Mind Reading

by Gloria Arenson on October 1, 2012

Stephen MItchell’s brilliant book,The Second Book of the Tao, is the kind of book that I love to open at random in order to find some inspiration. The other day I opened to a page that began, “Our assumptions about the world become our world. Confusion projects confusion and we wonder why life doesn’t make sense.”

One of my favorite Dear Abby type of columns contained a letter from a woman whose cousin was extremely angry with her because she had set her wedding date for the same month and day that her cousin had been wed a few years before. The bride to be was concerned about hurting her cousin’s feelings!

This is so typical of how many of us react to the assumptions that we and others have. In this case the cousin verbalized her assumption that her wedding date was so special that no one else in the family could use the same one. I can’t help but laugh every time I think of this. How about you? The bride to be’s assumption was that her cousin had a right to make that demand.

Many relationship problems develop when assumptions are not expressed. One person expects others to read his or her mind and follow the unspoken expectations as if they were one of the Ten Commandments. Perhaps you are turning yourself inside out to please or live up to “rules” given to you by a parent, an in-law, a co-worker or neighbor.

Before you feel angry, guilty or ashamed when they give you a hard time, stop and examine your own assumptions. How should an adult “child” act toward his or her parents? What should parents expect from a grown up “child”? What are you expecting from your spouse? Is he or she supposed to read your mind or your body language and do or stop doing something that displeases you?

In Alcoholics Anonymous they say that if you “assume,” you will make an ass out of you and me! Consider sharing your assumptions with the people you are having problems with and check out their assumptions too. Mitchell observes that if you question deeply enough, assumptions let go of themselves and your mind becomes clear.


Quarreling: A Problem or an Opportunity?

by Gloria Arenson on September 4, 2011

Here is an excerpt from my forthcoming eBook, Grownup Love: How to Create it and Keep it.

As a Marriage and Family therapist I do my best to stay informed about the latest findings in my field. Therefore, a number of years ago, I attended a class at a local university called “Quarreling.” Apparently the Sociology department had done a number of studies in which they examined and videoed couples as they quarreled.

Their most amazing discovery was that every committed couple fights the same three or four fights during the duration of the relationship. Whether it lasts a few months or many years, the couple comes back over and over to their disagreement about the same things. And they rarely resolve them! Unfortunately, that class did not offer solutions, but I continued to apply this information in my work with couples.

I pondered these findings and realized that this premise held true in my own marriage and in the relationships of couples I have counseled over the years. At times the smallest thing can set you or your loved one off, and it turns into a violent war where you each react to the other in ways that you realize later were out of proportion to the situation. Yet you keep doing this repeatedly.

Scientific studies of the brain now allow us to understand what creates these reactions. Why do well-meaning couples keep triggering each other over the same topics? Trauma specialist, Robert Scaer, MD has explained it very simply. He maintains that the primitive part of the brain has only one goal, not to die! The brain is constructed to keep us alive at all costs. Therefore, when your partner is acting his or her “craziest” it is because there is a part of them that feels threatened and doesn’t want to die. They feel as if something you are doing or not doing is threatening them with death. This behavior that drives your beloved crazy is a pattern of response to danger that they have developed.

This is true of all of us. The good news is that we now have methods like the Phoenix Effect Process that can enable us to heal the old wounds that keep reopening when we keep fighting the same fights year after year. You don’t have to be a psychotherapist to use it. Couples can help each other to rapidly defuse negative emotions and beliefs that tear relationships apart.

I recall an incident a few years ago when my husband went into a moment of “craziness” over something that seemed very unimportant to me. He became furious and no amount of reasoning with him helped until I suggested using the Phoenix Effect Process.

He told me that the emotion that was triggered was betrayal. He used this simple focused imagery method for less than five minutes and became completely peaceful as the emotion disappeared without a trace. Later, he shared that as the feeling of betrayal disappeared, he got in touch with memories of loss of trust and loving connection with his unloving and critical mother. I was simply her stand-in.

The Phoenix Effect Process offers the possibility of new life to individuals in unhappy relationships as well as couples just starting to build a loving relationship that they want to last.


All About Relationships

July 7, 2011

For the last few weeks I have had relationships on my mind for a number of reasons. First, I have finally decided to finish the eBook I have had on the back burner. I call it “Grown Up Love”. I was inspired many years ago when I heard a psychiatrist say: “A ‘having it all’ […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Do You Love With Strings Attached?

January 10, 2011

Cheryl came to see me for counseling and complained about her awful marriage, how unhappy she was with her husband, and that she was contemplating getting a divorce. Ben, a smooth talker with amazing charm, had captivated Cheryl. Because she had always dreamed of marrying a doctor or lawyer, someone who could earn much more […]

0 comments Read the full article →

I Want to Help But They Just Won’t Listen

February 17, 2010

Do you have a friend or relative who doesn’t listen to your good advice? Every week I speak with at least one person like you. Perhaps you are in despair because of the way your neighbor treats her children or know without a doubt that your brother shouldn’t move away or your best friend should […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Perfectionism: It’s All In the Eye of the Beholder

October 12, 2009

The other morning I got out of bed before my husband and, as I was brushing my teeth, I saw him get up and make the bed. Making the bed for my perfectionist husband means throwing the blankets willy-nilly back over the bed, period. What is wrong with this picture? Is that the way a […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Five Ways To Survive Home Improvement Woes

April 4, 2009

I sat across the table from Leo, my house painter, and in my best imitation of Joan Rivers, said, “Can we talk?” We had agreed that Leo would start at 8:30 A.M. each day. He estimated that the job would take ten days. The first day I was up and ready for the exciting renovation. […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Stop Me Before I Love Again

February 21, 2009

Do you fall in love with the same person over and over again? The name may change, but when the honeymoon ends you find yourself in the same old rut with the same problems you had before. Even if you have a PhD and tell yourself that you know better, there you go again. You […]

0 comments Read the full article →

The Amazing Power of Words

January 21, 2008

Listen to this article as read aloud by the author: [Audio clip: view full post to listen] When I was growing up there was a saying that sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. That adage supposedly was teaching that it didn’t matter what someone said to you. Insults […]

0 comments Read the full article →