1. HOW CAN I FIND A GOOD THERAPIST? WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
My boyfriend and I know we need some counseling, but we’ve had several disappointing experiences with therapists in the past. One man we went to just sat there and let us do all the talking, so we never got any concrete help, and the last counselor we tried gave us long lists of rules for how we should behave and communicate, but never seemed to get to why we were having problems in the first place. How can we make sure we aren’t wasting our time, or worse, getting ripped off?
Be very, very careful when choosing a therapist. Just as an excellent therapist can help you experience tremendous personal healing, and guide you in creating a strong and healthy relationship, a poor or even mediocre therapist can make your relationship even worse by not dealing with the underlying issues, giving bad advice or refusing to take a stand against toxic behavior that, if left unidentified, may ultimately destroy your love. I’m sure I’m going to ruffle some feathers by saying this, but here goes: Simply acquiring a degree and license doesn’t necessarily mean a person is a "qualified" therapist. They may be according to the laws of their state, but on a personal level they may be inept, lacking in sensitivity or unable to translate what they’ve read to the lives of real people.
Part of the problem is that most people don’t know what they should expect to receive from their work with a counselor or therapist. Like you and your friend, they walk in to someone’s office who they assume knows more than they do, and accept what happens at face value. So if your therapist just sits there listening and nodding, and once in a while asks "How did that make you feel?" , or "What did that bring up for you?", while you do most of the talking, your session ends, you pay your $100 or $150, walk out and think to yourself, "So...that’s therapy. I guess it takes a long time to make progress." What a joke!! Why not make a tape recording of those questions, listen to it for an hour and save yourself the money!
I’ll never forget the person who called my radio show in Los Angeles wondering if his therapy was working. When I asked what went on during the sessions, this gentleman reported that he would talk about his life, his feelings, and his concerns, and then his therapist would ask "What do you think is going on?" Then this guy would talk some more until the therapist would repeat his question. "Here’s my advice, "I told the man. "The next time this therapist asks you what you think is going on, say "If I knew, I wouldn't be here, would I? You're the therapist. I'm paying you to tell me what's going on."
Imagine that you had terrible stomach pains, and went to see your doctor. He asked you to describe your symptoms, and then says "What do you think it is?" , and then charged you $200. You’d walk out of the office, wouldn’t you? After all, that’s why you went to a doctor--he’s supposed to figure out what’s wrong and help you fix it. A therapist is supposed to know more than you do about yourself, your relationships and your emotional patterns. It’s his or her job to enlighten you, not your job to do his work for him.
Here are some guidelines for choosing an effective therapist:
1. Make sure the relationship you have with your therapist creates the warmth and caring you need to feel safe enough to do the healing you want to do. Much of the emotional baggage you have came from not feeling loved, cared for or understood by family or lovers. Be careful not to choose a therapist who is part of your pattern., and treats you with the same coldness, lack of respect or indifference as one of your parents or your ex-spouse. I believe that love is the greatest healer of all and in an atmosphere of love (expressed appropriately of course) you will find it easy to open up and explore the innermost regions of your heart.
2. Make sure your therapist has done the emotional work you are attempting to do. The best therapist is the one whose life is dedicated to personal transformation, and has been actively growing and healing him or herself. It doesn’t matter how many books someone has read, research papers he’s written, or conferences he’s attended--if he’s in a continual process of working on himself, he will naturally know how to motivate you, inspire you, be compassionate and help you open the doors in your mind and heart that have been closed. You’d be surprised how many professionals in the mental health field totally avoid processing their own emotions and doing any experiential work whatsoever. Good therapy isn’t about theory--it’s a combination of applied understanding and emotional healing. How can someone take you somewhere he’s not willing to go?
3. Make sure your therapist focuses both on exploring and healing the causes of unwanted behavioral and emotional patterns, and on giving you concrete action steps you can take in your every day life to break your unhealthy love habits and discover new, healthier ways of approaching the same old issues. It’s not enough to analyze your past--you need to unlearn behaviors that don’t work for you, and learn ones that do. A good therapist will give you “homework” to help you integrate your internal breakthroughs with your external life.
