Gas-lighting: Psychological Warfare

Gas-lighting: Psychological Warfare

I had never heard of the term gas-lighting until I was in a tumultuous relationship with a woman with borderline personality order who accused me of gas-lighting.   At the time I asked her what it meant and she told me to look it up, so I did and the more I read about it and researched it, the more I realized she was the gas-lighter and I was the one being gas-lighted!

What Is Gas-lighting?

Gas-lighting is a deceptive and insidious form of control and manipulation. The name comes for the 1938 play, Gas Light. People who are being gas-lighted are deceived into doubting what they know to be true through the use of false information. These victims end up doubting their memories, feelings, perceptions and nearly everything about themselves, including their own sanity. Overtime, the gas-lighter’s manipulation tactics become more complex making it harder for the victim to recognize and avoid. If this sounds like psychological warfare, that’s because it is.

Gas-lighting is most common and noticeable in intimate relationships, but they can happen in professional relationships as well. Gas-lighters are usually charming at first and often have personality disorders such as narcissism or borderline.  Many sociopaths and addicts are skilled gas-lighters as well.

Gas-lighters attack their victims most sensitive areas: their sense of identity and self-worth. Through my research and interviews with clients who were in toxic relationships, I found that it was common for gas-lighters to show one face to their victim and another to the rest of the world, making it hard for their victim to reach out to others in fear that no one will believe them.

In it’s most basic form, gas-lighting can be seen as projection taken to it’s highest level. The gas-lighter needs to create a certain reality by attempting to shape the reality of the person being gas-lighted. They will change facts in-order to create a new narrative more suitable for themselves and disregard their victims reality.

Gas-Lighting Can Be Used To Manipulate A Whole Society

Gas-lighting not only happens in day to day relationships, but historically has and is happening in a greater context. Think about how the narrative around Thanksgiving downplays the genocide of Native Americans, or how many American History books brush over the horrific slavery of and treatment of African Americans. Cultural appropriation and white-washing are both ways experiences and realities of others are overwritten, manipulated and downplayed. It happens so much in our society through the use of media and stereotypes that’s it’s not easily recognized, but is just as damaging to those who are the victims of gas-lighting.

I once read a book called Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, that in many ways detailed how American Society has been gas-lighted to perceive African Americans a certain way.

My Personal Experience

One example from my personal situation is that the person I was dating continuously disrespected our relationship by flirting with other guys. Even other people who knew us would come and tell me and it became embarrassing. When I would talk to her about it she would accuse me of being insecure, other people of manipulating me and accusing me of looking at other women.

It got so bad that I started questioning if I was insecure, if other people were trying to sabotage our relationship and although I had never been accused of having wandering eyes before, I started to doubt that as well. I started becoming more aware of my behavior and attempting to never even look in another woman’s direction. I started becoming paranoid and questioning things my friends were telling me about her. I started to doubt myself so much that I became oblivious to the ways she was continuously and increasingly disrespecting me and our relationship.

That’s what gas-lighting does. It makes you start questioning your own reality to the point where you don’t trust what you know to be true.

How I ended up overcoming this was through some deep introspection and awareness. First,  thanks to her accusing me of gas-lighting (the gas-lighter often accuses their victim of being the gas-lightee), I became aware that I was actually being psychologically manipulated.

I had to regain trust in my own sense of self and judgement and realize that I wasn’t crazy and that my eyes and heart weren’t deceiving me. I had to find a way to separate myself from her and see the truth for what it was and once I did that, it was like someone had turned the lights on in a dark room and allowed me to see everything. I had to take back my power and it’s then when I decided to leave because I knew she wasn’t going to change and the new “woke” me, couldn’t stay in that toxic relationship and keep my sanity.

Despite the fact that I knew I had to leave, it still took multiple attempts before I was able to walk away for good. Toxic relationships are usually hard to leave and take several attempts.  During that time I did reach out to friends for support and I continued to read articles and books that opened my eyes and made me strong enough to eventually leave for good.

-T.R. LMHC

10 Happiness Tips

It’s common for everyone to struggle time to time with being happy. We all have bad days, days when we may get frustrated, feel insecure or anxious for whatever reason. There is an infinite amount of things we can do when we need to pull ourselves out of the funk and practice self care.

It’s not a bad idea to list some of your favorites BEFORE you actually need them, that way you can easily pull them out of your tool box.

What works for one person may not work for another, but here are 10 of my favorites to get your started.

Set Healthy Boundaries

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Often we give people too much access to our time and peace. This sometimes includes friends and family who may be overbearing, controlling, draining or negative. By setting healthy boundaries, we limit how much access those people have to us.

Let’s say you have a friend who only calls to complain about her day, maybe you limit her by not always answering her phone calls or giving her only five minutes of your time before you have to go do something else.

Take a look at your life and see where you can eliminate some unnecessary stress by cutting back on the amount of your time you allow to be taking up by other, especially negative or draining people.

Learn To Say No

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It’s okay to say no without an explanation to people and things you don’t feel like doing or being bothered with. Sometimes we feel obligated to do things we don’t enjoy or feel comfortable doing and find it hard to say “no” for a variety of reasons. However, learning to say no without explanation not only helps establish boundaries, it will help build up self-confidence and self-respect when it comes to your precious time, space and peace of mind.

