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Kathy Marshack News

Does Your Family Business Need Good Advice?

Monday, February 13, 2017


people holding pieces of a puzzle togetherThere are times in life when we all need good advice. Although you may take pride in your independence and individualism, most of us can agree that the right advice at the right time can save us a lot of heartache. Whether we seek it from a parent, mentor, therapist, or religious leader, we appreciate their insight. Even if the advice seems irrelevant, it might trigger your own thinking to evolve in a constructive direction.
 
What if you run a family business? Who do you go to for advice?
 
Maybe it is just you and your spouse, starting your own entrepreneurial venture as a couple. Or perhaps you have a more established family enterprise that has already been passed down for a couple of generations. Who do you turn to when there are communication problems, underlying tension, conflict over success planning, etc.?
 
After decades consulting with family businesses, I find many business owners are puzzled when their attorney or CPA suggests meeting with me before making important business decisions. What does a psychologist have to do with business? “We don’t need a shrink,” they say.
 
What are the benefits of a psychologist’s expertise when it comes to developing goals and resolving problems in a family business?
 
For entrepreneurial couples, it is important to remember that you are a married couple first, and business partners second. Your business partnership is an expression of the personality and values of you as the founders. If you want to run a successful business, you must prioritize and tend to the personal, emotional, and psychological aspects of your life and relationship before you can make good business decisions. Thus, one of your primary consultants needs to be a psychologist – preferably one familiar with entrepreneurial couples and their specific challenges.
 
When more members of the family are involved in the business, it is even more important to get sound advice. Many family businesses have been around for two or more generations and the children have grown up identifying themselves with the family business. What this means for many family firms is that the business is as much a part of the family as each family member is a part of the business.
 
Family businesses are really families with a business identity. As a psychologist, I have been able to get beneath the surface of some business problems to identify and rectify the emotional snags that are holding things up. There is nothing more frustrating or expensive than taking months to develop a new business strategy, only to have it sit there, going nowhere, because of a family dispute. Without help to work on the underlying issues, family tensions will affect the business.
 
One specific problem that many family firms deal with is a lack of open communication. Many family firms want to have open communication and resolve longstanding disputes. Why is it so hard? Even with the best of intentions, many families in business simply do not have the skills to address and resolve these problems. They need support and guidance by an objective psychologist who is trained in resolving problems within a family business. These are skills that can be learned! Look at it as a vital course in your continuing education program.
 
Do not let the “shrink” stigma hold you back. Rather, think of your psychologist as an integral part of your team of advisors. I have helped many entrepreneurial couples and families in business work together and thrive. If you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Don’t be a Casualty of Social Isolation!

Friday, February 10, 2017


Don’t be a Casualty of Social Isolation!Ironically, while we now have the ability to connect digitally with millions of people around the globe, the problem of social isolation is growing. More and more people are feeling loneliness. Not only is this emotionally devastating but it creates serious health issues such as:

  • disrupted sleep patterns,
  • altered immune systems,
  • inflammation,
  • obesity,
  • higher levels of stress hormone,
  • increased risk of heart disease by 29 percent,
  • increased risk for stroke by 32 percent,
  • accelerated cognitive decline,
  • and premature death.

A recent NY Times article shares some disturbing statistics on social isolation:

40 percent of American adults say they’re lonely, which has doubled since the 1980’s.

One-third of Americans, older than 65, live alone.

Socially isolated individuals have a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, mainly among those who are middle age.

Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors.

The article includes this interesting observation:

“New research suggests that loneliness is not necessarily the result of poor social skills or lack of social support, but can be caused in part by unusual sensitivity to social cues. Lonely people are more likely to perceive ambiguous social cues negatively, and enter a self-preservation mind-set — worsening the problem. In this way, loneliness can be contagious: When one person becomes lonely, he withdraws from his social circle and causes others to do the same.”

How well do you recognize social cues, such as facial expressions? Do you tend to jump to negative conclusions? Negative thinking is not incurable. There’s much you can do to improve your life. It’s never too late to develop a warm social network. Depression, anxiety, and stress are all issues that you can overcome with the aid of a professional. Contact my office if you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area to make an appointment.

Click here to read the entire NY Times article and see how some people are trying to solve the problem of social isolation.

When Does the Brain Reach Maturity?

