Sanity SaversTM and More...
June 2006


Thanks to all of you for your comments about my new e-Newsletter and new Website. Please visit www.drdaleatkins.com and share your feedback on the changes by dropping me an email at dale@drdaleatkins.com.

In June, we can take a long deep breath and begin to think about welcoming summer. Schedules shift. People become a bit more relaxed. With graduations, proms, weddings and other end of spring/beginning of summer events, we begin to unwind.

For many of us summer is time to spend with friends, listening to each other’s stories, catching up with one another’s lives. It is for this reason that this issue focuses on Dealing with Secrets and Fulfilling Friendships.

Please pass along this newsletter to your friends, loved ones and colleagues by clicking Send to a Friend button below.

Wishing you health, peace and balance.


In this issue
  • Sanity SaversTM
    Dealing with Secrets
  • Happenings
  • TIPS
    Fulfilling Friendships
  • Sanity Savers
    A Good Daily Habit
  • A Thought

  • Sanity SaversTM
    Dealing with Secrets

    Everyone, at one time or another, has told someone a secret. Everyone, at one time or another, has been asked to keep a secret.

    Secrets are NOT for Children
    For our purposes, we will be talking about secrets and adults. When children are told to keep secrets it is often in the context of a problematic or threatening situation. For their own protection they should know that they can always tell a trustworthy adult what is happening to them. A child who hears a disturbing secret or who is threatened or shamed into keeping a secret, needs to know that it is appropriate to share their secret with a trusted adult who can help or protect them. Often children who hold secrets, such as family embarrassments, tend to grow up with shame and confusion.

    Telling Your Secret
    When someone tells you a secret, they are valuing you as their friend. They are saying to you that they appreciate your loyalty and that they perceive you to be trustworthy. They may be asking for your advice or not. If you are not asked, don’t offer. Revealing information to people in your life means you feel safe enough with them to be vulnerable; it’s a form of intimacy.

    What Does Keeping a Secret Mean?
    When you hold someone’s secret you have a responsibility to honor that person and their right to privacy. You know you are a really good friend when you can hear your friend’s deepest secret and then, without judgment or criticism, resist the urge (if you have it) to tell someone else and, further, as far as the world is concerned, forget about what they shared with you.

    Your Secret Comfort Level
    First consider the position you are in. What does the fact that you have been told privileged information say about your relationship? Does being the recipient of that information cause you discomfort? What do you do if someone tells you something about his or her life? Perhaps they have an illness they do not want to make public or a co-worker shares that she plans to leave her job. Someone may confide they are cheating in their marriage, or engaged in unethical business practices, abused as a child, or has an unhealthy addiction. How do you handle it?

    Here are Sanity SaversTM to help you between the whispers:

    • If You Don’t Want to Keep a Secret – Inform the teller at the first sign that a secret is going to be revealed that you’re not sure you can hear it. Let them know the reason for your discomfort so they don’t take your refusal as a personal rebuff. “If I hear it I know you will not want me to tell anyone and I am not sure I can do that, particularly if you are doing something illegal or hurting someone I love.”
    • When You’re Pumped for Information - If people suspect something is “up”, they might try to persuade you to divulge the secret. First, relax. You don’t need to reveal anything you don’t want to or convince anyone that you know or don’t know anything. Your mission is not to tell. When asked a direct question, talk normally and give a simple response. Resist becoming angry or defensive. Shift your focus to something else without “red flagging” the change of subject to raise suspicion. For example, you might be at a party and someone may ask you if your friend is ill. You don’t want to lie but also don’t want to betray your friend’s confidence in knowing her secret. Saying, “I’m not at liberty to talk about anything,” might just be too much information. Maybe it is better to politely and gently say, “I make it a habit of not talking about people’s private issues because I don’t like it when people talk about mine.” Then casually go onto another subject.
    • When the Secret’s Been Let Out - You can go to the source and ask, “Have you ‘gone public?" I've heard this information and just wanted to let you know. If this is no longer a secret, and you are okay with people talking, I would like to know.” Or, just understand that people have their own way of working things out and maybe you were told something in confidence and then, later, they decided to share it with someone else who was less careful than you. It is never your prerogative to share someone’s confidence with a third party. Remember: It is the prerogative of person whose secret it is.
    • Difficulty Holding a Secret – If you just cannot hold the information, or your find “it is making you sick” you need to go to the person who told you (or a therapist) and talk about how difficult it is for you and why it is such a challenge for you.
    • Harmful Information – This is one time when you don’t have to keep a secret. If the person shares with you something that is endangering another person, illegal or perilous, or it is doing more harm keeping it than telling it, you may need to assume a more active role and/or reveal it to someone else who can help or to the appropriate authority. Strongly consider doing something. Even if taking a stand means jeopardizing your friendship, advocating your friend to do or not do something in order to avoid a destructive path will be more beneficial for both of you in the long run. True” friendships will likely survive these difficult situations.
    • No matter how juicy, how tempting, how interesting, you must remember that the secret information is NOT yours. It is the tellers' and you are guarding it for him or her.


    TODAY Show
    Dates and times of more upcoming segments to be posted on Dr. Dale's website.

    Naomi's New Morning (Naomi Judd)
    The Hallmark Channel

  • Caregiving
  • Slowing Down

  • Dates and times to be announced on Dr. Dale's website.

