Baggage Check Live: It's not all lingerie and candlelit dinners

May 28, 2019

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior will be online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

She’ll discuss her recent columns and answer any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more.

Waiting for the chat to go live? Read Baggage Check columns.

Follow Dr. Andrea on Facebook here.

Hi, all!

It is so good to see you here in the queue. How has your week been going?

In today's Baggage, we've got someone dating a woman with kids — and he's a wee bit concerned about whom he likes more. And in Letter 2, we've got someone wanting monogamy when their partner doesn't seem to be on the same page. How long is too long to wait?

In other news, it appears there are some changes afoot in the way you access the chat. Never fear, your participation and responses and questions will always remain anonymous. But those little green men are going to put up one additional requirement for participation, starting as early as next week. Rachel will tell you more about it so I don't botch it and end up getting us entangled in some Nigerian phishing scheme.

Okay.... let's begin!

Hello! 

In the near future, The Washington Post is putting up a registration wall for all live chats. I believe it will be in place by next Tuesday, but I can't promise that. You will be required to create a free Washington Post account with your email address to read the chat or submit a question. With a Washington Post account, you will still have a monthly paywall but you’ll be able to manage your newsletters and edit preferences for The Post.

(This is different from the paywall across the site. An account is not a subscription.) 

All of your questions will still be anonymous. We really hope this isn't too much of a road bump for you all. Please register, and keep chatting and being apart of this great community. Thank you! 

 

I have seen several therapists off and on over my lifetime - twice for myself, and twice to help family members. None of them had permanent offices- they were all subletting space shared with other therapists and none of them had receptionists or someone who could schedule appointments. This strikes me as both unprofessional and, frankly, cheap. I'm tired of playing phone take with someone trying to set up an appointment because he or she won't pay for appropriate office support, tired of trying to explain to a therapist why I'd like to get a duplicate bill to send to my health savings plan, and tired of the general unprofessional vibe of seeing him or her in various temporary use spaces. My hairdresser has someone handling appointments/payments/etc., and so does my brother's neurosurgeon, and so do innumerable other professionals all along the job spectrum. Why won't therapists extend their patients (customers) the same courtesy? Even if it means they have to pay someone else to do something? At the $250 an hour many therapists in my area charge, it seems like they are just being greedy.

So, let's see. If I only see patients for, say, 15 hours a week, I'm supposed to hire someone to sit somewhere for 40 hours and take, maybe, three phone calls over the course of that time?

And I'm supposed to only choose the type of office that could accommodate that — even though lots of people prefer to go to a therapist's office that is small and tucked away, and isn't some huge, obvious, "I AM SEEING SOMEONE FOR MY PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES!" type of medical complex?

It's apples and oranges, your comparisons. Hairdressers need sinks and blowdryers and curling wands and special chairs and all kinds of goos. Neurosurgeons need forceps and clips and electrodes and exam tables. There are reasons why people in those types of jobs pool their resources together and create large joint practices that people go to. And they pool their marketing too. After all, you can walk into a hair salon and expect to get a haircut, right then and right there. You can call a neurologist's office and expect to be scheduled with any number of their practitioners — not even knowing their name yet. It's the offices that are the original draw, not (usually) the individual practitioners — though of course over time you develop that relationship and want to stick with them.

Psychotherapy is just a different type of practice. And one where people tend to pick the individual practitioner, first and foremost.

And in the professions you mentioned, people can step in and substitute for each other in a pinch. And they can see each other's work and be accountable together. None of that applies in therapy, so you can understand it would be a more fraught process to enter into an official professional liability relationship with someone (especially when there's no compelling reason to.)

Now, no one is doubting that I'm cheap (have you seen my shoes?) but in this case, cheapness has nothing to do with it. Most therapists are not in their office 9-5 every day. They may teach and consult or supervise or do any number of other things, but they may also see clients on weekends or evenings. So it makes sense for them to find the optimal office space that they can make inviting, comfortable, and calming for the work itself — and that they can access at different times of day, when they need it. And "inviting, comfortable, and calming" often doesn't include big hulking receptionist's areas with four different copy machines.

Plus, let's be honest. If you are in crisis, do you want to call a stranger? Or maybe an office that will not answer phones after 5? Or, do you want to be able to reach your actual therapist directly?

