Follow Up to Mad As Hell

The last post inspired me to take a more serious look at anger. Anger can too often be the elephant in the room, or maybe more aptly, the tiger in the corner, that people try to avoid.

Today on PsychCentral I posted another take on Mad As Hell: Anger and the Economy. This will be the first in a series of four posts on this difficult subject.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

And if there are any other topics you'd like me to address I'd love to know. Just leave a comment.

Have a great Friday!

Mad As Hell: Anger and the Economy

There is so much to be mad about these days. People are enraged by corporate greed, lost jobs, ineffective government, Bernie Madoff. And that's just the tip of the ice berg.

The worst thing about being angry about anything associated with the economy is how little we feel we can do about it. It's a weird feeling. All that anger and no where to go.

That's what's so dangerous and frightening. That kind of anger can either go nuclear or into the deep freeze. Both are bad, very bad.

Anger expressed badly is toxic. It can:

  • Get out of control really easily
  • Unintentionally hurt those we love the most
  • Isolate us from our loved ones
  • Make us literally sick
  • Drive us to alcohol and drugs
  • Prevent us from effectively problem solving
  • Make us lose our sense of perspective
  • Turn us into bitter, passive-aggressive, sarcastic jerks
  • And cause us to lose our sense of humor

And it gets worse the more chronic the poorly expressed the anger is and if there's a family history of poor anger management.

Controlling Anger — Before It Controls You, by the American Psychological Association, points out that anger is a perfectly healthy emotion that we experience when we're under threat of harm. "Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive–not aggressive–manner is the healthiest way to express anger." Yes, but that's tricky when the person you are angry at is your ex-boss who gets a bigger bonus depending on the number of people he fires. That makes finding assertive, healthy expression of anger a challenge, but not impossible.

I'd like to hear from you. What are you angry about? How do you cope with your anger? What kind of help could you use?

Me? I cope by imaging Bernie Madoff naked in Times Square in a good old fashioned pillory. Yeah. That makes me feel better.

Laughter Improves Your Sex Life!*

*And Your Marriage

When my husband and I were first married we lived in a tiny studio apartment in mid-town Manhattan. One evening after a hard day I had done something he 'approved of', I don't even remember what, some mundane task. So he says in this annoyingly supercilious manner, "Good girl."

My first impulse was to smack him. Hard. But I resisted. Instead I said, "What am I, Lassie?" He looked at me, shocked, and then he laughed. Then I laughed at him laughing!

The snarky jerk before me morphed back into my sweet husband and my anger vanished.

Like many things in the first year of marriage, that little incident set the tone for our future. Thank God.

Consider this:

  • Our sense of humor is the canary in the mine shaft. By the time couples come to me for counseling they've lost their sense of humor. Check in with yourself. If you haven't laughed in a while ask yourself why. The reason may be as simple as low blood sugar (which usually explains a lot in my house) or it may be more complicated or chronic. Take the sign seriously and take corrective action ASAP.
  • Laughter = Intimacy. When we 'get' each others jokes we open our hearts to intimacy, an essential element in a good marriage. Intimacy goes way beyond sex. The best kind of intimacy is spiritual, mindful, nurturing.
  • Laughing *with* someone: Good.
  • Laughing *at* someone: Bad
  • Say no to sarcasm. Sarcasm, [the use of irony to convey contempt] is *not* funny, witty or clever. It's abusive. Cut it out.
  • Use it or lose it. Often I will ask couples in counseling to find a way to make their point with humor. They are so used to nagging, pleading, arguing or worse, chilly silence, that they draw a complete blank. I take pity on them and make a suggestion. They smile, maybe chuckle a little and visibly relax. It's still there! They just need to dust it off and make it work again.
  • Laughter makes us more beautiful. Really. Check this out in front of a mirror. This is me serious. This is me smiling and laughing! See? Gorgeous!
  • Laughter is sexy. Yes, sex is better with a generous dollop of humor. Scientists can explain this better, something to do with our physiology, all that breathlessness maybe, but I'm sure this has to do with making intimate connections of all kinds. Mike Strobel reporting for the Toronto Sun said, "…92% of Canadians think laughter is one of the greatest aphrodisiacs." That many Canadians can't be wrong!
  • Laugh together, stay together. If you're laughing with someone else, someone who is not your spouse, look out.
  • Laughter is contagious. The video below has nothing to do with either sex or marriage but it's just too funny. Share it with someone you love.

