Tag Archives: stuck

People without verbal restraint: Dealing with people who vent too much and gossip about you.

"Jazz Night" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Jazz Night” by Mimi Stuart ©

“How can I deal with a person who tells the same story over and over about someone who hurt her 20 years ago?
 Also she gossips about me even though I have asked her many times to stop.”

Verbal restraint is a virtue

Your friend’s problem is that she cannot contain her feelings and thoughts when it is appropriate to do so. She cannot resist her impulse to express whatever will get the attention she is desperately seeking. She does not try to restrain herself from venting her feelings of victimhood and from gossiping about other people’s lives despite the toxicity of such behavior.

The bottom line is that she is seeking attention in unhealthy ways and the solution for you is to stop enabling her.

Broken record—victim story

Individuals who continuously vent and complain about a past incident are psychologically stuck and seek relief by venting. Like having a cigarette, the relief from their anxiety is only temporary, and the long-term effects are harmful.

If you can, it is worth telling her in a compassionate way that telling the same story continuously will not help the situation, and in fact will keep her from dealing with the underlying issue and moving on. She is defining herself as a victim, and thereby limiting her own life. Perhaps suggest that some counseling would help her.

You might also gently tell her that she is causing others to see her as unempowered. If she could try to contain her resentment by focusing on improving her life, she would open up new possibilities in her life—talking about interesting ideas, for example, and hearing about other people’s pursuits and passions. As a result, she might feel less need of getting attention for being a victim.

It takes guts to say things like this, but it can be extremely helpful if you do so with compassion.

However, she may not have a strong enough sense of self to take such poignant input, in which case, she will be hurt and angry and you may have to limit your exposure to her. You can emphasize that you are not trying to be judgmental, but that you just want the best for her and therefore wanted to make a helpful observation.

An easier, alternative response is to say something like, “ I have heard this before,” each time she tries to bring up the same old story, and then change the subject to something more inspiring. This may not stop her from venting to others, but over time she might become aware of her tendency to repeat herself.

The simple act of denying her a sympathetic ear may be the best solution because in this case, listening sympathetically without challenging her is harmful enabling behavior. So you may ultimately have to distance yourself from her and the relationship.

How to stop gossip about you

Since your friend is disclosing too much about your life even though you have asked her not to, you need to keep your personal life private! Everyone makes the occasional mistake saying something they should not have. However, you cannot trust someone who continues to talk about you and your private life in spite of your specific requests not to do so. It’s fine to keep her as a casual friend, but do not disclose to her anything personal that you wouldn’t want circulated.

You may want to consider distancing yourself from her. Make other friends, and don’t disclose private details about your life until you really know, trust and are intimate with them.

George MacDonald’s saying is so true: “Few delights can equal the mere presence of one we utterly trust.”

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “You sound like a broken record repeating stories about your psycho ex!”

Read “Venting and Triangulation.”

Read “Setting Boundaries.”

The psychological habit that is as unhealthy as smoking: Rumination.

"Allegretto" by Mimi Stuart Live the Life you Desire

“Allegretto” by Mimi Stuart ©


Have you spent too many sleepless nights or distressing days dwelling on bad feelings and experiences of the past? Rumination is the compulsive focusing on causes and consequences of your distress. While worry focuses on potential bad events in the future, rumination focuses on past and current failures, disappointment, or suffering.

Rumination interferes with the confidence you need to problem-solve and move forward in your life in a positive way. Moreover, ongoing repetitive circular thinking about failures and distress often leads to depression as well as addictions.


The solution is to learn to notice each time you start ruminating. Then immediately distract yourself with a healthy activity for at least two minutes. Only two minutes of distraction will stop you from ruminating. You may have to do this countless times a day when you first start, but if you keep it up, your ruminating will diminish and then disappear.

Depending on your personality, effective distraction may have to involve your mind, your body, or both. Think of a mental or physical activity that is engaging enough to distract you.

Here are some examples:

• Organize papers or your accounting.

• Read a book.

• Do fifty sit ups.

• Clean your house while listening to your favorite music.

• Call a friend.

• Do a sport or take a walk while listening to a book on tape.

• Do an interactive video or game, such as a language or geography game, or lumosity.

