Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford was interviewed in part along with
his brother by Matt Lauer.  In the
interview, Mayor Ford strongly denied he had a problem with alcohol or
drugs.   His brother and advisor,
Councilman Doug Ford, echoed his brother’s statements.  Mr. Lauer applauded Doug Ford as being noble
and supportive of his brother and then proceeded to ask him if he had any
concerns about his brother, Rob’s, behaviors or issues.  The brother replied that he was concerned
especially whenever his brother binge drinks. . . . to which Rob Ford added,
“But I don’t do it all the time . . . only on occasion.”  One of the greatest myths about drugs and
alcohol is that an addicted person must drink or use every day before being
considered addicted.

One would think that such a statement of admission of “occasional
binge drinking,” and the concern of others when he does so, to be an out and
out behavior of severe abuse if not dependency. 
To this substance abuse counselor, making such a remark is analogous to
a pregnant woman saying, “I’m just a little bit pregnant.”

It’s all in the perception. 
Addicts and alcoholics have their own perception that they use to
justify their use of their drug of choice.  One of three assessment tools that I use is
one called the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI-3).  It consists of 67 True or False questions
that do not have a “right” or “wrong” answer.  Some
of the 67 questions deal with general lifetime questions of behavior that do
not appear to have anything to do with drugs or alcohol.  They are designed to indicate the client’s
perceptions, values, and attitudes about him/herself and their life.

Then there are another 12 Questions on another side of the
questionnaire that deal specifically with alcohol use in the last 6 months, 12
months, or year.  There are an additional
separate 14 questions specifically pertaining to the use of drugs.  I prefer to have the client respond fover the
last 12 months.

Interpretation is based upon objective scoring based upon
years of study of how thousands of alcoholics and addicts have responded to the
same questions.  It has an overall
empirically tested accuracy of 93-94% of correctly identifying substance
dependent people.  It also has a 93%
correct identification of non-substance dependent people.  It measures one’s Symptoms, Obvious Attributes,
Subtle Attributes, Defensiveness, and Supplemental Addiction Measure.  It also tests to see if the client comprehends
the written words or is just answering randomly.

More often than not, I find scores indicating a history of
several abuse while, at the same time, indicating no symptoms or obvious
attributes.  And when a Defensiveness
score is high, the test indicates that the client is misleading, lying, or
trying to come across in a more favorable light.  In any case, the test is not valid and it informs
the clinician that the test may have missed a substance dependent person.

 I recently did an evaluation on a young man who had received
2 DUI arrests for the use of Cannabis. 
His symptoms and behaviors were well below what they average drinker or occasional
drug user would score.  He reported he
hadn’t used pot in the last 18 months yet his DUI was only 12 months ago.  His Defensiveness score was 11 out of a
possible 11.  A score of 8 indicates a
problem of not being truthful or minimizing and this client’s score was as high
as it could be.  While such a high score
could indicate lying or minimizing, it can also indicate something about the
client’s overall personality and it is up to the clinician to attempt to narrow
the causes down.

I called the client on his Defensiveness score and checked
to see if anything recently was going on in his life with conflict with someone
important to him or other possible situations existing for him to be so
defensive.  I also checked to see if this
was part of his personality makeup. 
After delving into several possibilities that would be an acceptable
character trait for the client, all evidence indicated otherwise.  When I informed him that he had responded
defensively 100% of how an addict/alcoholic would respond, he quickly reminded
me that it was based upon his perception of the questions. I agreed and
reminded him that I explained that the answers to the questions would be based
upon his perceptions before he even began to take the tests.   No matter how much I attempted to explain to
him that his perceptions were identical to those of an addict’s and not to
those of non-addicts, he continued to justify his high score by saying it was
“Only my perception!”  He failed to
perceive that it was precisely his perceptions that indicted he was substance

The brain will believe whatever we put into it.  It does not know the difference between fact
and fiction.  Our perception is based
upon our filters of total knowledge and values. 
The perceptions of an addict or alcoholic are distorted by drugs and
alcohol.  They often fail to see that
they have a dependency problem while all those around them may see it
clearly.  Some call it “Denial.”  Others call it “anosognosia.”  Still others will call it “A character Disorder
“or even “a mental illness.”  Whatever
one wishes to call it, it will always be a refusal or unwillingness to accept
the reality of a given situation.  And
nothing will ever change until it becomes real.

I gave this client an opportunity to justify his perceptions
by requesting he provide me with a urine sample which I could test in my
office.  He refused.  At least one of his perceptions must have
become real.

Disconnection, Detachment, & Lost Joiners

My good friend, Dr. Ken Larsen, has started an interesting discussion on the William Glasser International Linked-in discussion group.   He points out that these mass murder offenders are not just loners, but they are “failed joiners.”   He correctly relates it to what Dr. Glasser calls “detachment” when one has failed to connect with others.  It isn’t so much that they don’t want to connect.  They just don’t have much luck doing so for any number of reasons.  They don’t feel like they fit in with others.

There are several different situations that occur behind closed doors that can and will lead to a child’s detachment or poor connection with or from others.  In most cases, these situations are the result of what is going on with the parent’s life such as financial problems, infidelity, unwanted pregnancy (parent or child), terminal illness, the death in the family, or any other major stressor within the family.  But the most common and seemingly the most damaging is that of alcohol and drug addiction.  .  . the effects of which affect no less than four other people besides the addicted person and is found in one out of every four families.

There is a phenomenological result of a genetic bond that children have with their parents rooted in the need for survival, love and belonging.  Children know that they need their parents in order to survive.  But what if  the parent(s) is not all-knowing, all-loving, and all-giving, or is lacking in their own needs?  The child will often create a false perception to help them feel more safe and secure in a world of lies, angry outbursts, violence, broken promises, sexual abuse, depression, hallucinations, irrational behavior,  unhappiness, and unconsciousness.  While one parent is using drugs or alcohol, the other parent either joins them in using or else is totally lost as to how to deal with the family’s stress.  The other parent often creates such behaviors as depressing, angering, over-eating or not eating, anxieting, and fibromyalgiac aches and pains that lead to the use of opiate pain relieving drugs and addiction.  Now the child has two parents who are not doing well which only further adds to the child’s insecurity and fear .

 Children  create a connection with their parens in  what Robert Firestone refers to as The Fantasy Bond . . . a self-created perception of seeing those who are responsible for their welfare and wellbeing as being “normal” loving  and caring parents even when they may not be such.  While the parents are not getting their needs met in the marriage or their own lives, they cannot possibly meet the developmental needs of the child very well.  The child then becomes creative and learns to self-nourish and develops his/her own adolescent survival techniques.  While these survival techniques tend to work to some extent, they tend to fall apart as the child gets older.

The need for our genetic basic needs are so strong that when not afforded by parents, a child will create their own world and perception of what is needed to get these needs met.  They see their parent’s behavior as being normal and typical of what all parents do in all families.  Then they take the disowned or unwanted parental behaviors and internalize them as being their own bad behavior.   “It’s not their fault.  It’s all because of me.”  Under all of this is the fear of what will become of them if the parent(s) is having difficulties in their own life.  The child quickly learns the three rules of living in their dysfunctional family that carries over into their social world and leads to disconnectedness.

  1. Don’t talk.

  2. Don’t trust

  3. Don’t Feel

Young children are needy and they require love, belonging, security, and acceptance to feel safe  and welcome in the world.   In the home where the parent(s) are going through stressful times and are needy themselves, this is the time where often the child is shamed for being needy.  “Can’t you see that I have enough problems of my own than to have to worry about your piddly problems?  All you ever do is think about yourself!”  This leads towards the child shutting down as far as relying on a parent to get their future needs met and they develop their own survival techniques manifested in such behaviors as:

  1. Overachieving, being super responsible, and feeling guilty if they enjoy themselves for very long; being super serious and a “take charge” stance in social situations.   They harbor a lot of masked anger that erupts from time to time.  They tend burn out early life with anxiety and/or poor health.  They often performs duties around the home that the parents should be doing but don’t.  This results in pats on the back and recognition for their efforts that only reinforce the child’s behavior.

  2. Acting out with behaviors that get attention even though the consequences may be punitive.  This child grows up angry.  This child knows something is not right but doesn’t know what it is that isn’t working or what it is no one is talking about.  S/he is seeking acceptance.

