Category Archives: Relationship

Low Sexual Desire

“I could take it or leave it.”

“I don’t have much of an interest in sex anymore.”

“I would be happy to never have sex again.”

It has been estimated that as many as 32 percent1 to 43 percent2 of women experience low sexual desire at some point in their lives. In fact, women’s low sexual desire is one of the most commonly presented sexual issues that women bring to therapy.3 Treating women with low sexual desire can be a complex undertaking as there are a myriad of potential elements that impact desire — from personal experiences to social factors, cultural messages to relationship dynamics, and everything in between.4

However, despite women’s sexual desire being impacted by so many interconnected aspects of their lives, a lot of women blame themselves for their lack of sexual interest and believe something is inherently wrong with them. Yet in many cases sexual desire could still be “there” but it has been dampened, tucked away, or is on “hibernation.”

Although this is far from an extensive list of what could be contributing to low sexual desire, here are five common reasons that women might experience a reduced interest in sex, and what you can do about them if they apply to you:

1. Your Partner Wants More Sex Than You Do

Your partner seems to want sex every day and you feel you could have sex once a week (or once a month, or maybe even less). Most women, if they are the partner with lower desire, use their partner as a barometer for “normal” and assume something is wrong with them for not wanting sex as often. In contrast, we don’t tend to think that the person with higher desire has an issue (i.e., we don’t often ask: “why do you want so much sex?”). That’s because, as a society, we value sex and think that wanting lots of it (as long as you’re an adult and in a relationship) is good and healthy.

The term “desire discrepancy” is used to describe when two individuals in a couple have different levels of sexual desire.5 And although this term could apply to all couples at least some of the time, there are some couples who have more obvious and stable differences in their levels of sexual desire.

But desire discrepancies don’t mean that one person has the “right” amount of sexual desire. In other words, the goal isn’t to get the lower desiring partner up to the needs of the higher desiring partner. It’s like any compromise or negotiating we do with our romantic partners — we figure out a middle ground with different spending habits, eating preferences, places to travel…and sex.

Consider Trying This: Ask yourself — if my partner didn’t want sex as often, would I be worried about my level of interest in sex? Do I have any previous sexual partners who didn’t want sex as often as my current partner and I never really thought much about my lack of interest? Depending on your answer to these questions, some sexual frequency conversations with your partner might be helpful. Having lower desire than a partner does not mean anything is wrong with your desire. It just means you and your partner have some negotiating to do.

2. You Don’t Give Yourself Enough Time To Get “In The Mood”

We know from the research that many women have sexual desire that is responsive versus spontaneous.6 In other words, many women don’t feel a sudden urge to have sex as they run from work to their yoga class or while they are watching a true-crime documentary on Netflix. Instead they respond to sexual cues in their environment and often take some time to “warm up” to the idea of sex.

And I’m not just talking about engaging in sexual foreplay. It’s very common for women to need a sexual space before foreplay even begins. For example, maybe you need a romantic encounter (or two) with your partner during the day. Flirtatious or loving texts while you’re apart. A longer kiss when your partner gets home. Something to set the mood before the possibility of sex is even on the table.

A lot of women I work with describe saying no to sex because their partner approaches them in a way that feels out of the blue. And, because they aren’t feeling sexual at that exact moment, it reinforces their belief that they don’t have an interest in sex, they turn the sexual encounter down, their partner hurts from the rejection and nobody wins.

Consider Trying This: If your partner suggests having sex, give yourself a moment to think about it instead of immediately turning it down. If the timing isn’t right or you’re not in the mood right then try saying something like “Not this second, but let me see if I can warm up to it.” Or “I wasn’t thinking about sex now but let’s have dinner, or watch a movie, or go for a walk, and see how things unfold.” Needing time to warm up to sex doesn’t mean your desire is low or problematic but it needs to be considered as part of the sexual equation.

3. You Don’t Know What You Like

Women are more likely to experience an interest in sex if they are looking forward to the sex they are going to be having.7 So how do you have great enjoyable sex that is worth desiring? Well, to start, you need to know what feels good.

However, I often work with women where we discuss the nuts and bolts of sex (e.g., “How much, and what kind of, foreplay do you need? What positions work better than others for you to experience an orgasm? What time of day do you find your most in the mood/least likely to want sex?”) and many women don’t have the answers to these questions. In fact some tell me they have never even thought about them. On the other hand, these same women more often than not know exactly what they don’t like!

