Sometimes We’re The Toxic Ones Too

Sometimes We’re The Toxic Ones Too

“You gotta be mature enough to understand that you have some toxic traits too. It’s not always the other person”. -Word Porn

I read this post the other day on Facebook and thought it to be one of the truest statements I have ever read. Too often in relationships, no matter if it’s personal relationships, familial relationships or romantic relationships, it’s easy to place all the blame for the dysfunction that goes on in that relationship on other people. It’s natural. It’s much easier to say that someone else is the cause of our unhappiness, the chaos that sometimes happens in relationships or the failure of a relationship than it is to be introspective and look at ourselves. It’s much less painful to put the blame on the other person than it is to admit our responsibility in why things are the way they are.

If you ask anyone in a relationship that failed or became extremely dysfunctional, they can easily tell you what the other person did wrong, but we all know that it takes two people to make a relationship work and so unless the other person was a complete narcissist or sociopath (and even then the other person usually still plays a role in maintaining the dysfunction of the relationship), we have to see both sides of the coin if we are going to come out of the relationship better and healthier than before.

When I think back to many of my past relationships that went south, I can easily name a dozen things the other person did to help drive our relationship off the cliff. I can tell you how they were selfish, inconsiderate, detached, mean, controlling and took me for granted. However, if you ask them, I am sure they can just as easily name a dozen things I did that were not supportive of a healthy relationship. What’s more important is that we discover for ourselves what we did to hinder those relationships (or maintain the dysfunction and toxicity) so that we don’t carry them into our future relationship and more importantly so that we can grow and change whatever qualities about ourselves that are holding us back and putting us in these toxic situations.

Thinking about my past relationships, I can spew out all the toxic qualities she had, but in reality, but what I know about myself is that I was codependent, at times insecure, controlling, neurotic, enabling and possibly lazy when it came to a number of things that eventually would have put a strain on even the healthiest relationship. I maintained much of the dysfunction in our relationship and kept it toxic because of my toxic qualities. At the very less I should have walked away before it became so engulfing and before bitterness and resentment on both sides set in.

If I go around, only seeing the things the other people did to screw up our relationship, then I will most definitely repeat the same pattern in future relationships and wonder why they too did not work out, or why I became so miserable in the relationship, yet stayed because I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all (a line from a Three Grace Song “Pain”, but also something I have come to realize to be painfully true about myself).

Too many of us do that. As a therapist, I often hear people complain about the same issues in their last relationship or even job. They think, they will just leave this person or that company and things will be better. Some even change physical locations such as the state and city they live in thinking that this will solve the problem, but a large part of the problem is within them and they take themselves wherever they go so they are likely to continue to repeat the same pattern regardless of who they are with or where they are unless they themselves change.

For instance, a woman whose last three relationships ended because the other person cheated may come to the conclusion that monogamy, trust and honesty are all dead and there are no good, faithful people out there.

In reality, she may be subconsciously choosing individuals with a certain trait or creating environments that are conducive to increasing the chances of someone being unfaithful.

Think about it, if she met her last three partners while they were in relationships with other people and she “stole” them away, she can’t be too surprised if that person later ends up being “stolen” away by someone else.

The same is true if she met someone who gave her reasons to doubt their loyalty in the beginning, but she thought she could “change them” only to realize later that she doesn’t have the power to change anyone. It’s a lot easier to just blame those individuals for being who they are and ruining the relationship instead of accepting that she herself has some flaws she needs to investigate.

Often we sabotage ourselves. Somewhere, somehow we may get a notion that all people suck so we subconsciously go out and seek relationships with people we know suck so that we can validate our notion.

We may rush into relationships and create an image about a person that they can’t possibly live up to and feel cheated or let down when they don’t, or they may feel so much pressure and/or smothering that they leave and we justified that by saying that we weren’t good enough or “everyone always leaves me”.

I once dated a woman who thought that everyone always abandoned her, including family, friends and romantic partners. During our relationship she did a number of things attempting to push me away, testing my loyalty and durability and I fought hard to prove to her that I was different than everyone else, but the harder I tried, the harder she pushed and in the end, we both were miserably, unhappy, and resentful. Her personality traits match up well with my codependent personality traits and created a toxic, dysfunctional relationship that lasted way too long.

The same issues in different ways can happen at work. Many of us spend more time at work and with our co-workers then we do with the people we live with, love and/or are in intimate relationships with.

Work can often feel like being in not only a toxic environment, but a toxic relationship. Sometimes we stay in a job we hate too long and become resentful, or we give so much of ourselves at work that we feel used and unappreciated, yet we still show up and won’t look for another place of employment. We may feel stuck there just like we may feel stuck in a relationship. We can blame everything on our employer or co-workers, but that won’t change anything. What will change everything is when we take responsibility for what it is that is keeping us there. It could be our refusal to look for another job, to stand up to a certain person, to demand what we know we deserve or to look for opportunities for advancement because of our fears that we aren’t good enough or don’t deserve better.

The bottom line is, nothing positive will happen for us if we don’t recognize the qualities about ourselves that need to be worked on. We can blame everyone else for the things that make us unhappy, but nothing will change unless we recognize our flaws, as uncomfortable and painful as they may be to admit to ourselves and change them.

Big Dick Energy

Big Dick Energy

Big Dick Energy (BDE) as the Urban Dictionary defines it is having confidence without cockiness. It apparently originated from Arianna Grande’s deleted tweet which stated that her fiancé has a 10-inch penis and the confidence that goes along with knowing you have a big penis.

Fortunately for most of us who do not have a 10-inch penis, having BDE has nothing to do with penis size or even having a penis at all. The beauty about BDE is that anyone can have it, male or female and practice having it if they don’t already. You can create the kind of BDE that draws people to you and makes them wonder why you have so much confidence. That’s part of the allure of BDE. People don’t know why you are so confident because you’re not cocky. They may make assumptions such as, he must have a big penis or she must be have a ton of money… they have no real idea.

BDE is a quiet confidence in the way you feel and project yourself to the world that others will notice and more importantly, you yourself will begin to feel and believe in.  You don’t need anyone else’s approval to feel good about yourself. Who cares if the people at the party will like you, or note, what’s more important is will you like them?

Having BDE is an aura or a vibe that any man or woman can have. Sometimes being with a certain person can give you BDE or being in touch with who you really are can make you walk with the confidence of a person with BDE.

If you look up BDE on the internet, you will find all kinds of comparisons of celebrities to who has  BDE and who doesn’t, but who cares! Yes, BDE is this new pop culture thing, but really it’s based on old psychology and confidence. What’s more important that if Justin Bieber has BDE or not is that you can create BDE for yourself and use it to boost your confidence at parties, in meetings, at work, in life in general!

For example, there used to be a time when I felt nervous in certain situations, especially at work in big meetings. Before I even heard about BDE, I would start thinking about some of my favorite Mixed Martial Artist, someone like Jon Jones who yes, may be seen as a cocky a-hole, but besides that, he’s the type of guy that exudes confidence.

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I imagined if he was in my shoes, how would he carry himself? Would he be shy? Would he not speak his mind? Hell no, Jon Jones has that BDE! So I pretended I had that same confidence and it positively impacted my work and productivity. Of course I am not Jon Jones. I don’t look like him, I can’t fight like him and I don’t have his money, but that doesn’t mean I can’t borrow from his confidence and use it for my good.

BDE is about having an air of confidence and sometimes you have to fake it to you make it. The people around you won’t know any better and soon you’ll start feeling and believing in your BDE too. That BDE will push you out of your comfort zone and you’ll be surprised at all the places it will take you, at all the places you’ve been holding yourself back from. It can help you talk to that person, land that job, or conquer that goal!

What I Learned From Dating Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Not too long ago I was madly in love with a beautiful, charismatic and outgoing woman. She was funny, sexy and seemed to be the center of attention wherever we went. She also had Borderline Personality Disorder.

When we first met, this was not something I picked up on right away. She appeared to be everything I was looking for in a girlfriend. She was extroverted, independent and most of all fun. Her laugh and smile were infectious. She was the opposite of my quiet, reserved and introverted self. She was what I thought I needed in my life. Someone different than the women I usually dated. Different from myself.

In The Beginning

Things with us started off fast and intense. We went from getting to know each other, to being intimate, falling in love and living together in just a few weeks. She went out of her way to shower me with love and attention. It made me feel special, especially in comparison to my last relationship where I often felt neglected. She made me feel like no other woman had ever made me feel before or since.

What I didn’t realize was that part of what I was experiencing is what is called love bombing. Love bombing is when someone tries to influence a person with demonstrations of love and affection. They usually do this by going overboard with efforts of love and admiration. It’s a way to quickly leap frog over the getting to know you, courting stage in a relationship and get to the “I love you” stage and it worked.

I had never fallen for someone so intensely so fast, which is why I think I didn’t see some of the red flags I should have or, as a therapist, realize what I was getting into. Love and beauty have a way of blinding us.

As a mental health counselor, I have a habit, good or bad, of always analyzing people and a month into our relationship I started thinking that she might have bipolar disorder. I started recognizing that she had some mood instability and for some reason, that’s where my mind took me, but after awhile I dismissed that altogether because she simply didn’t meet the criteria. Still, I knew there was something I needed to pay close attention to, I just wasn’t sure what it was.

Inappropriate and Intense Anger

I remember the first fight we had, it was over something very trivial and should have just been a conversation, but instead she EXPLODED! I mean her eyes narrowed, face turned red, nostrils flared. She got so angry so quickly that it scared me and I feared for my safety. What shocked me the most was that the intensity of her anger was way out of proportion to the situation.

I don’t like to fight, I don’t like to argue. When I realized how volatile that situation became over something so small, I should have left and never looked back. That was actually my plan, but later that evening she came back and apologized. We made up. I loved her after all and maybe part of my “you can fix her” thinking kicked in and I actually began to feel sorry for her.

I knew she come from a pretty traumatic childhood, that she went through periods of her life where she felt abandoned and I felt that her blow up was a test to see if she could push me away and I would abandon her too. I decided to prove her wrong and to stay and make it work out. I had the rescuer syndrome going on full strength.

Frantic Efforts to Avoid Real or Imagined Abandonment

After that first explosion, many more followed. She began accusing me of wanting or looking at other women. Out of the blue her entire mood would change and I wouldn’t know why until she was ready to blow up at me for looking at someone I usually had no clue who she was talking about.

I got accused of looking at random women all the time like our waitress, some woman across the street that I never even noticed in the first place or another across the room simply because she was there. As beautiful as she was, she was very insecure.

It got so bad that at one point I found myself walking around with my head down just so I wouldn’t accidentally appear to be looking at another women, but even that didn’t work.

So many dates and even a Valentines Day were ruined by her accusing me of looking at other women and her explosive, increasing inappropriate anger.

And yet there were times when she begged me to never leave her. When I told her this wasn’t working for me and I wanted to break up, she simply replied “no” and then clung to me like a frightened child.

Uncontrollable Anger and Physical Violence

As her angry explosions became increasingly unpredictable (yet predictable), she began to get physically violent. It started with her getting so angry that she would slap me and on at least two occasions she punched me in the face with a closed fist, all the time I was trying to calm her down to keep her from getting even more angry and out of control, which only made things worse.

At the same time, I noticed that she was also getting into conflicts with other people when we went out. Men, women, it didn’t matter. It was as if she had two sides to her; this sweet, outgoing, social butterfly that everyone loved and this angry bitch that everyone hated. Still, the most intense anger and rage were reserved for me.

It got so bad that whenever we went out, no matter how happy we were in the beginning of the evening, there was a 90% chance that by the time the night was over, we’d be fighting over something. I started thinking that she was allergic to having a good day. It was like, the more I tried for us to have a great day, the more I did for her, the more intense her anger would be when she decided it was time to ruin our good time.

She could literally pick a fight out of thin air which made it so much more unpredictable. It was literally, as the cliché goes, like walking on eggshells.

I remember one day we went to the beach, swam in the ocean and I painted her toe nails while laying on a beach blanket. Afterwards we went to the pier and had lunch before driving back home, changing and going to a jazz club. Later that night we stopped on our way home to get something to eat and she started yelling at me (out of the blue) because I hadn’t unfriended her best-friend that she accused of wanting me. The same best friend I knew before I knew her. The same best-friend that had introduced us.

I was so hurt and disappointed that we had such a great day ruined in five minutes by some random thought that came into her head.

Alcohol Abuse

I totally ignored and even enabled her substance abuse issues. When we met I knew she smoked, but I didn’t realized she was also a binge drinker and probably an alcoholic.

It seemed ass if she had to constantly be smoking or drinking in order to be marginally happy. She didn’t just drank to get buzzed, she drank to get white girl wasted as they say.

So many weekend nights she drank until she passed out or until she started flirting with everyone or lashing out on everyone with me of course as her favorite target.

One valentines day she drank a whole bottle of wine by her self at dinner and then another at the movie theater and then passed out before the movie even started.

She would promise to stop drinking, but she never did and to be honest, I was usually the one buying her drinks because I knew one or two drinks made her happy, but by the time she got to her fourth drink, she was a loaded gun ready to go off.

It wasn’t uncommon for her to go from happy to infuriated within minutes.

Idealization and Devaluation

Some days she would tell me that I was the best man ever and I would feel like a prince and by the end of the night, she would be enraged over something minor and yelling at me “you’re just like every other man” or telling me how I was the worst person ever.

At first I was really confused. I was either the best man she’d ever been with or the worst man she’d ever been with, but I couldn’t be both. It was starting to give me an identity complex.

I did noticed a pattern however. If she started telling me how I was the love of her life, the best thing that ever happened to her, blah, blah, blah, I needed to hold on tight because by the end of the day, the other shoe was going to drop.

Whenever she started inflating my ego, she would create a fight by the end of the day and tear me back down to scum under her shoes. I remember one night when not too many hours earlier I had been her moon and stars, she yelled at me that she hated and resented me. That really took me aback. In all my life I had never had someone tell me that they resented me. I didn’t even know how to take it, but I never forgot how much it hurt .

Those words were probably the biggest factor in causing me to start emotionally withdrawing and re-evaluating our relationship. Sure this was after we were about three years into this roller-coaster ride, but what can I say, I was in love.

By this time I had known she had borderline personality disorder for over two years. The signs were all there. I even had her take an assessment and she scored perfectly and even agreed with me that she thought she had borderline personality disorder, but she didn’t want to go to therapy.

In The End

My friends, people who knew me and knew us often asked me why did I stay. They didn’t know why I put up with the chaos, the anger, the numerous precarious situations she had put me in.

The answer is love. I really did love her. Being a mental health professional didn’t help. I thought I could help her overcome her issues, helping people is my job. And she really was and is an awesome person. If she was a totally horrible person of course I would have left a long time ago.

Would I have done anything different knowing what I know now? Of course I would. I would have chosen to just be her friend and to keep a safe distance so that I wouldn’t get caught up in the chaos.

I learned a lot through this tumultuous relationship, but mostly about myself. I learned that I was more codependent than I ever realized. I learned that I had a sort of six sense and sort of a curse for spotting people with issues and trying to fix them. I also learned what it was like to be in love with a beautiful woman, to have some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, to be adventurous, to feel like I couldn’t live without a person and then learn to live without them.

Mother Wants To Change Four-Year-Old Daughter’s Name

Mother Wants To Change Four-Year-Old Daughter’s Name

I recently read an article about a mother who wants to change her four-year-old daughter’s name because she recently found it that it’s not as unique as she first thought.

The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, named her daughter Esmée, a name that at the time she hadn’t heard much in the last 20 years or so, but once her daughter started school,  she quickly learned that there were other girls who had that same name at her daughters school,  including two in her class.

The mother apparently is so upset to find out that her daughter’s name is a rarely popular name that she now is considering changing her name.

I have known parents who had a hard time settling on a name for their baby, including one who called her baby by the nickname “Yum Yum” up until the child was about one years old before she finally settled on a name.

While that may sound unusual, it’s not that uncommon. About 11% of parents end up regretting the name they initially pick for their child and end up changing it, but usually within the first year when it really doesn’t have an affect.

However, around one years of age, children began recognizing the sound of their names and around ages two or three, they begin developing a sense of identity which includes who they are in connection with their names.

Changing a child’s name after one years of age can create identity issues, insecurity and confusion within the child as to who they are. Imagine toddler tantrum on steroids in some cases.

My question is, what if whatever name she chooses for her daughter next, becomes popular in the next couple of years? Is she going to change her child’s name once again?

To better understand the underlying problem, we have to better understand the mother who went through some tough times in her childhood due to having a very common name.

The mother wrote, “Every time I hear my real name I shudder,”.

For the mother, this may have in fact been pretty traumatic and something she has never overcome. What she doesn’t understand however is that individuality will come from her daughter’s unique personality, not her name.

Many parents try to relive or redo their lives through their children, but this can be very unfair to the child. Changing this child’s name, in my opinion, would be a very selfish and vain act.

I’m not saying that if the mother did change the child’s name that it would be a traumatic, horrible, life changing mistake. It may have no real affect or long term affect on the child at all. What I am saying however is that there is more to a person than their name. The child may decide to be called something totally different when they get older anyway.

For example, I knew a teenager who’s mother named her Lorraine because the name meant a lot to her.  She was very shocked and even upset when she found out that the kids in school called her daughter “Rain” and many had no idea her birth name was Lorraine. The the mother, Lorraine had a special connection, but to her daughter, it had no such connection, but “Rain” did. It was her way of being unique and special.

More importantly, parents have to be careful to not hand down their issues to their children. They should allow their children to be unique in their own right because they already are, no matter if their name is Susan or Rain.

10 Happiness Tips

It’s common for everyone to struggle time to time with being happy. We all have bad days, days when we may get frustrated, feel insecure or anxious for whatever reason. There is an infinite amount of things we can do when we need to pull ourselves out of the funk and practice self care.

It’s not a bad idea to list some of your favorites BEFORE you actually need them, that way you can easily pull them out of your tool box.

What works for one person may not work for another, but here are 10 of my favorites to get your started.

Set Healthy Boundaries

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Often we give people too much access to our time and peace. This sometimes includes friends and family who may be overbearing, controlling, draining or negative. By setting healthy boundaries, we limit how much access those people have to us.

Let’s say you have a friend who only calls to complain about her day, maybe you limit her by not always answering her phone calls or giving her only five minutes of your time before you have to go do something else.

Take a look at your life and see where you can eliminate some unnecessary stress by cutting back on the amount of your time you allow to be taking up by other, especially negative or draining people.

Learn To Say No

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It’s okay to say no without an explanation to people and things you don’t feel like doing or being bothered with. Sometimes we feel obligated to do things we don’t enjoy or feel comfortable doing and find it hard to say “no” for a variety of reasons. However, learning to say no without explanation not only helps establish boundaries, it will help build up self-confidence and self-respect when it comes to your precious time, space and peace of mind.

Learn to Make Decisions Quickly

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If you’ve never heard of Mel Robbins “Five Second Rule” then I suggest you look it up quickly. Part of her theory is that the longer you wait to make a decision and act on it, the less likely you are to make the decision that will move you to where you need to be.

If you’re the type of person who takes a long time to make a decision or hates making decisions so you allow others to make decisions for you, then what you are unconsciously conditioning and reinforcing within yourself is a fear of failure and of being imperfect which Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., says keeps us small and dis-empowered. By learning to make decisions quickly we will build confidence and learn to trust ourselves.

Take Full Responsibility For Yourself

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We can’t control others and often we can’t control other factors in our lives. What we can control is ourselves, our responses, thoughts and feelings. If we stop trying to control other people so much, it frees us to dictate our own happiness and take complete control of our lives. When our feelings about ourselves are no longer controlled by external conditions, we will realize how much happier we can actually be.

We can’t make someone treat us better, but we can choose to allow them to be who they are without us there to abuse. We can’t make it stop raining, but we can choose to enjoy the sound of rain or even dance in it.

Have Appreciation And Gratitude For What You Currently Have

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It’s easy to want more and to not be satisfied with what we have. The problem is, if you think like that, you’ll always want more and you’ll never genuinely be happy. You don’t have to be filthy rich and have the most expensive accessories in order to be happy. Look at what you have now. Try to find three things everyday to be grateful for. Today, for me, it’s my family, my job and my health. No, none of those things are perfect, all of them are actually quite flawed, but I am appreciative and grateful for them because they could be worse or none existent.

Travel/Spend Time in Nature

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This one is a two for one. Take time to travel or get out in nature. Allow yourself to see that there are bigger things out there than just ourselves and whatever we may be dealing with, or just to relax and take in new sights, sounds and experiences.

Being in nature in particular can help bring a sense of peace and awe. Whatever you do, just get away from our ordinary routine and allow yourself to become a tourist and explore, even if it’s just in your own backyard.

Take Time To Relax With Zero Guilt

We work hard. Even when we aren’t working we seem to always be on the go. There is always something to do or something we should be doing. We may even feel guilty when we aren’t doing something, but it’s okay to unplug from everything and everyone and do absolutely nothing every now and then. As a matter of fact, it’s good for your sanity. You can watch Netflix, read a book, listen to music, meditate or do whatever brings you back to yourself.

Be Mindful

Following up on the last tip, take time to actually take in what is going on around you. So often we are so busy that we aren’t aware of the simple, yet beautiful or important things going on around us everyday.

Multitasking is something else we do that robs us of truly taking in what we are doing. Research suggests that we don’t even actually multitask, but our brain just switches quickly between doing one thing and then the next. I know for myself, I often watch TV while looking through messages, social media or email on my phone. Now when I find myself doing that, I consciously make the decision to put my phone away so I can truly take in whatever I am watching. A lot of us do the same things when we are hanging out with friends and family. We’re there, but we’re not fully there because we are browsing through our phones. Break that habit and you’ll realize how much you’ve been missing out by not being truly present and in the moment.

Smile

There is research that suggests that the act of smiling by itself can help us begin to feel happier. Your mind can either control your body or be a slave to it. Your body often doesn’t know why it is acting or responding in a certain way and it’s waiting for your mind to tell it why. By smiling, you can trick your mind into thinking that it is happy and your body will respond by beginning to release endorphins that will actually make you feel happier.

Wear Bright Colors

This is definitely one of my favorites. Sometimes at work I have been known to wear pink, yellow or bright red colored dress shirts. It’s easy when you’re feeling down to wear dark, drab colors, but they won’t do much for brightening up your spirits. Surround yourself with bright, vivid colors and you will see that it not only brightens your mood, makes you feel more positive and productive, but it can also brighten other peoples moods around you. It’s even been given the name, “Color Therapy”.

Talking To A School Shooter

Talking To A School Shooter

The other day I had the privilege of talking to a school shooter. When I say privilege, I don’t mean it in a way to glorify what he did, but it’sThe other day I had the privilege of talking to a school shooter. When I say privilege, I don’t mean it in a way to glorify what he did, but it’s not everyday that an opportunity presents itself for me to try to get into the mind of someone who was determined to carry out mass murder. Often these people kill themselves or are killed before anyone has a chance to understand why they did what they did, or like the Parkland shooter, are kept very isolated with only the psychologist and a handful of corrections officers having regular contact with him.

As a psychotherapist, this intrigues me. In undergrad I excitedly took classes such as Profiling Serial Killers, Understanding Mass Murder and The Anatomy of Violent Crimes. Yet, I had never been able to actually study someone in person so that I could better understand how to try to help others before they commit violent crimes as well as identify potential ticking time bombs.

With the nature of my job currently revolving a lot around criminal psychology, I end up talking to some of the worse of human kind on a daily basis. On a regular day I talk to murderers, rapists, child molesters and have even on multiple occasions attempted to talk to a hit man for a Mexican drug cartel accused of over a dozen murders. So far he has refused to talk to me or anyone else for that matter.

Without going into too much detail because this case is still pending, I would like to share some of what I have learned from talking to a school shooter.

The first thing I noticed about this particular school shooter was his small, non-threatening stature. He looked like your typical high school student, except there was no light behind his eyes. When he looked and talked to me, there wasn’t any emotion there.

I won’t go into if he has a mental illness or not, but he says he grew up in a family that was full of mental health issues, namely untreated bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He says he was never physically or sexually abused, but witnessed a lot of family violence. As he says, his earliest memories are those of violence and conflict.

He had isolated himself at a young age. He didn’t feel attached or loved by his family. He had a lot of anger inside of him. He attempted to channel that anger by going into the military, but as a teenager he had gotten involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for a yet unknown reason, something that would later prevent him from joining the military.

Feeling even angrier, depressed and rejected because of that, he turned to Mixed Martial Arts as an outlet for his violent thoughts, but a knee injury caused him to have to stop training for awhile. It was during this time that his anger, depression and feelings of isolation grew and he started planning a mass shooting.

Planning included finding a way to legally buy a gun without a background check through a certain loop hole in the system. Planning included blending in with students of a high school he had dropped out of a couple of years ago, smuggling his weapon in using a musical instrument case and then going into the bathroom and putting on a tactical vest and gloves.

Before and during the incident, he reports he felt no anger or fear, just an adrenaline rush. He denies having any specific targets, any hate or anger towards any individual or group of people.

Although he says he feels remorseful, there are no emotions with his words. Yet he says the incident could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for a girl’s screams that broke him out of his trance. He says it was her screams that made him feel horrible about what he was doing. Her screaming triggered memories of his childhood and made him and everyone around him, human again.

Some of the signs I’ve learned to look for from talking to him and studying other school shooters include:

  • Leakage- which is when people leave behind often unconscious clues, sometimes as a cry for help such as violent themes in their artwork or writing.
  • Low tolerance for frustration.
  • Poor coping skills.
  • Lack of resiliency.
  • Depression
  • Alienation
  • Dehumanizing others
  • Lack of empathy
  • Family appears to lack intimacy and closeness.
  • No limits or monitoring of TV and internet
  • Turbulent parent-child relationship

While it’s too late to have prevented this incident, I do hope that by continuing to learn from this individual and others, we’ll be able to prevent future tragedies. As long as I have access to him, I will continue to attempt to understand the mind of someone who would shoot up a school in Parkland, Florida, a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, a church in Charleston, South Carolina, a restaurant near Nashville, Tennessee, a music festival in Las Vegas or a nightclub in my hometown Orlando, Florida.

Facebook Depression

Last week I was talking to a friend who said she was taking a hiatus from social media. At first this surprised me because she has such a strong social media presence, but then she explained to me her reasons.

On social media she is seeing many of her friends moving forward in their careers, getting married, having children and living these apparently wonderful lives, while she herself feels rather stuck in comparison. She herself, in my opinion is doing pretty good. She’s in a relationship, is employed and is an overall well rounded person. However, when she compares her life to the lives she sees her friends leaving on social media, she has this feeling of inadequacy.

This feeling of inadequacy and maybe even a bit of sadness she is experiencing is something very common when it comes to social media. It’s even been given the name, “facebook depression”.

Social media encourages us to share more and more of our lives and become less private, creating what is called context collapse.

We all have different sides of ourselves. We may act one way at work, another at home, and yet another when we are out with our closest friends or having a night out on the town.

On social media sites like Facebook, we have what is called context collapse, which is when all of our different sides actually come together. However, we know that some people have gotten fired when one part of their life collided with or conflicted with another part of their life (i.e., your boss finding out something you do in your free time goes against their ethical policy). I even know someone who lost her job because the day she called into work, it was discovered on Facebook that she was actually at the beach with her lover.

Because of this context collapse, people tend to present themselves on social media in ways that are acceptable in all contexts (i.e., work, friends, family). Because the social norm is to be your perfect self, we all tend to present our version of our perfect selves on social media, which in turn leads to us all making each other feel inadequate and sometimes even depressed with our real lives. We start having “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome.

We constantly see people in disgustingly happy relationships, out having fun, getting married, having kids, getting raises, going on dream vacations, etc. We start thinking that their lives are always exciting, awesome and perfect. We start thinking we are missing out on something in comparison.

It’s this social comparison of our everyday lives with our friends highlight moments that can create jealousy and depression in some people. We create a distorted view of their lives where they are always beautiful, happy and succeeding while we in comparison are going through the ups and downs of normal life.

We see people in relationships always smiling and traveling and we assume that they have no problems, never fight and are the luckiest two people on earth, when in reality they are likely experiencing the same highs and lows, trials and tribulations of a normal relationship. We romanticize their lives and relationships in comparison to our own.

Of course not everyone is impacted the same way. Some of us don’t care much about what our friends do in their real lives or own social media. Others of us are happy to see our friends doing great, but there are some of us who are more suceptible to “facebook depression” such as those who are already struggling with depression or anxiety.

It’s especially important if you are prone to depression to be aware of how spending too much time on social media comparing yourself to your friends and others can potentially increase your risk for depression. If that’s the case, remember to put everything into perspective and remember that what we often see on social media are the highlights of people lives. People don’t often post the negative, boring or difficult part of their lives.

I’ve seen couples who looked to be incredibly happily married, divorced seemingly out of the blue just a month later. Of course that tells me that even when they were posting about how fantastic their marriage was, they were going through problems they were not sharing online.

If you find yourself feeling depressed, jealous or unhappy when looking at other people’s lives on social media, then it may be time for you to take a hiatus for awhile. Social media is meant to bring us closer but often it just makes us feel more separated from each other. Take a break if needed. Go outside, be in the moment and enjoy YOUR life. Stop comparing your everyday life to people highlight moments and go create your own.

Remember as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”