Don’t get mad at. Get mad that.

There is often no bad guy. Events are collisions of millions of forces that leave people hanging with intense feelings with nowhere to point them. It’s really hard to let anger pass through you when you don’t have a place to put it.

The more intense the feeling, the less helpful this post. But maybe it can be a seed.

In situations where there is clearly no bad guy, try channeling your anger into being mad THAT it happened; rather than being mad AT someone.  The anger is pointed at the event.  At the collision.

Sometimes life just freakin blows. And there isn’t a single person in the equation who would’ve wanted an event to unfold the way it did. Nobody won. Nobody’s happy. It’s an abstract concept – and certainly easier said than done – but if you can grab onto glimpses of being mad THAT it happened, maybe this can be an effective channel to release some of the feelings and free yourself up a little.

Feelings never want to stay. They are best handled when they’re welcomed (once they’ve already entered) and then shown back to the place where they entered from.  The ’empty chair technique’ is beautiful when the feelings can be channeled at a specific person and placed right back towards the person who was the creator of the disturbance for you. But it’s not always that simple. So this post is for those types of events where there’s no bad guy, no single disturber whose needs ran into yours. It is wise of you to realize it would be inaccurate to get overly angry AT anyone involved, since not a single person would’ve pre-wished and pre-created this outcome. But then what to do with your anger?

Lastly, sitting with the words, “I am so angry that this happened,” will likely encourage your system to go deeper into the sadness, which is less pointed and doesn’t get stuck as easily (we generally don’t have a wish to stab someone with our sadness like we do with our anger). Finding the softer sadness can be a little more of a landing zone with more restful spaces (though still intensely uncomfortable). It’s a little easier to be sad without a secondary urge to have to “do something about it.” There is sometimes nothing to do. Life has some brutal edges, sometimes completely vulnerable to chance. Nothing can be done. Be sad. Be mad that it happened.  These are the worst.


A Questionnaire for Existential Therapy. Does it ignite anything in you?

Check out this pre- and post- test for measuring the effects of therapy.  Participants rated each item on a scale of how true/relevant it is for them.  (This is out of Yalom’s text: Existential Psychotherapy.)

I communicate openly with my loved ones.

I appreciate the beauty of nature.

I have a sense of personal freedom.

It is important to me to be liked by everyone.

I obtain much pleasure from life.

I communicate honestly and frankly.

I do only those things I really want to do.

I live in the present rather than in the past or future.

I have moments of deep serenity.

I stand up for my own personal rights.

I have a sense of psychological well-being.

I communicate openly with my friends.

I feel I have something of value to teach others about life.

I am able to choose what I want to do.

My life has meaning and purpose.

Religious / spiritual beliefs have much significance for me.


How neat?? I imagine there could be such a wide range of reactions!

Distracting Versus Relaxing

There’s a really big difference between distracting yourself with something versus genuinely relaxing.

Let’s look at it as if it’s physical.

With distraction, it’s like using one of your hands to push against something that’s trying to come at you; and using the other hand to try and grab onto something that’s somewhat difficult to grab onto.

That’s two different directions of effort.

With relaxation, there’s zero effort from either hand.

Relaxation rejuvinates. Distraction drains in two different directions.

If it feels like you’re distracting yourself, you’re so much better off going directly at the thing that’s trying to get to you (the stressor). Then you’re unifying your energy, putting effort into ONE direction, and hopefully knocking it out so that genuine (effortless) relaxation can occur.

Arrogance and Stubbornness. (from fear)

Arrogance and stubbornness look neat if we look at them through fear.

Stubbornness can be defined as a fear of change/loss.

Arrogance can be defined as a fear of vulnerability.

Change ALWAYS has fear built-in. Change is connected to loss which is connected to death.

If anyone tells you “I don’t fear change,” they’re lying to themselves (denial / lack of insight) or they’re lying to you.

And “loss” has a double meaning: not only losing something, like losing time towards death, but also loss as opposed to winning. Competition. So stubbornness can also be a fear of losing TO someone or something.

Then there’s a fear of one’s soft spots being seen; a fear of vulnerability.  A person over-produces strengths and attempts to look down on people in order to hide.

Fear is a profound motivator.  Even arrogance and stubbornness look pretty neat if we view them through the lens of fear.

Sorry for cheating on you, but…

… now I have an instagram.

I cheated on you with Talkspace.

I was mostly curious about whether I’d feel effective if the therapy were limited to only written words; not even hand written! And not even real-time typed! (It was like email.)

I was also hoping it would help us here, possibly providing some opportunities to type up something thought-out to target an exact problem and then copy and pasting it into the blog (with the client’s details removed/changed, obviously).

It was fun while it was novel.  But after a few months I got drained, stopped liking it, and discontinued.  The blog has suffered because (1) there was never a good opportunity to transfer anything here and (2) the thought of typing up more things felt sour for a while.

The next few months were aimed in an opposite direction.  I was careful not to over-work.  My to-do-list and morning routine have a very different structure now.  I even put out an ad for an assistant.

There’s a nice equilibrium now.  And I’m thrilled that thoughts are moving in the direction of the blog again.  Very happy to be back.

Somewhere in there, I started an Instagram.  (Overdose on words.  Need pictures.)

