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Kathy Marshack News

The Prison of Loneliness – It’s Time to Stage a Jailbreak!

Monday, May 21, 2018


The Prison of Loneliness – It’s Time to Stage a JailbreakDo you know someone who is wrongfully imprisoned? From personal experience, I can tell you it’s a frighteningly traumatic experience to be held in a literal jail without cause; to have no one who listens or supports you; to feel totally abandoned. (You can read about the three times I was falsely arrested in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”) But the prisoner to whom I’m referring could be your next door neighbor who is a work-at-home entrepreneur, your widowed and elderly aunt, your sister married to an Aspie, your coworker living with an abusive partner, the clerk at the grocery store from another country…many people today are wrongfully in a prison of loneliness.

Your first reaction might be, “well, they just need to get out more and try harder.” But it’s not as easy as getting over a little bit of “cabin fever.” The bars of their prison may come from a lifetime of rejection, ostracism or abuse. Not only are there deep psychological wounds, but their plight also leads to physical pain and illnesses that further add to their social isolation. They become too weak to fight anymore. They give up.

Dr. Cacioppo, one of the founding fathers of social neuroscience, likened loneliness to hunger. A New York Times, in remembrance of him at his recent death, highlighted some of the profound things he’s taught us:

  • “About one in four Americans are lonely, without any confidants, and that social isolation results in negative emotional and physical consequences.”
  • “Chronic loneliness increases the odds of an early death by 20 percent, which is about the same effect as obesity, though obesity does not make you as miserable as loneliness.”
  • “Being with others doesn’t mean you’re going to feel connected, and being alone doesn’t mean you’re going to feel lonely.
  • “If the only acceptance you can get of yourself is a fake representation on the web, that’s not going to make you feel connected.”
  • “Being lonely is not the same as being alone.”

Loneliness causes people to turn their attention inward. They start second guessing themselves. Their minds race to the darkest possible conclusions.

What can we do? It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Really notice everyone you encounter.
  • Smile and say “hello” to each one.
  • Even if something about their situation makes you uncomfortable, acknowledge them as a fellow human deserving of dignity.
  • Listen with your whole being, when they speak.
  • Make a phone call, send a text or card to remind someone you value them.
  • Rather than having a critical attitude, look for the best in others and give praise when possible.

Being empathic, you “see” the plight and it moves you to do what you can. Are you the sort of person who fears getting involved, because it feels too draining? This indicates you still have room to improve your empathy skills; for the highest form of empathy, radiant empathy, lets you feel for others without confusing their pain or thoughts with your own.

I’m delighted to announce that developing Radiant Empathy will be the focus of my upcoming membership site. If this excites you as much as it does me, please sign up for my newsletter to receive notification of when it’s available.

The Chemistry of Friendship – What Explains It?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Why do we “click” with certain people? Often our friendships are based on commonalities, but science reveals our genes and brain chemistry play a part, too. Why are you friends with one person, but not with another? What makes us “click” with only certain individuals? It’s true that often our choice of friendship is based on things we have in common, such as age, race, religion, socioeconomic status, education, or politics. And science reveals that our genetic makeup influences our choice of friends to a certain degree. Now a recent New York Times article reports on research that shows it also a matter of chemistry…brain chemistry, that is.

After studying the social network among a class of 279 graduate students, researchers found that friends resemble each other in the actual structure of their brains.

As the group watched video clips, the researchers took MRI scans, which revealed that the brain’s neural activity was similar among the people who were friends. The scans showed their brains actually responded to video clips in the same way. Researchers could predict the strength of a social bond based on observing these brain scans. That’s amazing! I’d love to see this test applied to people with Empathy Dysfunction. I wonder what it would show.

Living without friendship is as damaging as other health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking. One research project shows that social isolation elevates fibrinogen, a protein associated with inflammation and chronic disease.

Why not call or text a friend right now and meet them sometime this week? Not only will you have fun. It’s also good medicine for your physical, emotional and mental health! Never be “too busy” for your friends. A close friend is a priceless treasure.

There's a wise saying, "to have a friend, you have to be a friend." People who cultivate radiant empathy have strong, lasting friendships. I’ll show you how to cultivate greater empathy in my book, “When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.” Not only will your social life improve, but you’ll also have the skills to protect yourself from any toxic relationships you encounter.

2 Words Guaranteed to Make Anyone Feel Better – Do You Use Them Often?

Monday, May 14, 2018


Two words in the English language can brighten anyone’s day. Because they’re so powerful, we shouldn’t take them for granted. You can use them to make yourself and others feel better. However, we’re hearing them used less often, which is a shame, since they can make so many facets of life better.I know two words in the English language that can brighten anyone’s day. Would you like to know what they are? For a few moments longer, I’m going to keep you in suspense, in order to stress their importance.

