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The Andrew Koenig Story - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Andrew Koenig Story: Suicide and Stereotypes

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 26, 2010

Today’s startling revelation of child actor, Andrew Koenig’s suicide has left millions of fans wondering what could have caused such a tragic event. Here to explain more about stereotyping, depression and suicide is TXA 21 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Anchor: We know that Andrew Koenig played what many considered a comical character for many years on the 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains.” His family and friends felt that Andrew never moved past the role and often felt “typecast” by those around him. In everyday life, we all deal with being typecast by others. How much does this kind of social “typecasting” contribute to low self-esteem and self-image?

Self Image: The social community is the primary place where people develop their self-image. How well do we play, communicate and learn with our peers has a lot to do with our view of our own adequacy in a variety of social competencies. Unfortunately, the community at large can be cruel and unfair since social perceptions are primarily simple, rigid and unyielding. In childhood, our beliefs about ourselves can become negative and we begin to typecast ourselves negatively. Such belief systems can follow us into adulthood.

Anchor: Is this kind of typecasting increasing?

The Age of Information Overload: We are inundated by too much information and stereotyping others is at an all time high. Unfortunately, these quick, unyielding judgments lack perspective and wisdom and we can label someone unfairly. Andrew may have felt that no one knew or wanted him but rather his character “Boner” on “Growing Pains.”

Rise of the Culture of Narcissism: Modern society is obsessed with individualism and personal expression. We now cultivate images on Facebook and Twitter that are detailed, exhibitionistic and packaged with flattering information. Personalized clothing and lower back tattoos are a physical reminder of just how “unique” some people are. In general, psychologists are noting the rise of a “culture of self-preoccupation” in modern society.

Trying To Make Sense Of It All: As a result of this avalanche of individualism, people are locking down on stereotypes in an effort to just make sense of all this social information. We decide about people more quickly without referencing the context of their behavior or their motivations. Our brains want to categorize and organize all of this new information into nice, neat packages.

Stereotyping and Depression: This increased stereotyping can lead to people losing their sense of themselves and their social role, especially if they have had negative experiences with others. By comparing themselves to others, they continue to assault their own sense of achievement and worth. They disregard other invaluable attributes and accomplishments and descend into clinical depression. Depression flourishes in such an environment and is now at epidemic levels.

Anchor: How does this depression begin?

The origins of depression are complex and are often biochemically generated. However, we do know that depression can come from growing sense of alienation stemming from an over reliance on the opinions of others. We call these acceptance beliefs and they can dominate a personality. Many child stars grow up with lavish praise and they may not develop an accurate view of themselves. They don’t understand that life successes come and go. They can become overly reliant on the approval or affirmation of others since they have not adequately developed a sense of themselves as one who succeeds and fails. They over emphasize performance and success without an accurate appreciation of other virtues.

Anchor: What tips do you have for our viewers who may be worried about depression or even suicide in those around them?

Depression Is Now An Epidemic: Depression has increased tenfold over the last century and strikes a full decade sooner than it did fifty years ago. In fact, The Center for Disease Control now reports that anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in America. Here are some warning signs if you are worried:

  • Increase in Intensity or Frequency of Angry Outbursts
  • Increased Withdrawal from Others
  • Increased Need for Sleep, Low Appetite
  • Tired, Sullen, Bored or Disinterested Mood
  • Risk-Taking Behavior
  • Drinking, Drugs, Promiscuous Sexual Activity
  • Inability to Cry or Too Much Tearfulness
  • Denial of Pain: Insistence on Handling Things Himself

Suicide Has Warning Signs: Here are warning signs for suicidal thoughts or tendencies:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to guns, pills or other means.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of ordinary for the person.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or feeling a need to seek revenge.
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking.
  • Feeling trapped, or like there’s no way out of a situation.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society.
  • Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep. Or, conversely, sleeping all the time.
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes.
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose of life.

Finally, please take depression and suicide very seriously. If you are concerned about either of these issues in a loved one, seek help immediately from a psychologist.

For more information on this and Dr. Gearing, please visit www.gearingup.com.

Sources:

The National Mental Health Information Center

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Tiger Woods Press Conference - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 19, 2010

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger Woods Sex Scandal

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 19, 2010

After three months of silence, Tiger Woods finally discussed the sex scandal that has overshadowed his marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren. But many of us are now wondering if this is “too little too late.” Can Tiger once again win the confidence of his wife and his fans?

So how well did Tiger handle himself in today’s new conference? Was he effective in apologizing to his wife and his fans? Did he pull it off?

Public apologies about such important events are always difficult to pull off due to our own cynicism about how genuine they are. But Tiger seemed to deliver both a heartfelt and a truthful review of the facts. He expressed remorse, a capable understanding of the trauma he has inflicted on everyone and an acknowledgment of the severe consequences for his irresponsible behavior. This live apology was especially difficult for a man who is as exacting and precise in his public behavior. For now, he seems to have delivered an effective apology. It will be a matter of time to see if he continues his marital fidelity.

But lets shift away from Tiger and focus on how Elin is doing in this situation.

