Mount St. Mary’s President Resigns: Do YOU Work for A Narcissist?


The news was released today that President Simon Newman of Mount St. Mary’s University resigned in the wake of the scandal caused both by his policy to aggressively encourage underperforming students to leave the school as a ploy to increase the school’s rankings, and then summarily firing tenured faculty who opposed the policy for being “disloyal.”  Matters were made worse when it was released that President Newman defended his unpopular policy by asserting, “You just have to drown the bunnies…put a Glock to their heads.”

While it is impossible to accurately analyze President Newman’s motivations from afar, his public behavior serves as a useful illustration of the behavior of a narcissist at work.  Narcissists tend to lack empathy, make unilateral and autocratic decisions and become outraged at the idea that anyone would oppose them.  At work, they tend to promise great things and then try to achieve those goals by force of will rather than through collaboration.  If the goals are met, they are praised by the power-that-be as heroes.  If not, their flame-out can be something to behold.

The faculty and students at Mount St. Mary’s are not the only ones who seem to  feel they have been affected by workplace narcissism.  Workplace narcissism is not unusual at all.  Many middle and upper level managers as well as executives exhibit strong narcissistic traits.  Do YOU work for a narcissist and, if you do, how should you handle it.

Industrial psychologist, Bernardo Tirado, suggests three steps for dealing with narcissists in the workplace.  The following represent highlights from his tips.

Dealing with Workplace Narcissists:  3 Steps

Step 1:  Determine if he or she is a true Narcissist

Find out if the person is a true Narcissist.  Use the called Narcissistic Personality Quiz.  Although it’s designed to determine if you’re a narcissist, it can be easily applied it to the person you’re trying to assess. 

Step 2:  Know How a Narcissist Thinks

Narcissists, by definition,  only care about themselves.  When working with a narcissist, you need to keep in mind that they will never be your best friend.  They will befriend you to see what they can get out of you and in their mind, will do favors expecting that you will do the same.  Unfortunately, in the workplace you can’t just write this person off and walk away.  So the best thing to do is to go along with him or her.

Narcissists also don’t do well with criticism.  If you ever have an issue with a narcissist never blame him or her directly as this will only infuriate them.  The best thing to do is to be indirect and talk around the issue.  So make it more about how you feel and how it’s impacting you versus how they are at fault.

Narcissists also expect you to be immediately responsive the moment they demand attention.  I once had a boss that would send me an instant message asking if I was there at my desk, then a minute later he would send me an email, and then another minute later he would call my phone.  All because he wanted a very trivial question answered. 

After he did this to me a few times, I caught onto his psychological game and so what did I start to do?  I ignored him.  It’s a risky play to ignore a narcissist but in this case, I knew that he was always persistent to the point that if I was not there to answer his question, he would find someone else that would.  I leave it with you to decide what best works for you.  What you need to know is that when a narcissist wants something, they want it now.

Step 3:  Working with a Narcissist

Always lead with how you feel first.  Narcissists are caught up in their own world and as a result, lack empathy.  Sharing your emotions is a huge blind spot because you’re forcing them to put your feelings first. 

If that feels too vulnerable, the next strategy is to focus on solutions and not the problem.  Narcissists like to focus on the problem and dissect it over and over again.  Rather than falling into the pitfall of seeing the glass half empty, flip it on its head and influence the narcissist to see the glass half full.  State the problem and quickly move towards to the solution. 

It’s typically best to present several solutions.  Narcissists like to be in control and if you can provide options, the better off you are.  Options are a way to unconsciously make them feel like you respect their opinion and are asking for them to control the direction of the solution.

Lastly, if all else fails then your last option is to make them feel special and unique.  Narcissists get high off of being in power and live for attention and admiration.  If you want them to do something, tell them how great they are and watch them perform. 

Tirado’s tips highlight the fact that you shouldn’t think that you cure the workplace narcissist or even get them to be more empathic with you.  True narcissists just don’t have it in them and nothing you can do will change that.  But you can still thrive if your boss is a narcissist by knowing how they work and how to work around them.  If you are looking for even more tips for dealing more gracefully with both the narcissists and other prickly people in your life, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts!  Making Peace with Difficult People!

Zika DOES NOT Justify Contraception, Says Catholic Bioethics Center

In light of the Holy Father’s comments on the return flight from Mexico, the National Catholic Bioethics Center released a statement.

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Used with permission.

February 22, 2016

Given the spread of the Zika virus and microcephaly within the Western Hemisphere, some have recommended the use of abortion and contraception as appropriate tools in the fight against this disease. In the following statement, the Ethicists of the NCBC reply to numerous media inquiries and give guidance to faithful Catholics on this topic.

A suspected connection between the Zika virus and microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, in children who were in the womb when their mothers contracted the virus has raised public health alarms in South America, the United States, and elsewhere around the globe. There is little question that the risks associated with the virus should continue to be carefully examined by medical experts. Appropriate recommendations to safeguard the health of all persons, and particularly those most susceptible to any serious effects of the disease, are warranted. Zika is the most recent and high-profile instance of any number of diseases that might have deleterious effects on the unborn children whose mothers contract it while pregnant. In no way, however, would it justify a change in the Catholic Church’s consistent teachings on the sacredness and inviolability of human life and the dignity and beauty of the means of transmitting life through marital relations.  Direct abortion and contraceptive acts are intrinsically immoral and contrary to these great goods, and no circumstances can justify either.


