Your mind (if it’s like most minds), spends a lot of time criticizing itself. If the thought comes up I’m so ugly, and you start arguing with it, or resisting it, you are just investing more energy in that thought pattern in your brain. If someone came up to you and said ‘You’re a purple elephant’, you would probably not get insulted, because there is no agreement that you have that goes ‘I believe that I might be a purple elephant and that is a bad thing.’ On the other hand, if someone comes up and says You would look better if you lost 15 lbs and got rid of that double-chin you would might get very upset. In fact, you might after reading that feel a little jab like “they’re right, I do have kind of a double-chin, I should really get rid of that.” That’s because somewhere in your mind you have an agreement that (a) you might have a double-chin and (b) having a double-chin is a very bad thing to have. So when someone points that out, or you see an advertisment with a 120-lb model, your mind comes up with “I’m ugly” and you agree with it. So the key is to stop agreeing with your negative thoughts. This doesn’t mean arguing with them or resisting them though. If someone said “You’re a purple elephant” you wouldn’t argue about how you really aren’t and how even purple elephants have feelings – you would just shrug and say “OK, whatever”. You would have no charge on it. That is the attitude to cultivate with your negative feelings and thoughts – a mental shrug. “Ok, that’s what my mind is doing, whatever.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Cinderella is someone who wants her own way, but isn’t getting it. Like most young people, she learned to feel very inadequate to obtain her desires through her own internal resources and competencies. Under these circumstances, some “Cinderellas” feel angry, powerless and out of control. Since she has learned not to trust her own strength, she acquires a tendency to depend on the strength and resources of others. For many people, the Cinderella Story is a paradigm of their lives. Some become vengeful and vindictive. They are no longer Cinderellas; they have become the Wicked Witch! Cinderellas are the ones who come to feel helpless, dependent and discouraged and stay that w
The Cinderella understandably comes to believe that she is, somehow, “inferior” to her older stepsisters who enjoy advantages that she doesn’t have. It seems logical to her that she doesn’t “deserve” to be as happy as those to whom she is “inferior.” Since happiness seems to be “precluded,” all she has to look forward to is a life of drudgery and suffering. She has become Allergic to Happiness. That is a prescription for depression.
She may also have learned early in life, that, if she suffers piteously enough, someone will pay attention to her. She may even be able to get strong people to do her bidding. We call this “using weakness as strength.” Many Cinderellas have learned how to find and manipulate a Fairy God-Person through their own dramatically enhanced “suffering” so that they can obtain “advantages” that they could not have obtained on their own. This attitude is called, “Suffering Pays.” These scenarios set Cinderellas up to conclude that it doesn’t pay to draw upon or develop their own inner resources. It’s so much cheaper and easier to give people the “pleasure” of helping them. They have become dependent.
Unfortunately, the “advantages” that a Cinderella is able to extract in this irresponsible way turn out to be short-lived. She has never learned how to enjoy these advantages on a mature basis. She has never learned that she deserves to enjoy them as fully as others do. She does not know how to parlay these short-lived advantages into long-term ones; in fact, she has a tendency to run them into the ground more quickly than a self-respecting non-sufferer would. This unhappy tendency on her part has the effect of exasperating and discouraging those who are trying to “help” her, and they give up on her. They do not understand her paradoxical, self-destructive behavior. The sufferer is obliged to seek out replacement Fairy God-Persons at increasingly frequent intervals.
Actually, this “self-destructive” tendency is not paradoxical at all. It is entirely consistent with the attitudes she has picked up along the way. Cinderella has learned that she doesn’t deserve to enjoy her happiness. She tends to feel “guilty” after she has succeeded in obtaining the advantage that she sought through her suffering. To relieve her guilt, she must find a way to get rid of this “undeserved happiness” before she gets caught and the clock strikes twelve.
Moreover, Cinderella suffers from a childhood lesson that makes it impossible for her to enjoy happiness the way others do. She has learned that, even if she does wangle an invitation to the Ball, her happiness will be temporary and it will end in disaster! This conviction, below the level of conscious awareness, sets up a terribly painful, irresolvable conflict. On the one hand she would like to be as happy as everyone else; on the other hand, she doesn’t “deserve” it and therefore, she “knows” that any happiness of hers will end in disaster sooner or later. She tends to compare herself unfavorably to those whose happiness seems to be more secure and gratifying than her own, and she resents the “unfairness” of the discrepancy between their state and hers. She acquires the attitude that is for her, “Happiness is only temporary and it ends in disaster.” The only power that she seems to have is the power to end the painful suspense (anxiety). Instead of waiting passively for the clock to strike 12, she actively brings about the destruction of her own happiness. She prefers to do it herself rather than waiting for others to do it to her. She prefers to get it over with sooner rather than later. In the meantime, her attitudes predispose her to live in fear of future disaster; this sets her up to suffer anxiety, which also sabotages any happiness in her life.
