Therapy That Works...

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - Parental Authority - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Father Factor - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Role of Fathers In TRON: Legacy - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Father Factor In TRON: Legacy - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 10, 2011

In the new movie Tron Legacy, Sam Flynn has been fatherless for since he was a boy. But when he is transported into the computer world created by his father, he finally discovers the relationship he has desperately been missing for years.

So, how important is a father in a child’s life?

I find that fathers have a profound impact on their kids and can even be the difference between success and failure, particularly when it comes to work and education. We learn the "ways of the world" with our dads, and that knowledge translates into whether or not we enter the world well prepared.

Now, I know that this seems counter-intuitive since mothers are the primary caretakers in most families.

But much of a child’s academic experience and his eventual career in the workplace involve considerable focus on succeeding in a hierarchical world in which we are incentivized to compete, even at the sake of consensus. Learning how to navigate the workplace and all the implicit rules inherent in such environments is central to the growth and flourishing of careers. Men and women who are close to their fathers tend to have a tremendous advantage in life because they were mentored in the unspoken rules of the male world.

There seem to be several distinct fathering styles and the kinds of children they rear:

1. Super-Achieving Fathers: This style of parenting emphasizes appearance and achievement. Kids grow up knowing that they must look good, perform well, and win. Money, position, and power are all emphasized. These dads imbue their kids with a strong work ethic, ambition, and the children often make excellent entrepreneurs and leaders. The down side is that kids often feel disconnected and misunderstood by a father who wants them to “run with the bulls,” at the expense of the finer points of relating and living. These kids have difficulty establishing separate identities from their overbearing fathers and often prefer to go into a service industry such as the ministry, teaching, or health care as a way of living a life that values the welfare of others.

2. Time-Bomb Fathers: This style is based on fear, intimidation and emotional instability. Without hesitation, the father will lash out toward others and these outbursts are terrifying for kids of all ages. Threats of leaving, abandonment, and emotional and physical violence are common. Keeping the peace and managing the father is all that matters and these kids often develop into masterfully perceptive people since they had to manage their dad so carefully. These children are hyper sensitive to the emotions and needs of others, and have to develop their own ability to protect their self interests with others who try to take advantage of then. Diplomats, advocates of others, and health care professionals often have dads with this kind of temperament.

3. Passive Fathers: This kind of father showed love through his actions, not through relating or through verbal statements. He was stable, consistent, hard-working, calm but emotionally reserved. This man would never engage in unkind behavior and often surrendered his power to the mother and was a peripheral member of the family. Emotional distance is the hallmark of this type of father. Children of this type of dad doubt their ability to communicate emotionally and to have deep relationships. Like their dads, they understand the importance of commitment and hard work, and they are generally stable, temperate, and reliable. However, learning to understand and manage their emotions is a lifelong challenge.

4. Absent Fathering Style: The absent father is "missing in action" and has abdicated his role and interest in his children. Paternal rejection is horrific for the child’s sense of worth. These kids often harbor life long pain and resentment. Even in the case of marital dissolution, a child wants her father to fight for her. If he walks away--no matter what his rationalization may be--the child is impacted. The upside is that these kids learn the value of loyalty, support, and commitment to others and can become extremely committed to social welfare and justice. Careful to not create dissension, they may be overly accommodating with others in negotiations and in their personal relationships. Slow to trust, they often develop very intense, lifelong relationships with a small, elite inner circle. Some of our greatest presidents and world leaders have experienced this kind of father and have transformed adversity into a triumphant life of contribution.

5. Compassionate-Mentor Fathers: Think of Atticus Finch, in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and you have a pretty good idea of the gifts of the compassionate mentor dad. Although this is the dad we all want to have, few of us are ever gifted with this kind of father. This kind of father is astute in reading others, committed to values greater than himself, and holds himself and his children to ethical, loving standards. He spends time with his children, nurtures them with attention and understanding, and is, above all, emotionally connected. He empowers his children to pursue their dreams, triumph over setbacks, and to envision their success. Children feel safe, understood and adored. These children are fully capable of healthy, balanced, and compassionate lives and often engage in a life of contribution to society. They are excellent partners and parents since they learned from a young age to value themselves, to handle emotions responsibly, and to engage in life fully.

Now the final point is that many of our fathers are blends of these different types and many men transform from one parenting style to another as they grow and mature over the life cycle. Hopefully, we all embrace the best parts of this vital relationship and learn from the challenges that only made us stronger.

How To Become Emotionally Fit In The New Year - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 31, 2010

Become Emotionally Fit In The New Year - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 31, 2010

Many Americans are getting ready for the New Year. But while you’re assembling your list of resolutions, you may want to add another one – become emotionally fit. Psychologists agree that often the difference between success and failure comes down to emotional fitness.

