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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

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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

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Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

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PsychNotes March 2016
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist

Index        Previous        Next
March 31, 2016

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Insomnia: Worrying About Not Sleeping

EVENT: Lying in bed thinking about not being able to sleep

EMOTIONS: worried, distressed, agitated

DISTRESS RATING: 8--High level of distress

THOUGHTS: "I need to sleep. I've got a lot of things to do tomorrow including my presentation and I'm not going to function well if I don't sleep. People will think I'm incompetent. If I don't start getting better sleep I might even lose my job. I am such an unlucky person that this happens right before an important meeting.”

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 worry, distress, and agitation?


March 30, 2016

What if You Considered Other Peoples' Views?

bird fight “No, that can't be right” vs. “Really? Why is that?”

“I think that's wrong” vs. “What do you think?”

“That's stupid!” vs. “That's interesting—tell me more.”

“No, you don't understand” vs. “Why do you think that?”

The Tendency to Defend Opinions

The first reaction many people have to a difference of opinion, values, or perspective is to focus on defending their own viewpoint. Whether the conflict occurs in a relationship, in a social or work group, or even between countries, the initial reaction is “I'm right and the other person must be mistaken.”

Interestingly, though, people who are considered brilliant conversationalists and who appeal to others are those who show an interest in other people. Instead of insisting upon others hearing their viewpoint, they listen to others. And they don't just silently listen but they actively listen. In other words, they show interest, ask questions, and make comments related to the other person's statements.

On the other hand, fiercely defending an opinion is often viewed by the other person as belittling their position. Sometimes defending a position is overtly derogatory by suggesting the other person is biased, self-serving in some way, or woefully misinformed. As a result, many disagreements create a “spiral of conflict” rather than cooperation. Each side is focused more on proving “rightness” than on resolving the problem.

The pressure to conform to views occurs even more strongly when a person is part of a group than when they are not. For instance, a family may expect other family members to agree with their views or be subject to ridicule, criticism, or hostility. This is often referred to as the “black sheep effect (Sammut, et al., 2015).” Similarly, in businesses, people who often voice opposing views are not considered “team players.” Read more...

March 28, 2016

Teaching Resilience

Many people come to Excel At Life and other psychological resources when they are struggling with events in their lives. However, people have often said to me when they realize how learning these methods can help with everyday problems and even ward off more serious ones: “I wish I had learned this in high school.”

The beauty of the cognitive methods is they can be taught prior to serious problems occurring. In fact, most people who seem to face stressful events without a scratch have at some point learned how to think about situations in a way that helps them adapt more easily. Perhaps they learned from a parent, or from a teacher, or from life circumstances.

For instance, when I was a child I was terrified to speak up in class. In the seventh grade, I had a teacher who asked me to join the speech team. Surprised and thrilled she thought I could do it, I overcame my fear and joined the team. From that experience I learned fear was not something to shrink from but something to confront and defeat.

I often told my clients that the difference between them and people who were coping with the same kind of events is they didn't learn the methods at an earlier age. Sometimes they even learned the opposite because their role models were dysfunctional. Instead of being taught to be resilient, they were taught to be fearful, to feel hopeless, to avoid risk. Read more...

March 22, 2016

Improving Performance by Mindfully Reducing Self-interruptions

multitasking desk One of the greatest mass delusions of our Type A culture is the so-called benefits of multitasking. As much as people want to believe otherwise, attempts at multitasking does not lead to improved performance or greater success. Instead, the opposite is true. Multitasking is actually a disruption of one task to focus on another and then switching back to the first task. Each time a person switches from one task to another they lose time that could have been used to perform the task. The amount of time can vary from person to person and task to task but the result is the same: performance declines.

One type of multitasking is self-interruptions.

March 14, 2016

Mindfulness and “To Do” Lists

Many people erroneously believe that mindfulness and productivity are not compatible. This common misunderstanding is due to the idea that mindfulness meditation is the goal rather than the means. However, the purpose of mindfulness practice is to help foster a mindful attitude to bring to all activities of life.

