Posted by: Admin | August 23, 2014

How to Spot Manipulation

How to Spot Manipulation

We all want to get our needs met, but manipulators use underhanded methods. Manipulation is a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive, or abusive tactics. Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering, as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality it’s to achieve an ulterior motive. Other times, it’s veiled hostility, and when abusive methods are used, the objective is merely power. You may not realize that you’re being unconsciously intimidated.

If you grew up being manipulated, it’s harder to discern what’s going on, because it feels familiar. You might have a gut feeling of discomfort or anger, but on the surface the manipulator may use words that are pleasant, ingratiating, reasonable, or that play on your guilt or sympathy, so you override your instincts and don’t know what to say. Codependents have trouble being direct and assertive and may use manipulation to get their way. They’re also easy prey for being manipulated by narcissists, borderline personalities, sociopaths, and other codependents, including addicts.

MANIPULATIVE TACTICS

Favorite weapons of manipulators are:  guilt, complaining, comparing, lying, denying (including excuses and rationalizations), feigning ignorance, or innocence (the “Who me!?” defense), blame, bribery, undermining, mind games, assumptions, “foot-in-the-door,” reversals, emotional blackmail, evasiveness, forgetting, fake concern, sympathy, apologies, flattery, and gifts and favors. Manipulators often use guilt by saying directly or through implication, “After all I’ve done or you,” or chronically behaving needy and a helpless. They may compare you negatively to someone else or rally imaginary allies to their cause, saying that, “Everyone” or “Even so and so thinks xyz ,” or “says xyz about you.”

Some manipulators deny promises, agreements, or conversations, or start an argument and blame you for something you didn’t do to get sympathy and power. This approach can be used to break a date, promise, or agreement.  Parents routinely manipulate with bribery – everything from, “Finish your dinner to get dessert,” to “No video games until your homework is done.” I was bribed with a promise of a car, which I needed in order to commute to summer school, on the condition that I agree to go to the college that my parents had chosen rather than the one I’d decided on. I always regretted taking the bribe. When you do, it undermines your self-respect.

Manipulators often voice assumptions about your intentions or beliefs and then react to them as if they were true in order to justify their feelings or actions, all the while denying what you a say in the conversation. They may act as if something has been agreed upon or decided when it hasn’t in order to ignore any input or objection you might have.

The “foot-in-the-door” technique is making a small request that you agree to, which is followed by the real request. It’s harder to say no, because you’ve already said yes.  The reversal turns your words around to mean something you didn’t intend. When you object, manipulators turn the tables on you so that they’re the injured party. Now it’s about them and their complaints, and you’re on the defensive.

Fake concern is sometimes used to undermine your decisions and confidence in the form of warnings or worry about you.

EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL

Emotional blackmail is abusive manipulation that may include the use of rage, intimidation, threats, shame, or guilt. Shaming you is a method to create self-doubt and make you feel insecure.  It can even be couched in a compliment: “I’m surprised that you of all people you’d stoop to that!” A classic ploy is to frighten you with threats, anger, accusations, or dire warnings, such as, “At your age, you’ll never meet anyone else if you leave,” or “The grass isn’t any greener,” or playing the victim: “I’ll die without you.”

Blackmailers may also frighten you with anger, so you sacrifice your needs and wants. If that doesn’t work, they sometimes suddenly switch to a lighter mood. You’re so relieved that you’re willing to agree to whatever is asked. They might bring up something you feel guilty or ashamed about from the past as leverage to threaten or shame you, such as, “I’ll tell the children xyz if you do xyz.

Victims of blackmailers who have certain personality disorders, such as borderline or narcissistic PD, are prone to experience a psychological FOG, which stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt, an acronym invented by Susan Forward. The victim is made to feel afraid to cross the manipulator, feels obligated to comply with his or her request, and feels too guilty not to do so. Shame and guilt can be used directly with put-downs or accusations that you’re “selfish” (the worse vice to many codependents) or that “You only think of yourself,” “You don’t care about me,” or that “You have it so easy.”

CODEPENDENCY

Codependents are rarely assertive. They may say whatever they think someone wants to hear to get along or be loved, but then later they do what they want. This is also passive-aggressive behavior. Rather than answer a question that might lead to a confrontation, they’re evasive, change the topic, or use blame and denial (including excuses and rationalizations), to avoid being wrong. Because they find it so hard to say no, they may say yes, followed by complaints about how difficult accommodating the request will be. When confronted, because of their deep shame, codependents have difficulty accepting responsibility, so they deny responsibility and blame or make excuses or make empty apologies to keep the peace.

They use charm and flattery and offer favors, help, and gifts to be accepted and loved. Criticism, guilt, and self-pity are also used to manipulate to get what they want: “Why do you only think of yourself and never ask or help me with my problems? I helped you.” Acting like a victim is a way to manipulate with guilt.

Addicts routinely deny, lie, and manipulate to protect their addiction. Their partners also manipulate for example, by hiding or diluting an addict’s drugs or alcohol or through other covert behavior. They may also lie or tell half-truths to avoid confrontations or control the addict’s behavior.

