Don’t Pity Single People

For 70+ years, studies have supposedly shown that marrying improves people’s wellness. We have believed that marriage makes people healthier and happier. If only we could find our soulmate, we would live happily ever after.

Let’s examine our assumptions. Do you believe that married or coupled people are happier and healthier than single people? Do you believe that single people are generally lonely, and lonelier than married or coupled people? Among these four groups – married people, people who cohabitate, single people who are dating, or single people who are not dating – who do you believe are the most likely to be depressed? Most people expect solo single people to be the most depressed, stressed, and loneliest. Guess what? Studies show there is little difference between these groups.

Author, professor, and researcher, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is an expert in single people. Dr. DePaulo demonstrates that we are wrong about the benefits of marriage. People who marry do not become healthier than when they were single and may even become a shade less healthy. They do not become lastingly happier, either.

Generally, people do not get happier after they get married. Some people may get a little happier around the time of the wedding, then they go back to feeling as happy or as unhappy as they were when they were single. Not everyone has a boost of happiness around the time of the marriage. They were also no happier and no healthier, and their self-esteem was no higher.

In fact, one significant difference between couples and singles is that couples become more insular with pairing. Couples don’t develop their social network in the same way that single people do. Single people have many people they can rely on. DePaulo says, “They are probably doing more to maintain their connections with people such as friends, parents, siblings, and neighbors than married or cohabiting people are. If they can rely on their friends and family, that will probably matter more to their psychological health than whether they have a spouse or romantic partner.” And people with partners can feel terribly lonely.

What we believe about single life and what single people actually experience can be quite different. Studies show that over time, single life gets better and better. As we age, satisfaction with single life gets better. Single people have opportunities for growth and autonomy that coupled people don’t have. Single people without children have more time and income to pursue interests.

By the way, women like being single more than men do. They enjoy spending time alone more than men do. They are more satisfied with their friendships. They spend more time pursuing their interests and hobbies. If they are heterosexuals who were previously married or living with a man, they are especially happy not to be doing more than their fair share of the household chores or the work of caring for others.

A word of warning for people who choose to be single, or for whom pairing does not happen, is to protect yourself financially.  Lifelong single people are at much greater risk for financial insecurity in later life than married people. Economic discrimination against single people is written into many federal laws that benefit and protect only people who are legally married.

Single people are mostly doing fine, but other people just don’t believe them. I believe it is time that we validate singlehood. Stop the stigma against single people.

For more information on this topic go to Bella DePaulo’s website at http://www.belladepaulo.com/ or watch her Tedx Talk, “What no one ever told you about people who are single”. Fascinating.

Women’s Mental Health

Mental disorders can affect anyone. But it affects men and women differently. Some disorders are more common in one sex than the other. Certain disorders are unique to women experiencing hormone changes such as perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopause-related depression. Some conditions are the same across genders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But even when the condition is the same, certain symptoms may be more common in one sex than the other, and the course of the illness can be affected by one’s sex.

The US Department of Health & Human Services provides good information for women through their Office on Women’s Health. (womenshealth.gov) In the past year, more than 1 in 5 women in the US experienced a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. In fact, women are more than twice as likely to experience an anxiety or depressive disorder in their lifetime. Not surprising is the fact that depression is more common in women whose families live below the federal poverty line.

Some people who experience mental illness turn to substances to cope and those substances can affect your mental health. Men are more likely than women to misuse alcohol, but women are more likely to have harmful effects from it. Women absorb more alcohol pound for pound than men, and it takes longer for women’s bodies to digest alcohol. Women who abuse alcohol more may develop liver inflammation and die from cirrhosis more often than men. Alcohol can cause different types of cancer, including breast cancer. Women tend to abuse prescription drugs for different reasons than men do. They report higher rates of chronic pain and are more likely to be prescribed pain medicines than men. Women might misuse prescription drugs to lose weight and fight fatigue.

It is difficult for women to feel confident about their looks in this society. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a serious illness in which a person is overly worried about minor or imaginary physical flaws. This condition is more common in women and usually starts in the teen years.

Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. People with eating disorders eat too little or too much. These disorders affect more girls and women than boys and men.

What contributes to women’s mental health conditions? Abuse, whether physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual, can have long-term effects on your mental health, especially if you have not received any support. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men. Concerns for personal safety can lead to social isolation. Women are exposed to more sexual violence than men.