I'm not seeing an advantage of a middleman or middlewoman here, not at all. But I am happy to let you get this off your chest! (Though if you're frustrated with your therapist's lack of logistical support, you should most certainly let them know — unfortunately, there's no secret cabal of us unprofessional cheapskates where I could convey the message myself.)

My preteen is going through a phase where she wants only to be with me, not her other dad, whom she snubs relentlessly. Silence at breakfast, no response to “goodbye” or “I love you,” and eye rolling at every attempt to make conversation. When she’s with just me, I have a charming sweet clingy affectionate pal. I’m a recent addition to the family - when she had only her dad she focused all her sweetness and affection on him. She is hurting his feelings as he waits out this phase but I feel so sad for him. I tried asking her if she’s aware she’s being mean to him, and why, and if she really means to hurt his feelings (which seemed to upset her but she said she didn’t know why, and then wouldn’t answer anymore). I’ve told her it makes me feel sad to see her act like this when I know she’s really a loving sweet person. What more can I do? I feel like we’re in a triangle and I don’t know how to change it. I would be sad if this phase or bad habit became her real personality. I understand having been a teen myself that it’s hard to put your pride down, apologize, and stop digging in your heels, so I think I understand why my gentle questioning didn’t have an immediate effect. I can say with 100% certainty that he’s being nothing but loving, dependable, and patient with her...he’s done nothing to be treated this way. She just acts like she only loves me and can’t seem to stand him when I’m around. I would appreciate any thoughts or advice.

This is hard, no doubt. And one of the trickiest things about it is finding the balance between what to tolerate versus what to draw the line at. Err too far on either side, and you are either reinforcing unkind behavior, or overly nitpicking general teenage moodiness.

My gut says that a shift of focus to more objective, concrete behaviors could help, rather than getting into the weeds with the ideas of hurt feelings and mean girls and what she’s like as a person deep inside. I think that might be making it more fraught. Yes, every single thing that you said to her is totally valid and true, and her behavior has significant negative effects that she needs to understand. But, I wonder if all the emotional nuances of it are making it harder for her to shift gears and right herself—she’s getting paralyzed by the discomfort of knowing just how much she has hurt him already.

So, what about a new, gentle discussion that establishes some concrete and objective “house expectations?” The rationale for the house expectations (call them rules if you want!) are that you all are a loving, supportive family who needs to maintain a basic level of civility and courtesy to each other, just as you need to brush your teeth. It’s not about personality or meanness or who likes who more at any given moment. It's about basic, concrete expectations and the responsibilities that come with being part of a family: eye-rolling is not respectful or okay, and won’t be tolerated. When someone says “goodbye,” you respond. (Though we can give her a pass on the “I love you” for now.)

So, remove the layers that may be causing her guilt, and get down to basics. If she refuses to act in accordance with the basic house rules, she is not upholding her end of the bargain, and will lose privileges accordingly.

This may sound too punitive—and I’m open to other opinions—but I think it actually may give her the gift of an “excuse” to start treating him civilly again, without it having to be some big, emotional shift, and deep down she may be glad to have the opportunity simplified like this. (Of course, in time the deeper ramifications of unkind behavior can continue to be talked about if it happens again, but for now this is sort of an on-ramp to get her back to acting more respectfully again.)

 

My husband was laid off from a high-tech job in January. Since I freelance, I took on as much extra work as I could to fill in the lost income, while he stepped up to handle dinner preps each night and other chores. When his severance ran out, I thought he should take unemployment to buy himself time to think about his next job, but he decided to grab a limo driving job to start bringing money in right away. Admirable, but the limo driving schedule is often low-paid 12-hour days when he's not around to do things like make dinner or look for better jobs that would ease my stress. I'm starting to resent that the task of chores like finding new health insurance falls on me when I'm already working like a dog. Any ideas for how I can stop being so angry at him and our current situation, which I hope will improve soon?

This sounds like you need to spell it out for him—that the cost/benefit analysis is not as in favor of this limo job as he may think it is. It’s not fair to either of you if you shoulder so much of the household burden that you grow resentful of him, so you need to have a true, honest talk about it. Try to quantify as much as possible what it is that has most added to your burden, and how he could potentially put a dent in that—and at what point it may even be better for your household for him to not be driving and instead be doing something else with more reasonable hours while looking for a higher-paying job. Would he be willing to drive for something like Uber or Lyft, so that he could better adjust his hours to allow time for the other things? There is a solution here; it will just take some bending and, most of all, some open communication between the two you.

