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POPULAR ARTICLES

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

When You Have Been Betrayed

Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Feedback, Self-Efficacy and the Development of Motor skills

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Performance Enhancement in the Martial Arts: A Review

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?





RECENT ARTICLES

5 Common Microaggressions Against Those With Mental Illness

What to Expect from Mindfulness-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) When You Have Depression and Anxiety

Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Lack Compassion? It Depends Upon the Therapist

When Needs Come Into Conflict

When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy



NEW AUDIOS

Mindfulness Training

Riding a Horse Across the Plains

Cityscape Mindfulness

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

The Great Desert Mindfulness

Tropical Garden Mindfulness

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Probability and OCD

Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

Day of Fishing Mindfulness

Audio Version of Article: Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

Now on kindle! Tap to purchase Dr. Frank's articles from Amazon for $2.99. Text-to-speech enabled.

PsychNotes

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist
Index

Previous

March 27, 2015

Six Characteristics that Distinguish a Healthy Anger from Hate

Many people are confused by anger believing it is a negative and destructive emotion. However, emotions are just information. It is the behavior that follows emotion that can cause harm. I propose that hate is not an emotion, but a behavior that can be clearly distinguished from anger.

1) Anger empowers. Hate seeks power.
Recognizing and attending to anger can empower us to address grievances. We can assertively take a stand against an unfair situation or injustice. Hate, however, doesn't want resolution but to have power over others—to weaken them with contempt and disdain so as to assert dominance.

2) Anger can be constructive. Hate is destructive.
When people are angry about a social injustice or about mistreatment, they often use their anger to address and bring attention to the problem. Hate only wants to destroy. It doesn't focus on alternative solutions but only on the destruction, emotionally or physically, of the object of hate.

3) Anger is momentary. Hate is a dwelling place.
Feeling angry is an emotion. As with all emotions, it lasts only a short time. The purpose of anger is to draw our attention to a problem that needs to be solved. Hate dwells on the emotion to keep it present, not for the purpose of solving a problem, but only for the purpose of feeling the hate.

4) Anger seeks change. Hate seeks revenge.
Even when people are very angry, their focus is on wanting something to change. Once change has occurred, the anger dissipates. Hate, though, doesn't care about change. Instead, it seeks to hurt in return. It wants others to feel pain and despair, and is not satisfied unless that occurs.

5) Anger is a response to hurt. Hate is a response to threat.
People feel angry when they are hurt. Anger is a reaction to an event. Hate is about the future. It is the fear of threat of injury to the self. It seeks to eliminate that threat by destroying the object of perceived peril.

6) Anger can be healthy. Hate is a hazard to mental and physical health.
Since anger allows us to recognize problems and problem-solve, it helps to improve health by responding in a proactive way to threats to our health. Hate becomes an ongoing stressor to the body which increases the unhealthy stress reaction which takes a toll on physical health.



March 16, 2015

Advice in Context or Why Diagnosis is Important

Frequently people hear general advice from psychologists and then, because it doesn't fit with their perspective, believe that it is all garbage.

However, advice needs to be taken in context. All advice doesn't apply to all people which is why diagnosis of the problem is necessary.

For instance, let's take the concept of guilt. Often, as psychologists, we tell people that guilt is a self-destructive emotion. However, such advice is in the context of a neurotic who is feeling guilty for normal, everyday behavior. For example, someone who feels guilty saying “no” to helping on a project when they don't have time and then worries about it.

However, in the case of someone who has committed crimes or offenses, guilt is a necessary and constructive emotion. When you do something wrong, guilt helps you to recognize it and to make amends.

The same is true with regret about mistakes. In a certain context it may be destructive and irrational whereas in another it can help address a problem.