Women do have, however, some protective factors that can alleviate mental disorders. Women tend to have better social networks than men and find it easier to confide in their friends. Women are more likely to seek help.

Therapist Emma Shearer, theeverygirl.com, lists the eight most common reasons women seek therapy. These are depression and anxiety, difficult transitions, relationship struggles, addiction, mood instability, eating disorders, grief, and personal growth.

Whether you are deeply unhappy or if you are seeking personal growth, there is help available.

Are You Wedded To Your Opinions?

I enjoy people who have strong opinions, but I don’t like to debate with people who think they are always right. Dogmatically assertive people have strongly held opinions that they refuse to change, even when they are unreasonable. They speak as if their opinions are facts rather than mere beliefs.

A black-and-white approach to life can be a significant pitfall. This is known as cognitive rigidity. While they are committed to their beliefs, they often forget that all of the principles they espouse are neither universal nor objective. They don’t realize that their way isn’t the only way and that others have much to contribute and should not be dismissed.

The technical definition of cognitive rigidity is “difficulty changing mental sets.” This means switching from thinking about things one way to thinking about them a different way. On the other hand, people who can do this easily are said to have “cognitive flexibility”.

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. He has researched what makes us see things so differently from one another. He identified thirteen biases that help us understand why we hold tightly to our preferred beliefs. He says that people can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way.

  • Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm our existing beliefs.
  • Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.
  • Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.
  • Complementarity Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.
  • Competency Bias: They underestimate their own incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.
  • Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.
  • Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.
  • Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.
  • Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.
  • Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).
  • Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged.
  • Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.
  • Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, exonerate us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators.

So, the next time you catch yourself holding rigid beliefs about what you perceive as a truth, you would be wise to lessen your grip on this idea and examine if you have an unconscious bias. Through self-awareness, we can learn to recognize our biases. Find opportunities to have discussions with others from socially dissimilar groups.

And the next time you find yourself engaged in a discussion with someone who needs to be right, listen hard to find an area of commonality. Find a kernel of agreement and work from there toward meaningful discussion. They will be more likely to be open to your opinions.

Can We Really Know Someone?

Have you heard of Anna Sorokin who pretended to be a wealthy German heiress? Her real name is Anna Delvey. She swindled friends and banks out of tens of thousands of dollars and was sentenced to prison, ultimately serving almost four years. She convinced friends and businesses to give her money to fund a lavish lifestyle by falsely claiming that her father was a diplomat or an oil baron and that she had a fortune of more than $60 million overseas. Before she was sentenced, she said, “I apologize for the mistakes I made.” Last month, she paid restitution to her victims using $320,000 she received from Netflix, which purchased the rights to adapt her life story into a limited series. And she signed a book deal. She’s a con artist who duped people out of their money and now continues on her way to enjoy the attention she sought all along.

We’re all susceptible to being duped. A con game starts with an emotional foundation that is laid before the game is started. We are caught by our own belief that this person is trustworthy. By the time we become suspicious, we are so emotionally or financially invested that we don’t want to see the truth. We are the best deceivers of our own minds.

We may discover information about our family members over time. Our family histories may include drug or alcohol addictions, deceased children, infidelity, prison time, serious illnesses, organized crime activity or gang membership, a second family, murders, gambling problems, enormous debts. Or, we may have these problems in our own lives and choose not to share them with others.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms our preferred beliefs. We unconsciously select information that supports our views and ignores non-supportive information. Confirmation bias is strongest for emotionally charged issues and deeply entrenched beliefs. We don’t want to know that we are wrong about people.

People are not always what they seem. We may not even know our closest friends or spouses. We may know what our spouse’s favorite color is; what food our best friend enjoys the most; and what makes our co-worker irritated. But do we actually know them? Maybe not. The Japanese say there are three sides of a face. First is the side that you share with the people around you. Second is the side which you want to hide from everyone. And third is the reflection of your truest nature. This is the side of yourself that you haven’t, or don’t want to, explore. Nobody knows the real you. And we don’t entirely know ourselves.

In my opinion, it is good advice to secure a background check on people for whom we will share our lives or important ventures. We should know these people’s criminal history and financial status. We need to find the skeletons they haven’t mentioned. We should be aware of skeletons before they take us by surprise. A premarital background check should be done by anyone who is marrying someone they met in adulthood.