Learn to Make Decisions Quickly

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If you’ve never heard of Mel Robbins “Five Second Rule” then I suggest you look it up quickly. Part of her theory is that the longer you wait to make a decision and act on it, the less likely you are to make the decision that will move you to where you need to be.

If you’re the type of person who takes a long time to make a decision or hates making decisions so you allow others to make decisions for you, then what you are unconsciously conditioning and reinforcing within yourself is a fear of failure and of being imperfect which Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., says keeps us small and dis-empowered. By learning to make decisions quickly we will build confidence and learn to trust ourselves.

Take Full Responsibility For Yourself

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We can’t control others and often we can’t control other factors in our lives. What we can control is ourselves, our responses, thoughts and feelings. If we stop trying to control other people so much, it frees us to dictate our own happiness and take complete control of our lives. When our feelings about ourselves are no longer controlled by external conditions, we will realize how much happier we can actually be.

We can’t make someone treat us better, but we can choose to allow them to be who they are without us there to abuse. We can’t make it stop raining, but we can choose to enjoy the sound of rain or even dance in it.

Have Appreciation And Gratitude For What You Currently Have

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It’s easy to want more and to not be satisfied with what we have. The problem is, if you think like that, you’ll always want more and you’ll never genuinely be happy. You don’t have to be filthy rich and have the most expensive accessories in order to be happy. Look at what you have now. Try to find three things everyday to be grateful for. Today, for me, it’s my family, my job and my health. No, none of those things are perfect, all of them are actually quite flawed, but I am appreciative and grateful for them because they could be worse or none existent.

Travel/Spend Time in Nature

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This one is a two for one. Take time to travel or get out in nature. Allow yourself to see that there are bigger things out there than just ourselves and whatever we may be dealing with, or just to relax and take in new sights, sounds and experiences.

Being in nature in particular can help bring a sense of peace and awe. Whatever you do, just get away from our ordinary routine and allow yourself to become a tourist and explore, even if it’s just in your own backyard.

Take Time To Relax With Zero Guilt

We work hard. Even when we aren’t working we seem to always be on the go. There is always something to do or something we should be doing. We may even feel guilty when we aren’t doing something, but it’s okay to unplug from everything and everyone and do absolutely nothing every now and then. As a matter of fact, it’s good for your sanity. You can watch Netflix, read a book, listen to music, meditate or do whatever brings you back to yourself.

Be Mindful

Following up on the last tip, take time to actually take in what is going on around you. So often we are so busy that we aren’t aware of the simple, yet beautiful or important things going on around us everyday.

Multitasking is something else we do that robs us of truly taking in what we are doing. Research suggests that we don’t even actually multitask, but our brain just switches quickly between doing one thing and then the next. I know for myself, I often watch TV while looking through messages, social media or email on my phone. Now when I find myself doing that, I consciously make the decision to put my phone away so I can truly take in whatever I am watching. A lot of us do the same things when we are hanging out with friends and family. We’re there, but we’re not fully there because we are browsing through our phones. Break that habit and you’ll realize how much you’ve been missing out by not being truly present and in the moment.

Smile

There is research that suggests that the act of smiling by itself can help us begin to feel happier. Your mind can either control your body or be a slave to it. Your body often doesn’t know why it is acting or responding in a certain way and it’s waiting for your mind to tell it why. By smiling, you can trick your mind into thinking that it is happy and your body will respond by beginning to release endorphins that will actually make you feel happier.

Wear Bright Colors

This is definitely one of my favorites. Sometimes at work I have been known to wear pink, yellow or bright red colored dress shirts. It’s easy when you’re feeling down to wear dark, drab colors, but they won’t do much for brightening up your spirits. Surround yourself with bright, vivid colors and you will see that it not only brightens your mood, makes you feel more positive and productive, but it can also brighten other peoples moods around you. It’s even been given the name, “Color Therapy”.

Bariatric Divorce

Bariatric Divorce

I was listening to a couples therapy session conducted by the amazing Esther Perel when I first heard about the high rates of divorce associated with weight-loss surgery.

Esther was working with a couple where the husband had lost a tremendous amount of weight after bariatric surgery and then declared to his wife suddenly that he was leaving her. Neither of them had been prepared for this potential side effect of weigh-loss surgery.

In the session, the husband described that after he loss weight, he not only felt like he had a new body, but that he was also a new person and he wanted a new life. A life that apparently did not include his wife. This is actually very common after weight-loss surgery.

One of the first things usually told to couples during orientation is that the divorce rate for bariatric patients is extremely high. I’ve seen numbers as high as 80 to 85%.

Often the person who had the surgery was not happy with themselves, had low self-esteem, poor self-image and not the best health. They may have been introverted and passive because of this.

Effects on Marriage After The Surgery

After the surgery, when the person has loss such a large amount of weight, not only do they began to become healthier, they often begin to see themselves as more physically attractive as well. Mentally, they tend to gain more confidence, courage and experience a rise in self-esteem. The once introverted person may become more extroverted and energetic.