Based on available information, it does not appear that Zika poses any particular threat to the life of a pregnant woman who contracts it. Although the association is not yet confirmed, the virus’s harmful effects appear to be on the development of the child in her womb. Proposing abortion as a “medical solution” to the child’s pathology is suggesting the direct destruction of innocent human life as a means of healing. This is an evident self-contradiction. Pope Pius XI addressed the issue of “therapeutic abortion” in his encyclical Casti connubii:


What could ever be a sufficient reason for excusing in any way the direct murder of the innocent? This is precisely what we are dealing with here. Whether inflicted upon the mother or upon the child, it is against the precept of God and the law of nature: “Thou shalt not kill.” The life of each is equally sacred, and no one has the power, not even the public authority, to destroy it. (CC, n. 64)


More recently, in his encyclical Evangelium vitae, Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching:


The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. (EV, n. 57)


Beyond the issue of abortion, governments and public health experts may be justified in recommending that married couples delay childbearing temporarily in view of the great number of apparent risks associated with contracting Zika during pregnancy. Married couples should prayerfully assess any such recommendations. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae clearly addresses this issue, teaching that “with regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time” (HV, n. 10). Therefore, the couple should choose whether and to what extent they will accept such a recommendation, assessing all of their pertinent spousal duties and reliable medical facts: “The exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society” (HV, n. 10). Delaying pregnancy can be achieved through complete or periodic abstinence during the wife’s fertile period, which can be generally ascertained through bodily signs (natural family planning).


Humanae vitae also goes on to explain what “due respect to moral precepts” includes. Paul VI teaches that such respect excludes “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means” (HV, n. 14). In response to the notion that contraception might be an acceptable lesser evil when compared to direct abortion, he further clarifies:


Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one. . . . Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. (HV, n. 14)


This provides the foundation to answer a question increasingly being asked—whether it is ethical to use contraceptive methods, such as condoms, to reduce the likelihood of transmission of the Zika virus.  Apart from the scientific questions about the actual effectiveness of condoms in disease prevention, using condoms to reduce the likelihood of Zika transmission amounts to directly intending contraceptive acts of intercourse as a means to a good end. It “deliberately frustrate[s] . . . the natural power and purpose” of marital intercourse (see CC, n. 54). In the case of a woman who is already pregnant, condom use could not have the effect of preventing pregnancy, but it would prevent a true marital act from taking place, which always involves a complete giving and receiving on the part of the husband and wife.


Some might also wonder about the use of contraceptive pills or intrauterine devices as a form of self-defense against the disease. This line of reasoning is invalid: hormonal contraceptives, IUDs, and morning-after pills do nothing to prevent sexual transmission of disease, but rather prevent the conception of a new human life or the implantation of an existing embryonic human being. Their use would amount to directly intending contraception or early abortion as a means of preventing potential birth defects. In other words, it would deliberately violate the unitive and procreative meanings of human self-giving in marital intimacy or purposefully destroy innocent human life, which are means that no good end can justify.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center

The Myth of Optional Breastfeeding & Why You Might Not be Breastfeeding Long Enough


UPDATE:  This article has sparked tremendous outrage from readers.  PLEASE NOTE.  Save for a few editorial comments which are mine, this article is a re-posting of a blog by UND’s Dr. Darcia Narvaez, 2015 winner of the APA’s William James Award for research in the psychology of religion, morals and values. Her work represents the state-of-the-art of developmental moral psychology and this award puts in on the same level as Lawrence Kohlberg.

She isn’t saying that moms who can’t nurse for medical or emotional reasons are bad moms. She is saying that research supports the idea that nursing facilitates the growth of the structures in the “social brain” that are responsible for moral cognition. She unpacks this in her award winning book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality. It is groundbreaking stuff and people–especially people who genuinely want to know what it takes to raise kids who are strong-enough to stand against the current cultural tides– should be aware of it.

It should go without saying that people are free to parent how they want. They don’t need my permission. Make your choices and be proud of them. I agree with what the article says, but readers are free to make up their own minds.  Blessings.


Dr. Darcia Narvaez is a moral developmental psychologist at the Univ. of Notre Dame.  Moral developmental psychologists study what goes into raising kids who are able to resist negative peer pressure and make good choices throughout their lives.  As I argue in Beyond the Birds and the Bees:  Raising Whole and Holy Kids, my book about what it takes to raise moral, godly kids,  breastfeeding plays a special role in laying the foundation for moral reasoning in the infant and toddler’s brain.

Dr. Narvaez has a tremendous article at her Psychology Today blog, Moral Landscapes, addressing both why breastfeeding shouldn’t be optional in the first place and how long parents might want to nurse to give their children the full psychological, relational and moral benefits nursing can offer.

Here is a sample followed by a link to a terrific follow-up article where she responds to many objections and questions sent to her by readers.  I guarantee you’ll want to read the whole thing.

Breastfeeding is optional for a mother these days. She can choose not to do it. And without social support and pressure to be a “true” feminist, this seems like the “right” thing to do. Baby will usually stay alive with infant formula (despite its many risks including that it is the only consistent link to SIDS).

Breastfeeding is not an option for a child who wants to grow optimally, and what baby does not want that?

The recent book, Lactivism (link is external), with sloppy reporting and by misreading the evidence, argues that breast milk makes no difference for the health of the child. It became very popular despite the inaccuracies(link is external). It’s astounding to anyone who knows anything about breast milk. Maureen Minchin has an excellent critique(link is external).