The Sufferer from this syndrome tends to be depressed, even at the Ball, because of her pessimistic, unconscious expectation of disaster, but even more so because of her pervasive belief in the unfairness of life. And it is unfair. She did nothing to deserve this negativity in her life, but she has it anyway. In counseling, we reveal to these sufferers that the negativity is often a response to their vulnerability to being abused or neglected by their family members. As a pleaser, she is a safe target for her siblings and her parents. She may even take on the Scapegoat role in her family. The Scapegoat or Cinderella may appear to be weak and passive on the surface, but her victimizers sense her strength. They trust her to take their abuse without cracking. And she does. They relieve the pain of their own self doubt by dumping their anger on her and she takes it. She is a safe target for them. As an adult, she will find herself compatible with people who will play negative roles in her scenario, who will give her opportunities to prove her ability to take it. This is how she maintains the continuity of her particular constellation of attitudes and expectations forever.
When these people come in for counseling, we identify their unresolved anger at their childhood tormenters, anger that pleasing Cinderellas aren’t supposed to have. We identify their anger at themselves for “allowing” the abuse to happen, as if they had the power as a child to prevent it. We show them how to replace their self doubt with self-respect on a mature basis. This is how they come replace their unhappy role with an independent identity as a self-respecting human being.
One client I met with who played the part of Cinderella was a 30 year old woman. She was in a relationship with a Prince Charming who takes her to “fun places” but who cannot or will not, offer security in their relationship. After every date with him, she feels as if the Ball is over and that she is never going to see him again. She prophesies an endlessly boring life of drudgery for herself without him. In the meantime, she finds herself unable to relate to mature, responsible men who could and would give her the material and personal happiness that she says she wants out of life. She sees the absurdity of this paradox, which is a good sign that she will respond to treatment. She just can’t change herself without knowing what she must change to.
I began one session by asking Rachel when she felt secure. She replied,”At age six my older sister Grace used to play alone with her dolls. She used to change her dress in the afternoon. I asked my mother, ‘Why can’t I change my dress in the afternoon like Grace does?’ Mother said, ‘Because Grace sits still. She doesn’t climb trees the way you do.’ I said, ‘I can do that!’ And she changed my dress. I was happy.”
The fact that this woman remembered this incident for 25 years tells us that it has some significance for her in the present. It tells us that she is very sensitive to comparing herself with others who seem to be enjoying advantages that she does not have. That it is important for her to find out how to obtain these advantages for herself. She is mindful that there are some behaviors that are acceptable and others that are not. She remembers depending on the resources of others to make her wishes come true.
Many people remember being independent and taking pride in this accomplishment. Cinderellas usually do not. She is concerned with external appearances, (clothing), and the roles that go with them. This recollection tells us that for her, Life is pleasant when she gets her own way, when she is secure when she is able to do what the Big Kids are doing at the Ball. The implied meaning of this conviction is that life is very unpleasant for her when she can’t find a way to get what she wants, when she can’t have the kind of fun that other people are having. When that happens, it confirms her feelings that she is at a disadvantage. That she is “left out,” and she doesn’t belong at the Ball with the “big kids.” She feels like she is worthless.
Like many people, Rachel was never encouraged to perceive herself as a worthwhile human being in her own right. She has subtly been encouraged to define herself in terms of her external behavior, some of which is “right” and “good,” the rest of which is “bad” and “wrong,” There was no middle ground for her while she was growing up. Since she has never acquired an identity that is her own, she is forced to play roles. The two main roles that were available to her were the “Good Princess” and the “Bad Cinderella.” The first one was taken by Grace before she got there. Neither of these fictitious roles allows the adult woman to prepare for a real healthy relationship. Both of these women have no choice but to gravitate to a phony Crown Prince Charming, who has no more self-respect than they do. They are compatible, but it is a negative compatibility.
While immersed in her “Bad Cinderella” role, people like Rachel may be inclined to seek relief from their unhappy feelings of inferiority by dreaming of their moment in the sun, which comes when they fantasize about finally getting the brass ring. When they are “high,” they dread the imminent destruction of their happiness. They are not able to live in the present moment and enjoy it freely. The time between these peaks and valleys is filled, not with a gratifying existence in the middle ground, but with anxiety, depression and suppressed anger. As a consequence, real life tends to pass them by and they may end their days wondering why their life never really began.
To replace her unhappy constellation of attitudes and expectations, Rachael has to do her Homework. To break her dependency on others for her happiness, she must choose to behave independently, on her own mature, appropriate terms.
For example, Rachael can catch herself comparing herself unfavorably to other women who seem “luckier” than she is. She can realize that this attitude only perpetuates her feelings of anger at the unfairness of life and her own inferiority and inadequacy. Also, she can catch herself paying the role of the Special Princess at the Ball. She can stop feeling like a bored, resentful scullery maid when the music stops. Instead of playing these unrealistic roles, she can choose to perceive herself as a worthwhile human being in spite of her faults and imperfections. She can choose to live in the real middle ground between these unreal highs and lows.
