crawl.

There is an instinct to run over and keep her from falling, or at the very least keep her from getting rug-burn on her head while learning to crawl. The problem with saving her from these failures though is that she will never build the physical or mental muscles to do these things on her own. We have to watch and allow her to fail over, and over and over in order for her to learn.

Take any task you have ever had to learn how to do. In learning there is always a series of failures as you figure out the concept, the technique and the implementation of the task. There will be trials and errors as you find how to incorporate the new task in to your understanding of the universe. This happens whenever anything new is tried. This builds muscle, be it physical or mental regarding the new task. It creates a new understanding of how the world works, how we work (individually, as a society, or even the laws of nature) and allows us to expand. We build muscles through failure that we wouldn’t have otherwise.  Failure builds the muscles of humility, self examination, and self realization.

A difficulty we are running in to at present is we are seeing failure as negligence and punishing any kind of failure. This means that any time we as an individual or as a society try something new and it fails, we have judgment, irritation or down right anger, inquiries, and at times punishment. This creates a society where innovation is restricted to what will only succeed the first time, which is almost nothing. It keeps us from experimenting with new ideas or new technology and will stifle personal, professional, and even societal growth in the long run.

Where is see this frequently in my practice is with parents. The parents of children don’t want their kids to be hurt emotionally or physically so they protect their kids from their failures. If a kid fails in school, instead of working with the kiddo to improve the teacher is yelled at for letting the kid fail, implying negligence on the teachers part. Think about what this teaches the kid. It teaches that your failures aren’t your fault, you don’t have to learn and you don’t have to try hard. There is an entire generation of young adults now that have the attitude that they don’t have to try and failures will be someone else’s problem. They are entitled and frustrating to work with as colleagues because they are very self-focused, thinking about what the company can do for them instead of what they can bring to the company. Their muscles haven’t been developed for work-ethic and it is visible (and crazy making to those they work with).

Where we saw this recently was with the Affordable Care Act web-sites. A completely new concept, new system, and new program wasn’t as smooth as we would have liked it to be getting off the ground. Instead of showing understanding and working to fix the bugs and problems, we punished the programmers and the entire administration as negligent. This kind of thinking stifles innovation, because none of us wants to be punished for trying something new.
Of course there has to be limits. We want to make sure something is safe and within reasonable limits before implementing it so people are not injured. That is why we have medical testing before we put out new medications. That is why we have malpractice boards to pay attention to where we are neglectful in our attempts. An example in the therapy world of neglect vs failure ended in the death of a 10-year-old child  and so having practices and policies for safe experimentation in place is important.

We have to learn the difference between neglect and experimentation. As a society we seem to have swung toward the end of believing any failure is neglectful on someone’s part, and working to assign blame. We as a society are starting to wither because of this. Failure helps with growth when we learn what works and what doesn’t work and consistently work to move toward success. We have to start re-thinking how we treat ourselves, our children, our employees, and our society as we work on finding the balance between punishing neglectful behavior and sponsoring through failure towards success.

Where do you need to start doing this with yourself? Think of the last task you worked to learn that was completely new. Were you perfect at it the first time? When you weren’t perfect, what kind of judgments went through your head? Did you feel as though you were neglectful, believing that you didn’t give it your all and throw all kinds of punishment in the form of shame towards yourself? Were you neglectful, or were you just working toward success and the failure was part of that? As we get older this desire to avoid failure often keeps us from trying new things or meeting new people. We throw so much judgment at ourselves we start to stifle our own growth and keep from expanding our boundaries. Something my own martial arts practice has taught me as I move closer and closer to my black belt is that I will fail, over and over again. It is expected and even required to learn. I have had to learn patience with myself, and how to sponsor myself as I fall (often literally) again and again. We are not perfect. We will not succeed the first time out at anything. We will have a series of failures throughout our lives. When we are honest with ourselves and reflect on if this is building and creating then we work toward success. At times there is negligence, and we need to be honest with ourselves about that too. Overall though, we need to work on punishing negligence and sponsoring failure.