I tend to be a fairly busy person—I remember only one day in my life where I crossed everything off my to do list. However, I use my to do list as a tool. It doesn't control me or make me feel bad if I don't cross anything off because my to do list is not a list of demands. It is a list that allows me to focus on the immediate thing I'm working on. By writing it down I don't have to worry about it or even think about it until I am ready to focus on it. Read more...

March 11, 2016

If You Are Sick, Does That Mean You Are Irrational?

Reading the controversy regarding research showing Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) can help improve symptoms for those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I came across this quote: “These theories presume and insist that patients are not medically sick but simply suffering from dysfunctional cognitions that need to be changed (Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2016, quoting David Tuller, lecturer in public health and journalism).”

Such statements represent a common misunderstanding of MCBT. This person quoted above as well as many others, even those in the health field, use cause and effect reasoning where it doesn't exist. Read more...

March 9, 2016

Buying Happiness: It Can Be Done!

We often hear “You can't buy happiness.” However, a review of the research shows that it depends upon what you are buying (Van Boven, 2005). Purchases to provide an experience are different than items bought just to own. Adding an expensive artwork to a collection may provide temporary enjoyment but purchasing a bike for a weekly ride with friends creates ongoing pleasurable experiences.

Of course, what purchases provide experiences for one person may not be the same for another person. A fancy gas grill barely used may be materialistic but if it is used frequently for family gatherings it could be considered experiential. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish the difference because materialistic people often try to justify purchases as experiential purchases when they are not. To determine whether your purchases are materialistic or experiential, consider the following: Read more...

March 8, 2016

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Saying "I'm Fine" When I'm Not

EVENT: When I'm upset I say "I'm fine" instead of talking about the problem

EMOTIONS: hurt, fearful, angry

DISTRESS RATING: 8--High level of distress

THOUGHTS: "I don't want anyone to be angry with me so I avoid conflict by saying "I'm fine." Besides, shouldn't people who care about me know when something bothers me? I'm always attentive to their moods and try not to hurt them--they should do the same thing unless they really don't care about me. I say it in a way that clearly shows I'm not fine.”

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 hurt, fear, and anger?


March 4, 2016

Assertion 101: Just Say “No”

While teaching a class on assertion, I paired up the attendees with someone they didn't know and told them to make a simple request such as “Please get me a cup of water” and the other to respond with a “no” without elaboration. Not a single person in the class could just say “no” even though this was a pretend situation. And one person even got up to fetch a glass of water!

This class happened to be all women because women tend to have more problems asserting themselves. Typically, when saying “no” women want to provide an explanation to soften the response. However, the problem with explanations is that it often leads to the other person finding a loophole: “No, I'm not available that day” leads to “How about a different day?” Or, “I don't have time to help with that” is countered with “Oh, then how about something that won't take as much time?” or “When will you have the time?” Read more...

March 3, 2016

Importance of Guilt vs. Irrational Guilt

As a psychologist and writer I sometimes fail to be aware of who my audience is. I think this is a problem of psychological writing in general (especially on the internet). For instance, I might be writing with a particular group of people in mind without recognizing the impact on others who might be reading the information. This is a particular problem with guilt, blame, and responsibility.

Due to this tendency in psychological writing, many people believe that psychology exonerates people from wrong-doing: “It's not my fault—I have an addiction!” or “I can't change my life because I have depression.” This is furthest from the truth. Psychological principles have always incorporated the importance of taking responsibility for your life. Read more...

March 1, 2016

Understanding Research: Colors, Happiness, and Weight Loss

Recently, while I painted the interior of my home and was covered in yellow and green paint, I heard on the radio: “Research shows the colors green and yellow in your home make you happy.” My immediate reaction was “Great! We should be very happy here.”

But then, of course, my research-oriented mind started wondering: Maybe yellow and green don't make you happy but maybe happy people are more likely to decorate with yellow and green. Of course, the radio personality didn't clarify how this research was conducted but I suspect it wasn't a randomized design which means it could be open to interpretation.

As many of you may be aware from my writing, I have an issue with how media (mis)interprets health research. Often the public is provided information that is inaccurate or misleading. Even though the colors of house paint is a trivial example it can illustrate more important “facts” that are provided us on a daily basis. Read more...

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