Therapy That Works...

The Effect Of A Father's Involvement On Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Watch Dr Sylvia discuss how every minute a father spends with his child can reduce their likelihood of becoming a bully

Click here.

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

The Psychosis In Black Swan - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 14, 2011

The movie Black Swan depicts the disturbing descent of ballerina Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, into psychosis. Most analyses of the film focus on Nina’s obsessive compulsive and anorexia symptoms and her preoccupation with physical and professional perfection. But I believe that some of the most important issues in this movie may have to do with a more common issue faced by millions of young women. Challenged by an already tenuous sense of herself, Nina falls into a deepening state of anxiety as she strives to define herself as an individual separate from the opinions and expectations of others – particularly her mother.

All too often, as young women emerge into their adult roles-either as a dancer, as a student or as a professional-they lack the pivotal skills to handle the anxiety that is a natural part of any positive change. Instead, as this character’s downward spiral illustrates, their ability to cope can falter and in some rare and extreme cases, they can become psychotic if certain factors occur at the same time.

Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

New Opportunities Create Anxiety: New environments such as going to college or getting a promotion require new coping skills or even honing the skills we’ve already been rehearsing. Anxiety often hits us and hits us hard just when we need to be the most independent, clear thinking and capable. Many girls sabotage themselves because of the unrelenting anxiety that causes increased impulsivity, carelessness and even reckless behavior. Sadly, they have absolutely no idea why they are faltering.

Independent Thinking Embraces Many Sides of Our Personalities: Most of all, these new opportunities require us to define what we expect of ourselves separate from the expectations of others. For example, in this character’s case, Nina’s mother kept her sheltered as a little girl – giving her baths, brushing her hair, and pretty much determining every second of her life outside of the world of ballet. When she landed the role of the Swan Queen, Nina had to recognize not only her sweet and tender side but to embrace her seductive, playful adult self – and it was tearing her apart. She failed to recognize that she could be a sweet woman who also enjoyed pleasure and seduction.

Lack Of Self-Definition: If you have grown up with parents who insisted on defining and controlling you, your ability to build an independent and strong reality is often challenged. If you’re paying constant attention to what they want you to feel and how they want you to feel it, your inner world retreats and you constantly orient to the outer world. You grow up without a fully developed ability to think and feel for yourself, often with disastrous outcomes--as the movie illustrates.

The World of Performance: Physical perfection at any cost is often the gold standard in professions that emphasize public performance. Whether the young woman enters the world of dance or corporate sales, she is rewarded for remaining rail thin, toned, and sexual. Caloric restriction that is often unsustainable over time gives her the control she seeks, but it can literally erode her body, her mind, and her sense of reality.

Sexual Harassment: Tragically, some men in power exploit the women in subordinate positions just because they can. The inequity in power disables the young woman’s confidence in supporting herself and in challenging his reckless, harassing behavior. Such stressors can be especially disturbing for a young woman who has been taught to substitute the opinions and expectations of others for her own thoughts – her own painful feelings are pushed aside as she focuses on the gratification and praise from the man taking advantage of her. She will ignore her own rights and view the harassment as her fault or will even defend his behavior.

The Tragic Gabrielle Giffords Shooting - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mental Illness is Not an Explanation for Violence

The tragic shootings in Arizona of US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords once again highlight the link between mental illness and violence. The suspect Jared Loughner reportedly had shown symptoms for years but was never treated. Many of us automatically think that a psychological disorder will predict irrational or even violent behavior in the future. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of people struggle with mood disorders, eating disorders, addiction issues and a host of other problems and are never violent.

In fact the real danger to your physical safety comes from some one who is using some kind of substance—either alcohol or drugs.

In a 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 people, researchers reported that an increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of the presence of any mental disorder such as schizophrenia.

We do know that violence is more common when there is paranoid thinking that convinces the offender that others are against him. He feels persecuted, misunderstood, the victim of wrong doing and badly mistreated. If paranoid thinking becomes psychotic-- meaning that he loses touch with reality--things can get very dangerous. Although, he is systematically capable of planning a murder and execute it at this point, he will have no understanding that his judgment is impaired and that is completely out of touch with reality.

So what are some warning signs for violent behavior?

The prediction of violent crimes include the following:

Violent Language: Words are often our first signs of murderous intent and as we see in this case, the suspect had used plenty of violent language on the Internet and at school. When someone is planning to commit violence, their language has themes related to:

  • Revenge
  • Conspiracy
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity and attention seeking

Justification for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they begin to justify their crime at least to themselves if not to others. Not only are they convinced that violence is an acceptable choice, they begin to argue that it is the only choice they can make.

Here are the four steps they move through on their way to violence:

  • They believe that they have justification for the crime.
  • They have no alternatives for the achieving the outcome they want
  • The consequences for their actions are acceptable
  • They have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out mass murder such as access to guns, bullets and tragically the victim.

Danger Comes with Warnings: I am convinced that danger comes with warnings almost every time. However, odd behavior or even threatening behavior is often explained away or misunderstood as something more innocent. Our tendency is to ignore such threats since we conclude that its either none of our business or the person has no malicious intent.

Now, as this tragedy in Arizona illustrates, we have a responsibility as a society to speak up about people we are concerned about. Our community mental health systems must receive the requisite funding to handle the mental health issues of those who need it most.

Advocate for increased mental health services. This young man who allegedly committed these crimes was obviously in serious trouble yet was never treated. We must fundamentally reexamine our mental health system and mandate the new laws and harness new social resources to save not only the victim’s life, but also the life of those who commit such crimes.

Most of all, we need to make sure that our own intuition trumps our rationalizations. If you see disordered behavior, take it seriously. If you are the victim of threats to your safety, do not disregard this. Violent behaviors are predictable if we increase our awareness, learn the warning signs and act to protect ourselves. Pay attention to what is happening and remember that in most cases, the only person who can save your life is you.


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