• Clear clutter, focusing on what should be thrown out or where to put things.

• Catch up on social media or emails.

• Plan a dinner party or a trip.

Remember that you only need to distract yourself for two minutes. But if you distract yourself with something positive or productive many times a day, you’ll also have accomplished something worthwhile in the meantime. You’ll be better read, in better shape, caught up with friends, and you will have a cleaner house. These small satisfactions will also help you to stop ruminating about past negative events.

If you don’t have two minutes to spare, consider doing what a friend of mine did during a painful break up to keep her from dwelling in negative thinking. She wore a rubber band around her wrist and snapped it each time she started to ruminate about the past or worry about the future. Her wrist turned red, but her emotional health remained stable and empowered despite the losses and transition she faced.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


Read “Fear of failure: ‘I’m worried about failing.’”

Read “Regret: ‘I shouldn’t have yelled at my friend.’”

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

Letting go of things:
“It’s hard to discard things that have personal meaning to me.”

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

We are often weighed down by the things we accumulate – gifts, mementos, and even furniture gifted to us by loved ones and relatives. We feel that throwing out or giving things to the Good Will would be an offense to the memory of our parents, grandparents, friends, and children.

This grasping onto material objects seems to be an attempt to hang onto the connection we once had – or that we wish we had – to people and phases in our lives. We feel as though we might be tossing out the past if we clear out mementos from the history of our lives.

Yet, holding onto memories and keepsakes can confine us to the past. Not only do we develop material clutter, we also develop and re-enforce emotional clutter.

An extreme example of how a jumble of junk holds a person prisoner is demonstrated by the mental disorder of hoarding. Hoarders can no longer negotiate their way through their homes being blocked by a mass of “valuable” possessions that stand in their way. The cluttered home is a metaphor for the cluttered mind. Imagine what this self-induced captivity does to their love lives, professional pursuits, and spiritual or creative quests.

We don’t need tacky paintings, worn-out furniture, or outlandish jewelry to remember loved ones. Nor do we need to keep every drawing and science project our children once created to enjoy and love our children. Nor must we keep the decrepit desk or old frayed quilt to honor our ancestors.

De-cluttering our homes and our lives prevents us from becoming buried by our belongings. Freeing ourselves of excessive stuff, particularly things that don’t resonate with our soul, can free us to live the life we desire in the present and future without being burdened by the past.

To prevent clutter from taking over your life and home, choose only those clearly-meaningful mementos that give you pleasure. You’ll know which ones they are, because there will be no question that you want to keep them.

Some tips on clearing out stuff might help:

1. If you haven’t used it in the past year, you’re not likely to miss it.

2. If you don’t need it, but it’s the ONLY memento of Uncle Harry or Aunt Tilly, take a picture of it to preserve the memory without using up space.

3. If it’s a usable item from someone else, think of the joy it will give another person if it is donated to an organization that helps others.

4. Recycle… re-use… restore your own harmony of home by emptying the boxes at the back of the basement.

5. Follow the old rule: If in doubt, throw it out. If you can’t throw much of anything out, enlist a friend who embodies simplicity and common sense to help you.

You need space in both your home and your life to be open to possibilities the future may bring. Letting go of old stuff on a seasonal basis promotes recurring renewal on many levels of your life.

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 “Dividing up Household Chores: ‘The house is a mess!’”

Check out “zenhabits.”

“I’m overcome with sadness about this divorce.”

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

Emotions of sadness and grief often expose the depth of a person’s feelings of loss, love, or longing. Cutting off those feelings may result in losing connection to the heart. If there is no time for grieving, the feeling of loss mounts until you develop a fear of the hollow place inside.

However, dwelling too long in a state of sadness can cause you to cultivate a chronic state of sadness. Neurologist John Arden shows that sustained thoughts and feelings of sadness can lead to a neurological perpetuation of sad thoughts and feelings.

For instance, in grieving about a divorce, people may have thoughts such as, “How could I have let this happen?” or “I’m no good at relationships,” or “I’ve been so stupid.” If sadness turns to brooding over thoughts like this, the thoughts become neurologically connected with the feeling of sadness. A person then can become stuck in a rut of obsessive negative thinking.

