When You Want Connection and Reinforcement from Others

Do you want to be complimented, loved, admired, and respected?

You may be unaware that you are continually preventing the very thing you want.

After several decades of experience in my psychotherapy practice helping people to achieve much more functional lives and satisfying relationships, it is clear to me that virtually everyone wants the same thing.

You may be thinking that everyone wants to be happy and successful, and while that is largely true, most people spend their lives also wanting something perhaps MORE than that.  People want to be loved, liked, appreciated, important, complimented, admired, respected and connected.

Overall, it appears that we humans must seek and gain some strong measure of being regularly CONNECTED with others.

Consider the following:

  1. We require closeness and connection with others. Everyone largely wants connection… to find love, closeness, intimacy, meaning, lasting friendships, close family sanctuary. When we lack any of these, we can become sad, estranged, isolated, depressed, lonely, self-destructive, addicted to substances, and/or medication.  When we become emotionally malnourished, we become unhappy!
  1. We want to be fed regularly! While we certainly want food regularly, we also want to be fed emotionally. We want to know that others like, love, admire, respect us, and we want to remain connected. It’s the ongoing reinforcement of the “glue” that remains so important!
  1. We often look for relief when we feel disconnected and unimportant. Sometimes we medicate with food, which gives us relief while we eat — followed by weight gain and feeling worse.  Imagine treating loneliness with food. Does that seem like common sense? Hardly.   Other times we choose medicine.  Perhaps the largest categories of medicine in Big Pharma that are the most successful and profitable are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines.  These medications are designed to help you cope with your emotional problems, and among the most powerful emotional disturbances people experience is LONELINESS! When we feel disconnected, estranged, isolated, alone, unloved, unimportant, and/or unappreciated, we often become depressed and unhappy. These medicines may turn down the volume of your unhappiness for a bit, and yet, you will likely keep your emotional problems without replacing your ongoing behavior with habits that allow you to restore being connected with others.
  1. We become addicted to other forms of seeking reinforcement and attention. Some of the ongoing addictions that we seek to help us feel better, loved, appreciated, respected, wanted, and desirable are Social Media:  
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Blogging

We have become so dependent on getting some kind of reinforcement that we routinely advertise information about ourselves on the internet in the desperate hope that someone will pay attention to us.

In 1938 Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People. He said the most powerful need that people have to be met is to feel important. How true! Therefore, if that need is so powerful, is it really a surprise that people work overtime to get attention today on the internet?

  1. What happened to marriage? Most of us want to be married and live happily ever after. It sounds good and yet 50%-60% of marriages fail after five to eight years. What is curious is that common sense tells us that it would be unthinkable to try to fly an airplane without thoroughly learning how to fly, and yet most everyone tries to fly a marriage without knowing the first thing about how to keep it up in the air successfully.

When you were courting your partner, you both were on your best behavior… you looked good, smelled great, went the extra mile, routinely fed each other emotionally, and continually found out what each other wanted and then gave it to the other. You married the courtship! What would make you both quit the courtship after the wedding?

The single most common contributor to damaged or failed marriages is that both people are emotionally malnourished. The married partners quit the ongoing reinforcement and maintenance they delivered during the courtship. What often results is criticism, indifference, silence, fighting and contempt.



Most of us have real difficulty saying “NO.”

When we say “YES” rather than “NO” (which is often what we really want to say,) we get caught in a bind of one of the following:

  • We have enabled the other person(s) to take advantage of us.
  • We feel conflicted because they are perfectly able to do the work themselves and yet they want to be rescued… and we accommodate them.
  • They are sometimes playing “victim,” (a very popular state of mind these days) where they want to be saved, and we save them because we feel guilty.
  • We are more willing to be nice, popular, and helpful rather than encouraging the other person to solve the issue themselves.

Presently, we are noticing an enormous population in this country playing the “chronic victim” role… whining about their lives, complaining that too little has been done by others to help them, life is unfair, and continually singing the song entitled, “What have you done for me lately?”