Making “I love you” a meditation

I how often do you say “I love you”? How often do you say it to your partner, to your kids, to your parents? I love you can be one of those phrases that is uttered in a thoughtless moment as you rush out the door, or drop the kids off at school. It can be said in a moment of passion, but still said thoughtlessly, without intent.

Meditation is letting yourself be present, focused and intentional about what you are doing. It doesn’t have to be a 30 minute long session of intense breathing and focus, it can the little moments in the day. Meditation can be looking at the beautiful sunset in front of you, taking a breath and being present in with the sunset until traffic moves along. Meditation can be taking a breath and being present with the love you feel for the person you are with before saying the words.

There are words that have lost their meaning over time. I’m sorry is one of them. I’m sorry seems to have come to mean; “It sucks that you feel bad” as opposed to “I regret what I have done”.   What has “I love you” come to mean in your life? Is it the thing you say as you walk out the door or hang up the phone because you’re supposed to, but don’t really feel it? Or is it the way of maintaining a connection with someone you truly care about. If the words have lost their meaning, and you are just staying it to say it but don’t feel it anymore, then there is a bigger problem. If it is the way of maintaining the connection then make sure to be present with the connection.

Each time you say “I love you” take a breath. Find the place inside of you that truly loves that person and be present with it, even for just the space of that breath. Send the energy of that love and that connection through your words. This is more than reminding your loved on that you love them, it is reminding yourself that you love them, and being present with that love and that connection.

Imagine a household that does this with every I love you. You would know that every time you are told you are loved, it is meant deeply and truly. Even when things aren’t going well, they are words you can access to remember that you love them, and they love you. It takes the struggle out of the argument and hopefully brings it in to perspective. It allows you to take a step back for a moment, and instead of thinking “If you really loved me you would…” and be able to say “You really love me, and I don’t like what you are doing.”

Make each “I love you” a meditation, every day. Feel that connection every day. Remember you have true love, feel true love and true connection and be present with it every day. After a month, see what this does to your relationship, your intimacy and even your fights. Meditation is about being present with, and what a wonderful thing to be present with.

Moving through ebb and flow

People that rely on the ocean and on rivers know the concept of ebb and flow very intimately. They understand not only the movement of the tides, but that the rains that supply the water to the rivers move through periods of ebbing and flowing. Right now many parts of the country have been in a relative ebb of water and many parts of the country are suffering a drought.

There are other areas of life that aren’t as obvious that also move through ebbs and flows. Our relationships are a perfect example. There are times when our relationships are flowing strongly. We feel connected to our partners or friends, and this connection feels very filling. During these times we think how strong our relationship is and we feel that all is right with the world.

The other side of this is the ebb. In the natural movement of things there will be times when our relationships don’t feel as connected. We snip at each other more, we don’t feel as in sync. During these times we can feel very lonely and isolated. There is often an automatic feeling of abandonment and fear of losing the person completely. This can lead us to doing rash things, either to prevent the perceived loss or to retaliate against the future betrayal that we fear is coming. These actions can take us from ebb, a natural occurrence, in to something larger.

Ebbs often come with distress. When we don’t get enough rain our crops suffer. When things aren’t going well at our job we fear losing the job. When things aren’t going well in our relationship we fear losing the relationship.   Being able to tolerate the distress that comes with the natural ebbs in your life will help you flow more smoothly in general.

The easiest way to tell the difference between ebb and a real problem is that ebbs don’t last. If you’ve left work for the last 9 months feeling drained, unfulfilled and frustrated this probably isn’t ebb. There is no flow to counterbalance it. If you spend the majority of time in your relationship walking on eggshells, arguing, snipping or hurt and it has been this way for a while then you probably aren’t in ebb. Again, there is no flow to counterbalance it. Ebb and flow are like the tides; they move back and forth with a semblance of balance with each other, and in general things should feel relatively good

The key to tolerating ebb is to stay grounded with yourself, your identity and your strengths. It is natural to start worrying that you are doing something wrong creating a problem. Always do a self-check to see if there is something you are doing or aren’t doing that could be causing difficulties. We personally go through ebb and flow as well, and on ebb days (bad days) we can sometimes act poorly to those we care about causing problems. If in general you are overall being healthy in your job or relationship, remember this. This means that you are probably in ebb. Stay centered with the fact that you are where you need to be in your thoughts and actions. Remind yourself that you are OK, that the relationship is overall OK, and that life is in general OK. Use this as a buoy to keep you afloat when anxiety and fear start to set in.