Life soon provided her an opportunity to do a Homework. Prince Bob called to cancel their date that night. He was going out with the boys instead. Instead of pretending to be understanding, as usual, (she didn’t understand at all, she was hurt and angry) she made a conscious choice in her own behalf. She chose to tell the truth about her unpleasant emotion: “I’m very angry at you. I was looking forward to seeing you and now I’m not going to. That hurts my feelings. Don’t plan on seeing me tomorrow. In going out with the girls. They’re so much more mature.”
Bob heard her talking like an independent person in her own right. He respected her courage in standing up for herself on an appropriate basis. She hadn’t overreacted, she hadn’t suppressed her anger, and she wasn’t controlling him or guilt tripping him. She made a cutting remark which she wouldn’t have had the courage to do before. She was behaving like a mature human being with a legitimate grievance against him. He couldn’t respect her pleasing role, but he could respect someone who spoke to him like an equal member of the human race. As Rachael continued to maintain her independence on her own appropriate terms, she felt stronger each time in her self-respect. She was going to know what it felt like to be a worthwhile human being in her own right. Bob grew up with her without even realizing that he was doing so. Their negatively compatible roles from the past were replaced by an atmosphere in which mutual respect was possible.
On this new, more realistic basis, Rachael is finding that her life is more fun than it ever was before, and that she can enjoy her happiness more than she ever did. When the Ball ends, it doesn’t end in disaster. It just ends. She can go to sleep. She is free to go on to something else tomorrow.
This is an attitude that is often an important facet of the Cinderella Complex. It manifests itself as a reluctance to form a permanent relationship with an “ordinary” member of the opposite sex for fear that it will preclude a more gratifying liaison with a “Prince” later on. Compared to this idealized image, flesh and blood human beings seem mediocre and undesirable.
The sufferer never stops to ask herself, “If a perfect male were to come along, what would he want with me?” She is so busy living in the future that life in the present passes her by.This attitude is understood as the individual’s way of overcompensating for her feelings of inadequacy. It is her imaginary solution to her painful feelings of inferiority and “worthlessness” as a female. In her scenario her Prince’s love for her will vindicate her worth as a person in the eyes of all those who scorn her now; it will prove that she has been a “princess,” i.e., worthwhile, all along. This seldom happens.
In the meantime, this fictitious resolution of her painful self-doubts absolves her of any “guilt” she may have felt regarding her present state of inaction. She is not responsible for her own well-being: “It’s not my fault that I am still feeling inferior; it’s just that no one has come along to realize me yet.”
This fantasy serves to exempt the sufferer from any responsibility for relieving her present distress by finding out about her mistaken attitudes and expectations and replacing them with more realistic ones.
Rachael isn’t making any of these mistakes now. She is doing little Homeworks every day. She is finding that these successes give her happiness in the present, which is so much more enjoyable than happiness a year from Tuesday.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
What is anger management? Anger Management is the name of a movie that is intended to be funny, and it is.
But there is nothing funny about real anger management, it is a very serious issue. Anger management is the process of managing your anger, or perhaps it is better explained using the words controlling your anger.
While there are no public anger management statistics that could be found, there are studies about anger that are very compelling when you are trying to see the importance of anger management.
Anger control problems can affect your job and your relationships to a degree that you may not realize. The inability to control your anger can escalate.
You hear about angry employees who go after their bosses with high powered semi automatic rifles and end up killing 6 people and then himself once he realized what he had done.
These stories are on the news several times a year. Even more often you hear about cases of domestic violence and child abuse that are a result of someone losing control of their anger. 42% of all female deaths from homicide are the result of domestic violence.
Anger problems are not limited to adults who commit crimes and road rage, though.
Children can have anger control problems, too. The biggest problem with this is that many people don’t recognize anger control problems in children or think that it’s just a phase and that the children will grow out of it. However, even if it is a phase it needs to be dealt with.
If you look at the anger management statistics for children you will see that this is a very real problem.
According to the most recent report released from the US Department of Education, in the school year of 1999 to 2000 5.5% of school teachers were violently attacked by students and 10% of all elementary school kids who were expelled from school were expelled because they brought a firearm to school. This is much more than just a phase!
What is anger management? It is recognizing that you or someone you love has a problem controlling your anger and getting help for it before it is too late.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Dr. Keith Sanford, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor in Baylor’s department of psychology and neuroscience, College of Arts and Sciences, and his research team studied 105 college students in romantic relationships as they communicated through different arguments over an eight-week period. Sanford focused on how emotion changed within each person across episodes of relationship conflict. They found demonstrated links between different types of emotion, different types of underlying concern, and different types of perceived partner emotion.
Sanford distinguished between two types of negative emotion as “hard” and “soft.” “Hard” emotion is associated with asserting power, whereas “soft” emotion is associated with expressing vulnerability. Sanford’s research also identified a type of underlying concern as “perceived threat,” which involves a perception that one’s partner is being hostile, critical, blaming or controlling. Another type of concern is called “perceived neglect,” which involves a perception that one’s partner is failing to make a desired contribution or failing to demonstrate an ideal level of commitment or investment in the relationship.
