HELP. We’re Breaking Up

HELP. I’m Breaking Up with my Boyfriend

When a pair of lovebirds break up, expect pain, blushing, and anger. It’s a bust. The deal is broken. Your heart is raw, stabbed with razor thoughts. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImagine you go to a party and you see your Ex- dancing with someone else. That adoring look she gives him used to be for you. Don’t spas out. Of course you’re upset when he leaves you. Maybe you can’t go to that school reunion, because you are furious at the guy. Maybe he fathered your child and then forgot to get a job to pay for the child. (The term sperm-donor is said with hissing disdain from single moms who speak in my family counseling office.) Continue reading

Seriously Angry? Think about it.

I am angry every day. It’s tough to admit it—as a counselor cognoscente I’m supposed to be in charge of emotions. However, all students and teachers; OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAelders and babies; patients and therapists alike cope with anger. How?

“Damm!”, “Rats!!” “Sh- -!!” and other vicious expletives. Stamping your foot. Slapping, punching, cutting, and menacing. In counseling, we see them all. …Anggerr…Animals growl. Grrrrr. I want food. I want it my way. Fangs flare. Grrg r owl ing (not growing). I want what you have. Ouuwl. Grrrr…Give it over. You are toast. Anger. An Grrrrr. Continue reading

Is having an Affair, …fair?

Committed couples sail through life’s high seas, some smoothly and some roughly. Except for a few eccentric eddies in the stream, most people adhere to the moral code of monogamy with their spouse. The creed of most Americans is to have one sexual OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApartner at a time. But the fact is, another sexual partner may lurk below deck. More than other martial arguments, an affair rocks the boat violently. The marriage is stranded ashore, shipwrecked, or goes immediately into the repair dock. Marriage therapists are the mechanics when your relationship is struggling with multiple sexual relationships.

Few fixed statistics show how often affairs occur. The nature of affairs prevents honesty. (What respectable father who talks to his son about the ‘facts of life’ would admit to sleeping around?) Is an affair dishonest when nobody knows about it? Social scientists say grossly that about a third of married men and a fifth of married women have had an affair, a lover, a paramour. Within the US, about 1 in every 2.7 couples is touched by infidelity. (p. 1 Abrahms Spring, 2012)

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Therapy Marathon Aftershock

As a therapist I sometimes analyze what possessed Djhokhar Tsarnaev, now accused of setting off the bombings on April 15. I did meet him a few times when he was 16 at the Cambridge high school. He came to the US at the age of 9 from Chechnya; after a

Boston and gay pride

Boston and gay pride

divorce the mother left the Tsarnaev brothers to live in Russia. His fate is wrapped up with hundreds of injured people. I cannot excuse what he did.

I work with families who come from war-torn countries. Some in my practice are Latinos, some are Ethiopians. I have clients who fled from FARC militants and families who have applied for asylum in the US. Many refugees are escaping horrific violence from Haiti and Salvador and Sudan. When my curious sons entered high school, I realized that our cities can be a war zone for teenagers. Many teens are harassed by gangs after school: they are intimidated and paralyzed. An armed police officer was employed at the high school, where some boys were told to leave the school for carrying knives.

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My Child Always Complains

Have you ever felt tethered with a short Leash to a whining child?

Richard Foster informed despairing parents,Cuban sisters

“A dear friend of mine, Lymon James is a radio disc jockey. On the radio he’s called “Rhymin’ Lymon.” Lymon has a son, Zachary. One afternoon when Zachary was three years old, Lymon decided to take Zach on an outing. They went for some walks and visited some shops.

But it was one of those days, when nothing seems to go right. Zachary was fussing and fuming. Lymon tried everything. He tried to discipline him, and that didn’t work. He tried to bribe him: he gave him candy, and that didn’t work. He did somesaults in the park, and that definitely didn’t work.  Lymon was a renowned radio genius, but the 3 year old was winning the battle. Lymon felt deflated. The boy wouldn’t be distracted and kept whining and sniffling for no obvious reason.

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Therapy Soothes and Challenges

I love my work, and I know this work delves deep into who I am. When I first started to do counseling with couples, I studied complicated techniques like Milton Ericson’s hypnosis, and Virginia Satir’s work on anxiety that burrows inside your body. I watched in amazement 15 years ago as trauma was eliminated with EMDR (Eye Movement Reprocessing by Shapiro). I then studied with Judith Herman who wrote “the Book” onSueSerena healing after acute trauma. One never gets bored with the study of family therapy. Consider these requests by parents:

  • “Can you cure children suffering from enuresis?”
  • “What happens when my partner uses spyware on my computer?”
  • “When I suspect Janelle’s using drugs and she denies it, should I sureptiously read her journal?”

It is my pleasure to help families, but I don’t take credit for curing the problem. Therapy can help make crushing schedules more bearable; realign the meridians of power among parents and children; get parents paddling in synch instead of rowing against each other. The stress level and complicated after school activities packs in too many expectations. Headaches and stomachaches can give cues as to whether stress is high. In therapy I deal with the irritating pebble in the shoe, and the chaos of flashbacks. Plus I now know how much the work is helping myself. The old adage says, “You teach the subject that you most need to learn.”

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A Sad, Dark Knight

Jessica, John, Gordon, Alex, Rebecca, Matt, Jon, Veronica, AJ, Micayla, Jesse fell to violent killing in Aurora CO.This is a story of sorrow. These people have left us. Farewell, adieu, to God. It is a time to cradle our love and wish them safe journeys to the next world. We are grieving and we don’t want this type of gunning down to happen again.

With your close ones, share your feelings and reactions to the Aurora killings. Children 8 and over have heard about it, and parents will want to initiate a conversation to assure children they are safe. We need to admit what happened (no need to emphasize gory details). All family systems need a protector, because kids know they are vulnerable. Your role, along with family counseling, is to keep them safe. Be confident in this.

I’m sorry personal guns are used this century more against humans than for hunting. I grew up on a farm, and guns were for deer and geese, never to be used in self-defense. Killing was linked to the food you eat, not to get revenge or attention.

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“I can’t visit my child.”

One of the worst imaginable things is to be separated from those you love. Some parents are in prison, others lose their right to see their children for years. They were not granted visitation rights by a judge.  In abuse cases, one parent may ask that the abuser refrain indefinitely from seeing their child.

Clients enter family counseling, mourning this contact. Of course they miss seeing their children grow up. Still they can maintain and grow in their identity as a mother or father. A wise friend of mine, miscarried a child and never was able to have another child. But in those months of carrying a child, she became a mother. Her tenderness and her outlook towards others changed forever, even though she never had physical contact (well, contact outside) with her child. Still, she identifies as a mother.

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It takes courage to go to therapy. Who adores wrestling with problems? But therapy could be a critical turning point for you. In Spanish (I speak Spanish), there’s an expression, vale la pena. It means the pain is worth it.

I enjoy challenges. I’m good at working with those who are anxious or depressed or who have family problems. Some of us are in deep grief, or have unresolved pain from the past. I enjoy putting puzzles together; some couples feel that their spouse is too controlling. Some want to change old patterns of yelling or speaking. Some want help as they adjust to getting older or change in medication.

As an independent family counselor I work well with angry kids and frustrated parents. I have often worked with abusive children, those who self-abuse and those who’ve bullied. Families grow, no matter how bleak the present dilemma. My model includes creativity and compassion. I include music and art in my practice.