Shame: The Difference Between Men and Women

Posted on December 26, 2012. Filed under: Children and Adolescents, Healing, Lifestyle, Men, Parenting Tips, Relationship, Sex & Intimacy, Trauma, Women | Tags: , , |

Since men and women experience shame differently, it is important to understand how it may play out in a romantic relationship with your partner.

shame girlTypically shame presents itself in woman as having to do it all, do it perfectly, and never let others see you sweat.  For women, shame is a web of unobtainable conflicting competing expectations of who they are supposed to be.

boy ashamedAlternatively, men feel the pressure of not being perceived as weak or needing.  They are encouraged to be vulnerable, yet get ridiculed and beaten up if they fall or fail.  For men shame is a competition, a game of proving yourself, and the pressure to hold in emotions or not show sensitivity or softer emotions. And thus the automatic and familiar emotion that is expressed is anger, irritability or violence.

If you would like assistance in reducing the shame you experience in your life and improving your sense of self-worth contact True Potential Counseling to schedule an appointment today.

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What Is Your Attachment Style?

Posted on December 21, 2012. Filed under: Communication, Relationship, Sex & Intimacy, Trauma, Women | Tags: , |

Couple cuddling on bedSecure attachment

Securely attached people tend to agree with the following statements: “It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept me.” This style of attachment usually results from a history of warm and responsive interactions with relationship partners. Securely attached people tend to have positive views of themselves and their partners. They also tend to have positive views of their relationships. Often they report greater satisfaction and adjustment in their relationships than people with other attachment styles. Securely attached people feel comfortable both with intimacy and with independence. Many seek to balance intimacy and independence in their relationships.

The typical pattern in relationship is: 1) Everyday Activities, 2) Perceive Triggering Conditions, 3) Provokes Anxiety, 4) Seeks Closeness to Partner, 5) Partner Responds Positively, 5) Reduces or Eliminates Anxiety, 6) Everyday Activities.

anxious 2Anxious-preoccupied attachment

People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to agree with the following statements: “I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them.” People with this style of attachment seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness from their partners. They sometimes value intimacy to such an extent that they become overly dependent on their partners—a condition colloquially termed clinginess. Compared to securely attached people, people who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to have less positive views about themselves. They often doubt their worth as a partner and blame themselves for their partners’ lack of responsiveness. They also have less positive views about their partners because they do not trust in people’s good intentions. People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment may experience high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry, and impulsive in their relationships.

The typical pattern of anxious-preoccupied attachment is: 1) Everyday Activities occur, 2) Provokes Anxiety, 3) Seeks Closeness to Partner, 4) Partner Responds Negatively, 5) Increases Insecurity and Anxiety, 6) Seeks Closeness to Partner, 7) Partner Responds Negatively, 8) Increases Insecurity and Anxiety (continues repeatedly).

dismissiveDismissive-avoidant attachment

People with a dismissive style of avoidant attachment tend to agree with these statements: “I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.” People with this attachment style desire a high level of independence. The desire for independence often appears as an attempt to avoid attachment altogether. They view themselves as self-sufficient and invulnerable to feelings associated with being closely attached to others. They often deny needing close relationships. Some may even view close relationships as relatively unimportant. Not surprisingly, they seek less intimacy with relationship partners, whom they often view less positively than they view themselves. Investigators commonly note the defensive character of this attachment style. People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment tend to suppress and hide their feelings, and they tend to deal with rejection by distancing themselves from the sources of rejection (i.e., their relationship partners).

The typical pattern of an avoidant attachment style is: 1) Everyday Activities, 2) Perceived Triggering Activities, 3) Provokes Anxiety, 4) Denies the Need for Closeness, 5) Partner Responds Negatively, 6) Increases Insecurity and Anxiety, 8) Anxiety Suppression and Distancing, 9) Everyday Activities.

avoidantFearful-avoidant attachment

People with a fearful style of avoidant attachment tend to agree with the following statements: “I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely, or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others.” People with this attachment style have mixed feelings about close relationships. On the one hand, they desire to have emotionally close relationships. On the other hand, they tend to feel uncomfortable with emotional closeness. These mixed feelings are combined with negative views about themselves and their partners. They commonly view themselves as unworthy of responsiveness from their partners, and they don’t trust the intentions of their partners. Similarly to the dismissive-avoidant attachment style, people with a fearful-avoidant attachment style seek less intimacy from partners and frequently suppress and hide their feelings.