PASSIVE-AGGRESSION

Passive-aggressive behavior can also be used to manipulate. When you have trouble saying no, you might agree to things you don’t want to, and then get your way by forgetting, being late, or doing it half-heartedly. Typically, passive-aggression is a way of expressing hostility. Forgetting “on purpose” is conveniently avoids what you don’t want to do and gets back at your partner – like forgetting to pick up your spouse’s clothes from the cleaners. Sometimes, this is done unconsciously, but it’s still a way of expressing anger. More hostile is offering deserts to your dieting partner.

HOW TO HANDLE MANIPULATORS

The first step is to know whom you’re dealing with. They know your triggers! Study their tactics and learn their favorite weapons. Build your self-esteem and self-respect. This is your best defense! Also, learn to be assertive and set boundaries. Read How to Speak Your Mind: Become Assertive and Set Limits. Contact me at info@darlenelancer.com for a free report “12 Strategies to Handle Manipulators.”

If you would like to learn more about Darlene Lancer, M.A., MFT, J.D. and her private practice please view her profile by clicking here.

©DarleneLancer2014

Posted by: Admin | June 16, 2014

Are You a People-Pleaser?

Are You a People-Pleaser?

 

Everyone starts out in life wanting to be safe, loved, and accepted. It’s in our DNA. Some of us figure out that the best way to do this is to put aside what we want or feel and allow someone else’s needs and feelings take precedence. This works for a while. It feels natural, and there’s less outer conflict, but our inner conflict grows. If we’d like to say no, we feel guilty, and we may feel resentful when we yes. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

Our strategy might create other problems. We may put in extra time at work and try to please the boss but get passed over for a promotion or discover we’re doing work we’re not enjoying at all. We may be very accommodating to family and friends and resent that we’re always the one called upon for help, extra work, or to take care of someone else’s problems.

Our love life might suffer, too. We give and give to our partner, but feel unappreciated or unimportant and that and our needs and desires aren’t considered. We may begin to feel bored, joyless, or mildly depressed. We may miss earlier times when we were happier or more independent. The anger, resentment, hurt, and conflict we always tried to avoid continue to grow. Being alone might appear to be a welcome escape from these challenges, but then we’d end up sacrificing our connection to others, which is what we truly want. Sometimes, it seems like we have to choose between sacrificing ourselves or sacrificing a relationship.

It’s Easier to Just Go Along

We often feel trapped, but don’t know another way to be. Accommodating others is so ingrained in us that stopping is not only difficult, it’s terrifying. If we look around, we might notice other people who are well-liked and don’t people-please. We may even know someone who is kind or admired and is able to say no to requests and invitations. What’s more, they don’t seem to agonize about it with guilt. How they do that is baffling. We might even envy someone quite popular who doesn’t give a hoot about what others think. If we bother to reflect on all this, we may wonder how we got into such a mess and question our fundamental belief that pleasing is the road to acceptance.

Although there are other people who choose to be cooperative and kind, we don’t feel as if we have a choice. It can be as hard to say no to someone who needs us as it is to someone who abuses us. In either case, we fear it will negatively affect our relationship, and the guilt and fear of rejection or disappointing someone is overwhelming. We may have loved ones or friends who would become indignant and even retaliate if we were to say no. Each time, it gets easier to agree when we rather not or to go along and not object. We can turn into a human pretzel trying to win the love or approval of someone we care for – especially in a romantic relationship.

Starting in Childhood

The problem is that for many of us, our pleasing is more than kindness. It’s our personality style. Some children decide that accommodating their parents’ wishes is the safest way to survive in a world of powerful adults and best way to win their parents acceptance and love. They try to be good and not make waves. “Good” means what parents want. Their parents may have had high expectations, been critical, had rigid rules, withheld love or approval, or punished them for “mistakes,” dissent, or showing anger. Some children learn to acquiesce merely by observing their parents’ actions with each other or another sibling. When parental discipline is unfair or unpredictable, children learn to be careful and cooperative to avoid it. Many of us are more sensitive and have a low tolerance for conflict or separation from parents due to genetic makeup, early interactions with parents, or a combination of various factors.

People-Pleasers Pay a Price

Unfortunately, becoming a people-pleaser sets us on a path of becoming alienated from our innate, true self. The underlying belief is that who we are isn’t lovable. Instead, we idealize being loved as a means to self-worth and happiness to the point that we crave it. Our need to be accepted, understood, needed, and loved causes us to be compliant and self-effacing. We conclude, “If you love me, then I’m lovable.” “You” comes to mean just about everyone, including people incapable of love!

Preserving our relationships is our uppermost mandate. We strive to be lovable and charitable and reject character traits that we decide won’t serve that goal. We can end up squelching entire chunks of our personality that are incompatible, like showing anger, winning competitions, exercising power, getting attention, setting boundaries, or disagreeing with others. Even when not asked, we willingly give up separate interests that would mean time away from a loved one. The slightest look of disappointment (which we may inaccurately infer) is enough to deter us from doing something on our own.

Assertiveness feels harsh, setting limits feels rude, and requesting that our needs be met sounds demanding. Some of us don’t believe we have any rights at all. We feel guilty expressing any needs, if we’re even aware of them. We consider it selfish to act in our self-interest. We may even have been called selfish by a selfish parent or spouse. Our guilt and fear of abandonment may be so strong that we stay in an abusive relationship rather than leave.

