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Kathy Marshack News

When Love is a Noun

Monday, January 28, 2019

When Love is a NounFor most people, love means loving or engaging in acts of love that are reciprocated. Because we have empathy, love becomes a dynamic process that deepens over time.

The love relationship is more complex than most people realize. We receive little useful education about how to make love work or how to make love last, or just how to make love. Most of our learning comes from television and movies or pornography – sources that are two-dimensional at best. In time, we stop learning and settle into a routine of love, sex and intimacy that can grow dull and tedious, or stressful, or even non-existent.

Sex is not the most important part of a loving partnership. There are many other qualities that need to be developed and nurtured over time to make a relationship special and intimate. However, sex is a critical element. Healthy, loving sex makes special the relationship with your soul mate. Sexual intimacy makes this friendship different than any other. It’s a bond of love like no other.

To keep love alive in your relationship, ask yourself the following questions about your sexual connection with your partner…

  • Is there joy and excitement in your relationship?
  • Are you more in love today than when you first met? 
  • Do you view sex as a time to bond and to learn more about your partner?
  • During intimate moments do you feel as though you are sharing your true inner self?

If you can’t answer yes to these questions, then it’s time to take action and restore your love life. I can help you make a successful plan of action. 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.

However, I must add a postscript for those of you who have a partner with Aspergers. What you know about love and what you expect from love will be severely challenged, because, for your Aspie, love is a noun, not a process. Love is a thing they keep hidden in their hearts, and you’re just supposed to know it. They have difficulty knowing how and when to express love.

People with Aspergers can have successful relationships, when they learn the Rules of Engagement – meaning they learn how to say things in a way their NT partners can understand as loving.

However, we NTs sense that this type of love is a thing they feel, not a love they share. The reason this is important to us NTs, is that we sorely miss the loving process. We feel alone, disconnected and unloved, even when our Aspies do feel love inside, but don't share it. If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please sign up for the low-cost video conference, “When Love is a Noun.” We will be meeting at the following times for your convenience…

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 7:30 PM PT
Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 3:00 PM PT
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 10:00 AM PT

This Video Conference is an opportunity to better understand how lack of empathy affects love and what to do about this major loss. I hope you can join us.

Can a Person Be Kind without Empathy?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Can a Person Be Kind without EmpathyYou’ve no doubt heard the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. From an early age, parents try to teach their children to be kind. As we grow into adulthood, we can either enhance this trait through practice, or we can lose it due to outside influences or our own selfish tendencies.

Kindness and empathy usually go hand in hand, as they both help you to relate to others. Kindness can improve personal relationships and make you healthier. There are other benefits, as well…

Kindness releases feel-good brain chemicals. You feel better when you do something nice because it releases neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins, plus the hormone oxytocin. All of these flood your nervous system with a sense of well-being and satisfaction.

Kindness eases anxiety and stress. Performing kind acts gets your mind off of yourself, as you focus on helping others. It also gives you something positive to do. The satisfaction from helping others bolsters your own sense of well-being.

Kindness improves health. Interestingly, a study of adults aged 57-85, “Productive activities—and frequent volunteering in particular—may protect individuals from inflammation that is associated with increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”

Yet when we dig deeper into the motivation behind acts of kindness, we begin to see how acts of kindness can be performed without empathy. We’ve all read about those who contribute money, just for the notoriety; not because they care about the people that money will help.

For another example, those with Asperger Syndrome (high functioning Autism) need to be taught etiquette and rules, or what I call Rules of Engagement (ROE). (Find an example in this blog post.) Whereas, NTs develop a kind heart as a result of deeply caring for the feelings of others.

Looking at this another way, the Golden Rule is just a rule to our Aspies. It might be a rule they believe in – and will hold us to that rule for their benefit. However, to NTs the Golden Rule is a necessary part of any relationship, because it moves the relationship forward.

Further the Golden Rule is flexible, isn't? We don't always treat others as we wish they would treat us. Rather we, NTs, make discriminations about what we might say or do, based on whether it’s true, necessary, and kind. These decisions require the use of enhanced empathy, to read the subtle cues that occur at the moment of interaction. It's not always kind to just blurt things out, is it? Even if you mean well, some comments are better left unsaid. For Aspies this axiom is a mystery.

