“I better comfort her because she can’t handle this.”

"Under Water" detail by Mimi Stuart ©

“Under Water” detail by Mimi Stuart ©

Validating others can backfire

Ironically, those who depend on another person’s validation to feel secure about themselves are causing their insecurity to intensify. If they depend on their partner, friend, or parent to validate them in order to appease their anxiety, they are allowing others to re-enforce their limitations. This will prevent them from growing and from developing a stronger sense of themselves when faced with difficulty, discomfort and anxiety.

Who is really the anxious one?

When somebody is upset, scared, or uncomfortable, are you the one that intervenes and tries to make it right? You may not think that you are the anxious one but generally what spurs somebody into quick action in an effort to validate others who are upset is their own anxiety.

People who find themselves frequently validating their partner, friend, or child think that it’s the other person who needs to be protected from falling apart or freaking out. Yet often they themselves are the ones who cannot tolerate their own anxiety in face of another person’s fear or problems. They focus so much on the other person that they are not even aware that their attempts to soothe the other person and to fix their problems results from their own discomfort with their own anxiety.

Dr. James Hollis holds that “the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves.” Thus, “the best thing we can do for our relationships with others… is to render our relationship to ourselves more conscious.”

How to handle another person’s anxiety

Avoid responding to other people’s anxiety with increased anxiety, which may express itself as validating them or fixing things for them. When you rush to soothe another person, you treat that person as a child, which prevents them from developing their own ability to stand on their own two feet.

Rather than soothing others who are facing some difficulty, it is more respectful to be with them or check in on them while allowing them to take care of themselves. Rather than validating them with efforts to appease, praise, and agree with them, tell them the truth, but do it with kindness. Rather than fixing the problem for them, be available for a conversation, and start by listening.

When someone’s emotions are running hot, the most effective way to be of help is to remain calm, and not allow your own emotions to be triggered. Allowing others to be responsible for soothing themselves and facing their own anxiety without propping them up allows them to grow, to develop self-respect, and to become a more whole and capable person.


Of course you must remain flexible. Babies and young children, for example, need to be soothed. But as children grow, we should gradually allow them more time to soothe themselves before we step in. In order for adults to handle big problems without falling apart they need to learn to handle small ones as they grow. If parents allow their children increasingly more responsibility to take care of themselves and fix their own problems as they grow, they will be able to handle increasingly more anxiety without falling down too hard. The key is allowing autonomy and responsibility to develop gradually.

Also, people experiencing real trauma may need soothing and help handling their problems.

The more we can be a calm presence for a person rather than a band-aid, the more we encourage them to become responsible for themselves, which is the only real way we can give them the gift of becoming more confident and secure.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


Recommended: Dr. James Hollis’ Creating a life: Finding your individual path and The Eden project: In search of the magical other. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Read “Intimacy vs. Agreement: ‘I better not disagree with his point of view, or he’ll get upset.’”

Read “I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

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How to handle a jealous partner & your own jealousy

Click on the picture below to watch the short video:

How to handle a jealous partner

When someone becomes driven by their jealousy, it’s quite annoying and unappealing. Yet, jealousy is a terrible emotion to experience. It causes a powerful fear of being abandoned or betrayed by someone you care about.

Occasional feelings of jealousy can be natural and sometimes are a response to bad past experiences. So when your partner is jealous, it’s best not to be defensive but to be kind and to assuage his or her fears.

If your partner is leering or flirting with others excessively, then you could mention something. Remember it’s important to speak from a place of reason and calm, not hostility and insecurity.

When someone is frequently or excessively jealous, and starts becoming controlling, it’s critical to set boundaries and stand your ground. You have to be clear that you are not willing to be controlled or submit to unreasonable demands.

If unwanted behavior continues after you’ve had a conversation about it together, it’s unlikely that you can change the other person. Possessive jealousy tends to destroy a relationship through hostility and control. So you may have to limit or even terminate the relationship before it gets out of control.

How to handle your own jealousy

If you are the person experiencing jealousy, understand that occasional feelings of jealousy can be natural and sometimes are a response to past abandonment or betrayal. However, it’s important to note that it’s natural and in fact healthy for men and women to notice and look at other attractive people, to engage in harmless mild flirting, and to have some friends of the opposite sex.

