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Kathy Marshack News

Have a Family Member with Asperger’s? How to Speak Aspergian

Monday, June 27, 2016


People with Asperger’s Syndrome have their own language – they speak in code words or have an unusual system of speech, but you can learn ways to connect.Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? It takes a lot of hard work. To be able to think in another language oftentimes takes years of practice. The same is true with learning Aspergian.

Speaking Aspergian is a powerful tool in your relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome. It's not so much speaking the language of your Aspie as it is understanding theirs. With this understanding, you can neutralize everyone's distress. When you’re detached from the emotional meaning of the communication, it’s much easier to guide the conversation to a mutually agreeable place.

For example, Aspies don't have empathy. They positively hate it when I say this but it’s true. If your Aspie doesn't have all of the elements of empathy, it’s the same as Zero Degrees of Empathy as you well know. Your Aspie may have cognitive empathy, or a rather flat logical understanding of the facts, but they struggle to connect it to the emotional meaning. Or they may be highly sensitive and cry at the drop of the hat, but be unable to speak about their feelings. Or they may care deeply about a social justice or personal cause, but be unable to connect with others on the issue.

Disconnects between emotions and thoughts, no awareness of the intention behind human behaviors, using idiosyncratic words that carry no meaning for others, . . . these methods create a kind of language that can seem impenetrable. Autistic children seem to have a language of their own that no one can fathom. Autistic adults, even our high-functioning Aspies have the same unusual language patterns. Once we break the code, it’s much easier to communicate and relate.

Our next low cost Video Conference will be on the topic: How to Speak Aspergian. It will be held on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 9:00 AM PDT and again on Thursday, July 28 at 3:00 PM PDT. There are still a few spots left, so if you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD please sign up soon to ensure you get your spot.

Bring examples of the mysterious language of your Aspie for our discussion. Even if your Aspie uses a different code word than another Aspie, the system they use is the same. But the real goal is more than understanding their code; it is also to reduce distress and find a way to connect with your loved ones.

Is a Fear of Flying Keeping You from Living Life Fully?

Friday, June 24, 2016


If you fear flying and it’s keeping you away from visiting loved ones, attending important events, or career obligations, then it’s time to conquer the fearRecently, one of my readers shared a valuable resource with us, and we’d like to share it with you. It’s an article entitled: The Psychology of the Fear of Flying and How to Overcome It.

Many people refuse to board a plane. They would rather not go to an important event rather than confront their fear of flying. Or they opt for the more inconvenient or time-consuming means of travel such as automobile or train.

In their article, you’ll see whether fear of flying is a phobia or a rational fear. You’ll also discover a number of triggers and how the psychology of a fear of flying works. It also discusses ways to overcome the fear of flying. Here are a few highlights:

  • Curb your imagination.
  • Think about the destination, not the journey.
  • Meditate to calm yourself.
  • Challenge negative thoughts.
  • Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol and caffeine.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Talk to the cabin crew.
  • Learn about what is triggering your anxiety.
  • Study positive information about flying and the fear of flying.
  • Talk to someone about the problem.

I also appreciated the information for helping children overcome their fear of flying so that it doesn’t become a phobia. Here are a few highlights:

  • The most important thing to do is to talk to your child and to slowly introduce them to the thought of flying.
  • Explain what turbulence is, fog and other things which might affect the flight.
  • Take them to the airport to watch real planes take off and land.
  • Let them bring a comfort item, books and toys for distraction.

Miami Helicopter also shares a vast amount of sources, so you can learn more. I encourage you to read their article. I can’t imagine the richness of life I would miss if I refused to fly. Fears and phobias can be overcome. If this is something you struggle with and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please feel free to contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Conquering Fears and Phobias.

The Art of Detachment - Self-Care Tips for those in an Asperger Relationship

Monday, June 20, 2016


The Art of Detachment - Self-Care Tips for those in an Asperger RelationshipLiving with a mate who has Asperger’s Syndrome is filled with stress. You love them but they are unpredictable. You never know how they’ll react to an ordinary situation.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that many NT (neuro-typical) mates report a variety of psychosomatic and immunodeficiency illnesses, such as migraines, arthritis, gastric reflux, and fibromyalgia. When the body is regularly thrown into a state of alarm, the over-production of adrenalin and cortisol wreaks havoc with the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral on the need to care for yourself first. This may seem impossible at first, because of the chaos of family life. But it is essential and possible if you learn the art of detachment.