 Rather, in the mistaken account, breast milk, a 30 million year old substance with thousands of ingredients is supposed equivalent to a “scientific” formula with a couple of dozen of non-human ingredients (only in 2014 did the Food and Drug Administration finally start to regulate it).

How is this determined? By experiment of course. Randomized, controlled trials are presumed to be the only source of “truth.” (Of course it’s experiment-focused scientists who want you to believe this.) Obviously evolutionary science is dismissed here.

Experiment-focused science assumes we cannot know anything until a “proper” experiment is done. We cannot rely on the natural world to be intelligent –only experimental scientists know anything for sure (tell that to our ancestors and the billions of other creatures that missed out on experimental science). So for child raising, anything goes until we have an experiment. Of course you cannot ethically do experiments on babies. So, anything goes. Whoever has a stronger soap box or microphone or make-my-life-easy story will win.

Getting Baselines Right

It’s amazing that people who think themselves so smart and superior to everyone else, can be so, shall we say, ignorant. They fail to understand other types of knowledge gathering, like observation. Or, how with evolutionary processes, the natural world has “done the experimenting” over eons and provided us with many adaptations that are very intelligent. Nature provides many baselines for making judgments.

Do we really have to take baby birds away from their nests and see what their parents do? (Ignore them). Or feed them some other food instead of the food their parents bring? (Which kills them.) See Derrick Jensen’s(link is external) forthcoming 2016 book, The Myth of Human Supremacy, for a scathing review of scientific arrogance and mistreatment of the natural world.

We have baselines for human nests too (see more below in footnote). And one of these is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is what mammals do. Social mammals emerged more than 30 million years ago with extensive breastfeeding. Apes have on average four years of breastfeeding. Humans, as the most immature of apes at birth (25% of braindeveloped and more like a fetus in many ways), need the most intensive parenting for the longest duration to reach maturity (3 decades). This requires lots of good caregiving.

Subnote: Some people mistakenly think that relying on nature’s “experiments” is a “naturalistic fallacy.” A naturalistic fallacy is when a person takes a fact, something that “is,” and makes it a “should” (e.g., females bear babies so females should bear babies). Taking a bunch of facts together, converging evidence, is not the same thing as the so-called fact-value distinction as there are multiple points of evidence used to support the “should.”

Which brings us back to breastfeeding. Anthropologists have studied small-band hunter-gatherer communities around the world, the type of society in which the human genus spent 99% of its history (more below in footnote). They have noted the norms for early childhood. For breastfeeding, it’s 2-8 years, with an average weaning age of 4 years (Konner, 2005). Studies measuring only breastfeeding initiation (one attempt) or for 3 months of time are not going to provide the information needed for a true experiment (which, again, cannot be done—can you imagine randomly assigning mothers to children or assigning 8 years of breastfeeding?)

The average length for our ancestors (and small-band hunter-gatherers) is shocking for mothers in advanced nations where societies are built around work and workplaces and not families and child development.

But breastfeeding is what helped our ancestors survive, thrive and reproduce.

Misunderstanding breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is not just about food. Why might several years of breastfeeding matter? Just to mention one thing here (see the links below to much more information): breast milk provides all the immunoglobulins needed for immune system development, which takes around 5 years to develop.

But there are other misunderstandings. Breast milk has thousands of ingredients and these are tailored to the particular child at the time of breastfeeding. Yes! (See Katie Hinde’s blog, Mammals…Suck(link is external).) This is why doing experiments with pumped milk is not going to work. Or doing experiments at all. Every child is different, developing at their own pace. Every feeding is different. It’s an interaction between mom’s science-laboratory breasts and the child’s needs.

Myth of formula as “safe”
The safety of formula is often touted as “we have clean drinking water, unlike some other nations, so formula is safe.” Safe from what? Not SIDS. Formula is linked to all if not virtually all SIDs deaths…. READ THE REST HERE

And  please be sure to read Dr. Narvaez’s response to critics here in To Doubters of the Importance of Breastfeeding.  

The science is there for those who are willing to look at it.  Breastfeeding is a moral issue. God gives moms breastmilk to hold in trust for their babies.  Don’t take away your baby’s inheritance.

“Popes Say the Darndest Things” (Zika Edition)–Clarity for Confused Catholics


Are you confused, frustrated by, or for that matter, gloating about Pope Francis’ recent comments on contraceptive use and the Zika virus–especially in light of the Vatican Press Office’s confirmation that Pope Francis was not only speaking about using Natural Family Planning but also, potentially, hormonal contraceptives and condoms, to prevent the possibility of children born with Zika-related miroencephaly?   Be at peace.  Let’s all please take a collective breath and consider the following in which Dr. Janet Smith, world-renowned expert on Catholic sexual ethics and professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, offers some sensitive, sensible guidance regarding the context in which these comments need to be understood.

The following is a sample, but I ask you to please take the time to read the whole article which appears at Catholic World Report.

In it, Dr. Smith writes…

It is time to review some basic principles that bear upon the question of the morality of contraception.

Meaning of contraception: Thing and act

First, let us note that the word “contraception” is used to describe both a thing and an act. Only the act permits of moral analysis. There are many “things” called contraception, such as the many forms of the pill, the condom, the IUD, and the patch. Contraception as an act permitting of moral analysis is the act of doing something before, during, or after an act of spousal intercourse to prevent the act from achieving the end of procreation.