March 15, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: Another Passive-Aggressive Mother and Planning a Wedding

Question: I am having a very hard time planning my wedding because my mom and I want very different things. I believe in simplicity. Having a small intimate wedding (and a healthy marriage) is important to me, not a huge, traditional wedding. She wants to make decisions for me and demonstrates extreme passive-aggressiveness when I tell her my beliefs and what I want. She nicely says I can do whatever I want but then doesn't get excited about the things I decide on. It's hard because I want her to be excited but I also want to have the wedding I want. Yesterday we went dress shopping and before I could even say "yes" or "no" to the dress, she did. I ended up buying a dress that she liked. She told me the one I liked wasn't as slimming and the dress she liked made me look beautiful. She also ran into another bride in the store who was having a traditional wedding at a well known expensive venue in the area where she had wanted my wedding but I said "no" to because of the cost, stuffy atmosphere etc. When the girl asked where I was having it, my mom looked embarrassed to tell her my venue was at a bowling alley. It hurts. When I confront my mom she says I'm too sensitive and that I should just do everything on my own if I don't want her help. I want to note my mother is a beyond amazing person--would do anything for me. It's just that she is a very passive-aggressive person and plays dumb when confronted. Her image and appearance is very important to her and always has been. I feel like she thinks my decisions reflect on her image.

TAP HERE FOR RESPONSE



March 14, 2015

How Does Cognitive Therapy Help Depression?

Although it has been known for some time that cognitive therapy helps to reduce depressive symptoms, the specific role of cognitive therapy in symptom reduction required further evaluation. Recent research (Adler, Strunk and Fazio, 2015) clarifies this role showing that cognitive therapy increases coping skills to the degree that those with depression are no different in coping ability from those without depression. Although after cognitive therapy those with depression tend to still have more negative beliefs than those without depression, such maladaptive beliefs are less than prior to treatment.

Increased coping skills makes sense regarding symptom reduction because those with depression frequently engage in fewer self-care activities. This tends to cause a depressive cycle: feeling bad causes you to not take care of yourself which increases negative feelings causing less ability to take care of the yourself. Increasing coping skills reverses this cycle.

Adler, A.D., Strunk, D.R. and Fazio, R.H. (2015). What Changes in Cognitive Therapy for Depression? An Examination of Cognitive Therapy Skills and Maladaptive Beliefs. Behavior Therapy, 46, 96-109. DOI: 10.1016/j.beth.2014.09.001



March 12, 2015

Why Do You Use Social Media?

The primary motivators for using social media is to either connect socially with others or to feel more important. Those who focus more on how many friends they have or showing how exciting a life they lead by posting a lot of photos are more likely to have a power motive whereas those who spend more time on social media tend to have an affiliation motive (Heser, et al., 2015).

The problem arises when a person needs the external validation and does not receive it. For instance, those who are on Facebook for social connection may be vulnerable to negative moods if the interactions are negative. Likewise, those who need validation but don't receive encouragement or recognition may feel worse about themselves.

The message is to not rely on social media to meet your needs but use it as one method among many to increase social interaction and feelings of self-worth. If it doesn't feel good, don't do it.

Heser, K., Banse, R., and Imhoff, R. (2015). Affiliation or Power: What Motivates Behavior on Social Networking Sites? Swiss Journal of Psychology, 74, 37-47. DOI: 10/1024/1421-0185/100014



March 5, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: The Passive-Aggressive "Nice" Mother

Question: I'm an adult child living at home. My mother makes me so angry but she is always so nice about it. She'll tell me, "Honey, we're trying to treat you like an adult, but you're not thinking this through and making good decisions." Anything I try to do she finds fault with but she does it in a nice way, "Are you sure that is what you want to do?" I don't choose the right career. I can't eat right. I can't spend my time in the right way. Why can't I just make mistakes and learn from them? It's my life! If I get angry, she's just clueless and claims, "I'm just trying to help you become independent."

TAP HERE FOR RESPONSE



March 3, 2015

Do You Seek Reassurance of Love? That Might Be Okay...Unless...

Seeking reassurance that you are loved can be as simple as asking your partner “Do you love me?” or “Why do you love me?” Or, it can involve looking for signs of rejection and questioning the partner about these behaviors: “If you love me, why....?” Or, it can be demanding that your partner show love in particular ways.