I think empathy is one of the main reasons we run into snags with our Aspies. That’s why my free January Teleconference is called: Can Aspies Be Kind Without Empathy? It will be held on Thursday, January 24th at 2:30 PM PT. Once you get it that they can be kind, given the right Rules of Engagement, then it's much easier to navigate your relationship. It's important to understand that you can have empathy, or you can be kind, but empathic kindness…well, that’s part of Radiant Empathy.

Wellness Weekends Provide Recreation with a Purpose

Monday, January 21, 2019

Wellness Weekends Provide Recreation with a PurposeAs people start their New Year, they’re so excited about their new projects. However, it doesn’t take long before their pace starts to slow. They try to keep pushing through, thinking they can’t afford to take time off. Some people even hate to take time off, because it ultimately increases their workload. Can you relate to that?

To keep your expectations more realistic and sustainable, I suggest you schedule in regular Wellness Weekends that refresh yourself, allow you to check in with your progress, and give you the energy to keep going. Here are some suggestions for what you can do:

Take power picnics. Pack brain-health foods, walk to someplace quiet and journal about what you’ve accomplished, what you hope to accomplish and how you’re going to do it. Physical activity in the great outdoors, healthful fuel for your brain, and serene reflection all spark creativity. This really recharges your batteries.

Do it! What part of your self-care have you been putting off? The act of putting something off creates stress in your brain, because it’s always there in the background. Now’s the time to act! Reading a good book, picking up a paint brush, or getting your skis out of the closet may just be the ticket to your weekend adventure.

Disconnect from all electronic devices. Turn off the noise so you can think without distractions.

Cooking with your family. This can be a happy, healthy bonding time. If you’ve never prepared a meal with your family before, be patient and don’t get too uptight. Put on some tunes, find a good recipe, and give it a try!

Create a bedroom spa experience. Pretend you’re at an expensive salon, turn off the phones, light some candles, set out your finest robe, take a relaxing bath, and go to bed early for a quality night’s sleep. If you have a partner, offer to give a massage one night in return for a massage the next.

Ignite your joy. Increase dopamine naturally by engaging in meaningful and beneficial activities. Play with your loved ones. Volunteer to help an elderly neighbor.

Challenge yourself physically. If you want to keep your brain healthy, exercise! Don’t compare yourself to anyone else but yourself. Look for ways to incrementally increase the intensity and duration of your exercise. If you walk ½ mile today, walk ¾ mile tomorrow. If you walk on level ground, find a hill. Walk for 15 extra minutes. Just keep finding ways to challenge yourself to do more. Try something new, like rowing a boat or taking a dance class.

Take a walk down Memory Lane. If it’s been a while since you worked on a scrapbook or photo album, the weekend is a perfect time to preserve and reconnect with your life.

Why not make a pact with yourself and with me right now to schedule at least four Wellness Weekends this year. Come over to my Facebook Page and tell me when you’re going to take them and what you’re going to do.

Entrepreneurial Couples – Focus on This to Live Longer, Happier Lives

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Live Long Happy LifeTo live a long time and to live it happily may sound like an impossible dream. But I’m confident that you have the resources within you to make it happen.

In times past, business moguls sacrificed everything to make it big – their health, their marriages, their family life, and often, their dreams and values. Personal happiness wasn’t even on their radar. They seldom lived long or happily.

Fortunately, entrepreneurs today are learning that you don’t have to be the hard drinking, chain-smoking, chronically stressed executive to be a success. They have discovered the wisdom of common sense self-care practices that are simple, but very powerful!

Since you’ve heard all of this before, I invite you to think deeply about whether your current choices are helping you reach your goal of a long and happy life. If not, pick one of the following suggestions to work on.

1. Don’t smoke. Some people say, if they don’t smoke, they’ll eat and gain weight. Other people claim it’s the only way they cope with stress. You can make excuses or you can find more healthful ways of staying trim and handling stress. It’s your choice.

2. Avoid excesses – alcohol, fat, salt, stress, etc. When you take the time and effort to become more mindful about your choices, you’ll feel better, plus you’ll have the added bonus of feeling empowered, as you take back your life!

3. Maintain a lean body mass index. A person can be in the correct weight range and still be unhealthy, because they haven’t kept their muscles toned. Muscle does weigh more than fat, so focus on feeling toned, rather than checking the scales.

4. Don’t stop learning about yourself. Pursuing more education leads to better habits and healthier lives, if you focus on self-care and resilience skills.

5. Focus on the positive. If you feel your childhood messed you up, switch your focus to what went right. This shift in perspective makes a huge difference in your quality of life. And don’t lose your sense of humor.