The Church teaches that acts of contraception are always against the plan of God for human sexuality, since God intended that each and every act of spousal intercourse express both the intention to make a complete, unitive gift of one’s self to one’s spouse and the willingness to be a parent with one’s spouse. These meanings of the spousal act are, as Humanae Vitae stated, inseparable.

Moreover, many forms of contraception work not by preventing ovulation or preventing conception but by either destroying an embryonic human being or rendering the uterus an inhospitable place for an embryonic human being. These “contraceptives” are not truly contraceptives. They cause the death of a new human being and are rightly called abortifacients. Both contraception and abortion are absolute evils, with abortion being a much more serious evil.

Therapeutic use of hormones

It often causes confusion that the Church permits the use of the hormones that are in the contraceptive pill to treat certain physical conditions. For instance, a woman who has ovarian cysts or who suffers from endometriosis may find that taking the hormones that are present in the contraceptive pill relieve her from some of the pain that results from such conditions. Women who use those hormones with the intent of reducing pain and not with the intent of rendering their sexual acts infertile are not engaging in acts of contraception. In the terminology of the principle of double effect, they are using hormones in pursuit of the good effect of reducing pain and, as a secondary effect, they are tolerating the infertility caused by the hormones they are taking.

Nuns in the Congo

It also confuses many that the officials of the Church many decades ago permitted nuns in the Congo who were in danger of being raped to take hormones that prevent ovulation (which is what the “pill” does). In this case the hormones would be taken with the intent of avoiding a pregnancy, but not a pregnancy that would be the result of a spousal act of sexual intercourse. They would not be altering the purpose of a spousal act of sexual intercourse. Rather, they would be defending themselves against the possible consequences of an act of rape. Keep in mind that it is justifiable for a woman to inflict great physical harm, even death, on a man threatening rape. Her act of killing the rapist is not justified as a “lesser evil” because killing is not a lesser evil than enduring rape. Rather, her act is an act of just and moral self-defense.  

Thus, for a woman to do something to prevent a rapist’s sperm from uniting with her ovum is a part of justifiable self-defense. Her act has nothing to do with violating God’s plan for sexuality. She is not choosing to use contraception to prevent a spousal act of sexual intercourse from achieving its natural end. She is not refusing to make a complete gift of herself to her spouse.  She is fending off a rapist and all his physicality. Clearly, her use of ovulation-suppressing hormones is not an act of contraception. (A good source for information about the history/reasoning concerning the nuns in the Congo is Fr. Edward Bayer’s Rape Within Marriage (1985), pp. 82-3)

Principle of choosing the lesser evil

The principle of choosing the lesser evil (PCLE) is often misunderstood. It does not apply to doing a lesser moral evil to avoid a greater moral evil. That is, for instance, one cannot directly kill one innocent human being to save the lives of several other innocent human beings. One cannot cheat one’s customers for money to give to the poor.

We must remember that the word “evil” does not refer only to moral evil. The word “evil” refers to any imperfection of any kind, for instance, to any physical imperfection. Blindness, for instance, or lameness are physical “evils.”

The PCLE applies to the common sense choices to do or undergo some non-moral evil for the sake of some greater good. One can destroy property to save life, such as breaking down a door to save a child trapped behind the door and in danger. It is not a moral evil to destroy the property. Yes “evil” is done—the door is broken and can’t be used—but the evil is a physical evil, not a moral one. Rather, it is morally good to break down the door.

The PCLE does not justify a woman using contraception to prevent a pregnancy because she fears the child may suffer some harm during the pregnancy. Here a woman is choosing to do something immoral to prevent harm. This choice violates the fundamental principle that we must never do moral evil to achieve good. She would be intending to thwart the purpose and meaning of the sexual act in order to protect any child conceived from harm, but she is doing harm—to the marital act and her marital relationship—by using contraception to prevent a pregnancy.

There are all sorts of “harm” that spouses may wish to attempt to avoid by using contraception. In fact, one suspects that there is always some harm spouses are trying to avoid by using contraception—harms such as financial stress, inconvenience, threats to the mother’s health, sexual frustration, etc. The Church has never taught that if the harms are serious enough, it is permissible to use contraception, for that would be choosing to do moral evil to avoid harm.

To suggest that some “emergency” or “special situation” would permit a person in conscience to use contraception does not align with Catholic moral theology. For spouses to use contraception is always wrong. How can any emergency or special situation justify what is always wrong? It is an improper use of conscience to use it to discern that it is moral to do what is intrinsically wrong in special situations.  CONTINUE READING


I would add to Janet’s thoughtful comments that even the Pope cannot change Church teaching.  We are all–Pope and layperson alike–merely servants of the repository of truth given to us by Christ and affirmed by 2000 years of prayer, discernment, spirit-filled discussion, and grace.  In this recent news story, the Holy Father made some off-the-cuff comments about a very serious medical and pastoral situation. These comments must be considered carefully in light of his teaching authority as the Bishop of Rome (as Pope Francis often prefers to refer to himself). But ultimately, even papal opinion stands or falls by its ability to reflect the continuity of our Tradition. If you would like an accessible, helpful guide for really understanding and living the truth about the Catholic teaching regarding sex and love, I’d invite you to check out Holy Sex!  The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.  And of course, I’ll offer more thoughts as this story develops.

Why Porn Is NOT An Addiction (Part Deux) and Why That Matters For Your Healing.