But think about that dynamic for a moment. Your partner offers to make you dinner, asks you what you want, you say “I don’t know,” they make spaghetti and you respond with “I don’t really like spaghetti!” Wouldn’t it be nicer if you said “I like chicken parmesan, could you make that?” And your partner made chicken parmesan for you and everyone felt good?

Consider Trying This: It’s not easy to know what we want sexually, especially if we’ve never thought of it before. But a good place to start is at the beginning. For example, think about your early introductions to sex with your partner. Maybe you liked when you and your partner used to make-out on the couch all night. Try that again, see if it still feels good. Or if you really only know what is NOT working, take it one step further to consider why you don’t like it and what could make it better. For example: “I don’t like having sex in the spooning position because we can’t kiss. I like kissing while we make love. Maybe a position where we are facing each other would help?”

4. You Know What You Like, But Don’t Know How To Ask For It (Or Think Your Partner Should “Just Know”)

Some of us picture sex like it appears in the movies. Two lovers fall completely in sync with one another, knowing exactly when and where they should have sex, how to touch and please the other and then climaxing in a simultaneous and mutually pleasurable explosion.

But real life isn’t like that. Sometimes a sexual position we liked last time doesn’t feel so good this time. Or we need a little more oral sex before we try something penetrative whereas other times we want to jump straight in. Or we want to be on top for a moment. Communication about these changing needs and preferences are critical to sexual satisfaction.8

Yet it’s surprisingly common how many women describe feeling (either explicitly or implicitly) that they are uncomfortable telling their partner what they want. They think they shouldn’t tell their partner (e.g., it would be rude or insulting to do so) or that they shouldn’t have to tell them (e.g., their partner should “just know” that a particular move isn’t working, or that they don’t like sex right before bed, or they are ready to try out something a little more spicy).

If you on any level believe that your partner should be more responsible for your sexual pleasure than you, then you are taking a passive role in sex and are less likely to enjoy the process. Your partner cannot know what’ is going on in your head. Chances are your partner isn’t Mel Gibson and life isn’t a scene from “What Women Want.”

Consider Trying This: If you know what you like, or if something doesn’t feel good, or if something would feel better, try telling your partner. Or maybe consider how you’re telling them. Non-verbals (like pulling away, moaning less, etc.) are open to interpretation or get completely missed. If you are in a respectful relationship where your partner will listen to your wants and needs, try telling them explicitly what you like and what’s working. Most partners want to know! You can try talking between sexual encounters or during. Verbal encouragement gives you the best chance of enjoying sex and a higher chance of wanting it again in the future.

5. You Were Taught That Women Shouldn’t Enjoy Sex

As girls and adolescents, most women receive warnings about embracing and acting upon our sexuality. We are told that we might get pregnant (and, if so, warned that we could carry the brunt, if not all, of the work after the baby is born). Not to mention the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Oh, and then there is the whole “slut shaming” of women who are single, promiscuous and like sex.

But then you get into a relationship (or get married) and suddenly you are expected to put all of that behind you. You’re expected to be a confident sexual person who loves having sex with her partner.9 How do you make that transition? Well, it doesn’t happen over night, but things can change.

Consider Trying This: Reflect on the messages you received earlier in life about sex. Were you taught that “good girls” don’t like, or have, sex? Were you taught anything about sex at all — or was it a taboo topic that was never addressed? Ask yourself what impact those messages might have had on you, and if those messages might still affecting you now. Letting go of those messages isn’t easy, but identifying where they came from and what you think about them in your current situation is a good place to start.

Final Thoughts

Every woman’s sexual experiences are unique and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment to increase sexual desire. Some women have sexual desire difficulties that run much deeper than what is addressed in this article (e.g., sexual abuse histories, physical and hormonal changes from early menopause, unhealthy relationship patterns that can’t be overcome by having more sex, etc.). For those women, seeking therapeutic treatment could be a helpful option.

Tips To Find Love A Second Time Around

Trying to find love a second time around isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve compiled a five-step plan to help ease you back into dating. You’ve recently got over that two-timing rat, got divorced or are finally coming to terms with losing a treasured loved one far too early. Your friends and relatives are telling you it’s time to start looking for companionship again, and you almost feel ready. However, you haven’t dated in years and think that you’re totally out of touch when it comes to this sort of thing; you don’t want to look a fool and simply don’t know where to start. So, here is a list of the top five ways to start making it work for you.

