Toxic Family Members, Now What?

    We’ve previously discussed how to tell toxic behavior from annoying behavior or mistakes.   Let’s say you do one of the tests previously discussed, and you find that the person IS toxic. The pink flag is indeed a red flag. Maybe, they weren’t able to apologize for their behavior, or they continued to engage in annoying or upsetting behavior despite you telling them or letting them know otherwise. This is red flag behavior, now what? Keep in mind; someone can only be toxic to you if you allow it. What are the ways you can not allow this? Boundaries Verbal Boundaries A verbal boundary would be saying something along the lines of, “No, as I said that topic is off-limits,” or “This doesn’t work for me.” Something quick and simple, I always recommend putting up a hand and keeping it personal.  Physical Boundaries A physical boundary would be spending less time with the person. This one may seem obvious, but so many people feel guilty about it. It is socially acceptable not to accept all invitations from toxic people, do not invite them to your home or events, especially if they’re long. Keep the visits short and sweet. The Setting What is the setting where you are seeing these people? A lot of toxic people do better in public settings because they know on some level that their behavior is toxic, and if other people are watching, they’re going to behave themselves better.  The third way of keeping the toxicity at bay is to choose a public setting. Maybe that’s the only place you’ll see them, such as at restaurants, parks, other people’s homes, large parties and gatherings where other people (especially non-family members) are. Communicate Beforehand Remember, have the discussion with your significant other about limits and what kind of boundaries you are going to set with the toxic family member’s beforehand. It helps if you have someone on board previously. A lot of people will set boundaries and be furious that the significant other didn’t know what was going on. When the significant other could not know whats going on, it doesn’t mean they don’t approve of whats going on. If you need a way out or need to say no to the toxic family members, and you’ve had the discussion and an agreed-upon saying on how to stop the toxic behavior with your significant other, …

medicating problems

The Problem with Medicating our Problems

Medicating Problems Psychiatric drugs have, for decades, benefitted the severely mentally ill and eased the suffering of millions. And psychopharmacology, the study of these drugs’ effects on the brain, has enabled numerous life-changing treatment options. Despite these advances in the field of psychiatry as a whole, the idea of medicating our problems has been proven ineffective. Psychiatric medications come in several forms, though among the most commonly prescribed are antidepressants, stimulants, and mood stabilizers. They are so regularly prescribed; in fact, that one of the questions most often asked of me by new patients is how long I need to talk to them before writing a prescription. They expect the same experience in my office that so many have had with other doctors in the past—they feel unsettled, they seek help, they get pills. And while prescriptions may offer temporary relief of symptoms, patients are not always aware that they also come with severe risks.   Patients need to know that psychiatric medications may cause: Alarming side effects, including sexual dysfunction Other medications to malfunction Dangerous health problems, such as difficulty breathing and diabetes Disturbing withdrawal symptoms, including seizers Decreasing efficacy As a medical doctor and therapist, I have seen first-hand the harmful effects of our dependence on medications for resolving emotional issues. Counter to current treatment trends, the use of medication alone increases the duration, and sometimes the intensity, of common emotional problems. Often, medication masks the symptoms, a course of treatment that would be deemed unacceptable in any other field of medicine. For example, few people would be satisfied to treat the headaches caused by a brain tumor with ibuprofen alone. Instead, we would seek to eradicate the problem at its source. The same should be no less accurate for our emotional health issues because, unlike acute mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and some bipolar disorders, common complaints such as anxiety and depression are often not based on biology. And yet, most patients seeking help for these conditions are being treated with biology-altering pharmaceuticals. The condition clearly does not warrant the intervention.   Effective Treatment The most effective course of treatment is what I have used with patients in my practice for nearly twenty years: psychodynamic therapy. To treat the real source of emotional problems, we must discover its source, a process to which therapy is expertly suited. With the right guide, a patient can be led …

