243 posts categorized "MISCELLANEOUS"

September 10, 2013

“Everybody Does It” is a Dangerous Mindset

IStock_000008782054_ExtraSmallFrom children, to teenagers, to grown ups, “Everybody does it” seems to be a common rationalization for almost anything we want it to be. Whether we’re talking about: kids trashing each other on social media, girls wearing skimpy clothes, teenagers “hooking up” for the hell of it, adults swinging, married men and women having affairs, men yelling at the office, high school and college students using drugs, men and women divorcing, people looking at porn, parents slapping and spanking their children etc., it seems that the idea that “everyone is doing it” somehow makes “it” all okay. 

 A few examples of this include:

  • Miley Cirrus’s recent response to her performance at the VMA awards: “Everyone’s done it. I wasn’t even thinking about it. You all are thinking about it more than I ever did. Madonna’s done it. Brittany’s done it. Everyone’s done it.”
  • A father’s response when questioned about hitting his children: “All my friends parent their children this way. I was raised this way and they need discipline.”
  • Women’s responses when asked about having repeated one-night stands and “playing men:” “Why not? Men do it. Why can’t we? It’s our time to do what all the guys have done to us throughout history.”

First off, let me just say that everyone is NOT doing “it”—whatever “it” may be for you. The reality is that the people you are hanging out with are doing “it.” Your support group, friends, co-workers or family members are doing “it,” but make no mistake that the people with whom you surround yourself are not “everybody.” The truth is, you are whom you hang out with, and people don’t like to hang out with those who are not like them. So perhaps a more accurate sentiment to use is “all my friends are doing it” or “all the guys I know do it” or “all the teenage girls I know act/dress like this.” 

Continue reading "“Everybody Does It” is a Dangerous Mindset" »

July 23, 2013

Are You Wearing Out Your Relationships?

IStock_000013858349XSmallOne of the greatest things about friendships is the support you feel in times of struggle. There’s nothing like knowing you have someone to turn to when times get hard. It’s also great to know there are people out there who will love you even when you’re not at your best.

Sometimes, though, people can fall into a destructive pattern with their friends and begin to wear out their welcome. They can do the same with siblings, spouses, co-workers, etc., by leaning on them too much. You see, people are happy to help others in times of struggle and, in fact, most people feel good about helping others. The problem happens when the help doesn’t help and the struggles seem to never end. People like to feel as if  they have influence on others. They like to feel that they can make a difference. When their actions don’t seem to make a dent in a person’s situation, though, it begins to drain  their energy. They begin to feel a bit helpless and grow tired of the person’s constant struggle. They also often begin to feel as though the friendship or relationship is a one-way relationship—one where they are always the one helping, while the other person is always the one needing the help. As you can imagine, this can get old after a while. 

When it comes to relationships, they work best when there is a healthy balance of give and take. Both people need to support and be supported. If one person is constantly the one who is bummed, depressed, hating themselves or in a state of drama, the other person will begin to feel as though their energy is being drained. 

Below are several clues that you may be wearing out your relationships:

  • You frequently complain about your life or circumstances—even when they change.
  • You use problems as a way of connecting to people and getting their attention.
  • You frequently tell people how fat, inept, weird, etc., you are and when they say you’re great, you push back and tell them you’re not.
  • You frequently complain about your marriage or mother or_________ (fill in the blank), but don’t take people’s advice when they try to help you.
  • You put yourself down, yet when people tell you what you could do differently, you say you’re too tired or make up some excuse so you can keep on doing what you’re doing.
  • You’re quick to ask others for help, but slow to give help
  • You’ve been complaining about the same thing for more than two months without doing anything about it.
  • You notice your friends have stopped contacting you as often as before.

When it comes to relationships, take a close look at how you are in them. If you’re constantly complaining about life when others ask, perhaps you’ve created a bad habit of using struggles as a way to connect or get attention. If you truly are down on life and yourself, then seek professional help, since you’re likely depressed. Talk to a professional about your struggles and save the positives for your friends. In general, keep your finger on the pulse of your relationships and don’t burn people out. Give support as much as you ask for support and push yourself to think positively, speak positively and to develop a positive lens. This lens will serve you well in life and in your relationships. Turning to your friends in times of struggle is great as long as those times of struggle are more the exception than the rule. If people feel that nothing they do will help, they eventually will stop trying to help. Don’t let things get to that point. Change your moves now.