A while back, I shared a study arguing that porn was not an addiction. I also explained why this matters for treatment.  In the months since then, I’ve gotten several emails from people asking questions about that post. Many of these messages cited a response by Matt Fradd  that took issue (very respectfully, thank you Matt) with my position.  Most recently, I received an email from a pastor who was interested in the debate about the issue. My conversation with this pastor–who, like many pastors, works with a lot of people who confess the sin of pornography and masturbation–led me to believe that an update to my original post was in order.


To be clear, I have no issue with the phrase “sexual addiction” if it is used casually to refer to inappropriate and destructive sexual behavior.  There is no question that pornography is a pervasive, insidious, and terribly destructive problem. It can even seem, superficially, addictive.  I and my associates at the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Tele-counseling practice treat a lot of people who struggle with this issue and we regularly witness, first hand, the havoc it causes.

That said, in treatment, labels do matter because they direct both how we think about the roots of a problem and how we treat it.  In light of this, people are often surprised to learn that despite the fact that this phrase has been around since the late 1980’s, “sexual addiction” doesn’t exist as a diagnosis in either the DSM-V or the ICD-10 (which general physicians use).  Even the people who argue that pornography use is an addiction are, in fact, obliged to diagnose it either as an “impulse control disorder” or some type of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  The psychiatric and medical professions simply do not recognize the pop-psych diagnosis of “sexual addiction” because there is insufficient evidence to suggest it is an addiction rather that a compulsion/impulse control disorder.

Again, here’s why that matters to you.

Addiction VS. Compulsion

There are several important reasons mental health professionals view problem porn use and masturbation as an impulse control disorder or compulsion instead of an addiction.  A good rule-of-thumb for determining the difference between a compulsion and an addiction is that addictions are experienced more as a source of pleasure than guilt while compulsions are experienced as more a source of guilt than pleasure.

If sex were an addiction the person…

1) wouldn’t tend to feel guilty about what he did,
2) would experience physiological withdrawal (that jeopardized his health–not just caused psychological discomfort) when the “drug” was removed for a period of time, and
3) once he was “clean” the problem would be largely resolved.  (And yes, I’m aware of the “dry drunk” phenomenon, but those behaviors tend to be treated as issues that are co-morbid with the addiction as opposed to the cause of the addiction.)

The compulsive, on the other hand, is simultaneously drawn to the object of his obsession and repulsed by his connection to it.  He HATES himself for doing it but he can’t stop.  (By contrast the addict will often say he hates himself for indulging, but there’s little emotion behind the claim.  In truth, he loves it and lives for it).

Likewise, a sexual compulsion is not driven by a physiological need for either the object (porn)/action (masturbation).  While an addict could die from not getting his fix in time, no one is going to die from not being allowed to look at porn or masturbate. Instead, what drives a compulsion–sexual or otherwise– is an underlying, misunderstood, frustrated emotional need.  For the sexual compulsive,  we are specifically talking about the need for intimacy.  Most sexual compulsives are terrible at intimacy and use porn as a substitute.  But because, as Mark Shea often says, “you can never get enough of what you don’t really want”  the ache of the unsatisfied need for intimacy makes them hate themselves for settling for less.  An addict has no such internal struggle,  they believe they have found what they need in the bottle or the drug.

Sin versus Disorder

But what about sin?  Does everything have to be pathologized?  Isn’t there at least SOME time when lust is “just” sinful?

It’s true. For most, otherwise healthy, normal, (sinful) people, porn is attractive simply because we tend to be fascinated by provocative images.  This is the sin of lust and, at this level, porn use/masturbation is a bad habit that can be overcome by grace, self-discipline, and accountability. You don’t need therapy for this.  Go to confession.  Practice virtue.  If need be, get some support with an internet filter.  You’re good to go.

When Porn Becomes a Pathology

Unfortunately, for more serious porn problems, this approach doesn’t tend to work because the mere fact that porn involves provocative images isn’t what makes porn so hard to resist.

Ultimately, the degree to which a person struggles with porn use is almost directly proportional to his/her struggle to be authentically, genuinely intimate with the people in his or her life.   People struggle with compulsive use of porn because they have poor relationship skills, can’t figure out how to be vulnerable in healthy ways, aren’t good at articulating their needs in relationships, and aren’t comfortable dealing with emotions–especially negative emotions.  They use porn to self-medicate for all of this.  Using filters on your computer or smartphone can be a fine first step, but it can also strengthen the force of the compulsion because now, you don’t even have unhealthy ways to meet these other, very legitimate needs (e.g., needs for healthy intimate connection, emotional expression, personal fulfillment).

Porn is just the tip of the iceberg for these individuals.  It’s a symptom, and they’ll continue to struggle with it until the underlying issues are addressed.  That’s why an addiction model (which says, in essence, “just avoid it and you’ll be fixed”) doesn’t really work and can even make things worse for these individuals.  It leads people to believe that if they could just put their phone away or shut down the computer all would be well but, in fact, these people have much deeper problems expressing their emotional and relational selves in healthy ways; problems that must be addressed if they want to be genuinely free of their sexual compulsions.

Porn isn’t a social problem because people like porn.  It is a social problem because, as a society, families have stopped teaching children how to have healthy relationships.  This breakdown in the capacity for interpersonal attachment and intimacy is rooted in the breakdown of family life (and even many intact families don’t have an actual family life) which then expresses itself as a compulsion to use porn.

