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Kathy Marshack News

Why Psychotherapy Doesn’t Help Your Aspie…

Monday, October 15, 2018


People with Asperger’s aren’t wired for the relationship format used by most psychotherapists. Are you at your wit’s end? You desperately want to hold your family together so you’re willing to go to a stranger and bare your soul…but your Aspie isn’t helping at all. It’s a fight to get him to go. (Note: It’s not only men that have Aspergers. Women have Asperger’s too.) And when he gets there, he drag his heals, slumps in the chair and refuses to engage with the psychotherapist. Does he think he’s too smart for therapy; that he doesn’t need it; that there’s nothing wrong with him; that you’re the one with the problem? If you can relate to this, please be assured, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to give up!

If you’ve had less than positive experiences with finding a therapist for your Aspie, don’t lose heart. Typical therapy doesn’t work with Aspies, so you need to find a psychologist who specializes in understanding the Asperger’s thought process.

Why is psychotherapy unlikely to work for your Aspie?

People with Asperger’s aren’t wired for the relationship format used by most psychotherapists. Therapists are trained to build on empathic rapport with clients. You need social awareness for that to work, which is something your Aspie doesn’t have. Expecting an Aspie to have empathy into your internal experience or insight into their own is not realistic.

However, what does seem to work is to appeal to their narcissism. Yes, I mean it. Aspies have the same feelings as the rest of us. They feel sad and angry and depressed too. The ticket is to appeal to a plan that promises to make them feel better, if they just follow the rules.

For this reason I recommend a coaching model rather than psychotherapy. In fact I offer this model on line in my video sessions with Aspies around the world. It works because they need tools. They aren’t motivated by making you feel better. Their main concern is feeling better themselves. Of course they want you to feel better too, but it isn't first on their minds. They fully believe if they feel better, you will feel better about them.

Narcissism --- get it?

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, please join us for this month’s free, international teleconference, entitled: “What can I do when psychotherapy doesn’t work?” It will be held on Thursday, October 25th. We’ll be discussing

If you prefer 1:1 counseling, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. Online therapy may also be available, depending on where you live.

Learn more about Empathy Dysfunction: If you haven’t grabbed your copy of my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS,” I invite you to do so. It’s packed with real-life examples of empathy dysfunction and how you can strengthen your own empathy “muscle” to withstand the callousness in the world today.

How to Have Tough Conversations & Give Useful Feedback

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Learn why we have trouble with this type of conversation and discover 7 ways to ensure you always give fair, objective feedback when it’s needed.Don’t you love to receive praise and commendation? It feels so good. However, receiving, and even giving, criticism hurts. Even though feedback is supposed to makes us better at work and in life, we perceive it to be negative, because there’s a potential to hurt someone’s feelings or even destroy our relationship with them. That’s what makes these conversations so difficult.

Our unconscious biases contribute to this problem. They interfere with giving, and receiving, effective feedback. Your feelings about a person greatly impact how and what you say. For example, if you feel someone needs nurturing, you become gentler. If someone irritates you, you become blunter. Your biases may be influenced by so many things, like a person’s position, gender, financial status, familial relationship, or even looks.

If you want to give fair, objective feedback, first ask yourself, “Why am I giving this feedback?”

It’s helpful to identify what motivates you to give feedback. Are you lashing out and trying to settle a score? Or are you sincerely trying to help someone become a better person? Or does your motivation fit somewhere in between?

You can ensure you’re giving the most helpful feedback possible by remembering the 7 keys to giving thoughtful and objective feedback:

  1. Regularly give commendation, so criticism is easier to take, when it’s needed.

  2. Rather than focusing on personality flaws or differences, focus on actionable items that can be implemented immediately.

  3. Get all the facts. Before commenting, make sure you understand the whole situation.

  4. Be very specific about what’s wrong and what can be done to fix it.

  5. If you do have to give feedback on a personality trait, give specific examples of how the trait affected the task or situation at hand and how specific improvements can be made.

  6. Gather your courage to speak, by clearly defining your reasons for giving feedback. Holding back doesn’t benefit anyone.

  7. Bounce your criticism off of a trusted colleague first, but frame it as a conversation about professional development, not naming names or even hinting, so it doesn’t devolve into gossip.

A way to double check your feedback, to make sure it isn’t biased, is to ask yourself, “Would I give this feedback to anyone else in this situation?” When others see that you’re striving to be fair in your feedback, they’ll be more open to accepting it. And when you strive to see the intent of feedback given to you, it becomes easier to accept.

As a family business coach, I love helping families make it work at home and at work. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Is Your Brain Getting Enough Sleep for Its Full “Wash Cycle”?

