What We Can Learn from the Two Biggest Mistakes Parents Make

I’m a parent and I know I have been guilty of making mistakes. Many mistakes. That’s part of the parenting process. We are all fallible human beings, yet hopefully we are sincerely Love-1833162_1920trying to do our best. Part of doing our best is being open to learning how to improve. Two of the biggest mistakes many parents tend to make is knowing how to listen to children and knowing what to control.

The first mistake is when parents cross boundaries and become controlling and overly intrusive in a child’s life (telling them what they think or what to feel, confiding in them like a friend, not respecting their bodies and personal space).

The other mistake is not controlling a child’s behavior.

Go ahead and re-read the previous two paragraphs to see if you can genuinely discern the difference. Some of you can. Some of you may have a hard time understanding the difference. That’s okay. You might have been raised that way or simply never learned. So, let’s give a clearer example.

Imagine your child doesn’t want to go to bed. You tell them it’s bedtime and they become physically squirmy and cry out with a whining high-pitched voice, that hurts your ears like nails dragging across a chalkboard, “I don’t want to go to bed.”

How do you respond?

It’s important to recognize that a child is conveying their feelings. Many parents bypass the child’s feelings and go straight into a battle of wills. Recognizing the difference between expressions of feelings and actions is one of the biggest causes of conflict between people (of all ages). If I tell you how I feel and you tell me not to feel that feeling, my defenses creep up. It’s a natural human response. I no longer feel safe and heard—and unfortunately very few people can genuinely listen when they are in a defensive/guarded state.

Let’s circle back to the child’s response. Is it at all possible, you (as the parent) feel triggered into a defensive stance when you hear any sense of perceived opposition to your authority?

While I’m going to share the lesson about listening and offer dialogue tips, the real key to the parent-child dynamic comes from a parent’s own defensive and fearful stance. Parents want to do well and can get afraid when their child doesn’t appear to listen. Some parents respond to that inner fear by becoming even more authoritative (aka bullyish to abusive) or they give in and falsely believe that leniency is love (aka neglect). Believe it or not, children thrive with clear rules and immovable boundaries. It provides a needed sense of safety.

To combat this fear, parents might need to do some inner work to cultivate calm confidence and consistency in the boundaries they employ. Parents can also benefit from learning how to listen (to children, to their own inner voice, and to other people). So, let’s go back to the child’s statement that they don’t want to go to bed.

Listen for the feeling. Try to empathize with their perspective for a moment. Of course, they don’t want to go to bed when everyone else is up. They might miss out on something important. They may even feel lonely and like they’re being banished into solitary confinement (especially if going to bed has habitually been precipitated with an argument…which sets up larger power struggles in the future). Once you’ve accessed their expressed desire or feeling, REPEAT IT to them so they feel heard.

“I understand you want to stay awake with us.”

Now, with confidence, remember you are their parent. You are in charge of their behavior. Not their feelings. Respond with the rule. (If you have been battling over this for quite some time, it will take a bit of time to re-establish a new norm—yet it will surprisingly go a lot faster when the child senses you are taking real authority without hurting, dismissing, or giving in to them.)

“It’s 8:00 and it’s your bedtime. Let’s go wash up.”

Note that it helps to create bedtime rituals where you join them in washing up and reading them a bedtime book. They feel less lonely and it helps positive bonding while fostering trust and future resilience. If they fall asleep before the book is over, okay. Yet, try not to get in the habit of waiting for them to fall asleep. One book or X min of reading as a consistent rule. If they are still awake, kiss them on the forehead and then leave the room.

If you’ve struggled for a while, hang in there. Be consistent. Be kind. Be fair. Be strong. LISTEN. Don’t confuse feelings and expressions of desire with action. REPEAT the feeling or desire you heard so people feel understood. Then appropriately reinforce a consistent rule. Respect their boundaries and feelings. Practice this with others. (Knowing that you don’t control other people’s actions, yet you do teach people how to treat you…more about that in a future post.)

Addressing the Healthcare Burnout Epidemic

Healthcare and psychology practitioners are facing increasing burnout rates in record numbers, so much so that the American Psychiatric Association focused their 2017 annual conference on the “burnout epidemic.” It has only continued to escalate. The 1,710,000 psychology professionals and 12 million+ healthcare workers in the United States provide an essential service to the population. They heal. They listen. More often than not, they genuinely care. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link then a community might be similarly threatened by its weaker and more vulnerable members. That's why it helps to remember the importance healers have in our communities.

While I urge healers to take their own medicine and practice self-care (get balance in other areas of life, find support, take breaks, take care of your body, take care of your mind—and spirit), I suspect another contributing factor is the attitude a community has about its healers. Are healers supported, valued and appreciated? Or are they the target of criticism and contempt because insurance plans don't cover something someone needs? Are healers discounted because they are part of a "Western Medicine" and "Big Pharma" giant that is taking money from innocent people and making them sicker?

Is the dominant narrative around medicine consumed with fear, mistrust and resentment?

I observe frightened and angered people every day. People don't know what to trust or who they can count on. Instead, people tend to flock to the Internet and diagnose themselves at an almost compulsive level. Armed with reams of online results and haughty know-it-all and defensive attitudes, more and more people jadedly tell their medical professionals what is wrong with them and what to do. Hopefully, a good practitioner can listen without defense and seek to inform, help and heal in a way that earns trust.

Sometimes, the burden of endlessly soothing defensive people can take a toll. In addition, healthcare workers get exposed to repeated traumas and run the risk of suffering re-traumatization of personal wounds along with vicarious suffering. Long hours and back-to-back one-way relationships add to the burnout. The career is strife for burnout. Greeting disgruntled patients just makes it worse.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would make sure that every person in the community was safe and that the relationship between healer and community member could be restored to one of mutual safety, mutual care, genuine connection, and positive healing outcomes. That both people would leave the interaction feeling lighter, freer, happier, healthier--and grateful. 

Joseph Campbell said, "One of our problems today is that we are not acquainted with the literature of the spirit. We're interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour."

I think he taps into this grander issue. The real healing comes from each person's inner spirit. It is in connecting to the spirit (the heart) that forgiveness and healing emanate. It is where loving and grateful discourse is born. We can do this one person at a time. One heart hug from one person to another. One moment of listening. One moment of respect. One moment of forgiveness.

To my almost 2 million psychology colleagues and 12+ million healthcare workers (and all those around the world) and to every other person around the planet who makes up our Earth community, I send you these Spirit-filled wishes of healing, love, peace, forgiveness, and more. May we each seek to become acquainted with the literature of our—and our bothers' and sisters'—SPIRITS. Perhaps when burnout, illness and discord arise, it can serve as a wake-up call to get re-centered into Spirit and cultivate a spirit-focused interaction.

Essential Self-Care for the Holidays & New Year

As we head into Christmas, I wanted to offer this post for anyone out there who is feeling sadness over the holidays. First, it helps to know that you're not alone and that many people feel blues during this time. It's a hectic season filled with a rush to get things done and expectations to give presents, visit family and be in good cheer--oh, and don't forget to be spiritual! 

A classic double bind up is set as people voice disdain about the commercialism of spiritual holy days like Hanukkah and Christmas while the marketplace gets flooded with ads promising happiness, joy and familial bliss if you purchase certain products. They manipulate with messages that it's the season of giving. To give is good, right? 

Not to mention the stress that comes with hunting for sales. If you shop correctly, you can take advantage of deep discounts that purportedly happen only one time of year. If you don't, you're probably dumb with money. The internal judge gets so loud that it practically drowns out the ads. Then it chimes in about the quality of the gift you give. Will they know that you only spent 99 cents? Is it worth it? What about when you spend $50 on that toy and it gets ignored after it's opened? Is it worth it? 

Then there's the judgement about who you're going to give presents to and who you won't. Or how about the dreaded inevitable inequity that repeatedly occurs when someone else has gifted you and you didn't get something for them? Or they clearly spent far more money on your item than you spent on theirs (perhaps they're just better at getting to those sales and they won't realize you spent the full price on that handmade soap). How about when they give you something cheap and you spent a fortune on their gift when you make much less money than they do? The indignance! (The internal critical judge is getting fed and swelling more and more like the 1950's sci-fi alien Blob).

At some point, shopping for others turns into a personal shopping trip because everything you ever wanted is suddenly at your fingertips and it fits perfectly and is on sale. Maybe a little shopping for oneself isn't so bad. ("You are so selfish," whispers something from deep inside.)

Of course there's far more to the shopping dynamic and we haven't even touched on family dynamics, winter blues, and how expectations to be happy set us up to be completely unhappy. Or how focusing on a future date (Christmas, the New Year) tends to pull us out of the moment. Plus, we're reminded of the year's past as its end comes hurling at our door whether we're ready for it or not. Why is everyone celebrating the New Year when it also marks the end (death) of a year?

Getting the picture that there's a perfect storm for a mini existential crisis during this time? Or a full-fledged large one? No wonder depression and suicide is at it's peak during December & January.

So, here's my advice--realize you're not crazy and these multiple dynamics converge, making things genuinely difficult. Be gentle with yourself and try to feed self-compassion over the inner critic. You can pray for guidance on the gift-giving and maybe set up some boundaries with your loved ones about the amount you'll spend. Regarding the end of the year and ringing in of a new one, take time to honor your path and feel the grief from any losses. Maybe you can have a private ceremony where you light a candle and say goodbye to the past year and any losses you experienced (loved ones, homes, jobs, friends, dreams, innocence, etc.) for unexpressed grief has a way of backfiring and leaving us in a darker state. Then set an intention for the new year based on self-care attitudes like feeling gratitude, forgiving and letting go of resentments, being fully present in the moment, accepting others for who they are, and loving without attachment and expectations.

If you want suggestions for handling family, you can check out my post on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201712/how-can-i-fix-my-family

Also, beware of masking grief with alcohol and prescription medication. You can read about the growing addiction phenomenon here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201711/drug-overdoses-are-leading-cause-death-those-under-50

One thing that emerged in 2017 was the joining of women who found their voices and declared NO to sexual harassment and assault. I'm so proud of all the men and women that have come together to enforce respectful and healthy boundaries. It goes for therapists as well. You can read about avoiding harassment from a therapist here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys/201710/if-your-therapist-harasses-you-metoo

All of my Psychology Today posts can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys

Thank you for reading and for allowing me the great honor to share in the healing journey with you. 

Ways to Help in Natural Disasters

With more than 70 people dead and billions of dollars of damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the full impacts of both disasters are still being tallied. Hurricane Harvey saturated parts of Texas and Louisiana with 27 trillion gallons of water and Houston received a whopping 53 inches of rain. Two weeks later, Houston's floodwater is contaminated with E. coli and heavy metals and draining very slowly. CNN reported that Hurricane Irma left a "nuclear landscape" in the Caribbean. On top of that, 61 people were killed by an unprecedented 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, the strongest of its kind in 100 years. Additionally, 65 ongoing fires in the West Coast have posed serious threats, burning everything in its path, wreaking havoc on air quality, and saturating the sky with massive ash like snowflakes in a winter snow storm. 

As people look alarmingly at global warming and feel overwhelmed at what to do to help others directly impacted by natural disasters, here are some things you can do (which can help you feel good by contributing to a solution while helping others at the same time):


> Consider donating to the Red Cross--as a volunteer or through valuable blood and monetary donations. 

> Get involved with other local community or church groups that are working on a mission of rebuilding.

> Volunteer at an emergency shelter near you.

> Donate essential items, like toiletries, food items, clothing, and replacement furniture.

> Help with childcare, play activities, helping with homework, and/or reading to kids at shelters.

> Foster displaced children and/or pets.

> Contribute to lessening your carbon footprint on the planet by investing in solar power and alternative energies.

> Get involved with local conservation groups in your area and do your part to reduce, recycle and reuse.

> Pray and/or send positive thoughts/energy to all around you, including Mother Earth... as Gandhi said, "Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. When properly understood and applied, it is the most potent form of action."

The Dangerous Cost of People-Pleasing

UnhappyWhere do you fit on the scale of people pleasing? How does it impact what you do in your career and your relationships?

Belonging is fundamental need, so doing anything to disrupt one’s state of belonging can be frightening. People want to be liked and often adopt manners and behaviors to fit in. It's normal and how cultural mores are born. However, seeking to make others happy at the expense of your deeper convictions can only lead to resentment and grief. This can often be seen when trying to fulfill a parent’s wishes over one’s real desires.

As CG Jung said, "Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of a parent.”

Like all things, there is a continuum to pursuing one’s own interests and serving others. Ironically, it can be just as selfish to sacrifice and make others happy because you want them to like or approve of you.

The key is to check in with your motives and seek behaviors and goals that align with your vision, values and enhance your self-respect. If you're not sure, try writing a list of your parents' values and wishes (or your boss' or a loved one's) and then write your personal list and see how they compare. 

The Tactics Narcissists and other Crazymakers Employ to Manipulate You

I hope everyone is having a great summer. It has been HOT here in Texas. With heat comes a lot of extra stress and studies have revealed that road rage and other stress factors can increase in the heat. Some of the reactions can be physiological as many get overheated, dehydrated, and their adrenals get overtaxed, leading to heightened emotional reactions. Sometimes, however, people are not nice at all. In fact, they can be downright crazymakers. Following is an excerpt about Crazymakers from my Ten Keys to Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle book. An updated and revised edition will be out soon. In the meantime, you can take advantage of an Amazon special this weekend and get a free e-version of the 1st edition. Click here to order. 

Read on to learn about the different type of crazymakers and the typical tactics they employ to manipulate others. Don't forget to check out my other posts on Psychology Today. Nine types of love, modern childrearing, communicating through conflict, and finding sanity in political chaos are a few of the topics.


A mother gave her son two ties for an upcoming family occasion. She then got mad at him when he showed up at the party wearing one of the ties. She wanted him to wear the other one. Years later after the son had grown up and married, he presented his wife with two dresses for their anniversary dinner. He then got upset with her for wearing the wrong dress of the two. A few years later, after they had a daughter, the wife accused the daughter of hugging the wrong parent first—even if the little girl switched whom she hugged each time.

Crazy-makers come in all shapes and sizes and can have good and bad intentions. Some know they are being manipulative and oppressive while others haven’t a clue. Some engage in tactics consistently and others provide intermittent surprise attacks. The challenge is to recognize the behavior, assess if it’s from a healthy or unhealthy place, and then employ the proper strategies to stay sane and empower yourself.

First, let’s look at the definition of crazymaking. Crazymaking is when a person sets you up to lose. Much like the example above—you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You’re in a lose-lose situation, but too many games are being played to help you reason yourself out of it. There is no rhyme or reason or emotional-understanding with a crazy-maker. Worse, when the behavior is stealth and so confusing, it becomes easy to feel crazy. It feels like you’re caught in a whirlwind of chaos with the life force being sucked from you as you are manipulated with nonstop crazy-making tactics.

Key: Consider if You're Dealing with a Crazymaker 


The granddaddy of all crazy-makers is the narcissist. Narcissists cannot empathize with anyone, meaning they cannot relate to another person’s feelings. They can only feel their own wants and needs. They are emotionally stunted, like a perpetual demanding two-year old. It is always about them. However, they can be extremely charming and charismatic, as they have learned how to be the greatest salespeople to get their needs met. These shallow con artists can charm and mimic compassion for brief moments in order to get their needs satisfied. They expect only the best and can be the most materialistic—demanding trophy-relationships, endless objects of success, only well-known acquaintances, top-notch services, lavish vacations, etc. They have disdain for emotions in others and often think even less of people close to them. They try to control everyone around them and will use every available tactic to gain control. Many high-ranking executives are narcissists and consequently tend to create a narcissistic culture in their company or division.


Another famous crazy-maker is the drama-cultivator. Whether histrionic or borderline or a version of other similar diagnosable personalities, the drama-cultivator is best known for their perpetual crises. They are like Chicken-Little screaming “THE SKY IS FALLING,” but they expect YOU to fix it. Now. On their time. On their terms. Some people do experience an excess of rough times (and statistically it’s true that A LOT of crises can happen in one burst), but the drama-cultivator has an overabundance of crises. Plus, EVERYTHING is a crisis for the drama-cultivator. They expend their energy AND YOURS by responding to crises. They cannot empathize with others because they are too wrapped up in their chaos. Yet, they need you and your energy and don’t want you to leave them, so they go to great lengths to get and keep your attention. Like a wounded child, they also swing from loving and supporting you to getting angry and detesting you. Their moods and responses are inconsistent and dealing with them feels like you are walking in a field of hidden landmines.


