Women Aren’t Equal?

It has been hard for me admit to myself, in a vocation swarming with quality woman, that a female could still feel unequal in 2014. There is a joke we tell of how it’s ok to be anything except a middle-class white guy. All my bosses are women. My wife’s a woman and she is perfectly capable of handling me if she chooses. I usually hang around with women. Women aren’t equal?

There are a ton of things to write about here but I like looking at the weird stuff. It may not surprise you to learn that men, by the mean, have difficulty understanding, on an emotional level, what it feels like to be just shy of five-feet tall. I’m 6 feet plus 2, I have a black belt so that I can be blissfully misinformed. I grew up with lots going on and excelled with a ball in my hands (shut up Cory). I have no idea what it would be like to have a partner who can beat the crap out of me on a whim. My wife could take me, I’m not allowed to hit girls. My mother will hurt me. My father would be disappointed, a man in his 70’s whom every woman loves. I dare you to take the challenge.

I have never known physical violence that I didn’t initiate or deserve.

So when I tell you that I am only now beginning to understand, I ask you to excuse my large frame of mind. The sheer volume of fear I have listened to has begun to ring true. I learn slow. Of course I know this stuff intellectually, I can read. But I am still partly a man, and most of us have difficulty with emotional intelligence when it comes to this kind of stuff.

So many women who live with fear every day of their lives. I could never really understand, as a younger man, why women were afraid to walk alone. I love walking alone. It’s zen, baby. So when you told me the first few hundred times, it sounded a bit ridiculous. I’m not excusing what was. I’m the tallest one in my family. I hang around with ninjas. I’m a white male who plays with weapons.

To all my patient female friends who have not given up on me, you win. It was a good fight, figuratively speaking, but I might be getting a taste. I am constantly amazed at the burden others can carry, and fear has to be one of the worst emotions with which to run a tab. The anxiety, the depression, the trauma, it may not be biological. Imagine you have emotional Fibromyalgia. Everything hurts and it doesn’t make sense and everyone is a potential problem. People with Fibromyalgia live in a body that is constantly in varying states of shock.

Some people live in that state, on an emotional level as well. I have heard the stories. She ran into the McDonalds only to find the two sketchy males in hoodies were only 11 or 12. The right makeup to wear if you have a bruise. What mood is walking through the front door tonight? I always believed that my home was my safe place. What if it isn’t? Any counsellor can tell you that living in that heightened state of tension releases chemicals all over your body. Things change in your core. Things are released in your brain… and in your mind. You learn words like cortisol and neurochemistry. The diet can take a hit. You no longer sleep through the night. The motor is already running and you haven’t even had coffee yet.

Here’s Wikipedia: Cognitive conditions, including memory and attention dysfunctions, as well as depression, are commonly associated with elevated cortisol,[9] and may be early indicators of exogenous or endogenous Cushing’s. Patients frequently suffer various psychological disturbances, ranging from euphoria to psychosisDepression and anxiety are also common.

Cortisol is a good thing that can become a very bad thing. Other things happen neurologically that are not in your best interests. The words self, medicating, and behaviours, are used one after another in the same sentence. Fear can do that to a person, to an emotionally vulnerable person. Let’s be honest, most of us are emotionally vulnerable. You know how this sentence ends. Weight gain or loss, body image, self-esteem, problems with relationships, fear, anxiety, the whole toolbox from hell.

This is the kind of stuff people like me hear all day, every day. It’s not an isolated incident and if you can relate to any of this I will remind you that there are hundreds out there. Thousands. Millions. You have been saying it for years and you are absolutely right. Everyone does have mental health issues. We didn’t know this because there was a time, not so very long ago, when talking about this thing of ours was not really popular. People who went to see a counsellor were somehow “less”. Well baby, it’s now 2014 and daddy’s got a new pair of pants. It’s all good, all of a sudden.

I have become firmly convinced that each and every one of us needs some help, sometimes. It is the human experience. I do not think I could do this without a great deal of help from a couple of people who walk life right beside me. I have at least two other worlds of friends from different hats I have chosen to wear. I need those people very, very much. But I digress.

What does it feel like to be small? I walk around blissfully ignorant of the war that women feel everyday in every part of the world. Or am I wrong? Here’s the thing – this is a blog. It’s not in my book yet so it doesn’t have to be a finished product. Could this be true?

Like I said, I’m recent to this. Time for class. Talk to me.

You Make Me So Angry

You Make Me So Angry.

As a counselor I often face the daunting task of helping people see that no one else can make them angry. No one else can make them sad. No one else, short of a disaster, can dictate my attitude at all. If I get angry, that’s my problem. I may think it’s someone else’s fault, but it’s still my problem. I am in control of me. So technically, you never make me angry.

We live in a society that has somehow enshrined in it’s mores the belief that it’s ok to yell. We grew up with yelling, we were taught yelling; and when my kids drive me insane or my wife gets snarky yelling is an acceptable option.

It’s time for a moratorium on yelling. When you consider it critically and objectively, yelling is an act of violence. I am exerting my will, forcing another to concede. When you are yelled at you probably feel somewhat violated. That may be because you were violated.

There is something cathartic, orgasmic about yelling. People who scream at others feel that sense of release. There is a subtle yet profound joyous release. You can kind of get off on yelling… Yelling is great for anxiety and frustration – just get it all out.

And then leave it on me.

Anger is about handing your pain and frustration to someone else. There is a significant sense of entitlement. There is a degree of selfishness, of lack of impulse control. Yelling is an act of weakness, not strength. It is also an act of violence. An act of control. We have all done it, from time to time but it’s time to look for other ways to deal with our frustration. Learn mindfulness, practice STOPP Therapy, breathe, go to a counselor, read about anger.

People learn in counseling that yelling is a very dysfunctional coping mechanism. They are apt to tell me they can’t help it. Or it’s not their fault. It’s just the way their family is and they grew up fine.

In the 12 Step program they are keen on wanting you to know that the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that you do, in point of fact, have a problem.

Now you know.



the voice within me

I have a second voice, deep inside, that I listen to. I’m not dissociative, not paranoid or delusional, but he’s still there.

He tells me things are going to be alright. He invites me to play.

Do you remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoon when Bugs had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? The cartoon centered around the epic battle of two voices, each wishing to be heard.

You’ve seen movies where the star has an evil side, a dark voiced alter ego that is always ready to tell you what he wants you to know.

There is a voice in my ear, a friend deep inside.

Anyone who has had an addiction can tell you about that voice, that stranger, that friend.

