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Kathy Marshack News

Has Your Trust Been Betrayed? Learn How Your Brain Bias Tricks You

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Find out where the decision–making process is breaking down when you trust someone you shouldn’t. Learn to recognize your own biases and use critical thinking to determine if there’s a solid basis for trusting someone.Have you ever put your trust in someone and then been disappointed? As evidenced by the number of divorces, failed business ventures, or broken friendships, it happens often. Which leads us to ask: Since the brain’s function is to protect us, why does it let us make bad decisions that harm us? Where is the decision–making process breaking down?

Because we’re bombarded with vast amounts of information every day, the brain uses shortcuts that allow the nonconscious brain to do things on autopilot, like tying your shoe or ducking when something is thrown at you.

But we get into trouble when these shortcuts are based on cultural biases that have been unwittingly encoded into our brains. They can lead us to draw wrong conclusions.

Oftentimes, these biases are based on similarity (“People like me are better than people who aren’t”); experience (“My perception of the world must be accurate”); and expedience (“It feels right, so it must be true”). As a result, we end up making major decisions based on criteria that doesn’t matter…the appearance, social position, mannerisms or talkativeness of a person. (Yes, in this culture, people who talk a lot are viewed as more trustworthy.)

It’s important to recognize your own biases and employ critical thinking to determine if there’s a solid basis for trusting and believing someone. Here are some tips:

  • Buy yourself some time between receiving information and making a decision.

  • Write out the precise steps that led to your decision and double check to see if you’re missing a vital piece of information or are misinterpreting something.

  • Talk it over with someone. As you hear yourself explain the situation, you’ll be more likely to identify your own faulty thinking. Their feedback can be invaluable, too.

  • Keep learning, because knowledge is power. The more you know, the less likely you’ll be duped or misled. 

  • In a business setting, have people write down their ideas, then review the ideas anonymously — that way you’re deciding based on the strength of the idea, not on the source.

Sometimes we make decisions that don’t feel right, because they go against our own notions of propriety and goodwill. To make healthier decisions, don’t always assume you must go with the flow for someone else’s sake. Develop the flexibility to be charitable to others, yet still have the common sense to take care of yourself.

Easier said than done, right? That’s why I wrote, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.” Along with my personal story, it’s a guidebook for enhancing self-awareness and empathically making decisions that protect yourself, while allowing others the dignity to live life as they choose. This is what I call EmD-5 or Radiant Empathy.

Feeling Unsure of Yourself? Master Empathy and You’ll Master Competency

Monday, June 25, 2018


How often do you feel unsure of yourself – once in a while, all the time, or never? It’s not unusual for people to have trouble assessing their own skills and abilities. Read my latest blog post to find out how the quality of empathy is connected to your ability to achieve competency and discover the three steps to achieving Radiant Empathy.How often do you feel unsure of yourself – once in a while, all the time, or never? It’s not unusual for people to have trouble assessing their own skills and abilities. Some people tend to undervalue what they can do. On the other hand, some people overestimate themselves – a phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, in the world of psychology.

What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

To paraphrase what social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger discovered about the scale of cognitive bias:

  • Those with a little knowledge think they know everything, so they overestimate their abilities.
  • Those with average knowledge know they have much to learn, so they often underestimate their skills.
  • Those with a lot of knowledge think they’re nothing special, because they think everyone must surely know what they know.

Do you recognize yourself or someone you know, in any of those statements? It’s part of human nature to misjudge our own competency. That’s why it’s so important to understand who we are in relation to others. But this self-awareness only comes when we enhance our ability to be empathic.

How is empathy connected to accurately assessing your competency?

How would you know you do something well, if you don’t have something to compare your performance to? The kind of comparison I’m referring to is not about judging your self-worth, but it’s about judging your ability to perform. If someone does it better than you, then you know there’s room for improvement. Radiant Empathy helps you differentiate between self-awareness and self-worth.

There are three steps to achieving Radiant Empathy:

The first step to empathy is knowing, honoring, and caring for the feelings that matter to loved ones—similar to stepping into another person’s shoes.

The second step to empathy is being able to acknowledge what’s in the heart and mind of someone else, by reading the current context appropriately and responding with respect and love.

The third step to empathy requires you to know how you feel in relation to others. You can hold constant your feelings and thoughts, while you plumb the depths of another person.

For example, empathic people know that understanding the mind of another isn’t tantamount to agreeing with their beliefs or principles. EmD-0 people, however, believe that to voice their understanding means they’re indicating agreement. What a difference empathy makes!

