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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?

Popular Audios

Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

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

All Audio Articles

PsychNotes January 2017
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist

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January 26, 2017

Shouldn't Mindfulness Be Free?

woman meditating
Everyday I get more and more notices of mindfulness training. On one hand, it seems like a positive thing because mindfulness is physically and psychologically healthy so as more people become mindful it can be beneficial to us all. On the other hand, though, I am troubled by the cost of mindfulness training. I'm also astounded by the willingness of people to pay $10 monthly subscriptions to access relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness audios.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this--people tend to believe something that is free can't possibly be good. Or, that if it is free there must be a catch. Also, people are more likely to follow-through if they have to pay for something. Although I wonder how true that is--people pay for gym memberships thinking it will keep them motivated and yet that seldom occurs. Read more...

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January 25, 2017

Risk is a Matter of Perception: What is Risk to You?

sky-diving over mountains
Recently, a woman said to me when learning what I do, “I wish I could start my own business.” When I asked “Why don't you?” she responded, “Oh, no, that's too risky.” When I asked, “What's the worst that can happen?” she viewed the worst possibility as losing everything and being homeless.

Thinking about that exchange I realized that I think it is too risky not to pursue my dreams. I don't want to take the risk of being old and gray reminiscing, “I wish I had done that.”

Sure, risks I have taken sometimes cost me money or time or even caused physical injuries (karate) but the bigger risk that always looms before me is having wasted my life. Whenever I am faced with a decision and potential risk, I ask myself, “Will you regret not having tried?”

But this also made me think that people have different definitions of risk. Each person has different dreams, desires, and goals so risk becomes defined by their personal agenda. Read more...

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January 24, 2017

Can a Gratitude List Make a Difference in Your Life?

writing a gratitude list
We often hear about how keeping a list of things for which we are grateful can improve our well-being and health. Can such a simple activity make a difference? The answer is “yes” but not any more of a difference than other psychological techniques (Davis, et al., 2016). So perhaps it is just a matter of preference. Also, simple gratitude is not an effective technique for anxiety (read PsychNote: It's Not as Simple as Being Grateful).

Why is a happiness list effective?

The most effective treatments are those people are willing to do routinely. Writing a gratitude list is often enthusiastically embraced by people for several reasons:

1) Easy. Most people can understand the concept and it doesn't take much time to do. Read more...

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January 20, 2017

New Article: Are You Passive-Aggressive and Want to Change?

Most of us are passive-aggressive (PA) at times. Although much of the communication literature tells us we should be direct and assertive, I've always told my clients there is a time and place for different communication styles. For instance, if you've had your car in to a repair shop several times for the same problem and they want to charge you for fixing it again, being verbally aggressive might accomplish your agenda. Or, if you are confronted by an irrational angry person, a self-protective passive response of walking away may be best.

I've always taught that the communication style you choose should be based on the outcome you want. For instance, with the mechanic you might not care about your long-term relationship—you just want your car fixed, so an aggressive stance may work. But aggression is not a good choice in a relationship you care about.

The same is true of PA communication. It is generally not a good choice for relationships that are important to you. Notice that I'm referring to “choice.” Most people act without thinking. They have long-standing behavior patterns and may not even be aware of their own PA behavior. But it is a choice to continue to engage in these patterns of behavior.

Although most people readily acknowledge they don't like being on the receiving end of PA behavior because it is so frustrating and unpleasant, many people are slow to label their own PA behavior. Instead they often justify their actions by focusing completely on the other person's behavior. Yet, sometimes when people read about others' PA behavior, they begin to recognize their own behavior.

If communication problems are interfering with your relationships, it might be a good idea to examine whether you have PA behavior. By recognizing when you are PA you can change your pattern and develop better relationships. The following can help you more thoroughly examine your behavior and create a plan to change. Many PA behaviors are unintentional but they are still hurtful to the relationship. Other PA behaviors may be deliberately calculated to hurt the other person.

Those who are PA and want to change are usually unintentionally PA. In other words, they are not trying to maliciously cause problems for others and/or don't care about how they hurt others. Sometimes they may even have good intentions such as not wanting to hurt someone's feelings or cause a problem. But instead of direct communication about problems they engage in PA behavior. So the following focuses mainly on the unintentional type of passive-aggressiveness. Read more...

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January 17, 2017

Managing Adversity Improves the Outcome of Happiness

student at desk
The greatest benefit from positive emotions occurs when we learn to manage negative emotions. In a research study examining the relationship between happiness and GPA researchers found the expected outcome that happier college students had higher grades. They also found that happiness tended to increase over the course of college as students learned how to manage stress and other negative emotions. Read more...

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January 12, 2017

Evaluating Psychological Information in the Information Age

coffee and a magazine
A problem frequently discussed today is how much inaccurate information we consume on a daily basis. Certainly, most of us know to question information that comes from the neighborhood gossip. But what about information from what we believe to be reliable news sources? We will never stop the proliferation of false information but we can become better consumers of information.

Waiting in a doctor's office I picked up a popular women's magazine and was confronted with another misrepresentation of psychological research. It said “studies show that having unused vacation days makes you less likely to get a raise” and concluded with “so force yourself (to take a vacation) and you may just come back to a bigger paycheck.” Other than the obvious fluff this article illustrates some of the problems with the reporting of psychological information. Read more...

