How to talk to someone who is irrational. Timing is everything.

I don’t recommend trying to reason with anyone who is angry or irrational.

Here’s why. When a person is angry, stress hormones are automatically released into the bloodstream. These hormones tell the body to do one of three things:

  1. Fight
  2. Flee
  3. Freeze

Notice that “Talk “isn’t on the list. That’s because anytime we feel personally attacked or threatened, our reptilian brain—the ancient, purely reflexive, non-rational part of the brain—reacts, and our entire body shifts into survival mode. We don’t think straight from this place, because in survival mode, the rational part of our brain shuts down so the reptilian brain can get us to safety.

It is always better to postpone difficult discussions until both parties are in a more balanced, and more resourceful place. Nobody thinks straight in a hailstorm. Better to wait until the storm has passed.

Deciphering a Dying Man’s Wishes

So sorry your boyfriend is dying and that you’re having to struggle with this issue at such a vulnerable time for both of you.

I think it’s important to know why your boyfriend is asking you to leave. It could mean any number of things, and it would be good to know what his reasons are before you decide a course of action.

For example:

  • It could be that seeing you suffer is too painful for him. If that’s the case, your presence may be adding to his own suffering, since he can’t relieve you of it. He might be able to spend time with you if your were sharing your grief and pain elsewhere—like with a friend or counselor. That way, when you were with your boyfriend, he might experience you as a support, instead of an amplifier of his own suffering.
  • It could be that he feels embarrassed having you see him in a weakened state. if he is getting weaker or losing the full functioning of all his faculties. It’s hard to see yourself being whittle away by disease or pain, much less having someone you love witness this diminishment.
  • It could be that he feels guilty for leaving you, so he’s concerned about you ‘wasting your time’ on him when you could be looking for someone who isn’t dying.
  • It could be that the way you’re trying to support him isn’t the way he wants to feel supported. I think it’s worth asking him if there is some way you could be with him that would actually be a comfort. You can assume he’s going through his own internal ‘night of the soul,’ so without asking, it’s impossible to know what’s behind his request, and if anything you could offer might be helpful.
  • It could be that he has other reasons for wanting you to leave. And he may not be able to articulate or be unwilling to talk about them.

Whatever his reasons, it sounds like you could used some grief counseling to prepare yourself for the inevitable, and to work though whatever issues are coming up for you through all this. Remember that you both matter. You both have needs right now that you may not be able to satisfy.

I recommend that you get more information from your boyfriend so you are clear why he’s insisting you move on right now, instead of letting you be with him through all this. In the event that he won’t or can’t explain, I would honor his wishes.

Dying is taking away your boyfriend’s liberty, his freedom, his vitality, his future, his choices, his sense of control. By honoring his wishes you are showing him you respect his right to choose how, and in whose presence he spends his final months, weeks, days, and moments.


Express Yourself Ecards AppExpress Yourself Ecards is a deceptively simple communication app that makes hard things easier to say. Each of the 10 cards helps you find the right words to express what you’re feeling.

Not only do the cards decrease defensiveness in the Reciever. You’ll automatically feel better just by filling one out.So, grab your iPhone or iPad. Try out the app for free. Find out why your brain will love you for it!
Express Yourself Ecards will change the way you talk to each other.  The respect is built into the app!

I don’t know what to talk about in therapy. What topics should I talk about?

Here’s a question for you that might help. Why are you seeing a therapist if you don’t have anything to talk about?

There are no tricks that will help, but if you’re seeing a therapist, I’m assuming it’s because you’re struggling with some kind of challenge or conflict. It could be, that verbalizing that conflict is a problem in itself.

Therapy is supposed to help you, not entertain, support, or hold the interest of your therapist.

Also, keep in mind that while therapy may produce insight, insight alone doesn’t produce change.Only taking action produces change.

Here are some questions that might get you moving in the right direction. Just remember that your therapy is supposed to help you, not entertain or hold the interest of your therapist. And that insight isn’t change, so even if you get great “Ahas!” what gets people to change is action, not insight.

On to the questions:

• What feels familiar about the challenge you’re dealing with?

• Is there a familiar role you’ve been playing that keeps you stuck or lands you in the same place you’ve been trying to avoid

• In whose company have you felt the most alive, the most accepted, respected, at ease? (There might be different people in each category.)

• When you are in this person’s or people’s company, what is it that they say or do that elicits those feelings in you? For example, I laugh the most—which feels GREAT—with my cousin, Sharon. She thinks I’m hysterical and the more she laughs, the funnier I think I become. But it only happens when we’re on the phone. In person, we don’t laugh as much because she smokes cigarettes and is always antsy to have one, so I don’t think either of us is as relaxed in person as we are when she can smoke while we talk.

• What regrets do you have and what are some concrete steps you might take to forgive yourself, heal an old wound, or try a do-over that will erase your regret?

• Who are the people in whose presence you feel small, unsafe, dull, less-than, or unsure of yourself?

• What is it that each person on that list does that makes you feel this way, and why do you keep going back for more?

• What do you wish you could tell someone from a safe distance about how you really feel? (By the way, if you’re interested in doing this, I’ve created an iPhone app called Express Yourself ECards you can download for free at the App Store. It has a “Can I Be Honest?” ECard you can fill out and send via email. It will help you find the right words to express yourself, without getting blasted for it.)

• What are you spending money on, and what does your spending reveal about your values? For example, are you spending money to fill a void? Create art? Help others? As a substitute for meaningful activities?

All of these questions can be jumping off points for discussions that are likely to lead you to insights. With those insights, you’ll be able to see concrete steps you might need to take to move forward in your life.

I hope this list was helpful. If not, and you still can’t think of anything to talk about, you might be better off spending your time and money doing something that brings you closer to living a more balanced and meaningful life.

All the best, Betsy