4. Make sure you are experiencing value from sessions with your therapist from the beginning. It’s absurd to believe that you need to wait until you’ve had ten or twenty sessions with a therapist before you should experience positive results in your life. When people ask me how soon they should expect to experience insight or breakthroughs in therapy, my answer is “During the first session!” If you don’t hear something valuable, feel something revealing or learn something useful, what is the point of the time and money you are spending?
I’m not suggesting that you should experience miraculous changes in your life or relationship after just one counseling session, but if you don’t experience something positive that grows with each new appointment, perhaps your therapist is moving too slowly. Some therapists tend to act like professional babysitters, compassionately listening to your complaints , but never really stretching you to a new level of awareness. And some clients like saying “I’m in therapy”, because it looks like they’re working on themselves, when in truth, they’ve chosen a therapist who is more of a confidante than a true healer. But if you’re serious about transformation, find someone who is serious about helping you to transform, NOW.
How do you find a therapist with some of these qualifications? You can find friends or colleagues who have had success with a therapist and ask them for a referral, or call other professionals such as your physician, whom you trust. Ask about the therapist’s style and manner, and see if it matches what you’re looking for. When you contact the therapist, let him or her know that you want to talk on the phone or in person before booking your first appointment, in order to determine whether or not you feel comfortable. Tell the therapist what kind of therapy you’re interested in. i.e., someone who will push you, someone who will give you homework, someone who won’t just sit there, etc. Don’t be shy about asking questions, and listen carefully to the answers you receive. You’ll know if this person feels right or not. During your first session, reiterate your needs, and remember--it’s your session and your money. ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.
Finally, remember that a therapist cannot solve your problems for you or heal you or your pain. Only you can heal yourself. Your therapist can be a loving guide who can help you travel through your own emotional jungles in safety, and can show you the road to personal freedom.
2. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN PARTNER WHO INSISTS ALL THE PROBLEMS IN THE RELATIONSHIPS ARE YOURS?
I’ve been living with a man for a little over a year who truly believes that he has no problems, no hang-ups, and no emotional issues from his past. He refuses to hear any feedback from me, or anyone for that matter, about how insensitively he treats people, how impossible he is to talk to, or about any way he might improve as a person. Whenever we argue, which is just about every day, he talks to me in a very condescending manner, (he’s an attorney!) and insists that I am the only one with problems or faults, and that I need to work on myself to achieve his level of clarity and enlightenment. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can get through to him?
Simple...follow these instructions carefully. Ready? First, go through every room in your house, open all the drawers , cupboards and closets, and pack all of your clothes and belongings into suitcases and boxes. Next, take out a piece of paper and a pen. Then, write the following note: “Oh Perfect One, I ‘m writing to inform you that I finally saw the light, and have achieved a new level of clarity and enlightenment.. I’m clear that you are an egotistical , narcissistic , dysfunctional human being, and I’m enlightened about the fact that I am leaving you. Thank you for helping me to achieve this state of supreme liberation.”
Leave the note somewhere he is sure to see it. In his case, that’s probably a mirror. Then, load up your car, and get the hell out, and don’t look back.
3. IS IT TRUE THAT A WOMAN SHOULDN’T PURSUE A MAN OR INITIATE A RELATIONSHIP BECAUSE HE WILL LOSE INTEREST WITHOUT THE CHALLENGE?
A friend of mine told me she read a book that said women should never ask men out, call men , show men they care in the beginning of the relationship or act in an aggressive fashion because it takes away the challenge for a man. What do you think about this advice?
I THINK IT’S A BUNCH OF BULL!! It’s disrespectful to men. It‘s controlling and manipulative, and demeaning to women. Games are for children, not for grown-ups who want to have healthy, meaningful relationships. The belief that women are so powerless that we somehow need to “trap” a man is sexist, even if it is a woman who espouses this belief. Men aren’t animals to be lured and domesticated. They are human beings with the same vulnerabilities and insecurities women have.
It’s advice like this that gives women a bad name. This is why some men don’t trust us, don’t respect us, think of us as superficial and call us “controlling bitches”. They suspect that we behave in a certain way until we’ve gotten their interest, and then once they’re hooked, we drop the demure act and become needy and demanding. How can we blame them for drawing these conclusions when they see a book like the one you mentioned?
