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Category Archives: Ah, Relationships
After years of advising entrepreneurial partnerships and family businesses – often working collaboratively with their financial and legal advisors – it continues to be puzzling: why don’t they plan adequately for succession when it makes no rational sense not to?
Well, the short answer is: because it makes a-rational (and sometimes irrational) sense not to. But only by addressing the psychological and emotional issues everyone would rather avoid can rational decision making rule the day. What are these issues that – unresolved – spell DISASTER? With thanks to the research and in-the-field expertise of my colleagues, present and past, I offer my own take on the founder and family issues to consider. A primer:
D eath –
- The Founder: “I’m gonna live forever” attitude – or s/he simply doesn’t want to face her/his own demise.
- The Family: Taboo to talk about mom/dad’s death, not to mention life afterward?
I dentity –
- The Founder: “Who am I without the business?” S/he fears loss of identity, which is bound up with the company s/he created.
- The Family: They worry about the Founder without the business – and the business without the Founder.
S upremacy –
- The Founder: “I’ve still got what it takes, they won’t know how to run this company without me.” S/he doesn’t want to relinquish power and control.
- The Family: How to wrestle with the head of the family about a different vision for the firm’s future, when s/he is still the one in control.
A mbivalence –
- The Founder: “Of course I want my kids to take over.” But s/he somehow undermines that process…
- The Family: The next generation want to take over, but feel guilty about pushing mom/dad out. And the spouse may both want and fear retirement.
S olo act –
- The Founder: “I’ll figure it out. I’ve done fine this far, with no one helping me.” Getting professional help is seen as a sign of weakness – or a waste of money. Or time, for someone who’s more of a doer than a planner.
- The Family: Having always relied on, leaned on the Founder, they don’t want to face the realization that s/he cannot just ‘take care’ of this, too.
T ime –
- The Founder: “Not now. They’re not ready yet.” It’s never a good time. And then there’s the heart attack, or buyout offer…
- The Family: The next gen are dealing with the stresses related to adjusting to adulthood: becoming independent, having their own children, marriage (divorce); the spouse has his/her own concerns.
E motions –
- The Founder: “I can’t deal with all that emotional stuff.” Jealousy, rivalry, quarrelling, choosing among the children: all things better (easier) ignored.
- The Family: Jealousy, rivalry, quarrelling, choosing sides: all the old, unresolved issues flare up – and new ones show themselves.
R oles –
- The Founder: “So what would I do if I’m not running the business? Play golf all day?” S/he does not see a future that works once s/he steps down.
- The Family: Change affects everyone in the family, and in different ways. And everyone in the family copes with change differently.
What to do ? What helps? To be continued …
Copyright © 2013 Marlin S. Potash, Ed.D. All rights reserved.
Seem to be getting lots of queries about erotic transference, otherwise known as falling for your shrink. Since I specialize in treating men, thought I’d take a crack at the subject from the particular angle of male patient/female therapist.
Male patients – all patients – bring to therapy the gender role expectations, attitudes and behaviors they experience in their other male-female relationships. But because the doctor/patient relationship in psychotherapy is a unique – and often new – experience, male patients often do not know quite how to proceed. And this can make for discomfort difficult to tolerate. For both the patient and his therapist.
In part this is so because there are so few models for an intimate professional relationship. In fact, it’s often rare for a man to have a relationship that is intellectually and emotionally intimate but with no physical/sexual intimacy. They tend to go together for many, if not most, men. And for countless men, intimacy is physical intimacy. Women are likely to share private thoughts and feelings with a variety of platonic co-workers, neighbors, friends and family. For many men, particularly men of a certain age, vulnerability, attunement, expression of deep feelings most often occur in the context of a sexually intimate encounter – and seldom elsewhere. The notion of intimacy without a sexual component simply does not compute. “Intimacy” is code for “sexual intimacy.”
