The Up-Regulation of Joy

My client Ari got married this past weekend. Given his family background, and in light of a gloomy prognosis for his future made by a former therapist, it was a major and moving event. And yet, in our sessions leading up to the ceremony, Ari seemed “dispassionate,” as I expressed it to him. I found no evidence for the joy I expected him to feel. I tried to help him connect with his happiness, while suggesting some reasons why he might find it difficult to rejoice.

During the session, I felt moved on his behalf though at first I didn’t say so. Then, toward the end of the hour, Ari said, “Trying to help me connect with my joy is not the same thing as telling me you’re happy for me.” Words to that effect. I can’t remember exactly how we got to that point, why my feelings about him mattered at that moment, but it really caught my attention. He needed to feel my joy on his behalf.

Continue “The Up-Regulation of Joy”

Los Angeles Radio Interview

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the archived interview, in case anyone wants to listen. As I said on my Facebook page, this was the first time that I felt absolutely no anxiety before a public appearance. I’ve found my personal “answer” to the problem of performance anxiety: just be yourself and say exactly what you think.


Looking forward to my appearance on Los Angeles public radio station KPFK, airing live on Labor Day at 4 pm Pacific. Available on 90.7 FM in Los Angeles and in most of Southern California, 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara, 99.5 FM in Ridgecrest/China Lake and on 93.7 FM in Rancho Bernardo/North San Diego.

The interview will also be available to stream live online at:

My hosts are Layla Ashley and Mikhail Tank.

A Request for Input

In response to my recent post about The Self-Serving Lie, I had a very interesting email exchange with a site visitor. An intelligent and thoughtful woman, a strong believer in the value of psychotherapy, she felt that by writing such a post, I was behaving in an unprofessional manner. She felt such personal disclosures devalued the profession and debased my own standards. I’m curious about what other readers might think.

As a response to that exchange, I wrote my most recent post on The Evacuation of Pain — definitely more “professional” in the sense that I focused on certain psychological dynamics I’ve encountered in my practice with minimal reference to my “outside” experience. What I find interesting is how many more reader Comments I received in response to the more personal post. Also to the earlier one on Belonging.

Here is my opinion, and feel free to contradict me. When I write a post like the one about pain, I come much more from the place of professional authority; readers can acknowledge that they have experienced something similar and they can relate their own stories. But posts like the one about self-serving lies or the need to belong leave readers greater room to participate, to join me on a more equal footing, and even to offer me advice. Almost everyone has dealt with self-serving liars. Everyone needs to belong. I find that type of post and reader interaction much more satisfying. In fact, all those responses to my post on belonging actually gave me a feeling of community, even if it is a virtual one.

I suppose I’ll continue with a variety of different post styles, but I’d welcome your feedback. Which type of post do you prefer? Do you think it “unprofessional” to write from a more personal perspective rather than as a therapist offering insight? Please chime in!


This morning, I completed the first draft of THE NARCISSIST YOU KNOW. The last two months have been a tunnel of intensity, which explains my absence from blogging. I’m proud and relieved to be finished, and I look forward to getting back to my blog … but not until after I take a vacation this coming week. I need a rest!

I want to thank all of you who submitted comments or sent emails, asking about my absence from the blog and wondering if I’m okay. It felt really good to feel your concern and to know there are people who actually care whether or not I write.Thank you so much! I also want to apologize for getting so far behind in the approval of comments. I promise to catch up very soon!

I don’t have to deliver my manuscript until September 1 but I wanted to leave myself a good two months for revisions and careful thought, just so I can make sure it’s as good as it can be. I’m very pleased with how this first draft turned out. Now I can revise at leisure, with plenty of time for blogging, not to mention hiking here in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I think it’s going to be a fine summer.