Healing & Hope

We need to think of compulsive porn use, not as the disease itself, but as the fever that accompanies the disease. Yes, sometimes a fever becomes so serious that has to be the focus of treatment.  But more often, you watch the fever to judge the progress of healing the underlying infection.  The problem with the addiction model is that it tends to ignore both the deeper infection and the responsibility one has to heal this deeper wound.  Telling someone “just put a filter on your computer” and “have custody of your eyes” does nothing to encourage them to get the help they need to develop the relational/emotional skills they are lacking; the very problem that drove them to a compulsive relationship with porn in the first place.

Healing from compulsive porn use can be challenging, but it is absolutely possible.  If you or a loved one would like more information on what it takes to overcome the struggle against compulsive pornography use, start with both Broken Gods:  Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart which explores how to stop hating yourself and start healing the hurt, and Holy Sex!  which reveals what it takes to experience your sexuality as God intended.  For additional assistance, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn how our tele-counseling practice can help you find healing for yourself and your relationships.



Worried No More: 6 Graceful Ways to Beat Stress, Worry, and Anxiety

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Check out how these 3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts can set YOU free from stress, worry, and anxiety!

Problems are part of life, but stress, worry, and anxiety don’t have to be.  As I note in my book, God Help Me, This Stress is Driving Me Crazy! Finding Balance Through God’s Grace, as early as the mid 300’s AD St. Augustine observed that the press of troubles, the ups and downs of daily life, was different than oppression, which is what happens when we allow these troubles to separate us from God’s grace.

Modern psychologists use different language, but have come to the same conclusion. It isn’t what happens to us, but how we process it that determines the degree to which we are consumed by stress, worry, and anxiety in the face of life’s troubles. So, how can you process stress in a way that leads to resilience (i.e., a person’s stress-busting ability) instead of angst?  Here are 6 graceful techniques you can use to overcome the stress, worry, and anxiety in your life.

6 Graceful Tips for Beating Stress, Worry & Anxiety

1.  Pray- Research consistently shows that people who pray manage stress better than people who don’t.  The grace one receives from prayer manifests itself in many ways that can’t be seen, but many way that can.  It improves mental and physical health outcomes, makes you more resistant to disease, increases your hope and facilitates coping.  When stressed, prayer should be mission #1.

2.  Reflect- If prayer works, reflective prayer works best.  Specifically, call to mind past times when you have been stressed and remind yourself how God has delivered you from those trials.  Reflect on God’s goodness and mercy.  Remind yourself of all the times you have felt God’s love in your life. Remember that scripture reminds us that God is not just faithful for a time.  He is faithful always.  If he has been faithful before, he will be faithful today. You can count on it.

3.  Be Grateful–It can be hard to be grateful when you are feeling stressed, but reach down deep and praise God for his blessings anyway.  This is what St Paul refers to as a “sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:15), the hard fought, willful effort it takes to remember God’s blessings even when we don’t want to. Although we offer this sacrifice of praise to God, we are the greater beneficiaries. Intentionally calling to mind all the reasons we have to be grateful to God despite the problems we are currently facing helps to give us perspective and reminds us that our problems are transient.  Yes, they are here today, but with God’s grace, they will be gone tomorrow, just like the problems of yesterday.

4.  Don’t Internalize–People who manage stress better remind themselves that it is not their fault that bad things happen.  Yes, it is their responsibility to handle those problems, but it is not their fault that problems occurred in the first place.  Problems occur because sin exists and the world is broken. Saying that I can learn from my mistakes and take responsibility for fixing problems is different from sitting around and saying that I am to blame for my problems.  Blaming yourself wastes the precious energy you need to recover and rebuild. Don’t internalize problems.  Stuff happens.  Move on.

5.  Don’t Globalize–People who manage stress better also remind themselves that their problems don’t define them.  Yes, they have a problem in this one area of their life but that is different than saying “My LIFE is ONE BIG PROBLEM.”  The latter attitude is called “globalizing.”  It involves taking a problem I have in one small–or relatively small–area of my life and letting it consume everything and define who I am.

6.  Don’t Sign for the Damage–Just because you’ve been through stressful or traumatic events doesn’t mean you are–or must remain–damaged goods.  In the words of Columbia University psychologist, Dr. George Bonanno, “exposure to potentially traumatic events does not predict later functioning. It’s only predictive if there’s a negative response.”  In other words, the fact that bad things happen to us does not have to cripple us moving forward if we refuse to allow ourselves to be defined by them.  What can we be defined by?  Our strength in the face of trauma.  Our courage in the face of trail.  Our resourcefulness in the face of set-backs.  And, of course, God’s faithfulness and love in the face of the darkness we experience

More Than Conquerors

There is not question that our days are filled with troubles and we are constantly beset by temptations to give in to stress, worry and anxiety but we can rejoice in the fact that we do not have to be victims of the problems we face.  If we learn to respond to our struggles with resilience, we can, with God’s grace, be “more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37).  We can become better, stronger, more faithful and effective people no in spite of the struggles we have been through, but because of them.

To discover even more stress-busting resources, check out God Help Me, This Stress is Driving Me Crazy! Finding Balance Through God’s Grace or contact The Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Catholic Tele-counseling Service to learn more about how you can work with a faithful, professional, Catholic counselor who can empower you to lead a more peaceful and abundant life.


Therapy Equally Effective as Drugs for Front Line Depression Treatment & Helps Reshape Brain, Studies Say

The synaptic gap is filled by neurotransmitters like serotonin.

The synaptic gap is filled by neurotransmitters like serotonin.

