Therapy That Works...

The Warning Signs of Violence - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Mental Disorders Are Not An Excuse For Violence - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Psychology In Black Swan - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 28, 2011

Parental Alienation During The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 17, 2010

During the holidays, millions of children from divorced families will be spending time with their parents separately. But what happens when one parent begins a systematic campaign to discredit the other parent and make their child hate their ex?

This is one of the worst developments in American families of the past 30 years. Psychologists are calling it “Parental Alienation” and it literally rips families apart. Here’s what it looks like:

Systematic Campaign of Alienation: Parental alienation is a systematic campaign of character assassination. One parent is determined to alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent or toward a grandparent. It is most prevalent in child custody cases and it is worst at the holidays as parents tend to compete for the affection of their children.

Spans the Range: Parental Alienation spans the range from outright malicious intent, legal battles and reckless accusations to careless, self serving comments that undermine the child’s view of their parent.

Emotional Abuse of Children: Parental alienation not only hurts the ex, it’s a form of emotional abuse of the child. Beyond the confusion and pain of divorce and losing a parent, children take their parent’s qualities and characteristics as their own. As one expert says, “ Bad mouth your ex and you simultaneously bad mouth your child.”

Legitimized by Self Absorbed Culture: Most divorces involve pain and suffering and parental alienation flourishes in a family culture of conflict. However, the epidemic of narcissism that has defined our country in recent years legitimizes winning at any cost. Savage and unethical behavior is justified even if it involves waging war against an innocent person.

So if parental alienation is so damaging to so many people, why would someone do it?

Revenge: There are complex reasons to explain this behavior but all explanations boil down to one principle reason -- Revenge. Some people feel pleasure from inflicting pain on people they believe have wronged them. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for hurting their ex.

Child Is Perceived As A Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. The child is perceived as an extension of themselves. They inflict parental alienation on the other parent to banish him or her so that they can have the child to themselves.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents may try to resolve their low self-esteem and sense of failure by reinforcing their belief that they are the better parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it is at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child or the other parent – it’s really all about themselves.

Parental alienation runs rampant at the holidays with children traveling between the homes of divorced parents. But how are children affected by parental alienation?

Brainwashed by Lies: These kids are basically brainwashed and now regard their targeted parent as the enemy or as a worthless afterthought. This kind of betrayal can poison even in the most tender and loving relationships.

Rehearsed Answers: Divorce is very scary for children. Often they feel unstable and they may be worried about the approval of the parent that they are living with. In an effort to feel safe, they orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. They are often unable to specify why they dislike the targeted parent or they exaggerate faults of the parent to justify their rejection. Their comments parrot the alienator’s words and feelings.

Long Term Damage: There is minimal data on the long-term effects of such alienation on kids. However, we do know that the earlier the separation from a parent, the more traumatic it is for the child. The basic tenants of loving relationships—trust, loyalty, and forgiveness--are never learned and the child may struggle for a lifetime because of these experiences.

Now, if you or someone you know is the victim of parental alienation – here’s what you can do to protect yourself and reclaim the love of your child:

Remain Calm: Understand that you have been systematically undermined and that you are taking every step to remediate the situation. Focus on what you can control and don’t stress about other factors. Do not lose your temper, reject your child or insult your ex in front of your child.

Educate Yourself: Parental alienation can be an elusive phenomenon to prove especially in a highly intense forum such as child custody. There are several books with great resources that are “must reads” for parents. Please see the sources for this story for some suggestions.

Work with Great Experts: Hire a psychologist and a lawyer who are proven experts in parental alienation. The therapist must acknowledge the massive psychological impact such alienation has on the child and the targeted parent. Your attorney needs to possess a solid understanding of this type of emotional abuse and they must have the substantial legal skills to protect your child and your interests.

It won’t be easy – but with a great deal of patience, help, and prayer, you can protect yourself and your child from the devastating effects of parental alienation.


"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution" by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

Liar, Liar: How People Lie - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Liar, Liar: How People Lie

November 4, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Unfortunately, the worlds of politics, media celebrities, and big business are rife with multiple instances of lying. But in your own life, a liar can threaten your career, your love life and even your safety.

Why are liars so difficult to detect?

