Friday, November 21, 2014

Finding a therapist

(this is an excerpt from a book I am writing on living with ADHD)

Therapy is a relationship with someone who is a few steps ahead of you. It is important to shop around until you find someone you are comfortable with. I will share with you some of my own preferences when I was looking for a therapist. I wanted someone who would share her own life with me when it was instructive to the therapy we were doing together. I preferred a woman because I wanted someone I felt understood women's issues and who communicated the way that I did. I also did not want the hassle of falling in love with my therapist in a sexual way. I felt safer working with a woman. Since I was working on addictive issues I wanted someone who had been to meetings and preferably was recovering. If they were not recovering I wanted them to be familiar with the 12 steps and who had been trained in addictions and codependency. Lots of therapists don't even believe that codependency exists. In my opinion, they just don't get it. I also wanted someone who understood the whole medication thing and who was comfortable working with MD's who prescribe medications. I found out later while working with my favorite therapist, Sally, that I needed someone who knew about sexual abuse and wacky family dysfunction as well.

I got lucky. At the time I did not have any idea what I needed. I just needed to feel comfortable to share my secrets and to know that my therapist was not perfect or holier than thou. Now I know and that is why I am attempting to pass this along to you.

I think it is very important for a therapist to admit mistakes when they happen. I happen to have a very shoot from the hip, blunt, forthright style. Because of this I occasionally will hurt a clients feelings. If they feel safe enough with me they know that they can confront me and that I will make amends for my error. This builds relationship.

As you can tell I am not much for the detached professional demeanor style of therapy. Some people need this to feel safe. They don't want to feel that their therapist even has a life. They want the therapist to just be there for them. This is fine too. It just important to know what you need before you go in to interview a therapist. That first session should be an interview. Do not feel obligated to return if it does not work for you. Your therapist works for you. You can hire or fire her or him at will. Just be sure that you are not avoiding the truth by quitting a particular therapist because she said something that was upsetting. First confront them with the upset and then see how they handle it. If it goes well and you feel that you were heard and acknowledged, then you will feel safer to expose yourself and to be in her care.

Again, it is important to be able to have a functional relationship with your therapist. If you are being diagnosed, it is your right to know what your diagnosis is and to be able to process your reactions to that diagnosis. If your therapist wants to recommend you to be evaluated for medication, she needs to be able to tell you why and to have a basic knowledge of brain chemistry and how medications work.

If you are into spirituality in your life it is a good idea to find a therapist who is open and well versed in her own spirituality. I am a Buddhist practitioner. I tell my clients that up front. I also let them know that I know a lot about Christianity and metaphysics too. I am able to convert many of the principles in Buddhism to similar Christian principles. If you are not at all into spirituality, your therapist should shut up about the subject and respect your point of view. It is a very bad idea for a therapist to impose their own world view on a client. I always ask permission to share about what I know about Buddhist principles. If they say no, which actually is rare, I don't mention it again.

Most of all you need to feel safe and comfortable while having respect for your therapists knowledge. I look at the therapeutic relationship as being sacred. It has the potential of being much more intimate that regular relationships. For this reason it is important to have a therapist who will not mix up the relationship with friendship. You may love each other very much but only in this very sacred professional way. I go to meetings and often see clients there. I will do fellowship after the meetings in the form of lunch or coffee and I don't hesitate to share these moments with my clients as long as it is in the context of the meeting. This is very difficult in a small town and I recommend talking freely about it with your therapist. This relationship is so sacred that often clients want to be friends too. I explain in the most loving way possible that I would not want to violate or taint the amazing thing that we have called the therapeutic relationship. It is difficult for many clients when they hear this and they may feel rejected. I try to be as compassionate and loving as possible as I explain the sacred nature of the relationship.

I hope this is helpful to any of you who feel that you might need therapy. It is a great and very bumpy ride full of surprises, thrills, and disappointments. Good fortune on your journey!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Michele Happe MA
November 19, 2014

When you think about it, losing weight is easy.  Once you get up the willingness to let go of your coping mechanism (food), which can actually take quite some time, getting on a food plan for weight loss is the start of some fun.  I recommend weighing monthly at the same time of the month, after morning poop and pee.  If you can stay on your plan it is fun to feel your clothes loosening and the numbers moving on the scale.  Once you have lost the weight the hard part begins.  

First you have to figure out a transition plan.  Take shape for life recommends a very good one because you very methodically add in healthy foods to shape a long term food plan.  This will vary for everyone.  Be prepared to make very few changes to your maintenance food plan because since we are in a very slight fat burn, once you reach a good healthy weight you will slow and often stop weight loss, even on  your previous weight loss plan. Since I am 64 and was once anorexic, my maintenance plan is very similar to my weight loss plan.  Fortunately I am very satisfied with the 5 and 1 with addition of vegetables and some dark chocolate with my brownie at night.  