Start by deciding on what you want. What would make you happy? Whether a friend, a companion or a new lover, you need to decide what you want. Until you know what makes you happy or what you miss, e.g. laughter, watching old films with someone or just having a companion to walk the dog with, then you can’t move forward.
Then settle on how you are going to date. Via friends, through online dating sites, through events such as speed-dating or simply by being bold enough to chat to someone new at a supermarket.

Write down exactly what you are looking for. Do you want a funny man, a petite lady or a caring partner that will get on with your whole family? Are you interested in intellect and matters of the mind, or somebody to laze on a beach with? Compatibility is the most important thing about dating. Most internet dating sites will have a service which can help match you with the right person.

Think about making a decision on how you want to correspond with your date. When you finally do contact someone, would it be better to meet them face to face or start with an email or phone call to get to know each other better?

Put it into practice. Once you have made all of the above decisions then you should be ready to start. Whether you opt for speed dating or online dating there is someone for everyone out there, and if after a few months nothing has happened and you grow impatient, then move on to the next form of dating. Variety, after all, is the spice of life…

Let’s Learn About 10 Minute Relationship Therapy

Dr David Burns is a cognitive therapist specialising in relationship management. In the third of a 10-week series, he offers advice on how to make troubled relationships work. This week: are you sure it’s your partner’s fault?
So who is more to blame for the problems you are having with your partner? Most people are convinced that the other person is to blame. When I ask for a show of hands at my intimacy workshops, 90 per cent of the people say it’s the other person’s fault.

But is it? There are lots of good reasons to blame the other person for the problems in your relationship. Blame is the atom bomb of intimacy, destroying everything that gets in its way. But it’s far more productive to evaluate the reasons behind the problems instead.

You can do that with what I call a Blame Cost-Benefit Analysis. Draw a vertical line on a sheet of paper. Think about someone you’re not getting along with. Now, in the left half of the page, list the advantages of blaming that person for your problems. It could mean, for example, that:
• You can look down on the other person.
• You can feel a sense of moral superiority.
• You won’t have to feel guilty or examine your own role in the problem.
• You can play the role of victim and feel sorry for yourself.
• You won’t have to change.
• You can try to get back at the other person; after all, he or she deserves it.
• You can be angry and resentful; anger is empowering.
• You won’t have to feel guilty or ashamed.
• You can gossip about what a loser the other person is and get sympathy from your friends.

I’m sure you can think of a few other advantages.
When you’re done, ask yourself if there are any disadvantages of blaming the other person. Is there a downside? For example, if you blame the other person:
• You’ll feel frustrated and resentful because nothing will change.
• The other person will feel judged and insist that it’s all your fault.
• The conflict will be demoralising and exhausting.
• You won’t be able to get close to the other person.
• You won’t experience any spiritual or emotional growth.
• People may get tired of your complaining.
• You won’t experience any joy or intimacy because you’ll be hopelessly enmeshed in the conflict.

Once you’ve completed your lists, think about how the lists balance out as a whole, using a 100-point scale. Assign the list that feels more compelling a number out of 100.

For example, if the advantages of blame seem a lot greater than the disadvantages, you could mark it with 70; you would then give the opposing column a mark out of 30. If the advantages and disadvantages of blame feel about the same, put a 50 on either side. The numbers you choose will be entirely up to you, but they should add up to 100.
You don’t need to obsess about it. Just review your lists and then ask yourself whether the advantages or disadvantages of blame feel greater. It won’t always be a matter of which list is longer. Sometimes one advantage will outweigh many disadvantages, or vice versa.

On your list, were the advantages or disadvantages of blame greater? If the advantages were greater, I’m afraid that I’ve got some bad news for you. In my clinical work, individuals who complained and blamed others for the problems in their relationships never seemed to get better. They just kept arguing and fighting with other people, no matter what therapy techniques I tried.

In contrast, individuals who focused on changing themselves, rather than blaming or trying to change the person they were at odds with, were usually able to work wonders in their relationships. In most cases, it didn’t take long at all.

How To Be Responsible For Your Relationships

My life’s work has revolved around the study of relationships—including friendships, acquaintanceships, partnerships, and any other human interaction that we tend to bring into our lives—and make no mistake, we are 100 percent responsible for our relationships. We create them in our minds and hearts, and we have a hand in the twists and turns they take.