What’s So Funny?


“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”
~G. K. Chesterton

After 9/11 many of us thought laughter had died forever. Letterman and Leno stayed off the air in part because they were concerned about appearing insensitive. It was a long time before we felt it was OK to laugh again.

Now, I'm having a hard time blogging about the usual stuff. In the aftermath of the crash of Flight 3407, I wonder, am I being insensitive to the needs of my community by writing about a romantic Valentine's Day or my persnickety weight issues?

We've all been to memorial services where someone tells a story about the deceased that makes everyone laugh. At first the laughter is tentative because we're not sure it's appropriate.  Then it comes easier and louder as we realize how good it feels and how the laughter brings us closer to the life of our loved one instead of to their death.

Maybe we all need permission to laugh again; to embrace its life affirming, healing properties.

via 9 Ways That Humor Heals, by Therese Brochard.

photo courtesy vizzzua

12 Links About Finding & Keeping True Love


Nine Essentials of True Love

My Vintage Romance

Laughter Improves Your Sex Life

Your Awesome Date Night Q & A

The Five Foundations of A Good Relationship

For Women: Fifty Ways to Keep Your Lover

For Men: Fifty Ways to Keep Your Lover

Eight Ways to Affair Proof Your Marriage

Bring Passion Back Into Your Marriage: 7 Nights to Sexual Intimacy

Yes, It Really Does Make A Difference

Recession Romance

Cupid in the Kitchen

And an extra bonus link to make it a baker's dozen…

12 Ways to Find Your Soul Mate

photo courtesy of HAMED MASOUMI

Anxiety and the Plane Crash in Clarence, NY

We woke up to the news that fifty people died in a horrible plane crash last night. Grief grips our community. Nothing can come close to describing what anyone who lost a loved one feels. My deepest sympathies for your loss.

Many of us are not directly effected by this tragedy. For those of us who live in or close to Clarence, have friends and family who live there, anxiety can prey on us. Add to that fear of flying issues, PTSD or sensitivity to panic attacks and we’ve got a formula for full blown anxiety.

Let’s take care of ourselves so that we can function not only for ourselves but also for our loved ones, especially the kids. How do we do that?  Here are some tips:

Turn off the radio or television. Get off the news blogs. I am convinced that our brains and bodies are not made to assimilate repeated traumatic news. All we achieve is overloaded circuits and increased anxiety. Allow yourself to walk away from the news and come back to it later if you must and then only for ten minute updates.

Breathe. If you begin to feel the yellow flag signals of anxiety coming on (increased heart rate, shallow breathing, tense muscles, sweaty palms…) use your coping tools to keep the fear under control. Don’t run away from the feeling. Stop and breathe through it. Keep breathing; make yourself as comfortable as possible. Go to healthy distractions, like exercise, call a friend, go to church, mosque or temple. If you’re at work, don’t expect yourself to focus as usual, be easy on yourself and keep your schedule light if you can.

The best antidote to anxiety is action. What can you do? You can help. Erica on the Buffalo News blog (see the comment section) suggests a way to help the family that lost their house and loved one. They lost everything. You can also pray; pray for those who perished, their families and for the emergency response teams. They will need God with them. If you don’t pray, find out where you can give blood and go do it. It may not help in this situation but it will help someone somewhere in another emergency.

Be calm for your kids. If you have small children, they need you to be grounded and practical. Answer their questions as directly as you can without elaborating. If they ask: “Will a plane fall on our house?” Answer: “No, of course not. This is a very strange thing that happened. It’s never happened before and it will never happen again.” This is a perfectly appropriate thing to say to small children. It may be a slight exaggeration but not much and they need to be reassured they are safe.

Don’t give in to the anxious thoughts. Fight back. Remember to give yourself the oxygen of balanced thinking. You are fine. A tragedy of this magnitude challenges all of us but most of us are OK.

Sadness is not the same as anxiety. Neither is grief. Grief is necessary. Respect it. Anxiety is an intruder. Firmly tell it to leave

Please leave a comment if you have questions, need help or have more suggestions!