Through practice and continued education, you can achieve Radiant Empathy. Stay tuned…I’m working on a website that will assist you in your development of this highest form of empathy. In the meantime, my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS” is a fantastic resource for starting your journey to Radiant Empathy.

To Retweet or Not To Retweet – Is It Harmful, Online Gossip?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Have you ever retweeted or shared a story that was later proved to be fake news or a lie? You’re not alone. This study shows that people love to retweet lies and fake news more than the truth. That’s why it’s a good practice to ask these three questions, before you hit the retweet Did you know that gossip can be as simple as sharing news about someone that the listener hasn’t heard before, like, “Mary is going to have a baby”? But more often than not, gossip is harmful. A number of months ago, I read an article in the New York Times that makes me think about how easy it is, through the Internet, to gossip and destroy lives with fake news and lies.

The writer, Sinan Aral, and his colleagues analyzed major true and false stories spread on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. Their data included approximately 126,000 Twitter “cascades” (unbroken chains of retweets with a common, singular origin) involving stories spread by three million people more than four and a half million times. The results?

“Disturbingly, we found that false stories spread significantly more than did true ones. We found that human behavior contributed more to the differential spread of truth and falsity than bots did.”

People do love to gossip and spread sensational “news”! It feels like harmless fun, until it happens to you. I’ve been the recipient of hurtful, nasty gossip online. For example, a disgruntled client created a website in my name and posted lies about me. He paid for the website for ten years in the hopes of destroying my psychology practice. Trust me, there is no legally expedient way to stop this practice. However, he eventually tired of hosting the website and let the URL lapse. I decided to buy the URL so that it couldn’t be used again for nefarious purposes, but found that I couldn’t buy my own name back unless I wanted to pay a “premium.” Apparently the group in Brazil who now owns my name thinks it’s a hot property! (You can read more in my new book, WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.)

When you hear “news” that you’re tempted to share, why not ask yourselves these three questions before you spread it…

  • Is it true?

  • Is it necessary?

  • Is it kind?

You’ll, at the very least, buy yourself some time to think about the consequences, before you act. While there are cases of people being sued for retweeting a false, defamatory story, common human decency should be enough to motivate us to refrain from spreading lies, because we recognize the hurt they cause. But maybe that's the problem - human decency isn't so common anymore.

Human decency stems from the quality of empathy. The hardships of life can cause us to become callused to the feelings of others. Would you like to increase and enhance you ability to display empathy? You’ll find practical tips in my book, WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.

If you’d like my personal help, 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’s convenient for you.

Burnout Isn’t Normal! 9 Easy, Changes You Can Make Today

Monday, June 18, 2018


Stressed, overwhelmed, and suffering from burnout – so many people suffer from these that we’ve begun to think they’re normal. But they aren’t. They signals that something in your life needs to change. Here are nine easy changes you can make today that will help you recover your health and happiness.Do you feel drained, overextended, sluggish, unmotivated, even uncommonly cynical or ambivalent because of your work load? These are all symptoms of burnout. Even though a nationwide 2016 survey shows that 50% of Americans in the workforce are exhausted, it’s not normal to live like this! The World Health Organization classifies occupational stress and burnout as a very real and dangerous health hazard.

You are not a “wimp” or a “slacker” to make wise choices that protect your mental and physical health. Even if you’re not able to take a few days off work, there are things you can do today to recover your health and happiness:

Connect with a loved one. Whether it’s a friend or family member, you need to spend more time with those who understand and support you.

Practice focused breathing. Mindful breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax and manage stress.

Take frequent breaks. Preferably include walking in your break – just five minutes for every hour will make a huge difference.

Create a more peaceful work environment. Get an ergonomic chair and desk. And have a screen saver or framed photo that makes you feel happy. Adding a plant to your work space may help too.

Start a hobby. Outside interests give you something to look forward to after work. It helps you decompress and dissociate from work.

Refocus on your health. Consciously make improvements to your diet, exercise and sleep. You may feel like you don’t have time, but you will be forced to take time later, when your health seriously fails.

Find something to laugh about. Laughter releases feel-good brain chemical, so it’s a great stress reliever.

Quit procrastinating. When you feel anxious over a task, it’s easy to put it off. You may experience a small sense of relief, but that task will be nagging at you, always there in your mind. And more importantly, you’re depriving yourself of a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Break a big task into smaller steps. Achieving tiny goals can lead to increased dopamine levels in the brain. Do just one thing. Pat yourself on the back. Take a deep breath and do the next thing. You can do this!

