Therapy That Works...

How To Deal With Snow Day Cabin Fever - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Father Factor - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Role of Fathers In TRON: Legacy - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 24, 2011

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 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.

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

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.

Grumpy Families At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How To Protect Yourself From Parental Alienation This Holiday - By Chris Gearing

Monday, December 20, 2010

Parental Alienation At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 17, 2010

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