Therapy That Works...

Charlie Sheen and Addiction - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 25, 2011

With Charlie Sheen’s latest public tantrum denouncing the writer and creator of his top rated show, Two and a Half Men, CBS has canceled the show for the rest of the season. With a long-standing history of addiction and failed rehabilitation, Sheen seems to be in serious trouble.

So how do you know that someone is at rock bottom?

Sudden Regressions: Chronically addicted people tend to regress suddenly and severely with no warning. Once the addiction switch is flipped, it is incredibly difficult to reverse his emotions and behavior. He has no insight and no judgment. He begins to destroy every area of his life—his job, her relationships and even his health. Addiction hijacks the mind and better judgment.

Addiction Takes Over: Self-destructive behavior is the inevitable and predictable end point of a long and down ward spiral. The addict’s emotional outbursts indicate that his addicted brain has taken over fully since there is no demonstrated ability to censor his words or his behavior. His recklessness and self-destructiveness may well continue.

Psychologists often diagnose two other serious problems that contribute to the addiction illness:

Bipolar Disorder: The leading contender is bipolar illness, which is a type of depression in which the mood becomes elated and then depressed. People can cycle in and out of explosive, grandiose manic episodes and then be flat on their backs with a debilitating depression in the same hour.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: This disorder is often present in the addicted person and remains undiagnosed due to the overwhelming addiction. The individual is arrogant, grandiose, entitled, shameless, vengeful and highly impulsive. Striking out at others even if it results in unfortunate consequences is common when the person becomes enraged or frustrated.

Remember that other unaddressed psychiatric disorders that accompany addictions often sabotage treatment in the end.

Celebrities who are under pressure to perform are especially vulnerable to addictions. Unfortunately, money often insulates people from the accountability that is necessary to overcome a serious addiction. They become more and more entrenched in the addiction because their power allows them to control the treatment. We are seeing this in the tragic examples of Lindsay Lohan and the late Michael Jackson.

We do know that male addicts can function in the workplace for decades without detection. The alcohol or drug problems are concealed carefully. However, when their performance at work is affected, they have crossed a line and surrendered to the addiction.

Separation stresses such as a marital dissolution can impact a fragile personality intensely causing regression and a return to the addiction. Addictions make people very self-centered and they have minimal accountability so the marriage ending feels like an injury or wound they find intolerable. Engaging in the addiction becomes a way to sooth their embarrassment and to escape the pain and agitation.

Remember that the drugs and alcohol have hijacked the mind of the addict and they have minimal abilities to rescue themselves.

Intervene, stay firm, set your boundaries firmly and refuse to participate in the addictive behavior. While it is the hardest thing you will ever do, you have to refuse to accept the addiction as inevitable and unchangeable. Believe in recovery, believe in their ability to fight against this illness and light the way back to health for the addict who is truly lost.

Is Humiliation A Proper Punishment? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

After years of frustration with the Tampa school system, a Florida mother is defending her decision to stick her teenage son on a street corner with a sign for nearly four hours that says, among other things, "GPA 1.22 ... honk if I need education." Ronda Holder says she and the boy's father have tried everything to get their 15-year-old to shape up academically and made this decision with their son out of their frustration with the school system.

Is this appropriate parenting or did these parents cross the line?

This is absolutely unacceptable for parents to do this to a child. While their frustration is understandable, children who are humiliated in a public forum, even for seemingly understandable reasons, are experiencing a form of emotional abuse that can last for decades. You do not make a public spectacle of your child to make a point. This child was made to feel like a means to an end rather than a child who needed to be protected on matters that should have remained private and handled in other, more constructive ways.

Here are some signs of emotional abuse:

Remember that emotional abuse is invisible, often inaudible and usually committed behind closed doors. However, public displays of it as in this instance are even worse and have a more intense and deleterious effect on the child. Here are the top signs:

Humiliation: The active belittling of a child with contemptuous language and behavior. The child is the focus of reprimands and criticisms that make the child feel unworthy and helpless.

Abandonment and Rejection: The child is pushed away either with words and actions.

Isolation: Often the child is alone in this abuse, unable to really explain what they feel or articulate what is going on at home.

Exploiting Trust and Good Will: Decreasing trust is the ultimate betrayal of a child at the hands of a parent. Our parents are charged with our protection and any abdication of this role—in any way-- is unacceptable.

