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Sport Psych


Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

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

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

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

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

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

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

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

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?


Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

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

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Meadow Relaxation

Rainy Autumn Morning

Energizing Audios

Quick Stress Relief

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Lotus Flower Relaxation

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

Kindle Books by Dr. Monica Frank


Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

The Porcupine Effect: Pushing Others Away When You Want to Connect

What if You Considered Other Peoples' Views?

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

What to Do 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?


Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

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

All Audio Articles


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

March 19, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #8: “I can let go of demands to not feel anxious.”

Coping statement #8: “I can let go of demands to not feel anxious.”

Demanding to not feel anxious creates anxiety. The more you tell yourself “I don't want to feel anxious” or “I should calm down” or “I can't stand this anxiety!” the more the anxiety is likely to increase. These are demands and anxiety doesn't respond well to demands.

Think of how you feel generally to a demand from others. If someone tells you that you “should” do something, doesn't that increase tension in your body? Most people don't like to be given demands and feel uncertain, reluctant, frustrated, or irritated, all of which cause increased tension.

And what is tension at the basic level? It is an arousal of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which is the same system of the body that plays a major role in the experience of anxiety. So when you place demands on yourself to get in control of the anxiety, you are arousing the same system of your body that is giving you trouble. Read more...

March 12, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #7: “Anxiety needs compassion but not coddling”

Coping statement #7: “Anxiety needs compassion but not coddling”

Natural instinct is to protect your loved ones. However, many people confuse momentary protection with long-term protection which, however, may require different actions. Momentary relief usually causes increased problems in the long run.

Too often parents and spouses of those with anxiety are overprotective and indulgent. I've known entire families who centered their lives around the individual with an anxiety disorder. Sometimes that might be driving them places because they are fearful of having a panic attack while driving while other times it might be showering before coming into the house due to an obsessive fear of germs.

The reason for this is frequently due to having compassion and wanting to help the person with the anxiety disorder. Due to their feelings of helplessness, though, the tendency is to do anything to make their loved one feel better, even if it is temporary. Unfortunately, temporary solutions can sometimes be worse than not doing anything. Coddling fears can increase anxiety. Read more...

March 6, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #6: “Judgments from others aren't reality.”

Coping statement #6: “Judgments from others aren't reality.”

Some people with anxiety disorders have increased anxiety because they are fearful of having anxiety or panic in public. This is an aspect of social anxiety combined with the primary anxiety disorder such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. They are afraid of what others might think. This additional fear adds to the anxiety they already experience, thus making it more difficult to manage.

If you have this type of anxiety, it is important to keep in mind that if other people notice your anxiety most likely they will equate it with normal anxiety that most people experience at times. They are likely to attribute your anxiety to the circumstances and not to a negative critique of you. As a result, they are more likely to identify with you and reassure you: “Oh, yeah, I get anxious when...”

Unfortunately, the other side of this tendency for others to believe that an anxiety disorder is the same thing as normal anxiety is that some may also tend to think that those who have an anxiety disorder are just weak and can't handle normal anxiety. Read more...

March 5, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #5: “Emotions aren't always accurate. Examine the evidence.”

Coping statement #5: “Emotions aren't always accurate. Examine the evidence.”

The foundation of anxiety for many people is the emotion of fear. Whether it is fear of the anxiety itself or fear of harm coming to them or others, fear drives the anxiety. For some people with anxiety disorders the over-riding emotion might be guilt—feelings of responsibility for events over which they have no control.

Yet, too often people accept emotions as absolute truth. In cognitive therapy, this is referred to as “emotional reasoning.” Our emotions are important messengers but they need to be evaluated for accuracy. Sometimes we feel something because we want it to be true. Other times we feel something because it triggers a memory from the past. For instance, “I'm afraid of driving because I'm afraid I will have a panic attack like I did before.”

Have you ever tried to discuss something with someone who declares “Well, that's how I feel” as if the feeling is evidence itself and makes their opinion valid? Isn't it frustrating because no matter what evidence you have, their feeling trumps all? It shuts down the discussion. Read more...

February 28, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #4: “When anxiety is emotional, listen to it.”

Coping statement #4: “When anxiety is emotional, listen to it.”

Anxiety sometimes is a message. Many people who have problems with anxiety are so caught up in their fears of it they don't truly receive the message of the anxiety. As a result they are unable to resolve the problem the anxiety is trying to illustrate.