The typical pattern of an avoidant attachment style is: 1) Everyday Activities, 2) Perceived Triggering Activities, 3) Provokes Anxiety, 4) Seeks Closeness with Partner but Doesn’t Know How 5) Partner Responds Negatively, 6) Increases Insecurity and Anxiety, 7) Gives Up on Getting a Positive Response, 8) Anxiety Suppression and Distancing, 9) Everyday Activities.

For more information on how to improve your relationship and modify your attachment style with your partner, contact True Potential Counseling for more details.

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List of Defense Mechanisms

Posted on December 15, 2012. Filed under: Communication, Lifestyle, Relationship, Trauma, Women | Tags: , |

defensiveAs human beings we have a variety of defense mechanisms we use when we feel threatened, vulnerable or are connecting with emotions or situations which cause us distress.  Our defense system is otherwise known as the fight, flight, freeze response which typically gets activated when we are feeling powerlessness, rage or fear.  Defense mechanisms are maladaptive coping skill we use when our internal system in our brain becomes activated (i.e. the amygdala) and communicates to our body (i.e. central nervous system) that our survival, whether real or imagined, is being threatened.

The following is a list of common defense mechanisms used:

  • Blaming or Attacking Others – When our ego becomes threatened, we feel vulnerable and hurt, or we don’t want to admit our own short-comings or contributions to the problem, we try to cope with this pain by blaming or attacking others instead.  For example, a husband blames and yells at his wife for not cleaning the house because he believes that if she does not care about him.  Instead of sharing his vulnerability or needs clearly he attacks her and says, “You are a horrible wife and I made a mistake marrying you.”
  • Rationalization – Subconscious justifications, excuses or reasoning given to make a behavior seem logical — “A student fails the final he didn’t study for and says… “I couldn’t have passed it anyway – that teacher has it in for me.”
  • Reaction Formation – Over-compensation for fear of the opposite.  When there are two conflicting parts in self-one is strengthened while the other is repressed.  For example, someone may be extremely calm and relaxed, but may have a lot of repressed hostility and anger that they are unaware of on a conscious level.
  • Excuses – Coming up with a list of reasons why a particular action occurred or examples of why action couldn’t be taken, instead of taking responsibility for behaviors and actions.  “A professor arrives late to an appointment without completing the report by the agreed upon deadline and said, “There was so much traffic and my wife didn’t fill up the gas tank last night so I had to stop and get gas on the way.  To top it off my son was running late this morning so I had to wait for him and I didn’t finish the report last night because my colleagues were behind on data collection.”
  • Projection – Attempts to banish or “disown” unwanted and disliked thoughts, behaviors, and even “parts of self” by projecting or attributing them to someone else. May be as simple as blaming someone else – “He should have let me off on that ticket but that cop was trying to fill his monthly quota.”
  • Introjection – The opposite of projection – subconsciously “takes in” to self an imprint (or recording) of another person including all their attitudes, messages, prejudices, expressions, even the sound of their voice, etc.  This is healthy if the imprinted material is helpful advice, warnings, or other lessons from parents and respected others — unhealthy if shaming messages from parents, hatred, or aggression is turned inward on self.
  • Deflection – When you change the subject and focus on someone or something else, instead of speaking about yourself.  For example, when someone is asking about your behaviors in the relationship and you change the subject and focus on the negative behaviors of your spouse instead.
  • Displacement – This defense reduces anxiety or pressure by transferring feelings toward one person to another — commonly known as “dumping on” someone.  For example, a woman is mad her boss and kicks the dog when she gets home, or blows up and yells at her family.
  • Regression – Giving up current level of development and going back to a prior level.  For example, an older child is under stress and begins wetting the bed or sucking a thumb after a long period without that behavior.
  • Simple Denial – Unpleasant facts, emotions, or events are treated as if they are not real or don’t exist. – For example, a man recently discovered that his wife is cheating on him, but he acts as though everything is normal and they are still trustworthy and faithful.
  • Playing the Victim – To avoid dealing with the problem or feeling responsible for the situation, the victim finds it easier to make the other person the bad guy and believes that everything happens to them.  They have difficulty taking any ownership for problems (i.e. the breakdown in the relationship) and are unable to acknowledge they have choices and can take action.
  • Fantasy – Retreating into a dream world of times past.
  • Suppression – Painful, frightening, or threatening emotions, memories, impulses or drives that are consciously pushed or “stuffed” inside.
  • Identification – An ability available very early in life that children use to attach themselves to certain qualities, emotions, and attitudes of someone else especially between 8 and 13 during the modeling period.
  • Conversion – Mental conflict converted to a physical symptom.  For example, a soldier is being deployed for war; however feels conflicted because he desires serving his country, but believes it is wrong to kill and develops physical symptoms as a result.
  • Anger and Intimidation – This is when a person deep down inside feels powerless and weak on some level and uses emotional intensity, threatens, intimidation and fear to get his/her needs met.
  • Isolation – Separation of memory from emotion…can remember and talk about the trauma but feels no emotion — the Person talks about the incident as if it is someone else’s story.
  • Sublimation – Redirection of impulses into socially acceptable activities — normal and healthy, such as when the sexual impulses of adolescence is channeled into sports and competition.
  • Repression – Painful, frightening, or threatening emotions, memories, impulses or drives that are subconsciously pushed or “stuffed” deep inside.