But it can be threatening to people who get jealous easily. When you feel threatened and respond by attacking your partner or friend, you look insecure, which is very unappealing and ineffective in sustaining a successful relationship. So develop the self-discipline to avoid acting on your jealousy. If you can respond with confidence, life will be more enjoyable, and your partner will find you much more attractive.

Frequent or severe jealousy shows insecurity and can wreck a relationship. So it is critical to gain self-control and maintain your self-confidence. You are much more attractive and appealing to be with when you don’t feel threatened by the presence of other attractive people and friendships. You are also much more effective in sustaining a healthy relationship when you stay calm and comfortable in your skin.

Sometimes jealousy is a signal to pay attention to what’s going on. Look at all the circumstances objectively. If your relationship is taking the backseat to new friendships, talk about to your partner rationally. Also consider whether you have been paying adequate attention to your relationship, and discuss your desire to spend time together in a positive way.

If your relationship is taking a backseat to another outside friendship, then it might be time to talk about what’s going on, which is much most effective when you avoid becoming accusatory or defensive.

If your relationship continues to take a backseat to an outside relationship or if there is lying or cheating going on, despite reasonable conversations and efforts, it may be time to move on. Anger and controlling behavior will not improve the situation.

Excessive jealousy destroys relationships. It leads to controlling and possessive behavior, which leads to a limited and miserable relationship. It can also lead to abuse and violence. If you experience frequent anger and jealousy, take control of your life by getting help or counseling.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Healthy Relationships and
Effective Communication



Read “Pursuing passions or partnership? ‘You should spend time with me instead of going fishing!’”

Read “Jealous Partner: ‘How can you be so jealous! You’re being ridiculous.’”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “Romantic Jealousy: ‘I can’t think of him/her with another man/woman.’”

Posted in Communication, Conflict | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“My ex was the worst….”

"Mississippi Blues" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Mississippi Blues” by Mimi Stuart ©

Talking about your ex in a disparaging way is tedious and draining to others and reflects poorly on you as a person. Nobody will be impressed that your last boyfriend or ex-wife sent abusive emails or stalked you. They will merely wonder whether you are a victim or a bad judge of character.

If asked about your past relationships, rather than starting on a diatribe of complaints, you could simply say, “We went our separate ways,” or “We grew apart.”

Grow up, don’t put down

Better yet, find a way to view your difficult relationships of the past with perspective and find a silver lining. After all, you were together for a reason and probably got something out of the relationship.

It is often through the very gridlock and troubles in a relationship that we learn who we are and what our boundaries are.

We all live and learn from experience, especially from painful episodes that cause us to grow.

There may be times when you do want to talk about a painful relationship with a close friend in order to gain insight about yourself or the relationship or to share what you have learned. Yet self-reflective conversations are very different from complaining about and belittling others. Remember to stick to the former, where your intent is to understand, grow, gain peace, and become more whole.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
Twitter: @alisonpoulsen


Read “My ex was a psycho!”

Read “My negative emotions bring me down. I tend to dwell on feeling hurt or angry.”

Watch “Why do people gossip, and when is it malicious?”

Posted in Attitude, Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sports Psychology & Coaching Effectively: “I told you not to pull the kite in and drop the board!”

Click on the picture below to watch the short video:

Everyone learns slightly differently. However, there are some general rules of thumb for coaching and teaching sports that hold true for most people.

1. Keep it simple. Focus on one thing at a time until it becomes a good habit. Then add a new element. Avoid giving too much information and lists of things to think about or the athlete will become overwhelmed or confused.

2. Focus on the positive. It can be helpful to show the right technique in contrast to the wrong technique so you can really see the clear difference. But you don’t want to focus too much on what not to do. Otherwise those negative images are the ones that stay in the athlete’s mind.

3. Be encouraging.
Build on what the student does well rather than focusing on everything he or she did poorly. Avoid scolding.

4. Take small steps. Avoid foolish and overly difficult expectations. People generally learn best when they can have success and then build on their successes.

5. Be specific. People learn better when you are precise rather than vague and open-ended.

6. Have fun. Sports are about having fun and enjoying yourself.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
Healthy Relationships and
Effective Communication



Watch “Couples should pursue their individual passions for happiness.”

Read “Sports Psychology: ‘I don’t want to fail and disappoint the coach.’”