Sanford said the results show that people perceive a threat to their control, power and status in the relationship when they observe an increase in partner hard emotion and they perceive partner neglect when they observe an increase in partner flat emotion or a decrease in partner soft emotion. Both perceived threat and perceived neglect, in turn, are associated with increases in one’s own hard and soft emotions, with the effects for perceived neglect being stronger than the effects for perceived threat.
“In other words, what you perceive your partner to be feeling influences different types of thoughts, feelings and reactions in yourself, whether what you perceive is actually correct,” Sanford said. “In a lot of ways, this study confirms scientifically what we would have expected. Previously, we did not actually know that these specific linkages existed, but they are clearly theoretically expected. If a person perceives the other as angry, they will perceive a threat so they will respond with a hard emotion like anger or blame. Likewise, if a person is perceived to be sad or vulnerable, they will perceive a neglect and will respond either flat or soft.”
The study appeared in the journal Personal Relationships.
Sanford said some of the most interesting results in the study pertain to a complex pattern of associations observed for soft emotion. As expected, partner soft emotion was associated with decreased concerns over neglect, whereas self soft emotion was associated with increased concerns over neglect. Sanford said this is consistent with the idea that soft emotion is a socially focused emotion, often triggered by attachment-related concerns, and that expressions of soft emotion signal one’s own desire and willingness to invest in a relationship.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You may find yourself feeling miserable because of the way you see yourself in the world. You may say to yourself, ”Why does this always happen to me, you think, or why does life have to be so unfair? or why is it so hard?” You react this way when you secretly imagine yourself as being at the center of the universe. This isn’t conceit or arrogance, but it can be called “narcissism”. It’s what happens when you’re the point of reference for everything that happens all around you. We are all a bit narcissistic. A little of that is natural; you look out at the world through your own eyes and hear through your very own set of ears. But when you act like everything happens because of you, you’re headed for trouble.
Narcissism, a psychological state rooted in extremely low self-esteem, is a common syndrome among the parents of psychotherapy patients. Narcissistic people are very fearful of not being well regarded by others, and they therefore attempt to control others’ behavior and viewpoints in order to protect their self-esteem. The underlying dynamic of narcissism is a deep, usually unconscious, sense of oneself as dangerously inadequate and vulnerable to blame and rejection. The common use of the term refers to a preoccupation with one’s own physical and social image, a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts and feelings, and a sense of grandiosity. There are, however, many other behaviors that can stem from narcissistic concerns, such as immersion in one’s own affairs to the exclusion of others, an inability to empathize with other’s experience, interpersonal rigidity, an insistence that one’s opinions and values are “right.” They also have a tendency to be easily offended and take things personally.
Narcissism sees everything as a reflection on you; the universe revolves around you. Your car has broken down; it is your fault and you must have done something to deserve it. A friend walks past without saying hi; she must have done it on purpose to make you angry! Your child does not do their homework properly; you must be a bad father! A commenter accuses me of something I have not done; it was more a reflection of his distortions. There is no realistic reason for me to feel guilt – and yet you do. When you are narcissistic, you assume the guilt for things that go wrong outside of your control. You may see things as your fault that there was no way you could have prevented. For example, a child may write on the wall with a marker and the mother thinks, “It’s my fault, I am a bad mother. If I was a better mother I would have seen him withy the marker before he could draw on the wall.” Narcissistic emotional thinking leads you to assume that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you.
Take driving in traffic. How many of people raise their blood pressure unnecessarily because they’re wondering why the ‘other drivers are all idiots’ and their sloppy driving is directed at you, individually? Or at the office, where a disagreement with the person in the next cubicle seems to be an act of disrespect or hostility? Or closer to home: your boyfriend goes off the deep end over a stupid little joke you told some friends over drinks. It’s not like you told an embarrassing story about his mother; this was just a silly gag! But now he’s upset and you’re feeling misunderstood, attacked and hurt. However, you’re often fighting about something other than what you think you’re fighting about. Maybe your attempt at humor didn’t offend anyone else, but in your partner, it triggered a response going back to times when his father would criticize him after drinking too much. In other words…it wasn’t about you, at least not all of it.
Let me give you another example. I remember when the first woman I really loved, left me, ‘rejected’ me, for another man. It felt personal. How can I not take this personally? Well I learned the reason I don’t need to take things personally is because it’s not personal. How can that be you may ask? Isn’t the person standing in front of you screaming and being mean to you, doesn’t that say something about you? Isn’t the girlfriend who just went four days without calling you, saying something about you? Or how about the girlfriend who just broke up with you for another guy, isn’t that personal, isn’t that about you? Maybe your boss was really cold and aloof today, ‘isn’t that about you?’ you ask. How about your mother who spent your entire life not being affectionate and warm, ‘Isn’t that about you?’
