Published Articles


Papers and articles written by Michael Ceo.

Mid-Life Crisis or Male Menopause?Published 07/05/2006 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

Okay guys, we see it in men everywhere. We hit middle age and there is a nearly irresistible pull to put a charge back in your world. It can take many forms, some healthy while some destructive. For some men it’s a motorcycle or sports car, an urge for adventure or the compelling illusion that a hot younger babe is going to turn back your biological clock.  Or the symptoms are more internalized such as: increased irritability, sexual dysfunction, loss of interest in life’s pleasures or a diminished sense of drive and purpose.

When such a profile presents in a therapist’s office, a critical question is raised clinically. To what extent does this profile have a psychological or a biological basis?

Resilience Takes “Center Stage”Published 11/01/2005 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

A significant shift is taking place in the training of mental health professionals. Rather than a focus on defining pathology, which is an unhealthy behavior response to a situation, research is being directed toward learning what makes people better able to prevail over life’s challenges.   With the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and now people struggling with the aftermath of the hurricane disasters, the term, resilience is taking center stage as we witness together how people cope with loss.

Resilience is the ability to maintain flexibility when going through what can be difficult times at any stage in your life or the lives of others.  In a resiliency training presentation I recently gave for a government agency, people spoke of the losses they have faced and the resources they brought to bear in an attempt to make sense of these events on their lives.  Magellan Behavioral Health, a leading provider of mental health care, researched and designed the program.    Evidence abounds that ordinary people can reach inside and uncover an extraordinary adaptability and emotional strength in a crisis while others are helplessly overwhelmed. It is becoming increasingly apparent that resilience can be learned and developed as any other skill.

New brain research looks at mind-body linkPublished 06/14/2005 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

Exciting developments are taking place as a new wave of research highlights the links between the brain and body. Preserving and improving our brain functioning, and its connection to our memory and emotional and physical health, is much more under our control than previously thought.

Dramatic evidence of how this research can benefit us is being shown through colorful pictures called SPECT Scans (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography), which vividly show parts of the brain lighting up with electrical or biochemical activity. Regions of the brain that are under-functioning or damaged are clearly evident. The scan shows how a living brain works.

A man without a magazinePublished 04/04/2005 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

A middle-aged executive has a depressing realization while browsing though an airport newsstand waiting for a flight.  Despite the plethora of magazine titles, everything from sports to extreme sports to cooking, model trains, coin collecting antiquing, hunting and gun world magazine, not one interested him. For this man, the significance of his realization centered on how his life has been out of balance.  For him work and achievement had become the centerpiece of his world. Like many of us guys, he is living the script sold to us during our growing up years, which dictates what it means to be a man.  So much of his focus is on being the breadwinner that he has lost touch with the joy and passion in his life.  This is a frustration that characterizes men and how we were socialized, to find meaning in life from achievement alone. 

For this forty-something executive, the frustration is amplified by having peaked in his climb of the corporate ladder.  He used the image of the old twenty-mule team Borax advertisement with its picture of the covered wagon being pulled by a team of mules.  In the corporate world, he explained, you’re either in the wagon or you’re one of the mules.  Evidently, he thought that by this time in his career, he would be riding in the wagon. Instead, he is laboring  with the other mules.   Is this man’s experience common to others American males?  The evidence points to a resounding yes.

Don’t just do something, stand there

Published 02/16/2005 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror; Originally published  07/16/2003

There is a curious irony about marriage.  It seems that women want their husbands to change while men want their wives to stay the same.  While I repeatedly hear men long for the way their wives used to treat them,  I hear women say how their clueless husbands need to change and become more thoughtful or caring or understanding.  So this is an article for men.

