Sometimes Condolences Can Hurt, More Than Help.
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Eric Hoffer, the social writer and philosopher, once said "the search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness." Similarly, John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher and social theorist said, "ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so."
Sara, a person who has consulted me frequently for help for many years, has been a harsh self-critic; essentially, picking up where both her parents left off. While therapy has helped her to become more accepting of her shortcomings and occasional failures, Sara still, at times, can berate or belittle herself for an occasional error in judgment, a social gaffe, or even a disappointing experience on a blind date.
One of the major issues confronting so many couples is what is commonly referred to as "communication problems." This can mean many things and may cover a wide variety of interactive difficulties between any two people in a relationship.
In the course of one's life, many positive and negative things will occur that are unexpected and may be unexplained. We are, of course, delighted when the positive event comes our way that contributes something to our welfare, e.g. the unexpected raise or promotion at work, or a personal success like a new romantic partnership. The negative events or developments, not surprisingly, are more difficult to process and for some, require considerable effort to accept.
"Stop being so defensive!" is a phrase known to have begun or to have escalated many a battle between people in a relationship. The person told to stop being defensive usually responds by stating that he or she is not being defensive. The accuser then uses that response as evidence to prove his point and an argument ensues. The issue that was the subject of the exchange gets lost in the anger-storm and not reopened for some time, if ever.
I often hear clients expressing concern about an event or a situation of some kind for which they are experiencing something known as anticipatory anxiety. This is a heightened sense of worry and vigilance about some dreaded event or experience that the anxious individual fears might overwhelm him, sometimes known as the "what-will-happen-next" fear.
This intriguing question – in so many variations – has been asked by many people who are struggling with both the joys and the consequences of being involved in a serious romantic partnership. For some, being single is a most desirable state and valued for the many freedoms and opportunities it affords. There are many who choose to be single and resist serious romantic involvements because they do not wish to complicate their independent and autonomous lives. For others, being single is a time of waiting; waiting to be partnered so that they can, as one client remarked, "feel whole again." For them, being single is just unacceptable; or, worse, a possible indication that they are 'undesirable', as in "nobody wants me."
When most couples call me for a couples therapy consultation, they have reached a point where the severity of their ongoing conflict has reached the danger zone. Some couples seek help when the early signs of trouble begin to develop. Others wait…and wait, either hoping that their difficulties will resolve themselves or that they will find a way to address their problems independent of professional help. Some couples, it seems, have chosen to consult a therapist as the "option of last resort" prior to initiating divorce proceedings.
Many clients have spoken to me about their experiences with people in their lives wishing that they would – or, worse – telling them that they must "get over" some emotional condition or disorder from which they are suffering. This could be a state of depression, a grief reaction to the loss of a loved one, or something else that requires time – and maybe professional help – in order to overcome.