Therapy That Works...

How To Help Your Anxious Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia discuss school anxiety on CBS 11 by clicking here.

Anxiety about the new school year is a normal reaction for many children at this time of year. But what happens when your child’s anxiety becomes excessive? Keeping up with assignments, complying with teacher directives and even attending school can be difficult for some kids who are over anxious.

So, why are our children so anxious?

Anxiety is like an oversensitive alarm system. In children anxiety should be temporary and fleeting. Being temporary fearful is a normal part of handling change and stress that comes with new beginnings. Children have a great ability to internalize the comfort of their parents. However, the fear becomes an anxiety disorder when it begins to dominate the child’s thinking, emotions and behaviors. It becomes a behavioral problem when it interferes with the child’s ability to function effectively in the school setting.

The essential feature of anxiety is fear of a targeted danger and the avoidance of that perceived danger. Once the fear takes command of the mind, it builds in intensity.

The child will experience an increased heart rate, his breathing becoming shallow and quick and he may experience acute sweating.

Ironically the anxiety seems to create what the person fears the most. With children, a fear of school or of separating from home can magnify and actually produce the negative experience. Catastrophic thinking begins to dominate his mind. Anxiety is at the most basic level self-fulfilling.

One in eight children suffer from anxiety. Anxious children are at a higher risk of compromised school performance, social awkwardness and behavioral difficulties at home and in the classroom. The tragic part of childhood anxiety that the child is often unable to tell us what is bothering him. All he knows is that he sees the world as a scary place and cannot find a safe place to hide.

The most common type of anxiety at this time of year is separation anxiety:

Separation Anxiety

Normal Anxiety in the Young: Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, separation anxiety is a normal response to separation from the mother. The child lacks an internal image of the mother and feels adrift when she is physically absent. However, by the time the child is school age, the cognitive apparatus is in place to hold the mother in permanent memory even when she is physically absent.

Returns with a Vengeance: Separation anxiety can return with a vengeance between the ages of seven and nine. The child shows an inability to separate smoothly from the primary caretaker and fails to calm down once the parent leaves. We see this anxiety at camp, on over night sleepovers and then when school begins.

Constant Worrying: The child will articulate enormous worry about something happening to the parents or a great calamity traumatizing everyone when separated. The child cannot calm and soothe himself. He cannot differentiate between realistic and unrealistic fears.

What should you do if your child is too anxious to go to school?

Things can get very serious very quickly. School refusal is most common between the ages of 5 to 6 and then again at ten and eleven. However, it can occur at various other times when there is a dramatic transition (going to middle school, high school, college). It is the ultimate expression of a child engrossed in anxiety. Physical complaints before school are common but they soon resolve if the child is allowed to remain home with the parent. Again, the child cannot tell us why he is fearful, only that school is seen as a frightening arena. There is usually a series of changes in the family that precipitates the school refusal but the child rarely sees the connection between his anxiety and the changes in his life.

Another rampant form of anxiety in kids is social anxiety:

Children often develop social anxiety especially if there has been any type of bullying in the past. He becomes hyper-vigilant with other children and fearful of embarrassment or ridicule. The child seeks to narrow his world and to withdraw from the social environment to avoid a problem.

Unfortunately, social anxiety seems to continue into adulthood and has deep roots in childhood with 15 million adults suffering from this disorder throughout the life cycle. It typically begins at age 13 and most of us suffer with it an average of ten years before we seek help.

Here's what you can do if you are concerned that your child is suffering from anxiety:

Seek to Understand: First of all, remember that your child may not be able to fully tell you why he feels fearful so be patient with him. Begin to build a mental map of your child’s life. Where does he go, whom does he like or dislike and which teacher is his favorite? Creating this map requires time and effort but it is essential if you are going to help your child overcome anxiety.

Emotionally Relating is the Ballgame: Remember that the basis of your power and influence with your child is how well you emotionally relate to your child. If you maintain an empathic, cherishing relationship, you will have an enormous ability to engage the child in exploring his anxiety.

Engage in Emotional Coaching:

1.) Engage the child in exploring his anxiety.

2.) Recognize the emotion as an avenue to conversation and problem solving. Remind him that he is bigger than the problem.

3.) Listen empathetically and validate the child’s feelings. Do not dismiss or discourage him from saying what he feels.

4.) Help your child label emotions—scared, afraid or nervous.

