My Writing

I’ve done a lot of writing.

RR_MockupWebMy newest book is The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad. It’s now available in paperback from Amazon. A Kindle version will be coming out soon. If there seems to be a great demand, I may record an audiobook version, as well. Click here to find out more.

I also have another self help book, Constructive Conflict: Building Something Good Out of All Those Arguments and two novels: Fate’s Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic and Intersections.

My blog is below. I’m currently working on two series, The Reflective Eclectic and A Field Guide to Feelings, as well as occasionally re-posting old favorites, called the Old Posts series.

Why You Should Observe Advent Even If You Don’t Do Christmas

Old Posts

You know what Christmas looks like. Busy malls, colorful lights, the ubiquitous Santas. You know what it sounds like: jingle bells, jolly music, ho ho ho. You know what you’re supposed to do: attend parties, kiss under the mistletoe, go mad buying things no one needs. You know what it’s supposed to feel like: generosity, warm fuzziness, wonder, enchantment, and excitement. Christmas has the distinctive smell of pine needles and ham dinner. You know when it’s supposed to occur; before Halloween is definitely too soon. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you know all about Christmas. Getting what you want is like Christmas to you.

You may think you know all about Christmas, but you may not realize that you’re missing a whole ‘nother holiday between Thanksgiving and December twenty-fifth. No, I don’t mean Black Friday. You’re missing Advent.

You think you know about Advent, do you? There’re the candles and the little paper houses where you open a new door every day. You’ve been there and done that; it’s not your thing. But, I bet you never thought about the true meaning of Advent, just like the true meaning of Christmas is often hidden under mounds of discarded wrapping paper.

Advent is about waiting. Continue reading

You are Sisyphus

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You may not realize this, but you are Sisyphus.

Who’s Sisyphus? He’s an ancient Greek guy who was condemned by the gods to roll a huge rock up a mountain, only to see it repeatedly roll back down again.

How are you Sisyphus? I know you’re not an ancient Greek guy, but you’re just like him. Day in and day out you go to work, looking forward to the weekend, only to begin again on Monday. The things you build are fated to crumble into ruin; then in time, even the ruins will be gone. The people you heal will die. The ones you educate will forget everything they ever knew. Everyone you love will leave you. Despite everything you do to stay healthy, sickness will triumph. When you’re a child, you thought it would be great to drive a car. Then, when you got a car, you were miserable if you didn’t get a girlfriend. You thought you’d be happy when you finished school and started work; but no sooner did you start work than you looked forward to retirement. You want this, and you want that; but when you get any of it, you just want something else. That’s you, rolling the boulder up the mountain, only to watch it roll back down again. That’s all of us.

You’re Sisyphus when you expect things to be fair, but they’re not. When you want to be happy, but happiness eludes you. When you want truth, but truth is hard to find. When you want to matter, but the universe doesn’t give a crap.

So, what can you do about being Sisyphus? Why bother? Is there any way of making it all less futile? Continue reading

A Review of Intercourse

A few weeks ago, at the high point of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, when it seemed like the whole world was fighting the war of the sexes, I decided to read a book that had been on my shelf a long time. Was this book some kind of feel-good escapist fare? Not a chance. I decided to read an influential, but much derided feminist classic, Intercourse, by Andrea Dworkin. By intercourse, did she mean having a pleasant conversation? Yeah, right. She meant heterosexual sex. For her, there is nothing pleasant about it. Continue reading

Research on How to Make an Effective Apology

I didn’t see this research until after I completed my book, The Road to Reconciliation, so I couldn’t include it; but I’m happy to report that the findings support what I said about how to make and screw up an apology. Most people screw them up.

In Apologies of the Rich and Famous: Cultural, Cognitive, and Social Explanations of Why We Care and Why We Forgive, sociologists Karen Cerulo and Janet Ruane, analyzed and studied the effectiveness of 183 celebrity apologies that occurred between October 2000 and October 2012.

They categorized each apology as utilizing denial, evasion, reduction, corrective action, and mortification. They identified seven sequences. Some, for instance, start out by focusing on the offender; some on the victim; others on the context. Once they categorized each apology, the researchers measured the apology’s effectiveness as indicated by opinion polls conducted shortly thereafter. An effective apology was defined as one that resulted in an improved opinion of the apologizer. In other words, Cerulo and Ruane only studied changes in public opinion, not the transformation of the character of the apologizer.

