Posts Tagged ‘dr phil’

Anger and Decision Making

Friday, October 26th, 2007
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Dear Jane,
I was numb in my marriage for over ten years before starting therapy. Now I recognize that I have been angry and resentful towards my wife and want a divorce. I was ready to tell her this the other night after dinner. But we were watching Dr. Phil and he told a woman who was in the same situation that she wasn’t ready for a divorce until she’d worked through all her anger and was clear headed. With a lot of conviction, he said that as long as she could get riled up at her husband’s behavior, she wasn’t ready to leave. Needless to say, that shut me up. Do you agree with Dr. Phil? Am I not ready yet? Do I have to wait until I’ve released all my anger? How will I know that I’m not just going numb again?

Dr. Phil’s advice is based on the premise that most of us don’t know how to work with our anger consciously enough to make good decisions while in the throes of it. However, as I write about in Enough Is Enough!, anger can give us important information if we learn how to listen to its meaning.

Anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, we may feel anger first, but underneath anger are resentment, hurt, fear, and/or sadness. If we want to make good decisions, we need to get beneath the anger to our more vulnerable feelings.

Hearing about your anger and prior numbness, I imagine that underneath it you feel resentment towards your wife. But underneath every resentment is a personal regret. What do you regret about your own behavior? Do you regret being numb for so long? Do you regret wasting precious years of your life without experiencing intimacy with a partner? Do you regret being too afraid to look at your marriage honestly before now?

Once you are honest with yourself about your regrets, the next step is to give yourself compassion and forgive yourself. Take whatever time you require to do this until you are no longer in self-blame. Then you will be clear enough to choose whether to stay or to go. Even though you may not be done with feeling all your anger, every time it emerges, you will know how to work with it to get to your deeper truth. As you become competent with your anger, it will no longer run you; it will serve to give you the valuable information you need to make self-loving decisions.


Enough Is Enough! Seminar in New Orleans
I have been invited to New Orleans to give a workshop on November 18, 2007 for some folks whose lives were impacted by Katrina. During my stay, I will keep a video diary, which I will upload to my Web site, If you live in New Orleans, you are invited to attend this free workshop. Contact me at

Donation of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation to New Orleans Schools
I am donating 120 copies of the Eighth Edition of her bestselling reference guide and workbook, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. If you know of a school in the New Orleans area that could use the book, contact Jane at

Jane on TV January 10, 2008
I will be interviewed on NBC 11’s The Bay Area Today on January 10. I will be talking about New Year’s resolutions. Expect a fresh take on the subject. More details to follow.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation,, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at

The Enlightenment Secret that Economists Know

Sunday, June 24th, 2007
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We’ve all been reading or at least hearing about The Secret, which teaches how “the laws of attraction” work. But over twenty years ago, my husband, who is an engineer and, therefore, data driven and logical, first introduced me to what I believe to be a bigger (and better) secret. It is what economists call Sunk Costs. I still think of it as one of the most enlightened concepts I’ve ever learned and I try to apply it daily in my thinking and actions. That’s why I spent pages on it in my book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. When I define it, you will immediately get it. Yet it is one of the most challenging truths to embrace. Curious?

Sunk Costs essentially means that just because you have invested time, money, or energy into something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should keep investing more. While economists and scientists are trained to discard hypotheses that don’t pan out, most of us tend to cling to what we’re already doing, even when the evidence is overwhelming that we’re wasting our resources for insufficient returns. This is why Dr. Phil’s question, “How’s it workin’ for ya?” is always so pertinent.

Here is a typical scenario we all face in one form or another on a regular basis: You’ve bought a ticket to an expensive play for Saturday night. Your good friend, whose taste is very similar to yours, sees the play on Friday night and reports to you that it’s just awful. He tells you that it’s boring and silly, a total waste of time. Do you still go to the play the next night? If you’re like most people, you will tell yourself, “I don’t want to waste all that money I’ve spent on my ticket so I’ll go.”

But is this logical? Isn’t it more logical to think, “The money I’ve spent on the ticket is gone whether I go to the play or not. (Sunk Costs) Why waste my time being bored at the theatre when I could do something fun or just stay home and relax?” If you truly embrace the concept of Sunk Costs here, you’ll never feel another twinge of guilt or remorse about tearing up an unused ticket.

Maybe theatre tickets don’t make you ignore the truth about Sunk Costs. But have you ever dropped more quarters into a slot machine or continued to roll the die at the craps table because you’d already lost money so your luck just had to change? The casinos rely on us to hold onto this “make believe” logic. They are betting and winning on our inability to embrace Sunk Costs. They know that the more we spend, the more likely we are to irrationally keep trying to make up for it.

Here’s another example: Your child signed up for a week-long day camp that cost you a pretty penny. After two miserable days at camp, she comes home bored and uninspired, telling you she absolutely hates it and would rather stay home and do nothing. Some of us might try to convince our child that maybe the next day will get better. But what we’re really thinking is, “If she doesn’t go back, all that money I spent will be wasted.” Sunk Costs reminds us that whether she goes or stays, the money’s gone. So presuming you don’t need to pay for a babysitter or your child isn’t about to drive you crazy at home (a big presumption, perhaps, but you get the idea), your child staying home for the rest of the week is a logical and legitimate option.

You don’t gamble, you hate the theatre, and your children have always adored camp? Okay, then have you ever stayed in a relationship because you’d already invested so much of your heart and soul, not because it was actually working or even healthy? Did you ever convince yourself that the crumb you were being tossed was a full meal, telling yourself, “I’ve given so much of myself to him. Maybe he’s really going to change this time. I’ll give him one more chance”? If we hold the awareness of Sunk Costs, we may find it easier to let go a little sooner or without quite as much struggle.

As we enter the 21st century, we are being challenged to embrace the concept of Sunk Costs in a big way. We know now that global warming poses an imminent threat to our very existence. We can’t afford to believe the old hypothesis anymore: that using up resources at an increasing rate can always be absorbed by nature. Sunk Costs may be the key to our very salvation. As Melissa Etheridge sings, “Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth, to listen to an inconvenient truth: that I need to move, I need to wake up, I need to change, I need to shake up…”

It’s time for Sunk Costs to become more than an obscure economic theory. It is too profound. It needs to be one of our guiding principles—one we meditate on daily to up the sanity quotient of our individual and collective lives. We can embrace the truth of Sunk Costs one day, one theatre ticket, one relationship, one consumer purchase at a time to help us let go of the absurd with grace and hope.

Read excerpts from Enough Is Enough!, watch Jane’s interviews on TV, listen to her on the radio, or talk to her about becoming your personal coach by visiting