Do I have your attention now?! The quest to get someone to do what they want brings many people into therapy, whether they want the partner, child, friend, client, or parents to stop smoking, be nice, have sex more often, have sex less often, eat more vegetables and fruit, exercise, do homework, respect them, clean the bathroom, or pay more for services.
The unwelcome news I have to tell them is this: you can’t really get people to do what you want, other than your children, and then only up to a certain age. You can bully others into acting like they’re doing what you want, but trust me: they’re sneaking Twinkies and resenting you for making them sneak.
When one half of a couple makes rules for the couple, look out! Parents make rules for children, so the person who’s making the rules has cast him or herself as the parent and the partner as the child. Why would either partner find this satisfying?
In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), members talk about going for a geographical fix. What is a geographical fix, you ask? It’s the idea that if you’re miserable in NYC, you can fix your life by moving to San Francisco or some other place. Or if you’re unhappy in your relationship with John or Johanna, you need only dump them and go for Bob or Roberta and you’ll be happy. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look at your surroundings or consider your choice of partner, but experience shows that you will bring yourself to that new city or relationship. And if you don’t know how to be happy, it doesn’t matter who you’re with or where you live. You still won’t know how to be happy. It’s just an attempt at an external solution to an internal problem, and is doomed to disappoint.
Geographical fix will fail
You may be amazed to know how many people begin therapy looking for that geographical fix, whether it’s a different part of the country or a different bed. It’s the “I’ll-be-happy-when” syndrome. If you don’t know how to be happy now, you won’t be happy when you’ve lost those five pounds, gotten the promotion, signed the client, or gotten the youngest child off the family payroll. Your clothes will fit better or you’ll have more money, but those are just external improvements and you will still be unhappy, if you don’t know how to be happy from the inside out.
Are you looking for an external solution to your lack of satisfaction in life? In therapy you can learn to be happy from the inside out, so you don’t fall for the lure of the geographical fix.
The buzz in therapy circles of late concerns a recent New York Times article written by a NYC psychotherapist, Jonathan Alpert, who inflates his credentials and bashes long-term treatment and the therapists who provide it. He implies that long-term therapy is only for severe psychological disorders—and he doesn’t consider depression and anxiety to be severe issues. Alpert’s approach is the “give a man a fish and he eats for a day” method, instead of teaching him to fish, so he can eat for a lifetime. There is effective and ineffective short-term therapy and effective and ineffective long-term therapy.
A few years ago I was waiting in a doctor’s office and, having forgotten to bring the parenting book I was studying, was at the mercy of Muzak. One of the songs that came on was a Céline Dion hit … Continue reading
Does HBO have a monopoly on series centered around characters who suffer from narcissism? No, but the network sure has it’s share!…What makes these TV characters so unwatchable is their narcissism, one aspect of which is their stunning lack of capacity to put themselves in anyone else’s shoes. Have you known people in real life whose narcissism affects you like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard? Therapy is incredibly helpful in dealing with narcissism—your own and that of the people you encounter on a daily basis. A good therapist can help you understand the origins and consequences of your narcissism, see it in real time, and find more satisfying ways to live everyday life.
While flipping through the channels recently, I landed on HBO’s new series “Enlightened,” and stayed to watch because I admire actress Laura Dern’s work. She plays Amy Jellicoe, a corporate executive who has a dramatic flame-out, goes to a spiritual retreat center, and returns to her life as a new-and-improved Amy, she believes. We get to see how Amy got to be such a mess, through seeing how cold, mean, and superior her mother is. And when new-and-improved Amy confronts stresses in her life, she reverts to mimicking Mom, without even realizing it.
Do you find yourself saying some variation of “I could’ve had a V-8!” about the situations or choices you’ve made in your life? What does “I could’ve had a V-8!” mean, anyway? Poor decisions, or chronic lack of satisfaction? It’s … Continue reading
“I don’t know how to network” or “Networking feels so fake” or “I’m too shy to network.” Sound familiar? You know your business would improve if you networked, but you’re just too uncomfortable to try. (Read the “Comfort Zone” post … Continue reading
If you’re struggling with a situation, you may benefit from reframing, that is, changing your attitude toward it. This quote of unknown origin provides a great description of reframing: “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.”