A recent New York Times article reminded me that we shouldn’t take for granted these simple words, because they are very powerful. You can use them to make yourself and others feel better. However, perhaps like me, you’re hearing them less often. For example, when someone holds a door for me (getting rare in itself), and I say “Thank you,” I can see that's not what they expected to hear. Yes, those are the two words…“Thank You!”

In the article, Tim Herrera refers to a recent challenge he gave his readers – do something that they’ve been putting off. Not surprisingly, some people responded that their one thing was an everyday life task. What did surprise him was how many people were moved to express long-overdue gratitude to people in their lives and how it profoundly moved them.

This article led me to reflect on what I’ve written previously about the power of gratitude. For your convenience, here is a roundup of some of my best:

What Our Words are Really Saying

Benefits to Forgiving and Forgetting

Neuroscience Proves Gratitude Is Good for You!

Reasons Why You Should Cultivate a Grateful Attitude

Four Easy Ways to Give Your Mood and Your Health a Boost

How to Change the Conversation at Work to be More Positive

Are You Managing Your Anxiety or Is Your Anxiety Managing You?

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

6 Things Resilient Business Owners Never Do – Even on Very Bad Days

Tap into the Science and Power of Gratitude to Become Happier and More Resilient

Want to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions? Forget Willpower! Focus on Love Instead

As you scan this list, isn’t it interesting to see the different facets of life gratitude affects? If this article moves you to say an overdue thank you, please come over to my Facebook page and tell us how it impacts you and the recipient. I’m still pondering why the practice of saying “thank you” is fading. Do you think it’s because parents aren’t teaching their children the importance of it? Or do you think there’s another reason? Could it be another sign of Empathy Dysfunction? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

Adoptive Mothers ARE Real Mothers

Wednesday, May 09, 2018


Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet time for adoptive mothers. I know it is for me for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t help when people say thoughtless, insensitive things that imply that adoptive mothers aren’t “real” moms and that adopted children aren’t loved or wanted by their biological mothers.For adoptive mothers everywhere – wishing you a wonderful, love-filled Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet time for adoptive mothers. I know it is for me. You can’t know what it's like to be the mother of an adopted child, unless you’re also an adoptive mother. Although my two adoptive daughters physically resemble my husband and myself, we never considered hiding it from them. They grew up knowing their adoption stories.

Being an adoptive mother isn’t easy, and sometimes you have to develop a thick skin. Although it’s been years, I still remember some of the insensitive things that people said to me…

  • “Is she yours?”
  • “Where did you get her?”
  • “Didn’t her real parents want her?”
  • “How could someone give away such a pretty child?”
  • “Where is her real mom?” 
  • “Just be glad you didn’t have to go through pregnancy and childbirth.”
  • “I’d be so afraid she’ll leave and go back to her real family. Aren’t you worried about that?”

Well-meaning questions can lead to interesting and educational conversations, which I happily entertain. But often people are just thoughtlessly curious, not realizing the hurt they leave in their wake.

Along with these external pressures, our lives were complicated because my girls came into my life as traumatized babies, separated from their birth mothers. I sang to them. I swaddled them. I slept with them resting on my breast. I told them how beautiful and amazing they were. I sometimes think I love my adopted children more since they were so much more work.

But I couldn't heal the wound of separation from their biological connection. As a result my daughters are in a kind of love limbo. Their head tells them that I love them. Their heart tells them they are forsaken.

I have not seen my daughters in years, as they stick to their resolve that I’m the source of their distress. I hope they’ll eventually realize that we still have time to reunite and live in harmony.

I’ve written about those tumultuous years in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” in the hopes of helping others who confront similar experiences. Originally it was entitled: “No One Calls Me Mom Anymore,” because much of it centers on the lessons I’ve learned from being a mother. But that soon became the title for first chapter, which you can download for free here.)

Today I focus on the blessing I have and the God-given ability to rise to the level of abundant Radiant Empathy. Dozens of people call me “Mom,” including young friends and clients. I am blessed and proud to be Mom and Grandma to those who need me and genuinely love me. So I’m going to enjoy my Mother’s Day and I hope you do too.

Read more on my website: Adoptive Families.

How Do You Survive the Loneliness in Your NT/AS Family?

