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Kathy Marshack News

Does Good Parenting Mean You Shield Your Child from All Adversity?

Monday, July 16, 2018


The key to good parenting is not protecting kids from everyday adversity, but encouraging a healthy attitude toward stress. Everyday we see headlines that say, “Stress: The Killer Disease,” “Stress Is a Silent Killer,” or “Why Stress Is Deadly.” It’s no wonder people have adopted the opinion that all stress should be avoided. While I do agree that long-term, chronic, acute stress is harmful, some stress is beneficial and necessary for personal growth and development.

The stress response can be an asset for raising levels of performance during critical events such as a sports activity, an important meeting, or in times of crisis. Appropriate and controllable stress also provides interest and motivation for greater achievement, while a lack of stress may lead to boredom and depression.

When we experience life’s challenges or adversities, our bodies secrete the hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol stimulates the release of glucose for energy and activates the immune system, while adrenaline increases focus and attention. It also stimulates neural growth in the brain, which is critical for learning and memory.

The key to good parenting is not protecting kids from everyday adversity, but encouraging a positive attitude toward stress. Studies, like the ones at Stanford University, show that it’s possible to change our emotional and biological response to stress, just by adopting a healthy attitude toward stress.

As children overcome adversities, their self-confidence grows. They’ll feel more in control. And when people feel in control during adversity — whether they really are or not – they’re less impaired by stress. As parents, you can help your children adopt a confident, can-do attitude. Help them understand that perfection is not the goal. “Failing, learning from it, getting up and trying again until you succeed,” should be the message they receive.

It’s a difficult balancing act for parents, because we hate to see our children suffering. The temptation is to become an overly protective helicopter parent. However, parents who shield children from anxious-making experiences are preventing them from learning to be unafraid. Short-term stress promotes resilience.

The most helpful thing we can do as parents is to provide a supportive, loving environment that teaches them a healthy lifestyle – nutritious food, exercise, and plenty of sleep – and helpful coping skills. Paramount is teaching them to develop Radiant Empathy, so they can show compassion for others, while protecting themselves from the users and abusers in the world today. My new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS,” is a practical guidebook for developing this quality.

Do you see room for improvement in your family’s stress management skills, but don’t know where to start? 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.

Resilience – The Key to Living Happily Ever After

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


While it’s not possible to have a “happy ever after” life, you can drastically improve your odds by developing resilience. “…and they lived happily ever after.” All the good love stories end with these words or at least this sentiment, don’t they? We long for happy endings, because, if it’s possible for someone else, it’s possible that we can live happily ever after, too.

Okay, I know that fairy tales aren’t real. While life can be blessed and fulfilling, happiness doesn’t come automatically. Every person will face adversity in life. Especially is this so, since we’re living at a unique time in human history. According to the CDC's current data, about 1 in 68 children has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). So there’s a real possibility that the person you’re in a relationship with today has high functioning autism, formerly known as Asperger Syndrome.

But there is something that can drastically do to improve your odds of having a happy family life. What's the missing ingredient that takes us from victim to victorious? I think the answer is: resilience.


Resilience is built upon a foundation of the following nine characteristics:

Optimism
Self-belief
Emotional awareness
Self-control
Willingness to adapt
Willingness to be flexible
Ability to solve problems
Social support
Sense of humor

Without resilience, we can get so entangled in the Aspie logic that we become a shell of our former self. Resilience is a kind of elastic quality that helps us keep bouncing back, but we must bounce back to our own reality, our own common sense, our own confidence in our empathic ability to see the truth.

Resilience isn't kindness, or codependency, or compassion. It's the ability to recognize almost immediately that our Aspie is making some faulty judgments and that we don't have to accept them. For example,

The resilient person says, "Thank you for your view, but I'm going to do it my way today."

The resilient person recognizes that arguing with your Aspie is futile. It's not that Aspies aren't entitled to argue some arcane idea, but the resilient person accepts that we don't have to be their sounding board, or their humble servant, or their ardent advocate . . . or the loser in the argument.