A criminal check, a credit check, and a review of public records would’ve prevented people from being conned by Anna Delvey. Upon her release from prison, she made it known that she wants to move forward with her life. She is seeking someone to love. Would you trust her?

Pros and Cons of Drug Decriminalization

Have you heard that Oregon passed a drug decriminalization law? Oregon is the first state in the country to prioritize drug treatment over punishment. Oregon is motivated to save lives. An average of one or two Oregonians die of a drug overdose every day. Overdose deaths in Oregon were up 70% this spring compared to the same time last year.

If you are found with small amounts of illicit drugs, you will receive a civil violation, like a traffic ticket. For example, you will receive a violation if you have less than 2 grams of methamphetamine and cocaine, or one gram of heroin, or less than 40 units of LSD and oxycodone. If you are caught with large amounts of illicit drugs, the consequence is a misdemeanor charge and a $100 fine. Violators can avoid that fine by agreeing to a health assessment.

Not everything goes. The decriminalization of drugs does not mean that there is a free-for-all with drug use. Law enforcement will continue to prevent the sale of drugs.

Supporters hope that people who struggle with addiction will have an incentive to get help. And more help will be available. As part of the law, the Oregon Health Authority is providing new resources and treatment options, funded in part by the state’s cannabis tax revenue.

Not everyone is pleased with decriminalization. A minority of people may find jail beneficial. Some people believe that prison stops those who don’t want to stop themselves. Some prisons have excellent substance abuse programs for inmates who are motivated for recovery.

However, prison poses a special risk of death for people who undergo withdrawal while incarcerated, or shortly upon their release. Legal charges and a history of incarceration follow one through life, causing severe consequences, such as unemployment and difficulty accessing housing.

There is a shortage of behavioral health and substance abuse treatment in the United States. The right treatment, for the right person, at the right time, and which is affordable and accessible, may not be available in one’s community. We could all learn from Oregon’s new law. The new law will utilize and expand existing treatment providers in the state. It also increases recovery services, housing, employment, drug education, outreach, and access to naloxone (overdose prevention tool).

Portugal decriminalized substance possession in 2001. According to Foundations Recovery Network, lessons learned including the following:

  • Substance abuse and addiction rates have been cut in half since decriminalization
  • Addiction treatment and rehabilitation is less expensive than incarceration
  • Individuals with substance abuse problems are much more likely to find recovery in rehab than in jail
  • People completing treatment can become productive members of society much more easily than convicted felons
  • Violence related to drug trafficking is greatly reduced
  • Courts are freed up for other important work
  • The rebellious, countercultural essence of drug use is changed when society sees it as a disease and not a crime

Foundations Recovery Network also finds the following concerns:

  • Individuals with a biological predisposition toward addiction may be more likely to experiment with drugs if they do not fear legal prosecution.
  • The existing treatment resources are not nearly large enough to handle the influx of millions of new addicts from the legal system.
  • Decriminalization may lead to a push for legalization in some situations.
  • If decriminalization leads to an increased supply of drugs on the streets of the US, prices will fall and millions of new people may be tempted to experiment.

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that decriminalization is the answer to substance abuse recovery. People use substances for many reasons. But criminalizing a medical disease most often makes it worse, not better, and has negative lifelong consequences. As our eyes are on Oregon, we will likely be faced with a similar decision in our states. Be prepared to consider the pros and cons of this legal decision.

Can You Be Fired for Going to Substance Abuse Treatment?

We love to celebrate achievements and milestones. We applaud cancer survivors. We are in awe of people who lose weight. We cheer marathon runners. Yet, people who are in recovery from drug dependence are often met with poor treatment.

Anyone who has been dependent upon an illicit drug feels the shame of addiction. Even if they have undergone treatment and are well into recovery, they realize that a social stigma exists in which they would be characterized as low life, undisciplined, dirty people. This characterization persists even though addiction affects all socio-economic groups. Anyone, no matter their age, gender, background, or circumstances, can find themselves trapped in addiction. No one sets out to be addicted to a substance. It could happen to any of us.

Imagine that you participate in drug dependence treatment at a reputable facility. You relapse after a few months and have the good judgment to re-enter the program. You get back on your feet. Because you live in a small rural town, anonymity is not possible. Everyone knows of your struggles. Are you celebrated for your achievement or could you lose your job?