For more information on how to break out of these defense mechanism patterns and begin redirecting that energy towards creating a fullfilling life, please contact True Potential Counseling for more details.

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5 Simple Steps To Thinking Positive

Posted on March 1, 2012. Filed under: Lifestyle, Men, Trauma, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The following is a thought regulation technique that helps with stress management, ruminating thoughts, challenging negative self talk and mood management.
It is simple but a valuable tool. Take approximately 20-30 minutes daily to use this coping skill.  By practicing the following strategy on a regular basis you will begin developing mindfulness skills and start improving your quality of life.
A- Determine The Action Event:  Choose a bothersome or challenging event from your day that brought up negative thoughts or feelings.
For example, I feel insecure about your body when I go to the gym and compare myself to others.
B- Identify Your Beliefs:  Take the time to list the beliefs that come up for you related to the action event.
For example, I am being judged, she is prettier than me, I am overweight compared to her, I need to be thin if I want to succeed, etc.
C- List the Consequences:  – Identify all the physical, emotional, behavioral and interpersonal consequences for having that belief about yourself or the situation. 
For example, I feel down, feel less than, unworthy, anxious, I avoid working out, I feel tired, I think I am less than, I waste time and energy worrying or stressing out, I think negatively about myself, my chest is tight and I have a shallow breath.
D- Dispute Those Beliefs: Imagine that you are a lawyer in a court of law challenging every negative or dis-empowering belief.  Some ways to do so are as follows.  First, find evidence to counter the pessimistic belief and find alternative causes that are a less destructive way of looking at the situation.  Secondly, latch onto options that are changeable, specific and non-personal.  Next, explore the implications of these beliefs and de-catastrophize them by creating a more realistic and accurate view of the situation.  And lastly, examine the usefulness of these beliefs and if they are not changeable use distraction or alternative ways to handle the situation in the future.
  • People are so focused on their workout that they are not even paying attention to me
  • I have many pretty attributes (my smile, my personality, I have pretty eyes)
  • I am exercising and eating a balanced meal plan and am in the process of improving my body image and seeing myself as a healthy weight
  • There are several men and women who are overweight who are successful and several thin people who are not successful (Oprah Winfrey, Lindsey Lohan etc.)
  • There are various other factors other than weight that contribute to my success (i.e. characteristics, skills, talents, personality, social supports, life experience, etc.)
E- Effect and Cause: After you have disputed every negative belief, re-read your list.  How do you feel?  Hopeful? Happy?  Empowered?  Confident?
To change your current thought pattern, practice this skill everyday for 30 days.  This will allow this new and improved way of thinking habitual.
Please comment below the positive shifts you notice in your life as a result of using this helpful tool.  And for more information on improving your mood, increasing self-esteem or dealing with interpersonal or intrapersonal issues, feel free to contact me at
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4 Tips to Healing After Infidelity

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: Men, Relationship, Trauma, Women | Tags: , , , , |

When you discover that your partner has had a physical and/or emotional affair, you may find yourself asking some very painful and challenging questions: Can trust be rebuilt? Can I and should I forgive and move on? Should I stay?