  3. Withdrawing and spending free time in self-absorbed activities . . . having only one, or two at the most, friends . . . connecting with objects more than people . . . feel loved and wanted by their pets and animals more than by humans . . . extremely shy and timid with very poor social skills due to lack of socializing.  This child grows up feeling wounded.  This is a true disconnecter or lost joiner. 

  4. Being occasionally irresponsible and making a joke out of everything as a means of “maintaining their own sanity.”  Rather than fret and worry, they make a joke out of bad situations and don’t seem to take it seriously.  This child grows up feeling many different emotions of happiness, sadness, and anger at any given time.  Feeling powerless, they choose to make a joke of adversity.

All children and adult children have a Fantasy Bond with their parents to some degree or another.  However, the more dysfunctional the family, the stronger is the bond.  For example, try to tell a child that their father is an alcoholic or drug addict would lead to an angry response and denial and even possible physical retribution for even thinking such a thing.  What is truly amazing is that the child has often considered this accusation to be a possibility in the past but then quickly dismissed it.  To admit otherwise would only add further anxiety and shatter the Fantasy Bond they have with the parent.   This all appears to be rooted in the need for security (survival), love and belonging.

I describe the role children develop in their families as being similar to that of the person who sits in front of their TV set, flipping through channels until something appears that looks like it might be interesting to watch.  After finding such a program, they sit back prepared to watch it for their enjoyment and no sooner do they begin watching, the screen flashes the words, “The End.” 

Disappointed, the viewer says or thinks, “What the hell was THAT all about?”  The reason it didn’t make much sense is because they didn’t see the beginning or the middle of the story.  They only saw the end.   There was a lot of drama going on in our parent’s lives before we were even born.  And if we don’t know the beginning or the middle of our parent’s drama, the family story doesn’t make much sense.  We only know the end which is the part where we enter into the family drama.  However, since we just entered, we struggle to keep the drama going rather than having it end.

What the child does next  is watch the drama going on all around them and then, by trial and error, finds a role that will allow the drama to continue without adding more drama or creating more tension and unhappiness within the family script, often failing miserably.  The trial and error roles often add more stress in the family drama.  Each new role by each new player is different than the other roles so as to avoid competition for the same roles among family members.  However, competition can and will exist while reaching the role that meets the genetic needs of the child.  Incidentally, the role that a child develops in their own family is the role they maintain when dealing with others outside the family and when they marry and have thier own family.  They are drawn to others who will allow them to continue their role with the least amount of variance or conflict.

As long as a child lives in an alcohol or drug affected family, any and all measures to assist the child will be severely hampered.   And what exists throughout the family’s interactions is unreasonable resentments that carry over into social interaction.  The family, itself, suffers a familial anosognosia: They cannot  see or recognize what others can see so obviously.  But in so many cases, the obvious is not even seen by anyone outside the family due to the family’s ability to hide what is going on behind closed doors and further protected by the Judeo/Christian fourth commandment of Honor thy Father and Mother.  But when one feels they can no longer tolerate thier own unhappiness, they may lash out at society, in general, and then society labels them as mentally ill.

As stated earlier, there are many reasons that cause family discord and unmet developmental/basic needs.  Alcohol and drug addiction appear to be the most common of those causes.   In a perfect world, the answer would lie in much of what Dr. Nancy Buck ( is doing with her “Peaceful Parenting” work.   Not only do we need to make mental health a public health issue, we need to make successful parenting a public health issue.  Doing so would free up teachers, counselors, therapists, law enforcement personnel, and other professionals to focus on other concerns.   It would also free up our prison system population, stopping the high cost of medical treatment, ever-increasing taxes directed towards paying for police protection, prisons, school drop-outs, medical treatment for the uninsured, drug/alcohol treatment, State funded mental illness programs,  and the increase of government involvement attempting to control human behavior.

I welcome any method that helps people lead happy and successful lives athat would also help people not need my services.  It is far easier to approach the problems from where they begin than to deal with them after they occur.  If individuals cannot make healthy connections within their own family, how can they possibly make healthy connections in society?



What was that old definition of insanity? . . . Repeating the same thing over and over while expecting different results? It would appear that the psychiatric delivery system of psychiatrists and psychologists, therapists, and counselors have been doing this for the last 115 years. They continue to seek the answers to aberrant behavior as being rooted in abnormal brain functioning and to have physical, pathological causes. For more than a hundred years, they have yet to prove or discover the findings to justify these claims. And society is going along with this agenda.  Yet they keep at it and continue blaming unwanted behavior on these premises.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies have created drugs that are effective in stopping the behaviors that have been labeled as mental illness by making the brain inoperative. These drugs cannot and do not cure an illness that doesn’t exist. They can only shut down the brain’s normal functioning and those parts of the mind that make each of us empathetic and sympathetic to others, as well as those functions that make us human. “We haven’t found it yet but we know it’s in there” is their lifelong battle cry. 

Did it ever occur to any of these scientists that they have been looking in all the wrong places all these years? The answer is obviously, “no.”  The latest news report on Aaron Alexis, the Navy Ship Yard shooter, is that he had been treated for mental illness and had a history of anger issues. The mental health professionals focus only on “mental illness” and throw out the “anger issues” because everybody experiences anger in their life at one time or another.

Anger issues . . . he had a history of being angry. People aren’t angry just for the sake of being angry. They have to have a person or a situation that involves someone in which they choose to be angry. And since these mass shooters are wounding and killing complete strangers, their victims are not necessarily the people they are angry with but more likely, the system to which these people are connected. In other words, someone important to them, someone or something who or what they feel has power over them, is behaving in ways in which they disapprove. And when all they have done, or know how to do, to ease their frustration and unhappiness has failed, they strike out in anger or in ways they had yet to try to satisfy their need for happiness.

What is also interesting to note is that the majority of these mass shooters have been, or were, on psychotropic medications at the time. Also, the majority of them were under the age of 25.  And since these medications are not selective on which emotions they affect, they affect all of one’s emotions with the exception of feelings of hopelessness and frustration.  Without the ability to be creative to deal with their unhappiness via normal brain functioning because of the medications, they resort to any one or more of the only three choices they feel they have:

1. Existing in a world of nothingness.

2. Commit suicide

3. Ease their frustrations and acquiring a sense of power and control by using

   forceful methods.

One doesn’t have to be a mass shooter for this type of behavior to occur. There are literally hundreds of reported cases of those who committed suicide or murdered those closest to them in their life after starting the use of, or while on, psychotropic medications . . . behaviors that were totally out of character of the person before they started taking these medications.

These medications are not only dangerous; they destroy the person’s ability to function. Those who take them become human doings rather than human beings. And the damage is often permanent.

  • The problem first and foremost that is behind all of these shootings is “unsatisfying relationships with the important people in one’s life.”

  • The secondary problem is the medications being given to unhappy people that inhibit their ability to think in creative and effective ways to deal with their unhappiness.

While doctors and society keep looking for signs of mental illness, they fail to uncover a person’s real cause of their unhappiness . . . the person(s) in their lives whom they perceive are behaving in a manner of which they disapprove.

I can hear the naysayers as I write: “Yeah, but he heard voices and even shot the tires of someone’s car. He once shot a hole in the ceiling of his apartment. These are obvious signs of mental illness.”

These are the behaviors of someone who is unhappy. He hears voices because he is frustrated and doesn’t know what to do and struggling with his situation in life. He wants someone to tell him what to do so he creates them in his own mind. This is his creative way to deal with his frustration and unhappiness. He shot someone’s tires because they were obviously parking where he didn’t want them to park. He shot the ceiling because someone nearby was making noises he didn’t like or that interfered or added more to his own happiness.

People do not hear voices; see or hear things that are not there; shoot the tires of someone’s car; shoot a gun into the ceiling; or shoot and kill several people because they are happy and have meaningful relationships. They are very frustrated and their choice of behavior to deal with their unhappiness was their best attempt at the time to ease their unhappiness and frustration.

While the world’s current belief that all unwanted behavior is due to mental illness, why hasn’t mental health improved?  If you know what isn’t working, it can be fixed.  Today’s psychology isn’t working and hasn’t been working for the last several thousand years.   Psychology is stuck in “the world is flat” ways of thinking.   If the concepts I have stated to dispute current psychological thinking and methods are wrong, what have they to lose by  attempting to prove them wrong rather than merely claiming so?  We’ve seen how ineffective current thinking and concepts of mental health are.  Why not try something else rather than continue doing what isn’t working?  That’s insanity.