I think that deliberately making a man feel rejected or inferior in order to make him pursue you is sick. Would you like to be treated this way? I know I wouldn’t. As for the kinds of men who may find this approach exciting because it arouses their primal sense of “the hunt”, you are welcome to them, honey. They’re power hungry and will always want to keep you in your place.
Now I’m not saying that I think it’s perfectly fine to go up to a man at a party and say , “You have a great butt--let’s go back to my place and screw our brains out,“ or to call someone you like five times a day even when he doesn’t call you back. That’s not owning your power or being an independent women--it’s being obnoxious and insensitive. You don’t like it when men treat you in that manner, so what makes you think they would like it any better? But it’s ridiculous to pretend you’re some quiet little Victorian flower with no feelings of your own, or do a Scarlet O’Hara imitation in the hopes that a man will be intrigued by your mystique. Be yourself. It’s much less exhausting, and in the end, you’ll know the man loves you for who you are, not who he thinks you are.
4. DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A SOULMATE? CAN WE HAVE MORE THAN ONE SOULMATE?
This is my personal belief and experience--that each of our souls experiences many lifetimes in many different bodies, both male and female, for the purpose of growing in wisdom and love. This progression of experiences develops based on the choices we make in each lifetime, like a personalized cosmic seminar, and particular lessons unfold as needed, some through events, some through circumstances and many through the other souls we encounter.
In this divine blueprint, everything has a higher purpose, and therefore nothing happens accidentally. And so it is no accident that two particular people come together in a relationship. Out of everyone on the earth, we find one another, sometimes through what appear to be an incredible set of circumstances. Whether we spend a week, a year, or fifty years together, the purpose is the same: Ultimately, we come together for the purpose of being each other’s teacher, and learning everything we can about being a more loving human being.
Within that great context of our existence, however, there are many kinds of partnerships we can have with a mate along the path towards ultimate liberation. Sometimes two people are drawn together to work out very intense karma, or emotional and spiritual issues, together. This kind of “karmic workout” relationship may at times appear to be dramatic, painful, turbulent and even unhealthy. It may last a lifetime, or much less if the couple learns the lessons quickly enough. But hopefully, when it ends, you’ve learned what you were supposed to learn through your experience with that other person whose issues perfectly coincided with yours, and you can graduate to your next level of growth. Of course, if you choose to not learn the lessons, you will have to repeat the class, either in the same lifetime with a similar teacher, or in a new lifetime in a similar situation.
Sometimes, two people are drawn together for what I call “reminder” or transitional relationships. These lovers feel like old, dear friends (and they are) who arrive in your life just when you need a reminder that you are lovable, or that you do deserve to be treated well, or that you really did want to start that new business, or that it was time to start taking better care of yourself. These relationships are like cosmic alarm clocks, waking you up to a piece of yourself or your own inner wisdom that you forgot. The souls who deliver these lovely karmic greeting cards usually stay for a shorter period of time, moving on to work through their deeper issues with someone appropriate for them, just as you will. These relationships usually end easily and with love. Their purpose has been fulfilled, and you always feel grateful to have connected.
Some relationships, many that last a lifetime, are “learning relationships”. Two souls come together with very similar assignments, and choose to spend many, many years working through their lessons and helping each other grow. Lasting marriages often fall into this category, especially those that leave both partners with a sense of contentment and peace at the end of their lives. These may not always be the most passionate, intimate love affairs all the time , or the most intensely emotional relationships, but they take each soul to it’s next level by matching it with another who will create enough safety and support so that it can fulfill the spiritual business it needs to in that particular lifetime.
And then, I believe, there is the relationship between two soulmates, two souls whose destiny is closely connected for all time. Some teachings say that these soulmates are two pieces of a whole separated at the beginning of physical creation; others say that twin souls are the male and female expressions of the same individuation of spiritual energy. My experience is that a true soulmate is a soul bound to yours by a profound and timeless level of love, trust and devotion--that it’s purpose is to help you complete your Journey, as you are to help it complete it’s Journey. In the presence of a true soulmate, you grow to feel completely loved, completely safe, completely known, and thus it is easy to remember your true nature as Love, and to make very rapid advancements on the path. It is as if your soulmate reflects back to you the very essence of your soul, and in remembering yourself, you are that much closer to attaining enlightenment.