When you are transitioning it is important to weigh more frequently.  I recommend once per week.  Give your self a few months to be in transition.  If you put on weight, don’t fret, just make adjustments accordingly.  Don’t worry about keeping the number on the scale exactly the same.  If you go up just tighten your food plan to get into fat burn again.  

Once you have figured out your maintenance plan which should include regular moderate exercise and activities to feed your spiritual life, I recommend weighing once per month again.  I give myself one time per month to eat a regular, kind of fancy meal with dessert.  Not all people can do this as it can lead into a  period of binging.  So keep in close touch with your coach as you maneuver the mine field of maintenance.  

The most important element of all of the is your ongoing RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR COACH.  This can be a time of great insecurity and fear.  All of us have gained back the weight we lost so we certainly know how to do that.  If you use your coach and are comfortable committing to the discipline of a healthy life style you are so much more likely to succeed.  If you even want a bigger boost to continued health, become a coach yourself.  Helping others is rewarding and is a commitment in itself.  We have a tendency to isolate and go into shame when we slip up.  Your coach has this tendency to so together we can help each other to succeed.  

Until next time, 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blaming Out: The Blamer is the One to Lose

Michele Happe MA
October 28, 2014
Have you ever been blamed for another’s short fall? This is a very frustrating thing to experience.
Here is a scenario: “Did you do that task you said you would do last night? “
Answer: “Well you said it wasn’t that important!”
The appropriate response would be, “No I forgot, sorry”…end of story.
When this happens a short conversation can be lengthened into a long, mean spirited argument. The ego does not like to be blamed for what it is not responsible for so we tend to defend against the “attack”….
But what about the blamer? What does he lose?
The need to blame out comes from a place of shame. Often those who make frequent errors of memory who feel the need to be right will do this. Unfortunately, this tendency robs the blamer of the necessary human quality of remorse. If he blames out he can be “right”.
Remorse gives us an opportunity to take responsibility for our actions. It enables us to hone our skills and to do better in the future. As long as it does not morph into self blaming, it is a healthy way of becoming more enlightened over time.
Perfectionism is most likely the culprit here or at least a sense that it is very very bad to be wrong. Unfortunately perfectionism leads to procrastination and eventually paralysis. If we are in this squirrel cage we are forever stuck in the dynamic of defense. We can never become empowered by our mistakes which are the source of our further development.
Blamers also pretend that nothing ever happened in an effort to cover up their lack of rightness. They want the focus off of them so they divert in a nice way so as to end being seen.
It really is so sad isn’t it? When this happens to you try to connect to the sadness rather than developing resentment toward the blamer. It is very challenging but in the end your heart will be warm rather than cold toward the person who uses this tactic.
Until next time: Be well

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Some Women Withhold Sex

Michele Happe MA
October 15, 2014

I believe that many men think that women withhold sex as a form of punishment and power over.  This is a passive aggressive technique.  I am sure that some women do this with that goal in mind, but it is important to consider an alternate motive.

I learned about this from my own experience with menopause.  It was as if upon entering menopause a switch had been turned off.  That switch activated desire.  It wasn’t that I did not enjoy sex because I did I just lost the motivation to pursue it for myself.  This of course changed my relationship with my husband.  I believe that this has been a very positive change for both of us.

I contemplated these changes as they were occurring and shared the fruits of my contemplation with my husband.  I came to the conclusion that in order to be willing to engage sexually with my partner, I needed to feel love and respect for him.  I shared with him that it wasn’t that I was withholding, it was just that I was honoring myself and my desire to be left alone when I had irritation or resentment toward him.  I felt much more authentic when I engaged with him because I felt loving and positive toward him.  When he came to understand and believe me he was motivated to be the person that I loved and desired.  He made more attempts to take responsibility for his part in our conflicts.  Just that fact caused me to love and respect him more.  As a result he started getting a lot more intimacy.   

We are both Buddhist so I always make an attempt to come from a place of compassion when we communicate (although I fail on a regular basis).  He has this same philosophy.  So now we are communicating in a much more constructive and rewarding basis.  I think he is beginning to see that I am not just another bitchy woman who wants to be in control.  

I learned a while back that women are the receivers.  We take a mans energy literally inside of us so we need to be very careful what we let in…because we absorb all that energy into us.  This in my early years helped me to be a bit more discriminating in my choices even though I have made plenty of bad one…I reaped the karma of all of those bad choices as well.  