Read “Performance Anxiety: ‘I want to be totally relaxed instead of anxious when I compete in sports or engage in public speaking.’”

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It hurts that my fiancé thinks I am smothering him. He wants me to let him catch his breath after he gets off work. I’m scared that I’m going to lose him because I’m needy or clingy.”

"Pressure Control" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Pressure Control” by Mimi Stuart ©


You are right. You will scare your fiancé away by smothering him. Give him the distance he needs. Love means having the self-discipline to respect the other person’s wishes and needs despite your own desires.

Desiring someone is a wonderful thing. But when the feeling becomes one of overwhelming or urgent need, then it’s time to find more fulfillment in your own life. You must try to reduce the psychological burden you are putting on to your fiancé.

Self-sabotaging Behavior

Sometimes people sabotage their relationships because they unconsciously conclude from painful past experiences that they are not worthy of reciprocal love. In such cases it’s important to resist the temptation to act in ways that tend to push others away. For example, by

• smothering a person
• giving too much advice
• using guilt trips, or
• playing games.

Balance Desire

The pursuer/distancer dynamic you are experiencing will only become more exaggerated once you are married if you don’t find some balance now.

As you know, when you are waiting for someone, your desire for that person increases. It would be more balanced if he were sometimes waiting for you while you were working, at a class, at a friend’s, on a walk or at the gym. You will see a shift in your one-sided dynamic if you were busier with some of your own interests, friends, sports, or work. If you pursued some interesting activities, you would feel more whole yourself, smother him less, and become more interesting – and more desirable.

Love out of fullness

Loving someone out of fullness is more sustainable than loving someone out of need. Fullness comes from leading a more full, balanced life with ongoing growth. Your relationship will be more mutually satisfying if you balance your desire for your fiancé with your own independent pursuits.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
Healthy Relationships and
Effective Communication



Read “Pursuit and Distancing: Intimacy vs. Needing Space.”

Read “Pursuing passions or partnership? ‘You should spend time with me instead of going fishing!’”

Posted in Intimacy, Relationship Skills | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Author Sam Vaknin
Cold Empathy: The Narcissist as Predator

"Audacity" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Audacity” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

The narcissist is cursed – or blessed – with mental X-ray vision. He sees through people’s emotional shields, their petty lies, their pitiable defences, their grandiose fantasies. He knows when they deviate from the truth and by how much. He intuitively grasps their self-interested goals and accurately predicts the strategy and tactics they will adopt in order to achieve them.

The narcissist cannot stand self-important, self-inflated, pompous, bigoted, self-righteous, and hypocritical people. He rages at the inefficient, the lazy, the hapless and the weak.

Perhaps this is because the narcissist recognize himself in them. He tries to break the painful reflection of his own flaws in theirs.

The narcissist homes in on the chinks in their laboriously constructed armours. He spots their Achilles heel and attaches to it. He pricks the gasbags that most people are. He deflates them. He forces them to confront their finiteness and helplessness and mediocrity. He negates their sense of uniqueness. He reduces them to size and to proportion and he provides them with a perspective. The narcissist does all this cruelly and abrasively and sadistically and lethally efficiently. He has no compassion or compunction. And he preys on their vulnerabilities, however microscopic, however well-concealed.

The narcissist exposes their double-talk and derides their double standards. He refuses to play their games of prestige and status and hierarchy. He draws them out of their shelters. He destabilizes them. He deconstructs their narratives, their myths, their superstitions, their hidden assumptions, their polluted language. He calls a spade a spade.

The narcissist forces them to react and, by reacting, to confront their true, dilapidated selves, their dead end careers, their mundane lives, the death of their hopes and wishes and their shattered dreams. And all the time he observes them with the passionate hatred of the outcast and the dispossessed.

The truths about them, the ones they are trying so desperately to conceal, especially from themselves. The facts denied, so ugly and uncomfortable. Those things that never get mentioned in proper company, the politically incorrect, the personally hurtful, the dark, ignored, and hidden secrets, the tumbling skeletons, the taboos, the fears, the atavistic urges, the pretensions, the social lies, the distorted narratives of life – piercing, bloodied and ruthless – these are the narcissist’s revenge, the settling of scores, the leveling of the battlefield.

