Index to PsychNotes
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist
February 20, 2018
Passive-Aggressive Example: Brother Manipulating Mother to Hurt Sister
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
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.
TAP HERE FOR RESPONSE
January 30, 2018
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.
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?
January 10, 2018
Staying Motivated with a New Exercise Program
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
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.
December 11, 2017
Cognitive Diary Example: "My co-workers should respect me!"
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?
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.
November 9, 2017
Passive-Aggressive Example: The Perfect Backhanded Compliment
Question:How can I respond to "I wish I could be like you and not care about the latest fashion trends."
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.
TAP HERE FOR FULL RESPONSE
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.
October 20, 2017
Passive-Aggressive Example: Caretaker of Passive-aggressive Mother
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.
TAP HERE FOR RESPONSE
October 4, 2017
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When You have Negative Thoughts about Your Thoughts
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.