Therapy That Works...

How To Talk To Kids About Deadly Oklahoma Tornadoes - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how to explain the deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma to your children and how to make sure they feel safe - click here.

Violence Prediction and Narcissistic Decline - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how certain perceptions of the world can push vulnerable minds to violence - click here.

The Internet is filled with theories about the recent Boston Marathon bombings.

Doctors, journalists, and bloggers are focusing on the psychology of terrorism or the role of siblings in violence. However, perpetrators of such violent crimes often come with unique warning signs. If we know what to look for, it may be possible to prevent future tragedies. Here are some of the reasons that someone you know may be prone to violence:

Inflated Self-Image

Many perpetrators have grandiose opinions of themselves. They expect the world to recognize how special they are and reward their talents and abilities at all times. They are shocked when they do not receive the acclaim that they expect and they struggle to understand the reasons for it.

“Me Against The World”

The trouble begins when the world regularly frustrates and deprives them of the recognition they feel entitled to receive. Due to their exceptionally high opinions of themselves, the perpetrator develops elaborate explanations and conspiracies for these setbacks. They find somewhere to place the blame for their negative feelings and they may begin to plan their revenge.

Losing Their Grip On Reality

Once their negative feelings reach a tipping point, their thinking may become actively delusional as they slip deeper into disappointment. They become convinced that they have been robbed of the rewards they justly deserve. They find evidence all around them of a person or force determined to suppress their greatness.

Breaking Point

This type of thinking can often provoke a more anti-social perspective that starts to incorporate desires for revenge and payback. Each mind has its own threshold for violence, but their thinking may begin to fragment and allow irrational thoughts and justifications for violence.

If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist to help you understand the signs of violence and what you can do to help.

Sources:

The work of Gavin de Becker

The work of Dr. John Exner

The Thousand Steps To Violence - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some pre-incident indicators of violence and how violence is caused by thousands of small decisions and actions - click here.

Most of us think that violence is unpredictable and that people “just snap.”

However, violence is a progressive action made up of hundreds of decisions and actions that climax in a violent act. There are often a series perceived slights, thoughts that they are not being properly recognized or praised, or the belief that someone or something is out to get them. Perpetrators tend to alternate between feelings of humiliation and righteous indignation. Slowly and steadily, they begin to find justifications for violence against others.

Here are some of the pre-incident indicators to watch out for:

Gathering Evidence

In the beginning, the troubled mind relentlessly seeks out and gathers the evidence to support their negative worldview. They will ignore or negate any evidence to the contrary and only focus on how they are the victim. At some point, frustration is replaced by total indignation and rage that pushes the person to begin to consider violence.

Planning The Act

At some point, retribution becomes the only solution. To them, thoughts of violence and retaliation are soothing and offer temporary relief from the tremendous rage that brews and festers. When they are around other people, they may act extremely cool and calm - even to the point of seeming robotic or cold. They are channeling all of their rage into planning their revenge.

Rehearsing Violence

Mental and even physical rehearsal of the violence begins to take center stage. Their revenge consumes all of their time and attention. They focus on the satisfaction they will feel from their revenge, the mental images and planning of the act, and the erosion of accurate judgment and self-control.

Friends and family often miss these pre-incident indicators, but in retrospect they are crystal clear.

If you are worried about someone you know, be on the lookout for the signs of the downward spiral of a vulnerable mind. Please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist to help you understand the signs of violence and what you can do to help.

Sources:

The work of Gavin de Becker

The work of Dr. John Exner

The Violent Influence of Siblings - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 29, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how siblings can make each other more extreme in their views and more violent toward the world - click here.

Two brothers planned, built, and detonated multiple bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Many people are wondering how one brother with a promising future could allow himself to be lead astray by his troubled and angry older brother. What would lead him to abandon and attack the city that had celebrated and rewarded him?

Absent Parents

Parental absence in late adolescence can be highly damaging with certain children. Without their parents around, they may have no one to keep them in line and remain a positive influence. A teenager can become involved in social movements and militant causes without fully understanding the motivations and implications of such activities. It is easy to overestimate the maturity of a late teen or early twenties child who is still mentally developing and defining who they are.

A Convincing Sibling

An older sibling who champions extreme or militant causes may be impossible to resist. They can be a strong influence on an insecure younger sibling who lacks immediate parental guidance and insight into the older sibling’s troubles. The younger teenager may be mesmerized and convinced by a sibling out of control.

Tests of Love and Loyalty

Particularly when there is a specific cause or injustice to be avenged, a trusting and naïve teenager can be convinced by the irresistible arguments of their older, more experienced sibling. Older siblings often frame the cause as a test of the younger sibling’s love and loyalty.

The Bond of Violence

Violence can be an alluring bond for young men who are lost. Anger and violence are unfortunately a legitimate way to connect for boys and men. If there is a common goal to avenge a perceived injustice, any prohibitions against violence or murder may diminish and fade away.

