“I hate it when you’re jealous!”

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

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

It may be inappropriate to leer at others, especially when you are in a relationship. Yet it is healthy and normal to appreciate other attractive or vibrant people with a glance in their direction.

Overt jealousy, however, harms a relationship, and angry defensiveness will do the same.

“I saw you looking at him/her!”

How do you respond when a partner who is easily jealous reprimands you for an innocent glance or conversation with another person? Imagine that he or she scolds you with, “I saw you looking at her/him!”

Avoid getting angry, defensive, or apologetic. Instead keep your cool, and perhaps say, “You’re the one I care about. Please don’t suggest anything else.” The key is not to buy into our partner’s emotional heat.

If your partner persists in attacking you, remain calm and say something like, “Don’t you enjoy occasionally looking or talking to other people? I do. Yet I’ve never been inappropriate with someone else and don’t intend to be. Please don’t get angry at me for something I enjoy doing.”

Insecurities vs Enjoyment of life

Everyone has insecurities and vulnerabilities. While you need to pay attention to them, you do not want to let them dominate your personality. It’s also compassionate to give the jealous person a chance to regroup without being too reactive. No one is flawless.

It’s much more attractive for both people to demonstrate self-confidence, even if they have to work hard to resist letting their insecurities take over. In fact, when both partners can be harmlessly< flirtatious with others, it actually enhances the eros and vitality of both partners and the relationship. Harmless is key.

Considerate without being controlled

Keep calm and be reasonable; yet do not allow yourself to be controlled by your partner’s fears. If you do, you are walking down the path toward resenting your partner. Some consideration is necessary in any relationship, but don’t start walking on eggshells to avoid his or her unreasonable reactivity. You will never be able to please someone who tries to control others in order to manage his or her own insecurities.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can care more deeply for someone if you react less emotionally to their anger, jealousy, and insecurities. When you realize that someone else’s emotions and desires are not yours, it’s easier to respond with kindness, but without apologizing for your reasonable behavior.

Remember, The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.

~William Penn

by Alison Poulsen

Read “Random Thoughts from So What I Really Meant.”

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

Read “Attractions outside the Marriage.”

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

“I don’t have time for this huge project.”
Ten minutes: One box, one call, one block.

"Lady Liberty" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Lady Liberty” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

In ten minutes, you can organize one drawer, go through one box of stuff you’ve been storing, make one difficult phone call or walk around the block.

Disarray muddles the mind. Your untidiness may be

physical — in a jumble of boxes in the garage,
mental — in pressures that need to be dealt with, or
emotional — dreaded obligations that need to be addressed.

Physical clutter, even if hidden in boxes, leave a sense of discomfort and dread in the mind. When mental and emotional clutter are not faced head on, relationship and personal problems fester and grow. Continuing progress, on the other hand, results in a feeling of freedom, lightness, and hope.


Pick a box, a drawer, or a room in the house. By limiting your task to something small and achievable, you will not be overwhelmed. If you focus on a single task, you can accomplish a lot in ten minutes. The feeling of accomplishment as well as the pleasure of having a clutter free drawer or a corner of the garage will create motivation for the next day. Within a short time, the remarkable change in your physical environment will spread to your psychological state of mind.


If you put off a dreaded conversation—to apologize, to ask for help, to explain that you have to back out of a commitment, to discuss poor behavior—the situation or relationship will deteriorate. These dreaded conversations are easier to have early on before the negative pattern is ingrained. The weight of unfinished business hinders every aspect of your life. Feelings of guilt, resentment, or being overwhelmed burden work, relationships, and sleep with an uncomfortable sense of anxiety and foreboding.

Once you make the difficult phone call or talk to your boss, spouse, child, friend or creditor in a straightforward, respectful way, you will feel better. Rather than feeling stuck and constrained, you will be able to move forward with your life.


Your health and wellbeing are integrally connected to your physical and mental vitality. Injuries and conditions of ill health compound with age and directly affect your happiness, productivity, and the quality of relationships. For those who dread exercise, start by walking ten minutes at a time—around one block. No preparation is necessary, just go around the block. By setting an easy minimum, you are less likely to procrastinate. When you see how good you feel and how well your joints respond, you may find it easy to repeat this two, three or four times a day.