I enjoy being generous with him and he enjoys me wanting to be close to him.  This is what we both call “old peoples sex”  I am 64 and he is 60.  We have a sense of humor about our intimate times and have lots of fun because we both feel more open and receptive.  

Take note that getting older is just another stage of our development on all levels.  We do become wiser and less motivated by greed and selfishness.  We do become more authentic and less worried about what others think.  

This is just another reason I love menopause

Until next time, 

Be Well

Friday, September 19, 2014


Michele Happe MA Certified Health Coach
September 19, 2014

I was a late bloomer.  Menopause started for me at 60.  It was a long hard slog up to that point.  The final stages were very difficult with excessive bleeding and feeling exhausted most of the time.  It was also a time when my weight ballooned totally on it own accord as I was very disciplined about my food.  So I was exhausted as well as very self critical about the heft that I was trying to carry around.  I was always the nurturing type to the point of being codependent in all of my affairs.  Thankfully I had begun working on my codependency issues in my thirties.  I am convinced that estrogen played a role in my codependency.  

Then my huge periods just suddenly stopped!  I was left with the excess weight, joint pain, and meno brain(which means that I would walk thru a doorway and be clueless on the other side what I was walking toward).  It became hard to pull up common nouns and names.  It took about two years for meno to stabilize and for me to begin to adjust to the changes.  Then last year I took on my weigh after my dear obese sister died suddenly from a heart attack.  Now the weight is off and my joints are normally 64 year old stiff which I can accept.  I still have the brain glitches but I have adjusted and realize my IQ is still intact.  I could not have done this during that two year transition because it took all the energy I had to adjust to the emotional changes I was finding myself going through.  

I like to use a phrase to define how menopause effects us emotionally.  In a nut shell it is, “make your own eff’n dinner!”  As my estrogen depleted I started noticing that I did not really care as much about what others were going through.  I experienced a kind of detachment that all the years of CODA had tried to teach me.  In a flash I was able to still be loving without all the anxiety of the sense that I needed to fix this somehow.  All of my Buddhist philosophy kicked into place.  At first I thought I might be turning into a sociopath or something.  Now I realize I just live with more equanimity.  It is easier to ask myself what is best for me in this situation without feeling guilty or selfish.  

I have come to believe that estrogen is a very bad drug.  ;).  I know it is necessary to put up with all the rigors of motherhood and wifehood.  But now it is so good to be off of it.  I can focus on my work and my creative endeavors without a bit of guilt.  My husband is learning to adjust to this “new me”.  But he is actually getting it and benefitting accordingly.  He is more free to do whatever he wants to in his free time because I have become so freewheeling and independent.  I don’t have a sex drive but really enjoy sex when he can talk me into it.  Our intimacy has improved because in order to want to, we need to be in a really good place together so we both work harder on our relationship.  

So all in all menopause is a WIN WIN.  Look forward to it and remember to work on your codependency issues in perimenopause so you will have a more seamless transition…until then

Be Well!

Monday, September 15, 2014


Michele Happe MA Certified Health Coach  

September 15, 2014

I think it is harder to recover from food attachment than alcohol and drug addiction.  We now know that our brains are a bit different regarding the reward center whether it is food or substance we are attached to.  It is important to accept this from the beginning in order to have success.  If we don’t we will compare ourselves to others who don’t have the issue and we will become resentful and defiant.  With substances we can abstain completely, but not so with food.  With food our ultimate challenge is to learn moderation. 

Another mind change we need to implement  is that DISCIPLINE is a necessary part of our lives.  This is true in so many areas such as spirituality as well.  The more we can accept a disciplined life the better our results will be.  This may involve keeping  track of our food in writing.  We also should weigh in but not too often.  I recommend twice per month while loosing and once per month once maintenance is achieved.  During transition from losing to maintenance expect to weigh more frequently.  

Regarding the type of food we eat, the more natural, the better.  Fresh organic, non processed foods are always best.  When we eat these types of foods we actually develop a taste for them and then come to prefer them.  FOOD PLAN  is very important.  It must be defined and committed to.  It may be like mine, 5 100 calorie snacks with one meal(lean and green) or it might be a certain calorie intake or the paleo plan or gluten free plan.  Once you have a plan, let others know what you are doing so you can turn to them when you struggle.

We also need to look at much broader more PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES.  Why do I want to be at a healthy weight.  If your primary desire is to be healthy, you are more likely to have success.  When it is about looks or size, once we reach goal weight we are often still not satisfied with how we look.  For instance, my arms are now a very good size, but I still have a belly and my arms are all saggy.  I am 64 this year and if I was too attached to how I looked I would just want to give up and eat.  But I know that I am healthy and my cholesterol is way down and my muscles are strong, even though my skin has  gone south.  Ultimately we all need to value our life and have enough self regard to care properly for ourselves.  