The final crazy-maker is the stealth-bomber. They are the passive-aggressives that look like roses compared to the narcissist and drama-cultivator, but beware of their sharp thorns. These highly dependent people try to please you, but the nice things they do have a cost. They are the martyr that keeps score. Like a stealth bomber, just when you think everything is okay, they get you. Their modus operandi is to sabotage you while they look innocent. For instance, they will commit to doing something when they really don’t want to do it and then consistently bail out at the last minute. Or they’ll conveniently forget. Perhaps they’ll run late and miss the deadline. Everyone has these experiences now and again, but stealth-bombers do it ALL the time and they get YOU to feel guilty about it. They will make up excuses with the most ambiguous details and then sulk and act like a victim if you get upset. They will conveniently lose items, forget dates, miss deadlines, ruin plans, and then become sad and withdrawn because they’ve tried so hard. Whether it’s a narcissist, drama-cultivator or stealth-bomber, it is critical to ascertain if your power struggle stems from one of these crazy-makers. If so, empathy and rational problem-solving will not work (although paying attention to your own hot buttons is still key because crazy-makers have a keen ability to immediately spot your hot buttons and use them against you). Additional strategies are going to have to be used.


It is imperative to know if you’re dealing with a crazy-maker in the first place. However, the tendency is to be a little blind to this possibility if it’s a loved one or someone close. People seem to resist such a notion, so they end up taking the person’s behavior personally. They believe that the crazy-maker in their life could change if they wanted to change. They also expect the crazy-maker to play by the same communication and etiquette “rules” as everyone else, but they can’t. Let me repeat that again—CRAZY-MAKERS DON’T PLAY BY THE SAME RULES AS YOU. They simply don’t experience the world in the same way. It is as if they are dancing to a different song. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and energy if you realize this now and stop trying to make the crazy-maker in your life dance to your song.


The double-bind sets you up to lose. It can be like the example in the beginning where the mother gives two ties to her son and then gets mad at him for selecting to wear the wrong tie of the two. It can also be as subtle as a person giving a scolding look while saying, “I love you.” Another example is the ever-famous situation with two siblings and report cards. One has made all A’s and the other all C’s and D’s. The parent responds with “I know you did you’re best. Not everyone can be as smart and great as Johnny who makes all A’s,” which puts both siblings in a double-bind with each other. Double-binds are negative messages disguised in a positive message or gesture. The insult about choosing the wrong tie is cloaked in the gift of the tie. The son is trapped because if he complains, she can say he doesn’t appreciate the gift. The “I love you” is coupled with an angry look, so one is prevented from addressing the look because the counter-argument might be, “But I said ‘I LOVE YOU’.” Finally, both siblings are in a bind from saying anything to their mother about the grades as the punch in the stomach is hidden with supposed praise. Double-binds happen all of the time. Start paying attention and you’ll be appalled by the frequency. Crazy-makers employ this tactic most often. So, what do you do? The answer lies in boundary strategies at the end of this section.


Crazy-makers are superior at giving inconsistent praise. Narcissists, drama-cultivators and stealth-bombers are adept at keeping you on your toes and getting you to beg for their praise. There’s even a scientific explanation for it. Inconsistent praise tends to elicit desired behavior the most. As an example, numerous animal researchers have discovered that the best way to train an animal is with an inconsistent reward. Yes, an inconsistent reward produces the most compliant behavior in animals. That is why gambling can be so addictive because it provides an inconsistent reward. We literally get hooked. Crazy-makers have somehow figured this out and provide the people around them with inconsistent praise. Sometimes they are just so loving, present and/or flattering that it feels good. Then it’s gone. Some people get hooked and continue to put up with crazy-making behavior because they are waiting for the payoffs—the praise. In fact, crazy-maker’s praise probably does feel better than the person who is consistent with it. But, like gambling, it can be an addictive high that also has a queasy, unsettling feeling to it along with a high cost.


Crazy-makers have selective memories. We all do, but crazy-makers are exceptional with it. They conveniently forget any problems you’ve had with them when they want something from you. Then they throw every wrong you’ve ever done in your face when they are upset with you. Like above, it’s inconsistent. You never know what your review will be like because you’ve learned that it depends on their mood. You know that the only thing you can depend on with a crazy-maker is that you can’t depend on them. They will hold a grudge against you and then expect you to forget any disruptions. They will manipulate like crazy and use their selective memory as ammunition.


Crazy-makers can not empathize. This is how you really know that you’re dealing with a crazy-maker because they will simply not be able to understand your feelings or situation. They might try to and give you a sense that they understand, but they can’t sit with it very long and generally turn the conversation back onto their feelings or situation. This is an important point. Empathy is a developmental trait. A child at 4 years begins to play with others in a more cooperative fashion for the first time. Prior to that, children play with themselves. If they are with other children, they are most likely playing in an individual fashion while sitting next to other children, referred to as serial play. That’s normal because they haven’t developmentally learned to share and take turns. Such skills kick in at around the fourth year. Empathy begins at this time as well. You’ll see evidence of empathy when you watch a child trying to calm down another crying child by giving them a hug. Typically, a crazy-maker personality has not developed empathy, so they are more like a perpetual two-year old at an emotional level. Knowing this is critical to protecting yourself in a power struggle with them. Keeping strong boundaries is key to dealing with a crazy-maker.

Learn what you can do to protect yourself from crazymakers along with other strategies for staying empowered in power struggles in my book. Order this weekend and get a FREE e-version on Amazon.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May mental health monthWorld Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Deterioration of mental health is caused by as many external factors as internal ones... it takes a community solution where we embrace each other with tolerance, love, dignity, respect and where we help each other - in spite of our differences.

Bullying, discrimination and oppression create self-abuse as much as self-abuse can lead to outward abusive behavior. Err on the side of love....that's where healing, resilience and hope grow.

See if you can use this month to do at least one loving thing for yourself and for someone else and the community where you reside. Then let's see what flowers bloom.

Quick tricks to help a panic attack and/or reduce anger and fear

This post complements my most recent post in Psychology Today that addresses Communicating through Conflict. (click title link to read)

The article describes how we can get into a state of fear or defensiveness when our basic needs of survival (food, shelter, love, safety and security) are threatened.

In today's world, such threats include job security, divorce and abandonment, cyber-bullying, racial-profiling, safety to love our loved ones, freedom to be our authentic selves, and even fear about our Soul's afterlife when religious attacks ensue.

Whatever the trigger, most everyone has experienced the emotional hijacking that comes from some kind of threat. The reptilian brain reactions of fight, flight or freeze can be alleviated by calming down and re-engaging your frontal lobe. To do that, try these quick tricks to redirect your neural pathways:

  • Take four long deep breaths (inhaling and exhaling to the count of five).
  • Look at the room around you and name the colors you see.
  • Clap your hands or snap your fingers.
  • Do the multiplication table in your head.
  • Recite the alphabet.
  • Say a positive mantra that you compose just for these situations, such as "I am safe and grateful and am learning something new from this situation."
  • Recite a meaningful poem or quote.
  • Stretch your body.
  • Smell an essential oil like lavendar or vanilla.
  • Massage your hands and temples.
  • Pray.

The list can go on and please feel free to share anything that has worked for you. The trick is to help disrupt your body's arousal system and regain better control, so that you can respond instead of reacting. Of course, please note panic attacks are not always curbed once the full attack has set in. Please be gentle with yourself and seek medical attention as needed. This list is not meant to suggest that it replaces any medical advice and/or medications from your doctors.


Breaking Suicide Myths and Help for Survivors & Prevention

Person drinking suicideOut of love for a dear person who killed himself, I feel compelled to share the following state resources and address a few myths...

  1. Sometimes there are warnings, many times there are not...it can be an impulsive act in the moment...which is important as the surviving loved ones are filled with grief on what they could have done to prevent it.

  2. More than 2/3 of firearms deaths are suicides, with an 85% success rate..more than 1/2 of suicides are from firearms.

  3. 70% of suicides occur at home and alcohol is involved.

  4. People do not commit cancer or depression and they do not commit suicide, they kill themselves...so avoid saying someone "committed suicide".

  5. Survivors of suicide are deeply impacted as they go through complex grief and trauma stages...remember that everyone grieves in their own way and there is no time limit, the best thing you can offer is to ask how you can help and to be there to listen without the use of clichés or trying to fix it.

  6. Suicide is doubly compounded by the fear of where the soul goes in the afterlife...some theologians describe it as part of a complex disease that is not punished. My personal belief is in a loving afterlife that heals all souls... 

Regardless, suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem. Please seek help.

The following link has great resources and prevention programs for each state. http://www.sprc.org/states

Understanding Despair, Grief & the Pain of Rejection

GriefFather of logotherapy and concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl, said, “Despair is suffering without meaning.”  

Forlorn comedic writer and actor, Woody Allen, said, ““To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

The Buddhist "four noble truths" state: 1) existence is suffering ( dukhka ); 2) suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment ( trishna ); 3) there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and 4)there is a path to the cessation of suffering—nonattachment.

How ever you roll the proverbial dice, pain is an inherent part of life. From the moment we are born, both the baby and its mother are contorted into physical pains that are so intense, the mind is wired to suppress the memory of the pain.

The emotional pain that follows if the baby is abandoned or neglected can impede the baby’s self-soothing mechanisms and lead to a lifetime of more intense grief to losses—perceived or real.

There is also a hefty amount of research that suggests the cumulative amount of losses in one’s life can take a toll. Add aging, diminishing hormones and declining organ resilience and the bounce back to loss can be more challenging.

One thing I want to point out is that the pain from loss and grief is real. Many can imagine what isolation does when a person is subjected to solitary confinement. Or recall dogs that have been left in cages and begin chasing their tales and exhibiting other anxious symptoms. The loss from the death of a loved one or losing a job or the rejection of a cherished family member, friend, or beloved creates a similar dynamic.

To illustrate it with another example, there was an old Japanese experiment that demonstrated the impact of others on rice. Three jars were filled with fresh picked rice. One was placed in a dark closet by itself. The other two were placed next to each other. The words, “I love you” were taped to one jar while the words, “I hate you” were placed on the second jar.

After one month, the rice that held the words, “I love you” was still fresh and smelled sweet as if it had just been picked. The second jar of rice with the “I hate you” note had rotted, turning black and smelling foul. The observation is that loving attention can sustain us in ways that aid our health and longevity. Negative attention can harm us. This is where the lesson from the third jar comes into play.

The third jar that was segregated in a closet by itself had rotted almost immediately, and far sooner than the jar with the “I hate you” sign. Isolation, abandonment, and despair from loss can be real—and the most damning experience.

It can cause a host of ailments, including anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases—death. Death can be as sudden as heartbreak syndrome or suicide, or slower from a deteriorating illness.

Finding ways to process the grief and loss are as important as finding supportive relationships around you. It is also essential that you honor your own personal path to healing and give yourself space to realize there is no one right way or timeline.

Sometimes the people we most care about may be not be there the way we want or need them to be. This can happen because the pain and loss brings up their own losses or fears of losses, so they can’t handle your pain. Finding others with similar losses can help in such situations, along with support groups. Or finding new friends by seeking out passions and hobbies like, painting classes, sculpting, hiking clubs, bird watching, yoga, cycling, martial arts, and the list goes on. Fill in the list with something you’ve never tried!

Also, it is okay to protect your boundaries when people tell you “should” or “must” as in, “You should do…” or “You must do…” because those often signal that its their own internal scripts, or parental introjects, and many times it may not even apply to you.

The big thing is that being pushed to heal tends to backfire, so gently informing others that you’re not going to get over it (like in the death of a loved one) and that you thank them for trying can help teach them. In time, you’ll find and develop ways and relationships to help you get through it.

Acknowledging your pain, processing it, cultivating positive relationships, and finding meaning are the steps for healing and growth. Spirituality is often at the heart of the deeper healing—and studies reveal prayer and meditation helps to heal bodies and minds in innumerable and unexplainable ways.

Cicero wrote in 44 B.C. as he was approaching his own death, “While we are trapped within these earthly frames of ours, we carry out a heavy labor imposed on us by fate. Indeed, the soul Is a heavenly thing come down from the celestial realm, pressed down and plunged into the earth, contrary to its divine and eternal nature. But I believe the immortal gods planted souls in human bodies to have beings who would care for the earth and who would contemplate the divine order and imitate it in the moderation and discipline of their own lives.”

He proceeds to cite a number of great thinkers that believed the same thing. Whether it is belief in fate, the soul, an eternal heavenly place, or just the mystery of not knowing, the belief in a higher purpose tends to provide the deepest healing to the severest of losses.

Genius physicist, Albert Einstein, wrote, “There are only two ways to live your live. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

The death, loss, or rejection may bring pain. The pain is real and deep and through the journey of it, may the ethereal miracle of the shattered pain be like the seed that is destroyed to make room for the emerging plant. May your despair heal through all the necessary steps that lead to your personal and wonderful seedling.

Rebooting Psychology & Health Blog

I started this blog almost a decade ago to provide information to clients that reinforced some of the things we were working on in therapy and to give general guidance on many of life's topics. As a natural health practitioner, I have shared some posts on natural rememdies. Of course, my research and thoughts continue to evolve in this area. As a professional blogger for Psychology Today, I have seriously neglected my own blog and would like to rectify that...especially in today's turbulent poltical times. Please know this is a place for healing - for all people from all walks of life. 

If you want to read any posts on Psychology Today, you can visit www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys. Post there include the First Amendment, Women in Leadership, Nine Types of Love, and Child Abuse to name a few. More will be posted here, so thank you for reading and checking back.

Discover Your Personal Vitamin Rx

It’s difficult to write about natural remedies without addressing a core issue that leads to so many health problems—improper nutrition.


Much of the popular American fare (i.e., processed sugary snacks in a box like meal replacement bars, cereal, pop tarts, etc., and fast food burgers and fries) is lacking in necessary vitamins and minerals. Consequently, people tend to eat more in the body’s desperation to obtain nutrients.


The problem: More food equals more calorie consumption which can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases the body’s need for nutrition. The resulting vicious cycle can create obesity and starvation because the body’s real nutritional needs aren’t met—in spite of food consumption.


Hunger and cravings attack and emotional helplessness and self-flagellation set in. It’s a debilitating process that many can’t understand. Shaming someone for their hunger doesn’t work; it simply exacerbates the problem because the cortisol that comes from the stress of feeling shamed saps the body’s last nutritional stores and whips the adrenals into fatigue. It is like being a lone soldier on the battlefront—without a team to cover one’s back. Isolation leads to more stress and the emotional comfort of food masks the real instigator—nutritional starvation.


A billion-dollar diet industry has blossomed and is filled with experts telling people how to eat and what to eat; yet the problem persists. In an earlier post, I share that there is not a perfect diet solution for everyone because our bodies metabolize food differently. While a raw food diet works great for some people, another person may thrive on a protein-based, lower carbohydrate diet. There is a simple metabolic test I recommend in order to find out how your body processes food. I’d beware of any diet or nutrition expert that only advocates one kind of diet plan and that doesn’t give you a metabolic assessment first. See my previous post to learn more: http://kimberlykey.typepad.com/kimberlykey/2014/07/let-your-body-tell-you-what-to-feed-it-understanding-your-personal-metabolism-.html


Like the metabolic test that addresses how your body processes food, I have discovered a test that can assess your personal nutrition needs. What really excites me about this test is that it takes any existing medical conditions into consideration and provides nutritional needs based on your current health while giving vitamin & supplement solutions THAT DON’T INTERFERE WITH ANY OF YOUR MEDICATIONS. This is so huge. Even with training in toxicology, I personally get lured into wanting to take additional supplements to fix all of my ailments (or to prevent them) and I can seriously risk taking over the counter ‘natural’ supplements that dangerously interact with each other or with my prescriptions. It’s so difficult because many of the nutrition sales agents (and doctors) can’t keep track of simple contraindications of vitamins and supplements—AND MEDS. This test has a fantastic database with all of this knowledge and can recommend what you need without any dangerous consequences. It’s all HIPPAA compliant and the vitamins and supplements they supply are all top of the line pharmaceutical-grade quality. Best news is the test is for free. After a year of scrutinizing the company, I finally signed up as a distributor, so you can take the free test on my site: KimberlyKey.IDLife.com


There’s a 30-day money back guarantee, so try a 29-day challenge…take the test and try the nutritional supplements they recommend for 29 days. See how you feel and notice if cravings have diminished. Take note how your joints feel. Has energy increased? Is skin more supple and are wounds healing faster? Do you find you’re actually eating less and feeling more sated? Have stomachaches and headaches decreased? Has your mood improved? Does the world seem just a little bit better than it did before? That’s what meeting your nutritional needs feels like.:)


 Please let me know if you have any questions at Kimberly AT EncompassWF dot com.

Take Two Potassiums and Call Me in the Morning

Romantic dinner picThere’s nothing more anticlimactic to a romantic date over an indulgent dinner than getting swollen feet and legs from too much salt in the meal. Water retention. Not cute. Not comfortable. Not healthy. 

Before you give in to a ruined night and try to seclude yourself from your partner, try taking a potassium chloride supplement and guzzling a large glass of water. In 20 minutes you’ll be restored and the swelling will be gone. You can then resume cuddling  comfortably with your partner and enjoying the rest of your evening.

Potassium is a powerful need that often gets overlooked. Many have heard to eat a banana when dehydrated because the banana has potassium in it. Most people don't drink enough water and suffer from a chronic state of dehydration - and therefore low potassium.

In addition, the downside and danger of low-carb diets is that potassium gets even more depleted in the body. Because the body is in ketosis (fat-burning lypolysis mode instead glucosis), glycogen stores in the muscles are diminished along with the body’s electrolyte balance of potassium, magnesium and chloride. Therefore, low-carb dieters need extra supplementation to restore the balance.

