Therapy Q&A: Understanding Those Around You (Dec. – Mar. 2012)

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Written by Catherine Bridwell

Getting through just one day stress-free is a rare occasion for many. However, by understanding those around you, in the home, the workplace, or even a personal relationship, you can overcome part of what causes that stress in the first place. Catherine Bridwell answers your questions about everyday problems that can easily be solved through communication and the help of Identity, of course.

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I have a friend who emotionally drains me by constantly e-mailing that I have offended her or made her feel   bad.   Now I have to walk on eggshells.   Should I say something or just let it be?


If you consider walking on eggshells a sport and the challenge is enticing, you shouldn’t say something.   If you take no action and behave as if everything is fine, your friend will not respect your boundaries.   Some people do tolerate disrespect (and she is disrespecting you whether she knows it or not) but it can generate resentment in you.   Even when a friend is aware that his/her behaviors distress others, he may not be motivated to change for some personal reason that may or may not involve you. Ask.

Question: I’m a young woman with confidence about many things.   My flaws though eat me alive.     The current conflict is:   I am considering   having plastic surgery and my boyfriend disagrees.   If everybody disagrees with the surgery, and I’m the only one who wants it, should I go through with it?


You need to do more research including asking for more input from the people who matter to you.   “I disagree” is not a complete answer.   Once you learn the reasons others disagree you will be able to make a more educated decision.

Question: I need to speak up to my boss who “barks” at me constantly.   She does it in front of others as well.   It’s rude and disrespectful.   How should I approach this?


Unlike your boss, do not speak up in front of others, at least not initially.   Ask for a private moment and say you wonder if you are doing something that is offensive.   You may well get:   “No, why do you ask?”   Then you can give an example and share that the reaction seems exasperated or annoyed.   If that is denied, simply thank the boss for his/her time and wait for a change.   Since your boss is testing whether you will tolerate disrespect, you will have discreetly announced you are not.   If there is no change you may, the next time it happens in front of others,   respectfully say:     “There is an example.”

Question: I am so sick and tired of office BS.   I don’t understand why people throw one another under the bus all the time.   How do I talk to those who I know have ratted me out?


Office dynamics can be tricky business.   Rather than speaking to individuals about what you think they have said about you, switch to a positive approach and suggest   the topic of team work and team perspective for an office meeting.   If there are specific incidents involving you and you are positive of the facts, you could casually mention your concerns to the individual.   Something like:   “I’m concerned about what I suppose is a mis-perception…”     Give the person a way to save face while saying you won’t participate in the office BS.

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About the author

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Catherine Bridwell

Catherine D. Bridwell is in private practice in Morristown, NJ. She is a psychotherapist and counselor to families, couples, and individuals. She is a Certified Divorce Mediator and a Parenting Coordinator for divorced couples. In addition she lectures and has authored workshop presentations on family related and emotion management topics.


Feel free to e-mail Catherine at

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