There are small changes to make during ebbs. Pay attention to your frustration level and make sure you are soothing when you want to snipe. Make sure you continue to do your work at your job, make sure you continue to be tender and loving to your partner, possibly even more so to remind yourself that this ebb is temporary. As stated above, many parts of the country are in ebb in relationship to water, and people are not changing their habits at all. This is creating additional distress for the environment. If we don’t give a little and be a little more tolerant during ebbs we can create increased distress and actual problems.

Learning to tolerate the ebbs in your life is about learning to sooth your heart when it is afraid. We like stability and ebbs don’t represent stability to us, especially for those that have been through trauma or betrayal before. In these cases we are hyper-alert to problems and ebbs are large red-flags to our systems. Being able to tolerate the mild distress of an ebb will help you trust more, and feel even more connected to your job or partner when times are good. Knowing that the ebbs are natural and the feelings of disconnectedness are temporary will help you feel more connected comfortable in your relationships because you know a flow is coming soon.

Knowing whom to trust

Knowing who to trust in this world is tricky. We always put on a good face when meeting new people for the first time, and being able to identify the people that have a fantastic façade but with a less than healthy inside can be difficult, especially in the first couple of months of knowing someone. There are some simple tells though, and once you learn what they are you will have a better time of catching the crazies before they worm their way too far in to your life.

One of the first things you will see in another person is their sense of humor. We all have one (even though I bet you’ve met someone you think doesn’t), and looking at what people find funny is a good window in to their inner being. Finding cruelty and the pain of others funny is a sign of lacking empathy. Admittedly I’m the first person to chuckle at my friends when they get a booboo from doing something “hold my beer” worthy, I’m also the first one running to their side to make sure they aren’t actually injured. Laughing at the emotional or physical injury of others, especially through jokes that demean a gender or a group of people is a sign of a cruel streak that can add darkness to your life, and be a sign that they can eventually turn on you and start telling their “jokes” at your expense.

Another thing to look for is the other friendships that the person has. Think of who you want your friends to be. What does “healthy” mean to you? How I interpret it is a general idea of how their actions affect themselves and others. Healthy people take accountability for their actions and choices, and as such make good choices. The old adage “birds of a feather stick together” is very accurate. If their friends don’t have jobs, use drugs regularly, like strip clubs, make demeaning jokes or have a multitude of other unhealthy habits, you can bet your friend or partner does too. You can see what a person is like by keeping an eye on who they hang out with.  If they don’t have any friends at all, there is probably a reason for that as well.

Keep an eye on how they treat other people (and animals) in general. If you are reading this blog you probably have a generally healthy respect of life and believe everyone deserves respect. This includes wait-staff, ticket-takers, janitors, fast food employees, and all other people that work hard for a living but don’t have a 401K. How we treat people who are just trying to do their job is a good insight in to how we are going to treat those close to us when we get to know them better and are hurt, frustrated or stressed. How we treat animals, especially those that aren’t our own pets is a strong indicator in to how a person interacts with the world around them.  We tend to make excuses early on in friendships and relationships for how people treat those around them that aren’t friends. We shouldn’t. How people treat those that aren’t as “high” as they are on the world food chain is a good indication of how they will eventually treat you and how they think of others in general.

Listen to see how they accept feedback from others. If they are constantly complaining about how no one likes them at work and their boss is always on them, be aware that they may struggle to accept feedback when their behavior isn’t that great. If they are starting conversations with “This person is such a (insert derogatory name here)”, and consistently identify why everyone else is wrong while they are the perfect angel, they are probably getting feedback that they aren’t able to take constructively.  How they accept feedback will be important when you are frustrated with their behavior and you need to tell them something.  If they don’t take feedback well, you will find that you keep from talking about the important issues and eventually start feeling resentful.