MOST IMPORTANTLY we need to rely on OTHERS for continued success.  Whether we are part of a chat group, anonymous meetings, have a health coach or just a buddy we can share with who is on a similar path, we need others.  I do all of the above and since I am a health coach, my commitment to maintaining my health is even more deep.  Helping others is rewarding of itself but it also helps me to stay on track.  If you think you can do this on your own, give it a try.  If you fail then try to open your mind to joining others on the path.  

So join others on the path so we can achieve health and happiness together.  

Be well

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Obstacles and Obscurations


Michele Happe, MA: Mon, Jan 31st 2011

In the Buddhist way of thinking, we are all The Buddha. The Buddha is the state of being fully awake and enlightened. The reason most of us do not express this Buddha Nature is because it is obscured by attachment to the ego or the "monkey mind". The ego is a double edged sword. On the one hand, as Freud said, it is the "reality principle". It keeps us grounded and responsible. On the other hand the ego "edges God out". It is deluded and self important and wants to be in control at all times. The egos need to control is what keeps us from enlightenment and ultimate health and happiness.
going around an obstacleSo what creates these obstacles and obscurations? As I just explained, the egos tendency to think it knows gives rise to attachment and aversion, two of the primary causes of suffering. The other reason for obstacles and obscurations is Karma. Karma is the result of the egos insistence that it is in control. Whether Karma ripens from this life's past misdeeds or from previous lives misdeeds is not important. What is important is that the simple cause and effect from Karma creates obstacles and obscurations to our true Buddha Nature. Karma can ripen as illness, emotional disorders, accidents or any other less than enlightened condition.

Our job as humans who desire to be enlightened is to clear away these obscurations. We do this through discipline. Our effort is to transform everything to compassion. We first train our mind to let go of our tendency to grasp so that we can convert our poisonous emotions(mental illness) to compassion. Just the intention to this discipline reaps immediate rewards. For instance jealousy and envy are transformed to admiration and respect. Anger is transformed to sorrow which warms the heart to self and others.

Another, even more potent method is through practice such as meditation and specific practices handed down from previous masters. There is a meditation practice called Tonglen which has a very powerful effect of clearing away obscurations. In Tonglen we breath in suffering and breath out love, thereby purifying the whole universe as well as ourselves. There are other daily practices called Sadana's that are also very potent. If you are a Buddhist a qualified Lama can teach and recommend these practices.

If you are not a Buddhist you can still clear away obscurations and obstacles by practicing the Golden Rule or as the Dalai Lama recommends, make your religion kindness. We must actively set our intention to be ethical and kind every day. We must actively reign in the selfish concerns of the ego. It is best to find a qualified teacher or a mentor who might be a therapist to aid us in our commitment to clear away our obscurations so that we can come closer to our Buddha Nature and achieve happiness and well being.
Be Well

Friday, August 29, 2014

Another View of Forgiveness

Another View of Forgiveness

Michele Happe, MA: Mon, Feb 7th 2011
Most discussions on forgiveness involve an offense, an apology and an acceptance of the apology leading to forgiveness. I would like to present another view. I have been influenced by my years as a coach, being a recovering person and my Buddhist training.
sorry post-it noteIn order to forgive, we need to know what forgiveness is. Forgiveness benefits the forgiver, not the one to be forgiven. The one forgiven may feel a sense of relief that he or she is off the hook so to speak, but the forgiver receives the Karmic benefit. 

Forgiveness does not mean, "oh thats ok" especially when the offense is grave. Forgiveness is radical acceptance of the truth of the situation. For instance, your parent lays really big guilt trips on you over and over. What happens when you forgive one offense only to have that happen over and over again. Must you forgive over and over? No.

Radical acceptance goes something like this. My parent is serial guilt tripper. He or she will do this over and over again. I know this to be true. I can actually come to expect this on a regular basis. I get it! Once we get it when the offense happens again we are no longer affected viscerally. We come to expect that behavior and we are able to brush it off our shoulders. We are able to say to ourselves…"put on the seatbelt, we are going on a guilt trip", meaning we begin to not take the offense personally.
When we do not take another's offense personally, it is no longer about us. We just look at it as the way this person operates. We have no visceral reaction. We no longer become triggered.

Forgiveness is radical acceptance of what is. It is a process that requires mindfulness and introspection and maturity. It requires detachment from the offending person. This loving detachment creates the ability to humbly see our offending parent as a being that is hurting and unable to operate in a mature way. When we say to the other, "I forgive you" in essence we are saying "I get you".

