Tag Archives: body language

Healthy Complaining Vs. Harmful Complaining in Relationships

Healthy Complaining Vs. Harmful Complaining in Relationships


photo taken from clipartguide.com

photo taken from clipartguide.com

As a Licensed Marriage and family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I wholeheartedly agree with John Gottman’s assertion that it’s a myth that happily married people don’t complain about each other’s behaviors.  The reality in partnerships and marriages is that we all have our own idiosyncratic needs, rhythms, desires, and habits.  Inevitably, sometimes our different needs and desires can collide.  Given that it’s inevitable that partners in relationships inevitably have complaints about each other, it’s incredibly helpful for the vitality and well-being of your relationship to know how to engage in healthy complaining vs. harmful complaining

One strategy that simply won’t work, however, is stifling your complaints and burying them alive.  This well-intentioned strategy or fear-based endeavor only serves to create “negative sentiment override.”  In other words, over time your bad thoughts about your partner override your positive thoughts about your partner, and you eventually associate him or her with feelings of pain, resentment, anger, or loneliness.  When you stockpile your grievances, your bad feelings fester and grow, and sooner or later you find yourself distancing yourself emotionally from him or her to avoid feeling pain, or you might lash out at your partner while he or she feels blindsided because your silence has left them clueless and in the dark.  When your offending partner is in the dark, he or she can’t improve his ability to meet your needs because he doesn’t know what is wrong until after you’ve already hit your limit and exploded with a barrage of criticisms.

In a moment, I’m going to share with you examples of harmful complaining, and then I’m going to then share with you healthy ways to complain to your partner instead.

Harmful Complaining


Harmful Complaining:  Describe your perception of the problem as an absolute truth:  “Anyone can see that…”

Harmful complaining:  Stockpiling complaints

Harmful complaining:  Make broad, sweeping statements using always or never:  You never take me anywhere…

Harmful Complaining:  Digging up grievances from the past

Harmful Complaining:  Don’t complain:  Expect your partner to mind read and guess your needs and desires…

Harmful Complaining:  Criticize your partner’s personality or character

Harmful Complaining:  Give your partner unsolicited advice, telling him what he  should or shouldn’t do, say, behave, appear, etc.


Harmful Ways to Respond to a Complaint


Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Ignore the complaint, stonewall, be dismissive of the complaint, become defensive, and/or counterattack.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Belittle or criticize your partner for complaining, become sarcastic, condescending, critical, or contemptuous.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Defend yourself; find justifications and rationalizations for your behavior, your lapses in integrity, your broken agreements, etc.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Deny responsibility for the problem and deflect the blame back on the other person.  Ultimately, we must remember that we are responsible for how we choose to respond to people, regardless of how they treat us.


Healthy Complaining


Healthy Complaining:  Express your needs and/or complain in ways that are clear, respectful, specific, and immediate.  Your partner is more likely to hear your complaint and respond to it when you share your complaint in this manner; this approach leads to problem solving, building intimacy, and strengthening your relationship.

Healthy complaining:  Share responsibility for the problem vs. blame problem on other person

Healthy complaining:   Describe the problem in terms of your perception, opinion, or style:

Healthy Complaining:  Focus on a specific problem, tackling each problem one at a time

Healthy Complaining:  Focus on the present

Healthy Complaining: Focus on your partner’s actions and share how they make you feel (“when you do…, I feel…”)

Healthy Complaining:  Tell your partner about your needs, longings, and desires

Healthy Complaining:  Ask your partner for what you want rather than focus on what you don’t want.  Address his or her behavior instead of his or her character.

Healthy Complaining:  Ask your partner first if he or she is open to hearing your complaint and/or constructive feedback; Asking him or her first respects your partner’s autonomy and opens their hearts to being more receptive to what you wish to share.

Healthy Complaining:  Preface your complaint by first sharing your positive intention and positive desired outcome for  sharing your complaint in the first place.

Healthy Ways to Respond to a Complaint


Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint: Rephrase your partner’s complaint so your partner feels heard, acknowledged, and trusts that you understand what he or she is saying

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Ask questions for to understand your partner’s frame of reference more.  Ask open-ended questions to give him or her room to elaborate and share even more about what’s weighing on his or her mind.

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Acknowledge and empathize with the feelings behind your partner’s complaint, even if you don’t agree with what he or she is complaining about

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Take ownership for your actions and apologize when an apology is warranted.

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Take responsibility for your contribution to the problem

Healthy way to Respond to a Complaint:  Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  In other words, listen first, talk second.

Healthy way to Respond to a Complaint:  Be mindful of your body language, and respond with a receptive, soft tone of voice

Please keep in mind that it’s not uncommon that one or both partners in a relationship are highly sensitive to complaints and criticism. People who are highly sensitive to complaints and criticism likely developed these patterns in childhood:  usually this heightened sensitivity stems from growing up in homes where there was substance abuse, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, abandonment, or emotional neglect.  Small Children are naturally Egocentric and falsely believe their actions cause family problems or instability. They feel responsible for the unfortunate circumstances going on in their lives that are beyond their control.  In turn, they are prone to blaming themselves for their parent’s divorce, the death of a loved one, their parent’s abrupt departure to fight in wars, etc.  As they grow up, they feel compelled to defend themselves, to say constantly, “It’s not my fault.” If they hear a complaint, they automatically brace themselves and prepare to fight back, whether they’re under attack or not.

This can be a real struggle in a close partnership or marriage.  What starts out as one person sharing his needs can quickly devolve into a full-fledged battle.  The highly sensitive partner might be prone to jumping to distorted conclusions about what his or her partner is saying and presume that he or she is being deliberately hurtful or malicious when this may not be the case at all.  The antidote or solution to this pattern is for the highly sensitive partner is to listen carefully to the words his partner is saying when he is stating a need or a making request; your partner may not be as critical as you first think.  Be particularly aware of times that you automatically react by defending yourself.  Think or imagine a different response instead, and mentally rehearse that new response in your mind’s eye repeatedly so that you’re more likely to respond in kind the next time you feel emotionally criticized. Take a deep breath, pause, and courageously challenge yourself to agree to anything that your partner says that rings true.  If you wish, you can also summon the courage to ask your partner to tell you more about his need or complaint.

If your partner is highly sensitive, take extra care to avoid criticism when stating your needs.  If your partner responds defensively, avoid responding the same way; respond to defensiveness by clarifying your statement of need.

Thank you for taking your time to read this blog.  I hope that you found it illuminating and helpful.


John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

( MNLP/CHT/Dharma Life Coach & Sports Psychology Consultant)


What is NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming)?

Image taken from expertmind.com

Image taken from expertmind.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer, I want to take a moment and share with you what NLP stands for; Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a name that encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming. The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create. Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (Neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (Programming).

To define “Neuro” more clearly for you, I want to add that it includes our nervous system (the mind) through which our experiences are processed through our five senses: More specifically Visual (sight), Auditory (hearing), Kinesthetic (touch), Olfactory (smell), and Gustatory (taste).  In NLP, we believe that we encode and give meaning to our sensory experiences through our use of Sub Modalities.  Visual Sub Modalities, for example, include whether or not the images in our minds are in black and white, color, near or far, bright or dim, focused or unfocused, moving or still, framed or panoramic, associated or disassociated, etc.  Auditory Sub Modalities include whether or not what we hear is loud or soft, internal or external, fast or slow, high in pitch, low, etc.  Kinesthetic Sub Modalties include whether or not our felt sense of our experiences have a shape to it, a texture, a size, a weight, a movement, a location in our bodies, etc.  In NLP, Master NLP Practitioners like me change a client’s Sub Modalities (with his or her permission and collaboration) so that we can change the way he or she has encoded and given meaning to his experiences, if it will serve his or her highest good to do so.

For example, if a client of mine has a daunting picture or movie in his mind’s eye of an upcoming tennis match, and it appears to him in black and white, dim, and loud with the sound of tennis balls being whacked all around the court, I might encourage him to make the picture or movie colorful, bright, and accompanied by the sight of tennis balls moving in slow motion with a muted sound. If his opponent appears to him in his picture or movie as 10 feet tall, I might encourage him to freeze the frame, shrink it in size, and make his opponent appear 1 inch tall with big ears and bushy eye brows.  I might even encourage him to add a circus soundtrack to his picture or movie to help him laugh and see his tennis match as funny and therefore something to look forward to.

If the nervousness he is feeling feels like a cold, rectangular piece of sharp glass located in the pit of his stomach, I might encourage him to make the cold, rectangular shape of sharp glass in the pit of stomach warm, round, soft, and ask him to then imagine pushing that rectangular object out of his stomach to the opposite side of the room.  By changing his Sub Modalities, or the ways he is encoding and giving meaning to his tennis match, I’m changing his “internal representation”, or interpretation, of what his tennis match really means; It’s an opportunity to have fun, embrace the challenge, and do his very best.  After all, Master NLP Practitioners don’t believe that there is such a thing as failure; there is only feedback.

Changing his picture or movie of his match will change his “State” (feelings), which in turn will change his physiology and body language.  This is one of the many goals of NLP; to change a client’s  “internal representations”, or his  interpretations of events that are being influenced by his senses and 5 senses and respective Sub Modalities, so that he can change the way he sees the past, the present, and the future as well as how he sees himself, others, and the world around him.

When I use the term “Linguistic”, I am referring to the language and other nonverbal communication systems through which our neural representations are coded, ordered, and given meaning.  These neural representations include pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, smells, and words (Self-Talk.)  These words also include the metaphors, similes, and analogies we use as well as the many symbolic ways that we express ourselves. When we change these neural representations, we are able to change our states and internal representations of the world, and we are also able to communicate with others far more effectively.  The language used in NLP is often sensory grounded to code what we’re capable of doing behaviorally.