I've been at the same organization — two different jobs — for more than a decade now. While I still love nearly all of my co-workers, the work has grown repetitive and the leadership is lacking and sometimes bullying verging on abusive. I'm in what most would consider to be a really wonderful job - international travel, hot issues, recognition as an expert, etc. - but all those appealing attributes have lost their luster for me. Relevant jobs in the same field are all less appealing than what I'm doing now. I continually daydream about doing an entirely different career but am scared off by new student loan debt and starting over with a small salary. Given the demands of my current job, night classes really aren't an option. I also have been diagnosed as having mild to moderate depression - the job has certainly not helped that situation. So what should I do? While I can't imagine taking a drastic action any time soon, I don't want to be in this same gig a decade from now with the same day dreams. I'm feeling incredibly stuck. Thanks!

I smell a little bit of a false dichotomy here — the idea that you either stay in this job past its ability to fulfill you, or you do an entire career shift that necessitates a smaller  salary and night school. That it’s drastic action or nothing.

Here’s the thing — you’re in what sounds like an organization with dysfunctional leadership. An abusive work environment is most definitely a frequent contributor to depression, but it stands to reason that not all jobs in your industry will have an abusive work environment, so automatically those other such jobs in your field may be more appealing than you’re giving them credit for. It’s time for exploration of the gray areas. Put yourself out there. Get on LinkedIn, even with all the annoyances that can entail. Consider a career counselor. Connect with your alumni organization. Do more networking with friends where you make it known that there may be other horizons for you. If there are specific interests that you had in mind when you mentioned night classes, take a closer look into what classes or certifications could be available online.

I think the biggest issue is that there are more possibilities here than you are letting yourself explore.

Chatters — other advice?

My daughter ("Tyler") is 50 years old. She has suffered from depression for years. In college she first took anti depressants and she has had quite a bit of therapy too,. However, a couple of years ago she went through some sort of spiritual growth "university" program, started feeling a lot better, and went off her meds. She is now profoundly depressed (compounded by watching her dog die over several months recently), She says she suffered miserable withdrawal symptoms going off the meds, and she feels she's done as much therapy as could possibly help her. But now life seems meaningless to her (despite having what seems to be a good marriage). She wants to move out of an urban area to a less congested place but doesn't have the mental energy to look for something else. I write supportive emails when she's available to "e-chat" (neither of us likes the phone) ..... but basically I see her as in a depression that absolutely needs intervention, but she's refusing to pursue anything. I am not sure what my question is ... maybe how to reconcile myself to a distant child who is profoundly unhappy whom I cannot do anything to help.

I am sorry. Honestly, part of the answer here is understanding the limits of what you can do. As much as it may hurt to acknowledge, she is 50 years old and living her own life. And although you are her mother and will always love her, you can't force her to take care of herself, or flip a switch to make her depression go away. What you can do is show her love, help keep her path forward illuminated (it seems clear that going back on the medication is worth considering), and keep checking in and making it clear that you are there for her.

If she is in a marriage that seems solid, you could also consider having a heart-to-heart with her spouse if you haven't already, and potentially combine forces.

But honestly, this is as much about your own self-care as anything. It's time to make sure you are channeling your energy into things that you can control — like your own fulfilling social and family relationships, your own emotional health, your sleep, exercise, hobbies and interests. The more you take care of yourself, the more you can remind yourself that your married, adult daughter's depression is not your fault or your responsibility beyond just showing love and support. By living out the lessons you want her to see — that self-care and emotional well-being are worth time and energy — you can also set an important example.

Hang in there and please do keep us posted.

Hi Dr. Andrea, Have you heard of something called anxiety attacks? Like a panic attack except it's like blind rage because of anxiety? Instead of wanting to curl up in a ball, someone just screams and then doesn't remember much about it afterward, but is shaking and crying? A family member experienced this, and I know she suffers from anxiety. I think she's on medication, and I think she sees a therapist. Spouse said it was a manifestation of anxiety in the same way a panic attack is? Is this a real thing?

Well, focusing on terminology can do more harm than good here, so I don't want to split hairs about what we call things. (For what it's worth, the DSM recognizes a "panic attack," but not an "anxiety attack," although in my experience they are used interchangeably out there in the real world.) 