In an already healthy and stable relationship, these improvements can be a plus and help create a more fun, romantic and passionate union. However, in a relationship that was already unstable, these outcomes may lead to the marriage falling apart.

The person who underwent weight-loss surgery may now feel motivated enough, confident enough and attractive enough to leave the marriage. The person may feel like they have more options available to them than they did before the surgery.

Some people report that the emotional changes they go through after weight-loss surgery is more like a change in mindset. They often go from someone who would put up with a lot to someone who chooses what they will and won’t put up with. They go from passive to assertive and sometimes even aggressive. Often as their perspectives change,  they start questioning their relationships and the people that are in their lives.

Many discover a new sexual energy and may begin to crave new sexual partners and experiences, especially if they have been overweight for most of their lives.

Some call this change in perspective an honest life assessment. They feel like losing so much weight so quickly forces them to question why they chose to be unhealthy in the first place both physically and mentally. They began confronting not only their food choices, but their lifestyle choices including the people they have around them. They may feel like they can finally be the person they’ve always wanted to be, but didn’t feel confident enough to be.

Affects On The Partner

Often times couples are overweight together. Having an eating problem, emotional eating or just enjoying food may be the one thing they have in common that has kept them together.

Following surgery, if the spouse that had the weight-loss surgery suddenly stops wanting to sit on the sofa watching Netflix while eating junk food and starts wanting to go out and socialize more or exercise, the partner who did not get the surgery may become angry, jealous and insecure. The marriage that may have once been largely centered around food and staying home may not survive that change.

One person has the surgery, losses a large amount of weight, usually starts looking and feeling more attractive, their partner either gets jealous and insecure and then leaves. Or the person who has the surgery starts thinking they can upgrade or be single and enjoy their new found sexual attractiveness and confidence. Not always of course, but in marriages that were already volatile this is common.

The end of the relationship is not always a bad thing. Often times these individuals were already in toxic or abusive relationships, but stayed because they didn’t have the confidence to leave or felt that no one else would want them. The affects of the surgery often boosts their confidence enough to end a relationship that probably should have ended anyway.

On the other hand, the partner who did not receive the surgery may have felt better than the other person as if they had the power and control in the relationship because their spouse may have been passive, depressed or extremely introverted. Once their partner losses weight, the dynamics of the relationship may start to shift to the point where the partner who did not receive the surgery decides to leave in order to find someone else he or she can feel dominate and controlling over.

Where To Turn For Help

There are support groups out there often led by a dietician and a therapist that can help individuals and couples through the emotional and mental changes that come along with the physical changes of weight-loss surgery. It is important to schedule therapy sessions after your surgery, be kind to yourself and others as the physical, mental and emotional changes occur.

Remember that people will react in some unexpected ways to your weight-loss and you may also experience emotional and mental changes that were not expected. Talk to your partner about them and if it’s something that needs further exploration, definitely seek therapy. It may save your marriage or help you go your separate ways in good conscience.

 

The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The grass is always greener on the other side” and many of us fall victim to this way of thinking. We end up never truly happy with where we are right now because we become fixated on the thought that true happiness lies somewhere else. We never feel good enough about our current situation because  we always feel like something is missing. This causes us to feel unhappy and incomplete. It deprives us from enjoying our present situation.

This can happen with our relationships, jobs and environment. It prevents us from feeling satisfied, secure or stable because we’re always thinking there is something better elsewhere.

In many ways, it’s really a struggle with commitment and is usually based on fear, fantasy and projection.

Fear

One reason we may believe the grass is greener on the other side is because we fear commitment, we fear being trapped, losing our individuality, being bored or being oppressed.

In people who fear commitment, having to compromise certain individual values for the good of the whole may feel like control and oppression. Because of this, they start believing that there is something else out there that will allow them to have all they want, desire and value, on their terms without any compromises.

In reality this is rarely true, but this is where fantasy comes into play.

Fantasy

We want what we don’t have and when we have “the grass is greener” mentality, we create a fantasy that says we can have everything we don’t have without losing any of the things we are currently happy with.

What usually happens however is that once we jump the fence to the other side,  after the “honeymoon phase” and the novelty of the new situation wears off, we tend to realize that there are other things that are missing  there also and find ourselves longing for the other side of the fence again.

It’s similar to the 80/20 rule when you have 80% of what you want, but you put so much emphasis on the 20% you’re missing, that you jump ship to have it, only to find out that now you’re missing the other 80%. Ideally you’ll find the 100% you’re looking for, but because no person or situation is perfect, that is usually a fantasy and this is where projection comes in.

Projection

When we are trapped thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, usually it’s because we are placing our personal unhappiness onto something outside of ourselves such as a relationship, job or living situation. We think that if we can just make those things perfect, then we’ll be or feel perfect and happy.

However, the dissatisfaction really lies within us. This is why when some people change jobs, partners or even locations, after the initial high of the newness wears off, they often find themselves just as dissatisfied as they were before.

The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

The grass always starts off lush and perfect (the honeymoon phase), but eventually it begins to wear down the longer we stand on it. You can jump the fence to the other side, but eventually that grass too will lose it’s freshness. The grass on the side of the fence we’re on, no matter how dull it may look, once watered, nurtured and maintained can become greener.