If you don’t accept responsibility for your relationships, and you are unhappy in one or more, look to yourself first. It’s very easy to blame someone else for your uncomfortable feelings, so be sure to look at how you may have contributed to whatever is upsetting you at the moment.

All relationships take nurturing and work, and we make this investment for a number of reasons. First, you get what you want by giving it away to those you love. Then it is returned. That nurturing is what keeps the bond strong when you can’t be with one another, at special times or just when you feel the need. Nothing beats seeing and being with those you love, but if you need to connect, knowing you have a strong relationship allows you to get a lot out of a phone call or even a text. Just the fact that those who love you are willing to be supportive and connect with you makes it easier to feel good about your life, and having someone you trust to help you deal with an issue is one of life’s great rewards for working on your relationships.

Relationships also give us a sense of purpose, and that too is a gift. Without feeling like you have a purpose for being here, life can get emotionally uncomfortable, and feeling like you have no purpose can do damage to your self-esteem. Raising a family and being a good family member or friend are great reasons for being alive and moving forward in life. Relationships are also motivational. Anything I do for those I care about seems to go a little easier than the things I do for myself, and the rewards are a sense of inner peace and fulfillment. Really nothing can take the place of wonderful relationships.

If you don’t have an idea of what you need to do to get your relationships to where you want them to be, simply ask the people you are involved with. You can say something like, “I know things haven’t been the best, but I’d like to make them better. What can I do to improve our relationship?” Just asking the question is very powerful and tells the other person that you care. Even if things are seemingly great, it’s wise to check in with others and ask if there is anything thing they need to keep your connection strong.

Our relationships are what we look at when we evaluate our lives. I have spent hundreds of hours with people who were dying, and no one ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” But I often hear, “I wish I’d spent more time with the people who loved me.” Please don’t let that be you.

All About Apologizing

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” This line from Love Story by Erich Segal has become a clichéd catchphrase. It sounds romantic—but it’s blatantly false. Intimacy inevitably involves hurt feelings and disappointments, but they can build up into grievances unless there are repairs along the way. For love to have the best chance of lasting, you sometimes have to say you’re sorry—and mean it! But this is not easy. Some people can’t apologize at all, while others give facile apologies, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It communicates: I didn’t do anything wrong AND you have no reason to feel that way. It’s a conversation stopper and it chips away at trust.

Xavier Sotomayor/
Source: Xavier Sotomayor/
A full apology involves two elements: taking responsibility for playing some part in the other person’s hurt AND being sorry the other person is hurting. An even better apology has a third element: an explanation of your motives or situation.

My patient, Sharon, got angry at her husband for not having dinner ready when she came home from work, as he usually does. In the past, she has not apologized for her outburst or she has said something perfunctory such as, “Sorry…that was bad.” But this time, after working on this in treatment, she regretted her outburst and wanted to heal the rift. She said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, you didn’t deserve that. I didn’t take the time to eat lunch and I was starving and took it out on you.”

But what do you do if you believe you did nothing wrong, and yet the other person is hurt and angry? This is a situation I often face as a psychotherapist. For example, Paul was hurt and angry because he felt I didn’t believe him when he said he didn’t want to break up with a woman he was no longer interested in because he didn’t want to hurt her. I didn’t think he was lying, but I DID think he had a subconscious motive—he liked having her adoration even though he wasn’t interested in having a long-term relationship. He didn’t want to lose her admiration; but he wanted to get rid of any obligations or demands from her. He didn’t like that interpretation because it made him seem less selfless than his explanation for delaying the breakup. It’s painful to own being selfish. So he got angry at me. How can I heal the connection between us, which is the most important ingredient in helping him, without apologizing for something I think is right?

“I am sorry I hurt you. I know it’s painful to look at things we do that we’re not proud of and I probably could have said it in a softer way. It goes against the way we see ourselves. I understand that from my own experience. It means giving up a fantasy about who we are and that’s a big loss. I get that.” It says, I’m sorry you’re hurt, I’m sorry I caused you pain; you are not the only person in the world who has trouble with this (it’s normal and I have trouble with it too) AND I don’t think you are bad.” He was still hurt and angry—but he was able to stay connected to me.