When it comes to “Linguistics”, Master NLP practitioners like me wholeheartedly believe that only 7% of communication with others consists of the words we use; 38% of communication consists of the tone that we use; finally, 55% of our communication with others consists of our physiology, or body language.  Therefore, when we choose to mirror someone else’s words, tone, and body language, we’re able to build rapport with them almost instantly.

Another way that master NLP practitioners use language powerfully is by incorporating hypnotic language when working with clients.  When NLP originators John Grinder and Richard Bandler teamed up with the father of hypnosis, Milton Erickson, they realized that using NLP techniques and patterns in concert with Erickson’s hypnotic phrasing helped them to affect positive change in their clients even more rapidly than they did beforehand.  Erickson’s hypnotic language is merely a way of using words to bypass a client’s conscious resistance so that he or she is receptive to the very changes in their lives that they want to create!!  A typical Erickson language pattern often used is called “tag questions.”  If a client of mine wants to believe that she’s capable, but she consciously believes that she’s incapable, I might use a tag question by saying, ” You know better than anyone that you’re capable, don’t you?”

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I know that speaking to a client’s conscious mind and saying, “you’re capable” will likely go in one ear and out the other; my words will be met with resistance.  However, my use of the tag question, “Don’t you?” will bypass his or her resistance to this new truth, and his or her unconscious mind will be far more receptive to agreeing with my empowering assertion. In light of all that I’ve shared with you about “Linguistics,” I would offer to you that NLP is clearly a powerful way of using the language of the mind to consistently achieve specific and desired outcomes.

When Master NLP practitioners use the word, “programming, ” they’re referring to a person’s unconscious belief systems, their memories, emotions, neuro-associations (the feelings we associate with certain people, places, and things), value systems, “parts” to their personality, communication styles and patterns, habits, strategies, behaviors, and the countless other ways we’ve been conditioned to perceive, experience, and show up in our lives and in the world.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that NLP is so powerful because its techniques allow us to access and get in rapport with our unconscious minds. This is so significant because it is believed that only 8% of our moment to moment awareness is conscious, and 92% of our moment to moment awareness is unconscious, or presently inaccessible to us; instead, everything else that we that don’t know that we know is housed in the bejeweled warehouse of our unconscious minds.

Almost magically, NLP patterns, techniques, insights, and experiential exercises help us to reprogram our minds and come up with new programs, strategies, and behaviors  that we can  run in our neurological systems to achieve our specific and desired outcomes. When we assimilate these specific set of unconscious strategies, we create the differences that make the difference in our lives.  When our unconscious beliefs, values, and personal self-concept/sense of ourselves are in alignment with our conscious set of beliefs, values, and self-concept, we feel integrated, whole, complete, and newly empowered!!

Although you may have never heard of the following NLP techniques and patterns, some include the Time Line Technique, Parts Integration, Anchoring, Future Pacing, Visualization, Mental, Emotional and Psychological Rehearsal, the Swish Pattern, Mapping Across, The Modeling Process, The Inner Sage Pattern, The Charles Dickens Pattern, the Walt Disney Pattern, Voice Dialogue Technique, Rapport Building, working with Primary Representational Systems, Developing Sensory Acuity, The Falling Out Of Love Pattern, The Enough is Enough Pattern, The Movie Rewind Pattern, etc.  As a Master NLP Practitioner, I have found that NLP tools and skills work powerfully in the development of states of individual excellence and enhancing human performance. In addition, they establish a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions that reveal what human beings are, what communication is, and what the process of change is all about.

NLP is therefore a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior.  At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity, and mission. It helps us access the treasure trove of wisdom and resources that are housed in our unconscious minds and brings our wisdom and resources to the surface of conscious awareness so that we can access our full human potential.   In addition, it also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the ‘spiritual’ part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence; it is about wisdom and vision.

According to Master NLP Practitioner Robert Diltz, NLP is essentially founded on two fundamental presuppositions:

1. The Map is Not the Territory.  As human beings, we can never know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us primarily through our sensory representational systems. It is our ‘neuro-linguistic’ maps of reality that determine how we behave and that give those behaviors meaning, not reality itself. It is generally not reality that limits us or empowers us, but rather our map of reality.

2. Life and ‘Mind’ are Systemic Processes. The processes that take place within a human being and between human beings and their environment are systemic. Our bodies, our societies, and our universe form ecology of complex systems and sub-systems all of which interact with and mutually influence each other. It is not possible to completely isolate any part of the system from the rest of the system. Such systems are based on certain ‘self-organizing’ principles and naturally seek optimal states of balance or homeostasis.

All of the models and techniques of NLP are based on the combination of these two principles. In the belief system of NLP, it is not possible for human beings to know objective reality. Wisdom, ethics, and ecology do not derive from having the one ‘right’ or ‘correct’ map of the world, because human beings are not capable of making one. Rather, the goal is to create the richest map possible that respects the systemic nature and ecology of ourselves and the world we live in.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that the people who are most effective in life are the ones who are most flexible and have a map of the world that allows them to perceive the greatest number of available choices and perspectives. They use NLP patterns and techniques to enrich the choices that they have and perceive as available in the world around them. They recognize that excellence comes from having many choices, and they believe that wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives.

Through the years, NLP has continued to develop some very powerful tools and skills for communication and change in a wide range of professional areas including: Psychotherapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, Counseling, Life Coaching, Education, Health, Business, Creativity, Law, Management, Sales, Leadership and Parenting.  NLP is now in its third decade as a field of study and has evolved considerably since its beginnings in the mid 1970s. Over the years, NLP has literally spread around the world and has touched the lives of millions of people. Since the 1990’s, a new generation of NLP has been developing.

If you’d like me to teach you leading-edge NLP techniques and patterns to help you get into rapport with your unconscious mind, accelerate your personal growth process, and unleash far more of your full potential as a man, woman, and/or athlete than you have ever imagined before, please reach out to me and let me know!! Like so many of my other clients, I trust that you will find that NLP tools and techniques will serve as a powerful catalyst in your pursuit of personal growth and transformation.

Thank you very much for taking your time to read my article/blog on NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming).  I hope that you that you’ve found it informative, thought-provoking, and enlightening!!

image from purenlp.com

image from purenlp.com


John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT

(Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/ Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer/Certified Hypnotherapist)



Image taken from cardboiled.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve worked with individuals, couples, groups, and athletes, and from time to time one of my clients owes someone in their lives a sincere apology.  I’ve seen husbands and wives call each other mean-spirited names, for example, and I’ve also met with couples who have even gone so far as to become physically abusive with their spouses!!  I’ve also had couples who have come in for couple’s marriage and family therapy to rebuild trust after one partner was unfaithful to the other.

As a group facilitator, I’ve occasionally witnessed a group member judge or shame another group member, leaving them feeling belittled and small.  In my individual work with clients, I’ve had people come in to see me for family counseling because their relationships with their parents or siblings have become strained as a result of a betrayal that they’ve committed, like stealing money from a loved one or using drugs while living in their parent’s home.

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve worked with coaches who have mistreated their athletes or shown favoritism to some athletes on their team over others.  Finally, I’ve worked with some athletes who have hazed their teammates or given up on their team during an important game.  In all of the scenarios mentioned above, the perpetrators have owed their victims a sincere apology to begin the repair work needed to rebuild the trust and safety that serve as the foundation and pillars for thriving relationships.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t comfortable uttering the words, “I’m sorry.”  I’ve had clients concede to me that apologizing to someone else feels like a form of weakness to them, and they’re simply too proud to go there.  Other clients of mine have lacked the courage to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge to their victim that they’ve made a mistake, and so they choose to sweep their perpetration under the rug in the false hope that time will heals all wounds.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve also noticed that some of my clients simply don’t know how to go about the process of apologizing to someone else.  As a result, their apologies sound insincere, halfhearted, and incomplete.  In light of all of this, I’ve decided to write a blog detailing how to offer a sincere and thorough apology to someone you’ve hurt and want to make amends with.

To begin with, I want to strongly encourage you to engage in some introspection and self-reflection before you apologize so that you know what you’re apologizing for in the first place!!   Humbly and courageously acknowledge to yourself what specific actions, in-actions, words, deeds, and any other ways where you believe that you have faltered that warrants an apology to someone else.  Take this valuable time to pause and deeply understand what fears, shadows, beliefs, and behavioral patterns compelled you to hurt someone else, knowingly or unknowingly.  These insights will help you to grow emotionally and spiritually, and they’ll demonstrate to your victim as well as and reassure him or her that you have more self-awareness now and are therefore unlikely to act or repeat your hurtful actions again.

After you’ve acknowledged to yourself what you’ve said or done to someone else that warrants an apology, and after you’ve engaged in some meaningful self- reflection, ask the person you wish to apologize to if they’re open to sitting down with you and talking about what you did that led to your hurting their feelings and creating disconnection between the two of you.  Asking that person if they’re open to talking and if so, when, shows a willingness to honor their autonomy and free will as well as demonstrates that you want to be sensitive to whether or not the person you’ve hurt is ready to hear your apology.  Sometimes a person’s wounds are still too raw, and they’re just not ready yet to hear your apology, let alone accept it and offer you their forgiveness.

If the person you’ve hurt agrees to hear you out, I’d encourage you to be mindful of the tone in your voice as well as your body language.  The tone in our voice makes up %38 of our communication, and our body language accounts for 55% of our communication.  With this in mind, imagine that your voice and body is an instrument, and be sure that you’re instrument is finely tuned so that what you say resonates from your heart and vibrates genuine remorse while your body visibly reflects sincere contrition.