5.) Set limits while helping your child problem solve the anxiety. Parents often forget about this last step. Feelings are often not accurate interpretations of reality so make sure that your child is coached to face his anxiety and to continue going to school while learning how his thoughts inaccurately create the anxious feelings.

Seeking Professional Help: If parental intervention does not get the job done, find a good psychologist who can evaluate your child’s anxiety and teach him skills to calm and focus away from the anxiety and to replace negative thinking patterns and behaviors with positive ones. A great psychologist will teach you how to coach your child in the home and at school in resolving his anxiety.

Resources:

Anxiety Disorders and Phobias by Aaron T. Beck, M.D.

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, Ph.D.

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America - www.adaa.org

Cyber-Stalking - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss Cyberstalking and more on CBS 11 by clicking here.

Cyberstalking may be worse for your health than being stalked in person according to a just released study from the American Psychological Association. Almost a million adults, most of them women, are targets of cyberstalking each year leaving these women struggling with the trauma of stalking.

First - what is cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is the hidden nightmare of the Internet. It is committed when the perpetrator makes a technologically based attack on another person via texting, Facebooking and email using mobile phones and computers. The ultimate goal is to harm that person using the distance and stealth of technology to get away with it. The motives are simple and vile—to wreck revenge on another person due to anger, revenge or the sheer pleasure they gain by controlling the fear of another person.

Here are the primary forms:

Harassment: Embarrassment and humiliation of the victim and/or the family to isolate the victim

Using Economic Control (ruining credit and stealing money out of bank accounts)

Threats and Lies to intimidate and bully

Tracking of the Victim via social media sites such as Facebook or using tracking devices such as a GPS.

The worst part is that cyberstalking is much more common than in-person stalking.

40% of women have experienced dating violence via social media, which includes harassing text messages and disturbing information about them posted on social media sites.

20% of online stalkers use social networking to stalk their victims.

34% of female college students and 14% of male students have broken into a romantic partner’s email.

Now this new study showed that cyberstalking, in comparison to in person stalking is more traumatic to women.

In person stalkers usually know their victims while around 50% of cyberstalkers are either acquaintances or complete strangers. The remainder of cyberstalkers however, are disturbed people we know.

The female victims were often left confused about why this was happening leaving them feeling even more unprotected. That vulnerability can begin to define their lives.

Cyberstalking victims experience more trauma because the harassment can last 24/7 and can occur anywhere, anytime, no matter whom you are with.

The harassment makes women feel socially anxious, physically vulnerable, lonely, and helpless. They suffer from a chronic hypervigilence and are always scanning their environment for who he is and what he might do next.

Here's what you can do if you're being cyberstalked:

First of all, refuse to be a victim. Too many of us allow the behavior of the bully to define how we think and feel about ourselves. Consider how pathetic he is. Refuse to stoop to his level.

Trust your Intuition: If you feel you are in danger, please listen to that inner voice. Do not hesitate but move quickly to a secure location.

Surround yourself with safe, dependable girlfriends who have your back. When you are in a social situation, your gal posse can be your eyes and ears against any potential intimidation.

Create a narrative in your own mind of what is happening and how empowered you remain irrespective of this behavior. You are not responsible for the choices of a criminal.

Educate yourself about your legal rights. Most states have some form or stalking law so access that information. Calm down, gear up with information and push through this adversity which is temporary.

Friends With Benefits - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss "friends with benefits" relationships on CBS 11 by clicking here.

The new movie, "Friends with Benefits," with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis once again asks the age-old question of whether you can really have sex with a friend and not develop an emotional attachment. Most importantly, if you can, is it really good for you?

So, can you really have a sexual relationship with no strings attached?

“Friends with benefits” arrangements are possible but they can come with a very high emotional price for both genders. Basically, you are practicing the art of emotional disconnection while sharing your body with someone. You have physical intimacy without emotional intimacy. You don’t experience the responsibilities or the benefits of a true relationship. Unfortunately, the bill will come due when someone gets attached and/or hurt. Our minds are hardwired to connect and to attach so it will happen whether you intend for it to or not.

The real take away is that “friends with benefits” relating prevents you from realizing the benefits of true intimate relationship that only comes when you share yourself deeply with someone, both physically and emotionally. There is just no substitute for loving someone completely for a very long time.

So if it's so bad for us, why is this trend increasing?

