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Kathy Marshack News

So Grateful for Dr. Lorna Wing’s Pioneering Work into Autism

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Dr. Lorna Wing died on June 6th at the age of 85. It is with sadness that I think about the death of this wonderful psychiatrist, researcher and autism advocate. While I didn’t know her personally, I am filled with immense gratitude for all the work that she accomplished throughout her life. Dr. Wing has contributed so much to our understanding of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Like so many of us, she began her research into autism in the 1950’s as she looked for answers to her daughter’s behavior.

Dr. Wing’s outstanding contributions are numerous. She and her colleague, Dr. Judith Gould, determined that autism is not just one single condition, but is rather a wide spectrum of behaviors that stem from a common disorder that she described as “a lack of ability to understand and use the rules governing social behavior.” They subsequently established a clinic, Center for Social and Communications Disorders, that is a benchmark for diagnosis and treatment for autism in children.

She also brought to light the work of Hans Asperger, the Austrian psychiatrist who first described the behavior of the form of autism that is known today as Asperger’s Syndrome. Dr. Asperger’s work had been eclipsed by WWII and was forgotten until Dr. Wing rediscovered it. In his original writings he called this disorder, “autistic psychopathy”, but when writing about his findings, she titled her 1981 published paper as, “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Clinical Account”, and that name has become widely known.

You can read more in the New York Times article: Dr. Lorna Wing, Who Broadened Views of Autism, Dies at 85.

Self-Sabotaging Behaviors that Elicit Rejection

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


self sabotaging behaviors that elicit rejectionA person’s own faulty thinking can cause so much unnecessary pain. Fear of rejection especially entraps people in a pattern of stress and depression. An article by Mike Bundrant recently highlighted five ways a person might be inviting rejection without realizing it. What are these five ways?

  1. Being afraid to ask for what you need. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “I’d really like ______, but I know he or she will say no, so why even bother to ask.” (You’re making someone’s mind up for them without giving them a chance.)
  2. Wanting something so much that you keep pushing until your partner explodes. (He or she might agree given time, but you don’t allow them that time.)
  3. Avoiding confrontation by refusing to discuss hot button topics. (If it’s a hot button topic, emotions are already involved so it’s going to have to be dealt with sooner or later.)
  4. Hiding the truth. Your spouse notices you have new clothes, but you say, “Oh, this old thing. It’s been in my closet for a long time.” When in reality you just purchased in with the credit card that you both agreed to only use for emergencies. (Not only will your spouse find out this is a lie, but now you’ve violated his trust.)
  5. Agreeing when you really disagree. You promise, “Of course, I’ll cut the grass”, when you’ve already planned to go golfing with your buddies instead. (Agreeing in order to keep peace will ultimately backfire when you don’t follow through on what you’ve said.)

All of these are self-sabotaging behaviors. They’re setting you up for the very thing you’re trying to avoid – rejection. The good news is that you can retrain your thoughts through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, so you break the cycle of these habits and behaviors. The techniques of CBT are designed to change faulty irrationally thinking into more constructive, solution-oriented thinking. Often people are stuck because they have an irrational belief from childhood that keeps them from living the way they wished they could. CBT is usually considered short-term therapy, perhaps 8-10 one-hour sessions. If you’d like to make an appointment, contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy here.

Three Ways to Avoid Toxic Life Choices

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Make your choice positive not a toxic life choiceWhen you review the people you’ve let into your life, are they supportive of you or do some of them make you feel bad about yourself every time you talk with them? When things go wrong in life, do you feel like it’s always some else’s fault? When you meet someone, do you find yourself trying to become the kind of person you believe they want you to be, rather than being yourself? All of these responses can lead to toxic life choices.

The level of your happiness is largely dependent on you and your choices. If you find that you’re struggling through the same problems over and over again, it’s a good indicator that you need to consciously make different choices. As Albert Einstein described it…”Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

How can you begin to make better decisions that help you avoid toxic life choices? Here are three suggestions:

#1 Be Aware of How You Feel
It’s important to remember that you always experience your feelings first. Emotions, such as, happiness, confusion, pain, pride, boredom, or fear, determine how we will respond to situations. Closely following our feelings are our thoughts or interpretations that come from those feelings.

Interestingly, those with Autism aren’t as likely to make irrational decisions that are influenced by “a gut feeling”. Of course, this emotional disconnect creates difficulties in social situations, but it enable them to avoid potentially irrelevant emotional information and make more consistent choices. This illustrates that it’s useful to create self-awareness of your feelings so you think before you act, thereby using emotions to make good decisions.

#2 Be Yourself
Rather than worrying about what others think, ask yourself what’s important to you? What do you want you life to be like? How can you be the best YOU? Trying to please others and do things that we think they want, is a pretense and it will lead you to choices and results that will be toxic to you.