Some people are lucky and grow up with parents who are models for apologizing appropriately. But for the rest of us, we have to learn it. We may be able to develop it with our friends or spouses. But often our spouses or friends are not any better equipped for taking responsibility than we are—maybe even less so. So for those who never had a role model growing up, and cannot develop it with their friends or partners, psychotherapists must be good role models. For example, if a patient thinks I am being judgmental and I am, I admit it and apologize. And when Paul tells me that I could have said, “Everybody has trouble ending a relationship, it’s hard, but…” He’s right. I could have said it better and I’m sorry I didn’t.

This is essential because the connection between us is primary and has to be maintained. Also, when I can admit wrongdoing and apologize without the patient leaving, he learns that he can admit wrongdoing and apologize without losing someone he cares about.

The Mean of Being A Man

Today I want to celebrate men who are trying to redefine what it means to be one.

Here’s to the the men who react instead of respond. Here’s to the the men who take care of their bodies and eat like adults, not coping teenagers. Here’s to the men who want better and decide to walk with mirrors, not to check their hair but to examine their character and be aware of how their words and actions impact others. Here’s to the men who admit their defects and shortcomings and constantly strive to be better. Here’s to the men who work on their relationships by working on themselves, instead of trying to control or own their partner. Here’s to the men who check their egos, often. Here’s to the men who don’t whine, complain, or make excuses. Here’s to the men who wake up early and want to build something.

Here’s to the men who choose to be a daily student, to learn from others instead of thinking they are better than them. Here’s to the men who open doors, kiss like they mean it, and love hard. Here’s to the men who don’t ghost. Here’s to the men who call people back. Here’s to the men who believe in foreplay. Here’s to the men who don’t live in the past. Here’s to the men who have the balls to stand up to their parents and family. Here’s to the men who know how to create a safe space. Here’s to the men who take ownership when they’ve hurt someone or done something wrong. Here’s to the men who believe in something greater than themselves. Here’s to the men who have fire in their belly. Here’s to the men who make decisions, walk with certainty, and dream big.

Here’s to the men who can separate ability from worth. Here’s to the men who remember birthdays and anniversaries. Here to the men who put thought into their gifts. Here’s to the men who understand the responsibility of being a father. Here’s to the men who spend time and engage with their children. Here’s to the men who are not afraid to show affection. Here’s to the men who choose to be vulnerable. Here’s to the men who say I love you. Here’s to the men who can control their angry, alcohol, and money. Here’s to the men who practice self love. Here’s to the men who are not needy or codependent. Here’s to the men who stay positive through turbulence. Here’s to the men who don’t exchange their truth for membership. Here’s to the men who understand compassion and empathy. Here’s to the men who don’t try to fix everything. Here’s to the men who do the dishes. Here’s to the men who want to make a difference.

Manage Emotions Boosts Children’s Well

Schools lay the groundwork for cognitive development, especially in academic areas. But what about emotional development? Proficiency in dealing with emotions is also important for leading a successful life. Yet little effort has been made in school to teach children how to manage their feelings.

With the introduction of RULER, this may not be the case for much longer. More and more schools around the U.S. are implementing this program aimed at teaching students—and teachers—to ‘Recognize, Understand, Label, Express, and Regulate’ emotions.

Supported by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, it incorporates social and emotional skills training into the school curriculum to support child development. Specific curricula are available from kindergarten to grade 12, and ongoing implementation is necessary to solidify these skills as children get older.

“They’ve started to teach students about feelings as explicitly as they teach math and reading,” writes Seattle Times education reporter John Higgins.

The program is based on the work of two psychologists, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, who began their scientific study of emotional intelligence over two decades ago. They focus on a direct link between critical-thinking skills and emotions.

According to Meyer and Salovey emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, monitor, and manage the emotions of others and oneself, to guide actions and ways of thinking.

Studies show that those who are reluctant to understand and express their feelings experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and certain psychiatric disorders. They also report lower levels of well-being and social support.

At school, children experience a wide range of emotions every day. In addition to the stress of managing their studies and homework, they face a number of social struggles, such as conflicts with friends, romantic relationships, and bullying.

Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and one of the developers of RULER, says that the way students feel at school has a profound effect on how they learn, influencing their chances of success at school, at home, and with friends. And some individuals are generally more successful at handling emotions than others.