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the spouse.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the person who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your partner becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage. The betrayed partner is denied access to the social support of others and the secrecy deepens the feeling of disconnection and isolation.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

Especially in the case of infidelity, the situation can go from bad to worse rather quickly.

There are specific factors but there is a simple and direct correlation between the severity of the trauma and the effect on the partner.

The impact on the betrayed partner depends on these factors:

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover (Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended partner. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.)

Who usually leaves after an affair?

Without a doubt, the one who is betrayed is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage. A profound discontent seems to disrupt their faith and allegiance to the partner and over time, they may become disillusioned. Although they often agree to stay in the marriage initially, they usually do not get the right treatment for trauma which sets them up to gradually detach from the marriage. The erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed partner finally calls it quits.

What about Tiger’s fans? Can they ever forgive him?

Separate the Man from the Image: Celebrities are just people and it is important to understand that Tiger made a series of terrible decisions systematically. He was his own worst enemy and will ultimately pay heavily for his behavior.

Self-Indulgence Overran Good Judgment: Understand exactly what happened. The explanations for cheating can be complex but they always boil down to one basic reason—we cheat when our emotions overrun our better judgment. Tiger allowed his self-indulgence to define him repeatedly. He was responsible regardless of any other issues such as addiction that may be present.

Deception is Hard to See: Although it is inexcusable, the entitlements and security of celebrities facilitates this kind of self-destructive behavior. The irresponsibly of the affair stands in stark contrast to every other part of that person’s public life. This was especially true of Tiger who was a public paragon of virtue and self-discipline.

Rules Don’t Apply to Me: Although it is no excuse, Tiger’s behavior reflects the social narcissism that defines us. We just don’t hold people to the same standards we used to observe. Affairs flourish in the current era of epidemic narcissism. We no longer value loyalty, sacrifice and duty as much as we did a generation ago. Tiger is the latest example of this erosion in values.

Finally, the ultimate question: how does Tiger win back his wife?

If the trauma has not been too severe and if the couple still possesses a deep affection for one another, it is wise to move forward. Marital outcomes can be positive in many of these cases. They need to hire the best team of psychologists who are specialists in trauma recovery to guides them through this process. They must not try to do it on their own. It is impossible to be objective in the wake of such strong emotions.

If you stay together, here are the initial steps you must take:

Reframe the Affair as Traumatic Event: The couple must view all aspects of infidelity as a distinct. The betrayed party may well be experiencing a posttraumatic stress disorder. The couple must reframe infidelity anxiety within a trauma model.

Responsibility for the Affair: The full responsibility for the affair must be fully assumed by the betrayer. Although there may have been mitigating circumstances, the decision to cheat was ultimately made by the betrayer. Remorse must be repeatedly expressed and demonstrated.

Safety and Predictability: This is when the betrayer must step up. He must establish a sense of safety, predictability and emotional containment by pledging fidelity, openness to all questions and constant accountability. The ultimate responsibility for transparency is with the partner who inflicted the pain.

Story of The Affair: Together the partners must create a clear story of the events of the affair, the decisions that were made and how the affair or affairs were ended.

Mental Health Issues Addressed: Any sexual or chemical addictions or issues with mood disorders in the wandering partner must be addressed and resolved.

Reemergence as a New Couple: Redefining ourselves as stronger, wiser and more engaged with one another are all hallmark strengths of people who survive infidelity. There is an abiding ability to forgive and to remember the unique aspects of the marriage that are worth fighting for.

Sources:

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, by Judith Herman, 1997.

Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptom Evaluation and Treatment by John N. Briere and Catherine Scott, 2006

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger & Elin Woods - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger Woods Sex Scandal

TXA 21 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, February 18, 2010

After three months of silence, Tiger Woods finally discussed the sex scandal that has overshadowed his marriage to Swedish model Elin Nordegren. But many of us are now wondering if this is “too little too late.” Can Tiger once again win the confidence of his wife and his fans?

How has this scandal affected Tiger's wife, Elin?

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the spouse.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the person who has been betrayed. When you are reeling from infidelity, previous formulas about life no longer apply. Trust is shot, the past and present are redefined and the future is an uncertain road that stretches on into oblivion. Your partner becomes someone “you no longer know.”

Isolated and Alone: Infidelity trauma is especially difficult especially when a celebrity is involved. The couple usually decides to withdraw into silence, as the affair is played out on the public stage. The betrayed partner is denied access to the social support of others and the secrecy deepens the feeling of disconnection and isolation.

Marital Crime: Infidelity is a marital “crime” and systematic concealment and falsification characterizes every affair. If you don’t lie, you can’t cheat. When you are the recipient of lying and infidelity, you have to go back and rewrite all of your past and present experiences. You begin to doubt your own perceptions since reality has now been redefined by these discoveries.

As mistress after mistress have come to light, one has to wonder - how bad can it get? Here are some factors that can make infidelity worse:

The impact on the betrayed partner depends on these factors:

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child)
  • Who was Involved (Best Friends versus Strangers)
  • The Level of Falsification and Concealment
  • How Long It Took to Discover (Affairs that involve incremental disclosure are much harder to handle. Such disclosures affect the basic feelings of control, safety and predictability in the offended partner. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.)