#3 Be Vulnerable
It’s a sign of strength to ask for help when you need it. None of us know everything. So we don’t need to pretend that we do. On the other hand, if you always rely on everyone to fix things for you, you won’t learn how to grow. Finding the balance depends on you being willing to ask for help and then being willing to do the work.

It’s never too late to make your life richer and more meaningful. You can change how you react to situations so you avoid toxic choices and can make good choices that support you. If you continue to struggle with personal problems, you may need to seek professional help and that’s okay.

For more information, visit When to Seek Professional Help for Personal Problems.

Jumping to Negative Conclusions Can Harm Your Brain

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


cynical thinking can harm your brainCan viewing others positively not only improve your relationships but also actually enable you to live a longer and healthier life? That question prompted a group of scientists and researchers from the University of Eastern Finland to study the affect of cynical distrust on health. They specifically researched people who doubt others, imputing selfish motives to everything’s that’s said and done. The CNN article, Cynicism linked to greater dementia risk, reports on some of their findings.

This study as well as others, have shown that cynical thinking may cause cancer-related deaths, dementia, cardiovascular disease and more. Why does a cynical attitude affect the body so detrimentally? This is a very complex question. The article mentioned a number of contributing factors:


  • People with a cynical attitude tend to make poor health decisions, such as smoking more, abusing alcohol, exercising less, and compulsively eating.
  • Poor health decisions lead to cardiovascular disease that damages the blood flow to the brain, which contributes to dementia.
  • Poor health habits and stress increase inflammation in the immune system, leading to many diseases.
  • Since cynical people doubt what they hear, they also doubt their health care professionals, which leads them to ignoring their advice.

If you recognize yourself in this, don’t despair. The good news is that attitudes can be changed. This can lead you to a much happier life with less stress, better physical health, and better relationships. It’s taken a lifetime to develop a cynical pattern of thinking, so it may require that you seek some professional guidance to help you cultivate a more positive way of thinking. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Join my on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and let’s talk about what you’ve found helpful in cultivating a positive outlook on life.

To learn more, read on my website: Mind & Body Health.

Do You Expect Everyone to Think and Act Like You Do?

Friday, June 06, 2014


why doesn't everyone think like I doA common expression we hear today is, “It’s my way or the highway.” Perhaps you’ve found yourself even saying that to a child or an employee. Sometimes, people unintentionally alienate others because they expect everyone else to think and act exactly like they do. It never occurs to them that there are many ways to be in the world, and they are all appropriate given the stage of development and personality of the individual involved.

Let me give you an example of one copreneur couple (names have been changed to protect their identities) that was helped to resolve their problems through using Dialectical Behavior Therapy to better understand this issue.

When Arthur turned forty-seven, he knew that his wife was unhappy, though what she was unhappy about remained a mystery. He loved his wife dearly and only wanted the best for her, but somehow he wasn’t succeeding at meeting her needs. Since this was his third marriage, he could hardly deny that he might have a few weaknesses in the relationship department, and he was finally willing to put his ego aside to find some answers.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) required numerous meetings during the week as the couple peeled back the layers to get to the core problem without having to explore the deeper introspection necessary in CBT. Arthur and Leslie examined their work and personal relationship and discovered that most of their conflicts emerged at work. He assumed that Leslie was just like himself, a visionary type of leader, when all Leslie wanted to do was be supportive and run an efficient office. Arthur would rush off with a new idea and leave a project dangling, assuming that Leslie would finish the project. He was happy to have her do it any way that suited her, because he was finished with it. Leslie, on the other hand, was frustrated and bewildered.

Eventually, the patience with which this couple approached their problems paid off. Arthur developed a new admiration for Leslie and allowed her the space to perform at work in just the way that fit her personality. He learned that there are other ways to do things in life besides his own, and that they all work well.

This opened his eyes to his previous relationships within his family and business. He questioned why he had taken the paths he had taken. He wondered if his selfish way of looking at people had alienated him unnecessarily from those he loved. He wondered if he had ignored certain opportunities and dismissed others simply because he wanted things done his way. All of this speculation depressed Arthur. He couldn’t go back in time and do things differently.

Working through the DBT exercises made it possible for Arthur to grow through this depression. He allowed himself the regrets. And he made apologies where he could. He came to recognize this key truth: At any moment in time, we are all making the best choice we know how to, given our level of skill and life experience. Arthur was able to pull himself out of his depression and build a quality life with Leslie because he began to see the possibilities for tomorrow.

How do you push past the regrets and stay positive? Connect with me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share how you focus on tomorrow’s possibilities.

If you haven’t done so yet, grab your hardcopy or kindle edition of Entrepreneurial Couples – Making it Work at Work and at Home.