It’s not surprising that we’re often attracted to someone who is the opposite of us – whose power, independence, and certitude we admire. Over time, we can start to think that unlike us, they’re selfish. In fact, we probably wouldn’t be attracted to someone of the opposite sex who is as kind and pleasing as we are. We would consider them weak, because deep down we dislike ourselves for being so compliant. Moreover, getting our needs met doesn’t rank high on our list. We’d rather be submissive – but eventually pay a price for it.

We’re not aware that each time we hide who we are to please someone else, we give up a little self-respect. In the process, our true self (what we really feel, think, need, and want) retreats a bit more. We become accustomed to sacrificing our needs and wants for so long that we may not know what they are. Decades of conveniently accommodating “just this time” whittles away at our connection to our true self, and our lives and relationships begin to feel empty of joy and passion.

We can change!

It’s possible to change and find our voice, our power, and our passion. It requires getting reacquainted with that Self we’ve hidden, discovering our feelings and needs, and risking asserting and acting on them. It’s a process of raising our sense of self-worth and self-esteem and healing the shame we may not even know that we carry, but it’s a worthy adventure of self-reclamation. Learn more about the steps you can take in my books and ebooks on my website, http://www.whatiscodependency.com.
©Darlene Lancer 2014

Click here if you would like to learn more about Darlene Lancer and her private practice in Santa Monica, CA.

Posted by: Admin | February 3, 2014

After Betrayal

By: Darlene Lancer

It’s must be cellular that men and women automatically feel humiliated when their partner cheats, even though they themselves have done nothing to be ashamed of. Too often, people feel embarrassed for their partners’ behavior, whether it’s domestic violence, emotional abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, gambling, or sex addiction, and too often, those addicts and abusers shift the blame onto their wives and husbands. It’s called “blaming the victim.” But the truth is that we are only responsible for our own behavior and others are responsible for theirs.

Betrayal is a devastating assault upon our ability to trust – trust in ourselves, other people, our sense of justice, even God. It can affect our self-esteem, if we let it. For some people, the worst part of adultery is the dishonesty – sharing our life with someone whom we discover has been living a lie day in and day out. We start to doubt our own senses, let alone our own attractiveness. Who was he or she, really?http://www.whatiscodependency.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif

We go over in our mind past intimate moments and wonder what was he or she thinking. We recall clues and doubt that we dismissed, and wonder what was I thinking! When the truth finally comes out, along with the pain is a sense of relief, because it validates what we intuitively suspected. But then we wonder did he or she love me all those years – was it all fake? Was I in love with a fraud? We can begin to distrust our judgment in the future. Can I trust or “love” again? Can I trust another man, or woman?

When our partner was unfaithful with someone we know, care for and trust, we suffer betrayal by two people. Sadly, it happens that spouses betray one another with their mate’s housekeeper, best friend, or sibling. The pain of the double betrayal is horrendous.

Rebuilding trust can be a long process. (See “Rebuilding Trust) Building bridges of empathy with one another can only begin when the betrayer takes responsibility. Sometimes, adultery is a symptom of problems in the marriage – a lack of open communication, sex, or emotional intimacy. Other times, it’s an act of anger or a way to stake out some freedom or independence in lieu of setting boundaries or expressing anger directly with one’s spouse. It can be viewed as an act of defiance. That doesn’t mean it’s the other person’s fault. It means that the relationship itself and both partners need help in changing their communication patterns and developing a healthier intimate connection.

Addiction is rampant in America – our codependent country – and sex addiction is rarely talked about. An addict’s family life is built upon shame and secrecy that eats away at everyone’s self-esteem.

We are never responsible for someone else’s behavior, nor does it reflect upon our worth. Only our actions reflect on us.

If you’ve been betrayed, stop every self-doubt that creeps into your mind. Your value, and your self-respect, aren’t tarnished one iota!

©Darlene Lancer 2014

To learn more about Darlene Lancer and her private practice you can view her profile here.

Posted by: Admin | August 12, 2013

Help for Codependents Breaking Up

Breaking up and rejection are especially hard for codependents. Breaking-up trigger hidden grief and causes irrational guilt, anger, shame, and fear. Working through the following issues can help you let go and move on.

  1. Codependents often blame themselves or their partner.
  2. They have low self-esteem, and any rejection triggers feelings of shame.
  3. Relationships are of primary importance to them.
  4. They fear this relationship may be their last.
  5. They haven’t grieved their childhood.
  6. Past feelings of loss and trauma from their childhood are triggered.

Blame

One of the main symptoms of codependency is poor boundaries. Codependents have difficulty seeing others as separate individuals, with feelings, needs, and motivations independent of themselves. They feel responsible and guilty for others’ feelings and actions. This accounts for high reactivity, conflict and caretaking in codependent relationships. They perceive their partner’s need for space or even to break-up or divorce as their fault. Even if they were blamed by their partner, it still doesn’t make it so. There may be instances where a person’s addiction, abuse, or infidelity precipitate a break-up, but if you look deeper, those behaviors reflect individual motivations and are part of a bigger picture of why the relationship didn’t work. No one is responsible for someone else’s actions. People always have a choice to do what they do. If you’re feeling guilty, take the suggested steps in my recent blog, “Essential Steps to Self-Forgiveness and Overcoming Guilt.”

Anger and resentment can also keep you stuck in the past. Codependents blame others because they have trouble taking responsibility for their own behavior which might include a failure to set boundaries. They may have been blamed or criticized as a child, and blame feels natural and protects them from their overdeveloped sense of guilt.