Through different tools, RULER provides a common language for expressing emotions, for dealing with conflicts between students, and for addressing conflicts between students and teachers, making for an open and supportive environment necessary for learning. For example, the “mood meter,”—a sheet of paper divided into four coloured quadrants—is designed to help students build a vocabulary around different emotions.

“I have a teacher who checks in with the Mood Meter on Monday mornings and it’s nice to just know that someone’s listening. It gets us in the mood to work, eases us back into school,” explains a grade 11 high-school student in the program.

Other tools, such as the “meta-moment”, train students to use the few seconds following a moment of anger to take a deep breath and imagine how their “best self” would react.

One 7-year-old student talks about her experience with the meta-moment:

“When I’m not in a good mood, RULER can help me solve the problem. Like when my brother pushed sand on my sand castle and wouldn’t fix it. I felt really angry at him, but I took a meta-moment and realized it wasn’t hard to fix what he did and he didn’t do it on purpose. Then I felt a little more forgiving.”

Some are critical of social and emotional learning initiatives within a classroom setting, arguing that schools are not an appropriate venue for emotional education. Others emphasize the price-tag; an online resource and four days total of in-person training costs $10,500 per school (for up to three participants).

However, Brackett’s research shows that implementing RULER can improve a school’s climate while fostering positive development and academic achievement among its students. Some notable improvements include better relationships between students and teachers, more student autonomy and leadership, improved academic success, and fewer reports of bullying.

Students’ mental health profiles greatly improve as well. Kids and adolescents who are involved with this program have experienced reduced levels of anxiety, depression, aggression, hyperactivity, social stress, and alcohol and drug usage. And research shows how children’s ability to handle their emotions and to be mindful of others’ feelings has a significant effect on their mental health.

Not all children come with the tools necessary for academic and social success. Programs like RULER provide a platform for children to learn how to navigate emotional struggles, so they can leave their primary education with methods to succeed in their work and personal lives.

How to Spring Clean Your Social Media Clutter

There seems to be two types of people in this world when it comes to clutter. There are those that like to hang on to mementos from the past, almost as if their souvenirs were “evidence” of their histories. Others, however, can let go of material possessions as they value the experiences more than the “proof” that an event happened.

Being distracted by non-essential information can negatively affect your ability to complete essential tasks! While keeping up with friends electronically can be a surprisingly healthy option for maintaining a sense of connection and mattering to others, when you spend hours comparing yourself to others’ “best moments” or spend more time attending to the electronic social media in your palm than the social gathering you’re in, this can be detrimental to healthy, face-to-face relationships.

Here are five tips to get you started on spring-cleaning your electronic clutter:

Whether you are a loyal Facebooker or you’re tweeting or linking in with people that you care about, people that you’ve never met before, or just people for the sake of being heard, it’s important to do some regular housekeeping on these sites just like your stack of old grocery receipts. When you’re being inundated with too much information about people you can’t remember meeting, it’s probably a sign that your social media accounts are ripe for some trimming back of contacts with whom you seldom — or never — make contact.

Research shows that having a two or three people you can count on as “good friends” is all that a person really needs in order to reap the benefits of social connections. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with too many birthday reminders or status updates, it’s okay to let go of connections that drain you rather than serve you. Turn off updates or “unfollow” the people, organizations, or groups that inundate you with instant alerts.

Getting a fresh start feels remarkably freeing and when social media and non-work-related technology platforms are beginning to feel more like obligations than recreation or pleasant diversions, it’s time to de-clutter and downsize these sites. If you can’t bring yourself to unfriend people, then delete the app off your phone for awhile. You’ll still be able to catch up later, but give yourself a “clutter break” for a time.

Clean up your contact list on your phone. If you tend to collect contact information for people you meet anywhere and everywhere, you might have a phone filled with names and numbers that mean very little to you by now. Take time to clean out your contacts – if a name isn’t familiar or you’ve never placed a call to someone, delete, delete, delete. If you need the number of a great electrician next week, you can ask your friends then – don’t collect names and contact info just to store away and have trouble finding later.

How many emails do you have “sitting” in your inbox? Some people worry about the tenuous nature of electronic communications and let their emails stack up higher than the junk mail pile in their homes! If you are the kind of person who “needs” to keep emails, make the time to create relevant folders and sort them as they arrive. You can set up most email programs to sort them to the proper folder as soon as they are received. This is an awesome set-up – you don’t “lose” emails, but you don’t have to dig through 60 to find the one from your business colleague or mother-in-law, either. This won’t fix your current stack of 1,200 emails, but you can create a folder called “2017 Email Clean-Up” and move the backlog into this folder. Then you can reap the benefits of a “clean” Inbox – but promise yourself to sort and file new emails every day moving forward.

