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.