Challenge: Read the above list of clues that you’re wearing out your relationships and commit to stopping the moves that are wearing them down. Get outside support if you need to and learn to take in the positive feedback from friends and loved ones rather than pushing back against it.

July 10, 2013

“I Can’t Change:” A Cop-out or a Hard Truth?


People ask me all the time if I truly believe people can change. Usually they’re asking this question about a loved one who, they’re certain, will never change. My answer to them is almost always the same: “Absolutely. I’ve seen people who I swore would never change make complete and thorough life turnarounds. I have no doubt that people can change…should they choose to do so.” 

If people are capable of making lasting change, though, why don’t they? What is it that leads one person to turn their entire life around while another person swears they want to change, but they “just can’t?” Is it that some people really can’t change or is it that they really don’t want to change? Unless you’re talking about an impossible feat—like a blind man seeing—then all able-minded human beings are capable of change. 

Not all people believe that they can change, however. Below are common statements I hear from people regarding their own change:

  •  “I am who I am and I’m not going to change.”
  •  “You knew I was like this when you married me. Stop trying to change me because it won’t work.”
  • “I just can’t change. I’ve tried everything.”
  • “It’s in my genetic make-up.”
  • “I’m too old to change.”
  • “Accept me for who I am. I can’t change my entire being.”

All of the above statements are cop-outs, NOT hard truths. The truth is that anyone can change given the right mindset, determination and motivation. The problem is that many people are perfectly comfortable doing what they’re doing. The only uncomfortable part for them is the complaints of those around them. The only change they want to see is for the other people to stop complaining and start accepting whatever they do. Obviously the issue with these people is that they don’t want to change…therefore they won’t.

Other people, though, consciously do want to change, but struggle with getting out of their own way. Subconsciously, though, they’re getting something from not changing and until the stakes are high enough and the desire for change is big enough, they are unlikely to change. Change is uncomfortable. Most people, when given a choice of change or no change, would choose no change hands down. Until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing…people will continue to do as they’ve always done. 

When people tell themselves they can’t change, they’re unlikely to change. Their belief becomes an anchor weighing them down. Change is a choice. Saying, “I am who I am” is a total cop-out that isn’t serving the person saying it or those around them. Anyone can change…the true question is, “Do they want to change”?

Challenge: Stop being lazy about change and instead step in and dare to better yourself. Refuse to use cop-outs such as “I’m too old,” “I am who I am,” etc. Make the choice to change or not, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re not changing because of forces beyond your control.




June 29, 2013

Are You Invisible or Are You Hiding?

IStock_000008250965_ExtraSmallI’ve heard various women (and teens) say that they feel invisible and that no one ever notices or listens to them. The closer we look at the issue though what shows up is the countless ways they practically make themselves invisible and/or muddle their message so much that it’s difficult for anyone to “hear” them.

Below are several signs that you are doing things to keep yourself from being seen and/or heard. 

  1. You barely speak in meetings or social gatherings.
  2. You wait to be spoken to before you speak.
  3. You give mixed messages rather than saying what you truly mean.
  4. You shrug your shoulders or say, “I don’t know” when asked what you think or want.
  5. You “let things go” that bother you. 
  6. You sit at the back of the room/class/meeting.
  7. You keep your opinions to yourself—especially if they differ from others.
  8. You fail to set limits because you don’t want to be mean or cause conflict.
  9. People repeatedly comment on how quiet you are.
  10. You say, share and ask for what you think others want to hear, or are willing to give rather than saying what you want to say, sharing what you want to share and asking for what you want to get.
  11. You constantly “tone” yourself down in an effort to not draw too much attention to yourself.
  12. You’re constantly “sizing” yourself up to see if you’re enough (pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough etc.).
  13. You can sit with a group of people for hours and barely say two sentences.
  14. You try to please others,
  15. You try to do everything that is asked of you even if it is unrealistic.