Suffer from high blood pressure? The American Heart Association points out the need for potassium in the diet due to its ability to decrease unhealthy sodium and its powerful ability to relax blood vessel walls, which thereby reduces blood pressure. Nice!

So, while old school docs used to say, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” perhaps the 21st century dictum is to take two potassiums.

Here are the FDA recommendations for Potassium:


Adequate Intake (AI)


0-6 months

400 mg/day

7-12 months

700 mg/day

1-3 years

3,000 mg/day

4-8 years

3,800 mg/day

9-13 years

4,500 mg/day

14 years and up

4,700 mg/day


18 years and up

4,700 mg/day

Pregnant women

4,700 mg/day

Breastfeeding women

5,100 mg/day


While I have heard that potassium is generally low in most people’s diets and that overdose from it can be rare, it can happen - especially in people with kidney disease or heart patients on certain common medications. In such cases, potassium overdose can be life threatening due to potential for fatal heart rhythms. Please consult your doctor to determine your needs and if any of your medications and supplements have any contraindications with each other. 

Substitutes for Satisfying Cravings

Cravings can wreak havoc on a diet. Here’s how to work with them rather than against them.


Have you ever experienced any of the following scenarios?


~It’s late at night and you’re watching a gripping thriller on your TV and desperately want to munch on potato chips.


~It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon and you’ve been having fun playing with your kids at the local park and now you want to get ice cream.


~You’ve overslept and are running late to work and need a donut to go with the coffee you’re guzzling.


In each of these scenarios, a craving gets triggered and that craving often overrides any resolve you may have had in sticking with your healthy diet. In those moments, your primal brain gets activated and senses danger and does everything in its power to override the higher “executive functioning” part of your brain (the part that can delay gratification) and works to ensure that you get your fix.


In this case, it’s nourishment. You’re hungry. Craving no doubt. The primal brain can’t distinguish
the health factor of what you want, it can only sense there is hunger and a strong desire, so it’s activated and now you’re in fight or flight response mode (uh, really the FIGHT response). 



Pizza food craving

It then does what it can to

help you ‘hunt and kill’ so

you can sate your hunger







Thus, you cave and grab for the bag of chips or stop in at the nearest ice cream parlor or find some source of sugar to pair with the coffee. Or, in the above pic, pounce on the pizza like a puma. It’s a battle that millions of people lose every day (or win depending on how you look at it).


(Please note--Addicts and alcoholics have it worse because their brain connections are already wired to bypass certain areas of the brain, causing them to forget negative consequences from their substance use—and, of course, the damage from the substance use causes further brain-processing impairment. If you are suffering from addiction, please go seek help immediately and make sure you receive daily support and reinforcement to compensate for this physiological difference…a one day at a time, every day approach is key.)


So, what can you do to override the primal brain reaction and stick to your diet?


Stop fighting it. It won’t work.


Our primal part of our brain can act like a turbo button that overrides the rest of us—because it is wired to protect us. It’s important to realize this distinction. If you know you are being protected for survival purposes then you can work with the part of the brain that’s designed to protect you.


Some common ways of working with the primal brain reactions that can help it to de-escalate so that you can return to the executive functioning part of your brain include calming it down and reassuring you’re okay and safe. Here are a few methods that work really well when you’re angered (and become the scary green Hulk):


  • Pausing and looking at your immediate environment and saying the different colors you see which disrupts the escalation process (you can do this silently of course)
  • You can take deep breaths (inhale and exhale deeply to the count of 4)
  • Or you could also release the adrenaline rush by doing push ups or some form of exercise
  • Ask yourself, “what experience does the remind me of from childhood?” and then reassure the little child within you


Again these work really well when you’re angered and can help when you’re hungry too, yet in my experience, hunger cravings lasts like a fog rolling in from sea with no sunlight to be seen for days. Eventually people give in and satisfy their craving. Thus, the easiest thing to do is to find a healthy alternative. No, I’m not saying grab an apple. I’m going to suggest that you sate the craving, not the hunger, with a healthy alternative.


Cravings and hunger are different. If you are craving a pizza, an apple won’t cut it.  The thing to ask yourself is, “what am I craving?” Is it something sweet, crunchy, salty, chewy, or a happy memory? Then satisfy the craving with a the best yummy substitute you can find or create.


Here are some of my favorites alternatives:


  • When craving something salty and crunchy, pumpkin seeds in their shell seem to work for me. Not only are they low-varb and full of iron, they remind me of popcorn and I can go to town crunching and crunching. Afterward, I’m totally sated and not desiring popcorn or chips…unless my sweet tooth then gets activated…


  • My sweet tooth is my biggest craving monster and often gets treated with a low-carb hot chocolate (I make it with almond milk and stevia and add some cinnamon and cayenne for some spice). I will sometimes pair it with a square of dark chocolate that I let melt in my mouth with each sip of hot chocolate. Of course, I have low-carb paleo cakes that I microwave in a bowl and shakes in a blender made with chocolate or vanilla egg-white protein powder, ice, almond milk and a dollop of almond butter to sate my ice cream craving. I could go on and on, yet you get the point that I make a substitute and my insulin levels are happy and my cravings are met.


  • For spaghetti and pizza cravings, I make a low-carb version using spaghetti squash. I add fresh roma tomatoes, basil from my garden and a drizzle of really good olive oil…you’d be surprised how the similar flavors and textures sate the craving.



This post won’t go into all the recipes here. There are abundant sites online and I’ve sited a few of them in some of my other posts. What is important for you to realize is that sating your craving and finding a win/win solution will work far better and be longer lasting than if you begrudgingly chomp on kale when you are really craving something sweet (although you could bake the kale and top it off with some stevia…or have it in a salad and add some apple cider vinegar and stevia…or just jump in and make a yummy alternative that satisfies what you really want).


Please comment if you have any great alternatives that you turn to when the cravings strike! Happy & healthy eating!!


Is Your Brain Starved?

Woman holding coconut to drinkWhen I think about all of the motivations for eating healthy—promises of a longer lifespan, reduction in diseases, losing weight and looking better—the one that most appeals to me is improving my brain. If eating can help me remember things better and process information more quickly then I’m getting an immediate payoff and am therefore more motivated to select healthier food options. The other benefits of a good diet are more delayed and as a human living in an era of immediate gratification, I want results now. That’s why I titled this post about the brain because I’m hoping this will wake you up and motivate you to think about the food choices you’re consuming and whether it is going to help or hurt your brain NOW.

In short, fat is our friend. The brain NEEDS fat. Heck, the brain IS fat (at least more than half of it is composed of fat). So, doesn’t it make sense that it requires lubrication? Think about those poor nerves encased in a myelin sheath that never gets fed properly. It’s like a piece of leather left out in the sun. It dries out. It doesn’t work as effectively. Anyone who has ever read The Seal Skin story can apply that lesson here. (It’s a favorite story of mine and I’ve always wanted to reference it!)

The problem with fat is when we our arteries get clogged and health is risked by consuming it. For years, doctors have encouraged lowering fat when one has high cholesterol. Hundreds of beauty magazines have also encouraged low-fat diets for weight loss. We’ve been conditioned and we’ve seen the consequences. (This blog is inspired by the loss of my mother who lived on a low-fat, barely any calories starved existence for years until her metabolism was ruined and then she gave in and ate foods to sate her deprivated body...which led to losing her health and life to obesity and diabetes. That’s a dire consequence! Of course her body was starved and sugar was the quickest fuel, so her body naturally craved it.)


  "Your body is either in glucosis or lipolysis." 

Fat is not bad. Consuming fat with sugar is bad. To put it very simply, our bodies can run on two types of fuel—sugar or fat. When we consume higher carbohydrates, our bodies automatically pick the easiest fuel for energy—sugars (carbs), or glucosis. If we limit the carbs and consume fats, we can switch our bodies into lipolysis (fat-burning machines), which is what our bodies actually crave and run more efficiently on, like a fancy Lamborghini that needs high-end oil and fuel to operate optimally.

Numerous studies reveal a low-carb, high fat diet reduces weight loss, curbs health problems, and improves overall nerve and brain functioning—including easing mood disorders like depression. What’s exciting is that researchers are finally studying this issue in more depth and reporting on it. One recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that the low-carb, high fat diet produces decreased fat, increased lean body mass, and decreased inflammation (a huge component underlying so many diseases) among Caucasians and African Americans.

The takeaway is to feed your brain with healthy fats and decrease your carbs so that it will actually use the fats you ingest. If you have been living on carbs and sugars for a long time, it will take a little bit of time to heal from the withdrawals, yet you should feel increased energy after a few days.

You may also discover improved digestion. One Paleo blogger provides an interesting analysis of the digestion topic in his post “Does Meat Rot in Your Colon? No. What Does? Beans, Grains, and Vegetables!”

Change your diet for two weeks and see how you feel. Sate your body with healthy fats and see how efficiently your brain works. Then post your results in the comments section. Looking forward to learning how it works for you! Blessed wishes and happy healthy eating!




When to Trust Time

Angel clock picIn our hurried society we often forget the most important ingredient to healing—time. Many viruses, infections and colds can actually be healed with time. The body is powerful like that. Give it fluids and give it time. Yet many of us get scared and want a quick fix, so we run to the doctor begging for an antibiotic. Then we continue our impatience and stop taking the prescription once we feel better. It’s a vicious cycle that has led to a mass immunity of many antibiotics. Ideally we only resort to antibiotic use for dire emergencies. This post, however, is not about the antibiotic debate. It’s about time. When time is the cure.


First, take a moment to reflect on some of the pithy sayings you’ve heard about time.


How about, time cures a broken heart? Or, the ‘early’ bird gets the worm? Then there’s, time is relative. (If you have a favorite time quote that comes to mind, please feel free to share it in the comments section!:))  


I imagine all of these wise dictums exist because they have proved true. The problem is that we forget the simple solutions and need to be reminded of them. Not to mention, waiting can be uncomfortable. Plus, the ‘time is the answer’ isn’t always the answer when there’s a ‘window of opportunity’ that’s closing. So how can you tell the when to wait and when to respond?


Perhaps in discerning that answer, the concept of time needs to be explored a bit. The Greeks had two definitions of time. One was chronos time and referred to chronological time. Or clock time. It’s when you put a cake in the oven and set it for one hour and then it’s done. One minute over and it can burn. One minute under and it it’s mushy in the middle. Chronos time is precise and the need to act becomes apparent immediately. Like when your child has a 106 fever—that’s an emergency. A broken bone is another emergency that requires action (get X-ray and cast) and then allow chronos time to heal.


Kairos time is the other explanation of time the Greeks identified. Kairos is Divine Time or God Time. It’s the ethereal relative time concept. Like when you missed the train and discovered you were right where you were supposed to be. Serendipity and ‘no coincidences’ exist in Kairos time. I believe prayer and miraculous healing happen in Kairos time as well.


Kairos time happens alongside chronos time. I think it’s a lot like the concept of Heaven and Earth. The two realities co-exist yet only one can be seen and measured.

Still, Kairos time has a way of being seen and felt in magical ways. In addition, there’s the point where Kairos and chronos time merge.


You may recall the expression, the teacher shows up when the student is ready?


Nature provides us with abundant examples of the merging of chronos and Kairos time. (Almost as if nature itself serves as one of our teachers when we are ready to learn from her.)


Think about the time it takes a seed to sprout. You might recall the activity in elementary school of placing a seed in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel and waiting weeks to see it finally transform. It was miraculous. It also appeared to occur in chronos time. 


Some seeds differ. They sprout in their time. That difference of accepting a seed to sprout in its time begins to touch on the lessons Kairos time teaches us. For instance, the lesson from the bamboo tree is significant.


Just when you think nothing in your life is going to change, the bamboo reveals to us that change can still happen if you are patient. The bamboo seed when planted does not produce anything in the first year. Or the second year. Or the third year. Not even the fourth year. (How many people would have given up that first year and figured it was dead??) Then all of a sudden in its fifth year, it shoots up 25 FEET like Jack’s bean stock.


If that’s not impressive, wheat cannot flower until it has lived through its first hard winter. Get a couple of years without the proper cold snap and it patiently waits. Apparently, hardship can produce amazing results.


There’s also one of my favorite examples of time and its cosmic planetary connection to life deep within our seas. Many know the critical importance of the coral reefs to our planet’s overall health. They are endangered and can only reproduce one time of year—in August. The time is precise as the coral reefs begin to spawn exactly seven days after the full moon in August and 30 minutes after the sun sets. Magical clockwork. Chronos and Kairos time combined.


What can we learn from the lessons of chronos and Kairos time? Whatever is happening in your life and with your health can be cured by this same combination of time. Have Faith and Let Divine Time guide you…and heal you. It’s actually already happening in your life right at this very moment. Reading this was just a reminder to let you know it. See, there’s no coincidence you read this article.:) You are right on time! Blessed and healing wishes your way!

Resolving the Gluten & Grain Controversy

Golden-Grain-Field_www.FullHDWpp.com_You may have heard of gluten. It seems everyone is sensitive to gluten these days. I’ve heard some people question the legitimacy of gluten intolerance and have suggested it’s just a fad. Maybe. But what if I told you that gluten and its cousins, other grains (which are abundant in “gluten-free” products), might be harming you—whether you feel the consequences or not.

That’s part of the basis of the growing paleo movement. What I like about paleo are the dozens of paleo bloggers that share their personal stories of overcoming illness and weight issues by switching to paleo (check out slimpalate, thepaleomom, or thedomesticman to name a few). While they are truly inspiring, I find that people get totally overwhelmed by the topic, don’t know what to eat or not eat, and just give up.  This post is an attempt to simplify the issue so that you can decide whether you want to eat grains or not.

First, here are a few definitions…

  • Gluten—a protein in grains that gives dough its elastic texture. You may have seen gluten in a bag next to the flour at the grocery store. It’s used for binding and enhancing elasticity in doughs. And gluten can be found in more than just wheat. It is in other cereal grains. Gluten is widely used and in some medications, vitamins, soy sauce, and other condiments, so it’s a stealthy ingredient that can cause a lot of distress for people trying to avoid it.


  • Celiac and other diseases that cannot tolerate gluten—people with celiac have an autoimmune disease in their small intestine and it flares up with the introduction of gluten. Other people with digestive disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, and other diseases and digestive disorders can have similar indigestive allergic type reactions to gluten.


  • Grains—while there are grains of sand, the grains for this topic are cereal grains such as wheat, rice, corn, millet, oats, rye, barley…and yes, legumes (beans, pulses)…and soy.


Paleo stays away from all grains. Knowing that gluten can be in other grains may seem like the reason, but it’s not. Paleo stays away from grains because of the phytic acid contained in grains. Here’s why—phytic acid competes with mineral absorption in the body. Let me explain that in a different way. Ladies, you might be taking fancy calcium supplements to avoid osteoporosis. Men, same thing. Perhaps you’re taking magnesium (a post to come on this essential mineral!) or you’re just taking a plain old multivitamin/mineral supplement. Well, you can just throw those away when you’re ingesting grains because that’s what your body is doing. Yep, like a magnet it attracts that phytic acid to the mineral and flushes those healthy and much needed minerals right out of your body.

Some doctors point to research that vitamin & mineral supplementation passes directly into our urine, so they claim supplements are a waste of money. In fact, it’s a common joke that middle class have the most expensive urine on the planet. I believe that supplementation works and can does get absorbed—when its not competing with other elements in the body like toxins, metals, and phytic acid in grains.

What can you do? Well, the good news is that you have two options. Or three…(the third being that you just keep doing what you’re already doing.)

In my last post, I recommended the book, The Metabolic Typing Diet. The test reveals if your personal metabolism needs a low-carb/high purine protein diet or a high carb/low protein diet or a balanced mix of both. If you are a low-carb/high purine protein type, the paleo no grains approach will work for you. More meats and veggies.

BUT if you are the high carb/low protein type, your solution requires a little bit of work and may explain why all the sage advice in the leading vegan books urge you to soak your grains. Soaking depletes the phytic acid in grains. Eating sprouted foods does the same. See, you can have your cake and eat it too—as long as you soak.

If you’re not still sure what to do, try limiting grains for a couple of weeks and then see how you feel after you reintroduce them. I discovered all kinds of problems when I tried to eat even sprouted grains (I’m also a low carb/high purine protein type though). The pain I experienced keeps me from craving it as much. I have also found a lot of great healthy substitutes. You can check out those paleo sites for ideas.

I hope this helps explain the controversy of gluten and grains. It’s a daily process of discovery. Good wishes and happy healthy eating. You can share any questions or comments in the comments section. 

Three Must-Have Supplements to Ease Aging

We are all aging. It’s a good thing. With age, comes wisdom and maturity. (Hopefully.) In today’s world of fighting the appearance of aging, I think we miss the opportunity to embrace all that age gives us. Our elders have much to teach us about the world and have rightfully earned their place as our heroes, mentors and guides along the path. With that stated, our bodies do start giving us certain challenges that make it a little more difficult to move around as we get older, so here are the top three must-have supplements that can help you maintain your mobility and ensure your status as a future elder hero that can guide the younger generations. (Please note these supplements are in addition to – supplement – your multivitamin.)