For instance, I had a client who had a fear of driving long distances, or even riding with someone, due to having panic attacks while traveling on a highway. When we explored this I found that it started when she went to visit her family who lived a couple hours away. Although she didn't want to acknowledge it, she had a tumultuous relationship with her mother who tended to be very critical. Due to the panic attacks she was unable to visit her family. The panic attack was an emotional signal that she didn't want to visit her family and for her to resolve the panic she needed to accept that was okay.

Distinguishing whether anxiety is physical or emotional and the message it is trying to convey can help resolve the anxiety. Some common messages: Read more...

February 26, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #3: “Anxiety isn't always an emotion.”

Coping statement #3: “Anxiety isn't always an emotion.”

Anxiety is body arousal which can be due to any number of triggers. For many people with anxiety, they become confused about the anxiety when it doesn't manifest in its usual way. Frequently I've had clients I treated for anxiety who were managing their anxiety well but had a sudden flare-up they didn't understand and which caused additional distress: “I don't really feel anxious about anything, why am I having these symptoms?”

When I explore with them recent changes or possible triggers, we often discover there are other reasons for the symptoms. The reason there are many triggers for anxiety symptoms is because the symptoms are due to the arousal of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is a natural system of the body when the body feels threatened or in danger--it prepares us to react to the threat. To understand this further, read: A Brief Primer on the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help.

Many times when my clients have anxiety symptoms they don't understand they become even more anxious due to the concern about why the symptoms are suddenly occurring. Sometimes just knowing the reason for the symptoms can be reassuring. By understanding your body you can tolerate the symptoms better and/or decrease the symptoms. Some of the possible triggers: Read more...

February 24, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #2: “Worries are not reality.”

Coping statement #2: “Worries are not reality.”

Some people spend a considerable amount of time focused on “what if” types of worries. “What ifs” are different from worries about an actual event. “What ifs” refer to the constant reviewing in your head of possible negative events or outcomes. These thoughts aren't evaluated for probability or importance or solutions, but only serve to maintain a heightened state of anxiety.

A coping statement such as “worries are not reality” can be useful if your worries meet the following conditions:

1) Unlikely. What is the actual probability? Something “could” happen is true for a 10% chance or for a 90% chance but one is a more realistic concern. Worrying about someone breaking into your home and harming your family when you live in a safe neighborhood and have taken proper precautions is a waste of energy because it is unlikely. Read more...

February 23, 2018

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Coping statement #1: “Anxiety is a natural process and won't hurt me.”

Coping statement #1: “Anxiety is a natural process and won't hurt me.”

For those with anxiety disorders, Panic Disorder especially, the anxiety symptoms feel so out-of-control it seems that something must be terribly wrong. As a result, they become fearful of the anxiety symptoms thinking they might be having a heart attack or some other physical ailment, will faint and hurt themselves, or will lose control in some way. The obsessive focus on even minute expression of symptoms due to these beliefs cause increased anxiety and even panic.

Frequently, those with these beliefs are not very in tune with their physical self because such body awareness can trigger the fears. This fear of bodily sensations can cause them to reject useful management tools such as breathing methods or relaxation. Such tools rely on heightened awareness of the body which can be uncomfortable initially. Read more...

February 20, 2018

Passive-Aggressive Example: Brother Manipulating Mother to Hurt Sister

Now on Kindle! Dr. Frank's articles on handling passive-aggressive people. Tap to purchase on Amazon for $2.99

Question: I have a brother who has always been lagging in studies compared to me. My father (who, by the way, has severe aggressiveness and an inferiority complex) would constantly praise one of us while belittling the other--like mocking my height and mocking my brother for his academic performance. I would never bother about those comments but my brother took them seriously so has been indirectly jealous of me.

My mom has a soft spot for my brother because he would often cry and complain to her whenever he was being mocked. She has always been fond of me and very supportive until recently. But lately my brother is been making annoyingly passive-aggressive (PA) statements towards me in front of my mom.

For instance, we were having ice-cream with different flavors yesterday. I finished mine and my mom walks in and suddenly my brother offers a portion of his ice cream to me (I don't like that flavor). When I gently refuse he makes a sad face before my mom and says, "she is upset with me again." I reply that I am not upset with him but that I simply don't like the flavor. He keeps on repeating it until my mom urges me to accept a part of the ice cream to prove I am not really upset.

And this is one such example. He constantly tells my mother secretly that I am always angry with him and not talking with him enough. My mom tells me this in private and advises me to talk with him. When I try to comfort him he ignores me.

The only thing bothering me is that my mom is talking to me less and believes I am torturing my brother. So, please tell me how to deal with this as I feel personally betrayed with the lack of love from my parents as well as my brother.