Miss a meal, and he shows up. Stop smoking. Quit the Percocets. Stop playing with yourself.  Delete your video game. Stop letting yourself get angry.

Feel him?

When people find I work part-time in the addictions field, people who haven’t struggled with a public addiction, they ask me, “Why doesn’t he/she just quit?” They have never felt the pull of that addictive voice. It’s palpable. It’s consuming. It has a personality. It is alive.

I have worked very hard to recognize that voice inside my head. He speaks to me, more often than I would like to admit; telling me to get high, or take a shortcut, or do something cheap and immediate. He sounds a lot like me, but he’s quieter, and sleezier, and looks like a cross between Rumpulstilskin and that dude who played Satan on Constantine. He dresses better than me, has better hair, and is evil.

I have personified that part of my personality because it helps me to call upon religious and cinematic symbols to put a face and a feeling on that part of myself I am not proud of. I know what it is like to stop using drugs and have that bastard tell me all day long that there is a simple solution to my pain and the sweat and the tears. I know the sound of his voice like I know my own.

Chances are you have a voice inside of you as well. We all have that part of us which wants to take the easy route, eat all the candy, see naked bodies, and do whatever feels right at the time. I’m coming to realize that learning how to recognize this old friend is perhaps the meaning of life.

We are friends, my little Scott and I. We have been together for far too long to just go our separate ways. Besides, I still need him. He tells me to leap when I want to crawl. He’s the one who got me to skydive all those times. He reminds me to still be alive, in a world of deadness. I still need him, though I am learning to understand what he says. He still scares me, but he no longer always wins.


Coping Mechanisms


We all have them.

We have adopted ways to deal with the reality that we are stuck in. Very young we may have realized it was better to keep our emotions to ourself than it was to get hurt by an abusive mother. Some of us had to get angry to get our way. Checking out during sex was a way to endure something we did not enjoy. Maybe you cry and pout until you get your way. Perhaps you believe you should never show weakness. You might use sarcasm and humour to evade being honest or vulnerable. Feeling sorry for yourself has been a way of feeling better about yourself. Passive-aggressive behaviour really does work.

No matter what coping mechanisms you use they have probably worked for you in the past. Checking out during sex or an argument or a compliment really did help keep you from being hurt. Anger really did help you get what you needed, once upon a time.

The problem with coping mechanisms is that they were formed many many years ago, as a response to trauma or terror. You probably developed your fear of confrontation when you were three or four years old. No doubt you formed your skewed version of the opposite sex when you were a child or in puberty. The ways you interact sexually were learned before you really had any idea what sex was all about. Your perception of your father or mother was forming as you were learning to walk. You based your entire belief system, back then, on your immature and basically stupid beliefs about life, love, reality, and the meaning of life that you developed when you were a dumb kid. Twenty years later you can still hear the kids on the school yard calling you fat, or ugly, or stupid, or all of the above. That seven-year old’s hurtful comment about your weight still affects you today. Amazing, isn’t it?

It may be time to look seriously at some of the coping mechanisms you have been using for years. It may be time to come to grips with the fact that you have been feeling bad about yourself for thirty years based on the opinions of a bunch of cruel elementary school brats, or a dad who was an alcoholic and still isn’t a real person. Yelling may have been a necessary skill in your home growing up but it isn’t working for you anymore and it’s time to let it go. Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to that voice that you know that keeps telling you that you are stupid, or ugly, or worthless. That person’s opinion isn’t worth a damn thing and you know that intellectually. Refusing to let people in has worked in the past but it’s holding you back now. I know you said that you would never trust again but at the time you were very wounded and your emotional tank was tapped.

At the end of the day it often comes down to Einstein and his crazy-haired definition of insanity – doing the same thing and expecting different results. That’s it, isn’t it. Destructive coping mechanisms have long since stopped working but we continue to think that we have to listen to their insipid voices. You can rebuild trust, or confidence, or hope. You can move forward.

It’s just really hard and takes more time than we want. It is, however, incredibly worth it.

Married To Jesus

A true story given to me by a friend of a friend of a guy I used to know. It’s been sitting in my Inbox for some time now and I couldn’t find any good reason not to share it with you. It’s about living with a very nice Passive-Aggressive…

female jesusI used to live with Jesus, or so I thought. She was different from the people you would probably know – after all, most people don’t ever get a chance to even meet the Messiah, much less live with her. But I did.

People usually act differently in public than they do when no one is there to see what they are doing. Not Jesus. It was scary how consistent, how absolutely unflappable she was. Life is an exercise in guilt when you are married to the Holy of Holies. How do you get mad at someone who is always the same? How can you fight with someone you sometimes believe is always right? When you are married to the King of Kings it’s always your fault. Feel unloved? It’s your problem. Frustrated by her lack of empathy or the fact that she never panders to your emotional needs? Get over it, this is Jesus we’re talking about.

Living with Jesus is hard on your sense of self-esteem. After all you are clearly not worthy. People often remark, “I know why you married her but why did she marry you?” You are in love. You worship Jesus. You have a very twisted marriage.

But she wasn’t really Jesus. It wasn’t until much much later that you realized she was actually very repressed, very emotionally unavailable, distant. She was a textbook illustration of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. There was a whole world of anger and pain all closely hidden from the world, hidden even from you. You literally had no idea she was even remotely unhappy. That person whom you thought was perfectly happy and reasonable was in fact a deeply wounded and angry little girl who clearly had issues with self-awareness and vulnerability. There was even what some would call a passive-aggressive arrogance – quietly confident that in every situation she was always right.

The lack of emotional vulnerability contributed to my growing sense of neediness and romantic starvation. Jesus was apparently above feeling horny or expressing romantic intention. She also did not like to throw around phrases like “I love you”. She was an island and she expected everyone else to be likewise. Years later her best friend would confess, “I really never knew her. I don’t think anyone really did”.

No she wasn’t Jesus. In fairness she never asked to be put on a pedestal. I think. I was looking for a soul mate and she was looking for a business partner.

After almost two decades of being a burden she cut me loose to go “find herself”.

She said she couldn’t stay with someone who was needy.

It has been a while now and time has given me the insight that all those years of marriage could not. It turns out I was a pretty decent husband after all. Spending every day trying to impress the Christ will do that to a person. Apparently she was not perfect, though I would never have believed it.

No one is disappointed in me today. I haven’t failed yet today.

It’s going to be a good day.