As an overview of the problem for men, this is how the marital dance step goes.  She wants him to change. He tries more of what he always has done.  She’s not satisfied.  He starts feeling like can’t do anything right anymore, so why try.  He withdraws into his “cave” which can be sports, work, TV or beer.  Things get worse as she gets more hopeless about getting her emotional needs met and he experiences himself as more inadequate.  She turns up the volume on nagging him and the dance then turns into a tailspin for the couple.  At its worst, a crisis erupts in the form of an affair, sickness, DUI or a violent episode.  Let’s name this pathology, the dance of the wild woman and the passive man.  Both parties end up hating their own behavior.

Coaching for Life: The power of group therapyPublished 12/14/2004 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

For the past three and a half years I have witnessed an unfolding miracle that has taken place weekly among a group of women ranging in age from 31 to 45 years. Over this time, a group of strangers has welded themselves into a team whose members are dedicated to their mutual personal growth, satisfaction and empowerment. For this group of women, these are not simply empty concepts but represent a core of learning that has had a transforming effect on their lives. They have laughed together and cried together as they have faced threats to their marriages and their health.

While there is much written and shown on screen about individual psychotherapy, the power and value of groups as a therapy format have been surprisingly unannounced.

Coaching for Life: Bonds between battered women and violent menPublished 11/09/2004 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

This is a controversial subject. For women, the painful realities of domestic violence trigger a primal outrage and survival response. Men, on the other hand, experience themselves as “set up.” The dance in which a violent couple engages churns up a profound and gut-wrenching inadequacy for men. Violence then becomes a wholly inappropriate and destructive attempt to make the pain stop.

Domestic violence is much more widespread than believed, partly because of the shame surrounding spousal abuse. Couples and families will go to great lengths to hide violence from outsiders. It is the couple who presents the squeaky clean image to the community that struggles with the shame of domestic violence. This shroud of secrecy and anguish prevents families from getting treatment and distorts community statistics on the problem.

Coaching for Life: Anger relationships and health: Part IIPublished 07/29/2004 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

I would like to invite you to look at anger differently. While most of us regard angry feelings as bad and something to be avoided, there is much to be gained from learning to give and receive anger. Couples and families who have developed resources to productively talk over resentments, annoyances and behaviors that trigger angry feelings are stronger and come to relationships more competently. This may be so because they accept a broader range of what it means to be human. Learning to “do anger” also conveys mutual respect. It avoids the harmful and undermining indirect expressions of anger that lead to more trouble in the form of unresolved conflict and buried resentments. When the only outlets for anger are indirect or shadowy, the resulting undercurrent of tension can eat away at relationships. It is this “slow burn” anger that is so damaging to our health.

If the only outlets for anger are indirect, then physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms destructively become the language of our anger.

Coaching for Life: Anger relationships and health: Part I

Published 06/08/2004 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

Even though our anger is the first emotion we experience as infants, it is the last we learn to manage effectively as adults. Internalized and misdirected anger is at the root of many health, behavioral and relationship problems. Yet most of us spend a lifetime denying, suppressing, avoiding, displacing, projecting or anesthetizing our anger with alcohol or drugs.

So it makes sense to pause and reflect on our style of expressing or internalizing our anger, and its effect on our lives and health.

The silent scream: Teens who cut themselves

Published 03/02/2004 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

There has been an increase in the number of teens who self-mutilate, and hardly anyone is talking about it. Some young people usually beginning at age 15 seek to relieve tension by putting a blade to their arms or legs and making repeated slices in their skin.

These lacerations are deep with significant bleeding and are often deliberately hidden by clothing.

Coaching for life: Clues about life satisfaction

Published 02/23/2004 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

My 16-year-old son, Peter, has designed a behavioral science research project that touches on a profound question: “What makes people happy in life?”

He invited people over 60 to comment in a questionnaire on the degree to which they are satisfied with their lives. The questionnaire evaluates life satisfaction in relation to a variety of factors, including wealth, health, history of addictions, marriage and career, and prayer.

The Affair: Marriage’s weapon of mass destruction

Published 12/09/2003 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

Infidelity strikes at the jugular vein of a marriage, violating the fundamental trust that a couple holds sacred. The psychological and emotional impact of an affair can be devastating.