We all want to believe the liar. Good people with integrity want to believe that the other person is motivated by good intentions. We often fill in the “blanks” of information a liar omits in an effort to see him in a positive light. Tragic outcomes occur as a result. There has been a cultural shift legitimizing lying that is increasingly common in a complex world where the truth is often hidden.

Here are some common types of lies:

Lies of Concealment: Lying by omitting facts is a common type of deceit that has a variety of different motivations. Examples include lying to protect someone’s feelings, to avoid an awkward moment, to manipulate someone to get your way and to intentionally deceive someone by omitting key facts. Unfortunately, these types of lies are easier to conceal if you don’t stretch the truth too much.

Lies of Falsification: This lie misrepresents false information as if it were true. These are used especially when emotions must be concealed.

Mis-Identifying the Cause of an Emotion: This lie acknowledges a feeling or gesture, but it lies about what brought it on. It’s a half-truth in that the felt emotion is accurate, but the person lies about the cause.

Admitting the Truth with Misleading Exaggeration or Humor: This lie greatly exaggerates reality to make the other person think that it is obviously a lie. For instance, your child buys something for a few hundred dollars, but when you ask he mockingly replies, “Oh yeah, I spent a million dollars!” This hyperbole leads you to doubt the reality of your initial question.

You may not realize that lying is a two part process: both the words and the body language. You may be wondering what the most common type of facial cues liars use:

Smiling is the most common facial expression used to conceal deceit. It is the easiest of all of the facial expressions to create without effort.

Is the Smile Sincere?:

Study the Timing: If you think a smile is insincere, study the timing of the smile—it may be too sudden or too slow.

Note the Length of the Smile and If It is Appropriate: The smile may also last too long and may not correlate with the content of the conversation.

Note When He Smiles in the Conversation: Make sure that you study the location of the smile in the conversation. If it occurs too soon or too long after the verbiage, it may be contrived to mislead you.

Here’s why lies fail:

Some people lie flawlessly and are difficult to catch due to their skill. They are able to control both their emotions and thoughts simultaneously.

However, there are several reasons why lies fail.

Focus on Words and Face: Liars conceal and falsify what they think others are going to focus upon most closely. Most liars focus on their words first and their facial expressions second. Despite their best efforts, few liars are very good at monitoring their facial expressions effectively. The face is directly connected to the area of the brain involved in emotion. Muscles in the face begin to fire involuntarily.

Ignores His Voice: Pauses that are too long and frequent speech errors are clues to lying. Liars are often unprepared to lie and their hesitation and stuttering attempts to falsify information are clues. Their voice pitch can be higher.

Ignores the Difference Between Verbal and Non-Verbal: You can often catch a liar if you look for discrepancies between what he is saying (his words) and how he is saying the message with his non-verbal behavior, voice and facial expressions.

Here are tips to tell is someone is lying “in the moment” (drawn from the work of Gavin De Becker and Paul Eckman):

Notice Breathing, Sweating and Swallowing: Changes in breathing or sweating (especially on the hands and upper lip), increased swallowing, and a very dry mouth are signs of strong emotions that can indicate lying.

The Leaning Liar: Liars tend to lean to the side while standing or sitting and often have both of their arms or legs crossed.

Shifty Eyes: Eye gaze that shifts rapidly side-to-side and downward.

Too Many or Too Few Details: When someone is lying, they either provide too many details or they provide too few details. Either an excess or a lack of information is intended to deceive the listener and avoid questions.

Technology Fuels Lies: Liars love to use the phone or email to lie. Directly confronting face to face is more complicated since they have to control both their words and actions to successfully deceive. In one study, 72% of lies were delivered electronically while only 27% were delivered in face-to-face encounters.

Too Many Questions and Reassurances: Liars often ask for questions to be repeated to buy more time and they use phrases like, “you can trust me,” or “to be perfectly honest.” Liars intend to lull their targets into believing the illusion by appearing overly honest and transparent.

The bottom line is that you have to approach other people with an appropriate level of critical thinking. Lying is all too common. Taking someone else’s word without studying their behavior critically and without gaining more information about their history of honesty can be detrimental in the long run.

For information on this and Dr. Sylvia Gearing, please visit!


“Telling Lies” by Paul Ekman

“The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker

“How To Sniff Out A Liar” by Melanie Lindner, on

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