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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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Loving Kindness Meditation

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

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April 28, 2017

Compassion, Not Pity

I never pity anyone because I believe everyone is capable of great strength.
I never pity anyone because I believe everyone is capable of great strength.

As a psychologist it is my job to help people find that strength. It is not my job to protect them from life's adversities. If I feel sorry for my clients it implies that I don't believe they are capable which only affirms their fear.

As a parent it is my duty to help my child find that strength. If I overprotect my child and don't allow him to navigate the rough waters of life, I essentially don't allow him to find the strength and capability within himself. Read more...

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April 26, 2017

It's Not What You Think But Also How You Think That Affects Chronic Pain

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell
Many studies have shown that thinking influences the experience of pain. It's not that the pain is “all in the head” but that certain kinds of thoughts will make the existing pain worse. In fact, two primary styles of thinking tend to increase the level of pain for those with chronic pain:

1) Catastrophizing. Thinking that focuses on how awful the pain is or how much it has ruined your life is shown to make pain worse.

2) Control. Feelings of helplessness and thoughts how not being able to control the pain or to be able to escape it worsens pain.

Research in recent years shows, however, that it is not just what you are thinking but how you process the thoughts that can affect the level of pain you experience. Read more...

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April 24, 2017

Developing Tolerance of Anxiety

I can't always control my anxiety, but I can learn to tolerate it.
For many people anxiety feels intolerable. The unpleasant symptoms of agitation seem like they will never go away. It feels out-of-control and scary. One of the common statements they make is "I can't stand this!"

People without an anxiety disorder often don't understand the level of intensity and how awful it can feel. They equate panic with being the same as a high level of normal anxiety. As a result, their attempts to comfort fall short and may even seem patronizing: "It'll be okay. You can get through this. You just need to calm down."

However, they aren't entirely wrong because the inability to tolerate the anxiety makes the anxiety worse. What they are wrong about, though, is believing the anxiety is under the individual's control and due to an inability to handle normal anxiety. Read more...

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April 20, 2017

Something Good About Depression?

Optimism is the madness of insisting all is well when we are miserable. Voltaire
One common problem for those with depression is the inability to think clearly. However, the research shows that understanding this problem is complex. In fact, with certain types of tasks people with clinical depression exceed the abilities of those without depression.

How is that possible? It may be that people with depression are more greatly impacted by problems with motivation than with an inability to reason. In particular, it is possible that the depressive's pessimism and desire for control actually improves analytical reasoning and decision-making under certain conditions. Read more...

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April 5, 2017

The Essence of a Good Marriage: Friendship

If there is such a thing as a good marriage, it is because it resembles friendship rather than love. Michel de Montaigne
The sweetest thing my husband ever said to me is that I am his best friend. It seems that the best, and most enduring, marriages have friendship as a foundation. Although passion is also an important part of the relationship, passion without friendship doesn't seem to last.

If you think about the nature of best friendship, it makes sense that a marriage based on these qualities is one that withstands hardships and delights in the good times.

Qualities of best friendship

1) Mutual respect. Good friends have a strong desire to maintain the relationship which is based upon respect for one another. Friends admire the other without jealousy or pettiness.

2) Cooperative. Best friends make decisions together about the direction of the friendship--one person is not in charge of the relationship. Friends don't try to control one another. Sure, they may not have to make the kind of life decisions required of a married couple, but good marriages have this same quality. Read more...

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April 3, 2017

New article! Understanding the Act “As If” Concept for Anxiety Treatment

"I have often been afraid, but...I would act as though I was not afraid, and gradually my fear disappeared. Theodore Roosevelt In a sense, act “as if” is similar to “fake it til you make it” but only in the way that clinical depression is similar to sadness (see my article Depression is Not Sadness). When we explore the underlying meaning, though, it becomes a completely different concept. Unfortunately, these concepts are often used interchangeably, certainly by the public but even by professionals.
Question: I've been reading your articles for some time and while I've made some progress in becoming less anxious, I still have trouble behaving the way I want to when I feel anxious. I think this is referred to as “Act as if” in CBT.

I think the main reason or issue behind it is that I see emotions as a true reflection of myself, at least in that particular moment. My question is, would you mind making a comment on “Act as if”' without relating it to “Fake it til you make it”? Since being real towards myself is quite important to me, I personally can't stand “Fake it til you make it” approach.*

Excellent question because it reflects how Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is commonly misunderstood when simplified versions of CBT become maxims such as “Fake it til you make it.”

What is the difference between “act 'as if'” and “fake it til you make it”?

First, let's review what acting “as if” means for learning to manage anxiety. This reader is referring to the “50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety”: Read more...

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