Low Self-Esteem and Shame

Shame is an underlying cause of codependency stemming from early, dysfunctional parenting. Codependents develop the belief that they’re basically flawed in some respect and that they’re unlovable. Children can interpret parental behavior as rejecting and shaming when it’s not meant to be. Even parents who profess their love may alternately behave in ways that communicate you’re not loved as the unique individual who you are. Shame is often unconscious, but may drive a person to love others who can’t love or don’t love them. In this way, a belief in ones unlovability becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy operating beneath conscious awareness. Some codependents have a shaming, “I’m defective” or “I’m a failure” script, blaming themselves for anything that goes wrong. Low-self-esteem, which is a cognitive self-evaluation, leads to self-attribution of fault and personal defects to explain why someone else wants to end a relationship. For example, if a man cheats, the woman often assumes it’s because she’s not desirable enough, rather than that his motivation comes from his fear of intimacy. Learning to love yourself can help heal shame and improve self-esteem. See my ebook on raising self-esteem.

Relationships are the Answer

In the dysfunctional and insecure family environment in which codependents grow up, they develop strategies and defenses in order to feel safe and loved. Some seek power, some withdraw, and others try to win the love of their parents by adapting to their parents’ needs. Stereotypical codependents keep trying to make relationships work – usually harder than their partner – in order to feel secure and okay with themselves. A close relationship becomes the solution to their inner emptiness and insecurity. It’s not unusual for codependents to drop their friends, interests and hobbies – if they had any – once they’re in a relationship. They focus all of their energy on the relationship and their loved one, which helps neither them, nor the relationship. Some couples spend their time talking about it their relationship, instead of enjoying time together. Once it ends, they feel the emptiness of their life without a partner. The adage, “Happiness begins within,” is apt. Recovery from codependency helps people assume responsibility for their own happiness, and although a relationship can add to your life, it won’t make you happy in the long run, if you can’t do that for yourself. It’s important to have a support network of friends and/or 12-Step meetings as well as activities that bring you pleasure whether or not you’re in a relationship.

Grieving the Past

Codependents find it hard to let go because they haven’t let go of the childhood hope of having that perfect love from their parents. They expect to be cared for and loved and accepted unconditionally from a partner in the way they wished their parents could have. No partner can make up for those losses and disappointments. Parents aren’t perfect and even those with the best intentions disappoint their children. Part of becoming an independent adult is realizing and accepting this fact, not only intellectually, but emotionally, and that usually involves sadness and sometimes anger.

The Last Hope

Losing someone can be devastating, because codependents put such importance on a relationship to make them happy. Fear is the natural outgrowth of shame. When you’re ashamed, you fear that you won’t be accepted and loved. You fear criticism and rejection. Codependents fear being alone and abandoned, because they believe they’re unworthy of love. They might cling to an abusive relationship in which they’re being emotionally abandoned all the time. These aren’t rational fears. Building a life that you enjoy prepares you to both live single and be in a healthier relationship where you’re less dependent upon the other person to make you happy.  

Past Trauma

It’s a psychological axiom that each loss recapitulates prior losses. You may have had other losses as an adult that compound grief about the current one. Yet often, it’s abandonment losses from childhood that are being triggered. Closeness with a parent was either blissful or you may never had it, or didn’t have it consistently. The intimacy of a close relationship reminds you of intimacy you once had or longed for with your mother or father. Either way, it’s a loss. Codependents may have been neglected, blamed, abused, betrayed, or rejected in childhood, and these traumas get reactivated by current events. Sometimes, they unconsciously provoke situations reminiscent of their past in order that it can be healed. They also may incorrectly perceive rejection, because they expect to be treated the way they were previously.

Grief is part of letting go, but it’s important to maintain friendships and life-affirming activities in the process. Blame, shame, and guilt aren’t helpful, but working through trauma from the past can help you sort out your feelings and know what you feel about the ending of the present relationship. Do you miss the person, what he or she represent, or just being in a relationship? Check out my blog on “Letting Go,” and get my “14 Tips to Letting Go.”

Letting go and healing involve acceptance of yourself and your partner as separate individuals. Usually, relationships end because partners have individual issues with self-esteem and sham, are ill-matched, or have needs that they’re unable to communicate or fill. Shame often causes people to withdraw or push the other person away. Healing trauma and losses and building self-esteem help individuals move forward in their life and take more responsibility for themselves. Sign up for a free copy of “14 Tips to Letting Go,” on my website, and get my ebook, 10 Steps to Self-Esteem. Look for my forthcoming book, Conquering Shame and Codependency.

©Darlene Lancer 2013

If you would like to learn more about Darlene Lancer please view her profile here.

Posted by: Admin | May 6, 2013

10 TIPS TO BEST MOTHERING AND SELF-LOVE

The idea of self-love and self-nurturing baffles most people, especially codependents, who by and large, received inadequate parenting. The word “nurture” comes from the Latin nutritus, meaning to suckle and nourish. It also means to protect and foster growth. For young children, this usually falls to the mother, however, the father’s role is equally important. Both parents need to nurture children. Healthy parenting helps the grown child be his or her own best mother and father. A child must not only feel loved, but also that he or she is understood and valued by both parents as a separate, unique individual and that both parents want a relationship with him or her. Although we have many needs, I’m focusing on nurturing emotional needs.

