Jun 07


The most recent act of workplace violence in this country occurred in my backyard.  The idyllic home of theme park characters and palm trees is not immune to horrific events like those that occurred this week and the Pulse nightclub disaster last year.  Workplace violence is on the rise and many of us wonder why.  What contributes to a person having an intermittent explosive disorder or a total lack of impulse control?  Obviously nothing justifies this behavior, but there are a multitude of factors that contribute to this problem.  Violence today is more accessible, acceptable, and anonymous. We are surrounded by violence through our continuous media exposure, whether it be television, movies, video games or even music.  Our exposure only helps to desensitize the impact and increase acceptability.  But what would cause an embittered worker to kill innocent people?

Community violence or workplace assaults occur when individuals build up rage, hostility, and resentment without any regard for the repercussions of their actions.  They are usually loners who are disconnected from society and believe they have few options left and little to lose, even if it’s their life.  Many of these killers have low self-esteem, some are narcissistic, and most have difficulties with impulsivity.  They have limited coping skills and justify their actions because of what others have done to them.  Some may struggle with mental health problems, feel misunderstood, and blame everyone else.  They may have grown up with violence and believed it was an acceptable way to express anger, but for some depression is an underlying factor.  What can be done to prevent a person from acting on their aggressive thoughts and feelings?

Teaching students, workers, and managers to communicate more effectively and learn conflict management strategies can be a good start.  It would also be helpful for people to be better educated and have greater awareness of signs and symptoms of an individual who would benefit from mental health services or law enforcement involvement.  Obviously we can’t prevent or control others from acting on their aggression every time, but some preventative measures could possibly save a life.

Many aggressive people want so badly to be heard and haven’t figured out a better way to express themselves.  Being able to listen, validate their feelings, and offer an alternative solution can possibly redirect the person.  Also giving them hope and a sense of empowerment for choosing a healthy and positive option can prove beneficial.  Providing a genuine, caring and compassionate response to their anger and resentment assuming they can express it respectively will build trust and connection.  Obviously many of these solutions work best at the early stages of conflict and aggression.  If we nip anger in the bud, we can possibly prevent it from blossoming to out of control rage.

May 31


Do you know people who choose to take their anger out on others?  Misery loves company, and some would rather criticize, ridicule, and demean others rather than deal with their own pain.  We all experience anger in our lives, but some look to project or displace it as quickly as possible, using others as a punching bag to take their anger out on, especially if there are limited repercussions.  Why do people choose these defense mechanisms?  And are there other ways to combat anger, frustration, and resentment?  Taking ownership and responsibility for one’s words and actions is somewhat of an anomaly today.

Anger pushes people away and does not engender compassion or sensitivity from others.  We often hurt those closest to us the most, probably because they will take it or maybe be more understanding and forgiving.  When someone is whining and complaining all the time or lashing out about some injustice, it makes it difficult to provide assistance.  Our inclination is to avoid and shut down which doesn’t give the angry person the feedback they need.  The art of communication occurs when we let another person know the impact that their anger has on us and its non-productive nature.  Helping people look in the mirror and identify their own issues can be a very delicate business.  But if they are impacting you negatively with their anger, chances are they’re impacting others in a similar way.

The key is to suggest to them alternate ways to deal with the anger, frustration, and resentment.  Sometimes physical exercise helps people deal with these feelings.  Another option is to write about the feelings in a general way or write specifically confronting the person/issue head-on as a means of letting go.  In some cases, the person needs to forgive someone or maybe themselves in order to rid themselves of their anger. Often people with unresolved or chronic anger want to focus on the past and can’t let go of wrongs from their past. If you are the person with unresolved anger, choose to be assertive rather than aggressive and witness how much better people respond to you.  Respect others’ boundaries and know when to walk away or be quiet.  Remember to avoid defensiveness, blame, and justification; instead accept feedback from others and work on changing yourself.  It’s okay to be angry, as long as your feelings are expressed respectfully, constructively, and appropriately.  Lastly, be able to say it and leave it.