Detachment is learning to protect yourself from all of those not-so-ordinary moments. It doesn’t mean you stop caring about your loved ones. It simply means that you:

  • Stop taking it all personally.
  • Stop worrying if you’ve covered all the bases.
  • Stop beating yourself up for your flaws.
  • Stop expecting more from your AS spouse than he or she can give.

When you learn the art of detaching, you actually free up some energy to care for yourself. And that creates the energy to make better decisions instead of flitting from crisis to crisis.

There are two methods for achieving detachment:

1. Emotional self-care is doing all of the healthy feel-good things you can fit into your day. If you notice that you’re drinking, eating, or smoking too much, you need healthier self-care. Make it a point to always plan healing rest and recreation in your day, too.

2.Cognitive self-care consists of education. When you can’t fathom what’s going on with your Aspie, and they’re accusing you of things you didn’t do, stress increases. It’s bad enough to be misunderstood. It’s quite another to try to operate without a frame of reference for the misunderstanding. Even though it’s work to read a book and to attend psychotherapy, knowledge is power.

When I was learning to deal with family members with ASD, there weren’t that many resources. So I founded a Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. It has helped many cope as they connect with others living through he same experiences. Check it out and if it feels right for you, please hit the “join” button.

Advanced Truths of Healthy Communication for Couples

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Two advanced truths of healthy communication – t he explanation used to describe a person is not the person, and people operate out of their interpretation.Having counseled couples for over thirty years, I’ve come to appreciate that communicating effectively is more of an attitude than having specific skills. The skills seem to emerge when your heart is in the right place. In one of my books, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home, I shared advanced truths of healthy communication to help couples become better communicators.

Embracing these truths will assist you so that you can (I) more clearly define the problem or topic of discussion, (2) more accurately listen and understand your partner, and (3) develop even more flexibility and expediency in accomplishing your communication goals.

There are four advanced truths of healthy communication. In this post I will focus on the first two:

#1 The explanation used to describe a person or situation is not the person.

We all build hypotheses about our partner in order to understand and respond to his or her behavior. For example, one couple I worked with faced a communication breakdown (their names have been changed). Kurt wanted to move to get a promotion and his wife Trish refused to leave even though she’d been willing to relocate in the past. You see Kurt assumed that Trish always followed his career moves because she put his career before her own.

In reality, Kurt's promotions opened career doors for Trish also. Furthermore, moving to a new town every few years when she was younger and childless was not a problem for Trish. But with twin daughters to care for, a desire to put down roots in a community, and a career of her own that she loved, Trish demonstrated another side of herself that did not fit Kurt's explanation of her. As Kurt expanded his consciousness, both he and Trish learned that there is more to their partner than one simple explanation.

#2 People do not operate out of sensory experience, but rather out of their interpretation or map of reality.

Because we build hypotheses, we tend to operate in the world as if our internal maps (i.e., hypotheses or explanations of reality) are the truth. We forget that we developed these internal maps after gathering information with our senses. Once the map is built, we sometimes ignore future sensory experience in favor of our presuppositions.

Therefore, the second advanced truth is closely aligned with the first advanced truth. Knowing that you and others are operating in the world according to your own interpretation of reality releases you to notice what facts or real experience contributed to a specific behavior.
For example, another couple (names have been changed), Karla and Mike, had been ignoring their own senses with regard to Mike's alcohol abuse. They ignored how much he drank. They ignored the irrationality of their fights. They ignored the effects of alcohol abuse on their children, employees, and friends. With the incredible success of their business, and moving into a brand-new million-dollar house, Mike and Karla felt as if they were on top of the world without a care. It seemed a contradiction that they would have serious problem at the height of their financial and material success.

Yet Karla was shaken to notice her sensory experience when Mike shattered a liquor bottle against the living room wall. Then all of the other sensory clues she'd been ignoring fell into place, too. It was time to adjust her map of reality to include the possibility that the husband she loved was an addict. Similarly, Mike's map of reality changed shortly after Karla confronted him.