Who usually leaves after an affair (especially of this magnitude)?

Without a doubt, the one who is betrayed is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage. A profound discontent seems to disrupt their faith and allegiance to the partner and over time, they may become disillusioned. Although they often agree to stay in the marriage initially, they usually do not get the right treatment for trauma which sets them up to gradually detach from the marriage. The erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed partner finally calls it quits.

You are most likely wondering how Tiger's fans and family are supposed to ever forgive him.

Separate the Man from the Image: Celebrities are just people and it is important to understand that Tiger made a series of terrible decisions systematically. He was his own worst enemy and will ultimately pay heavily for his behavior.

Self-Indulgence Overran Good Judgment: Understand exactly what happened. The explanations for cheating can be complex but they always boil down to one basic reason—we cheat when our emotions overrun our better judgment. Tiger allowed his self-indulgence to define him repeatedly. He was responsible irregardless of any other issues such as addiction that may be present.

Deception is Hard to See: Although it is inexcusable, the entitlements and security of celebrities facilitates this kind of self-destructive behavior. The irresponsibly of the affair stands in stark contrast to every other part of that person’s public life. This was especially true of Tiger who was a public paragon of virtue and self-discipline.

Rules Don’t Apply to Me: Although it is no excuse, Tiger’s behavior reflects the social narcissism that defines us. We just don’t hold people to the same standards we used to observe. Affairs flourish in the current era of epidemic narcissism. We no longer value loyalty, sacrifice and duty as much as we did a generation ago. Tiger is the latest example of this erosion in values.

Finally, the ultimate question: How does Tiger win his wife back?

If the trauma has not been too severe and if the couple still possesses a deep affection for one another, it is wise to move forward. Marital outcomes can be positive in many of these cases. They need to hire the best team of psychologists who are specialists in trauma recovery to guides them through this process. They must not try to do it on their own. It is impossible to be objective in the wake of such strong emotions.

If you stay together, here are the initial steps you must take:

Reframe the Affair as Traumatic Event: The couple must view all aspects of infidelity as a distinct. The betrayed party may well be experiencing a posttraumatic stress disorder. The couple must reframe infidelity anxiety within a trauma model.

Responsibility for the Affair: The full responsibility for the affair must be fully assumed by the betrayer. Although there may have been mitigating circumstances, the decision to cheat was ultimately made by the betrayer. Remorse must be repeatedly expressed and demonstrated.

Safety and Predictability: This is when the betrayer must step up. He must establish a sense of safety, predictability and emotional containment by pledging fidelity, openness to all questions and constant accountability. The ultimate responsibility for transparency is with the partner who inflicted the pain.

Story of The Affair: Together the partners must create a clear story of the events of the affair, the decisions that were made and how the affair or affairs were ended.

Mental Health Issues Addressed: Any sexual or chemical addictions or issues with mood disorders in the wandering partner must be addressed and resolved.

Reemergence as a New Couple: Redefining ourselves as stronger, wiser and more engaged with one another are all hallmark strengths of people who survive infidelity. There is an abiding ability to forgive and to remember the unique aspects of the marriage that are worth fighting for.

Sources:

"Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror," by Judith Herman, 1997.

"Principles of Trauma Therapy: A Guide to Symptom Evaluation and Treatment" by John N. Briere and Catherine Scott, 2006

The Phenomenon of Mature Women - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It’s Complicated—The Phenomenon of Mature Women

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, January 12, 2010

“It’s Complicated,” the popular new Meryl Streep movie is once again illustrating how older women are taking the world by storm.

Here’s why so many women relate to Meryl Streep’s character:

Social Revolution: Meryl Streep’s character is a prime example of the social revolution that is sweeping the nation. Women have redefined aging. No longer are we held to antiquated definitions of attractiveness—youth, fertility, and tight skin. At midlife, we move into our most productive years, both personally and professionally.

New Power: Now, just like men, we acquire power and allure by achievement. Our accomplishments, complexity and history are now defined as assets rather than as liabilities. This movie showed that an older woman could trump a younger women on the social playing field. We can partner with men of assorted ages—young and old— or we can play the field solo if we prefer. Partnering is an option, not a mandate.

New Timeline, New Dreams: The MacArthur Foundation reports that by 2050, life expectancy for women will rise to up to 94 years. We now regard the 50s and 60s as “middle” age and a passage of life that is full of adventure, reinvention and excellence. Streep’s character reminded us of the empowerment that comes with this stage of life.

Meryl’s character entertains multiple suitors within the film, which begs the question: do women become more passionate as they age?

More Sensual with the Years: Women become more sensual as they mature and this is especially true of boomer women who led the sexual revolution. They are more at ease with their bodies, enjoy more self-acceptance and have less attachment to social definitions of beauty. They know their bodies better and they take their intimate needs more seriously.