But what happens to kids who go through this kind of experience?

Invisible and Marginalized: They feel relegated to the role of an object. In the moments you are being emotionally abused, you are invisible and marginalized.

Social and Academic Delays: Academic and intellectual delays are common in kids who are treated this way. Social relationships are often immature. Emotional Scars: Problems in emotionally self regulating is by far the most serious of all outcomes. The child who is systematically emotionally abused cannot calm down without avoiding. They begin to turn to alcohol, acting out at school, oppositional behaviors and a host of other problems that indicate a basic problem in emotional self regulation. They cannot tolerate ordinary stress and underperform in life and in relationships.

Here's what you can do to avoid all types of emotional abuse:

Accountable to your Child: First of all, audit your own choices and behaviors. It is easy to harshly turn on our kids in lives overrun with stress and discord. However, your first and final responsibility is to your child. Remain accountable to yourself by maintaining strict standards on verbal and emotional blowups and over reactions with your child.

Parents Must Self Regulate Emotions: Emotional abuse by parents always comes from either a sense of helplessness or a lack of conscience about the welfare of the child. Do not allow your helplessness to morph into verbal and behavioral unkindness to the child who is under your care. If you perceive your own lack of self control in this area, see a psychologist and learn the emotional regulation skills that you must in turn, teach your child.

Sex Comes Faster For Couples Who Text - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 21, 2011

Technology seems to be redefining how couples get together. A survey released last week suggests that new couples get intimate faster because of e-mails, texts and other high-tech ways to communicate.

Here are three reasons why technology has such an influence:

Men Love Flirting: Men find flirtatious women irresistible and will often choose a highly flirtatious woman over a more physically attractive woman. Men really love a woman who can handle herself in a conversation whether it’s digitally communicated or face-to-face. Fifty eight percent of men said flirting on Facebook, G-chat and texting helped them become intimate sooner.

Women Love to Feel Connected: Texting keeps a woman feeling constantly connected which is the elixir of love for women. Nearly 80 percent of texting women said their relationships lead to sex more quickly because it was so easy for them to stay connected to their beaus. Texting provides the attention, the emotional familiarity and the sense of interest that women need to feel before they are physically intimate.

Texting Feeds Desire: The bottom line is that texting is the modern form of sexual seduction. Texting feeds the desire necessary for sexual interest and builds the intrigue. You have more opportunities to be humorous, less inhibited and spontaneous. People will say things in a text that they would never have the courage to say in person.

So does texting build a false sense of intimacy?

Absolutely it does since there is no way you can build an emotionally intimate relationship without putting in the “face time.” Chatting with someone through a text relationship keeps things superficial and fun, but such activities only provide an artificial sense of intimacy. Real relationships require real time contact. There is no substitute for being with someone in person—seeing, hearing, touching, even dancing with the person--that gives you a comprehensive and accurate view of who the other person really is. More to the point, you need to experience how you feel being with them in person to see if they relationship has a future.

Now could texting actually lead us to make a bad choice in a new relationship?

Deliberate Misrepresentation: You can get yourself in serious trouble if you over rely on technology since it allows people to misrepresent themselves. The person looks more clever, more patient and more honest then they really might be. They control the content and the flow of the conversation, which plays to the advantage of highly manipulative people.

Fantasy Relationships: In some cases, there can be outright harm to people who get involved too quickly with someone who they really don’t know. Some text-based relationships are entirely invented or highly spun. To become sexually intimate with someone who is really misleading you is devastating psychologically.

Staying Power of Love: There is a cardinal rule in new relationships—falling in love requires repeated face-to-face encounters. You must see each other routinely to become really invested. There is no substitute for the art of flirtation—the arch of an eyebrow or the wind in his hair. Having fun together, sharing experiences, and even facing adversity build a solid sense of commitment and undying loyalty. We find that these text-based relationships explode in passion but lack the staying power for long-term love.

So how can you use technology safely in a new relationship?

Don’t Substitute Technology for True Intimacy: Do not substitute technology for a real relationship since you can get burned easily. Remember that texting is a preview of seduction and foreplay but it is not a replacement for “in person” seduction and foreplay that is part of the relationship dance.

Slow Down: Make sure that you keep your own feelings under control when you are flirting via text. Don’t confuse arousal with real relating. Too many people jump in without knowing where they are going. Slow down and date for a while before you commit your heart.