Sunday, October 07, 2018


There’s a continual “wash cycle” going on inside your body…including your brain. What the brain needs to complete its wash cycle is plenty of restorative sleep.Your body is wonderful made to self-clean. You drink water, and it flushes out toxins. You breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. You eat healthful food, and the body extracts nutrients and uses the fiber to sweep out toxins. There’s a continual “wash cycle” going on inside your body…including your brain.

What the brain needs in order to complete its “wash cycle” is plenty of restorative sleep. According to researchers, your brain needs 7 hours of sleep each night to complete the “wash cycle.”

While studying mice and baboons, researchers discovered that, during sleep, brain cells shrink and make room for a dramatic flow of cerebrospinal fluid to flush through the brain, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up during waking hours.

And when the animals wake up, the brain cells enlarge again and the flow between cells slows to a trickle. "It's almost like opening and closing a faucet. It's that dramatic," said Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester. She also added, "It's probably not possible for the brain to both clean itself and at the same time [be] aware of the surroundings and talk and move and so on."

Researchers have found that one of the wastes removed from the brain during sleep is beta amyloid, which forms sticky plaques associated with Alzheimer’s. While this hasn’t been observed in humans yet, it’s reasonable to conclude that a similar cleaning process occurs in us. If so, that would help explain a number of problems and illnesses related to sleep deprivation also. When you skimp on sleep, overall blood flow decreases in your brain, disrupting your ability to think, remember, and concentrate. All good reasons to get your sleep and clear out the waste!

High-quality sleep is essential for optimal health. I’ve discovered that Neuro Emotional Technique is very effective for clearing stress and tension that is keeping you awake at night. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. Online therapy is also available, if that works best for your busy schedule.

October is ADHD Awareness Month. How Much Do You Know About ADHD?

Thursday, October 04, 2018


How much do you know about ADHD?ADHD is a very real neurological disorder. You might assume that the child “bouncing off the walls” in the grocery aisle is doing so because his parents haven’t trained him properly. But before you jump to conclusions, consider that there could be a very real neurological disorder responsible for that behavior…ADHD. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD, while other experts believe it could be more.


Researchers have discovered that ADHD is, in part, caused by the brain’s inability to release enough neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the chemicals that enable us to be attentive and in control. In their search for a cure, researchers continue to explore genetic and environmental causes for this neurological disorder.

Did you know there are three types of ADHD? They are…

  • Hyperactive and impulsive
  • Inattentive and disorganized
  • Combination of the above

Medication combined with behavioral therapy, emotional counseling, and practical support helps people with ADHD to control their impulsivity and hyperactivity. However, inattention can be a very persistent problem. Along with ADHD, people may experience anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, sleep disorders or depression.

If ADHD remains untreated, it affects a child’s social and academic life, which can cause life-long problems for them. It’s not something a child outgrows, without help. Undiagnosed and untreated adults will have troubled relationships, decreased work performance, and are at risk for substance abuse.

If treated, people with ADHD can lead rich, productive lives. There are many famous individuals who have accomplished a great deal, despite having ADHD. For example, Parenting Magazine reports that Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, singer Justin Timberlake, actor Will Smith, swimmer Michael Phelps, and comedian Jim Carrey are a few of the famous people who have prospered, while dealing with ADHD.

Do you suspect a family member of having ADHD? The cycle of frustration and failure can be broken with proper treatment. Please, I urge you to seek help immediately.

Knowledge is power. So learn all you can about ADHD, even if you don’t personally know someone with it. The more you understand, the more supportive you can be. Families with ADHD need our help.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and suspect you’ve lived with undiagnosed ADHD, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Learn more on my website: ADHD/ADD.

Do You Live in the ADHD or ASD Time Zone?

Monday, October 01, 2018


Woman holding a clock signifies Many people with ADHD or Aspergers have trouble managing their time because they have trouble being present in the moment. Throughout the world, our clocks run on different time zones. And we all seem to be battling the clock. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done. People with ADHD or Aspergers find this especially challenging, because they have trouble being present in the moment. The ADHD or ASD brain can’t anticipate and plan for the future. This typically shows up in two ways:

They have a short time horizon. They can’t “see” very far into the future, so they lack motivation to act and consequently ignore deadlines. They think that since the deadline isn’t today, they don’t have to get started. Then when the deadline arrives, they’re totally taken by surprise.

They engage in time discounting. The further into the future a reward or punishment is, the less important it is. For example, they start watching TV at 9 AM and keep doing it until mom gets home at 7 PM and is mad because the room isn’t clean.