Balance Worry with Hope to Come Up With the Best Solutions

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Balance Worry wit Hope for best solutionsDo you worry? I worry. It’s natural to worry about all kinds of things. Not that all of this worrying accomplishes much. However it can serve a useful purpose if it directs your attention to problem solving. I think worriers, more than most take a hard cold look at reality. The problem is you can scare yourself to death if you’re worrying about things you can’t control.

A better approach is to use your worries as incentive to search for solutions. You can do this by balancing your worry with hopefulness. This doesn’t mean that you’re looking only on the bright side of everything, like the proverbial ostrich with his or her head stuck in the sand. You need to realistically account for the negative side of things, so you can plan and live your life fully.

This reminds me of a profound statement by Albert Einstein, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” If we want something to change, we need to create that change. What are some practical steps to raising your consciousness or level of thinking? Here are seven ways this can be done…

  • Solutions come when we tear ourselves away from our negativity. (Hope tells us there’s a better way to live.
  • Solutions come from focusing on what is right, good, pure, and loving. (Hope tells us that we’ll receive back what we put out to the world.)
  • Solutions come when we first take care of your own mental, physical and spiritual health. (Hope tells us that this will give us the strength and energy needed.)
  • Solutions come when we give ourselves to others. (Hope tells us that we can make the world a better place.)
  • Solutions come when we are grateful. (Hope tells us that every day there will be something wonderful.)
  • Solutions come when we believe that the challenges we are facing are a gift. (Hope tells us that we will see our weakness and strengths and we can grow.)
  • Solutions come when your goals are realistic. (Hope tells you that you can do it.)

If you have faith and hope you will not only come through hardship but you will be better for it. Like me you may still worry, but let those worries guide you to the kind of solutions that can only come from your indomitable human spirit. If you’re struggling in a dark place of hopelessness, get help immediately from a mental health care professional. Life is too wonderful to waste. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office and set up an appointment.

Does Stress Make Your Allergies Worse?

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Allergy symptoms worsen with stressWhy is it that, while your allergies don’t normally hit you so hard, today of all days it’s much worse? Why does this have to happen right before your big presentation at work? Or the week of your wedding? Your eyes water uncontrollably, you sneeze and wheeze, and your skin rash itches like crazy. Are you just imagining it? Or could there be a correlation between stressful situations and increased allergies reactions? According to a recent study by Ohio State University researchers, stress can indeed be a factor in allergy flare-ups.

The author of the study, allergist Amber Patterson makes this interesting comment, “We know there's a connection between our neurology and our immunology. What we ultimately found is that some people with allergies have a more sensitive neuro-immunologic trigger.”

Knowing this connection, allergy sufferers can alleviate stress by:


A free resource you might want to try is WildDivine’s Schedule of Recent Experience. It’s a tool to help you understand how recent events in your life can be contributing toward your stress levels. Once you gain this awareness, you can take appropriate actions to solve the underlining stressors.

If you can’t get your allergies under control by yourself, consult a certified allergist and ask if stress is a contributing factor. He or she can recommend a trained psychologist who can help you manage that stress. Or you can contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver,WA office and schedule an appointment As a NET practitioner, my clients have found Neuro Emotional Technique and hypnosis to be very effective in treating allergic reactions due to stress.


Please join me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share how stress has affected your allergies.

Learn more on my website – Managing Stress.

Get Off the Roller Coaster of Food Addiction by Retraining Your Genes

Monday, May 19, 2014


Get off the Food Addiction Roller CoasterNow that warmer weather is coming, many people are desperate to shed the unwanted pounds that have crept on during the winter. You see all kinds of crash diets being promoted and many try them. Does this cycle sound familiar?

For many, every year it’s the same roller coaster – lose weight – develop cravings – eat compulsively – gain weight – diet again. We all know this is harmful behavior, but knowing that isn’t enough to fix the problem.

The answer lies in our genes.

Yes, some are predisposed to be more sensitive to food than others, just as some are predisposed to the effects of alcohol. However, there’s so much more than our inherited genetics going on in this equation. Our genes have our unique information encoded in them. When our bodies are healthy, the genes easily and accurately transmit their information throughout the body. But if something detrimental is introduced, the genes lose their ability to communicate accurately.

Neuroscience is proving that the types of foods we eat, such as, excessively fatty, sugary, and salty foods alter the brain chemistry at a genetic level. But that’s not all. Other research shows that overeating any food can alter the brain chemistry. When a person dumps all of these excesses into the system, the genes release great quantities of dopamine so that a person gets a feel-good high comparable to what’s felt by those who use cocaine. This becomes addictive, especially if your life is stressful or you have unresolved emotional problems. So you begin a cycle of overdoing it regularly in order to feel good. This pattern of behavior interferes with how the genes communicate.