Source: The Denver Post

Interested or Deceptively Flirting? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to Know if the Flirting is Genuine

With Valentine’s Day, many couples celebrated the holiday with flirting and flowers. But how do you know if the flirting indicates real interest or is just manipulation?

A lot of people have had terrible experiences in dating. How do you know if someone is just trying to manipulate you or is really interested?

Deliberate deception is rampant in the dating world and you can conclude that at least one third of the people you meet are not being fully honest. They are either deliberately concealing something like having another partner or they falsify and mislead you in the conversation. Either way, you have to be pretty cynical when you’re meeting someone new.

Here are a few signs to help you know if someone you’re flirting with or dating is deceiving you:

Focus on Words and Face: Facial expressions are a dead giveaway but liars are renowned for ignoring their expressions. Most liars focus on their words first and their facial expressions second. Watch their face and see if their expression fits with what they’re saying.

Smiling is the most common facial expression used to conceal deceit because it requires the least effort and doesn’t distract the liar. Watch to see if the smile fits the topic, if he smiles too soon, too late or if he holds the smile for too long.

Ignores His Voice: Pauses that are too long and frequent speech errors are clues to lying. Liars are often unprepared to lie and their hesitation and stuttering attempts to falsify information are big clues. Also, their voice pitch may rise as they lie.

Notice Breathing, Sweating and Swallowing: Changes in breathing or sweating (especially on the hands and upper lip), increased swallowing, and a very dry mouth are signs of strong emotions that can indicate lying.

Tricky Tilt: Liars tend to lean to the side while standing or sitting and often have both of their arms or legs closed. Eyes can stare too long and then shift rapidly and downward.

Too Many or Too Few Details: When someone is lying to you, they either provide too many or too few details. Either excess or a lack of information is intended to deceive you.

Technology Fuels Lies: Liars love to use their cell, texting or email to lie. Directly confronting you face to face is more complicated since they have to control both their words and actions to successfully deceive. In one study, 72% of lies were delivered digitally while only 27% were delivered in face-to-face encounters.

Too Many Questions and Reassurances: Liars often ask for questions to be repeated to buy more time. They use phrases like, “you can trust me,” or “to be perfectly honest.” Remember that all of these behaviors are at your expense.

Which gender is more likely to lie?

Men and women lie at the same rates but about different things. Women are more likely to lie to make you feel good in the moment while men rearrange the truth to make themselves look better.

Now in flirting, women in particular are much more likely to be mislead. Women are much more likely to actively flirt with a new available guy even though they have absolutely no interest in him. They often pretend to show interest that is not genuine just to procure his admiration and attention.

Women are shopping for available males and they are basically trying to put the male at ease to evaluate his worth as a potential partner. Even though they may not find him particularly attractive, they may want to assess his other qualities like a sense of humor or intelligence.

Can’t a man also be quite misleading with the ladies?

Men Orient to Beauty: Absolutely, but men are more cut and dry about flirtation than women are. The bottom line is that they put a much higher premium on physical attractiveness than women do in the initial phases of courting. If he is not attracted to the woman, he will usually be less friendly at first.

Women are in Charge of Flirting: However, most men will begin to flirt if they are picking up the right non-verbal cues from the woman. Guys like to think that they are choosing whom to flirt with but nothing could be further from the truth. Women are almost always the instigators of courtship and flirtation on the dating field. Ninety percent of the time, the woman is the one to send a variety of subtle eye, body and facial signals to the targeted man. He is merely responding to the multiple non-verbal signals she has been blasting across the room.

Finally, why is it so hard for many of us to pick up on liars in the dating scene?

Many of us have difficulty believing that someone would deliberately set out to manipulate us so we try to fill in the blanks and ignore critical information to make sense of the lie—we basically work to believe him. It’s also hard for honest people to believe that some people really get off on misleading others. They actually take delight in selling you on their deception. Once you know they are deceitful, though, run and run fast!

The Psychosis In Black Swan - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 14, 2011

The movie Black Swan depicts the disturbing descent of ballerina Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, into psychosis. Most analyses of the film focus on Nina’s obsessive compulsive and anorexia symptoms and her preoccupation with physical and professional perfection. But I believe that some of the most important issues in this movie may have to do with a more common issue faced by millions of young women. Challenged by an already tenuous sense of herself, Nina falls into a deepening state of anxiety as she strives to define herself as an individual separate from the opinions and expectations of others – particularly her mother.

