trauma,childhood trauma, PTSD, emotional trauma,EMDR,trauma counseling

I spent years working with rape & incest victims for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, many decades ago. Trauma is a big deal. If you are struggling with trauma or love someone who is, take the time to learn more about it.

Trauma can interrupt the bravest of individuals, as depicted in Clint Eastwood’s movie American Sniper. You watch Bradley Cooper return home with PTSD & struggle with feeling ok in the normal world after the trauma of war.

Trauma makes you question the very core of who you are, like a jellyfish stranded on the sand.

Trauma can happen in experiences that layer over time like Brian Wilson in the movie Love and Mercy. His father hit him so often he was deaf in his left ear. Then he repeated the experience of never pleasing his father with the disturbed psychologist who treated him. There is a danger in repeating patterns that are harmful when someone suffers with trauma.

There are terrific books out there now that capture trauma in both the fiction & nonfiction worlds. There is more awareness of trauma in 2015 than in 1980 when victims of incest suffered in silence afraid of not being believed. The Books are listed on the trauma page of my website.

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing or EMDR for short is discussed as a viable treatment for trauma therapy. There is a you tube video of explanation.

If you have received this email you may have not realized the blog has been moved to my website. I will rarely post here except with updates. So please sign up for my blog:

You’ve missed a great post on Control, What is it We Love?. Go have a look. Thanks for subscribing to this blog & I hope you will try my new podcast out! You can find my podcast on my website also or go to iTunes & search for What Healthy Couples Know that You Don’t.


relationship,relationship advice, conflict,blame,fighting,respect,trust,infidelityRelationships are one of the best things in life to get right. A podcast is an audio blog, if you’ve never tried a podcast before maybe now is the time. Each of my podcasts is under 10 minutes & will come out every 2 weeks.

I new podcast is a baby bird trying to fly; reviews & subscriptions are like worms to help it grow. I can’t even get a star rating until a certain number of people have reviewed it. I’d love to make it to New & Noteworthy.

I would love to get your help for the new podcast I’ve launched
on itunes & sticher (for androids). It’s called “What Healthy Couples Know
That You Don’t”

Here are the links:

Directions for 1 1/2 minutes on how to leave a review on iTunes by my podcast coach:   

If you have received this email you may have not realized the blog has been moved to my website. I will rarely post here except with updates. So please sign up for my blog:

You’ve missed a great post on how defensiveness contaminates communication. Go have a look. Thanks for subscribing to this blog & I hope you will try the new podcast out!

Defensiveness, a Very Bad Habit that Destroys Communication

defensiveness,communication problems,obstacle to communication,denial,defense mechanisms,improve communication,relationships

Defensiveness is a powerful way to reassure yourself. Everybody does it almost every day if they have relationships. Defensiveness is a knee jerk reaction that says “Oh,no that’s not me, you don’t get what a good person I really am! I am so misunderstood.”

The irony is that the misunderstanding is usually yours, not theirs. It’s very hard to jump into the cold water of the deep end & recognize the bits that are true about your own dark side. The only way to grow & change is to do the hard work of swimming around in these very dark waters.

Defensiveness is worst than chewing your nails or pulling your hair or grinding your teeth because this bad habit stunts your soul’s ability to grow.

The opposite of defensiveness is being vulnerable, which is avoided by most people in our culture. Vulnerable is that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that says “oh,shit did I really do that?” Facing up to your mistakes & mistreatment of others is the only path there is to building character within yourself.

Defensiveness is the constant fragile rebuilding of the false reality that you have done no wrong nor ever would!

Defensiveness is creating Disneyland for the soul which is a bad idea. Bad because it obscures truthfulness (like all those smiles the land of Mickey coaxed from their employees). The soul is capable of facing hard truths & then willing yourself to be different because you value growing up.

I use Fritz Perls definition: Growing up is honestly facing painful situations

Our defense mechanisms are triggered by wanting to avoid the harshness of reality. Using denial to avoid painful things is an epidemic in the world (as Russia & Turkey jail journalists who don’t follow the party lines of false reality) not just the USA.

