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The Relationship Unconscious

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In this podcast series "Relationship Unconscious," I focus on how the mind's unconscious influences the way we think, feel, and behave in our relationships. Although we would probably like to think our conscious intentions and desires determine how our relationships play out, unfortunately that's not really the case.

In this podcast series "Relationship Unconscious," I focus on how the mind's unconscious influences the way we think, feel, and behave in our relationships. Although we would probably like to think our conscious intentions and desires determine how our relationships play out, unfortunately that's not really the case.
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In this podcast series "Relationship Unconscious," I focus on how the mind's unconscious influences the way we think, feel, and behave in our relationships. Although we would probably like to think our conscious intentions and desires determine how our relationships play out, unfortunately that's not really the case.






21 - The Four Things You Need to Know About Your Narcissistic Boss

Whether I am serving in the role of executive coach or psychotherapist, most of my clients inevitably discuss problems they are having with a narcissistic manager. Elsewhere I have described the increasing prevalence of narcissism, a trend that ironically seems to be reinforced by cultural dynamics that emphasize the self or individual instead of, and often at the expense of, the other or the group. But in this particular podcast episode, I am going to focus on addressing narcissistic...


20 - The Disorder of Accumulated Stress: Anxiety

The 11 psychiatric diagnoses that make up the Anxiety Disorders category of the current psychiatric nomenclature center on the manifestation of worry, concern about future threats, ruminations about performance and social acceptance, and avoidance behaviors; paradoxically, as these concerns are emotionally and cognitively experienced and acted on, the level of anxiety rises rather than falls. Anxiety symptoms often begin suddenly within the context of a specific event or challenging...


19 - A Self and a Name: Brief Reflection in the Wake of the College Admissions Scandal

Despite the notoriety of the 2016 publication of Angela Duckworth's Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, it appears that a significant contingent of contemporary adolescents is trending toward attitudes and behaviors directly opposing the value of effort and, by extension, its apparent psychological, social and emotional benefits. We would probably agree that learning from failure and disappointment is a good thing at any age, but humility comes at a cost that some youths seem...


18 - Are You Typecast? Polarization in Couples

Polarization is a common dynamic among couples that is unconsciously motivated and very hard to detect. When polarization occurs in relationships, it often yields conflict, distress, and impasse, with many couples who are polarized ultimately breaking up. But if the polarization had been addressed earlier and successfully reduced, there may have been an opportunity for the relationship to flourish.


17 - What Nietzsche Teaches Us About Good Parenting

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, artist, and Latin and Greek scholar who is perhaps best known for his study of tragedy in ancient Greek mythology. Nietzsche conceptualized an important element of tragedy, the artistic depiction of human suffering. According to Nietzsche, theatre reified in spectators an appreciation of the human condition, the powerful forces that lead us astray, the dilemmas that have no solution, and the deterministic quality of flawed individual...


16 - Psychological "Cloning"

As parents, most if not all of us probably hope that our own children will absorb the very best of us, our positive personality tendencies, our industrious habits, and our moral standards and values, and disregard the rest. The last thing we want to believe is that our worst characteristics -- a bad temper, for example, or persistent bouts of depression, or a predilection for failed relationships, will somehow be passed on to our children, troubling their existence now and into the future....


15 - The Illusion of Complexity

Often the solutions to many problems encountered in daily living and in contemporary relationships are not that difficult to reach. In fact, it seems to me that we often know what we need to do, as the issue at hand is not typically something we do not understand but something we do, in fact, understand all too well but merely have trouble accepting and, consequently, acting on once and for all. Instead, we tend to procrastinate or forestall, and a month turns into a year turns into a...


14 - Counteridentification

Counteridentification is an important term in psychological theory and in the literature on psychotherapy. It is also implicated in numerous problems that many adults experience. It refers to the common unconscious motivation in pre-adolescence and adolescence for the child to seek to be different from, and often opposed to, caregivers -- usually the parents. How the child seeks to be different from the parent may cover a range of qualities and characteristics, be it some aspect of the...


13 – What You Elicit

Many approaches to self-improvement and personal change are largely focused on self-understanding, on learning about one’s problematic or limiting beliefs, tendencies, and self-destructive actions. Although this perspective on the internal, personal factors that may be responsible for a person’s discontent is important, it is certainly not the only perspective worth considering and, in my view, may actually limit what can be learned from other vantage points. Sometimes, how you see yourself,...


