Therapy That Works...

Sexual Harassment In Your Child's School - By Chris Gearing

Monday, November 07, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss sexual harassment in your child's school on CBS 11 - click here.

Being sexually harassed has become a way of life for millions of young teens. We knew that sexual harassment and bullying increased enormously in middle school but now we understand what form it takes. Attacking someone’s sexuality, attractiveness, appearance and relationships with the opposite sex is a devastating blow at any age. However, our appearance and sexuality are at their most vulnerable in this age range.

Having a bully repeatedly harass you about these things—that often you cannot change--can create longstanding beliefs that may linger for years. Kids struggle with questions about "how attractive am I really?" and "what kind of self confidence will carry me forward?" Such behavior can rearrange the beliefs of an otherwise normal child.

Such harassment can also lead to clinical depression. We know that depression strikes a full decade earlier in this generation of children compared to 50 years ago, and they tend to fall back into depression sometime during childhood a shocking 50% of the time. This study may explain in part, why our kids are getting depressed so early and so seriously.

Why has sexual harassment started to plague our kids at school?

Children in their middle school years naturally focus on their appearance and social status. However, they have never been more focused on their appearance and sexuality than they are today. Our kids live in the era of the adolescent celebrity culture and most of these celebrities are provocatively dressed with glamorous lifestyles that are highly misleading to an impressionable kid. Kids like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez present a slice of life that is just not possible.

I think that this study’s results highlight the enormous preoccupation with appearance and adequacy that starts much earlier in our children than it did a generation ago. The type of bullying and sexual harassment that we are now seeing is a direct reflection of the mixed messages our kids are getting.

Do boys and girls react differently to the sexual harassment?

This study indicates that girls suffer more. Girl were more frequently the victim with 52% of them reporting that they were harassed in person and 36% reporting online bullying. The girls were the recipient of being touched in an unwelcome way while their sexual orientation was raised as a question. We know that girls can descend into an internal dialogue that renders them helpless. They may not know what to do and as a result do nothing. While 34% of the boys were victims of in person harassment and 24% online harassment, the figures were still significant. Neither gender needs to hear this kind of bullying at school or anywhere else.

The effects of sexual harassment are devastating to a child's development.

The kids tend to get helpless. That is very typical of a bullied child—they do nothing, put their head down and perhaps the bully will go away. Indeed, the study reported that half of those who were harassed did nothing about it. Again, this kind of experience is very confusing. Most kids emerge out of childhood into early adolescence trusting that others will be nice to them. They do not start out believing that their peers will traumatize them. Sexual harassment is unexpected and there are no rehearsed strategies for dealing with it. They may be embarrassed to report it to their school counselors or parents.

The bigger question is how a child could even begin to harass others.

The research indicates that most kids use bullying and harassment to gain social status. Remember that this kind of behavior is often public and for the entertainment of others. The bullies know exactly what they are doing and it is intentional. Most of the time, these kids know exactly what they are doing is wrong.

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.

The common denominator of all bullying and harassment is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. 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.

If you're worried about your child being sexually harassed, here are some things you can do:

First, Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view this form of bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of kids who are being sexually harassed who are losing hope.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of harassment and bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Our non harassed kids must learn to speak up, refuse to be an audience, label harassment publicly, and to go and get help when the situation is out of control.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about harassment. This study is proving that this is a reality for young teens. Children who are sexually harassed are likely to withdraw, deny what is happening, and suffer these horrors in silence. Such behaviors “feed” the harasser’s control. We cannot allow that as parents. Start a conversation today with your child about this issue. She needs to be reassured that you will take this seriously and will intervene if you have to. Get your child training in social skills and communication. These skills are teachable and will help to protect her.

Complex Trauma In Children - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss Judge Adams and complex trauma in children on CBS 11 - click here.

With the recent shocking video of Texas Judge William Adams beating his daughter, many people are wondering what kind of horrors may be lurking in their own neighborhoods. Many people do not fully understand trauma and how it can affect children and adolescents who are traumatized in their own homes.

How does physical and emotional abuse affect a child?

It is completely disastrous. The harm to a developing child is much more serious than to an adult. Adolescence is one of the worst times to expose a child’s brain to violence of any kind. Their brains are still developing and the brain can be fundamentally de-regulated during the most important years of development. The emotional parts of the brain are over-stimulated and they do not develop in unison leaving the child more vulnerable to a host of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, addictions and post-traumatic stress disorders. Such conditions have massive effect on the child's personality, how the treat others, and the choices that are made in jobs, spouses, and education. This is kind of child abuse can have lifelong effects.

