I was listening today to an interview of the soon-to-be 94 year old Norman Lear, the creator of such innovative American TV shows as All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, and One Day at a Time. His career spans over 50 years and he’s still going strong. When asked for his secret to happiness and success, he said, “Two words. Over and next. When … Continue reading Over and Next
When I was a girl of 9 or 10, I was the oldest of 3 sisters (eventually there would be 4 of us.) At this time, a girl I’d never met became an unexpected visitor at my house. This was rather mysterious as she’d sprung up out of nowhere. She seemed younger than I, but was quite large — tall and ungainly. My parents said she was … Continue reading Family Secrets – A Popular Pastime
What? An affair? Cheating on your spouse? Am I serious? Kevin (not real name) was a married man with 2 kids. He explained to me, “My wife is bipolar and it’s depressing to be around her. She doesn’t like me and I don’t like her. But I can’t divorce her because she’s not capable of caring for the kids alone and neither am I. She’s often in … Continue reading Can an Affair Preserve a Marriage?
If a person has a brief affair in a relationship and the affair ends, should the betraying spouse keep the secret? After all, it seems that telling this secret would needlessly hurt the spouse who was betrayed and only serve to alleviate the guilt of the spouse who cheated. Right? I once met a man, I’ll call him Peter, who had a wife, 2 children, … Continue reading Secrets – Keep them or Reveal them?
Many years ago, I navigated through a particularly rough time as a divorced mother of 2 young children. I juggled time for my kids, a full-time job, a social life, and a tough money situation. At some point, I felt so overwhelmed and miserable I decided to talk to a psychotherapist about my unbearable unhappiness. “Of course you feel terribly unhappy,” she said. “You’re going through bad times. But it’s not unbearable. You’re bearing it.” At first, I … Continue reading It’s Okay to Feel Unhappy
Recently, an old friend told me, “I’m not usually a fan of the self-help, positive stuff.” I laughed, but I knew exactly what he meant. Positive thinking self-help gurus are everywhere, like cockroaches. Sometimes they’re uplifting. Other times they do real harm. How is that possible? Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of learned optimism, which helps you cultivate an openness to life. While it’s important to be … Continue reading The Dark Side of Positive Thinking
Every kid eventually discovers this trick. We used to call it “reverse psychology.” Psychotherapists call it a “paradoxical intervention.” Mark Twain says it best in the story of Tom Sawyer and the fence that Aunt Polly made him whitewash on a beautiful summer day. We’re all familiar with how the clever Tom lit upon the idea of bamboozling his friends to not only paint the fence for him, but to pay for … Continue reading Whitewashing Tom Sawyer’s Fence
As we travel through life we learn techniques for dealing with other people. We learn those techniques from parents, friends, teachers, characters in books, movies, TV, and experience. Sometimes we make it up and try something new just to see what happens. When I was a young girl I watched a lot of old romantic movies. I saw that when a man was rude to a woman, she would … Continue reading Emotional Blackmail
A woman came to me for counseling to help her leave her marriage. “What I really want,” she said, “is to leave my 3 kids, my job, and my town, but I’ll start with my husband.” I asked her questions about the simplest areas of her life. Eating habits, exercise, use of medications, drugs, alcohol, and overall general health. She wanted to complain about her 3 overwhelming children and … Continue reading Sleep Deprivation Messes with Your Mind
A friend asked me how I knew when a piece of my writing was good. I told her that when I finish a first draft (or 2nd, 3rd, …) I always think it’s garbage. She looked shocked and asked, “Do you revise it a lot?” I nodded. “But how do you know when you’ve revised it enough and it’s finished?” Accomplished writers will tell you to let the work … Continue reading When to Move On – in Writing and Life