We are seeing more people in their twenties and thirties struggling with the fundamentals of relating. I believe that as the digital age has defined our communication, we are struggling more than ever with how to be vulnerable with someone else, whom to trust, how to communicate etc. I think that the “friends with benefits” arrangement is a way of giving up. You seek physical intimacy with a safe, platonic companion and there is less risk of really being close. You avoid all the drama that can comes with being in love. However, you learn and achieve nothing.

Here's why some people prefer a "friends with benefits" arrangement:

It’s All About Me: An attractive person becomes an acquisition. They view the opposite sex as a way of increasing their social status. As a result, sexual encounters become a sport.

Badly Hurt in Love: They have been badly hurt in love. They prefer the comforting or pleasurable parts of sex but are phobic of developing a deeper enduring bond with another person.

Tough Family Background: They often grew up with parents who were highly self-centered, dismissive or absent emotionally, or outright critical. As a result, they do not view relationships as resources but as a game or even as a burden. In fact, getting too close can make some people more anxious.

So, are there gender differences when it comes to sex with no strings?

Like it or not, a woman’s sexual response is highly related to her emotional reactions. But there are chemical reasons why this occurs. During sex, a woman’s body produces lots of oxytocin (the cuddle chemical), a powerful hormone that builds emotional connection. After sex we want to gaze into his eyes, talk and deepen our emotional affection for our partner. That’s why friends with benefit arrangements can be so damaging for women. We may tell ourselves not to feel this way, but we get attached despite our best efforts not to. We are psychologically and physiologically wired to connect and attach.

Specifically, for men:

A man’s body produces minimal oxytocin and he is usually physically and emotionally spent after sex allowing him to distance from the women. He wants to just lie there and recover-- not a great relationship enhancing strategy.

However, there is some good news. There is a whole generation of men who have had close relationships with their mothers who have had more power in the family and thus more emotional influence on their sons. More men are entering dating wanting to attach and connect with their partners.

Just like females, they will find themselves thinking about their partner as a person, not as a simple sex object. They will appreciate their partners, adore them and love spending time with them. In other words, these guys are relating substantively to the women in their lives.

Here are my tips about "friends with benefits" arrangements:

Don’t be surprised if your plans to resist attachment fail miserably. Sharing yourself physically just introduces an entirely different set of chemicals and emotional reactions that frankly, have a life of their own. He or she may just be classified as your friend now but in the end, you may fall in love despite your best attempts not to.

Jennifer Lopez Divorce Woes - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Want to watch Dr. Sylvia dish on J Lo's Divorce on CBS? Click here.

Friday’s shocking announcement by Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony announcing their decision to divorce left many of us confused. While the world witnessed their affection and devotion onstage, there was obviously a very different story behind closed doors.

What happened to this great couple?

This divorce is unfortunately very typical for many couples that are wildly successful. It is very hard to remain married in the glare of celebrity since you acquire power by being incredibly self-interested. Being married requires an entirely different way of relating to your significant other. You have to learn to share resources—time, decision making etc. Thinking as a unit rather than as a single person is difficult for all of us after marriage but is especially hard for people who have a lot of power. They are used to getting their way and often want to dominate in the relationship.

The other issue that is difficult in a marriage like this is fidelity. In a survey of over 1000 people, one research found that the more power you had, irrespective of gender, the more likely you were to cheat. In fact, the most powerful people were 30% more likely to have an affair.

Which raises the question - Is it more difficult for powerful women to remain successfully married than for powerful men?

I don’t think it is a gender issue. I think that the real issue is that a lot of couples don’t know how to have two equally powerful people in the same marriage. Women who have acquired influence and power do not want to be told what to do and how to act. Neither do their husbands. Each partner has an expectation of receiving respect and the same consideration they would give to the other person. However, it doesn’t always go the way they had planned. Powerful men and women are often reluctant to share and they expect their spouse to give in on the decisions. Essentially, they are usually pretty bossy. They will let the spouse vote but ultimately want to hold the reins of power. That’s when all the trouble starts.

What about the classic cliche of a seven-year itch?

There absolutely is a seven-year itch but it is more likely to begin in the fifth year of marriage. By then, the couple should have figured out how to be married--how to handle money, in-laws, sex etc. If you haven’t figured things out, you’re much more likely to be fighting about it at the five year mark and then divorcing at the seven year mark. Remember that after the birth of the first baby, marital satisfaction drops significantly for 2/3 of the couples. If you never resolve those problems and remain married, after twenty years your marriage will most likely be characterized by a chronic lack of intimacy and closeness that causes the marriage to erode and then end suddenly.