I recently heard of someone who was asked to resign from a job that he held for years after his treatment became known. His job was his passion, pride, and joy. He was told that his contract would not be renewed because his addiction was a liability. To his knowledge, he had never received a complaint about his role and had never received warnings or disciplinary action before being asked to resign. I heard of another person who felt she was denied a promised promotion after it became known that she was arrested for a drug charge. That charge was later dropped.

Is that legal? Can you be fired or demoted for going to rehab? The decision to enter treatment is a tough one. A substance use disorder is considered a medical condition. You’re eligible under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) if you’ve worked for your employer at least 12 months, if you have worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and if you’re employed at a site where the company employs 50 or more workers within 75 miles. If you fit these criteria you may take a leave for medical reasons and receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work annually without the risk of losing your job.

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against employees who have disabilities. (Keep in mind that an “individual with a disability” doesn’t include a person who is currently using illegal drugs.) Under the ADA, an employer can terminate an employee if they are using drugs or alcohol on the job, if substance use impacts performance or productivity, or if substance use creates unsafe conditions on the job. The law doesn’t look at past transgressions due to drug and alcohol misuse. If you seek treatment voluntarily, you can’t be fired for going to rehab or be fired for past mistakes due to drug and alcohol use.

If you believe you have been discriminated against at work after getting treatment, you can file a charge against your employer with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

I don’t mean to minimize the significance of impaired workers. 10 percent to 25 percent of the American population is sometimes on the job under the influence of alcohol or some illicit drug. The social and economic costs of substance abuse in America are staggering. I wouldn’t tolerate it in my business. Employees who use drugs or alcohol are required to meet the same standards of performance and conduct that are set for other employees. However, an employer may not discriminate against a person who has a history of drug addiction but who is not currently using drugs and who is in recovery.

Addiction stigma prevents too many people from getting the help they need. This is only one reason that only one in ten Americans receives professional care for addiction. Addiction is a medical problem, not a moral issue. It affects people who are every bit as moral, productive, intelligent, and talented as the next person. We are all flawed human beings and should be treated equally, with understanding and respect.

Bad Memories Stick With Us More than Good

I read a Facebook post that generated a lot of discussion. “My mom said something mean to me when I was 8, literally, that I repeat back to myself any time I make a stupid mistake. I could probably bring it up to her and she won’t even remember it ever happened, or she ever said it. Meanwhile it stays in the back of my head.”

Why is it that we vividly recall painful experiences but the offender can’t remember it? Or why do we remember hurtful words but can’t as easily recall pleasant or mundane events?

“The ax forgets but the tree remembers.” This is a Zimbabwean proverb from the Shona tribe, meaning that a person who harms another or borrows from someone will often forget, but the person who is harmed or borrowed from will always remember.

According to researcher Elizabeth Kensinger of Boston College, negative emotions like fear and sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to memories. These emotionally charged memories are preserved in greater detail than happy or more neutral memories, but they may also be subject to distortion. The more these emotional centers are activated by an event, the more likely an individual is to remember specific details linked to the emotional aspect of the event, and perhaps less likely to remember more mundane details like a street address. This technique of preserving bad memories may have evolved as an evolutionary tactic to protect against future life-threatening or negative events.

Lia Kvavilasvili, a psychology researcher at the University of Herfordshire, studies what she calls “mind pops”. These are thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. She finds that memories are often triggered by something in the environment that takes us back to an incident. She also finds that interrupted moments stick with us longer than those that feel completed. For example, if we don’t have an opportunity to explain or correct the initial incident. And our emotions dictate what our brains decide to hang on to. The stronger the feeling, the stronger the memory. The brain is saying, “Something important happened. Make a strong memory.”

Can we intentionally forget these hurtful words and experiences? Erasing or suppressing memories is controversial. The brain wants to store that experience as a helpful learning tool. Corinne O’Keefe Osborn writes that, “…memories are cue-dependent, which means they require a trigger. Your bad memory isn’t constantly in your head; something in your present environment reminds you of your bad experience and triggers the recall process. Identifying your most common triggers can help you take control of them. You can also re-associate a trigger with a positive or safe experience, thereby breaking the link between the trigger and the negative memory.”

We can’t prevent bad memories from popping into our head. But we can learn to manage the emotional intensity surrounding the memories. There are many therapeutic treatments designed to desensitize highly charged memories. If painful memories interfere with your life, a therapist can help.

Is Extremism a Mental Illness?