I also wonder about what you mean by a "real" thing. I'm guessing maybe there's an underlying concern here about whether someone is "responsible" for their behavior during such an attack? But that's just as much a philosophical question as a clinical one.

Here's my bottom line: I have indeed worked with clients where their panic attacks first manifest as typical symptoms (shaking, heart racing, shortness of breath, a sense of dread) and they respond to this by lashing out and screaming and crying uncontrollably. A lot depends on the context. A panic attack when seeing a ferocious dog running after you is by definition a different experience than a panic attack that comes from arguing with your partner and being scared they are going to leave you. In the latter case, lashing out is much more common. And the physiological arousal involved in both rage and panic can be very similar in terms of how it is manifest in your central nervous system.

So, I hope this person is talking about these attacks in therapy, and working on concrete cognitive-behavioral tools to overcome them.

He's saying he'd be willing to settle for you, unless someone better came along. This is not a ringing endorsement. Move on, for your own sake.

Can't disagree!

He has no incentive to change the situation as long as you keep giving him more time and making it clear that you want more. He's giving you all he wants to, and you want more. That's not fair to yourself.

Bingo. There's really no reason for him to have to decide one way or the other, since he gets to keep things in limbo however he wants as of now.

Sorry to be harsh, but this reminds me of the movie "He's Just Not That Into You!" Either he doesn't want to be monogamous, or he doesn't want to be monogamous with you. 6 months is plenty long. Stop waiting around wasting your time waiting for him to change his mind. You gotta cut and run so you can find someone that will love you and have a more similar idea of what a relationship is!

Another voice in the chorus! Thanks.

My 13 year old was sexually assaulted at school. Inappropriate grabbing that was done by a 13 year old boy, in the classroom, while the supply teacher was standing at the front of the classroom. The school did its own investigation and the boy was suspended for 2 weeks. The police contacted us & we ended up making a statement and pursuing criminal charges. That’s the only way to force the boy to get treatment. My daughter was initially “I just want to forget about it” but did agree on the criminal charges so he would get help. I was a victim of sexual violence when I was 19 but never went to the police. It was seen as a”bad date,” and not the illegal act that it was. Now, I’m worried I’m forcing my daughter to pursue criminal charges because I never did. I know it’s the right thing for my daughter but how do I get over the guilt?

I am going to play devil's advocate here, and I hope it is not hurtful to you, but I do think we need to look at this with wide-open eyes.

Do you really know it's the right thing for your daughter?

Might your "guilt" be reinterpreted as a sense of caution and uncertainty about how to proceed? An alarm system to remind you about the fact that her experience is her own?  As sorry as I am that you went through your own horror, we can't use a one-size-fits-all metric here. We can't make assumptions about what is right for her, even if there does seem to be a right answer given your own experience, or given what we want to happen to this boy.

I would really recommend some professional support for your daughter. I know that that's probably not the answer you want to here, but I think that could help her process this and make sure her own voice is heard. And it could be another adult weighing the options and deciding what really is in your daughter's best interest.

I pay good money to subscribe to the Post online. Won't that spare me having to do an additional registration in order to participate here?

That is a great question! I am not sure how it works for subscribers, but let me find that out for you. I've seen at least one other chatter weigh in with that same question. 

Hi Dr. Andrea, do you have any tips for helping a spouse navigate a midlife crisis? As far as midlife crises go, it's not that bad; however, I keep finding myself playing the part of conscience/devil's advocate ("It will definitely break your parents' hearts if you skip your grandmother's funeral") and I'm mildly worried that I'm becoming a stand-in for "society's restrictions" and a fun, non-nagging girlfriend might be next on the list. (There's no actual sign of that, but he's definitely pulling away a little when I try to protect him from his worst impulses ... I'll be able to work with any material changes — e.g., if power tools or a sports car appear in our driveway — but I'm trying to keep him from accidentally hurting others.) Therapy may not be an option on the table, so anything you can suggest would be terrific!

I can imagine how tough this is to watch him go through, but I think you are making it unduly hard on yourself by scrutinizing the ways that you are trying to support him.

