Therapy That Works...

Is Humiliation A Proper Punishment? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

After years of frustration with the Tampa school system, a Florida mother is defending her decision to stick her teenage son on a street corner with a sign for nearly four hours that says, among other things, "GPA 1.22 ... honk if I need education." Ronda Holder says she and the boy's father have tried everything to get their 15-year-old to shape up academically and made this decision with their son out of their frustration with the school system.

Is this appropriate parenting or did these parents cross the line?

This is absolutely unacceptable for parents to do this to a child. While their frustration is understandable, children who are humiliated in a public forum, even for seemingly understandable reasons, are experiencing a form of emotional abuse that can last for decades. You do not make a public spectacle of your child to make a point. This child was made to feel like a means to an end rather than a child who needed to be protected on matters that should have remained private and handled in other, more constructive ways.

Here are some signs of emotional abuse:

Remember that emotional abuse is invisible, often inaudible and usually committed behind closed doors. However, public displays of it as in this instance are even worse and have a more intense and deleterious effect on the child. Here are the top signs:

Humiliation: The active belittling of a child with contemptuous language and behavior. The child is the focus of reprimands and criticisms that make the child feel unworthy and helpless.

Abandonment and Rejection: The child is pushed away either with words and actions.

Isolation: Often the child is alone in this abuse, unable to really explain what they feel or articulate what is going on at home.

Exploiting Trust and Good Will: Decreasing trust is the ultimate betrayal of a child at the hands of a parent. Our parents are charged with our protection and any abdication of this role—in any way-- is unacceptable.

But what happens to kids who go through this kind of experience?

Invisible and Marginalized: They feel relegated to the role of an object. In the moments you are being emotionally abused, you are invisible and marginalized.

Social and Academic Delays: Academic and intellectual delays are common in kids who are treated this way. Social relationships are often immature. Emotional Scars: Problems in emotionally self regulating is by far the most serious of all outcomes. The child who is systematically emotionally abused cannot calm down without avoiding. They begin to turn to alcohol, acting out at school, oppositional behaviors and a host of other problems that indicate a basic problem in emotional self regulation. They cannot tolerate ordinary stress and underperform in life and in relationships.

Here's what you can do to avoid all types of emotional abuse:

Accountable to your Child: First of all, audit your own choices and behaviors. It is easy to harshly turn on our kids in lives overrun with stress and discord. However, your first and final responsibility is to your child. Remain accountable to yourself by maintaining strict standards on verbal and emotional blowups and over reactions with your child.

Parents Must Self Regulate Emotions: Emotional abuse by parents always comes from either a sense of helplessness or a lack of conscience about the welfare of the child. Do not allow your helplessness to morph into verbal and behavioral unkindness to the child who is under your care. If you perceive your own lack of self control in this area, see a psychologist and learn the emotional regulation skills that you must in turn, teach your child.

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 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.

O Sleepless Nights - By Chris Gearing

Friday, December 10, 2010

Road Rage At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Addicted Moms - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Addicted Moms

CBS 11 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

The number of women ages 30 to 44 who report abusing alcohol has doubled over the past decade, while prescription drug abuse has sky rocked 400%, according to a federal study. But most addicted women hide their secret well – often, with disastrous results. Here to tell us more is psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Why would young successful women begin down the long road of addiction?

No one who becomes addicted intends to end up addicted. But substance abuse among young mothers is becoming an ugly reality since the stress on this generation of women has never been greater. Most importantly, no one ever considers that a busy, engaged mom in the prime of life may actually have a serious addiction. Here’s why:

More Stress, Less Time: More women with young kids hold down full time jobs and they are the most sleep-deprived part of our society. A sleepy brain is a stressed brain. Addictions begin when we use something to bridge the gap or take the edge off of your daily stress.

Escape Hatch: Substance abuse gives you an escape. Most abused drugs and alcohol create intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Self-confidence soars, energy expands and the worries and challenges of a busy life are gone.

Depression and Anxiety Epidemics: Depression is ten times more prevalent than it was fifty years ago and it strikes a decade earlier than it did a generation ago. Women have twice the rates of depression as men and addictions give them a temporary reprieve from their misery.

Women Drinking in Groups: “Girls Night Out” has become a national, normalized ritual in our society. But a whole lot of drinking also goes on during these female-bonding events.

Long Standing Problem: Most substance abuse begins in adolescence or in college when there is rampant binge drinking and the young woman carries the problem forward into her social life as a young mother.

Is alcohol addiction more dangerous for a woman than for a man?

Alcohol More Harmful for Women: Women get drunker faster than men, become addicted quicker and develop health problems related to abuse such as liver cirrhosis, hypertension, anemia and malnutrition.

Violence Tied to Substance Abuse: The link between sexual assaults such as rape and alcohol is well established. Seventy five percent of rapes and seventy percent of domestic violence involves alcohol.

Pregnancy Always an Issue: One out of five pregnant women uses drugs, drinks or smokes with irreversible damage to her unborn child.

Drinking Correlated with Eating Disorders: Many women are obsessed with their weight and prefer to drink rather than eat a healthy diet. Since 40% of American women are on a diet at any given moment, many women substitute alcohol for regular meals and good nutrition, and they end up harming their bodies.

Alcohol Poisons the Woman: The effects of alcohol on a woman’s body linger months after she stops drinking. In fact, studies find that alcohol damages a woman’s brain structure and function in lasting and measurable ways. Although women drink less than men, death rates among alcoholic women are almost 100% higher than among their male counterparts.

Are there stages to addiction?

Absolutely there are and the addiction progresses through very predictable steps as the woman surrenders her life to the addiction.

Internal Shift: The woman begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving her stress. Getting high is fun and it changes her mood for the better in the beginning. She denies how dangerous her usage is as she begins to betray others and herself with repeated use.

Lifestyle Change: A behavioral dependency on the alcohol or drug now emerges. Her life is altered to accommodate the addiction even if she becomes reckless and self-destructive. She moves deeper into the sabotaging behavior as she builds her life around getting high.

Her Life Destructs: The addiction has now taken over. The woman relies on getting high and ignores or rationalizes the destructive aspects of her behavior. At this point, nothing matters to the addict but the acquisition of the substance. The obsession with the addiction causes a trance state. People don’t matter, commitments don’t count, and honesty isn’t even a part of the conversation.

Cannot Stop: She believes that she cannot stop. New brain imaging technology now shows that there are significant changes in the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory and behavioral control. These changes compromise the brain architecture and cause the compulsive slide into addiction.

What can we do if we are worried about a woman in our life?

Whenever you see any kind of irrational, highly self-destructive behavior that just doesn’t add up, there is usually some kind of addictive behavior behind it. Secrecy, deceit, and the systematic betrayal of the trust of others are all hallmarks of this disorder. Addictions often manifest very differently in women than in men with addicted women reporting more depression, anxiety and low self esteem.

Make a plan, enlist a team of loving friends and family and intervene directly and quickly. Happily, addiction treatment is highly effective and lasting so be encouraged that you are saving her life. She’ll thank you for it once she is sober and safe again.

Sources:

The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: Report on Substance Abuse and the American Woman, June 1996

Women Under the influence, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University omen under the Influence

Alcoholism Hurts Women Neuropsychologically Almost the Same as it Hurts Men: Deficits Linger Months into Abstinence, APA, January 20, 2002

Addicted Moms: Everybody Knows Somebody, WorkingMother.com

The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction"

Why Women Hold On To Trauma - By Chris Gearing

Monday, November 01, 2010

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