The most important think to remember is that all of our electronic forms of communication are designed to serve you — when you feel driven to keep up with the 24/7 nature of electronic communication, you know it’s time to take a break. Don’t be a slave to your cellphone — and remember that true friends understand that their friends have lives of their own.

Know More About Anger

Anger is tricky.

On the one hand, anger – feeling annoyed, irritated, resentful, fed up, mad, outraged, or enraged – alerts us to real threats, real injuries, and real wrongs that need correcting, and it energizes and fuels us to do something about them. In my family growing up, my parents had a monopoly on anger. So I suppressed my own, along with a lot of other feelings, and it’s been a long journey to reclaim my interior, including anger, and be able to feel it fully and (hopefully) express it skillfully.

Whether in personal relationships or in the halls of power, people in positions of authority or privilege often tell others that they don’t deserve to be angry, they shouldn’t get so worked up, it’s their own fault, etc. when in fact they have every reason and right in the world to be angry. It is certainly important to know in your heart what is actually happening, how bad it is, what the causes are, and what to do – and decide for yourself how much you want to get or stay angry.

On the other hand, anger:

Feels bad past the first rush of it
Stresses the body, over time wearing down health
Narrows attention, losing sight of the big picture
Clouds judgment, driving us to act impulsively, potentially violently
Creates and revves up conflicts with others
Anger often hurts us more than it hurts others. I believe there is a saying from Alcoholics Anonymous: “Resentment is like taking poison . . . and waiting for others to die.” This metaphor of a beguiling toxin is also found in a description from early Buddhism: “Anger has a honeyed tip . . . and a poisoned barb.”


Recognize anger. Feel it, don’t suppress it. Explore it, and find whatever is valid in what it is telling you. Also look beneath it, to the hurt or sorrow or outrage on behalf of others. Help yourself open to and include all of yourself. Be skeptical of others who try to talk you out of your reactions out of their own self-interest.

Figure out what you are going to do. Usually not easy, to be sure, but try to slow things down so you can think clearly, find your ground, and Take Heart (another, recent post of mine).

This said, beware – be watchful, be wary – of how anger can work on your mind and hijack you.

Anger comes with justifications. We feel wronged, mistreated, affronted, provoked: “Of course I’m mad. You made me mad. It’s your fault.” I remember once banging my shin on a coffee table and getting so mad I kicked the table . . . as if it were to blame. Anger is seductive, drawing us into cases against others, bills of prosecution, mental emails drafted in bed at 2 am (speaking from personal experience!). Anger fools us, making us feel perfectly entitled to lash out and say or do terrible things . . . from which we eventually wake as if from a nightmare with dismay and remorse at our actions. Anger is – literally – tricky.

And anger is a particularly powerful trickster when it plays out inside and between groups. You can see this at all scales, from cliques in high school to office gossip to politics to war. A group will often form around shared grievances, and then defend and proclaim those grievances no matter what the facts are to maintain its cohesion and identity. Whether on the schoolyard in 5th grade or in nations throughout history, authoritarian leaders have exploited our social primate vulnerability to the appeal of grievance in order to acquire and hold on to power, inflating and even inventing grievances while promising to protect the group and avenge it against those who have wronged it.

It is no small thing to find your own way inside such a group with such a leader. Or to find a way to relate to those in such groups with moral clarity and strength of heart – without being clouded or infected by anger yourself.

In my meditative tradition, I’ve heard it said that anger is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned. In relationships, families, organizations, countries, and the world altogether, there has been so much burning already in our shared human history. Too much burning. Too many minds burned up with anger.

Potency, agency, authenticity, fierce compassion, moral confidence, truth spoken to power: none of these is anger or requires anger. Truly, each one of us can come home to the dignity, authority, and courage to stand in the truth and speak from the heart with passion and power, free of the flames of anger.

How To Controlling People

It was a very sobering idea for me to discover that I was a controlling person. I didn’t like the idea at all. In fact, I’d been working very hard, for as long as I could remember, to be a noncontrolling person. I wanted to embody a “live and let live” philosophy.