Monday, February 06, 2017


When does the brain reach maturity?When is a person mature? When is he or she old enough to vote? To date? To get married? To give informed consent? To drink responsibly? Many legal questions depend on a cut and dried answer, but the answer isn’t so easy. Why? Because scientists have found that the brain reshapes itself for years after adolescence, which raises questions about when an adult really is mature in the legal sense.

A recent NY Times article reports one study conducted by Harvard neuroscientist, Leah H. Somerville and another study by Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University. Here are some highlights:

“The human brain reaches its adult volume by age 10, but the neurons continue to change for years after that.

In a child’s brain, neighboring regions tend to work together.

As adolescents age, the connections between neighboring neurons get pruned back, as new links emerge between more widely separated areas of the brain.

By adulthood, distant regions start acting in concert. Neuroscientists speculate that this long-distance harmony lets the adult brain work more efficiently and process more information.

Eventually this reshaping slows, a sign that the brain is maturing.

The reshaping happens at different rates in different parts of the brain.

The pruning in the occipital lobe, at the back of the brain, tapers off by age 20.

In the frontal lobe of the brain, new links are still forming at age 30, and beyond.

Adolescents do about as well as adults on cognition tests, but strong emotions cause their cognitive scores to plummet.”

The maturing of the brain is a complex process. The better we understand it, the better our legislative policies, psychotherapy treatments and even our inter-personal and family relationships will be. Ongoing education is the key to this greater understanding.

I’m committed to providing the highest quality education for professionals who serve families with ASD. Does that describe you? If so, please join my new meetup - Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists. It will prove to be an invaluable resource for you!

Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Autism or Narcissism – How Can You Tell?Autism and Narcissism have something in common. They are both empathy disorders, the result of the individual not having a Theory of Mind. What this means is that they don’t recognize that another person has beliefs, desires, intentions, feelings and perspectives that differ from their own. Empathy is a complex system that requires the brain to connect Emotional Empathy and Cognitive Empathy.

Since Narcissism and Autism display similar traits, how can you tell the difference between Narcissism and Asperger’s?


  • First, Autism is a diagnosis and narcissism is only a trait of many disorders. 
  • Second, not all Autistics are the same since it is a spectrum disorder. 
  • Third, all Autistics are narcissistic since a defining characteristic of Autism is lack of empathy.

It’s important to know that it isn't narcissism per se that defines the Autistic. It is how the Autistic works with their tendency toward narcissism, self-absorption and lack of empathy. If the Autistic takes responsibility for their narcissism and truly wants to repair the rifts that their unempathic behavior creates, then there’s hope for the relationship.

On the other hand, if the Autistic believes that their singular narcissistic worldview is all that matters, then it’s probably irrelevant that they’re diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This person tips toward narcissism and that's how they need to be treated.

If you’ve wasted too much of your precious life trying to accommodate an ASD narcissist, whether it’s a family member, coworker or neighbor, then I invite you to join our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup. We have monthly discussions that will help you deal with this crazy making life.


Our next free international teleconference: How is Autism different than Narcissim? will be held on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 2:30 PM. You’ll find out how to distinguish whether it’s narcissism or Autism that you’re dealing with. That makes all the difference in how you’ll respond.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.

7 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur Should Keep a Journal

Monday, January 30, 2017


why entrepreneurs should keep a journalWhat do many highly successful entrepreneurs have in common? Many of them keep a journal. Now you may be thinking, I’m extremely busy juggling a million other things, how can I possibly find time to journal?

Once you see the benefits of journaling you just might be motivated to make the time. It’s a tool that will empower your life in unexpected ways and fuel your professional and personal success.

Here are seven reasons why even the busiest entrepreneur should consider making time to journal:

1. It is well known that visualization is a key to a successful business, or any success for that matter. How does journaling help you visualize? When you write something on paper you clarify and prioritize what you want. This process makes your ideas and visions more concrete, which helps you to achieve them.


2. By putting “pen to paper” so to speak, you engage your creative process. Creativity is a must for entrepreneurs if they want to stay one step ahead of the competition. Journaling can help you create new ideas, especially if you write down any thought that crosses your mind, without editing yourself along the way.

3. Journaling engages your whole brain. When writing, your brain is using the left side for the analytical aspects of writing, which frees up the right side of your brain for creative thinking. Journaling is a process that engages your whole brain, and many times new ideas are the result.