Research has found that those who excessively seek reassurance from their partner are more likely to experience depression. The theory is that because of feelings of low self-worth they engage in a reassurance-seeking cycle: they seek reassurance of worth from their partner which the partner initially provides and is experienced as rewarding by the individual causing them to seek reassurance again and again. Overtime, the excessive reassurance seeking can become frustrating for the partner leading to rejecting behaviors which then increases the depression.

Interestingly, though, researchers Evraire and Dozois (2014) showed that insecure forms and secure forms of reassurance-seeking may exist. In other words, just because you ask “Do you love me?” doesn't mean that you are insecure and likely to have depression. Some people seek reassurance while feeling good about themselves and the relationship—such reassurance-seeking tends to reinforce these good feelings.

The problem appears to be when reassurance-seeking is for the purpose of feeling better about yourself. Doing that is usually related to insecurity and fear of abandonment. These underlying core beliefs appear to determine whether depression is present and if the reassurance-seeking cycle will occur leading to increased depression.

Evraire, LE. and Dozois, D.J.A. (2014). If It Be Love Indeed Tell Me How Much: Early Core Beliefs Associated With Excessive Reassurance Seeking in Depression. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 46, 1–8. DOI: 10.1037/a0033486



March 2, 2015

The Pursuit of Happiness or the Pursuit of Money?

Every day, thousands of advertisements tell us that people are happy, worthwhile, and successful to the extent that they have money, possessions, and the right image. Yet numerous philosophic and religious perspectives across both time and culture have suggested that focusing one’s life around the acquisition of money, possessions, and status saps one’s spirit and undermines one’s quality of life (Dittmar, Bond, and Hurst, 2014).”

Analyzing over 250 studies, Dittmar and colleagues show fairly conclusively that pursuing materialistic desires is associated with reduced overall well-being in a number of ways:

case of money 1) Compulsive spending. Perhaps the most obvious, people who are materialistic engage in compulsive spending defined as an obsessive focus on unnecessary purchases believed to make them happier. However, since possessions are not associated with happiness, they continue to buy more and more in their pursuit of happiness.

2) Risky behaviors. Those who are materialistic tend to engage in other compulsive behaviors that are a risk to physical health such as smoking or drinking. This may be consistent with looking for something outside of themselves to make them feel good.

3) Negative self-appraisal. Materialism is associated with increased insecurity and lower self-worth. Instead of valuing the self, they believe possessions, money, or status give them value.

4) Negative emotions. Those with a materialistic focus tend to have more negative emotions and fewer positive emotions. Although the materialistic pursuit is often for the purpose of increasing positive emotions, it does not have that effect.

5) Poor physical health. Individuals who are materialistic have poorer physical health most likely due to the focus upon external methods to make them happy rather than focusing on themselves.

6) Depression and anxiety. A higher incidence of depression and anxiety is found in those who are materialistic.

7) Lower life satisfaction. Overall, those who are materialistic are less satisfied with their lives.

These findings are consistent across gender, age, race, culture, and socio-economic status. Thus, research clearly shows that the pursuit of money, possessions, and status does not make people happy.

How can you increase happiness and satisfaction in life? Read my article “The Secret of Happiness: Let it Find You (But Make the Effort)” for more information.

Dittmar, H., Bond, R. and Hurst, M. (2014).The Relationship Between Materialism and Personal Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107, 879–924. DOI: 10.1037/a0037409



March 1, 2015

Forgiveness Can Impact Heart Health More Than Traditional Medical Treatments

Examining how forgiveness in marital relationships affects heart health, researchers Fincham and colleagues (2015) showed that forgiveness has a greater influence than blood pressure medications and aspirin.

Obviously, forgiveness is not meant as a substitute for medications, but this research indicates that cultivating an attitude of forgiveness can be an important adjunct. If forgiveness is already in your nature, developing a more forgiving attitude may not have much impact, but if you have trouble forgiving, it may help your cardiovascular functioning.

One way to develop a forgiving attitude is the Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Fincham, F.D., May, R.W. and Sanchez-Gonzalez, M.A. (2015). Forgiveness and Cardiovascular Functioning in Married Couples. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 4, 39 – 48 DOI: 10.1037/cfp0000038



February 28, 2015

Can Being Shy Affect Your Well-being and Relationship? Yes, but It Depends...