6. Build a loving, support network. A loving spouse and trusted friends can heal old wounds. Invite happy people into your live. Remove toxic relationships. You'll become happier when you focus on helping others.

7. Develop Radiant Empathy. Some people call it being socially adept. Others label it as emotional intelligence. I like to describe it as Radiant Empathy. That’s when you can give to others joyously, receiving from others gratefully, and are strong enough to true to yourself.

Which one of these would you like to work on this year? If you’d like my assistance and live in Oregon or Washington, please take advantage of my online therapy. It’s an easy way to learn new strategies and keep yourself motivated.

Surviving Unremitting Grief While Keeping a Tough Relationship Together

Monday, January 07, 2019

Surviving Unremitting Grief When Keeping a Tough Relationship TogetherGrief has so many layers to it. For example, death, divorce, and trauma create their own special types of grief. And while there is a common process we go through, we do it at different times and stages, with differing degrees of intensity.

Some people say there are five stages of grief, while others list up to nine stages of grief. Basically they encompass these stages:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

If all of these stages are not fully processed and extinguished, then grief can lead to other problems. While the above mentioned circumstances are tragic and not to be minimized, there are definite ends that help you start the healing process. You can find closure, as the saying goes.

However, for some people there is no end. They’re in relationships where they choose not to seek a divorce or separation. If you’re in a committed, yet very tough relationship that produces ongoing or unremitting grief, then it becomes a real challenge to preserve your identity and sanity.

There are so many unique levels to grief when you live with loved ones on the Autism Spectrum Disorder Spectrum. Even if they’re high-functioning autistics, their brains won’t let them make the connections that create empathic feelings and behaviors. So when you continue to live with your Asperger partner, you keep triggering the loss. You feel it over and over again. This has been defined as "Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder".

  • There is the grief over the lost dream of a relationship with an empathic partner.
  • There is the grief from chronic verbal abuse.
  • There is the grief of raising your children in the chaos of the relationship.
  • There is the grief of never being able to have a voice in your life.
  • There is even the grief over never being able to help your Aspie know that there is more, so much more to love and relating.

If this describes your situation, I urge you to find a support group. There are relationship survival skills that can help you cope and even thrive in these adverse conditions. Many of my books share real life vignettes of people coming to grips with this issue.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please sign up for the low-cost video conference, “Surviving Unremitting Grief” on Thursday, January 17th at 4:00 PM PT and again on Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 AM PT. Know that you’re not alone; that unremitting grief is a normal outcome of these very tough relationships.

No More Power Struggles in Your ASD/NT Relationship – Is It Possible?

Monday, December 31, 2018

No More Power Struggles in Your ASD/NT Relationship – Is It Possible?There’s a big difference between a relationship where two people have differences as they work as a team toward shared goals and a relationship where the couple fights to “win” and be “right”. The first relationship is marked by love, caring, trust, respect and shared values; the latter is not.

I don't have an easy answer for this question actually. In the past, I’ve written about how entrepreneurial couples can avoid power struggles at work by putting away fears and egos. Yet these suggestions for avoiding power struggles or disengaging when they start just don't seem to work with people on the ASD Spectrum. Their logical mind sees that you are “wrong” and they won't let up until they wear you down. It's as if there's a volcano inside that is overflowing and can't be stopped even when you capitulate.

Autistic power struggles are different than meltdowns. They aren't due to sensory overload or some other emotional disequilibrium that people on the Spectrum experience. Rather it’s their black and white thinking that seems to stump them. They tend to seize on a small point of disagreement and take it to the extreme.

According to a research paper entitled, “When Eros meets Autos: Marriage to someone with autism spectrum disorder” by Rench, Cathryn, Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2014, 264 pages; 3681894, their study revealed:

“Often it is the partner without AS, or neurotypical (NT), who is considered responsible for the relational distress, usually the female due to the heavily male-skewed AS diagnostic ratio of 8:1. There’s a pattern of intimate partner abuse so pervasive that it emerged as the lifestyle of the couples. The five forms of domestic violence (emotional, sexual, psychological, economic, physical) characterized the lived experience of the participants.”

Within these five areas – emotional, sexual, psychological, economic, or physical – where do you feel the biggest power struggle occurs in your marriage, partnership, or relationship? Perhaps identifying this will help you begin regaining the personal power you've given away.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us for the next low-cost video conference, “No More Power Struggles”. It will be held on January 3rd at 2:00 PM PT and again on January 8th at 10:00 AM PT. Let’s use this time to talk more about why our Aspies engage in power struggles, but even more important is how to protect ourselves from these difficult moments.