The grass we have may never be as lush as it was in the beginning (because we get used to it, recognize it’s imperfections, etc.).

Our constant search for that greener grass that will always be shiny and lush is just our internal desire to be happy, stress free and fully satisfied.

However, we are all imperfect people. None of us are without flaws. Therefore, the search for that evergreen grass is just an illusion that will always leave us feeling incomplete and unhappy with our current situation, no matter how good that situation actually is.

Does this mean that you never try to better your situation? Of course note. There are definitely times when you MUST better your situation such as moving from a job where you are unhappy and finding one that is more fulfilling, or getting out of an unhealthy relationship and getting into a healthy one.

However, people who have this “grass is greener” mentality usually have a certain pattern that keeps them from being happy in the present for very long:

Repetition: Constantly looking for something “better”, such as jobs, relationships and location.

Perfection: Always looking for the “perfect” job, environment or partner. They can be in a really good relationship, but leave it because they think there is someone out there just a little better than their current partner and they’ll constantly repeat this cycle, never feeling fulfilled for long.

Wanting to have their cake and eat it too: Not wanting to compromise. They want to have all of their wants and needs met without having to give up anything in return and that rarely works in life.

Feeling like they need to move, runaway or escape: Always wanting to relocate, change jobs or relationship in order to “start over”. They don’t realizing that wherever they go, there they are. They take them and their deeper reasons for not being happy with them and will most likely just recreate that dissatisfaction somewhere else or with someone else.

Some people are fine with living life like this, in this constant state of not being satisfied, happy or stable for long. If you want a life that is fuller, more stable and secure, then you have to resolve this issue by:

  1. figuring out what are the underlying reasons within yourself that are keeping you from being happy and able to commit.
  2. Work on, nurture and increase the connections to what you presently have in your life in order to strengthen them so that they don’t become unsatisfying.

Once you have an internal place of stability, you’ll find less of a need to keep searching for that illusive fantasy of perfection in your external life.

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Bet On Your Strengths

pushupcs700_0I suck at math. I always have. It got so bad that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because I just couldn’t get through algebra.
In college, I had to take every math class twice before I could pass it. I became so comfortable with it that I knew the first time I took College Algebra or Statistics, I knew it was just for practice.
It was frustrating and it made me even doubt what the hell I was doing in college in the first place.
Eventually I got through all my college math courses. I even got decent enough that I passed Research Methods and Advanced Research Methods on my first try.  By then I had learned I needed to read my math books just like they were any other text book and teach the material to myself. Still, I was never good at advanced math, I just learned how to get through it.
I was unhappy for a lot of my high school and early college years because I struggled and focused so much on my weakness with math. It wasn’t until later when I started focusing on my strengths like art, writing and behavioral sciences that I became happy. Only then did I really start to feel smart and like I belonged on a college campus.
I literally felt free when I didn’t have to take another damn math class and was able to actually focus on what I was good at.
A Deficit Mindset
Many of us spend much of our lives unhappy and unsatisfied because we are constantly focusing on our weaknesses. We focus on the things we aren’t good at and neglect the things we are good at.
People who suffer from depression, low self esteem and anxiety are especially notorious at this.
Many of their personal stories paint them as victims and not victors. They feel weak and only focus on their weaknesses, not the strength it took for them to even survive the sometimes traumatic experiences they went through.
When people have this deficit type of mindset, they tend to not only focus on their faults, but also the faults in others instead of focusing on their positive qualities and seeing other people for who they are.
This type of mindset can affect any of us.  If we focus on or weaknesses and try to become better, of course we can improve, but we will probably never become great at it and we will expend a lot of time and energy for minimal gains.
What if we used that same amount of time and energy to focus on something we are good at?
Sticking with the math analogy, I know someone who has a great business mind, but she isn’t particularity good with numbers so she hired someone who is and that has allowed her to take a lot of her energy off of the finance part and focus more on creating the business of her dreams.
Had she allowed the fact that she wasn’t good with numbers scare her from starting a business or bog her down with late nights balancing books and getting frustrated, her business may not have been as successful as it is. She may have never been free to do the things she was good at doing such as marketing and networking.
FOCUSING ON YOUR STRENGTHS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER
By putting all of your energy into your strengths and not so much on your weaknesses, you’ll not only be happier,  but you will start taking your life to a new level and start living more authentically.
I have a client who was recently very depressed and suicidal. On paper she is very successful. She’s smart, married, has one child, makes six figures, has a beautiful home and a luxury car. She has accomplished everything she has ever dreamed of, but she is unhappy because she’s always afraid of losing it all.
She worries about losing her husband, losing her job and losing everything that comes with that. Although she is brilliant, she is constantly telling me about all of her faults. It’s like she doesn’t even see her strengths. She’s focusing so much on her weaknesses and worried that other people will see them, that she is filled with anxiety and depression.
Her “weaknesses” are keeping her unhappy, distracting her from the wonderful life she has right in front of her, and serving absolutely no purpose at all other than driving her crazy.
We don’t have to pretend we don’t have weaknesses. We have to embrace them, except them and then focus on our strengths. Our strengths are our keys to living more authentic lives.
Focusing on your strengths can boost your confidence and overshadow your weaknesses. 
One last example from a couple I counseled.
The wife was so focused on her husband not being a “manly man”. In her eyes, a manly man fixed cars and was a great handy man. That simply was not her husband. He was mechanically challenged. She focuses so much on that area of “weakness” that she was very unhappy in the marriage.
Through strength based counseling she learned to see her husbands strengths. First of all, he was a good man, a good husband and a terrific father. He adored her and the kids, took care of business and yes, maybe when the sink got clogged he was clueless to fix it, but that’s what handymen and plumbers are for. She actually fell in love with him all over again when she learned to focus on his strengths. She had almost stopped seeing him for the things she had falling in love with him for.
Unfortunately, many people never learn that and she could have ruined their marriage simply because of her world view of what made a man a real man and focusing on what she perceived as her husbands faults.
Many people do this to themselves. They are living day to day unhappy because they are constantly focusing on their deficits instead of embracing their strengths. They drive themselves to unhappiness, misery and even suicide.
“You need to bet on your strengths and don’t give a f*ck about what you suck at,” is one of my favorite quotes by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
I’m not saying not to challenge yourself. I believe we need to challenge ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to grow. What I am saying is, if you suck at something, don’t let it tear you down. Find something you are good at and become even better at it. That’s what’s going to take you to the next level.