What does "emotionally fit" really mean?

Emotionally fitness encompasses a set of beliefs, practices, and behaviors. Just like a well-toned athlete, emotionally fit people have specific thinking and emotional habits that help them to cope with a thousand different stresses which impact all of us on a daily basis. Emotionally fit people are highly resilient and have great tenacity in creating a vision of their goals and in implementing the steps to achieve those goals. They value other people, are good at maintaining their inner strength, and respond well to adversity.

Now, I know what you’re saying – “that’s great and all, but what does that affect me?”

Remaining emotionally fit and resilient in the face of adversity can make or break careers, marriages and even entire economies. We are simply happier when we are emotionally fit because we focus on the positives, the potential good in any situation, and we maintain hope for what’s to come next. Emotionally fit people are half as likely to die and half as likely to become disabled. They have better health habits, lower blood pressure, better health, and more friends because they are more empathic with others.

Sound pretty good?

Here’s how to get started on your path to emotional fitness:

Courage Under Fire: You must learn to remain calm under fire. Resilient people have an awesome ability to control their emotions even when things get stressful. If you overreact all the time, you'll wear yourself out and alienate those around you.

Impulse Control: People who speak or act before they think things through get themselves into trouble. Becoming emotionally fit demands that you limit your impulsive side. Making "snap judgments" or jumping to conclusions can lead to big mistakes.

Count Your Blessings: Focus on the positives and remember that positive emotions can literally undo negative emotions. I’m serious – neurologists have proven that positive thoughts can re-organize the connections in your brain to make you a happier and more productive person. Develop the ability to appreciate the little things -- the wonderful taste of your sandwich at lunch, a beautiful sunset, or the smile of your son or daughter.

Say "Thank You" Often: Expressing gratitude to others is a huge step in becoming emotionally fit. Too often we take for granted the enormous blessings that surround us. Tell a friend, colleague or boss that you appreciate them. An attitude of gratitude forces you to think more positively and find the happiness and blessings in your life.

Acts of Kindness: Volunteering and giving to others are huge boosts for emotionally fit people. Not only do you feel warm and fuzzy, but you become emotionally connected to other volunteers, you’ll appreciate your own circumstances even more, and your contribution will give you a sense of control and impact on your community and the world.

Make a Friend: I always tell my clients that friends are the cheapest medicine. People with many friends have the lowest mortality rates, lower rates of physical impairments, and are generally happier and more successful! Make sure you make a friend and see them often.

Screen Your Beliefs: Every behavior begins in the mind. We now know that our basic belief system creates everything else--our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Try to create a system of taking your thoughts and actions and dissecting where they originated and why.

Becoming fully emotionally fit requires a tremendous amount of self-reflection and understanding. For more strategies and tools, you should download my step-by-step video for reorganizing your thoughts and becoming emotionally fit from my website, GearingUp.com.

Emotional Fitness In The New Year - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How To Survive The Holidays With Your Family - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

With the mistletoe in place and the lights on our trees, many Americans will look forward to a warm reunion with their families in the next few weeks. But family gatherings don't always offer the good times we had anticipated.

So, why can our families be so difficult at the holidays?

The simple truth is that many of our families are just very hard to get along with. See how many of these fit your family:

Tangled History: Family relationships are some of our greatest challenges and greatest teachers. Many of us have tangled, complex histories with our siblings and parents that have never been resolved. In addition, some of us are saddled with relatives that are just plain insufferable.

Fight It Out: Most of us have a much more difficult time “letting things go” when it comes to our family. Instead of forgiving and forgetting, we hold on to painful memories and fight it out.

High Expectations: We tend to set high expectations for change and understanding with our family members, but most of them haven’t changed and may never change. Someone who was difficult twenty years ago may still be just as abrasive now.

Stressed Anyway: Two thirds of Americans are severely stressed at the holidays and function in a fog. Instead of protecting ourselves and getting enough rest and self-care, we command ourselves to participate in holiday activities that wear us out and make us grumpier.

But if the holidays can be so stressful, why do we always seem to get together and celebrate with our families?

Celebrating the holidays with family boils down to ritual. Whether it’s decorating the tree or eating Chinese take out for dinner, rituals are very powerful in making us feel connected to the past and to our family. All of our traditions, songs and holiday schedules remind us of the positive aspects of our lives today and prepare us for the new year of work and possibilities.