When it comes to feeling invisible, the first thing you want to ask yourself is, “Am I making myself invisible?” If you’re frequently self conscious about what you say, what people will think, how people will interpret what you’re saying and how you come across when you say it, you will be nearly paralyzed around people.  If you don’t want to be invisible, then you have to show up. This doesn’t mean you have to be loud and outgoing, it simply means you have to be you and allow others to see who that is. Stop worrying about what everyone will think or feel and instead start paying attention to what you think and feel… and share that. The more able you are to get out of their heads and stop worrying about what they’re thinking, the better able you will be to relax into being you. 

Add your thoughts, your quirkiness and your true self to the world and see what happens. We need more originals in our world trust me. We have enough carbon copies and could use a lot more genuine, authentic, daring individuals. Dare to be you…I, for one, welcome your voice, ideas and your humanity. Get out of hiding, let go of what others think, how you look/sound and step into the world in a whole new way.

Challenge: Start paying attention to all the ways you hide and why. Begin to choose “safe” people in your life to start to show up with in a more real way. Expand out from there. Remember to stop worrying about what others think and start paying attention to what feels true to you…then dare to share, be or do that. 

Good-luck and I look forward to our world finally meeting you.

May 20, 2013

A Graduate Student Could Use Your Help

A graduate student asked if I was willing to help him with his study of couples by posting this on my blog. I agreed to do so in the service of helping us to gain more understanding on how to help couples. It would be great if anyone who is eligible to complete the survey below would help CJ out. Thanks so much in advance for doing your part to help!



Dear Readers of Straight Talk 4 Women,

            My name is CJ and I am a graduate student working towards my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I am currently working on my dissertation research, which focuses on a partner's role in a person's decision to seek help for alcohol use issues. I am passionate about understanding the pathways to seeking help for alcohol use problems given that alcohol can be a major risk factor for suicide, domestic violence, and other serious issues with family and employment. I have always been interested in work with couples in both clinical settings and in my research, and so it is my natural inclination to try to understand this issue from a family perspective.

        Broadly, I am interested in knowing if and how a person's partner plays a major role in his/her decision to seek help for alcohol problems. Is it often a person's spouse who convinces him/her to speak to someone about alcohol problems, or are other factors more important? Does a spouse's own drinking behavior or help-seeking behavior play a role in a drinker's decision about his/her own behavior? Considering the important role of the family in our overall mental and physical health, I expect that a person's partner plays a major role in many of his/her decisions, but I hope to understand this phenomena better, to find ways to bridge the gap between those who may need to make a change and the services available to them.

            To participate in my research project, please see the information below. The study is intended for married couples and is entirely anonymous. The study is completed entirely online, and should take each partner about 20 minutes. Please click on the link below to get started. 


Thanks and best wishes! CJ



Participate in a survey on couples and alcohol use and enter to win a raffle!


Are you and your spouse legally married (or in a civil union) and at least 18 years of age?

Do you or your partner currently consume alcoholic beverages at least once a month?

Is alcohol use an area of disagreement in your marriage?


If you answered yes to the above questions, you and your spouse are eligible to participate in a research survey regarding the relationship between your marriage and your alcohol-related help seeking behaviors. When you complete the survey, you will each be entered into a raffle for one of four $50 Amazon gift cards!

The survey will take each participant approximately 20 minutes, and survey responses will be anonymous.


Please start here:



This study has been approved by the Clark Committee for the Rights of Human Participants in Research and Training Programs (IRB). The study is being conducted by C.J. Fleming, M.A. and James Cordova, Ph.D. in the Psychology Department at Clark University. Please feel free to contact the researcher ( [email protected] ) or the research supervisor ( [email protected] ) with any questions or concerns. 

April 25, 2013

The Ins and Outs of Being Conversational

In my work with couples, I often get complaints from women that their husbands don’t talk. The women feel that it’s like pulling teeth to have a conversation and the men feel that the women talk too much. Often the truth is they’re both right. When women don’t feel heard, they tend to go on and on, in an effort to finally be heard and many men give one word answers rather than engaging in a conversation.

Communication habits often start at a young age and frequently intensify and solidify, as we get older. Below are several easy communication tips for people of all ages and genders. These tips can easily be passed on and taught to children, as well, to give them a better jumpstart on communication than many of us adults ever had. For those who have received complaints from loved ones about how you communicate, this post is for you J.