People are unhappy and unhappiness is the result of conflict with the important people in one’s life.  It’s their parent(s), their sibling(s), their relationship or marriage partner, their employer, their government leaders, or perhaps a teacher and that’s about it.  Unhappiness is the result of unsatisfying relationships.  When was the last time you may have been unhappy when it didn’t involve another person in your life?  Behaviors that are being called “mental illness” are no more than a person’s creative means to ease their unhappiness.  While guns are a problem, they are not THE problem.  The problem is unhappy people who have access to so many guns. 

Time after time when these events occur, the public cries out, “The system has failed!”  The system fails because no one is accurately defining Mental Health.  They are only defining what they believe to be Mental Illness.

So quit looking for something that doesn’t exist and start teaching the world about Mental Health and how to get happiness needs met and resolving conflict without infringing on the rights and needs of others to find happiness.   It’s too simple and naive, right?





By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC


So much of the world appears to be caught up in the belief that any behavior that is not considered usual or normal is the result of a mental illness . . . that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in some people’s brains. I am often challenged in my group sessions about the behavior of those who have been labeled schizophrenics, when I state that most of what we are calling mental illness is no more than the behavior of unhappy people. Even those who have received this diagnosis have challenged me on this statement. They seem to want to wear their badge of mental illness to let others know they are helpless and that there is nothing they can do to improve their happiness. I often hear, “Normal people don’t talk to themselves; see things that aren’t there. So there HAS to be something wrong with their brain.”


Those who have received mental illness diagnoses have been told that they have some abnormality within their brain and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that they will have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives while taking medications that drug their brains to cause them to not hear voices and stop seeing invisible people. These drugs also stop the person from functioning normally by shutting down all of their emotions; having a flat affect; losing interest in the things that they used to enjoy, and losing their ability to be creative. Ironically, many of these medications prevent the person from overcoming their unhappiness or to discover other creative ways to deal with their unhappiness.


It is their creative ability that led them to choose the behaviors they discovered to deal with their unhappiness and frustration in the first place.


I saw the movie, “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks, when it first came out in 2000. Since then, I recently saw it again on my local cable network and was able to make the connection of how some behaviors would be considered mental illness by some in certain circumstances but not mental illness in other circumstances. Allow me to explain:


In the movie, after being marooned on a small island in the South Pacific, Chuck (Tom Hanks) found himself without his basic genetic needs. He had to be creative to survive and began to improvise ways to find shelter, food, thirst and dehydration quenchers. He soon found himself without the power to do much about his situation but maintained enough power from within to continue to survive. Even when he considered suicide, his tested method failed and renewed his internal power for survival.


His freedom was now very limited. He had only a small portion of the island in which he could navigate as most of it was mountainous and surrounded by pounding waves. He was held in solitary confinement. He certainly was not having any fun. All of his basic needs for happiness were not being met to the degree that he wanted.


The first thing he did when he reached the island after his plane crash was to yell out to connect to someone . . . anyone. Even the sound of dropping coconuts led him to think that someone might be near and he would yell out towards the area where he heard the sounds. He was missing the genetic need for connecting with others and belonging to the social world he had recently lost. He still had the image of Love in his Quality World from his deeply satisfying relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), back in Memphis.


From what I have described so far, and for you who have seen the movie, you would not think any of Chuck’s behaviors were the result of a mental illness. In fact, you would probably think that it was his creativity and improvisation that was able to allow him the ability to meet his needs of survival: shelter, food, and drink.


But it wasn’t long after his initial awareness that he was, indeed, stranded in the middle of nowhere and the odds of being rescued were minimal. He still had the strong genetic need for love and belonging and after injuring his hand while attempting to make fire, his frustration led to him choosing to throw objects that had washed up from the plane crash, kick the sand, swear, and destroy whatever was near him. His bloody hand from the injury he incurred left a palm print on a volley ball that had been part of the cargo in the plane. After he had calmed down and successfully created a fire, he began staring at the soccer ball and saw the potential for something in the bloody hand print . . . a human face. Since no one was around to offer a need satisfying relationship in the form of connecting with others, he would create his own person to meet this need.


He made the air hole the nose and erased some of the blood to make the eyes and mouth. The company who made the volley ball was Wilson and their name was boldly printed on the ball. This became Chuck’s compensation for connecting with someone whom he named, “Wilson.” So far, you may be saying to yourself, “So . . . . ? What’s your point?”


Chuck then began talking to Wilson and even answering on Wilson’s behalf to satisfy his need for love and belonging and connecting. And I would be willing to wager that you would still be thinking, “Well, sure. There’s nothing wrong with that. He did it to keep his sanity . . . to keep him from going crazy on a deserted island.”


AHA! If he did that back in Memphis where he lived, would you still say his behavior was an acceptable way to behave? One might be inclined to get as far away from him as possible because, “who knows what a crazy person who talks to himself or to inanimate objects might do?” One might also believe he is seriously mentally ill and should be placed on brain meds and is in dire need of a psychiatrist.


In an isolating experience, you are more likely to accept Chuck’s unusual or unnatural behavior as typical, rational, and understandable. But if not deserted on a lonely island, the same behaviors are seen as symptoms of mental illness and chemical imbalances. The unusual behavior one may create and perform serves the purpose of easing their unhappiness and frustration, at the time . . . just like Chuck on the island. If he didn’t have Wilson to talk to, and imagine that Wilson was talking to him, he would have felt much more unhappy and frustrated than if he hadn’t created Wilson.


The person who sees things, hears things, and talks to people who are not present, or to inanimate objects, is no different than Chuck. While they are not physically on a deserted island, they are in a deserted world based upon their choice to isolate or detach from others because of unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life. They have detached from others and can be alone while around others. Their creativity to deal with their frustration and unhappiness is no different than Chuck’s creativity in producing and talking to Wilson, a soccer ball.

Often, their frustration is the result of wanting to do one thing with their life while others who are important to them want them to do something else. They may attempt to take both routes and find it impossible to do. Consequently, they may become so frustrated that they then choose to take neither route and isolate even more, which further destroys their need for love and belonging. And since love and belonging are basic genetic needs, they create their own people in their mind and imagination like Chuck did.


The only difference is the circumstances. You could see Chuck’s dilemma and rationalize Chuck’s behavior because you could relate to being in his situation. And since you could relate, you deem it normal, acceptable, and not a mental illness at all. You were living in his world on the screen and silently thinking, “I’d probably do the same thing.”


If Chuck behaved in this manner back in Memphis, you would not see the situation he would be experiencing in his world. His unsatisfying situation and internal frustration would be very real to him but invisible to you. And since you have most of your needs met, on a somewhat regular basis, in a world where they are more easily attainable than a desert island, you might be inclined to think and believe his behavior is a mental illness.


When Chuck was rescued and came back home, he didn’t talk to things or people who weren’t there anymore. First of all, Wilson was lost at sea before he was rescued. But when Chuck got home, he was back in a world with people with whom he could connect. And it didn’t take brain meds to get him to stop talking to imaginary things or hearing imaginary voices. He only had to connect with others and those who are important to him. After five years of living in isolation, his rescue not only saved his life, it restored most of his basic genetic needs for happiness: Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun. The love of his life had given up hope for his return and had married someone else.  There would obviously be some emotional pain from that loss.  But even that didn’t cause Chuck to return to his island surviving behaviors.


Would you say a child who has an imaginary playmate is mentally ill? Or would you say they are being really creative? When you dream at night . . . are some of your dreams really “out there?” Does that mean that you are crazy when you are dreaming or is your mind simply being creative? If your brain can do that when you are asleep, it is also capable of doing it when you are awake.


In our world, it appears it is much easier to convince others that a person is mentally ill than to convince them that they are sane and only frustrated and unhappy.

We Need A New Psychology

We Need A New Psychology

As of this date, the world is in shock as to the horror of one young man’s actions of killing 20 children and 6 adults before taking his own life.  In events similar to this where mass murder or multiple assault occurs, the same questions are asked and statements made:

How could someone do such a thing?

He (the shooter) had to be insane.