The secret to dealing with ADHD Time or ASD Time is learning to manage behaviors and choices in the present moment while keeping long-term goals in mind. When your internal clock isn’t in sync with reality, you need to use external tools and strategies that engage all of your senses. Here are a few suggestions:

Sight: Use the moving hands of old-fashioned analog clock (not digital, it’s too distracting) to emphasize the passage of time. Challenge yourself by saying, “before the minute hand get to (insert the position), I’m going to have (the amount of work) done.”

Hearing: Use audible reminders such alarms or phone notifications to remind you of your present deadline.

Touch: Set up your work environment to eliminate distractions and force yourself to get started and stay on task. Doing five minutes worth of work can lead to the next five minutes and so on…

Smell and Taste
: When you accomplish your timed task, reward yourself with a small portion of something that you especially love – like a sip of coffee, a mint, or a bite of apple. Set out another small task and tell yourself you can have another sip/bite when you finish that.

Imagination: Create a movie in your head of the worst case scenario if you don’t get it done and how that will feel. Next, imagine yourself easily accomplishing the task. Don’t make it difficult or turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy; the longer you procrastinate, the more difficult or impossible the project becomes.

Stop telling yourself these lies…

  • I have plenty of time. 
  • I can do it tomorrow. 
  • I don’t really have to do it now.
  • I work better under pressure.
  • It’s too hard. 
  • I have anxiety, I can’t do it.

While it’s important to identify emotions, such as anxiety, you can’t let those emotions become excuses. Instead, find appropriate solutions. What strategies work for you? I’d love to hear about them over on my Facebook page.

7 Things You Need to Know About CTE

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Here are 7 things you should know, so you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the damages of CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a devastatingly degenerative disease linked to repetitive head trauma, such as experienced in football or soccer. It doesn’t take a severe head blow, like a concussion, to trigger CTE.

How brain cells are affected by repeated injury:

  • The brain and spinal cord are made up of billions of cells. Specific brain cells called neurons transmit signals to each other.
  • Those signals are sent via axons, held together by microtubules.
  • A protein called tau adds stability to the microtubules and strengthens the axons.
  • Brain trauma causes tau proteins to detach from the microtubule, destabilizing the structure.
  • The loose tau clump together and form clumps or tangles that spread throughout the brain, brain stem and spinal cord, killing brain cells as it spreads.

There are four stages in the development of CTE. CTE starts with headaches and loss of concentration. In time, CTE damage often causes depression, mood swings, explosive outbursts, memory loss, executive dysfunction, language difficulties, impulsivity, aggression, paranoia, and dementia. People with CTE become violent, suicidal, and even homicidal. Sometimes, their personality shifts with little notice.

Seven Things You Need to Know About CTE

1. People with CTE are EmD-2 on my Empathy Scale. That means their empathy comes and goes, so you never know whether or not they’re connecting with you.

2. EmD-2s can also be violent. It’s not just their empathy that comes and goes, but other emotional regulatory functions as well.

3. Mild concussions and head injuries associated with contact sports, such as football, hockey, and soccer can lead to TBI and, eventually, CTE, which is incurable and can be fatal.

4. Helmets cannot protect the soft, Jell-O-like brain from being damaged inside the skull when it is bashed in an auto accident, a football tackle, or a frontal collision with a goal post.

5. Symptoms may point to your loved one suffering from mild TBI or worse, but you no longer need to remain in the dark about treatment. Dr. David Amen has pioneered the use of brain scans and holistic treatment that looks very promising.

6. The tragedy of having a family member with EmD-2 is that you may never get them back. Without proper treatment, people with these brain injuries can become so unreasonable and belligerent that you have to keep your distance to stay safe.

7. Codependency results when you keep trying to protect your EmD-2 loved one. Making excuses for their conduct will not help. They need medical treatment.

CTE affects the athlete AND their families. When my daughter, Phoebe, was five, we enrolled her in soccer. She loved it! Back then, I didn’t know how head trauma could cause severe brain damage, yet I told her —and her coaches—that she wasn’t allowed to do “headers.” Her coaches just laughed at me, then gave me the usual lecture about parents letting the coaches coach. One coach even said, “She’s not working hard enough unless she gets her bells rung once in a while!” as if head injuries were a badge of honor.