All too often, as young women emerge into their adult roles-either as a dancer, as a student or as a professional-they lack the pivotal skills to handle the anxiety that is a natural part of any positive change. Instead, as this character’s downward spiral illustrates, their ability to cope can falter and in some rare and extreme cases, they can become psychotic if certain factors occur at the same time.

Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

New Opportunities Create Anxiety: New environments such as going to college or getting a promotion require new coping skills or even honing the skills we’ve already been rehearsing. Anxiety often hits us and hits us hard just when we need to be the most independent, clear thinking and capable. Many girls sabotage themselves because of the unrelenting anxiety that causes increased impulsivity, carelessness and even reckless behavior. Sadly, they have absolutely no idea why they are faltering.

Independent Thinking Embraces Many Sides of Our Personalities: Most of all, these new opportunities require us to define what we expect of ourselves separate from the expectations of others. For example, in this character’s case, Nina’s mother kept her sheltered as a little girl – giving her baths, brushing her hair, and pretty much determining every second of her life outside of the world of ballet. When she landed the role of the Swan Queen, Nina had to recognize not only her sweet and tender side but to embrace her seductive, playful adult self – and it was tearing her apart. She failed to recognize that she could be a sweet woman who also enjoyed pleasure and seduction.

Lack Of Self-Definition: If you have grown up with parents who insisted on defining and controlling you, your ability to build an independent and strong reality is often challenged. If you’re paying constant attention to what they want you to feel and how they want you to feel it, your inner world retreats and you constantly orient to the outer world. You grow up without a fully developed ability to think and feel for yourself, often with disastrous outcomes--as the movie illustrates.

The World of Performance: Physical perfection at any cost is often the gold standard in professions that emphasize public performance. Whether the young woman enters the world of dance or corporate sales, she is rewarded for remaining rail thin, toned, and sexual. Caloric restriction that is often unsustainable over time gives her the control she seeks, but it can literally erode her body, her mind, and her sense of reality.

Sexual Harassment: Tragically, some men in power exploit the women in subordinate positions just because they can. The inequity in power disables the young woman’s confidence in supporting herself and in challenging his reckless, harassing behavior. Such stressors can be especially disturbing for a young woman who has been taught to substitute the opinions and expectations of others for her own thoughts – her own painful feelings are pushed aside as she focuses on the gratification and praise from the man taking advantage of her. She will ignore her own rights and view the harassment as her fault or will even defend his behavior.

The Tragic Gabrielle Giffords Shooting - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mental Illness is Not an Explanation for Violence

The tragic shootings in Arizona of US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords once again highlight the link between mental illness and violence. The suspect Jared Loughner reportedly had shown symptoms for years but was never treated. Many of us automatically think that a psychological disorder will predict irrational or even violent behavior in the future. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of people struggle with mood disorders, eating disorders, addiction issues and a host of other problems and are never violent.

In fact the real danger to your physical safety comes from some one who is using some kind of substance—either alcohol or drugs.

In a 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 people, researchers reported that an increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of the presence of any mental disorder such as schizophrenia.

We do know that violence is more common when there is paranoid thinking that convinces the offender that others are against him. He feels persecuted, misunderstood, the victim of wrong doing and badly mistreated. If paranoid thinking becomes psychotic-- meaning that he loses touch with reality--things can get very dangerous. Although, he is systematically capable of planning a murder and execute it at this point, he will have no understanding that his judgment is impaired and that is completely out of touch with reality.

So what are some warning signs for violent behavior?

The prediction of violent crimes include the following:

Violent Language: Words are often our first signs of murderous intent and as we see in this case, the suspect had used plenty of violent language on the Internet and at school. When someone is planning to commit violence, their language has themes related to:

  • Revenge
  • Conspiracy
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity and attention seeking

Justification for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they begin to justify their crime at least to themselves if not to others. Not only are they convinced that violence is an acceptable choice, they begin to argue that it is the only choice they can make.

Here are the four steps they move through on their way to violence:

  • They believe that they have justification for the crime.
  • They have no alternatives for the achieving the outcome they want
  • The consequences for their actions are acceptable
  • They have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out mass murder such as access to guns, bullets and tragically the victim.