Do you want to enhance your resilience? If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, please attend the free, international teleconference: “Building Resilience in an ASD/NT Relationship.” It will be held on Thursday, July 19th. We’ll concentrate on learning methods for building resilience. Of particular importance is recognizing early on when you’re slipping. I got so distressed living with three Aspies that I allowed myself to lose my common sense, get angry and wind up in jail! (You can read my story, plus learn techniques for developing resilience and Radiant Empathy, in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”) You don't want to let this happen to you.

P.S. If you know of someone who is a NT (neurotypical or non-autism) person in a NT/ASD relationship, please tell them about this Meetup group. It has become a life saver for thousands of people across the globe.

Invite Your Aspie to This Special Meetup Conference

Monday, July 09, 2018


Communicating and connecting with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Couples’ counseling is one way to facilitate better understanding, because it’s done in an atmosphere that diffuses raw and hurt emotions. Another valuable resource is finding a support group that you and your Aspie can attend together, but that’s easier said than done.     Up to now, my Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD, has been limited to the NT (neurotypical or non-autism) partners in NT/ASD relationships. It’s been a unique resource for this often-forgotten segment of the population. Many of the members express appreciation for the opportunity to find support, as they speak openly about their lives. It’s so important to know you’re not alone.     But I have good news! I’m granting your wish for a Couples Call this month.     Are you ready to invite your Aspie to one of our videoconferences? I’m hosting a special conference for NT/ASD couples. The purpose is to give your Aspie a chance to learn that they are not alone either. They will “meet” others who are living this life and learn how others are coping. This VIDEO CONFERENCE: “Couples Call. Invite your Aspie” will be held on Tuesday, July 17th. Please sign up only if your partner will join you.     Obviously we can’t just dive in and dig into every tender issue. However, I thought we would make it a question and answer format, so that your Aspie can ask questions and hear others’ answers. If they don’t like to ask or don’t know what to ask, I suspect they’ll still come away from the call with some new information.  Don’t be afraid to ask them to participate. Many Aspies are waiting to be asked. They do want to know how you feel. They’re just terrible at asking. Plus their willingness to participate is an emotional gift to you, isn’t it?  Since only members are allowed, your Aspie will need to be in the same room with you to share the call. It also makes it easier for all of us to know who’s a couple.  Pssst…There’s another exciting development underway. I have teamed up with AAPC (the largest publisher of books on autism) to bring you the most up to date resources to help you and your family deal with an adult (and child) with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). My new video blog and other publications will be coming soon. If you don’t want to miss out, please sign up for my newsletter, so you’ll be among the first to be invited in.Communicating and connecting with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Couples’ counseling is one way to facilitate better understanding, because it’s done in an atmosphere that diffuses raw and hurt emotions. Another valuable resource is finding a support group that you and your Aspie can attend together, but that’s easier said than done.

Up to now, my Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD, has been limited to the NT (neurotypical or non-autism) partners in NT/ASD relationships. It’s been a unique resource for this often-forgotten segment of the population. Many of the members express appreciation for the opportunity to find support, as they speak openly about their lives. It’s so important to know you’re not alone.

But I have good news! I’m granting your wish for a Couples Call this month.

Are you ready to invite your Aspie to one of our videoconferences? I’m hosting a special conference for NT/ASD couples. The purpose is to give your Aspie a chance to learn that they are not alone either. They will “meet” others who are living this life and learn how others are coping. This VIDEO CONFERENCE: “Couples Call. Invite your Aspie” will be held on Tuesday, July 17th. Please sign up only if your partner will join you.

Obviously we can’t just dive in and dig into every tender issue. However, I thought we would make it a question and answer format, so that your Aspie can ask questions and hear others’ answers. If they don’t like to ask or don’t know what to ask, I suspect they’ll still come away from the call with some new information.

Don’t be afraid to ask them to participate. Many Aspies are waiting to be asked. They do want to know how you feel. They’re just terrible at asking. Plus their willingness to participate is an emotional gift to you, isn’t it?

Since only members are allowed, your Aspie will need to be in the same room with you to share the call. It also makes it easier for all of us to know who’s a couple.