Here are some popular examples:

  • A large group of millennials have long been told by their over-protective “helicopter” parents that they are special, wonderful, perfect, and deserve everything life can provide for them. This group of millennials have been so over-protected and enabled by their parents that:
    • Parents complain to college professors that their child’s grades need to be changed because their children deserve better.
    • Parents sit in on hiring interviews with potential employers to help their children get the job.
    • 36% of college graduate women and 43% of college graduate men are still living at home and subsidized by their parents (Pew Research).
    • 80% of baby boomer parents today are still paying for their children in some way (USA Today).
    • Parents have been caught bribing universities to gain admission for their children.
  • Your sibling wants you to keep giving him/her money.
  • Your parents continue to whine about their woes and make you feel guilty, so you rescue them with money and/or service.
  • There is a population of career homeless people who want to continue to remain that way while complaining, rather than taking responsibility for themselves and their future.
  • Your good friend continually wants help and you keep saying “yes” because you either want to avoid feeling guilty and/or experience criticism from him/her.
  • You keep over-accommodating a friend because you believe they will someday grow up and thank you for everything you have done for them.
  • Certain people in your network continually “borrow” money, never pay it back, and yet you still “loan” them money, while they keep singing the blues.

Much of the time you are asked to help someone who refuses to take responsibility for themselves.

At this point, you are often quite perplexed, and bewildered and still you believe that continually saying “YES” is a good thing. You keeping thinking:

  • My intentions are good
  • I can really help here
  • I can solve it right away
  • My advice is quite good
  • My need to be needed is being fed
  • I want to please them
  • I have to gain approval
  • I want to be popular and if they are unhappy with me, that is really bad!

Note:  To be clear, saying “YES” and helping others is often a very good thing. There are many wonderful people out there who need help and are very appreciative when you say “YES” to help them out.  Many of them want to return the favor.  You may notice that you can often tell the difference between people who show ongoing appreciation of the help you give and those who continually take advantage while manipulating you to feel bad or guilty if you say “NO.”

Further, if you think about it, you also probably know the difference between accommodating others when you are happy to do so in contrast to when you are over-accommodating in order to either gain approval, remain popular, or avoid conflict/feeling guilty.

Most of the time when you over-accommodate others you know you are doing it and you often regret how much you allowed them to take advantage of you.

So, what is going on here? What makes you so reluctant to say “NO”?  How is it that you keep enabling others to take advantage of you?

What is so awful about saying “NO”?

Here are some explanations of what might be going on in your head:

  • I want to please, gain approval, and be popular.
  • I want to avoid disapproval, disappointment, and criticism from them.
  • I want to avoid the constant concern that they will reject me because I said “NO.”
  • I believe I am only valuable to others when I help them, rescue them, and prove that I am worthy of their love, appreciation, and regard.
  • I hate conflict and disappointing others.  That reminds me of my past where I was continually criticized and mistreated, which made me feel inadequate and unworthy.  I felt manipulated all the time by people who used guilt to get me to say “YES” so I became a chronic “people pleaser.” My self-sacrifice became a habit and somehow it seemed a good thing to fall on my sword, become a martyr, and an over-accommodator.
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Oh my!  Do you notice what is going on around the world and especially in the United States? 

  • People are routinely being gunned down in churches, synagogues, theaters, entertainment events, schools, companies, governments, and homes.
  • Parents are attempting to bribe universities in order to gain admission for their children.
  • Highly respected manufacturers are being accused of significant crimes and misdemeanors while they betray their markets, deny everything, and attempt to defend themselves.
  • Politicians seem to be more interested in keeping their jobs, rather than actually doing their jobs.
  • Lots of people are routinely ignoring or rejecting facts about certain subjects, and instead spewing their vitriol reflecting their rabid criticisms about the same subjects.  They are unable or unwilling to create civil debates and discussions with those who hold different views.   
  • There appears to be some who think they are entitled to everything without taking responsibility for their lives.  Somehow they think, “I exist, therefore I am entitled.  What have you done for me lately?”  Gimme, gimme appears to be the chorus many are continually singing.
  • It is becoming more self-evident that many think it is preferable to become a professional victim… whining about their situation.  Blaming everyone else is now very fashionable.
  • Lying, cheating, blaming, whining, belly-aching, criticizing, condemning, and avoiding responsibility have become fashionable habits of a large population of citizens.
  • Caring, compassion, generosity of spirit, taking responsibility, and integrity all seem to continue sliding downhill and evaporating.