You are his wife. Sometimes, that entails being maternal, or devil's advocate, or society's conscience. It is not all lingerie and candlelit dinners. If he is sabotaging himself, there's no one in a better position to help him be aware of that, and to be a reality check about how he's digging himself farther into a hole. So, let yourself off the hook here. Skipping a grandma's funeral is indeed something he may regret, or that may cause reverberations of damage. And your letting him know that is not going to send him into the arms of someone else (if it did, that would be a different problem altogether).

That said, there's only so long you can and should be expected to be in that role. Ultimately, he needs to ask the hard questions of himself about what exactly is going on, and what he's going to do about it. Is there a reason that therapy is not an option? Even if not, though, there is no shortage of books, podcasts, etc., that may provide him a way to gain insight into this situation.

Just curious: What are those annoyances?

Yeah, I'm probably not totally justified in besmirching LinkedIn's name. I think it's just a sense that when a lot of my clients have to go be active on there for the job search, there's a general feeling of dread about the shellack and superficiality of all of it, the self-promotion, the phoniness and forced nature of the connections. Then again, that may apply to all of job-searching in general.

Perhaps I am still holding a grudge for that seemingly six month's stretch when LinkedIn wouldn't let me log in without resetting my password. Admittedly, I am far from their target market anyway!

Remember on The Bob Newhart Show, where psychologist Bob shares a receptionist with an orthodontist, a urologist and I think at least one other professional on the same floor?

Ah.... I hadn't seen that! Too funny. I was a huge fan of the show Newhart, but only know The Bob Newhart Show from that absolutely mind-exploding final episode of Newhart! Still a defining moment in television for me!

Yes to the house rules. I've never understood why it's OK for teens to treat their parents /others with eyerolls and sneers. Yes, teens/hormones/etc mean attitude and understanding but don't just shrug your shoulders about that - basic civility is not too much ask. That's while you're still loving and present for them at the same time, of course.

Yes. Easy for me to say without being in OP's shoes, I know. But I think it can be a slippery slope where at some point the expectations get lower and lower and lower, and helplessness grows, to the point where the most toxic of behavior is being condoned, and a line needs to be drawn and a "reset" button pushed.

I doubt that it matters what kind of physical office a shrink uses. But I could imagine several working together to share secretarial support that would answer phones, schedule and reschedule appointments, send insurance forms, etc., even if the shrinks keep their offices elsewhere. I saw a therapist for awhile in a clinic environment, where there were multiple therapists with private meeting rooms, a receptionist, etc., etc. I felt that I was visiting an established business providing professional services. If I had been going to makeshift office in a back room somewhere, I might have had some doubts.

For sure, being in a makeshift back room somewhere wouldn't inspire confidence. But I don't know any therapists who do that. The ones I am thinking of that are just like me without a receptionist nonetheless have a legitimate waiting area with soothing artwork, white noise machines, and magazines with all the latest on the royals (an absolute necessity for any professional environment)!

Hi Dr. B: In the time since submitting my question last week, I did have the equivalent of a cost-benefit analysis discussion with my DH. Happy to read your reply just now, as we tracked the plan you suggested: he's cut back the limo hours (less money, but more sanity) and our life is a lot better. He confessed that one reason he liked driving was because his high-tech job was so stressful on his brain, he enjoyed feeling competent with an easy job again, but now, even he's ready to get back to normal work hours. (Be sure to tip your drivers, customers — he has had to pick people up as early as 3:30AM!) There's still the stress of the uncertainty surrounding when he will find a new full-time job, but that's just how it is for now. (Weirdly enough, I also talked with a friend whose husband drove limos for 2 months and she admitted, "I was seething" every night he came home for many of the same reasons I was. It made me feel oddly comforted to know I wasn't overreacting or being bratty about the toll his hours were taking on us.) Anyway, thanks for taking my question and trying to help.

I love it! You found the answer yourself. It's amazing how sometimes just typing things out can gain someone clarity (though I'd like to think that my answers do SLIGHTLY better than placebo.) So glad that it has been helpful for you and that there is hope in sight!

for Dr. Andrea's response to the complaint about "temporary spaces" and to state that, if you're that concerned about the appearance of your therapist's office, you probably have more issues to discuss with your therapist than you are currently addressing.

Thank you! I appreciate it.

And to OP, I'm sorry if I was unduly harsh (or at least needlessly verbose) in that answer, but I do tend to get occasional questions that border on broad-brush therapist-bashing, and I clearly have a lot to say in defense of the field. 