4. Journaling can help you with your self-confidence. When you write about a positive experience your brain re-lives the experience. We often tend to ruminate more on negative experiences. So write about a huge win in your business! Whenever you reread your entry you will be releasing endorphins and dopamine back into your brain giving your self-esteem a boost, maybe when you will need it most.

5. Journaling helps you to track your progress. Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of their business. You’re constantly learning, adjusting and fine-tuning as you go along. You may not realize how far you’ve come! Being able to write down what you have learned and are learning can be a big motivator as you go through rough spots in your business.

6. Journaling can strengthen your self-discipline. It can be a struggle to sit down every day and write in your journal, and doing so requires self-discipline. But just like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Forming good habits in one area of your life have a tendency to spread to other areas. You will find that your daily practice of writing will domino into the creation of other healthy habits.

7. Writing is a well-known stress reliever. Journaling can help you not only to express your feelings, but also to interpret and learn to work through them. Anyone who has tried to start a business knows that it can be stressful, but journaling could be your secret weapon to managing stress and improving your health.

So keeping a journal has many benefits, some obvious and some not so obvious. Just remember that patience is the key to being successful when keeping a journal, but if you make the effort you are sure to be rewarded. If you would like to learn other strategies that will help you achieve success in your personal and professional life contact my Portland OR/ Vancouver WA office for an appointment.

How Different Are Men and Women on the Spectrum?

Friday, January 27, 2017


How Different Are Men and Women on the Spectrum? It comes as no surprise that men and women are different. At the best of times, relationships can be challenging just because of the differences in upbringing and background. That’s why there are endless numbers of books written on the subject of relationships and how to figure out the opposite sex. But when you throw Asperger’s or ASD into the mix, it gets really confusing! And even more challenging, are the relationships where the NT (neuro-typical) mate doesn’t even realize that their spouse is on the Spectrum!

Does gender really make that much difference in a NT/AS relationship? Does a wife with Asperger’s cause a NT husband more heartache than an AS husband causes for his NT wife? And will a NT husband be stronger and more able to deal with the emotional neglect than a NT wife?

Truthfully, when it comes right down to it, an Aspie, whether male or female, will make you feel lonely, confused and quite possibly even depressed. It’s how we learn to handle our Aspies that makes a difference in the quality of our lives. This is where we see individual differences.

That’s why I’ve created the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD group to be a safe place for men and women to meet and freely discuss their lives with the Aspies. (If you’re a NT with an AS family member, please feel free to join our Meetup group. There’s no charge.) If you’re a member, please join our free international teleconference on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 9:00 AM to discuss the topic: How different are men and women on the Spectrum? We’ll be speaking about how gender plays a part in NT/AS relationships AND how your Aspie’s parenting style affects your male and female children.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.

Are 50+ Single Women Disadvantaged Psychologically?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Are 50+, Single Women Disadvantaged Psychologically?While some women have juggled career and family successfully, other women have pursued careers and, because they are so busy, they haven’t pursued opportunities for romantic partnerships. Does this put them at a psychological disadvantage? Common wisdom says, “yes”. But that’s not true according to a recent study by Matthew Wright and Susan Brown of Bowling Green University,

According to an article in Psychology Today, they found that the perception that “married people are given the most benefits and are valued and respected the most” is true. In the hierarchy of the way we value romantic relationships, cohabiters come in second place, followed by dating, single people. Single people without romantic partners, however, are stigmatized.

The authors began their research thinking that, “the psychological well-being would follow the same hierarchy, with married people enjoying the most and single people the least.” But that’s not what they found. Romantic partnership status made no difference whatsoever for the women and not much for the men.

Men and women can forge many supportive social connections aside from romantic ones. Close friends, church acquaintances, support groups and relatives can supply the social ties that we all need. And that’s what seems to matter the most when it comes to feeling less depression, stress, and loneliness.

Isn’t it good to have this added reassurance that singleness doesn’t doom us to psychological harm? But what if you are ready to explore romance but you’re too afraid to get started? Or you have started dating but have been unsuccessful thus far? If you’re ready to explore this area of your life and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can create a plan for you.

Read more on my website: Advice for Singles.

6 Strategies to Make a Change in Your Career Path Payoff

Monday, January 23, 2017


Start written on road leading toward sunrise or sunsetSo, you’re ready for a career change. What led you to that decision? Are you feeling unsatisfied or trapped in your current position? Did you recently finish up some schooling? Have you been laid-off and are struggling with unemployment?
 