Listen to them as they talk about past friendships and past relationships. If they talk about a multitude of friends that have betrayed them, abandoned them, are less than they are or that they just complain about, there is a high chance that you will become one of the multitudes that have abandoned or betrayed them. If they talk with a good deal of disrespect about past relationships, it means they are likely to struggle to feel strong bonds with others, to trust others, and that will include you. It does indicate that they have a history of actual betrayal somewhere in their past. While you can be understanding of how they have come to the point of struggling to form bonds does not mean you should willing accept them in to your heart. People that struggle to form close bonds tend to turn dangerous and hurtful to those others when they feel hurt. If you’ve let them in that means they will hurt you, even if they don’t mean to.

Pay attention to what their hobbies are, and how obsessed they are with them. Everything is OK in moderation. Clubbing, gambling, drinking, smoking, video games, even exercise and knitting (the knitting addicts are the worst) are great in small doses. When they become obsessions though, they can have a pathology about them that can interfere with relationships and friendships. It is one thing that they go out with the co-workers on Friday for happy-hour for a couple of hours. It is another if they go every night until 2 in the morning. It is one thing to play the lottery when you can win 250 million, it is another thing to spend $50 or more every week on tickets. The level of obsession is important, especially when something comes between their obsessions. Being able to be healthy in their passions shows health in other places.

Social Media has become a very clear window in to a person’s soul. Watch what they post on FaceBook, Twitter, and all other social media sites. If they post things that degrade people that aren’t in their religion or that don’t follow their political views, if they “troll” places and leave hate-filled comments because they are relatively anonymous behind their keyboard, you are seeing their true feelings and beliefs. You are seeing how they treat others they don’t agree with. What happens when they don’t agree with you?

We have all been betrayed by someone we have cared about. Some of those betrayals have been bigger and caused more damage and bigger wounds than others. Learning who to trust and understanding the traits that lead to healthy friendships and relationships will lessen the likelihood of the big betrayals. Whenever two people get together there are going to be the mini betrayals, they are unavoidable. The big ones though, the “She slept with someone else in our tent at a festival” kind, the “he lied took all my money”, or the “she started screaming at me irrationally when I left a beer on the counter and ended up hitting me so I had to call the cops” kind are less likely when you know what to look for.

Rewards and Punishment part 2

Punishment is using a consequence of some sort to stop or decrease a behavior.  People who speed (and are caught) are initially punished with fines, defensive driving, a raise in insurance, etc.  Two incidents of this punishment was sufficient to keep me from speeding  (well, more than 5 mph over).  Had it not been ( and I had been caught again) I would be subject to loosing my license, loosing my insurance, and multiple other consequences all the way up to jail.  Punishment and fear of punishment for the crime of speeding is enough to make me careful about my speed, though I would prefer at times to go much faster.  We have several means to punish those that break laws in our society, and if our values and morals don’t keep us from breaking these laws, society hopes that a desire to avoid the punishment will.


The problem with punishment is that it often requires fear to be effective preventativly, and fear can be overcome with the right motivators. If we are angry enough, or hurt enough fear goes right out of the window, especially if the behavior that is going to be punished is rewarding enough.  There also has to be a belief that they will be caught in order for punishment to work, and if you are training a kid or a animal (or a spouse) the likelihood that you will be there when the behavior is committed is unlikely at times.


The punishment also has to have meaning.  As a kid my mom would ground me to my room for an evening.  Since I love to read and had oodles of books an evening in my room was of little to no consequence to me.  There was little to no fear of this punishment and it rarely changed my behavior.  Lucky for my mom I was a pretty good kid in general.  For several people in prison, prison has little to no meaning as a punishment.  For some it is seen as a badge of honor to be sent to prison, and for some it is seen as a means of survival.  For some it just isn’t a sufficient punishment to deter them from committing the crime.

Punishment must be enforceable.  This means that if you ground your kids, you’re grounded too.  If you ground your kids and you leave, your kids aren’t going to comply with being grounded.