Here are some of the common challenges that powerful personalities face in marriage:

Public Prominence is a Battlefield: Celebrities have a dual relationship with the media. They need the media attention to stay top of mind with the public but they also invite criticism and scrutiny when things are difficult. That is a lot of stress for a marriage.

Spouse's Needs May Compete: Celebrities must be driven by relentless ambition and vision. The "spin" machine can de-stabilize even the best of marriages, requiring the relationship to shift with events. Expecting one another to be emotionally present may be unrealistic, especially with the demands of celebrity. The challenge is to become accustomed to "less" spouse at times while maximizing the time you are together.

Strong Opinions and Big Personalities: Being a celebrity demands a big personality that often comes with strong opinions, high expectations of others, and a lack of compromise and patience. People of influence are often stubborn and they want their way. When both partners are celebrities, they are bound to clash.

Here's what everyone can learn from J Lo's example:

Style of Marriage: When you get married, it is important to be clear about the style of marriage you want. A traditional marriage that involves an automatic imbalance of power (usually the man is more powerful) is often preferred. However, when you have a female who is very powerful and influential in her own right may necessitate the couple having more of a peer marriage in which power is shared and negotiated.

Are You Willing to Fight for the Relationship? The bottom line is to ask yourself how willing you are to fight for the relationship. Relationships can be pulled back from the edge if both partners are willing to push through. However, it requires a total overhaul of marital expectations and a willingness to sacrifice your own agenda for the sake of the relationship at times.

Women & Divorce Trauma - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia discuss this on CBS 11 by clicking here.

Kennedy heir and award winning journalist, Maria Shriver’s headline breaking divorce from former California governor and megastar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has dominated the summer celebrity news. The pending divorce settlement will leave Maria with millions of dollars but it may also leave some psychological trauma.

So, how does infidelity trauma affect most women?

Most of the time it is devastating and there are few resources for women to turn to that explain what they are going through.

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.

Trauma is Lack of Power: Trauma is a condition of powerlessness and when it is inflicted within a marriage, it is especially devastating psychologically for women. Trauma is magnified exponentially when it inflicted by the husband since that is supposed to be the one person she can count on.

Life Rearranged: Infidelity “rearranges” life for the woman 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 husband 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.

But do all women endure long standing trauma after infidelity?

I think that most women go through some phase of trauma as they regroup and regain their emotional strength. Because women identify so fully with their relationships, their entire life is fundamentally affected. Happily, most women do move past it and are wiser for it. However, they have to be mindful of how damaging infidelity is on their self-confidence and sense of order and control in the world.

Here are the can make infidelity and divorce trauma better or worse:

There is a simple and direct correlation between the severity of the trauma and the effect on the woman.

  • How Long the Affair Lasted
  • The Number of People Involved (number of partners or the birth of a child as in this case)
  • 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 woman. Overwhelming anxiety increases as the progressive discoveries are made.

Without a doubt, the betrayed woman is more likely to ultimately leave the marriage.

According to the research, Maria leaving Arnold is very predictable. A profound discontent seems to disrupt her faith and allegiance to her husband and over time, she may become disillusioned. Although the woman may often agree to stay in the marriage initially, she usually does not get the right treatment for trauma which sets her up to gradually detach from the marriage. However, sometimes the betrayal is so hurtful, as in this case, that the woman cannot stay in a marriage she now finds intolerable. Remember, that the erosion of affection is a progression, not an event, and many people—including the spouse who has cheated-- are shocked when the betrayed woman finally calls it quits.

Here's what women can do to cope with betrayal in their relationships:

First of all, we need to be compassionate with ourselves. Women are incredibly compassionate with others but often are hard on them. We often do not acknowledge our pain and do not process where we are. Infidelity is something that we survive but that we do not ignore.

Here are the three steps:

Kinder To Ourselves: Stop beating ourselves up all the time but don’t ignore the pain. Recognize that being sad and confused is a normal part of recovery and that things will get better. This doesn’t last forever.

Recognizing our common humanity with other women

Mindfulness: focusing on the blessings we have right now and not indulging in catastrophic views of the future.

We need to remember that after trauma there is always the potential of growth. In fact a substantial number of women show depression and anxiety but they move on and become wiser and better people. They have more self-confidence, are more aware of their personal strengths and they are more insightful with others.

For More Information:

"Flourish" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Trauma and Recovery" by Judith Herman M.D.

"Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Mom-Zillas - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss "Mom-Zillas" on CBS 11 by clicking here.