Do you understand where I’m going with these questions? The operative word in all these scenarios is, you. And here’s the key. Drum roll please! When someone is doing or saying something to you, it is about them, not you. Let me be clear. There behavior speaks to them, not to you. Their insults and antagonism, is about them. So the girlfriend who I mentioned that broke my heart and ‘rejected’, me turned out to be afraid of confrontation, so she found a way out of the relationship without having to talk. She used her behavior not her words. She went off with a man who would take care of her so she didn’t have to take care of herself. When I saw her years later I realized I had been spared a life of misery. So here is the point, when you hear yourself say ‘I can’t believe they did or said that to me’, you need to stop, take a deep breathe, and realize you were not the issue, you were the target. When you use the word ‘me’ about someone else’s behavior, you make yourself the important part of the interaction. The truth is, that its the other person who is acting in an exaggerated way, trying to make themselves the important part of the interaction. That’s why it’s about them. That’s why it isn’t personal. It isn’t personal because their behavior isn’t about you, but it’s a reflection on them.
The important thing is to realize how self-centered this all is. By assuming everyone’s mood and reaction is about you (mad at me! something I did! insulting me!) you assume that the whole world is focused on you, and revolving around you. Narcissistic Personality Disorder refers to a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. But, in its more universal sense, narcissism can be found at the core of almost all psychological dysfunction. Narcissism represents the way you, like the Greek god Narcissus himself, can “fall in love” with yourself. This is not real self-acceptance. Narcissism, conceit, selfishness, all are used as a distraction, an ad campaign, to hide your own inadequacy. This is seen in the person who constantly treats others like “a child” to make themselves feel strong and superior.
Let’s look at an example. I had a client whose boss was the most abrupt man in the world. And she thought it was personal. He was loud, condescending, abrupt, sarcastic, overworked and that was just his professional life. He was also disrespectful. Guess what? She ultimately realized it wasn’t personal, and that it didn’t work for her to be intimidated by him. It’s empowering when you can say, ‘This doesn’t work for me.’ But as long as you take it personally, then you still may feel badly about yourself and you won’t change your situation. This particular client asked her boss “what the worst part about it was?”. He looked at her and thought and laughed because there was no worse part. It wasn’t about her. From then on, the whole dynamic shifted. He wasn’t a bad guy, he was just a bully, as long as he could get away with it. And he didn’t have a large enough support staff to help him, so he was irritated and cranky. My client took her boss’s behavior as his disapproval of her. When she was able to accept that she was a good employee, despite her flaws and imperfections as a human, she could look at the situation differently. Today, they have a good working relationship.
Let me give you another situation. I had a male client who was deeply in love with a woman who wasn’t emotionally available. She would draw him in and then do something to push him away. It’s commonly called sabotaging the relationship. Well at first he took this personally. And here’s why. He had done some things in the relationship that he felt guilty about. So he was sure her behavior was personal. As we talked and he looked at why he had done certain things, he expressed deep sorrow. We worked on letting go of his guilt himself for his previous behavior and to forgive himself. He went to her and apologized. At first she accepted the apology; soon enough, she once again pushed him away. He got to see that she had major issues around emotional intimacy. It wasn’t personal. She had had a pretty tough life and the way she protected herself when she felt unsafe, was to lash out. And she was highly effective! That person may be suffering from a fear of intimacy caused by some abuse, insecurity because of past failures, or be emotionally unavailable due to their upbringing. You may never know the real reason. It is rarely personal when someone pulls away. It speaks to them, It is there problem, They are afraid of being exposed.
Do you see now that people’s behavior and actions are about them? If you go up and hit someone and they hit you back, well that’s a different story. I’m talking about the uncaused action or behavior; the yelling, the pulling or pushing away, the aloof treatment, the manipulations, or the overreaction. Who hasn’t had a challenging relationship with a boss, a coworker, a lover, a friend or a parent? And when you recall these people, you may ask; now why is it that what they did to me wasn’t personal? Because it’s about them. You don’t have the luxury of knowing about the person’s personal perceptions of life. What made them the way they are and why they see the things they do. They may not even know themselves. In fact, I’ll share this with you. After working with people in various mental health settings for the last 10 some years, I can tell you many people have had unbelievably dysfunctional, painful lives. It’s amazing they even keep going.
Here’s a big secret about how to not take things personally. Work on yourself to heal your wounds. As you heal, you can see that other people have wounds that cause them to act or react in all sorts of ways. Often you can’t see the other person if your wounds are too tender. They inadvertently hit a raw spot and you react from the pain. Yet, as you heal, there are less and less raw spots for others to hit and hurt. As a result, there are less opportunities and reasons for you to react.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
What is a pachyderm? Well, “pachy” means “thick,” and “derm” means “skin.” The three most famous pachyderms are the elephant, rhinoceros, and the hippopotamus. Their skin serves them well, preventing them from being bitten. These insects are promoting their own survival; they are not personally going after any particular pachyderm. Now this is the question, are you thick-skinned? Are you being bitten by other people’s words? If you are thick-skinned, you don’t notice or get upset when people criticize you. To have thick skin means you do not take other’s actions personally, as a reflection of your worth as a human. Here are a few tips to developing a thick skin:
Don’t take things personally. Sometimes you may need to reframe a person’s bad behavior by remembering that it’s not about you.