  1. Glucosamine—I was fortunate enough to have an orthopedic surgeon recommend this to me long ago. I was a candidate for knee surgery and thank goodness he was open to healthy alternatives. I began taking glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin and my knee pain subsided and my mobility improved. It works so dramatically well that my knee pain flares back up if my glucosamine runs out and I miss a day or two. I will find myself absentmindedly rubbing my knee in a meeting and then it dawns on me to quickly refill. Pain and absent-minded knee rubbing disappear! Because of my personal success, it was no surprise that when my golden retriever could not walk or move, my vet recommended glucosamine. My golden is now 14 years old and can still fetch and walk up stairs.
  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids—Omega fatty acids from healthy fish oils tested free of heavy metals and pesticides can help your body in numerous ways. Combing through the research can be exhausting and exciting. To simplify, Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) help our nervous system and organs in our body – even hormone production. Unfortunately, the low-fat diet craze led to a decrease of these healthy fats and gallbladder malfunctioning and other issues resulted. No wonder research shows a positive connection with EFAs to decrease depression and even aid other neurosensory disorders like attention-deficit disorder. Think of our bodies like a new pair of leather boots. After time in the sun (aging), boots need polishing. If they are only dabbed with water (low-fat diet) and not a good polish, they will worsen. EFA’s help our internal organs, our nervous system, and that precious organ that keeps us together – our skin.
  1. Digestive Enzymes—If EFA’s are like a wax for leather boots, digestive enzymes are like the buffing cloth that rubs in the wax and gives the leather a dazzling sparkle. Our natural digestive enzymes decrease as we age. Unhealthy diets of processed foods don’t help. With lack of enzymes, our food doesn’t properly digest and particles on undigested food escape into our intestines where they ferment and breed unhealthy bacteria. Once established, it becomes a vicious battle to restore that delicate bacteria balance. Problems like chronic indigestion, leaky gut syndrome and Candida ensue. I personally use a good enzyme that contains hydrochloric acid, pepsin, l-glutamic acid, and some pancreatic enzymes like amylase, protease and lipase.

There are so many more supplements on the market and shopping in the health section of your favorite grocery store can be overwhelming, if not completely addicting. There are even hundreds of natural cures ailments you didn’t even know you had. I confess to buying many of them and trying new things with as much zeal as a child opening presents on Christmas morning. Yet these are the three must-haves that I make sure I consistently take. I hope you find as much success with them as I have. We only have one body and it’s worth caring for as we age.



Let Your Body Tell You What to Feed It: Understanding Your Personal Metabolism

Let’s talk about food. Food as medicine. Food as fuel. Food as comfort. I think you can have all three IF you indulge in what YOUR body prefers.

The problem is that experts differ on what a proper diet contains. Fruits? Low-carb? Complex carbs? No grains? Balanced portions? It gets confusing. And generally when people get overwhelmed, they throw caution to the wind and grab the easiest and tastiest thing they can find. 

What do you reach for when you’re really hungry and you’ve been driving all night and need to Food pic peek in sandwich
continue driving? Say you’re at a truck stop and you’re looking at the menu. What does your body crave to keep you going? A light salad and herbal tea? A greasy burger and cheesecake? Pancakes and fruit with a side of bacon?

Sometimes what you crave when you’re hungry can be a clue to how your body processes food. It is also one of the questions in a test that I just love and highly recommend because the results tell you what your metabolic type is and whether you perform better with a low-carb, high-carb or balanced carb diet.

The test changed my life. I always wondered why some people did so well on Atkins while others didn’t. And then there were those skinny b’s that could remain model slim on a bird diet while I could bloat to the size of a whale after eating a raw salad with a few fruits. The test can be found in the book, The Metabolic Typing Diet. It looks at five physiological processes within you. Some of us are parasympathetic dominant while others are sympathetic dominant. Some oxidize their food rapidly and others are slow. Like automobiles, we all need our own personal fuel mix and our engine can have difficulty if given super unleaded gas when we need regular or diesel gas.

You are special and you need solutions that work for you. Ultimately your body has the answers to what’s best over and above any expert. As I post information on this blog about natural remedies, please remember to filter it to your own body needs and take comfort in knowing that one size does not fit all. Honor your body and listen to what it tells you. And feed it what it needs—not what the latest superstar or bodybuilder claims is best— and then your food will be medicinal, energy producing and highly comforting.

Bloated Stomach? Try this Simple Stomach Cure from the Sea

New ImageI was fifteen years old when I was diagnosed with an ulcer and prescribed a liquid antacid. Fast forward a couple decades, numerous antacid prescriptions and countless stomachaches later, I have learned that antacids were my worst enemy.

Now, for those of you that picked up that antacids are not the primary treatment for ulcers  (an antibiotic is now prescribed to treat the H. Pylori that causes many ulcers and antacids are used to treat the acidity to heal the stomach lining), you're right. I have been given antibiotics as well, yet my stomach issues persisted. I know I'm a sensitive soul, so  I - and practically everyone around me - chalked up my stomach issues to having a "nervous stomach." Ahh, there's nothing more validating than that. Stomach pain coupled with judgement.

Not much time passed before I started playing with my diet. I have been a vegan, vegetarian, balanced my carbs and protein, tried the Zone diet, tested my metabolic type, tried low-carb, Paleo, practiced food combining, took enzymes, did FODMAPS, and a few other things. My stomach problems still continued. I even relented and went to a "real" doctor, had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy and then tried a few medications that made things worse. 

I've learned a few things that work and definitely A LOT of things that make things WORSE. I will coniniue to post and share what has worked for me. For now, I want to share one big solution that has not been widely publicized. In fact, its nemesis - ANTACIDS - are the go-to cure for everyone. Remember, nemesis means enemy. Its opposite. Can you believe that many of us actually have too little stomach acid??

I tested myself by taking some HCl  tablets (Hydrochloric Acid - I used one 650mg HCL with Pepsin) after I was sick and bloated one day. I began feeling relief within 15 minutes. I was stunned. Grateful. What I learned is that our stomach acid actually declines as we age and one of the major precursors to natural HCl in our body is iodine. It also helps regulate our thyroid. (Which regulates our homormones! More posts on that to come!)

Once upon a time, iodine was supplemented in some of our foods, like bread, and was then abandoned. There has been a resurgence in the past few years as studies point out connections between health decline and iodine deficiency - and now some bread manufacturers are supplementing with iodine again. Still, bread (later posts will discuss the challenges of wheat and gluten) is not best source for iodine. Neither is iodized salt (for obvious sodium reasons and iodized table salt is the most depleted source of salt, so a healthier pink himalyan salt would be a better choice). 

The best way to supplement your diet with iodine is through kelp or kelp iodine drops. If you're past your 20's, you could really benefit. If you are past 40, you will be in awe how this simple supplement can improve your digestion.


Part II to last post - A Spiritual Solution to Grief, Recovery & Free Will

I have a confession. It concerns the reason for the long delay of my writing Part II to my last post. It also discloses a bit of personal information. I offer it, however, as a way of illustrating the grief and recovery process.

My mother passed a few months ago. Honestly, it was rather unexpected. Yes, she had been ill and hospitalized a few times. This last time was the worst and the doctor gave her a timeline—one year. He added that he had seen people live for up to six years. They released her from the hospital on a Friday and she passed two days later. I wasn’t even there. I live almost 2,000 miles away and since she was getting released from the hospital, I had decided to visit her the following week for Mother’s Day. It aches that I wasn’t with her and wasn’t able to physically hug her and tell her I love her.

Ironically, I considered writing about the grief process after I returned from her funeral. I have the information and training. I could use it to write about grief stages for others, I told myself. A couple of weeks passed. Then I had an ah-hah moment and began to write about how people can overcome their genetics (and contrary to the response from one commenter in the post, I actually have been in discussions with many researchers that believe our behavior is hard-wired by our genetics). Yes, I was on a secret mission to counter that argument and then give solid research on how we can all be more in control of our genetic predispositions and live healthier and happier lives.

Of course, now I can see that all of that was in reaction to losing my mother. She had diabetes and was only 62 years old. I began to get upset that her food and lifestyle choices are what took her away and left me alone and with all this sadness and guilt. (Funny how we make it about ourselves.) So in a classic grief move— where one feels out of control due to the internal mix of denial, anger, bargaining and depression—I took control. Taking control is a hallmark symptom of grief because we feel out of control, so we overcompensate and attempt to take more control. Usually our efforts fail.

That’s what happened to Part II of my blog. I wanted to tell people about all of the research on healthy living. I wanted to warn people about the dangers of sugar, obesity and inactivity. Heck, while I was at it, maybe I could address all the addictions in the world—from smoking to workaholism and all the isms. How about the dangers lurking in the 1,000+ invisible chemicals that saturate non-organic coffee beans? Or the dangerous phthalates that are leeching into the liquid of all those healthy looking water bottles? Is anyone remembering Chicken Littleright now? “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Takeaway number one—the next time you’re annoyed by someone preaching on their soap box about something, maybe you can be a little patient and realize that maybe, just maybe, they are feeling a wee bit out of control and it’s just their attempt to overcompensate. With that disclaimer, I’m still going to share how I have been arriving at that ethereal stage of grief—acceptance. It even provides the answer that was promised in Part I of my blog! (How’s that for making up for lost time?) Please Click here to continue reading full post on Psychology Today... Thank you!

Override Genetics & Unlock Your Free Will (Part I)

Contrary to what some scientists and professionals may tell you, your genes do not dictate your destiny. If your parents abused you, it does not mean you are forced to go on and abuse your kids. Similarly, if your family tree appears dense with certain medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or cancer, it is not a foregone conclusion that you will suffer from those same diseases. Sure, you may inherit a genetic predisposition of sorts and even significant behavioral and cognitive conditioning to replicate behaviors and beliefs that lead to those same outcomes, however, you can carve your own path and be free of the past. The first step comes in making a choice to be free of the past, the rest includes making a few belief and lifestyle changes to keep you on the healthier road of your choosing. (Yes, this is assuming that you want to improve and not the reverse.:))

First, you must make a choice. Maybe this is where that elusive and controversial notion of free will comes in. Perhaps you thought you were in complete control of each action you take. Some scientists would argue that cultural and behavioral conditioning leaves you no choice; you are simply responding to the environment in the way you were taught. Moreover, some neurocognitive research has revealed brain activity in the brain before a person was aware they were going to engage in an action. Add to that, the old story about the roasting pan:

While preparing for a dinner party, the hostess was asked by her girlfriend why she was cutting off the end of a perfectly good roast. The woman blushed and replied, “Uh, my mother always did this. Maybe it’s supposed to make it cook better?” After seeing her friend’s disapproving frown, she decided to dig a little deeper.

Later that night she phoned her mother and asked why she always cut off the end of the roast, as she was certain it didn’t help it cook faster or taste any better. “Hmmm,” her mother replied. “That’s a really good question. I guess I always did that because Grandma did that.” 

Feeling like she needed to investigate this a little further, the woman visited her grandmother the next day.

“Grandma, do you remember cutting off the end of the roast? Mom said you always did that, so she’s been doing that and now I’ve been doing that, but I really have no idea why. My friend thinks it’s foolish and ruining the roast.”

Her grandmother looked a little lost at first and the woman feared she couldn’t remember and would not be able to give a good reason that justified the cooking technique to her friend. Then her grandmother began to giggle and answered her question.

“Oh Sweetheart, now I know what you’re talking about and I can’t believe you and your Mama have been cutting off the end of the roast all this time. I did that because I didn’t have a pan big enough for the roast, so I trimmed it and would always save the end for a soup.”


There are a few examples in this story that are worth highlighting. The obvious one is that the young woman and her mother made decisions based on observation and mimicking a behavior without questioning it. Even when the woman questioned the behavior, it was in response to ‘saving face’ with her friend and not necessarily to make her own independent choices. In addition, the grandmother’s behavior to cut off the roast was in reaction to the physical constraint of the pan.

The takeaway is that a lot of us are operating on autopilot with a preset course far more than we realize. Consequently, it behooves us not to take our sense of free will for granted. Only when you recognize that something else could be unconsciously usurping control over your thoughts, decisions and actions, is when you can access your true free will.

Let’s look back at the story about the roast to identify where free will kicked in. One example is when the grandmother made a conscious choice about what to do with the end of the meat that she removed. Other decisions that led to that choice may have controlled her behavior (i.e. the size of the pan), however, she was able to freely decide what she could do with the extra segment. Similarly, while the young woman sought an answer to justify her cooking behavior to her friend, she was now armed with new information that would release her free will the next time she made a roast. From the lesson of self-awareness, she could now choose how she would prefer to cook a roast in the future.

Simply put, self-awareness unlocks free will. Instead of living in reaction and blindly following impulses, self-awareness lets us make conscious choices. Self-awareness shows us where our blinders have been, so that we can make new informed choices (or live with our old choices, secure in knowing we made the decision). 

Take some time to pay attention to how many of your behaviors and beliefs have gone unquestioned. Examine them. Realize where you’ve lived on autopilot and deactivate that button by waking up to the fact it has been pressed in certain areas of your life. Once you do that, come back to read part II of this topic where we’ll discuss the next steps on making choices for living a healthy life that is both free of the past and that fulfills your desired destiny. If you want a little help or want to share your personal experience with catching yourself on autopilot, you can share in the comments section or email me at the address provided in my contact section.

Cheering you on your path from here!


Essential Anxiety Cure Taught by Children

This is in response to a reader who asked why children seem to be able to bounce back from stress more than adults. While it's a bit complicated, there is actually a powerful lesson that adults can learn from children about tackling anxiety.

Children whispering
Do you know children's number one secret for being happy - even after experiencing a stressful event? 

Is it toys? 


Think about how often kids find more pleasure in the wrapping or container than the actual toy you've bought them. Contrast that with adults' relentless pursuit of toys and material possessions.

Is it their pecking order in a group?

Not that either. (So no wonder the adult ego-driven motivations for status end up feeling empty.)

How about the ability to laugh and play?

Getting closer! But there's a reason behind the ability to do that.

It's living in the moment!

Time feels slower to children because they are completely present in the moment, responding to the stimuli in front of them. Most adults are living in reaction to the past or trying to plan for the future (where fear and anxiety dwells) that they end up losing precious time in the process - and, like a dog chasing its tail, they go after elusive goals like material possessions and status. Exhausted, adults start drinking or taking anti-anxiety relievers to relax. Yet those mood-altering substances don't stop the adult from focusing on the past of future, so the vicious cycle continues.

The cure is to endless anxiety and frustration is to stop and live in the moment. As a quick experiment, stop and take note of all of the sensory input right now: What is your skin feeling? What can you smell? Take a deep breath and really feel it. Listen to all of the sounds around you. Taste and really savor what you're eating and drinking. After doing this, did you notice that your worries temporarily diminished? (Be sure to try this out the next time you are flooded with anxiety...and keep practicing this for longer and longer time periods.)

Slowing down to the present paradoxically slows down time, allowing one to fully live life. It’s also the magical secret to unlocking the imagination—and releasing the power to play. Live in the moment and you will be more happy and content with life - and you won’t reach your grave regretting that you never fully lived.


Inspiration for Changing Careers and/or Creating New Employment

I have a number of posts about job hunting tips, managing your net rep (Internet Reputation), cultivating entrepreneurial success and more (see Career or Business archives--note that articles date back to 2006). Today I thought I'd share some links to articles that would give you some inspiration.

One is a story that a reporter wrote that I find truly inspiring. While, yes, she may have quoted me in the story--let me tell you what she's doing with her career. An accomplished reporter who has covered business and technology for Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, and MIT's Technology Review  to name a few, has taken the brave move to pursue a newfound dream brimming with passion and meaning for her--she is going back to school to pursue veterinary medicine. I'm so thrilled for her and think she's an inspiration for many who feel like it's too late to switch careers. To read the article she wrote after interviewing dozens of other brave souls that took a similar turn, click here http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Changing-careers-means-tolerating-risk-and-doubt-1413412.php. To follow her success and adventures in vet school, see her blog here jessicamintz.wordpress.com.

While Jessica provides inspiration for those who are thinking about changing careers, how about the folks that are trying to find a job and are feeling neck deep in despair? I wrote a post for Psychology Today on the topic. I shatter some myths about job and career security and try to provide some ideas to help. See my article, "Overcoming Unemplyment, Reclaiming Spirit."

As always, please let me know what you think of anything I write--and please share any ideas for topics you'd like me to address.


How Marketing is Ruining Our World

I feel frustrated and have decided to use this blog as a way of voicing my concerns about the detrimental effects of current marketing practices.

Earlier today I decided to go on my neglected Facebook account and peruse around. I saw a bunch of posts touting people's opinions, services or current mood. I felt disconnected from everyone and a bit dismayed by the superficial interaction--then I decided that I should participate to get more out of the experience. You know that old adage, you only get out of something what you put into it. So, I reached out and made comments and connected with folks. It felt rather good. Then I decided to up the participation by posting a status update--and it was in the update that made me realize all of the growing discontent I've had with the current influence of marketing. I'll even go so far as to say that we've let marketing turn into a dictator-ish  monster that is ruining our quality of life and freedom.