What has happened to our character, standards, adult behavior, self-respect, pride, and strong principles?  It’s time we rebuild, restore, strengthen, and promote our Strength of Character!


  • Manners. When out for dinner, it’s common to see those at the table more content being glued to their cell phone rather than enjoying the meal and talking with family or friends.
  • Anger.  More drivers are committing “Road Rage” because they think that another driver disrespected them or cut them off. 
  • Respect.  More and more, children and young adults are failing to show deference towards their elders and people in authority like teachers, police, parents, military, etc.
  • Clothing.  Many seem to think that it is acceptable to go out to an elegant restaurant wearing ripped jeans, t-shirt, and perhaps a baseball-style cap backwards rather than dressing as if it were a special occasion.  Moreover, many young men believe that the rest of us find it attractive to look at their underwear while their pants are pulled down to their thighs! 
  • Communication.  The formal written letters, thank you notes, and phone calls have gone by the wayside in favor of 280-character tweets or one word responses via text.  Rarely does anyone have a personal one-on-one conversation. 

Think about your life and how you are living it. For most of us, our lives are filled with some great ups, some painful downs, and a whole boatload of underwhelming vanilla in the middle. We frequently waste a lot of time either watching life go by or simply stalling with great intentions to get going real soon.

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Breaking News!

Here is something pretty terrific! I am so tickled!

I have just been featured in the California Business Journal — front page. I encourage you to take a look at it and let me know your thoughts.

Click here: California Business Journal

Many thanks to all of you for your ongoing interest and support. It is most appreciated!

At your service,

Dr. J. Mitchell Perry

How to Remember Names

Remembering their names… we all have trouble with this one.

How often do you notice that you forget people’s names? You will be at a reception and meet someone, and he will say, “Hello, my name is Steve Harrison.”  You will respond, “It is nice to meet you.” Then after five minutes of conversation you will have already forgotten his name.  Red Alert!

How embarrassing! Now you feel stupid because you just met this guy and are unable to remember his name.

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Failures and Life’s Lessons


This could clearly suggest that it would be COMMON SENSE to learn the lessons with all dispatch. On the other hand, common sense is very uncommon.

This axiom certainly seems to apply to most all of us, and if you think about the development of the human species over the last few thousand years, it can be successfully argued that these lessons continue to be repeated with entirely too little progress in the “LEARNING” department, particularly when it comes to how people conduct themselves around one another.

So, let’s take a look at how we might learn lessons sooner and more effectively in order to make faster course corrections and improvements in our lives.

Most of us want to succeed, and in addition, we generally want to AVOID FAILURE in life. Yet WHEN WE FAIL, WE ARE LIKELY TO LEARN THE MOST LESSONS, if we learn them at all.

Therefore, consider the following options and decide which is more likely to help us learn lessons sooner.

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When we were little, we loved to pretend. In fact, we really enjoyed playing “let’s pretend” with our friends. We associate having fun with those memories, and often still daydream and take pleasure in fantasizing about our lives, our future, and our circumstances.

The good news is that pretending is fun; it allows us to dream, fantasize, and believe in the magic. The bad news is, sometimes we hide in pretending as a method to avoid dealing with reality.

REMEMBER, there is always a gap between how life should be and how life is. That gap can be small or huge. When we pretend to excess, we imagine how life is supposed to be… and we often get lost in those imaginations. Read more

Hiring for Character


What do you do when you have an important position to fill?

If you are like most people, you post an open position on your favorite job site or call the local recruiter with the specifications for the position.

How much do you really know about what you are getting when you plow through a mountain of resumes?

A resume can tell you whether the person is capable of performing the job.  A resume is unable to tell you much about the person behind it.

Can you afford to make the wrong hiring decision? What do you do when you have to fire someone?  Are you able to fire them or are they protected by a collective bargaining agreement, tenure or other reason?  Read more

Constructive Criticism

Here is something you have received from others many times over the span of your life:

  • Can I give you some constructive criticism?
  • May I offer some constructive criticism?
  • I have some constructive criticism if you would like to hear it.
  • How would you like to hear some constructive feedback about what you just did?

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