Monday, May 07, 2018


The loneliness we feel when in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome is indescribable. Even Aspie children can contribute to this feeling. We know we love them. They say they love us. Yet there’s this deep, profound loneliness, the source of which we must discover in order to combat itThere is something ineffable about the loneliness we feel when in a relationship with an Aspie. Even our Aspie children can contribute to this feeling. Even though we know that we love them; even though they say they love us; there is this deep, profound loneliness nevertheless.

To be perfectly honest with you, I still feel lonely on a daily basis. I know it's not reasonable, since I have such abundance in my life. Nevertheless, spending decades of my life with those unable to acknowledge me, understand me, or connect with me, has left me longing for the sense that I am loved and belong. My head tells me I am wrong about my loneliness, but my heart tells me differently.

When you search the Internet, you’ll see numerous articles and resources for people with Asperger’s who feel lonely. Those with Asperger's have trouble fulfilling the basic human need of bonding and connecting, so it’s not surprising that they feel lonely. Because of this, I help my Asperger clients develop rules for engagement, so their families can thrive, despite these challenges.

But there’s still not much out there for family members who live with an Aspie. We depend on family to provide warmth, belonging, acceptance, respect and value. That’s lacking in NT/AS families. On the outside, everything looks normal, so friends don’t understand, which adds to the loneliness you feel.

Do you find that you suffer in silence, because there isn’t a safe place to talk about your loneliness? I understand. That’s why I’ve created a safe and supportive space for members of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group. Are you ready to reach out? I invite you to join my next Video Conference: Surviving the Loneliness on Wednesday, May 9th or Tuesday, May 22. It will help you identify the source of this loneliness and how to combat it. One powerful way to combat the loneliness is to participate in our conference call and share our experiences.

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


A Mother’s Love Can Change the World

Wednesday, May 02, 2018


Mother's Love can change the worldThere is nothing fiercer than a momma bear protecting her cub. She does it out of instinct. We do it out of love. It’s a powerful force – mother’s love. Mothers daily step out of their comfort zone to fight for and protect their children.

Recently in the New York Times, James McBride wrote a tribute to one of America’s most notable mothers – former first lady Barbara Bush. Family always came first with her. As her children became adults, she channeled her energies into fighting ignorance and illiteracy for her extended family, the children in America. She knew that literacy and knowledge can change the world. And she wanted to create a better world for her family and ultimately every family alive. She did succeed in bettering the lives of many.

Reflecting on her life makes me think of how proud I am to be a mother. I can relate to her fierce determination to champion not only her children, but others as well. Don’t let anyone tell you that mother’s love is a bond created only at the time of birth. We adopted our two girls, and my mother’s love is as strong today as it was the moment I knew they were mine.

It’s the power of a mother’s love that pushed me to write my book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS." I realize now that my greatest strength and my greatest vulnerability stem from motherhood. I am a mom—proud, loving and fearless in protecting my children. I thoroughly enjoyed the years of piano lessons, Girl Scouts, camping at the beach, and chasing bubbles and balloons in the backyard. Our summer road trips to national parks, such as Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone and Olympic, remain some of my fondest memories.

Motherhood was what kept me going during the years-long barrage of attacks. It also turned out to be my Achilles’ heel. Neighbors and police hurled accusations and employed downright hateful actions against my two daughters. Essentially, the three of us were living in a mental and emotional (and sometime physical) war zone, land mines all around. (You can download part of the story here.) One by one, the girls left, presumably to live where they’d feel safe. They cut off contact with me as well.

I knew I might never see my children again, so I threw myself into my work as a practicing psychologist and healer. I had to do more than survive. I needed to find meaning in my life again. As I tried to make sense of everything, my deductions inspired me to develop the Empathy Dysfunction (EmD) Scale. It’s a tool to help us gauge how much empathy (from a lot to none) is at work in the people who frequent our lives; hence, better know how to interact with them. I didn’t set out with a psychological scale in mind, it just kind of happened. I believe it is my mission to bring you this new way of perceiving how feelings are, or aren’t, shared.

I pray that my daughters, grandson, and I will be reunited—and even live in harmony. It’s ironic that I received a text last year from a young client who said, “You deserve a great Mother’s Day! Your children are darned lucky to have you for a mom.” So to all the mothers out there I want to say, “Don’t ever give up. You can make a difference in the world.”

How Gender Imbalance Affects Business, Politics and the Home

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


How Gender Imbalance Affects Business, Politics and the HomeWhen was the last time you saw a man patiently listen to a woman without over talking or interrupting her? It’s remarkably uncommon. And even if he listens, how open is he to her ideas? Are they readily accepted or are they dismissed as ridiculously impractical?

Even in this enlightened age, the plight of women today is appalling. Some cultures still allow men to treat them as possessions that they freely abuse and kill without any repercussions.

