Dr. Greg: Why Hate Fat People?

Dr. Greg describes how Prop 8 affects his life and explains why a client does "bad things for good reasons."

This episode touched on three major aspects in my life: developing empathy for a client, working-out, and the timely issue of marriage. Let's start with the last one first.

The question of marriage is on everyone's mind lately as the Supreme Court is about to hear the case of Proposition 8 in California, which limited legally recognized marriages to those between a man and a woman. The majority of California voters put a halt to a nearly five-month period in 2008 where two people of the same gender could be legally married in the state. Those who were married in California during that period can remain legally married; those who did not are (for the moment) prevented from doing so. Also being contested by the Supreme Court is the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA), which was enacted on the federal level in 1996, and also limits the legal sanction and federal benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples. And it is up to the Supreme Court to decide the outcome of both cases.

In a quick scene in our backyard, Kevin and I talk about our "marriage." We chose not to get legally married during the small legal window in California because we were hoping to wait until our anniversary to make that happen, but the window quickly closed. The way we are using the word "marriage" is more to affirm the relationship that is already in place, because we still could not get legal recognition. Rather than continuing to wait for a legal sanctioning of our relationship, we decided to socially sanction our relationship by having a ceremony. This is not unlike couples that have a ceremony to reaffirm their vows. The timing of our decision was borne of the concern for family members who were aging and wanting them to be there while they were still able. We are not starting something new (as in most legal marriages), but celebrating the love that has been there for 23 years. But at present, we have no legal right to "marriage" in California or the federal benefits. Hopefully, that will all soon change.

You also see me going to a gym and training with a trainer. Working-out is one of the most important aspects of my life. Though I have done it since high school, I started working out with a trainer and doing intensive boot-camp style workouts about 10 years ago. Doing so not only changed my health but every aspect of my life for the better. Besides the improved physical aspects, it is the best mood-elevator, mind-sharpener, and stress-reliever I know.

Ten years ago, I was working four different jobs. I had a full-time managerial job in a large non-profit overseeing four departments and approximately 50 employees. But on the side, I was the clinical supervisor for a large mental health research study at a local university. Meanwhile, I taught a class once a week at a local clinical psychology doctoral program and maintained a small private practice of about five patients a week. I literally worked every day from morning until late evening and rarely took time to see friends or even watch a movie and my diet was mostly junk. My relationship with Kevin was significantly strained and my health became compromised. Then the house of cards came tumbling down.The comment I overheard Kevin say about my weight was during this difficult time. That comment hurt, but it did not spur me on to action, as the episode seems to suggest. What spurred me on was the realization my life was out of balance and that career advancement was not as important as relationship and health advancement. By changing priorities and focusing on the things that mattered most in my life, everything else improved. Whenever my priorities get out of whack, I just remind myself of that difficult time and redirect myself back to what's important in life.

The episode also shows my own breakthrough as a therapist in developing empathy for his presenting problem: "I hate fat people." This was a difficult one. But as a therapist, I know that people do "bad things" for "good reasons." My job as a therapist was to find out what those "good reasons" are so I can help him develop a better way. A boy who was both older and overweight had bullied my client as a child. The other child had an unfair advantage and terrorized my client for a long time. As a result, my client developed not only an aversion to the person who bullied him, but to all people he perceived as "fat." This was my "aha" as therapist. The aversion to all people who are overweight became his brain's way of keeping him away from getting attacked. This is the "good reason."Now, my client avoids people who are overweight and if he cannot, he punishes them, rejects them, or attempts to teach them a lesson in order to make them change.  You see me explain to him that his power was taken away as a child and now he is seeking to get it back. My job now as a therapist is to both help him regain his power without resorting to harming another person and to help him realize the harmfulness of his actions while developing compassion for people who are overweight. Changing an aversion is not something that is easily done, but I am happy my client is up for the challenge.

To try to help him along in his journey, we will have him meet a group of women who were once overweight to hear about the impact his comments make and to hopefully help him develop more empathy for their struggles. That happens next week. See you then!

Dr. Eris: How to Heal Your Broken Heart

Dr. Eris shares how she broke up with the idea that she was not enough.

Oftentimes, individuals come to see me as a therapist after they have experienced a break-up or divorce. Break-ups can be traumatic. They can lead us to adopt beliefs that keep us in fear, make us feel like we will be alone forever, and lend us thoughts that lead us from one bad relationship to the next. We begin to believe that what we want is not possible and that we are on our own in this world. I know what you are going through I've been where you are. You're not alone.

