September 23, 2018

Empathy is often confused with sympathy. Sympathy is more the ability to share or communicate others feelings. While empathy is the deep ability to understand and communicate someone’s feelings as if they were your own, but not. For me empathy is the deeper of the two as it lets the other know that you hear them and have a connection to the hurt they are in that particular moment experiencing.

I often tell couples who are in crises due to a betrayal that apologies are important but only go so far as to healing the pain. The work we do once the apology has been acknowledged is to have the betrayer express empathy as to what his/her partner may be suffering from the pictures in their mind around the betrayal. As this occurs, it allows two things to be accomplished, one: the injured party hears that there is true understanding of the profound pain suffered by their acting out, and two: if the person who acted out can truly empathize with the hurt caused, the likelihood of their doing it again is diminished. Additionally, when one realizes the extent of the hurt caused to someone you care for/love, you truly get that you don’t ever want to cause them that kind of pain again. From this vantage point true healing can commence if both are committed to it.

When offering empathy, it is a deep, engendering closeness to the person you are offering it to. Sympathy just doesn’t have this intensity or the sincerity for me that empathy does. The depth of wanting to connect and let the other person know that you care about them, while having their backs is connoted much more with empathy. I also believe that the person you care about for whom you are offering empathy feels your concern for them, and therefore feels less alone. It is a wonderful feeling to know that  someone is right there with your emotions and holds them in a non judgemental, unconditionally loving space.

Empathy has the ability to allow one to feel attended to, heard, honored, cared for, appreciated, not alone, closer to, and more deeply connected to by the person offering the empathy. It is a vital part of being in relationship and growing with someone. It is the juice that deepens and strengthens our attachments. Thus bringing to each, a sense of safety and security within their connection.



September 14, 2018

All too often, I hear people saying they have tons of friends. This always concerns me because in my world it means they believe that almost anyone they engage with is a friend. I tell my patients that real friends along with your spouse or partner is essential to life and includes typically no more than three to five people. These three to five people include those who: always have your back, hold your confidences, you can say anything to and not be judged, are always there, and have unconditional regard for you. Now this inner sanctum, as I call it, is the essence of true friendships. Others are either casual friends, who like you have similar interests and you can go “do” things with. Things like hiking, talking about current events, going to movies with, and enjoying foods and wines with. All others are strangers.

The inner sanctum, are the core of your existence and are where the riches of life can be found. It is here that you know where you stand, and can get the honest feedback one needs at various times of life. Now often, patients will say it hard to find these quality people. I agree. Even though there are three hundred million people in the U.S. alone, and tough it doesn’t sound so ominous, it still is. Looking for and finding quality though difficult, is always worth the hunt. Most people agree, and when I offer these parameters of what real friendship looks like, most realize they have at least one. Now these people don’t have to live down the block. It certainly helps, but with social media, skype, and travel it is not too hard to stay connected. But the reason three to five true friends is about all you can handle is because with family, and work and all that life asks of us, it is hard to maintain this quality of relationship throughout life with too many more.

One of the real difficulties is for men more than women. Men are socialized to believe that other men are only to be interacted with through competition. The vulnerability that is required to have a real friend as I describe it, is just too dangerous for most. I truly get this and it is this socialization that limits men from having the support they need and deserve. Most men have very little idea how to commence, attend, and maintain such a relationship. And yet it is imperative that men have such supports to go to.

The other misnomer connected to friendships is that people hold a double standard as to how to allow friends to support them. Many will tell me that if a friend needs them of course they would be there. BUT, if they themselves need support, it would just be burdening others, which just wouldn’t be right. I say to them, let me get this straight, if your friend came to you in need you would tell them they are burdening you? And when they do come to you and you are there for them, it doesn’t feel good? The answers are always no to the first question, and yes it feels good to the second. I then say, you are not burdening a true friend as they aren’t burdening you. AND, if you don’t let them be there for you, you are depriving them of that good feeling of being a true friend. This usually gets them thinking.

