PsychNotes November 2016
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist
November 18, 2016
You Have to Be Willing to Set Limits with Disrespectful Adult Children
Frequently, I receive questions from parents of adult children who are “disrespectful.” In most cases the problem occurs due to one of two issues: unreasonable expectations of the parents or fear of setting limits due to possible repercussions.
What can you, as a parent, do about disrespect from adult children?
1) Examine expectations
. First, determine whether your expectations are reasonable. What is your definition of respect? Does respect mean they should do as you want? Does it mean your child should never disagree with you? Do you tolerate the behavior or decisions of your friends but not the same behavior from your child? For instance, if your friend ignores your advice or doesn't visit as frequently as you want or doesn't have the same religious or political beliefs, do you consider that disrespectful? But you hold your child to a different standard?
November 16, 2016
Do You Have Too Much Empathy?
I just discovered why I can't stand literary fiction or TV dramas—you know, the kind with complex characters that describes the pain, suffering, heartbreak, grief as well as the love, joy, and excitement of life. I mean, I already knew that it was related to being a clinical psychologist and being confronted with all those issues multiple times a day. My job was an emotional roller-coaster without having to bring more into my life. Yet, I still wondered what might be wrong with me that, even though I'm a voracious reader, I would rather go to the dentist than read the latest critically acclaimed literary fiction.
However, a research study (Oatley, 2009) sheds some light on my reading preferences. This randomized study divided people into groups and gave them different types of fiction, nonfiction, or nothing at all to read. Then they measured the groups for empathy. What they found is that those who read literary fiction, which requires developing an understanding of the characters' personality and motives, experienced an increase in empathy. Suddenly it made sense why I don't like that type of reading—I have plenty of empathy and want my fiction to allow me to escape from that degree of emotion.
November 3, 2016
Escaping the “Rubber Fence" Family
Family dysfunction comes in many forms and sizes. As a therapist I cringed when I heard people insist how “close” their family is. Not that there is anything wrong with being close. No, it is the forceful insistence of describing their family in such a way. When people adamantly describe their family as “close” it often seems to come from a family demand:
“I always wanted to be an archeologist but it would take me away from my parents. We're very close, you know.”
“That sounds like fun but I can't go. My family is very attached—we have dinner together every week. I need to keep Sundays open for them.”
“My family doesn't think I should take that new job. Even though it pays more and would be interesting, they don't like the idea of all the travel.”
“I can't marry outside of my religion because my family would be disappointed. It doesn't matter how I feel—I don't want to hurt them.”
Families with good relationships do not demand “closeness” of its members although strong ties may exist. A truly “close” family wants all of its members to thrive even if that means being apart, having different beliefs or values, or pursuing a different path in life.
November 2, 2016
It's Not as Simple as Being Grateful
The current fad in psychology is positive psychology. People are told that peace of mind, well-being, and even improved health will come from journaling or expressing gratitude. Can these gratitude interventions be helpful? Certainly, but making it seem that such techniques can treat anxiety and depression may be a disservice to those who are truly suffering.
My concern about the emphasis on gratitude as a treatment for anxiety and depression is that it places a demand on people with mental illness. In other words, it can become another way of dismissing suffering and blaming the sufferer:
“You wouldn't be so depressed if you just expressed more gratitude!”
November 1, 2016
The Only Way to Have a Balanced Life is to Do It
I often find myself feeling out of balance. I get so caught up in a project that other things I want to do go by the wayside. When I recognize this I say to myself, “As soon as this is done, I will find more balance.” Or, “As soon as things settle down...” Or, “Tomorrow...”