Passion Begins in the Mind: Passion begins in a woman’s mind and it is a product of her self-confidence and experience. As her thinking become more sophisticated, her passion increases and she may enjoy sensuality more. If she is married, she invests more deeply in her partner and is often willing to be fully physically and emotionally vulnerable, often for the first time. If she is single, she chooses her partners more carefully and is a wiser evaluator of other’s intentions.

This trend of empowered older women was made possible by the economic opportunities.

Money Talks: The economic empowerment of women over the last fifty years was certainly a facilitator of these social trends. No longer dependent on the support of a man, millions of women crafted spectacular careers and took the reins of their fate into their own hands. Their social and psychological transformation accelerated as their incomes increased.

Global Economy Shifted Women: The shift in the global economy has had a lot to do with the increase in female power. Brains count more than brawn now. As manufacturing decreased, the service industries increased and women rose to the challenge. We have fared especially well in the recession and now comprise over 50%of the labor force.

Education and Innovation: Women are more educated and enjoy the modern innovations in communication and domestic technology that make it possible to work outside of the home. Washboards have been replaced by motherboards and women have derived untold freedoms from a world that increasingly rewards them for smarts, drive and persistence.

Ladies, here’s what you can do to be maximally empowered in midlife:

Social Ties are Cheap Medicine: Women have to remember how you age is often under their control. Stay connected with your friends since studies show that social ties are essential to longevity. In fact, a study by the MacArthur Foundation reported that “ the influence of genetics shrinks proportionately as you get older, while social and physical habits become increasingly integral to your state of health—both mental and physical.”

Attitude is Everything: Optimism pays off and a recently release study of 97,000 women older than 50 reported that optimists were 9% less likely to develop heart disease and 14% less likely to die from it.

Shifting to a Brighter Outlook: Take the following three steps:

1.) Commit to a Cause Greater than Yourself

2.) Control the factors you can influence and disregard the rest.

3.) Challenge yourself to view setbacks as surmountable and problems as solvable.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

“Researchers ask why optimism is associated with health, pessimism with disease” The Washington Post, January 12, 2010, Carolyn Butler

“Women and Work: We Did It!” The Economist, January 2010

“Sex and the Seasoned Woman, Pursuing the Passionate Life” by Gail Sheehy, 2006

Is Tiger A Sex Addict? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Tiger A Sex Addict?

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Dec 10, 2009

With the growing number of mistresses being identified in the Tiger Woods scandal (nine so far), many are wondering if the legendary golfer may be a sex addict. Why do so many famous men suffer with a compulsion to cheat and is it because of sexual addiction?

America is reeling from the barrage of new disclosures from former affair partners of the famed golfer. Now there are whispers that Tiger may actually be a sex addict. This begs the obvious question - what is sexual addiction?

Sexual addiction is a persistent and escalating pattern of sexual behaviors acted out despite potential negative consequences to the self and others (Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health). Secrecy, systematic betrayal and a sense of entitlement to using other people sexually are all hallmarks of sexual addiction.

Whenever you see any kind of irrational, highly self-destructive behavior that just doesn’t add up, be on the lookout for some kind of addictive behavior behind it.

As an addiction progresses, there are graduated levels of importance in the addict’s life:

Here are the general stages of addiction:

Internal Shift: The addict begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving of their stress or changes their mood to the euphoric or exhilarating. The highly destructive aspect of the addictive behavior is minimized or denied (“I can quit anytime I want”) even though such behavior is a direct assault on the faith and trust of others around them.

Lifestyle Change: A behavioral dependency on the addiction begins to enter the picture. His life is altered to accommodate the addiction even if he becomes reckless and self-destructive. He moves deeper into the sabotaging behavior.

Life Breakdown: The addiction has now taken over. The individual builds his life around the emotional release from acting out destructively. At this point, nothing matters to the addict but the acquisition of the addictive object. The obsession with the addiction causes a trance state. People don’t matter, commitments are broken and honesty isn’t even a part of the conversation.

It is important to differentiate the motivations for sexual addiction:

Bio-chemically Depressed: Depression can cause irrational, self-destructive behavior in individuals (particularly men) who often do not recognize their depression or their errant behavior. Turning to sex is a direct effort to escape their pain, frustration and helplessness. They experience a numbing of emotional connection and restructure their behavior as they begin to serve the addiction first and foremost.

Personality Disorders: Many people with chronic developmental and personality disorders such as narcissistic or socio-pathic personalities are prime candidates for sexual addiction. To them, all people are a means to an end and they are entitled to the shameless sexual exploitation of others.

Unfortunately, narcissistic celebrities are abundant and it is only a matter of time for many of them before some sort of addiction enters the picture.

With the recent rash of cheating men in the new, you may be wondering — are men more vulnerable to sexual addiction than women are?

Both genders can become addicted to sex but show highly different patterns:

Sexually addicted men are often attracted to high status positions such as entertainment or politics where they have an endless supply of beautiful women willing to engage. They shamelessly exploit women, idealize the next new girl until she loses her novelty and then throw her away as they pursue for a new conquest.

Women show a much different pattern. They often substitute sex for love and fidelity and become the willing partners to exploitative men. They begin to dress seductively and to augment every aspect of their physical appearance. Their seduction of the idealized partner and the admiration they derive become the addiction. They remain dependent upon the attention of the narcissistic, demanding partner who is now in control.