It was frightening to watch the violence at the Pro-Trump riot at the Capitol. What is wrong with these people? Are they mentally ill?

Extremists can be left-wing or right-wing, but their views are beyond the boundaries of the norm. Political extremists are people or groups that hold a set of beliefs that differ from society’s norm to a great degree. They will use drastic measures to gain attention, including violence. Groups that are commonly labeled as extremist include Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Proud Boys.

While America watched the riot unfold at the capitol and learned of this organized attack, it appeared that a large majority of the US population were extremists. Although it was shocking, there is less extremism than we think.  Americans have a deeply distorted understanding of each other. Americans exaggerate the extremism of the other side. We call this America’s “Perception Gap”. Overall, Democrats and Republicans imagine there are almost twice as many of their political opponents than there really are.

A 2018 study conducted by “More In Common” (moreincommon.com), said that only 6% of Americans fit the definition of “Devoted Conservatives”, far-right people who feel that America is under threat and they’re the last line of defense in protecting traditional values with strident uncompromising views. On the other end of the political spectrum, the study identified 8% of Americans as “Progressive Activists” on the far left, 67% of those surveyed falling into what researchers labeled the “Exhausted Majority.” This largest group looks for common ground, has opinions based on situations instead of conforming to strict ideologies, and hates polarization. Even on the most controversial issues in our national debates, Americans are less divided than most of us think. More than three-quarters of Americans believe our differences are not so great that we cannot come together.

No matter the size, you may think that anyone who commits themselves to violent means is mentally ill. Not necessarily. Many offenders do not have mental illnesses or criminal histories. Mental illness is not a necessary condition for violence. Correlation is not causation.

Extremism, Radicalisation & Mental Health: 2019 Handbook for Practitioners, is an excellent resource for understanding the role of mental illness in terrorism. “There is no empirical evidence to suggest that terrorism is predominantly committed by mentally ill individuals, and where mental illness is present, it may not be relevant to the risk [of violence].” However, various types of mental illness may cause an individual to be vulnerable to extremism. It’s complicated. There is no simple formula for the role mental illness plays in shaping extremism.

If not mentally ill, why do people go to such extremes? Many extremists who carry out these acts share underlying traits. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that the following makes people more prone to radicalization: feeling alone or lacking meaning and purpose in life; being emotionally upset after a stressful event; disagreeing with government policy; not feeling valued or appreciated by society; believing they have limited chances to succeed; feeling hatred toward certain types of people. Many extremist groups thrive on righting what they perceive as a historic wrong.  A shared sense of victimhood is often what bonds extremists.

A 2016 report by Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies finds that the underlying causes of violent extremism are very similar to the underlying causes for other social issues, such as drug abuse, alcoholism, gang activity, and criminality. The cure is really the same for everything that affects society, which is a good public health system, education, job training, and a strong sense of community support.

At the time of this writing, more than 100 individuals involved in the Capitol riots have been arrested. Each of them has a unique reason for their behavior. As a starting point for discussion and understanding, I would ask each individual, “What problem does your attempted solution fix, and also what life experiences might have led you to this solution?”

Trump Incited a Violent Coup Against Democracy. Now What?

President Trump incited a riot in Congress in which five people died. This riot is the culmination of an election result. President-elect Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes. But Trump could not accept it. He wants to believe that he is the winner. And he is desperate to have others believe he won. “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it,” said Trump. He was fixated on overturning the election.

On Jan. 3, the Washington Post broke the news of an hour-long call in which Trump attempted to persuade Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to recalculate the state’s vote in his favor. On tape, Trump told officials, ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’. Raffensperger said, “We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” he said. A national election security coalition announced that, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” Trump lost nearly 60 election fights in court (and counting). “Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” said Judge Stephanos Bibas, one of Trump’s own nominees. In essence, the emperor has no clothes. But now, after an attempted coup, even prominent Republicans have disavowed the president. They would like him to resign.

As I understand it, there are three courses of action to remove Trump from office before he causes more damage in the two weeks remaining in his term. He can resign, he can be impeached, or he can be subject to the 25th amendment, which states that if the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the vice president becomes president. No president has ever been impeached twice. If Trump were convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding office again. Strong action is required. If we normalize bad behavior, we unleash more of it in the world.