Everybody knows that the holidays can be stressful, and sometimes seeing our families only makes things worse. But we still force ourselves to show up. If you’re one of these sad souls, here are a few tips to help make the holidays bright:

Be Realistic: Christmas is much more deeply tied to our childhood memories than any other holiday and we are hoping that these family rituals will fuel our good feelings once again, as they did in childhood. Try to temper down those high expectations and don’t put so much pressure on the holiday! Instead, use this time to get a plan together and take control of your destiny in the new year.

You Think What You Eat: Did you know that December and January are the deadliest month of the year for heart attacks? Between the rich holiday meals, flowing alcohol, financial stress, it’s no wonder that Americans tend to drink and eat excessively. If you add in a few challenging relatives, this stress can push you over the edge. Try to watch what you eat and take it easy on the alcohol.

Stay Cool: Go into the holidays with a realistic mindset or what psychologists call, “pre-loading.” You will keep your cool in hot situations much easier if you expect them to happen. Realize and even expect that an argument may break out at the table or that your uncle may have a bit too much to drink. Pre-loading will help you keep control of your own emotional reactions and if things get too tense, just take a time out.

Private Holiday Magic: Visit with your family but leave the holiday magic to your private moments with a cherished spouse, wonderful children, or even lifelong friends. The magic of this season is always found in the special moments with our loved ones.

Grumpy Families At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Secrets of Holiday Gift Giving - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Secrets of Holiday Gift Giving: How To Buy Gifts For The Ones You Love

Americans spend up to $40 billion annually for holiday presents and while holiday gifts can be a terrific way to show your love for your partner, psychologists now report that holiday gifts can often be your relationship’s report card.

But why do gifts matter so much, especially in a relationship?

Perception is Central: A gift is never just a gift. It is a fundamental way we communicate how important the relationship is. Americans, in particular, are really stressed about gift giving because of this relationship rule. Giving the perfect gift can be seen as a true measure of how much we care about our partner--or not. The more thoughtful or romantic we are perceived as being, the more emotional money in the bank.

Avoid Misfires: Holiday gifts can also get you into a lot of trouble if you misfire. Since they really do leave us vulnerable to judgment, they are a form of risk taking in the relationship and they can go very badly. We use gifts to take basic measurements of our partner’s commitment, affection, and understanding of who we are.

Relationships Ending: The ugly truth is that gifts often signal the end of things. For example, a gift left on the kitchen counter in the plastic bag is the equivalent of saying “We need to talk.”

When it comes to your gift giving, here are some common pitfalls to watch out for:

Buy for Them: Avoid giving them something that YOU would like. Buying for yourself—with your preferences and interests—will not be endearing, you will be viewed as insensitive and selfish. Make sure that you buy for them, not for you.

Keep It Equal According to Status: Remember that in families, the comparative value of the gifts will always be measured. It is just fine to give your wife a piece of nice jewelry while giving your sister a robe. But be careful not to “over gift” one relative over another—it will be noted.

Avoid Lavish Gifts: Also, avoid lavish gifts that are going to make everyone else feel weird. You can look like a show off and the gift just backfires.

Avoid Token, Last Minute Gifts: Low expense and minimal efforts in gift giving are recipes for disaster, especially with a woman. I guarantee she will feel like an afterthought.

No Motivational Gifts: Do not give a gift that screams self-improvement like weight loss, better parenting or finding a job. You’re smarter enough not to gift a year’s membership at the gym or a box of diet drinks. It can really hurt the relationship.

Avoid Re-Gifting: Almost one third of Americans pass on gifts they don’t like. Be careful with this since it can really hurt the relationship if they figure it out.

Did you know that men and women care about different things when it comes to giving gifts?

Money Counts with Men: Men tend to be much more aware of how much they’re spending to buy her present. They use the price tag to signal affection, interest, and commitment. They also like practicality and personalization in the gifts they receive—golf clubs, new grilling utensils, things like that.

Women and Meaning: On the other hand, women love to investigate what the present means emotionally. We love hidden meanings and delight in building drama around the moment of receiving the gift—the candlelight at the table, the Christmas tree glow. We will often spend hours devising the perfect gift for him--thinking, dreaming and scheming. She hopes, or really expects, that he will do the same for her, but research shows that men rarely do. They are more likely to think about it for a minute, buy it at the very last minute, and deliver it without any theatrics.

Here’s what I would recommend when you’re out holiday shopping this year:

The Three Rules of Gift Giving: Research shows that great gift giving must include three elements—a wonderful surprise, familiarity with her tastes, and the cost must reflect how much you value the relationship.

Savor the Experience: Gifts that are personal and experiential – like a romantic evening out, a couples’ massage, duo cooking classes, making a gingerbread house together, a horse and buggy ride or a weekend getaway – go a long way. In the end, people do not remember the way you dressed, the actual gift you gave them, or even what you did. They remember how you made them feel.


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