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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

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

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

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

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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

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PsychNotes November 2014
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist

Index        Previous        Next
November 29, 2014


Question: Daughter is asking for a guinea pig for Christmas and is stating if she doesn't get one she will stay in her room all day and make sure everyone else's day is bad, too. I am reluctant to get her one because I got her a hamster with all the bells and whistles for her birthday in April and she decided she no longer wanted to care for it and let it go outside 8 weeks later.

Read Response

November 26, 2014

“I Like It When You...”

The expression of gratitude improves social relationships. Period.

It also improves your perception of others. When you look for the opportunity to express gratitude, you are more likely to observe the positive qualities and value of others rather than the flaws.

However, as with any type of positive expression such as compliments, it should be specific to be effective. Too often, people believe they are expressing gratitude with a “thank you.” But a “thank you” has just become background noise because it is used so frequently.

Make an effort to be specific in expressing gratitude. For instance, if you like the service you received, say “Thank you for _______. I really appreciate the effort you made.” If you want to express specific gratitude to your partner: “I like it when you _______. I know you go out of your way for me.” At first it may seem strange or silly to make these statements. However, as you make this effort and notice the response from others, it will become more comfortable.

Lambert, N.M. and Fincham, F.D. (2011). Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior. Emotion, 11, 52– 60. DOI: 10.1037/a0021557

November 23, 2014

New Educational Audio is Available: AGING WITH INTEGRITY

old friends Growing older is often a confusing time. People tell you how lucky you are to retire and yet you might not feel so lucky. Most people feel loss with aging and need to come to terms with these changes. Also, what many people don't understand is that life doesn't stop at a certain age. Although your life may have changed, there is still the question of what you want to do with your life.

This audio addresses various issues with which people are confronted as they age: loss, change, need for sense of purpose. As you grow older, it is common to revisit the stage of identity development with questions of "What do I want?", "What is meaningful in my life?", and "What do I do now?" By focusing on the present rather than the past and addressing these issues you can approach this stage of life with integrity rather than despair.


November 22, 2014

50 Rules of Life
Rule 11: Ask All the Questions

Genius is not having all the answers, but instead, is the ability to create the questions. Once a question is conceived and thoroughly understood, answering it is fairly straight-forward. However, most of the time where we fall short is in not asking the questions.

Whether we are talking about the questions of science or the questions of everyday living, the issue is the same:

Ask All the Questions1) When you are faced with a problem, don't accept the first solution that comes to mind. Ask questions!

2) When you are stumped, don't give up. Ask questions!

3) If you don't know where to start, don't become overwhelmed. Ask questions!

4) If you are confused about someone's behavior, don't assume. Ask questions!

5) When you don't know what to say, don't sit silently. Ask questions!

6) When you have a decision to make, don't accept someone else's choice. Ask questions!

7) If you are uncertain, don't do the expected. Ask questions!

Socrates, the Greek philosopher, reminds us, “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

Ask all the questions!

November 21, 2014

PsychNote: Mindful Attention Reduces Anger for Those With Borderline Personality Disorder

A primary characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is inability to control intense emotional states such as anger. Generally, those with BPD tend to take longer than normal to return to a neutral state after an emotional experience. As a result, they remain in intense emotional distress a significant portion of time. It is believed that this distress is maintained through what is called a “ruminative” thought process which means they keep reviewing the event with an angry focus: “Why do people keep hurting me like this?” or “He doesn't really care about me,” or “She is trying to make me miserable.”

Researchers (Sauer and Baer, 2012) examined the effect of replacing this ruminative focus with mindful self-focused attention. For example: “Allow your breath to go in and out at its own pace without trying to change it,” “Notice any sensations in your body without judging them as good or bad,” “Observe any emotions that are present without trying to change or get rid of them,” and “Notice if any thoughts are in your mind and allow them to come and go on their own.”

They found that even for those with no prior mindfulness training this method reduced anger to a greater degree than rumination. This finding indicates that mindfulness training could help those with BPD gain greater emotional control.

Sauer, S.E. and Baer, R.A. (2012). Ruminative and Mindful Self-Focused Attention in Borderline Personality Disorder. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3, 433– 441. DOI: 10.1037/a0025465

November 19, 2014

PsychNote: The Paradox of the Mindful Attitude

A paradox is something that may not make sense on the surface but reveals a truth. For example, for people with panic, when they quit trying to get rid of panic, it usually reduces or even goes away. Or, for a perfectionist, when they don't try as hard at work, they may actually do a better job. It may seem reasonable that if you want to stop panic, you have to try to get rid of it or avoid the things that might create it. Or, if you want to be a good employee, you must work harder. However, sometimes the truth is the opposite. I often tell my clients that it's as if a bottomless pit is in front of them and I'm telling them "It's okay. Nothing is really there. You can walk across it." Instead of trusting their senses, they have to proceed against what appears to be sensible.

That is the nature of the mindful attitude. The mindful attitude is about letting go and just experiencing. The paradox is that it is necessary to let go of the mindful attitude as well.

What does this mean? It means that trying to create a mindful attitude is counter-productive. Sometimes I hear or read on the internet people priding themselves on how many silent retreats they have been on or how much mindful meditation in which they engage. To me, this is not the mindful attitude because they are treating mindfulness as a goal to achieve rather than just an experience of "being." I do recognize that this may be a step in that person's journey and other layers of mindfulness may be revealed to them later. Yet, I believe it is important to point out this paradox to help beginners understand the true nature of the mindful attitude.

Recognize that as you practice mindfulness you are taking steps towards developing a mindful attitude but the practice may not be mindfulness itself. To understand how to begin mindfulness practice and incorporate it into your life, the Understanding Mindfulness audios (with transcripts) can be a good starting point. The mindfulness exercises can be helpful in learning mindfulness, but keep in mind that they are not creating mindfulness but are steps towards the development of a mindful attitude.