The Mother in Law Wars and What to Do About Them

There seems to be a new term in the wedding world—“Mom-Zilla.” Last week, a 29-year-old British bride- to-be received a scathing email from her prospective mother in law. The email criticized her table manners, sleeping habits and even her parents’ financial status. Someone popped the email on the Internet and the story has stirred a controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

So, what's up with a mother in law who would attack like this?

Narcissistic Mother in Law: Obviously, this woman is emotionally challenged and behaved ridiculously. All emotional attacks seem logical when we dream them up. She felt entitled to speak her mind without regard to the effect it would have, which was incredibly short sighted.

Right Back at You: In this case, as in so many, the contempt toward this young bride has now boomeranged around and become an emotional grenade in this family. Somewhere along the way, this woman convinced herself that she was perfectly justified in reprimanding the young bride to be. She couldn’t have been more foolish.

Where are Her Good Manners?: Anything that she had to say could have been said with class and good humor, if she had a right to say it at all. However, the cardinal rule of in-laws needs to always be, “less is more.” The less you say, the more peace in the family.

Here's why this story created such a media sensation:

What woman cannot identify with the bride’s position? Most women who marry must navigate the politics of a new family and the mother in law is central in making us feel either welcome or rejected. If your mother in law doesn’t like you, you will feel it either directly as in this case or indirectly when you are excluded or ignored by the female family coalition. The story really struck a chord with two camps—those of us who have suffered from Mom-Zillas rampaging through our lives and people who resonated with the mother in law’s right to criticize.

Can this young woman ever reconcile with her mother in law after this attack?

Never say never but good money wouldn’t bet on it. The mother in law acted savagely and she hasn’t shown one moment of regret. She has vowed to attend the wedding in “dignified silence.” The bottom line is that if she did it once, she’ll do it again. The real tragedy is that the couple now has a huge emotional explosion to deal with—an issue that would tax even veteran couples. How the groom responds will be central to whether they actually marry and stay married happily.

So, why are mother in law issues so hard for young couples? Usually because the son refuses to say anything. There are a couple of reasons why:

Mom is Right: Research shows that men are often reluctant to “buck” their mothers even if their wife demands it. They see the wife as stronger and younger and the one who must make concessions to the older woman.

Empathy is Needed: Men have more difficulty talking about emotional matters than women. We initiate eighty five percent of relationship- focused conversations. A man becomes overwhelmed by conflict faster and he shuts down to prevent his discomfort from rising. When there’s a problem between the women in his life, he wants to escape into silence.

Closed to Reassessment: Many men refuse to look at things from their wives’ perspective. “She didn’t mean it like that” or “you’re too sensitive” are common excuses. Sometimes mother in laws do mean exactly what their daughter in law thinks they mean. On the other hand, some women can be oversensitive and inaccurate in how they’re interpreting their mother in law. Their husband needs to at least hear her out and help her reach a solution in her own mind.

Here's how mothers-in-law and their daughters-in-law can get along better today:

For Mothers-In-Law:

As I said earlier, “less is more.” Young brides are notoriously insecure and uncertain so anything and everything you say and do, good and bad, will be amplified.

Respect her relationship with your son but also request in a cordial way that your son includes you in his new family.

Don’t criticize her even if you disagree with her

Don’t criticize your grandchildren to her

Please do not compete with her mother

Keep your boundaries and focus on your special place as your son’s mother and the grandmother.

For Daughters-in-law:

Your mother in law is your husband’s mother and holds a sacred place forever in his life. Do not deliberately exclude her and become Wife-Zilla.

Hold your boundaries with grace. Please try to diffuse conflict by being overly gracious.

Lose that idealism about how things should be and focus on making things better as they are.

Most of the time, if you take the high road, he’ll figure out what his mother is up to.

Remember that you will be a mother in law someday and that you are teaching your children how to navigate differences in a family. Be kind because we always reap what we sow!

The Allure of Bad Boys - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You can watch Dr. Sylvia's story on CBS 11 by clicking here.

A new study reports that women find happy guys significantly less attractive than those silent, swaggering types of men.

So, why do women find those bad boys so attractive?

Their lack of availability is intoxicating for women. Men who are a bit arrogant, mysterious and brooding invite our interest. These guys tend to be more impulsive and adventuresome. They love danger and are a bit edgy and rebellious. Because of these traits, we have more fun with them and that fun increases our dopamine, that wonderful brain hormone of infatuation. We find them attractive until they’ve broken our hearts or left us in the dust.