The inner sanctum of true friends is the richness of life. It allows us to feel truly connected and loved. This is an important aspect of being human and relating to others without feeling like you live in some kind of dark hole or abyss. When people are depressed or even suicidal (see my blog about Why Suicide?) it is more because of a lack of this connection.


September 4, 2018

Compassion is the third companion to truth and humility, which I have blogged about. These three musketeers are the antitheses to the ego. They reduce the ego due to their deep humanity and lack of esteem triggers that so often get us into trouble.

Compassion is the heartfelt entity that feels deeply for others, while understanding and relating on a truly human level. When we are compassionate we step back from judgment and shame. We don’t look with the comparing eyes of the need to one up someone or hurt them for our own self interest. Rather, we step into our hearts where caring, concern, pathos, and empathy live. It is from here that we relate to another though communicating nothing but the deep felt interest of sincere love. It is from here that our very essence is felt and offered, and received in a similar manner due to its honest resonance.

Compassion in its true form sees the ever present weight of the world. Walking compassionately on your way to anywhere, one feels the sadness or the hurt that so many are inflicted with. You can feel it in the energetic field around you and in that you can’t heal every wound you come across, you must just bless it and move on. Praying that the Universe will allow those in pain to find healing. Those who empath this worldly hurt, can get hurt themselves by absorbing like osmosis the toxic energy they experience. Needless to say, this is very unhealthy and does nothing to solve the issues of those who pass by. Again, that is why you must offer them God’s speed and move on.

Compassion is a state of grace that not only can be held for others, but for ourselves as well. I tell those I work with, that self compassion is the way to move beyond self sabotage. That the learned personality believes it is normal to denigrate oneself and incite inner wounds. To move away from this, we must evoke self compassion. We must engender a new found mindfulness in which we begin to let ourself off that learned hook of shame and judgment. As we develop this habit of self compassion, we can get out of our way, and allow our authentic and more empowered self to shine.

As we learn to hold self compassion for our humanness, we begin to expand our ability to hold compassion for others. It does not mean we heal all that is wrong in and around us, but it does allow us to walk with an open and caring heart. This perspective will be felt by others, and will add to the heartfeltness in the world we walk in.


August 26, 2018

Now here is an interesting concept that seems to be bantered around quite a bit lately: What is Truth? The literal truth is an easy one to identify. Something that is, is. If there is a statistic, a statement on record, a logistic that occurred, a promise in writing or witnessed, or a known fact that is not open to dispute is truth.

However, there is another form of truth that is what delves in another realm that is for me significantly more important. From a spiritual or authentic self perspective, truth takes on a whole other meaning. In the realm of the divine there is our inner authentic nature of what is. It does not come from ego where one attempts to get over on others or defend ourselves from threats to our feet of clay or insecurities. This truth resonates at a deep spiritual place of what is so for us, about us. It comes from how we walk in the world true to self without concern for other’s interpretation or attack. Our truth is how we ultimately roll in the world consistent to an inner nature that has no wiggle room for dis-self-honesty. We know what is so for us about our walk in the world while learning our lessons to move further along our path of inner enlightenment. Therefore, we don’t need anyone to tell us we are in sinc with self or not. We immediately feel the ping of dishonesty betraying our essence or the resonance of truth. This lack of truth is what sets off the bad karma we hear about because it is a betrayal of self. Thus the Universe feels this vibration through the quantum field and shutters as we come from a place of not.

The process of this “walk” is one of trial and error along with years of work. It is something that starts when you choose to walk of path of the spiritual warrior and continues until we exit this life. It is not one of ease or lacking in difficulty. It is a path of working on self at the deepest level and turning inward. It is the biblical story of the prodigal son who gets caught up in the superficial pursuit of external validation and acceptance until he turns toward the “father within” God. From this point on, the focus is internal and the truth lies within the pursuit of authentic self. Though this path is difficult as described in the book by Dan Milliman in the Way of the Peaceful Warrior, the rewards of owning self are glorious. As we step into the glorious place of the divine, we are vulnerable and empowered in a manner that opens us to what we want more of and don’t. Thus, we know the enhancing and compassionate world we want around us and the shame, guilt, and judgment that we don’t. From this place of authentic self, we walk in truth as to what feeds our soul and gives us the joy of self that offers peace and contentment. We are clear in this truth and speak it fluently without reservation. There is again, no wiggle room or lack of interpreting what gives to us, and what is toxic and erodes us.