Making It Work After Someone Cheats

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Not everyone can do it. I’m not sure I could, to be honest. Many couples choose to stay together after infidelity and I salute them. Remaining together is one thing, trusting ever again is another. So if you are in this situation, what can you do?

Earning trust back is a monumental task requiring an incredible amount of humility from both partners. It takes way longer than people want to admit. I have, however, seen couples who are committed to making things better, in spite of the horror and the obsessive thoughts, jealousy, and pain. Sometimes.

Working as a counselor I have, as you can imagine, my share of marital issues to wade through with people. Nothing comes close to the difficulty of rebuilding trust and safety. Trust and safety – two words that constantly come up when I talk to clients, especially female ones.

People don’t generally understand how devastating infidelity can be. For the partner who has been rejected (yes I said that word) the process can take years, if ever. There are nights and days of obsessing about the “why” of it all, about how they have failed as a lover and a spouse. There are hours and hours of anger and more obsessing. Even being touched by the cheater becomes loaded, and potentially volatile. The spouse who has cheated is often subjected to months and years of the “short leash”. They are forced to phone more often, report in more often, talk to potential attractions much less often. Sometimes there is punishment and condescension, anger and vengeance. The one who is on the short leash usually grows tired of the lack of trust. Why can’t your partner ever seem to move on?

Spouses who cheat, especially men, are prone to verbalize how tired they are of not being trusted. Many will, after some months, flatly refuse to jump through any hoops or even talk about the infidelity… yet again. They are sick of the same tears, the same logic, the same belittling. A surprising number of relationships break up a year or more after the actual incident. Things just won’t seem to go away and both partners are not getting what they need.

If you have been betrayed in this way the first thing you need to understand is that there is no template for how to respond correctly to such a nightmare. It’s so easy for counselors to give out prescriptions for happiness but the sad truth is that most of us are permanently damaged. There can be forgiveness, even reconciliation, but the relationship will change. For some of us leaving is the only emotionally healthy option.

If you or someone you love is tortured by infidelity, either their own or someone else’s, encourage them to talk to a professional. The most important part of moving forward is personal healing, no matter what the outcome. Learning how to process what has happened is the key to healing. Time doesn’t hurt either.

No one really knows what you are going through although some of us can understand that pain. Whether it’s your parents or your partner you owe it to yourself to do everything necessary to be whole again. You’re worth it, in spite of how you may feel right now.

The Hidden Cost Of Entitlement

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There is a great deal of virtual ink on the topic of entitlement. By now most of us are up to speed on the effect entitlement can have on our lives and the lives of those we love. Parents are learning first hand how selfish, how self-absorbed, how… well… entitled kids seem these days. They must buy a house that looks better than the one their parents saved twenty years to purchase. They don’t drive older cars, they simply aren’t safe. Everyone is entitled to a Smart Phone that their parents pay for. Manicures and pedicures, tattoos and product, it’s important to spoil yourself too. But there are costs and not all of these are obvious.

Entitled people build a world that they are comfortable in. Because they believe they deserve stuff they usually live in the now without too much regard for the future. They do what they want and they do it now. Don’t tell them to do something they hate now for some nebulous reward in the distant future, they can have it now and they will plan on having it in the future as well. They have no plan but a solid belief that they deserve it. Party on.

It becomes very difficult to live a life of personal entitlement. Things have a way of imploding, before too long. There is too much debt, too many toys to keep up with. Old friends come and go, but people tend to mostly go. Romantic relationships have often been a problem for entitled people as well. They tend to attract unhealthy prospects who cannot sustain their need for attention and bling. There is often just too much drama for potential partners to stick around. Life is becoming steadily less fun and bitterness is creeping in. The entitled often feel a pervading sense of aloneness and cannot understand why things do not go their way. They have learned coping mechanisms and dysfunctional thinking, unable to embrace true change or admit that their house of cards is crashing.

You’re Yelling Again



I don’t yell. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m fairly certain it was a dysfunctional coping mechanism.
Maybe it was because I had relatives that yelled and I repress such expressions as a response to that situation.
Maybe I’m just too shallow.
Maybe I just like it rough.

As a mental health professional I am, of course, horrible at analyzing my own stuff. I self-diagnose all the time. I’m just not that good at it.

I am one of those lucky people who gets to hear people yell on a regular basis. Some professions have it much worse, but I do get my share.

Yelling is an interesting psychological and sociological issue. I have watched spouses curl into the fetal position as a madman controls the situation and hurls verbal abuse. Notice the almost orgasmic effect that “letting off steam” has on the angry screamer. I have seen that horrible energy transferred to the victims as they get emotionally gut-punched. Long after the yell-er is satisfied the object of their derision still suffers. Yelling is a very selfish act.

There was a time when clinicians would tell the angry young man to go home and punch his heavy bag for an hour till he “worked it out of his system”. Today we realize that constantly giving in to that urge to ‘boil over’ only builds a dependence on purging yourself of emotion – a very poor model for impulse control. Such need has little to do with control and more to do with complete surrender. It is no wonder, than, that people have been known to even stop making sense when they are in the throes of an angry outburst. Anger can literally make you stupid. The effect is almost sexual.

Have you ever considered stopping?

Many people do not even realize that it is possible to go for years without yelling. Screaming is just “how our family is”. It is such a normal part of life that no one realizes how abusive it is. There are so many dysfunctional aspects to yelling that I literally do not have enough energy to fully define its ill effects right now. The act is so intrusive, so esteem crushing, so negative, so unloving, so socially acceptable. I am suggesting that we strip away the veneer and identify it for what it really issue – a lack of self-control.

If you are struggling with yelling, this is not intended to make you feel like garbage. Many, many, many of us struggle with this as well. Yelling is so ingrained in our culture that it is rarely even addressed anymore. We blandly accept that angry person without offering any accountability. Our children grow up believing this is an acceptable form of communication and… the circle of life.

If you struggle with this difficult problem talk to someone who can help. Read about it on the web, look up phrases like “cbt (cognitive behavioural therapy) and anger, or yelling, or impulse control. Find out what is behind that anger – after all, that is really the issue now, isn’t it?

Don’t give up. You can do this.


You Don’t Know How Intimidating You Are

Anger Management

The first time someone told me I didn’t believe them. It was not possible, I wasn’t even angry.  I have heard it since a few times, less the older I grow. Apparently I can be fairly intense and even intimidating when I am fully engaged in an argument or discussion. I throw out a great deal of energy. Someone who once was in a creativity brainstorming session with me described me as a “fire hydrant”. I have had to spend time working on myself.