Family Secrets: Childhood Sexual Abuse

30f6cf470f2d828e104d054e6a86f77bSpeaking with a young woman today, I heard a story I have heard far too many times.

This woman had been sexually abused as a child by a relative, but didn’t say anything out of fear and embarrassment. This relative went on to molest other children in the family until someone finally spoke out.

I’ve spoken to many individuals in the past who were molested by a family member and didn’t say anything not only out of fear and shame, but also because they thought that as long as the molester was perpetrating on them, he would leave their younger brothers, sisters or cousins alone.

In essence, they figured they would suffer through the abuse so that others wouldn’t have to.

The sad part is, in all of these cases, the molester went on to molest other children in the family anyway. In one case, there were three sisters all getting molested by the same uncle and neither knew about the other. All three reported that they didn’t say anything because they thought they were protecting the other sister from the abuse, not knowing that the other sisters were doing the exact same thing.

It was only when this uncle, after years of abusing these sisters, abused another member of the family that he got caught and is now serving time in prison.  By then at least four family members had been abused over the period of several years.

The Threat From Within

We teach our children to be cautious of strangers. We believe that the greatest threat to our child comes from outside of our homes and inner-circles.

1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men report being sexually abused as a child. Over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, loves and trusts. Family members, family friends, teachers, religious leaders and coaches are some of the biggest offenders.

There are many families who have this type of  secret, and some will even tell their children, “Stay away from uncle Bob” because they know they have a perpetrator in their family who for one reason or another is still around.

I even worked with one family who hid their family member’s pedophilic activity, partially out of embarrassment and partially out of  a family’s natural response to try to protect each other. This family member went on to molest at least three children before being sent to prison.

Why Do Children Keep Abuse A Secret

As adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse will tell you, there are many reasons why children will endure sexual abuse for years, some for a lifetime, without telling soul.

For one, children aim to please. They want to make someone they love and trust happy and are often willing to do whatever the person tells them to do.

Abusers also often coach their victims not to tell anyone. Sometimes this is done with threats of violence towards them or other members in their family. Other times it is done with the threat that the child themselves will get in trouble if they tell.

Shame, embarrassment and confusion along with countless other feelings and thoughts can keep a child from telling anyone about the abuse.

Most survivors of childhood abuse I’ve spoken to waited until they were were in their late teens or adulthood before they felt ready to share what they experienced as a child. Many reported that they were afraid that no one would believe them.

How To Help Your Child Break The Silence

We have to teach children the difference between a secret and a surprise. That may sound too simple, but as a start, it is very powerful.

  • Teach them that a surprise is supposed to be about something fun, such as a birthday gift or special party for a friend.
  • Teach them that secrets are something kids shouldn’t keep to themselves, especially secrets that involve touches of private body parts or anything that makes the child feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage your child not to keep secrets from you.
  • Tell them that touches to private body parts should never be a secret.
  • Let them know that if someone tells them to keep a secret, especially someone older than them (including older/bigger kids), they should tell you or another trusted adult immediately.
  • If a friend tells them a secret, let your child know they should share it with you (the other child could be asking for help).
  • Let them know that it’s never their fault if someone touches a private body part and they will never get in trouble if they tell.

Abuse of all kind (i.e.,  physical, sexual, emotional and neglect) flourishes under the veil of silence. It’s beyond time that we break that silence.

 

 

Use This Metacognitive Technique To Change Your Life

ws_Woman_Sunny_Flowers_Happiness_1920x1200Every day there are things we have to do that we don’t feel like doing. For some of us it’s going to work or going to school. We do those things because we know we have to if we want to get paid or graduate. However, when it comes to some other things such as going to the gym or making a tough decision, we will often put those off until we feel like doing it.