Whatever your reason, changing careers can be scary. I’ve counseled and coached many people through this transition and I’ve discovered there are some things you can do to simplify the process and overcome some of the challenges you face.
 
Here are six strategies I recommend to make a successful change in your career:
 
Don’t rush things, especially if you are dealing with unemployment. Being unemployed understandably causes anxiety and can leave you feeling panicked and desperate. Give yourself a few weeks to come to grips with this unexpected change. Use the time to consider where you want to go next in your life. Once the sting wears off, you can move on to the serious work of re-evaluating your priorities and finding a job that best uses your talents.
 
Examine your inner self. Whatever your reason for switching career paths, take some time to really look inside yourself and gain a deeper awareness of who you really are. Sometimes we are under so much pressure to excel, to meet other people’s expectations, or to pay the bills that we lose touch with who we are inside. Reflect on your past experiences, where you’ve been and what you’ve learned. What do you still want to learn?
 
Self-exploration is an important part of the process. We are all multi-layered, multi-talented people. These talents can be applied to many different positions, not just one. To learn more about yourself and what positions will best utilize your skills, research other professions and experiment with them. See if there are opportunities to shadow a person working in a field you are you interested in.
 
Ask others for help. Tell them what you are looking for. Ask them what strengths and talents they value in you. It is a good idea to ask them for names of people who may be in a positon to help you. When you reach out in this way, you are sending the message that you are valuable. An added bonus is that people, especially those who love you, like to help! Helping makes them feel important and needed, especially when they are needed by a competent individual with the courage and humility to ask.
 
Focus your search. As you research other fields, start to narrow your options. Success will hinge on finding a career that is compatible with your personal qualities and goals. When considering a job option, make sure it meets your criteria.
 
Make a decision and stick with it! Don’t wait too long, getting trapped in an endless cycle of “What ifs.” Once you’ve found your new job or career, evaluate your decision. Do you feel good about the move? What would you do differently next time? What factors contributed to your success?
 
Remember that not everyone wants or needs a major change. Some people want a smaller shift in their career path. If the prospect of changing careers completely is so daunting that your stomach is churning, you can’t sleep, or you have a constant headache, your body is trying to tell you to forgo the risk. Instead, try to find value in what you already do. Focus on how you help people or what you enjoy about your current job. Find balance in your life by maintaining out-of-office relationships and interests.
 
If you decide to go ahead with changing your job, you will experience some level of insecurity and apprehension. Try to think of the uncertainty as an opportunity for growth and learning. Instead of trying to control or eliminate it, view this uncertain time as a necessary part of your transition. Let yourself experience the feelings and work through them naturally.
 
You may decide that you would benefit from professional assistance with your career planning. I can help you get to know yourself and your priorities so you can make the best decision for where you are now. If you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

5 Ways to Ensure That a Mid-Life Change Doesn’t Turn Into a Crisis

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Businessman jumping from one rock to anotherWe’ve all heard about the stereotypical “mid-life crisis,” a time when people act out their frustrations with life in seemingly crazy ways. Maybe you know someone who dropped a lot of money on a pricey convertible, had an affair, or walked away from a perfectly good job. Or maybe an entrepreneur who took an uncalculated risk or decided to start three new businesses at once. Perhaps this risky behavior secretly sounds somewhat alluring to you?

What is it about the period of mid-life that causes some people to react so “crazy”?

It ultimately boils down to a feeling of panic when you’re lacking a sense of purpose. It usually takes a while to reach this point. Most people start to suffer from lack of energy and creativity. They think about dreams left behind and start to long for something different. They get anxious and unsettled. Feelings of being unfulfilled and unhappy with their home and business life start to creep in.

The crisis or transformation that is occurring during this stage of life involves reevaluating one’s life and mission. Those pursuits or accomplishments that seemed so important in earlier years are no longer challenging or appealing. At this time, people are looking for new ways to make or find meaning in their lives because they want to make the most of the second half of their life.

A mid-life crisis happens when the different aspects of a person’s life interacts to produce conflict, confusion, change, reorganization, and, ultimately, growth. Their own life, family developments, and entrepreneurial pursuits converge and results in change. To deal with these exterior changes, the entrepreneur in their mid-life must change and grow too.