He needed to be on psych meds.

Why couldn’t anyone see this coming?

We need to have more strict gun controls.

“Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”

Much of society is caught up in the belief that any behavior that does not adhere to social acceptance is a physical and mental disorder.   I’m reminded of the line from the movie, The Usual Suspects (1995):  “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.”  What the world is convinced of is that people who behave in disapproving ways are mentally ill and have no control over their behavior.  The world lacks understanding that all behavior is purposeful and chosen to satisfy the need to ease unhappiness and frustration and bring about happiness or pleasure.

There have been several mass murder events in the last few years and all but two of them involved men under the age of 25.  Many of them had been on psych meds at the time or previous to their actions.  The deeds they do are carefully planned and not a knee-jerk reaction.  Truly insane individuals do not have the ability to plan in orderly or organized fashions that culminate in their final results.  They have to acquire their weapons, plan their wearing apparel (camouflage fatigues and bullet proof vests), decide how many weapons and how much ammo to use, and plan their method of attack as well as singling out people whom they feel are the cause of their unhappiness and making other members of society pay for their unhappiness as well.   These behaviors require the ability to think and plan that requires the ability to think in some form of organization and control.

Dr. Peter Breggin refers to psych meds as no more than chemically induced lobotomies that inhibit neurotransmitters in the brain.  They cause robot or zombie-like behavior as a result of causing the lack of emotions.  Without emotions, thinking and behavior is affected and stops unwanted behaviors of which others may disapprove . . . drugging individuals to stop unwanted behavior.   This is no different than drinking alcohol or taking street drugs to alleviate unwanted emotions and frustrating circumstances.  Psych meds also tend to cause the person to detach from individuals and society and have no empathy or sympathy for others.  In other words, psych meds can lead to murderous as well as suicidal behavior without regard of the consequences.

It is early in the total findings of the events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary school but some things are sure to exist:

The shooter was not a happy person.

The shooter was frustrated and angered by those whom he saw as the important people in his life whom he perceived as the cause of his anger and frustration.

The shooter had no success in overcoming his anger and frustration with any previous methods.  The more he tried to control others, the more others tried to control him.

When all a person has done to bring about happiness and/or pleasure doesn’t work, they become creative and think of ways that they haven’t tried yet to reach their wants.  In this case, he made the decision to eradicate those who are the cause of his unhappiness. 

He couldn’t do this without using some form of rational organized thinking that made sense to him at the time.   While he appeared to be irrationaland insane to society in general, his behavior was the result of his own rationalization.  And this is why he is viewed as insane.  Ask someone to define “crazy,”  “insanity,” or “mental illness” and hear what they say.  “Strange behavior, unnatural thinking, a loner, poor eye contact, disregard for others, one who presents a threat to others are just some of the things people will say are mental illness behaviors.  If this is criteria for mental illness, then we are all mentally ill to some degree at various times throughout our lives.  No one can say that they have never made a behavioral choice in their life that resulted in what might be perceived as irrational and had unwanted results and disapprover from others.  And when that behavior was chosen, it was one’s best attempt at the time to satisfy their wants and needs.  It made sense at the time.   And this would often invoke the common question, “What were you thinking?”  (A soft way of saying, “are you crazy?”)

When people use the words “mental health” they only talk about “mental illness.”  They can tell you where to go to get help for mental illness but not where one can go to receive mental health.  Mental health is a social and public health issue.  Mental illness is perceived as an individual issue.

The school shooter was so unhappy and frustrated that he felt his life was not worth living the way it had been and by ending his life, and the lives of those whom he perceived as the cause of his unhappiness, he could resolve his unhappiness.  Also, unconfirmed, was the statement that the shooter had a form of Autism.  If so, then this would also contribute to his inability to have formed a bond with his mother, or anyone else, and allow him to murder her.  But autism is not known for homicidal behavior.

Killing ones mother can only be the result of a person’s intense emotional pain and frustration as being caused by her and/or the lack of the genetic bond with his mother for any need of love and belonging.   The natural genetic bond between a child of any age and his/her mother is one that is so strong that for anyone to kill their mother would have to perceive their mother as the cause of their very intense personal misery.  Matricide is far less prevalent than patricide. 

The only difference between someone who performs such horrible deeds and those who don’t is that those who don’t have learned other ways to resolve their unhappiness, or they rationalize and are aware of the consequences of their behavior and/or . . . they are not experiencing the devastating emotional frustration and unhappiness the shooter is feeling at the time to the point that they see no other alternatives.

Mental Illness?  No.  Frustration and unhappiness?  Yes.   The absence of problem and conflict resolution  skills?  Yes.   All long term emotional problems are the result of unmet basic needs and dissatisfied relationships with the important person(s) in one’s life.   Some individuals develop behaviors that appear strange or unacceptable to society in general.  These behaviors are created out of one’s need to satisfy their wants and the need to replace the unpleasant aspect of their life with something less unpleasant.  They come across these different behaviors by trial and error.  The first behavior they find that has the slightest ability to ease their unhappiness is the one they choose to use and use frequently dependent upon the degree of their unhappiness.  Some discover that by choosing to repeat certain behaviors, it will ease their unhappiness.  Some people find that by choosing to “freak out” or display anxiety attacks is better than feeling unhappy and uncomfortable in a particular situation.  Some find choosing to depress gets attention, eases their anger, or gives an excuse not to take needed action. 

Some people have easily discovered that drugs and alcohol are fast acting remedies for unwanted emotions and temporary relief.  Others find relief through indiscriminate sex, spending, shoplifting, hoarding, or gambling.  Whatever the chosen behavior, it is their best attempt at the time to satisfy their need to achieve happiness or pleasure rather than unhappiness and frustration.

Much of society believes many people are mentally ill when they are not.  The current psychology of the world believes that we can control other people and that other people can control us.  The current world’s psychology believes we can do controlling behaviors that destroys relationships all for the sake of getting others to do what we want them to do.  The current world’s psychology believes that we are not responsible for our behavior because other people “make” us do what we do.  The current world’s psychology does not believe that we choose all of our behavior.

When someone lives a mostly unhappy and frustrated life, they will experience periodic bouts or times when they don’t feel unhappy or frustrated.  No one is unhappy all the time.  And when they do feel happy, they really enjoy these moments and choose to react with much enthusiasm and joy until they perceive something that has them choosing to feel unhappy again.  Then they are labeled Bi-polar and put on meds that cut off both their negative and positive emotions.  Psych meds are not selective.  They don’t single out any specific emotion.

While strict gun controls are proven to have a definite effect on lessening the number of gun related murders, they will never be the total remedy to the problem.  If not a gun, some other form of weapon will be used by those who wish to inflict harm and resolve their unhappiness.  The old saw that perhaps you and I are sick of hearing, “guns don’t kill people.  People kill people” is a true statement.  But this is where the gun enthusiasts end their bit of wisdom.  It offers no resolution to the fact that people are killing people with guns . . . guns that are designed to kill many people and not used for hunting.

When the second amendment was written in the Constitution, a gun could only fire one shot and require a considerable amount of time to reload thus affording groups of people to scatter and get out of harm’s way from a shooter.  At best, the shooter might have had a maximum of four or five guns that would only him to fire one time before reloading.  Now, guns hold several repeating rounds of ammunition that one shooter can dispatch to several hundred individuals at one time.

Of all of the past mass murders, Oklahoma, 2 in Colorado, Tucson, VA, et al, none of them have moved the country to reach the point of “enough is enough” until the lives of 20 children, all under the age of 10, were shot down in cold blood.  Prior to this, it appeared the nation’s general response to mass shooting was alarm and disdain but not enough to make public outcries.  We had become calloused and even indifferent towards such acts.  “It happened to other people in other towns, not mine.” Only by banding together and demanding change can government sit up and take note.  But even then, they don’t want to jeopardize the votes of 4 million NRA members come election time.

No matter how much gun legislation ever gets passed to control and/or limit the use and acquisition of arms, what is needed more than anything is for people to learn how to get along with one another without resorting to guns or any other weapon in an attempt to resolve their unhappiness or conflict with others.   Internal Control Psychology and not an External Control Psychology is what is needed.  And this is where Choice Theory comes into play. 