dating advice for men, how to choose the right woman

Precision Dating Advice for Men

Dr. Dabney’s Guide to Precision Dating Advice for Men Choose the right woman from the start and what to do when you don’t. Men, hear me on this: Quit cheating yourselves of a great relationship before you even get started. I’ve seen hundreds of men make the same mistakes—choosing the wrong women and staying with them for too long and through too much. So trust me when I tell you that a small change in your approach today can save you thousands in divorce and therapy fees down the road. I call it, Precision Dating. Let me provide you with dating advice for men. Precision Dating comes down to making crucial and informed decisions at three points in your relationship. Skip any of these decisions, and you may find yourself deep in the muck with a woman who drains you of your time, your energy, and your money. The truth is that every troubled relationship has its warning signals from the very beginning—but men, being conditioned to be problem solvers and fixers—tend to ignore the warnings. And when you ignore the warnings, you do so at your peril. Phase one: Casual dating The first key to precision dating is to cast a wide net when dating. Contrary to the popular belief that men love to “play the field,” a significant portion of men settle down as quickly as possible. They find a woman, commit quickly, and spend the next few years of their life trying to make the relationship work. Men with this tendency pride themselves on being loyal. But what they’ve really done is invested everything in an untested and unproven concept— a decision they’d likely never make with business or financial investments. Instead, think of dating like shopping for a new car. Not only do you have to like the way it looks, but you have to trust its reliability (you wouldn’t ignore the rattle under the hood during a test drive), it has to fit your needs (you wouldn’t rely on a sports car for weekend ski trips), and it has to fit you, both physically and emotionally (tall men don’t buy Ford Fiestas and successful salesmen with large territories don’t buy gas-guzzling Hummers, no matter how much they like the other features). Dating is about experience. While I am in no way comparing a woman to purchase, the expectations you take with you while dating should …

How to stop enabling others

How to Stop Enabling Others

Helping vs. Enabling: The difference between “being there” and helping until it hurts. Recently, I had a patient say to me, “Of course I’m going to help him. I’m his mother!” I understood her sentiment, but I also knew that this woman was practically unraveling her own life for the sake of a grown son who hardly seemed to notice her sacrifices. She’d lost sight of the difference between helping and enabling. It’s important to learn how to stop enabling. In fact, over the past few months, I’ve noticed an increasing number of talks with my patients about the subject of enabling. But the conversations rarely start there. Instead, they start with a parent or spouse or significant other telling me they believe they need to “be there” for the person they love. Then they go on to detail the emotional and physical toll “being there for them” requires. Husbands feel it’s their “duty” to support their wives. Wives can’t “turn my back on him when he’s down.” Parents can’t stand to see their kids struggle and go to great lengths to help, telling me “it’s what a caring parent does” even when their kids are adults. Kids, too, struggle to help their aging parents, even to the great disruption of their own lives, and justify the hardship by asking me, “If I’m not there for them, who will be?!” No wonder we struggle. Relationships can be immensely difficult to navigate. It’s not that people don’t understand the general difference between helping someone and enabling them. As more Husbands feel it’s their “duty” to support their wives. Wives can’t “turn my back on him when he’s down.” psychological concepts make their way into our culture, I find that people are both aware of and can articulate the risks and consequences helping too much. The challenge isn’t about awareness. It’s about applying that knowledge in a healthy manner to our most personal relationships. This is where I come in, in teaching people how to stop enabling. So, back to my recent discussions with patients. After they’ve described their struggles to help a loved one, I ask how they can tell the difference between helping and enabling that person and how to stop enabling. “How do you know you’re not enabling him?” I say. Most often, they answer, “I don’t.” The good news is that the line between helping and enabling is …

business man asking for help

Saying “I Need Your Help” Does Not Make You a Failure

The Success Trap: When Help Feels Like Failure If you’re like most of my patients, people probably tell you that you ought to be proud of your success: money, job, car, house. Perhaps you’ve even earned an impressive title—CEO, President, Doctor. But what people don’t know is that, for you, there’s still something missing. A big something. Perhaps it’s stability in your relationships. Or you anger too quickly. Maybe you can’t even name it. What you do know is that, despite all your victories, life is still harrowing. For the highly successful, admitting “I need your help,” can feel like a failure. Even with the pain, it’s not easy to walk through my door, and patients come to me with all sorts of stories. Some have tried therapy without benefit. Friends or family have pushed others. Still, others come because they don’t know what else to do. Nearly universal, however, is their deep sense of failure. It doesn’t matter what car a patient drives to the office or what title they have on their business card, to be hurting, and sitting in my office feels as if they’ve failed in a significant way. Seeking help can feel like anything but a success. A book can help you understand how your engine works, but you trust only an expert mechanic to take it apart. Help and expertise are not the same things. The reality, however, is that help and expertise are not equivalent to investments of time or resources. A book can help you understand how your engine works, but you trust only an expert mechanic to take it apart. The same is true of emotional health. One of my patients is a surgeon who once said to me, “No one would be expected to perform an appendectomy on themselves, so why should I try to solve my emotional trauma on my own? That’s your expertise.” He’s exactly right. As a surgeon, my medical expertise is identifying the source of your pain, but instead of finding it in your physical body, the clues I search for are hidden deep within your unconscious. It’s careful, delicate work that takes commitment and time. The same you’d expect of your surgeon, your mechanic, the best negotiator on your sales team. In your area of expertise, whatever it may be, you likely know that just because you can’t achieve a goal on your own, doesn’t …