How can you ensure that this life change doesn’t become a dramatic crisis? Here are 5 ways to make this transition gracefully:

1. It is critical to reclaim your sense of purpose. People with a strong sense of purpose live longer, happier, more fulfilling lives than their peers who feel aimless. Find what brings you joy and gives you a reason to live. Take time to learn new things and start new interests to keep your brain active and interested.

2. Stay connected with your partner, family and friends. If business pursuits have kept you away, or life in general has kept you apart, make the effort to reconnect. These are the people who truly love and support you.

3. Cultivate a grateful attitude. Gratitude has a greater effect on your emotions than you realize. Having a grateful attitude is linked to less stress and anxiety, better physical health, and greater satisfaction in life and relationships. Take note of what you are grateful for and express gratitude when you can.

4. Give back to your community. This can be by donating to charity, getting involved in your church, or volunteering with a non-profit. It helps you regain your sense of purpose when you are part of something bigger than yourself.

5. Take time to exercise and stay healthy. Part of staying healthy is having fun. Don’t take yourself, life, even your business, too seriously. View life with some levity, and it will help you avoid that panicked, crisis feeling.

The mid-life is an exciting time, personally and professionally. It is definitely a transition, but remember that transitions can be good. You just have to be aware of the transition, what to expect, and how to cope. If you need some help with this new stage of your life and business, and you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office to set up an appointment.

What Happens When There are Two Entrepreneurs in the Family?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Couple sitting in bed looking at their laptopsYou run your own business. Years of blood, sweat, and tears have resulted in a successful business enterprise. Yes, it's challenging but you love it. But how about when your partner is an entrepreneur as well – with their own business? It’s a blessing and a curse.
 
It’s a blessing because you have a lot in common. It’s a curse because you have a lot in common!
 
Dual-entrepreneur families are unlike other types of entrepreneurial families. “Solo-entrepreneurs” own and manage a business. They could have a supportive partner who helps out with the business part-time, or offers support in other ways. “Co-preneurs” are partners who both own and manage a joint business venture. “Dual-entrepreneurs” own and manage separate businesses.
 
Why is this distinction important? Being an entrepreneur, and living with an entrepreneur, are both difficult, but for entirely different reasons. When both partners in a relationship run their own separate businesses, they each experience the full effect of both their own entrepreneurship and living with another person’s entrepreneurial spirit.
 
In the case of the solo-entrepreneur and the co-preneurial couple, the family has only one business to maintain. With co-preneurial couples, partners get to work together. The dual-entrepreneurial couple has twice the workload. They work long, hard hours, and they do it alone. 
 
They also face double the anxiety and uncertainty that naturally comes with entrepreneurship. It is not easy to face these uncertainties in your own business, but it can become frightening and discouraging when your partner is facing the same uncertainties with their career.
 
Starting two businesses at the same time is like having twins.
 
To mitigate some of the stress of the dual-entrepreneur lifestyle, I recommend that couples take care to space out the start of their ventures. Timing is always important. Anyone who has had twins can tell you that raising two babies at one time is not simply twice the work; it is so much more than that, physically and emotionally. Most dual-entrepreneurial couples that I have worked with achieve the greatest success in both their businesses and marriages when they do not try to develop two entrepreneurial ventures at the same time.
 
Another challenge to dual-entrepreneurial couples is communicating and working together as a couple, instead of as a business. Entrepreneurs respond to challenges and attack opportunities in ways that don’t always translate well when dealing with personal and family issues. When you come home, treat your spouse as a partner, not an employee or competitor. You are on the same team. Be your partner’s cheerleader, friend, and confidant.
 
It is necessary that partners step away from their businesses sometimes and make time for each other. I suggest that couples take at least 15 minutes a day, maybe in the morning over a cup of coffee, to engage in meaningful conversation without distractions. Distractions include your cell phone and tablet. Talk to your partner, not about business, but about deeper things that help you connect as a couple.
 
Dual-entrepreneurial couples spend so much time apart, working hard at their separate businesses, that it becomes even more necessary to schedule time to reconnect as a couple. Notice the word “schedule.” Successful entrepreneurial couples realize that spontaneous dates and waiting for the “right moment” probably won’t happen. Rather, they plan for love to happen and be sustained.
 
Dual-entrepreneurship can be an ideal way of life for two competitive, driven people. Through genuine love and support, couples can survive and thrive in this high-stress environment. I have worked with many couples as they navigate the path of dual-entrepreneurship. If you need some guidance as you start down this path, or if you are encountering trouble along the way, and you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.


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