Your Awesome Date Night Q & A

Q: Why even bother with Date Night after you're married?

A: Every married couple needs a chance to recharge the old batteries or the marriage will wither and die. This is especially important after you have kids. Date Night is a good way to feed the beast (your marriage) and keep it healthy.

Date Night is not about Sex or even Romance. It's about remembering why you got together in the first place.

Q: But Dr. Aletta, we just don't have time! 

A: I know. None of us do. It's like exercise, who has time for that either? That's why I had to put it on our calendars like an appointment. Plus I provide my husband with early warning signals like, "Three days to Date Night!"  We used to schedule once every two weeks until we couldn't keep up and rather than let it go completely we decided a Date once a month was pretty good.

Q: Why should I be the one who always organizes our social life?  A: I get this one too. I am the one who schedules Date Night because my husband is a Cancer and it takes a crowbar to get him out of the house. Why be resentful? He makes up for it in many other ways.

Q: We don't have a babysitter.

A: This can be a problem, especially if, like us, you don't have extended family handy to foist the kids on and call it 'Auntie bonding time'. We used many different solutions for this problem. Here are the best:

  1. We networked like mad asking if anyone knew a young, single, non-smoking, female medical doctor who would just love to sit our kids. When that didn't pan out I recruited a couple of girls who lived a few houses away. Canvas your neighborhood, church, book club, local high school counselors, friends. If you are nervous about leaving your kid, have the new babysitter over as a Mommy Helper while you stay close by, like a dress rehearsal. Another anti-anxiety step: Make sure your neighbors know when you go out (and have your cell number) so they can provide immediate help if needed. 
  2. We swapped babysitting time with friends who had young kids like us. This worked really well because it was free and the kids got along great so there was no abandonment guilt.
  3. Whenever family comes to visit or you go to visit them, beg them to take pity on you and maybe they will watch your kids while you go out to play.

Q: What should we do? Dinner and a movie is so overdone. 

A: Why knock a classic? Explore new restaurants. Visit an art theater that shows indy films or even films with subtitles! Drive to a neighborhood or town you've been meaning to check out. Go downtown! Be creative! Once my husband and I drove around trying to think of something to do after dinner. We ended up playing pool at a bowling alley where they had karaoke. It was a night to remember!

Q: Does going to a party with friends count for Date Night?

A: Only if you have one on one time built into the evening as well, like dinner for two followed by the party.  PS. Shopping at the 24 hour grocery store doesn't count either. I know 'cause I tried...

Q: What do we talk about? My brain freezes beyond the last diaper change.

A: Another challenge! Eventually I discovered a trip down memory lane helps get us started. "Do you remember when we [insert pleasant, funny, loving, sweet pre-kids experience here]?" Or ask questions like "Who taught you how to ride a bike? What was it like?" "How did you learn about sex?" "What's your scariest experience?" And no fair answering in monosyllables. Give a thoughtful answer and toss a question back to your partner. That keeps the conversation going. PS. Silence, if it's relaxed and companionable, can be very sweet too.

Q: What do you do to recharge your relationship?

A: My husband and I are pretty easy (and cheap). We get a kick out of a good bottle of wine, a nice meal and a quiet table so we can talk and talk, catching up on all the things we appreciate about each other but don't have the time or can't say in front of the kids. No fireworks, just the warm glow of a seasoned fire. So corny and so nice.

Which reminds me. We never wrote down our rules for Date Night but if we did they would go something like this….

Rules For Date Night by Therese Borchard

Please share your Date Night challenges and adventures or questions. What do you do for Date Night? How do you solve the challenges and what rules do you have?

Photo courtesy E.G. Moran

Twelve Things You Want Your In-Laws To Know

Listen carefully, boys and girls, this is important.

When you get married, like it or not, you marry into each others families. Most of us have no idea what that means until we've been married a while. We assume that because our intended is the epitome of wonderfulness, their parents are great as well.

If you are lucky, and I hope you are among this most fortunate group, your new or future in-laws already know that Good In-Laws….