If he’s driving a limo or towncar, the chauffeur often has down time waiting on clients (I know when I’ve used car/limo services it was often one driver all day ferrying us around then waiting through meetings/activities) Can he bring a laptop and work on the job search/bills/etc so you don’t have to?

Though OP's situation may be on the road to being solved, this is a good consideration for others. Thanks!

This sounds very similar to how my anxiety/panic manifests when I'm in a very bad place. Although I never "blacked out" — I usually would get a pillow, go into the bedroom and scream in the pillow until the feeling passed — I could see how something like this could "erupt" suddenly and the person doesn't really remember it. I know my panic attacks are really hard to remember fully. Sometimes your nervous system needs a massive discharge, as un-pretty as it may seem.

Thanks for this.

I really have seen the gamut of panic attack symptomology, and the one thing that all of it has in common is a true, nearly debilitating sense of dread. It's a miserable experience, no matter what the exact symptoms. I hope you are getting help in making these "very bad" experiences happen less often! 

I hope she's getting therapy anyway. Tell her you want what she thinks is best and that she can take time to figure that out. Tell her you are happy to be a sounding board, she should discuss her hopes and fears about moving on with her therapist and that if she has any questions about what would happen if she does press chargers, you will arrange for her to talk to an attorney and /or a female police officer. She can ask for anything else she might need.

Well said. Thank you.

I was very much a mean girl at home at that age because I didn't have much power elsewhere in my life. My parents sent me to a school they constantly mocked. I had to take classes I wasn't allowed to pick. I had to play an instrument I didn't like. I couldn't hang out with certain friends because my parents forbade it. I couldn't go on school trips because my parents were convinced I'd end up a crime victim. I wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend. So being mean was one of the few "powers" I had. Once I started sneaking around as a teen, I did get much nicer.

Yes! For many adolescents, things feel so helpless and out of control — and withholding affection or hurting someone else's feelings becomes almost intoxicating for the powerful sense of control that it can have. Of course, I am hopeful that in OP's case, the home environment is more functional than what you describe — I am sorry that you had to go through that.

“Susan” and I have worked at the same medium-size company for a few years. When we first met she seemed pleasant enough, and I thought we somewhat bonded over the fact that we were both cat people. I learned very quickly that she was married, and I have a policy against dating coworkers anyway, so there was no question of my developing a crush on her. Over time we’ve had a middling amount of contact, sometimes in the line of duty, sometimes passing in the hall. A few months ago I noticed that when I said hello to her in passing, she wasn’t even acknowledging me. Over the next few days I tested the hypothesis by saying hello to her on a couple of occasions, with the same results. I thought, “All right, if you don’t want to be friendly, then neither do I.” I’m certainly not enraged by this, but in all honesty, I’m annoyed. It isn’t the standoffishness—that is totally her right. It’s the rudeness. I’ve had coworkers I didn’t much care for, but I had the simple courtesy to acknowledge them when they greeted me. I’m not aware that I’ve done anything that should rightfully cause her to have an outright antipathy towards me, and I think I have decent people skills. Your take? Thank you.

My gut instinct is to just ask her what's going on, in a pleasant, non-intrusive, one-off way. As awkward as that can be, at least it will clue you in to whether there is something going on that you aren't aware of. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, it can give you the rationale to fully write her off, knowing that you did all you can to try to hear her out.

Is there a barrier to having asked her this in the first place?

This kitten cam is lovely. I haven't watched it for a while, but when I did, there was a little community that supported each other there. 

Thank you for this!

A crime was committed. What if this child had punched your daughter or pulled a knife in class or threw a chair at someone? These are all crimes that need to be reported. Yes, absolutely press charges because, although you need to consider your daughter's needs, a crime was committed regardless of what she thinks. Plus if you waffle on this matter, that boy will just continue to do it again and again. Don't kick the can down the road.

I'm not sure I agree. (Not about the fact that a crime was committed — that much is clear.) I think a parent has to take their child's well-being into account as a priority, always, and not automatically sacrifice that, even for the greater good. I'm not sure it's a black-and-white issue, even when in general it is absolutely a positive thing for there to be a higher rate of reporting these crimes.