Choice Theory is not the only psychology that exists.  There are many different disciplines.  But if all of these psychologies were effective, why do we still have so many unhappy people taking psych meds, extreme crime rates, divorce in over 50% of all marriages (even when many received counseling).  Choice Theory is a social as well as an individual psychology.  It was disclosed that even the shooter was under psychiatric care at the time which also leads to the possibility of having been on psych meds.

Ironically, the most effective means of teaching the world Choice Theory is in our classrooms, the very place where External Control Psychology was used by the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooter.  But the work that is currently being done by certified Choice Theory teachers around the world is a start.  Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory, “Quality Schools,” are currently in 35 different countries and teaching K through 6 students how to get along with others and resolve their conflict and unhappiness in healthy and effective ways and learning how to get along with one another without trying to change them or control them.  The teaching profession is often a thankless job.  Parents “expect” teachers to teach knowledge but they are not aware of all else they do.  Besides education, many provide values, love, guidance, and instill ethics that are not sufficeintly acquired at home.  Hug your children and while you’re at it . . . hug a teacher.

Until society learns how to live in peace and harmony with one another by not trying to control others or using force or coercion to get people to do something they don’t want to do; and how to resolve differences without resorting to behaviors that lead to harmed relationships, there will still be inhumane behaviors imposed on humanity, with or without gun controls.

It won’t happen in my lifetime or even the next few generations.  But I have hope and faith that in time, the world will eventually learn how to create and maintain satisfying relationships in society.  Imagine:  No more wars.  No more divorce.  No more crimes against humanity.  No more domestic violence.  No more bullying in the classroom.  No more need for drugs or alcohol to replace happiness with short term pleasures.

The “Perfect World?”  Not perfect but a hell of a lot better than what it is and has been for the last several thousand years.

Finding Comfort in Uncmfortable Situations

Comfort in Uncomfortable Situations

As a counselor, I have had the occasion to observe every form of human behavior one can imagine.  I have had clients with symptoms of what is being called Schizophrenic behavior, Dissociative Identity Disorder, all of the Personality Disorders, mood disorders, Substance-Related disorders, PTSD, sex and gambling addiction, just to name a few.

What I find most interesting, as well as most difficult to treat, are those who have adjusted to their life’s situation and have accepted it as their way of life.  In other words, they have become comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

No one will make any changes in their life as long as they fail to see or refuse to see a need to do so.  Added to this are those who have found a way for their situation to serve some form of relief, or even a benefit, and are not willing to give these benefits up.

Early in my career, and before I became certified in Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, it was my goal to “cure” all of my clients to make changes that I perceived would enhance their lives.  It never dawned on me that these changes were changes that the client didn’t necessarily want.  I was forcing my agenda on them based on my perception of how better their lives could be if they took my advice.  What I was basically saying was, “I know what’s better for you than you do.”

Fortunately, I was not the type of person to take other people’s problems home with me after work.  Yet, in counseling sessions, I often found myself feeling frustrated because these client’s were not making any effort to improve their lives.  They were behaving in ways in which I disapproved. What I was failing to see is that their current chosen behavior was working for them in some way or another.  People do what works or they wouldn’t do it.  Others just don’t see how it works for them so they attempt to get them to change.

Resilience and adaptation are traits that have existed all throughout evolution of all plants and animals.  While some individuals adapt easily, others have difficulty.  And those who have difficulty are more prone to seek counseling.  Others who come to counseling who adapt to their environment and situation usually do so at the request of others or court-ordered demands.  And the latter are the majority of the clients that come to my office.

I am not so naïve to believe that I can “fix” every client I see.  My successes only come from those who want to have a better life and are willing to look at other choices to make that happen.  The client makes change happen, not I. I only serve as an outside observer who helps the client to identify how they really want their lives to be, discover what they have been doing that may be helping or hindering their wants by the ongoing use of self-evaluation questions, and assisting them in creating plans to achieve their desired results.  And those are Choice Theory and Reality Therapy techniques that I have been using for the last 14 years.

I often see clients whose lives are slowly crumbling about them all because of their refusal to take responsibility for their lives and their reluctance do what needs to be done to improve their situation.  They are often depressed, lack truly happy emotions, procrastinate, and accomplish little to nothing towards daily responsibilities or duties. 

They may seek pleasure by way of alcohol or drugs, sex addiction, gambling, or the indiscriminate spending of large sums of money even they don’t have it, or what little money they have.  But even when the money is on the verge of running out, it is not motivational enough for them to make changes in their life to become happier.  Why? Because they have adjusted to their way of life.  The pleasures they receive, as short lived as they may be, are sufficient to them to continue doing what they have been doing.  They may be receiving minimal but adequate income in the form of Social Security, Disability benefits, and/or family and friend subsidies.  They barely stay afloat and that is good enough for them.

Their choices to behave the way they do meet the three reasons why people choose to depress:  Receiving unsolicited help from family and friends; avoiding angry encounters with self and others; not taking responsibility for their lives because they don’t want to or don’t know how to do so.  If they were to improve their life by acquiring employment, they stand to lose the subsidies and benefits of other sources.  They would be expected to take on more responsibility such as pay bills for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, alcohol/drugs, cigarettes, and other survival needs and they don’t want to do that.

They currently have a safety net of family and/or friends who continue to enable them to live the way they do.  (All it takes is one).  Why change and lose that?  They fear failure if they try and lack the courage and motivation to be self-sufficient.  They know what to expect as a result of their current choices but have a great fear of the unknown and what might happen should they make different choices.  To avoid failure, they fail to make an effort.

When clients who meet these types of behaviors come to me, they usually do so because someone else asked them to do so and is paying for it, or they are court ordered.  In either case, they don’t want to be with me and don’t want to make any changes in their life.  I find them open to telling me what they want and they are aware of how their current choices are not helping them get what they want.  But even with all of this upfront awareness, they still don’t want to do what will make their lives better.  Doing so would mean losing what they have been relying on for months or even years or losing some other benefit they are getting.  Certain wants and needs are relinquished for the sake of other wants and needs that they have determined are more important.

Even in the face of reality, the reality often scares them away.  They recognize full well what needs to be done and they don’t want to do it.  Many of these clients come to one session and then I never see them again.  The court ordered clients will continue to see me because they have no choice.  But they will make no effort to follow-up on the plans they choose while in session.  This is the type of client that Dr. Glasser refers to as The Workless.  What they currently have is good enough for them and they don’t want to have to give it up.  In their perception, its working well enough for them.  They use their neediness to control others into helping them.

If people don’t want to change or see a need to change, no one has the ability to get them to do so.  Trying to effect change in anyone who is unwilling will result in defensiveness and resistance to the external control methods used to get them to do so.  It’s their choice, not yours.  Allow them their right to choose what they do and back off.  Walk away.  

Accept them, respect their choices, and allow them to go their own way.  Don’t enable them.  If they want to hurt or live in a life that you perceive as non-productive or filled with unhappiness, that is their choice and it serves a purpose for them at the time.  If it is a family member, spouse, or close friend, you may have to stand your ground as one who cares but not as one who will continue to help them live the life they are choosing.

A person who does not take responsibility for their own life has learned over time that they don’t have to take responsibility.  They have too many other people who will do it for them.  So why change?  This is also very common in those who have substance abuse problems.  They may go to in-patient or out-patient treatment and declare, “It doesn’t work.”  They say this because they are so used to others doing for them that they expect the counselors to “cure” them while taking no responsibility towards their own recovery. 

.A young man was walking down a neighborhood street on a particularly sunny day.  He was enjoying the warmth of the sun and the cloudless sky, and the singing of the birds when he began to hear a mournful wail.  It bothered him to hear such a sad sound on such a beautiful and happy day.  As he continued walking, the mournful sound became louder and louder.  He soon found himself standing in front of a home with an elderly man sitting on the porch stoop reading a newspaper.  Next to the old man was a hound dog laying at his side.  The young man approached the older man and said:

“Excuse me, sir. Is that your dog making those moaning and groaning sounds?”

The old man replied, “Yup.”

The young man asked, “Why is he howling so mournfully?”

The old man said, “Because he’s laying on a nail.”

The young man, seeing the obvious remedy, asked, “Then why doesn’t he get up?”

The old man replied, “Cause he ain’t hurtin’ bad enough yet.”

