Therapy Q&A: Understanding Those Around You-June (2014)

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Written by Catherine Bridwell

OK, let’s begin with basics: how do YOU define happiness? Do you mean “content”? Do you mean always feeling “upbeat”? Do you mean being confident that you’ll handle life’s ups and downs with assurance and wisdom?

Therapy Online: 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.

catherine-bridwellQuestion: How can I stop sabotaging my own success when it comes to making money?

Answer: This is a several step process, but recognizing that you’ve been self-sabotaging is a major first step.   Now, take a look back at those past episodes of self-sabotage, identifying how you undermined yourself.   For example, “Told off my boss after what I perceived to be a mediocre annual review.”   “Slipped straight back into credit card debt as soon as I’d paid off my balance.”   The next time you’re tempted to tell off your boss or put a balance back on your credit card, a mental warning light should go on.   Hopefully this will keep you from repeating those past mistakes and also increase your vigilance in avoiding new types of self-sabatoge.

After addressing self-sabotage on this practcal level, the next step could be to consider why you were doing this to yourself in the first place.   It may have been the manifestation of a fear of success, self-loathing, simple self-indulgence, or any number of other reasons.   You may also find that whatever it is  manifests itself in arenas of your life other than financial. Now you’ve begun the process of changing a destructive pattern.   Yeah:   keep going.

Question: What is the quickest way to become and remain happy throughout life? How do I find what will make me happy?

Answer: The quickest way to everlasting happiness is a question philosophers, theologians, sociologists, psychologists, gurus, medicinemen ( and scads of others) have pondered for eons. There is even a field of study in psychology dedicated to the understanding of happiness. You can earn a graduate degree in happiness and be a scholar of the scientific literature on happiness but still there is no guarentee of personal happiness. That leads to your second and more easily tackled question – what will make YOU happy?

OK, let’s begin with basics: how do YOU define happiness? Do you mean “content”? Do you mean always feeling “upbeat”? Do you mean being confident that you’ll handle life’s ups and downs with assurance and wisdom?

Write your own definition; make it broad enough to encompass phases of life and personal philosphies. Be reasistic and include measurable outcomes for managing challenges and hardship.To get you started answer this: do you believe you’d be happy if life were a party – if there were no hard times? If so, how would you define happiness?

The answer, YOUR answer, will be your own definition complete with the recognition of what you want and need for a healthy day-to-day balance. If you reach bliss, let the rest of us know.

Question: How can I come to terms with being the only member of my immediate family (father, mother, sibs) and not feel like I’ve been abandoned by those who died and/or feel like an adult orphan? ETC.

Answer: There is a never-to-be duplicated loss when all the members of your family-of-origin are deceased. In the dictionary definition, you are an orphan. The key word though in your question is “abandoned”. Perhaps the needs that were met by parents and siblings are not being addressed by children and grandchildren. Give thought to what those needs are (“no one takes care of me – I’m always the nurturer,” or “there’s no one to laugh and reminese with about times gone by”….) Once you can label those unmet needs you can reach out to younger relatives and friends – it won’t be precisely the same, but the feelings of abandonment should diminish.

Question:When will I stop having these horrendous nightmares over being sexually assaulted?

Answer: Dreams are very often the unconscious part of your brain attempting to come to grips wtih unresolved emotional issues. Sexual assault is assuredly an emotional trauma. Your horrendous nightmares are about resolving that trauma; about finding psychological balance. You can’t change the facts but you can work on processing and thereby neutralizing the trauma, but it needs to be done on a conscious level. Often support groups dedicated to the issues of abuse and assualt are very helpful settings through which relolution can be accomplished. Ask your physician, call a hotline, research on the internet for resources to locate a support group. You’ve already begun the work by asking for help. Keep going – you’re doing it.


HAVE A QUESTION FOR CATHY and would like to receive some therapy online? Please feel free to email with your question. It will be answered in the order it’s received. Please continue to check back for your question to be answered. Note: we do not use last names

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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