Emotional Needs

In addition to physical nourishment, including gentle touch, care, and food, emotional nurturing consists of meeting a child’s emotional needs. These include:

§  Love

§  Play

§  Respect

§  Encouragement

§  Understanding

§  Acceptance

§  Empathy

§  Comfort

§  Reliability

§  Guidance

The Importance of Empathy

A child’s thoughts and feelings need to be taken seriously and listened to with respect and understanding. One way of communicating this is by mirroring or reflecting back what he or she is saying expressing. “You’re angry that it’s time to stop playing now.” Instead of judgment, “You shouldn’t be jealous of Cindy’s new friend,” a child needs acceptance and empathic understanding, such as: “I know you’re hurt and feel left out by Cindy and her friend.” Empathy is a deeper than intellectual understanding. It’s identification at an emotional level with what the child feels and needs. Of course, it’s equally important that a parent appropriately meet those needs, including giving comfort in moments of distress.

Accurate empathy is important for children to feel understood and accepted. Otherwise, they may feel alone, abandoned, and not loved for who they are, but for only what their parents want to see. Many parents unwittingly harm their children by denying, ignoring, or shaming their child’s needs, actions, and expressions of thoughts or feelings. Simply saying, “How could you do that,” may be felt as shaming or humiliating. Responding to a child’s tears with laughter, or “That’s nothing to cry about,” or “You shouldn’t be (or ‘Don’t be’) sad,” are forms of denying and shaming a child’s natural feelings. Even parents who have sympathetic intentions, may be preoccupied or misunderstand and misattune to their child. With enough repetitions, a child learns to deny and dishonor natural feelings and needs and to believe that he or she is unloved or inadequate.

Good parents are also reliable and protective. They keep promises and commitments, provide nourishing food and medical and dental care. They protects their child from anyone who threatens or harms him or her.

Self-Nurturing

Once grown, you still have these emotional needs. Self-love means meeting them. If fact, it’s each person’s responsibility to be his or her own parent and meet these emotional needs, irrespective of whether you’re in a relationship. Of course, there are times you need support, touch, understanding, and encouragement from others. However, the more you practice self-nurturing, the better your relationships will be.

All of the things a good mother does, you have the superior capacity to do, for who knows better than you what are your deepest feelings and needs, if only you’d look. Here are some steps you can take:

1.     When you have uncomfortable feelings, put your hand on your chest, and say aloud, “You’re (or I’m) ____.” (e.g., angry, sad, afraid, lonely). This accepts and honors your feelings.

2.     If you have difficulty identifying your feelings, pay attention to your inner dialogue. Notice your thoughts. Do they express worry, judgment, despair, resentment, envy, hurt, or wishing. Notice your moods. Are you irritable, anxious, or blue? Try to name your specific feelings. (“Upset” isn’t a specific feeling.) Do this several times a day to increase your feeling recognition. You can find lists of hundreds of feelings online.

3.     Think and/or write about the cause or trigger for your feeling and what you need that will make you feel better. Meeting needs is good parenting.

4.     If you’re angry or anxious, practice yoga or martial arts, meditation, or simple breathing exercises. Slowing your breath slows your brain and calms your nervous system. Exhale 10 times making a hissing (“sss”) sound with your tongue behind your teeth. Doing something active is also ideal for releasing anger.

5.     Practice giving yourself comfort: Write a supportive letter to yourself, expressing what an ideal parent  would say. Have a warm drink. Studies show this actually elevates your mood. Swaddle your body in a blanket or sheet like a baby. This is soothing and comforting to your body.

6.     Do something pleasurable, e.g., read or watch comedy, look at beauty, walk in nature, sing or dance, create something, or stroke your skin. Pleasure releases chemicals in the brain that counterbalance pain, stress, and negative emotions. Discover what pleasures you. (To read more about the neuroscience of pleasure, read my article, “The Healing Power of Pleasure”.)

7.     Adults also need to play. This means doing something purposeless that fully engages you and is enjoyable for its own sake. The more active the better, i.e., play with your dog vs. walking him, sing or collect seashells vs. watching television. Play brings you into the pleasure of the moment. Doing something creative is a great way to play, but be cautious not to judge yourself. Remember the goal is enjoyment – not the finished product.

8.     Practice complimenting and encouraging yourself – especially when you don’t think you’re doing enough. Notice this self-judgment for what it is, and be a positive coach. Remind yourself of what you have done and allow yourself time to rest and rejuvenate.

9.     Forgive yourself. Good parents don’t punish children for mistakes or constantly remind them, and they don’t punish willful wrongs repeatedly. Instead, learn from mistakes and make amends when necessary.

10.   Keep commitments to yourself as you would anyone else. When you don’t, you’re in effect abandoning yourself. How would you feel if your parent repeatedly broke promises to you. Love yourself by demonstrating that you’re important enough to keep commitments to yourself.

A Word of Caution

Beware of self-judgment. Remember that feelings aren’t rational. Whatever you feel is okay and it’s okay if you don’t know why you feel the way you do. What is important is acceptance of your feelings and the positive actions you take to nurture yourself. Many people think, “I shouldn’t be angry (sad, afraid, depressed, etc.). This may reflect judgment they received as a child. Often it’s this unconscious self-judgment that is the cause of irritability and depression. Learn how to combat self-criticism in my ebook, “10 Steps to Self-Esteem,” available in online bookstores.