A Developing Mind

In late adolescence, many adolescents still lack consistent, critical thinking skills necessary to reason their way through an ambiguous situation. They simply may not understand how irrational and extreme ideas can sound plausible and logical at first. Faulty, paranoid assumptions can sound reasonable to an inexperienced mind that is impressionable and naïve. Our fully developed frontal lobes and our critical thinking skills restore reality by reminding us of alternative explanations that are more realistic and often more accurate.

In the end, sibling bonds often last a lifetime and most of the time only lead to benefits for both parties. The crimes in Boston teach us once more that misplaced loyalty can be one of life’s greatest mistakes.

Sources:

The work of Gavin de Becker

The work of Dr. James Masterson

The work of Dr. John Exner

Trauma - Secondary Trauma - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how first responders and even those watching the news can develop symptoms of psychological trauma - click here.

Secondary trauma is a special risk for professionals involved in responding first to the scene of violence and destruction.

Despite their focus on managing the scene and assisting those in need, they also become participants in the events leaving them uniquely exposed to trauma. While they witness firsthand the consequences of tragic events such as terrorist attacks, industrial accidents, and deliberate acts of violence, their brains begin to absorb and record the tragedy in front of them.

About 50% of those who are routinely exposed to traumatic events develop their own anxiety and trauma. Sometimes, they can develop symptoms similar to the original victims.

Some of the symptoms of secondary trauma include:

  • Emotional deregulation
  • Intrusive thoughts and memories about the event
  • Hyper-vigilance or constantly being on guard
  • Psychological numbing
  • A shift in their explanatory view toward more negative, pessimistic, and darker beliefs

Secondary trauma is more likely to occur in people who have experienced trauma before. In addition, the ill effects of secondary trauma may accumulate over time. If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing the effects of trauma, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Source:

The work of Dr. John Briere

Trauma - Symptoms of Trauma - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 22, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the symptoms of trauma and how you may experience trauma just by watching the news! Click Here.

Random acts of violence are a tragic part of modern life.

These events can be traumatic to many of us even if we are not directly injured or involved. We live in a global, digitally connected community with 24-hour newscasts that relay events, both good and bad, to us in a flash. Not only do we witness tragedies quickly, we see every detail and hear every word of the unfolding drama.

Social media makes it real.

The result is that events that may be taking place thousands of miles away no longer feel like they are far away. They are happening in neighborhoods and towns just like ours with people that could be our neighbors.

This lack of psychological distance from traumatic events can increase anxiety and create a sense of dread in your daily life. The impact can be immediate and very personal. We start to lose our sense of safety in our environment and our routine.

If you have been exposed to recent trauma or are following events in the news, you should keep the following important points in mind:

Traumatic Shock:

Shell shock and denial are common reactions to trauma right after it happens. It is your mind’s way of putting itself on pause to allow the brain to slow down before the events are processed. You may experience disbelief, disconnection, and bewilderment in response to traumatic events.

Slow Motion Replay:

As the mind begins to process the trauma, it slows down to focus on the intense recollection of the event. Memories of the event are replayed as the mind begins to integrate the trauma into a preliminary narrative of what has occurred. At times the memories can be painful, uncontrolled, and intrusive. You may experience them as vivid or fuzzy, crystal clear or confusing, and sometimes your mind will switch the lens back and forth between clarity and clouded.

Always On Guard:

As these intrusive thoughts cycle in and out of your mind, you will be constantly on guard against the next trauma. Psychologists call this hyper-vigilance. Again, the mind is working hard to create a sense of safety and predictability after the trauma.

Numb To The Pain:

Any of these phases can be occasionally interrupted by states of psychological numbing. Our mind zones in and out and we are unable to feel anything emotionally. Our self activation is difficult, slow, and labored. Again, this numbing response is our mind’s effort to cope with the trauma and to regain a feeling of safety.

If you have experienced trauma in the past, please remember you may be more vulnerable to trauma in the present. If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing the effects of trauma, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Source:

The work of Dr. John Briere

Emotional Trauma From The Boston Marathon Bombings - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how to deal with emotional trauma from the Boston Marathon bombings - click here.

Talking To Your Children About The Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting - By Chris Gearing

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how to explain to your children about the terrible school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT - click here.

Horrific School Shooting At Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 14, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the terrible shooting at a school in Connecticut - click here.

Does the shooter fit the profile of a mass murderer?

Mass murderers intend to inflict suffering and death on as many people as possible—a lethal strike—and may have no articulated agenda except to inflict death.

Sense of Revenge: Mass murderers kill for revenge. They are convinced that someone or something has wronged them, and their acts of violence are retribution against others. This kind of “punishment mentality” stems from a pattern of systematic grandiose thinking and narcissistic tendencies.