When you find your soulmate, you feel as if you have always been together, not just in this lifetime, but for all time, and that your reunion fills an intense , eternal longing that has been in your heart until the moment you found each other again, a longing no ordinary relationship can satisfy. Your relationship will still have it’s challenges, and of course, many lessons, but ultimately, they aren’t the predominant focus of your experience. For every moment that you spend with your soulmate, you are sure of one thing--you have come Home.
One way to look at relationships is that since, as I believe, we are all part of the same Universal Whole, each partner is a kind of soulmate. Yet my own emotional and spiritual experience and study has revealed to me that there is an enormous difference between the kind of love you feel in these different categories of relationships, and that soulmate love transcends all the others in a particular way I am still learning to comprehend. Some teachings say that each of us has several of these ultimate soulmates; others indicate that there is only one other soul to which we are connected in this way. Whatever is true, once you are with your soulmate, you will not care if there is another one flying around the Universe somewhere.
This is what is important: The more committed you are to helping your spirit grow in love, and to learning the lessons you came here this time to learn, the more certain you can be that you will attract the partner who is perfect for you right now. And perhaps , if you are truly blessed, you will discover that your soulmate has come here at this time on Earth to travel with you as you Journey Home together.
5. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION OF BACHELOR PARTIES? CAN THEY HAVE A DAMAGING EFFECT ON A RELATIONSHIP?
I need you to settle an argument I’m having with my boyfriend about bachelor parties. He’s gone to several since we’ve been together, and claims they’re harmless fun. However, when I make him tell me what goes on there, I can’t believe my ears--everything from guys oiling down naked strippers to women putting on a sex show together. The last one he went to, some of the men “participated”, if you know what I mean. Every time we talk about this, I get furious, disgusted and turned off for weeks. Should this bother me as much as it does?
You asked for my opinion, so I’ll give it to you: I think that bachelor parties are adolescent , self-indulgent , sexist rituals that are insulting to the bride-to-be, disrespectful of every wife or girlfriend of the men who attend, demeaning to the female “performers”, and in general, completely unsupportive of the true spirit of marriage. To put it more simply, they suck! Think about it. You’re a man about to get married to the woman you love and adore, and the way you prepare for the ceremony is to go out, get completely wasted on booze with your buddies while lusting after naked women other than your bride, being touched, sat on, licked or even worse. What message is this supposed to give your fiancée? That you can’t wait to say “I do?” I don’t get it. And believe me, most women who are honest with themselves and you won’t either.
In ancient times, the bride and groom would prepare for marriage by going off on vision quests, retreats, going into meditative silence, or undergoing special rituals. I don’t think nude mud wrestling at the local strip club qualifies as a spiritual ceremony, do you? I mean, if men really want to support their friend as he prepares for his wedding, they should sit around together extolling the virtues of his bride, share stories about the benefits of their own committed relationships, and pledge their support to him and his marriage. I’m sure men reading this will get a big kick out of my suggestion, (I can hear you laughing now) but hey...guys...you’re the same ones who five years later are complaining that your wife doesn’t want to have sex any more, and wondering where the passion went.
You know how you feel about this, so don’t apologize for your beliefs to your boyfriend, and don’t let him talk you out of your feelings. If after discussing these ideas, your boyfriend still refuses to respect your feelings about his attendance at these thinly veiled excuses for visual , and sometimes physical orgies, I suggest you seriously reconsider your relationship. Remember: a man’s attitude about these kinds of experiences reflects his character . This is someone you’re considering to be the possible father of your children, a role model for your sons and an example of how a man should behave towards women to your daughters. Think about it.....
6. HOW DO I DEAL WITH THE NEGATIVE INFLUENCE OF MY HUSBANDS EX-WIFE ON OUR RELATIONSHIP?
Why didn’t anyone tell me when I married my husband that I’d also be marrying his ex-wife? This woman is a nightmare. She is making my husbands life, and therefore mine, totally miserable. She calls him up with screaming fits several times a week; she bad mouths him to his kids, and makes them feel guilty if they have a good time on their weekends here; and she won’t even acknowledge me as his new wife after four years of marriage! I don’t want her to win, but I feel like she’s poisoning our relationship. My husband claims that there’s nothing he can do. How can I keep her from ruining our marriage?