    YPO Spouses (Young President's Organization)
    Friday, June 2nd, 10:00am
    Caring for Yourself as You Care for Others
    Long Beach, CA

    Self Image: A Work in Progress
    Thursday, June 8th, 1:30pm-3:30pm
    92nd Street Y, Makor Center, NYC

    Fulfilling Friendships

    Life is Enhanced with Friends
    Everyone needs someone to be there for them; to listen and NOT give advice or judge. Someone to have fun with, who knows you, whom you can trust to NOT say what you have told them to ANYONE unless you specifically say it’s okay. These are people from whom you can ask for what you need or want. They are people who are there in times of need and with whom you can share your desires, thoughts, dreams, and mistakes. They accept you unconditionally even though they can and feel okay with disagreeing with your choices. In short, when you are with them, you can be your authentic self.

    Friendships Combat the “Lonelies”
    Within families, people may be emotionally or physically distanced (or both.) In these cases particularly, it becomes essential to develop friendships. There is nothing like being able to rely on a friend to be there in the way you need; to be your ally, or partner; someone with whom you can share your innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes, or fears, and who feels similarly toward you. If you don’t have quality friendships, it is possible you could you be shielding yourself with a protective covering to keep you out of the realm of competition and judgment. On the other hand, if you have great friends, is your life so busy that you don’t find the time to give to your friendships which prevents you from experiencing that kind of nurturing, support, opportunity to give to someone else, and fun in your life?

    Ask for What You Need
    Redesign your friendships so you can give as well as reap the benefits. We all need to know that a good friend has our best interests at heart and that this feeling is reciprocal. For some of us, our friends are the ones who help us tackle major challenges and changes and are our support systems. Without them, we know we could not make it. However sometimes your “old” friends may not know how to relate to what you are going through or may feel threatened or scared by your situation and either back off or are not available. Try not to take it personally as people react to change differently. This may be a good time to enlist a whole new group of people who also have similar issues and with whom you can be “vulnerable” for a sense of safety, understanding and nurturing.

    Friendships Go Through Transitions
    Remember, friendships can go through periods of closeness and distance. Sometimes, it is important to put limits or boundaries and other times there need to be no restrictions. As we go through our own transitions, so will our friendships ebb and flow. Some friends stay in our lives throughout our own personal journeys (and theirs) while others don’t. As the saying goes, some people are in our life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

    Here are ways for YOU to be a better friend:

    1. Like Yourself - What do you like about YOU? If you are feeling awful about yourself, other people are likely not going to find you terribly attractive. When you are content with who you are and not solely self focused, you will have time, energy and interest to cultivate meaningful friendships and attract positive relationships into your life.
    2. Be There - In the ways you can for the people who mean something to you. Select who is in that group. The group may be one or two people with whom you want to develop or maintain a close connection. Work on being a good listener, loyal, trustworthy, and a true supporter. Have your friends’ interest at the forefront of your heart and mind.
    3. Take the Time and Put it on Your Calendar - When you are together, keep the distractions to a minimum. ONLY answer your cell phone if it is REALLY important. Time with friends goes by too fast. The fun, the focus, the feeling is what you want and having the flow interrupted really hurts the chances of that happening. It also makes your friend feel he or she is not so important if you are answering your phone, text messaging someone else or focusing on something other than your time together. Demonstrate the value and esteem for this person by your actions as well as your heart.
    4. Don’t Stand on Ceremony; Be Forgiving – At some point, every friendship will have some type of disagreement or misunderstanding. A good friend, especially one who has been in your life a long time, who has helped you weather life’s storms, with whom you have a shared history, is worth considering holding onto. You need to be willing to let things go. If your friend is usually a few minutes off schedule, don’t expect perfect punctuality. Be realistic. Try and work through the bigger clashes. Learn to agree to disagree. Don’t ever keep score.
    5. If You Say You’re Going to Call, Do It! - Be sure you are as kind and considerate to your friends as you expect them to be to you. Listen to them and keep in your head what is important in their lives. Is their child working on a major school project? Has someone close to them been in the hospital? What’s new in the job market? Pay attention and follow up. If you have too much in your mind or on your schedule, write yourself a reminder note to check in with them.
    6. If You Forget to Follow Up, Fess Up - Don’t make a thousand excuses about what has been going on in your life. Take responsibility for your inaction and then ask, “How is your mother? I am so sorry I did not call for the last few days. I know she is in the hospital. How are you doing?”

    Friendships and Your Health:

    • Social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. Friends help us live longer.
    • People who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.
    • Friends are also helping us live better. The more quality friends you have, the less likely you are to develop physical impairments as you age. In fact, studies show that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.
    • Widows or widowers who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality.

    Sanity Savers
    A Good Daily Habit

    Relax, have fun and play!!

    Who says playing is just for kids? Adults who get their daily dose of giggles and fun activity live healthier lives.

    Enjoying life is all about enjoying each day!

    A Thought

    One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession.


    DALE V. ATKINS Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, lecturer and commentator in the media who appears on the Today show.

    She has more than twenty- five years of experience and focuses on living a balanced life, parenting, aging well, managing stress, life & work transitions, family connections and healthy relationships.

    Dr. Atkins is the author and/or co-editor of several books including:

  • Sisters
  • From the Heart:
    Men and Women Write Their Private Thoughts about their Private Lives
  • Families and their Hearing-Impaired Children
  • I'm OK, You're My Parents
    How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger and Create a Relationship that Works
  • and her latest book

  • Wedding Sanity Savers
    How to Handle the Stickiest Dilemmas, Scrapes and Questions that Arise on the Road to Your Perfect Day.
  • Find out more....
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