Be well!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


The Language Couple-ship

Michele Happe, MA: Mon, Feb 21st 2011
Even though men and women's DNA is almost identical, we are very different. These differences in part are what draw us together. We compliment each other. He is good at fixing things. She is good at understanding what makes relationships thrive. Men are basic and easy to please, women are complicated and baffling. When I work with couples, my standard comment is Men just want their women to be happy, and Women are never satisfied. Believe it or not, I have never gotten an argument from this statement. Please keep in mind I am speaking in generalities and there are always some exceptions to the rules. But the rules are the rules.
happy older coupleGiven our differences, it is important to realize that we need to accommodate each other. Men feel loved by hearing that they are respected. Women need to feel that they are cherished, and believe me this is not accomplished by a grope on the butt or the breasts. If a man is cranky and stressed, he can usually be made happy by the offer of sex. By the same token, women need to be careful about being too directive with men especially regarding their world of fixing stuff. In my marriage, our agreement is that the house is my domain, I am the queen and what I say goes. The garage and the outdoors is his domain…he is the king and what he says goes(except for house exterior color, because color is my domain.)

This is not a general recommendation. Each couple needs to work out their domains based on their passions and strengths and weaknesses. It takes communication and understanding and sometimes bravery to figure out how to navigate the separation of powers in relationship. Some relationships are mirror images of the traditional role. At times dad is the primary caregiver and mom is the breadwinner. This is fine and good. It just needs to be understood and agreed to.

Pat Allen, a Jungian therapist put it succinctly. She said, it is a man's world and a woman's universe. If we stop fighting this fact, we will be happier in couple-ship. If we have expectations of our relationship that are unreasonable both will be unhappy. A sense of humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves is indispensable.
Above all have fun, smile at each other, look each other in the eye and tell each other often that you love each other.
Be Well

Friday, August 15, 2014

Treating Depression with Medication: A Philosophical Approach

Treating Depression with Medication: A Philosophical Approach

Michele Happe, MA: Wed, Mar 23rd 2011
Many of my clients have issues with taking medication for depression. Some are drug free and want to remain that way. Some prefer their own treatment using illicit drugs such as marijuana. Some feel a moral judgment of weakness by turning to medication. I do not argue with these clients. I respect their positions and dedicate myself to working with them from the point of view that they hold. 

prescription bottleOne of my pet peeves is people who take medication but refuse to do therapy while on the meds. Some think the meds will fix them. Even some Dr's do not recommend concurrent therapy while on anti depressant medication. I find this to be blatantly unethical and here is why.

I do say this about medication. Medication is not a solution. It is a tool. Efficacy of medications are enhanced with therapy. The reason for this is that anti depressant medications in effect change the pathways in the brain. These changes are enhanced by learning caused by mindfulness that comes with therapy. It is very enlightening to experience a state of detachment that some medications create. When you commit to remembering this state, which at times is quite novel to the client on meds for the first time, you have a better chance of success of maintaining this state without the aid of medication.

I always recommend that my clients titrate down on their medication after a year with the help of their Dr. This is to see if they are able to "remember" what they have learned from the effect of the medication. Some do and some do not. If they do not it does not mean that they are therapy failures. It is an indication that they have deeper biological and more entrenched issues with depression.

It is very important to use medication as a tool rather that a solution. This attitude promotes our own active participation in recovery from depression whether we have entrenched biological depression or fleeting situational depression. What we learn while on meds can be remembered if we are actively mindful of the beneficial effects of the medications we take. If we cling to the medication as the solution, how likely are we to be successful to find our own ways of dealing with our issues while on or off of medication.

Be well...

I welcome your comments

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Are We as Sick as Our Secrets?

Are We as Sick as Our Secrets?

Michele Happe, MA: Tue, Mar 29th 2011
A good friend is going through a lot of pain over some secrets she has discovered about her SO (significant other). He believes it is ok to have secrets, she and their therapist do not. She put the question out to trusted friends and got some very good feedback:
shhh...little white lies are different than 'secrets' in my book. Omissions or half truths that may impact the way someone you love makes an important decision...those are the little pieces of information that should be shared regardless. The person will appreciate you and trust me...I think I speak for most when I say I would rather have the hurtful truth than the kind lie, and I have heard many hurtful truths that shocked me and i needed a minute but the kind lies have left scars behind...
...I happen to think that they are healthy and a relationship that's healthy and fine. If you're older than 5 then you should know when a secret (or withholding or lying) is going to hurt someone you love. Then you make the choice to do it or not. From my (unfortunate) personal experience, if you have to set rules about stuff like that then you've probably chosen someone who doesn't deserve you...