Here's what bad boys look like:

Personality of Extremes: These guys have a lot of great personality characteristics that make them even more enticing. They are often very handsome, self confident, creative, high energy and adorable. The down side is that they can be self-obsessed and self-interested.

Vigilant Observers: They are often very adept at reading women and pick up on those nuances and micro-expressions that make us feel so understood.

Dark Triad: The down side is that these men can be extremely emotionally dangerous for women. They can be narcissistic, thrill seeking and deceitful.

Cannot Commit: Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of the bad boys is their inability to settle down. Women love to prove how special they are by reforming men who don’t want to be reformed. My advice is not to get involved with someone so deeply self-centered.

So, why do women keep going after them even when they’ve had bad experiences?

There is a basic failure to learn. There are four types of women who prefer bad boys:

Insecure Women who doubt their attractiveness and are looking for emotional shelter.

Thrill Seeking Women Who are “bad girls.”

Women who have problems with emotional intimacy and would find the stable relationship suffocating, if not terrifying.

Naïve Women: Most of us have endured the roller coaster of the bad boys during our dating life. They just make us appreciate the nice guys we end up marrying.

So, why don’t women find nice guys more interesting?

Nice guys may finish last in the first date department but they definitely tend to win the marriage race. When women are dating, the characteristics that make the nice guy so wonderful—smiling, empathic conversations, loyalty, calling when he says he will, etc—don’t seem as exciting as the guy on the motorcycle who ignores you. However, once you’ve been hurt, and hurt badly, you are more likely to seek out nicer guys who have staying power.

Now here's what you can do to break the cycle of being attracted to men who are bad for you (or someone you know):

You have to consider how you want your life to go. Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who cannot be in the relationship with you since he is so self-centered or do you want a partner who will take a bullet for you?

Work on appreciating the nice guy you are with by focusing on these characteristics:

Good Sense of Humor: Focus on his sense of humor. Men like women who laugh at their jokes while women prefer men who make them laugh. Laughing together is rapport building and one of the ways to increase attraction.

Differentiate Between Self Confidence and Conceit: A guy who knows what he is doing, is commanding with others, is poised and decisive are incredible attributes for attraction. But he shouldn’t cross the line into cockiness. Self-confidence is different since it doesn’t include achieving the goal at other people’s expense.

Character and Emotional Intelligence: The presence of integrity, loyalty and honesty are unbeatable combinations in a man. We love to be understood and having an emotionally self-aware guy is a huge allure. Knowing that he has our back is a great way of going to sleep every night.

Relationship Stress Can Affect Health - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Watch the story on CBS by clicking here.


The health benefits of a good marriage are undeniable with married people making more money, enjoying better health and living longer. But new research reports that some marriages can be bad for your health, especially over the long haul.

This study reveals something entirely new about how marriage can affect our health. Here's what they found:

One of the strongest findings in psychology is the link between our relationships and our mental and physical health. The bottom line is that conflict with your partner can affect your physical and emotional well being over time. It’s not just a “today” thing since your mental and emotional health can be severely impacted by a challenging relationship. Your mood the day after a fight will fall especially if you are already uncomfortable with being emotionally close with your partner. The more anxious the relationship makes you, the more emotionally expensive it becomes. The real take away from this study is that being in a stressful relationship leads to longer-term health risks.

But what about the age old question -- are women affected more than men by a bad relationship?

They absolutely are and there are several reasons why this occurs:

More Sensitive: Women’s minds and bodies are more sensitive to hostile comments and behaviors from a male partner. Especially when men are verbally contemptuous, the female partner not only internalizes the label, but her body remains anxious for up to 24 hours longer while he is just fine.

Emotional Memory: We have unpleasant capacity for remembering every detail of a fight and we dwell on it over time. Women just have a hard time letting things go.

Women Are Highly Observant: We are also excellent at picking up those little meta messages in nonverbal behavior—how he looks at us, whether he seemed interested, did he look at her—and if the relationship is framed in negativity, we tend to assemble the worst case interpretation.

Quietly Suffering: Women are excellent assessors of the relationship and are more willing to face it when things aren’t going well. The downside is that women are more willing to adapt to a failing marriage than men are. We tend to become quietly miserable.

So, what happens when one partner becomes more negative about the relationship than the other partner?

Negative Emotions are Contagious: First of all we know that just like a virus, emotions are contagious. Negative emotions can penetrate a relationship and undermine the basic regard we have for one another. We share a home, bills and feelings on a daily basis. The good thing is that positive emotions are much more powerful than negative emotions.

