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

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October 30, 2017

The Value of Each and Every Life and How Perfectionism Destroys that Value

Although I've written a great deal about the perils of perfectionism, the book “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World” by Iddo Landau highlights an interesting aspect of perfectionism I hadn't thought of before. That is, perfectionistic beliefs can lead to despair due to the supposition that life is meaningless if one hasn't accomplished great things.

Such a belief not only harms the individual who places such demands on him/herself but it can also damage those around him/her. For instance, perfectionistic parents often have high expectations for their children and may criticize or express subtle disapproval when those children don't achieve the parent's aspirations. Or, the perfectionist may regard others with disdain or contempt when those others don't live the life the perfectionist has deemed as valuable. Read more...

October 20, 2017

Passive-Aggressive Example: Caretaker of Passive-aggressive Mother

Now on Kindle! Dr. Frank's articles on handling passive-aggressive people. Tap to purchase on Amazon for $2.99 Question: My mother has always been difficult, controlling and recognizes no limits. Her interpretation of a mother-daughter relationship is one where the mother is always right and should not be contradicted. The daughter's obligation to respect her mother implies silence and never giving her opinion if different than her mother's. If that's done it is considered a high level of disrespect and lack of consideration.

Now I'm 45 and my mother is 82. I'm the only child and my dad passed away 10 years ago. She's a cancer survivor and stayed by herself after she got over her illness as I used to live in the US. So her life has not been easy at all, I am fully aware of that. Yet, my life has not been easy either and my main concern and dilemma is precisely my mother. So, I am in need--desperate need--of advice as to how to deal with the situation. I'm currently living with her as I moved out of the US to take care of her. She is permanently mad at me. I think her feeling bad physically translates into anger and I'm always the target. She's always putting me down and if I try to make any decision in her house (like what bathroom will I clean first, or what vegetable to buy for today's meal, etc) she gets very angry and doesn't eat.

My approach has been silence and not responding, because I know at this point she will not change and if I want to accomplish what I hope which is to help her and take care of her, antagonizing her will result in her not eating, not letting me help her at all. But, despite my conscious decision to just take and take her attitude and not respond, I'm deeply hurt, severely tired and awfully lonely. How to deal with someone like her, if you could provide a practical example it'd be appreciated. Thank you!!


October 4, 2017

When You have Negative Thoughts about Your Thoughts

Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself. St. Francis de Sales
Many times when I'm teaching a client about cognitive therapy and how thoughts can contribute to or exacerbate problems, they become highly critical of their thoughts. In an effort to feel better, they begin to punish themselves for certain thoughts: “That's stupid! I shouldn't think that way!” or “It should be simple to control my thoughts—what's wrong with me?”

One particularly difficult area is when the “thought-stopping” technique is used. This technique literally has a person tell themselves firmly “Stop it!” When a person does so it becomes easy to add a judgment: “Stop it! I'm so weak I can't even stop these thoughts.”

Although the purpose of cognitive therapy is to learn how to change thinking, punishing oneself about the thoughts can make the therapy less effective and may even worsen the problem. Research shows that these thoughts about your thoughts need to be addressed as they can interfere with effective reduction in symptoms. Read more...

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