First of all, there are secrets and then their are secrets! A secret about self or other harming activity is probably a secret that is unhealthy. Addictions, unlawful activity, affairs, and abuse fall into this category. If these types of secrets are kept, harm comes to the person who keeps the secret as well as the SO of that secret keeper.
Then, it depends of the philosophy of each partner. If both partners feel fine about secrets then, that is fine for that couple. If both partners prefer to be open books to each other…then fine for THAT couple. It is when the couple is not in synchrony when trouble arises. When you have a difference of opinion on this important issue, you may have a relationship that is doomed to fail or full of pain and suffering.
In the twelve steps, there is a suggestion that we come clean, except when to do so would injure them or others. This means you don't go to your ex partner and say, "I had an affair while we were together" if this is not something that the partner had no curiousness about. If the other partner is obsessed with the possibility, at times it brings relief to know the truth.
The main point I would like to make is that secrets tend to eat the secret keeper alive. Confession is good for the soul so once you can find someone who will not be harmed by the info and who is trustworthy, a good confession can be very freeing as long as the confessed offense is no longer being perpetrated. I have worked with couples, and one member of the couple tells me that he or she is having an affair. I tell the client that either I cannot work with them as a couple anymore, unless he ends the affair, or he needs to come clean in the couples session so that the issue can be processed. In this case it would have been better for the offending client to confess to someone other than their couples therapist, if he does not want his SO to know.
It is pretty easy to see that this is very tricky business. The important variables are 1) the gravity of the offense, 2) the agreement that the couple has about secrets, and 3) the effect that the secret is having on the secret keeper. As usual, I have no hard and fast rules on this subject, but personally, since our conduct is pretty ethical, I am an open book to my partner….and he is to me….it is just so much easier.
Be well...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Beef with the "Secret"

Michele Happe, MA: Tue, Jun 7th 2011
I watched the movie, The Secret with my husband, also a Buddhist. At about the 3/4 point we both agreed to turn it off.
word secretI found The Secret offensive in the same way I found EST (Ehrhardt Seminars Training) offensive. Both use wonderful age old concepts to promote some kind of self serving, you can win "influence" or "if you do this and think this way you can have this big mansion or this fancy car".
I find the motives to be questionable. The reason to meditate is to know and accept self better…period. If you are doing it to become rich or influence people all the merit generated by the practice is wasted and nullified. It is possible for some people to become wealthy as the result of self realization, only if it is dictated by their Karma.

The goal of all meditation should be compassion and kindness to self and others, not self aggrandizement. We had a discussion of this on my new AMRadio Show, Happe Talk. I had Christine Sande on to speak about "compassion to self" rather than modern psychology's emphasis on self esteem. 
Also offensive to me is the pressure to be a "positive thinker". Positive thinking, in my opinion is just as energy draining as negative thinking. It forces us to be in a state which is neither mindful or open. It takes lots of energy and has not been found to be all that effective. I am a proponent of Possibility Thinking. Possibility thinking enables us to be open to all outcomes. The cyclic existence of the human realm is a cycle of joy and suffering. Both are valid and necessary, to be seen by the Buddhist practitioner as "one taste". Our goal in life is to transform suffering to joy through kindness, compassion, and non attachment. I have worked with many clients who attempted "Positive thinking" only to have limited success. The end result was always guilt and self loathing for their failures…which I would call a negative narcissistic state.
The goal of Buddhist practice is the ability to become neutral and unswayed by the cycles of suffering. Suffering comes and suffering goes to be replaced by joy. To quote a Buddhist saying, "Don't push the river"….until then
Be well...

Friday, August 8, 2014


I asked my  granddaughter, Iris what I should write about for this week. She said, "why don't you write about our dinner last night." That got me thinking about friendship. We had a lovely dinner with old friends who used to live next door. It was warm and loving.
people spelling out the word friendsI have had a time with friendships. It wasn't until I started studying Buddhism that I was able to make sense of healthy friendship. Mine were not. They were either too close or too much based on me being a helper or a savior. I remember Iris' mom once saying to me after hanging up the phone with a girlfriend, "Was that one of your clients?"