I feel for you. You’re describing what I call a Toxic Ex-Spouse. Toxic Ex-Spouses don't respect the boundaries of their relationship with their former wife or husband, and thus, can make your marriage a living hell. Some of the ways they may do this are:
They don't respect your privacy;
They use guilt to try and drive a wedge between you and your mate;
They become "time and energy vampires";
They don't acknowledge your relationship;
They financially blackmail your mate by threatening to ask for more money as a way of punishing him /her for being with you;
They emotionally blackmail your mate by threatening to ask for total custody of the children;
They turn the children against you or your partner;
They come on to your mate sexually as a way to interfere;
Toxic Ex-Spouses are partners who have never really let go of their mates and will hang on for dear life, all the while destroying your relationship. If your partner has a Toxic Ex-Spouse, you are in an emotional triangle, a threesome. And don't blame it on the ex. Unless he or she is really mentally ill, your mate is just as guilty by virtue of the fact that he hasn't made his boundaries clear. If your partner has taken a stand with his ex -spouse, communicated his feelings and set clear boundaries as to what behavior he will accept, you will have much less of a problem regardless of how toxic his ex-spouse may try to be.
People with Toxic Ex-spouses have often never completely broken off those relationships. They may still be emotionally married to their ex, and have a difficult time doing anything that would hurt them.
Or, it’s also possible that your mate has let go, but his ex really is disturbed. If this is the case, make sure your partner isn't in denial about his ex's mental problem, and don't accept his excuses like:
"Give her time. She'll get used to it."
"Oh, I know he can be dramatic, but he'd never really do anything to hurt you."
"If we just ignore her, I'm sure she'll stop bothering us."
It sounds like you weren’t really aware that this woman was a problem before you got married. That’s common--the ex may not start the disturbing behavior until he or she realizes your partner is serious about you. You may also not see how much of a problem it is until you move in with your partner. Perhaps he never told you about the phone calls and visits because he didn't want to upset you. But once you live together, it may become very apparent that his ex is much more in the picture than you believed her to be.
If you are in love with someone who has a Toxic Ex-Spouse it is normal to feel:
- Angry that your partner seems to be more concerned about his ex's feelings than about yours
- Angry when he accuses you of being jealous instead of understanding how you feel
- Frightened that the problem won't get better with time (it won't)
- Impatient with his excuses about feeling sorry for his ex
- Suspicious that your mate is using his ex as a way to avoid becoming more intimate with you and going forward in his life (quite possible)
- Resentful that your partner never brings you along when he sees his ex, picks up the kids, etc., because he "doesn't want to upset her"
People like your husband with Toxic Ex-Spouses often have Emotional Programming that makes letting go of the past very difficult. Your mate might feel guilty abandoning his ex if one of his own parents left the other. If his parents were divorced, he might identify his ex as his own inner child, and feel that rejecting her will make him just like his father who rejected him when he left. Or he may feel guilty for leaving, and be punishing himself by unconsciously sabotaging his new relationship with you.
If your partner has a Toxic Ex-Spouse, you must insist that he honor his commitment to you and your marriage by letting go of his ex, relinquishing his responsibility for her, setting boundaries for their relationship, and sticking by them. If the problem has been chronic, a period of no contact whatsoever will be necessary. That means the kids go out to the car when he picks them up, and not that he goes in for ten minutes and let's his ex do her number. It means messages are passed in writing or by fax rather than conversation. It's up to your partner to break the pattern. Don't wait for the Toxic Ex to do it.--she won’t.
If you discuss this with your partner, and he repeatedly refuses to confront his ex, you can try suggesting counseling so he can get input from a professional. If he refuses that, you need to ask yourself why you are letting yourself be treated this way. Until he makes a complete commitment to you, you are going to be miserable. Your partner isn't emotionally available because he is still energetically involved with his ex.
Tell him you are leaving, and to call you when he is finished with his other relationship.
7. IF YOU HAVE A FRIEND WHO’S IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP, SHOULD YOU TRY TO HELP, OR MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
I have a situation that’s tearing me apart. My best friend from high school is in a terrible marriage to a real jerk. She’s admitted to me that he abuses her verbally and physically, but she refuses to leave him, or even get help. Every time she calls me crying, every time I see her and she’s bruised, I just want to scream because I’m so frustrated, but I’m not sure how far to go in confronting her. I love her more than anything, but I afraid if I get tough with her, she’ll pull away and be really alone. What should I do?