Speaking of your tone and body language, I want to invite you to make the tone in your voice soft, gentle, humble, and remorseful, and I’d encourage you to make your body language open and receptive to whatever your victim might have to say after you’ve said that you’re sorry.  If your arms are folded across your chest and your rolling your eyes while you’re saying you’re sorry, for example, you’re likely showing  signs of reluctance on your part to say that you’re sorry, or you may be unconsciously showing signs that you’re feeling guarded, proud, or too afraid vulnerably speak of your mistakes.

These body language cues often demonstrate a fear of vulnerability on your part, or they show a lack of emotional maturity.  After all, we are all imperfect and prone to intentionally or unintentionally hurting those we care about, and so summoning the humility, vulnerability, and courage to say that you’re sorry to someone speaks volumes about your character. If your arms, legs, and heart are open and you maintain gentle eye contact, the recipient of your apology will feel safe to hear what you’d like to say. He or she will likely admire your humility, courage and character as well, and they consequently  be far readier than before to accept your apology and reconcile with you.

As you’re apologizing, I implore you to take 100 percent ownership for what you’ve said or done that you believe warrants an apology in the first place.  Identify and articulate the specific ways that you fear that you’ve harmed your victim.  Avoid at all costs minimizing, rationalizing, justifying, or sugar coating your hurtful behavior.  Also, do not look to blame that person or anyone else for what you’ve said or done.

All of the above tactics merely dilute your apology and show that you’re either too proud or too fragile to summon the courage to take full responsibility for your actions.  In turn, the person you’re halfheartedly apologizing to will get an unsettling window into your character and learn that he or she really can’t trust that you won’t repeat your behavior again.  After all, you have just tainted your apology by your countless attempts to deflect accountability from the actions that you’ve committed.

In addition to avoiding in engaging in the deflection tactics that I’ve mentioned above, avoid using “distancing language.”  For example, don’t say, “I’m sorry for the things that happened” or “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way.”  Again, it’s important to take personal ownership for the specific ways you’ve hurt someone.  The two attempts at apologizing that I just referenced sound vague and generic, and they lack personal accountability.  If a person says, “I’m sorry for the things that happened”, they’re not acknowledging what specifically happened?  The truth is, their behaviors didn’t just happen, as if they somehow fell out of the sky and into their lives.  Instead, they chose to do or say something very specific that caused someone else harm.

When a perpetrator says “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in some way,” the word “if” implies that they’re not really sure what they have said or done that warrants an apology in the first place.  I’m addition, imagining that they have hurt their victim in “some way” implies that they don’t even know specifically what they’re apologizing for.  If this is the case, then it’s really not worth taking the time to offer a hollow apology in the first place.

After you’ve said that you’re sorry, taken 100% accountability for your specific actions, and shown through your tone, body language, and words genuine remorse, I want to invite you to go the extra mile and summon the courage to ask your victim  if there’s anything else they feel that you owe them an apology for that you may have missed. Seeking this additional feedback from the person you’ve hurt shows a sincere interest on your part to make things right and take ownership for every last drop of your hurtful behavior.

If the person you’ve hurt takes you up on your offer and shares new information that they believe warrants an additional apology, acknowledge ( if their additional feedback rings true for you) that you overlooked that piece and take ownership for those parts as well.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve seen this gesture help victims  feel deeply  validated  and heard, and they will deeply appreciate your willingness to  give them the time and space to voice any additional pain that’s been been festering  inside their hearts.

At this point, it’d be a very gracious overture on your part to ask how your behavior impacted the person that you hurt.  As you listen to him or her share their thoughts and feelings, be compassionate and empathetic.  Offer them your undivided attention, and acknowledge and validate how your behavior has impacted them.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I always encourage my clients to use active listening skills that reflect back to their victim, for example,”I truly hear that when I called you a nobody you felt belittled and degraded, and I’m deeply sorry for that.  Truthfully, I would feel belittled and degraded too if someone I cared about called me a nobody.”  Following your empathetic words, take this opportunity to reassure the person that you’ve hurt how you really feel about them.  For example, you might want to say,   “I want to reassure you, though, that I don’t feel that way about you at all.  On the contrary, I value you very much and I hold you in very high regard.”

After you’ve given your victim the time and space to share how your actions impacted him, and after you’ve offered them genuine compassion and empathy for the pain you’ve caused them, and after you’ve reassured them how you truly feel about them, take a moment and ask them if there’s any way that you can support them now and going forward to help them heal from the pain that they’re feeling.  In addition, you may even want to ask them if there’s some act of service you can do for them that will symbolically show them that you really want to move forward in repairing your relationship.

If and/or after you’ve mutually agreed on a specific act of service or gesture that will help to rebuild the trust and safety in your relationship, take a moment to reassure the person that you’ll continue to actively work on developing your own self- awareness so that you make every effort to never hurt that person in the same way again. You may even want to let them know something specifically that you’ll be doing to ensure that it’s your sincere intention to never repeat your hurtful behavior.  For example, you might say, “By the way, in my resolve to make sure I never call you belittling names again, I’m going to be seeing a therapist weekly for the next 6 months.”  Or you might say, ” To ensure that I don’t drink too much and black out and embarrass you again, I’m going to get sober and attend AA meetings at least 3 days a week.”

As a marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that such actions show the person that you’ve hurt that you’re willing to back up your apology with specific personal growth steps to ensure that you don’t hurt them again. When you do this, you’re immediately beginning the process of getting back into integrity with that person as well as filling them up with an increased sense of safety, trust, and reassurance that you’re going to be taking active measures to grow as a man or woman so that you treat that person and everyone else in your life in ways that are in alignment with your highest self and your core values.

After you’ve participated in an act of service to rebuild the person’s faith in you, and after you’ve offered them reassurance that you intend to take specific actions to ensure that you don’t repeat your hurtful behavior again, rest assured that a very significant and meaningful part of your journey to make amends and say that you’re sorry is finally over!!  In many ways, though, your journey to make amends has also just begun because it takes time to rebuild the trust and safety that you broke when you hurt someone else.  In addition, your journey to repair your relationship has  just begun because you must now follow through on your pledge to take specific actions to grow and evolve as a person so that you do everything in your power to not re-injure your colleague, friend, family member, or lover again.

If opening your heart and learning to be vulnerable and accountable enough to say that you’re sorry to someone that you’ve hurt is challenging for you, I want to take this opportunity to invite you to visit with me so that I can help you to learn the art of offering someone else a heart-felt apology.  I trust that you’ll find that learning this art form will serve as a tremendous catalyst for your personal grown, and it will help you to repair relationships that you want to salvage much sooner than later.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I sincerely hope that you found it enlightening and useful.


John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist






Image taken from fotosearch.com

Image taken from fotosearch.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Group Facilitator, I’ve already written in a past blog about the ingredients that make for amazing group therapy experiences!!  In this blog, however, I want to take a moment to shed light on the ingredients that can kill the momentum of a thriving group and/or cause a group to wither and die out entirely.  As you read about these poisonous ingredients, I want to invite you to also consider how some of these particular behaviors may be hurting your relationships at home  and at work too.  Groups, after all, are often microcosms for how we  show up in our lives in general.

Like cyanide poisoning, the following ingredients that that can kill groups, friendships, romantic relationships, and chemistry on sports teams include the following:

1)  Gossiping with fellow group members about each other; This can lead to group alliances and coalitions forming in addition to triangulation among group members; These relationship dynamics destroy opportunities for open, honest, and direct communication between group members.

2)  Disregarding the confidentiality agreement that everyone agrees to when they originally join a group; Doing so kills trust, safety, and other group member’s willingness to be vulnerable and honest with themselves and with everyone else.

3)  Shaming other group members.  This includes belittling them, invalidating their feelings, emotionally abusing them, etc.  Shaming can be done with words, a person’s tone, or even his or her facial expressions.  Eye rolling, for example, is a physiological way of passive-aggressively shaming another person.

4)  A narrow-minded intolerance towards another’s beliefs, values, goals, sexual orientation, emotions, etc.

5)  Name calling:  Calling someone else a name that’s intended to belittle them and hurt them threatens group safety and causes the recipient of the name calling to contract and shut down.  In addition, the person doing the name calling instills fear in the other group members, so he or she becomes a threat to the safety of the group container.

5)  Being defensive by talking over people, turning away from people, or digging in your heels and proving you’re take on things is right without considering other perspectives and points of view.

6)  Being contemptuous of others, haughty, smug, aloof, intimidating, arrogant, and self-righteous.

7)  Having a closed mind and a closed heart.  If you’re unwilling to open your mind to new ideas and listen to different perspectives, and if you’re unwilling to open your heart and share your feelings, then you will get very little out of your group therapy experience.

8)  Unleashing judgments on group members and/or offering unsolicited advice and feedback.  The purpose of joining a group is to do your own work;  it is not to rescue and/or fix other group members.

9)  Breaking group agreements such as being on time, honoring my 24 hour cancellation policy, honoring the group’s confidentiality agreement, etc.  When you break group agreements, you threaten group safety.  In addition, you are demonstrating to the other group members that you may not be reliable, trustworthy, etc.

If and/or when a group member is out of integrity and breaks a group agreement, it’s important then to be willing to explore the unconscious shadows ( reasons or motives) that may have compelled you to break the group agreement in the first place.  This exploration can turn into a growth opportunity for everyone in the group.  If you’re unwilling to engage in this self-exploration, however, you’ll likely create a sense of disconnection between you and the other group members.

10)   This group therapy NO-NO goes without saying:  there can be absolutely NO physical abuse among group members.  If you feel a charge or if you feel triggered by another group member, you’ve been given a rich opportunity to grow.  The person who  triggered you has been a gift to you in your life!!

11)  Do not pressure other group members to share more than they are ready to share at any given moment.  Everyone must feel safe and comfortable to grow at their own pace.