The ABC’s of good communication

1.     Avoid answering questions with one-word answers. Giving a one-word answer to inquiries is what leads to the pulling teeth phenomenon. If someone asks you how your day was or how you’re feeling or what’s wrong, etc., do not simply say, “Fine,” “Okay,” or “Nothing.” Minimally, provide your answer with an explanation. For example, “My day was okay. We had another marathon meeting in the morning, which was annoying, but after that I was able to get a lot of work done.”

Continue reading "The Ins and Outs of Being Conversational" »

April 17, 2013

The Boston Marathon Tragedy


As I watched the bombs going off only feet away from the Boston Marathon finish line, I was reminded of how fragile life can be. In an instant everything changed for so many people. Runners stopped celebrating, bystanders froze in terror, lives were lost and families were instantly altered forever. 

In an instant, everything changed. 

I can’t imagine what the affected families are going through. How many “what ifs” are being played out in the minds of those touched by this tragedy? How many “whys” are being asked in the hope of making sense of a senseless crime? How many prayers are asking for God’s help? I know many people are struggling to find the answers to this craziness. Honestly, I don’t believe there are any answers that would explain, make sense of or provide understanding of such a cowardly, evil act. Instead of focusing on answers, which of course we also need, my hope is that we focus more of our attention on foraging a path to healing rather than a path of vengeance. In the afterhours of this tragic event, here are a few suggestions to help us get on the path to healing. 

  • Refuse to allow hate to create more hate. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s violence takes place in response to violence. We call this offending from the victim position. It’s common for people to think, “You just hurt me so now I get to annihilate you…and I feel no qualms about my retaliation.” When we succumb to this type of thinking we create a tsunami of violence, not an answer to it. Martin Luther King said it best, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Refuse to succumb to hate.
  • Practice gratitude. After watching families crying for their loved ones, I was acutely aware of what a gift my family is. Pull your children in close, hug them, kiss them and tell them you love them. Let go of the pettiness that takes us out of relationships and take a moment to lean into them.
  • Don’t waste time. Tragedies like this are an unfortunate reminder that our time on this planet is limited. Don’t take your time for granted. Create the life and relationships you’ve wanted to create forever and have forever start today. 

Continue reading "The Boston Marathon Tragedy" »

April 11, 2013

How to Handle Passive-Aggressive Behavior

IStock_0rollingeyeXSmallI work with couples all the time who are impacted by the sting of passive-aggressive behaviors, which is why I’m writing this post. This post is for those people who are friends with, living with or family members of people who deal with anger and upsets in passive-aggressive ways. 

Here are the best tips I know for ways to address this kind of behavior head on, using compassionate accountability rather than a hammer. 

  • When in doubt, check it out. One of the crazy-making things about passive-aggression is that it’s seldom acknowledged yet often felt; it’s “hidden” anger. The first move, therefore, is to take the covering off the anger simply by naming it, “I’m making up that you’re mad because I asked you to help. Are you?” The more you name it, the more you increase the other person’s consciousness—and have your own back. 
  • Don’t mind-read. The work for people who struggle with being passive-aggressive is learning to speak their truth in a direct and purposeful way rather than indirectly and unconsciously. Do not alter your behaviors based on what you imagine the other person is upset about. Tell them when they’re ready to talk to you about what’s upsetting them that you’re open to hearing them. Until then, don’t chase them to try to make them feel better.
  • Check your responses. Be sure that on your end, you are respectful. It’s not uncommon for passive-aggression to show up with people who struggle with overt aggression and reactivity. You are responsible for being safe in your relationships...and yelling and screaming is not safe. Clean it up.
  • Practice compassionate accountability. Have empathy for your partner’s struggle with conflict while also holding them accountable for handling it responsibly and respectfully. Know when to check it out, make a request for change and/or set a limit. Do all of the above using a grounded powerful strength (GPS), not an aggressive strength.
  • Be the mirror. When you feel the sting of people side-swiping (biting comments, rolling eyes, silencing, snide remarks) simply hold up a figurative mirror and name what they’re doing. Three examples include: “You’re rolling your eyes;” “Wow, that was biting;” “You won’t even look in my direction.” 
  • Have an honest conversation. Find a good time to have an honest conversation about the impact of the passive-aggressive behaviors on you and your relationship. Be clear about what you would like to see be different and what you will do about it if it doesn’t change (e.g. “If this doesn’t change, I want to separate” or “I will no longer chase you down to see if something’s the matter. From now on, I will assume if you’re not speaking about a problem, then everything is ok.”
  • Explain the degree of seriousness involved.  If you’re thinking of leaving the marriage because of this issue, state that. The other person has the right to know how high the stakes are so they can decide how much they’re willing to lose. 