Congressional Divorce

Congressional Divorce

The word “dysfunctional” has been used, misused, and overused for what seems to have been more than half a century.   We hear it used mostly in reference to individuals indicating mental illness, maladaptive family systems, relationships, and conflict between groups or individuals.  Defined by the dictionary, dysfunction reads: Abnormal or impaired functioning, especially of a bodily system or social group.

Most people would not need a definition of the word “dysfunctional” as it has been used so often that it has become common knowledge that it is a label that no one would care to have placed on them.  I prefer to shy away from buzz words, catch phrases, and the usual psychobabble that permeates social communication and see the word simply as something that is “not working” as the result of two or more people who are unhappy. 

Sound familiar?  It’s Dr. Glasser’s definition of what society, and those in the psychiatric delivery system, are calling “mental illness.”

 Someone in a group, society, organization, relationship, family, or culture is behaving in a way in which others disapprove or in an unusual way of behaving.  And rather than take measures to improve their differences or resolve their conflict, they choose to rely on the Seven Deadly Habits and External Control to get them to behave the way they want them to behave.  It doesn’t matter who started it because when one person or group begins to utilize External Control, the other person or group retaliates in like manner.   It soon becomes a war of overpowering one person’s or groups External Control with their more powerful use of External Control.  

Nowhere is this more evident than in the last eight years in American government and politics.  Neither party is innocent.  External Control is being used on both sides of the aisle.  The result:  The loss of previous working relationships between party members, defiance towards each party’s legislation, loss of respect, and a system that has become stagnant.  With the help of the conservative entertainment  complex, it has boiled over into our nation’s citizens where anger, blaming, criticizing, and threatening.  The vitriol is even worse on the internet than in congress.  If Congress were a marriage, there would be domestic violence, the marriage would be over, and a divorce imminent.  If this were a family, everyone would be in counseling and put on psych meds.   Inasmuch as anger is so outwardly displayed and not being suppressed, any so-called benefit of antidepressants would be ineffective anyway.

It seems to me that  the external control belief of American society (and others), is that if someone belittles you, criticizes, blames, punishes, threatens, nags,  and complains to you and you don’t respond or retaliate in some form of like manner, that you are a whimp, a whuss, a coward, or some other disparaging word.  And in politics, anyone who doesn’t respond to such behavior is considered weak, lacking courage, and not a leader.

We are a nation with an insecure need to be “We’re number one!”  and we’ll smash you if you get in our way.  We see it evidenced in sporting events.  In fact, sports have become the opiate of the country.  Teddy Roosevelt suggested walk softly and carry a big stick.  But today, the idea appears to be yell and boast loudly and kick ass.  Bullying has now become commonplace in many areas of social life.

I can recall my own reaction when the conservative entertainment complex became popular years ago by using the Seven Deadly Habits on the opposing political party.  I couldn’t believe that no one was responding to dispute or stand up against their claims.  And then it started happening in society and in Congress and still no one seemed to be standing up against the diatribe. 

Choice Theory was not known at the onset of this situation but in fact, it was being practiced by those who didn’t respond without knowing it was Choice Theory.  They were taking the high road and assuming that those who chose the low road would implode.  I didn’t recognize this at the time as I found myself wanting to somehow shake up the members of my own party and get them to “stand up against these accusations.” 

And then I learned Choice Theory and realized that by not playing into it, people who weren’t reacting were simply choosing to not try to change others and also choosing  not to behave or react to  someone else’s unhappiness.  They were actually utilizing both of the resolution choices of Choice Theory.

But alas, the overall masses that are so embedded in External Control and the Seven Deadly Habits began to rise above common sense.  The low road users far outnumbered the high road users.  After being criticized by their own people for not standing up to the bullying of others, External Control begat External Control and the power struggle engulfed the nation.  Both sides of the aisle began saying and doing things that drove them farther and farther apart.  The country became polarized with anger and hatred.  Candidates began treating each other in ways that drove them apart not only from one another but from society as well.  Both sides are behaving dysfunctionally.  It seemed as if the one who yelled the loudest and carried the biggest stick would be the one to get elected.  This is why so many were disappointed after the first debate and others reveled. 

We need to come together again as Americans, as citizens, who all want the same things in life which ultimately is happiness.  Like a marriage or family, this can only happen when both sides work together to make it happen.  And while I would be the last person on earth to advocate any “trickle down” theory, I don’t see any change happening until our leaders agree to treat one another with respect and employ the Seven Caring Habits of Supporting, Encouraging, Listening, Accepting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating.  Mental Health is, indeed, a public health issue.  After more then 250 thousand years of humanity and 236 yrs as a country, we have not advanced to any stage of improved people skills.  We still don’t know how to get along with others without making things worse.

Common sense is that which we know to be true.  If what you say or do will harm your relationship with someone else, common sense would declare, “why do that?”  The answer:  Power. . .   the need to be right and to make the other person wrong.

Relationship and marriage psychologist, Harville Hendrix describes this need to be right as protecting one’s sense of self.  If I see it your way, I will have to surrender my way.  If I feel your experience, I will have to invalidate mine.  If what you say is true, then what I say *must* be false. There can be only one center of the universe and that center is me!  Hendrix goes on to say that if you put your perception of reality aside for the sake of weighing the other person’s reality perception, then defenses will be lowered and then each will not feel threatened by the other.  Then the other person will be more inclined to see your point of view or be more willing for both of you to acknowledge parts of each other’s reality.  By each other giving up their centrist positions, they can connect.  (Thanks to Bette Blance, in Gold Coast, Queensland for posting this info on Facebook via The Bewellbuzz).

Only by learning that we only need to be right for our own perspective and allow others to think and act differently than ourselves; by not criticizing or trying to change anyone, and walking away before our differences become more difficult can we begin to avoid conflict and all of the anger and hate that often results.

Congress could use a lesson in putting the Nation in the Choice Theory Solving Circle and asking each side of the aisle, “what are you willing to do for the sake of the  Nation” and not “what can you do for the sake of your party,” nor “what you won’t do.”

Once our country’s representatives work towards resolving their differences by choosing behaviors for the sake of our nation and not for the sake of their own agenda will any resolution and advancement toward the success of our nation and citizens be reached.  Otherwise, we will remain Dysfunctional.

7 More Deadly Habits


 Seven More Deadly Habits


Most of you who read my blogs and articles are familiar with Dr. Glasser’s Seven Deadly Habits of External Control.  For those of you who are not familiar with them, the Deadly Habits are the behaviors that the majority of the world’s population relies on as a means to control other people . . . to get others to behave the way they want them to behave.  They are:


Criticizing         Complaining                 Threatening       Bribing and/or Rewarding

Blaming            Nagging                        Punishing


Dr. Glasser,  has identified these behaviors as part of the External Control Psychology that destroys relationships.  He points out that there are more than seven.  But he further states, “If you can overcome the use of these seven, you will be well on your way to better relationships.”


If you were to analyze these behaviors, you would notice that they are all overt.  There is nothing hidden in their application.  They are openly and purposefully conducted so that the person on the receiving end will be sure to take notice.  They are controlling behaviors.  If a person isn’t aware of them then they would have to be numb between the ears not to recognize them as controlling and offensive in nature.


There are, however, behaviors that others use to control people that are not so open.  These covert behaviors are meant to have the same result as the Seven Deadly Habits but in an underhanded manner.  Three of them play on your own self-image and self-worth to feel badly if you don’t do what someone else wants you to do.  The last four rely on the help of others in order to gang up or rally outside forces to get you to behave the way that others want you to behave.  These overt behaviors are:


Guilting             Martyring                     Rumoring                      Tattling

Shaming           Triangulating                 Lying                           


Guilting and Shaming go hand in hand.  The idea behind these behaviors is to get you to feel ashamed of yourself for refusing to behave in a certain way.  By not doing what someone wants you to do, they infer that you would be guilty of “making them feel badly” and therefore you are to be held accountable for “making” them feel unhappy.  And for that, you “should be (or feel) ashamed.”    It is External Control playing against your own belief in External Control.


Martyring serves the same purpose of shaming and guilting only in camouflage.  The idea is that someone important to you will appear to give up their wants and needs for the sake of your wants and needs with an ulterior motive.  Then they hope that you will feel so guilty about it that you will change your wants and needs and end up doing what the martyr wanted in the first place.  “That’s okay.  Go with your friends.  I’ll find something here to keep me occupied.”  Or, “Take as much money as you need.  I can let that doctor appointment go until a few months later.”