Does parental physical abuse affect the child more than other kinds of abuse?

Without a doubt, physical abuse from a parent is much more devastating to the child. We know that trauma is worse when someone we know—a friend, neighbor or even acquaintance--inflicts it. Suddenly, someone you know trust is now a threat, and mistrust of others is a natural consequence.

In cases in which the parent inflicts the abuse, the betrayal is even more traumatic. We underestimate the effect that a parent’s cruel and abusive behavior can have on a child. The one person in the world you were supposed to trust—your parent—has now turned on you.

Worse then that, the behavior is legitimized by the rest of the family. There is nowhere for a young child to turn. The abuse is “crazy making” since the parent who has abused their authority is unapologetic, and the other family members blame you for the family turmoil. Children in this situation commonly develop complex traumatic disorder as a result of the chronic cruelty.

What is Complex Post-Traumatic Syndrome?

We now know that the most powerful determinant of psychological harm is the severity of the traumatic event itself. This new disorder goes beyond the traditional descriptions of post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychologists now understand that psychological stressors reside on a complexity continuum. At one end are single-incident traumatic events such as a car accident, a mugging, etc. At the opposite end are psychological responses to multiple, extended, and often highly invasive and traumatic events. Having a family member physically strike you on multiple occasions belongs in this range.

Why don't the other family members ever come forward?

Trauma occurs when you feel completely powerless. You must remember that when a person is overwhelmed by terror and helplessness, their ability to self activate is completely obliterated. When neither resistance nor escape is possible, the human self-defense system becomes overwhelmed and disorganized. We are immobilized and literally the problem solving parts of the brain shut down.

Trauma occurs when nothing you do can alleviate the outcome. Traumatic events interrupt our belief that we can control the outcome of our lives. Psychologists now believe that trauma may even deeply affect the central nervous system. Trauma victims feel that their adrenaline is constantly flowing and they are in a state of continuous alert. Victims are convinced, at a visceral level, that danger might return at any moment. They narrow their world and become terrified of new situations.

Can Post Traumatic Stress or Complex Trauma occur in events that are not life threatening?

Both can absolutely occur in events that are not life threatening but threaten us in other ways. Psychologists now believe that trauma can be incurred in a number of other non-life threatening situations, such as infidelity, in which the betrayed partner is made to feel intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and the threat of their safety disappearing.

If you think you or someone you know may be traumatized, here are some of the top symptoms to watch out for:

Hyper-arousal: The person has a persistent expectation of danger and is overly reactive to stress.

Intrusive Thinking: The victim experiences repeated thoughts and memories from the trauma. Intrusive thoughts reflect the indelible imprint of the traumatic moment.

Emotional Constriction: People who have been victimized are often so overwrought with emotion that they try to avoid and restrict their emotional responses to everything. The constriction reflects the numbing response of surrender.

We know more about trauma than we ever did. The success rates for professional treatment are excellent and the sooner you address these issues, the better.

How To Talk To Your Child About 9/11 - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Watch Dr. Milton Gearing discuss how to talk to your children about 9/11 on CBS 11 - click here.

Bullying and Children - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 18, 2011

As school begins in North Texas, many parents are concerned about the effects of potential childhood bullying on their child. Psychologists report that bullying has become a serious mental health issue for millions of American families with up to 30% of students reporting their involvement in bullying as either the bully, the victim or bystander. The devastating consequences of bullying can be deadly with 2/3 of school shooters report being chronically bullied in school.

Here 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 increases during transition periods such as moving from elementary to middle school. This behavior peaks in middle school.

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.

Why would a child begin to bully others?

Giving What They Have Gotten: Bullies are usually kids who have been bullied somewhere along the way. Moving in and out of the two roles (bullies to victims and visa versa) seems to be the most typical pattern.

Children in Pain: They are often victims of bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control. However, lots of kids have difficult parents and don’t go out in the world hurting others. Bullies are choosing their heinous behavior out of their own pain. These kids are in deep psychological trouble.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about these kids suggests that these kids know exactly what they are doing. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, steal and cheat to avoid punishment and are sneaky around others.

Conscience in Some Kids: 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.

What about the new trend of cyber bullying?

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. 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 is terrible, but did you know that it could have long term effects on your child?

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 report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety while bullies have more conduct problems, anger and alienation from school and the community. Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others. 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.

Parents, here's what you can do about this problem:

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

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R.A., Reddy, M., Borum, R and Modzeleski, W (2002) The final report and findings of the safe school initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States. Washington, D.C: U.S. Secret Services and U.S. Department of Education

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!

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!


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