January 30, 2018

Assertion 101: Remain Calm

Assertion 101: Remain Calm

I've noticed in my responses to readers asking about managing a passive-aggressive (PA) person, I often note, “And be sure to say this calmly.” When conflict occurs, often the person who can remain calm is the one in control of the situation. But remaining calm is easier said than done for many people especially when confronted by a PA or aggressive person.

Conflict situations when remaining calm can be helpful:

1) Someone has aggressed against you. When someone is taking an aggressive approach, they are seeking aggression or control. Therefore, the more calm you can remain, the more likely you are able to defuse the situation. My training in a psychiatric inpatient unit for paranoid and schizophrenic patients emphasized the importance of being calm when confronted by an aggressive patient.

My karate training also stressed the importance of remaining calm when confronted by an aggressive stranger. Karate taught me to take a stance that appeared to be non-aggressive: stay relaxed, put hands up casually facing outward, slightly back away, and talk calmly. The hope was that we could talk the other person down from aggression but we were also getting in a prepared stance to allow a quick reaction to a physical assault. Read more...

January 29, 2018

Personal Responsibility is Politically Incorrect?

My head nearly exploded when I read that a psychologist writing about “personal responsibility” was called “controversial” and “politically incorrect.”

“Politically incorrect?! Politically incorrect?!” I sputtered. “This is basic psychological science that has been demonstrated repeatedly for decades!”

What got my ire up? Media descriptions of Jordan Peterson, Ph.D. and his best-selling book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos portrayed his central premise of “personal responsibility” as “controversial.” Sure, the way he presents his ideas may be too Bible-based for some and too irreverent for others but the underlying concept of personal responsibility is politically incorrect?

His ideas are not new but are based on decades of psychological research. Now this research base showing the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other similar methods doesn't fit the politically correct narrative? Read more...

January 10, 2018

Staying Motivated with a New Exercise Program

stretching on a pier Many people start exercising this time of year because they know it is healthy for them and to get back into shape after the holiday indulgences. Unfortunately, many people don't continue after the first few weeks.

One way to stay motivated and return to your plan day after day is to increase your positive memories of the exercise according to researchers Zenko and colleagues (2016). How can you do this when starting exercise is often painful and unpleasant? And a basic principle of motivational theory is that we tend to do what is pleasant and avoid what is unpleasant? Read more...


December 18, 2017

Why Didn't S/he Do Something About It? Emotional Differences Between a Real Situation and an Imagined Situation

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse. Mary T. Lathrap Frequently, people question other people's decisions and behavior. “Why did she stay with an abusive husband?” or “Why did he lie and deceive?” or “Why didn't they make better financial decisions?” or “How could a parent abandon his or her family?”

We typically believe that in a similar situation we wouldn't make the same choices. As a result, we may be judgmental and critical of the decisions others' make. Yet, when faced with a similar situation, what we want to believe we would do and what we actually do can be very different.

It is often said that to truly understand someone else we need to walk a mile in their shoes (see the poem below from where this idiom may have been derived). Research shows us, though, that we can't just imagine what someone else experiences and decide what we would do in their situation. Imagining can lead us to the wrong conclusion. Read more...

December 11, 2017

Cognitive Diary Example: "My co-workers should respect me!"

Now on Kindle! Dr. Frank's articles on cognitive behavioral therapy: The Cognitive Diary Method to Changing Your Life. Tap to purchase on Amazon for $2.99

Event: Starting a new job and wanting to be shown respect.

Emotions: resentful, hostile, revengeful

Distress Rating: 9--Feeling Desperate

Thoughts: Every place I work it is always the same. I work hard and contribute more to the company I work for than anyone else. Yet, at every job I've had the other employees don't respond to my requests and then laugh at me behind my back. My bosses never recognize my accomplishments. They should show me respect because I have more talent than all of them put together. I will make their lives miserable until they show me the proper respect!

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 resentment, hostility, and vengefulness?

Tap Here For Answer

November 21, 2017

If I'm an Introvert, Does that Mean I Will be Less Happy and Healthy?

Study after study shows that socializing is healthy, that people who have social activities in their lives tend to be happier and have greater well-being (Sin and Lyubomirsky, 2009). What does this mean if you prefer quiet activities alone? Does it mean you are less healthy and more likely to be depressed?

Not necessarily.

To answer this question it is important to understand how research is done. The public often mistakenly believes that the outcome of scientific research applies to everyone. So if research indicates that those who socialize frequently are happier, then they believe that is true for all people. This is a common error because that is often how the media presents the results of research.

However, research examines group differences which means that it looks at the average across a group of people. Think of it this way. Just because the average IQ is 100, it doesn't mean that everyone has an IQ of 100. The same is true of other research. In the case of social activities and well-being, the average person may be happier and healthier having more friends and opportunities for socializing but that doesn't mean everyone is. Read more...