  1. Treat their new son or daughter-in-law with the same respectful boundaries with which they treat their own child.
  2. Do not assume instant love; good in-laws know relationships need time and nurturing to grow.
  3. Never give unsolicited advice. Never. They wait to be asked and even then answer only the question posed and wait for the next question.
  4. Visit only when invited and limit calls to a reasonable once every few days. If the newlyweds are living with them good in-laws are clear about where their kids' space begins and ends.
  5. Never complain about the non-blood family member to their adult child. If they have a problem with their child-in-law they think long and hard before deciding it is necessary to tell that person directly. Most good in-laws just hold their tongue.
  6. When good in-laws visit they resist the urge to point out and fix whatever is broken. No matter how handy they are, a good in-law waits to be asked and then helps (if they want to) without conditions.
  7. Understand that the adult child's allegiance must be with their spouse. Good in-laws defer to the newlyweds as a couple and make it clear that they are there for both of them. They never assume they can come between them by working one against the other. Or by saying something absurd like, "But I'm your mother so, of course you want to please me no matter what your wife/husband says."
  8. Good in-laws understand the new couple needs to blend the traditions of two families and find their own way of doing things. Good in-laws do not presume that "Our way is the *right* way."
  9. Don't insist the new relative call them 'Mom' or 'Dad' or 'Mother Brown' or 'Miss Sally'. The good in-law is flexible and sensitive to what their new child-in-law is comfortable with and figure it out together using a good dose of humor.
  10. Resist the urge to enable troubles the new couple may have; not "rescuing" them by throwing money at the problem or in any way encouraging dependence rather than independence.
  11. Are not competitive with the new couple or with the other set of parents.
  12. Good in-laws have satisfying lives of their own and mind their own business.

And as a bonus:

Good in-laws understand that becoming a grandma or grandpa is not license to ignore 1-12.

If you're not so lucky, and there's a lot of us who aren't, you might discover your most excellent loved-one was a changeling raised by wolves. Or worse yet, your new in-laws may become a serious obstacle in your road to marital bliss, threatening the very core of your relationship.  If you're in this group look for a post coming soon: When In-Laws Go Bad – Not A Joke. 

Reference:  Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies For Protecting Your Marriage, by Susan Forward, PhD in the carousel over in the side bar –>

Miss Piggy, Self-Esteem On Steroids

It's Good to be Miss Piggy

Miss Piggy cracks me up. She's outrageous, unapologetically self-centered, treats her man frog like dirt and yet I love her. Probably because she says all those things going through my head but don't dare say out loud. Miss Piggy knows how to throw her weight around and still look good.

We psychologists love to say that taking care of ourselves isn't selfish, it's self-nurturing. Well Miss Piggy says what's so wrong with being selfish? Huh? Huh!?  If you want to eat the entire contents of the buffet table go for it and too bad for the slow pokes. She's operatic, larger than life, the Pavarotti of pigs and who doesn't envy her just a little?

Fear of Success or Fear of Failure?

Which is it?

Not that it really matters. The result is the same. Self-sabotage.

This morning I asked myself, what is going on?  What is this heavy wet blanket weighing me down? I haven't felt like writing in a while and usually I can't wait to be alone with my laptop. My mood has been yucky. Annie, my mare, who almost always cheers me up, hasn't had a visit from me in weeks. It's like I'm avoiding her. I haven't lost weight but I haven't gained either so why do I feel like a fat pig?

Can I blame the weather? Sure, why not! If it snows any more I think I'll scream.

No. Too easy and not constructive.

Here's the thing. My life is going great. I have work that I love. I could be busier but I'm maintaining. My family is thriving…

In fact, lately the traffic on this blog and my website has increased dramatically and that's good right?

So when I asked myself, why do I feel like my feet are set in cement? A tiny little voice replied: "You're afraid of success."



Oh my God, that's it. Whenever I get close to achieving my goals for success I choke. It's a sick way of acting out low self-esteem. It's saying "I'm not worthy of this good fortune so I need to make it stop!" Twisted, stinkin' thinkin'.

Enough! No more meek, cowardly, hiding from the lime light. No more running away from the attention. Why do we have goals if not to enjoy them when they are reached? I'm a big girl, I can take it.

Now I feel better, more myself, thank God. And that's another thing. Skulking away from success is like throwing a gift from God back in her face, isn't it? So today I say thank you, thank you dear God, for allowing me to reach out and share what I know in hopes of supporting others in their journey. I won't let us down.

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