Negative Perspective: Disappointment can become habitual and the entire relationship is framed within disappointment.

Emotional Disengagement: A dying relationship descends into emotional disengagement. The silent killer of marriages, it is often invisible even to the person experiencing it. They are aware that they are withdrawing and that they feel more helpless to effect real change. But their hearts often close up before they really understand how powerful a change this can be. They withdraw to protect themselves from further hurt and pain.

Here's what you can do today to stop negativity from harming your relationship:

Communication breakdowns are a part of loving someone else. But when arguments become gridlocked, the relationship over time will falter.

Stay Present and Remain Calm: As the conflict escalates, remind yourself that you are going into a negative downward spiral and that you have a choice to stay present and calm. Use these tips:

  • Be Concise (don’t whine)
  • Complain but Don’t Blame
  • Start with the Positives
  • Start your Sentences with “I”, not with “you.”
  • Describe what is happening respectfully
  • Talk clearly about what you need and hope for
  • Don’t Store things up—remain focused on a specific item or items
  • Be Vulnerable—express your pain and disappointment
  • Work for Compromise
  • Remain polite and appreciative

Sources:

The Marriage Clinic by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Mavs Win! - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Resilience Makes the Difference

The Maverick’s historic win of the NBA championship reminds us that winning even against long odds is possible if you have the right formula for success.

So what does this championship win teach us about success?

The Mavericks victory shows us again that attitude is everything in achieving success. They remained optimistic when they failed and they showed unyielding persistence when things got tough. Coming together as a team with no grandstanding by individual players incentivized everyone. They won the championship because the group moved together to win.

Most people consider talent, luck, good looks and even hard work as key ingredients for success in life. They want a quick win without having to earn it over the long haul. But psychological science tells us that it takes at least 10 years of hard work or practice to become successful at any endeavor. Just look at Michael Jordan's championship record and see how long he had to wait!

The Maverick’s victory shows us that using perseverance, even when things can be discouraging, makes all the difference in the world. They were not an overnight success but they were a resounding success because they fought through an intimidating series of games against a team that had some of the best players in the league. It would have been easy to give up and to compromise their game.

Even though we've heard all the stories and seen all the movies, so many of us give up when things get tough. Here's why:

How you handle failure has more to do with where you end up in life than how you handle success. It’s easy to stand tall when things are going your way. However, the outcome of your life has more to do with the determination you exhibit during the hard times. Everybody falls short sooner or later and its up to us to pick ourselves up, to dust ourselves off and to get back on track. Otherwise the setback defines who you become and where you go from here. Everybody faces challenges but not everyone comes back from them. The Mavericks demonstrated that we should never stop believing in ourselves or in our goal even when we fail.

Here are a few keys to success that I recommend to my clients:

Passion and Belief: Two of the most important factors in succeeding are passion and a belief that you can create a great outcome. If you are enthusiastic, dedicated and absorbed by your mission or interest, you will go to any length to see it through. You will be single minded in pursuing all steps to achieve the goal. There is definitely something to be said about "blind faith."

Emotional Investment in Winning: Many people are convinced that they just need to focus on the steps alone to achieving but there is another factor that’s even more important. You must envision the achievement with your emotions. By constantly rehearsing the emotions of success you will maximize the chance of succeeding.

Self-Control and Self-Discipline: Almost every achievement in the world requires hard work. The ability to work at something relentlessly means sacrifice and sustained effort. But to achieve, you have to delay gratification and you have to sacrificing short-term pleasure for that long-term goal. Self control creates success. The Mavericks are a prime example of this principle.

Optimism: The ability to remain upbeat in the face of setbacks, frustrations and outright failure is important in any endeavor that requires work. If you are negative, you’ll get in your own way.

Patience and Staying the Course: The repetition of effort patiently delivered accumulates over time. Almost all scientific discoveries, works of art and literature and athletics are fueled by a basic sense of patience and staying the course.

Focused Specialization: Too many people apply their energies in a variety of endeavors without focusing on one specific goal. They neglect what they should accomplish because they are so talented at so many things. If you want to create a masterpiece, find the one thing you are good at and stay completely focused!

Know That Failure is Inevitable: Every successful person from Abraham Lincoln to Picasso has failed miserably at some point along the way. Learn to accept setbacks as a natural part of the climb upward in life.