Don’t let others get to you. Refuse to get overly responsive to the negative feelings and provocations of others. Adopt strategies that regulate emotional arousal; otherwise negativity hijacks the thinking brain. Try simple deep breathing or declare time out. Remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few times to get it right. Successful people are rejected over and over, but never stop trying. When you’re rejected or something doesn’t go your way, propose a new solution. Often, the person declining your offer is not rejecting you. He may even want to hear another idea. Successful individuals come back from rejection with new proposals. They’re creative at coming up with additional ways of looking at things and solving problems. Don’t hesitate to un-stick sticky situations. If you’re discussing an issue and the conversation is going off track, stop it and restart it on the right track. You could say: “This isn’t going productively. Let’s reshoot this scene from the beginning” or “Can we take it from the top?”
Don’t be self-focused. If you do focus on yourself, you’ll likely dwell on your shortcomings. Instead, think about your goals and what steps you need to get there.
Stop the self-talk. Counter self-defeating self-talk with truth talk: “You can be your own worst enemy, so give yourself a break.”
Don’t worry about looking stupid. If you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer, you can simply say, “I need to think about that and get back to you later.”
Learn to be patient. Don’t be impulsive or react to a situation without giving yourself time to cool off.
Don’t be quick to blame. Recognize that other people have their ups and downs.
Think about others. Enter social interactions with this thought of making the experience itself enjoyable. Ask yourself, “What can I do to feel more comfortable?”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This seems to be Self-Righteous Indignation Month. Apparently I did not receive the memo. I’m seeing so many clients this month who are filled with self-righteous indignation about the behavior of other people. They really get themselves worked up over it and come in totally frustrated and angry. What is this all about?
The term “self-righteous” is defined by yourdictionary.com as “filled with or showing a conviction of being morally superior, or more righteous than others; smugly virtuous”
Beautiful. That’s exactly it. Not virtuous, but smugly virtuous. It is about feeling superior to someone else. Most of us are most easily tempted into self-righteous indignation when driving. The driver ahead of us is driving too slow, too fast, cuts us off or makes some other terribly heinous error. And we are filled with outrage. We lay on the horn and yell and make sure everyone around knows that driver is not driving “correctly” (or at least how we define correct driving). The nerve of that guy! What a loser.
When listening to someone smoldering with self-righteous indignation I often hear the words, “right”, “fair” or “should”. “They should do it this way.” “They are not doing it the right way.” “It’s not fair.” Why shouldn’t we distinguish when people aren’t doing things “correctly”, or the way they “should” be done, or the “fair” way? For two reasons:
1. Because it’s not real. They aren’t doing it that way. They are doing it “wrong” or in a way they “shouldn’t” or “unfairly”. That is the reality. That is what’s happening. Expecting them to do something else just sets you up to be frustrated and angry.
2. Because it makes us unhappy. I always ask people, “how much time and energy have you invested in being upset about this? What could you have done with that time and energy instead? Most have invested a lot of both. And for what? Is this issue really that important?
If self-righteous indignation isn’t real and it makes us frustrated and angry, why do so many of us do it? Because it feels good. It feels “right”. We feel superior to that idiot over there doing things “wrong”. We feel better than that loser over there being “unfair”.
By pointing out the errors of someone else we are attempting to position ourselves as better than them. People with low self esteem, people who are unhappy in their lives, people who are frustrated with where they are in life are most susceptible to self-righteous indignation. By finding someone we believe to be less than or worse than ourselves and condemning them, we manage to feel some sort of superiority.
We can also use this to sabotage ourselves or make ourselves a target. Being intolerant of the mistakes of other people, and pointing them out loudly, will not make you popular. And it can totally destroy a career. I frequently see people living out the Scapegoat role utilizing this technique to alienate themselves.
A client came into my office fuming about her boss at work and how he was mishandling an account by giving a client preferential treatment. The client made a point of telling him that he was mishandling the account and did not except his explanation as being valid. She then went over his head and complained to his boss. When I asked how the mishandling of this account affected her she could not readily answer. She had no interactions with the client, it didn’t affect her clients, and she would not be held responsible for the account. She then continued to rail against the unfairness of the preferential treatment and her need to expose it. She denied ulterior motives or her long and conflictual relationship with the boss. She denied her wish to see him punished and stated she was unaware of any possible fallout from this action. She reported telling the boss’ superior that she did not mean to be a “tattletale”, but that she needed to know if this was “right” or not. When I asked her what her gut told her about whether it was right or not, she admitted that she already knew it was wrong and her boss’ explanation flimsy. But she continued to insist that she had to go over his head to find out “for sure” whether she was right or not. She was completed surprised when, a few weeks later, the boss attempted to have her transferred to another office. She had completed sabotaged herself with her boss in her need to be self-righteous. This is a pattern she has replicated in many offices prior to this. Her self-righteous intolerance of the foibles of other people and her need to confront superiors about them makes her a target, or a scapegoat. She eventually is let go or fired. Yet she continues to maintain this behavior. She had rather be “right” than employed.
If you are guilty of this pattern, how do you stop it?
