People make poor dogs:

A lot of what I see in my office is a mismatch between peoples imagined intent and the strategy they are living their lives by that in no way can lead to this goal (their intent.) One big mistake in this mismatched life vs strategy dilemma has to do with unconditional positive regard. Our culture holds this expectation as a goal from for example: moms toward their kids, Women toward their husbands and husbands toward their wives, and what people want from their gods for themselves. But in reality unconditional positive regard exists in only one place in this universe, from your dog!

If you live with another human being in any capacity you need them to do certain things so as to not make it impossible to be able live with them. Their behaviors in other words affect your well being. This blows unconditional positive regard. If you live your life for another with unconditional positive regard for them your life will suck and most likely so will theirs. Humans make poor dogs.

Even your imagined god can’t have unconditional positive regard for you as there is no religion that does not have some rules and expectations for its participants. Thus all religions in order to be part of them have the, don’t follow the rules and expectations and there will be consequence from punishment to expulsion.

If you need and desire unconditional positive regard and all people do, dogs have been specifically bread over many many generations for this sole purpose. One day our computers might also have this capacity with Artificial Inelegance but it will be short lived and then they will probably just kill us. Humans are not interesting enough to keep an infinitely powerful intelligence from becoming bored and disillusioned with us. (see the movie Her for an exposé on this topic)

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The half Ass Rebel:

A lot of people come to me complaining “I am anxious, I have panic attacks..”   Most of the time contrary to DSM V  it isn’t because they are genetically broken but instead because they are trying to do the impossible.

A teenager upon going to college started developing panic attacks and chronic anxiety. She called home every night to question her every move with her mother. She was trying to satisfy her mother’s needs for closeness and having “my baby” while at the same time trying to satisfy her adult needs for individuality, privacy and learning to fail and deal with it.  But in her trying to make mom happy and not disappoint her while at the same time having to make decisions for herself that might or might not always be of moms approval she created an unsolvable conflict.  The result was chronic anxiety.  When she stopped asking mom about every decision the anxiety resolved on its own.

Another woman who was married, had a good job and raised a few healthy kids would fall apart into a panicky mess whenever she returned home to visit her childhood family. She felt guilty as she disagreed with the chaos she grew up with; the drama, secrets, denial and blaming style of her childhood family.  She created a life free of this but couldn’t tolerate making her mom unhappy so would be drawn right back in whenever home. She tried to stay true to her values and intent but it was incompatible with her family’s life approach thus she would get paralyzed trying to satisfy both realities.

I call this phenomenon that of the ½ ass rebel. Much of life conflicts with itself. Just opposed opposites can both be true at the same time. For instance you and you mother can have the exact opposite view on something and you can both be absolutely correct. This is called moral relativity.  From her point of view she is correct and from your point of view you are correct.  The problem is when you try to satisfy both realities at the same time to make everyone happy and avoid conflict. As this is impossible it will just make you have anxiety and panic. It’s like trying to keep two different doors open at the same time with you stretched out between them, it is just impossible. That’s the ½ ass rebel. Trying to be independent and true to you while at the same time trying to make everyone else happy, just not doable.

The solution is called neutrality. It is the only way to balance just opposed systems of reality.   You can acknowledge the others opinion but you neither agree nor disagree with it.  “We can agree to disagree. I see you see it that way.”  Neutrality is infinitely more efficient as once you agree to something you don’t actually agree to it cannot possibly work out and often enough it creates chaos. A lot of good hearted people with good intention make situations chaotic and worse by trying to be nice when they should have been neutral.

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Making Amends:

Dear Dr. Brilliant cliché,

A friend of mine (best friend at the time)  fell off the wagon. He got into heroin and would say and do awful things then not remember he did them. The last straw was when he asked his girlfriend for buss money to make her grandma’s funeral then spent the money on drugs and didn’t show for her. He never did anything bad to me directly but I saw this as despicable despite the fact that she eventually forgave him and took him back.  I just couldn’t stomach his treatment of her anymore nor her always rescuing him and taking him back.  Anyway a few years passed and I got a check from him. It was in the amount of the buss money. I figured her denial and his memory changed events  to where he screwed me out of the money, not that he screwed her, and that’s why I stopped talking to them.  I figured he was doing the make amends step.