Let me explain.

First, you may be wondering what was in my status update that revealed this upsurge of marketing mayhem? 

Here it is (see if it hits you too)...

"What does Art do for us? It 'gives shape' to our emotions, makes them visible and, in so doing, places a seal of eternity upon them..." from "The Elegance of the Hedgehog." Great read and most excellent point. Long live art & emotions (aka LIFE). The more we numb, the less we live and the less art we produce and appreciate.

Did you get it?

Well, let me expound upon it a bit more. Art captures our emotions. Art is the embodiment of what makes us human. It's humanity in form--and it's a cherishable tribute to life. My frustration with marketing is its influence on art.

As an example that I have heard countless times, a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air described that films are produced only when marketers deem them valuable. Marketers. Marketers who look to see if there will be enough revenue generated to justify production. Marketers who conduct surveys and allow people's impulsive opinions in the moment justify what sells. They reduce art down to the lowest common denominator where it no longer represents anything, just hum drum human impulse--which IS NOT the same as human emotion.

Perhaps that's why some truly great films were originally flops at the box office, only to become a hailed as art by all. Ever see "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Somewhere in Time"?

Going back to those impulses that marketers prey upon--I give workshops on overcoming procrastination. I share how our 'primal' reptilian portion of our brain is wired and why/how it gets us off track and distracted from the plans initiated by the frontal lobe portion of our brain. I tell people very clearly that marketers are manipulating our primal brain, so learn how to manipulate your own primal brain before they do.

That's right--manipulation. Yes, people CAN make you do things you don't want to do, especially when you're not aware of how the processes work. You think you're in control and you're not. Marketers are controlling you like the puppeteer controlled Pinocchio and the way Iago influenced Othello. Moreover, EVERYONE is on the marketing bandwagon and ingesting manipulation techniques the way guppies gulp brine shrimp flakes (or any other flakes for that matter). We're ingesting CRAP and we need to wake up.

Politics is infected the most. Did you notice that fundraising emails never stop--and it doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you reside. You are being driven to believe that you need to douse some fire by sending in your money. Again, the lowest common denominator wins and what really helps people seems to fall by the wayside.

Healthcare, once an ivory tower of trust and healing, is now polluted by marketing. Pharmaceutical companies, once banned from advertising, now feed the airwaves with drugs that will cure your whoas, your sex drive, your bladder, and your fatigue. (Of course some of these commercials are followed up by class action lawsuit ads by law firms--did acne-fighting Accutane give you Inflammatory Bowel Disease or did you take anti-inflammatory Celebrex only to have heart issues?) Who do people turn to that they can trust? The only information that's peddled has usually been influenced by marketers.

Even churches are under the influence. Give. Give. Give. Convert. Convert. Convert. Where does anyone go to just rest, relax, breathe, and connect? Churches are under pressure like everyone else and just trying to do what they can to survive. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a place where people can just be without being hit up to give money.

We've truly lost something when marketing practices become the norm. With the rise of small business, people worldwide are succumbing to manipulative marketing practices in the false belief that they're successful entrepreneurial habits. Using people as a means to profit IS NOT successful business. It's a sign of the times that we've lost touch with what matters.

I implore you to pay attention when you feel manipulated and are responding out of an impulse or urge. I doubly implore you to denounce practices that feed on people's impulses or urges (you know the feeling...or the so called "hot button"). Focus on what matters. Find and cultivate your values. Go to a museum and refill your spirit by looking at art. Remember your humanity and feed it to the world free of charge and I'll bet your needs will be filled in ways you could never imagine.

As a closing thought, maybe you could also take in some old movies that feed the soul. One of my favorite's is "Keys to the Kingdom" with Gregory Peck. Another great film that was fortunately restored, is the '37 Capra classic "Lost Horizon," which most poignantly captures the state of our world with this line, "When those that hunger for power devour each other, the meek shall inherit the Earth." (Meek, by the way, in Hebrew translation refers to spiritual humility, not material poverty.) My hope is that this tide of marketing hunger will subside and that it will be our combined spirit that will stand up and demand quality of life, not the tyranny of mass popularity. 


Check Out My Posts on Psychology Today

I realize I've neglected my blog for a couple of months. I'm sorry to anyone that has missed new content. I just posted a piece on tips for managing a listserv (see below) and I promise to add more of my usual material on various counseling and psychology topics. To let you know, I'll also be focusing on evolution trends to correspond with my new venture, Keys to Evolution. If you have any requests for content, please don't hesitate to contact me at Kimberly@EncompassWF.com.

If you're wondering what you're missing on my Psychology Today blog, entitled "Counseling Keys," here's a peek. Please visit it and be sure to check back here soon. Thanks and Happy 2011!

Children’s Expectations: What Your Child Would Tell You if They Could

President Barack Obama says to live up to our children's expectations. Learn the top three myths about children and what they really expect--if they could tell you.

Read More

December 13, 2010

In Defense of Marriage


Examining why 50% of people stay married and what they get out of their lifetime commitment.

Read More




Tips for Managing your Listserve and Facilitating Clear Communication

Do you belong to a listserv that has gotten out of hand? Do people take things personally and attack? Are misunderstandings abundant? Life and human to human communication can be like that. However, it seems to get worse in email as that critical body language that conveys up to 85% of our communication is absent. Thus, people misinterpret messages. Add groupthink on top of that and it’s no wonder listserves can be a hot bed for contention. To curb contention and increase productive teamwork, here are a few tips to making your listserv communication clearer and smother.

 >    State purpose of listserv clearly and succinctly in a way that provides an umbrella framework for communication parameters. This purpose statement can be set up as an automatic “signature” that is displayed on the bottom of each reply to reinforce and remind listserv members to make appropriate posts according to the purpose. (e.g. The XYZ listserv is to discuss research, trends, and provide collegial assistance and support to counseling professionals on common practices, procedures, and ethics in counseling along with typical client, classroom and curriculum support.)

 >    Set-up listserv guidelines (a list of do’s and don’ts) that can be followed by the listserv owner and must be agreed upon before a member can join. This serves as a reminder of what is allowed and not allowed and can be referred to by the listserv owner when mediating a dispute or removing someone from the listserv. Typical guidelines can include items like use of language, political and commercial discussion bans, directives to personal disputes offline, privacy of member information, and references/limitation to Constitutional rights.

 >    Listserv owners strengthen group communication when they act neutral in disputes. When disputes arise on a listserv, simply remind members to take it offline before it gets out of control and then urge them to respond to listserv with any solutions. This serves as a template for future conflict resolutions. It is also beneficial if the listserv owner does not jump in to discuss the issue, but only serve as a facilitator. This aids the listserv owner’s credibility and neutrality, much like the role of a presiding office in a meeting as described in “Robert’s Rules of Order.”

>    For further ideas on member communication, seek out the organization’s by-laws, “Robert’s Rules of Order,” or even the U. S. Bill of Rights. Remember, however, that keeping guidelines simple and flexible is always the best rule of thumb to elicit the beneficial effects of honest and open communication. Also, keep in mind that even a little conflict can serve a purpose and lead to enhanced changes and learning opportunities for members.


What is the Difference Between Counseling and Psychology…and Where in the World Does the Term “Shrink” Come From?

For a discipline that’s only around 130 years old, psychology has a lot of practitioners sporting a number of different titles (and I’m not talking about the local bartender down the street, although they can sometimes be quite excellent listeners). I’m talking about psychotherapists, therapists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, and counselors. What’s the difference and why so many titles?  

This post aims to provide a little more clarity about the differing psychological services among practitioners and describes how one discipline grew to focus on mental health while the other focuses on mental illness. In addition, there are answers to some of the common questions about the people who have taken on psychology.

While many think of Sigmund Freud as the first psychology practitioner, it was Wilhelm Wundt who opened the first psychology lab in 1879. Wundt sought to examine human consciousness using an experimental method he called introspection (for interested researchers, he did not use the scientific method as experiments weren’t able to be duplicated). Like its shaky scientific beginnings, the field grew to have a varied background –some of it contains a solid scientific background and others are a bit more airy-fairy, so to speak. 

Perhaps the ethereal aspect of airy-fairy isn’t so far off as psychology literally means “study of the soul” (psychē means “soul, spirit or breath” while logia means “to study”).  A more modern definition means to study human behavior and thought, but we’re going to come back to that definition in a bit. A blessing of psychology’s birth as a discipline was how mentally ill (or perceived mentally ill) people were treated. Just prior to the late 1800s in Western culture—long after people with ‘visions’ had been treated as oracles or shamans—it was believed that people suffered from mental illness because God had cursed them. Consequently, mentally ill people were punished with severe beatings, chainings and/or ostracism. Psychology helped change such views and a more holistic (and humane) approach to treatment was adopted.

Many of the first practitioners in the field were Medical Doctors (M.D.s). A medical doctor has attended medical school. Today’s M.D.s in the field are called psychiatrists and they can provide therapy services while prescribing medications. Psychologists are practitioners that have received their Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.).  A number of other mental health fields offer graduate and Ph.D. degrees in social work, marriage and family therapy, various forms of counseling and counseling psychology—which brings me to the title of this post. What is the difference between counseling and psychology?

Going back to a bit of history, World War II put a big spotlight on mental health as the war had serious mental health impacts on soldiers (war impacts EVERYONE and it has a trickle down effect through the generations). The National Mental Health Act was first passed in 1946 and the U.S. government began funding research and programs related to mental illness and health. In the 1950s, prevention and early detection of mental health problems became a focus. Slowly, a shift in perceptions occurred where people could safely seek treatment for adjustment, transitions, and relational issues without feeling stigmatized. (Clearly, we are still working on shifting those perceptions – in addition to war, old belief systems also trickle down through the generations).

As part of the shift, psychology has generally been defined as treating mental illness and counseling psychology was born to address mental health issues. 

Some of the fundamental tenets of counseling are:

  • People should be treated with respect
  • If given the opportunity, normal growth will occur
  • The goal of treatment is to promote healthy growth
  • Counseling is an educational process where the client is part of the process and actively participates
  • Counseling builds on strengths as opposed to attacking weaknesses
  • Counseling uses empirically validated procedures (scientifically proven via research using scientific method) 

I hope this helps illustrate a little of the history and explains some of the differences in the professional titles and orientations. I could write so much more and may follow up with later posts that address length and duration time of various therapies. For now, let me switch to a few of the common questions I hear.


Answers to Some Common Questions

Are you really going to shrink my head? 

No.  Shrink comes from shrinking the issue. Notice how we can sometimes get so overwhelmed by everything that it feels like the sky is falling, so we throw it all out there. Often times a good therapist/counselor can help you SHRINK the issues down to a single root cause. (But now I want a shrunken head for Christmas just to tease folks. ;))


Are you analyzing me? (when just meeting me at a social occasion)

No. Well, maybe. Seriously, the therapeutic process follows a particular process of information gathering and analysis. Unless you’re in the office and experiencing that process, you’re probably not getting analyzed. Therapists/counselors cannot see through you or read your mind. :)


Have you ever been through therapy?

Yes. Good training requires that you do. Plus, I believe in it. I confess there are some not great folks out there and I’ve seen and paid for their services. Like all fields, there are good people and not so good people. Don’t let the rotten apples deter you from seeking good service.


Did you go into the field to work through your problems?

There isn’t a person alive that hasn’t taken a job to work through a problem (e.g. I have bills to pay ;)). I also don’t know anyone who hasn’t been wounded in some way by life. For me, yes, I would call myself a wounded healer. I’ve experienced a number of things in life that I believe ultimately helps me to be more empathetic and understanding of my clients.


Do you date your clients? 

No. It’s not like the movies or TV shows. All therapy professionals are prohibited from having dual relationships. If you have had your therapist ask you out or make you uncomfortable with inappropriate flirting, stop seeing them and report them. It’s an abuse of power and your vulnerability.



It’s International Conflict Resolution Day – How are you Celebrating this Day?

Conflict res day 2010_WEB_2Today is International Conflict Resolution Day. While started by the Association for Conflict Resolution five years ago, it became recognized as the International Conflict Resolution Day in 2006. One of the main goals of the celebration is to recognize that there are ways to solve conflict through peaceful measures.

When receiving my ACR training in mediation, the biggest thing I learned was to look at the problem differently. The key was to find a mutually satisfactory solution rather than drawing a line in the sand and focusing on differences. I was taught the same thing as a psychotherapist. There is a famous example that illustrates the point perfectly:

Imagine a neighborhood with inviting homes, well-tended yards and tall shade trees where children play together and everyone feels safe. You live in one of the homes and one day a new neighbor moves in next door to you. They are from a different country and their accent is so thick that you can’t quite understand them. You observe many different people coming in and out. You aren’t familiar with their culture and find yourself standing back to observe what they’re about.

One day you go in the back yard and begin picking oranges from the tree. The tree sits in the middle of the property line and you’ve always shared access to its sweet fruits. A woman comes out of the neighboring house yelling at you in a different language. You haven’t seen her before. You are flustered because you don’t know what she’s saying. You are in a hurry because you need the oranges for the dinner party you are throwing and oranges are one of the essential ingredients in the meal. You aren’t about to drop them as they are the last four oranges on the tree and you’re in a time crunch.

What you don’t know is that she, the grandmother, is also in the middle of making an urgent recipe that is a healing remedy for her son (the owner of the home). Her grandson just tried to pick the oranges from the tree, but he couldn’t reach them. He went in to get her help and then she saw you taking them and panicked. She also doesn’t speak English very well.

If you had realized her situation, you may not have felt so threatened. Moreover, you may have felt compassion for her as she was tending to her ill son. You may have gladly given her the oranges and even offered to help her in any way you could. On top of that, if you had realized that she only wanted the juice of the oranges whereas you wanted the zest (the peel), you both could have shared the oranges and been happy. 

Mediation, conflict resolution, peacemaking is about trying to find those solutions. It seeks to understand first before becoming defensive.

Conflicts generally grow out of something so simple – a misunderstanding. Then other people come in to defend you and before you know it, there are two mobbing groups against each other. That’s how war can originate

Please know I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine bullying types of people (sociopaths and other people with more extreme personality disorders) out there that have malice in their heart. What I am saying is that more often than not, people have genuine love in their heart and are motivated by that magic quality. So, the next time you begin to feel enraged or defensive with someone – seek to understand first. Listen with your heart and try to feel compassion for the other person or people. Hearts, by the way, speak all languages, so don’t let that deter you when encountering another person that seems different from you. You just might get love in return, which can only make life greater.

MOTHER__TERESA_167909eIn closing, I want to take a moment to remember and honor Mother Teresa for all the amazing peace work she has done in the world – and for the light she has modeled to the rest of us. She once said that she wouldn’t go to an anti-war demonstration, but she would attend a peace rally, so maybe we can also think of today as Peacekeeping Day. 

(Mother Teresa - 26 Aug 10 - 5 Sep 86)

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

What We Can Do About Bullying

Bullying hurts. It kills. And it impacts everyone – you can be a victim of it, responsible for it, an observer of it, or somehow related to it. The point is that no one is fully removed from it, so it’s in all of our best interests to understand what we can do to confront it.

This is a blog entry and by no means an exhaustive account about what we can do, however, there are some tips that can consistently help a person that has been bullied. I’m placing them here for everyone. If you are a victim, try them and please also reach out and seek help. If you know someone that is a victim of bullying, please reach out to them, support them, and help them to find help. 

  • Breathe - Breathing is often overlooked during anxious situations. We begin to pant or stop our breathing altogether. Take deep breaths (at least four or five of them) and re-center and ground yourself. This will calm you while sending needed oxygen into your blood stream and harnessing your adrenaline, so that you can think and react more clearly. Get in the habit of doing this when waking up and going to sleep along with several times during the day.
  • Do not isolate yourself – It is tempting to withdrawal and not share what’s happening to you. Now more than ever you need people around you. Talk to family members. Find support. Join a support group. Find friends that like activities that you like (book reading clubs, outdoor hiking groups, church, gym, other hobby groups, etc.). Make sure to surround yourself with people that help build your self-esteem.
  • Realize that you are in control of you – Bullies like to take control by manipulating and scaring you. You can lessen their impact by taking control of you, your actions, your thoughts, and your responses to them. When you take control of you, you fan the flames of inner strength and resilience.
  • Make a plan – Find action steps to take to deal with the bullying. Document what is happening and write down what you can do to stop it. Enlist help from loved ones and/or a professional to assist you in figuring out your options.
  • Find additional strength in things that matter to you – Think about things, people, places and dreams you love. Cultivate those parts of yourself as that is what makes you unique and special. Feeding your passion takes power away from bullies.
  • Learn something new – Take a class at the community center or community college in something new, like pottery, writing, computers, art, yoga, foreign language, cooking, etc.
  • Nurture yourself – Remind yourself of your strengths and gifts. Write them down. Do things that you love to do and tell yourself positive things (GET RID OF THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK).
  • Have faith and believe in the power of transformation – Yours and the world’s transformation. Give yourself self-love and find strength to make a difference.
  • Keep healthy boundaries – Beware of people that make you feel guilty, less than them, or continually make it about them and ignore your feelings.
  • Advocate on others’ behalf – This helps build your strength and makes you feel empowered (and not alone) along with developing your empathy and compassion for others (because the worst way a bully can control you is if they turn you into them).


