Therapy That Works...

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

The Back To School Bullying Epidemic - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss Back To School Bullying and what you can do about it - click here.

Bullying has become a serious mental health issue for millions of American families with up to 30% of students reporting their involvement in some sort of bullying as either the bully, the victim, or a bystander. The devastating consequences of bullying can turn deadly with 2/3 of school shooters reporting that they were being chronically bullied at school.

What are the specific characteristics of bullying?

Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.

Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of elementary school students reported being frequently bullied at school.

Middle School Peaks: Bullying peaks in middle school. Seventh grade is the worst year.

Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

Popular Kids Often Bully: Kids use the bullying of others to gain status and to exhibit their intimidation skills.

Here's why a child would begin bullying others in the first place:

Modeling their Parents: They are often victims of physical and emotional bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger and self control. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control.

Intimidation and Revenge Justified by Parents: Parents who tend to intimidate others rear kids who do the same. Bulling others becomes a justified behavior. Family values that include rudeness, entitlement, the intimidation of others, revenge, character assault of others or deliberate treachery create children who are much more likely to engage in bullying.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about bullies reveals that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They simply lack a conscience. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, cheat and steal to avoid punishment and are deceptive with others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

But what about the recent surge of online bullying?

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person by emphasizing the imbalance of power. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

We all know that bullying can have life long traumatic effects on a victim, but research shows that bullies and bystanders are also deeply effected by the act of bullying:

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty.

Victims Develop Serious Depression and Helplessness: Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety.

Bullies and a Lifelong Pattern of Oppositional Behavior: Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and develop alienation from school and the community. Chronic oppositional behavior is typical of such children leading to a lifetime of hardship.

Bystanders Grow Apathetic and Uncaring: Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and do not take responsibility for allowing such cruelty to occur.

The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Here's what you can do to help your child with bullying at school:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

"Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups," Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003. Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S. (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D., Napolitano, S. "Bullying: Prevention and Intervention," 2009

Are Teenage Girls Getting More Violent? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss why teenage girls are becoming more violent - click here.

The Colorado Theater Massacre - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the Aurora, Colorado shooting massacre and what could have been done to help prevent it - click here.


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