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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Self-Compassion Can Make You Happier and Healthier


This week, I was interviewed by psychotherapist Jacqueline Stone from Sydney, Australia for her Wise Stress Mastery blog.  The topic was self-compassion. We spoke about how a mindset shift to self-compassion can be a turning point in therapy. Why do we struggle so much to treat ourselves with the same kindness and forgiveness that we extend to everybody else. 
A lack of self-compassion begins when we internalize the experience of feeling  unworthy or unlovable  Because of trauma or difficult childhood circumstances, we get stuck in the belief "I am not enough."  We believe that we are not good enough, thin enough, smart enough, attractive enough, emotionally stable enough, and so on. This type of negative belief paradoxically gives us some hope for an end to the pain.  If "I" am the problem, then there is hope for a different outcome if "I" could only change.  The problem is that this belief sets us up for failure in our attempts to change entrenched emotions and behaviors.  The things we are trying to change are often behaviors  we rely on to protect ourselves from feelings of helplessness and emotional distress. Many of us need these measures until we can learn healthier ways of comforting ourselves or managing distress. When we don't succeed in acting healthier and taking better care of ourselves, we then begin to blame ourselves for that as well, thereby compounding our misery.
The way out of this Catch-22 is to learn and practice self-compassion, even if it feels awkward at first, you consider it wimpy, or you don't think you deserve it. 

Dr Stone noted that
"...during my years in this field I witnessed a recurring phenomenon. I kept noticing that self-compassion heralded a turning point for people dealing with stress and related challenges. I kept witnessing that when people were truly able to ease up on themselves and treat themselves as kindly as they treated those dear to them, the positive gains they made were striking."
In my article Why self-compassion helps you meet life’s challenges, I explain  why self-compassion works better than negative ways of motivating yourself.
  • It helps you realize how you overestimate your control over, and sole responsibility for behaviors and outcomes
  • It helps you understand that ‘your feelings are not you’ and that just because you think something doesn’t mean the thought is true
  • It gives you a perspective based on "common humanity" or the sense that everybody is human and you don't have to be perfect.
  • It helps you connect with unmet or unacknowledged needs that may conflict with your stated goals and block your progress
  • It helps you realize that failure is not final and that you can get up and start again
In the interview with Dr Stone, I also discuss some practical strategies to develop greater self-compassion. Click here to listen to the conversation.

About The Author


Dr Melanie Greenberg is a psychologist  in Mill Valley, California who offers individual and couples therapy to clients struggling with relationship issues and life stress.

Visit Dr. Melanie Greenberg's website 


Sign up to be notified of new posts on this blog and Dr. Melanie's blog on Psychology Today here   http://eepurl.com/EWWUv


Follow Dr. Melanie on  Mindful Self-Express blog on Psychology Today.


Follow Dr Melanie on Twitter@drmelanieg, or like her on Facebook.




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Monday, October 20, 2014

Six Things Happy Couples Do Differently


Maintaining a happy, loving relationship  is hard work, especially when you are also juggling career or parenting.  It is easy for even well-matched couples to fall into negative cycles or neglect to prioritize your relationship.  Misunderstanding each other, fighting over the small stuff, or taking your relationship for granted are common negative patterns that can erode relationship happiness.  Learn what research and clinical wisdom tell us about happy couples.  By adopting these patterns, you can prevent or end negative cycles and deepen your connection with your partner.


Listen   -  Unhappy couples get into cycles of criticize/defend or nag/withdraw that end up derailing communication.  Nobody feels heard and understood, so there is no buildup of goodwill.  Happy couples are more present with each other and make an effort to listen and take each other’s needs seriously.

Create Intimacy - Unhappy couples are more likely to operate like roommates.  The whole focus is on errands and running the household.  The sense of being attractive and desirable to your partner gets lost.  Or unhappy couples may communicate mostly by fighting and arguing.  By contrast, happy couples prioritize emotional and physical intimacy, creating a positive self-reinforcing cycle.


Repair Fights - Unhappy couples don’t resolve conflict.  Arguments turn into hostile interactions or the silent treatment that goes on for days.  By contrast, happy couples reach out to each other after fighting to show they still care, even if the issue isn’t fully resolved.

Act Courteously - Unhappy couples don’t exhibit courtesy and sensitivity in the way they treat each other.  By contrast, happy couples don’t fight so dirty.  They communicate a basic respect and warmth for each other in lots of small ways each day.  They may hug goodbye, bring each other coffee or call to say they miss each other.

Have a Sense of Partnership - Unhappy couples don’t consider how their decisions are going to affect their partner, or they may hide important information from their partner to avoid a fight. This creates problems with trust. Happy couples act like partners.  They put the relationship and family first most of the time, even if they have to sacrifice some things they may enjoy as an individual.

Support Each Other’s Happiness - Unhappy couples don’t focus on making their partner happy or may be convinced that she will be unhappy no matter what they do.  Happy couples actively think about their partner’s happiness. The act thoughtfully, celebrate their partner’s successes, and they willingly to do extra work to help their partner move ahead.



Most people who are in unhappy relationships aren’t aware of their negative patterns or that there are things they can do to create rapid improvement.  Couples Therapy can help you lessen negative behaviors and increase positive interactions that create loving feelings.



About The Author

Dr Melanie Greenberg is a psychologist  in Mill Valley, California who offers individual and couples therapy to clients struggling with relationship issues and life stress.

Visit Dr. Melanie Greenberg's website 

Sign up to be notified of new posts on this blog and Dr melanie's blog on Psychology Today here   http://eepurl.com/EWWUv

Follow Dr. Melanie on  Mindful Self-Express blog on Psychology Today.

Follow Dr Melanie on Twitter@drmelanieg, or like her on Facebook.




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