12)  Don’t delight in stirring the pot and intentionally triggering people.  Again, be in group to do your own work, and let that be your primary focus.

13)  Whether it be in my Men’s group, co-ed group, or Sports Psychology group, please do not flirt with other group members or attempt to date them.  Men and women may have unresolved issues with members of the opposite sex, and so being approached by another group member may cause a person to feel unsafe.  Even if two group members share a mutual attraction, dating while participating in the same group can create too much drama and upheaval in the group and destabilize the group in the end.  Plus, couples in groups may become less comfortable sharing their true thoughts and feelings because they don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings.

Alas, thank you for taking the time to read my blog on Group Therapy NO-NO’s!!

If you’re interested in participating in one of my groups, please don’t hesitate to let me know.  Also, please keep this list of Group Therapy NO-NO’s in mind when you’re in my group or when you’re in any group for that matter!!


John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist




Image from nitezola.wordpress.com

Image from nitezola.wordpress.com


As a Marriage and Family Therapist, communication is key to building rapport with clients.  Communication is the key that unlocks the doors behind which people often hide.  Communication is the key that opens their hearts.  There are many facets and dimensions to effective communication.  In this blog post, I will share with you one facet to effective communication that will hopefully be enlightening and thought-provoking for you:  Communication has little to do with the words that we say.  That’s right.  According to tons of data and research, the words we use make up only 7% of our communication.  Another 38% of our communication consists of our tone.  Last but certainly not least, the remaining 55% of our communication stems from our body language, or physiology.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I can teach you the kinds of words to use when speaking with your business partner, friend, lover, etc.  Although words only make up 7% of communication, do no let this statistic mislead you.  Words carry a lot of weight, and they can make or break a conversation.  In addition to words we use, Family Therapists also know that the tone a person uses in his communication with others is instrumental in bringing either harmony or discord between two people.  If a person’s tone is abrasive or indifferent, for example, the communication between two people can go South very fast.  Finally, a family therapist like myself knows that our body language communicates an incredible amount of valuable information to whomever we’re speaking to.  Heck, police interrogators watch a person’s body language far more closely than a suspect’s words.  This is precisely because they know that a person’s body language reveals so much about a person’s true feelings, intentions, motives, etc.

If you’re struggling to communicate effectively to the significant people in your lives, I want to invite you to visit with me or any highly capable Marriage and Family Therapist or NLP Practitioner.  Communication is, after all, an art form, and to become a talented artist takes mentoring, time, and practice.  In the meantime, remember that to be a better communicator, you must be mindful of your words, your tone, and your body language.

John Boesky


Please read more articles on the Self-help Articles page.



Body Language in SportsMost people already know and understand that our thoughts influence how we feel, and how we feel influences how we move and carry ourselves.  In light of this knowledge, athletes are encouraged to think positively.  These positive thoughts in turn help them to feel better about themselves, their performance, and their chances of being  victorious when competing against others.  Such positive feelings include more self-confidence, resilience, motivation, passion, courage, joy, focus, etc.  As they feel better, their body language changes for the better too.  They keep their heads up, their chests expand, their breathing deepens,  their shoulders widen, their muscles relax, etc.  Soon enough, their thoughts, feelings, and body language are positively congruent and positively aligned, and they have entered into an optimal state of arousal.  They’re ready to compete and perform up to their full potential.

What most athletes don’t know, however, is that there is a bi-directional relationship between the mind and body.  Just as our thoughts influence our feelings and our body language, our body language influences our feelings and our thoughts.  It’s very important to remember this on days when an athlete is having negative thoughts and/or feeling tired or down.  He can change his negative state by simply changing his body language, and by doing so he’ll immediately start to feel better and think more positively.  In addition, his positive body language will send a clear and powerful message to his opponent:  “I’m a fighter, I believe in myself, and I’m here to win.”

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I want to help you transform your body language for the better so that your confidence builds, your mood brightens, your focus sharpens, and your opponent sees how you carry yourself differently, with more swagger and self-belief.  When you’re ready to make this fundamental change to your body, mind, and spirit, give me a call!!

John Boesky


Sports Performance Consultant


What Seperates The Best From The Rest

image taken from www.vibe.com

image taken from www.vibe.com

Athletes who excel in sports generally love the process that they must go through in order to achieve excellence in their chosen sport. This process includes growing mentally, physically, and spiritually. Although they prefer winning over losing, they value performing up to their potential and competing against the very best even more. Given this, these elite athletes tend to be more process-oriented and performance-oriented rather than outcome-oriented.

When they feel anxious before a competition, they choose to interpret their anxiety as excitement instead. They believe that the excitement that they’re feeling is their bodies’ way of awakening their senses so that they feel alert and prepared for the battle ahead. They also recognize that feeling excited before a competition is normal.

When they feel fear before a competition, they recognize that this feeling is perfectly normal too. They recognize that being fearless doesn’t mean being without fear. It means showing up and doing your best even when you are feeling afraid. In addition to understanding this fundamental truth, elite athletes recognize that their fear is merely their unconscious’ way of trying to keep their ego and self-identity intact. With this in mind, they choose to acknowledge their fear and thank it for trying to love and protect them. Feeling acknowledged and appreciated, their fear subsides and goes away.

When elite athletes lose, they take their losses or setbacks as opportunities for self-reflection, growth, and improvement. They believe that there is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback. This belief enables them to take positive lessons away from their losses, which in turn helps them to release any residual negative feelings they’re holding onto inside.

These athletes also engage in pre-performance rituals before competition that help them to feel calm, centered and focused. For example, they’ll pack water bottles in their equipment bags, an extra set of clothes, protein bars, etc. They do this to avoid feeling discombobulated when they show up to compete. They want to feel instead that everything is in order, and this perception in turn enables them to feel calm and focused only on their performance.

The top athletes also engage in rituals, habits, and strategies while they are competing that enable them to achieve great results over and over again across time. For example, some professional tennis players will do the following ritual in the same sequence each and every time they go the line to serve: First they’ll take a deep breath in from their diaphragm to release the tension they feel in their bodies. Next they’ll picture where they want their serve to go, and they’ll imagine it landing in that exact spot. After that, they’ll bounce the ball three times. At this point, their ritual has been completed, and they toss the ball up in the air and serve.

Finally, the best athletes engage in rituals after competition. Some may stretch, while others may take a cold bath to reduce the inflammation in their joints and muscles. There are others that prefer to spend their time after competing journaling on what they did really well, and they’ll also make note of what they’d like to work on more in practice. These kinds of rituals and routines following competition give these athletes a sense of closure after a long day of competing. They also offer their bodies a chance to recover, and they give their minds a chance to reflect as well as learn and grow from their experiences.

In addition to incorporating rituals into their athletic performances, the best athletes also masterfully access their ideal, peak performance states whenever they want to. Some athletes, for example, choose to get into calm, relaxed states before and during competition, while others choose to feel confident, aggressive, and unstoppable.

They access their desired states by calling on specific auditory, visual, kinesthetic, gustatory, and/or olfactory stimuli that trigger neurologically linked internal feeling states . Some MMA fighters, for example, will deliberately play their favorite rock songs in their heads before or during a fight in order to feel pumped up, powerful, and unstoppable. Some other fighters might choose to picture their children waiting for them at home, and this image unleashes in them the animalistic desire to fight for their physical safety and financial security.

One state that top athletes choose to access a lot when they’re competing is the state of being totally present in the here and now. They forget about the mistakes that they’ve made before, and they choose instead to focus their attention only on the present moment.

They’re able to let go of past mistakes so quickly because they understand that experiencing ups and downs and going through troubled waters are intrinsic parts of the process of achieving excellence. Having made peace with this reality, they learn to become comfortable being uncomfortable, and they learn how to adjust, adapt, and compensate on off days.

Speaking of off days, when they happen top athletes stop the accompanying negative thoughts in their heads dead in their tracks. They’ll use mental imagery or some other technique to acknowledge them and then let them go, and they’ll immediately replace them with positive thoughts, uplifting affirmations, and empowering incantations. In turn, these athletes remain clear-headed, focused, and determined even when the chips seem down. For them, the chips are down only for the moment, and they believe that they’re going to grab the momentum right back.

In addition to monitoring their minds, the best athletes also pay close attention to their bodies. They see to it that their body language remains positive at all times because they understand that just as their body language is influenced by the talk that is going on in their heads, the talk in their heads is influenced by how they carry themselves in their bodies. In other words, they understand that their psychology and their physiology are inter-related and feed off of each other. If they’re shoulders are slumped, for example, they’re likely to start having negative thoughts. If they smile and stand tall, however, they’re likely to think positively about the challenges they’re facing.

In addition to managing their minds and bodies, great athletes also manage their ego’s desire to control everything when they’re competing. They focus instead on controlling what they can, and they let go of their wish to control what they cannot. For example, they realize that sometimes they cannot control the outcome of a game, match, fight, etc. If a basketball team is shooting lights out from half court all night long, for example, there’s little that the opposing team can do about it. If a boxing referee is biased and intends on giving his decision to one fighter over another regardless of what goes on inside of the ring, there’s little that the unfairly treated fighter can do about it unless he scores a knockout. Finally, if a tennis player hears garbage trucks making loud, thumping noises adjacent to the court he’s playing on, there’s not much that he can do about that either.

The best athletes realize that all that they can really do is focus on the things that are within their control, such as their mental and physical preparation, their attitude, their effort level, their focus, their game plan, and their execution of that game plan. By keeping things simple and focusing on only what’s within their control, these athletes feel more at ease than peers who futile try to control the uncontrollable. Consequently, they perform better and play up to their potential far more often.