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January 11, 2017

Self-injurious Behaviors Do Not Provide Relief From Negative Emotions

woman showing distress
The prevailing theory for why individuals engage in cutting and other self-injurious behaviors has been that it decreases negative emotions. However, most research has been retrospective which means that a person may be questioned days after the behavior occurred. It is commonly known in psychology that long-term memory can be distorted. Thus, retrospective research more accurately describes what people believe about why they cut themselves, not what actually occurs.

A recent study of hospitalized patients with Borderline Personality Disorder sows doubt on this theory. Instead of relying on long-term memory, the patients carried a tablet which prompted them 10 times a day to answer a few questions about their emotions. In such a way, more immediate emotions could be determined following episodes of self-injurious behavior. The outcome of the study showed that instead of a decrease in negative emotions an increase in these emotions occurred. Read more...

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January 10, 2017

Perception of Family Criticism Impedes Recovery from Panic Disorder

person standing against emotional whorl
Clinical treatment often varies from research protocols. When participants are selected for research the process usually involves meeting criteria such as no co-existing conditions. As a therapist I've frequently felt frustrated that my clients did not recover as quickly as the research showed with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). However, I also recognized that most of the time the clients who sought me out as a CBT specialist with anxiety disorders didn't meet the criteria for a simple condition but presented with much more complex situations.

In particular, many of them experienced childhood trauma as well as current criticism or abuse by their families of origin. Frequently, such a history created a self-fulfilling prophecy focused on me or on those current family members who were trying to be supportive. In other words, their past history taught them to expect criticism which meant they were more likely to perceive criticism even when it was not present. This perception created another hurdle that therapy had to overcome. Read more...

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January 9, 2017

Reality TV Distorts Beliefs About Others

TV in the middle of a street
Although reality TV production companies may film hours of social interaction, the show is only only likely to be successful in ratings if it emphasizes the scenes of conflict, emotion, and negative behavior because viewers enjoy the voyeurism. However, entertainment is not the only outcome of this genre. Research shows that the type of reality TV depicting people living their so-called “real” lives can have a distorted negative impact on how people view others (Riddle and Simone, 2013):

1) Negative views of women. Those who watch reality TV are more likely to believe that women engage more frequently than men in negative relationship behaviors such as verbal aggression and gossip. Read more...

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January 5, 2017

Convincing Yourself to Forgive When It Seems Unfair

hands held out in forgiveness
“Why do I have to do the work to forgive? It's so unfair!”

People struggle with forgiveness. When they have been hurt and betrayed they want the transgressor to have to suffer or at least feel bad for the offense. Frequently, however, that sort of satisfaction does not occur. Instead, they are told they need to forgive. They feel burdened not only with the suffering but also with the effort involved in trying to forgive.

Even though you might know that holding a grudge, resentment, or anger only hurts your psychological and physical well-being it still may seem hard to convince yourself to take the steps to forgiveness. How can you begin to let go? Read more...

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January 4, 2017

Exposure Treatment of Simple Phobias in Children

fire observation tower
In my early career one of the cases that impressed upon me the effectiveness of exposure therapy when anxiety is caught early in childhood was a 10-year-old boy who had a fear of heights and crowds. He had a high degree of motivation to overcome his fear because he felt embarrassed that his younger brother could climb to the top of a old fire observation tower that was in a local public park. (This was in the days when it wouldn't be considered parental neglect to let your child climb a six story open rail tower—see picture)

So we developed a plan:

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January 3, 2017

Encouraging Task Persistence to Help Children Achieve in Life

student doing schoolwork
Educational and career success in middle adulthood can be predicted by persistence at age 13. Task persistence was measured by a teacher's observation that the student was able to concentrate and stick to a task. The ability to persist at a task was shown to be related to higher grades and to completing a higher level of education. In addition, men were more likely to have a higher level of income (Andersson and Bergman, 2011).

Although task persistence can be affected by personality, intelligence, and biological factors (i.e. Attention Deficit Disorder), it can also be influenced by environment. As such, parents can take steps to help increase a child's task persistence. Read more...

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January 2, 2017

Cognitive Diary Example: Worried that Someone Dislikes Her

Now on Kindle! Dr. Frank's articles on cognitive behavioral therapy: The Cognitive Diary Method to Changing Your Life. Tap to purchase on Amazon for $2.99 Event: A co-worker acts like she dislikes me--she doesn't seem very friendly towards me

Emotions: confused, distressed, resentful

Distress Rating: 7--Distress, less in control

Thoughts: What's wrong with me that she doesn't like me? I'm a nice person and didn't do anything to her. I've tried everything--I don't know what else to do. What if I can't make her like me? It is so unfair. Who does she think she is to treat me like this? What a snob!

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 confusion, distress, and resentment?

Tap Here For Answer
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January 1, 2017

May You Have a Mindful New Year!

red flowers in a rocky background
Truly, mindfulness is the only resolution any of us need to make because mindfulness is associated with so many benefits.

Mindfulness reduces stress, depression, anxiety and contributes to overall health.

When we eat mindfully (at a table savoring every bite) we are likely to lose weight.

When we are mindful we are less impulsive so we are more in control of spending, eating, drinking behaviors.

Mindfulness improves relationships because we are more attentive and aware of others. Read more...

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