Whitewashing Tom Sawyer’s Fence

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

Emotional Blackmail

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

How do others see us?

We think we know how other people see us, but this view is only a projection of our own self-image. It fluctuates over time. Sometimes we think we look hot, sometimes ghastly. We’re proud we sounded so smart, or we want to crawl under an invisibility cloak when we’ve acted like an idiot. As a psychotherapist I spend my time watching and listening to people, deciding what I could say or … Continue reading How do others see us?

Changing the Horror Movie in your Head

Anxiety is a hum of fear that vibrates underneath your every day experience and blows up into visions that can derail your day and your life. A client told me it was impossible for her to use an elevator because her fear strangled her. She vowed never to step into one. She once had to walk up 20 flights of stairs for an interview. She was sweat-soaked and disheveled and didn’t get the … Continue reading Changing the Horror Movie in your Head

Musicals begin with an “I wish” Song

Today, on This American Life, I learned about the “I wish” song in movie and Broadway musicals. The main character sets the story in motion by singing about their fondest hope for themselves. 3 of my favorites are Somewhere over the Rainbow, in The Wizard of Oz; Wouldn’t it be Loverly, in My Fair Lady; Tomorrow, in Annie. This reminded me of our own lives. … Continue reading Musicals begin with an “I wish” Song

Tricking Myself out of Fear

I was feeling as if life had passed me by and it was too late to do anything truly great. I tuned into an interview of the filmmaker Richard Linklater on NPR, and felt even more of a failure. He’d accomplished so much and I hadn’t. (It’s a great habit comparing yourself to successful people if you want to create paralysis.)

In thinking about my past life, I decided I fell far short of my dreams. I was clueless about what I wanted for my future life. That’s not exactly true. I knew exactly what I wanted but I was terrified I would fail. Continue reading Tricking Myself out of Fear