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Making Molehills Out of  Mountains/Reclaiming Your Personal
Power in Your Relationships

2002 Alive And Well Publications. All Rights Reserved.
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By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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What’s it all about...

A long time ago, in the early days of my practice, I had a client say to me, “Okay, I’ve been in therapy for months now, yet I still have the problems I had before. How come all of these problems haven’t gone away? What’s the deal?”

I said, “No, you’re fine. If I understand what you’re saying, what you call the problems, will probably not go away. They’re part of who you are. I mean, the difficulties and loose ends that you and I find in everyday life are part of who we are as individuals.”

He looked up at me and said, “I came in here wanting you to promise me that I could stop being such an ass in my personal life. You only told me that I could be shown the problem, I never heard you say that I could find the solution. I want someone to give me a pill or something in order to make me better.”

I rubbed my hands against my face and said to him, “That’s not the way this deal works. I may get thrown out of town for telling you this, but, the truth is, real growth does not come from the wisdom of a psychologist, it comes from inside of you.”

“Then why am I here?” he asked.

We sat there for a long moment of silence. Finally I said, “Let me tell you a story. I once worked in a hospital. Every day I would show up and do my job. I got to know the nursing staff and they got to know me.

One morning this woman with a white uniform walked around the corner. I had never met her before, so I stood up and said, “Hi, I’m Steve.”

She looked at me and boomed back in a deep voice, “Yes, I understand you are the Psychologist Intern or something.”

She spoke in a broken  accent, I thought maybe it was Swedish. “I’m Nurse Svenson. I work for twenty years in hospital. I do my job,” she said simply. Then she turned and walked away.

Over the next few days I asked other people on the ward about our Nurse Svenson and all of the responses were the same. Everyone alluded to her bedside manner as non-existent, but she was a first rate nurse.

One morning I walked into the room of a patient who was twenty years old. He had a heart defect that was only discovered two years before. Most of his life was normal, but every few months his body would fall apart and he would find himself near death.

Evidently surgery was required to address the problem. I walked into the room while Nurse Svenson was changing a dressing. I didn’t want to bother them so I sat on the other bed for a moment.

“I hate this,” he said. “I can’t move and I can’t do stuff that I like to do. Being here sucks.”

“What does this mean, sucks?” she asked while she worked.

“You know, blows,” he said.

“Blows?” she repeated.

“Yea, bites,” he said. “Hey! That hurts!”

“I’m changing this dressing. Yes, it probably does hurt.”

“It’s all bullshit if you ask me,” he said.

“You know,” she said, “when I come to this country people tell me that my way of speaking was bad, but I think you are worse. You talk bad. What are you trying to say?”

“I’m trying to say that I don’t like being in the hospital. I don’t like feeling so helpless. And I don’t like being poked and prodded with needles and knives. I want to be playing basketball and living my life,” he said.

She worked and thought and soon replied. “I tell you something important. In my job, most people complain about being in hospital. Most people say they belong somewhere else. So listen to me now, do what I tell you--when you feel good, act like it. Then you play. When you feel sick, you belong in hospital.  Because when you are sick, this is the best place for you. The only thing worse is to feel sick and act healthy.”

She paused and said, “That could kill someone like you. You feel bad, get help, because you are the only one who knows how you feel.”

I have a gift for understanding people, I always have. Believe me when I tell you, that was one of the most subtle yet powerful things I have ever heard anyone say.

We all are confronted with the same choices as my young friend in the hospital was. We can complain and moan about this person, that person, our boss, our lover, our family. How they don’t understand us or respect us. How they don’t give us what we want when we want it.

And we can make everyone else out to be the bad guy. We can stew in our hurt and anger, feeling entitled, believing that somebody else has to change.

But believe me, that’s not the ticket out. The only person we have control over in this world is ourselves. We all need to learn to pay attention to how we’re feeling. And when we’re feeling badly, we need to have people we can turn to so that we can make our world feel safe again. That’s exactly the potential that lives within each and every one of us--learning how to create relationships that support us rather than tear us down.

I don’t pretend that it’s easy to transform our relationships from what they are to what we would like them to be. But I absolutely assure you that it can be done.

We’ve been talking about the process of how to make molehills out of mountains by using a very simple skill--pinpointing the issue. But don’t overlook this fundamental truism. Everything I’ve talked to you about in this book has a simple beginning. Everything starts with honoring yourself. Know that you deserve to have relationships that are emotionally safe--relationships that nurture your soul. You can walk away from situations that are not safe for you. At the same time, be bold enough to walk towards those relationships that will enrich your life.

But even more than that, you need to become more sensitized to your own unique levels of tolerance for the emotional intensity that’s created when you build relationship-bridges. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you always have choices as to how you will respond when you’re feeling emotionally provoked by the very human fears about getting close to another person. These fears will often disguise themselves in the conflicts that arise in your relationships. But you’re slowly developing the skills to successfully unmask your fears and sensitivities.

Let me leave you with this one last thought. It bears repeating one last time. I hope these words ring in your ears as you and your partner bravely begin the process of transforming your relationship. Be kind. Have a respectful attitude towards your partner, maintain a loving attitude towards yourself. Persevere, even through the darkest moments when discouragement soaks your spirit. Rest assured that mastering the skills we have discussed in this book will enable you to navigate the sometimes rocky roads we come upon when we are building better bridges with the people who matter most.



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


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Stop Self-Sabotage
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