In these instances, it’s crucial that the woman therapist establish and maintain strict behavioral boundaries – at the same time as she encourages verbal exploration of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and yes, even sexual fantasies. Talking, not doing. This requires constant vigilance. Therapists can get uncomfortable and awkward. Patients can attempt to catch the therapist off-guard and deprofessionalize the relationship, particularly when they fear becoming too vulnerable or losing control. The male patient whose glance lingers a bit too long shifts the discomfort from himself to his therapist. Not that his therapist isn’t uncomfortable herself…
Discussing all this can prove amazingly beneficial. By delving into all this rather than avoiding, by talking but not doing, the therapist provides reassurance of the safety of the therapeutic alliance, necessary for the trust effective psychotherapy requires. (And make no mistake: it is the therapist’s job to make sure “nothing happens.” Always.) The shared, in vivo context provides common ground for exploring sexual and emotional intimacy issues, often the very issues that prompted therapy.
And talking about sex, sexual feelings, without doing? Well, that’s apt to be a rather novel experience. How often do men and women talk honestly, openly, about sex – without engaging in sex? Lots to learn, lots to learn…
Copyright © 2013 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.
Sometimes I feel like there’s a wall between me and my therapist. And sometimes I wish there were some sort of wall between me and my therapist! It doesn’t make any sense to me. And I worry: does it mean she can’t help me?
It’s making me so uncomfortable! How do I stop falling in love with my therapist? It’s making me so uncomfortable! How do I keep my therapist from falling in love with me?
Sometimes I think I don’t even like my therapist. Do I have to for therapy to work? I don’t think my therapist even likes me. Does she have to for therapy to work?
I hate it when my therapist is mad at me. Why does it bother me so much? What do I do? I hate it when I am mad at my therapist. Why does it bother me so much? What do I do?
Questions like these just keep rollin’ in to us here at Feeling Up in Down Times. In the initial installment of Therapy Love, we addressed those good (sometimes confusingly so) feelings: loving your therapist – or wondering if your therapist loves you. But what about all the uncomfortable negative feelings: worrying if your therapist secretly hates you – or if you secretly hate your therapist? Worrying if your therapist is angry with you for not acting on what you’ve supposedly been learning in your therapy. Worrying if you’re too angry with your therapist for therapy to be helpful.
When you come to trust someone as much as you can the therapist you share so much of yourself with, when you come to trust your therapist “gets” you, you’d think you’d feel comfortable, safe, free to be yourself. And that is usuallythe case. But in a cruel twist of fate, it can also mean that whatever negative feelings do come up seem particularly meaningful and important. And that, in turn, makes it both more uncomfortable to share them with your therapist – and more important to do so.
Maybe those negative feelings are so uncomfortable because the relationship comes to matter so much. Because therapy love just feels so real, almost like the real thing. Therapy Love is a real thing, it’s just not the realthing. Therapy love is a state of heightened emotions in a situation where your every emotion is under a microscope: one you and your therapist share and look through together. Or – often and – a microscope you’re uncomfortable having anyone else look through, especially your therapist. All in an intimate relationship that looks and feels just enough like a real life relationship to make you wonder: what’s going on here, and what do I do about it?
You take a deep breath. You bring it up, into the light of day. You explore the realm of contradictory feelings, the juxtaposition of loving and hating. Because the one thing you can count on if you do risk sharing those tough feelings with your therapist is that you’ll learn an awful lot. About yourself. About yourself in relationships. It’s rare to have a dedicated person and place to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly – with the very person you’re feeling those things about, when you’re feeling those things. Unlike the other people you may love, your therapist doesn’t have any vested interest in the outcome. Your therapist is working for your insight, in your best interest. It starts in the relationship between you, but it extends beyond that, way beyond that.
Even with any fears or anger or disappointment. Even better than any fantasies. And that just might be the best thing about Therapy Love.
Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.
When I began this blog, I intended to focus on the psychological effects of the economic downturn, and to provide tools for the stress the roiling markets produced. Who would have guessed just how often I’d get requests for advice on how to manage the therapeutic alliance! How to get your therapist to like you. How to get your therapist to love you. How to leave your therapist. How to make sure you don’t have to leave your therapist. How to handle it when your therapist leaves you.
But one of the biggest surprises of all is just how often the search that brings someone to my blog is “How to mess with my therapist’s head.” I admit I am stymied. Why in the world would anyone want to do that? Why spend your money and your time supposedly seeking treatment from a professional when what you really want to do is pull one over on him or her? Assuming you’re in a bona fide psychotherapy, which you pay for with your hard-earned time, money and commitment to self-disclosure, isn’t it a waste to focus on subterfuge, misleading your therapist, playing games, even vengeance?
Help me out here: what, exactly, is this all about? And why are so many people interested in how to do the best job undermining the very therapist they pay to help them? Any thoughts would be most appreciated. There’s clearly something here for me to learn!
Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.
Well, maybe not specifically, but the imagination does drift to escaping the city’s humidity at the beach, by the pool, in the country. Oh, the lazy days of summer! So, should you take a therapy vacation?
Who, you? Your therapist? Yup.
You: You stop working in therapy, really; you phone it in. Oh, you show up – most of the time – but your head’s not into it. You forget to do your homework (you were going to meditate, exercise, daily, remember?). You’re finding it too hard to resist the long weekend away, the chance to catch the new movie in air-conditioned bliss on a summer Friday…
Your therapist: Juggling everyone else’s summer vacation schedule and wondering: take August off, since patients are out of town, or be one of the few therapists in town, available for patients? Struggles with patient-envy: patients enjoying being on vacation, therapists worrying if they’ll have a practice come autumn…
Sometimes, a vacation from therapy’s the way to go. If you’re not going to fully invest your energies in the process (either patient or therapist), don’t waste your/her time and money. If you’re running on empty, therapy becomes a matter of diminishing returns – something that’s often noticed only after that break.
So go for it. Time for a break so you can return, refreshed, ready to work, learn, grow, change. Time for a therapy vacation.
Just remember: you don’t want to lose ground or forget what you’ve learned so far. A break from therapy – summer vacation – isn’t an excuse to forget everything you’ve learned in therapy. And it certainly isn’t an excuse to forget to pay attention to what’s good for you – and what’s not.
Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.
“Being a psychologist” in a business setting too often translates as “You are analyzing (read: assuming you know and judging) me,” “You think I need therapy,” “You’re wasting time we could use accomplishing something,” or “You really think psychobabble talk and bearing my soul isn’t a waste of time?” Psychologist, therapist, counselor, and now, goodness knows, executive coach: professional know-it-all’s who give business advice without understanding how, when, why businesses really work.
So what could a psychologist potentially bring to the privately-held business table?
Psychologist as social scientist: frames hypotheses and conducts research in the areas of human behavior, personality development and change.
Psychologist as clinician: observes and analyzes how people think, feel, and behave.
Psychologist as health service provider: applies behavioral science research to alleviating emotional and mental distress for individuals, couples, families.
Psychologist as organizational consultant: utilizes knowledge of human behavior and interpersonal dynamics to optimize group, team and leadership functioning.
Most psychologists specialize in one of the above. A psychologist who’s useful in a family business context is ideally expert in all four. S/he should understand how individual personalities, styles and psychological needs impact this particular organization, and how the organization and its processes impact individual behavior. S/he should understand how business works, how this particular business works: the nature of the business, the market, the competitive landscape, the financial structure, external factors that impact success.
And – most uniquely – s/he should creatively utilize psychological thought processes to achieve tangible financial results. Because in this context, the goal is not to understand, not to feel better, not to share touchy-feely ‘kumbaya’ moments, but to optimize the organizational processes that will sustain growth and make more money.
Questions to ask to get at all that?
“In the following business scenario, what are the issues that need to be addressed – and why? What is unique about your ability to help us solve the problem?” – You want someone who offers a different, insightful, useful!, perspective on the problems the business needs solved.
“What do you need to know to be of use to us?” – You want someone who knows what s/he needs to know and learn about how the business runs, who can read a spreadsheet and speak the language.
And then there are the old standbys:
“Your experience with privately-held businesses? Successful outcomes? Failures?”
“How can you help us increase profitability?”
“Got any references?”
Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.