Recently I watched a couple argue in my office. It was fascinating to watch. One of the characters was incredibly intense – wagging his finger, raising his voice, swearing. His entire posture was set to attack. Now zoom across to the other person in the room.

She is not set to attack. You can watch her slowly close her posture. Her feet come up to her chest, she wraps her arms around herself. Her chin lowers and within a few minutes you can see clearly how she is rolling into the fetal position. The situation screams out for attention but neither of them can see what is happening in the room.

They have been told, more than once, that they have communication problems.

Anger is a very powerful emotion, perhaps the most powerful. It transforms a conversation into a fight. It gives birth to abuse and slander and arrogance and belittling. There are courses in every city on Anger Management. While these courses adequately address the symptom of anger few get to the “why” questions. Why can’t I control my emotions? What is going on in my life that has formed this angry person? Dealing with anger can appear so daunting that many people believe they cannot control their anger and have basically given up trying.

Anger person, you are scary. You come across as very authoritative and very very intense about things others apparently don’t care as much about. You are talking much louder than you think but God help us if we mention this. Your eyes tell me that you are enraged. It is very difficult to match your energy so most people opt to shut down. This generally makes the angry person even more frustrated, but what can the other person do? You sound prepared to do anything, wreck anything, hurt anyone to win this argument. It’s just not worth the fight and the pain.

This does not need to be a terminal illness. Once I began to understand how other people perceived me I was eventually able to recognize this in myself and control it. I shot video of myself and analyzed my posture. I learned STOPP Therapy to control my need to fight back as well as learned to put things in perspective so as not to become wounded. I haven’t arrived by any standard but I am able to exercise WAY more control over my emotions and responses than I used to.

Anger is powerful.

An Open Letter To The Men Who Date My Clients

My name is Scott and I’m a clinical therapist. I, or someone like me, has probably counseled a handful of women you may have thought about dating. For various reasons most of my clients are heterosexual females, often in their late thirties and forties, in the midst of trying to figure out a relationship which has turned into a convoluted mess and broken their heart. Many of these women eventually decide that it is not worth spending the rest of their lives with an emotionally stunted and rapidly aging guy who does not seem prepared to do what it takes to win them back. They complain that their partner is emotionally lazy, only makes small and temporary changes, and does not understand them nor seem to want to. They have been deeply hurt, and often. Some of these women will eventually show up at an office like mine. They have been scarred by a bad history and a bad relationship and carry emotional and psychological baggage. By the time they get to my door they, for a myriad of emotional reasons, struggle to make healthy decisions when it comes to the people they date. They are the newly single, or the suffering spouse, the newly hurt.

Many of these women do not last long in the dating market before they are snatched up again. Many fall prey to the first or second guy who listens to them and seems to understand their pain. We are smarter than you think and many men have learned to be the man you are looking for, at least while you are still newly infatuated. Many women, at least in my experience, do not see the warning signs and fall for someone who is either much like the past losers who have let them down or has manipulated. When you are hurting, lonely, and emotional it is tempting to go too far too fast and before you know it you are physically and emotionally too invested to simply walk away.

Counselors are tempted to spend their time pleading with clients not to jump into another relationship while they are still unhealthy. We warn vulnerable clients how crucial it is that they not date just because they need someone else to complete them or fill that hole in their heart.

So before you decide to approach my client at the bar, the grocery aisle, or in the church foyer, there are some things you need to know:

1. She is more vulnerable than you know. As you are no doubt aware the single life is hard to adjust to when you have been with one person for years, and most of us are desperately lonely at first. This is, however, only part of the problem. She has been with someone who has not met her emotional needs for years and is prone to misinterpret your affections. She also has a heart brimming with disappointment and self-recrimination and THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. You may not know it right now but you deserve an emotionally healthy girlfriend who will not use you to mend that hole in her heart. If you really want to impress this girl don’t be afraid to take it slow and platonic, Give her time to heal, you’ll be glad you did.

2. Most of my clients are not ready to date. People who engage and pay for therapy are usually dealing with crippling issues and are in no way whole or objective. That is the reason they are seeing me in the first place. People dealing with crushing fear, anxiety, depression, loss, loneliness, self-esteem issues, etc. are not ready to be in a healthy relationship and are too vulnerable (see #1) to make long-term or binding decisions. Their heart is often broken and I am telling them, “Don’t date until you don’t need to”. Respect that and if necessary protect her from herself – keep things “hands off” until she is emotionally healthy.

3. This person is not who you are going to end up with. The very idea of therapy is to change the way we cope with life and define ourselves and our world. She is telling you that she is seeing a counselor for a reason, even if she doesn’t fully comprehend why. We are working together to create a very different life and the woman you see before you right now is only a transitional entity that is endeavoring to look at life differently. Don’t be surprised if the girl you are interested in changes and becomes healthy enough not to need you to define her. THAT IS A GOOD THING. In spite of what you may think you do not want to be with a broken and needy person. We are working to create a strong and independent person who does not need you, though she may wish to date you. This person is in a state of becoming and if you fall for her because of how she is now you are likely to be disappointed later on. If you are attracted to her neediness, for example, how will you feel if she gets better and doesn’t want you as much? Wanting you is one thing, needing you is another. Chances are the woman you see before you is very little like the one you are going to end up with.

4. Please do not exploit her sexually. Many people in transition are willing to do things that they would otherwise not even consider. Be a real man and protect her, even from herself. Many of my clients have come from conservative backgrounds and are not sexual athletes, in spite of what they are trying to project. Most of the women have not been nurtured or honored sexually in a very long time, if ever. Be gentle with her heart. Many of us give a piece of our heart away when we give our body to someone else. It’s very easy to misinterpret our need for love and touch. Many people in therapy need a hand to hold much more than a body to fondle. Please try to remember that.

5. They are not choosing you because you are the best candidate. We all know that people who are newly single are on the rebound. This is not just and old wives tale and some of those old wives were pretty spot on. Needy people pick others to love based on a set of criteria which is not healthy and may not lead to a healthy and lasting relationship. The best relationships start out as friends first so get to know this amazing woman first before you decide to buy her flowers and try to touch her candies. The more you realize that she is making choices that are not necessarily objective, the more you will come to understand that she may be choosing you for the wrong reasons. This is information you need.

6. They might fall for you too soon (and too hard). This is based on a sound psychological principle that when we are in a vulnerable or transitional state we are prone to exercise something called “cognitive distortions”. People dealing with major issues employ all or nothing thinking, emotional reasoning, and other cognitive distortions that are coping mechanisms we employ when we are stressed, anxious, uncertain, biased, and hurting. Think of it this way, would you let someone who is suicidal take care of your children? Why not?