Shakespeare said it well, To Thine Own Self Be True. And if you embrace this life path, nothing else needs to be pursued or said.


August 19, 2018

OMG, This is such a huge topic, and though I am not sure I am the right one to discuss this, it needs to be out there and discussed. Humility is one of three wise positions to take if you are going to make any head way to as Miranda Macpherson says, “relax the ego.” For truly ego and humility are not compatible, and do not exist in the same space. They may hang out to some degree as they trade places in your experiences, but they are not even distant cousins.

Humility is where you dismiss as much of the ego as possible to drop into the depths of self.  This deepening into that authentic place of self, allows us to relate to self, others and the world around us with truth and  gentleness. None of which are passive, but rather coming from a place of lovingly empowered.

When we can allow ourselves to be humble, it means we have done a lot of our inner work to step out of our way to not “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Thus, the insecure wounds and triggers suffered and created in us are to a degree healed. Healed to the point that we are not set off by the egos of others trying to ‘get our goat.’ In essence, as the old Zen koan says, they shoot arrows and but find no target. None of  these slights hit home because we are not available to other’s power to hurt us. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘no one has control over us we do not give permission to.’ Now typically, this permission is an unconscious one, but given up to others none the less.  If we are not turning over our power to others, and hold a strong sense of self and center, we walk in a humble manner with no attachment to other’s cruelty.

Too many in the western world hold humility in the realm of passive and weak because in a jungle fighting environment this is how its portrayed. As Jesus was quoted to have said, ‘the meek shall inherit the earth.’ He was also not talking about those who passively lay down, but instead to not be like the centurion warrior but walk with humility and compassion. To love thy brother as thy self. To do that one must relax the ego and embrace the divine.

When you walk in true humility there is a strong desire to relate in a true and caring manner and there is no openness to teasing, sarcasm, judgment, or shame. From this perspective there is no room for toxicity, only the purest of intentions and the desire to experience peaceful, loving kindness. Humility is a door that is open in a loving way to those who relate in this manner, and a tightly closed door to those who don’t.


August 12, 2018

Trust is something that is fundamental to every aspect of life. It is not only a crucial aspect of all our interrelationships, but includes even basics like does our pilot know how to handle the plane we are flying on, does the cab driver whose cab we are in know what he/she is doing, is our child care worker being appropriate, does the chef or food preparer know what he/she is doing to prepare a healthy, safe, and tasty cuisine, does our financier handle our money correctly, do our leaders in business or nationally really have our backs and best interest at heart, does the parachute or rope we are climbing with function properly as we jump out of a plane or scale down a mountain, etc. Get the point: we engage in carte blanche of appropriate/selective hope/denial that we can trust what is out of our true or immediate control (by the way, the thought that we are in control of anything is the greatest myth of all). If you think about it, if you didn’t give a type of unconditional trust to your world you probably wouldn’t leave home. But that being said, we do this because their are enough overseers that we do trust that someone is watching out and making sure people know their stuff.