Dallas parents have a prime opportunity to show their children that hard work in the face of intimidating odds can pay off.

The Mavericks were a model of self-discipline, teamwork and persistence in winning and kids need to learn the same things. Our children are surrounded by celebrity examples of quick wins and dumb luck.

Teachable Points for Kids:

Parents need to break down the steps to self discipline, teamwork and persistence so that their kids can apply them to their own lives.

Most of all, they need to teach their kids not to quit when its tough. It is tempting to abandon a marriage, a career or even a dream when things are discouraging.

Truly successful people never give up and are dedicated to the vision of winning in the end. They never allow the present set of circumstances to define how they feel about themselves or their efforts toward winning in the end.

And from all of us at Gearing Up - Congratulations Mavericks and Dirk! We can't wait for next season!

Princess Diane & Kate Middleton - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brides and Mother-In-Law Blues

Inevitably the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton cause many of us to remember Princess Diana and her fairytale wedding thirty years ago. As the wedding countdown continues, the press has been full of comparisons between the two women leaving many of us to wonder if we would want to be compared to our own mother in law, especially at our wedding?

First of all, why do we all think about Princess Diana’s memory at her son’s wedding?

We are still in love with the princess who was so much like us-- rejected, misunderstood, and betrayed by her husband and his lover. We identified with her failures as much as with her successes. We also still have enormous compassion for the sons she left behind so William’s big day is somewhat healing for us all—we like to think of him as comfortably partnered. But there are several reasons why Kate will be compared to Diana:

Both Larger than Life: Both women will have married the heir apparent to the British throne. We all love meteoric rises and we will enjoy seeing their lives transform from routine to royal.

Both are Open and Humble: Both of these women share an uncommon friendliness despite their great stations in life. They both enchant us in by their humble demeanors.

Dreams Versus Real Life: Diana enthralled the world with her dramatic life and we journeyed with her from Cinderella dreams to the stunning reality of betrayal and divorce. We don’t want Kate to suffer a similar fate so we are studying her similarities and dissimilarities with her mother in law to reassure ourselves.

How will Diana’s legacy impact the marriage?

Prince William has already been quoted as saying that “no one is trying to fill my mother’s shoes.” He will, no doubt, be highly protective of Kate since he does not want her to be pursued and hunted by the media like Diana was. This is ultimately a chance for William to do what he could not do for his mother—protect her. Diana’s example has also made this couple much more careful in committing since they know that the spotlight can be tough on a marriage. Diana’s legacy will make them much more likely to move as a team and to put their marriage first before their royal positions.

So for the rest of us, why are mother in laws often so challenging for daughter in laws?

There are several reasons:

Confused About Roles: There can be natural tension because these two women have to share the same man. Many mothers are reluctant to move from being the top female in his life to a secondary position. On the other hand, many women enter the marriage demanding that they “own” their husband and the mother in law is seen as interference.

Mom is Right: Research shows that men are often reluctant to “buck” their mothers even if their wife demands it. They see the wife as stronger and younger and the one who must make concessions to the older woman.

Empathy is Needed: Men have more difficulty talking about emotional matters than women. The woman initiates eighty five percent of relationship- focused conversations. A man becomes overwhelmed by conflict faster and he shuts down to prevent his discomfort from rising. When his mother is the issue, this habit on his part can be especially frustrating since he shuts down and disappears into silence.

Closed to Reassessment: Many men refuse to look at things from their wives’ perspective. “She didn’t mean it like that” or “you’re too sensitive” are common excuses. Sometimes mother in laws do mean exactly what their daughter in law thinks they mean. On the other hand, some women can be oversensitive and inaccurate in how they’re interpreting their mother in law. Their husband needs to at least hear her out and help her reach a solution in her own mind.

Here's how you can improve your relationship with your mother-in-law or your daughter-in-law today:

For Mothers:

Respect her relationship with your son, don’t criticize her parenting even if you disagree, don’t criticize your grandchildren to her, and please do not compete with her mother. Keep your boundaries and focus on your grandchildren—they are your ultimate legacy!

For Wives:

Your mother in law is your husband’s mother and holds a sacred place forever in his life. Hold your boundaries with grace. Lose that idealism about how things should be and focus on making things better as they are. Don’t compete with her, please try to diffuse conflict by being overly gracious and don’t cut him off from his family. Your children will suffer and you will regret that loss.

Remember that you will be a mother in law someday and that you are teaching your children how to navigate differences in a family. Be kind because we always reap what we sow!


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