Generally, research has repeatedly shown that people who are shy often experience lower well-being and insecurity in relationships. Yet, for those who have secure attachment, shyness doesn't affect the quality of their relationship or overall happiness in life (Rowsell and Coplan, 2013).

shy cat What does this mean?

In my opinion, the researchers are mixing social anxiety and the personality trait of being introverted. I think this is a common bias in research about shyness which confuses the results.

Although being introverted may often be associated with social anxiety and shyness, it is not the same concept. Being introverted is a preference for being alone vs. being with people. Many people who are introverted are socially adept and can even enjoy being social, but their preference is to be alone or just with small groups or other individuals.

The concept of the use of personal energy seems to describe the difference between extroverts and introverts quite well: extroverts gain energy from social contact whereas introverts use energy when with others. Conversely, extroverts lose energy when alone and need to be with others to “recharge” whereas introverts need to be alone to “recharge.”

If you notice, this description of introverts/extroverts has nothing to do with being socially anxious or shy. In fact, there is no value judgment of which one is better—they are just different styles.

Thus, I think this research is really about the difference between those who are securely attached in relationships and those who are not. In other words, insecure attachment affects overall well-being and the quality of the relationship.

To assess whether you are securely attached, you can take the questionnaire Measure of Attachment Qualities.

Rowsell, H.C. and Coplan, R.J. (2013). Exploring Links Between Shyness, Romantic Relationship Quality, and Well-Being. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 45 287–295. DOI: 10.1037/a0029853



February 26, 2015

10 Everyday Frustrations and a Mindful Attitude

Frustration often is not only unnecessary but also may interfere with successful resolution of problems. If nothing else, a mindful attitude is healthier for you than feeling agitated.

1) Being late.
When you are running late for a meeting or work, will you get there any faster if you are frustrated or feeling hurried? Choose your focus. You will get there just as quickly with a mindful attitude.

2) Unexpected inconveniences.
When unexpected inconveniences such as a flat tire occur, does anger or agitation help manage the problem? A mindful focus gets the job done sometimes even more quickly because you aren't being distracted by your frustration.

3) Someone makes a request of you.
Sometimes people are frustrated by requests that distract from their present purpose. Let's say you are practicing your mindfulness and your spouse asks you to find something. What an irony if you get frustrated, right? Instead, choose to continue to practice mindfulness while helping your spouse.

4) Difference of opinion.
A difference of opinion doesn't have to cause frustration or anger. Choose to listen mindfully when someone doesn't agree with you.

5) Rudeness by strangers.
When strangers are rude such as when you are cut off in traffic or someone gets service before you, frustration only hurts you and is not likely to solve the problem. Maintain your mindful focus: “I'm not going to let minor irritations take my mindfulness away.”

6) Stopped in traffic.
When you are stopped in traffic you are not going anywhere no matter how frustrated you become. Why not take it as an opportunity to practice your mindful attitude?

7) Paperwork.
A common frustration is the avalanche of seemingly mindless paperwork in modern day society. However, you can make a mindless activity mindful by choosing your focus. Instead of feeling agitated just refocus back to the process of completing the paperwork—step by mindful step.

8) Customer service.
We all experience the frustration of customer service when we have problems with our many “conveniences” in life (phones, TV, appliances, etc.). The often interesting outcome of focusing mindfully with customer service is you may find the customer service rep's attitude becomes more mindful as well. We influence others with mindfulness just as we influence others with frustration!

9) Weather.
People often become frustrated when the weather isn't what they want it to be. It is raining when they want to go to the park or it doesn't snow when they want to go skiing. When it comes to the weather, it is best to be mindfully flexible.

10) Electricity outage.
What better time to be mindful?

Notice that what most of these everyday frustrations have in common is they are uncontollable. When something can't be controlled, why not be mindful?



February 24, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: Trap of Demanding Private Thoughts

Question: I'm working on my issues with jealousy. I try not to share my jealous thoughts and feelings with my girlfriend, but what do I say when she asks "What's wrong?" If I answer "I'm trying to work through some things" she demands to know what it is about and then we end up in an argument about the jealousy. What should I do?