The logical answer is no, you would not do that because that person is not thinking or acting rationally. They are, in point of fact, mentally unstable and before we all became politically correct we would have labelled such thinking and behaviour “insane”. That beautiful woman who is sending you all the right signals off-handedly mentioned earlier that she is going through a messy divorce and is struggling emotionally. This is a red flag. Emotionally damaged and hurting people rarely have healthy boundaries and tend to jump too far, too fast. If you really are interested in my client then back off and respect her boundaries that she has worked so hard putting in place.

7. You deserve someone who is not a massive “work in process”. The whole point of this article has been to help us understand that hurting and vulnerable people need therapy, not a date. If you have been dating for any time you already know that the scene is full of needy and broken people looking to find someone to fix them or love them enough to fill their emotional craters. Unless you are simply looking for a good time you owe it to yourself to be discerning when it comes to whom you will date. Good looks fade but a big dose of crazy can last a lifetime. It is far better to be alone, in spite of how it feels right now, than to be with someone who hurts you, drives you over the bend, or simply does not get you. You owe it to yourself to date someone whom you believe has it more together than you do, not less.

Day after day vulnerable, wonderful women sit in counseling offices all over the world and ask if there really is a guy out there who will meet their needs. There isn’t and you aren’t him. Healthy relationships start with healthy people making healthy decisions. Life is hard enough with the right person and I need the best odds I can get. Knowing my wife is here everyday because she is healthy enough to choose to love me, in spite of who I am, is the best esteem booster I have ever known.

Do I Like It Sick?

Many spouses will stay in a relationship that is sick and twisted, but why?

It is a truly terrifying story – a young girl grows up in a sick home and is repeatedly sexually abused by a relative or family friend. This person then becomes sexually active at twelve of thirteen with a boyfriend who in his mid-twenties or beyond. Often this is followed by a period of extreme promiscuity. They are sexually intimate with every boyfriend and come to believe that this is expected of them if they want to stay in that relationship. She starts to associate sex with being loved or loving someone else appropriately. They often engage in sexual acts which they do not enjoy, most of which are degrading in some way. They have an overwhelming compulsion to “perform” in order to be loved. For some strange reason, however, after they have settled in with someone they discover they are not truly happy and still have trauma and self-esteem problems. They struggle to find the intimacy and completeness in romance that they so desperately yearn for.

In counseling it often becomes apparent that this person is actually attracted to the sickness they have come to associate with love. They go after the “bad boy” or they seem to hook up with men who are always emotionally unavailable, their romantic interests usually are selfish, misogynistic or emotionally unhealthy.

If you can relate to what I am writing about then it’s time to ask yourself a question, “Am I attracted to this person because of their sickness or their health? Is this person irritating me right now because they are desiring something healthy (emotional connection, vulnerability, working on the relationship, planning for the future, stability, etc)?

Is it sick or is it healthy? I often send my patients home with this homework. For the next two weeks ask yourself, whenever you feel emotional in your romantic relationship, is this sick or is this healthy?

When he ignores me I pursue him. Is this sick or is this healthy?
I feel repelled by his attentions. Is this sick or is this healthy?
I am overly critical or easily angered by this person. Why? Is it sick or is it healthy?
He/she never seems to live up to expectations. Is this sick or is this healthy?

You get the idea, a good exercise for whenever we are struggling with our loved ones. Ask yourself, “Is what I am experiencing a result of a healthy and legitimate concern, or is this an unhealthy response to a sick situation?”

That may not be a bad idea for any of us.


Man thinking on a train journey.

from dictionary.reference.com:
verb –
to view or talk about (an event or situation) as worse than it actually is, or as if it were a catastrophe:
Stop catastrophizing and get on with your life! She tends to catastrophize her symptoms.

It’s something many of us do every day.

Some months ago I got a call from the unemployment office. Years ago I had been unemployed, had collected EI, had started a restaurant, and there was some negotiation over when my EI claim should end. Now years later a supervisor was calling for what felt like an urgent meeting.

I freaked out. I didn’t sleep well for the days leading up to the meeting. I had all my paperwork in order, I was confident I had done nothing wrong. I knew intellectually that it should be no big deal.

Catastrophizing. Making a mountain out of a molehill. Jumping to the wrong conclusions. Expecting the worse. Ever happened to you?

Catastrophizing is one of the classical cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are those emotional coping mechanisms we employ in order to cope with stress and issues in our life. They are things like emotional reasoning – letting our heart make decisions that should be made with our head; or “should” statements – I should be a better person, I should be over anxiety by now, I should not eat that bagel (ok that one may be the right thing to think…). Cognitive distortions keep us sick. We develop these ways of thinking because they work, or at least they used to. It’s tempting to “filter” out positives and believe the worst. Anyone over thirty knows that life will hand you enough manure to convince you that the worst-case scenario is often the right one to believe. Thinking all men are pigs can keep you from ending up in pig crap. Catastrophizing prepares you for the worst, and the worst sometimes happens.

Letting go of our own distorted ways of thinking takes a bucket of work. Being willing to set aside feelings and beliefs that have served us, sometimes for generations, is no simple task. Letting yourself forgive, or trust again, let someone love you, or work through your abuse can be the most daunting thing you ever do. Most of us are tempted to change our actions and hope we will eventually fake our mind into someday playing along. While this can bring limited success, growth happens when we change the way we think, not just the way we act.

Religious people may recall the Bible verse which says that “as a person thinks, so are they”. In therapy we say it this way, “Change your mind and your butt will follow”.

Willing To Settle?


One of the constants from this website is my preoccupation with dating emotionally unavailable persons. I have already written several times on the subject and there is not a day goes by that I do not talk to a client who is dealing with this issue. Whether it’s the bad boy, the “strong/silent type” or in my own case the ultra-mature and conservative person whom you find you are drawn to.

It is not a universal maxim that opposites attract, but it does seem to be a generalization that often proves correct. Let me paint the scenario for you: an outgoing and even aggressive girl finds she is inexplicable drawn to a certain guy/girl. This person is a great listener, passive, and the perfect yin to your yang. There are often warning flags, but you cannot see them initially. He/She has a hard time planning dates and usually leave the details to you. Their idea of a romantic evening is a night watching Netflix, in spite of your many hints that you would like to go into the city for a concert or an event. They don’t get excited when you are alone but come alive when you are with other people. They like to listen when you talk but as the months go by they are less and less interactive. They are more sedentary than you first thought. They don’t seem to tell you what they are thinking anymore. They are nice but if you really admit it to yourself they are, well, boring.