So now I am at a dilemma. I did once love this guy. Should I assist with his step? Should I correct their memory that it was she he screwed over not me and that I stopped talking to them because the whole game was just awful not because of any money issue? Do I even want to get involved again as statistically he will relapse again anyway and it will just be more heart ache? She is codependent not me and it is a game that I do not ever want to play.

AA or not


Dear AA,

What I remember of the steps is to write the letters of amends but don’t actually send them. It is presumptuous to think anyone wants to go back down memory lane with you and do corrective interventions. One has to forgive oneself not be forgiven by others.  That’s just more codependent BS that works for the movies but real life is messy.   It is not your job to forgive him or forget anything. He isn’t about you.  But if you feel it will add to your life feel free to contact him. Know your intent in reconnecting with him.  He will not be the same person who you knew before his relapse.  You will have to establish a new relationship as if he is someone new you are meeting and you will have evaluate him on his current behaviors as to whether you wish to be friends.  Change doesn’t happen by focusing on the past. Forgiveness and forgetting is often a past focus.  Change happens by focusing on intent, the future, and what behaviors and skills are necessary to bring that future about. If all they want is your forgiveness, move on they don’t get the point of the whole exercise and they are still playing the same old game which only can have one ending.  Redemption unlike in the movies cannot come from another person. It is something internal.  Love isn’t redemptive it is more often enabling.

Today’s Cliché: “Life is the quality of the skill sets of the friends you choose to surround yourself with.”


Not good luck but Good Intent,


Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny Dr. adds:

What I would tell this guy is that he should send the check back, explaining why and stay away from the guy. Every person you spend time on in your life takes up time you could spend on something else. Fact: junkies never change, and if they do, they need to build a new life. You are part of the old one. Stay away.

AA owes nobody nothing. Ya don’t have to answer every knock at your door…unless you really want to hear about God from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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Higher power who?

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I recently admitted to being an alcoholic and I have reached out for help. But all I get is this “higher power” bullshit! I do not believe in god! Can’t anyone help me without forcing religion down my throat? Can’t I stay sober without god? Can’t I just take a pill?

Owen My Own

Dear Own,

Quite frankly, in my opinion, NO! The god of AA is not some guy sitting in a chair judging your good deeds from your bad. That’s Santa Clause. The god of AA (higher power) is really a metaphor for intention and action- the intention being sobriety, and the action being the work to get there.

All that you know, and all that you are, is solidified as your EGO. So far, your ego has directed you to be an alcoholic.  Unless you turn your ego off, you will never gain control of your life. You will just be a puppet of your own faulty programming, and a puppet of alcohol.

Here’s a metaphor: let’s say that at some point in your life, someone hacked into your brain and introduced a virus. This virus has been feeding you false information ever since. You can’t discriminate between what’s real and what’s viral programming. The only way to ever regain control is completely wipe your brain clean, re-boot the system, and start from scratch.

For you, as an alcoholic, wrongful thinking is the virus that was planted, and your ego is the brain that needs to be wiped clean.

The first step is to admit that you have no control and your programming is faulty. You can’t tell what is real and what is not. The twelve steps is a re-programming manual but it can’t, on its own, override your ego. This is where the concept of higher power comes in handy.

Here’s a useful way of thinking which comes from a Buddhist meditation practice. The person you wish to become already exists in the future. Your future self wants your present self to be successful in growing and changing. The very life of your future self depends on the success of your present self. So, that is where your help and guidance will come from. You can converse with and trust in this future self and if you lie, cheat, or stray, you will only lie, cheat, and steal from reaching your own potential.

The importance of higher power lies in its concept of intent and action. It makes no difference which religion or path you choose, as long as you connect to a group that has intent and action. The dervishes cut off their ego through spinning; the Buddhists cut their ego through meditation; and AA does it through humility, admitting helplessness, and asking for help.