Once a person has become addicted to food and has rewritten their genetic makeup, can it be reversed? Most definitely yes, you can make it easier for your genes to communicate once again. Each time you choose to engage in a healthy behavior, you are rewriting your genetic makeup.

What are some healthy behaviors that support good genetic function?


Our bodies are amazing machines. Knowing that you can change how your genes function by the choices you make is empowering. You can change who you are from the inside out. Yes, it does take time and effort, but it’s worth it. Would you like to improve the quality of your life by getting off the dieting roller coaster forever? Take the first step and get a physical from your doctor, then consult a mental health professional who can help you stay on track. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and schedule an appointment today.

For more information, read my website – Weight Control and Holistic Health.

Understanding the Science of Asperger Behavior

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Out of Mind Out of sight Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome ASDWhy do those with Asperger’s Syndrome act the way that they do? Why can’t they connect with the feelings of others? Science is unlocking the key to understanding these questions about Asperger behavior.

Our brains have an amazing intricate and complicated connection of circuits. If one part doesn’t work correctly, the system it’s connected with malfunctions. Take for example, just a few of the connections that needs to be made for the empathy circuits to work.

One area of your brain, the medial prefrontal cortex compares your perspective to another person’s. Another area, the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, helps you understand your own thoughts and feelings. Yet, it’s the ventral medial prefrontal cortex that registers how strongly you feel about something. Still another area, the inferior frontal gyrus helps you recognize emotions. Stick with me here, we’re not even half way through the list of connections that must be made to complete the empathy circuits.

Next, we have the area of the brain that is activated by the pain you feel or that you observe in others. That’s the caudal anterior cingulate cortex. But the tricky part is that it doesn’t tell us how to respond to that pain.

Add to the empathy circuits the anterior insula, which is involved in bodily self-awareness, and the right temporoparietal junction that governs judgment of someone’s intentions and beliefs.

And we can’t forget the amygdala because, when prompted by the fear response, we look at someone’s eyes to discern that person’s emotions and intentions. Are you seeing why people with Asperger’s Syndrome struggle. Don’t they generally avoid eye contact? Think of all the information that is lost by not looking someone in the eyes. 

And the list goes on, including the parts of the brain that make the connections and attach meanings to our emotional responses. If a part of your brain isn’t telling you why and how to react, you’ll lack empathy.

If you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just for parents with young children, don’t wait another moment. The above information is just a sampling of the science behind Asperger that is explored in the book. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

In a Bad Mood? It Could Be Coming from Reading Social Media

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


social media influences our moodThe brain/body connection is truly amazing. Your brain has the power to influence your body in either a negative or positive way. Studies have proven that maintaining an optimistic mood improves health. And our mood is greatly influenced by the people we let into our lives. Does this also apply to the short little tweets or posts we daily read on Social Media?

According to a fascinating new study, the answer is “YES”. An article written by Mike Bundrant, a retired psychotherapist and regular contributor to PsychCentral, discusses how the study was conducted and the discoveries it made.

Researches from the University of California, Yale and Facebook examined Facebook posts created between January 2009 and March 2012. They especially focused on how the weather influenced the posts. They found that the mood reflected in the post generated similar postings. For example, negative comments generated negative posts. However, they found that the positive comments generated more positive posting. Either way, the study shows that the mood has the capability of going viral around the globe.

That’s a lot of power! People have, at times, exploited this power to generate political and social unrest. Since Facebook has 1.23 billion users as of January 2014 and Twitter has 243 million active users, it’s very likely that you are using one of these or a similar Social Media site to stay connected with your friends, family and community. So how can you protect yourself from being infected by the negative posts? Here are some suggestions:

  • Consciously monitor your own mood, before logging onto your Social Media.
  • Be proactive and share your happy mood.
  • Before you get agitated over a comment, make sure you have all the facts. Check the source and verify “facts”.
  • Feeling down? Re-read your post, and make it more positive before you hit the send button. You’ll be helping yourself and others.
  • If someone consistently posts things that alter your mood in a negative way, don’t hesitate to unfollow them.
  • Start your day with positive thoughts, rather than reading Social Media first thing every morning.
  • Increase your face-to-face contact with people who help you stay positive.
  • Log off and go do something you really enjoy – walking, playing with your pet, gardening, and so forth.

This study’s findings are hardly surprising since we’ve known that journaling and reading positive affirmations can empower the subconscious to believe the stated affirmation. It only makes sense that what you read in Social Media will affect your mind and body, too.

Do you have any experiences with this that you’d like to share? Join me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D ). Yes, I’m on Facebook. It’s one way of reaching and helping more people through support and education. But let’s keep it helpful and positive!



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