Elite athletes are also known to consistently train very hard, and they keep their focus and effort level during practice the same as they do on the day of competition. As a result, they develop great mental and physical habits that enable them to perform well on game day. Because they’re in tip-top mental and physical shape, the day of competition feels comparatively easy and effortless to them. They’ve prepared for the worst, and now they have an opportunity to perform at their best.

Moreover, because the perceived demands of competition are balanced by their perceived capabilities, they’re more likely to feel very relaxed and confident going into competition. These athletes may even experience a state of optimal arousal, often referred to as the “zone” or the “flow”. In this state, everything appears to go smoothly and effortlessly for them. They’re totally absorbed in the moment, and they play with relaxed concentration, controlled intensity, and clarity of thought.

Almost all athletes have strengths in their games as well as weaknesses. Average athletes, though, tend to fall in love with their strengths, and they tend to turn a blind eye to their weaknesses. They figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Since they’ve been winning more often than losing, they figure that they should just stay the course.

Elite athletes, on the other hand, are not content having glaring holes in their games. They are always striving to improve and become more well rounded, and in this vein they regularly dedicate some of their practice time to improving on their weaknesses. Take Tiger Woods, for example. Even though he’s already won 14 major golf tournaments, he still works tirelessly on improving his golf swing. Another athlete who works tirelessly on his weaknesses is Rafael Nadal, the world’s number one tennis player and winner of 9 Majors. Even though Nadal has already accomplished so much in his young tennis career, he has recently improved his volleys, added power to his backhand, and added 15 miles per hour to his serve!!

Even though the top athletes generally rely more on their weapons and strengths on game day, they’re also more willing than others to put them aside for awhile when they’re not working. They focus their attention instead on what is working for them. For example, when great baseline tennis players are hitting errant ground-strokes but are serving and volleying well, they’ll stick with serving and volleying for awhile. This gives them confidence, and this confidence gives every facet of their game a pick-me-up. Soon, the baseline shots that they were missing start landing inside of the lines.


Discover Who Uses Sports Psychologists,
What Happens In A Sport Psychology Session,
And The Many Benefits Of Sports Psychology

Bill Cole, MS, MA
Founder and CEO
William B. Cole Consultants
Silicon Valley, California

Pete Rose“Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist oughta have their head examined.”

This classic joke underscores the unfortunate, still-alive social stigma that people who seek mental help must either be inept, inherently mentally weak or just plain crazy. Athletes who see sports psychologists are sometimes ridiculed and are thought to lack the proper innate mental capabilities — the “right stuff”. In some sports, athletes who use sports psychologists are actually ostracized.

This negative, critical approach is incredibly sad. It’s also incorrect and ignorant.

It shows an amazing lack of knowledge about the wide-ranging extent sports psychologists are embraced by many, many athletes — from beginners to champions — in almost every sport in the world. It also maintains age-old destructive myths and misunderstandings about the value and workings of the sport psychology field.

This article’s purpose is to help athletes, parents and coaches understand and come to terms with their reluctance to utilize the services of sports psychologists. It dispels many of the myths that surround what happens in a sports psychology coaching session and explains the benefits of working with a sports psychologist.

Let’s first look at the wide array of sports that use sports psychologists as trusted and valued members of their coaching staffs.

Who Uses Sports Psychologists?

Sports psychology is no longer a well-kept secret. It seems everyone in sports uses this mind coach, at the very minimum, to not fall behind their competitors. Indeed, working with a sports psychologist can give you the winning edge. Virtually every college, university, national team, Olympic team, and pro team has a sport psychologist on staff. Look at the representation of sports psychologists being utilized across the entire range of sport:

  • Minor league professional sports teams.
  • Individual professional athletes in every sport.
  • Olympic teams in every sport.
  • National coaching associations.
  • National teams in every sport.
  • University and college athletic departments.
  • University and college athletic teams.
  • Individual college athletes in every sport.
  • Coaches in every sport.
  • Parents in every sport.
    • Individual recreational athletes in every sport.

High Profile Championship Teams Who Use Sports Psychologists
The top teams in sport regularly use sports psychologists to maintain the sharp edge of focus, determination and a winning mind set. Here are five well-known superstar teams that have sports psychologists on their coaching staffs:

  • Baseball World Series Champions New York Yankees
  • Basketball NBA World Champions San Antonio Spurs
  • NFL Football Superbowl Champions Dallas Cowboys
  • NCAA National Football Champions University of Nebraska
  • Baseball College World Series Champions Stanford University .

There is one man who is probably the biggest devotee of mind training in all of sports. Superstar pro basketball coach Phil Jackson is a Zen master extraordinaire. During his tenure as head Coach for both the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers he brought home the goods — two NBA world championship trophies. Jackson is a firm believer of sports psychology, with a Zen twist. He meditates regularly and tells his players, “players can be stars, but only teams win”. Jackson is considered one of the smartest coaches in basketball history and he uses sports psychology to get the winning edge.
Which Sports Most Often Use Sports Psychologists?
This is difficult to determine exactly, but based on the sports psychology literature, and other evidence, it is probably safe to say that golf is #1 and tennis is #2. There are no other sports that come close to these two in the volume of books and articles that are written on the mental game each year. Indeed, top pro golf stars like Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Mark O’Meara, Greg Norman, David Duval, Vijay Singh and Jack Nicklaus all have used, or are currently using sports psychologists on their coaching teams.

Look at the big names in pro golf who have used sports psychology consultants. It’s estimated that well over 300 of the pro game’s players regularly use sports psychologists:

Steve Elkington, Denis Watson, Kirk Triplett, Dave Stockton, Lee Janzen, Cameron Beckman, Brandie Burton, Stephen Ames, Chip Beck, Davis Love III, Nick Price, Brad Faxon, John Daly, Brian Barnes, Christian Cevaer, Hollis Stacy, Beth Daniel, Woody Austin, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Michael Campbell, Frank Lickliter II, Fred Funk, E.J. Pfister, Kirk Triplett, Scott McCarron, Payne Stewart, Corey Pavin, Ben Crenshaw, Bob Estes, Donna Andrews, Justin Leonard, Hank Kuehne, Michelle McCann, Brandi Burton, Mark McCumber, Rachael Teske, Ju-Yun Kim, Nancy Scranton, Bill Glasson, Brian Gay, Charles Howell III, Ty Tryon, Luke Donald, Jim Carter, Frank Nobilo, David Morland IV, John Cook, David Frost, Mike Grob, David Ogrin, Matt Weibring, Gary Nicklaus, Billy Andrade and Stewart Cink.

Do these 65 golf pros convince you that sports psychology is a must to get the mental edge? They play golf for a living and want every edge possible. They are already strong mentally, but want to continue to improve and so seek the services of a sports psychologist. Why not you?

Are There Any Sports That Don’t Use Sports Psychologists?

It’s difficult to think of a sport that does not use sports psychologists. These are just a few that use mental training as part of their regular practice regimens: National and international teams in rugby, soccer/football, yachting, Formula One racing, martial arts, hockey, gymnastics, cheerleading, rowing, swimming and diving, track and field, distance running, triathlon, weight and power lifting, badminton, racquetball, ice skating, dance, lacrosse and field hockey.

Even the so-called “minor sports” such as darts, bowling, rifle and handgun shooting, archery and billiards have an extensive sports psychology literature. We at mentalgamecoach.com can help athletes, parents and coaches in any sport maximize their performances with our extensive collection of articles on peak performance.

Why Do Some Athletes Resist Seeing A Sports Psychologist?

Even knowing about the huge number of top college teams, pro teams, Olympic teams and individuals that utilize sports psychology services, how is it that some athletes, coaches and parents are still quite reluctant to hire a sports psychologist?

First, many people are very hesitant to see a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist and psychotherapist for non-sport issues, so it should be no surprise that they are also leery of seeking the services of a sports psychologist. Their concerns and fears are so strong, that many people who would definitely benefit from these psychological services never receive them. We each know people who should go to their family physicians, but who avoid medical care due to a fear of hearing bad news, being asked to make lifestyle changes, fear of being asked to undergo surgery, the inconvenience or dislike of having to take medication, and a number of other factors. The lifelong smoker who fears hearing the inevitable when the cough won’t leave them and the over-eater who does not want to be told they must cut back come to mind. They both know what they will hear, and at the same time, they fear it.

People typically do not go to a physician unless it is their annual checkup or they have a medical problem. In contrast, people do not go to a clinical psychologist for an annual checkup, but only when they have a problem. This accounts, in large part, for the negative public image of sports psychologists. The public views athletes who go to sports psychologists as “having mental problems”, rather than wanting educational assistance with their mental game. The public would be well advised to consult their physicians, clinical psychologists and other professionals on an annual or semi-annual basis, or more frequently, for routine maintenance checkups. Athletes are equally advised to have regular tune-ups for their mental game.

Resistance exists in all helping professions. Sports is no different. Ask any group of athletes and coaches this question. “Who here would say that the mental game is very important?” Probably most all hands would go up. Ask them, “At the higher levels of sports, is it fair to say that the mental game makes the difference in playing well and in winning?” ALL hands would go up. Then ask them, “How many of you here practice the mental game on a regular basis?” Very few hands will rise.

Why this paradoxical discrepancy? Here is at least one answer.

In the October 2003 issue of the journal Athletic Insight Thomas Ferraro, Ph.D. and Shannon Rush, M.A. published their study, named Why Athletes Resist Sport Psychology. In it they make the argument related in the question and answer scenario related above, that there is a disconnect between the desire athletes and coaches have to succeed, and their discomfort with using sports psychologists. Ferraro and Rush state:

“The question that emerges from this is as follows. If so many athletes need psychological support and are aware that they have this need why don’t they seek treatment more often? Further if they do come to our office, why do more than 50% drop out within four sessions, well before they are ready?”