So I don’t know what kind of shape the Instagram is going to take but here’s what I’m imagining at the moment:

(1) Physical suggestions.  Putting up images of what positions you can put your body in to make yourself feel better.

(2) Mantra (repeated self-talk) suggestions.  Doing deep breathing while repeating a phrase to yourself can be weirdly powerful.  There are so many amazing mantras but they’re generally only one sentence.  Neither the blog nor the twitter feed seemed like the right place for them.  So I think the Instagram might be a perfect fit.

(3) Whenever the weight-lifting facility is completely set up, the Instagram can also be a way of communicating to you guys in between lifting sessions.  Active recovery, form and technique, maybe even some nutrition stuff.

So we’ll see what happens with the Instagram.  In the meantime, I’m happy to be back in the blog world.

As always, please let me know if you have ideas of what you’d like to see on either of them.

(I wonder if any of you expected to see a post about the word: “but”.

Here ya go:

The word “but” creates a hierarchy of importance.  Whatever is before “but” is less important than what is after “but.”   It doesn’t necessarily fully cancel out what’s before, but it jumps above it.   “I love you but empty the dishwasher.”  It’s clear the dishwasher is more important than the love in that moment.

When it’s a two person dialogue and Person A says a statement and then Person B starts with “But…” Person A is likely going to feel dismissed.  When Person B leads with “but,” it puts Person B’s point above/superior.

Most of you knew this, so I’m just dropping a couple paragraphs about it since I kind of click-baited the title.

I plan to be back here very soon!  Thrilled to be back!  Keep me posted on what you like….)




What is the function of emotion?

This is for you Structured peeps. This section fits perfectly with a couple of recent conversations we’ve had. It’s in Volume One, page 116:

“So long as you are awake you are aware of something, and that something always carries an emotional tone of some sort. Anything which is a matter of complete indifference, lacking in concern for you – that is, devoid of emotion – simply does not set the figure/ground process in operation to an extent sufficient to enter into awareness.

It is all-important that you become aware of the continuity of your emotional experience. Once emotion is understood to be not a threat to rational control of your life but a guide which furnishes the only basis on which human existence can be ordered rationally, then the way is open to cultivation of continuous awareness of its wise promptings.

To suppose that this would take extra time and attention is not correct. The analogy is crude, but consider the case of the skilled driver of an automobile. For him to be continuously aware that his motor is running smoothly is no burden, for this is not the focus of attention. That the sound of the motor is part of the dynamic figure/ground of his driving, however, and that it is something with which he is concerned, is indicated by the speed with which it becomes figure and claims more attention if it develops some slight, but significant, irregularity. Another driver – perhaps one who does not want to be bothered – will not hear the anomalous sound, or, if he does, will not recognize its meaning and will drive on for as long as he can, oblivious to the damage that may be occurring. To be continuously aware of emotion is possible only when you are willing to be aware of whatever is of genuine concern in your life.”

How Boundaries Can Be Harmful (if you’re doing it wrong)

The word “boundaries” can be kind of dangerous because people hear the advice that they should implement boundaries so they try it with great intentions, but since they don’t fully understand the concept as a whole, it can sometimes backfire and be counterproductive.

It’s a lot like when folks try to start eating healthy and they buy things that say “healthy” on the label. Most health/nutrition experts will tell you to steer clear of something that says “healthy” on it. (Zero calorie soda or gluten free pretzels probably aren’t doing you any health favors.)

So let’s take a look at boundaries so that you’re not trying to improve things but accidentally creating a counter-pressure.

Starting at the heart of the word, a boundary simply means a line between two different things… a delineation… the availability of contrast.

What does this mean for human functioning?

The truest, purest definition of boundaries for our purposes is the line where one person ends and another person begins. So if there’s Person A and Person B, a boundary is what separates the one person from the other. Let’s call this an “I / Thou” boundary. The boundary is the “/”.

Think of it like territory. If you’re driving and someone cuts over into your lane, your boundary has been violated. If you’re at home and someone (uninvitedly) comes onto your property, your boundary has been violated.

Psychologically, boundaries also imply territory. Your territory is your “I.” If someone crosses into your “I,” your boundary has been violated.

Therefore, in this sense, a boundary violation is psychological violence. Not good!

So here’s how people get tripped up:

Sometimes people think of a boundary as a “yes / no” boundary rather than a “Person A / Person B” or “I / Thou” boundary. They think of it as a line between yes and no instead of a line between person and person. If you do this, you’re running the risk of actually violating boundaries and being violent while thinking you’re implementing good boundaries. Aahh!

For example, “yes, I will allow you to do something,” or “no, I will not allow you to do something,” is grossly incorrect. That’s not boundaries. That’s violence and tyranny. That will hurt all of your relationships.

It could still work to think of a boundary as a “yes / no” boundary as long as you’re holding true to the more general and pure definition of “I / thou.” For example, “yes, I will do this.” Or, “no, I will not do that.” Even though it’s a yes / no boundary, it’s still healthy (and effective) because you’ve stayed on your side of the I / thou boundary. You are moving your own “I.”

I hope that’s helpful. It’s a bummer when people try and do healthy things but it accidentally moves things backwards and creates a counter-pressure only because the understanding isn’t complete.