If the conference is full 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.

Should the Placebo Affect Have a Place in Conventional Medicine?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Research is showing that the Placebo Effect should be used for much more than making clinical trials fair. Did you know that people who regularly attend psychotherapy heal faster, have stronger marriages, and live longer? Our thoughts have tremendous power to influence our state of health and well-being. Since we can change our body chemistry with our thoughts and the Placebo Affect taps into this power, shouldn't we learn to use it ethically?

What is the Placebo Affect or Placebo Response?

According to Webmd, “A placebo is anything that seems to be a "real" medical treatment -- but isn't. It could be a pill, a shot, or some other type of "fake" treatment. What all placebos have in common is that they do not contain an active substance meant to affect health.”

While definitions like this circulate, people will discount the value of the Placebo Affect, since they view it as “fake” medicine. They think that you have to be weak-minded people to be susceptible to its power.

Therefore, you might be surprised that research is showing there are credible reasons for using the Placebo Effect in treatment. In a recent New York Times article, the writer Gary Greenberg reports on a recent conference that sheds light on this controversial subject. He gives some convincing arguments for the efficacy of Placebo Medicine. I especially found the genetic correlation to the Placebo Response intriguing. Also of interest is that researchers using fMRI machines have found consistent patterns of brain activation in placebo responders. There’s obviously more to the Placebo Effect than once thought.

However, the point is that, for whatever reason, the Placebo Effect does have the power to make people feel better. Maybe because we call it placebo, instead of the name of a proper healing method, we find it hard to accept its benefits. An Ancient Greek healer Asklepios built a retreat center in the hills, where Greeks came to heal. He insisted that theater, exercise, diet, and peaceful surroundings were necessary for healing. He also administered medicines and surgeries.

When Hippocrates came along, Asklepios’ was diminished. Now we, in the west, are locked into a regressive healthcare system by corporate insurance interests. The human body has many natural healing mechanisms, if we only encourage people to use them.

If you have a chronic condition that isn’t responding to conventional treatment and you’d like to explore holistic treatments that have proven to be very effective for my clients, 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 Feel Like Life Is Passing You By?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

If not now, WHEN?Throughout our lives, there are times when we have to put our dreams on hold. Perhaps it’s because of paying off debts or suffering from an illness. Oftentimes as a parent, you put your big dreams on hold to give your children the attention they need. Maybe the death of a loved one stops you in your tracks. Whatever the reason, you get sidetracked.

How do you know when it’s time to bring those dreams back to life? One big indicator is if it feel like everyone else is pursuing their dreams, and you’re being left behind. If those feelings are welling up in you, it’s time to take stock of where you are and where you want to be.

Being jealous of what everyone else is doing isn’t a good way to live your life. Being regretful about lost opportunities isn’t healthful either. Neither is settling for the status quo because “you’ve already missed your big chance.” How do you know that for a certainty? Whatever happened in the past is gone. Your time to shine is NOW!

Interestingly, a study published in Nature reveals that people often experience a hot streak at some point in their lives – like the man at the roulette wheel who keeps piling up his winnings, as his number keeps hitting. Or the basketball player who can do no wrong as he dunks ball, after ball, after ball. Or think about the recording artist who makes the big times, with one hit after another.

During our lives and careers, we all have slumps and we have hot streaks. You don’t have to be young to hit a hot streak. A hot streak is not necessarily about being massively productive. It’s more about the quality of your work.

I believe that the keys to success are

1. to follow your dreams,

2. to believe in them and

3. to be persistent even when others don’t support you.

As long as you keep trying, your best work may still be in your future. Never feel like you have nothing left to give.

Is low self-confidence or anxiety holding you back? I can help you find the courage and confidence to follow your dream. 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. If not now, when?

Going Over the Edge? Protect Yourself from ASD Empathy Dysfunction

Monday, December 10, 2018

People with high functioning autism want to have loving relationships. It’s just very challenging for them and their partners, when they can’t connect the dots. As a result, there are some "Not So Ordinary Moments" with our Aspies that are confusing and exhausting, which makes you feel like you're going over the edge. For example, in my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)” I share a true life experience of a married couple I counseled (names changed to protect privacy) that illustrates this point:

Joe and Katrina planned a short trip out of state to attend his mother’s wedding. She had bought airplane tickets for the couple. So they decided to make it into a mini-vacation, with time away from the kids.