Phoebe experienced her first head injury when she was 8 years old. Over the years, she received many more. Her diagnosis of Brain Trauma came from a psychiatrist at the Amen Clinic. It explained so much about her self-destructive and violent behavior. I invite you to read the full story in chapter five of my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”

How to Keep Aspie Negative Thinking from Spoiling Your Happiness

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Learn how to keep Asperger negative thinking from rubbing off on you and spoiling your happiness.Our Aspie’s (People with Asperger’s Syndrome.) can be so negative that it’s infuriating. Do you ever feel like you don’t even want to bring up a topic of conversation, or make a simple request, because you know you’ll get a resounding “NO!”? Or you’re tired of hearing all of their “reasons” why something you’ve said is wrong or awful? Or you just can’t stand being ignored any longer?

Unfortunately, this type of interaction with your Aspie breeds negativity in you as well. Think about it. If you aren’t allowed to have a normal give-and-take in a relationship, your small negative thoughts and feelings can simmer and build unresolved stress that eventually grows into big grievances. Or perhaps your negativity has turned inwardly to depression or even physical illness.

We need better self-care than staying negative in a relationship with a negative person.

It helps to understand how your brain works around negativity. It’s naturally sensitive to negativity as way to signal your body to protect yourself. However, your amygdala doesn’t distinguish between a real threat and your negative family member. So your brain turns an inordinate amount of attention to that negative source – and your happy mood is gone.

Before dealing with a Negative Nelly, it would be good to check to see how much of your negative reactions come from your own internal issues. Identify your triggers – the things that instantly make you mad, bad, or sad. It can be what they say or how they say it. Notice if you can see any similarities between your triggers. What is the real issue - why does it makes you feel particularly defensive and uncomfortable? I’ve found that N.E.T. is very helpful for healing emotional pain.

Knowing why something happens is a lot different from knowing how to fix it. If you want to understand and intervene in these two very different aspects of negativity please join my video conference: CLEARING NEGATIVE THINKING IN ASD/NT RELATIONSHIPS, which will be held Tuesday, October 16th and Tuesday, October 23rd. Learn to stop your Aspie’s negative reactions before they get started. And learn to soothe your own heart in the face of this type of Empathy Dysfunction.

Learn more about Empathy Dysfunction: I invite you to download a free chapter from “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”

Does Your Love Relationship Feel One-Sided? 10 Signs it Is!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


My Neuro-Typical clients describe their relationships with their Autistic loved ones as feeling one-sided.

When you fell in love with your life partner, you, no doubt, had expectations that your emotional and physical needs would be met. As you got to know each other, you opened up and talked. You were on your way to building emotional intimacy. When you began a life together, you felt loved and wanted. But what do you do when your life dramatically changes on you? Is there any way to cope when you feel like you’re married to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?


That’s the life many of my Neuro-Typical clients live. They often describe their relationships with their Autistic loved ones as feeling one-sided. It’s odd isn’t it that our Aspies don’t feel the same way? As long as their needs are met, they don’t seem to notice that we’re lonesome, sad, or frustrated. Worse, when we try to explain how we feel, they draw a blank look or get defensive. Once again it’s one-sided…and not in our favor.

So how do you know if you’re in a one-sided relationship?

  1. You have to initiate conversation.
  2. Your partner takes, without giving.
  3. You give up your friends for his or quit socializing altogether.
  4. You apologize for things you shouldn’t have to.
  5. You’re always soothing ruffled feathers.
  6. You justify his behavior to friends and family.
  7. You never feel peace, but you’re always walking on egg shells.
  8. You’re made to feel like you’re a burden or an afterthought.
  9. You’re loving gestures aren’t reciprocated.
  10. You feel alone.

Feeling like your relationship is one-sided doesn’t necessarily mean your partner doesn’t care about you, in his or her own way. Lack of empathy is the reason for this one-sidedness, but that reason isn’t comforting is it? Instead we need tools for interacting with our Aspies, since they aren’t wired to connect. We also need tools to keep from going crazy over these one-way relationships.

One of the necessary tools is our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, where you can at least connect with others who get it. Support is essential to your mental health. But there are other more direct tools too. There are ways to problem solve with your ASD loved ones, even if their default mode is one-way.

If this topic interests you, and you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, please make plans to attend our Video Conference: “One-Way Relationships.” It will be held on both Tuesday, October 2nd and Thursday, October 11th. Let’s explore all of your options.

If you prefer one-on-one counseling, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to Simplify Your Life and Get More Done

Monday, September 17, 2018


To get more done, realize your brain is working against you because of the “mere urgency effect”. We choose urgency over importance. The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is an excellent way to organize all your tasks. The other day, I Googled the phrase, “how to get more done.” It turns out this is a very popular query, and there is A LOT of articles written about it. In fact, Google gave me 2,070,000,000 choices. Then I Googled, “websites about productivity” and received 101,000,000 results.

