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Brass Balls

Posted on Wed, 08 November, 2017

Let’s talk about balls, the brass kind. The kind of balls it takes to take your personal issue and make it about them, taking offense to you’re chosen methods or judging your process. Someone I know recently described that experience with a brilliant summary, “It takes some brass balls to do that.” Yes, yes it does.


I find no shortage of people willing to demonstrate their brass balls in this area. Ironic since you may not hear much from them up until this point – as is the case for my personal experience with this phenomenon. I have come to lovingly refer to it as the brass balls butt-in. I am prone to use humor as a coping mechanism; it adds a bit of levity when working with clients too.


What do you do when you share something challenging, upsetting and life changing and someone in your life makes it about them and/or butts-in with those brass balls and judges you for the way you are dealing with it? There’s no one, simple approach to throw at this and expect it to uniformly stick. Sometimes the way you choose to deal with something is unhealthy and should actually be called out – addiction cycles and co-dependant enabling come to mind.


Then there are the situations where advice and judgment from others is unwanted and possibly harmful. I see the unintended consequences of this in my practice when people are beaten down by family or friends, when the issue never concerned them to begin with. I also have experienced this personally, pretty recently.


I’ve had a major shake up in my personal life with the results of an innocent, “for fun” DNA test resulting in a biological father I never knew I had. A different one than I was raised to believe. The vast majority of responses I received from initial shares of this were surprising. Albeit unintentional, they were harmful and a few even went so far as to judge me for taking it public. As a therapist, I know that this is based on their own issues in dealing with difficult material. I get it, we all are somewhat uncomfortable with difficult life issues and really want to make them go away. Especially when you don’t know what to say to help, so really just want to make it go away so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable about it anymore.


If you ever take any advice at all from anyone, take this: just listen, don’t make it about you. Unless they come to you with a problem because you are part of the problem. Then still listen, but really, that’s a whole different blog subject. Keep the brass balls butt-in sidelined cause what you think about how someone should handle their personal crisis is irrelevant.



I usually have to check myself and remember that the majority of people are not good at looking at their shit. That’s why Freud created defense mechanisms – to explain why we avoid dealing with our shit. But I’m not a therapist all the time, and the regular human in me says, “Sweet Moses, why is this about you?!?! Should I really have to explain the effects of colluding in secrets and living compartmentalized?” I don’t believe I should, but if I do, then I’m on the therapeutic clock and you’re paying for that lesson.


We humans will continue to seek out intimate enough relationships to share personal issues, because that’s the nature of humanity. In the end we are still animals, and we seek to be part of the pack. Rejection from the pack meant certain death in our tribal days, as you had to strike out on your own, without protection and acceptance. I think the need to inject our beliefs and lay judgment comes from that tribal attempt to realign the wayward individual so as not to threaten the pack’s survival. Because frankly it takes a lot of effort to stop oneself from butting-in, balls or not, and just listen for the sake of validating the other person’s experience. It remains the hardest part for me when working with couples – neither one really has the patience to listen so the other feels heard. Edward Hallowell has said in Driven to Distraction, “The feeling of being understood and heard is more healing than any other intervention.” Amen.


Ask yourself if you can let go of the unwanted judgment. Ask yourself if your expectations of that person are realistic or need adjusting to help you let go of those unhealthy attachments. That’s a lot of therapy-speak for keep what’s yours and give others what’s theirs. It’s ok to say “no”. Really it is, I promise you won’t die.


The brass balls butt-in is used when people are either insecure about themselves and need to insert themselves to feel better (hello, narcissism) or they are so unsure and uncomfortable with negative stuff that they find the quickest way possible to neutral.

That’s why finding a good therapist is imperative – we know how to live in the uncomfortable. We can handle the long, awkward silences. And the only time we will judge you is if you don’t pay us.



Jodi Klugman-Rabb is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Marin and Napa Counties. She specializes in connecting with clients on a humorous and practical level, helpful when specializing in ADHD, trauma and anger/communication skills. She uses EMDR to treat traumas and fears of all types. She is a wife of 18+ years and the mom of two funny and awesome kids. Connect with Jodi on her website or

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A blog written by a hip, sometimes irreverent shrink who’s been around the block and calls it like it is

Humor is a great way to make sense of the world around us - and a little psychological perspective never hurt

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