The problem is that most of us give too much power and control to our emotions; to how we feel at any given point in time. This is a huge mistake because often our emotions are often irrational and can lead to us doing (or not doing) and saying (or not saying) things we will regret later.

Research says that 95% of our decisions are based on how we feel and not on logic and rational thinking.

Mel Robbins, a successful entrepreneur, television commentator and speaker sums it up very well when she talks about her five second rule.

Robbins at one point was struggling financially and emotionally. Life had dealt her, like it has dealt many of us, a hard hand. She was finding it hard to do even the little things such as getting out of bed in the morning simply because she didn’t feel like it. She had no motivation.

She did what many of us do. She was waiting until she felt like doing something and the truth is, most of the time we will never feel like doing what we know needs to be done such as ending a bad relationship or looking for a new job.

She realized that she needed a strategy to propel herself towards change because motivation wasn’t enough.  She knew sitting around waiting to feel motivated was a big mistake. It wasn’t going to happen.

What she did instead was come up with a five second rule that came to her after watching a commercial of a rocket launching.

What she decided to do the very next day was launch herself out of bed like a rocket. She would count backwards, “five, four, three, two, one” and with all her effort she would force herself out of bed.

It worked! So she did it the next day and the next day and soon she was using this five second rule to launch her into doing all the things she didn’t feel like doing, but knew she needed to do. It changed her life, personally and professionally.

“Life, and business in particular, is about pushing yourself to do the things that are uncomfortable so that you can achieve the results that you want,” Robbins said. “The secret is all about not waiting until you feel like it.”

Most of us make about 35,000 decisions a day and the vast majority of those decisions are made unconsciously. Many are based on how we feel at the moment or how we feel about the action.

What’s even worse is that many of the thoughts that flow through our heads are negative thoughts that bring on emotions like fear, anger and anxiety. Many of our decisions are based on those negative emotions.

There is actual science to back up this five second rule that Robbins discovered.

Research suggests that there’s basically a five second window between when you have a thought and when your brain will either support it or kill.

For us guys, think about when you see an attractive lady and think about asking her for her number. In general, if you don’t move on it within five seconds we tend to not move on it at all. After those five seconds all kinds of thoughts and feelings come into our heads such as self-doubt and fear of rejection.

Your brain is meant to protect you from anything harmful and sometimes that includes simple things like embarrassment. The trick is to force yourself to act within those five seconds before your brain decides to sabotage you. You’re not going to die from rejection or embarrassment.

“It turns out that inside that five-second window, your entire life and business, everything changes if you wake up and take control of that moment right before you’re about to make a decision,” Robbins said.

By counting backwards from five, you force your brain to stop and actually focus instead of just going through the usual unconscious and often self-defeating defense mechanisms it normally would. In a sense you are taking control of your brain before it is sabotaged by your emotions.

It’s a metacognitive technique that stimulates the higher functioning part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex and takes control away from the more primitive parts of our brain that stimulate fear, anger and anxiety.

It’s a technique that can be used to launch yourself into doing anything you don’t want to do, but know you need to do or to prevent you from doing something irrational and illogical based on how you feel at the moment.

I’ve used it to force myself to the gym many times. In the past I would skip a workout because I didn’t feel like going or didn’t have the motivation. Now I know that I may never feel motivated to go to the gym, especially after working a 12 hour day, so I just count backwards from five and go! Once I get to the gym, I usually find the motivation and have a great workout.

I’ve used the same technique to get myself into a writing ritual and to have hard, uncomfortable, but necessary discussions with people.

I’ve also used it to keep myself from saying something I may regret later out of anger or fear. It’s simple and it works!

You can use this for practically anything and I am excited for you to try it and to hear how it works for you.

6 Ways To Take Control Of Your Life

6 Ways To Take Control Of Your Life

Sometimes life can make you feel like a rag doll being tossed around from one crisis to the next, one situation to the next and even one emotion to the next.

In this new year, it’s time we finally start taking real control over our lives. The way we do this starts with making a shift within ourselves.

We have to realize that we are in control. That we are unique individuals here to serve a purpose and we all have special talents and gifts to offer the world. We all deserve happiness and success and we can’t depend on anything or anyone outside of us to provide that.

We have to take control of our thoughts, emotions and actions.

I’m never going to pretend to have all the answers or to be someone who has no problems. I have lots of them, trust me. However, I’m on a constant quest to change my life for the better. Sometimes that means taking inventory on my thoughts and feelings and shifting them so that a five minute incident doesn’t ruin the next sixty plus minutes of my day. Sometimes that means truly apologizing for something once I’ve stop trying to justify it and realize I was in the wrong.  Other times that means letting go of whatever is holding me emotionally hostage (fear, anxiety, etc.).

The way I do that isn’t always fast and easy, but for the most part it is effective and becomes easier and easier to do. It’s like a switch that goes off. A shift in thought and emotions so that I don’t continue to go down the same path feel irritable, angry, sad, self-doubting.