November 9, 2017

Passive-Aggressive Example: The Perfect Backhanded Compliment

Now on Kindle! Dr. Frank's articles on handling passive-aggressive people. Tap to purchase on Amazon for $2.99 Question:How can I respond to "I wish I could be like you and not care about the latest fashion trends."

Response: Although I've addressed backhanded compliments before, this one is particularly difficult. A backhanded compliment is an insult disguised as a compliment. Often, the "compliment" is delivered with a sarcastic tone and can be easily identified as an insult: "You're making a fashion statement today." Or, the word choice gives it away: "You're fashionably dressed for a change." In such cases, the insult can be ignored by focusing on the compliment. A simple "thank you" can prevent the PA person from obtaining satisfaction. Or, in some circumstances, the insult can be more directly addressed. See my response to Handling a Backhanded Compliment.

But the statement "I wish I could be like you and not care about the latest fashion trends" delivered with a tone of sincerity can be a perfect backhanded compliment. The reason that I consider it "perfect" is because unless it is a pattern of behavior it can be very difficult to determine whether it is a genuine compliment indicating that the person admires your nonconformity and individuality or if it is a backhanded compliment. In such a circumstance, simply saying "thank you" may be inadvertently agreeing with an insult. So, we need to have a better way when a statement is so ambiguous.


October 30, 2017

The Value of Each and Every Life and How Perfectionism Destroys that Value

Although I've written a great deal about the perils of perfectionism, the book “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World” by Iddo Landau highlights an interesting aspect of perfectionism I hadn't thought of before. That is, perfectionistic beliefs can lead to despair due to the supposition that life is meaningless if one hasn't accomplished great things.

Such a belief not only harms the individual who places such demands on him/herself but it can also damage those around him/her. For instance, perfectionistic parents often have high expectations for their children and may criticize or express subtle disapproval when those children don't achieve the parent's aspirations. Or, the perfectionist may regard others with disdain or contempt when those others don't live the life the perfectionist has deemed as valuable. Read more...

October 20, 2017

Passive-Aggressive Example: Caretaker of Passive-aggressive Mother

Now on Kindle! Dr. Frank's articles on handling passive-aggressive people. Tap to purchase on Amazon for $2.99 Question: My mother has always been difficult, controlling and recognizes no limits. Her interpretation of a mother-daughter relationship is one where the mother is always right and should not be contradicted. The daughter's obligation to respect her mother implies silence and never giving her opinion if different than her mother's. If that's done it is considered a high level of disrespect and lack of consideration.

Now I'm 45 and my mother is 82. I'm the only child and my dad passed away 10 years ago. She's a cancer survivor and stayed by herself after she got over her illness as I used to live in the US. So her life has not been easy at all, I am fully aware of that. Yet, my life has not been easy either and my main concern and dilemma is precisely my mother. So, I am in need--desperate need--of advice as to how to deal with the situation. I'm currently living with her as I moved out of the US to take care of her. She is permanently mad at me. I think her feeling bad physically translates into anger and I'm always the target. She's always putting me down and if I try to make any decision in her house (like what bathroom will I clean first, or what vegetable to buy for today's meal, etc) she gets very angry and doesn't eat.

My approach has been silence and not responding, because I know at this point she will not change and if I want to accomplish what I hope which is to help her and take care of her, antagonizing her will result in her not eating, not letting me help her at all. But, despite my conscious decision to just take and take her attitude and not respond, I'm deeply hurt, severely tired and awfully lonely. How to deal with someone like her, if you could provide a practical example it'd be appreciated. Thank you!!


October 4, 2017

When You have Negative Thoughts about Your Thoughts

Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself. St. Francis de Sales
Many times when I'm teaching a client about cognitive therapy and how thoughts can contribute to or exacerbate problems, they become highly critical of their thoughts. In an effort to feel better, they begin to punish themselves for certain thoughts: “That's stupid! I shouldn't think that way!” or “It should be simple to control my thoughts—what's wrong with me?”

One particularly difficult area is when the “thought-stopping” technique is used. This technique literally has a person tell themselves firmly “Stop it!” When a person does so it becomes easy to add a judgment: “Stop it! I'm so weak I can't even stop these thoughts.”

Although the purpose of cognitive therapy is to learn how to change thinking, punishing oneself about the thoughts can make the therapy less effective and may even worsen the problem. Research shows that these thoughts about your thoughts need to be addressed as they can interfere with effective reduction in symptoms. Read more...

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