However, there is hope for recovery from sexual addiction:

It is quite possible if there is an absolute commitment to change and to getting the appropriate help. Since addictions hijack the brain chemistry and the judgment of otherwise cogent people, specialists in the addiction field who are experienced, savvy and realistic about the long road to recovery are the best treatment professionals. Twelve-step recovery programs are essential parts of treatment for sexual addiction along with intense individual therapy focusing on developing a new, empowered self firmly rooted in reality and concern for others.

Tiger Woods' Infidelity - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tiger Wood’s Infidelity Ordeal

December 3, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Superstar golfer Tiger Woods has now joined the long list of celebrities who have been unfaithful in their marriages. To add to the scandal, recently released phone calls and 300 text messages between the golfer and his affair partner have highlighted the central part technology plays in modern affairs.

As we see in the Tiger Woods story, technology is so central to cheating now. Why is this phenomenon increasing?

Technological Superhighway: Technology is the communication superhighway that facilitates clandestine contact. If you want to move with stealth and with speed, you move with technology. Now with a simple cell phone, you can orchestrate an entire rendezvous quickly. Having an affair has never been easier.

Technology Hides Lying: It is also easier to lie with technology. Seventy two percent of lying occurs through technology. Cell phones, texting and Internet chatter are rife with deceit. It is easier to craft a lie when you are not facing the recipient.

Social Networking Sites Increasing: Face book claims to have 350 active users with 35 million people updating their profiles on a daily basis. More than 65 million use their mobile devices to stay connected. Such sites, while laden with social benefits, are easily misused to facilitate affairs.

With this year of busted affairs and scandals, it may seem like powerful men are cheating more often. Here’s why:

Men and women have always cheated but technology is making it more difficult to hide. But there are several personality factors that explain the increase in infidelity in the “Age of Celebrity.”

Driven Personalities: Tiger Woods is known for his self-discipline and elegance on the links. Unfortunately, highly driven personalities may also lapse into impulsive, irrational behaviors that are counter to their public image.

Strengths Become Weaknesses: Over time, the very strengths that account for their achievements—that self-discipline, self- control and single mindedness--can result in disastrous lapses of judgment. Fueled by an impossible schedule and long absences from home, they may lose that internal compass that has served them so well.

Self-Importance Increases: Oftentimes, the perks allotted to celebrities can create an exaggerated sense of entitlement and self-importance. They can engage in self destructive, impulsive behaviors because they feel entitled to play by a different set of rules. In their own minds, they rationalize their misbehavior or disregard it altogether.

Let’s not forget that there was a female side to the equation, too. Why do so many women pursue these public figures, even when they obviously know that they are married?

Aggressive Women: We underestimate the predatory nature of women, especially when competing for powerful men. Young women cheat more than men now and they crave the aura of influential partners. Celebrities are viewed as special conquests. The affair partner elevates her status by aligning with a powerful man. He is a “notch” in her belt.

Star Power Increases Propositioning: Eighty seven percent of men claim that they have been approached for a short-term sexual fling. Male celebrities have many more propositions because of their star power. According to one study, seventy percent of married celebrities with a net worth of over 10 million dollars have strayed.

Men are Beguiled by Beauty: Men are drawn to the visual and beautiful women have intense influence with most men. Male celebrities whose fame is often based on charisma and attractiveness value such qualities in affair partners. Women spend nearly ten times as much on beauty enhancing products when compared to men.

And finally, the number one question that I hear in my marriage counseling sessions when adultery has occurred: Is it possible to salvage the marriage?

Affairs change a relationship forever. It is a wound that many marriages cannot survive. However, marriages that continue after affairs require the following steps:

Technological Transparency: As we saw in the Woods case, technology was a huge part of the deceit. New standards of absolute transparency must be instituted and observed rigidly. The motto needs to be, “lose the technology, and gain the wife.”

New Limitations on Freedom: Unlimited freedom creates opportunity, which can create impulsive behavior. If you have cheated, you must restrict your behavior and rigorously self monitor. Inevitably, you will encounter new temptations and it is up to you to make the right call.

New Emotional Accountability: Choosing to stay after infidelity requires a new definition of the marital expectations and a massive determination on both partner’s part. Most of all, post affair marriages must have emotional accountability on the betrayer’s part. In turn the betrayed party must demonstrate a willingness to forgive and to create a new relationship.

For more information about Dr. Gearing, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources for the is Story:

The First Sex by Helen Fisher

Why Women Have Sex by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss

New Moon Rising - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon Rising

November 19, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

With the highly anticipated premiere of “New Moon” in theaters tomorrow, millions of girls and women are once again lining up to enjoy the latest installment of the Twilight series. But why do women of all ages find the Twilight series so fascinating?

“Twilight” has captured the international female audience of all ages. What is the magic of these stories for women?

Vampire stories have generated female attention for hundreds of years and the Twilight series is the latest version of this psychological phenomenon.

