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Popular Articles

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!

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PsychNotes July 2015
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist

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July 31, 2015

New Audio! Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

sand castle This relaxation for children (and the young at heart) describes experiencing a gigantic colorful sandbox. It teaches children to be mindful of the sights and sounds of their experience. Mindfulness is often natural for children and this audio helps to enhance their ability to focus in a mindful way. About 15 minutes.

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.

This audio may be used for sleep. Just allow yourself to gently drift off. You may awaken whenever you are ready. Relaxation at bedtime allows for a more restful sleep.

My special 7-year-old twitter friend, Darwin @darwinkochis (name used with permission) came up with the idea for this audio and helped by reviewing the script as I developed it.


July 29, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 8. Hold your head up.

This step is a simple to describe step but can be difficult for some people with low self-esteem. Many people with low self-esteem try to be unobtrusive so as not to be noticed by others (and thereby, criticized). One way they do this is by not looking at others, tending to keep their head down and even trying to take up as little space as possible such as by hunching their shoulders and staying out of other people's paths.

However, these behaviors don't make you invisible. Instead, such behaviors are more like a neon sign. People can still see you but what they will see is someone who is unapproachable, who lacks confidence and who is not friendly. In addition, some people are predators who take advantage of those with low self-esteem. When such people see these non-verbal signs they know they can manipulate you. So the unfortunate consequence of this non-verbal behavior is to keep the good people away and to allow the bad people to know they can take advantage of you. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 23, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 7. Accept Compliments and Stop Apologizing.

Accepting compliments is difficult for many people with low self-esteem. However, apologizing is too simple for them and often excessive. Even though both of these behaviors come from negative feelings towards the self (undeserving and guilty), changing the behavior helps to change the feeling. Sometimes people believe they have to change the underlying emotion for a behavior to change: “If I felt deserving of compliments, then I would accept them” or “If I didn't feel bad about something, I wouldn't apologize." However, these are interesting examples of how that is not true. By changing the behavior that results from the emotion you begin to carve away the power from that emotion. I think of this as cognitive therapy in reverse: changing the behavior changes the way you think of yourself. Let's examine each of these issues separately. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 22, 2015

Passive-Aggressive Example: Confronting Step-son About Not Visiting

Question: I believe that my 41-year old step-son is being passive aggressive in refusing to visit us, alone or with his wife and two children. He knows that his mother had an affair (to whom she is now married) then divorced his father. I met his father a few years later, eventually moved in with him and his then 25-year old son, and we married two years later. His son deeply resented this as he thought he and his girl-friend would live with his father until he eventually inherited the property. He had resented other females with whom his father had had relationships after his divorce so it's not that he just didn't like me, he just didn't want his father to re-marry. My step-son doesn't openly refuse to visit us but gives inane excuses why he can't (such as my car is broken, I'm too busy, etc.) that insult our intelligence. My husband won't challenge him as he's his only child because my husband's daughter died tragically, aged 11, many years ago. He has visited us three times in the last 4 years, the first time coming to our new house out of curiosity but he refused to come to the house on the two subsequent visits and insisted we meet for lunch at a local restaurant at our expense. My step-son and his family did come to my husband's 70th birthday party 6 months ago but only, I feel, as he knew the rest of the family would be here and he didn't want to look bad in front of them by not attending. My step-son doesn't invite me or his father to visit them. If my husband asks when he can visit, his son tells him he's welcome any time and won't set a date but he lives 90 miles away so we can hardly call to see them. This behaviour has become worse over the last 10 years but when asked what is the problem my step-son expresses surprise and says there's nothing wrong with them, the problem must lie with us. He and his wife often see her family and his mother and her new husband. If he were my son I would challenge him openly and ask for an explanation but my husband is reluctant to do this for fear of making the situation worse. I can no longer take the inane excuses for not visiting so it's inevitable that I will challenge my step-son on this soon. My husband loves children but, sadly, doesn't see his grand-children very often. I'm not allowed to consider them to be my grand-children, this is made very clear by my step-son and his wife referring to me by my first name when they mention me to the children in my presence. It's designed to be hurtful and it is hurtful but nothing we do changes the situation leading me to think that it is passive-aggressive behaviour on my step-son's part.


July 17, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 6. Be Courteous in Your Self-talk.

Many times when I catch people engaging in negative self-talk they will say, “But it's the truth!” However, truth can be cloaked in many ways depending upon what we want to accomplish. How often when confronting others do you describe them or their behavior as negatively as your own? You may change the wording when talking to someone else. Where you might call your idea “stupid” you may tell your co-worker “That idea has merit but we need something that will make an impact more quickly.” You don't say "That dress makes you look fat" to a friend but "That color flatters you." This step does not mean that you should ignore flaws but that you don't need to be so negative in your focus and self-talk. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 16, 2015

50 Rules of Life

Rule 15: Don't Compare Your Insides to Others' Outsides.

Rule 15: Don't Compare Your Insides to Others' Outsides Often, when I'm working with people who have low self-esteem, they base their opinion of themselves on what they observe of other people:

"They seem to be able to cope better than me."

"She has it all together. Why can't I be like her?"

"He is so talented. I'm not good at anything."

"Their marriage is perfect. I bet he never cheated on her."

"Why can't I be like them?"

Being a psychologist, I have a different perspective of other people's lives. And I don't mean just my clients. A lot of people tend to share more of their personal problems with me even in social settings. Or they clam up when they find out I'm a psychologist which tells me a lot as well! Anyway, I see more of the inside of people's lives than most people do. No one has a perfect life no matter how much it may appear that way. People struggle with mental health issues, physical problems, stress, children and family problems, marital concerns, work-related issues. Read more...