 

©Darlene Lancer 2013

If you would like to learn more about Darlene Lancer please view her profile here.

Posted by: Admin | June 20, 2012

When in Stress: Start with the Basics

We all experience challenging situations at some point in our lives. Problems with a significant relationship, life crisis, or work overload can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

During times like these it can be easy for our brains to ‘go rogue’ and lose sight of what really matters. When we’re depleted by the body’s natural stress response, mental and physical exhaustion limits our ability to think clearly. We may even forget about caring for our bodies, minds, and our brains.

Research in the field of neuroscience (brain science) can help. Studies tell us that at rest, the brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy. Imagine how much energy our brains use during an average day or a stressful period!

If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, consider these 3 basic ideas for the health of your brain:

1. Add more nutrient-dense foods to your daily food intake, and learn more about your body’s specific needs. You might also be curious, and want to observe how you eat. For example, do you swallow your food whole or do you chew thoroughly? Do you tune out when you eat or do you enjoy the flavors and textures that food brings?

2. Do some exercise on a regular basis – even a little bit every day. You might consider
adding another day or two at the gym, or walking around town. Brain studies
show that movement and exercise, such as yoga, walking, etc., contributes to a
healthy brain. Remember to speak with your doctor before starting a rigorous or new
regimen.

3. Re-evaluate your sleep habits. Ask yourself, “how many hours of sleep do I need to be at my best?” For example, I’m at my best with 8 or 8 1/2 hours sleep. Knowing this information about myself is useful when a pattern of 5 1/2 or 6 hours has set in, so I can re-adjust.

Knowing your body intimately will help you meet your brain’s most basic needs. When we care for our brains they respond with

* a stronger immune system
* increased energy
* an increased ability to regulate emotional reactions
* clearer thinking
* feeling better

Going through difficulties in life isn’t easy or pleasant, and we may not be able to choose all that happens in life. But we can choose to care for the health of our brains by going back to basics. Talking with a psychotherapist can also provide a source of support, guidance, and growth.

by:  Sandra Greenberg, Ph.D., LCSW

About the Author:  Sandra Greenberg Ph.D., LCSW is an individuals, couples, and sex therapist in Bryn Mawr, PA.  To learn more about Dr. Greenberg please visit her complete profile here.

Posted by: Admin | March 8, 2012

IS THIS A BAD TIME TO MARKET?

This is reprinted with permission from an article by C.J. Hayden and is geared toward a general audience. Some of her suggestions may not  be appropriate for therapists, so use your best clinical judgement when deciding whether they are OK for clients.

All economic indicators say we are in a recession. Consumer and business spending is down; unemployment is up. It’s natural to wonder whether perhaps this is a bad time to be marketing your business.

Since I’ve been self-employed for over two decades now, I’ve seen several economic cycles come and go. What I notice about these “down” periods is that people who frequently struggle to get clients typically think these are bad times to market. On the other hand, people who have been consistently successful at landing clients seem to believe that there is never a bad time to market. Personally, I’d vote to follow the lead of those who are succeeding.

Professionals who have built successful long-term businesses have learned that continuing to market pays off in both the best of times and the worst of times. But you may not be able to produce new results by marketing in the same old way. Here are six suggestions for how to keep your marketing up when the overall business climate is down.

1. Turn up the volume. When people are distracted by bad news or economic concerns, you may need to communicate more often or more visibly. Where an email might have done the job before, now you may need to pick up the phone or send a postcard. Instead of just one follow-up call, you may need to make two or three. If your business is slowing down, make use of the extra time you have available to ramp up all your marketing efforts.

2. Become a necessity. When clients are cutting back on discretionary spending, they need to perceive your services as essential. Look for ways to “dollarize” the value of your services. How can you help your clients save money, cut expenses, or work more efficiently? Will your services help them gain more customers, increase their income, or experience less stress in tough times? Tell your prospects exactly why they need you, and why they shouldn’t wait to get started.

3. Make use of your existing network. It’s always easier to get your foot in the door when someone is holding it open. In a slow market, referrals and introductions can be the key to getting new business. Seek out opportunities to propose repeat business with former clients, too. Uncertain times encourage more reliance on trusted sources and known quantities, so warm approaches and existing contacts will pay off better than cold calls or mass mailings.

4. Explore partnerships. Working with a partner can create more opportunities for both of you. By sharing contacts, you each increase the size of your network. Together, you can multiply your marketing efforts and share expenses. A partner with a complementary business can allow you to offer a more complete solution than your competitors can. A photographer could team up with a graphic designer, for example. And you can help keep each other’s spirits up, too.

5. Meet people where they are. In a down economy, prospects are even more price sensitive than usual. Instead of slashing your rates to get their business, propose a get-acquainted offer. A professional organizer or image consultant could offer a reduced price half-day package for new clients. A management consultant or executive coach could propose a staff seminar instead of consulting/coaching work. Once clients see you in action, they’ll be more willing to spend.

6. Find the silver linings. When companies cut back on staff, opportunities are created. With fewer people on the payroll to handle essential tasks, downsized organizations present possibilities for project work, interim assignments, and outsourced functions. Economic changes beget other needs. People who are out of work need resume writers and career coaches. Folks concerned about their finances need investment advisors and financial planners.