Give these tips a try and visit me on Facebook to share the ones that work best for you. If you’re experiencing a prolonged or severe form of anxiety, stress, or depression, please consider seeking professional help. 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's more convenient.

Why Aspies Always Say NO and What You Can Do About It

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Why do our Aspies always default to a non-committal answer or say NO outright? Insight into this one question can save a lot of hurt feelings. “Are they just being rude? Shouldn’t I be offended?” That's how we feel, when someone ignores us, as we try to talk with them. Being ignored usually signals that something is wrong. But, what about when you converse with those on the Spectrum? Have you noticed that they often break the rules of conversation etiquette?


Sometimes our Aspies say NO! Sometimes they ignore us. Sometimes they resist and walk off — then inexplicably do as asked. What on earth is this about?

A number of years ago, I wrote about how those with Aspergers default to non-committal answers. I used a true-to-life setting where a wife beats around the bush, trying to get her hubby to go on vacation, and the Aspie husband just doesn’t get it. It’s the perfect storm for miscommunication and hurt feelings in a NT/AS relationship.

We have to remember that Aspies have great difficulty with change or spontaneity, much more than the rest of us. A new idea creates tension. In the decision-making process, we have to think it through, examine its relevance to our plans, get past the novelty, build a new paradigm to incorporate the idea, and so much more.

Non-Spectrum people create change fairly easily, even with all of the aforementioned steps, because we aren’t self absorbed. Because we have empathy, we can include the other person in our new paradigm. Into the equation, we incorporate the person asking, how they ask, and the mind of the asker.

On the other hand, Aspies don’t do any of this. Instead they opt for saying “no,” or “I’m not interested.” This buys them time to get away from our demands and to protect themselves from confusion.

There’s much more to learn about this phenomenon. If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, I invite you to the next international, free teleconference: Why do they always say NO! It will be held on Thursday, June 21st. We’ll be building interventions to get past their penchant for saying NO.

If you have questions about this teleconference, you can post them on my Facebook event page or you can post them to the group on the Meetup page. I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

As a reminder, if you’d like to stay up-to-date on all of my articles, make sure you’ve signed up for my Enriching Your Life newsletter.

1st Private Video Conference for Adult Children of Asperger’s Parent

Monday, June 11, 2018


Adult children of Asperger parent(s) have been ignored too long. As a result, they struggle with severe depression and self-esteem problems. Isn’t it ironic? The world is becoming more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorder (a good thing) yet there’s a group of people affected by Asperger’s Syndrome who are still being overlooked and ignored by the world and by their families – the adult children raised by an Asperger parent.

Many adults who have been raised with an Aspie parent are now reporting severe depression and self-esteem problems, because they lived with an Aspie parent who struggled to nurture them and get to know them. With a lack of warmth, tender affection, and communication, a child can feel emotionally rejected by their parent even though they may have all of their physical needs taken care of.

This is not to say that an Aspie parent doesn’t love their child. That is far from the truth. But the communication and relationship deficits confuse the child and can lead to the child feeling unloved. Remember it is the child’s experience that defines the parenting, not whether the AS parent loves their child.

In my own case, I had no idea my mother was an Aspie until many years after her death. I discovered my daughter’s autism first and it was confirmed by a psychiatrist and psychologist. I always thought it odd that my adopted daughter was so much like my mother – until the light bulb went off. A rush of relief and tears swept through me with the realization that I was raised by an Aspie.

So much of my life finally made sense. Mom was this terribly confusing mix of good intentions and abusive parenting. Mom insisted that I eat whole, organic food. Preservatives and sugar were not allowed in our house. Sounds good right? What about using a toothbrush made from boar bristles? No toothpaste either; I had to use baking soda. Still not so bad? What about the fierce tongue lashings I would get when she had her meltdowns and called me ever foul name in the book?

There’s more and I bet you have your own stories too. Our quirky, abusive, brilliant Aspie parents made a lasting impact, didn’t they? Now it’s time to ferret out what it means to be raised by a parent who has Zero Degrees of Empathy – a parent who cannot enter your world and help you discover who you are.

It’s time to take back your life and recreate your own timeline of adult development. Yes, it’s complicated, but together we can do it. Please join me for this private Video Conference for Adult Children of Aspies on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Know that you are not alone. If you have questions about this teleconference, you can post them on my Facebook event page.

NOTE: I know there are others who want to be on this call, because you’re worried about your children being raised by your Aspie co-parent. However, please be respectful of those who are already grown and want to break free to “Be Me!” There will be ample opportunities for us to speak at another time. Thank you.

