Therapy That Works...

Dr. Sylvia Gearing On CW33 - By Chris Gearing

Monday, August 02, 2010

Here's the CW 33 story Dr. Sylvia Gearing was featured on over the weekend!

Watch or read it here:,0,5381269.story

Beauty & Intrigue In America - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

By Dr. Sylvia Gearing

With the recent release of Angelina Jolie’s summer blockbuster “Salt,” Russian spies are all the rage these days. In fact, the news has been saturated with Russian spies in America – possibly subverting and sabotaging our country. Why is America fascinated with these female Russian spies?

Here is why these stories have legs:

Risk and Intrigue:

Americans are suckers for intrigue and risk. When danger calls, we enjoy that vicarious rush, without actually taking the risk ourselves. When we hear about spies and espionage, it catches people’s attention because it evokes images of the exotic and sexy -- things we may not experience in our own lives.

Beguiled by Beauty:

The attractiveness of these young women is another reason we are all following the story. Here’s the skinny on beauty:

Attractiveness and Influence:

The relationship between attractiveness and influence on others has been validated by literally thousands of studies. Like it or not, there is a beauty advantage. We just pay attention to pretty people.

Lasting Perceptions:

Throughout our lifetime, we endow attractive people with attributes of more intelligence and capability even when it's not warranted.

Predict People Based on Looks:

Most of us are making basic, uninformed guesses about people who are attractive. These theories about them are often unwarranted since pretty people are not smarter or harder working then the rest of us. But we see them that way anyway - often, with terrible outcomes.

So, if you’re wondering why you can’t turn on your TV without hearing about Russian spies this summer, look no further than the beauty and intrigue factors. It seems that Americans can’t get enough of beauty, especially when it’s dangerous.

Backyard Fight Clubs - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Backyard Fight Clubs: Suburban Violence

By Dr. Sylvia Gearing

Frisco Texas police are reporting ongoing fight clubs in local neighborhood back yards. Adolescent boys are engaging in competitive fighting against one another that is unmonitored and uncensored. Incredibly, some parents are actually approving of this practice and attend the events.

In my opinion, these fight clubs in Frisco and around the country are symptomatic of the ongoing crisis in American males. Most people do not know that violence is becoming a way of life for many of our boys. Here’s what the latest research shows:

  • Boys between the ages of twelve to nineteen commit One third of violent crimes.
  • Homicides are the second leading cause of death of this same age group.
  • Young males are 400% more likely to be murdered than are females.
  • The American Medical Association has determined that ten percent of adolescent males have has been kicked in the groin by age 16.
  • Twenty five percent of these kids develop symptoms of clinical depression in a year after the violent episode due to the overwhelming shame these events created.

Violence, even if it is somewhat “controlled” in a fight club, is symptomatic of a basic problem American men are experiencing. From early childhood, they are not socialized to “metabolize” their emotions and learn instead to express themselves primarily through their actions and achievements.

Over time, many men fail to develop the complex emotional intelligence necessary to manage themselves effectively. They can’t communicate, they can’t recover from failure and they sink into depression on a dime. They become disconnected from what they feel and use a limited number of emotions to navigate their relationships with their wives and girlfriends, often with disastrous results. Relationships fail, achievement is compromised and hearts are broken.

Ironically, anger is a socially approved emotion for young men because it is energizing and protects them from the shame and self-loathing so many of them experience. Fight clubs are a ritualized outlet for boys and men to express their frustration and angst. The clubs are an effort for them to normalize and even to glorify the physical violence they exert against one another. They think that by pitting themselves against an adversary, they demonstrate their machismo, defend their honor, and show how tough they really are.

Many kids see fighting as a futile attempt to bond with others and to express their individuality as a man. This ritual of “connection” gives them an illusion of being tough, invincible and undefeatable. I believe that such rituals, even in the backyard, are capable of desensitizing kids to violence and are likely to increase their use of violence, bullying and intimidation to get what they want.

These practices are indefensible and should be actively banned from our communities. Any parent who turns a blind eye to this kind of activity is ultimately sabotaging his son while teaching him that violence can be both an outlet and a solution.


Real Boys by William Pollack, Ph.D.

The Andrew Koenig Story - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Andrew Koenig Story: Suicide and Stereotypes

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 26, 2010

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

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

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

Anchor: Is this kind of typecasting increasing?

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

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

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

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

Anchor: How does this depression begin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The National Mental Health Information Center

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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

Tiger Woods Press Conference - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 19, 2010

Infidelity Trauma: Tiger Woods Sex Scandal

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, February 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The impact on the betrayed partner depends on these factors:

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

Who usually leaves after an affair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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