I’m not being dramatic, this is a far more dangerous scenario than most people realize. This relationship is not likely to make it. Seriously. Often this person is not only strong, not only silent, but also passive-aggressive, manipulative, and emotionally childish or unaware. They are almost certainly emotionally lazy and will become more so the longer you are together.

The key thing I will tell you, when you eventually come to see me, is that you need to settle or bolt. If you want to make this relationship work (and by this time you are probably invested heavily and maybe even have children) you need to accept that they will not be the person you can become emotionally intimate with. They will not share your soul, they will not even remotely meet your emotional needs.

Is that enough for you?

Don’t get me wrong, it is entirely possible to live a rich and rewarding life with an emotionally distant person. You can become very very bitter, you can have an illicit affair or series of affairs, you can settle and make the best of your situation and appreciate the person you have for what they bring to the table. No relationship is perfect and there are far worse ones out there. The truth is, however, is that you will not live the life you once dreamed of. There will be no fairy tales, no knights in shining armour, no “sipping Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain”.

I have been asked why I am so passionate about this topic. Once, a generation or two ago, most of us got married for life and this issue was mute – you did the best with what you got. Today, however, most of us will date much more than our grandparents did, and many of us will pick the same ill-suited temperament time after time.

Why Some People Hate Sex: the Fascinating Psychology Behind Sexual Revulsion

The birds and the bees and the dragonflys and ...

Great article for your perusal here.

What fascinated me about the article wasn’t the argument that some persons, in this article particularly women, are put off by sex. What is very interesting is the universal themes that apply to so many couples, regardless of gender. Here are a few thought-provoking quotes:

“I know we don’t have sex as much as Mark likes,” she says, with an edge in her voice, “but for me to want to make love, I have to feel emotionally connected to him and, to be honest, most of the time, I just don’t. He seems so obsessed about this issue. I constantly feel pressure to satisfy him. It’s like raw sex is the only thing he wants from me. It’s gotten to the point where any time he touches me I freeze up–I’m afraid to respond even affectionately because if I do, he thinks it’s an invitation to sex.”

“After some time goes by when we haven’t had sex, Mark gets more and more sulky, and I begin to feel I’m like a bad, unloving wife. So I hug him or pat his shoulder or maybe just smile at him or something and, oh boy! That’s all it takes–he’s off to the races. I feel I can’t say no again, and so we’ll get in bed and start kissing. I try to be as warm as I can get myself to be; I don’t want to just lie there like a dead fish. And, usually, at a certain point, I can work myself up so that I’m into it, sort of. Afterwards, I feel relieved because I know he feels happier and not so angry at me and, also, he’ll back off and I won’t have to do it for a while.”

Many heterosexual men, especially, have little or no idea how intrusive sex can be. In my relationship groups I tell these individuals to imagine what it must be like to take a large foreign object inside your body, simply to get someone to stop whining. I find the whole idea of “giving it up” only to appease guilt or anger utterly fascinating… and disturbing.



Tips for Talking To Men And Attracting Them Like Crazy

English: Romance icon

from here: Most women dream of the day they will attract the man of their dreams. Many describe a man who is “tall, dark, handsome, (preferably) rich, sensitive, loves kids, has an advanced degree and loves his mom.” I’ve described this same man, listened to my friends describe men of similar ilk and pondered, plotted and schemed about how to meet this mystery man. Here, after watching (and experiencing) numerous disappointments on the dating scene, are my top tips for attracting the man of your dreams…” 

Kind of makes you want to puke, doesn’t it?

I hate these things. As a clinical counselor I spend months with patients helping them to become more self-aware, more authentic, and more secure in their own beauty and individuality. But forget all that. Just be a bimbo and say the right words and men will love you forever. Be mysterious, be aloof, laugh at our jokes, compliment us, you will drive us crazy.

That’s it, lie.

After all, dating is a big con anyway.

Recently I was speaking with a client about dating sites on the web she admitted that she felt insecure because she had chronic pain and all the guys out there were into zip-lining and rock climbing, white water canoeing and hang gliding. She felt that she wouldn’t measure up to such rugged men. I turned to her and said, “I’ll let you in on a little secret – they are lying.” It’s true, we lie to impress you. I can tell in a few minutes the kind of guy you are interested in and become that person – you want a guy who is a good listener? I’m all about you. I’ll talk to you for hours, laugh at your jokes, even shed a tear at your story about your puppy or uncle Bart. This is because of one simple reason, I’M TRYING TO PICK YOU UP. It’s a game.

We put our best foot forward in order to snare a mate. Is that honest? Is that actually a good strategy? It really doesn’t matter, he lying to you as well. You are coming to intimately know a person who doesn’t actually exist. Throw in a few tricks and traps from the internet and you are good to go. Years later, when you realize this person doesn’t really understand you, you can rest confidently in the knowledge that you “got him/her” under false pretenses anyway.

I don’t mean to sound condescending (just a wee sarcastic perhaps) but I have come to realize that so much of what passes for romantic communication is dysfunctional and actually harmful. I was a single parent for years and realized early that I could not engage in a mating ritual that was designed to encourage short-term, shallow, and dishonest relationships. This is further compounded by the propensity for new couples to immediately move in together before they truly know and appreciate the other person for who they really are. No one talks about this but couples who move in together early are WAY more likely to split up. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. A couple begins a full-time with another person they do not really know. They have been conning each other since they met and now they are about to meet the real person – that farting, burping, smelly, angry, stressed, emotional or emotionally repressed real you. You simply have not had the time to develop your relationship to any mature level. Love at first sight is a wonderful Disneyland dream but it is really a cognitive distortion on the highest level. Real love takes time and knowledge. Infatuation is instant.

I can just hear someone blurt out, “But if you love someone you will make it work”. This is again a very hopeful, though absolutely naive sentiment. Lasting relationships are not based on romance, a feeling which every divorce lawyer in the country can tell you will come and go. Relationships that work are based on commitment, loyalty, perseverance, selflessness and a ridiculous amount of humility. You hear these words about what real love looks like at every wedding for a reason:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

You won’t find those words on any dating site because they are not sexy, only the truth.

If you really want a tip for attracting men like crazy than here it is – Be who you are and learn to be happy without a romantic relationship. It took me years to do but learning to love yourself and be happy in spite of your situation, not because of it, is the best advice I can ever give you. No dude can fill that hole in your heart, we’re selfish and childish pigs. Never date until you don’t need to. Think about that for a minute.