TAP HERE FOR RESPONSE



February 20, 2015

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Fiance Spends Valentine's Day with Son

EVENT: Valentine's Day fell on weekend fiance had son and he decided to celebrate on a different day.

EMOTIONS: rejected, hurt, angry

DISTRESS RATING: 8--High level of distress

THOUGHTS: “Valentine's is a special day and he could get a babysitter for his son this one time. Doesn't he even care about hurting my feelings? He is so inconsiderate! It is so unfair that he puts his son before me. I think I'm pretty understanding usually but this is Valentine's Day and he should spend it with me.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of rejection, hurt, and anger?

TAP HERE FOR ANSWER



February 16, 2015

Why You Need to Write to Challenge Thinking

When many people learn cognitive restructuring, the method in cognitive therapy used to challenge the inaccurate or irrational thoughts, they try to change their thinking by challenging the thoughts in their head. However, such an approach is not as effective as writing your thoughts, examining the inaccuracies, and writing a challenge to the irrational thoughts.

The primary reason that writing is more effective is that it gets you out of your head! Think of it this way. Whenever you engage in a behavior (and thinking is a behavior) you create automatic pathways in your brain. For example, when you learn to ride a bike, an automatic pathway is created—which is why you never forget how to ride a bike. It is very difficult to change an automatic pathway. In fact, we can't!

That doesn't mean you can't change your thinking, however. It just means that you need to create an automatic pathway that competes with the original pathway. However, when you try to do this by thinking about your thinking, the original pathway tends to assert itself and take over. Therefore, the best way around this is to start by developing a completely different pathway using a different sensory input (instead of thought, use the tactile modality of writing).

By writing your challenging thoughts, you are creating a different pathway in the brain that can then compete with the original pathway. Once you have established this pathway, then you should be able to use it without having to write. But at first you need to write even if you are repeating yourself—at least write the challenging thoughts.

By the way, using other sensory modalities could also work. For instance, saying the challenging thoughts out loud (unless you usually say the negative thoughts out loud). I suggest writing because most people do not write down their irrational thoughts as the primary method of reviewing them.

(Note to researchers out there: based on this principle, would it be best not to write down the irrational thoughts repeatedly—could they be inadvertently reinforced? I haven't seen this question researched.)



February 11, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: Passive-Aggressive Example: Handling a Backhanded Compliment

Question: How do you respond to the following statement? "Wow, for someone really well read, you watch the stupidest TV shows!"

TAP HERE FOR RESPONSE



February 8, 2015

New Article: 5 Common Microaggressions Against Those With Mental Illness

Those struggling with mental illness often report that others don't understand the problems they experience. In addition, others treat them differently in very subtle ways but that are clearly apparent to the individual with mental illness. Not only that, but when those with mental illness complain, they are ignored, their mental illness is blamed, or they are told they are imagining the problem due to excessive sensitivity.

Although overt discrimination such as occupational inequities has been opposed through legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), these types of microaggressions still plague those with mental illness. Microaggressions are subtle behaviors or reactions that diminish the recipient in some way.

The problem with microaggressions, similar to indirect passive-aggressive behavior, is the behavior is often so subtle that the perpetrator can easily deny the intention or even blame the recipient. Sometimes the perpetrator may even be unaware of their underlying attitudes that are being expressed in this subtle manner. However, the recipient is very much aware of the difference in how they are treated.

Through interviewing individuals with mental illness, researchers Gonzales and colleagues (2014) found five themes of microaggressions against those with mental illness:

1) Invalidation. Minimizing, symptomizing, and patronizing.

2) Assumption of inferiority. Intellectual, incompetence, and not having control.

3) Fear of mental illness.

4) Shaming of mental illness.

5) Second class citizen attitudes.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE



February 6, 2015

What is the Difference Between Mindful Acceptance and Emotional Suppression?

Although both mindful acceptance and emotional suppression reduce the intensity of emotions, some critical differences can influence your overall mental well-being.