Keeping these advanced truths in mind will put your heart in the right place so you begin to trust that you and your partner really are on the same side. In an upcoming post I’ll share two more advance truths for healthy communication.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay not to have all the answers and to ask for help. For the couples I mentioned in this post, the communication breakdown was so severe that they were unable to achieve any solutions until they asked a professional for help. If you need help communicating with your partner, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you live elsewhere, we can also discuss best communication practices for entrepreneurial couples via a secure video Q & A session. Learn more by visiting Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.

Emotional Granularity - Putting a Name to Your Emotions Leads to Greater Health

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Emotional Granularity - Putting a Name to Your Emotions Leads to Greater HealthPeople who have more nuanced views of their emotions are healthier. When you can put a name to an emotion like feeling righteously indignant versus just generally feeling bad, you are more in tune with your feelings.

The psychological term we use for this ability to pinpoint your exact emotion is “emotional granularity.” It means you experience the world and yourself more precisely. And there are a lot of benefits to increasing this skill.

People who have emotional granularity are less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. They have better relationships, make better decisions, live longer and are healthier.

The New York Times recently reported on a study conducted by Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University. They asked hundreds of volunteers to track their emotional experiences for weeks or months. They discovered something very interesting.

They assumed that people with higher emotional granularity were just better at recognizing their emotional states. Instead they learned that the brain proactively constructs your emotional states before you’re aware of it. The brain doesn’t respond to the world in some predetermined way. It anticipates what might come next, based on a past experience. This means you get to program your emotional responses as you choose.

If you can translate your feelings into a specific emotional term that you can act on, then you don’t deplete your store of energy needlessly. Dr. Feldman Barrett likened our energy supply to a bank account. When there’s a real threat, then the withdrawal of energy translates into a meaningful action. Afterward, you can resupply your energy reserves through rest and nutrition.

On the other hand, when there’s a constant feeling of badness, it drains your account. There are no reserves of energy left for when it’s needed. You’re overdrawn. This leads to feeling trapped and overwhelmed, increasing the likelihood of mental and physical illness.

You can increase your emotional granularity by becoming more skilled in identifying the nuances of your emotions. How many emotional concepts do you have in your vocabulary? I encourage you to write down a list of new words to describe the emotional states you experience. You’ll give your brain a larger toolkit to work from, which will give you more emotional flexibility in coping with what life throws at you.

Why Do Women Experience Depression More Than Men?

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Why do women experience depression more than men and what can be done about it – learn more and take care of yourself and those you love.Especially during the childbearing years, women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as are men. According to psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Amen, 1 in 8 women develop clinical depression in their lifetime. Yet fewer than half of them seek help, accepting it as a normal way of life.

Why do women experience depression more than men?
We don’t have a definitive answer yet. But we do know the following issues are factors to be considered when diagnosing depression.

Hormonal fluctuations. It's possible that monthly cyclical changes in estrogen, progesterone and other hormones disrupt the function of brain chemicals such as serotonin, which controls mood. Just think of what women live through – Puberty, PMS, possibly Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression, Perimenopause and Menopause. All of these are accompanied with wildly fluctuating hormones, which can trigger depression.

Heredity. A British research team recently isolated a gene, the chromosome 3p25-26, in more than 800 families with recurrent depression. Scientists believe 40 percent of those with depression may be traced to a genetic link. The American Journal of Psychiatry reports on one study that found that women had a 42 percent chance of hereditary depression, while men had only a 29 percent chance.

Inadequate coping skills. Life stressors are associated with a higher risk of depression. And if women haven’t learned to successful cope with stress, they can feel powerless, which often contributes toward depression. Some of these stressors are:

  • Relationship problems. Conflict with parents, spouse and children.
  • Lack of social support. Feeling all alone.
  • Social and economic inequalities. Living in poverty, being uncertain about the future, racial discrimination and having less access to community resources are all issues that can cause low self-esteem and lack of control.
  • Work overload. Women are juggling a career and home responsibilities. Many women are single parents, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Plus they may be caring for sick or aging parents.
  • Abuse. Women are more likely than men to experience sexual abuse. And being emotionally, physically or sexually abused raises the likelihood of depression.