Good luck in your sobriety but remember that any rehabilitation, mental or physical, relies on the support and help of other people. You need to learn new habits and thinking, and it will take time and practice. Don’t try to go it alone; this problem is bigger than you are.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny concurs; she added her two cents when she edited Dr. Brilliant’s reply!

One additional comment- if you think that you can take a pill to achieve sobriety, you’re on your way to substituting drugs for alcohol. The fact that you are thinking this way is a further illustration that you don’t have the ability to deal with alcoholism on your own. You may not believe in a higher power… but I think it’s time to admit that YOU are not a higher power. Get some help.

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It is all a crap shoot:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am 25 and thinking about getting married but the statistics are grim. What is the secret?




Dear Hopeful,

Before today I would have told you about mutual intent, goodness of fit, communication skills and expectations. Things like: there is an I in team and balance of: family, self, vocation and play. Setting up a life is the same as setting up a nonprofit. You can’t sleep with anyone you are mothering. Even the ideas of stable ponying and the theory of transactional analysis.  But a friend said to me today “What are you wacked? The stats are at least 50 percent divorce amongst every economic group, every culture, every race, every religion, every vocation, mixed couples of every possible combination and at every educational level. And they maintain 50 percent or higher on second and third marriages.” Essentially she said “It’s all a crap shoot.”

I am not entirely convinced that there aren’t pockets as all my friends from high school’s marriages are intact and strong going on twenty years or more but there doesn’t appear to be any magic formula no matter what or whose book you read. And science based on every other mammalian species would predict humans for serial monogamy not monogamy. So maybe it is all a crap shoot but that doesn’t mean don’t do it.

Hopeful, I can tell you this “Deal with the tragedies as they occur for they will occur.” Hell we all die but that doesn’t mean don’t live your life to its fullest! Remember Everything is imperfect. Enjoy what you can while you can and make the best life for yourself you can. Pick someone to be with that you can see surviving those tragedies with you and being there for you.


Today’s Cliché: “ Skills are a better bet than fun.”


And stay Hopeful,


Dr. Brilliant Cliché

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Passion is OK

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

My 16 year old daughter is having some behavioral issues and hanging with what I would consider a poor crowed. I think she is confused. For example: Her closet is divided. On one side are Patriot sweatshirts and T shirts, comfy clothes, and the other Black dresses and more sexy clothing.

I am afraid she is at a crossroad and she might be choosing the wrong path? She doesn’t want to listen to anything I say. I am not sure how to help her?

Concerned Parent


Dear Concerned,

Teenagers are passionate about just about everything. Some are even passionate about not being passionate. Passion is fine. It not only keeps one’s mind sharp but it makes life feel meaningful. Only Passion has to stay within the boundaries of one’s inner morals. Inner morals are not religion or what church or temple teaches. Religious morals don’t often determine human behavior at the time choices are made but are used to feel guilt after people already did something that violates them.

Inner morals are based on ones Intent. What kind of person do you want to be? And you are only allowed to do what that person would do or you cease to be that person.   What kind of person one is can be determined by how one touches and influence others. An example is at a Quaker wedding or funeral. They “whiteness” the person. They stand up in front of the community and tell how the person influenced or touched their life. The Quakers got this right for that is who a person is. In the book ‘Speaker for the dead’ it is called “Speaking a person.” You can even be passionate about these inner morals for it is who you are.

Your daughter has to ask herself this question. What kind of person do I want to be and how do I want to touch others? How do I want to be remembered? How would I want to be presented to my spouse at the time of my wedding? What do I want to role model?

Teenager hood is a time of passion and figuring this out. Your daughter has to take the rains in asking these questions and not allow others to make these decisions up for her. Otherwise she will be only how others influence her and not how she touches others. If she doesn’t learn to write her own life, take responsibility for herself, she will just be others and never herself. People who don’t learn this essentially don’t exist. They are Giving Tree’s sacrificing for others, taken for granted, and invisible.


