From Madness to Manhood: Sunshine and Shame

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley was a delight. It seemed that summertime lasted forever and our little home in Sherman Oaks was the center of a wonderful universe from which I began to explore. The front yard was big and it was lined by trees, which I soon began climbing. I was a small, slightly built boy, always one of the shortest boys in my classes, a fact limited my potential to impress the girls. My mother always told me not to worry that I would grow to be a tall man, even though both she and my father were short. “Yes, but your uncles are tall,” she would tell me and I looked forward to the time when I would get my growth spurt. I hoped and prayed to be six feet someday, but I never grew taller than five feet, four and three-quarter inches.

There was a split rail fence that enclosed the yard without cutting us off from the neighbors. The split rails and the rest of the house was built by the man who sold the house to my parents in 1944 for $4,500. He had worked for the phone company. Times were difficult during the war years and the phone company couldn’t pay him. He finally had to leave to find a new job and the phone company paid what they owed him in telephone poles, which he used to build the house and the surrounding fence.

In addition to the fence, the house was made of roughhewn timbers. There was a large fireplace in the living room made out of stones that were brought in one at a time from the river that ran two blocks from the house. There was a large mantel piece above the fireplace where my mother placed mementoes from her time in New York. One I still have is small container with the face of an old man with a beard and turban and a cover on top. I always thought he looked very exotic, like one of the wise men who came baring gifts from afar. [Read more…]

From Madness to Manhood: Growing Up A Little In Love With Death

I wrote about my early experiences visiting my father in the mental hospital. Our home attracted death like a magnet. The same year my father went to Camarillo, a close friend of the family shot himself. I remember going to the service, confused and afraid, but no one talked about why he died. Yet, everyone knew it was suicide. Later that year my closest friend, Woody, drowned in the river near our house. My mother was so glad I was alive, she couldn’t listen to my own grief or feelings of loss.

My mother was preoccupied with her own death. From the time I was born, I knew my mother was about to die. She talked about it all the time. “I just hope I’m around to see you off to high school,” she would tell me. Her voice was always light and breezy, but it chilled me to the bone. When she was still around when I went to high school, she wasn’t reassured, she just moved her imminent death a little farther down the line.

“I just want to see you go to college before I die.”

I was seven when the Forester man came for a visit. We sat in our small living room and he painted a wonderful picture of the International Order of Foresters (IOF).

“The Foresters are a fraternal organization that started in Canada in 1874 to help families just like yours,” he smiled and I was mesmerized by his voice. I can’t remember much of the story, but I liked the word “fraternal” and I pictured Robin Hood and his band of caring outlaws, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. I thought of the Three Musketeers—“all for one and one for all.”

I knew we had very little money, but the bottom line purpose of the Foresters was to sell insurance and we bought the whole package. My mother signed up for insurance on herself, so I’d be taken care of when she died. She also bought an insurance policy on me because “it’s never too early to think about your wife and kids.” As a dutiful son, I felt proud to own an insurance policy to take care of my family…while I was still in the first grade. [Read more…]

From Madness to Manhood: In Search of My Lost Father and Myself

Camarillo State Hospital

“Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.” Roland Warren.

I was five years old when my uncle drove me to the mental hospital. I was confused and afraid.

“Why do I have to go,” I asked Uncle Harry.

He looked at me with his round face and kind eyes. “Your father needs you.”

“What’s the matter with him?” I was beginning to cry and I clamped my throat tight to stop the tears.

I sank down into the leather seats of uncle Harry’s new Buick, a soft yellow beauty. It had four ventiports on each side of the engine that I imagined were eyes that could see into the future. The grill in front looked like an open mouth with huge teeth. I would worry that it might swallow me up if I got too close, but I felt safe inside the car.

Harry was a song writer and sang the words to one of his most popular songs, Sweet and Lovely, which had been recorded by Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. He looked at me and smiled, patting my knee as he drove. “Sweet and lovely,” he crooned, “sweeter than the roses in May. Sweet and lovely. Heaven must have sent him my way.”

Harry called out the names of the towns as we drove through them–Encino, Tarzana, Calabasas. I loved the sound of the names and imagined them as kingdoms in far-away lands where I would slay dragons and rescue damsels in distress.

As we drove up to the building I didn’t know what to expect. Camarillo State Hospital looked like one of the old California missions with palm trees in front and a big bell tower in the center with adobe buildings that had grassy lawns in front. But as we got closer, I saw the windows. They weren’t like our windows at home, but had thick bars over them and they were painted a puke pink, like Pepto-Bismol. [Read more…]

The Most Important Health Discovery Ever (Really) That Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About

There are a million “health-hypes” making extravagant promises that aren’t worth your attention. This one is different, I promise. I first heard about it in 2009 from one of my colleagues, James L. Oschman, Ph.D., author of Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. He told me about a forthcoming book called Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever. “I say without equivocation, as an experienced academic cell biologist and biophysicist, the research in the book describes what is perhaps the most simple and natural remedy against proliferating, painful, and often deadly conditions, including the diseases of aging.”