Productivity, decision making, and procrastination are topics that the U.S. population can’t get enough of. They read about them over and over again…and still don’t get enough done. What’s the source of this dilemma?

Why do we have the desire to get more done, but we don’t get it done?

Obviously, reading the articles isn’t enough. If you want to get long-term projects done, you’ve got to do the work! However, your brain is working against you, and it’s because of a phenomenon called the mere urgency effect. According to a recent study, our brains choose perceived urgency over importance. Here is what the researchers said:

“In everyday life, people are often faced with choices between tasks of varying levels of urgency and importance. How do people choose? Normatively speaking, people may choose to perform urgent tasks with short completion windows, instead of important tasks with larger outcomes, because important tasks are more difficult and further away from goal completion, urgent tasks involve more immediate and certain payoffs, or people want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on important tasks later. The current research identifies a mere urgency effect, a tendency to pursue urgency over importance even when these normative reasons are controlled for.

Specifically, results from five experiments demonstrate that people are more likely to perform unimportant tasks (i.e., tasks with objectively lower payoffs) over important tasks (i.e., tasks with objectively better payoffs), when the unimportant tasks are characterized merely by an illusion of expiration.”

The bottom line is that people seem to need deadlines to perform their best. How can you use this information to your advantage?

President, Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” He developed The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, which is an excellent way to organize any task you need to perform. Here’s how it works:

First, list all of your tasks according to these four factors:

Priority 1. Important / Urgent – Do these today!

Priority 2. Important / Not Urgent – Schedule these to do as soon as possible.

Priority 3. Not Important / Urgent – Delegate to someone else.

Priority 4. Not Important / Not Urgent – Do these if you have spare time or not at all.

Once you have your priorities set, put a deadline to each task using specific hours and dates. If you have an unrealistic deadline for things that are not important, reschedule them or delegate them.

Now that you’ve mapped out your tasks, chunk them up into tiny goals that make them more manageable.

If a deeper issue than being disorganized is keeping you from creating the life you desire and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Do You Know What to Do When People Let You Down?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


How do you handle it when people let you down? When feelings get hurt, we often do things we’re not proud of. Here’s a warrior technique for handling disappointments so you have fewer regrets.  We’ve all experienced it...You confide in your best friend, and she betrays you, by telling someone else. To her, it’s not a big thing. To you, your friendship is OVER, because you can’t trust her anymore. While this scenario may seem somewhat juvenile, it illustrates how often and how easy it is for people to let us down.

So how do you handle it when people let you down? Do you overreact and keep everyone at arm’s length, refusing to trust or rely on anyone from here on out? That’s not really a reasonable or practical response, is it? Because you’ve let them down, too. You can’t expect people to be perfect, just as you should be glad that no one expects you to be perfect.

People disappoint people. It’s a fact of life we have to learn to live with. We can’t get all bent out of shape every time it happens, because we’d soon run out of friends. And we can’t afford to lose them. We need relationships for our own well-being. Loving relationships are the number one predictor of a happy life. Without trust you can’t be happy. So how do you balance the hurt with the happiness?

Put it to the test

In situations like this, I often encourage people to increase their ability to show empathy. And yet they say, “How is THAT going to help?” I know they’re thinking, “How is MY empathy going to change HIM? He’s the one that needs more empathy!” But increasing your empathy is a warrior technique for managing your own attitudes and emotions. And that is what will improve any situation.

One way to turn on your Radiant Empathy powers is to put situations that make you feel used or betrayed to this test:

Ask yourself how you would feel if the tables were turned.

What if you didn’t realize the importance of a confidence and you told someone what you knew. How would you feel if your friend cut you off, because she felt betrayed? Wouldn’t you want an opportunity to explain? Wouldn’t you want a second chance? Wouldn’t you want to be forgiven?

Forgiveness is a necessary part of life. When you forgive, you’re not just giving to the offending party, but giving to yourself. And as much as forgiveness is a virtue, so is taking responsibility for one's mistakes and correcting them. Simply saying "I didn't mean to" doesn’t take full responsibility for the error. It's as if you’re saying that no wrongdoing was done if you "didn't mean to." So the next time those words start forming on your lips, stop and make a straightforward apology for your actions and offer to clean up the problem, whether you committed the deed "accidentally" or intentionally. The more you practice this, the more others will respond in kind.

People will cause you problems — but they also will be your biggest source of happiness. That’s why I’m busily working on a training program that will help you develop the highest form of empathy. Does this interest you? Visit this post on my Facebook page and let me know. The more I know about your needs, the better the training will become.




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