I have been lied to, cheated on, deceived, coerced, cajoled, tricked, cast aside, seduced, corrupted, convinced, and manipulated. I stayed in my victimhood relationship after relationship, attracting the same kind of men over and over again. All of my princes turned into frogs. I was living in La La Land believing that some day I would find a prince who whould stay a prince, only to be let down time and time again.  

That I chose these men, or let them choose me, was not their fault. At the time, I was unable to see the relationships for what they were and my part in them. When enough was enough for me, I decided to allow the Sleeping Beauty within me to wake up and recognize that I had been repeating the same patterns over and over again. The only reason I was living in a romanticized fantasy of what the relationship coulda, shoulda, woulda been. I was driven and bound by my emotions, which distored the reality that kept me off balance. I realized that by living in my victimhood I had been disempowering myself. I felt my gut telling me that there was a way out of feeling the way I did and it was time for me to get it together.

I had to break up with the idea that I am not enough. I had to determine that I deserved better than the type of men that I was attracting into my life. But first I had to experience a solid relationship with myself. How can you possibly know what you want out of life if you don’t know who you are?

My client, Katie, experienced the same thing. She originally came to me to heal her broken heart after another tragic break-up. She wanted to start changing her beliefs and patterns and start attracting a different type of man into her life. She didn’t know how to go about doing this and wanted my help. 

These are the tools that I share with my clients to help them through a difficult break-up. Even if you are not going through a break-up in a romantic relationship, you might be going through one with a friend, a job, or something personal. These tools can also work for you. 

Nine steps to go from Break UP to Break THROUGH and Beyond:

1. It's a Break-UP not a BreakDOWN

• Your relationship ending does not mean that your life is over. It means that it is just about to begin.

• Get yourself a journal or small notebook, which I call YOUR BOOK. Write a gratitude list of at least 10 things that you are grateful for. This will help you to focus on the positive things in your life and take the edge off the heaviness that you might be feeling. 

2. Stop Looking At Their Social Media

• Do not go on your ex’s social media pages. It’s really not worth it. There is absolutely nothing you can gain. Nothing. 

3. Spend Time Alone with Me, Myself, and I

• Many people ask the question, “Why do I need to spend time alone?” The answer is simple: because it is essential for your growth and well being.

• A lot of times when a relationship ends we are left with a lot of emotional clutter. Spring cleaning doesn’t just have to come once a year. Sometimes relationships fail in the fall. So, cleanse your environment. Don’t just sweep things under the rug. Get rid of things that negatively remind you of your past non-constructive way (i.e. pictures in picture frame, his favorite t-shirt that you hang onto and sleep in every night.) 

• And remember all work and no play make Jack and Jill a dull boy and girl. Write down your Top Ten List of things to do alone. Now, do them! 4. Stop Tripping Out and Let Go of that Baggage

• Stop blaming everything in your past and grow up. You can’t change your past, but YOU can change. Connect to your past but don’t let it rule your present life and future. You can’t change your past, but YOU can change your future.

• Start taking care of your inner child so that you can start letting the adult in you take charge. You can start by writing your inner child a letter. Write from the perspective of the parent you want to be. Write it from your heart. 

5. I’m Free to Do What I Want Any Ol' Time. So, Get Up and Get Out!

• Start reconnecting to your life and have some fun. 

•Go out and have some fun -- either alone or with friends and family. Just do it. Get involved in social activities you enjoy (visit new places, concerts, museums, take a class, travel). Make a list of 10 things that you have always wanted to do with your friends. Now grab a friend and go do it.

6. Say, “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You”

• It may seem harder to find gratitude in times of trouble. But, if you do you will be giving yourself the greatest gift of all. 

• Know and remember this: each and every person you allow to enter your life is a mirror reflection of something in you. This is a gift for you to understand and get to know more parts of yourself. Write a list of the gifts that you have received from your relationship.

7. You Are Here. Start Map Questing Your Future

• You gotta see it to be it. So, be it. 

1. Write down your goal.

2. Write down the steps that you need to take to get there. 

3. Now take those steps.

8. Love Yourself 

• Bottom line is you must love yourself first before you can ever love anyone else. 

9. Date Consciously 

• When you are ready to move forward and start dating again, go for it! Be sure to do your research on the person and yourself so that you don’t continue to repeat the same behaviors and patterns the next time around. 

For more information on how to heal your broken heart after a breakup, check out my book, Break-Up Emergency. A guide to transform your Break-UP into a Break THROUGH.