It was while studying the 37 Practices of the Boddhisattva that once of the teaching screamed out at me. Here it is:
(5) From staying together with friends who misguide us, our hatred, desires and ignorance grow. With little time left to continue our studies, we don`t think of Dharma; we meditate less. Our love and compassion for all sentient beings are lost and forgotten while under their sway. Sever such ties with misleading companions - the Sons of the Buddhas all practise this way.
In codependency, one of the primary issues dealt with is boundaries. Setting boundaries with friendships at first might be difficult and trying but in the end will be rewarding. I began to pull back from my friendships. I remained as loving as I could but I definitely loosened my tether on them. I decided that if I had friendships that required lots of "processing" they were too intimate. I save those kind of interactions with family and my husband.
If you have a friendship that causes you grief or exhaustion, consider pulling back a bit and practicing full acceptanceof that person "just as they are". There may be no need to end the friendship. The remedy might just be to love from afar and keep interactions on a less intimate level. If you have a "best friend" consider asking yourself if the friendship is mutually satisfying and placed on equal footing. All friendships should be balanced, what I call "two way". Each person should put equal energy into the friendship. If you do all the calling and inviting, the friendship is not balanced…hence you have codependency rather than friendship. Since I am married, I prefer not to have a best friend, leaving that energy for my husband. I have some treasured girlfriends that I go to to share about emotional issues because men tend not to be too good at that. Women just seem to understand the language of emotion better.
So remember not to fold into your friendships and heed lesson five from the 37 practices of the Boddhisattva

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Relationship between Narcissism and Codependency

I have been seeing lots of posts on Facebook about people giving in to others who take advantage of them. Examples are loaning money that is not returned, doing favors for others that are not in the end, helpful, continuing toxic relationships because of guilt about being "cold hearted".
There is a dance in codependency that involves the intimate relationship between codependents and narcissistic types. To better understand codependency let me share my favorite codependent joke.
Two codependents have sex. In the afterglow one says to the other, "well it was good for you, how was it for me"?

Codependents lack a healthy relationship with self. They are prone to put others first before their own needs. This is unhealthy.

Narcissists also have an unhealthy relationship with self. They put themselves above all else. They use others toward their own ends and exploit relationships without feelings of guilt or remorse. They push blame off on others and are unable to see their own part in wrong doing.

It is easy to see how codependents and narcissists get hooked up. It is like two pieces of the puzzle coming together. One is the easy mark for the other. But there is a deeper connection.

It is found that there are familial links to this interaction. If you have one parent who is narcissistic you are likely to become either codependent or narcissistic yourself. If you have two narcissistic parents the same holds true.

Once a person begins to recover from codependency, they are able to begin setting boundaries and standing up to the narcissist. It is very difficult for all humans to conceive of someone who is totally bereft of the ability to empathize and learn from previous mistakes. The primary mistake the codependent makes is to give the benefit of the doubt to the narcissistic partner because it is so hard to fathom someone could be so selfish and unyielding. Thus the dynamic begins.

The good news for the codependent is that there is hope for recovery once they fully understand that the narcissist lacks that ability of compassion, which defines us as humans. Since codependents are quick to blame themselves for problems they are able to work well with a therapist to make changes. Not so for the narcissist. They are stuck in their own world of non blame and hence are pathological unable to change. How can one change if they are unable to see that there is anything wrong with them?

I highly recommend Codependents Anonymous for those who are attempting to free themselves for relationships that are toxic and abusive. It is a program full of specific guidelines for recovery from this type of harmful relationship. Go to for a plethora of information on the topic.

As far as help for the narcissist...hmmmm, well the best thing is to shake the dust off your feet and steer clear so they don't get a chance to use you. The only hope for the narcissist is that they develop addiction and can seek help for that where they might learn a different way to relate to the world. Alcoholics Anonymous is currently the best treatment modality for the narcissistic type...but chances for recovery are slim.
I welcome your comments…

Be well.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Criminalization of Therapy

The “Criminalization” of Therapy

The first time I noticed this was when I was doing domestic violence work in the county jail.  My associates began to act like jailers and  enforcers in the jail environment.  After the session I gently reminded my associates that we were working with hurt people and attempting to help them better understand themselves.  They immediately understood.

Whenever a helping professional receives referrals from the criminal justice system, this tendency needs to be scrupulously avoided.  Often the counselor sees these people with disdain and judgement that leaks into their treatment of their clients.  
It is our unconscious or mindless tendencies that lead us to fall prey to these paradigms of enforcement.  I think there is a deep fear of enabling the client so the opposite is the type of tough love that is totally counterproductive to the health of the client.  There is a gentle and direct way to confront clients on their maladaptive behaviors and attitudes.  

It says in the Big Book of AA that “we avoid retaliation or argument…we wouldn’t treat sick people that way.  In Buddhism we see all humans as the Buddha or as an enlightened being.  The reason they behave badly is that they suffer from obstacles and obscurations which cloud their ability to see clearly and to treat themselves with compassion and honor.  Think of a pristine window that has had mud and grease smeared all over it .  The window, underneath the mud is still pristine.  Our job as helping professionals is to assist our clients to clear away the obstacles and obscurations.  If we act like jailers, we are essentially flinging more mud onto our clients pristine Buddha nature.

This is just wrong.