Sexual Tension: These stories have a well-crafted sexual tension that permeates every scene. Gorgeous men, a darling heroine and the vampire theme all build the tension and intrigue.

Women and Heartbreak: Women love romantic sagas. Every woman, at any phase of her life, can relate to at least one of these characters. We’ve all been adored, rejected, and reborn in a new love affair—even with the same partner-- at some point in our lives.

The Shy Girl Wins: The central female lead, Bella, is naturally self-effacing, socially awkward, pale, uncoordinated and humble, which increases our identification with her. We love seeing her win when she captures the hearts of two superhero hunks.

Dedicated Love: The Twilight series hits all the high points of a forbidden love that prevails against all odds. The competition is scintillating and women love to be fought for. This drama inspires our own hopes that a man will gift us with that kind of regard.

Love in Peril: The stories also include all aspects of romantic love in peril—abandonment, attraction to a second hero, obsession with reunion, high-risk behavior and unconditional love.

Women love male leads who are dangerous and somewhat mysterious. Here’s why:

Magnetic and Mysterious Men: Women love the magnetic, mysterious stranger who epitomizes charisma, self-confidence and super human sex appeal. Attractive people you just met can literally elevate your levels of the “romantic love” brain chemical, dopamine.

Testosterone and Attractiveness: Women are attracted to assertive, intelligent, tall men with low voices who can kiss well. They love guys with distinctive cheekbones, a strong jaw line, and a “V line physique” which all indicate high testosterone.

Dangerous Passion: Danger stimulates passion. Women love the thrill of being saved and protected by men. In fact, studies show that spontaneous attraction can flare when adrenaline is flowing.

Most readers and fans of the series tend to pick one of the male leads to “cheer on.” You may wonder why the fans are so divided.

Women and girls are psychologically drawn to totally different types of men:

The Edward Cullen Effect: A woman loves the guy who listens without fail and soothes and reassures while cherishing every flaw she has. He is poetic in his affection. Women desire the unyielding devotion that never fades when life becomes ordinary. They love men who are protective, aloof, and sophisticated (loves classical music and has impeccable grooming.)

The Jacob Black Rush: Jacob is all about fun and adventure and has a great group of friends. He rescued the heroine while campaigning for her affection. He is the king of adrenaline—always looking for new adventures such as riding motorcycles and extreme sports like cliff diving.

So, guys, what can you learn right now to change your relationship? Become a master of relating.

Masterful relating with women requires a rigorous dedication to emotionally intelligent communication that begins with rapport.

Here are the three rules of relating to women that work every time —look at her, talk to her, and coordinate your body language with hers.

Three Steps to Building Instant Rapport with Women:

1. Look at Her: The Eye Lock is amazing. Mutual and intense eye gazing is key for women in becoming attracted to a man. Men who sweep their eyes (respectfully) over women can be arousing. Studies have found that even with total strangers continuous “eye lock” can lead to attraction.

2. Talk to Her: Ask questions and listen with utter attention. Remember that attention alone is not enough. Use a soothing tone of voice and pleasant facial expressions.

3. Nonverbal Duet: Keep your movements precise, relaxed and open. Use the emotional “back channels” such as pacing, timing and animated body movements. People who are into each other appear engrossed, enchanted and elated with the conversation. Nothing else matters when they are together!

For more information on Dr. Gearing, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources for this Story:

The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyers

Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Why We Love by Helen Fisher

Letterman's Infidelity - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Letterman’s Infidelity

October 7, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News 

David Letterman’s startling admission of infidelity with co-workers once again raises the difficult question of why so many powerful men cheat. Former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, former presidential candidate John Edwards and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford are just a few public figures who have been in the news for marital infidelity.

Why do so many powerful men have affairs?

Huge Egos: Unfortunately, huge power is often accompanied by a huge ego. Powerful men are often experts at manipulating others into admiring and catering to them. Female subordinates find power intoxicating in men and are often willing participants. They disregard the fact that this is an affair and they are being used.

Thrill of the Forbidden Enticing: Affairs are a grand source of narcissism and flattery for both parties. Many powerful men become addicted to the thrill of the forbidden and become serial cheaters. They enjoy exercising their ability to acquire the sexual favors of others “just because they can.” They consider themselves entitled to extramarital activities.

Collateral Damage: They often fail to think of the emotional consequences to their own partner or to the affair partner since the affair is “all about them.” Anyone else’s feelings are simply collateral damage. Impulsivity, self indulgence, egotism mixed with a penchant for rationalizing can push many men into crossing the line.

Most of the marital couples in my office want to understand how these kinds of affairs begin and under what circumstances:

“I Met Her at Work:” Today's workplace is the most fertile breeding ground for affairs. Forty six percent of unfaithful wives and sixty two percent of unfaithful husbands have an affair with someone they met through their work.

Men Like to Look: Men are more turned on than women by visual stimuli. Affairs begin in the mind and the office setting now offers an abundance of beautiful, young, and attentive people with whom we spend the bulk of our waking hours.

Attraction Versus Adrenaline: Very few activities are more captivating than working hard together to achieve common goals. The pressures of teamwork and shared deadlines lead to that adrenaline rush. Sexual chemistry flourishes in high-pressure situations. Many of us misinterpret that sexual “rush” as attraction.