Depression is NOT a normal way to live. It’s very treatable and you can lead a happier life. Please seek help if you have any physical signs and psychological symptoms of depression. Women with depression often have other mental health conditions such as:


If you think you're depressed, please don't hesitate to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Depression and Stress.

Have You Tried these Anxiety Busters? They Really Work!

Monday, June 06, 2016


Anxiety disorders are highly treatable yet millions of people are letting them ruin their lives needlessly – try these anxiety busters and see if they help.Do you suffer from anxiety? You are by no means alone. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Are you seeking treatment or are one of the two-thirds of the U.S. population who haven’t received treatment yet?

We can all use help at times, so here are four anxiety busters that really work. The good news is that they’re really easy to do.

Anxiety Buster 1: Breathe deeply.
People experiencing anxiety breathe shallowly and rapidly. This makes less oxygen available to your brain, which triggers more anxiety. By taking slow, deep breaths you’ll increase oxygen to your brain and regain control.

Do you know how to breathe from your diaphragm? If not, try this:

Lie on your back and place a small book on your belly.
As you slowly inhale through your nose, make the book go up.
Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
When you exhale, make the book go down.
Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
Inhale again and repeat 9 more times.

Anxiety Buster 2: Don’t be a bolter.

When the going gets tough the anxious ones run away. Running from or bolting prolongs the agony of your anxiety. It takes courage to face your fear, but by doing so you regain your sense of control and no longer feel powerless.

Anxiety Buster 3: Challenge your distorted thinking.
Anxiety is made worse by our negative thinking. This distorted way of thinking needs to be challenged. You can do this by writing your thoughts down and seeing if they make sense. Or better yet, say them out loud to a trusted friend or mental health professional. They can help you discover a more realistic version of the same thought.

Anxiety Buster 4: Treat anxiety holistically, and if needed, medically.
Too many people are going untreated and are suffering needlessly from chronic anxiety. Often anxiety is allayed when a person gets plenty of rest, good nutrition and regular exercise. Listening to music has proven to be effective too. Adopting a holistic health approach can also include supplementation with herbs, vitamins, minerals and hormones. Your physician should oversee your use of these as well as any other medication prescribed. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you’re ready to stop debilitating anxiety, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Coping with Anxiety Disorders and Holistic Health.

Alcohol Consumption – Do the Cons Finally Far Outweigh the Pros?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016


Red wine in moderation is heart healthy, but alcohol causes holes in your brain as well as a host of other health problems, so is it really worth it?We’ve all heard the reports that drinking red wine daily is heart healthy. But what is it doing to our brains?

Recently Dr. Daniel Amen published an article about debunking the myth that alcohol is a health food. His SPECT Imaging shows the holes and gaps that appear in the brains of even moderate drinkers. He also quotes a 2008 study from the Archives of Neurology, which found that “people who drink just one to seven drinks per week have smaller brains than nondrinkers, and those who have two or more drinks a day have even more brain shrinkage.”

In 2015, the journal Lancet published a research review that found that alcohol use does decrease the risk of heart attacks. That’s good news. The bad news is that they also found that it increased the risk of cancer and physical injuries. Dr Amen goes on to list other negative affects that alcohol has on the brain and body. It:

  • Increases the risk of fatty liver disease,
  • Contributes to peripheral neuropathies (pain and tingling in hands, legs, and feet),
  • Damages neurons, especially those in the cerebellum.
  • Interferes with vitamin b1 absorption, leading to serious cognitive problems.
  • Decreases firing in the prefrontal cortex.
  • Disrupts sleep.
  • Predisposes you to sugar abuse.
  • Stimulates appetite and is associated with continued eating after feeling full.
  • Increases the production of insulin in the pancreas leading to low blood sugar levels and impaired decision making skills.

I appreciate his warnings, because it makes us stop and reassess our own actions and choices. Are they healthy choices? If not, is there an underlying reason for choosing ongoing self-destructive behavior like alcohol abuse?

Personally, I enjoy an occasional glass of wine, especially when entertaining my friends. If we are consistently nurturing and caring for our health, any damage done from drinking a glass of wine or having a beer can quickly be repaired.

However, people who abuse alcohol usually also neglect their nutritional and sleep requirements. Plus they participate in risky behavior. If you find that this article alerts you to a problem, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can get you onto the road to recovery.

Read more on my website: Mind and Body Health.


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