Learn more about Aspergers: Asperger Syndrome and My Books on AS

Dr. Kathy Marshack on the Radio Show “Autism with Dr. Andy McCabe”

Wednesday, June 06, 2018


Dr. Kathy Marshack outlines some practical tips that she’s gleaned throughout her personal and professional experience with those on the Autism Spectrum.Dr. Andy McCabe and his guests explore the world of alternative therapies for children on the Autism Spectrum. Recently, he interviewed me, and we had a delightful conversation about some tips I’ve gleaned throughout my personal and professional experience with Aspies. (You can listen to the 57 minute interview by clicking on this link.)

We started by talking about how, even as a psychologist, it took me over a decade to get a diagnosis for my daughter. During that time I doubted myself, wondering what I was doing wrong. And while there were a number of things I could have done better, I came to realize that best thing I could do was to keep coming from that loving place and persisting in trying to connect.

It was so frustrating at times though, because not one professional got what I was talking about…the emphasis was always on helping the autistic deal with life, not helping me understand how to live with an Aspie. That’s why I began writing for non-Spectrum family members who are struggling to cope with their Spectrum loved ones. I knew I couldn’t be the only one out there experiencing this.

Some powerful nuggets I shared on the show are:

  • “Please trust that the other person means well, even if their behavior is odd.
  • Separate intent from behavior…they think that because they mean well it’s enough.
  • You have to realize it’s a communication error, it’s not personal.
  • Blaming and shaming is mean, so let’s not do that to ourselves and our loved ones.”

One brilliant idea emerged as Dr. Andy and I talked…look for the patterns. What do I mean?

There’s a saying: “Once you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person,” because each one on the Spectrum is so different. But there are patterns that they universally recognize and use. And once you understand those patterns, you can help them communicate and connect more effectively.

For example, at seven years of age, my autistic daughter tried to explain her day at school by saying, “You’re a psychologist, right? You study patterns in people. Today we studied patterns in math.” Amazing observation from a seven year old, right? Aspies are great observers of people, yet they have so much trouble interacting with them.

Patterns are in everything around us. The more we can expand on the skill of recognizing the patterns that Aspies see, the more we can help them navigate through this world, even though they don’t operate from the theory of mind.

The part they miss is that they don’t think about communicating these patterns to us; they don’t think it’s exceptional or out of the ordinary. They think everyone sees it like they do.

We also discussed many other points from my books: Going Over the Edge, Out of Mind, and WHEN EMPATHY FAILS. I encourage you to listen to the full interview by clicking the link below.

Listen to Dr. Kathy Marshack on "Autism with Dr. Andy"

How to Speak to your Aspie so They Listen and Understand

Monday, June 04, 2018


Have you noticed any patterns that get in the way of your Aspie listening to you? Here are some some things to avoid and to include in your conversation.When you want to have a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, you have to learn a new language...Aspergian. This involves understanding their unique patterns of thought and speech. With this understanding, you can neutralize everyone's distress.

Something clicked for me when I recognized the mindset of Aspies. I started developing an awareness of what they meant, why they do what they do, and how to communicate with them in their language. The mind blindness, the context blindness, the lack of empathy - understanding all of this helped me to think like an Aspie. Once I got it, I could speak to them so that they would listen, actually hear me.

This is no easy feat of course. Step one is to get our emotions and traditional beliefs out of the way. Step two is recognizing that Aspies want the same things we do, though they go about it differently. Step three is to speak their language - because they can't learn ours.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, I invite you to attend the next video conference entitled, How to speak to your Aspie so that they will listen. It will held on Tuesday, June 12th or Wednesday, June 27th. Each aspie is different, but you will find that there are communication patterns they all follow. Come prepared to write down your own Rules of Engagement, as you identify problem areas in your communication. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Things to avoid when speaking with your Aspie

  • Sarcasm
  • Double entendre
  • Ambiguity or vagueness
  • Hints
  • Passive-aggressive speech
  • Slang or colloquialisms
  • Metaphors
  • Beating around the bush


Things to include when speaking with your Aspie

  • Say what you actually mean.
  • Be open with your intentions.
  • Voice your feelings but remind them this isn’t a criticism of them.
  • Speak clearly and concisely, without rambling.
  • Ask direct questions.
  • Ask them to do one thing at a time.
  • Withdraw from circular arguments.
  • Accept that sometimes communication will hit a brick wall.
  • Remain patient and calm.

Have you noticed any patterns that get in the way of your Aspie listening to you? Join me on Facebook and let’s start brainstorming some solutions.



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