This outcome is not a surprise. We’ve known of his weaknesses all along.  “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”, is a book from experts in the psychology field that repeatedly point out Trump’s malignant narcissism. These professionals made the cry of a “clear and present danger” that Trump’s mental health poses to the nation. They argue that the President places the country at risk of undermining democracy itself due to his dangerous pathology. This pathology is largely, but not exclusively, due to Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder. As these authors predicted, Trump has only grown more erratic and dangerous as the pressures on him mount.

Claire Jack, PhD, wrote “5 Reasons Why Narcissists Are So Dangerous”, published in Psychology Today. She said they do not respect experts. They act without consulting others’ opinions. If a narcissist wants to do something, they will. They’ll put other lives in danger if it meets their needs. They have low empathy. Being right, winning, and dominating are far more important than worrying about how someone will feel. They like drama. Narcissists thrive on drama. She nailed it, and here we are.

Losing the election caused a narcissistic wound for Trump. He cannot tolerate losses. People without narcissism can self-correct. Trump’s impeachment did not result in a more tempered attitude or behavior. Instead, Trump called the process “a dangerous attack”. In fact, he doubled down on his efforts to rally loyalty from his base, to the point of calling for violence.

There is no fury like a wounded narcissist. Trump has plotted with others how to get revenge against anyone who did not go along with him. “Policy doesn’t animate him. Revenge animates him,” said an adviser who had recently spoken with the president. “He can’t admit that he lost. He would literally do anything in the world,” one official said. A second administration official said: “Guy can’t just help himself and go away.”

Let’s be clear, Trump is not going away by resignation, impeachment or by the 25th amendment. Narcissists don’t resign from office. He can be stripped of his office, but he will not stop his pursuit to be vindicated. He will remain a danger to democracy.

Is It Okay to Cut Off a Family Member?

A family is a group of people who share a common ancestry or who are bound as a unit. The US Census Bureau defines a family as a group of two people or more related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together. In an ideal world, family is our source of love, security, and loyalty. Until it isn’t. Sometimes family members can be toxic.

The US is deeply divided politically. Many people have purged friends and family whose political views are offensive to them. I read that Ricardo Deforest of Tampa, Fla., said, “I hate to say it because family is everything. I disowned them. In my mind, they’re not family anymore.”

I saw a Facebook post, targeted to mental health therapists, which asked if it was okay to cut off family members. A lively exchange followed in which most therapists strongly agreed that one should cut off toxic family members. They had no reservations about alienating people who do horrible things even though they are blood relations. You can only take so much, try so much, and do so much until you decide to leave. Giving up on people that relentlessly hurt you is taking care of yourself, and you deserve to be safe.

We wouldn’t tolerate bad behavior from acquaintances, but should we make more of an attempt with family members? Family is still family no matter how they’ve hurt you. Family ties bind us in a way that other social ties do not. We will work harder to maintain relationships with the people that we share our lives with.

Where do you draw the line? Some decisions are easy. If there is a present danger of sexual, verbal, emotional, or physical abuse to children or elders, it is not only wise to leave, but there are societal safeguards in place to assist the process. Domestic violence is not tolerated. You are not expected to make a consistent sacrifice in your own well-being. 

But life is not always black and white. Families are complicated and cutting off family is giving up, perhaps prematurely or unnecessarily. Sometimes we have to learn how to love someone with detachment or from afar. You can still consider them family, albeit from a distance.

The experts in setting boundaries with family members are people who attend Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a “worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics”. They teach people the concept of detachment. The principles can apply to any toxic family member. 

According to Al-Anon, “Detachment is neither kind nor unkind. It does not imply judgment or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. It does not necessarily require physical separation. Detachment allows us to let go of another’s behavior and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives. We learn not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people and not to allow ourselves to be used or abused.”

Knowing your boundaries and establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is a life skill. Determine the need for creating a boundary or changing an existing boundary by listening to your feelings. For example, if we feel angry, used, or guilty, we probably need to set a boundary. Ideally, we want to create a healthy middle ground between the extremes of either controlling others or allowing them to control us. We can set boundaries with others who attempt to control us by telling us how to think, feel, or behave. And we should refrain from the same. Either end of the spectrum between rigid or non-existent boundaries is unhealthy for us and others.

What’s the best way to communicate boundaries? Al-Anon says it best: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, just don’t say it mean.” In other words, manners matter when communicating your boundaries with others. We think better of ourselves when we are direct, honest, and respectful. Listen to objections as long as they are stated in a respectful manner. Then carefully consider your response.