When used incorrectly punishments have little to no effect and can actually make behaviors worse.  Incorrectly used punishments confuse and frustrate both animals and people, and often create only bitterness and anger.  A good example of this is the incorrect usage of “Time Out “.  Time outs are used to remove a child (young children and toddlers) from a behavior that is incorrect, giving them time to pull their behavior in to check ultimately returning to the activity (not the negative behavior though).  It can also be used to give parents a moment to manage their anger before consequences (punishments) are put in to place. Time out’s are used instead as the punishment itself.  The time out should be used as a quick “whoops!” to redirect the behavior, not to eliminate the behavior.  Punishment is then implemented after the time out, such as losing the toy they were playing with, or saying they are sorry to the playmate.


It is also necessary to know the difference between a threat and a warning.  Threats often just breed resentment.  Warnings are very different than threats. A threat is a plan to use verbal or physical violence if a behavior is continued.  A threat is also a plan that isn’t carried out.  A warning is a marker of a behavior with a notice of a consequence that will follow if the behavior is continued.  For example a threat is “You keep that up you’re gonna get it!”.  A warning is “It isn’t OK to take your sister’s toys.  If you take another toy play time is over”.

Punishments need to fit the crime and need to have meaning to the one being punished.  Taking away a cell phone because your teen cursed at you is an example of the punishment not fitting the crime.  Charging kiddo a quarter every time he curses,  or refusing to comply with requests made while cursing is an appropriate punishment.  I once worked with a family that used a belt to consequence a child because she wouldn’t wear a jacket.  This is another case of the punishment not fitting the crime.


Don’t read this and assume I believe that negative behaviors don’t need consequences.  When consequences are used correctly they teach what is OK and what isn’t to children that are still learning.  With adults consequences can deter. We get in to trouble though when we want a behavior to increase (such as cleaning a room) and we use punishment only.  Remember, punishment is to decrease a behavior.  We have to supply positive reinforcement to get the behavior we want.


Try to avoid punishing in anger as then the meaning is lost, especially as it is harder to set a reasonable punishment.  Punishments should create an understanding that the behavior was wrong, not that the punisher is a jerk.  This can be difficult when you are directly in the situation.  You enter a room to find that your kid just colored the walls with crayon and you’re probably going to get a little steamed.  At this point you are the one that needs the time out, the time away from the situation to regroup and come back in a healthy way.  When you are calm you can set a realistic punishment such a losing the crayons for the rest of the day and helping to clean the walls.


Some of the best punishments are natural consequences of a behavior.  When I was 8 I broke a neighbor’s window playing with a ball.  I had to tell the neighbor what I did, and do work to earn money to help pay for the window.  I was more careful when playing with a ball the next time.  We ultimately want to teach kids that there are natural consequences for their actions.  I don’t need to punish my kid for not wearing a jacket on a cold day, I just look at her when she complains (well, and with my sense of humor tell her how warm and toasty I am in my jacket).  I don’t need to punish my kid for not bathing or brushing their teeth, their peers will make it clear that kiddo isn’t accepted if they stink.  I don’t have to yell or switch my kid for a broken window, I need to make them pay for it themselves.  If they actually get in trouble with the law, I sponsor them as they move through the system, but the court system will punish them sufficiently for me as long as I don’t rescue them.


Punishment is only effective when used as an adjunct to positive reinforcement.  Used alone you will set both yourself and your trainee up for failure.   When you find yourself resorting to punishment frequently you will find that you are angry a great deal of the time.  When this happens you should probably take a step back, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate what you are doing that isn’t working.  Notice I said What YOU are doing, not what your trainee is doing.  Rigidity, should’s and must’s are your downfall when doing behavior modification and only sets you up for frustration.  It is better to find a behavior that you want to increase and reward that as much as possible than to punish everything you don’t want.

Giving: How much is too much?

Life is about boundaries. I saw a quote on Facebook that I have included in my arsenal as a therapist: The givers have to set boundaries because the takers never will. Our center, our pure loving soul needs to have boundaries to be safe. If we let it be completely open and vulnerable, the takers will do their best to snuff out our light. These boundaries need to be permeable though. When we build them too high, too thick, we lock out love and happiness.

We all are trying to find love and happiness. We learn from our environment and our personality different ways to find them. Some of us find happiness and feel love when taking care of others and giving of ourselves. Unfortunately some find happiness by taking what others are willing, and sometimes unwilling to give. These are people that we have to have boundaries against. Even if motivations are pure, it is easy to take advantage of someone that is willing to give. Which means that for those of us that give, it is easy to be taken advantage of, too easy to lose ourselves when we forget to take care of ourselves.