Today’s Cliché:

“Passion is ok so long as it is in the bounds of inner morals”


Dr. Brilliant Cliché


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None of this is my fault:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am having a tough time especially as none of this is my fault; it was thrust upon me by my asshole ex husband. Things seemed to be fine until one day my now ex left me for a much younger woman. He felt he was living a lie and is now free to be who he really is. Now of course my three kids who were previously good students, one even all honors, are being truant from school hanging with shitty crowed and smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. I am having a tough time managing work and bringing them to truancy court, counseling appointments. I don’t want my relationship to my kids to only be one of punishment, consequences, and yelling at them. Their dad is unreliable and has no real grasp of how shitty things have become for us or maybe he just doesn’t care?

Losing It.


Dear Losing it,

Sorry to hear how hard things have become for you. Divorce sucks. Kids get all confused, their natural pain in the ass thoughts and behaviors can exaggerate and there are too many fucked up other kids around that can magnify negativity and negative behaviors. I hope you have a good family councilor that can help.

Beware of guilt; it will undermine your any attempt to create a team and to express how their behaviors affect your life. Untimely it all boils down to people learning to ask themselves do they want to be an asshole or not and identifying what are asshole behaviors. Marijuana/alcohol is the other thing that undermines any attempt on not being an asshole as one can be an asshole by omission.

You need to have a hard line when it comes to marijuana and alcohol. If they are using the court needs to put them in substance abuse programs. We all know alcohol’s risks but marijuana screws up the brains ability to process information especially in the teenage brain and you can’t communicate with someone who just isn’t there.

I believe people need to see the big picture before they can focus on the details. Reality isn’t based on how anyone feels, people have to get over that fallacy, reality is based solely on ones behaviors they choose/choices they make in life and how those choices affect others and themselves.

Your kids behaviors are being shitty to you and ultimately they need to see that but at this time it isn’t relevant whether they like you or not. If a ship is sinking you plug the hole with whatever you can and it isn’t relevant how anyone feels about it. You need a lawyer and you need to know your legal rights are and what responsibilities your ex has to be legally doing for you and the kids. He isn’t “free” no more than anyone else that lives in a system.


I would suggest having your lawyer draw up a list of responsibilities you need your ex husband to do to help financially and with all these appointments and such including family therapy with him in attendance too. Have your lawyer present the plan to the court to reinforce. Then if he doesn’t follow it there will be legal and visitation consequences.

If the ex is using alcohol or marijuana himself that needs to be included in the plan and reinforced with DCYF if need be.

The same with the kids, your lawyer needs to draw up a list of their responsibilities and have that presented to the court to reinforce with consequences of not following, i.e. group home or drug treatment programs ect.

If you can’t afford a lawyer either free legal counsel or work with the social worker to have a plan you can present to the judge. But in reality if you don’t have a lawyer things don’t always go well especially if he does have one. It is the way our system is built.



The Granny Dr. says:

Wow, Losing It, you really have a load of crap to deal with. But I think Dr. Brilliant’s advice on the substance abuse program may have exactly the opposite effect you hope for. Here’s what the latest research shows:

Increasingly, substance-abuse experts are finding that teen drug treatment may indeed be doing more harm than good. Many programs throw casual dabblers together with hard-core addicts and foster continuous group interaction. It tends to strengthen dysfunctional behavior by concentrating it, researchers say. “Just putting kids in group therapy actually promotes greater drug use,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The exposure can be especially dangerous for impressionable youngsters. “I’ve known kids who have gone into inpatient treatment and met other users. After treatment, they meet up with them and explore new drugs and become more seriously involved in drug use,” says Tom Dishion, director of research at the Child and Family Center at the University of Oregon, who has documented such peer influence in scientific studies.

In academic terms, the problem is known as deviancy training, or the negative impact of friends on teen behavior — what parents would simply call a bad influence. In one 2000 study, in which researchers measured how much time teens spent together and how much they encouraged their peers’ misbehavior, Dishion found that social exposure to delinquent peers at age 14 accounted for 53% of adolescents’ life problems five years later — including criminal convictions, sexual promiscuity, relationship issues and drug use.