Challenge: Although passive aggression can be extremely frustrating, yelling and complaining about it just keeps it going. Be calm and forthright in your approach and deal with it head on and in a respectful manner. When talking doesn’t work, know when to set limits and up the ante when necessary. Good luck!

April 01, 2013

Changing Your Family’s Toxic Legacy

IStock_00couple alcoholAll human beings have been -- and continue to be -- greatly influenced and impacted by our family of origin. Some of these influences have been great and some have been toxic. And all of these influences impact the legacy we pass on to our children. For those who don’t have children, these influences impact the personal legacy we leave in the world. 

 What is particularly hard on couples, individuals and families, though, are the toxic legacies. Toxic legacies leave a tsunami of damage in families and in our world. Most of the time, these toxic legacies are unconsciously lived out and sadly passed on from one unsuspecting generation to the next. Before you know it, a person can look back a hundred years and see the same insidious, painful patterns back then that are being played out in the present day. Why is that? It seems crazy that people can’t learn to not repeat the same mistakes their great-great-great grandparents, grandparents and more recently their own parents made. Is it in our DNA to repeat the same toxic behaviors as those who have come before us? Are our destinies pre-wired? 

 Let me start by defining “toxic legacy.” A toxic legacy is a pattern of hurtful, painful and/or damaging behaviors that have been handed down from one generation to another through role modeling.  When parents repeatedly interact in a family system in an unhealthy way, they are imprinting this behavior on their children. The children (us, let’s say) then often grow up and repeat the behaviors we saw played out everyday of our childhood. As children, “we live what we know and we know what we lived.” As we grow up, we repeat what we learned in the first 18 years of our lives. And if we don’t repeat it ourselves, we often marry someone who does. 

Continue reading "Changing Your Family’s Toxic Legacy" »

March 19, 2013

Feeling Gloomy for Far Too Long? Fight Back

IStock_0sadfacesmallMany people struggle with feeling gloomy, down or even depressed from time to time. Sadness and feeling down is a normal part of the human condition. If we’re not careful though, what is a normal part of being human can turn into a more serious issue.

Fortunately, feeling down can be turned around if we start taking active steps to shift it. For those of you who struggle with depression, this is true for you as well. If you’re tired of feeling down and not liking yourself, your circumstances or your relationships, then take action to turn things around.

Below are several ways to actively intervene on depression, feeling down and/or not liking something in your life (or in you). Many of these suggestions, you have no doubt heard before, so instead of ignoring them, think to yourself that you’ve heard these a thousand times before…BECAUSE THEY WORK. When we get down, we think everyone’s full of crap and the things “they” tell us to do are stupid. If you’re struggling, tell that voice in your head to be quiet…and then just try these ideas. You have nothing to lose.

1.    Tell the inner critic in you to shut up. You cannot feel better when you have a constant voice in your head telling you how much you suck, or how fat you are or how disgusting you are or on and on. Cut the negative self-talk, it is your WORST enemy. Tell it to shut up and refuse to give it airtime. Our inner critic’s goal is to keep us down. Don’t give it that power. When you hear your inner critic being abusive (yes our inner critics ARE verbally abusive), literally say, “Oh would you just shut up. I’m not interested in hearing from you today.” Say this every time and don’t give it a second thought.
2.    Talk to yourself with compassion. When you make a mistake, don’t like how you look, etc., talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend. You wouldn’t tell your best friend she looks terrible because she’s fat, ugly, disgusting, etc. You would say to not worry about a bad hair day—we all have them. If her boyfriend broke up with her, you would tell her that it’s his loss and she’s awesome. Practice talking to yourself as though you were your own best friend and leave the verbal abuse out of the equation.

Continue reading "Feeling Gloomy for Far Too Long? Fight Back" »

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