Most couples don’t understand how affairs can happen if they are “happily married.”

You can regard yourself as “happily married” but you may be misleading yourself. A lot of men and women who stray consider themselves victims of their insensitive spouse or imprisoned in a marriage that has grown more companionable than romantic. Such excuses are rationalizations for cheating. Remember that having an affair means that you are choosing to lie deliberately and systematically. No amount of marital neglect or incompatibility is a sufficient justification for this kind of betrayal. Leave your marriage before you cheat.

You may be wondering how affairs have changed over the years:

Infidelity has changed over the last ten years with more good people in marriages straying. They unwittingly form deep, passionate connections with people at work or in the neighborhood before realizing that they've crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. In one study, 82% of 200 unfaithful partners were described as "just a friend” in the beginning. But let’s be honest, at some point you said “yes” when you should have said “no.”

A common belief is that infidelity automatically leads to divorce.

However, cheating is not an automatic death knell for your marriage. However, according to this latest poll, cheating is responsible for around 54% of divorces. In the end, most unfaithful people want to stay in their marriages and work hard to revive them. Almost seventy percent of Americans don’t want to lose their partner with men being a little more worried than women.

If you or your partner have strayed, here are some of the steps you should take:

Stop All Contact with the Affair Partner: Remember, history creates interest which creates opportunity. Stop all contact with the affair partner. Avoid at all costs any risky situations that could compromise your judgment. Remind yourself that just because there has been an attraction to this person, it does not mean that you are married to the wrong person.

Emotional Accountability: The number one predictor of marital survival following infidelity is the ability of the betrayer to be emotionally accountable.

Here are the steps of Emotional Accountability:

Remorse, Reparations and Restitution: He must be able to take responsibility for what he did and how he hurt his partner and his commitment to the marriage. Remorse now becomes a verb.

Acknowledging the Affair: They must be willing to repeatedly acknowledge their actions and to provide all details to help their partner’s healing.

Pledging to a New Transparent Marriage: He must pledge unyielding commitment to a new, transparent marriage. Reinvented marriages are often among the most successful since each partner has worked hard to rebuild the alliance.

For more information on Dr. Gearing, please go to www.gearingup.com.

Sources:

The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell

Ellis, B.J. and D. Symons. 1990. “Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach.” The Journal of Sex Research 27: 527-555.

Lethal Dangers - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lethal Dangers: The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

August 27, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA21 News

Monday’s announcement that the Los Angeles coroner has ruled Michael Jackson’s death a homicide has once again raised the issue of prescription drug abuse. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, prescription drug abuse has almost doubled in an eleven-year span, with 15 million Americans abusing prescription drugs.

But why is prescription drug abuse growing at such alarming rates?

Addiction is a lifelong disease characterized by compulsive use of substances despite the adverse consequences. These drugs hijack the brain and the individual cannot stop on their own.

There are several reasons why prescription drug abuse is increasing:

  • Access to Drugs: We have more effective drugs that are more vigorously marketed to the public ($60 billion annually spent on marketing by pharmaceutical companies). Approximately three billion prescriptions are written annually, and we are all encouraged to take pills to make things better.
  • Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs: We have grown more casual in self-medicating and in borrowing prescriptions from friends and families. One study found that fifty-six percent of pain relief abusers acquired the medicine from a friend or relative for free (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007). An estimated 48 million people have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in their lifetimes (National Institute of Drug Abuse). This represents 20% of the U.S. population.
  • Invisible Epidemic: We have been in denial about the severity of this problem. Alcoholism and drug addiction have received the most media attention in the past. Prescription drug abuse has been the most underreported drug abuse problem in the nation (National Institute of Drug Abuse). Unfortunately, it is now an epidemic.

Leading researchers also shed light on what kinds of prescription drugs are being abused and why:

Painkillers Dominate Abuse: Stimulant prescriptions have increase sevenfold (five million to thirty five million) over the last sixteen years. Opioid painkiller prescriptions such as oxycodone and hydro condone have more than quadrupled (forty million to one hundred eighty million) and are the number one abuse prescription drug. Benzodiazepines such as xanax and ativan are also quite popular.

Depression Rates Climbing: Depression is ten times more prevalent than it was fifty years ago and it strikes a decade earlier than it did a generation ago. Prescription drugs, particularly painkillers and tranquilizers, offer an endorphin rush that is alluring and addictive. Pain relievers mimic the body’s endorphins, but they are more powerful and last longer. Addiction is easy to develop because of these factors.

Prescription drug addiction can develop for a variety of reasons, but most often it is due to the following:

Pain Management Attempts: A history of pain can begin the cycle of addiction without people realizing it. The majority of people who become addicted never imagine that they will be in this situation—they just want the pain to stop. Over time, the painkillers deceive the brain and mimic the wondrous endorphins in a more powerful and lasting way. Substituting anything (including abstinence) for that “glow” is unacceptable.