For the Mom who "knows what's best," parents have used this excuse to inflict all manner of horrors on their kids. The kid is old enough to decide for herself whether she wants to make misbehavior for which the malefactor has been punished into a criminal case, which could be as grueling for her as for him. The troublemaker is her schoolmate and her classmate; maybe she feels he's already gotten the message.

I agree that we can't make assumptions here without listening extremely carefully to what daughter wants and feels. Thanks.

My father has a number of health issues that limit his mobility, and my mother takes care of him, but they both refuse to take steps to allow him more mobility and do not want to discuss at all. They moved about a 7 hour drive away so not possible to drive down regularly, but it also seems like they do not want that. Feel like should do more but don't know what or how as suggestions just seem to offend. Thoughts?

I am sorry. No doubt, part of this is about accepting the limitations of your role, but before you do that, have you offered to get more involved in terms of talking to his doctors? Trying to connect them with services in the area?

Ultimately, you can only do as much as they allow you to. So you can keep suggesting and planting seeds and opening them up to ideas of how you can help, but it is up to them to take you up on it.

Oops, did I get the show titles mixed up? Sorry. I was referring to the earlier of the two sitcoms.

Nope, I knew that! I probably spoke in gobbledygook-- I watched Newhart, whose last episode was a callback to The Bob Newhart Show, which I never watched. One of the most brilliant final episodes in television history.

...I thought it portrayed those who seek psychological help as weirdos. Even as a teenager I disapproved. But as far as I know, I'm the only person on the planet who feels that way...

Interesting!

Now I really want to watch it and weigh in. I might be the second person on the planet, depending! (Though of course, we have to take the context of the era into account....)

No one knows this better than I, who witnessed my siblings doing the slipping and my parents' impotence. On the other hand, how do you compel a teen — or anyone — to say "Good morning" or "Goodbye"?

It's hard, for sure. But the first step is to establish it as the basic norm that will be enforced. From there, you work within the culture of what's already been established within the family.... treat it the same as if they were not doing homework, or completing assigned chores, or not taking showers, etc. That's where different parents will have different tools.

I am having a hard time navigating my family's political differences. Many in my family, including my parents, have become super right wing conservatives. I am moderate to left in my politics. I don't understand why they feel like they can post on social media - all kinds of horribly derogatory things and then think it will have no impact on their relationships with people who don't think like them. One of their favorite tropes is that all Democrats are on government assistance (they don't say it that nicely though). So it's just so wrong, annoying, and offensive. I have specifically called them out on it, and they might change their posting practices for a week or so, but then they go right back to their old habits. I am pretty much at the point of unfriending my whole family because they all act like such jerks online. I admit that this would make me sad because it's my FAMILY and there are occasional family pictures and stories that I enjoy sharing in. But the 20 offensive political posts per day is just the worst.

Mute, unfollow, pause.... I believe with most social media, you have options that are a little less drastic than the "unfriend." But if that's what you have to do, then do it. I think we are at a point where there is such a saturation of various online personas that we really can give ourselves permissions to look at things more a la carte, that just because we love someone as a family member, that doesn't mean we have to totally absorb every aspect of who they are online. We can pick and choose what parts of them we connect with, just as we can pick and choose what types of conversations to have while in person.

A lot of people have been struggling with this these past few years!

Good afternoon Dr Bonior. I recently lost my first pregnancy at nine weeks - it was a missed miscarriage and devastating to my husband and I. In the weeks leading up to the loss I was anxious and couldn't get too excited about the pregnancy due to the fear that something terrible would happen. In this instance I was heartbreakingly proven correct. If I am lucky enough to get pregnant again, how do I manage that fear and anxiety given that it ended up being well founded this time around?

My heart goes out to you. I am truly sorry to hear about this.

Ultimately, though, moving forward will be about embracing uncertainty. Even without the loss that you have suffered, you would not be able to have 100 percent certainty of anything in your next pregnancy (sorry.) And even once you give birth to a healthy baby, you will still lack certainty of... well, of pretty much anything. That can be scary and dark and anxiety-producing....but it can also be life-affirming and inspiring in that it makes you remember how precious life and love and relationships and pregnancy can be. So, ultimately, part of this process is learning that uncertainty will always be a passenger in your parenting car. And that that's okay.