1. Determine what’s most important.

2. Pick one single task.

The most effective way to accomplish something is by focusing on one thing alone. If it’s a large project, break it down into smaller components—it is less daunting when you focus on a small task:

• clear one single drawer, not the entire house;
• have one conversation about one issue, not the entire relationship;
• walk around one block, don’t run a marathon.

3. Commit to focusing on that task exclusively for at least ten minutes.

4. Repeat every day.

Ten minutes: one box, one call, one block.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Clutter in your surroundings causes clutter in the mind:
‘I don’t have time to deal with this mess. I’ve got so many things going on—it’s chaos.’”

Read “My life feels out of control.”

Read “I dread facing this problem.”

Read “Avoidance Behavior: ‘I’ve been dreading telling her about our financial problems.’”

Posted in Personality Traits | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What a jerk you are! You treat me like a slave!”

"Muwan" Mayan Collection by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Muwan” Mayan Collection by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

So what I really meant was…

“I’d be happy to consider doing that for you if you would speak to me respectfully.”

Unfortunately people close to you may need to be reminded to be polite if they begin to take you for granted.

Why would anyone be motivated to help someone who is being rude? While it’s appropriate to be upset and important to stop the disrespectful behavior, there is no need to overreact. Calling someone a name and being demeaning yourself will only aggravate the situation.

You are more likely to change the relationship dynamic if you keep your cool while giving the other person an opportunity to show his or her better side.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Good Relationships: ‘What happened to our relationship? It used to be so great.’”

Watch “How to avoid becoming a Doormat.”

Read “Communicating Effectively under Stress: ‘This is horrible!’”

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

Grit: “You’re absolutely amazing Honey!”

Indomitable Spirit, Apa SherpaIt turns out the greatest indicator of success is not IQ, family wealth, good looks, or artificially-induced “self-esteem,” but something Angela Lee Duckworth calls “grit,” which is the ability to persevere at working hard despite the failures and challenges that confront us on a daily basis.

Imagine being a child whose parents’ ongoing commentary is, “You’re so smart. Look what you’ve done! You are amazing!” At first, such adulation might make you feel good, particularly when you’re two years old. Pretty soon, however, you realize that others are as smart or smarter than you and you begin doubting your parents. You fear being found out, which often leads to a lack of motivation. You unconsciously fear that any aspiration might lead to disappointment and embarrassment when you are found to be lacking your parents’ high assessment and expectations.

“I better not try this new sport. I don’t want to look like a beginner.”

“I’m not going to study for this test. It’s too embarrassing If I study and do poorly. Instead I’ll point out how stupid the teacher is.”

“I’ll make it look like it’s my decision not to try. I would hate to appear average after trying.”

Now imagine being a child whose parents never give their approval and in fact spend most of their time criticizing you. It would make you feel angry, depressed and horrible about yourself. It might, however, lead you to try harder to win their approval. Yet if you do succeed in the outside world and even if you do eventually get their approval, you will still have that inner voice that never thinks you’re good enough. Again you live with a fear of being found to be inadequate because no matter what external success you achieve, you can’t get rid of the feeling that you are inferior. Living with an inner critic that says you’re worthless is a painful way to go through life.

What kind of parenting then is likely to foster your children’s grit and not leave them with a tyrannical inner critic? Inborn personality traits and genetics do influence how a particular child grows and develops in a particular environment. In general, however, a child is likely to develop self-motivation, healthy self-esteem, and an ability to persevere through frustration and failure under the following conditions:

1. The parent does not excessively judge the child in a negative manner, particularly in a general way, “That’s terrible. You’re lazy. You’ll never get it right.”

2. The parent does not lavish implausible praise upon the child, particularly in a general way, “That’s amazing. You’re fantastic. You’re the best, the smartest, the best-looking.”

3. The parent does give occasional specific constructive guidance. “Try moving your arm like this when you throw the ball.” “Maybe you want to try this,” or “Approach it this way.”

4. The parent does give specific statements of approval on occasion, such as “It looks like you worked hard for those good grades.” “That color blue gives the painting a feeling of peace.” “I enjoyed listening to your speech.” Note that if approval occurs twenty times a day, it will feel as though the parent is trying to boost the child’s self-esteem. The child will infer from this that the parent thinks the child needs such boosting because the parent thinks he or she is inadequate. In other words, constant efforts to give approval backfire.

5. The family appreciates hard work more than natural talent. “I appreciate the time you spent helping me.” “I admire your persistence.”