Anyone can do this and here are six tips to help you start shifting your mind whenever you want to:

 

  1. Stay optimistic. I know sometimes that is easier said then done, especially when you are surrounded by so much negativity in the world, but once you start feeding into the negativity, it’s hard to see anything positive that comes your way. You have to remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We create so much of what’s around us and if we are focused on the negative, we will bring more negativity. If we focus on the positive, we’re more likely to bring more positivity into our lives or at least see opportunity in difficulty.
  2. Be happy! Yes, this too I know can be hard and sometimes we have to work really hard on being happy, but just like optimism, the more you exude happiness, the more likely you are to feel and stay genuinely happy.  Force yourself to smile. Force yourself to be positive and before you know it, you will feel better and draw to you energy that will bring about genuine happiness.
  3. Realize your strengths and utilize them. We all have strengths, but sometimes we focus so much on our weaknesses that we downplay or outright forget about our strengths. When we start focusing on our strengths and looking for opportunities to use them, not only will we fell better, we’ll actually grow stronger within our natural gifts and talents.
  4. You’re not going to please everyone. Some people just won’t like you no matter what you do so stop worrying about them, trying to win them over or searching for their approval. It’s a waste of time. Instead, focus on people who do like you and perhaps those who don’t like you will come around. Even if they don’t, who cares?
  5. Stay away from negative people. We all emit energy, just like the sun. Some days it’s positive, some days it’s negative. However, some people emit way more negative energy than positive energy. Stay away from those people, all they will do is bring you down and cast a dark shadow over your life.
  6. You’re never alone. Sure there will be times when you feel lonely, or like you’re the only one going through something, but remember, you are never truly alone unless you want to be, and that’s okay too. Sometimes we need solitude and there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. When you start thinking you’re all alone that opens the door to all type of \emotional reactions such as depression and desperation as well as poor choices to fill the void.

 

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Sometimes when I am struggling, reflecting on messages that were sent to me like this one helps shift my thoughts and mood and reminds me that I am in control of how I choose to experience whatever is going on around me.

I’m not saying any of this is easy. Sometimes It’s downright hard to attempt to be positive and happy and some times will be harder than others. However, we don’t have to be lead by the world, other people or even our own emotions and negative self talk. We can take control and steer our lives into the direction we want to go even with whatever roadblocks, detours and traffic jam life throws at us.

 

 

10 Tips For Dealing With Depression

10 Tips For Dealing With Depression

There is a lot of stigma when it comes to mental health issues, even common ones like depression. Often times when people feel depressed they feel ashamed, as if they don’t have the right to feel depressed. Many will attempt to hide the way they feel and just say they are doing “ok”. Many more will try to drown their depression with alcohol, drugs and even other people.

It’s okay to be depressed. When you’re depressed that means something in your life is not going the way you want it to go and you need to sit down and evaluate your life so that you can move in a different direction. That may mean making small changes, big changes or accepting something for what it is if you can’t change it at all.

These are some of my favorite tips on dealing with depression:

  1. You’re not alone. Many people go through depression at some point in their lives. Some people suffer from clinical and chronic depression while others seem to bounce out of it pretty quickly. If you’re feeling down, just know that you’re not the only person who feels that way and it’s actually pretty common.
  2. It’s okay to seek professional help. Sometimes family and friends just don’t understand why you’re not happy. They’ll say that your life isn’t “that bad” and that there are many people out there who have it worse. Most of them are trying to be helpful even when they leave you feeling like crap. People like me are trained and paid to listen and can help you maneuver your way through the pain.
  3. Medications can help if needed, but they are not the only answer.  When people start feeling depressed, many of them will immediately want medication to make the bad feelings go away. Most people going through depression do not need antidepressants, but even if you do, they may only help so much. Antidepressants are good for getting people out of deep depression so that they can intellectually and physically function enough to actually process what’s going on in their lives and attempt to make changes to feel better.
  4. Remember to take care of yourself. Even if that means writing notes to remind yourself to do simple things such as taking a bath or eating nutritious meals. Doing the self-care things you don’t feel like doing will make you feel better in the end.
  5. If you really don’t know what might be making you depressed consider getting some blood work done. Anything from vitamin D deficiency, low iron and hormonal issues to blood sugar problems can cause you to feel depressed and lethargic. Curing your depression can be as simple as correcting an imbalance in your body.
  6. Learn and practice daily mindfulness and meditation. Start with something as simple as focusing on your breathing. Imagine breathing in slowly through your nose to smell a birthday cake and exhaling slowly through your mouth to blow out the candle. Focus on your breathing, try to keep your mind from wandering to all the bullshit and just be in the present moment.
  7. Stay away from emotional vampires. You need all your energy when you’re going through the depression. You don’t have any to spare so stay away from anyone who will drain what little you have left. Instead, try to surround yourself with people who can help you refuel your energy.
  8. Don’t envy others. Everyone is, has or will go through their stuff. You’re just going through yours. Even if someone looks happy, well put together or whatever, they still have things they are dealing with that you might not know about. The grass is not always, or even usually greener on the other side.
  9. If you can find the energy, go for a walk. Exercise, fresh air and sunlight are great for depression. Even small steps help.
  10. Learn to let go. A lot of times depression is about the past. Past guilt. Past disappointments. Past hurts. Learn to let go and you will reclaim so much of the strength and energy you are given up. As the saying goes, let go or be dragged.