Landing clients during a down period requires not just more marketing, but more strategic marketing. So instead of getting depressed by the news, get inspired by it. When you hear about coming layoffs, consider how your services could benefit those companies. When you read about negative consumer attitudes, use those words to better target your marketing copy. When prospects say, “not this year,” craft a proposal that ensures your place in next year’s budget.

For the successful independent professional, there’s no such thing as a bad time to market.

Copyright © 2008, C.J. Hayden

Posted by: Admin | January 2, 2012

5 Tips on How to Keep New Years’ Resolutions

Why bother to make resolutions and then feel disappointed or guilty for breaking them? Do you get excited and resolve to change, but within days or weeks lose interest and can’t motivate yourself? Wonder why you get sidetracked by distractions or become easily discouraged when quick results aren’t forthcoming? The problem is threefold:

·      Terminology. When you think about goal setting, you realize that it’s a process and that requires effort to reach your target; whereas a resolution is a decision or intention. It has to be more than a wish, but it’s only the first step in reaching a goal. There’s no implication that planning or effort is involved. It’s as if saying it makes it so. Naturally, it doesn’t. Change isn’t easy. Instead of making several New Year’s “resolutions,” make ONE you can keep, and it will give you confidence that you can do more.

·      Motivation. Change requires work. To be motivated, your heart has to be in it.  To realize your goals and resolutions, you must be inspired and really want to make the effort necessary to leave your comfort zone. Inspiration infuses you with energy and power. It stimulates your creativity, promises a better future, or connects you to a larger purpose. It fills you with positive emotions that overcome fear and inertia. Love mobilizes parents to work hard and protect their children, disregarding their own comfort and safety. For change to last, make sure your motive expresses your true self and fosters your highest good. Your goal must be congruent with your core beliefs. Resolutions to make changes for someone else’s approval, for monetary gain, or because you think you “should” are hard to sustain.

·      Self-Discipline. In addition to desire and motivation, you need self-discipline. It’s been said that success is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration. Change requires focus and sustained effort before results are noticeable. The process is not a straight path, but a spiral of movement forward, slips, stagnation, and leaps ahead. It’s easy to get discouraged and be swayed by the pull of habit. Expect to feel discomfort. You may feel confused, awkward, or anxious. Studies show that on average that changing habits requires at least two months of vigilant monitoring, and they still sneak up on you. Be patient. Continue to exert your will-power, and over time your persistence will pay off.  

For years, every January I’d make resolutions and set goals for the coming year. Twelve months later, I’d see if I’d accomplished them, never considering the “how to” middle part. Of course, “good intentions” didn’t get me very far. Here are six tips that I’ve learned:

1.    Create an action plan. I’d get overwhelmed and lose confidence when I thought about a major goal. Break it down into smaller steps by month, week, and daily to-do lists. Actionable steps become manageable and doable.

2.    Heighten self-awareness. People often seek therapy to raise their self-esteem or overcome addictions and codependency. If your resolution is to change your habits, self-awareness and vigilance are needed in order to interrupt old patterns. Daily meditation and journaling are potent and helpful tools in monitoring and changing your thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

3.    Encourage yourself. Discouragement is normal. Become a positive coach, and continually give yourself positive feedback, praise, and recognition. Look for small signs of progress and celebrate them. If you have low-self-esteem, you may talk yourself out of your desires and think you lack the skill, worth, or ability to achieve them. Underlying depression does the same thing. Self-doubt and negative self-talk paralyze you in a past expression of yourself. They sap energy and motivation, and can easily persuade you to give up.

If you aren’t making progress or slip into old habits, don’t dwell on your “mistake.” Rather than stay stuck in self-judgment and guilt, admit what you did or didn’t do, and quickly get back on track. Stay solution-oriented. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?” Self-forgiveness improves both self-esteem and future behavior.

4.    Have a vision. To create a powerful motivation for change, picture yourself as you’d like to be and see yourself happy and confident behaving in the new way. Rather than focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you desire. Here are some suggestions to manifest the new you:

·      Draw the future you.

·      Imagine what it would be like if you were the future you in this moment. See yourself carrying out your New Year’s resolutions. Notice the expression on your face, and experience how you would feel in your body. See the future you as having accomplished your goals. Experience yourself feeling proud, happy, and confident. See people in your life responding favorably to you.

5.    Get support. Some changes entail facing the unknown or a perceived danger, such as life after a divorce, moving to a new city, or standing up to intimidation. They require courage, and support can be a great help. Addictions and habits are hard to break, especially if they’re driven by temptation, like drugs, food, and sex. Support and encouragement from friends, family, a mentor, support group, or therapist are vital until new patterns are established as part of your self-definition.

Many people make changes on their own. If it’s been difficult for you, or if you find it hard to muster motivation and self-discipline, it may be that an internal shift is required before anything external can permanently change. Sometimes, unconscious beliefs about yourself and what’s possible hold you back. Consider that therapy can lift depression and move you through the challenges outlined above. It can raise your self-esteem, facilitate insight, and guide you in facing the unknown and maintaining new behavior.

©Darlene Lancer 2012

Posted by: Admin | December 13, 2011

Teaching Children that It’s Okay to Be Angry

We all get mad; it’s how we manage our anger that matters, and no one is perfect. For example, just this morning, I was trying to finish an article while my 1-year-old slept. Her sister had other plans though, and decided to start rummaging through my home office. Her exploration quickly launched into diving behindfurniture and generally making a mess. Since I was on deadline and pressed for time, I quickly got angry and yelled.

