Guidelines For Emotional Health
Getting Practical #1: The Basics

Therapists are often accused of not being very practical.
After we explain how some problem works, we frequently hear:
“OK, Fine. But what should I DO About it?!”

Therapists don’t give a lot of practical advice because it usually doesn’t work.
People seldom change just by doing what someone thinks they “should” do.
But sometimes an idea comes at just the right time.

My hope is that today just happens to be your “right time.”


Don’t try to improve in all of these areas once!
Just pick out a few statements that feel right to you
and notice your improvement each day for a while.

Then come back and decide whether to keep these same goals or pick some new ones.

(Lovers, friends, family, coworkers, everyone.)

Ask for what you want.
Don’t expect people to guess.

Simply say “I like that” and “I don’t like that” frequently.
People around you need to know.

Enjoy plenty of close friends with whom you can share almost everything.

Remember that the main reason you are with someone
is to enjoy them, get attention, and play with them.

Don’t try to help others unless they specifically ask for it
– and don’t do someone else’s thinking for them.

Don’t keep relationships that are
based primarily on complaining and sharing bad feelings.

If you don’t have a primary relationship,
be sure you have many more close friends than those who do.

When you are mistreated, say so!
If it continues after you’ve asked them to stop, find another friend.

All relationships will end sadly some day.
Don’t focus on the end, enjoy it now.

Don’t value family over friends, or friends over family.
Value how you are treated by each person instead.

Don’t allow anyone to control you
and don’t try to control anyone else.

Aim at being as spontaneous, intimate, and aware as you possibly can be.

State your own limits and boundaries clearly,
and ask about other people’s boundaries often.

Forget revenge.
It’s poison.

(For couples in all stages of life)

Spend plenty of time together.
Too much is always better than too little.

Share lots of touch.
Touch is the main reason you are together.

The most important aspect of your relationship
is safe, loving, non-sexual touch.
Enjoy a lot of it.

The second most important aspect of your relationship is sexual touch.
Enjoy a lot of it.

Don’t try to give or receive trust before it is earned.
Trust is earned,
it’s not a gift we give each other.

Don’t try to earn love
or expect the other person to earn it.
Love is a gift,
it can never be “earned.”

If you must predict the future,
examine the past.
(It’s often wrong,
but it is the best we have.)

Don’t focus on “getting” or “measuring” love.
Focus on absorbing the amount you have.

(And when considering your own childhood)

Parents provide safety and warmth,
or they are not true parents.
Protect and love your child.

Don’t try to substitute control for involvement.
Be with your children.
Show them what you want them to know.

Treat children as learners.
They are not responsible the way adults are
until they are in their mid-teens.

Be willing to teach your children the same things
over and over and over and over and over and over….

Get out of your chair instead of issuing orders!
(And remember that your kids aren’t your personal robots.)

Give your child your time and energy while enjoying them.
You are the best thing you have for them.

Tell you child what you like
at least twice as often
as you tell them what you don’t like.

Children are born to please themselves.
Don’t teach them they were born to please you.

Parents must take care of their children, not vice versa.
Don’t expect your children to take care of you.

Welcome and appreciate your child’s growing independence.

Point out the natural consequences of the child’s behavior.
This is the most effective discipline.

Discipline doesn’t need to hurt (physically or emotionally).
When it does, the child can only focus on the pain, not on what they did.

You should usually ask children instead of demanding.
And when you ask they have a right to say “no.”

Children (and adults) need to do their best
only in the most important areas of their lives, not in everything.

(At work and about work)

Never be more loyal to an employer
than they are to you.

Always know your “market value”
(where else you can work, likely pay range and benefits, etc.).

Look for work while you have a good job
– and start by applying for work that you think is “over your head.”

Expect to be rejected when you apply for a new job.
Take it as a “gold star” along the way to the better job.

Don’t take any more mistreatment at work
than you would anywhere else in your life.

Your employer doesn’t own you.
You only owe them what you have specifically contracted to do.

Don’t make work your primary source of attention and affection.
It never works.

Every physically healthy person is motivated.
Discover what motivates those you supervise – and yourself.

Change is constant and fast.
Be ready for it.

Set general goals for the long term.
Then take advantage of each day’s steps toward your goals.

Find a job you enjoy so much that getting paid for it seems almost unfair.

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