In both situations, motivations pure and otherwise, boundaries come down to staying true to ourselves. When looking at taking care of others, we have to know what we want for ourselves, then decide if we want to take care of the other person over our own needs or wants. It is difficult at times to know for sure what we want for ourselves. An example I see very often is when one partner asks the other what they want for dinner. “Hey honey, what would you like for dinner?” I got that question tonight. I wanted Freebirds or Chipotle. For years I played a game; before I thought about what I wanted, I tried to figure out what the other person would want. I didn’t want to suggest something that the other person may not want but would feel obligated to go to just because I wanted it. I didn’t give the other person credit enough to have their own boundaries and ability to speak up for themselves. I no longer play that game.

We are responsible for knowing what our own needs and wants are, along with meeting the need to help others. We can feed our souls by helping and taking care of others, and at the same time we have to make sure we are taken care of. That means sometimes putting ourselves above others, even those that I care about, even when my instinct is to help them. This is what I mean by boundaries. It is always my responsibility to make sure that I am acting within my values, needs and principles. If someone else’s needs or wants are counter to our needs, values or principles, we have to make sure to take care of ourselves.

We are all looking for happiness and love, along with getting out needs met. We are social beings, and at times we will use others to help us along the way. Not every person that is using us will be trying to hurt us, it does mean that sometimes even with good intentions we can be violated by others. We have to make sure that we have our boundaries in place so that we are taken care of. If I trust in others to take care of themselves, then I allow myself the freedom to take care of me. I am the one person that is with me from birth until death, everyone and everything else will come and go in my lifetime. If I don’t make sure I am taken care of, then who will?

Listening to our friends

Our friends know us better than anyone.  They often know us better than we know ourselves. This means though that sometimes they see the uglier parts of us.  There is a double-edged sword within this.  We get to have someone that knows us and still loves us for who we are. We also have someone that will probably call us out on our crap.


There is a part of us that doesn’t want to be seen as anything other than perfect and loveable.  This part is afraid that once we are seen, really SEEN, the person doing the seeing will walk away.  We hate the imperfect parts of ourselves, why wouldn’t they?  And why on earth would they stay once they see how horrible we are?  Well, they see you just as you see them, and they take you for who you are. Just as you take them for who they are.  Once we come to understand this, we can start to be OK when our friends see us for who we are and call us on some of the parts that aren’t as beautiful as we would like them to be.    


No one is perfect, and there are times that we need someone outside of use to help us stay on the straight and narrow.  It will rarely feel good when someone we care about does so.  It makes it even more difficult when their feedback is dead on.  Learning to swallow a little bit of pride will let us listen to those that care about use the most give feedback.  We all have room to grow.  Letting the people that know us the best give feedback will help.  It takes a level of willing vulnerability to let your friends be honest with the areas they see that aren’t that great.  It takes a really good friend too. 

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Love is opening your heart to another person and trusting they won’t stomp all over your hurts and fears with cruelty and their own pain. The longer you live the more bruises your heart accumulates and the more protections you create. When we create more and more protections we keep not only the things that will bruise us out, but the things that are kind and loving as well. We put walls and cages around our heart, isolating it from everything and everyone. It becomes very lonely.

If we want to feel connected with others, if we want to be present with the beauty of the world, we have to be open to it. That means letting go of some of the walls, and creating healthy boundaries. Instead of steel reinforced concrete walls, brick walls with doors that we can open.

There is risk with an open heart. We see more of the pain of the world, and we sometimes misjudge and let people in that aren’t save and don’t deserve access. We also see the greatness and the beauty of the world and find the people who’s hearts shine with love and beauty.

Love isn’t about worth. There is not one person on this planet that is unworthy of love, and I say that knowing that there are some truly horrible people out there. There are some people that aren’t safe to open our hearts to, and at the same time every one is deserving of love. That includes you. It is up to you to be safe enough to be let in to someone’s heart and to believe in yourself enough to be vulnerable. Love will find you when you drop the barriers that you have created against love; loving yourself and others, and letting others love you.