1) Feeling vs. Not Feeling

Mindful acceptance involves experiencing the emotions for what they are whereas emotional suppression tries to ignore or eliminate feeling the unpleasant emotions. However, emotions provide information that help us manage our lives. When we ignore the emotions, we lose this important information. For instance, someone becoming involved in a new relationship ignores the emotional “red flags” indicating potential problems and continues in a bad relationship wondering why they always seem to pick the wrong person.

2) Reduced reactivity vs. Increased Distress

Often confusing to those inexperienced with mindfulness and emotions is the idea that mindful acceptance of emotions actually leads to reduced intensity and reaction to emotions overall whereas emotional suppression can lead to increased distress, anxiety, and depression. It seems intuitive to people that since emotions can be so unpleasant, not feeling negative emotions should lead to increased contentment. But the opposite is true. The mindful experience of emotions leads to decreased reaction to emotions and greater mental well-being (Teper, R. and Inzlicht, M., 2014).

3) Long-term Results vs. Rebound Effect

People suppress emotions because they don't want to feel the discomfort. Yet, what occurs is more discomfort over time because of the rebound effect of the suppressed emotions. The rebound effect means that when emotions are not addressed they will be experienced more intensely or over a longer period of time. For example, a woman who is angry about her partner going out with friends too much but suppresses the anger rather than stating the problem and addressing it is more likely to be distressed not only about this situation but every situation that reminds her of it. As a result, she experiences the emotional reaction over and over, perhaps becoming angrier each time. Not wanting to deal with the discomfort of the potential conflict causes her ongoing distress and unpleasantness.

To sum it up, learning to develop a mindful acceptance of emotions can lead to a long-term reduction in the intensity of emotions. The Understanding Mindfulness series of audios (with transcripts) free to download can provide more information about developing mindful acceptance.

Teper, R. and Inzlicht, M. (2014). Mindful Acceptance Dampens Neuroaffective Reactions to External and Rewarding Performance Feedback. Emotion, 14, 105-114. DOI: 10.1037/a0034296



February 2, 2015

Love Enhances Men's Ability to Recognize Emotion

A common complaint women have about men is that they seem unaware of others' emotions. Women tend to spend a great deal of time thinking about how others' feel and how they might react. Many women are disappointed that men don't consider others' feelings in the same way.

Interesting, researchers Wlodarski and Dunbar (2014) found that when men were shown pictures of their loved one and to recall early memories of the relationship, they were more capable of discerning a variety of emotions, but particularly negative emotions, of other people. Why might this be? The researchers speculate that men who are in love think more about the emotions of their partner than they normally reflect upon emotions. Thinking about their partner triggers the part of the brain focused on identifying emotions which made them more accurate on an emotion recognition task.

Wlodarski, R. and Dunbar, R.I.M. (2014). The Effects of Romantic Love on Mentalizing Abilities. Review of General Psychology, 18, 313–321. DOI:10.1037/gpr0000020



January 27, 2015

Do You Trust Your Partner's Expression of Acceptance?

Some people negate their partner's support and positive expressions of regard and acceptance. When they have a negative self-image, they believe their partner is only saying nice things to not cause distress but that the partner doesn't really mean it. A series of studies by researchers Lemay and Clark (2008) shows how people who desperately want to be loved may create a perpetual cycle of feeling rejected instead.

The researchers described how people, in general, believe that others will praise and show approval towards those who are insecure because they don't want to upset them. Due to this belief, when people share their vulnerabilities with a romantic partner or close friend, they are suspicious of the other's positive response because they think it is due to being cautious and not wanting to hurt them. These doubts about the genuineness of the other's positive regard causes the individual to be more negative and more insecure about the relationship.

Thus, there is no way out of this cycle. At least not as long as the person continues to believe the original premise that if a person expresses vulnerabilities, others will say nice things to not cause distress. As a result, no matter how positive the partner is, the individual believes the partner truly has an unexpressed negative opinion of them.