Indeed, Ferraro and Rush point out that many athletes suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and other psychological maladies, including some even more serious disorders. Clearly, many athletes suffer in silence, not knowing that help is only a phone call away. They relate that it has been postulated that narcissism is prevalent in sports, and athletes who have this affliction are particularly reluctant to work with a sports psychologist because of their fear of becoming dependent on others.

In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology (Vol. 50, No. 3) by Iowa State University assistant psychology professor David Vogel, PhD, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee assistant educational psychology professor Stephen Wester, PhD, it was suggested that mental health professionals need to better anticipate the reluctance potential patients have about the counseling process. They stated that “only one-third of people who could likely benefit from psychological treatment seek help.” The authors suggest that engaging in therapy is a risky endeavor for most people, and that mental health professionals should help people manage this risk.

We can now begin to see the reasons athletes tend to be reluctant to see sports psychologists. Before we delve into the 72 resistances, here’s a snapshot of who the mental game helpers are. Sports professionals who assist athletes, coaches and parents in maximizing their mental sports performances are known by a variety of names and titles:

  • Sports Psychologist
  • Sport Psychology Consultant
  • Mental Training Coach
  • Mental Game Coach
  • Mind Coach
  • Sports Performance Counselor
  • Performance Enhancement Consultant
  • Sports Psychiatrist

For a deeper understanding of the mental training process and the various types of practitioners who offer these services, please see our article, What’s a Mental Game Coach?

We now shall consider the very real concept of resistance that exists in sports psychology, and for simplicity, consistency and clarity, for the rest of this article, will frame this concept using the terms “sports psychology”, “sports psychologists” and “sports psychology coaching”.

The Top Fears Athletes Have About Seeing A Sports Psychologist

Athletes have a cluster of fears that hold them back from seeking sports psychology services. At the heart of this is the fear of the unknown, the fear of change, feelings of vulnerability and the fear of the psychological. Specifically, athletes tend to have major trepidations about undertaking sports psychology coaching around these seven major issues:

  1.  A fear that they will be asked to change, or be made to change. Change itself can be intimidating.
  2. A fear of being asked potentially embarrassing, personal or “nosy” questions. This can be off-putting to anyone. Personal disclosure, especially about so-called “mental weaknesses” is not something that is highly valued in the sport world.
  3. A fear of being called “mental” or a basket case. Athletes are looked down upon if they regularly publicly complain about or obsess about the details of their mental game. Players who do this are labeled fuss-budgets, whiny or sadly, “psychos”.
  4. A fear of becoming dependent on the sports psychologist.
  5. A fear of loss of confidentiality. A fear that what they say will leak out to their team, parents, coaching staff or others. In any type of counseling and consulting, this is a major concern.
  6. A lack of comfort with talking about feelings and psychological issues. Athletes are creatures of comfort. Their comfort zone is action, physicality and results, not talking about feelings, process or results.

72 Reasons Athletes Are Sometimes Reluctant To See A Sports Psychologist

Let’s now examine the many reasons athletes, parents and coaches give for being reluctant to engage the services of a sports psychologist. Each reason is followed by comments that explain why the concern should not be an issue that would prevent an athlete from seeing a sports psychologist.