May 24


When I coached soccer, to be successful, we focused on building speed, developing strength, and practicing skills.  Being successful in a relationship is not much different.  In soccer bursts of speed can create a huge advantage, but also knowing when to slow down or to change direction has value.  In relationships, our timing is essential.  For example, knowing when to keep quiet or speak up is a key component to effective communication.  Some couples blurt out their thoughts and feelings impulsively which can create huge conflict.  Or one person can’t let things go even if it is midnight and time to go to bed.  Being able to call a timeout when discussions are heated and respecting each other’s space for a limited amount of time can allow emotions to settle.

Just as soccer is a physical sport that requires both endurance and strength, let’s face it marriage can be tough.  Being in a long-term committed relationship requires perseverance and patience.  Relationships require strength of character and sometimes heavy lifting. Sometimes we need to apologize even when we don’t think we did anything wrong.  Our partner is angry or hurt by something we said or did, but we didn’t think it was so bad.  Because we love that person, value the relationship, and respect their feelings we choose to apologize.  It takes strength to swallow our pride, set aside our ego, and humble ourselves.  All relationships have conflict and sometimes managing the conflict can be difficult.  But talking it out constructively, acknowledging each other’s feelings and finding a compromise can result in resolution.  Forgiveness also requires great strength, especially when the other person has not acknowledged their wrongdoing or apologized.  We forgive to heal our own pain and sometimes to reconcile with the other person.  Forgiveness is a choice and a gift that can enable negative feelings to disappear.

In all sports, practice is the key to success.  Relationship skills are required to maintain a healthy and successful partnership.  Like most things in life, use them or lose them.  We need to practice assertive communication, listening, conflict management, and trust building.  For men, emotional awareness, sensitivity, and expressiveness often don’t come naturally, but can be learned and acquired over time.  For some, learning to be attentive and affectionate may require effort and intention.  We get better with most skills with consistent practice, determined commitment, and acute focus.  The joy of winning in a sport pales in comparison to the jubilation experienced when you have a successful marriage.

May 17


What is the connection between shame and blame?  And how is shame different from guilt?  Guilt is the feeling of doing something wrong, while shame is the feeling of being something wrong.  While guilt can be healthy and positive, shame tends to lead to self-destructive behaviors.  Shamed people focus on self-blame and self-loathing.  Psychiatrist Carl Jung described shame as a soul-eating emotion that feeds on itself.  Shame is often created in children through excessive scolding, judging, criticizing, neglect, abuse, and abandonment.  While we all experience shame to some degree, toxic shame occurs when it becomes an integral part of a person’s self-image or sense of self-worth.  So how does shame manifest itself in everyday life?

Shame-filled people apologize constantly and have little sense of emotional boundaries.  They engage in negative self-talk, have unrealistically high expectations of themselves, overcompensate for feelings of inadequacy, and constantly compare themselves with others which leads to feelings of unworthiness.  Toxic shame lasts much longer, with greater intensity, and can hide in our unconscious.  Shame-based beliefs usually revolve around feeling unlovable or unworthy of connection, such as, “I’m not enough,” ” I don’t matter,” or “I’m a fraud.”  Toxic shame can lead to depression, feelings of hopelessness, aggression, and addictions.  People with unhealthy shame tend to self-sabotage and struggle with significant insecurity.  What can a person do to get rid of toxic shame?

Shame needs fear and negativity to survive. Therefore, avoid relationships with people who devalue your worth and instead nurture relationships with people who recognize your inherent value.  Develop a list of your positive attributes and learn to love yourself for who you are rather than what you’ve done.  Replace destructive behaviors with affirming behaviors.  For example, go for a walk outside instead of sitting alone in front of the TV.  Eliminate excessive shame by working towards self-acceptance and self-respect.  Sharing openly with supportive people who understand and are trustworthy can break the secrecy that accompanies shame.  Engage in activities that generate pride and a sense of accomplishment such as gardening or learning a new sport.  Setting healthy boundaries without guilt, being assertive, and self-forgiveness will invariably reduce shame.  Lastly, incorporate affirming self-talk and build healthy relationships.  Acknowledge shame and attack it with healthy and positive behaviors.

