How Culture Can Affect Your Relationship

Intercultural-MarriageCultural can affect your relationship more than you may think even if you or your partner seems perfectly acclimated to the current culture in which you’ve been raised.  In my practice, I’ve seen a number of clients who are in intercultural or bi-racial relationships and, over the years, it’s become clear to me that, in many cases, what the client thought was a negative dynamic due to a personality or attachment issue was really a cultural belief being looked at through the wrong lens (the lens of their own cultural bias.)

A relationship can be considered intercultural even if both partners were born and raised in the environment where they live.  The question is really HOW were they raised and with what cultural values? In the case of many people I’ve worked with, we have talked about parents who are from a completely different culture, who coming here as adults, raised their children according to the cultural customs and mores of the country from which they came.

This does not mean that the (now) adult child in question who is my client or the partner of my client is not also acclimated or assimilated into the larger culture in which they find themselves. They often grow-up possessing traits of both cultures.

Going into cross-cultural relationships KNOWING that there are bound to be differences in perspective directly related to cultural differences is half the battle in many cases.

The following article by Fouad Alaa outlines a few of the ways in which culture can cause controversy between couples.  However, you can add to the list: level and type of attachment to family members (including extended family), the way in which emotion is expressed  (or not) and the way material goods are prized (or not), just to name a few.

THERE’S a beautiful honeymoon phase at the beginning of every relationship where couples fall madly in love with each other regardless of any major differences.

After the honeymoon phase comes the adaptation phase. Personal quirks that used to be cute become annoying. Discomfort, issues and even fights take place; doubly so for interracial couples.

Every culture affects our personal habits and preferences. In interracial relationships, personal habits might cause issues the same way they would when they are acceptable in one country but not tolerated for long in another.

A lot of interracial couples mistake cultural influence for personality flaws. The ability to differentiate between a cultural norm and a personal quirk is very important to prevent any misunderstandings or issues regarding compatibility. Continue reading

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Relationship dependency South Lake Union Therapy

Numerous studies have shown that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit.  Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood.  We are not longer separate entities.  The emphasis on differentiation that is held by most of today’s popular psychology approaches to adult relationships  does not hold water from a biological perspective.  Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or a preference. -Amir Levine M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A. “Attached: The New Science or Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love.”

Recovery Through Focus On The Healthy Self

41cjYQkNxDL._SL500_SX327_BO1,204,203,200_I recently came across this quote by Andras Angyal in his book “Neurosis and Treatment, a Holistic Theory that really struck me as being one of the most well articulated passages on this point around the therapist/client relationship.

“To react to the healthy aspect of the patient rather than to his neurosis is one of the many ways available to the therapist for stimulating and furthering the patient’s growth without falling into didacticism.”

Adult Children of Alcoholics

It will never happen to meAdult Children of Alcoholics: “Upon reaching adulthood, the majority of children of alcoholics continue to experience problems related to trust, dependency, control, identification and expression of feelings.” – Claudia Black It Will Never Happen to Me: Children of Alcoholics As Youngsters-Adolescents-Adults

The Shift That Frees People From Perfectionism

Perfectionism“Perfectionism develops as a way to cope with that defective sense of self and a sense of not fitting in with others, not fitting in with the world, not having a place in the world,”

An article from Thrive Global about how dangerous perfectionism is to our health, happiness and connection with others.

About two decades ago, a woman knocked on the door of Paul Hewitt, a clinical psychologist based in Vancouver, Canada. Outwardly, Anita — the pseudonym given in Hewitt’s new book — had everything meticulously together: she told her therapist of an idyllic childhood, the supportive family she came from, the daughter she felt close to, her broad network of friends. But the loss of her mom, who was her closest friend and confidant, was a big blow to her; it had happened ten years earlier, and it was a continued source of hurt and anger. More recently, she’d injured her shoulder, forcing her out of her career in food science. However successful she appeared, she was actually suicidal and depressed.

She had tried many treatments to deal with her depression and thoughts of suicide, but none worked; she used the “runner’s high” from long distance swimming as a way to cope with her loss, though the shoulder injury ended that. Few people in her life knew the depth of her pain. She had come to Hewitt because he’d heard an interview with the University of British Columbia psychologist where he talked about the links between depression, suicide, and perfectionism.

“She was one of the most suicidal people I’ve ever worked with,” he tells Thrive Global. Anita’s transformation serves as the central case study in the new book Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment, co-authored by Hewitt’s frequent collaborator Gordon Flett, of York University, and the private clinical psychologist Samuel F. Mikail.