If you or someone you love is continually reliving the abusive event, has become hyperalert and easily startled, has developed a hopeless outlook on life, is dealing with anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, lack of concentration, is gaining weight and/or has lost their appetite, is acting out with self-sabotaging behaviors (cutting, drinking, engaging in risky behavior, sexually acting out, etc.), and especially if you/they are having any thoughts of suicide or killing someone else – SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. 

Bullying has numerous victims in schools, workplaces, communities, retirement homes, and even in your home with your loved ones. Most bullies are toxic and are bent on control. They often do not see their victims as real people (dehumanizing them by seeing them as "the other" or even as a possession). They are in a game to win and sometimes their displayed remorse is part of their game. Bullies are usually immature, narcissistic, and highly competitive. They may not genuinely like themselves and be out of touch with their true emotions. They may have mental health issues and can swing from being loving and caring to dangerous and cunning. Keep your boundaries and don’t reinforce their bullying. Don’t laugh when they tease another person and make inappropriate jokes. Don’t engage them or bully with them. Say no and help stop the tide of bullying.  If you see someone bullied, reach out and give them your care because we can all do something to help heal the pain of bullying.


October is National Bullying Prevention Month – “Take Your Power Back” Bullying Prevention Seminar this Saturday, October 16 Downtown Austin (4-5:30PM)

Bullying is pervasive. It happens in schools, workplaces, in neighborhoods—and even in your home. Bullying spans across the ages as it occurs among children, in dating and intimate relationships, between siblings, with parents, against the eldery, and the ill. Cyberbulling (using text messages, social networking sites and the internet) has created another level to bullying, making its deleterious effects lasting and almost inescapable. Cyberbullying has become so bad that iSafe foundation statistics have shown that ONE in THREE adolescents have been threatened online.

In response to Bullying Prevention Month and the alarming trend of bullying, Keys to Evolution is holding its first seminar focusing on how to protect yourself from bullying. We’ll look at the evolutionary trait of equity and fairness and discuss what prompts people to bully (the lure of power and control) and what you can do to empower yourself in abusive and bullying situations. We’ll also discuss what you can do to help others that have been impacted by damaging bullying behavior.  You’ll receive practical tips to help you heal, survive, and thrive from bullying experiences. You’ll also learn proactive steps to prevent bullying. You’ll learn how to spot an abuser before they bully and the secret manipulative tricks they use to bully people and how to deal with cyberbullying. You’ll receive strategies for dealing with various bullying situations along with things you can do to help your community. 

This seminar is for anyone that has ever experienced bullying or anyone that wants to learn what to do prevent it from happening in the first place.

The Keys to Evolution – Bullying Prevention Seminar “Take Your Power Back from Bullies” will be held this Saturday, October 16 from 4-5:30 PM at the Austin History Center meeting room on 810 Guadalupe. (Come downtown, get empowered and enjoy a nice dinner downtown afterward.) The cost is $49 per person with a percentage of the proceeds going to iSafe Foundation. Participants will also receive a copy of my book, "Ten Keys to Staying Empowered  in a Power Struggle." To register, see http://nomorebullying.eventbrite.com/.


First I Ate Chocolate Cake, Then I Ate Pasta - Reflections of an Empty Nester One Year Later

What happens when a single mother becomes an empty nester? I shared what I was experiencing before it happened in a post on  May 28, 2009 (Adapting to an Empty Nest and Sharing Parenting Pearls Learned Along the Way).  In the post, I described that I might have been feeding a few of my feelings with homemade chocolate cake. Today’s post shares reflections of my first year as an empty nester and a few things I learned about grieving, finding yourself, loving from a distance, and letting your children soar when they leave the nest.

Anyone who knows me knows that my daughter is the most important person in my life. We’re extremely close. I feel so lucky to be her Mom. She is my sun and fills me with meaning and purpose for living. My whole adult life has been spent making decisions around her. (What is the best food she can eat?  Do I let her watch TV or do I ban TV? What school is best for her? Which neighborhood is safest for her? What job can I take that provides me with benefits, security and time for her? What can I do to be a good role model? How can I be the best parent ever and not pass on dysfunctions from previous generations…etc., etc.).

You can imagine it was a little painful to see her go – especially when she was moving half a country away. Not so easy to jump in a car and make weekend trips.  Consequently, I felt grief and sadness. I also found myself at a loss for what I wanted in life. Sure, it was easy to fantasize and dream about things I could do in the future while living a practical life today that focused on being a good Mom (which admittedly brought me more joy than anything else I could do in life). Yet, now that “someday in the future” was here and I didn’t know what to do. I also felt too sad and numb to just immediately jump on the “pursue your dreams” train.

As a healthy response to this new phase in my life (after all I’m a counseling psychotherapist and surely know the best things to do in these kinds of situations), I decided to commit to doing everything the same for one year. In other words, I wouldn’t make any drastic changes. I’d allow the internal changes to naturally surface instead. I’d give myself time to grieve or do whatever I needed to do. I would not commit to anything that resulted in an external change as it might disrupt my full healing. It takes a baby 10 months to grow in the womb. Surely, it would take some time for me to grow into this new life phase.

The Change

It did take time to adjust. I kept focusing on seeing my daughter, planning for our visits, and was pretty certain that I hadn’t been impacted by her departure at all. I felt absolutely fine. Normal. Life hadn’t changed. She and I were just experiencing longer trips away from each other.

Denial. It’s a powerful psychological defense.

She and I were both changing. She was finding friends and learning how to adjust. She was blossoming and coming into her own. Her adjustment appeared smooth. Our first visits with each other involved big hugs and extreme joy followed by bickering followed by tears followed by long talks of processing some of the changes that were taking place. We were still extremely close, yet we were on these new journeys that included diverging paths.

I tried to remain busy. I felt like I was living life as I had when she was home. It wasn’t until five months after she left that I realized I wasn’t cooking like I used to cook (I love to cook, so this was a big deal). I was on the phone with my sister one day when I informed her that I was finally cooking. Then I looked down at the saucepan filled with homemade pasta sauce and realized I had only cooked pasta for the past four months, except this time I was making homemade sauce instead of getting it from a jar.

Those are the kind of realizations that shatter denial like a bullet to a windshield. Tears that wouldn’t come before finally drenched my cheeks. I sobbed and realized life had changed. She wasn’t going to come back and be my little girl that I would get to take care of every day. I had to stand up and take care of me now – and let her be the amazing young adult woman she was becoming. 

What I learned

In reality, she and I were both coming into our own. She’s pursuing her passion in school and loving it. I’ve received calls where she excitedly gushes, “Mom, I feel like I was made for this.” There’s nothing that makes a parent feel any better than hearing that kind of enthusiasm from their grown child. In addition, she has inspired me to revisit my own hidden passions and dreams. 

One year later, rather than clinging to the days of yesteryear, I am settled into the now.  The lessons I’ve learned to date are these:

·          Parenthood doesn’t stop, it just changes – and you have to change with it.

·          Dreams don’t die, some dreams just get started later in life.

·          A critical part of parenting means being the positive support to your children’s passion – the world is full of no’s and negativity, so provide the YES in their lives and be their ray of light.

·          Be real, truthful and vulnerable with your children and they’ll be the same way with you.

·          Set healthy boundaries that are consistent and firm and you’ll give your children a foundation stronger than the Rock of Gibraltar.

·          Love heals all wounds and patience is a necessity.

·          Change is part of life – responding to change from the inside results in growth.

·          What you eat can reveal a lot abut what what you’re feeling. 


When Things Go Wrong - Travel!

Have you ever noticed that summer comes at just the right time? Exhaustion from life’s demands seems particularly high around this time. It’s as if mental burnout rises alongside the rising seasonal temperatures (as experienced here in the U.S and definitely in Texas).  If you can relate, traveling is your antidote.

In today’s economy, vacations at home (“staycations”) have become popular. The downside to a staycation, however, (and, no, this is not a paid endorsement from a travel agency) is that you may miss something critical that a travel experience provides you—fresh perspective.

We get so wrapped up in daily rituals that we end up getting stuck in a box and then we feel overwhelmed with life. Tunnel vision is the result.

The solution to tunnel vision is getting out of the box of your everyday experiences and changing your surroundings. This allows you to see things from a different point of view and to gain a fresh perspective. You can discover alternative solutions that you would have never dreamed possible. Traveling is the best way to achieve it, as Kent Nerburn points out in his book, “Simple Truths.”

Travel, no matter how humble, will etch new elements in your character. You will know the cutting moments of life where fear meets adventure and loneliness meets exhilaration. You will know what it means to push forward when you want to turn back…you will understand that there are a thousand, million ways to live, and that your life will go on to something new and different and every bit as worthy as the life you are leaving behind.

Whether you’re leaving a piece of life behind or an old way of seeing a situation, travel can have a profound affect on you. It can reinforce deep bonds with your family and loved ones. It can open your heart and mind to possibilities. It can connect you to your inner passions and dreams. It can uplift your spirit and restore your energy. It can also serve to foster brotherhood with all of mankind.

Whatever is happening in your life right now—deadlines, relationship troubles, career challenges, grief, money troubles, parenting issues, crisis of faith, general malaise—go out and discover your personal solutions by traveling. Make plans for a real vacation. Leave for a weekend getaway. Learn new cultures. Go explore. Have an adventure. Then drop me a line (KimberlyATencompasswf.com) and tell me how it changed your life.

Bon voyage !

How to Master Dating, Love & Marriage: Cracking the Heart’s Hidden Love Code


Poets describe it as a kind of 3rd entity, like it captured someone…or someone caught it.

As giddy as love feels, what if I told you that you were responsible for the swooning feelings of love that seemed to have appropriated your senses? Like a great chef creating a wonderful stew, you have put all the ingredients into the pot. Time and temperature have their influences too—yet nothing would be there to cook without your initial configuration.

Here’s how it works. We automatically categorize all of the experiences with another person and are constantly assessing whether the experiences tally up against our subconscious love list. The heart’s hidden lock opens to the feelings of love when the right amount of experiences takes place with another person and the love list gets checked off.

The high from that initial rush of love is so intoxicating, that it’s no wonder we persist in playing the dating game in order to crack the heart’s code. Our reactions to the properly sequenced code are a forgone conclusion. It’s a pact we made in adolescence, listening to our families, friends, and watching endless romantic movies, and listening to similar narratives applied to an array of musical beats. We were conditioned and we are conditioned to playing the love game. No wonder it feels like a third-person. It is. We disconnect from our conscious mind and go into reactive conditioning mode. We follow and our head doesn’t understand. But, our body and soul have been so trained. They leave our shocked, misunderstood logical brain behind in the dust. It’s almost primal. We lose control because we never had it. It’s simply our pre-wired reactions taking over, almost like in hypnosis. 

Oftentimes, women tend to react stronger to love because they have engaged in more of the narratives than men, which is one reason romance movies get dubbed a “chick flick.” Men’s narratives are more diluted with other “manly/non-emotional” narratives, so they don’t get as lost in the primal reactions. However, they are more likely to get swept up in the primal reactive conditioning of sex. They are trained from birth to ogle a woman’s body and seek pleasure from it. This might explain why women, generally, prefer romance and men prefer sex. But take note that our times are changing and the narratives are also changing, so we may be experiencing a lot of blurred roles and role reversal.

Blurred roles or not, love’s checklist is pretty consistent. Think about your own dating experience and notice how dates that made you feel in love included the following:

>    Trust gets established by sharing personal information, maybe where some pain has been involved

>    Trust is reciprocated by complete acceptance of shared story, along with nonjudgment & support

>    A cat and mouse game is played to find the perfect compatible dance (one party will shirk if the other comes on too strong and vice versa…proper balance is determined through light jesting, debating, teasing, etc.)

 Showing acceptable vulnerability and caretaking responses

>   Painting an image of future goals to see if there’s a shared match/compatibility between both pictures

>    Physical and intellectual compatibility

The heart unlocks (or primal conditioning kicks in) when these items are checked offNote - Both parties must feel and meet conditions or else it is infatuation.

Like that simmering stew, these conditions require consistency. Anything that deviates from the picture (an inconsistency, warning signs, etc.) can get immediately dismissed to maintain the illusion of love or it can result in shutting off the feelings of love altogether. For instance, cognitive dissonance (denial) may prevent the mind from engaging to keep the intoxicating feelings of love in place. Conversely, the heart will close and love will evaporate if inconsistencies are examined or when items on the checklist begin to get unchecked (e.g. picture of future isn’t compatible anymore, support has been removed, judgment/criticism takes hold). Logic supersedes primal conditioning and the people move on. This can happen within as little as 10 minutes to as long as 10 or more years. The key is that love can only thrive when the condition of love’s checklist are met.

In closing, consider these conditions if you are in love, falling in love, or looking for love. They comprise the secret formula to a successful relationship and the gift of giddiness that complete love brings. Being aware of your hidden checklist also allows you to appreciate love from the logical, emotional and primal brain. Being aware from all of these perspectives may also help you overcome any denial that is keeping you in a false love/infatuated/dangerous love situations. Remember you are not a victim or a hostage of love—you are the Chef and master of your heart’s love.


A Self-Assessment to Help you get the Most from Love & Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Are you ready for it? It’s interesting because I’ve heard people rumbling about it for weeks—almost more than any other day of celebration. It seems to have created a lot of anxiety in people (single folks and those in relationships).

Some complain with “bah humbug” disdain, stating that the day is only a commercialized excuse to sell cards and candy.

Others are sad that they are alone and feel like it’s a day to make single people feel bad.

Still others are in love with the idea of love and seem more attached to romantic gestures and displays of love than the person they actually claim to love. 

There are more scenarios, but you get the picture. People everywhere have an opinion about a day that’s dedicated to the celebration of love. It’s no wonder as love is the essential feeling that ties us together, ensures our continued existence, and makes us feel better than the most high-priced drug. Some even call it a drug. Yet, at its core, it’s the most basic human need that can heal all ails. 

When an infant is given love and a secure environment, that love floods their brain and bodies with all the rich hormones and chemicals needed later in life for resilience, adaptability and intrinsic happiness. No wonder we spend so long chasing after the feel good safe experience—especially if we didn’t get the full dose of comfort we needed as an infant. This isn’t about blaming your mother though. It’s about taking steps now to give yourself what you need, so that you can approach your loved ones and Valentine’s Day with realistic expectations and attain the satisfaction you crave.

The number one challenge when approaching love (and Valentine’s Day) is that we’re often trying to get something we desperately desire that, in actuality, we can only give ourselves. Thus, we feel frustrated by our own unmet needs while feeling taxed by the demands from our loved ones. 

Note the vicious cycle—how can we give something to someone that they can only give to themselves while we feel simultaneously depleted? It’s like two racecars expecting each other’s engines when they were only supposed to enjoy the experience of racing with each other. 

To break the cycle, here’s the self-assessment to help you fill your own engine (your heart) so that you can enjoy the race (life/love/activities/making memories) with your loved ones…

ASSESSMENT - Take a piece of paper and divide it in two columns. In one column, write down all of the loving things you’ve done for others. It can span all time and all relationships. Be sure to include any loving acts and accommodations that you feel good about.  In the second column, write down the loving things you’ve done for yourself. Think about any dreams in your heart and actions you’ve taken to allow yourself to achieve them. Which list is longer? Write about any feelings and reactions you’ve had in examining the two lists.

Why New Years’ Resolutions Fail and How to Make them Succeed

Thinking about making some New Year resolutions? Before you do, consider this: what you focus on expands. Focus on avoiding something (e.g. drinking, overeating, procrastinating) and you just might ensure its continued success. As an example, 98% of people dealing with stress tend to wake up at night ruminating about the thing that bothers them. It might be a fight with a child, an argument with a coworker, burgeoning mortgage bills, illness, or something else. It makes sense to focus on the problem. Yet, like the old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the problem will get the energy, which only serves to reinforce the rumination. They key is to focus on the opposing force of the problem-the solution.  

To illustrate, let’s use the example of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony, and lust). Numerous stories throughout time teach caution about succumbing to these behaviors. The message is reinforced to us at a young age by parents, teachers, books, and the media. For instance, recall Star Wars, episode 3, where Anakin Skywalker transforms into Darth Vader after allowing fear, envy, anger, and pride to mask his heart and intuition. In the episode, Yoda warns Anakin not to focus on the dark side of the force.

Like Darth Vader, human beings focus on the dark side of the force much of the time. I see it in myself, my friends, my family, and my clients. We fall of the bike of positive thinking and start ruminating on the negative and what we’re trying to avoid. Don’t believe me? Look at these top 13 New Year resolutions in the United States. The very first one is to lose weight with managing debt coming in second place. Both of these resolutions focus on the problem instead of the solution. Perhaps that’s why more than 68% of people will give up on their resolutions within the first two weeks.