May 10


Have you noticed how people in power feel entitled to special treatment?  Some might label that type of person narcissistic and in some cases they would be correct.  Regardless of the label, the trend is that many celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, and highly successful people seem to live by different standards and poor morals.  These are the very same people who are supposed to be our role models and examples for our children to follow.  Instead, they abuse their power and status to manipulate and take advantage of others.  They justify and defend their actions believing that their behaviors are a perk for being the incredibly important people that they are.  They also are convinced that they can get away with inappropriate behaviors because of who they are and the resources they have access to.  This is true in some cases, but there are still  ramifications for inappropriate behaviors especially when it is a repeated pattern.

The media world loves to highlight a fallen star, especially if that star has wronged them in some way.  Ironically, negative media sells so we are constantly bombarded with famous people’s demise.  Everyone wonders how could a person who appears to have everything (wealth, status, material possessions, and a seemingly good relationship) can self-destruct.  There is no simple answer to that question, but some possible reasons have to do with them feeling invincible and untouchable.  When people gain power through accomplishments, fame, and success sometimes they lose humility, accountability, and their moral compass.  In other cases, they never developed these characteristics in the first place and don’t have a desire to change.  Control and power can be highly addictive resulting in destructive behaviors and painful choices.  Even a person who wins the lottery and becomes a millionaire overnight often struggles with similar problems.  Success can make people crazy and lead to a life without boundaries and feeling superior to the rest of the world.

Is there any hope for these self-centered people?  Maybe I’m the eternal optimist or maybe it relates to what I do for a living, but people can change and learn new ways.  The hard part is getting the person to realize their actions negatively impact their loved ones and that personal relationships really do matter.  The person needs to realize that significance has greater value than success and that involves having a positive influence on others’ lives.  When we give back, stay grounded, have accountability, and lead a balanced life we can achieve success and significance.  There are many successful people who have a heart for service and helping others which enables them to recognize that life is not all about them.  Having a faith reminds us that we are not in charge of everything and that there is a power greater than us.  Focus on using your time, talents, and treasures to help others, not just yourself.

May 03


Have you ever wondered about the impact of social media?  I’ve worried about this outlet giving people an unfiltered voice even if they have a small number of followers/friends.  People can write or say really hurtful, mean, and inappropriate things through social media with little or no repercussions.  The free speech amendment has taken on new complexity with the internet since millions can be reached through one click.  While the social media world does allow for sharing some positive and helpful information (like family pictures and family news), wading through the overabundance of useless information can become burdensome.  Some people believe what they share is relevant and meaningful, yet many of us would argue that point.  Sometimes social media can capture inappropriate behavior and provide evidence for consequences.  As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz once said, “we’re not in Kansas”; our world today is dramatically different from even just ten years ago.

Social media has its advantages and disadvantages, but being especially cautious when using it can save much aggravation and turmoil.  We may want to have an accountability person that we run stuff by before posting, especially if the subject is controversial, conflictual, or sensitive.  We may also want to think about the impact of our post.  Are you obsessed with social media likes/comments, etc.?  Some spend an inordinate amount of time and energy posting, commenting, and/or reading their social media.  Many have more time in front of a screen than with real people.  Some individuals post outlandish, inappropriate, and provocative things, while others feel compelled to share everything they do in a day.  They are possibly seeking attention or  looking to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness.  We all can benefit from a “filter check” and recognize that boundaries are necessary when sharing certain information with the world.

Why not limit social media time and focus more on real people time?  In spite of our world-wide connection through the internet, studies have reported an increase in loneliness and isolation.  The fact is that our internet connections are limited, often superficial, and detached.  While we value transparency in our relationships, digital connections lack non-verbal cues which can make the communication difficult to read and interpret.  Our messages, emails, and texts cannot be adequately transmitted to convey the complete message when the conversation is more complex and involved, yet people still rely on this form of communication sometimes exclusively.  My challenge for you is to pick up the phone or talk face-to-face when the conversation involves emotions, conflict, and/or more complicated issues. You’ll be glad you did.