That got my attention, since I’m an older guy and was planning to run my first marathon in 2010. I needed all the help I could get. What I learned from the book not only helped me train without pain, but allowed me to finish the 26 mile, 385 yard run, and win a medal for being second in my age division (O.K., I’ll admit there were only two people in my age division who finished the race, but hey, we finished!) I later wrote an article, “My First Marathon: 7 Essential Life-Lessons Learned at Age 66.”

What I learned about Earthing, also known as Grounding, wasn’t just helpful for athletics, but also helped me deal with inevitable pains of aging, including neck, shoulder, and back pain and hopefully will help prevent more serious problems that result from chronic inflammation. I wrote about the discoveries in my book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well.

When my book came out I was asked to speak at an energy medicine and energy psychology conference put on by Donna Eden and David Feinstein. At the conference, I met the person who discovered Earthing, Clint Ober. Like many discoveries that revolutionize how we see ourselves and the world, this one was sparked by one of those “aha” moments that seem to come out of the blue.

“My lightbulb went off one day in 1998, Ober recalled. “I was sitting on a park bench and watching the passing parade of tourists from all over the world. At some point, and I don’t know why, my awareness zeroed in on what all these different people were wearing on their feet. I saw a lot of those running shoes with thick rubber or plastic soles. I was wearing them as well.” [Read more…]

Is Donald Trump the Mirror of America?

It’s impossible to read, watch, or listen to any media today without being bombarded by Donald Trump news and his latest tweets and actions. Some believe he is the savior of the working class. Others believe he is leading our country to disaster. Some believe he is bridging the divide between the U.S. and her adversaries. Others believe he is a dupe for the Russians.

As a psychotherapist and healer for more than forty years, I believe that Donald Trump is a mirror to America. He taps into different aspects of our collective personality, both the good and the bad. If we want to deal with Donald Trump and get our country back on track we must do some healing ourselves. Carl Jung said, “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.”

I was waiting in line at the Western Union office to send some money to my daughter, Angela. I was late for an appointment and I was in a hurry. The person ahead of me was a Hispanic woman who clearly was having trouble understanding English and following the instructions of the clerk.I found myself thinking thoughts that I would have despised if I heard them from Donald Trump. “Why can’t she step aside and let me take care of my business? And why doesn’t she learn English if she’s going to live in America? I was horrified by my own thoughts. The woman finished her business and hurried away. I suspect she could feel my negative “vibes.”

[Read more…]

How to Help an Angry Man: And Stop the Fights That Harm Your Marriage

I’ve been helping men and the women who love them for more than 40 years. When I ask men what’s most important to them in their relationships, I hear many variations on a simple response. Men want more sex and fewer fights. When I ask women what they want they also give offer variations that are consistent. Women want to feel save and emotionally connected with their partner. Disagreements and misunderstandings are inevitable in any relationship, but fights undermine a marriage and can poison a relationship.

When couples fight, they rarely remember what caused the disagreement or how it escalated into a fight, but pain embeds itself in our bodies, minds, and spirits, and acts like a strong acid corroding the very foundation of a relationship and undermines a couple’s trust for each other. We may make-up and think everything is O.K., but the foundation of the relationship becomes a little weaker and over time may collapse.

I’ve helped more than 25,000 couples stop fighting and heal the misunderstandings that lead to fights. The key to my success has been to teach couples how to understand male anger and how cool it down before bursts into flames. Before I tell you what I’ve learned, I’ll tell you where I’m coming from. [Read more…]

How to Fix Your Relationship Without Talking About It

Dear Dr. Jed,

            My boyfriend and I have been together for just over four years and I’m noticing terrible mood shifts that are increasingly difficult to live with. He becomes extremely frustrated, irritable, angry, and depressed. I can tell that he is becoming more distant and I’m worried he’s thinking of leaving.

            Whenever I try and get him to talk about his unhappiness or what I can do to make things better, it seems to make him angry and he pulls away even more. I love him very much and I know he loves me, but I feel our relationship slipping away and I don’t know what to do. Please, can you help?  BL

I get calls and emails like these every day. A man is becoming irritated, angry, and depressed. The relationship is in trouble and both people are hurting. The woman wants to talk and the man reacts with anger and becomes more withdrawn.

For men, the five most off-putting words in the English language are, “Honey, we need to talk.” The words can be said with love or anger, compassion or disdain, with despair or hope. It seems no matter how they are presented, they are met with a resistance bordering on terror by most men.

“I feel caught in a horrible trap,” one woman told me. “If I let things alone and don’t say anything, our relationship continues to go downhill. “If I try and talk to him about ways we can fix things, he acts like I’m trying to kill him. He refuses to talk and our relationship continues to deteriorate. What do I do to save us?”