Of course, there is uncertainty, and then there is anxiety that rises to the level of being debilitating. For that latter concept, you need some mindfulness techniques to help see how the anxiety is affecting you. You need breathing techniques and visualizations and muscle relaxation that will help bring your central nervous system arousal down, and then you need mindfulness tools that will help label your thoughts as your anxious voice, and help you distinguish between helpful and unhelpful thoughts, learning to accept the presence of the unhelpful ones without letting them stick by lending them credence. It's a process, for sure. "Detox Your Thoughts" (that free newsletter I did for Buzzfeed) can help, as can some cognitive-behavioral therapy if that is a possibility for you.

Sending you all good thoughts for the next steps.

Hi Dr. Bonior!! I love your chat and columns. After a frustrating few years, I realized a big fact about myself: the closer I get to people, the more they annoy me (except for my spouse and siblings). I don't know why my friends always seem to disappoint and irritate me but I'm working on it. However, I recently made a new friend that I've already started to grow close with. I've felt on edge because I really like this person and I'm afraid of it going sour for me because of my negative tendencies. Do you have any advice on how to work on this in general, or how to approach this new friendship? Thank you.

You are "borrowing trouble," as many people's Grandmas would say!

I see a few things to tackle here: first, some potential all-or-none thinking in the way that you view your relationships (it just so happens that everyone who isn't family ends up irritating you after a while? Really?) You might also explore whether there is something in the way that you are picking friends that is setting you up to be disappointed (unrealistic expectations? Being attracted platonically to people who are too different than you? Starting friendships of convenience with people who aren't necessarily good matches? Forcing yourself to fit friendships into your life in ways that don't make the outings "worth it"? Those are just a few potentials that come to mind as I watch the clock at this late hour!)

There could also be a self-fulfilling prophecy at work here, where you basically spend so much energy imagining that you are going to grow annoyed with someone that.... guess what? You're hypervigilant to annoying things, to the point where they get blown out of proportion and, you've got it-- they annoy you.

Finally, create a new mindset with this friendship-- one of one day at a time. One of gratitude for it, and for this person. One of mindfully engaging with the experiences you have with this person, without letting your brain fast forward to some hypothetical future or unjustifiably compare this person to other past friendships.

And keep us posted!

These are apples and oranges. Some adults who are sexually assaulted don't report the crime or press charges because of the intimate and embarassing nature of what happened and - although I hope this isn't relevant here - because the way their sexuality will be torn apart seems crushing.

Yes. It is complicated.

And I really don't want to ever support potentially retraumatizing a survivor of a sexual assault just for the sake of everyone else, or for a sense of "justice"-- which should serve the survivor first and foremost, after all.

The Bob Newhart Show was a comedy that ran from 1972 to 1978, so given the times of course it portrayed people who sought therapy as weirdos. But just about everyone except Newhart and his wife were weirdos - the receptionist and their friends and the other docs in his office.

Yes, context matters for sure.

Interesting about the other doctors! 

It's worth pointing out that the entire town within Newhart, too, consisted of people who, um, marched to the beat of their own drum. Bob Newhart's strength has always been playing the straight man.

For a few decades I have often thought about the quote: "Life is not a problem to be solved. It is a mystery to be lived." A recent non-exhaustive search did not yield attribution but did turn up the similarly-worded: "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced." It was credited to the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). I prefer the first version.

Thank you for this! It reminds me of Rilke's "Be patient to all that is unsolved" passage... one of my favorites.

"Deserving, Getting, and Wanting are three different things. Typically unrelated." - Barbara Kingsolver in "Unsheltered." This quote has helped me when I get upset at how life doles out good and bad outcomes in society at large and in my own small world. We don't always get what we want or deserve.

So glad it was helpful for you! Thanks.

To the subscribers who asked about how the registration wall will affect them — I reached out to some chat folks but haven't heard back yet. My gut tells me that if you are already logged in as a subscriber, it won't affect you at all. But we will see what happens, and I'll let you know what I find out. 

We are at that time again, unfortunately!

Thanks so much for being here. And I am sorry about whatever awaits us with the new registration situation, but we will get through it — and continue to keep you updated on whatever we know about it. And if they start asking for a urine sample from anyone, I promise I will stage a sit-in protest!

In the meantime, I finally made my Instagram public. One step at a time! So, you can look for me there if you are so inclined. As always, there is also Facebook and the comments. I look forward to next week already!

Take good care.

In This Chat
Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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