Grandiose Thinking: Grandiose thinking is a reflection of a narcissistic personality disorder, where a person believes that they are special and infallible. When they perceive an abuse, they overreact and lash out. Such revenge can become violent as we saw in the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

Scale and Single Event: Mass murderers have a specific target and want to take down as many people as they can. They often realize that their murderous acts will most likely be the last thing that they ever do. They plan to inflict as much suffering as possible. In a delusional mind, this was a manly exit and a final statement of revenge and anger.

Why would he turn the guns on the children?

The children were regarded as collateral damage and he justified their slaughter through his deranged and delusional thinking. Obviously, he regarded the children as an extension of his mother’s influence. To kill the children, in some awful way, was to hurt his mother in the most fundamental manner.

You are most likely wondering, “Why would someone engage in such irrational behavior?”

Highly Regressed Thinking: Clearly, he was not thinking with a clear mind. His online diary indicates fragmented thinking, cognitive distortions, delusional ideation and paranoid thinking.

Anger As An Approved Emotion: Anger is a socially approved emotion for men. You can’t be sad but you can be angry. Anger is also energizing. Anger feels empowering and it protects them momentarily from the shame and self-loathing so many of them experience.

Normal Façade: It is important to remember that severely mentally ill people can assume a normal façade. This is especially true when there is paranoid ideation of any kind. They may harbor delusional beliefs that they carefully hide from others. Skillful at promoting one version of themselves to the public, they tend to engage in a private world of fantasy, defend themselves from perceived threats and even commit violent murders, as in this case.

Pervasive Distrust: The essential pattern is a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others. They assume that someone—and individual or a group (as in this case) will harm or exploit them even if there is no evidence to support their argument. Reality simply disappears.

Under the Radar: They generally do not come to the attention of the mental health system since they consider themselves perfectly normal. They fly under the proverbial radar.

If you are worried about the potential violence of those around you, here are some warning signs to look out for:

People need to know that forensic psychologists argue that mass murders come with warning signs. There are predictive characteristics to these crimes including the following:

- Typology of Language: Meaning and perspective behind words are the chief indicators of murderous intention.

- When someone is planning to commit violence, they tend to use one of these types of words or statements.

  • Rejection
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity
  • Attention Seeking
  • Revenge
  • Irrational Attachment (Behaviors like Stalking)

Reasoning for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they perceive four issues in a justifying light.

  • They believe that they have justification
  • They have no alternatives for the outcome they want
  • The consequences for their actions are acceptable
  • That they have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out the mass murder.

Courageous TV Anchor Responds To Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discusses the courageous response from a TV anchor to her bully - click here.

Why would someone write an email like this?

This is a classic example of workplace bullying. This man was shaming, disrespectful, and embarrassing to this woman. His comments emphasized the imbalance of power—he could reprimand her from a distance without direct response. I doubt if he ever dreamed that she would respond live on the air.

This is the pattern that we see in online bullying. Bullies feel like there are no consequences. I can slam you and lie about you without any consequence for me. In a fair fight, the victim gets a chance to respond, but this man chose to humiliate her anonymously over nothing except his own prejudice.

What about her response?

It was a masterful, eloquent statement that directly discredited his attack. She pointed out what all women know—we come in all shapes and sizes and they are not only acceptable but beautiful. She did the right thing by speaking up since silence perpetuates injustice. Injustice then builds helplessness, and this anchor was by no means helpless. She used the very tools of her own professional success—her verbal agility, on air presence and organizational skills—to make this man look ridiculous. A great lesson for children in America.

Why was she targeted?

We live in an epidemic of eating disorders. Around 40% of college aged women engage in some sort of eating disorder behavior. Being thin is sadly linked with being powerful or attractive, and this myth has gathered momentum over the decades. Appearance is still too defining of our worth as women. But change starts with us. Women need to refuse to buy into silly prescriptions of who we are and how we should look.

Is this kind of bullying increasing or are we just more aware of this kind of harassment?

I think both statements are true—bullying is increasing AND we are more aware. With the infiltration of technology and social media into our lives, we all go online to express our opinions and to share with the community. However, such access to others can turn ugly, as we see in this case. A shot at another person, especially a woman with notoriety and power, is easier to do than ever.

Remember that bullying flourishes in an environment of anonymity. This man hoped that she would internalize what he said and feel badly about herself. He tried to offload his own prejudices onto her and she refused to take it. Good for her and good for all of us!

A generation ago, we lived in a society that was more accountable. There was a community that reinforced that accountability. Now with the Internet, you can be savage without your community really knowing how poorly you behaved.

What can women do to support her?

Please support women who choose to stand up and speak out about this kind of prejudice. Refuse to be a victim of others who tell you how you should look. Remember that there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a woman who knows who she is and refuses to be silent about her gifts.

SOURCES:

www.APA.org


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