Smiling couple holding hands and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes
Smiling couple holding hands and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes
Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba

Many of us decide what things mean without all the information. Then we use unconscious filters to fill in the gaps to decide what they mean. That is, we make assumptions about what things mean. For example:

· it’s about me, not about them
· it means something negative, not something neutral or positive
· assuming the worst of intentions on the part of the other person rather than the best of intentions.

We make matters worse by not asking questions when we’re unclear what something means or if someone is mad at us. Asking, “Are you upset with me?”…

You don’t have to believe what’s going through your head.

Photo credit: Tachina Lee

If you think things like,

“I’m never gonna figure this out” or
“Oh my God! I’m such a f***ing loser!” or
“I’m the worst piece of s*** in the world”

you don’t have to believe them!

I’ll explain why in a minute. But first…

Your thoughts guide your life.

This is true whether you’re aware of those thoughts or not. This is a problem because many of our subconscious thoughts are negative. Typically, these subconscious thoughts are ones we’ve internalized from elsewhere. They’re not thoughts we’re actively choosing to think.

That was me too!

Photo of author Barb Nangle
Photo of author Barb Nangle
Photo credit: author
  • Bending over backwards for others,
  • Being taken advantage of
  • Feeling dismissed
  • Disrespected by others

That used to be my life. I was the kind of person who’d go out of my way to help other people.

I’d drop what I was doing to help someone out. Eventually, they’d start taking advantage of me, and I’d end up feeling resentful. But I’d never say anything because I didn’t want them to be mad at me, or dislike me, or think I was unhelpful. I really cared what they thought of me.

Yet I was dissatisfied with my relationships. I was often…

Photo credit: Hian Oliveira

This quarantine can be particularly stressful on relationships. Maybe you’re living in close quarters with others. Or you’re only relating to people at a distance — or it’s the stress of these crazy times. It’s always important to relate to others as skillfully as possible, but that’s become even more important right now.

Relationship guidance from David J. Leiberman, Ph.D.

Lieberman has nine great suggestions for how to drastically improve any kind of relationship. They’re from his book, Make Peace with Anyone. Specifically, they’re from the chapter called, “The 9 Rules to Drastically Improve Any Relationship of Any Kind.”


Entangled bunch of carrots
Entangled bunch of carrots
You can get out of enmeshed relationships!

Being enmeshed means that you’re so connected to your family or another person that you don’t know where you end and they begin. Getting out of enmeshment requires that you set boundaries around your life. This enables you to take care of yourself, rather than taking care of others.

Enmeshed people don’t feel free to make choices about their own preferences. They don’t feel free to choose how they live their lives, what habits they form, their hobbies, their careers, their partners, where they live, etc.

Sometimes enmeshed people don’t know they’re enmeshed because they don’t know anything different. They…

If you’ve been seeking and not finding, I get it.

photo credit: Isaac Davis

If you’ve been on a journey of self-discovery for years and are wondering, “Is this all there is?” I get it. If you’ve gotten temporary relief from acute emotional pain, but the pain keeps coming back and you’re wondering, “why does this keep happening?” I get that too. That was me before I got into 12 step recovery. We have two sayings in 12 step recovery that address these issues.

“Discovery is not recovery” and “Relief is not recovery.”

They refer to the fact that deep, lasting change that deals with causes rather than symptoms is possible. Recovery has been…

Some frameworks to improve your internal dialogue

Mountain and sky scene with Emerson quote that says, “You become what you think about all day long.”
Mountain and sky scene with Emerson quote that says, “You become what you think about all day long.”
Photo credit: Samuele Errico Piccarini

Managing our thoughts and our minds is the most powerful way to change our lives. We’ve been taught what to think and why, but not really how to think. When we let our mind go on autopilot, the results can be disastrous. In this article, I illustrate several ways for how to think, and especially how to change your thinking. These frames for “thought work” take very little effort, with monumental payoff. What you think, you become.

A metaphor for the mind.

Imagine the reservoir that provides the water supply in your community being dosed with poison 10 times every…

Photo credit: Shingi Rice

Intense relationships can sometimes be mistaken for “intimate” relationships, but they’re not. Intense relationships are often dysfunctional and chaotic. Emotionally intimate relationships are typically not. If you want true intimacy, it requires being vulnerable, which requires trust. We can only build trust over time through seeing patterns of behavior.

It’s possible to learn how to get away from intense relationships. It’s also possible to build intimate relationships even if you’ve never had one. I’m living proof! I’ve been in 29 relationships, 11 of which I considered to be boyfriends. I’ve been in love eight times and have cohabitated with five…

Girl appearing to release something invisible to the wind with her eyes closed
Girl appearing to release something invisible to the wind with her eyes closed
Forgiveness allows us to release years of pent up resentment (photo credit: Gabriel Benois)

Many people carry resentment and anger toward others they could get rid of if they learned to forgive. But there isn’t a lot of information out there about how to forgive. Most of the information I came across in my years of trying to forgive was on why to forgive. I also had a lot of misconceptions about what forgiveness is and is not, maybe you do too. Those misconceptions often get in the way of our forgiveness of others.

I eventually learned that forgiveness is all about compassion. You might be resistant to the idea of having compassion for…

Silhouette of racially and gender ambiguous person staring off in introspection
Silhouette of racially and gender ambiguous person staring off in introspection
Keep the Focus on Yourself (photo credit: Mohamed Abdelgaffar)

Are you filled with tension and anxiety and don’t know why?

Maybe you know something needs to change, but don’t know what. You’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work, at least not long-term. That was me before 12 step recovery. I’ve learned to do something that has improved my life drastically, including in my relationships and work:

Keeping the focus on myself in the here and now, instead of on others, the outside world, the past or the future.

That’s because the only thing in this world I can control is myself in the current moment. Learning to keep the focus on yourself is much more complex than it may…

Barb Nangle

Host of the podcast, “Fragmented to Whole: Life Lessons from 12 Step Recovery" who writes, speaks and coaches about healing & growth.

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