Dr. Arden states,

The longer you stay in a low emotional state, the greater is the probability that those neurons will fire together when you are sad and will therefore wire together. As a result, this will become the chronic foundation of your emotional experience.

Succumbing to and remaining in a perpetual state of sadness can cause a vicious cycle that makes it hard to move onto other emotional states.

While it is necessary and healthy to feel sadness at times and to grieve, it is important to avoid creating an entrenched neuro-network of sadness. It becomes necessary to seek situations where one can experience other thoughts and feelings.

After experiencing some time of grieving for a loss, ask yourself “What could I learn from this?” By focusing on learning and growing, you break the negative emotional cycle. Ask yourself questions, such as, “What could I do to make my life more fulfilling?” or “What thoughts would make me feel more gratitude right now?”

Here are some ideas of how to step out of all-consuming sadness:

– Try calling a friend just to say hello.

– Play music from a time in your life attached to good memories.

– Volunteer at a local hospital, church, or community center.

– Pick a language, any language you’ve ever wanted to learn, and enroll in a course in person or online.

– Improve your vocabulary in your own language (http://www.vocabulary.com/.)

– Write a list of projects you’ve always wanted to do, but never had time for (painting, re-organizing, etc.), and pursue one and take the first step towards making that a reality.

Sadness is a deep human emotion that highlights the transience of life. It is a reminder that life wants to be lived whole-heartedly.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Tough Guys: ‘Everyone looks up to my uncle for being tough as nails, but he scares me and doesn’t seem to like me. Am I too sensitive?’”

Read “I found out my daughter has cancer. All I can do is cry and worry.”

Read “Transformational Vocabulary: ‘I’m angry, totally confused, and an emotional mess over these overwhelming problems.’”

Reference: Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life by John B. Arden.

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

"Passacaglia" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

Negative emotions often indicate that what we are doing is not working for us. They signify that we need to become more flexible—to change our perceptions, our expectations, or our actions.

Flexibility allows us to deal with whatever life hands us without lingering with pain and suffering more than necessary. By becoming more versatile, we can view the twists and turns in our lives as an adventure. That’s not to say that there are not certain losses and disappointments that will be extremely painful. Still, much of our suffering can be used as a signal to change our action or to view a particular experience differently.

Notice that people who enjoy traveling are adaptable. They can go with the flow or change plans if necessary. If something unexpected happens, they don’t say, “This isn’t how I viewed my trip to Spain.” They become alert and alive, and often welcome the adventure unfolding before them.

Like traveling, life is a journey full of surprises and disappointments. The more quickly we can move forward with a new approach the better.

So, when you feel hurt, ask yourself, ”How can I change my expectations of the person who has hurt me?” When you are angry, ask yourself, “What step can I take to find justice or at least to avoid that same injustice in the future?”

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

~Albert Einstein

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.

~Leonardo da Vinci

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Luck: “I try so hard but am usually unlucky.””

“You sound like a broken record repeating stories about your psycho ex!”

"Reverberation" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

People often remain stuck in a state of anger when they can’t get past the wrong that’s been done, real or perceived. Some painful pattern in the past keeps them captively reviewing the events like a broken record. They yearn for justice but can’t get relief, because they do not deal with the real hurt underlying the situation. Focusing on the ex is a way to avoid the real challenge of looking within.

As a friend, it’s not healthy to pile on with negative judgments about the culprit involved. The best thing a friend can do is to point out the harmful pattern that you’re concerned about. Listen for what’s behind the obsessive anger—usually an underlying vulnerability or fear.

People fixated on their exes often fear that they are somehow inadequate or unlovable. For instance, being married without feeling appreciated can leave a person feeling undeserving of recognition. Only when a person starts resolving his or her own hidden vulnerability is there a chance of communicating effectively about what really matters. That’s when the process of healing and growth can begin.

As a friend, depending on the underlying issue, you might compassionately say something like, “It seems that you were not appreciated very much. Maybe you’ve had a pattern of hoping to get appreciation from people who don’t give it.” Ask how they think they can best deal with the underlying need, without repeatedly going over how they’ve been hurt. Ask how they might best focus on recognizing and appreciating their own self-worth.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Venting and Triangulation.”

Read “My ex can’t stop complaining about me to my child. I feel like doing the same right back.”