Until next time….Be Well

Monday, May 12, 2014


Relapse is the primary issue associated with recovery from any addiction or compulsive behavior.  Support is the primary antidote to relapse.  One of the reasons that 12 step programs help reduce relapse is that they are a support group where one can hang out and “work the program”.  I love 12 step programs and found my own recovery from many issues in the rooms.  But 12 steps is not for everyone.  

Some feel uncomfortable with the “spiritual” aspects of the programs.  These concerns are easily solved by substitution of concepts but even with this method many are put off and feel that they are being coerced into religion.   

Others and the vast majority of those I work with are uncomfortable with the group per se.  Many have social anxiety and are afraid they will be force speak in public.  Some are concerned about being found out by members of the community which can be pretty terrifying.  Some are just not joiners.  They prefer being alone and working with someone on a one on one basis.  

I provide that support.  Even though I love the 12 steps and the recovery I have been blessed with, I understand the above concerns.  I love to work with recovering addicts of all types including food and behavior.  Codependency is at the base of most addictions.  I started with a friend the first CODA meeting in the rural area where I lived for 20 years.  Codependents often need the support of someone with that recovery and may uncover other powerful addictions at work in their lives.  

If there are deeper issues at work that are beyond my scope I refer to other professionals who are capable of dealing with those issues, such as depression, bi-polar, ADHD, OCD that so many of us in recovery have to deal with.  

My approach is spiritual, particularly as a practicing Vajrayana Buddhist.  Atheists and Agnostics and most Christians and other Religion are usually comfortable with this approach because it is philosophical and very practical rather than dogmatic and pointed in the necessity of believing in God.  Many of tenets of Buddhism are direct treatments for dealing with many of the issues that co-exist with addiction recovery.  Those tenets are mindfulness, compassion, and a deeper understanding of karma and impermanence.  

Recovery Coaching is for those who fall through the cracks of more traditional therapy and Drug and Alcohol Counseling.  There is no stigma associated with coaching except for being too new agey or focused on success thru motivational prompting.  I don’t associate myself with those approaches.  I do associate myself with teaching methods that promote happiness and compassion for self and others.  It is impossible to be happy and grateful and in relapse simultaneously.  So until my next blog entry….

Be Well,  

Lovingly, Michele

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What is a Health/Recovery Coach

After 27 years as an addiction counselor and practicing Tibetan Buddhist I am shifting my focus to life and health coaching using basic Buddhist principles to promote happiness.  My focus is loosening the grip on attachments and aversion which lead to issues with, food, substances, and unhealthy relationships with others and self.  I directed one of the first eating disorder units and have expertise in all types of food attachments.  I love working with family members who struggle with detachment of a loved one with compulsive attachment to substance or behavior.  I work with a variety of MD’s who can evaluate the occasional need for medications to help on the path of developing a happy healthy life style.  

Many people have a desire to attain health by being sober from chemicals and by being moderate with food and relationship choices.  I have worked with many clients who had a strong desire to loosen the grip on their attachments but were uncomfortable with 12 step groups.  Many don’t feel comfortable in group settings, some have issues with the spiritual component.  I can coach you on an individual basis once you find your recovery to keep your recovery and promote your health through balance between body, spirit and mind.  The Buddhist principles that I use are very basic and are embraced by those who are non religious, Christians and all other Religious affiliations.  

Relationship health is also very integral to our personal health.  Relationship affords us the opportunity to learn more about who we are as people and it tends to bring our character challenges in to very clear focus.  Codependency as Pia Melody defines it is a lack of healthy relationship with self.  We can utilize the the problems we have in our relationships to learn how to be healthy in our relationship with ourselves and others.  Setting boundaries mutually, communicating directly with compassion and negotiating with each other are skills I coach.    

Friday, April 18, 2014

Shifting my focus

After 27 years as an addiction counselor and 10 years as a practicing Buddhist I have retired my license and shifting my focus to recovery coaching and mindfulness counseling using Buddhist principles to promote happiness. I help with loosening the grip on attachments and aversion which lead to issues with food, substances, and unhealthy relationships with others and self. I directed one of the first eating disorder units in the country and have expertise in food attachments. I love working with family members who struggle with relationship with a loved one with compulsive attachment to substance or behavior.
If you are in recovery and having difficulty with life on life's terms but don't feel comfortable in group settings I can serve as a recovery coach to help you through issues that can cause relapse. I work with MD's if additional help is needed for issues that benefit from medical intervention.
I have been in recovery for 34 years from food, substance and codependency. The Buddhist principles I use are very basic and compliment Christian thought as well. Additionally I use the medifast program as part of my own food plan. If you desire l addiction counseling I am happy to refer to competent counselors.