Category Archive: Personality

Jan 12

Breaking Up without Depression

Breaking Up - Couple Arguing

Some people seem to find it much easier to weather the breaking up of a romantic relationship than others. Sure they may feel sad, they may worry about what it means that their relationship ended, but relatively soon they’re able to move on. Others get mired in doubt and find it hard to reenter the dating …

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Aug 07

Distress Tolerance

Distress Tolerance

In A wonderful young woman we have been seeing for a few months asked for some recommendations for skills to help her deal with her experience of moments of overwhelming negative emotions that often seem to come out of nowhere. This post is a relatively quickly pulled together document derived from Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Think …

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Apr 30

Why Do We Procrastinate?


Procrastination may be related to impulsive decision making. This somewhat surprising finding is based on a large study of twins. Most modern explanations of procrastination have focused on avoidance and aversion. You put off things because you are afraid of some negative consequence (doing badly, not meeting your standards, etcetera), in other words, you are avoiding a bad outcome. …

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Jun 18

The Pressure of Perfectionism

  In today’s society, many people struggle with the desire to be perfect. Perfectionism is the view that anything done in a less than perfect fashion is unacceptable.  In a PowerPoint presentation found at this website <> , Jennifer Marten explains how striving for perfection can take away from personal happiness and success. Perfectionists can …

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Jun 07

Gambling: Sucked into the Slots

Dr. Howard Forman interviewed Dr. David Forest about the reasons behind the great appeal of slot machines. Gambling is a phenomenon that has been sweeping the nation. People are simply captivated by the machines. Dr. Forest attributes the allure of the slots to both players and professionals to the bio-psycho-social attractiveness of the machines. The …

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Mar 17

On the Borderline

I am writing a presentation for the UCSF Bipolar Program on the topic of the relationship between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder and I thought I would jot down some of my thoughts in a quick post. Borderline personality disorder involves a “pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity” …

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Feb 26

Needing to be Perfect

The need to be perfect is one of the “dangerous ideas” that can destroy a life. It often comes from the fear of abandonment that all of us have, and which can be easily activated in childhood by a mismatch in personality with one’s parent. A wonderful, smart, attractive, funny, energetic woman talked with us …

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Jan 17

Borderline Emotions

Originally, the label “borderline personality disorder” was applied to patients who were thought to somewhere  between patients with neurotic and psychotic disorders in terms of psychopathology. Increasingly, though, this area of research has focused on the heightened emotional reactivity observed in patients carrying this diagnosis, as well as the high rates with which they also …

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Dec 27


For most of us there is nothing more important than the quality of our closest relationships. In sometimes frustrating ways, many of us notice that our close relationships seem to follow familiar patterns. Attachment theory derives from the work of John Bowlby, who observed that separated infants would go to remarkable lengths (crying, clinging, frantically searching) …

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Nov 15

Anger and Change: “It’s Wrong” Mentality

“It is just wrong, I can’t accept it, I have to stand up to things that are wrong.” We were talking with a young man who was frustrated because he had to complete a year’s worth of general education requirements before he could graduate with his degree in film. He was very upset, and noted at a …

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Nov 01

In Memoriam

In memoriam. He was brilliant, a creative artist and writer with a strong and clear voice. He was impulsive and he had a generally paranoid view of the police, which they reciprocated. He had been arrested several times. When we met him he was on probation and that was why he came to see us …

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Sep 30

Imperfect Bodies

In his book, “The Heart of Man,” Erich Fromm wrote about two modes of being – one he called biophilia (the love of life and living things) and the other he called necrophilia (a love of order, control, and, ultimately of death). Fromm was very much affected by the experience of Nazi Germany. And much …

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Sep 12

Misunderstandings: Feeling and Thinking

Misunderstandings. There are so many ways that we can misunderstand each other. We like the Myers Briggs for its non-pathologizing approach to understanding and describing the differences among human beings. Yesterday we were talking to a young woman who told us of a “classic” misunderstanding that potentially could have had a catastrophic outcome. The young …

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Jul 28

Dealing with Perfectionism

Society puts a premium on perfection, for good reason. Perfection fascinates and inspires. I am particularly drawn to the symmetry and complexity of buildings, bridges, and visual art, often staring at such creations with awe and wonder at how such perfection was achieved. In addition to architecture and art, perfection is expected in vocations where …

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Jul 17


“You’re such a narcissist!” It’s easy to see why people with moods are often accused of being narcissistic. When we are depressed we become focused on ourselves and our mood and our pain. This is also what happens to people with chronic pain of other types. And when we are manic, we become preoccupied with …

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