In another study looking specifically at the impact of group interventions, teenagers who had been identified as being at high risk for drug use and delinquency at ages 11 through 14 were more likely to smoke cigarettes and have disciplinary problems at school three years later if they had been enrolled in a teen focus group about drugs, compared with those who underwent private counseling sessions with their immediate families. “Any condition that promotes kids talking about or endorsing drug use [with one another] would increase the likelihood that the treatment would have a negative effect,”


I agree that you should get a lawyer to protect yourself and the kids against the crap the ex may try to pull, or evade.

But right now, the kids are cynical and rebellious, and attempting to regulate them via “the system” will make them rebel even more.

Their problem, at base, is not alcohol or pot. Their problem is that they had their home ripped out from under them, and dad has declared everything they trusted to be a lie.

If you acts desperate and stressed and starts issuing orders, she will alienate them further.

If you change your behavior too much, they will believe your love was a lie.


I suggest that, rather than treating the kids like problems and forcing them into the punishment of rehab,

you understand something- when kids are in shock or devastated, they act out.

What they need to know most is that Mom’s love is NOT a lie.

You needs to tell them that you understands that whether they know it or not, they are really fucked up over this, and your most fervent prayer is that they will not hurt themselves in blind, blanked out pain before they come out of it. You can’t stop them from being jackasses by hauling out the club.

But you can tell them that although you can’t control what they do outside the home,

while they are in her house, they will show you respect, because you deserves it, and you will treat them with respect, in hopes that in turn, they will act like humans who deserve it.

If they act like nasty little shits, you can tell them to go live with their father, who will undoubtedly recoil with horror. Too freakin’ bad. His life was a lie? Well, the kids ain’t a lie. They are right there.

Let’s see how he deals with that truth.


In the meantime, mom, you need a support group, or the assholes in your family will have you believing you are the one who is fucked up.

You need to do something to make yourself feel good too, instead of bashing your head against the problems. Too bad you can’t ship the kids out on a merchant marine boat where life is very real. Can you? It’s a thought. I wish you luck.


Dr. Brilliant comments:

I guess the reality is you really have no control and you have to be willing to say if you are going to treat me like shit and not care for yourselves, good bye, go to dad and let him deal with the shit storm he actually caused.

Ultimately kids have to take responsibility for themselves and their behaviors and let others be the idiots they are. The, “all people are assholes including myself, and try my best in life not to be an asshole,” theory helped me survive my tweenhood. Transactional Analysis /TA is the best working system to learn and teach me vs. them and what I am that I have found to date. There are books on it on Amazon. I’m OK You’re OK. and, Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts is another one. But there is a great synopsis believe it or not put out by our government, the one we used to have. Before bucket filling was the official system used in schools, TA was used. TA is a lot better.

Transactional Analysis


The Granny Dr. Responds:

The problem with situations like this is that there is nothing she can DO that will just get a result. The kids are going to retreat to their own support circles and maybe even pretend to cooperate, while doing whatever the hell they want.


All rules are out because everything is a lie, why bother?


That’s why her only choice is to cultivate her own strength and try not to let the asshole husband’s totally selfish choices embitter her or turn her into a controlling shrew with the kids.


The one lesson I’ve learned with my own son is that children of all ages have their own issues for their own reasons and they sometimes protect themselves by shutting out the very people who could help them.

There is nothing one can do but remain consistent and steady, not becoming angry at slights.


Sometimes all you can do is set an example with your own life and wait until others are ready to see. It’s much harder than taking action, but in the end, only relentless, consistent love can win if you want to preserve the family.



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The Law of Attraction is BS


Proof that the “secret/law of attraction” is BS. I just saw a 24 year old who isn’t using protection but sexually active and her desire is not to get pregnant. The universe is about to disappoint her big time! It isn’t our desires but our behaviors that make a difference. Our culture supports the opposite belief and thus a lot of why shit happens.

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The communication gap:

We all have heard of the generation gap, Miscommunication and misunderstanding due to differences in ones point of reference and pool of general knowledge, in this case caused by 10 or more year difference in age. Unfortunately in our country there is a new ever widening gap caused also by a differing in one’s general pool of knowledge but here it is caused by not your age but by your political slant. Today one’s knowledge base and one’s entire bases of how you see yourself and the world around you is influenced and possibly entirely determined but what news programs you watch, what internet sites you visit, and what books/papers/magazines you read. Whether you watch CNN and public broad casting vs. fox and other entertainment as news  programming or headline news via the internet or your phone you are being subjected to entirely different and incompatible world views and differing views of reality.

I hear daily people say we are all US citizen’s and have to learn to just get over it and deal with each other but this is not actually so simply and easily achievable. It is like saying the Israelis and Palestinian’s are all middle easterners and should just get over it and move on and love each other. It doesn’t account for the fact that their entire basis of reality is different and incompatible with each other.

In America we have the ‘love will conquer it all’ philosophy but this is just simplistic and in reality doesn’t work, for example, as seen in our 60% divorce rate then 60% divorce rate again with a second marriage.   It takes negotiation skills, compromise, an in-depth understanding of the issues, and most importantly an identified mutual intent to be able to communicate across any divide, i.e. a lot of work.   Also it takes the acknowledgement that the bases of one’s reality might not be actually true to be able to acknowledge that the other side might have a different yet legitimate intent and world view.

The reason love doesn’t conquer it all in marriages or in any situation in general is that if your beliefs affect my well-being in terms of safety, stability, and economics then I have a vested interest in what you choose to believe. I therefore cannot be objective or all accepting without placing myself in the position of martyr and thus be harmed by your actions.

Humans have two brains, the left (data) and the right (heart.) What is true in one is not often true in the other. Both can even be true yet different therefore human reality is at best ambiguous. An example is a mom and her daughter are arguing, both actually are entirely correct but their reference points are different by age thus they can be both correct yet saying the opposite things. The best we can do as humans is to strive for some balance between the two realities but this ambiguity leaves room for us to be manipulated and divided. Appealing to the heart over data is the bases of “alternative facts” i.e. propaganda and nationalism.

Entertainment news like Fox cater to right brain, emotion, where Public broadcasting news caters to left brain, Data.   Their differing slants offer entirely different and incompatible realities. Each represents different political views and different candidates who reinforce these beliefs.

Which camp you ascribe to affects my direct welfare because who you vote for and support makes decisions that in turn affect my health, sense of safety, and now days how I feel life on this planet will be or not be in the near future. One camp says this is malarkey and not real data, just paranoia of the liberal elites. They say we are ok and don’t need to worry about it, focus on the real issues here and now. The other camp says if we don’t plan for the future there isn’t going to be a future.

Although the simple answer is both are true and both need to be dealt with but this isn’t the view reflected in the political conversation at current. We seem to be in an either or.

The source of news you follow affects everything you believe, it creates more of a religion than just information. The communication divide is real and widening and gaining momentum worldwide in the form of a right wing Nationalism movement. The Dominos are falling. Just letting it go will not work and is the wrong approach as denial helps fuel its progression.   Educating oneself, questioning what you think you might know and not taking any information as true until you research what the source is and their agenda is. This can allow for real conversations across the divide based on researched data. Try to establish a mutual intent as this is the basis of any relationship.

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Why is life not like on TV?

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

Why aren’t relationships, marriage, and friendships, like on TV, I.E. Sex and the City, Golden Girls etc.



Dear Sad,

TV sets up for expectations that just are not reflected in reality. We are all busy and stretched and there isn’t 3 generational neighborhoods where everyone is right next door. Time, distance, and diversions make things difficult. The economic realities of both spouses working, longer work hours, and longer commutes make it difficult. Corporate policy to avoid paying for health insurance means more part time jobs without benefits. This causes people to juggle multiple jobs which really makes it difficult. The lack of extended local family and the high cost of daycare makes it difficult.

Reality can be sad and lonely and it puts a lot of pressure on marriages.  “You’re my everything!” isn’t realistic but our culture tries to make it so and actually needs it to be.  So when it’s not which enviably it will not be –  end of marriage.

Life is difficult and goals need to be fought for and consciously planned. You can’t just expect to fall into happy utopia, it doesn’t exist.  There will be conflict and the need to negotiate in everything.

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