Why should a woman’s desire to talk be met with such resistance? The simple answer is this: While talking about their relationship usually helps a woman feel better, it usually makes a man feel worse. My wife, Carlin, and I got a glimpse into this dynamic while we were driving into town from our home on Shimmins Ridge. [Read more…]

Trees Saved Our Lives: Creative Artists of the World Unite

Our home attracted death like a magnet. When I was five years-old my 42-year-old father took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, north of Los Angeles. He was a writer who became increasingly angry and depressed when he couldn’t make a living to support his family. In a journal I found years later, the final entry read:

“November 8th:

A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education.

I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

He survived, but our lives were never the same. Earlier that year, a close friend of the family shot himself. I remember going to the service, confused and afraid, but no one talked about why he died, but everyone knew it was suicide. Later that year my closest friend, Woody, drowned in the river near our house. My mother was so glad I was alive, she couldn’t listen to my own grief or feelings of loss.

My mother was pre-occupied with death. She was afraid she would die before I graduated high school and paid for a life insurance policy she couldn’t afford so I’d have some money when she was gone. She also bought an insurance policy for me. “You should always be prepared to support your family, even when you’re gone,” she told me. I hadn’t yet turned six.

Trees saved my life.

Being at home, literally felt like a death sentence. By the time I was six, I would leave the house whenever I could and climb the tallest tree in the neighborhood. I felt most alive when I was in a tree. I would climb to the very top and feel at one with the tree as I’d sway back and forth in the wind. [Read more…]

Male Menopause: The Hidden Cause of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown

“If menopause is the silent passage,” says author Gail Sheehy, “Male menopause is the unspeakable passage. It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.” When I started doing research on what I came to call “male menopause” in 1995, I had never heard of Gail Sheehy. I just knew I was having difficulty with erections, my libido was way down, I was more irritable and had less energy, and my marriage was in danger of going under.

I also knew that I wasn’t the only one who was having problems. When I told people I was doing research on men between the ages of 35 and 65 and the changes they were going through, I began to get e-mails from people describing what they were experiencing.

“I know I’ve been struggling with all facets of my life lately,” said 34-year-old Rob. “Everything from not enjoying the things I have always enjoyed, to losing my latest girlfriend over unknown reasons of which erectile dysfunction at some level was a factor. I have had problems with just everyday living, confusion, and lack of direction in my life. I happened to come across an article you wrote. Wow! What an enlightenment. Just knowing what is happening is a major relief and reduction in a very high level of anxiety. What do I know now?”

I also heard from women who were describing how these changes were impacting the man in their lives.

“I have just discovered your website, and was referred to it by a friend who knows the man I live with. He is 48-years-old and has been getting more and more frustrated, irritable, angry, and depressed over the last year. He’s had all kinds of tests. One doctor thought he might have ADD and he’s taking medications for that, thinking it might help. It hasn’t. After reading about the symptoms of male menopause, I’m convinced that this is his problem. But I’m having trouble getting him to get checked out for that. Can you help?”

[Read more…]

Male-Type Depression: The Second Hidden Cause of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown

I have a particular interest in preventing mid-life marriage meltdown, a problem that is becoming I increasingly prevalent today. My first marriage came to an end when I was 33 years old. We had two children and had thought our marriage would last forever.  I healed the wounds of love and loss and eventually fell in love again. My second marriage lasted less than three years.

As a psychotherapist and marriage and family counselor, I felt guilty and ashamed that I was counseling others on what should work to insure a happy marriage and joyful life, but I couldn’t seem to make it work in my own life. Before trying again, I vowed to learn the secrets of real, lasting love. I read everything I could find from the experts. I went into therapy myself to learn how my past wounds from childhood created a faulty love map and caused so many of us to lose our way.

I’m happy to say I found what I was looking for. I met and married Carlin and she and I have been joyfully married now for 37 years. But we are the exceptions. Not only do 50% of first marriages end in divorce, but 66% of second marriages don’t make it, and 73% of third marriages fail.

I’m offering two free webinars on the 3 Hidden Causes of Mid-Life Marriage Meltdown on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 5:30 PM Pacific time. I’ll cover the same information on April 27th at 5:30 pm in order to accommodate different time zones. Please sign up for the one that works best for you.

Thursday, April 20th at 5:30 pm PT: Register here.
Thursday, April 27th at 9:00 am PT: Register here.

Mid-life can be the best time to be married. We are not so caught up with children and work. It’s a time we can really enjoy each other and be true partners as we age. “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” These words by the poet Robert Browning capture what a lot of us long for as we move into mid-life and beyond. However, as a marriage and family counselor I see too many relationships fall apart, just when the couple could be enjoying their lives the most. I see too many people that want to start again, but they are afraid of what they might face. [Read more…]