Apr 26


Do you know anyone who chooses to blame rather than change?  Some people are stuck in the “victim mode” and seek to justify their problems rather than do something about them.  Sometimes they hang onto emotional pain from many years ago and choose not to forgive or release the conflict and emotional pain.  Life is all about choices and when we stay stuck in anger, resentment, and hurt, we choose to stay stuck in misery.  Many people believe that psychologists want to find fault in a person’s childhood to determine where to place the blame.  From my perspective, understanding the impact of our childhood experiences helps the healing process and identifies areas to make changes so that we don’t repeat what we learned.  But the point is not to blame parents or other people from the past.  At some point, as adults, we have to take responsibility for our lives.  Acknowledging trauma and pain from the past is beneficial as long as the objective is to seek healing, resolution, and closure.

Relationships are messy, painful, and sometimes unhealthy, but we don’t have to live in the pain forever and can learn ways to let it go.  Everyone experiences rejection, anger, hurt, fear, and sadness to some degree, but what we do with these feelings determines our level of resilience and our life path.  We can choose to blame our parents, ex-spouse, significant other, children, boss, society, whomever we want, and wallow in our emotional pain and remain stuck in suffering.  Or we can figure out options, develop a game plan, and take action.

Depending upon the situation, action might mean forgiving someone and letting go of the pain they caused.  Remember forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation, forgetting, nor condoning the person that caused the pain, but it does mean choosing to let go of the negative emotions.  Another action item is to figure out what you have control over and let go of the rest.  We can’t control others’ thoughts, feelings, or actions so use your time wisely and work on controlling yourself.  Decide that living in the present is healthier and a better focus than dwelling on the past.  We can learn from our past and decide how to do things differently in the present, but it’s helpful to limit our time obsessing about yesterday.  The past is history, the future a mystery, and the present a gift.  So decide today to stop blaming others for your misfortune and take action to create a better life.  We empower ourselves when we let go of pain from the past.  Do it now!



Apr 19


Do you find it difficult to be honest and direct with certain people?  Are you in a relationship with someone who can’t handle the truth?  Some people are highly sensitive and react strongly to perceived rejection and criticism. They may over personalize the comments received or react based on residual emotion from past hurts.  We all struggle with fears and insecurities about something, but some of us allow these feelings to distort our thinking and influence our reactions.  People will sometimes anticipate and/or expect rejection even before it occurs and in some cases this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  For many these patterns of overreaction are rooted in past experiences and emotional pain.  Unfortunately, being in relationship with a hypersensitive person can make it hard to discuss difficult or conflictual problems.  When the person receiving the information overreacts, the person sharing is more inclined to shut down which creates more distance and disconnectedness.

Searching for the right words or best time to share can be taxing since we can’t predict the response of others.  Even knowing the person and appreciating their “hot buttons” may not be enough to avoid a meltdown or blow-up.  What can we do to avoid a bad outcome?  Sometimes asking a question first helps, “would you like me to just listen or are you looking for honest feedback?”  Or including a qualifier, “I’d like to share my thoughts and feelings and hope you won’t be offended.”   Another approach is to validate the other person before sharing the message, “I want to be open and transparent with you even though I recognize it might be difficult for you to hear it.”  Be sure that when you’re sharing something sensitive that your motive is good and it’s being shared out of care and concern.

Remember that so much of our communication is how we say it (nonverbal), not just what we say (verbal).  Our nonverbal communication such as tone of voice, facial expression, etc. accounts for 93% of our communication.  Be aware of how the message is sent and pay attention to how it is received.  The person receiving the message should work on responding and accepting the message instead of reacting immediately.  Avoid getting defensive or lashing out, think before speaking.  Maybe taking some time to process the message (24 hours) may help with the response and perspective.  Lastly, recognize that talking about difficult and conflictual issues is necessary to maintain a healthy relationship.  Conflict like taxes is unavoidable, but how you deal with it can determine the outcome.