1. Instead of deciding what people should be doing, look at what they are doing and then decide how to react to it.
2. If you find yourself condemning people, examine your motives. Is the issue itself really that important? Is it really worth your time and energy? Is this really a battle you want to take on? Or are you doing it for some other reason?
3. Feel your feelings. How do you feel when you are complaining about or reporting this behavior? Superior? Powerful? Is that the true motivation for it, rather than righting a wrong?
4. Examine the effects. What effects is this behavior having on your life? Has it damaged your career? Cost you friends? Caused conflict within your family?
5. Repeat after me: “I cannot change other people’s behavior, only my own.” You have no power over other people. Whatever they are doing is what they are going to do. The only person you can change is yourself. And most of us have more than enough work to do developing ourselves without taking on other people’s issues.
Self-righteous indignation is a heady, powerful emotion that can be quite exhilarating. But it comes at a high cost. If you can only bring yourself up by putting other people down perhaps you need to look at that. Perhaps your time and energy would be better spent developing your own character rather than shooting down other people’s.
Whether you are running for president or looking for a clerical job, you cannot afford to get angry if you are a woman, Yale University psychologist Victoria Brescoll has found.
Brescoll and Eric Uhlmann at Northwestern University recently completed three separate studies to explore a phenomenon that may be all-too-familiar to women like New York Senator Hillary Clinton: People accept and even reward men who get angry but view women who lose their temper as less competent.
The studies, published in the March issue of Psychological Science, provide women with recommendations for navigating emotional hazards of the workplace. Brescoll says it pays to stay emotionally neutral and, if you can’t, at least explain what ticked you off in the first place.
Clinton’s presidential campaign has put a spotlight on the question of whether anger hurts a female candidate. The answer, according to the studies, appears to be an unequivocal yes – unless the anger deals with treatment of a family member.
“An angry woman loses status, no matter what her position,” said Brescoll, who worked in Clinton’s office as a Congressional Fellow in 2004 while she was preparing her doctoral thesis on gender bias. She noticed over the years that women pay a clear price for showing anger and men don’t.
In all studies, both men and women were shown videos of actors portraying men and women who were ostensibly applying for a job. The participants in the studies were then asked to rate applicants on how much responsibility they should be given, their perceived competence, whether they should be hired, and how much they should get paid.
Both men and women in the reached the same conclusions: Angry men deserved more status, a higher salary, and were expected to be better at the job than angry women.
When those actor/applicants expressed sadness, however, the bias was less evident, and women applicants were ranked equally to men in status and competence, but not in salary.
Brescoll and her colleague then compared angry job applicants to ones who did not display any emotion. And this time the researchers showed study participants videos of both men and women applying for lower-status jobs. The findings were duplicated: Angry men were valued more highly than angry women no matter what level position they were applying for. However, the disparities disappeared when men and women who were emotionally neutral were ranked.
A final study showed another way bias against female anger could be mitigated. When women actors explained why they were angry, observers tended to cut them more slack. However, Brescoll noted a final gender difference: Men could actually be hurt when they explained why they were angry – perhaps, says the Yale psychologist, because observers tend to see this as a sign of weakness.
Psychological Science 19: 268-275 (March 2008)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Popular musician Billy Joel sings a song titled Angry Young Man that tells the story of a young man who’s “never been able to learn from his mistakes, so he can’t understand why his heart always breaks,” and is thus destined to “go to the grave as an angry old man.“
A recent study at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggests that Mr. Joel—although obviously not a doctor—was close to the truth about heart woes when he penned Angry Young Man. The study, which tracked 1,337 male medical students for 36 years following medical school, found that students who became angry quickly under stress were three times more likely to develop premature heart disease and five times more likely to have an early heart attack. Angry young men, it appears, turn into angry old men with heart problems.
So why does this happen? Is there a correlation between anger and heart disease?
“I see the role of anger in a variety of physical symptoms and disease processes, including heart disease,” says Jerry Kiffer, M.A., psychology assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and manager of the Psychological Testing Center at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Patients are referred to Kiffer and his colleagues when their anger levels are observed by other people (a doctor or spouse), or the patients themselves recognizes that their anger or stress level is high. Kiffer says that men are more likely to act out their anger when they’re stressed. This may be due to cultural factors (i.e., “boys will be boys”) and their tendency to want to fix or change circumstances. Unfortunately, many men don’t recognize this connection between stress and anger until they have a wakeup call—such as a heart attack.
But how can anger lead to a heart attack? “When you’re angry, your body reacts as though it is under attack,” says Kiffer. “It’s all systems go as you get a rush of adrenaline and your body revs up preparing to defend itself.
“But in today’s world, you can’t go out and attack someone every time you get angry, so your body has all of this pent-up energy and stress. It’s equivalent to sitting at a red light with your foot on the brake and the gas pedal floored. Your tires start spinning and your car is all revved up with no place to go. The same thing happens in your body when you get angry and don’t have an outlet for your anger, only the problem is what’s spinning and burning is inside your nervous system.”