Much has been in the U.S. news of late about women being victims of gender inequality. The #METOO Movement and the following examples highlight some of the problems we, as women, face.

Uber director, Arianna Huffington, urged the board to increase the number of women employees, however fellow director, David Bonderman, wisecracked that would mean more talking. He soon resigned.


Senator Kamala Harris was interrupted twice during the questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Senator John McCain interrupted and chided her. Soon thereafter, Senator and Committee Chairman, Richard Burr cut her off, saying her time had elapsed.

I applaud women who bravely speak out about the abuse they experience. Having spent my life advocating for others, I know how much courage it takes.

What gender-biased behaviors need to change? Here is a sampling:

  • A woman is interrupted and talked over by a man.
  • A man claims a woman’s idea as his own, after denigrating her idea as ridiculous, when she proposed it.
  • A man totally ignores a woman’s point of view.
  • A service provider ignores a woman customer, talking only to the man with her.
  • A man gets angry and he’s rewarded, a woman gets angry and she’s vilified as hysterically incompetent or a *itch.

These are all symptoms of Empathy Dysfunction. As a woman, I was an easier target for the folks who came after me, in my own home. (You can read the details in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”) But there were a few special people who heard and believed me. Notably was one man, Ed Snook, Publisher of the US~Observer. I wouldn’t have written my book if it weren’t for him and his staff. It was the amazing work of these investigative journalists that finally convinced people to believe my story. They poured over the facts, making sure of accuracy at every turn. Without them, I might be sitting in prison. Their fearless determination to expose government corruption enabled me to reclaim my life.

If you’d like a sample chapter from my book, you can download the first chapter for free here. You’re not going to believe this really happened…but it did! When you read the entire book, you’ll learn how we can increase our ability to feel and express empathy more fully, so we no longer tolerate destructive behaviors, like gender imbalance.

15 Reasons Why Self-Compassion Is Better than Self-Confidence

Monday, April 23, 2018


While this has some merit, if you want long-term benefits, you’ll fare better cultivating self compassion. The more you develop it, the happier you’ll be. Here are 15 reasons why…“Fake it ‘til you make it.” Have you been given that bit of advice, when you weren’t feeling so confident? While it may have some short-term merit, if you want long-term benefits, you’ll do better with cultivating self compassion.

When you’re self-confident, you may start believing your own hubris, until it turns into overconfidence, which can lead to terrible life choices and decisions. Self-compassion, on the other hand, doesn’t have a downside. The more you develop it, the happier you’ll be. Here are 15 reasons why self-compassion is better:

  1. Self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations.
  2. Self-compassion allows you to see yourself more objectively.
  3. Self-compassion keeps it real; you don’t have to fake it or pretend.
  4. Self-compassion makes feedback easier to take, because you know you’re not perfect, and you don’t have to be.
  5. Self-compassion makes you more accepting of yourself and others – you don’t need to play the blame game any more.
  6. Self-compassion makes self-forgiveness possible, so you can quit ruminating about negative things.
  7. Self-compassion makes you more open to learning and improving, because you know you don’t know everything. 
  8. Self-compassion allows you to hear the critic in your head and treat it as a friend who is trying to keep you safe.
  9. Self-compassion makes it easier to empathize with others.
  10. Self-compassion makes you less critical, because you focus on the positive.
  11. Self-compassion makes you more caring and supportive.
  12. Self-compassion allows you to treat yourself with the same kindness you show a loved one.
  13. Self-compassion allows you to be patient with yourself, as you strive to do better.
  14. Self-compassion makes you more resilient.
  15. Self-compassion helps you be more tolerant of yourself and others.

Of all these benefits, I think fine-tuning your empathy is the most remarkable benefit of all. The average person has abundant empathy, and they’re EmD-4 on my EmD scale. (Learn more about this scale in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS”) Because of their heightened sensitivity to others, Em-D-4s respond with care, tenderness, and nurturing—sometimes too much. Setting and keeping boundaries is not easy for many them. They react as if another person’s suffering is something they should personally take on and fix.

Those who develop Radiant Empathy (EmD-5 – the highest level of empathy) become more resilient. They don’t make codependent-style mistakes, because they’re good at reading others’ intentions and feelings while, at the same time, holding constant an awareness of themselves as separate from others. EmD-5s can detach from the games others play yet keep constant in their love—for themselves—and others. What a wonderful byproduct of self-compassion.

If you want to stay up-to-date on the best ways to increase your empathy and become an EmD-5, please sign up for my Enriching Your Life newsletter. It’s delivered to your inbox twice a month. You’re going to love it!