However, this is not the case with relationships and therefore our ability to trust others is harder to earn and maintain, as it should be. Thus, how do we negotiate this difficult terrain? The answer won’t surprise you- cautiously and over time. Trust is like a huge pine tree. It takes years to grow a hundred feet and can be cut down in an instant with a chain saw. Therefore, trust is built consistently over time. It is tested and inspected to earn the right to be counted on and in a manner taken somewhat for granted. To get to this point, a person wanting to include someone in their realm/life has to show up and walk their talk whether as a business associate, friend or life long partner. It is essential and as I say in my talk on “successful relationships” under ‘Lectures’ on my web site: drgaryrichman.com, a corner stone of making a relationship viable. Though a corner stone, it is always fragile and needs to be tended to. Almost worshiped because if lost it won’t take, like the pine a hundred years to regrow, but it will take a significant amount of time to heal. Obviously, the rebuilding is difficult because two damaging things occur when trust is violated. One, whom you have known this trusted person to be, gets LOST. Once this horror has been experienced the carte blanche of who you absolutely believed  this person to be, isn’t. In that moment, one questions every aspect of who your thought this person to be. When trust is lost it is not just the one act of what is typically betrayal, but ever aspect of who you took this person to be comes under scrutiny. In that moment, the world you could count on gets badly shaken.

Two, Thus it takes a significant  amount of time to feel safe even if this is a person you have known/been with for years. There is no quick fix here, and if the relationship is to be salvaged patience, accountability, and empathy for the emotional damage are required. Typical apologies are never enough and not really the path to healing. The true healing is more about healing the emotional nightmare one is living with, and there is no specific time frame here. It will take what it takes to heal. Therefore, one must have the commitment to hang in there as the hurt mitigates over time. This work is hard, but doable as I have helped facilitate this process with many couples. As I say, the trust can be regrown, unfortunately like the tree it is just never quite the same. Couples, for instance can move on to a once more viable, loving relationship but not quite like before. A simple analogy is when you experience food poisoning at your favorite restaurant, how likely are you to go back and give them another try? Eh? You might but not for years and always with a certain amount of suspect.

Trust and its well being needs to be thought of like a very precious and fragile entity that we carry with both hands. It is something that can never be truly taken for granted and needs watering in an ongoing fashion. If maintained well, it will and does provide a stable foundation to feel safe and comfortable with those close to you and the immediate world you live in.




August 6, 2018

What does it mean to forgive? We hear all the time it is God like to forgive. So many of my patients talk about “just needing to forgive and let things be.” Many talk about forgiveness as taking the higher ground and moving on. We feel almost noble as, “we forgive those who trespass against us.”

It is my contention that doing what we “should do” or what is “right” is just another form of denial. If we believe we can move on by simply saying the word and thus our being is free to let go is being naive. In actuality, this is just another form of suppression. I am not saying that forgiveness is not important and  in actuality essential. To keep, as a patient of mine said, “living with the hate or toxicity of a grudge hurts you more than the person  you are not wanting to forgive. On this I agree.  Hating someone is like drinking poison and hoping they die. It is incorrect. Additionally, it is toxic for anyone to hold onto  pain and believe you are taking care of yourself, while leaving the other person in some kind of purgatory of unresolved issues. The only thing this brings about is dis-ease.

Therefore, a healthy working through this situation is the way to let go while not denying what has occurred. How does one do that? I teach that you first must truly understand the impact on your self esteem and even your soul. Not to get passed it. Not to let it go because the person who hurt you doesn’t care or would never be accountable for what happened. One must work through the pain and impact that the hurt perpetrated in yourself. To look deeply into the extent of what you are carrying around and then work to understand the trigger that this other person ignited in you. And then to heal the wound left by the act itself. As Elenore Roosevelt said,’ No one has power over us we do not give permission to.’ Now this permission is usually unconscious, but none the less for some reason we’ve allowed this person in close enough to harm us. Therefore, we need to do our self reflective work to understand and heal not only the overt hurt, but that part of us that would give someone else this kind of power.

Once we do this, we find our center, our self, and heal. From this perspective, we see the wound in the other and the horrible way they defend themselves from their own wounding. From our own empowered, enhanced strength and understanding of self , we can forgive them for being so damaged. And as Jesus said, ‘Forgive them for they know not what they do. And then move on from them, free of the toxicity.


July 27, 2018

What is partnership? We each in our own way seek someone to partner up with. And yet how do we know what that is? The interesting answer is that whether we are in a long standing relationship/marriage or a reasonably new one, our definition though initially clear continues to change to some degree as we change. Therefore, like our current reality is fluid, we need to reassess what that means to us and allow for change.

