Making Friends with Anger: How Anger Serves Us

Most of us receive societal messages that insist that anger is only the purview of men, who are permitted a range of angry expression, from screaming, to punching drywall, to fistfights. For everyone else, society says, anger is a negative emotion that must be suppressed. Thus, many women and nonbinary people struggle with expressing or even recognizing anger when they first begin therapy. While anger can certainly be unpleasant to feel, it is not a "negative" emotion. It is a neutral emotion, and like any other emotion, it's a signal to us. The message embedded in anger is, essentially: You can't treat me…

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Goals & Habits: Living Your Best Life in 2021

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. We’ve all done it, committed to losing 20 pounds or finally taking up guitar, and proclaimed our new-and-improved selves to our friends or families, only to sheepishly slink away from our goals in less than a month. We’re not alone; research shows that most give up on their New Year’s resolutions by Jan 19, with 80% abandoning them by mid February. Why do we do this to ourselves, year after year? And why do we keep failing, despite our best intentions? It might be because we’re focusing on goals alone, rather than the habits and systems we set…

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Staying Sharp: Regular Self-Care for a High Performance Life

The story of the woodsmen goes something like this:  Once upon a time, two woodsmen made a wager as to who could chop down 100 trees the fastest. They both set to work, chopping as quickly as they could with their axes. Halfway through, one woodsman sat down in the shade for a rest while he sharpened his ax. When the other woodsman heard the crack of his opponent’s ax cease, he laughed, delighted that his competitor had stopped for a break, and he plowed on ahead with his chopping, taking the lead. After a time the woodsman who had stopped to sharpen…

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What’s it Like to Be a Therapist?

Over the past two years, friends and new people I meet have often asked me questions about being a therapist, because they think it’s an interesting job (and they’re not wrong!). I’ve compiled those questions and my answers here.  Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a therapist? No, not at all! I’ve always been enamored of people and I always knew I wanted to work with people in some way. I was a personal trainer for a few years. When I got into activism and volunteer work when I was 21, I started getting pushed in the social work direction.…

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Cancelling Cancel Culture

Jack Kornfield, renowned Buddhist meditation teacher, describes a ritual of the Babemba tribe of South Africa in his book “The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace.” When a tribal member commits a crime, the whole tribe gathers and surrounds the person in the center of the village. Rather than punish the person, they begin listing off every positive thing he has ever done to remind him of who he is. "I was hungry and you fed me," they might say, or "My children were lost and you led them to safety." Or maybe: “You comforted me when I was very sad, and made me laugh.” Every positive…

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Wolf in a Nightgown: How to Identify Gaslighting

In the 1944 film "Gaslight," a naive young woman marries a conman who subtly manipulates her over months until she distrusts her own perceptions and believes she's losing her mind. Today, the term “gaslight” has become more mainstream as more people become aware of this form of manipulation and control. But what is gaslighting, exactly? How can you tell when it’s happening to you?   Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that helps the abuser to dominate the relationship; a form of perspective-twisting that is used to hurt you, while providing some benefit to the abuser. That benefit can take many…

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From Odd to Ordinary: Normalizing Pronoun Use in Everyday Conversation

I have always been very, very queer, but growing up, I didn't have many public examples of what that queerness looked like. Being a teen in the 90's, queer youth in general were such a rarity on TV and in film that it would be easy to assume we were mythical creatures. Thus, as a baby gay, I remember suckling hungrily on every scrap of media representation I could get. I lapped up "My So-Called Life" for the teen gay character Richie, and the lesbian undertones (I totally imagined) between Angela and Rayanne; I devoured teen flicks like "Fox Fire" and lived for…

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Love vs Lashing Out: Doing Conflict without Drama

Most people loathe or are even afraid of conflict. And for good reason: most people don’t handle it well-- and that goes for both others and ourselves! We have had plenty of bad past experiences with conflict, and very few (if any) good experiences, and so we associate conflict with negativity and drama. We may be afraid that the other person will yell at us or we may lose the relationship. We may be afraid of the uncomfortable feelings that conflict gives rise to within us. We may not like who we become during conflict; reactive, angry, defensive or obsequious. And so we…

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