I’d experienced ultra-controlling people throughout my life and, no sir! There was no way I was going to be like that. I’d burned sandalwood incense sticks, taken long walks along the beach, and listened to peaceful music. I did all the right things to get in the zone of being a noncontrolling person.

Even in my professional life I thought I’d found a way to be noncontrolling. While I was training to be a teacher I had been introduced to the idea that “The job of a teacher is to teach their students to get along without the teacher”. That attitude resonated strongly with my “live and let live” perspective and I embraced it. Later, when I became a parent I applied the same idea to parenting – the job of a parent is to teach their children to get along without the parents. As a psychologist I think that the job of a therapist is to teach their clients to get along without the therapist. Is the job of a manager to teach their staff to get along without the manager?

It was all going along so swimmingly until I discovered an explanation of control known as Perceptual Control Theory (PCT;; Initially, this theory really did my head in. PCT explains that everyone is a controlling person. What the?! That must mean everyone except me. Uh-ah … me too.

Early on in my learning of PCT I discovered that there’s nowhere to hide when it comes to control. Even being noncontrolling is control. Paradoxically, subscribing to a “live and let live” mandate is a control process. I like to see myself as a “live and let live” type of guy. When it seems I’m not behaving in a live and let live kind of way, that bothers me and I do things to correct it. Correcting things so they stay more like the way you want them to be is control in a nutshell.

Teaching other people to get along without me – whether it’s my students, my son, my clients, or my staff – is a control process. I have things I like to see and hear that give me the sense that other people are depending on me less and less. I really like it, for example, when other people figure out solutions to a problem they’re experiencing and share their solutions with me. I become somewhat perturbed, however, when other people come to me with problems accompanied by expectations that I will fix the problem.

When clients I’m working with want me to provide them with strategies, or when staff I’m managing want me to solve problems they’ve encountered, I get uneasy. This is not what I want to be seeing and hearing. In these situations, I do what I can to once again experience people solving their own problems. Doing things to experience what you want to experience is control.

Working hard to not control others is, ultimately, controlling. It took me a while to reconcile the idea that my “teach the staff to get along without the manager” mindset, was just as controlling as the micro-managers I like to avoid. It turns out that we’re all “control freaks”.

You can tell something is a control process by what happens when things do not go as planned. When I’m working with staff who like to solve their own problems, things just hum along peacefully and productively. If I encounter, however, a staff member who has an expectation that managers solve problems for them, then ripples begin to appear on the mill pond.

The hypothetical interaction might go like this: the staff member comes to me with a problem; I reflect the problem back to the staff member (and become aware that I’m feeling a little bit frustrated at spending my time this way); the staff member seems a little irritated and asks me what I would suggest; I begin to feel pressured to come up with an ideal solution and I offer some tentative and feeble questions about possible avenues to explore (with an inward sigh and a growing sense of backing up into a corner); the staff member feels fobbed off (yet again) and more urgently presses for an answer; I’m becoming crushed by the weight of the responsibility to produce the perfect, satisfactory solution, so I offer a few more inadequate strategies; the staff member, who knows very well all the complexities of the problem, immediately sees the holes in my ideas and explains curtly why they won’t work; and on it goes with both my staff member and me becoming increasingly dissatisfied.

In this instance, neither my approach nor the staff member’s approach is right or wrong. They are just different. And because we are both controllers, we have a recipe for turmoil when we share the same environment. I’ll be doing things to experience the workplace the way I want to experience it and the staff member will be doing the same thing. Since I am in the staff member’s environment and the staff member is in mine, we will both be doing things to each other to make our environments be right (from our different points of view). The problem isn’t with either one of us. The problem is with both of us. We want our shared environment to be in different states at the same time.

Recognising people as controllers is very helpful for understanding and improving interactions. I can still maintain the attitude that I’m doing a good job when other people I’m working with are learning to get along without me and, at the same time, I can accept that there will be speed bumps to negotiate whenever I work with a person who has a different expectation of my role. The speed bumps don’t arise because there’s something wrong either one of us. We’re both just controllers who want a shared space to be in different states at the same time.
So don’t avoid control, embrace it. Learn about it and appreciate it. Thinking of people as controllers will provide you and everyone who is caught up in your web of control with the best knowledge possible to calm the waters and set out on a lifetime of smoother sailing.