People would be more successful if they focused on the light side of the force. Instead of making a resolution to lose weight, try making an intention to take care of your body with nourishing food, love and care. That love and care might consist of vitamins, exercise, deep breathing, emollient lotions, uplifting fragrances, plenty of water, and listening. Let your body speak to you about what it feels. A tummy ache might be a red flag that something is bothering you. Maybe putting up better boundaries and treating yourself with respect is needed. You may not hear this critical wisdom if you’re getting mad at your body for not fitting in your clothes.

Regarding managing your debt, can you tell this resolution focuses on lack? Treat your money with love, care and gratitude. Notice everything you have and how fortunate you are that you have the ability to pay for water, electricity, and things so often taken for granted. Debt begins to melt away (and never take hold in the first place) when we manage our money with gratitude. What happens is that people tend to focus on what they don’t have or how little money they or their partner is making, which leads to a vicious cycle of spending to feel better and then regretting. Stop the cycle by appreciating the joy that $1 gives you. The thrill of that hot shower. The warmth of the extra blanket on your bed. The comfort of the fuzzy slippers or soft socks. That is where the magic lives and abundance multiplies.

As for those seven deadly sins, try focusing on their complementary positives—the seven joys. Instead of avoiding greed, think of expanding how much you share. Instead of battling lust, try encouraging people’s soulful dreams. Instead of resisting anger, give yourself nourishing love. Instead of avoiding becoming a sloth (couch-potato syndrome), allow yourself to dance more. Instead of inhibiting your inner glutton, try releasing your inner artist and seek quality over quantity. Instead of hiding from your proud ego, focus on fostering unconditional self-acceptance. Finally, instead of detaining your green-eyed monster of envy, try re-focusing on gratitude in the moment. 

If you’ve gotten anything from this article, I hope it’s that attitude is everything. Please don’t beat yourself up. Take it one day at a time and keep readjusting your sights on the light. It will become natural over time. If you want help, you can try out my new texting tool for free. It’s www.InstantMotivator.com and is designed to help you stick to your positive goals. Type in ACAFreeTrial for your two-week free trial.

Happy 2010! May the next decade bring you joyous light, soulful meaning, loving relationships, and dreams that come true! 

How to Raise Your Child to Survive in Today’s Chaotic World

If you are a parent or have ever felt that emotions were something that could be destructive, please read on. This is perhaps the most important information I can share.

I received a comment about yesterday’s blog post, which triggered this response.  I addressed the concept of “fearmines” (fear buttons that trigger hidden emotional landmines). It may have been a bit oversimplified, but it was also right on target. Today, I’m going to get a little deeper and describe why hidden emotional landmines are actually at the heart of most of our problems today (crime, risky youth behaviors, depression, unemployment, divorce, greed, war) and how it all ties back into our emotional regulation system that was developed in infancy.  I’m also going to share what you can do to help your child develop a healthy emotional regulation system so that they can survive in today’s chaotic world.

Infants (and children) have brains and body systems that are not fully developed (e.g., nervous system, hormones, etc.). Because these systems are still in development, infants and children are extremely vulnerable and highly dependent. As such, babies and children rely on their parent/caregiver as an external system to regulate their care. In other words, imagine having half of a heart, half of a lung, half of a liver, half of a kidney, etc., etc, and needing another human being to compensate and basically act as the missing parts of the heart, liver, kidney, etc., etc. It’s more than co-dependence and completely needed for the child’s healthy growth. Just as the baby depended on the mother in the womb for survival and development, the infant and child STILL depends on the mother/caregiver after birth.

The emotional regulation system becomes disrupted when adequate care is not given to an infant and child. This includes ignoring a baby’s cries, telling them to shut up, or confusing their cries with something else (like shoving a pacifier in their mouth when they want their diaper changed). While we never respond to a baby perfectly 100% of the time, if the number of inadequate responses exceeds the adequate responses, then the baby forms a maladjusted emotional regulation system. This is also preverbal, so later in life some external stimuli can elicit an internal anxiety response that was felt as a baby but now doesn’t make sense for the grown adult to understand. Instead, they feel like something else takes over them (sometimes referred to as an emotional hijacking).

To recognize the symptoms of this disruption in an adult (or yourself) includes common responses like these: 

·                *Feeling like you can’t trust your emotions and that they can get out of control

·                *Denying that you have troublesome feelings

·                *Believing that relationships are not important or, conversely, never being able to be alone

·                *Always trying to be an ideal person that someone (or your parent) will love and finally approve

·                *Cutting off from others

·                *Constant relocating and/or job changes

·                *Battling or overpowering others and/or using others for your own gain

·                *Escaping through drinking, drug use, sexual addictions, food addictions, etc.

The challenge as parents is that we tend to fall back on our own unconscious learning and repeat the same behaviors with our children—which is how such patterns repeat themselves through the generations (generational transmission).

Not surprisingly these symptoms show up in society. Societal symptoms of maladjusted emotional systems form when enough people grow up without healthy emotional regulation systems (reinforcing the problem). Such societal symptoms may include:

·                *Focusing on external productivity over internal emotional states and healthy relationships (like over-focusing on what the child wants to be when they grow up; over-focusing on child’s grades in school; over-focusing on how much money someone makes, what kind of car they drive, etc., etc.)

·                *Chronic relationship disruption and emotional illness (which can be seen in rising divorce rates, escalating depression and other mental health related illnesses, increased crime, increased bullying behaviors, increased self-centeredness, decreased compassion and tolerance for emotion in others) 

A solution to this problem is to work on ourselves and form a new healthy emotional regulation system. Oftentimes, therapy does this because the therapist can sit with the person and affirm their feelings, allowing the person to fully feel their own feelings and then safely respond to them without judgment. This process helps to develop new neural networks of self-care (new emotional regulation systems). In addition, people can do this same thing for loved ones, join support groups, journal about feelings, obtain spiritual support, and do things that provide safe love and emotional healing. 

When the person is able to form a new healthy emotional regulation system, they are able to sit with their feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) and are more able to tolerate other people’s emotions. When that happens, they can also sit with their needy infants and children and better respond to their needs without anxiety, frustration or panic. 

Another symptom of a healthy emotional regulation system is relationship repair. Accepting that no one is perfect and conflict will arise is important to remember. The key is to be able to effectively repair your relationships after a disruption. The more immediate the repair, the more neural networks are formed in the healthy emotional regulation system.

As parents and people, it is critical to comprehend the extent that infants and children are dependent on us. We need to make them a priority and attend to them. This does not mean spoiling them with toys—it means being there, loving them, empathizing with their needs, and helping them to understand and attend to their emotions.

Children become out of control when we ignore them and get angry—putting them in time-outs when they aren’t developed enough to understand consequences. We also run into the trap of referring to punishment as “tough love” when we take away a privilege without taking the time to process our children’s feelings and fears and understanding what motivates them to engage in behaviors that may scare us.   

Finally, understanding that our societal values of productivity over relationships may actually be a symptom of inadequate infant/child care can help us to change the narratives that perpetuate infant/child/human emotional abuse. We are making strides in addressing emotional care as a society, but we’re not there yet. Perhaps the current economic problems, rising unemployment rates, risky behaviors in children (increasingly younger sexual promiscuity in children, “hook-ups”, self-abuse like cutting, bullying, school shootings, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide) will wake us up to the real war that we’re in—the war with ourselves and our own internal emotional regulation systems. Focusing on healing our internal war through love, compassion, empathy, healing, tolerance, awareness, and helping each other as a larger family (instead of isolated individuals in big houses) will surely help the next generations to develop healthy emotional regulation systems. Perhaps when that happens, global harmony (aka world peace) can actually be obtainable.

Secrets of How Successful Entrepreneurs Survive Fear

fear Behind every successful entrepreneur lay a field of hidden landmines riddled with fear (“fearmines”). Some were stepped on. Others lay dormant, under the surface, affecting the journey just the same. The key is to be aware of them, know where to step, and what to do when you step on one.

The first and most important thing to know is that EVERYONE has fear.

Successful entrepreneurs just know how to work with it. In fact, successful entrepreneurs were once unsuccessful—the difference is that they continued taking steps on their path in spite of the obstacles (the biggest being their own fears).

àStep one is to get comfortable with your fear and reassure yourself that it’s a natural part of your journey’s landscape.

Once you realize that you’re not alone and that fear is normal, you can then employ measures to avoid needlessly stepping on fearmines all the time.

Fearmines often look a little different. They tend to leave a little bump on the surface and can easily be seen IF you take the time to look. Once observed, you’ll recognize it as some old sensitive wound.

Maybe the wound was something your parents told you (“Get your head out of the clouds!” when you were daydreaming or coming up with new inventions.) Or perhaps it was from being ridiculed by your peers, the ones who insisted you’d never amount to anything and would be doomed to poverty.

àWhatever the wound, take time to recognize it so you can avoid stepping on it and repeating the damage (e.g. like when you repeat the damage by yelling at yourself “Get your head out of the clouds!” after you’ve experienced a let down).

Another common fearmine includes control. Being able to adapt to change and uncertainty is the prerequisite for succeeding as an entrepreneur. People who need a high degree of control will tend not to be as spontaneous, imaginative, flexible, and inventive. Usually they’re like this because of fear.

When we feel out of control and overwhelmed, we tend to take control. However, control is a tricky illusion. The irony is that our fear reaction tends to make us take control where we don’t have it and give up control where we do have it (with ourselves).

àTake stock of your feelings and recognize if fear is making you overcompensate with controlling and/or self-sabotaging behaviors.

A couple of common fearmines have been addressed, but what do you do when actually you step on one?

Failure (getting lost in the fear) is part of the process. Fully feeling the fear and moving through it builds your resilient muscles—and it’s exactly these muscles that make you thrive as an entrepreneur (and as an artist, as a human being, as a parent, as a soul). What counts is taking that deep breath and continuing on the journey knowing that unresolved issues will still be there, but you’ll be stronger the next time when you inevitably reach them again.

àRecognize and repair once you’ve stepped on a fearmine. Honor it. Feel the feelings.  Control your part and avoid overcompensating. Then get back up and keep going. 

By now you’re seeing the pattern that fear creates action (even if inaction)—actions which aren’t always healthy for our self-worth or our entrepreneurial ventures. Understanding how your personal fearmines influence your behavior and how best to compensate for them makes the difference. Knowing this is a normal process helps you to keep going. Recovering from a fearmine is the success. 

Remember that everyone has felt like a pretender and questioned their talent and venture. It’s fundamental human nature to seek understanding, desire approval, and dream of complete acceptance—and fear when we don’t have these things. To fear is human and to recover from it, divine. When treated properly, fear can propel us into depth, growth, and inventiveness beyond any of our perceived limitations.

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Veteran’s Day: Honoring the Forgotten Hope of 11-11

I cried as I prepared to write today’s post. It rekindled some painful memories. However, proceeding to write this renewed my faith and hope. I hope reading it has the same effect for you.

Today is November 11, Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a little more somber and poignant this year as our Nation continues to battle in a “war on terrorism” and attempts to recover from last week’s tragedy at Fort Hood when one man (a psychiatrist) engaged in his own battle as he allegedly shot down 13 people and physically wounded 42 others, and emotionally wounded so many more.

How does one heal? What can one do?

Last night I heard a quote by Benjamin Franklin that appalled me, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.” I disagree. Research shows that hope is one of the key ingredients to resiliency and healing. I say it’s the opposite, “He that lives with hope will die fulfilled.”

Of course, I also recognize that hope is only one ingredient. We need direction and action. The obstacle is when our direction and actions are based on reactivity, revenge, fear, and self-deception.

Perhaps that’s what happened November 11, 1919 when Germany begrudgingly signed the armistice agreement that ended World War I (at the 11th hour of on the 11th day of the 11th month). The total number of deaths from that war, The Great War, was considered to have been 8.5 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, and 21 million being wounded (imagine the millions more impacted emotionally and through the generations).

A possible sliver of silver lining from all this destruction (the hope) was the creation of the League of Nations. While it didn’t stay in formation, it’s focus on communicating worldwide about issues that impact global human rights and public health set a precedent for the United Nations.

What does all of this have to do with Veteran’s Day? A few things.

First, because of the armistice agreement, this day was originally called Armistice Day. Ironically, armistice means “a temporary suspension of the warring parties by agreement.” Armistice Day, as its name implies, was only temporary. It was changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954.

While we remember veterans today (living and passed), I want to point out the astronomical number of civilians that have been killed in war (remember that WWI casualties alone totaled approximately 8.5 million soldiers and 6 million civilians). That doesn’t include all of the civilians directly impacted by war.  Today is not so different as civilians are targets of terrorist attacks around the globe.

As a counselor, military brat, and veteran, I feel compelled to express my sympathy and extend loving and healing thoughts to all people worldwide on this day, not just my fellow veterans. In fact, I urge all people to think of this day as a day of peace and to hold the intention of peace throughout time. 

Change happens when we change our foundation. That foundation is created by our intentions and the words we use. Mother Teresa expressed it best when she described that she wouldn’t attend and anti-war protest but she would show up to a pro-peace rally. The original seed of today’s history is based on the hope of worldwide peace. Please don’t forget it—honor the hope of today and the people around you. Namaste.

Three Secrets of a Healthy Mind

There was a legendary story in a corporation where I once worked about a person who suffered from a “nervous breakdown.” Apparently, they had a panic attack right before they were going to give a speech at a company event. I was told that the corporate “bigwig” quit right after that and was never heard of again. The story circulated among the employees as a kind of warning to not lose your sanity (or show any emotions) while on the job, lest you suffer the same fate.

Have you ever heard of someone having a nervous breakdown? Do you remember how it felt to hear about it? To date, I’ve heard a number of such stories. It seems each time I have, the person that shares the account of someone who “lost it” fell into a whisper and then shuddered in fear.  As a counselor, I have a different outlook and knowledge that allows me to understand these experiences. I’ve also learned key factors that contribute to mental distress and some things that can be done to overcome them. As a follow-up to last week’s post, here are the top three factors for keeping your cool and self-regulating (the three secrets that healthy minds already exhibit).

1.     1. Listen to your feelings. The first and most important tip of all is NOT to keep your emotions at bay. Paradoxically, it is being able to be in tune with our innermost feelings that provide us with the ability to heal them. Our downfall is when we deny feelings for so long that a giant backlog of unexpressed emotion wallops us when least expected.

2.     2. Express emotion in balance. This ties back into the last post. Sometimes we have been trained/conditioned/raised to experience our feelings in a not so healthy way. If not raised to embrace and understand our emotions, we may avoid them, overdramatize them, express them without restraint, or swing from avoiding to over-expression. A balanced expression of emotion occurs when there is continual mindfulness about your inner state.

3.    3. Develop healthy relationships. Healthy relationships support and encourage you. Research shows that healthy relationships have a significant impact on your health, emotional wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Healthy relationships provide accommodation, respect, support, love, and commitment. The unhealthy range of relationships cultivates anxiety, negativity, conflict, verbal aggression, and withdrawal.

Please seek help immediately if you’re having troubles expressing balanced emotion and/or if your relationship(s) fall into the unhealthy range. There are a number of resources (along with free counseling clinics in your area) that can assist you. Please check out the links on the side bar of this page for resources.

How the Hidden Blueprint of Childhood Directs Your Career


How can a damaged upbringing hurl you into career greatness?

You’ve probably heard of numerous examples where people have beaten all odds and succeeded in accomplishing their dreams. The subtle message in these cases seems to suggest that rough beginnings and hardships are the secret ingredients to success. That’s why I laughed and laughed when I heard the line “Don’t fix your Daddy issues!” on Samantha Who?, a former ABC sitcom starring Christina Applegate as an amnesiac who finds herself in a successful job but learns she wasn’t a very nice person to many people. The friend that cautioned her from getting to know her father better said that those initial family problems were exactly why she was so good in her job. (Clearly this advice isn’t so good for my job. But if you watch the show, you’ll learn she’s a much happier person by reuniting with her emotions and changing her former greed at all costs approach to life.)

Similarly, I’m often asked how our childhoods can affect our jobs—especially the risk-taking nature of an entrepreneur. It’s highly individual of course, but here’s a theory that can satiate your curiosity a bit. See if you can identify yourself in any of the following categories and learn how it impacts you, your loved ones and your career and  business ventures.

The attachment theory is one of my favorites and a lot of empirical research has given it more validity over the years. The simple description of attachment theory is how you initially bonded with your primary caregiver (Mother? Father? Adopted parent?) forms the basis of how you will interact (or attach) to everything else in your life. This can be a relationship, hobby, home, career and/or your business venture. 

Secure Attachment – The person who has a secure attachment received the perfect balance of love and nurturing from their parent. The parent was attentive to their needs and empathetic (could feel their feelings). The parent was not intrusive (bugging the baby even if the baby expressed displeasure) or neglectful (not paying attention to the baby). The securely attached person grows up with a sense of confidence, trust, and wisdom. They do not stay in situations that do not work. For example, they would move on if a relationship or venture showed clear signs of failure. Conversely, they would not just give up either. They would make the appropriate amount of effort. (Not everyone has this attachment style, but it’s something we can all learn to cultivate in life.

