PsychotherapyHELP Newsletter

by Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D. MFT 


"Fact or Fantasy: Which Do You Operate From?"



Iran's president Ahmadinejad. Does he operate from fact or fantasy?

He claims that the Holocaust never happened. President Barack Obama calls that fantasy, "Ignorant."

The Holy Scriptures claim that, "My people perish because of lack of knowledge."

Have you ever been accused of something that you know for absolute certainty that the accusation was pure fantasy and not fact? Then again ... Who hasn't? So, what do you do about it? That depends on which battle you choose to engage

As a psychotherapist, I have to determine when a client is presenting me with complaints that are fact based or fictional fantasy, the product of a disordered mind.

I don't want to give the impression that fantasy is bad. We all need fantasies in our lives for many different reasons... both entertaining and creative. However, when fantasy parades as fact, conflict and warfare are the outcomes.

Do you have the facts? If you operate from fantasy and are ignorant of the true facts, your situation will deteriorate and even disintegrate. So, what is the antidote? Keep searching, investigating and digging deep to get all the information and facts that you can about any given important situation. This goes for jobhunting, marriage acquisition and just about every situation in life.

Knowledge is power and sometimes assumption making is the first step towards exploring facts. You may need to make assumptions based on intuition before you test the situation for its factual reality. But, don't make the mistake that intuition is ultimate fact. Assumptions are like gut feelings that something exists in reality. A problem arises when the assumption cart is put before, in front and in place of a real horse. The cart carries the passengers and the cargo. It also contains the driver who steers the horse. But, it is the horse that physically takes you there. You cannot get to your goal without the horse and the horse will need to be guided by you in order to lead you to your destination.

Women's Intuition


Generally, it is believed in our culture that women have a certain kind of intuition. I would never underestimate the power of women's intuition or the intuitive powers of men. Perhaps, there are chemical differences in the male and female brains that shaped the quality of gender intuition. That is beyond this discussion. It is generally believed that men in our culture are more fact oriented. This may be true and indicates a difference in the dominance aspects of the two brain hemispheres. It would seem to me that if you combine the fact oriented, logical mind of men with the intuitive powers of women you would have a winning combination. This may explain the evolutionary advantages of being human in this time of history.

But, what if there is a dysfunction in the logical fact oriented minds of men and the intuitive powers of females? The results are problematic and require effective strategies for correction and integration. There is truth in the axiom that two heads are better than one.

Testing reality sometimes requires the strategy of two heads are better than one. That's why we have conferences, meetings and constructive marriage conversations. In every functional situation, the collective minds are working towards effective solutions and strategies. When that doesn't work or disorder occurs, breakdowns, break offs and discontinuations are the result. A global example would be Middle East conflicts, pan global conflicts and conflicts that exist in every individual, couple, family, organization and sociopolitical entity.

An example: Maureen. "For years I had been torturing my husband by accusing him of all kinds of evil and heinous acts. I truly believed that everything that I accused him of was true. He kept defending himself and denying all of my accusations. I believe that he was abusing me, when in fact I was emotionally scapegoating and abusing him for things buried from my past."

"When Dr. Hannig slowly and carefully helped me to recognize my defenses and my bad behavior, I slowly stopped torturing my husband and discovered that my family demons were inside of my own head. I began to understand how I had projected all of my buried feelings onto my poor husband and made his life miserable. I don't know how he stuck with me and didn't dump me. I never noticed how I failed to meet and satisfy his real needs. I was determined to make him into a fall guy, a bad person. In fact, it was me who was behaving badly. I couldn't see reality. I lived in some strange paranoid universe dictated from my own childhood. As I began to feel more and more of my original pain, I noticed that I began to diminish and stop dumping my stuff on my husband. He got his own therapy from Dr. Hannig and had to clean up his past that led him to pick a woman like me. I wouldn't have blamed him if he had gotten rid of me a long time ago. But, the therapy kept us both working on ourselves and our marriage."

"Every aspect that was based in fantasy was disrupted and shaped towards more effective strategies and our love began to return and we found ourselves living in the true real present rather than being locked into the fantasies of the past. Today, we are deeply in love and still working on ourselves. Nothing is perfect and my marriage isn't imperfect. But, it is getting there."

Personal Empathy Limits


How do you know your personal ceiling and limits for empathy? Every person has a empathy ceiling/limitation where they are incapable of going beyond.

An example: Sharon and Melvyn. I watched in deep empathy for the extreme pain that Melvyn was feeling in his session. He was crying and screaming from the very depths of his being. His wife Sharon looked upon him with a deep cold unfeeling stare, totally devoid of any feeling of empathy. This was in sharp contrast for my feeling of empathy for Melvyn. Momentarily, I was somewhat shocked and had a strong conviction that this marriage could not move from this rigid, blocked emotional position.

Melvin deeply desired that his wife would feel some empathy for what he was going through. She failed and couldn't supply that emotional need. She was incapable. I knew at that moment that this marriage could not go beyond the shaky bonds that kept this couple together. I also knew that they would probably stay together because of other family bonds and financial reasons.

What was my solution? Would you believe it? I fired myself. I chose not to stay part of this battle. I believe that everyone has to choose what struggle to engage in. This was one that I did not feel I could budge from its rigid blocked position. This was one mountain I couldn't move. I had reached my limit of empathic capacity to empathically respond to Sharon's incapability of empathically responding to Melvyn's pain.

The trick here is to know when to get out or stay in a particular struggle. When my capacity for empathy had been exceeded, I knew it was time for me to exit. You can't beat a dead horse. It's still dead and not every horse can be resurrected.

It seems like a mystery to determine what someone has to do or be in order to touch that empathic part of the self. There are times when I have felt myself turned totally empathic towards someone who was deeply intent on doing nothing but harm to me. That's okay! I was touched in some way. I don't see that as a weakness. But, is it a strength? Let's take a look at the Biblical story of one of the greatest empathic responses ever recorded. It is Jesus being tortured, humiliated and crucified on the cross. He says, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

How do you account for such an empathic response during a crisis life or death situation? The answer lies in the heart and soul of every human being. If you are acquainted with deep sorrow and pain, you will have a more open and empathic heart and soul. However, I leave you with one question. It's too much empathy a problem? I await your response and your examples.

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Questions about Therapy and Coaching?


If it's therapy you are seeking, go to PsychotherapyHELP and check out my therapy links and information on Coaching. Therapy and Coaching are designed and structured for each individual client. I do not fit a client into any model ... your therapy is designed for you and your situation alone.  Coaching can give you direction and support in all areas in your life, plus motivate you to make the changes that you've been dreaming of. One phone call is all it takes... we're here to answer your questions.


Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy our newsletter. Please feel free to explore my web site at PsychotherapyHELP at You find articles to download, information on therapy and coaching, and links to an abundance of resources.


Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D. MFT



voice: 818-882-7404