Apr 12


Have you ever noticed that people often end up marrying someone with similar characteristics to their own mother or father?  Why is that?  Maybe because it is familiar and  there is safety and security tied to those relationships. Other times, people marry someone similar to a parent because they never resolved issues with that person and subconsciously are seeking resolution and closure.  So being married to someone like your parent can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the relationship that you had/have with that person.  Our brains tend to develop patterns and internalize scripts that are similar from childhood which shape our behaviors and relationship formation.

Some would say that being attracted to a partner who is similar to the opposite-sex parent is directly tied to attachment theory while others relate it to our unconscious mental models.  Whether we are looking to work out issues that were unresolved from childhood or are unconsciously drawn to the familiar, the pattern is a common phenomenon.  If we are seeking an intimate relationship, what can we do about this realization?  If you had supportive and loving parents then it may not be a problem, but growing up with a critical or emotionally unavailable parent may be problematic for your future relationships.

Taking more time to date a person and learn more about their personality can help you discern whether you are repeating an unhealthy and destructive pattern.  Deciding to date for a couple of years before getting engaged may be a good decision.  Also recognize that as an adult you have a voice and can confront conflict assertively without guilt or fear.  If you disagree with your partner in a healthy way and they react poorly, then this relationship may be dysfunctional.  It is important to be able to discuss life issues and share your honest feelings without being reprimanded or shut down.  In a healthy relationship the couple can have different perspectives and agree to disagree.  Healthy couples respect and accept their differences without fearing ridicule or condescending remarks from their partner.  Accept the positive similarities between your partner and parent while making an effort to change the negative connections.  Maybe addressing directly the parental conflicts from the past or responding differently than you did as a child would be a good start.  Awareness is needed before change can begin.

Apr 05


What is it like to be in a relationship with a person who is passive-aggressive?  I would speculate that it is incredibly frustrating, and irritating. The typical passive-aggressive person tends to avoid direct confrontation but instead chooses to get back at the person indirectly and possibly covertly.  They don’t like conflict and would rather take their revenge in a less direct fashion, but certainly harbor their share of anger and frustration.  The passive-aggressive type will accommodate others’ needs and neglect their own at times while internalizing resentment and hurt when others don’t reciprocate.  The person in the relationship with the passive-aggressive is often confused, hurt, and possibly vengeful themselves.  In some cases, the passive-aggressive person is unaware of their behaviors and the impact on others, but often this action is taken intentionally.

Many of us learn communication patterns and styles from past experiences and role models.  If we were unable to speak our minds or confront conflicts directly, we may have learned to take a different tact to communicate and express ourselves.  We may have feared being honest and direct with others and anticipated the negative and punitive reaction we’d receive.  Many people prefer to get back at others in an indirect fashion so they can remain the good guy and not be perceived in a negative light.  In some cases people have assumed that their voice wouldn’t be heard or respected so they sought others ways to express themselves. There is a misperception that others will not realize the negative emotions behind the facade and will respond favorably.  A passive-aggressive type can smile on the outside yet fume on the inside.  So how do we deal with this type of person?

For starters, ask for clarification so that you can better understand what they are upset about and seek resolution.  It always helps to assume some responsibility for the conflict and to validate the other person’s feelings.  Maybe even give them permission to be upset, hurt, and angry while encouraging them to share directly their concerns.  If you respond positively to their negative feelings without defensiveness, justification, and blame, they may work at sharing their feelings more directly next time.  Let them know that it’s difficult to change behavior, to acknowledge wrongdoing, and to apologize if you don’t understand what you did wrong.  Also communicate with them that their emotions have value and matter to you so they don’t have to hold them in or express them covertly.  Lastly, let the passive-aggressive person know that when they are assertive, conflicts can get resolved much quicker and with less pain and confusion.  We all can benefit from being assertive more consistently since this type of communication brings people closer together.  Take action and positive results will follow.


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