We all know that it’s important to lead by example when it comes to anger management, especially when dealing with young children, but do we? When tears followed my outburst, I realized my misstep and abandoned the project to pay attention to my daughter, which, as a parent, was the right decision.

At 3 ½ she is at the prime age for immature emotional outbursts, which makes my response even more crucial. Young children aged 3-5 generally lack the impulse control needed to avoid ripping up a drawing or knocking down a block tower when something doesn’t go their way. However, it is how they react following that outburst and how the adults around them explain it that makes all the difference in terms of their ability to manage anger as they age and enter school.

Like many social skills, anger management starts in the home. As adults, we get caught up in our own lives frequently and it is easy to take out our frustration with others on our children, like I did this morning. Obviously, we need to learn to control these events, but no one is perfect 100% of the time. I believe it is the response that we give after the outburst that matters most. By explaining anger in age appropriate ways and labeling the emotion early on, children are more likely to pick up on both the inevitability of and the proper response to the anger emotion. 

Anger Management at School

As teachers and school counselors, we have little control over the reactions our students face in their homes, but we can extend the lessons of anger management into the classroom in similar ways. Labeling the emotion is a first step, which goes hand-in-hand with open discussions regarding anger. These discussions should include what makes each child angry and why, as well as what responses each has to the emotion. Naming a problem goes a long way in helping to solve it, and since lack of anger management skills is closely tied to bullying in school, taking the time to mention the importance of this emotion from an early age is an essential component in bully prevention strategies.

Consider some of the following resources for lesson plans and ideas in the classroom:

Elementary School: The book When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang is a great starting point for a discussion of anger, even for preschoolers. Other books and activities for anger management can be found here.

Middle School: Since this age group can be reluctant to share emotions with each other freely, anger-related journal questions or homework can be used as a means to begin the discussion internally before bringing it to the group. PBS Kids suggests an interview with an adult that can also serve as a means to open the floor to discussion at home.

High School: PBS again provides a wonderful lesson plan in anger management and the importance of the “I-Message.” By phrasing anger in the 1st person, older teens can begin to see the personal elements of the emotion.

It’s Okay to Be Angry

Anger is inevitable, even if it’s misplaced. I know that my stress is no excuse for being “mean Mommy,” and this morning I immediately recognized that. Plus, I know better than to try to “sneak” work into the day when I’m alone with my kids, so the fault was with me, not my daughter. Even though she’s 3 and unlikely to understand the full implications of it, I apologized to her and explained why I yelled.

Anger management starts with example and it’s important to show children that at times when you do lose control, you can stop yourself and right your course. I wanted her to know that it’s okay to be angry, but that in expressing that anger, we need to also exert control and remorse.

Writer: Andrea Ditter-Middleton

Bio: Andrea is a college writing teacher whose work experience includes everything from coordinating YMCA after-school programs for at-risk youth to tutoring developmental writing students to general classroom instruction. In addition to writing professionally, Andrea currently teaches a range of adult community college students in both online and physical classroom settings. At home, she keeps in shape by running after her two young daughters.

Posted by: Admin | November 8, 2011

Therapy in College

Issues of mental health and overall wellness are often overlooked by many college students. Between adjusting to new surroundings, registering for courses online, and meeting new people, students may simply feel they don’t have time to acknowledge their problems. This oversight could also be partially due to the fact that the stigma of “mental health issues” is so highly correlated with having an extreme, diagnosed mental illness. However, this really shouldn’t be so. Like any other aspect of life and health, appropriate awareness (followed by any necessary action) is crucial for overall wellness.

The student bodies of universities today are more diverse than ever before, and the emotional and mental health issues among those students are also more varied. While common issues discussed in school-operated counseling services were once primarily feelings of homesickness, stress, and depression from social circumstances or grades, issues frequently addressed in counseling offices today are often much more severe.

Currently issues of suicidal tendencies and substance abuse are taking their place in a long line of other serious mental health problems. The National Survey of Counseling Center Directors has found a marked increase in severe psychological problems over the last decade. Common mental health issues noted in this survey include eating disorders, alcohol abuse, on-campus sexual assault, and self-inflicted injury patterns. The reasons for the prevalence of such psychological problems are speculated to be just as varied as the student populations themselves.
The demand for on-campus counseling centers has increased as well, with many universities reporting at least a 50 percent increase in counseling services (in both number and duration of appointments) in the past several years. However, some may argue this drastic increase in the use of counseling services for serious mental issues is not as much related to new problems within the student body as it is to greater willingness to be open about such issues. In fact, some have suggested the trend of increased diagnosis could largely be due to changing perceptions and clinical impressions, rather than actual verified evidence through more detailed psychological exams.

While this increase in the use of counseling services may prove that students are actually more readily taking advantage of such resources, many scholars believe the number of students suffering from mental and emotional problems is still greater than even the use of counseling services indicates. The negative social stigma attached to seeking therapy often prevents students from taking advantage of on-campus counseling services or attending activities related to mental health. However, if all students were made aware of the fact such mental and emotional issues were actually commonly experienced by many of their peers, they might be more willing to seek help, as knowledge of the frequency of the issues could help counteract the negative stigma attached to them.

About the Author: Marina Salsbury planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes around the Web about everything from education to exercise.

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