Danger Comes with Warnings: I am convinced that danger comes with warnings almost every time. However, odd behavior or even threatening behavior is often explained away or misunderstood as something more innocent. Our tendency is to ignore such threats since we conclude that its either none of our business or the person has no malicious intent.

Now, as this tragedy in Arizona illustrates, we have a responsibility as a society to speak up about people we are concerned about. Our community mental health systems must receive the requisite funding to handle the mental health issues of those who need it most.

Advocate for increased mental health services. This young man who allegedly committed these crimes was obviously in serious trouble yet was never treated. We must fundamentally reexamine our mental health system and mandate the new laws and harness new social resources to save not only the victim’s life, but also the life of those who commit such crimes.

Most of all, we need to make sure that our own intuition trumps our rationalizations. If you see disordered behavior, take it seriously. If you are the victim of threats to your safety, do not disregard this. Violent behaviors are predictable if we increase our awareness, learn the warning signs and act to protect ourselves. Pay attention to what is happening and remember that in most cases, the only person who can save your life is you.

The Father Factor In TRON: Legacy - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 10, 2011

In the new movie Tron Legacy, Sam Flynn has been fatherless for since he was a boy. But when he is transported into the computer world created by his father, he finally discovers the relationship he has desperately been missing for years.

So, how important is a father in a child’s life?

I find that fathers have a profound impact on their kids and can even be the difference between success and failure, particularly when it comes to work and education. We learn the "ways of the world" with our dads, and that knowledge translates into whether or not we enter the world well prepared.

Now, I know that this seems counter-intuitive since mothers are the primary caretakers in most families.

But much of a child’s academic experience and his eventual career in the workplace involve considerable focus on succeeding in a hierarchical world in which we are incentivized to compete, even at the sake of consensus. Learning how to navigate the workplace and all the implicit rules inherent in such environments is central to the growth and flourishing of careers. Men and women who are close to their fathers tend to have a tremendous advantage in life because they were mentored in the unspoken rules of the male world.

There seem to be several distinct fathering styles and the kinds of children they rear:

1. Super-Achieving Fathers: This style of parenting emphasizes appearance and achievement. Kids grow up knowing that they must look good, perform well, and win. Money, position, and power are all emphasized. These dads imbue their kids with a strong work ethic, ambition, and the children often make excellent entrepreneurs and leaders. The down side is that kids often feel disconnected and misunderstood by a father who wants them to “run with the bulls,” at the expense of the finer points of relating and living. These kids have difficulty establishing separate identities from their overbearing fathers and often prefer to go into a service industry such as the ministry, teaching, or health care as a way of living a life that values the welfare of others.

2. Time-Bomb Fathers: This style is based on fear, intimidation and emotional instability. Without hesitation, the father will lash out toward others and these outbursts are terrifying for kids of all ages. Threats of leaving, abandonment, and emotional and physical violence are common. Keeping the peace and managing the father is all that matters and these kids often develop into masterfully perceptive people since they had to manage their dad so carefully. These children are hyper sensitive to the emotions and needs of others, and have to develop their own ability to protect their self interests with others who try to take advantage of then. Diplomats, advocates of others, and health care professionals often have dads with this kind of temperament.

3. Passive Fathers: This kind of father showed love through his actions, not through relating or through verbal statements. He was stable, consistent, hard-working, calm but emotionally reserved. This man would never engage in unkind behavior and often surrendered his power to the mother and was a peripheral member of the family. Emotional distance is the hallmark of this type of father. Children of this type of dad doubt their ability to communicate emotionally and to have deep relationships. Like their dads, they understand the importance of commitment and hard work, and they are generally stable, temperate, and reliable. However, learning to understand and manage their emotions is a lifelong challenge.

4. Absent Fathering Style: The absent father is "missing in action" and has abdicated his role and interest in his children. Paternal rejection is horrific for the child’s sense of worth. These kids often harbor life long pain and resentment. Even in the case of marital dissolution, a child wants her father to fight for her. If he walks away--no matter what his rationalization may be--the child is impacted. The upside is that these kids learn the value of loyalty, support, and commitment to others and can become extremely committed to social welfare and justice. Careful to not create dissension, they may be overly accommodating with others in negotiations and in their personal relationships. Slow to trust, they often develop very intense, lifelong relationships with a small, elite inner circle. Some of our greatest presidents and world leaders have experienced this kind of father and have transformed adversity into a triumphant life of contribution.