Do something! Your friend is in psychological and physical danger, and needs your help now. Like many battered women, she may not reach out for help until it’s too late. Don’t wait for her to ask--she may not even know how. Be a true friend and do everything and anything you can to get her out of this abusive situation, from creating an intervention with other friends and family members, to taking her to a battered women’s support group, to getting friends of her husband’s to confront him--whatever it takes.
Imagine that someone you love is drowning. Your natural impulse is to reach down into the water, grab her arm, and pull her to safety. Would you even have thoughts like “What if she gets angry with me for pulling hard on her arm? Maybe I shouldn’t interfere?” or “Maybe if I save her she’ll never speak to me again.”? Of course not--your only thought would be to save the life of your friend. Well your friend is drowning, whether she’s aware of it or not. Grab hold of her and pull with everything you have. So what if she gets angry at first. So what if she flails in her denial for awhile. What’s important is that you do all you can to get her out of the water before it’s too late.
Here’s your alternative: One day, you get a call from the hospital informing you that your friend’s husband beat her up and she’s in intensive care; or one night you’re watching television and discover that your friend was murdered by her husband. How will you feel then? Will it matter that your friend never got mad at you? Will it matter that you ”supported” her by not confronting her? I don’t think so.
This is an issue I am passionate about. If all of us stopped tolerating the mistreatment of our friends, of our friend’s children, and anyone we know who is in danger of being harmed in any way, if we spoke out against injustice instead of pretending it wasn’t there and hoping it would magically disappear, then perpetrators of violence would not be able to act out their sickness onto others, and the world would be a much safer and kinder place in which to live.
8. WHAT SHOULD A PARENT DO WHEN YOU HATE YOUR CHILD’S CHOICE OF AN INTIMATE PARTNER?
I have always considered myself a tolerant , loving parent to my 24 year old son who I raised by myself since he was two years old . I’ve stayed out of his personal life and tried to not force my beliefs about anything on him. But now I’m in a situation that is driving me crazy. My son has a girlfriend who makes my skin crawl! She has no job, no manners, dresses like a tramp, and has pierced every possible place on her body, including some in apparently very private places. Every other word out of her mouth is **#***#* this, and ##****that, and her idea of a meal is several bottles of beer , a cigarette and a package of Twinkies. Believe me, I’ve tried to accept her as she is, but I can’t sleep at night thinking about my son involved with...her. HELP!!
I could give you an enlightened answer such as, “Inside of this girl is a wounded spirit crying out for help--look beyond her pierced nipples” , or “Don’t judge a person for what they appear to be on the outside--if she loves your son, that should be all you care about,“ ...but I won’t. Although these sentiments are true from a purely spiritual point of view, in the practical world, I get that she’s no one’s idea of an ideal daughter-in-law. In fact, she sounds like a nightmare. Yes, she’s probably needy, desperate for love and screaming for attention, but I’m sure you’d rather have her go elsewhere to find it. I don’t blame you.
I’m not going to try to psychoanalyze your son as to why he chose this kind of partner, and you shouldn’t either. The fact is, for some reason in his life right now, she appeals to him. You and I may strongly suspect (or in your case, pray) that this relationship is going to end badly, but there’s no way you are going to convince your son to dump her. In fact, the more you bad mouth her, the more rebellious he’s going to be.
The bottom line is this: I think you need to trust your son’s character and values, and know that sooner or later, he will get tired of rescuing her, shocking you, punishing himself, or whatever else he’s doing, and realize this girl isn’t right for him. (Either that or he’ll catch his tongue in one of those rings and conclude that continuing to see her may be hazardous to his health)
In the meantime, you can be supportive to him without being supportive of her. Tell him (as if he doesn’t already know) that you are having a hard time totally accepting her, but that..(take a deep breath before this next part..) you are “glad he’s found someone he feels is right for him.” Let him know you want him to be happy, and that above all, you will always there for him, no matter what happens. This approach will probably take him by surprise, and give him the space to have the judgments he expected you to express.
Hang in there. I know you’re having frightening visions of grandchildren with pierced navels, but I have a feeling that what you’ll end up with will be much more traditional.