  1. I Don’t Have A Psychology Background, So How Can They Help Me? Anyone can benefit from sports psychology training, even with no psychology background. The sports psychologist will guide you step by step, making the concepts easy to understand and implement.
  2. I Don’t Want To Be Interrogated Or Pumped For Information. You will be respected and made to feel comfortable, and will never have to answer any question you don’t want to answer.
  3. I Don’t Know What To Expect, And That Makes Me Uncomfortable. After reading this article you will have a very good idea what to expect in your session. A sports psychology session should be fun, interesting and educational.
  4. If Certain Information About Abuse Is Uncovered, Will The Sports Psychologist “Turn Me In” To The Medical Authorities? Unless the sports psychologist is also a licensed mental health professional or states they are a “mandated reporter” at the outset, this will not happen. Some licensed mental health professionals also provide sports psychology services, but do not disclose that they are mandated reporters. This is a tricky ethical area, one that you should be absolutely clear about before you begin sessions.
  5. If I Have Some Legal Difficulties, Will The Sports Psychologist Turn Me In To The Law? You are correct in knowing that licensed mental health professionals are mandated by law to notify law enforcement and other governmental agencies if they believe you intend to harm yourself or others (including issues about physical abuse or suspicion of sexual abuse to a minor or elder), but sports psychologists are usually not licensed mental health professionals, in most cases, and are not bound by these mandates. You should discuss this with your sports psychologist at the outset of coaching to determine the sports psychologist’s licensure status.
  6. I Don’t Like Being Asked Questions I Don’t Know The Answers To. You won’t be pressured or intimidated. The session is a collegial exchange of information.
  7. I Don’t Want To Look Incompetent In The Eyes Of A Total Stranger. The sports psychologist is there to help you. They don’t see you as being weak, but as being brave for taking the risk to do the work.
  8. If My Coach Learns I Am Seeing A Sports Psychologist, He/She May Be Insulted. Smart coaches know their limits. They also know that two heads are better than one when it comes to coaching. Most coaches are happy to either bring in an expert in the mind game or have you consult one. In an extreme case, your coach does not even need to know what you do away from practice.
  9. I Have A Fear Of Becoming Dependent On The Sports Psychologist. While there is a small chance of this happening short-term, the goal is to make you independent and excellent at self-coaching. Long term, this should not happen.
  10. I Don’t Want To Be Analyzed Or Have My Weaknesses Exposed. While a major benefit of sports psychology work is the assessment and analysis of your mental skills, your confidentiality is guaranteed.
  11. Talking About My Mental Issues Will Make Me Too Self-Conscious About Them, And Only Make Them Worse. Initially, this sometimes briefly happens, but quickly, your over-analysis will go away and be replaced by solid, automatic mental systems that will help you perform well under pressure.
  12. Is It Possible I May Be Secretly Hypnotized? This will not happen without your knowledge or authorization.
  13. Sports Psychology Coaching May Take My Killer Instinct Away. On the contrary, your will to win and your mental toughness will be enhanced.
  14. Will I Be Tricked Into Doing Or Saying Something I Don’t Want To Say Or Do? There are no tricks, no unethical moves. The sports psychologist is dedicated to your safety, well-being and advancement.
  15. Will I Be Asked To Use My Mind In Ways I Can’t Succeed? You will be challenged, and amazed at your new mental powers, but you won’t be asked to do anything at which you can’t succeed.
  16. Will I Be Blamed, Shamed And Labeled A Loser Because I Am Admitting Mental Weakness? Sports psychologists don’t consider your asking for help a mental weakness. They view it as an intelligent request for help and give you a lot of credit and respect for doing so. There is no blaming, just support and encouragement.
  17. Sports Psychology Concepts And Approaches Are Too Complex And Difficult To Understand. Sports psychologists make the content you learn easily digestible, practical and straightforward. Countless athletes of all ages and skills have learned sports psychology concepts and integrated them into their sports performances.
  18. Being Mentally Tough And Being A Winner Are Inborn Qualities, So Seeing A Sport Psychologist Simply Won’t Make A Difference In These Arenas. Anyone, with the proper desire, can become mentally tough and win more than they ever dreamed possible.
  19. I’m Afraid I’ll Be Asked To Change My Entire Sports Training Program To Add Endless Hours Of Mental Training And Homework. You may be able to efficiently adjust your current training regimen, or add some time to your schedule, but it will be very manageable. You will see the value of the mental training and will gladly make time for it.
  20. My Mental Issues Are Unique, So I Probably Won’t Be Helped By A Sports Psychologist. Experienced sports psychologists have helped many athletes with all sorts of issues in many sports. Even though your situation is new to you, they have the experience to help you.
  21. Sports Psychology Won’t Help An Athlete Of My Skill Level. Any skill level can improve through mental training.
  22. Will I Be Asked To Take Any Medications? It would be highly unlikely. Only physicians prescribe and dispense medications. For athletes needing help beyond traditional educational sports psychology training, there are sports psychiatrists, MD’s who are licensed to diagnose and dispense medications. The vast majority of sports psychologists do not prescribe or dispense medication.
  23. Will My Neuroses Be Discussed? This is a term generally found in psychoanalysis. You can find sports psychologists using this orientation, but typically, most practitioners are cognitive-behaviorally based. Your mental obstacles will be discussed. and a plan will be advanced to handle them.
  24. Can’t I Just Avoid Talking About Emotions And Mental Stuff And Just Get A Pep Talk? Some sessions may seem like a pep talk, but if that’s all you needed, your coach and friends could do that for you. Most sports psychology sessions discuss a combination of easy to use techniques and deeper, more interior-focused interventions looking at your motivations, attitudes and beliefs.
  25. I Think I May Be Depressed As Well. Is Sports Psychology A Good Fit For Me? It depends on the extent and type of your depression. That is something that only a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor should diagnose. You may be able to continue sports participation and working with the sports psychologist if your depression is correctly diagnosed and the proper treatment regimen is directed.
  26. I’ve Had Performance Problems A Long, Long Time. Can I Be Helped In A Couple Of Quick Sessions? Typically, long-standing problems take time to resolve. If they are deeper, this requires substantial time. Your sports psychologist should be able to estimate the length of work in the first session.
  27. I Don’t Like To Spend Much Time Reading And Writing, And I Hear They Make You Do A Lot Of Both Of These In Mental Training. You can customize mental training to your preferences, but to gain maximum benefit, some writing in a journal and some reading is quite helpful.
  28. I Hear Sports Psychology Uses Zen And Far Eastern Mystical Voodoo Techniques, And I Don’t Want Any Of That. Though many sports psychology approaches and techniques have come out of Eastern philosophies like Zen Buddhism, you do not need to be an adherent of these disciplines or believe in them to use them to full effect.
  29. Will I Have To Change My Personality Or Temperament To Do Mental Training? Sports Psychology does not ask you to change how you are as a person, including your personality, temperament and taste for vanilla ice cream.
  30. Will I Be Hooked Up To A Biofeedback Machine? Biofeedback is a potent tool in performance enhancement and stress management. This is something you could utilize if you want.
  31. It’s Easier To Stay Out Of Something Than To Get Out Of Something. I Don’t Want To Be Pressured Into Signing Up For A Series Of Sessions That I May Not Want. An ethical sports psychologist should not pressure you to do anything, including signing on for a long contract.
  32. Going To A Shrink Shows You Can’t Handle Your Own Problems, That You Are Weak. I suppose we could say that about anyone going to any professional or expert for help, but we don’t believe that to be true. Clearly, people in the helping professions are there to do just that–help you overcome obstacles you can’t yet handle on your own. They want to teach you how to be your own best coach.
  33. I Tried Counseling Before And It Didn’t Work, So Why Should Sports Psychology Work? Sports psychology is not counseling, although some of the elements are similar. While the thrust of counseling is therapeutic, the purpose of sports psychology is an educational one.
  34. Is Sports Psychology Compatible With The Medications I Take? It depends on what you are taking, and, except for extreme medication cases, a sports psychologist should be able to work with your medications and still help you.
  35. I Have Some Secrets I Don’t Want Anyone To Know About. Is There A Chance The Sports Psychologist Would Try To Get Them Out Of Me? Your secrets can stay with you as long as you like. No one will attempt to make you say anything you don’t want to say.
  36. I Might Begin Talking About Some Very Emotional Issues, Possibly Lose Emotional Control And Even Begin To Cry, And That Would Be Embarrassing. Sports psychology coaching is a safe place where you can express all sorts of thoughts and feelings, so you shouldn’t feel self-conscious about any emotions you display.
  37. They May Make Me Take Some Psychological Test. You only take the tests and assessments you want to take. You may find though, that some tests give you a very quick and accurate insight into yourself as a person and a performer.
  38. Will They Tape Record The Sessions? I Want Privacy. Sessions are recorded only if you agree to that. Sometimes you may want to be videotaped so you and your sports psychologist can analyze your performance and make recommendations.
  39. Who Else Will Be There? Anyone you want can be in your sessions, whether its in person or on the phone. Often people bring in their parents, coaches and team mates to gain additional insight into their performances.
  40. Will The Sports Psychologist Contact Anyone Else I Know And Ask Them Questions About Me? Not without your permission. You may consider this though, as an adjunct for the sports psychologist to gain additional helpful perspectives beyond yours.
  41. Will The Therapist Try To Drag My Other Family Members Into Sessions? Only the people you approve come into your sessions. Your family in particular know you well and could provide insightful information that could help you improve your situation.
  42. My Friend Had A Bad Experience With A Sports Psychologist Once And I Don’t Want That To Happen To Me. You have to evaluate every experience from your own perspective, and perhaps you will have more success than your friend did.
  43. I Hear That Sports Psychologists Just Give You A Pep Talk And Tell You To Think Positive. Sports psychologists definitely help you think positive and maintain healthy, winning attitudes and beliefs, and they sometimes give you a pep talk, but they go far beyond that to give you assessment, structure, guidance, advice, perspective, confidence and proper mental performance techniques.
  44. I Don’t Want Anyone Tinkering With My Physical Technique To Improve My Mental Game. For the most part, sports psychologists do not focus on your physical technique or your physical conditioning, but they first seek to rule out that your performance deficits are from non-mental causes.
  45. Sports Psychology Sounds Negative Because All You Do Is Talk About Problems. All counseling and therapy systems focus on discovering your problems and concerns and then ameliorating them. Sports psychology also focuses on removing the obstacles that stand in your way of sports success. That’s a positive process to get rid of the negativity that holds you back.
  46. No One Could Possibly Help Me With The Problems I Have. It may seem like your problems are extreme and insurmountable, but there is hope. Many athletes have come to sports psychologists and have been delighted when they learned that there is help for virtually any kind of sports difficulty.
  47. I Heard They Make You Talk About Your Parents, And I Don’t Want To Get Into That. It is fairly rare for sports psychologists to get into your parental issues unless there are some deeper obstacles holding you back. You talk only about the things you want to discuss.
  48. I Hear Sports Psychologists Make You Talk About Your Childhood, And I Don’t Want To Do That. This is not a standard topic you would be asked to discuss unless you have long-standing, deeper issues that are blocking you, and you and the sports psychologist thought that looking at some of your childhood issues were relevant.
  49. I Went To A Psychotherapist Once And I Don’t Want Any More Therapy. Sports psychologists do not deliver therapeutic services. They do use some of the modalities, approaches and tools of counseling and therapy, but their focus is on performance enhancement, not therapeutic outcomes.
  50. I Read A Book On Sports Psychology That Didn’t Help Me, So How Can A Sports Psychologist Help Me? Reading psychology books can be helpful for some people, but nothing can take the place of a sports psychologist who will help you with your specific performance issues in a timely, accurate and personalized manner.
  51. I’m Afraid The Sports Psychologist Will Ask Me To Make A Commitment To A Series Of Sessions, And I Don’t Like Being Sold And Pressured. No one should pressure you to purchase something you don’t want, but being asked to make a commitment is quite reasonable, especially if your problems have been long-standing or your goals are high.
  52. Going To A Sports Psychologist May Conflict With My Religious Beliefs. The approaches and modalities used by sports psychologists are not connected with any religion, church or belief system. The techniques they use require no religious affiliation or practice to work.
  53. Having To Seek Sports Psychology Help Shows My Faith In God Is Weak. Many athletes make religion and their faith in God part of their sports experience, but asking for help from a sports psychologist does not mean you have a lack of faith.
  54. My Image Of A Sports Psychologist Is Them Sitting There Stone-Silent, Making You Do All The Talking. This is a popular image taken from countless movies and cartoons of the old-style Freudian therapist sitting silently while the patient free associates from the couch. We don’t do that in sports psychology, but we do ask that you talk so we can help you figure out what is happening with you.
  55. I Don’t Want To Have To Lie Down On A Couch And Be “Psychoanalyzed”. You will not be asked to get on a couch. And Freudian psychology is not the favorite approach used by most sports psychologists.
  56. I Don’t Know Anyone Who Was Helped By Sports Psychology. Please refer to the lists of the thousands of athletes, teams and coaches who have used and who currently use sports psychologists at the national, international and professional levels, posted at the top of this article.
  57. How Would I Tell The Sports Psychologist I Want To Stop Sessions Without Making Them Feel Rejected? You can do this at any time, and you don’t have to take care of them emotionally or worry about their reaction to this. They understand that sometimes you need a break or a different sports psychologist.
  58. I Don’t Want To Be Rejected Or Disliked By A Someone I Don’t Know. It does seem like a scary proposition, talking about personal matters with someone you don’t know all that well, but you have to start somewhere. They won’t reject you or dislike you. They want you to succeed.
  59. Talking To A Sports Psychologist Is Admitting That Deep Down Inside, You Are A Very Flawed Person. Seeing a sports psychologist is an act of courage that shows you are intelligently seeking assistance in an area in which you are not an expert. If you believe you are flawed, that is an area that will greatly affect your sports performances as well as your life, and is one that you should discuss.
  60. What If They Can’t Help Me? You have to find the right person who you can really connect with and who can genuinely assist you in your specific situation. Be patient and find the right person who can help.
  61. What If They Label Me Mentally Ill? That won’t happen. sports psychologists don’t use those terms or see people in those ways. They view people as having great potential, and as simply having difficulties in their sports performances.
  62. I Don’t Want To Be Placed Into A Little Box Where They “Diagnose You” And Name Your “Mental Disorder”. Sports psychologists don’t do this. Counselors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists must submit an “official diagnosis” to insurance companies, but we in the sport world assess you without “labeling or diagnosing” you.
  63. I Don’t Want To Deal With Lots Of Details And Minutiae. Details are what success is all about. They are important details, or the sports psychologist would not bring them up. Just as a physician is precise and specific in laying out a treatment plan for you, the sports psychologist is very careful about helping you create a success plan, that of necessity, has details about nuanced adjustments you will be making in your thinking, emotions and behavior.
  64. They May Pressure Me To Make Changes I Don’t Want To Make. No one will pressure you to do anything, particularly changes you prefer not to make. You are in the driver’s seat every step of the way.
  65. I Don’t Like Strangers Telling Me What To Do. Your sports psychologist will give you some advice and counsel, but the decisions you make are up to you.
  66. My Parents Said Don’t Talk To Strangers, And Now They Want Me To Open Up To A Stranger? It does seem odd to be telling personal things to someone you don’t yet know very well, but sports psychologists are professionals, trained to make you feel comfortable and able to share important details that they can then use to help you maximize your performance.
  67. Will They Make Me Stop My Superstitions Or Habits That Make Me Play Well? Many athletes have superstitions or rituals that make them play better. You can keep these if they help you.
  68. I Don’t Want Anyone Judging Me. Experienced sports psychologists will never pass judgment on you or blame you. They are there to help you and make you feel comfortable so you can move ahead in your sport performance.
  69. I Don’t Want Someone I Don’t Know Telling Me How To Live My Life. You won’t be directed or controlled, and further, you can have a dialogue about how you can improve your sports performances, but you make the final decisions.
  70. If I Act Crazy Or I Am Diagnosed A Certain Way, Can They Hospitalize Me Against My Will? No, this will not happen. Sports psychologists don’t do those things. They don’t call anyone crazy and they don’t diagnose, using the medical taxonomies and protocols that clinical psychologists and psychiatrists use.
  71. My Parents/Spouse/Coach Is “Making Me”Go To The Sports Psychologist And I Resent That. It is common that someone strongly encourages you to go a sports psychologist, but you should have the final say in the matter. Starting coaching under duress doesn’t make much sense, or go very well.
  72. I Am Concerned That The Advice I Get From The Sports Psychologist Will Conflict With What My Sports Coaches Tells Me. This is a very common concern, and it is easily overcome by working with your coaches and anyone else who helps you, or by asking you what they are teaching you. The sports psychologist will balance and manage his or her advice and interventions around the approaches your other coaches are using with you. There should be no conflicts.