Do You Know Your Brain Type? Take Dr. Amen’s Assessment

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Do You Know Your Brain Type? Take Dr. Amen’s AssessmentDo you like taking quizzes to learn more about yourself? Dr. Daniel Amen has a fascination Brain Health Assessment that determines your brain type. He says that “knowing your brain type will help you make specific lifestyle changes to optimize your brain, sharpen focus, and increase energy.” Sounds good!

This free quiz will ask you questions about being organized, distracted, attention span, patience, losing train of thought, ability to delay gratification, memory, diet, anxiety, exercise, quality of relationships, and more.

Rather than racing through it, I recommend you use a notebook and take notes, as you deeply think about your answer to each question. Pay special attention to the areas you find difficult or the ones that you know need to be improved. Then do some research and think about how you can improve your brain and you life.

After you finish, why not ask someone who knows you well to answer the questions for you, to see if he or she agrees with your results. That will reveal any blind spots you might have.

Yes, you will have to give your email address to receive the full assessment, but I trust Dr. Amen completely. In the past he did SPECT scans on my daughters, and his recommendations were extremely helpful. Plus you can unsubscribe at any time.

Immediately after entering your email, you’ll go to a page with a partial summary of your assessment. It also offers you some paid services on the assessment page. But the real goodies are delivered into your inbox.

The full report gives you your brain type – there are 16! And you’ll find your brain assessment, grading you on the following seven areas:

  • Brain Health
  • Sleep
  • Memory
  • Exec Function
  • Inner Peace
  • Mood
  • Flexible Thinking

Then you’ll see personalized recommendations for your brain type in eight different areas that affect your brain health.

As in any assessment tool, the goal is to become more aware of what you’re doing and how you can improve. Assessments like this are used by thousands of medical and mental health professionals around the world. Of course, you should always talk with your healthcare professional before making any changes.

To make lasting changes, many people need to enlist the help of a professional. There’s no shame in that. The only shame would be if you fail to seek help when you need it. 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.

Take Dr. Daniel Amen’s Brain Health Assessment

How to Turn Adversities into Transformational Experiences

Monday, April 16, 2018


After an adversity or challenging situation, we’re often advised to “give it some time, and you’ll bounce back.” But I’d like to challenge you. Rather than being satisfied with “bouncing back,” learn to use your setbacks as opportunities to grow and make a difference in the lives of those around youIt’s inevitable. At some point, you will face challenging circumstances. In that moment, it will feel like life is crumbling around you…that you’ll never be happy again. Reassuringly, that’s part of a normal process. The big decision in that moment is how are you going to handle it? Will you retreat, hang on, or blaze ahead?

We’re often advised to “give it some time, and you’ll bounce back.” But I’d like to challenge you. Rather than being satisfied with “bouncing back,” learn to use your setbacks as opportunities to grow and make a difference in the world around you.

How can you turn adversity into a transformational experience? It calls for developing resiliency and fully participating in the following six stages. (Remember, there are no shortcuts.)

1. Build a comfort zone. We all establish systems for life…what we eat, how we dress, when we exercise, how we pay our bills and so much more. During the calm, we need to mindfully build a safe space that gives us the courage to face the world.

2. Experience disruption. It is gut wrenching to face adversities. That’s normal and natural. The key is to fully engage with your emotions, without trying to block them out. Everyone feels discomfort and pain at this stage. It doesn’t help to pretend everything is all right.

3. Feel out of control. For a time, you’ll struggle to make sense of your new situation. If you’re not careful, you might start retreating from life, drowning your feelings in non productive ways, like mindless TV watching or substance abuse. You may go through denial and grief, as you come to grips with your new reality. It’s important to be kind to yourself, allowing yourself to adjust. Reach out to others for a dispassionate point of view, which will help you guard against overdramatizing or imagining what’s not real.

4. Shaken loose. Eventually something happens, or someone says or does something, that shakes you out of your despair. You see that life isn’t over. New ideas flood your mind. You let go of the life you had before and begin embracing the life you have now.

5. Embrace your new reality. At this stage you’ll experiment with your new sense of identity and place in the world. Try to learn new skills and activities that push your boundaries.

6. Establish a new comfort zone. You’ll reach a point where everything is okay again. But instead of settling in, this is where the challenge enters: use your new found knowledge and understanding to help others.

Personally, the adversities I’ve faced have brought me to serving the NT/AS community. They are also moving me to reach out to those who are suffering at the hands of unscrupulous individuals. That’s why I wrote my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.” By reading it, you’ll learn my story and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I encourage you to download the first chapter for free.



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