How can this cycle be stopped? Accept compliments. Period. If we have the potential to be wrong, it is better to be wrong in a positive direction. Don't try to evaluate what you think someone else really means. Accept what they say has genuine. Even if someone is saying nice things because they don't want to hurt you, isn't that a good thing? At least the person cares enough to not want to cause you pain.

Lemay, E.P. and Clark, M.S. (2008). “Walking on Eggshells”: How Expressing Relationship Insecurities Perpetuates Them. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 420–441. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.2.420





Excellence vs Perfection Some people may be curious as to why this website is dedicated to the "pursuit of excellence" when I am constantly warning about the dangers of perfectionism.  To address this question we must differentiate between the pursuit of excellence and the need to be perfect.  These concepts are not only different but can be considered antagonistic to one another. In fact these concepts are so opposed to one another that  excellence can best be attained by giving up the demands of perfection.

What is Perfectionism?  Perfectionism is the individual's belief that he or she must be perfect to be acceptable. Perfectionism is black and white with no gray area. Anything other than perfect is failure. Perfectionism is an attitude, not necessarily a behavior. In other words, two people can engage in the same behavior such as trying to win an Olympic gold medal but one can be pursuing excellence and the other is demanding perfection. The difference lies in the thought process about the goal or behavior, not in the goal or behavior itself.  READ MORE...



Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience? Listening to the weather forecast one frigid day, I realized how much we are influenced by the catastrophic thinking of the media.  The weatherman reported, "The weather has brought more misery to the St. Louis area."  Certainly, the weather was causing problems that day.  An ice storm caused car doors and locks to be frozen so that people had a great deal of trouble getting into their cars.  However, I thought, unless someone was in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone and they were unable to open their car door because of the ice, this was not "misery."  Instead, I would call it an "inconvenience."  Most of us walked out to our cars to find that we couldn't open the door, went back inside a warm house or office, and found some solution to our problem.  READ MORE...



Happiness is an Attitude For many years when my husband and I were first together I would ask him "When are things going to get better?"  We were dealing with the usual stressors that couples face: not enough time, not enough money, and the inevitable random events such as family conflict, deaths of loved ones, illnesses and injuries.  In addition, for most of our early years together I was in school and struggling with the balancing of demands of advanced education, part-time work, and a family.  But I had the belief that we were working towards this perfect life that one day would emerge shining a rainbow of happiness forever over us. My husband, inclined more toward the practical, just answered my question of "When are things going to get better?," with "Another six months."  That answer typically pacified me for awhile because I thought I could handle any amount of stress for six months.  However, a point would occur when I once again I asked my husband "When are things going to get better?"  Once again, he would answer "Another six months."  This scenario occurred fairly routinely for many years.

However, fortunately during this time I had experiences that began to teach me about my expectations of life.  In particular, when I was completing my internship at the Veterans Administration Medical Center I had the opportunity to work on the spinal cord injury unit.  That experience forever changed my thinking.  In particular, I was struck by the differences in attitude among the patients.  READ MORE...



Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight"I don't have any willpower."

"I'm weak."

"I'm lazy."

"I can't do it."

Do these statements sound familiar? Too often, our self-statements about weight management interfere with our efforts and lead to failure. By changing how we think about developing a healthy weight we are able to change the behaviors that can lead to success.

Not long ago I conducted a little experiment with my cardio-kickboxing class. After an intense class I told them to get the heaviest weights they could curl 8-10 times. I spent a minute telling them to focus on feeling tired, that they had just worked out hard and they couldn't do anymore. Then, they were to curl the weights to exhaustion. Once they finished, I spent another minute telling them to focus on having energy, feeling good, feeling refreshed, and knowing they could do more. Once again, they lifted the weights to exhaustion. The results were that out of nine people, only one did fewer lifts the second time! And typically, when someone lifts weights to exhaustion they should not be able to lift as much the second time when it is only a minute later. Although this was not a controlled scientific experiment, it was a demonstration to my class to show how powerful our thinking can be. What this exercise showed was how positive thinking overcame the natural exhaustion of the body and created a self-fulfilling prophecy of lifting more weight because the participants believed that they could. READ MORE...