12 – The Neurobiology of Fate

There is an emerging body of scientific research indicating that the human brain is impacted by social experience in ways we did not realize previously. In the last several decades we learned that the brain is malleable, a discovery that continues to influence how the brain responds to trauma and other types of insult. But, beyond this, it now appears that social relations, all aspects of interpersonal experience, become imprinted on the brain, impact neurologic and physiological...


11 - Enactment

Enactment is a term used by psychologists and theorists that refers to an experiential or relational dynamic that is created, unwittingly, by unconscious forces. Perhaps the most significant hypothesis put forth by Freud is that a person is doomed to repeat what he or she does not remember. What Freud meant by this statement is that experience which is not represented by the mind nor emotionally worked through is sequestered in the unconscious. Once housed in the unconscious, the...


10 - Guilt

As a psychotherapist, guilt is one of the most common emotional experiences my patients grapple with. Guilt is commonly viewed as the feeling that emerges when you've done something wrong when you've made a mistake or not acted as you would have hoped or done something that violates your own moral values. But this is a rather limited perspective on guilt that misses the greater potential guilt may serve in one's mental life. In this brief presentation, I will attempt to shed light on how...


09 - The World One Sees and the Seer Who Sees It

Seeing things as they are in an essential concept in Buddhist philosophy and psychology, as well as Freudian theory. So much emotional turmoil, what is known as suffering in Buddhism, is due to the tendency to withdraw from and deny the true nature of things, what Freud called the configuration of reality.


08 - Denial and "Mystification"

Due to our need to bond and early developmental experiences of tolerating the limitations of caregivers, denial is common in adult romantic relationships. But once denial is overcome, an important psychological capacity called "mystification" may evolve. Through the mystification process, unconscious narratives necessarily change. The film "Leaving Las Vegas" illustrates the role mystification plays in personal transformation and the discovery of new channels of intimacy.


07 - The Architecture of a Relationship with a Narcissist in 5 Phases

Narcissistic tendencies are the result of psychological defenses employed early in development when the child's need for empathic reflection and mirroring was frustrated. Consequently, the adult narcissist relates to significant others in a characteristic pattern. Across five phases, the narcissist unconsciously attempts to pursue highly valued significant others then, through tactics of degradation and devaluation, seeks to extract their individuality and convert them into adoring mirrors.


06 - The Psychological Capacity of "Inflexion"

"Inflexion" is the psychological capacity necessary to subvert one's unconscious repetition of prior relational injury and trauma in current and future romantic relationships. It involves the recognition of roles and relational dynamics one consistently experiences and the desire to withdraw from all that is "familiar." With this perspective, all acts of personal change are viewed as originating in the alienation and deconstruction of one's identity.


05 - Unconscious Relational Templates in the Film "9 1/2 Weeks"

Adrian Lyne's 1986 film "9 1/2 Weeks" depicts the disturbing sadomasochistic relationship between "John" (Mickey Rourke) and "Elizabeth" (Kim Basinger), two characters destined to form a treacherous union. Elizabeth's unconscious relational template, formed by prior relational trauma and sustained by her own neurobiology, makes it almost impossible for her to extricate herself. Ultimately, a painter reveals to Elizabeth the reality of her being "hooked."


04 - Fatal Attraction: Unconscious Recruitment and Enactment

Emotional injuries suffered in relationships early in development set up the unconscious motivation to repeat and enact similar experiences of conflict, rejection, and trauma across the lifespan. Relationships are not "fated" by some spiritual force but rather by the uncanny psychological drive to seek out persons who are likely candidates to fulfill our own particular narrative of malignant love.


03 - The Shared Psychological Origin of Narcissism and Codependent Relational Styles

Narcissistic and codependent relational styles in adulthood originated as unconscious psychological defenses in early development. If the child's bond with the primary caregiver was characterized by repeated unempathic and non-mirroring responses, the child may resort to compromising his or her own identity to placate the person desired (codependence) or to debasing and invalidating the object of affection so as to never be shamed again (narcissism).


02 – The "Maternalizing Dynamic" in Romantic Relationships

Under certain conditions, a romantic relationship based on strong sexual and emotional attraction may devolve into unconscious role assignments in which a woman acts in a maternalistic fashion toward her previously competent and autonomous partner. Each partner contributes to this insidious transition as the couple's diminishing sexual life signals the arrival of previously unresolved emotional injuries.