Some have even been known to put themselves in harm’s way to cause possible injury to get others to feel sorry for them and to gain attention.  They do this by taking unnecessary risks or even purposely harming themselves.  Feigning illess is yet another.


Triangulating serves to get support or advice from someone else concerning a problem they are having with another person who is not behaving the way they want them to behave.  It often results in the outside person, who usually has no need to be involved in the matter, to become resentful toward the non-complying person and join forces against them.  Mother to daughter concerning her son’s school grades:  “Kenny’s teacher called me today and he’s failing everything!”  Now the daughter can gang up on her brother, not so much for his poor grades, but because his behavior is upsetting their mother.


Rumoring, Lying, and Tattling are behaviors that are often used for revenge and/or harm another’s reputation or criticize their behavior.  It is a form of criticism about a person but not directed to the person.  Instead, it is directed to others so that others will become judgmental and criticize the person or persons who are not behaving in an acceptable manner by the standards of others.  We see it openly in politics but in families, business, and relationships, it is more covert. 


These methods are often used along with triangulating:  Elderly mother to care giving son:  “Do we need anything from the grocery store?”  (Her way of saying she wants to go to the store but doesn’t know how to ask).  Son:  “No.  We have all we need for now.”  So then the mother calls another family member and says, “Jacob won’t take me to the grocery store.”  You can just imagine what blows up next in the drama between the son and his sister.


All of the overt Seven Deadly Habits and the Seven Covert Habits are meant to serve the same purpose:  To control someone else and doing so by playing off of the world’s belief system that others are responsible for their happiness or unhappiness; and that they have no control over their emotions other than what others “caused them to have.”


It’s interesting to note that if you no longer utilize External Control and are fully aware that you have choices on how to perceive and deal with the behavior of others . . .  these 14 Deadly Habits will have no negative effect on you.  It drives others crazy.  Ooops.  It appears I have just come up with another external controlling behavior.


In the game of football, there is an unwritten rule but one of mere common sense.  The rule is:  If you want to win the game, don’t tackle anyone wearing the same uniform as your own.  The behaviors of External Control are tackles on your own team members.  They defeat your purpose and cause the team to lose

Shame & Guilt: The Happiness Destroyer




Occasionally I ask the members in my group therapy sessions: “How many of you have some things in your past that you would not like anyone else to know?  Usually, the entire group will raise their hands.   Without probing into each group member’s past, I go on to explain that all of us have done some things in our life of which we are not particularly proud.  And there may be some who may have even had some things happen to them by someone else that they are keeping secret.  In either case, the basis for keeping these things secret and not wanting others to know about them will be rooted in two things:  Shame and Guilt.


Shame and guilt can be the core of most, if not all, of one’s unhappiness.  Yet both shame and guilt are not always bad.  There is such a thing as healthy shame and guilt and these are the principles which keep many people from breaking laws, harming others, or performing deeds that would affect others in negative ways.  It could be said that healthy shame and guilt keeps our innate urge to be selfish or harm others in check. 


I don’t believe we know about shame and guilt until we have been taught what is proper and what is not proper when interacting in society and in our families of origin.  And while we are known to be products of our environment, there are some individuals who have not been taught about what may be right or wrong and therefore may possess minimal shame and guilt, if at all.  And there are some parents who use shame and guilt to “control” their children . . . to manipulate them to behave the way they want them to or to get from them what they feel they are lacking.  Playing the martyr is an example of how this is utilized by a parent or spouse to get love and attention that they feel that don’t have.  They suffer or pretend to suffer to instill shame and guilt in someone so that the other person will show them some pity and attention. . . .another form of external control.


It is toxic shame and guilt that destroys one’s happiness and peace of mind.  Toxic shame and guilt consist of the following beliefs:  Guilt is: I DID something wrong.  Shame is: I AM something wrong.


We often hear, “We’re as sick as our secrets,” and to this I must agree.  It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep from being “found out.”  One must be ever vigilant and looking over their shoulder to keep others from finding out whatever it is they don’t want others to know. Shame and guilt affects all of our genetic Basic Needs of Survival, Love and Belonging, Power, Freedom, and Fun.


Some cultures as well as religions are more prone to be susceptible to Shame and Guilt than others.  I’ll just mention that for that would be a different topic in itself.  I have heard it said that Jews invented Shame and Guilt and Catholics rented it from them.  There does, however, seem to be a difference between Jewish Guilt and Christian Guilt.  Christians tend to feel guilt about something they did and Jews tend to feel guilty about something they didn’t do.


A leading cause of substance abuse is found in what is referred to as the Shame and Guilt Spiral.  Drugs and alcohol put to sleep what would make a person feel bad.  As long as they are high or buzzed, the things that normally tend to cause one to feel bad go away, albeit temporarily.  What happens next is the spiral.  Once sober, they begin to feel badly about what they just did (drinking or using) on top of all of the other things of which they feel bad.  They just added another 5 pounds of shame and guilt in a 3 pound container.  The quickest remedy?  Drink or use some more.  This behavior continues to spiral downward until they either get help or die.


One of the necessary approaches in dealing with addicts or alcoholics is to help the person release or let go of all their shame and guilt.  You don’t have to be an addict or an alcoholic for this to be effective in your life.  Anyone who harbors shame and guilt will not know true happiness and peace of mind until they are rid of their shameful and guilt ridden thoughts


What is often amazing to both myself and to my clients is to discover that much of what they are keeping secretive, along with the fear of being discovered, is so trite in nature that if or when others do find out, the discoverers would either be understanding, bored, or not even give a damn.  All the stress and fears of being discovered are self-imposed.  It would also appear that those who are most susceptible to shame and guilt by the manipulation of others who believe what one “should’ think or do, are the most easily taken advantage of.  These individuals have a very hard time in saying “no” to others and end up doing things that they really would rather not do only to please the person making the request.  They would create feelings of shame and guilt in themselves if they refused the requests of others.  Then they begin to feel angry and turn their anger inwardly (depression) because they would feel guilty and shameful if they let their anger out.  Continually giving up one’s own wants and needs for the sake of someone else’s wants and needs will lead to unhappiness.  Once a person shows signs of continually trying to please others, others will begin to take advantage of this trait.  No one can walk on you if you don’t lay down.


In A.A., those members who seek recovery along with their sobriety do more than merely attend meetings.  They put the twelve steps into action with the help of a sponsor.  Ridding one’s self of shame and guilt is like having the weight of the world taken off one’s shoulders.  It’s like being able to exhale after holding your breath for years.  I have even witnessed some individuals break down in tears of joy after letting go of their shame and guilt.  It is truly a sight to behold and an experience one never forgets once they release it.  The process involves making amends wherever possible, forgiving one’s self, and realizing that they are humans who are prone to make mistakes and yet still be loved; feeling worthy of giving and receiving love.


One’s lack of self love is due to their perception about themselves which is laden in shame and guilt. The second genetic need for Love and Belonging is so powerful that when adequately acquired, all of the other genetic needs seem to be more easily attained.  Not only does one need Love and Belonging from others but from one’s self.  How can you expect others to love you if you don’t like and love yourself?  

Personally, I contend that when a person finds love through someone else’s acceptance, they are actually feeling love for themselves as much as for their partner.  It is the concept of, “I like me better because you love me.”  Love for another person enhances our need for love of our self.


In the movie, “As Good As It Gets,” Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) begins to realize he is miserable without love and belonging?  He finds himself being attracted to Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) and on a casual date he says to her, “You make me want to be a better man.”  Of course, Simon’s dog also played a part of getting him to begin utilizing a few acts of kindness as a result of love  Melvin has reached an epiphany and realizes that if he wants love and belonging, he needs to stop being such a jerk that drives others away.  He’s beginning to deal with his shame and guilt.  And what does this all mean?  If you want things in life to be better, the first person who needs to change is one’s self.

Compulsion, Obsession, Addiction or All the Above?