There are so many great tips out there on dealing with depression. Hopefully this will get you started, but definitely find tips that work for you and know that you can come out of depression a stronger person.

Studying A Pedophile: Part I

Studying A Pedophile: Part I

When it comes to avoiding certain types of people, even in jail, child abusers, child molesters and pedophiles usually make the top of the list.

At my job I deal with these individuals everyday. There is no way around it and on top of that I have to try to remain unbiased and nonjudgmental which isn’t always easy. I have a three year old son so sitting across from someone accused of killing a toddler and showing unconditional positive regard has at times been one of my greatest challenges.

As a mental health professional, I had to learn how to separate my personal feelings from my professional job and one way I’ve learned to do that is by intellectualizing the situation. That allows me to look at the situation in a rational, interesting, matter of fact way and remove all personal emotion.

That’s what I did today when I sat across from yet another pedophile. It was towards the end of the day and I really did not feel like doing the assessment, but it had to be done so I asked myself, what made this man sexually attracted to children?

Interviewing A Pedophile

This individual was one of the more forthcoming and open pedophiles I have ever talked to. He wasn’t denying his issues or charges, nor did he seem to minimize his actions like most. For the most part, he seemed to take responsibility for what he had done.

Most pedophiles I talk to either deny everything despite the insurmountable evidence proving their guilt. Or, they blame the victim for seducing them, like one married man I spoke with who blamed a 10 year old for causing him to leave his family and run off to another state with her where they were caught in a hotel room.

Talking to this particular man reminded me of the first time I met someone with schizophrenia who was insightful enough to tell me about her hallucinations and how she was able to distinguish what was real and what was not. It was an eye opening experience, better than any book on abnormal psychology I had ever read and it helped me work more efficiently with other clients suffering from psychosis.

What Is A Pedophile?

When most people think of a pedophile they envision a creepy old man or some other odd person. However, from shows like To Catch  Predator, we know that most pedophiles are regular neighbors, friends, religious members, family members or even teachers like the individual I spoke with today.herbert-the-pervert-family-guy

In the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), pedophilia is defined as intense, recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child and that occur over a period of at least six months.

In most situations, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child.

It doesn’t have to be acted on to be considered pedophilia and generally it causes the person a lot of distress or interpersonal difficulties.

This man says he took a fondness to the young girl he ended up abusing because she came from a troubled background and he wanted to help her.

He says that he became emotionally attached to her and then sexually attracted. While that may be true, I believe he had a sexual attraction to her to begin with.

He went on to have sexual contact with her several times over the course of a school year before he was caught. He would keep the girl after class, after school and even give her rides home.

Her parents (an abusive, yet inattentive father and schizophrenic, disabled mother) weren’t the ones who caught on, but an observant teacher who had her suspicions and once she approached the young girl with her concerns, the girl was able to give numerous details of their sexual activities together including times and locations as well as details of his naked physical appearance.

He was arrested, yet plead guilty to lesser charges and served only a couple of years in prison before being let out on probation as a sexual predator.

Categories of Pedophiles

 While most people think of pedophiles as adults attracted to prepubescent children, there are also adults who are attracted to children who are right on the cusp of puberty and adults who prefer children who have already gone through puberty.

Hebephilia describes adults attracted to pubescent 11 to 14 year old children and while not considered pathological, ephebophilia describes adults attracted primarily to individuals aged 15 to 19.

Some pedophiles are called exclusive pedophiles because they are only attracted to children while non-exclusive pedophiles are attracted to both adults and children.

It’s hard to get an accurate number of how many pedophiles are exclusive pedophiles because most of the research comes from pedophiles who have been arrested and they tend to over-exaggerate their attraction to adults in order to appear more “normal”.

Most male pedophiles are homosexual or bisexual when it comes to their attraction to children.

The guy I saw today is married and has adult children.  He has an attraction and compulsion for young girls under the age of 13.

How Do They Gain Access To Children?

Pedophiles will go through great lengths to gain access to children. They will volunteer at churches to lead youth groups or offer to coach youth sports.

Ninety percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know. That  includes a large percentage of family members, caregivers, family friends, neighbors, clergy, coaches and teachers.

This man was an Exceptional Education teacher who worked with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children. I can’t help but to think, at least on some unconscious level, that he choose both his profession and specialty in order to gain excess to vulnerable children.

The other 10% of abused children are usually preyed upon through sex trafficking and the internet. This is how he got his second offense.

After being arrested once for inappropriate sexual contact with a child, he violated his probation by being caught soliciting a child for sexual contact online.

While he claims he knew better and wanted to put his life back together after his first arrest, he admitted that his compulsion to have sex with little girls caused him to act upon them.

This compulsion or urge is what drives pedophiles. Many of them, like this man, will attempt to live normal lives and fight their sexual attraction to children. Some may be successful at this and never break a law or offend. They will keep these urges and fantasies a secret and suffer in silence for as long as they can.

Most of them will isolate themselves out of fear of the stigma and consequences of being sexually attracted to children and will not seek professional help out of shame and fear.

But can pedophiles be helped? We’ll talk about this in part II.