5. Compassionate-Mentor Fathers: Think of Atticus Finch, in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and you have a pretty good idea of the gifts of the compassionate mentor dad. Although this is the dad we all want to have, few of us are ever gifted with this kind of father. This kind of father is astute in reading others, committed to values greater than himself, and holds himself and his children to ethical, loving standards. He spends time with his children, nurtures them with attention and understanding, and is, above all, emotionally connected. He empowers his children to pursue their dreams, triumph over setbacks, and to envision their success. Children feel safe, understood and adored. These children are fully capable of healthy, balanced, and compassionate lives and often engage in a life of contribution to society. They are excellent partners and parents since they learned from a young age to value themselves, to handle emotions responsibly, and to engage in life fully.

Now the final point is that many of our fathers are blends of these different types and many men transform from one parenting style to another as they grow and mature over the life cycle. Hopefully, we all embrace the best parts of this vital relationship and learn from the challenges that only made us stronger.

Become Emotionally Fit In The New Year - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 31, 2010

Many Americans are getting ready for the New Year. But while you’re assembling your list of resolutions, you may want to add another one – become emotionally fit. Psychologists agree that often the difference between success and failure comes down to emotional fitness.

What does "emotionally fit" really mean?

Emotionally fitness encompasses a set of beliefs, practices, and behaviors. Just like a well-toned athlete, emotionally fit people have specific thinking and emotional habits that help them to cope with a thousand different stresses which impact all of us on a daily basis. Emotionally fit people are highly resilient and have great tenacity in creating a vision of their goals and in implementing the steps to achieve those goals. They value other people, are good at maintaining their inner strength, and respond well to adversity.

Now, I know what you’re saying – “that’s great and all, but what does that affect me?”

Remaining emotionally fit and resilient in the face of adversity can make or break careers, marriages and even entire economies. We are simply happier when we are emotionally fit because we focus on the positives, the potential good in any situation, and we maintain hope for what’s to come next. Emotionally fit people are half as likely to die and half as likely to become disabled. They have better health habits, lower blood pressure, better health, and more friends because they are more empathic with others.

Sound pretty good?

Here’s how to get started on your path to emotional fitness:

Courage Under Fire: You must learn to remain calm under fire. Resilient people have an awesome ability to control their emotions even when things get stressful. If you overreact all the time, you'll wear yourself out and alienate those around you.

Impulse Control: People who speak or act before they think things through get themselves into trouble. Becoming emotionally fit demands that you limit your impulsive side. Making "snap judgments" or jumping to conclusions can lead to big mistakes.

Count Your Blessings: Focus on the positives and remember that positive emotions can literally undo negative emotions. I’m serious – neurologists have proven that positive thoughts can re-organize the connections in your brain to make you a happier and more productive person. Develop the ability to appreciate the little things -- the wonderful taste of your sandwich at lunch, a beautiful sunset, or the smile of your son or daughter.

Say "Thank You" Often: Expressing gratitude to others is a huge step in becoming emotionally fit. Too often we take for granted the enormous blessings that surround us. Tell a friend, colleague or boss that you appreciate them. An attitude of gratitude forces you to think more positively and find the happiness and blessings in your life.

Acts of Kindness: Volunteering and giving to others are huge boosts for emotionally fit people. Not only do you feel warm and fuzzy, but you become emotionally connected to other volunteers, you’ll appreciate your own circumstances even more, and your contribution will give you a sense of control and impact on your community and the world.

Make a Friend: I always tell my clients that friends are the cheapest medicine. People with many friends have the lowest mortality rates, lower rates of physical impairments, and are generally happier and more successful! Make sure you make a friend and see them often.

Screen Your Beliefs: Every behavior begins in the mind. We now know that our basic belief system creates everything else--our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Try to create a system of taking your thoughts and actions and dissecting where they originated and why.

Becoming fully emotionally fit requires a tremendous amount of self-reflection and understanding. For more strategies and tools, you should download my step-by-step video for reorganizing your thoughts and becoming emotionally fit from my website, GearingUp.com.

Is Your Teen Ready For College? - By Chris Gearing

Sunday, December 26, 2010

As America’s teens are applying to college this fall, millions of parents are wondering if their children are ready for the transition to college.

So, do they have something to worry about?