Less than a third of the apologies they looked at were effective with the public. In other words, at least two-thirds of apologies resulted in the apologizer digging a deeper hole for himself and becoming more contemptible. Cerulo and Ruane are able to say what works in making an apology.

  • Don’t wait, make an apology right away.
  • The first words in an apology matter. Don’t start by talking about how your life has been made more difficult since you got in trouble. Start by showing empathy for the victim.
  • Don’t apologize for what people think; apologize for what you did. Don’t say, “I’m sorry you misunderstood me.” Say, “I’m sorry I touched you without permission.”
  • No one wants to hear why you did it because it sounds like you’re making excuses.
  • Express regret and remorse.
  • If you express regret and remorse, actually feel regret and remorse. People can tell when you’re faking it.
  • Say what you’re doing to make restitution, but don’t say you’re going to rehab to make restitution. Rehab is not restitution. Rehab helps you, not the victim. Say what you’re doing to help the victim if you are able to make direct amends, or people like your victim, if you are not.
  • End your apology the same way you started it. The last words matter, too. End by showing empathy for the victim.
  • If you have already made your apology, but botched it, somehow; make a better one. You can still improve another’s opinion of you.

Like I said, Cerulo and Ruane only studied changes in public opinion, but, had they studied whether the apologizer repeated the offense after apologizing, in my experience I think they would have gotten the same results. I am eagerly awaiting the results of such a study.

Announcement: The Road to Reconciliation is Available

After at least two-and-a-half years since I started it, my book, The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad, is available in paperback and on Kindle. Now comes the part I hate: pitching it and talking about it at a time when I am ready to go on to other things.

It’s like that phase of a marriage when the initial excitement and wonder has passed and you’re left with a disordered house full of crying kids, a spouse with morning breath, and a hot colleague at work who seems like a better option.  It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself until you realize that you wanted this.

In other words, when I conceived this book, I wanted this: to have written something that can help many people find peace and reconciliation. The thing is, writing it helps no one if it doesn’t get in the hands of those who need it.

If you need this book, go here to get it. If you know someone who needs it, please get it for them, or at least tell them it exists. Christmas is coming, you know. What’s a better Christmas present than the Road to Reconciliation?

What Breathing Can Teach Us About Relationships

Old PostsSometimes people have trouble grasping what it means to let go. If that’s the case, I have metaphors. Lots of metaphors. Here’s another one. Letting go is as simple as breathing; exhaling, to be precise.

The entire breathing cycle can be seen as a metaphor of relationships. You start off in need. You have desires. You believe that if you do not have this person, you will die. That’s like inhaling. You expand yourself to take this person in. You incorporate him or her into your life. You feel full.

Once you inhale, try to hold your breath. Fresh oxygen inevitably becomes suffocating carbon dioxide. You get dizzy, confused, desperate. If you persist, you will pass out. If you still don’t inhale, you will die.

The very person you desired will sooner or later becomes the source of aggravation. That thing that you once found so charming will drive you nuts. The personal quality that you did not possess, but thought your partner could provide, will not be as important as you once thought. It never really was important to you. If it was, you would’ve developed it in yourself. There will be meddlesome in-laws, misunderstandings, mismatched goals, competing careers, money problems, poor timing in sex, squally children that may not even be yours, incongruent tastes, all the foibles that never become evident until two people live together. There will be minor betrayals and maybe major ones. There will be things to forgive. You’ll act dizzy, confused, desperate. If it persists, you’ll be out of there. If you don’t leave, something will die inside.

Exhale. Expel. Forgive. Let go. It feels good, doesn’t it? You were tense, holding it in, and you may not have even known it. Now you’re ready and able to desire again.

There are some who believe they can avoid this cycle in their relationships. They believe that if they find the perfect person, the relationship will never sour. They think that, if they can change their partner, everything will be all right. You might just as well wish for oxygen that will never become carbon dioxide.

By the way, oxygen does not become carbon dioxide by itself. It’s you that does it; and it’s you who turns what she does into aggravation, resentment, anger, and hurt. They’re your emotions. You made them.

To be sure, just as there is poisonous air, there are also poisonous relationships, affiliations that should be avoided. Your relationship might be making you sick. If that is the case, it may have to be ended. Even if that’s the case. Even if you are in a poisonous relationship, like poisonous air, you still need to exhale. Let go, let the poison out. You might even desire another again.