The narcissist lances them – the high and mighty and successful and the happy people, those who possess what he deserves and never had, the object of his green eyed monsters. The narcissist inconveniences them, makes them think, reflect on their own misery and wallow in its rancid outcomes. He coerces them to confront their zombie state, their own sadism, their unforgivable deeds and unforgettable omissions. He dredges the sewer that is their mind, forcing to the surface long repressed emotions, oft suppressed pains, their nightmares and their fears.

And he pretends to do so selflessly, “for their own good”. The narcissist preaches and hectors and pours forth vitriolic diatribes and exposes and imposes and writhes and foams in the proverbial mouth – all for the greater good. He is so righteous, so true, so geared to help, so meritorious. His motives are unassailable. He is always so chillingly reasoned, so algorithmically precise. The narcissist is frozen wrath. He plays their alien game by their very own rules. But he is so foreign to them, that he is unbeatable. Only they do not realize it yet.

Afterword: Cold Empathy

The narcissist’s ability to penetrate the defenses of his victims is instinctual and intuitive, not the outcome of deliberative analysis. He homes in on other people’s vulnerabilities as a tiger mauls a straying, weakened gazelle ; he leverages his target’s fears and neediness the way a virus breaches cellular defenses and then uses the cell’s machinery to replicate; and he taunts, abuses, torments, harasses, and stalks his prey because it’s fun and imbues him with a sense of pleasurable omnipotence. Acting this way is in the narcissist’s nature, it’s an integral and crucial part of who he is.

The narcissist’s “x-ray vision” is strictly limited to the traits, qualities, and behaviors of his would-be and actual victims that are useful in subjugating them and converting them into sources of narcissistic supply. The narcissist’s arrested personal development, his massive psychological defenses, his poor reality test (his grandiose and persecutory fantasies), and his cognitive deficits render him incapable of true, profound, and comprehensive insight into others and into the human condition.

Contrary to widely held views, Narcissists and Psychopaths may actually possess empathy. They may even be hyper-empathic, attuned to the minutest signals emitted by their victims and endowed with a penetrating “X-ray vision“. They tend to abuse their empathic skills by employing them exclusively for personal gain, the extraction of narcissistic supply, or in the pursuit of antisocial and sadistic goals. They regard their ability to empathize as another weapon in their arsenal. There are two possible pathological reactions to childhood abuse and trauma: codependence and narcissism. They both involve fantasy as a defense mechanism: the codependent has a pretty realistic assessment of herself, but her view of others is fantastic; the narcissist’s self-image and self-perception are delusional and grandiose, but his penetrating view of others is bloodcurdlingly accurate.

I suggest to label the narcissistic psychopath’s version of empathy: “cold empathy”, akin to the “cold emotions” felt by psychopaths. The cognitive element of empathy is there, but not so its emotional correlate. It is, consequently, a barren, detached, and cerebral kind of intrusive gaze, devoid of compassion and a feeling of affinity with one’s fellow humans.

Narcissists and psychopaths also appear to be “empathizing” with their possessions: objects, pets, and their sources of narcissistic supply or material benefits (often their nearest and dearest, significant others, or “friends” and associates). But this is not real empathy: it is a mere projection of the narcissist’s or psychopath’s own insecurities and fears, needs and wishes, fantasies and priorities. This kind of displayed “empathy” usually vanishes the minute its subject ceases to play a role in the narcissist’s or psychopath’s life and his psychodynamic processes.

Cold Empathy evokes the concept of “Uncanny Valley”, coined in 1970 by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori. Mori suggested that people react positively to androids (humanlike robots) for as long as they differ from real humans in meaningful and discernible ways. But the minute these contraptions come to resemble humans uncannily, though imperfectly, human observers tend to experience repulsion, revulsion, and other negative emotions, including fear.

The same applies to psychopathic narcissists: they are near-perfect imitations of humans, but, lacking empathy and emotions, they are not exactly there. Psychopaths and narcissists strike their interlocutors as being some kind of “alien life-forms” or “artificial intelligence”, in short: akin to humanoid robots, or androids. When people come across narcissists or psychopaths the Uncanny Valley reaction kicks in: people feel revolted, scared, and repelled. They can’t put the finger on what it is that provokes these negative reactions, but, after a few initial encounters, they tend to keep their distance.


Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read “Narcissism” by Alison Poulsen

Posted in Personality Traits, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments