Tag Archives: Anxiety

As the Clock Ticks: Anxiously Awaiting the Fate of the Debt Ceiling . Heaved Up or Heave-Ho ?

And these are the Days of Our Lives…

Reality TV?  The looming default.  The deadlines (August 2?  August 10?).  The soaring VIX.  The reach for aspirin and antacid.  The Boehner Bill vs. the Reid Bill.  The hope for a bipartisan agreement.  The shifting landscape: when, what, who, how?  The fear of implications: for Social Security, jobs, 401K, mortgage interest rates.  The threat of a stranglehold on fragile economic growth.  The likely downgrading of U.S. credit rating from AAA to  AA.   The Dow’s worst weekly decline in almost a year.

The need for unbiased news – and explanations.  The frantic search for safe haven –  gold? cash? corporate bonds? – or inertia?  The grab for the Business Section – and someone to translate.  The end of the fantasy of any sort of reasonable plan to retire…

The erosion of faith and the lack of control.  The difficulty distinguishing what to expect from what to worry about.  The stress of trying to prepare for the unpredictable. The reactions to looming but poorly understood threat. Free-floating anxiety, summer of 2011 style.  Is it any wonder that anxiety seems to have gone through the roof?  Crashed through the debt ceiling, as it were?

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


Can’t Be Said Much Better Than This…

Life’s never easy.  We can decide what we want.  (Well,  some of us can;  for others, even knowing what we want is not so easy). 

There’s much we can choose, if we are fortunate.   And we are all, all of us, quite fortunate (even when, on those bad days, we don’t feel that way).  And though there’s no sure-fire path to getting it all, good psychotherapy can help find – and clear – the path to happiness.  Search, question, focus, discipline, know what matters, meditate, learn about and face oneself honestly in the company of a therapist who listens and “gets it”: safe landing, real contentment and true happiness are indeed possible.

Even if there’s no guarantee of getting/having even what we (think we) need.  Even if it’s finding and traveling the path to, not being and staying at some desired destination.

Sometimes therapy’s about listening – both the therapist, and the patient – to the felt need.   Permitting the feelings, the desires, the sense of urgency:  wanting what we want, when we want it.

And then accepting that it is however it is.  And if we share our most private wishes with someone who hears, gets it – and accepts us as we are – well, sometimes, maybe, that’s really as good as it gets.  And it’s quite good enough.

Is it any wonder people fall in love with their therapists?

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash.  All rights reserved.

Putting it to the Test

Bomb threat.

On a wing and a ...

The plane was about to take off.  We had already begun taxiing down the runway, the instructions about face masks and seatbelts barely audible above the “where did you put my sandwich” and “you know you really do have to turn off your cellphone now!”  And then:  Bomb threat.

Well, actually, that’s not what he said.  It’s just what I thought.  My seatmates also.  And they hailed from a part of the world that’s been taking security measures seriously for a whole lot longer than the tsa’s been checking our shoes…

Calmly, he said, “Please exit the plane.  Take your belongings.  No, don’t.  Yes.  No.  We’ll put them back up for you.”

Lots of officers in uniform.  Not lots of information.  Lots of stress.  Lots of opportunity to practice all the nifty stress reduction and breathing tips I’ve been offering up all these years.

And here’s the thing:  they work.  Really.  They do.  And I gave ’em quite the workout…

Then again,  just might be I’m breathing easy now because it all ended with happily ever after.  At least for now…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

The Weight of the World On Your Shoulders

Again. Still. Always…

You have responsibilities: to your children, to your spouse, to your parents, to your partner, to your employees, to your banker…

to yourself…

It’s too much. But it doesn’t go away. Oh, sometimes it gets quieter, or lighter. And sometimes it feels heavier or your feet are stuck.  And sometimes you even stumble under the weight of it all.

But you can’t rid yourself of it, make it go away, put it down once and for all.

So what’s there to do?

Carry your burden more lightly… Breathe deep into your center, remember your purpose, remember you are not alone, remember it is what it is, and, most of all, remember what is real…What matters…

And remember that it all passes; it all turns into the next thing.  Faster than we ever imagined…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Vindication? Or, “I must defend myself !”


From what? Defensive people seek to intimidate others, prove their supposed superiority, prove they have been wronged – all to deflect from their own shortcomings. They feel a need to defend themselves against others’ perceived slights (even if imagined).

There are those who are defensive solely in order to protect themselves from experiencing their own failures, and those who go further, to vindictive defensiveness.

Defensive people lob emotional hand grenades at others, who they (often erroneously) believe are attacking them. In fact, it is they who know themselves to fall short. It’s difficult to face one’s own shortcomings;
defensive people do not have the courage to do so, instead punishing others who they see as pointing to any of their weaknesses.

A defensive person who is capable of real emotion and relationships will be appalled by his behavior after his defensive outburst. He doesn’t intend to irrevocably harm his child, his spouse, his assistant. He acts instinctively to protect himself from perceived threat, and can see, after the fact, that the other person was never really attacking him at all. He seeks help with “anger management” or learning how to control his reaction to stress. With therapy, there is real hope for him. By facing his own perceived failures, and his automatic defensive behaviors that hurt those he cares about, he takes a crucial step toward self control. By his willingness to address the root of his defensive behavior, he takes a crucial step toward self awareness. By his courage, he can see the difference between real threat and his fear of failure. Through therapy he can accept himself – and others, and experience deeper connection with those he loves.

But for another sort of defensive person, a normal desire for love and intimacy is replaced by a drive toward a kind of protective vindictive triumph. Why? The arrogant, vindictive person cannot tolerate anyone who wields more power, knows more or achieves more. He feels a need to humiliate or defeat anyone he considers a rival. When hurt (which occurs any time he feels exposed or weak) he retaliates by hurting, even destroying, the supposed enemy. Cynical and ruthless in relationships, he prides himself on exploiting and outsmarting others. He trusts no one. He scorns real feelings: tenderness, dependency, emotional closeness, friendship. For him, relationships exist solely in order to enhance his own social and economic position, to “get others before they get him”. He is proud of being self-sufficient, needing no one. In fact, he is isolated by his own hostility and fear of real attachment to others.

For the vindictive person, any tenderness or compromise is experienced as vulnerability. Since he assumes others will exploit him as he would exploit others, he avoids rational discourse with those with whom he might disagree. Terror of being humiliated or played for a fool colors his behavior. His is a vision of life as war, a war in which he is bound by neither human emotion nor morality. I have yet to figure out how therapy can help him.

Recognize yourself or anyone you know here? Any suggestions welcomed by all who deal with defensive co-workers!

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Are We There Yet?

Is this it? The end? Of the bad times? Of the recession and all it’s many manifestations? Or did the recession end quite some time ago? Or are we simply poised, ever so fragile, between more severe peaks – make that troughs – to come?


I don’t know about you, but I’m confused. And also just a bit (well, maybe more than a bit) irritated. If economic indicators and official numbers are so good, if consumer spending is increasing and unemployment is slowing (and those are good things, right?), why do I see such widespread economic worry, depression about the depression, and a sense that each new “surprise” on the financial front is not really a surprise at all? Why do I know so many families struggling with how much they can afford? With how to plan for the future while living in the present responsibly? With how to teach their kids to be prudent without worrying them?

Why am I so bothered by the exhortations to both spend in order to save the economy and save in order to be responsible citizens? Is Greece ok now, or just ok for now? How much was indeed known by whom – and when – on Wall Street? Business as usual or something sinister and illegal? Something barely legal that shouldn’t have been? And what’s the difference between shorting as a responsible way to hedge bets and make profits – the all-American way – and just plain old bad greed?

What’s the difference between a good story and the real story? I’d sure like to think I’m getting closer to, rather than farther from, the answers…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

And Why is Feeling Bad Good?

“Would have been nice to have had a few depressives underwriting financial derivatives and real estate over the past few years.”

Posted by DR, February 26, 2010, in response to Jonah Lehrer’s The Frontal Cortex blog-take on his article in today’s New York Times. The Upside of Depression.

Depression. It’s a good thing. Or it can be. Helps focus the mind. A clarifying force that pushes aside extraneous things – like eating or sleeping or sex – so you can settle in, wrap your head around, chew on the really big questions.

The ones that seem unanswerable. The ones we’d rather avoid. The ones we’d benefit from addressing. The ones we’d better start answering…

Now that would be a really good application of Behavioral Economics…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.