Dr. Alison Poulsen has counseled hundreds of individuals and couples, which inspired her to create her own TV show “Couples Solutions.” She has a PhD in Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, a BA from UC Berkeley, an MBA, JD and MA in philosophy from UC Davis. She has been married for 27 years and has two children. A resident of Ketchum, Idaho, she is an avid snow skier and three-time national water ski slalom champion.


This blog gives you the skills to transform ineffective thinking and communication into effective thinking and communication. If you examine negative expressions, thoughts and actions, you can usually find underlying needs and desires that are positive and valuable. When we learn to express ourselves with deeper meaning in a positive way, relationships and life become easier and more authentic, and bring us closer to living the life we desire.


My psychological view of people is developed in large part from the theories of Dr. Carl Jung, as well as Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone’s “Psychology of the Selves.” Both Jung and the Stones emphasize the role of the unconscious in the dynamics between people’s different “parts” of themselves. I also base my ideas on the theory of differentiation developed by Murray Bowen, and further explored by David Schnarch. I look to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s “Nonviolent Communication” for an excellent approach to effective communication. Exciting new findings in brain neuroplasticity reveal ways that we can break ineffective habits in our lives and actually transform ourselves–if we have sufficient knowledge, desire and effort to do so.



Living a more fulfilling life is possible when people become self-aware and understand the dynamics of a relationship. By seeing how we participate in relationship dynamics, we can then exercise the only real power we have in a relationship, that is, in deciding how we choose to interact.

Mutual Respect and Self-respect

The basis of healthy relationships is mutual respect. Mutual respect involves not only respecting other people, but respecting yourself by learning to take care of your own needs and desires in a positive way.

Withstanding the Anxiety of Intimacy

Intimacy requires the ability to calmly withstand the tension of anxiety—anxiety involved in disagreement, conflict, anger, or embarrassment. Handling anxiety without being reactive—withdrawing suddenly, lashing out angrily, or falling apart—is crucial in developing and sustaining long-term passionate relationships.

Moderating The Inner Critic

An inner critic can be either an encouraging supporter or a stifling monster. Only when we learn to recognize and change the way we demean or criticize ourselves, can we recognize and prevent demeaning and overly-critical behavior from others. In order to stop putting up with negative, judgmental, or destructive behavior from or toward others, we must become aware of and tone down our own inner critic.

Communication Skills

We can learn specific communication skills to effectively convey our needs and desires, without conveying neediness or hostility. Much of the emotional heat that wreaks havoc in relationships can be avoided when people become aware of and fine-tune their body language, tone of voice, demeanor and use of words.

Avoid Criticism and Belittlement

Negative relationships often develop so gradually that it’s hard to notice their disintegration until it’s too late. While it’s very difficult to make changes in existing abusive relationships, we can learn how to avoid future relationships that gradually descend into demeaning, hostile, or controlling dynamics—all potential precursors to abuse. We need to consciously promote awareness and mutual respect in unsuspecting everyday moments.

The Unconscious

By examining expressions of the unconscious, such as outbursts, attractions, dreams, and recurrent relationship patterns, we can discover unconscious complexes that move us. Ironically, we can become more self-empowered, creative, and loving by recognizing and appreciating our unconscious vulnerabilities, as well as our undeveloped drives and constraints. Through this awareness, we can live consciously rather than being driven by unknown or unrecognized forces.

Developing New Parts of Ourselves

Different parts of ourselves—such as the parts that are responsible, fun-loving, productive, or fearful—are specific personality structures with their own histories, feelings and ways of being in the world. Understanding how and why our distinct primary selves developed opens up the possibility of no longer merely reacting automatically to specific triggers. It also gives us the opportunity to develop the undeveloped parts of ourselves in a positive way. With added choice, we can live more multifaceted lives, and extend this depth and breadth into our relationships.

15 thoughts on “About

  1. Leilani

    Hi Alison,
    My name is Leilani, I really enjoy your blog because it gives me an insight scope of human behavior and why people act the way they do. I feel the need to share your blog to my other friends who are having difficulty in some areas of their relationship and this blog is really helpful. Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

    Kind Regards.