November 17, 2014

New Cognitive Self-talk Audio is Available: THE IRRESPONSIBILITY OF DEPENDENCY

This audio may seem harsh but for those who are overly dependent, it is a necessary truth. Only by recognizing how your dependency creates what you fear will you be able to change your life. Your fear of being abandoned, of being alone, of being responsible for yourself is more likely to cause you to be rejected, abandoned, and alone. Once you realize that only you are responsible for changing this pattern, you can create a better life for yourself. No matter what happened to you in the past, you are responsible for your present.

Those who are overly dependent may present in different ways. Some present as helpless with the need to be taken care of while others may present as very controlling. No matter how the dependency may appear, it has the commonality of creating problems in relationships.

The purpose of this audio is to help you recognize this reality. By listening to it and making the choice to take responsibility for yourself, you can create a better future. Keep in mind that as with all the cognitive-behavioral tools, this should be used in combination with the other methods such as the cognitive diary method.


November 16, 2014

PsychNote: The Key to Mindful Breathing for Sleep

Frequently, people find it difficult to fall asleep because their mind won't turn off. Although some people are focused on worries, any kind of thoughts can potentially interfere with sleep. For instance, if you are excited about something that just occurred or that you are anticipating, you may have trouble quieting your mind. If you are working on a project, you may still be thinking about it when you go to bed. If you have a problem you are trying to solve, you may be reviewing it in your mind. Whatever the type of thought might be, it can interfere with easily falling asleep.

The Mindful Breathing exercise can be useful for quieting your mind. First, be sure to thoroughly learn the method before using it for sleep. You can listen to the audio to learn the method, but for sleep it is best to focus on each breath without listening to the audio. The key to using the mindful breathing method for sleep is to gently bring your focus back to your breath whenever your mind wanders. At first, you may need to do that many times. Don't get discouraged, but instead, gently refocus to your breath. As your mind quiets, your next awareness is likely to be waking up from a restful sleep.

November 3, 2014

PsychNote: Treatment Resistant Depression isn't Resistant to Cognitive Therapy

About 30% of those treated for Major Depressive Disorder with anti-depressants have been labeled with treatment resistant depression (TRD). Unfortunately, with each additional medication tried, the chances of improvement are diminished. Repeated, unsuccessful trials of different medications causes increased discouragement and hopelessness which may lead to the higher level of suicide in this group.

However, Leykin and colleagues (2007) found that those with TRD to medication still respond as well to cognitive therapy as those who have responded to only one or two trials of medication. The researchers suggest that the depression is not treatment resistant, per se, but neurochemically resistant to anti-depressants. In other words, some people may not be able to benefit from medication, however, they can still benefit from other forms of treatment such as cognitive therapy. In addition, these researchers suggest that for some people, the repeated trials of medication may alter the brain chemistry in such a way to lead to a worsening of the depression.

Labeling people as treatment resistant may not only be inaccurate but could potentially be harmful due to the degree of hopelessness that is caused by this label. If someone is not responding to repeated trials of medication, they should be informed of other available treatment options such as cognitive therapy.

Leykin, Y., Amsterdam, J.D., DeRubeis, R.J., Gallop, R., Shelton, R.C. and Hollon, S.D. (2007). Progressive Resistance to a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor but Not to Cognitive Therapy in the Treatment of Major Depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 267–276. DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.2.267

November 2, 2014

New Relaxation Audio is Available: RAINY AUTUMN MORNING RELAXATION

autumn This audio relaxation exercise teaches mindful awareness by describing relaxing imagery. This audio describes a walk along a country lane in the woods on a rainy, autumn morning. Just allow yourself to picture the autumn colors and listen to the rain as it drips from the leaves into the stream bordering the lane.

This type of relaxation has several purposes. It teaches you how to be mindfully aware of your full experience. By practicing the methods of mindfulness, you can develop a greater awareness and appreciation of your daily experiences. In addition, it will help you develop greater relaxation skills. You can use these methods to reduce the symptoms of stress, manage anxiety, and improve your sleep.

This may be used while sitting or lying down in a quiet, comfortable place.  Just close your eyes and listen without trying to force yourself to relax.  If your mind wanders, gently bring yourself back to focus on the words.


November 1, 2014

Addiction to Emotions and Mindfulness Practice

A complaint some people have about mindfulness is that it dampens their positive emotions as well as negative emotions. Although such experience with mindfulness may appear to be true, it is actually due to the individual's perspective of emotions. Some people are thrill-seekers and require external emotional rewards. For instance, gamblers are addicted to the positive emotions involved with gambling and winning: excitement, anticipation, elation (Teper and Inzlicht, 2014). However, they are also very susceptible to the negative emotions when they lose. Similarly, some people are addicted to the excitement and passion of a new relationship and are more likely to be unfaithful in a longer term relationship.

Research shows that mindfulness actually increases engagement with positive emotions which means people will fully experience positive emotions. However, mindfulness may decrease the length of an emotional reaction (Greenberg and Meiran, 2014). Most likely this is due to the length of an emotional experience being dependent upon re-creating the emotion rather than just experiencing it. Re-creating an emotion is likely to be related to the addictive need for the positive emotion.

Therefore, for those who are addicted to positive emotions, mindfulness will be experienced more negatively as it is a withdrawal from the emotional "high." The benefit, however, of mindfulness for those who are addicted to emotions is that it decreases the unhealthy behaviors to seek the "high" such as gambling, sex or pornagraphy addiction, and spending addictions.

Greenberg, J. and Meiran, N. (2014). Is mindfulness meditation associated with “feeling less?” Mindfulness, 5, 471-476. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-013-0201-2

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

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank

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