Hire a Speaker: Harper West, author of “Pack Leader Psychology”

November 25, 2012

When developing the concepts in my book “Pack Leader Psychology,” I quickly realized that these ideas could help anyone in any type of relationship, not just those like me who had experienced an abusive relationship. Parents, bosses, friends, spouses — we all can improve our emotional health and improve our relationships.

If you belong to a group that would like a dynamic and informative speaker to educate and entertain, send me an email to harperwest  at me.com.

Everyone’s relationships can benefit from learning pack leader skills. Topics can be customized especially for women, entrepreneurs and managers, parents, married couples/relationships, and domestic violence survivors, as well as psychologists, social workers and counselors.

Some suggested topics are:

– Are You a Human Pack Leader?

– Be a Pack Leader at Work

– Dominance and Submission:  Unhealthy Relationship Patterns You Can Break Now

– Reinventing Yourself at Midlife: Why Am I Stuck?

– How to Raise a Child Who is Lazy, Irresponsible, Entitled and Insecure. (Or NOT!)

– Improve Your Self-Respect and Eliminate Anxiety, Depression, or Aggression

– Approval Seeking:  Natural Inclination or Unhealthy Neediness?

– Is Low Self-Esteem Making You Prey to the Predators in Your Life?

– Fight or Flight: Which do You Choose?

– Pack Leader Parenting: Is Your Parenting Causing Your Child’s ADHD?

– Assertiveness 101: Ending Disrespect, Manipulation, Control and Abuse

– Spotting Controllers and Abusers:  Easy Ways to Predict Manipulative Behaviors

– Can You Handle the Truth?:  How Conflict Avoidance May Be Damaging Your Relationships and Career

– What Would a Pack Leader Do?

– Honest Relationships are Respectful Relationships

– Find Yourself: The Power of Self-Respect and Self-Acceptance

– Stop Helping Your Clients!: Pack Leader Skills for Psychologists, Social Workers and Counselors

I’d love to speak to your group!


Truth-Telling: The Goal of Psychotherapy


Sept. 15, 2012

I was editing my psychotherapy website, adding my new practice address, when I saw an article I had included on the site. I especially like this response by advice columnist Carolyn Hax for what it says about a client’s fear in seeking therapy and about the therapist’s role:
Hi, Carolyn: You often advise letter-writers to seek therapy or other professional help. After a lot of hemming and hawing and bouts of denial, I have decided to take the leap. What should I expect? I waver so often between thinking I’m completely normal and totally whacked that I’m not sure I could articulately answer a simple “What brings you here?” Now that I have convinced myself I need the help, I’m nervous about actually doing it. — Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: Consider what therapists see day after day: not just your shade of “totally whacked,” but the whole rainbow. Just go in there and say what you said here. It’s not your job to form your thoughts into perfect phrases; it’s a therapist’s job to put you at ease with telling the truth.

That last phrase is perfect! I totally agree that a main goal of therapy should be to become comfortable facing and discussing truths — something this writer was expressing. In “Pack Leader Psychology” I talk a lot about honesty, conflict avoidance, and authenticity. For many people, facing the truth is difficult and even frightening. For “Submissives” this may show up as “pleasing” behaviors or conflict avoidance. Making others dislike us, would be “mean” wouldn’t it? For “Avoiders”, they just generally isolate themselves to stay clear of possible conflict or honest interactions. “Dominators” use intimidation or emotional turmoil to keep others in line and avoid hearing the truth or a criticism. All of these behaviors are manipulative, controlling efforts to manage people to avoid hearing or discussing a fearful truth. At the root is insecurity, lack of self-worth or self-acceptance. If we feel strong, we feel we can handle the truth.

Some of us were trained by parents and society not to trust our own truth, our own authentic feelings and intuitions. We were told we were “bad” if we were “too emotional.” We were told to stop crying when we were hurt or scared. We were told that others’ feelings were more important than ours. Learning to accept our own truths (usually feelings, but also thoughts) is a key goal of therapy. Self-acceptance and self-compassion then can lead to acceptance of others and this organically improves relationships and behaviors. And, yes, it is the therapist’s job to make the client feel comfortable with truth.

New Findings in Intuition and Emotional Intelligence

Sept. 12, 2012

Toddlers apparently have finely tuned emotional judgment on whether someone is overreacting to a situation and whining or whether the person truly deserves sympathy. A study published in the current issue of “Developmental Psychology” journal suggests that we are born with the ability or learn very early on how to read the emotional validity of others’ reactions.

The study watched the reactions of 3-year-olds when they witnessed adults who were distressed in various situations, such as getting slightly bumped by box or getting their artwork cut up. The results show that when a toddler witnessed a justifiably distressing incident, the child’s face showed concern. But when the child judged that the event didn’t warrant distress and the adult was over-reacting, the child’s reaction was much less empathetic.

I just love these studies showing that we humans are probably born with tremendous emotional and intuitive abilities. Love that!  We really are social creatures and come fully equipped with the skills to live with others. I am fascinated that children have very good emotional intelligence at an early age.

But I become distressed when I realize that some of us have these fabulous and powerful skills trained out of us by our parents and society. We are taught not to value or exercise these tools of intuition and emotional and social intelligence. Many of us are taught to react solicitously to others’ pain, whether real or put on, but not to feel or value our own emotional responses. Religions also teach us not to “judge” others, so we learn to blindly accept what others do, even if that behavior steamrolls over us. These “Submissives,” as I call them in “Pack Leader Psychology,” don’t trust or value their emotional responses, sublimate their own emotions, overvalue the needs of others, and become inept at reading the emotional cues of others. Sadly, this makes them naive and gullible in relationships, possibly with abusive consequences when a manipulative “Dominator” is on the scene.

I guess we all need to act like little children! Of course, dogs also have very good emotional barometers.