In my experience as a marital therapist, an affair can either drive a stake through the heart of a marriage or lead to a growth crisis that can ultimately strengthen the union between two people. Whichever way it goes, an affair thrusts a couple on a risky and unpredictable white-water rafting trip driven by dangerous emotional crosscurrents.

Panic disorder mimics heart attack

Published 04/29/2003 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

The attack comes without warning. A person may be online buying groceries, sitting in a movie theater or asleep in bed, when suddenly chest pains, difficulty breathing and a pervasive sense of impending death grips him or her.

The person may experience weakness in the legs and tingling or tightness in the arms — other telling signs of a heart attack. But when the individual seeks urgent medical care, the nightmare may become even worse.

Helping young adults make career choices

Published 03/26/2004 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

How we earn a living is a crucial determining factor for satisfaction or frustration in life. Yet the process that leads most of us to decisions about work and career are far from clear and deliberate.

More commonly, we make educational or career decisions based on what our families expect or based on notions about ourselves and the work world that are fuzzy and not well thought through. The cost of mistakes can be high. Not only the rising cost of college tuition but also the more devastating loss of time, momentum and self-confidence can provide painful setbacks for both young people and parents alike. We have all known young adults who seem to flounder at the task of establishing themselves either in finding the right college major or hopping form job to job without direction. The fruits of successful life-work planning, as I call it, are wonderfully evident when our work really reflects our passion in life.

Coaching for Life: Is there romance after children?

Published 02/11/2003 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is perhaps the most significant challenge that we face in our lives. It is also a challenge for which we are ill prepared.

Our growing-up years doesn’t necessarily teach us the skills and resources necessary to establish and maintain a loving relationship. Conflict resolutions, communication skills, the art of negotiation, assertiveness are all inter-personal resources for which there is little if any classroom learning.

Navigating a job loss: The three challenges

Published 02/04/2003 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

Like all of life’s crises, a job layoff presents us with the classic paradox of danger and opportunity. As a new chapter in our life is, perhaps, forced upon us, we are confronted with multiple challenges.

The most powerful is the psychological challenge. Studies on mental health emphasize that a feeling of being in control of our lives is crucial to our well-being. Yet the painful reality is that often there is precious little over which we do feel in control, and losing a job certainly represents a “survival level” threat. Hence, the psychological stakes are potentially high.

Paying attention to attention deficit disorder

Published 01/21/2003 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

For children struggling with attention deficit disorder, a common learning disability, as well as their families, teachers, physicians and friends, ADD can be a source of enormous frustration and anguish.

People with ADD have difficulty focusing attention and completing tasks. They are easily distracted, seem scattered and disorganized, and are somewhat impulsive. The dilemma of attention deficit disorder is a pervasive experience of failing at tasks but feeling powerless to fix it. Without treatment, this chronic helplessness and inability to measure up can lead to anxiety and depression.

Holiday blues: The flip side of festive cheer

Published 12/10/2002 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

While the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes, for many of us it can be the most hazardous emotionally. By examining the underlying factors that contribute to the holiday blues, we are more likely to avoid or minimize their impact.

Also, as we recognize how those around us may be affected by the emotional undertow of holiday frenzy, there is a marvelous opportunity to strengthen friendships and families. Offering our understanding and support is the most powerful and meaningful of holiday gifts. These are truly the gifts that keep on giving. And they’re on sale every day. 

The sniper crisis: Overcoming fear and anxiety

Published 10/22/2002 Times Papers – Loudoun Times Mirror

The unsolved serial sniper attacks have had an effect on our emotional well-being like no other crimes in the last year. While the chances of becoming a victim are far less than, say, being injured in an auto wreck or contracting a life-threatening illness, our nervous systems are reacting as though we are in the gunman’s sights everywhere we go.

Why is our sense of feeling threatened so pronounced and seemingly irrational? Here are some reasons why and some suggestions how to protect ourselves. Remember two things: Knowledge is power and talking can help enormously.