New clinical practice guidelines advise physicians that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and second-generation antidepressants (SGAs), are equally effective treatments for major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommendation appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Patients are frequently treated for depression by primary care physicians, who often initially prescribe SGAs,” said ACP President Wayne J. Riley, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., M.A.C.P.

“However, CBT is a reasonable approach for initial treatment and should be strongly considered as an alternative treatment to SGAs where available, and after discussing treatment effects, adverse effect profiles, costs, accessibility, and preferences with patients.”

Major depression is a medical condition causing sadness that interferes with daily life, not a normal reaction to life situations such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job.

Symptoms associated with depression include lack of energy and loss of interest in things previously enjoyed. READ MORE.

ALSO  another new study supports the idea that CBT actually reshapes the brain

A new Swedish study finds that after just nine weeks of Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy, the brains of patients suffering from social anxiety disorder change in volume and activity — and anxiety is reduced.

Researchers noted that the brain is remarkably adaptable. For instance, previous studies have shown that juggling and video games affect brain volume. But questions remain about how brain volume and neuronal activity in specific areas may change.

In the current investigation, a group of researchers from Linköping University and other Swedish universities studied how Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) affects brain volume and activity.

The researchers focused on patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD), one of the most common mental health problems.

For the study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), was performed on all study participants before and after the ICBT intervention.

The researchers found that in patients with SAD, brain volume and activity in the amygdala decrease as a result of ICBT. Study results appear in the journal Translational Psychiatry.  READ MORE

Check out the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s tele-counseling practice for more information on  how cognitive therapy can help you overcome your struggles with depression, anxiety and other emotional problems.

Think Fast!–What Marriage Can Teach Us About Lent (and it’s not what you think!)


Check out this great post by Jacob Popcak of JHP Ministry

What pictures come to mind when you hear the word, “fasting”? What about, “penance”? Perhaps you envision the grumpy monk, self-flagellating in some medieval chamber. Or perhaps you see the pious holier-than-thou, starving herself out of some sense of personal loathing. As citizens of the 21st Century, it’s very likely that you envision something at least similar to what I’m describing.

Because of these associations, I always had a really difficult time rationalizing penance, even the menial kinds. Of course, I never gave up anything great than a favorite snack or a less-than-savory habit (in freshman year of college, I gave up swearing). And yet, I had a deep and uncomfortable question that I had to wrestle with: why should I have to be made uncomfortable in my relationship with God? If God really loved me, I thought, and I really loved him, why should the kind of discomfort that came with penance be something I had to take on? Don’t get me wrong: I understood the importance of being able tosuffer for God, if necessary. After all, almost anyone raised Catholic has at least a basic familiarity with the various saints and martyrs who’ve stood up for their faith even in the face of suffering. But there’s something heroic, even dramatic, about suffering. Discomfort, on the other hand, just seemed so meaningless.

I ended up finding the answer to my question, though, in a little document known as The Theology of the Body. A collection of public talks by Pope Saint John Paul II, the document explains – among other things – the sacred beauty of the body, what it means to love others, and God’s plan for human relationship.

Beyond all that, though, one of the central messages of TOB is that our relationship with God is (and should be) like a marriage. If this is a new concept for you, it shouldn’t be an overly difficult one to take in. Where else but the best marriages do we see two people giving themselves completely to their other? Where else but in the best marriages do we a love so great it has the power to change people? Where else but the best marriages do we see a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful? The answer to all of these questions is, mysteriously and simply, “the cross”; we see this love – this radical kind of self gift – in the way that God loves us and in the way He asks us to love Him.

​​But as the best of married couples will tell you, nuptial love isn’t always flowers and chocolates and sweet nothings. Oftentimes, the most sincere communications of love lie in the daily messiness of life. “I knew you were tired” says the bridegroom to his bride, “so I gave the baby his bath tonight”; “I know you’re suffering”, says the bride to her bridegroom, “so I took care of the dishwasher”. The lovers don’t do these things for each other because one is angry at the other, nor because one is at fault and seeks to appease the other, nor because their relationship is suffering. After all, no amount of chores or duties would be enough to even the scale against, for instance, an unkind word, a particularly nasty argument, or – God forbid it – a painful infidelity. Instead, the lovers do these things for one another when their relationship is solid to make it even more solid. They do it because amidst the Saturday chores and the leaky faucets and the could you just make sure the door is locked one more time’s – amidst, as Mother Teresa put it, the “small things” – great love flourishes. This doesn’t mean that the roses and the chocolates are any less real, less sincere, or less necessary ; it simply means that the thorns and the poopy diapers are real, sincere, and necessary as well.

In a similar way, our relationships with God can’t (and shouldn’t) always be sweet. A love as profound as that which is shared between Creator and creation, between bridegroom and bride, cannot be made up simply of inspirational sermons, grateful praise, and merry Christmases; there must also be somber hymns, times of silence, and Good Fridays. Put another way, the marital proclamations of, “It feels so good loving you!” mean nothing if they are not balanced with a “…but I love you when it doesn’t feel so good, too.”

This is the true spirit of fasting, of penance, and of mortification.  READ THE REST…

Do YOU Have What It Takes? 4 Promises That Lead to a Happier Marriage



Celebrate National Marriage Week with FaithontheCouch as we explore what it takes to live a more loving, joyful, grace-filled marriage!

Do You Have What it Takes to Get to “Happily Ever After?”