So there you have it, 72 common concerns athletes have that make them reluctant to see a sports psychologist. Perhaps you found some of your concerns in this list, and you are now more open to seeing a sports psychologist.

What Happens In A Sport Psychology Session?

Sports psychology coaching is a process, a learning experience. It’s an opportunity to grow as an athlete and as a person. It’s an enlightening growth process, and a very interesting one. You will learn more about yourself as an athlete, and as a person.

It’s a special time that is all yours, for you to use any way that you see fit. It’s your own personal mental training class and consulting session. It’s a chance to receive personalized teaching from an expert in the mental game. It’s a custom coaching class that focuses on your mind.

Here is what takes place during a sports psychology coaching session. This list demystifies the sports psychology coaching process and gives you confidence that your sports psychologist has your best interests and well-being in mind at all times. In the sports psychology coaching session you will be able to:

  1. Discuss any performance issues that trouble you or concern you.
  2. Talk about any emotional obstacles holding you back.
  3. Explore any technical issues that affect your mental game.
  4. Engage in creative exploration of how to resolve these issues.
  5. Understand the mind-body connection and how to make it work for you.
  6. Gain additional perspectives on your sport experiences and challenges.
  7. Feel deeply listened to and respected as you discuss your problems.
  8. Assess your mental strengths and weaknesses.
  9. Devise a mental training plan to help you overcome mental weaknesses.
  10. Discover learning experiences and exercises to help you become self aware.
  11. Share the kind of things and ask the kind of questions you would normally not be able to share with your friends, parents or coaches.
  12. Grow from being assigned mental training homework.
  13. Be assessed on a variety of mental measures to increase your awareness.
  14. Receive assistance in making better decisions about your issues.
  15. Benefit from a viewpoint other than your own.
  16. Make action plans to bring your goals to reality.
  17. Learn a wide variety of mental skills.
  18. See charts and illustrations to help you understand key concepts.
  19. Learn self-regulation skills for emotional, mental and physical control.
  20. Ask any questions you may have about your sports experiences.
  21. Discuss sensitive issues in a safe, confidential environment.
  22. Gain the perspective from someone who has been a successful athlete, coach and mental trainer.
  23. Set up weekly and monthly structures that help you stay accountable to your goals and dreams.
  24. Replace negative thought patterns with positive ones.
  25. Help you realize higher levels of confidence.
  26. Set goals that help you learn faster, perform better and enjoy yourself more.
  27. Familiarize yourself with the zone and be able to enter it more often.
  28. Navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of change.
  29. Experience high quality communication skills.
  30. Rehearse mental skills.
  31. Have a dialogue that helps you think and solve your own problems.
  32. Hear advice, suggestions and counsel.
  33. Receive ongoing support and feedback.

Your Next Steps In Mental Mastery

In essence, sports psychology coaching is a valuable, specialized educational experience, one that will benefit you far beyond your sport experiences. It’s a lifetime investment in yourself as a person. The insights you learn and the skills you build will carry over to many important varied applications for school, business and life itself.

Sports psychologists exist for one reason only — to help you maximize your sport experiences. They want you to succeed. They want to help you grow as an athlete and as a person. I hope this article has helped put aside some of your fears and concerns about sports psychology and deepened your understanding of this fascinating field. I encourage you to avail yourself of the wisdom and expertise of sports psychologists so you can reach more of your sporting and human potential.



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image from butler.osu.edu

image from butler.osu.edu

Anger is one of the most baffling and cunning emotions that people try to get a handle on in our world today. It is the most enigmatic of all emotions, the most daunting, and the most awe-inspiring. Some people recoil from anger, and wish it would just disappear off the face of the earth. They fear their own anger, or fear being the recipient of someone else’s anger. Conversely, other people gravitate towards anger, and delight in it, whether it is their own anger or someone else’s. They feel momentarily invigorated and empowered by it, and enjoy seeing the fear that it instills in others.

Some people are happily addicted to their anger, and would never leave home without it. Others would like nothing more than to let their anger go, yet feel helpless in their own efforts to do so. Men tend to channel their anger outwards, while women tend to direct their anger inwards. Children often grow up full of anger, and choose to either bury it inside or vent it outside onto others. And so the transmission of anger goes on from generation to generation, along with its puzzling legacy, leaving people to question in their hearts year after year, just what is anger anyway?!!

In my work as a Marriage and Family therapist, I have come to the realization that anger is a normal adaptive emotion that is not in and of itself a problem. It s the behavioral response to anger that determines whether or not it will serve us well or become problematic. In many instances, anger can be a helpful signal telling us that something is wrong. In turn, it compels us to make necessary changes in our lives. Anger also empowers us to challenge injustice. Moreover, anger serves to protect us by mobilizing us to take action when we are truly in danger.

Anger becomes maladaptive, however, when we allow it to turn into aggression. Anger with aggression, or rage, sometimes hurts people irreparably. It can permanently scar a relationship, and sever the trust between people. Moreover, when it is too easily triggered, or too prolonged, it can impact one s concentration, mood, self-esteem, work and social life as well.

Chronic anger can have serious consequences on our health as well, resulting in hypertension, increased cholesterol levels, damaged or blocked arteries, aggravated heart disease, increased susceptibility to infection ( due to depressed immune system), and longer recovery time from major traumas to the body. When acted out, anger can result in physical violence inflicted on others, and when internalized inwards, anger can result in depression, and may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or substance misuse.

Anger originally evolved in the distant past to help us protect ourselves from physical threats in our environment, such as saber toothed tigers and other predatory animals. Even though few of us are exposed to such threats now- a- days, people today never the less feel threatened in countless other ways.

For example, we may feel a need to protect our exclusive rights to our mate, or we may feel a need to respond to a perceived unfairness or injustice. Or we may perceive disrespectful treatment of our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and needs. Moreover, we may also perceive a threat to the continuation, or success of something to which we are strongly committed, e.g. one s lifestyle or status in the community. Our anger may also be stimulated when we perceive provocation, suspicion, or hostility. In this instance, we may engage in a preemptive strike and attack first before the other person does.

Another common situation that can cause angry feelings to become problematic is when we fail to adapt to changes in our environment, or in someone s attitude towards us. For example, anger can be triggered when we experience an abrupt change in our living environment, or when a meaningful relationship ends. These changes make us insecure until we have found a way to integrate it comfortably within our frames of reference. In the meantime, our perceptual faculties are working overtime to help us make sense of our changed environment as fast as possible.

When we face experiences like the ones listed above, we often feel afraid and/or hurt, and/or very frustrated. We also tend to feel powerless, helpless, and out of control. These are all primary emotions that we all experience from time to time. These primary emotions tend to make us feel frail, and exceedingly vulnerable to others. When these unpleasant feelings go unacknowledged and are not worked through, we tend to call upon our anger to rescue us from experiencing them all together. Anger is a secondary emotion that has a way of making us feel more empowered. We feel stronger because anger literally triggers biological responses within us that lead to internal feelings of energy and warmth, and infuse us with an urge to shout and move quickly and forcefully.

These biological changes include an increase in the production of cortisol in the body, and an increase in the supply of testosterone in men. The bodies fight or flight response is activated, resulting in a releasing of endorphins, the body s opiods, and increased secretions of adrenaline, the body s natural stimulants. This heightened state of arousal that we experience in our bodies, and its accompanying infusion of cortisol, testosterone, endorphins, and adrenaline make us feel more alive, and more emboldened.

When we feel enraged, we also often experience noticeable changes in our bodies that happen to simultaneously scare away whomever is threatening us. For example, when we are enraged, our breathing becomes more rapid, and our eyes open widely with dilated pupils. Our facial color reddens, or may even turn pale, and our voice becomes louder and our speech quicker. Finally, our movements become quicker and our muscles tense. For example, our face may contort, our fists and jaws may clench, and our shoulders contract and appear hunched.

It is precisely because rage makes us feel more powerful, and look more threatening, that a lot of people prefer engaging this secondary emotion to feeling the more vulnerable primary emotions. I want to reiterate again, however, that while rage can be useful as a short-term emergency reaction, it does us a huge disservice when it becomes an enduring, long-term personality trait and lifestyle characteristic. Again, it then jeopardizes our health, destroys the relationships that matter most to us, worsens our mood, and withers our self-esteem.

Fortunately there are ways to manage and even let go of anger for those who wish to do so. These ways include reminding yourself of what you ultimately hoping to achieve when expressing your anger, countering inflammatory thoughts with more positive self-talk, working through and healing from the primary emotions that your anger may be masking, and owning the thoughts, feelings, and judgments that you may be unconsciously projecting onto others.

In addition, people working to manage and/or let go of their anger can learn to pay greater attention to the bodily sensations that signal to them that they are upset in the first place. These bodily sensations act a lot like alarm clocks, calling on us to wake up and take active measures to get our needs met before exploding outwards or imploding inwardly. Finally, people can learn behavioral strategies to manage their anger, like taking time-outs, deep breathing, meditating, and exercising.

John Boesky