Most neurophysiologists report now that the changes taking place in the teenage brain are profound. The teenage brain is like a house that’s in the process of being built—there is a steady building of neurological connections that create an often subtle but revolutionary refinement in self-control and judgment. There can be a stark difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. Their emotional maturity can literally take place in just a few weeks or months.

Here are a few things I would recommend for parents:

Remain Involved: The main issue is what kind of input parents will have at such a profound and intense time of maturity. Even though they’ve gone to college, you should still be involved. You’re still their parent, teacher, and advisor!

Consequences For Life: We know that kids are extremely vulnerable to experiences—good and bad—during this pivotal time. What the child experiences is encoded much more intensely in late adolescence, and parents need to be very mindful of what they allow their teenagers to do.

Caution Around Substance Abuse: Be very cautious teaching your child about drugs and alcohol. Realistically, they will encounter drugs and alcohol at college – they need to know what do. The teen years can be a devastating time for the brain to be exposed to drugs and alcohol since it is still developing. Be very careful, parents.

Now when parents in my practice ask me about their children going to college, I always ask them one question – “are they emotionally intelligent and mature?”

Emotional maturity is a central life-skill – it can literally make the difference between success and failure at college. Here are some areas of emotional intelligence that you should evaluate:

  • Risk Aversion and Impulse Control
  • The Ability to Self Sooth Appropriately (with exercise, conversation, or distractions like music or movies)
  • The Ability to Self-Correct and to Remain Self-Aware
  • Skills in Self-Regulation such as time management, organization and persistence in task completion.
  • The Capacity to Identify Emotions In Others Accurately
  • The Ability to Understand the Complexity of Emotions and Motivations

How To Survive The Holidays With Your Family - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

With the mistletoe in place and the lights on our trees, many Americans will look forward to a warm reunion with their families in the next few weeks. But family gatherings don't always offer the good times we had anticipated.

So, why can our families be so difficult at the holidays?

The simple truth is that many of our families are just very hard to get along with. See how many of these fit your family:

Tangled History: Family relationships are some of our greatest challenges and greatest teachers. Many of us have tangled, complex histories with our siblings and parents that have never been resolved. In addition, some of us are saddled with relatives that are just plain insufferable.

Fight It Out: Most of us have a much more difficult time “letting things go” when it comes to our family. Instead of forgiving and forgetting, we hold on to painful memories and fight it out.

High Expectations: We tend to set high expectations for change and understanding with our family members, but most of them haven’t changed and may never change. Someone who was difficult twenty years ago may still be just as abrasive now.

Stressed Anyway: Two thirds of Americans are severely stressed at the holidays and function in a fog. Instead of protecting ourselves and getting enough rest and self-care, we command ourselves to participate in holiday activities that wear us out and make us grumpier.

But if the holidays can be so stressful, why do we always seem to get together and celebrate with our families?

Celebrating the holidays with family boils down to ritual. Whether it’s decorating the tree or eating Chinese take out for dinner, rituals are very powerful in making us feel connected to the past and to our family. All of our traditions, songs and holiday schedules remind us of the positive aspects of our lives today and prepare us for the new year of work and possibilities.

Everybody knows that the holidays can be stressful, and sometimes seeing our families only makes things worse. But we still force ourselves to show up. If you’re one of these sad souls, here are a few tips to help make the holidays bright:

Be Realistic: Christmas is much more deeply tied to our childhood memories than any other holiday and we are hoping that these family rituals will fuel our good feelings once again, as they did in childhood. Try to temper down those high expectations and don’t put so much pressure on the holiday! Instead, use this time to get a plan together and take control of your destiny in the new year.

You Think What You Eat: Did you know that December and January are the deadliest month of the year for heart attacks? Between the rich holiday meals, flowing alcohol, financial stress, it’s no wonder that Americans tend to drink and eat excessively. If you add in a few challenging relatives, this stress can push you over the edge. Try to watch what you eat and take it easy on the alcohol.

Stay Cool: Go into the holidays with a realistic mindset or what psychologists call, “pre-loading.” You will keep your cool in hot situations much easier if you expect them to happen. Realize and even expect that an argument may break out at the table or that your uncle may have a bit too much to drink. Pre-loading will help you keep control of your own emotional reactions and if things get too tense, just take a time out.

Private Holiday Magic: Visit with your family but leave the holiday magic to your private moments with a cherished spouse, wonderful children, or even lifelong friends. The magic of this season is always found in the special moments with our loved ones.


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