Thus if the meaning of partnership is changing every five to ten years, we need to be in touch with our sense of this and communicate it to out partner. It is the lack of checking in and discussing our transitions that can cause a relationship to begin to go bad. And if left unchecked, it goes to distance and crises. The couples I see, find this reassessment occurring more so in there forties. This is a time when we look closer at our own sense of growth and where we reconsider what quality of life means to us. We need to keep  avenues of communication open and if you will, renegotiate our sense of direction and attachment.

And yet, the fundamentals of what our partnership is standing on need to stay clear and consistent. Such as, unconditional love, prioritizing your partners greatest good, maintaining honesty and integrity, respect, appreciation, compromise, loyalty, and for the most part having each other’s back. These fundamentals are the many pillars that keep a partnership standing on a foundation that will not crack .And yet it takes work to keep the foundation from cracking as normal human issues continue to smack it around. In these moments it is quite appropriate though difficult as connection and communication wane for many to allow professional help to get back on track. We need help to once again talk safely with one another. We need help to see how we have taken some of those fundamentals for granted and forgotten to reinforce and cherish in gratitude the one we love. To heal that which has shaken our being in love with whom we once considered special and a gift to us.

Fundamentally, we are meant to partner up. We are beings who need to have more connection and nurturing. We are meant to seek out that person who makes life less scary as we lean on each other to confront what life has to offer. Like little children who naturally cuddly in your lap just because, we need to attach: Partnership.





July 15, 2018

It is not hard to witness entitlement. It seems to be everywhere these days. People feel entitled to be let in first, allowed to be disrespectful, rude, selfish, short sited, and even cruel. Where did such behavior come from? How did such behavior go unchecked? How is it that so many are unconscious to their own actions? The answer is, they have been raised in an environment of privileged, not had appropriate boundaries, and have  not distinguished the meaning of, you can do anything from do it all over people.

In a country where the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, we have forgotten that you get to pursue all this as long as you don’t intrude or oppress anyone else’s pursuance. That coupled with an arrogance stemming from a deeper insecurity of self overcompensated by a bloated ego, manifests entitlement.

I am all for people finding their passions engendered through life, liberty and happiness. I think along with self reflection and contentedness, these endeavors are part of a healthy and fulfilling life. What is appalling is that people act as if their needs, objectives, and desires are all important. They get to be important, but over the rights, and freedoms of others? We need to give up the competitiveness that dictates that we must do our lives over the needs of others. We must give up the notion that we are the only important entity walking around out there. We need to give up the ridiculous notion that either we focus only on ourselves or we give to others.

It will NEVER take away from your path or objectives to stop and be kind to someone. It will NEVER take away from you having what you want to be generous to someone in need. It will NEVER take away from you getting somewhere or slow you down if you are sensitive to someone needing to go by.

Empowerment of self is the idea, not power over others.







July 4, 2018

One of the important ingredients in a relationship of any kind is to be appreciative of what the other person offers and let them know. Far too often, people get complacent and forget to express their appreciation for the things big or small that the other does for them. This lack of recognition breeds discontent and resentment culminating in a palpable distance.

In essence, we all want to offer the things that we know our friends or partners need. We do this out of interest in making the other feel good and seeing the appreciation in their eyes. This is the juice that keeps the sweetness alive and creates a good will that emanates in a nice back an forth dance. When time goes on and routine, boredom, wounds, being taken for granted, and hurt goes unexpressed and unresolved, we step back from that which keeps the juice flowing and a painful stagnancy creeps in.

The mindfulness of offering appreciation keeps relationships alive and vital. It allows people to continue on together feeling connected and close. You can never let someone know often enough, how much  they do for you, and appreciate them for it. It may seem like your offering too much and that the other won’t like it, but you are wrong. Each time you engage in this behavior, your partner will smile or at least get that sheepish look as they glance toward the ground, but IT IS noted. And will come back to you as well.