6. When there’s a setback or failure, the parent does not over-react either negatively or positively. For example, the parent does not say, “Oh no. I knew this would happen! You should have studied harder!” Or “Don’t worry honey, you really are the best. I’ll help you next time.” Instead the parent remains neutral and caring, but not over-involved. “I’m sure you will figure out what you need to do to make it work.”

7. Most importantly, the child grows up with a belief that effort and practice lead to improvement, rather than with a belief that the IQ and talents you’re born with are fixed. Simply learning about current research on the neuro-plasticity of our brain encourages a growth mind-set, which, in turn, is proven to promote hard work and self-motivation.

Self-motivation, self-control and self-possession are key to developing courage and grit. A person loses motivation when others push too much, get too involved or overreact. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand, as Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, has put it. Ultimately, failure and being undeterred by failure are prerequisites to success in life, for Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts. ~Winston Churchill.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Seeking approval: ‘Why doesn’t my father appreciate me and all that I have accomplished?’”

Watch “Authoritarian vs Permissive Parenting.”

Read Guest Author SAM VAKNIN, PhD: “Can’t Get My Mother’s Voice Out of My Head!”

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

“If I get the promotion and my new relationship works out, then I’ll be happy.”

"Scott Joplin's Great Crush Collision"  by Mimi Stuart© Live the Life you Desire

“Scott Joplin’s Great Crush Collision”
by Mimi Stuart© Live the Life you Desire

It turns out that this kind of thinking is reversed. It actually works the other way around. If you decide to be happy, then your job and your relationships are likely to be successful and fulfilling.

People who are happy feel better, focus better, think more clearly, have better access to all regions of their brains, have quicker more agile responses to changing circumstances and solve problems better. Happy people are more empathetic and creative, which means they will be more diplomatic, interesting and enjoyable to be around.

In essence, happy people perform better at work and have better relationships.

How do you make yourself happy?

To increase your happiness, try some of the following:

• get more sleep,
• eat healthy foods,
• exercise — particularly sports or activities you enjoy,
• pursue your passions,
• change negative thinking to optimistic thinking or at least to humor,
• do nice things for others,
• laugh more,
• meditate,
• increase your gratitude for the good things in your life,
• and focus on the positive angle of challenging circumstances in your life.

How to be happy when you’re angry at someone

When you are angry at someone, take the time you need to find at least one thing you are grateful for in that person. Try to adopt an attitude of gratitude in order to provide you with the clear thinking and demeanor to be more effective interacting with him or her. You may need to take a walk, get some exercise, do some deep breathing, talk to a friend, or take a couple of days before you are able to see some redeemable quality in the other person. Once you feel centered and can see a bit of humanity in the other person, you will communicate much more effectively, or at least avoid making things worse.

When you see the good in others despite their perceived shortcomings, they will sense it and be more open and amenable to you. Your effort at communication will be more compelling. Moreover, you can feel good about yourself for approaching someone in a positive, constructive, and humane way.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Should we always be positive? ‘Just be happy!’”

Read “Fantasies: ‘All I want is a Lamborghini! Then I’d be happy.’”

Read “Happiness: ‘We must have a terrible marriage because I’m so unhappy.’”

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

“I end up arguing with him because he’s usually too busy working to talk.”

"First Encounter" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“First Encounter” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Arguing to get a person’s attention

It’s natural to want emotional contact with your partner or friend. If you find it difficult to get his attention, you might start feeling ignored. To break through his indifference, you might say something meant to get his attention. The easiest way to get someone’s attention is provoking him by saying something surprising or antagonistic.

If you say, “Hey, I just wanted to talk,” your partner will probably nonchalantly say, “I’m busy right now.” But if you say, “We haven’t done anything fun together in three years!” or “My old boyfriend invited me to have a drink,” you are more than likely to get your partner’s attention. The problem is this might not be the best way to get his attention.

Arguing does serve a purpose. Conflict is a painful way to balance two human drives—the desires for emotional contact and autonomy. Arguing compels someone to respond emotionally while promoting self assertion. Yet arguing is not the most satisfying or effective form of human discourse.

Balancing autonomy and connection

If you find yourself frequently wanting another person’s attention, here are some things to consider. There should be a balance between quality time spent together and the pursuit of separate activities, whether work, passions, friends or other interests. The ideal balance is different for every couple, and for each individual within a relationship. A balance is something that has to be negotiated between the partners, negotiated in an open, frank, and reasonable way. Sometimes two individuals have such difference needs that there can be no balance that makes both partners happy. In general, however, a loving relationship thrives when the individuals have separate thoughts, emotions, and interests, and there is a consistent effort to enjoy each others’ company on a regular basis.