No woman can fill that hole either.

No one else should.

Five Ways Your Brain Is Tricking You Into Being Miserable

from cracked.com:


Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...


Your brain contains more than 100 billion neurons that flawlessly work together to create consciousness and thought. It is an astonishing marvel of evolution and adaptation, and it is also a huge dick.


What do we mean by that? Well, everyone wants to be happy, but the biggest obstacle to that is the mushy thing inside your skull that you think with. Evolution has left your brain with all sorts of mechanisms that are heavily biased toward misery. We can’t guarantee that reading this article will help, for your brain is as crafty as it is sadistic. But at least you’ll understand it better.


#5. Your Brain Latches onto the Bad Stuff by Design


At some point in the last year you’ve spoken to a woman with supermodel looks who would not stop talking about how horrible it was that she had gained half a pound or had a faint pimple on her forehead. You realized that this was a person who somehow could look at her fashion-magazine face in the mirror and only see the pimple. It’s so annoying — why can’t she just focus on the positive?


But of course, we all do it to varying degrees — you might pass 5,000 cars on your morning commute, and 4,999 of them might be perfect, polite drivers. But then you pass that one guy in the SUV who literally stuck his buttocks out of his side window and took a flying shit on your hood. When you get to work, are you going to talk about the 4,999 good drivers or the flying hood shitter? You’re going to focus on the negative, because your brain is hardwired to devote more attention to the misery in life.


Researchers have found this in a laboratory setting: They can show participants pictures of angry and happy faces, and the participants will identify the angry faces much faster than the happy ones. How much faster, you ask? So fast, we answer, that the participants had no conscious recollection of ever seeing the faces. That’s right — your brain already identified the shit parts of your day before you even knew it. You have a sixth sense for misery.


And that was a great ability to have back when evolution was deciding which of us would reproduce and which would get eaten — we needed a brain tuned to spot threats. Giggling at the butterflies instead of running from the tiger puts you in the express lane through the tiger’s intestinal tract. We focus on the negative because it’s the negative stuff that gets us killed — there was no evolutionary advantage to stopping to smell the roses. But this has left us with a brain that not only devotes our attention to the bad stuff, but also makes us remember it a lot better. Think about the implications in your everyday life — you can wind up walking away from a pretty good job or relationship because you only remember the bad times.


If there’s a good side to it, the effect does seem to reverse as we get older, when nostalgia starts to set in and we focus more on the good memories. Unfortunately, for many of us the only effect of that seems to be that we can’t stop talking about how freaking great things were back in our day.


#4. Killing Negative Thoughts Only Makes Them Stronger


All right, you think, if negative thoughts are so powerful and make us so miserable, we’ll just force ourselves to stop focusing on them. After all, we’re conscious animals; we have control over our own brains. Now that we’re aware of the problem, we just won’t do it — we’ll look in the mirror and force ourselves to not think about the pimple.


Sure. First, let’s try a really simple brain exercise:


Imagine a white bear humping another bear. Try to get a really clear picture of them in your mind. All right, now stop thinking of the humping bears. Use all of your powers of concentration to eliminate all traces of them from your mind. You shouldn’t be seeing the white bears at all now, or their frantic thrusting, even when we repeat the words “humping white bears.”


Did it work? Hell, no! In fact, the more you tried to not think about bear sex, the more you thought about it. This, unfortunately, is the same thing that happens when you try to force yourself to not think about the pimple in the mirror: Suppressing negative thoughts actually makes them stronger. You read that right. Negative thoughts are like the Sand People: If you chase them away, they’ll come back in greater numbers.


It’s actually insane when you think about it — we’re constantly trying to banish bad thoughts from our mind, but the human brain simply doesn’t have a mechanism for doing it. After all, the only way to know for sure that you are not thinking about horny white bears is by monitoring your thoughts and “scanning” them for any traces of them. So the process basically goes like this:


“Am I thinking about humping white bears?”


“Well, I wasn’t, but now I am …”


Psychologists call these ironic thought processes. They are the reason why you only want the stuff that you can’t have, why trying to suppress laughter only makes you laugh more, why you fail at stuff when somebody is watching, and so on. Telling yourself not to be afraid of failure puts failure right at the center of your thoughts. It’s the difference between overweight people who are always counting calories and rail-thin people who have to be reminded to eat at meal time because otherwise they just “forget to eat.” The overweight dieters are constantly failing because staying under the calorie count requires them to do the one thing they should be avoiding: thinking about food.


This is the cruel irony of people who are chronic worriers. Brain scans show that people who are constantly worrying about every little thing have much more active brains than other people … but the extra energy is wasted. When worriers try to complete a task they worried about, they end up doing worse than non-worriers doing the same task. So much of their brain power is being used to try to foresee all the bad outcomes that they almost guarantee that one of those bad outcomes will occur.


Meanwhile, people who aren’t concerned about what will happen can dedicate all their concentration to solving whatever problem is in front of them, meaning their chances of success are higher. That’s right — you could say that some people succeed purely because they’re too dumb to know why they should fail.


#3. Grief Is Addictive


Think about how much of our entertainment is based around negative emotions. Why do we like scary movies? Or sad songs? Why do we watch movies about disasters or obsessively follow morbid news stories about sensational murder trials? If something horrible happens to us, why do we find ourselves constantly thinking and talking about it?


If you were trying to come up with some kind of logical explanation, you could maybe say that it’s because focusing on terrible things reminds us of how good we have it. But the science says that we actually take pleasure in the negative emotion itself. We willingly dive back into misery again and again for the same reason we willingly board a roller coaster or go bungee jumping: We get a rush from it. That is, the pleasure/reward centers of your brain light up and release dopamine. And you can get addicted to whatever causes your brain to release dopamine, whether it’s chocolate or fistfights.


And just as with any addiction, there are some people who can handle it better than others — we all respond differently. And what researchers are finding is that some people get addicted to grief.


They think this may be why some people can just pick up and move on after a trauma, while others never do. They just keep reliving it, refreshing that feeling over and over. Because of the jacked-up way your brain is wired, even the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to you gave you a rush. Don’t get us wrong — that chronically grieving person you know isn’t enjoying it, any more than the junkie “enjoys” being an addict. They just get trapped in a feedback loop because they’re subconsciously afraid to let go of the one strong emotion that makes them feel alive.