Index to 50 Rules of Life

July 14, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 5. Create Daily Affirmations

I know it seems somewhat cliché today to create affirmations but sometimes things are cliché because they work. Start your day with an affirmation. Then focus on that affirmation throughout the day. Help yourself own it by looking for additional evidence that validates the affirmation. For instance, if your affirmation is “I try to improve myself and do the best I can” observe ways that you do that throughout the day and write them down. Obviously, even creating the affirmation and focusing on it could be one piece of evidence for this affirmation.

Affirmations aren't huge accomplishments. Instead, look for the positive things in yourself no matter how small. Often, low self-esteem is based on many small negatives. For instance, a person might focus on a small negative and blow it out of proportion. “My nose is too big!” And think that is all other people notice. Instead, “I have a nice smile which is more noticeable than my nose.” Look for positive attributes. “I am persistent.” Write these affirmations down and review them frequently. It is too easy to focus on the negative and ignore the positive. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 13, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 4. Start Reducing Your Negative Self-labeling

Once you have become more aware of your self-labeling and have a baseline to measure your progress, the next step is to start reducing your self-labeling. Notice that I'm saying “reduce,” not “stop.” Don't put the demand on yourself that you will stop completely because you will fail at such an “all or nothing” task. And then “I couldn't even stop labeling myself!” becomes part of your self-labeling rather than feeling better about yourself.

Instead, try to reduce the labeling over time. You can continue to keep a count as you did in step 3 and just record each day how many times you labeled yourself. Often, just the act of tracking a behavior makes you more aware and will cause you catch yourself when engaging in it. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 11, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 3. Examine Your Self-labels

golf counter How often do you call yourself names or label yourself in a negative way? Many times in the first session with someone when I notice their excessive negative self-labeling I will say, “Do you realize you have called yourself names or put yourself down in some way at least a half dozen times in the last 10 minutes?” Often, I find they aren't even aware of their self-talk.

Awareness is an important part of change. Start noticing when you label yourself. Pay attention to the words you use in your self-talk such as “That was stupid” or “I can't do anything right.” Keep a log of how many times you use negative labels over several days and find your average. All you need to do is keep a count such as making a little mark on a piece of paper (something you can carry with you). Golf counters are a nice tool to keep track of a count because you can keep them in your pocket and just click them whenever the behavior occurs. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 10, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 2. Write your life script.

writing What is a life script? Each of us has a set of beliefs about ourselves. Initially, these beliefs develop in childhood based upon how others view us and treat us. Some people view their life script as unchangeable: “I can't help it! It's who I am.” However, other people edit their life scripts. Sometimes they need to learn how to edit it (such as what you are doing now) and sometimes they edit it naturally. I remember as a child that I kept a list titled, “Never say or do this to your child.” I didn't realize at the time but I was creating a life script. I was making decisions about the type of parent I wanted to be. You are more likely to achieve what you want in your life by taking an active role in editing your life script rather than accepting without evaluation what you were taught about yourself.

Developing better self-esteem requires editing. However, to edit a life script, it is necessary to first write the life script. This step will be difficult because it means writing down your current view of yourself. If your self-esteem is low, then this script may be quite negative. Many people will be tempted to skip this step as it can be very painful to see in black and white our view of ourselves. Others might want to not write it down thinking that they are quite aware of it. But writing it is necessary because there is something very powerful about an actual edit—crossing out and replacing words or adding different beliefs. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 9, 2015

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

Step 1. Recognize that self-esteem is self-imposed.

Self-esteem isn't something that exists independently--you either have it or you don't. No, self-esteem changes based upon how you think of yourself. Self-esteem is not a reaction to what others think of you but how you think of you. Yet, too frequently, we give this power to others and use them as the yardstick to measure ourselves. Even when we don't know what they are truly thinking of us.

For example, I read about a woman who described how her co-workers treated her differently when she lost weight. She said they acknowledged her and chatted with her. But when she gained the weight back they returned to ignoring her. She interpreted their behavior to indicate they thought she was worthwhile when she was thin but not when she was fat. She complained that others should change their behavior and treat obese people better. However, I propose their reactions had to do with how she felt about herself and was not based on a judgment of her. People take their cues about us from us. Most likely, when she was thin she probably held her head a little higher, looked people in the eye and smiled more. In other words, she was more approachable. In her description she even said she tried to not be noticed when she was fat. That tells me she most likely looked down, ignored others more, didn't smile at people or initiate conversations. People treated her in the way they thought she wanted to be treated—she wanted to be ignored so that is what they did. Read more...

Index to 20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

July 1, 2015

Secure Attachment to Parents Improves College Adjustment

college student A teenager's ability to adjust to college may begin in early childhood and is moderately influenced by the relationship with the parent. An analysis of over 150 research studies shows that college students who have a secure attachment style with parents have a greater level of adjustment to being away at college (Mattanah, et al., 2011).

Secure attachment refers to the ability to trust that caregivers are available to them and they can depend upon them when needed. Keep in mind, however, that dependency of children is often confused with attachment. Dependency refers to an excessive need for parental involvement and is considered insecure attachment due to the unhealthy nature of the relationship.

Developmental theory indicates two points in life where children work on the issue of separation for the parents. The first point is around age two and the other is the late teens when children are leaving home for college. The success of separation during the college years is often dependent upon what children have learned previously in the earlier stage of development. Read more...

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Dr. Monica Frank

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