Are repeated behaviors an addiction?   It would appear that it all depends upon what society and the experts consider addiction to be.  If the behavior is seen as one who repeatedly flips light switches, or washing hands several times, hoarding, or unlocking and locking a door several times, avoiding cracks in sidewalks as in the film, “As Good As It Gets;” tapping the tops of parking meters when walking down the sidewalk as depicted the TV series, “Monk,” they would call it “obsessive compulsive behavior.”  They would even call these behaviors the behaviors of a mentally ill person.  But if the behavior happens to be anything that involves sex, food, gambling, spending, alcohol, or drugs, it is called an “addiction.” And these, too, would be considered mental illness.

While there is no pathology to any of these so-called mental illnesses or diseases, they do have one common denominator:  Those who display these behaviors are emotionally distressed.   And underneath all of their unhappiness is an unsatisfying relationship(s) with someone of whom they would like to have a better relationship.  When all known methods a person has to ease their unhappiness fail to afford them the relief they desire, the human mind can become very creative.  Any behavior an unhappy person discovers that eases their frustration, even in the least amount, becomes the method that is relied upon to make their emotional distress tolerable.   And since it is only a temporary measure of relief, it must be conducted often to be effective.

Behaviors that involve food and sex are, perhaps, the most difficult to control inasmuch as we need food to sustain life and the drive for sex is genetically hard-wired in us.  Sex is used for marketing everything from weight loss programs to automobiles.  Added to that is all of the porn that is available on the Internet and television ads declaring that if you aren’t having or performing satisfying sex, then you can retrieve the “best part of life” through the wonders of the pharmaceutical companies.  If sex is the best part of one’s life, then one’s life is not very fulfilling in the first place, with or without sex.  And herein lies the crux of the matter:  The difference between happiness and pleasure . . . both of which are oft referred to as addictive or compulsive behaviors.

Gambling, spending, sex (with or without a partner), drinking alcohol, using drugs, working long hours, binge eating, hoarding, huffing,  and obsessive and compulsive behaviors can all be performed without the involvement of another person.  These pleasurable behaviors are much more physically and emotionally intense than those of happiness and result in a rush of the neurotransmitter dopamine in a part of the brain called the Nucleus Accumbens.  But these neurotransmitters dissipate rather quickly, necessitating repetition of the behavior to experience the pleasurable effect.

Happiness requires meaningful relationships.  Sex for the sake of self satisfaction, with little to no meaningful relationship involved, is only a pleasure-satisfying behavior and selfish at best.   Yet the need to satisfy the genetic sexual urge, if severely lacking in one’s life, often leads to choosing the wrong partner in marriage.  Watching a movie this morning, a scene involved a couple who just met and quickly became sexually involved instigated by the woman.  When the act was over, she was satisfied and had no meaningful connection with the man.  He, having apparently not been sexually satisfied in months or years stated, “I love you.”  Her selfish needs were met without intimate connecting while he perceived his pleasurable experience as happiness and declared his love for her while having met her less than an hour ago.  He will “fall in love” with anyone with whom he has a sexual experience.  Hence the song lyrics sung by Frank Sinatra and Chet Backer, “I fall in love too easily. I fall in love too fast.  I fall in love too terribly hard for love to ever last.”  Both Frank and Chet had a history of troubled relationships.

Conversely, when a person chooses to get their sexual needs met with no intent or desire to have a meaningful relationship, they are only satisfying their basic genetic biological urge but not the corresponding genetic need for love and belonging.  While the biological urge is satisfied causing pleasure, the genetic need that creates happiness does not get met.

A client of mine in his late sixties became a widower.  When he met his wife, he had a history of womanizing.  She had a history of compulsive gambling.  Of all of the women he had known, she was the only one who came close to satisfying his genetic need for a meaningful relationship.  He was the missing factor in her life that gave her reason to not need to gamble to satisfy her need for pleasure.  She found happiness in him and he with her.  With a bit of effort to change long term self-satisfying behaviors, they were both able to forego their compulsive behaviors of short-lived pleasures for the sake of long term marriage and happiness.

But when she died, he reverted back to his old ways.  He was devastated over the loss of his wife.  She was the one who kept him in check.  His life had meaning and success with her in his life.  Pleasure seeking is the most common ways in which people attempt to overcome their unhappiness.   This is what leads to alcohol and drug abuse, compulsive sex, eating disorders, gambling, spending, and all other compulsive behaviors.

My client began to obsess about the conquest of women many years younger than he to satisfy his sexual needs and to meet his need for power . . . the need for respect, appreciation, worth, and acceptance . . . the things he had when married.  After his wife’s death,  he saw women as a challenge to win over in a way that would lead them to giving into his charming ways.   Once any of them might show a desire to become involved in a meaningful relationship, he would abruptly end the one sided relationship.  He proudly referred to his behavior as “Catch and release.”  He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on material items in an effort to acquire happiness and draw attention to him from women that, at best, only offered short term pleasure.  

Trying to fill the void in his life from his wife’s death, as well as perceiving pleasure as happiness, was his purpose.  He maintains the image of his deceased wife in his Quality World as the only woman who could have ever given him what he wanted and needed and no one else can ever do that as well as she did.  Therefore, he doesn’t even expect to find anyone who can replace her.   After years of spending all his money, owing back taxes, the risk of losing his home, and not ever having a meaningful relationship, he found that nothing was working to give him meaning and happiness in life.  While not one who would purposely end his life, he had a deeply pessimistic view of life and often stated that he was only biding his time before he “checks out.”  What he wants and needs in order to be happy is actually being sabotaged by his image of himself in his Quality World.

In his Quality World, his self image is totally different than what he says he “should” be.  He reports he should be:  A caring father, a responsible citizen, a Christian man who gives back to the community.  But “I just can’t see it.”  It isn’t that he can’t see it.  It’s that he doesn’t want to see it as evidenced by his further remarks of, “I don’t want to be that person.  It just ain’t me.”  Instead, he visualizes himself as a successful owner of many luxury items, a person who attracts women, and people who admire him and want to be like him; a person who makes things happen and can influence people with his charm.

The only thing that will turn his life around from unhappiness to happiness is to replace his Quality World image of himself; stop his self-defeating behaviors, and seek a meaningful, trusting, intimate, caring relationship that he had with his wife and to see himself as an individual who has more to offer than someone whose worth is measured by material possessions that only serve as bait to impress others and catch women.  His neediness is so self-serving that he fails to see just how selfish and uncaring of others he is.  Is he mentally ill?  No.  Is he addicted to sex?  No.  He is choosing obsessive and compulsive behaviors in an attempt to provide some modicum of pleasure (which he perceives as happiness) and it isn’t working consistently enough to be satisfying.  He is working hard at living up to an image of being someone he would like to be rather than who he really is.  He is fighting against his innate personality and losing the fight.  This fight has been ongoing for many years, save those in which he was married.  The old drives were still there but not to the point that he acted on them in his marriage.

When we hear that one is addicted to sex, work, indiscriminate spending, gambling, eating, and hoarding, these behaviors are no different than the person who repeats unnatural behaviors that are called Obsessive/Compulsive.  And like Obsessive Compulsive behaviors, there are no laboratory tests that are indicative of an illness or disease.  These behaviors are merely the behaviors of emotionally distressed individuals whose chosen behaviors are their best attempt, at the time, to ease their unhappiness.

Of all of the compulsive behaviors, only two of them have a biocellular altering effect:  Alcohol and drugs.   When addictive substances are continually introduced into the body, the body must learn to adjust to their presence.  The cells restructure to function with the substance in the body’s system.   Gambling, spending, sexing and sexting, long work hours, flipping light switches, locking and unlocking doors, washing hands 3 to 5  times before stopping, avoiding cracks in sidewalks, tapping the tops of parking meters, etc.  do not culminate in cellular restructuring. 

People don’t start drinking or using drugs because of addiction.  They drink and use because they feel better when drinking and using than when they are not drinking or using.  They drink and use because they like how it makes them feel . . .  no different than chosen obsessive/compulsive behaviors.  But the continued use of drugs and alcohol will eventually cause the body’s cells to become dependent upon them in order to feel better both physically and emotionally.  And that becomes the addiction.  None of the other listed obsessive compulsive behaviors have this physical effect; have no physical withdrawal symptoms when ceased as with drugs and alcohol, and are therefore not addictions.  They are chosen behaviors to feel emotionally better and serve to take their mind off of things they don’t want to think about that would make them feel bad.

Regardless, whether they be obsessive, compulsive, or addictive behaviors, the behaviors are frequently repeated for the same purpose . . . to ease emotional distress.