Infidelity weakens the level of trust, safety and security in a marriage; however, a couple can begin the healing process and make their relationship stronger than before if:

1) The Extra-Marital Affair Ends-By keeping the affair active or protecting the affair, the hurt spouse continues to be walled off and an emotional distance continues to separate husband and wife.  A vital step for the unfaithful partner to take is ending the extra-marital relationship and to begin opening up to his/her partner.  By getting actively engaged in the marriage again he/she is now protecting the marriage and walling off the affair.

2) The Unfaithful Partner Gets Honest- It is important for the unfaithful partner to get honest about all aspects of the affair.  Being courageous and taking accountability for his/her actions is fundamental after act of emotional or physical infidelity has occurred.  If there are any aspects of the affair that are kept hidden, a barrier will continue to divide the couple and will prevent the couple from becoming emotionally intimate with one another.  Until there is an honest disclosure the betrayed spouse will be consumed with doubt, analysis and fear and the unfaithful spouse will carry secrets, shame and remorse.

3) Compassion and Empathy Towards Your Partner- The third key for strengthening the bond between husband and wife is for both partners to have compassion for each others feelings. When marriage vows have been broken, the feelings of pain and hurt or shame and guilt can be difficult to bare.  Therefore, it is important for the unfaithful partner to have empathy towards his/her spouse’s feelings and needs, and to acknowledge the pain he/she has caused.  Moreover, it is important that the betrayed partner to openly share his/her feelings while also being open to understanding and having compassion for the needs and feelings of his/her spouse.

4) Rebuilding Trust- One way to begin rebuilding trust is for the couple to identify which trust-enhancing behaviors would help rebuild the safety and security in the relationship.  This allows the couple to remain focused on present day solutions and to be proactive about repairing the broken relationship in the here and now.  Moreover, the couple together can evaluate and resolve the problems that existed in the relationship prior to the affair.

Often times it is helpful to seek consultation from a Marriage Counselor to facilitate and guide the couple through this process, since the emotions can become very intense and it can be difficult to find the solutions or even see the problems when you are so immersed in them.

However, by taking these steps, the couple can gain insight and awareness into his/her own behaviors, perceptions, feelings and needs as well as learning and understanding his/her partner’s experience in the relationship.  This can empower the couple to begin creating a fulfilling relationship today and to start planting the seeds of hope for the future health of the marriage.

For more information on coping with the aftermath of infidelity you can visit

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Being Grounded…Tips for Reducing Dissociation

Posted on September 7, 2011. Filed under: Health, Lifestyle, Men, Trauma, Women | Tags: , , , |

Grounding ourselves is a way of bringing ourselves literally back to earth. Some of us are more prone than others to essentially leaving our bodies and not being firmly rooted. Although there is nothing terribly wrong with this, it is safer to remain in our bodies and to stay connected to our surroundings.   One of the easiest ways to ground ourselves is to bring our attention to our breath as it enters and leaves our body. After about 10 breaths, we will probably find that we feel much more connected to our physical selves. Another option is bringing our awareness to the sensations in our bodies, moving from our head down to our toes, mindfully. And lastly, we can orient to our surrounding by opening our eyes and ears widely and then rotating our head as your explore the environment around us for approximately 5 minutes.  We can go further by imagining that we have roots growing out of the bottoms of our feet, connecting us to the earth. By taking the time to ground ourselves we will become empowered, centered and more engaged in our lives.  This is why grounding ourselves every day, especially at the beginning of the day, is such a beneficial practice. For more details and assistance on PTSD/trauma counseling please visit my website at

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Healing and Hope After Hard Times

Posted on January 18, 2011. Filed under: Health, Men, Trauma, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The following video is an interview on Channel 13 with Pat McMahon explaining how and effective and innovative therapeutic technique has helped and continues to help people who are recovering from past traumatic events such as abuse, grief and loss, divorce, and marital challenges.

Can you think of areas in your life where you feel stuck and may benefit from freeing yourself from the painful memories of the past?  Could you imagine living into a more fullfilling present and future?  What do you think of this appproach?  Would you find it helpful in your personal or professional growth?  How might this not be the approach for you?  What would you need to help you along your healing journey?  

Feel free to comment below on your thoughts or reflections after viewing this video and reading this post.  To inquire about how you could schedule an EMDR session, please visit

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