Almost every newly married couple has two things in common.  First, they are deeply in love with each other and rightly excited about the lives they are building together.  They are passionate about each other, and hopeful about a bright future filled with blessings.  But second, underneath that mutual love, joy, and hope, almost every newly-married couple is also a little terrified.  They wonder if they have what it takes to make it “until death do they part.”  Almost every couple we talk to in our years of marriage ministry ask us one basic question; “How can we know if we have what it takes to make it to ‘Happily Ever After?'”

I can give you the answer to that question right now.  Do you have what it takes? YES!  Absolutely, you have what it takes to have a great Catholic marriage.  Contrary to what you might have heard elsewhere, it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, what your background is, or what your family of origin did or did not give you.  We know from years of marriage research that what separates so-called “marriage masters” from “marriage disasters” is not magic or history, it’s a set of teachable skills that happy couples have either picked up along the way or are willing to learn.

4 Promises…

While there are many good habits you can cultivate to lay the foundation for a great, Catholic marriage, ultimately, it is your willingness to make four promises that will help you and your spouse become “marriage masters.”

1.  A promise to commit to personal and couple prayer.

2.  A promise to nurture your love.

3.  A promise to commit to your vows even more than each other.

4.  A promise to learn new skills when new challenges come instead of  blaming your marriage or spouse for being “broken.”

Each of these is rooted in solid research that examines what separates marriage success stories from marriage nightmares and each of these is borne out in our experience–which we will share a bit of with you in this chapter.  Let’s look at each of these four commitments.

1. A promise to commit to personal and couple prayer   

Making and keeping marriage great over the course of a lifetime requires us to be willing to sit at the feet of the Author of Love himself and ask him to teach us how to love.  We need to do this every day both individually and together.  There is a reason that research consistently  shows that couples who pray together are up to 30% happier across every dimension of married life than couples who don’t.   When a couple prays both individually and together they are admitting they have a lot to learn about love and they open their hearts to be taught by the best teacher in the universe.

2.  A promise to nurture your love.

Love is like a fire. You can keep it burning forever, but you have to tend it consciously and constantly.  Leave it alone for too long and it simple burns out.  There is no great mystery to it.  Fires without fuel, die.  Smart couples understand that to keep the fires of their love burning strong, they need to tend the flame by doing those little, extraordinary things for each other.  Every. Single. Day.  Little surprises like love notes in a lunch bag, calls to say, “I was thinking of you,” bringing home your spouse’s favorite ice cream instead of yours, doing that chore your spouse hates so that you can say, “I want to make your life easier and more pleasant”, wearing that new lingerie on a night when you might rather just pass out because you want to say, “I still want you”,  and many other little, thoughtful gestures go a long way to stirring the coals and keeping the embers of your love burning hot.  Want your love to last a lifetime?  Tend the fire every day.

3.  A promise to commit to your vows even more than each other

In the early years of marriage, especially if you’ve been arguing more than you expected–and many couples do–it can be very tempting to begin wondering if you didn’t make a mistake.

The key to making it through these days–both now and throughout the rest of your married life–is making a commitment, not just to each other, but also to the marriage itself.  This means making a commitment to your vows.   Research by the Relationship Institute at UCLA shows that while almost every couple is committed to each other, those couples who make an additional commitment to the relationship itself–vowing to work on the marriage even when it isn’t fun and they don’t feel that great about their spouse–have much greater chances to have marriages that are happy and last a lifetime (Wolpert, 2012).

Making a commitment to your vows means that even on the days where your spouse is driving you crazy and you don’t really feel like being a loving person, you are committed to  fighting through all of that to find your best selves again.  Not because you necessarily feel like it.  Not because your spouse necessarily deserves it. But because your commitment to your marriage demands it.  If you make a commitment to sticking it out and working it out, you will find your way back to the joy, love and passion you seek.

4.  A promise to learn new skills when new challenges come instead of blaming your marriage or spouse for being “broken.”

No newly-married couple knows what they are doing when it comes to marriage.   No one.  Not even the people who came from the best families-of-origin on the planet.  When you hit hard times and begin feeling the urge to turn against each other you must remember that it is not because your marriage is flawed.  It is simply because you don’t know what you are doing and you need new skills. We want you to remember four little words that will help you get through these times.  Ready?


Write it down.  Memorize it.  Say it until you can dance to it.  Marriages do not have lives of their own.  A marriage only has the life a husband and wife give it. If your marriage is struggling, it is simply that you don’t currently  have the skills to nurture it under the pressures you are currently facing.   Get those skills.  Read good self-help books; go on a marriage retreat; join a support group; get therapy. The good news is that research consistently shows that couples who have the “don’t blame the marriage” attitude and, instead, commit to acquiring skills when they hit hard times, have much higher levels of marital satisfaction and longevity.  No marriage ever failed because a couple lacked skills.  Rather, marriages fail because couples are too prideful to admit that they need to acquire new skills.    As it says in Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, disgrace follows.  But with humility comes wisdom.”

You CAN do it!

If you and your beloved can make these four commitments, you will discover everything you need to make your marriage everything God wants it to be–a great love story that will both satisfy the deepest longings of your heart and be a witness to the world of what God can do when two, imperfect people are willing to learn the steps that lead them to a more perfect love.

Dr. Greg Popcak is the author of many books including Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage from which this article is adapted.  Learn more about Dr. Popcak’s books, radio program, and tele-counseling practice at


You Can Pass on Trauma Through Your Genes: New Study Finds


Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.

The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war.

They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.