A couple of weeks before the wedding, Katrina’s sister was killed in a terrible auto accident. Of course, Katrina wanted to scrap the wedding and stay with her sister’s family. Not only had she lost a sister, Katrina’s children had lost their aunt, and her brother-in-law was in such a state of grief he could hardly function.

Joe, who has Asperger’s, didn’t understand his wife’s feelings. His logical thought was not to waste the airline tickets, since he had already arranged the time off work for the vacation. So he insisted that Katrina go to the wedding. He reasoned that she’d already had a full two weeks to help out her family, so she could leave to go on the wedding trip.

Do you get why Katrina was still upset? Empathy allows you to understand how other people feel. Unfortunately, Autism is a brain disorder that restricts the brain connections that are so necessary to connect empathically with others.

When you’re confronted with ASD disconnect, here are a few principles that will keep you from going over the edge…

1. If it feels like abuse, it is. Even if your Aspie doesn't mean it, your heart, mind and body respond as if it is abuse. Protect yourself.
2. Always believe in yourself. Even if you can't justify your position to your Aspie, you don't have to. Trust that you know what you are talking about and have the right to your opinion.
3. If you can afford it, hire things done. Don't wait for your Aspie to remember to mow the lawn, or whatever. It may not seem fair, but why take it out on your health?
4. Take time out with friends. If you don't have friends after years of Aspie isolation, make friends by joining group activities. It's like rain on the desert to be with other NTs, even those you hardly know.
5. Find a psychologist skilled in NT/ASD relationships who can work with you and won't tell you to adapt!

Because some in my family are on the Spectrum, I understand what you’re going through. If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us for the next free international, teleconference, Going over the edge? Don’t let Aspies grind you down. It will be held on December 13th at 3:00 PM PT. Let’s use the time together to suggest more ways to pull yourself back from the edge.

Don’t Be Blindsided by the Chaos in Your NT/ASD Relationship

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chaos is exactly how the partners in an ASD/NT relationship feel. They both are utterly confused by the other person’s reactions. The NT partner is usually unprepared for the emotional devastation that can result from their Aspie’s logic. And the Aspie partner can’t understand why the NT partner is upset. Chaos is defined as a state of utter confusion. Isn’t that exactly how the partners in an ASD/NT relationship feel? They both are utterly confused by the other person’s reactions. The NT partner is usually unprepared for the emotional devastation that can result from their Aspie’s logic. And the Aspie partner can’t understand why the NT partner is upset.

For example, here is a vignette from the lives of an ASD/NT couple I counseled in the past. Of course, their names have been changed to protect their privacy. See if you can relate to their confusion…

Marilyn, a NT wife and mother of four, was very excited when her Aspie husband, Eddie, finally agreed to spend money on a family vehicle. It was a fairly luxurious van with video screens for the kids in the back seats. Marilyn was so happy.

But then Eddie told her the new van was his to drive to work since they had traded in his car. His reasoned that her car was still in good shape, and he deserved the newer van. Marilyn conceded but asked if Eddie could turn over the van at the end of the work day or on the weekends, so that she could drive the kids to soccer practice and piano lessons. Not exactly what Marilyn had had in mind, but it was an acceptable compromise.

The next weekend she decided to use the new van to run the kids to a soccer match and a birthday party. To her surprise, Marilyn discovered that Eddie had removed all of the seats except for the driver’s seat! His reason? Since it was his car and he needed lots of space to carry all of his stuff, why bother with passenger seats? Zero degrees of empathy.

Rather than capitulating, detaching or compromising when you’re confronted with this type of Empathy Dysfunction, I suggest you prepare yourself to expect it. Somehow it is comforting to me that my life with Aspies is predictably chaotic. By surrendering to the reality that they will never get me – and that I cannot be prepared for every Aspie oddity – I can let things go when they become out of control.

This is an important healing step. We can only do so much, and changing autistics is not one of our gifts or responsibilities. We can't defend against the chaos either. Just about the time we have some well deserved rest, something always flares up, doesn't it?

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, I invite you to sign up for the video conference entitled: CHAOS THEORY – Dr. Kathy’s Definition. It will be held on Tuesday, December 11th and Tuesday, December 18th. In this video conference, we’ll find out how to achieve this state of acceptance, so that we can move on to healing ourselves – not them – but the most important person in your life – YOU!

If you prefer 1:1 counseling and 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.

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