So ask yourself whether you are being too needy. Make sure that you are not simply wanting an unreasonable amount of attention, in which case you should perhaps find some other activities to fill some of your time.

How to talk to your partner

If the two of you are truly spending very little time together, it may be time to have a reasonable talk with your partner and find a way for the relationship to be nurtured. It’s important that you are calm and emotionally separate when you speak. When you are emotionally separate from another person, you don’t need to become angry to get that person’s attention. You don’t need dramatic expressions of self-assertion to express your desire to spend more time together. You can do so with some gravity but without becoming manipulative, hostile or needy.

First you can tell your partner that it’s important for you to talk about your needs in the relationship and ask when he has 10 minutes to do so. Don’t engage in guilt trips, manipulate or whine. Show no resentment. Confidence and a positive attitude can be irresistible and show that you have the self-respect to engage on a mature level. Be confident, uplifting and matter of fact. Demonstrate that you support his passions, but emphasize that the relationship is important to you and that there is a necessity for balance and for nourishing that relationship. Ask if he is willing to spend more enjoyable time together on a regular basis. Then ask him what he’s willing to do to keep the relationship strong. If he cannot find the time, then you will know where you and the relationship stand.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Mind reading: ‘You just don’t like spending time with me!’”

Read “Spending Time Together as a Couple.”

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

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

“I’m so depressed. I can’t run because my back hurts.”

"Off-Road Rumble" Juliana Furtado by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Off-Road Rumble” Juliana Furtado
by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

So what I really meant was…

“I need to figure out how to take care of my back so that it heals. In the meantime, there are a lot of others things to enjoy and for which to be grateful.”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Bad mood: ‘I feel so bad and don’t feel like doing anything.’”

Read “Should we always be positive? ‘Just be happy!’”

Read “Getting over your Victim Story: ‘My brother got all the attention.’”

Posted in Attitude | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Guest Author Sam Vaknin:
“He sometimes behaves like a Narcissist, but he is so shy and withdrawn, modest, and self-critical. It is very confusing. Is he a narcissist or isn’t he? Is he just acting?”

"Dreams and the Underworld" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“Dreams and the Underworld” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Contrary to misinformation spread by “experts” online, covert narcissists are not cunning and manipulative. Classic narcissists are: they often disguise their true nature effectively, knowingly, and intentionally. They are persistent actors with great thespian skills. Not so the covert narcissist: he suppresses his true nature because he lacks the confidence to assert it. His is not a premeditated choice: can’t help but shy away. The covert narcissist is his own worst critic.

Inverted narcissists are covert narcissists. They are self-centered, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, or hostile, and paranoid. They harbour grandiose fantasies and have a strong sense of entitlement. They tend to exploit other, albeit stealthily and subtly. Covert narcissists are aware of their innate limitations and shortcomings and, therefore, constantly fret and stress over their inability to fulfill their unrealistic dreams and expectations. They avoid recognition, competition, and the limelight for fear of being exposed as frauds or failures. They are ostentatiously modest.

Covert narcissists often feel guilty over and ashamed of their socially-impermissible aggressive urges and desires. Consequently, they are shy and unassertive and intensely self-critical (perfectionist). This inner conflict between an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and a grandiose False Self results in mood and anxiety disorders. They team up with classic narcissists (see below), but, in secret, resent and envy them.

Compare the classic narcissist to the covert narcissist is this table (Cooper and Akhtar, 1989):

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 8.52.27 AM

The Inverted Narcissist is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you are living with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, if you are married to one, if you are working with a narcissist, etc. it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder, can you be safely labelled an “inverted narcissist”.

by Sam Vaknin, PhD, Author of the comprehensive book on narcissism “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited.”

Read Sam Vaknin,’s “Is He Truly Modest or Just Faking It?”

Read “Flattery: ‘Meet my amazing friend who has two masters degrees, is CEO of a big company, and is an iron-man tri-athlete.’”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “Schizoid Personality Disorder: ‘He is either the spirit of the party – or a hermit.’”

Read “Bragging on a First Date: ‘I graduated with top honors and live on Snobhill.’”

Posted in Personality Traits, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment