January 14, 2011

Inside this Newsletter:


Message from Carolyn:

Well, I guess winter decided to come after all -- a foot of snow at my house and minus 12 degrees. At least I get to wear my new sweater and boots. See the pictures below of my snow covered back yard and my lite-up snowflake with snow on it.

Except for my fly-away bangs, my Fox 31 TV show with Tom Martino and Paula Haddock went well and here’s a link to the video. The topic info on Setting Boundaries for the New Year is listed below.

Therapy really works. Did you know that? Dr. Jonathan Shedler from the University of Colorado School of Medicine did a study (reported by www.dailyhealthnews@edhn.bottomlinesecrets.com). Dr. Shedler reported that “Not only was the psychodynamic therapy successful in the short run for all types of problems, but his report found that nine months after they had completed therapy, patients were still reporting improvement in every problem area (including depression, anxiety and physical symptoms) even though they were no longer seeing their therapists.” These same people also reported fewer visits to their medical doctors after therapy.

Below you will see a Q&A: How Do I Handle my Bullying Sister? See the answer below and send in your questions to be answered in the next newsletter.

Several people have been asking me about groups lately and I don’t presently have any groups going. If you are interested in a mixed group of both men and women, let me know and I may start another one. The price is of course cheaper than individual counseling ($60/session) and is in the evenings. But for now, if you’re a female over 55 and want a daytime group, a therapist by the name of Anne Angerman is starting one on Wed. Jan 19 from noon to 1:45pm that runs for 8 months and meets once per month. You can reach her at 720-489-9409 to sign up.

I have another quote coming up in Life & Style Magazine, and it may be in the issue that comes on the stands Thurs., Jan 20. The story is about Sandra Bullock and whether or not she should be dating so soon after her nasty break up ten months ago. I say yes, but only dating around, not getting involved in a new relationship.

How to Play the Dating Game:  And When to Stop Playing the Game by Carolyn BushongDenver Life Magazine sends out a monthly newsletter with information about local events, business news, and interesting happenings and topics around the Denver area. In their next month’s (February) newsletter, they are mentioning how I am a Dating Coach for singles in the Denver area in their E-Buzz newsletter. To find out more about this magazine or newsletter, go to www.denverlifemagazine.com. Also, if you’re single, you may want to order my ebook on “How to Play the Dating Game.”


Raising Self-esteem in Bad Times

8 Techniques

This holiday was one of the hardest for many people, especially those without work or who have lost, or are about to lose, their homes, or those filing for bankruptcy. Besides the financial burden, these losses can take a big toll on our self-esteem. When we’re working, we get a feeling of worth from our accomplishments and usually get some positive feedback from others, even if it’s just from the social interaction with co-workers. When we don’t feel that we’re accomplishing anything and don’t have that interaction, we often feel rejected, even when no one is directly rejecting us.

To get out of this vicious cycle is difficult since our self-esteem plummets when we feel rejected and not worthwhile. But here are several techniques that can help.

  1. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you may have made. Maybe you overspent, didn’t save, bought a house larger than you needed, didn’t try for a promotion, or didn’t see the lay-off coming. If so, welcome to the club! Pretty much everyone else did the same thing. Times seemed good and we were all living large. And, yes, it’s humiliating now to look back and see how stupid we all were about the future. But blaming yourself does nothing but keep your self-esteem down and de-motivates you, keeping you from being able to fix the problems at hand.

  2. Learn from past mistakes. As I said, don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes, but do learn from them. Take away a lesson or two from what happened. Maybe the lesson is to save more money (one all of us need to learn), spend less, not to trust a boss, to ask more from your mate, to stop buying unnecessary things for you and your family, to create a back-up career, etc. Make a promise to yourself to make some changes. Again, don’t beat yourself up, just plan some changes. Write them down and discuss them with your family. Start them today.

  3. Surround yourself with supportive people. I don’t mean that you need people around who constantly tell you that you’re great or that you shouldn’t worry. I’m talking about people that you can share your pain and frustrations with, people you can brainstorm with, people who will truly be happy for your successes, people you can count on. And you need to be a supportive person for yourself as well. Be your own best friend by becoming your own best cheerleader. Give yourself the “understanding” you want from others.

  4. Review your successes. Whether you’re out of work or not, put together a resume of your successes. This first draft is just for you so include everything you’ve accomplished in your life (from swim team to getting that bonus at work). Play up all of your talents and skills. Maybe do a collage or scrapbook of your top accomplishments. Get clear about who you are and your successes and keep it nearby to review. And if needed, use these past successes to re-invent yourself for a new career.

  5. Make a list of 6 insecurities & change them to positive statements. Use whatever you are most insecure about and find a positive statement to replace the negative feeling. Example: Insecurity thought: “I’m not that young anymore.” Replace that thought with: “I have much more life experience than most!” Write 6 of the positive statements down, carry them with you, and repeat them regularly. Anytime you have a negative thought, stop and edit it out, replacing it with the new positive statement.

  6. Spend time enjoying your hobbies & interests. Do the things that you enjoy and that you are good at. You’ll find it not only nurturing, but it will also make you feel good about yourself, whether it’s gardening, skiing, playing a guitar or piano, singing, tennis, etc.

  7. Use “down” time. Spend time alone, be contemplative and creative. Let your mind wander and try to think outside the box. Again, no negative thoughts. Fantasize, recall what you wanted to be when you were a child, come up with far-fetched ideas. Even if you would never follow through with the ideas in a million years, let the ideas appear. Think of things like, “I could quit my job and go work on an oil rig,” or “I could be a deck hand on a cruise ship,” or “I could sing at weddings or act in commercials.” This kind of “down” time feels good, allows more creativity, and opens your mind to new ideas.

  8. Allow inspiration to come to you. Write, read, and watch things that cause your mind to become more motivated. When you see something on TV or in the news or in a magazine that interests or excites you (whether it has to do with a job or is even realistic or not), copy it or write it down. Research these ideas. Start “Goals” lists and “To Do” lists. Read or watch movies about successful people, like the Biography channel or the movie Rocky. You’ll be more motivated, but also see how all successful people have had failures in their lives (did you know that Katy Perry lost her first two record deals?).

Remember, you’re not alone. We all have ups and downs in life. What’s important is what we do with them. Don’t give in to negativity and allow yourself to sink. Instead, fight for your self-esteem and use this as a time for change in a positive direction. Make lemonade with those lemons!

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Q&A: How do I handle my bullying sister?

Question: Your newsletter from last month really caught my attention. The mention of you and your sister trying to resolve an issue and your articles on “Family Conflicts” and “Giving but Not Receiving” really hit home with me. I have a problem with my sister as well. She thinks she’s right about everything and bosses everyone in the family around. She makes it clear that she doesn’t like my boyfriend so she often leaves us out of family gatherings. She knows I saw you a few times, so even talks bad about you. Anytime I disagree with her, she pulls away and abandons me. She jabs me and criticizes me and tells me I need psychiatric help. What do you say to someone that tells you over and over that you need psychiatric help? Do you ignore them or say, “How do you know I’m not already getting help?” And is this common or right for someone to say this? I would love to have a close relationship with my sister but she just can’t love me unconditionally and let me be me. She continues to try to manipulate, control and bully me. I saw your segment on the Tom Martino TV show last week – you were great! I wrote down what you said about how to deal with controlling people and I am practicing it for the next time my sister says something controlling to me. It might be awhile until I see her again since I’ve pretty much decided to stay away from her, but at least I’ll be prepared when it happens again. Any more advice on how to handle a family bully like this? Take care and thank you VERY much for your help! Cindy

Answer: Cindy, you’re doing the right thing by setting boundaries and staying away from your sister. I’m sorry to say that it’s often, but not always, impossible to work things out with a bully, as they seldom give up their position of power.

It’s not surprising that your sister would badmouth me as a therapist (as well as not liking your boyfriend) as bullies always badmouth anyone who is competing with them as an expert or authority over your life since their goal is to control you. And, yes, it is also common for bullies to make statements like “You need therapy!” Bullies and self-righteous people always claim YOU need therapy when they’re the ones who need it. It’s called projection – they’re projecting their faults and problems onto you since they can’t acknowledge or take responsibility for their own bad behavior. Though bullies seldom get therapy, when they do, they often find a therapist who will just help them justify their own position so that they won’t ever have to change their bad behavior – much like having all your girlfriends tell you that you’re right about how bad you’re boyfriend treats you when they don’t know the whole story.

A key is to never respond directly to your sister’s bullying with a statement defending yourself, especially the statement about therapy. Also never give her vulnerable information about yourself, like the fact that you are going to therapy, as this just gives her more ammunition against you. Instead respond with a comment about her bad behavior, “I’m not listening to your bullying comments.” You must deal with a bullying sister the same way you would handle anyone else who bullies you – confront, stating how she must treat you differently in the future, and set a consequence, i.e. if the behavior doesn’t change, you will no longer spend time around her. This is the only way to take her power away. I know it’s hard to do this with a family member of course since you will probably have to have contact with her in the future. If you have to handle things with other family members and must talk to her, prepare ahead of time and handle the conversation like a business meeting, speaking to the point and with no emotional content that she can use to come back at you. Then if and when she still says something hurtful, again don’t respond by trying to defend yourself, as this escalates the situation. Instead, say something like, “There you go again trying to control me, so I’m going to leave now.”

The only hope with a bully is that over time when you set boundaries and follow the consequence every time you are around her, and you spend less and less time around her, that some day she will get it and start treating you differently. Even if this happens, she will still probably bully others, but you can sometimes change the way others treat you when your boundaries are very firm. Good luck! (See the information from the Tom Martino show below on Setting Boundaries for the New Year and go to my article “4 Steps for Healthy Communication” which can help set boundaries.)

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Setting Boundaries for the New Year

If your New Year’s Resolution is to become a stronger, more confident, less resentful person in 2011, then this topic is for you. And even if that’s not your resolution, maybe it should be.

People often let things slide in their relationships and end up building resentment, or they let an on-going problem affect their self-esteem.

We often want to be “nice” to others so we don’t confront them when they aren’t being fair with us.

You can be a good person and still not allow others to take advantage of you. Setting boundaries with people is healthy and will definitely improve your life in 2011.

What is a boundary?

A boundary is a line which you no longer allow others to cross with you. You let someone know what behavior you want them to change and what will happen if it doesn’t: “If you do this again, this is what will happen.”


  1. How to handle a friend who never pays.
    Simply say, “It’s your turn to buy.” If the person gets upset, tell them, “I’ve paid again and again and I’m starting to feel used. I need you to pay this time and to pay your part in the future.

  2. How to handle a mate who doesn’t carry their weight in the relationship (financially &/or with housework).
    Say, “I’ve been carrying the weight of this relationship for sometime now and I’m not willing to do it anymore. You need to find a way to pay your half financially and you need to help with the housework. I’ve made a chart which includes the bills and the chores, so we can split them up. If you do not pay your half starting next month, below are the bills I will stop paying (your cable, your car, etc.).

  3. How to handle a mother who tells you how to live your life.
    Say, “I will no longer allow you to tell me how to live my life. When you do it in the future, I’ll tell you to stop, and if you don’t, I’ll hang up or leave wherever we are.”

  4. How to handle a boss who gives you all the work.
    Say, “I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work I’ve been given. I need you to split the work up more fairly with me and my co-workers. To help my stress, I’m going to go back to my regular schedule where I come in at 8am and leave at 5pm and I’m going to take my breaks.”

Setting boundaries is not only healthy, but it’s the only fair thing to do. Don’t resent the friend who never pays and stop spending time with her, fix the problem. Don’t sit and simmer at your mate or make passive/aggressive statements to him or her, speak up so he can redeem himself. Don’t keep avoiding your mother, just straighten her out about what you will and won’t accept from her. Don’t get so stressed out that you end up quitting a good job, be honest instead and try to get the relief you need.

If you know of someone having trouble setting boundaries, be sure and send this article/newsletter on to them.

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Comments about last month’s article on
“Giving, but not receiving.”

Comments about last month’s article on “Giving, but not receiving.

This article got a lot of attention and it ultimately is why Fox 31 wanted me to come back on their TV show and talk about Setting Boundaries for the New Year.

"Much truth there. On a very simplistic note, I follow the "Rule of Three" regarding who pays for lunch when friends or acquaintances go out. "He who invites, pays". If you pay three times in a row, you drop him from your list!"

~ JM

“Hey there thanks for that article about giving and receiving I recently "broke up" with a friend of mine who was suppose to be a BFF for this very reason. At this juncture of my life I an too old and tired to put up with crap from people I don't have to. What’s funny is she really got upset because I set up some boundaries and told her I did not like the way things were. Anyway to make a long story short I was kind of doubting my actions in that situation until I read your article re-verifying I did the right thing even if it hurts now. Thanks again My beautiful and funny friend for your insight! Happy Holidays!”

~ Shannon

“Your article on ‘Expressing Anger’ couldn’t have come at a better time. I had just had a disagreement with my husband and I used your advice to resolve it. Thanks so much!!”

~ Karen

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“My name is Lavinia and I am 31. I am a translator and I discovered your book recently. I believe it should be taught in school…..as part of LIFE education! I recommend it to all my friends and EVERYBODY in the world! Thank you for existing and helping us. I would love to help you translate it into other languages so the whole world will get your message!”

~ Lavina

"Love your newsletter and all your wonderful advice! Thanks for all the good you do!"

~ Shelly

"Happy Birthday to the BEST therapist in the WORLD!!!! Hope your day is as sensational as YOU are!!"

~ Tammy

“I was just reading your article “It’s Time Men Stand Up and Say “No!”” and wanted to say, good job! It was a very good take on relationships and I found it to be very accurate about men in most cases. Thanks.

~ Charles

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About Carolyn

Carolyn Bushong, L.P.C, is an expert on relationships and a licensed therapist. She is known for being one of the top relationship therapists in the country and the author of 3 relationship books. She has appeared on Oprah, the View, and many other TV shows, and she has been giving relationship advice on Denver radio for more than15 years. She has been helping people like you improve your life and relationships for more than 30 years. Cosmo, US Weekly and other magazines quote her expert relationship advice, and McCall’s named her one of the “Top 6 Passion Doctors” in the country. Carolyn Bushong always has fresh, up-to-date, hot information on topics that will inspire you and change your life and improve your relationships. She has clients all over the country, some who come into her office and others who receive Carolyn's expert advice through phone counseling. Carolyn Bushong is an excellent psychotherapist, but she also lives what she teaches, as she is in a happy, healthy relationship with Alan, her mate of 23 years.

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Phone Counseling is a great way to do therapy, especially for the really busy person who's constantly on the go, or the person who is shy or hesitant to talk about their problem, or when the weather is bad and you don't want to drive to a therapist's office. It just makes sense in this day and age to be able to call and discuss a problem and get advice on a situation with having to leave work and drive to my office.

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