Shrink Rap: The Strength to Be Vulnerable

Raise your hand if you enjoy being vulnerable.

I thought so.

Most people believe that vulnerability is a weakness, something dangerous that can come back to bite them. Growing up, being smaller and less powerful than the older kids and adults in our lives, we were often hurt when we exposed vulnerability. Even when we grow larger and more powerful, people who are consumed by a win-lose approach to life often try to discover our carefully hidden vulnerabilities in order to exploit them.

But, as those of you who raised your hands already know, vulnerability is the key to both emotional and physical intimacy. Let me translate emotional and physical intimacy for you: love and sex. Obviously, love is not always sexual. In fact (hold onto your hats!), love is rarely sexual. But (cue the violins) the most fulfilling sex almost always includes love. Continue reading

Shrink Rap: DMZ and Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries can be almost friendly, like the boundary between Canada and the United States. Or they can be heavily defended, like the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. It all depends on who you are sharing your emotional boundary with–friends or phone solicitors, parents or siblings, your boyfriend or girlfriend, or that obnoxious tipsy person at a party who thinks you’re cute.

But what is certain is this: Healthy emotional boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships and for understanding the reactions and emotions of other people.

Maybe you remember way back to junior high school, having to read a poem by Robert Frost called “Mending Walls.” Maybe you don’t remember because you were asleep. In it, Frost’s tight-lipped neighbor says (not once, but twice): “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Shrink Rap: DMZs and Emotional Boundaries  1/22/2012

When establishing healthy emotional boundaries, think fences. Continue reading

Shrink Rap: Working with Dragons and Taming Anger

We’ve all been mad–hot, steaming mad; cold, calculating mad; or something in between. And most of us have been mad in both meanings of the word: crazy and angry. Although crazy doesn’t always look angry, anger often looks crazy. But one thing is for certain: Trying to keep angry feelings inside can be crazy-making, for you and for the people around you.

Most of us grew up afraid of anger. We were hurt by being the target of anger from other people, especially the anger of parents or teachers or friends. And we were often punished for showing anger, especially toward parents or teachers or friends.

Fearful as it is, being mad is an unavoidable, necessary part of everybody’s life. And it’s not a necessary evil: Anger can be valuable and validating and motivating. It’s just part of being human, part of who we are. Continue reading