Avoidant Attachment – The avoidant person had a parent that was more neglectful. The parent could not empathize or was just so busy that they could not be as responsive to their child. Consequently, the child learned that being alone was normal. The avoidant adult is not as good with empathy. Moreover, they do not handle intimacy very well as it can feel suffocating and provoke anxiety. They prefer to keep a distance. This can translate into getting into relationships but not being very close (perhaps traveling or working a lot to maintain adequate distance). It can also mean growing tired of ventures and needing new things to do more frequently.

Insecure Attachment – An insecure attachment simply means that the parent swung from being available to not being available, leaving the baby confused and feeling more anxious about losing and/or attracting the parent. The insecure adult brings this underlying anxiety into their relationships and constantly battles with the fear of losing relationships and the desire to have distance. This person most experiences the tension of the togetherness and separateness continuum. In their venture, they may vacillate about what to do as a consequence.

Paying attention to your anxiety is key to healing the wound if you find yourself identifying with the latter two styles. Re-nurturing yourself can help shift you into a more secure attachment style. You can also go to a counselor or coach as this is one of the secret reasons such processes work. The bond you develop with your therapist or coach can form a new attachment style when your interactions are trusting, open and positive. 

(Stay tuned for the next blog post as it will discuss ways you can self-nurture and self-heal.)

Can Your Relationship be Saved? Signs Your Relationship is in Danger and What You can Do About It

There is no greater pain than the loss of a loved one. When a loved one passes, their death has a way of completely incapacitating you by enveloping your entire being with an unyielding suffocating pain, overwhelming sadness, and intense despair. But what happens when the one you love is still alive and the flame of your love – your relationship – is dying? I once had a friend cry to me and exclaim that her divorce was more painful than a death because the man she loved and ached to be with was still alive, right there before her eyes, but he chose to love another. It took her two years to heal. Now she’s remarried with children and living the blissful dream so many desire. But what if her relationship to her first husband could have been saved? Would it have been worth it? And if it could have been saved, at what point could things have changed?

The ending of any relationship, whether friendship, lover, even a relationship with a former job, can be devastating. Sometimes old abandonment wounds resurface when a relationship ends, making the pain even greater. In addition, people grieve the loss of a dream. People also blame themselves and/or the other person in an attempt to understand and logically deal with the loss. I’d like to suggest that no one is particularly to blame when a relationship ends. Rather, some relationships simply catch a disease. The key is to recognize the symptoms of the disease and try to catch it early with treatment. (Note-89% of couples seek help after it’s too late-preventative help works best.)

Couplefight To describe the symptoms of a diseased relationship, I’ll point out John Gottman’s findings. Gottman and his colleagues have studied relationships for over 20 years and have been able to articulate exactly what goes wrong in a relationship. It is this research that lets him identify—with 91% accuracy—which couples are headed for divorce. It’s not magic. He just understands the symptoms of a relationship in trouble. Following are findings from his research that clearly indicate the presence of what I refer to as a diseased relationship.

Relationship Disease Stage One-The couple begins to complain about each other. The honeymoon is over and now the little complaints begin to show up like fatigue. Getting treatment at this stage means recognizing the symptom, talking about it with each other, and making an effort share your feelings in a way that doesn’t come off like a complaint. If complaints persist, remedy immediately with acknowledgement of the hurt, and a kiss, tickle, laughter or some form of positive reinforcement of your love. Counseling at this stage is highly effective for curing the disease.

Relationship Disease Stage Two-Like a tickle in your throat and a low-grade fever, complaints have now escalated into down right criticisms. Now you’re attacking each other with little darts. Such criticisms sting more than complaints. Worse they leave little scars on your heart. Treatment is critical at this stage. Recognize and talk about it with each other. Try to reassure each other. Understand where the little scars have been placed and take responsibility for treating them. Give love, healing and support to each other. If a criticism has been launched, make immediate steps to repair or else you’re in danger of the disease taking hold. Counseling at this stage is effective for treating the disease.

Relationship Disease Stage Three-The fever has heightened and the disease has taken hold when criticisms turn into contemptuous remarks and silent treatment (Gottman calls it stonewalling). Grenades are launched at each other and repairs aren’t being made. Get help immediately if you’re experiencing these deadly symptoms. When left untreated, the disease takes over and sours everything in your life. The more you run from confronting the disease, the more it controls you. Worse, it truly begins affecting your health. Communication, love, healing, and genuine sharing are critical at this stage. Taking responsibility for the deep scars your grenades left in your loved ones heart is essential. They, too, need to take responsibility for the wounds they left in your heart. Healing cannot occur until the scars are illuminated and treated. Counseling can be effective at this stage for putting the disease in remission. 

Relationship Disease Stage Four and Five-This is where many couples seek help (if they seek help). The disease has taken its toll and is ready for emergency treatment. Contempt and silent treatment have now escalated into arming oneself with a perpetual defensive wall. Worse, damaging memories from former diseased interactions (unhealthy and hurtful fights that were never adequately repaired) have now cast an unfavorable light onto the entire relationship. You both talk about your problems more than you have fun. Dirty looks or unhappy expressions occur one out of five smiles or happy expressions (yes, Gottman has revealed that one bad apple needs at least 25 good ones to keep couples happy…one to five odds are a very dangerous sign). At this stage, serious attention needs to be placed on the relationship. Can it be resuscitated or are attempts to heal it futile? Seek help from a professional immediately. If there is danger in the relationship (the attacks have crossed into physical confrontations, threats, abuse), get immediate help to get out as the diseased relationship is now affecting your health and wellbeing. Please call 911 if you are in imminent danger.

If you’re experiencing a disease in your relationship or would like help preventing a disease from occurring in your relationship, please call me (Kimberly Key) at 512-617-6356 to discuss the best treatment method for your situation.

When Social-Media, Cell Phones and Instant Messaging Hurts Your Relationships

If The New York Times can print seven errors in a leading story about legendary and fastidious journalist hero, Walter Cronkite, why do we expect perfect communication from each other? Face it, human beings are fallible. Communicating is a challenge. Hoping your message will be accurately received by others can be a lot like gambling. People often hear their own interpretations—especially if there is any emotional current in the conversation. Add depending on tech forms of communication (text messaging, emails, social-media updates, etc.) where the critical 85% of nonverbal communication is missing, and getting a clear message across is like playing Russian roulette. 

Even so, social-media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are growing in popularity more than ever. People of all demographics are signing up and trying out these new forms of human connection. Books and articles on how to use social-media to improve your business, your relationships, and manage your public relations are in new abundance. Even serious minded people, news outlets and more have online profiles somewhere. But what are the costs associated with these forms of online communication?

In the past, I have advocated that technology-enhanced communication can augment your existing relationships and help to establish new ones (see Sep 07 post). However, the key word is augment, not replace. Human beings need a sense of belonging (which is why joining a social-media outlet can feel good). But we crave intimacy and social-media creates a false sense of intimacy. Moreover, solely relying on non-intimate forms of communication (where again, 85% of required nonverbal communication is missing—yes, words only make up 15% of communication) will wreak havoc on your relationships.

How can it wreak havoc?

First, miscommunication is going to happen. You will infer a good tone if you’re feeling good that day. But what happens when you’ve had a bad day or you’re under the weather and/or you simply misinterpret a tone? That small misunderstanding will lead to increasing frustration and a regrettable reply. Not surprisingly, the situation will escalate and your relationship could be irreparably damaged.

Second, if there is a problem in the relationship and it’s unbalanced (more online communication than intimate in-person communication), deep-seated abandonment wounds will be enflamed. When this happens, prolonged time periods of not receiving a reply from someone will hurt to the core. It will feel more painful than normal. Anxiety will increase and that ancient hidden gene that secretly whispers “rejection means death” will grow louder. You then run the risk of experiencing the person as the enemy by the time they finally reply.

Third, you can become so overloaded and overwhelmed by the sheer number of online responses that you have been requested to make that some will simply fall through the cracks. You will feel like you have some sort of attention or memory problem. You will desire to be available to everyone, but simply cannot. As such, you might subconsciously rebel. Maybe you won’t be as responsive. Perhaps you’ll abandon one of the social-media outlets you’ve joined. Or you will decide to call a time out from your email and/or phone. The downside of this reaction is that people won’t be able to reach you in a timely manner and you’ll be branded as undependable (which then alerts the “rejection means death” gene and reignites the vicious cycle of making you logon and send your replies).

To break the cycle, try to make sure that you have a good and balanced ratio of healthy and intimate relationships in your life. 

à Make sure that more than half of the relationships in your life are in-person.

à If you utilize technology with closer relationships, make sure that 75% is strictly dedicated to in-person interactions.

If most of your relationships are online, step away from your computer right now and talk to someone in person. Maybe go for a 15-minute walk outside with someone and get your needed Vitamin D. Talk and spend time with people. Laugh. Cry. Make memories. As for the folks in your online network, urge them to do the same…and if you’ve missed some replies or been untimely in your communications, maybe you can emulate The New York Times and start your own “corrections” page.


Heed the Warnings of Your Internal Alarm System (aka Feelings!)


Have you ever gotten overwhelmed by your feelings? Maybe you thought they were negative feelings and wanted to get rid of them right away. If so, you might want to stop and heed the message the next time you have any of these three feelings (fear, guilt, anxiety) because they might be trying to tell you something.

As counselors, mothers, teachers (and hopefully your heart) tells you, feelings have a purpose. They tell us if a situation or a person is safe. They inspire us to do greater things (like the love story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal!). They can also alert us to change. As you can guess, difficulties arise when people ignore their feelings - or when they focus so much on one feeling that they become stuck in it. This is especially true when negative feelings like fear, guilt or anxiety rise up. Yet, before you dismiss these feelings (or get stuck in them), try to examine their underlying message and see what change is called for in your life.
FEAR: Fear can warn us about the gravity of a situation. It encourages internal change. If you feel stuck in fear, try meditating on courage. As you cultivate the courage, you’ll be able to make the necessary internal changes to adapt to a situation and the fear will melt away. 

GUILT: Guilt provides insight and helps to better understand ourselves and others, allowing us to re-examine the root causes and responsibility for given situations. Too much guilt can be caused from a lack of internal boundaries. If you experience frequent guilt when you’re not responsible for it, try meditating on self-love and reassurance. It’s like the Golden Rule, but flipped. Treat YOURSELF as you treat others. By noticing your own self-talk and replacing self-criticism with love and reassurance, you’ll let go of taking too much responsibility for situations that you don’t control—and the guilt will subside. 

ANXIETY: Anxiety also helps to motivate us to change. It signals action. Problems occur when anxiety creates paralysis. In addition, it becomes tempting to judge oneself when you’re experiencing anxiety, which can lead to feeling more anxious. If this occurs, try meditating and finding peace of mind. Relax, take deep breaths and allow peace to override the anxiety. Oftentimes, a call to action will reveal itself when we let go of the anxiety. Then moving into action will decrease the original need for the anxiety.

The Biggest Reason Entrepreneurs Fail

I’ve seen companies succeed and I’ve seen companies fail. In fact, I’ve been part of companies that were able to sustain steady growth and still thrive today while others collided as soon as they took off. One company, in particular, that comes to mind never should have failed, but it did. It’s also the reason I transitioned out of engineering and got into entrepreneurial coaching in the first place.

Their cause of failure was caused by relationship strive and power struggles (see my book at www.TenKeysToPowerStruggles.com if you or anyone you know is experiencing this problem). Yet, this post is entitled the biggest reason entrepreneurs fail and although I believed at one time that businesses failed because of problematic human interactions, I’ve now come to realize that there’s an even lower common denominator than that—and it’s something most business experts have missed.

Take a moment and think about what you’ve heard, read, or experienced as the leading cause of business failure.

Are you listing them?

Let’s see if any of these are on the list: 

Did you come up with inadequate or lack of planning?

How about marketing? 

Did you say stupidity? (Well, surely you’ve had that sentiment from time to time.)

Okay, what about not having enough capital?

Or, as my previous experience revealed, how about relationship challenges (this can include battling with a partner, investor, staff, or just plain overlooking the customer’s needs).

According to entrepreneurship author and Case Western University professor Scott Shane, there’s even the possibility that failure is a measure of a good economy if your venture folded. He purports, “Having fewer entrepreneurs means that we are experiencing economic growth. The more developed a country is, the fewer people work for themselves.”

This post isn’t about telling you to go work for a high growth company. (Although it’s cool if you do.) This is about providing support and insight so that you can make your entrepreneurial venture succeed—and maybe even turn it into one of those high growth companies that Shane says is good for our GDP. If that interests you, then please read on.

I listed some of the common reasons people say that businesses fail. There’s a lot of research out there that provide reasons and many of the stats contradict other researchers’ findings. There’s also the discussion about teasing out superfluous data and accounting for confounding variables, etc. However, What I’ve found to be at the core of most of my client’s issues is this one basic human flaw that undermines even our best intentions.

This flaw explains why smokers can’t seem to quit even when the doctor says it’s going to kill them and they desperately desire to quit.

It also accounts for the billions of dollars that are spent on gym memberships, self-help programs, and other health and wellness miracles that end up unused and untried as soon as the commitment was made.

I believe this flaw translates into business start-ups and reveals why most business fail (8 out of 10) within the first year (64% by the fifth year).

This flaw, while seemingly simple, is the disease responsible for ruining your best intentions. It’s why you can’t focus—and, unfortunately, it’s worsened with the advent of video games, microwave ovens, and microblogging sites like Twitter.

It’s not ADD or ADHD, but it is this distracter gene’s ancestor and it resides in ALL of us. 

It’s our primal reptilian brain that causes us to be so immediate focused that it takes us right off track from our original agenda. It’s the source of procrastination. It’s the source of emotional hijacking. It’s why the best-laid plans go awry.

The primal reptilian brain feeds off of distraction, drama, and holds tight to emotional traumatic triggers that transform wisdom and grace into momentary flights of rage and despair. 

The good news is that the primal reptilian brain can be your best ally. You just need to learn how to harness your inner power and make your primal brain work for you rather than against you. 

For instance, let’s say you want to make X number of marketing calls a week, but you never seem to get it done. Basically you keep finding yourself procrastinating. You might loathe the task. Maybe you have some fear of failure or rejection. You could even have fear of success. Or you get distracted with all of your other responsibilities. Whatever the reason may be, your primal brain is working against you if you’re not making the calls—and it’s feeding off the energy from the fear, loathing and/or distractions.

The trick to making your primal brain assist you in making those marketing calls can be two-fold. You can employ that good old-fashioned work ethic that says you have to make X number of calls a day before you can relax or have some type of reward. Secondly, you can also up the ante by offering a penalty payment to your assistant, colleague, mentor, or a family member each time you don’t make the required calls that week. However, in order for this last part of the trick to work, it needs to be realistic but painful enough to make you miss the money that was doled out as your penalty payment.

This last tricks works because it makes your primal brain want to protect you from the pain of the money loss. Before that, your primal brain sensed the pain from the fear and loathing and worked hard to keep you off your task no matter how much you tried to motivate or convince yourself.

Did you get that? Your primal brain is motivated to protect you and any sign of fear of loathing activates your primal brain, causing it to rescue you from the source of your pain.

Now think about what happens when you start a business. That’s right—fear of failure. Fear of those looming statistics that say you’re probably going to fail. Fears from your family, friends and colleagues who shake their head at your decision. Fear from the loss of security, benefits and support staff that makes you feel safe when you’re working for a stable company. Fear of your own decision-making skills. Need I go on? The inherent and pervasive fear from kicking off an entrepreneurial venture can activate your primal brain to protect you and make you abandon your venture (either through procrastination of a needed but dreaded task, overwhelmed helplessness, poor relational functioning, etc.).

However, your primal brain can be your most powerful ally and loyal protector. The key is learning how to make it work for you so that you can accomplish the goals your frontal lobe creates (e.g. business plans, entrepreneurial ventures, networking, writing a book, losing weight, going on dates, listening, eating healthy, etc., etc.). 

If you would like to learn specific methods for harnessing your inner ally and making your primal brain work for you rather than against you, please join me for a special-request seminar focused on entrepreneurial coaching methods that will help you harness your inner power and achieve greater success in accomplishing goals based on your passion and purpose. This is an intimate gathering of pre-screened committed entrepreneurs only with limited spots available. If you’re interested in attending, please contact me at 512.617.6356 to discuss where you’re at in your business and how this seminar can help you.

Harness Your Inner Power Seminar

Jun 26-27 


What to Expect: Presentation with interaction among group members sharing their experiences with the common pitfalls of entrepreneurship, life management and ineffective habits. Bring a list of the challenges you want to overcome in your business, life and even your family, and learn customized approaches to harnessing your inner power and making your primal brain work for you rather than against you. You’ll leave with renewed energy, motivation AND real applicable strategies that will make you overcome the procrastination and devastating habits that cause 8 out of 10 businesses to fail within the first year (64% by the fifth year).