    Port Moresby;
    Papua NEW Guinea

    1. Alison Post author

      Hi Port,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it. I’m glad that you are enjoying my blog. Your friends are always welcome to send in questions anonymously.

      All the best.

  2. Mark Purvis

    Hi Alison

    I was just browsing through sowhatireallymeant.com and was really impressed. I enjoyed reading the article on Order vs. Chaos;
    Responsibility vs. Spontaneity – truly fascinating!

    My name is Mark and I work at Ezoic – an award-winning website improvement platform and Google Certified Publishing Partner. In a nutshell, we provide a bunch of automated tools for publishers looking to get more from their sites.

    Our free-to-use Ad Tester tool recently won Google’s Business Innovation Award at a Google event in Dublin – publishers using Ad Tester tend to see their earnings improve by between 60-200%!

    Taking a look at sowhatireallymeant.com, I think it’s a great candidate for the platform. Mind if I send over some more info?



  3. Catherine Jennings

    I have been married for 27 years…my husband and I care deeply for each other…but the past year has not been one of our best. We were both married when we met each other 43 years ago… Many would consider our marriage to be one of the better ones around. My husband is 7 years older than I (I have 62, he is 69). I am not sure if some of our issues have to do with his aging or what. But this year has offered up some challenges for me that am struggling with. First and foremost, he is a Facebook fanatic! We both spend time on social media as we travel a great deal and keep in touch with kids via photos and messages,etc. I feel he spends too much time on social media. We have talked about the phone and the proper times to have it in “your face”.He has done a better job as of late. But the biggest issue that has come up relates to trust (something which I have never questioned in our marriage). I don’t want to belabor the story..so I will try to be short. On two occasions I have seen message on m husband’s phone in which he was talking to women. The first incident was an old high school friend….(I don’t see her as a threat or an attraction to him – it was just the way the meeting took place)….I was at our home in the mountains…and he contacted her to have lunch with him to show her a book that we had recently published. It was not the fact that he had met her there, but the fact that he had not told me. When I asked him about it, he said that he thought he had mentioned it. The second time, he was out for the day..I was at home ….I noticed on Facebook that he was at a nursing home visiting an old friend of ours. That wasn’t an issue either…the issue was he contact her young beautiful granddaughter and asked her to meet him there. When I asked him why he had not mentioned it, he said that her granddaughter had contacted him to meet her at the nursing home to see grandmother…As it turns out, the girl did not call him, he contacted her and asked her to meet him there. (I innocently found this out in talking to the granddaughter). I approached my husband about the above mentioned incident and he told me sometimes he just wanted to be himself, without me tagging along. I was not offended by this, but very offended by the fact that he had lied. He tried to turn it around as to the fact that I was checking up on him, etc, and that he didn’t have to “account” to me his where abouts on a regular basis. I was very hurt and shocked, as this has never been an area of concern in our lives. He said he lied to me because I would not understand….it seems like a very stupid incident to bring such sadness to my heart, but it has.
    There have been other issues this year when he might have had a little too much to drink and told me that he felt I was “overconfident”, and that he sometimes felt he needed to “tone me down”.
    As of late, he is not unlike him to make sarcastic comments to others about me…which he says “he is just kidding”……
    We have always had a strong friendship..but I feel weakness sneaking in on us.
    He has had some health issues over the past ten years and within the last two years had some limitations sexually…which, of course, been a big change in our relationship. We still are intimate with one another, but due to his issues things are just different.
    I value our relationship and our marriage..and I think he does as well. But I don’t trust him lately, and its a terrible feeling…
    I have read several articles today regarding “contempt” in a marriage, and I feel that this may be what we are now dealing with….

    1. Alison Post author

      Hi C,

      Thank you for your question, which is not easy to answer. It seems to me that his aging and sexual limitations over the past two years are related to his behavior to reach out to women and his past and his comment to you that you are overconfident. It seems as though he is feeling inferior and embarrassed by his weakening vitality as a man, and that this is causing him to seek affirmation from other women and to treat you with some contempt. Another factor that may play into this new dynamic may be that you are traveling together and perhaps together too much of the time. It may be easy for him to lose desire for someone he spends all day with, and to project his disappointment in himself onto you.