Reality asks a lot from us. I remember in 90 & 91 helping my best friend Patrick who died of AIDS in 92 recognize that AIDS was a full-time job. Defensiveness is about creating false realities and adds problems to all partnerships & marriage.

People come in to my office & say they have a communication problem 99 times out of 100. I propose that the communication problem is really defensiveness with a lack of ability to face the truth about how you contribute to the problems in a relationship.

We far prefer the old, tired circles of blame that go nowhere!

Defensiveness is a way to stay comfortable & blame the other person instead of being uncomfortable & looking at ourselves. Try jumping into the deep end of the pool, taking responsibility for your contributions to the problems & watch the communication improve massively!

I’m Moving Blog to my Website @

best blog site, best blogging sites Today, February 12th marks my sixth year of blogging! I’ve been advised I was foolish not to have my blog on my website (which is also on WordPress), and finally I’m going to correct the situation. I really hope to not lose many subscribers because YOU are why I continue to write. Today, February 12, 2015 marks 6 years of my blogging. I hope to continue to make this one of the best Blog sites on the web. My current new creative spark is to begin podcasting. Podcasts are an audio blog. It’s another format to reach a wider audience. I invite each of you to take time to comment below; I would love to know if there are specific topics or questions about relationships you would like me to address either in a blog post or podcast….. I’m in my early 60’s (my grandson is in the picture above with me) & I want to keep my creative fires burning. My passion for my work has not diminished in over 35 years of working. There is so much to learn about relationships and how to keep them growing. I’ve used the web & will use the microphone in 2015 to reach a wider audience. I hired a podcast mentor Doug Foresta because I want to reach more people with my ideas before I die. This is my unique legacy…… Visit the website & it is easy to see it is about substance, not marketing. I’m proud of that. I believe that fortune favors the bold & that it’s important to stir up my status quo with new risks & challenges. I can’t ask my clients to have courage to try new things if I’m not willing to do so myself. I believe that life requires us to be uncomfortable & do new things to maintain liveliness & vitality. There are a lot of boring people because they base their choices on fear which strangles & suffocates, which keeps the world too small. I’m mostly scared of losing my faithful readers so I invite you to subscribe here to the blog’s new home: (I will also send you a link to podcasts if you sign up) Also try this link Sign up Here Thanks again for 6 years of reading, I appreciate your loyalty because I’m well aware there are sooooo many important priorities tugging at your available time.

Our Relationship to the Have Nots & the Novel Preparation for the Next Life

Book review, Have Nots, PTSD, Preparation for the next life,great books, Atticus Lish, Book review, a good book

I read this because of the book review in the NYT on 11/13/14. The reviewer’s last sentence: The final chapters of this indelible book pulled my heart up under my ears. caught my attention.

I will never look at a homeless or poor person again without noticing how worn their shoes are because of reading this book. This novel changes your perspective, that rare gift of terrific writing by Atticus Lish. He writes with a real respect for the struggles of a PTSD suffering vet & an undocumented immigrant & their love story.

I read it during the week that Congress was trying to pass a bill that would dump the McCain-Feingold 2002 campaign finance law. Nancy Pelosi said that the measure (supported by Obama) will “drown out the voices of the American people & massively expand the role of big money in our elections.”(USA Today 12/11/14). Ordinary people losing power & respect is becoming an ordinary story not just in Russia, but here in the USA.

I used to live in an insulated “have” neighborhood because of the public school district, where I was the only one I knew to buy a used car. I am relieved to live in diversity, in a working class area where many people drive Chevy cavaliers. Being insulated can be mind-numbing & lacks empathy.

The two lovers in the story push themselves to be physical and the details the author captures make you feel as if you are pounding the pavement right along by their side. Their relationship builds & layers in a very authentic way that combines both dread & happiness for them as they move towards the future.

It’s a book where the characters stay with you after you have finished the last page, which is my favorite kind of art within a novel.

It’s hard to believe this is a first novel for the author, because it is so well crafted. The words soar off the page. The details of owning so little, eating terrible food and barely getting by carry a truthfulness that makes them stick to your heart.

Already, I look forward to the next novel by Atticus Lish.