Over the past three decades, these researchers have found that far from being a quirk of high-achievers, an innocent humblebrag you give to job interviewers when they ask you what your greatest weakness is (“I’m sometimes a perfectionist”)—this way of approaching life creates or amplifies all sorts of mental health issues. It also signals a problematic relationship with the self. “It’s not a way of thinking,” Hewitt says. “It’s a way of being in the world.” Continue reading

Why is Therapy So Expensive?

Piggy Bank

Years ago, I remember being frustrated and angry when my analyst raised his rates to $139 per session.  I wasn’t making anywhere close to that as my hourly wage and felt that the high cost of therapy was turning the process into something that was too heavily focused on immediate results and taking focus away from process and relationship which are really the keys to successful therapy.  I wish my analyst had explained to me the business model of the field as I think it would have relieved a lot of the pressure and, frankly, the resentment I was feeling at the time.

Much like my analyst, I plan on raising my rates in the near future to keep up with the ever rising cost of living in this city which is increasingly pushing out talent and choice in a variety of fields.  It’s something I have to do in order to maintain any kind of reasonable lifestyle that will allow me to care for myself in a way that allows me to care for my clients.

The article below does a pretty good job of explaining the monetization of therapy.  (If it were up to me, we would live in a society where 1. Therapy and the exchange of money were not intertwined or 2.  We lived in a society where people were getting their needs met in their social and cultural circles and we didn’t need specialized individuals to perform the type of work western therapists undertake.)

The two main costs of doing business this article seems to overlook are the fact that we have to pay for own health insurance and that we also have no paid sick or vacation time.  Cancellations are also a factor unless we choose to charge a client each time they miss a scheduled appointment and we are not able to rebook that time slot.  That, however, is the topic of much debate.  Unlike other medical providers or even lawyers, we have an ongoing relationship with clients that often necessitates weekly sessions for long periods of time.  That’s a game changer, in my mind, when it comes to the way we structure our fees and ways of doing business.  That’s a lot of money and time invested on the part of our clients and it’s reasonable to assume they will need to cancel from time to time, sometimes last minute.  I think it’s a personal decision and a business practice decision each individual needs to assess for themselves based on their working model as to whether they charge for cancellations and under what circumstances.  In my opinion, sometimes it’s best not to do so for the sake of the relationship, the therapeutic process, and client retention.  Sometimes, if the problem is chronic and one is consistently losing revenue and not making therapeutic process during a very sought after time slot, charging for cancellations may be necessary.

One thing to keep in mind, even when working with therapists out of your network (I choose to remain so, mostly for the sake of my clients), is that your provider will likely cover some of the cost of your session.  I have clients who pay as little as $37 per session to see me weekly in spite of my not being on any insurance panels.

Here is the Talk Space blog post entitled How Much Does Therapy Cost and Why Is It So Expensive, in it’s entirety.  At the end, I’ll provide a link to the article’s location on the Talk Space site. Continue reading

In Defense of the “Crazy” Ex

Broken Heart

If you’re one of those people who is dating someone who is emotionally unavailable and you blame the “crazy” ex, the red flag may be closer than you think.
We all know from experience that no one outside an intimate relationship can ever truly know what went on in that relationship or understand the subjective experience of either partner. And, we are getting only one half of the story from our new partner.
If you’re with someone who blames their lack of emotional presence, emotional intimacy and current relationship failures on “drama from the outside” coming from their recent ex, there is likely more there than meets the eye.
Relationship drama, with rare exception, can’t come from the outside unless your partner is actively BRINGING it in and actively participating in it.
I have been privy to situations in both my professional and personal life where the partner pointing the finger at the ex is still willingly communicating with them and, many times, is still carrying on a sexual relationship with them to boot.
The focus of advice columns and online articles is mostly centered around how to deal with the “crazy” ex but not many of them advise you, the current partner, to deal directly with your loved-one,  to look past what you are being told, to set aside your preconceptions, and really ask yourself, “IS the drama really coming from outside my relationship or is there more here than meets the eye?”  It may be time to ask some difficult and direct questions.
I am not defending abusive, controlling or meddling exes but I am advising those with partners who are not fully present and engaged in your relationship and are placing the blame on their ex, to take what their partner says with a grain of salt.  It’s often easier to blame the person we don’t know rather than the one we do.