Pssst…There’s another exciting development underway. I have teamed up with AAPC (the largest publisher of books on autism) to bring you the most up to date resources to help you and your family deal with an adult (and child) with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). My new video blog and other publications will be coming soon. If you don’t want to miss out, please sign up for my newsletter, so you’ll be among the first to be invited in.

Discover the Patterns of Asperger Communication

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


 Those with Asperger’s Syndrome have patterns of communication. Once we understand these patterns, we can understand our Aspie loved ones better, so our relationships can thrive. The world is full of patterns. And after studying these patterns, people have made some astounding discoveries…not the least of which is the discovery that those with Asperger’s Syndrome have patterns of communication. Once we understand these patterns, we can understand our Aspie loved ones better, so our relationships can thrive. Does this concept excite you as much as it does me? I hope so! Because this is a monumental breakthrough for the NT/AS world.

Once you understand their patterns, you have a better chance of connecting in their world. Their patterns are relatively simple. It’s kind of like algebra or quantitative methods. You just need the right formula.

It took me forever to break the code, because I was trying to understand them from an NT (neurotypical or non-autism) perspective. Once I let go of that notion, I could more easily see the patterns they use to make sense of the world.

It’s like wandering around in a foreign country for a few days. Once you get your bearings, you can read the street signs or a menu, even when you don’t speak the language. We have to do this for our Aspies, because they can’t do this for us.

If you’re to understand, relate and communicate with your Aspie loved one, you will need to be a scientist. We could talk for hours about their patterns…and we’re going to get started at this month’s video conference: Patterns of Aspie Communication on Tuesday, July 10th and Tuesday, July 24th. If you can’t get in to either of these time slots, don’t worry. There will be more to come later. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you receive notifications for all of the upcoming conferences.

Would you like to accelerate your understanding of Asperger Communication Patterns by working with me 1:1? 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.

Loving a Partner with Autism: Dr. Kathy Interviewed on Autism Live Show

Tuesday, July 03, 2018


Shannon Penrod and Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson interviewed Dr. Kathy Marshack on their “Autism Live Show”. Recently, Shannon Penrod and Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson interviewed me on their online Autism Live Show. I shared with them that I’m not really an expert on autism, but how I became interested in Asperger Syndrome, when I discovered my 13 year old daughter was on the Spectrum. As any mom would do, I buried myself in the research, educational and treatment options for my daughter Bianca. I later realized that my mother most likely was on the Spectrum, as are other members of my extended family.

During our conversation, they expressed appreciation that my focus is not on autism per se, but on the often forgotten, non-Specrum (or neurotypical family members), and that I strive to help AS/NT families cope and thrive. My work is breaking down the myths and barriers to the crazy stuff that goes on inside these relationships. It’s so hard to combat the loneliness that comes with trying to connect with someone you care deeply for, but it just isn’t working.

Nancy loved the case studies I include in my books, while Shannon loved the Lessons Learned at the end of each chapter. She said, “This is the best advice for any relationship, no matter who the relationship is between. They’re really fabulous guideposts that a lot of us take for granted, but they would be a great thing for a couple to talk through.” Their feedback thrilled me.

Connection and communication are especially challenging for people on the Spectrum. So the NT has to learn new ways of communicating and demystifying the signals.

Radiant Empathy (Em-5) helps you deal with someone with an Empathy Disorder. By building up your ability to be empathic, you become good at taking good care of yourself, setting clear boundaries, and saying “No” when someone is not being respectful of you. This is what makes it possible to deal with people who have trouble connecting. You know their heart is in the right place and you can give them a break, while, at the same time, you have a heightened ability to recognize all the love coming into your life from these relationships. At EmD-5, you clearly have the resources you need to hold dear the feelings of others, while at the same time keeping your personal boundaries clear.

Would you like to learn how to develop your empathic skills to this elevated level? Check out my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.” Its practical guidance will open your eyes to what it means to be fully human. Or if you’d like to work with me personally 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.

Listen to my interview on the Autism Live Show: Loving a Partner with Autism.

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.



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