Integrity is All About Self-Confrontation

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Integrity is the difference between being nice and being good. We live in a world that too easily values nice because nice is easy to do. Good is a whole lot more hard work. The Big Bad Wolf was really nice to Little Red Riding Hood before he ate her grandmother.

Someone facing hard truths about their own dark side is the infrastructure of integrity.

We humans are more like reptiles in our brain functions than mammals. We all have selfish, greedy & entitled feelings. Feelings are completely unreliable. It’s what you do with your feelings that matters.

When I have a client who paints a picture of themselves that leaves me confused as to what their dark side might be, I ask them to ask someone they trust to provide more honest feedback. Good therapy will collide with the comforting picture of yourself that you have in your head.

You can’t grow without being uncomfortable.

We so easily imagine ourselves to be better than we are. This is creating a false reality, like Disneyland for the soul. We all create defensive energy so rapidly in order to keep the falseness operating. Most problems in relationships are avoided & deflected by almost everybody because it is easier short-term (like the monkeys pictured above).

Instead we have to be willing to wrestle withe worst parts of ourselves. Only then can the best of who we are truly stand up to build into real character. You have to find the courage to collide with the comfortable way you see yourself.

Think of all the marriages you think you know, including your own. When someone blows up the other person usually gives up. This maintains the status quo & nothing changes or is solved which is so much easier than dealing with the struggle of hard truths. Most people avoid the real issues.

I send spouses home to ask “Why have we stopped being sexual?” “Is it ok if we have a celibate partnership?” These are questions that need to be faced. Low desire partners usually do not perceive themselves as part of a problem because they don’t miss sex.

Years of layered silences or loud yelling & screaming stops communication.

Think of your family of origin, how many times did you witness a problem being dealt with successfully?

Therapy is far more successful when you are willing to do the work on something you don’t want to deal with.

Marriage/Partnership means doing things you don’t want to do.

Improving yourself, your relationships or your job means being honest about the problems. If you, your partner/friends or your supervisor avoid honest feedback then you are setting yourself up for mediocrity. It takes courage & honest disagreement to grow, change & improve character.

Anxiety, Shoulds, Duty & Exaggerated Obligation

anxiety,anxiety disorder,dealing with anxiety, stop anxiety,uncertainty,reduce anxiety

Anxiety is the biggest problem I work with. Anxiety is a huge issue for tons of people. Anxiety means that fear drives your choices. Fear based choices make your world too small & tight which offers a false sense of safety.

Often anxious people solve their fears with planning, controlling behavior, a strong belief in duty, being wrapped up in shoulds or preferring a clear sense of right/wrong which avoids complicatedness. Anxious people love the certainty of shoulds, control, obligation & plans. They abhor uncertainty because fear breeds & grows there.

I’ve written before about anxious people as people pleasers. People pleasers want the certainty of being liked. They want to avoid the messiness of disagreement or rocking the boat. People pleasing is all about making decisions based on what will make others happy. Often this includes an exaggerated sense of obligation.

Anxious people often are motivated by fears of how other people will see you.

Worrying about everyone else & what they want (which is often disguised as care taking) is about reacting to others. The anchor of your ego is based outside of yourself & on what you do for others. This is often way too lopsided.

While you may never be excellent at trusting your own anchors within yourself, it’s a real good idea to experiment with this in order to be less lopsided. Therapy is about having greater balance & more choices.

So ask yourself what is the opposite of Shoulds, Duty, Plans, Control, Obligation & Certainty?

I would suggest Playful, Imaginative, Openness, Spontaneity & accepting uncertainty as ordinary in life. These all can percolate from within yourself.

Toddlers & infants are a joy to watch because they naturally have all of these qualities. I loved watching my grandson just pushing everything he could find thru the cat door. He adores the power of making the disappearance happen for huge amounts of time. He has discovered this activity & delights in it from within himself. It has nothing to do with anybody else. That’s exactly the kind of energy you must find within & act upon.

The secret to a healthy ego is balancing both a good sense of other’s wants & concerns, along with a clarity of knowing who you are & what you want from within.