And when it comes time to try to break us out of that cycle, something else comes into play, which is the fact that …


#2. You’d Rather Be Unhappy Than Uncertain


To all the teenagers reading this: You are lovely people. Thank you for reading Cracked. But holy frijoles, you do some completely idiotic things. Don’t worry — it’s completely normal. Thanks to evolution, the teenage brain is all about taking risks, like attacking a woolly mammoth with flimsy spears and having lots of sex with multiple partners, all for the continuation of the species.


For that decade of life, young people don’t have a “NO” switch in their brains, and while it meant that a lot of them fell off cliffs while chasing the woolly mammoths, overall it has been beneficial to the species. In fact, you could argue that the people who are successful later in life are the ones who never gave up their lust for taking stupid risks.


But for the most part, as you get older, your brain wants you to stop taking those risks. You already did all your kid-having, now you need to settle down and stay alive so you can raise those children. Forget mammoth hunting; you’re picking berries. You are less likely to quit your job and start a garage band at 50 than you were at 17, and that’s a good thing.


The problem is that most people grow so scared of risk that they are more likely to stay in situations that make them miserable than take a chance at happiness. Sure, you only drew a three of hearts out of the deck of life, but if you ask for a new card, you might wind up with a deuce. You stick with the misery you know.


And even worse, it actually gets to the point where a change that works out for the better can be scary because it’s better. In other words, even if you take the risk and the risk pays off, if you’re not used to happiness, then it just feels weird, or phony. Studies have found that taking depressed, self-critical people and trying to make them think positively about themselves just confuses the shit out of them. Make them stand in front of a mirror and shout compliments at themselves and they just think it’s weird and pointless. “What is this? Are you making fun of me? This is stupid.” It actually takes a whole different type of therapy for those people, because they see warmth and happiness and can only think, “What the hell is this shit?”


Some of you think that’s absolutely bizarre, and some of you know that as your everyday life. Ask yourself: When you’re sitting in a bar or coffee shop and there’s a group of friends next to you just laughing and having the time of their lives, how do you react? Do you find yourself annoyed by that? Do you hate them just a little? There you go.


#1. Being Happy Takes Effort


Imagine a happy person in your mind. Maybe you’re picturing a kid diving into a swimming pool, or an athlete hoisting a trophy, or Richard Branson parasailing with a naked supermodel on his back.


Now imagine a depressed person. You picture him sitting on the sofa in the dark, maybe drinking alone, staring at infomercials at three in the morning. Maybe he just never got out of bed.


The primary difference there is that the former person is actually doing something. It’s ridiculous to imagine the roles reversed — there aren’t any sad ballads about people snowboarding.


So despite how much cocaine Sigmund Freud did, it appears he was right when he said that unhappiness was the default position of our brains — meaning that happiness takes effort. As one study put it, having the right genes and being surrounded by the right people are a part of the equation, but the rest is doing things that make you feel good.


And if reading this made you roll your eyes and say, “Well, duh,” then you have to stop and realize how many people never do this. How many people do you know who say their ideal vacation would be to just kick back and do nothing at all? All of the “doing” in their lives comes at the job or at school — all the stuff that they’re forced to do by other people. So they think that relaxing means doing nothing at all, rather than doing the stuff they like.


They fall into the trap of thinking that happiness is simply the absence of doing unpleasant tasks instead of actively doing pleasant ones … and the human brain just doesn’t work that way. And this isn’t going to get any better as time goes on; among seniors, their satisfaction with life didn’t correlate with the state of their health or anything else — it was based on whether or not they had friends and hobbies.


Of course, it’s never harder to go out and make friends or start a new hobby than when you’re in the throes of depression, and at that point, all of the above cycles that keep you in that valley start coming into play. Hey, when we said your brain was a dick, we weren’t kidding.


If You Are Successful You Can Do Whatever The Hell You Want

579281_10151511787388258_450744459_nTiger Woods is on top again. In honor of his recent success, Nike, who never dropped Tiger as a sponsor in spite of his foibles, has launched a new advertising campaign strategically called Winning Takes Care Of Everything. Apparently it doesn’t really matter if you are an adulterous letch as long as you can hit a little white ball into a hole better than anyone else in tacky pants and spiked shoes.

When you consider how young the potential audience is for such an ad, how many children idolize Tiger or want to get a new pair of Nikes, it is singularly irresponsible, even immoral, for a company that has made its billions off the backs of the general populace, to blatantly try to convince us that adultery is fine, ruining the lives of innocents is just peachy, as long as you make a comeback.

Everything Does Not Happen For A Reason

English: Nyamata Memorial Site, skulls. Nyamat...

It’s called a cognitive distortion. We all have heard it, probably most of us believe it. We aren’t sure where it came from. It’s in the bible somewhere or the Dali Lama said it. Everything does happen for a reason.

Tell that to the six million jews who died in World War Two. Or the twenty-five million Russians who perished fighting the Nazis. Tell that to the children born in Mogadishu, or in starvation conditions in Africa. Tell that to the Tutsi’s hacked to death in Rwanda, or the genocide victims in The Congo.

“Everything happens for a reason” is a western, affluent, construct. It is a convenient and heartening way to explain away pain and suffering but it is, unfortunately, not based on any legitimate philosophy and it hurts people. It reminds me of my friend who was told, after his child died, that “God must have wanted another child in heaven”. Such a god would be a masochist and a bastard. The sentiment sounds good on paper but is destructive and hurtful in reality.

I no longer believe that everything happens for a reason. What I do experience, however, is a shocking realization that life is not fair. There really is no payback for every bad deed, at least not in this life. Sometimes the rich are in fact very happy exploiting the poor and have a much better life. Sometimes that bully does not get his comeuppance. Sometimes crap happens. Sometimes life sucks. Some people do get an easy ride while others seem to constantly suffer. There is often no justice for the poor african/american who is condemned to death row because he cannot afford an affluent lawyer. When my good friends lost their baby girl recently there was no “reason” that could even remotely justify or sanctify their loss.

If you are going through a difficult time right now you may not find wonderful redemption at the end of the rainbow, and that is an unfortunate fact. Believing your sexual or physical abuse will someday be worth leaves you open to bitterness and disillusionment. Healing begins when we accept the truth of our brokenness without trying to justify or condone it. Waiting for the good witch Glinda to make everything better keeps us mired in our distortions and unwilling to let go of what is haunting us.

The second half of the Serenity Prayer, the part no one knows, has really helped me come to terms with this. You know the first part: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Here’s the profound part: Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will. That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

I think in AA they call that “life on life’s terms”.