Trauma Background: Trauma is an insidious mental health issue, and we know that the earlier in life it is inflicted, the more pervasive and intense the damage. A history of trauma can predispose individuals to becoming addicted to a variety of drugs later in life. Since addiction is a brain disease, early traumatic experiences in particular can deregulate the brain. Many addiction specialists view prescription abuse as an attempt to emotionally self-regulate.

If you are worried about a loved one, here’s what you can do:

Recognize the Problem: Your denial is the first hurdle to overcome. Most prescription addictions begin with a doctor’s good intentions. The slurring, drowsiness, craving and erratic sleep in the new addict are the first signs of an increasing problem. Pay attention, stay committed to change and do not be bullied by their anger.

Licensed Substance Abuse Professional: Seek help from a licensed substance abuse professional to get the best intervention plan. They will help you develop a list of triggers, the signs of using and a plan for family intervention. Carefully crafted intervention plans are highly effective and are often the reason why people finally address their addictive behaviors.

Sources:

When Painkillers Become Dangerous, Drew Pinsky, M.D.

Office of National Drug Control Policy

The National Institute on Drug Abuse

National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, 2007

Prescription Drug Abuse.com

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia

MayoClinic.com

How Children Cope With Parental Death - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 09, 2009

How Children Cope With Parental Death

July 9, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Millions of Americans were deeply saddened by the sudden death of pop icon, Michael Jackson. His daughter’s heartfelt words reminded us that such losses always involve two victims -- the parent and the child. Here’s the full story on childhood grief and what you can do to help a grieving child.

A loss of this kind can have many devastating effects including:

  • Safety and Security Threatened: There are few traumas as severe as losing a parent in childhood. We are at our most vulnerable as children and we rely on the stability of parents to guide us through a confusing and dangerous world. With parental death, the familiar guardian of safety, shelter and security has vanished exposing us to overwhelming anxiety. In some cases, that anxiety can transform into serious trauma conditions that last a lifetime.
  • Long Term Health Issues: Losing a parent in childhood causes a disruption in normal childhood development as the child grieves the parent and adjusts to a new normal. The long-term implications of parental loss are severe and include compromised mental and physical health, depression, substance abuse and even increased suicide risk.
  • Broken Hearts and Impaired Immunity: Cardiac issues in adulthood are correlated with the loss of a parent. In one study, a significant number of coronary patients had suffered the loss of a father between the ages of five and seventeen. Bereavement compromises the immune system and reduces resilience.

I am frequently asked if the age of the child is an important factor in their coping.

In reality, there is no good age to lose a parent but we know that the impact increases once the child really understands what they are facing -- a forever separation. Prior to age three, babies will miss a familiar presence but not understand the concept of permanent absence. A preschooler may talk about the death but expect the parent to return. By age 9 to 10, the child is completely aware. He has usually developed an understanding that death is permanent, irreversible and final.

Here are the differences between the types of grieving:

Normal Grief

  • Tearfulness: Tearfulness is common at first but dissipates after a few weeks. However, 13% of kids still cry daily or weekly after one year has passed.
  • Sadness, anger, guilt about the death
  • Appreciation and Identification with Parent
  • Sleep and Appetite Problems
  • Withdraw from Family/Friends
  • Physical Complaints (headache, stomach ache, etc.)
  • Return to Earlier Behaviors (Bedwetting, Clinging to Parents, School Refusal)
  • Acceptance of the Death: They accept the reality and permanence of death and adjust to their new identity of their life without their parent.
  • • Continuing with Normal Development

Traumatic Grief

  • Intrusive memories About the Death: Nightmares, guilt, and obsessive rumination about the events that are intrusive and disruptive.
  • Avoidance and Numbing: Withdrawal, denying turmoil, avoiding reminders of the person, the way he died, etc.
  • Physical or Emotional Symptoms of Increased Arousal: Irritability, anger, difficulty sleeping, decreased concentration, increased vigilance, grades dropping, fears about safety for oneself or others.

You may wonder what the child is supposed to do if the other parent is grieving.

It is vital to remember that the child often loses the emotional availability of the other parent and of the relatives who are similarly devastated. Emotional neglect, whether intentional or not, is common. The parent’s loss can inflict untold suffering on the child who is struggling to regain his psychological “footing” in a world that has been rearranged. The remaining parent may cycle in and out of depression remaining unaware of his child’s agony. The child may conclude that he has emotionally lost both parents. The most startling statistic involves the risk of suicide. It is seven times greater among children who have lost both parents than for those kids where there is no such disruption.

Here are some tips to help kids going through this kind of situation:

Educate Yourself: Be aware of the difference between normal and traumatic grief. The entire community needs to watch the child and remain vigilant about symptoms Remember that the child needs safety, information and guidance in creating a new identity without the parent.

Model Emotionally Intelligent Grief: The child will take his cue from you so make sure your words are measured, thoughtful and calm. Assure your child that the departed parent is fine, that life will go on and that you are not going anywhere.

Provide Children with Emotional Support: Children at different ages may need different types of support. Younger kids may need more cuddling, attention, patience and understanding. Older kids will need reassurance of your stability, of the continuity of home and hearth, and of your dedication to creating a new family.


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