      I agree that being on social media for many hours a day is detrimental to one’s own face-to-face relationships and one’s life. However, if you’ve had discussions about it, it won’t be effective to continue reminding him about it. It will only feed into his inner narrative that those ex-girlfriends and other friends on social media support him while you don’t–and that his unhappiness is caused by you rather than by the inevitable sadness that comes from the losses experienced while aging.

      So, what to do is the question. It sounds as though he hasn’t betrayed you other than a couple of lies, which isn’t good, but it isn’t the end of the world. My feeling is that it may be best to try to focus on other friends and pursuits which interest you and perhaps to spend less time together. A little flirtation with others isn’t necessarily harmful as long as he doesn’t develop stronger emotional relationships with others than with you. A little flirtation can bring back vitality. If you do support him in these connections and then go off and do your own thing, he may start missing you. If you arrange things so that he does have the day free and you don’t quiz him about what he’s doing, he might start feeling a little less like a child sneaking out from his parents, and start becoming more concerned about what you are up to.

      Here are several of my articles that you might read. Let me think about this some more. It’s not easy. If you have any more pertinent facts let me know.







    2. Alison Post author

      Hello again,

      After thinking about this some more and talking to my husband, it seems that your husband is probably experiencing some shame around his diminishing sexual vitality, which is causing him to seek some solace or feelings of adequacy around other women. Since you trust him and he doesn’t seem to be really pursuing other women, it might be best to give him space and completely avoid criticizing him. In other words, let him do social media all day without giving him any looks of contempt. It would be best and easiest to do this if you don’t focus on him much at all, but continue to be kind to him.If you can focus on some activities that are more life enhancing for you off on your own, hopefully he will start missing you and come through this period of disappointment, which is almost like a mid-life crisis but later in life.

      However, each time he is disrespectful toward you, like making a negative sarcastic remark to others, I would say something, perhaps waiting until the other people are not around. Don’t be angry or meek. Just say, “When you said ‘such and such’ about me, I was surprised and disappointed/embarrassed. If you are angry with me, please talk to me directly.”
      “If something’s bothering you about me, I will listen. I love you. But please don’t say things like that in front of other people.” If he then says again, “I was just being funny,” you can respond, “You may not have had bad intentions and I appreciate that, but I’m asking you to refrain from making sarcastic remarks about me.”

      Best to you. Let me know how it goes or if there are other relevant facts.

  4. Vanessa

    Dear Dr. Alison,

    I value your blog and newsletter, which continues to add value and wisdom in my daily life. My thoughts:

    Relationship, the good ones are like a well crafted tapestry can only bring positive energy, the spirit of breathe, where God is and dwells. Listening with our whole being, (heart, mind and soul) takes work, free of negative baggage. Truth, respect and love should only reign. Stepping back from time to time to view the landscape, give us focus and perspective. I value the lessons in life my mother taught me. ^..^ (little diva has brought her own flavor of wisdom too). v

  5. Jessica Swan


    My name is Jessica Swan, Education Specialist at Harmony Foundation, and I am wondering if I can utilize a video from You Tube that you created on setting healthy boundaries. I think it would be very helpful for the residential treatment program, as the clients are recovering alcoholics/addicts and this boundary stuff is frequently difficult. Please let me know who I need to contact or if there is anything else I need to do prior to using the video. Thank you for your time, Jessica Swan, CACII, Education Specialist

  6. Dean

    Allison–I read your comments regarding narcissism and how one who lives with a narcissist can cope; however, I am a narcissist and I’m struggling to move past it. Currently I am attending counseling for this and as your comments suggest, it appears my narcissistic behavior developed in childhood likely from the relationship between my father and me. He was critical and although trying to be helpful in his criticism, I never felt he understood me or was empathetic to my needs.

    My struggle is what do I do now? I want to be more empathetic and kinder toward people but it does not come naturally to me. Any suggestions are most welcome and appreciated.

  7. Pingback: Personality Structure - The Psychology of Selves

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