Kiffer further notes that when you get angry, your body releases cholesterol and an array of chemicals called catecholamines into your blood stream. People who are hostile or angry have advanced levels of catecholamines in their systems, and research has shown that these chemicals actually speed the development of fatty deposits in the heart and carotid arteries.
“If you’re mad at the world and you have a family history of heart disease, you’re loading the bullets in the gun and pulling the trigger at an early age without realizing it,” says Kiffer. “People with a strong family history need to recognize that anger can be a strong risk factor. In fact, some research has shown that anger can be just as much of a risk factor for heart disease as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise.”
So does this mean that the young man (or woman) with the classic “Type A” personality is destined to die of a heart attack. Not necessarily. That’s because the old notion of a “Type A” personality was someone who was angry, outspoken and always on the go. Kiffer notes that it’s okay to be busy and always on the go, but anger, hostility and a cynical attitude aren’t good for your heart health.
Kiffer points out that psychologists now consider “Type A” people to be “hot reactors.” “If you’re a ‘hot reactor,’ that means it doesn’t take much for people to push your buttons, and you react fiercely and quickly.”
But even “hot reactors” can learn to manage their anger. “The popular belief is that if you’re angry you need to get those feelings out and get them off your chest,” points out Kiffer. “But if you express your anger, it can snowball. If you get in a gripe session and other people confirm your anger, your anger level could actually increase because other people confirm your feelings and you feel like you have a right to be angry. Now you are self-riotously angry.”
Yet holding anger in does nothing to relieve stress. In fact, Kiffer likens it to shaking a 2-liter bottle of pop with the cap on. Sooner or later the pop bottle will explode, and so will you—probably in the form of a heart attack or some other ailment.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
If a caller upsets you, do you hurl the phone across the room? Do you curse and blast the horn furiously if the driver in front of you takes three seconds to notice the green light? An angry temperament can hurt more than relationships – anger and heart disease may go hand in hand, according to experts.
“You’re talking about people who seem to experience high levels of anger very frequently,” says Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who has studied the role of stress and emotion on cardiovascular disease.
Moderate anger may not be the problem, she says. In fact, expressing one’s anger in reasonable ways can be healthy. “Being able to tell people that you’re angry can be extremely functional,” she says.
But explosive people who throw things or scream at others may be at greater risk, as well as those who harbor suppressed rage, she says. “Either end of the continuum is problematic.”
Gender doesn’t appear to make much difference, she adds. “Once people are chronically angry, men and women seem to be at equally high risk.”
Scientists don’t all agree that anger plays a role in heart disease, she says. But many studies have suggested a significant link. “I think the case is strong,” Kubzansky says.
For example, one large study published in Circulation in 2000 found that among 12,986 middle-aged African-American and white men and women, those who rated high in traits such as anger — but had normal blood pressure — were more prone to coronary artery disease (CAD) or heart attack. In fact, the angriest people faced roughly twice the risk of CAD and almost three times the risk of heart attack compared to subjects with the lowest levels of anger.
Anger may not be the only culprit in heart disease risk. Kubzansky’s own research suggests that other extreme, negative emotions may contribute, too. “Anger is a problem, but so, too, are high levels of anxiety and depression. They tend to co-occur. People who are angry a lot also tend to have other chronic negative emotions as well.
How might hotheads be hurting their hearts?
Scientists speculate that anger may produce direct biological effects on the heart and arteries. Negative emotions, such as anger, quickly activate the “fight-or-flight response.” They also trigger the “stress axis,” Kubzansky says. “That’s a slightly slower response, but it activates a cascade of neurochemicals that are all geared toward helping you in the short run if you’re facing a crisis.”
While these stress responses mobilize us for emergencies, they might cause harm if repeatedly activated. “When they persist over time, they end up being potentially damaging,” she says.
For example, excessive amounts of stress hormones may speed up the process of atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaques build up in arteries, Kubzansky says.
Anger may also disrupt the electrical impulses of the heart and provoke dangerous heart rhythm disturbances.
Other research suggests that stress hormones may lead to higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance linked to atherosclerosis and future heart disease risk. In 2004, Duke University scientists who studied 127 healthy men and women found that those prone to anger, hostility, and depression had two to three times higher CRP levels than their more placid peers.
“CRP levels at this range are associated with inflammation that is likely to eventually increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke,” says researcher Edward Suarez, PhD. The findings were published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
Besides direct biological effects, lifestyle factors also come into play. Angry people may take worse care of themselves. “People who are chronically distressed may not behave in health-promoting ways,” Kubzansky says. “We know that anxious, depressed, angry people are more likely to smoke, less likely to engage in physical activity, have poor nutritional habits and drink to excess.”
Anger — as well as anxiety, depression and other negative emotions — are a part of life, Kubzansky says. They can serve useful purposes. “But if people find that they have them chronically and at high levels and can’t seem to get away from it, I view it like pain. It’s a signal that something needs to change. This is not how it’s supposed to be.”
Anger is intertwined with other problems that may end up harming the heart, says psychologist Wayne Sotile, PhD. “If you mismanage anger, it’s going to compromise your most intimate relationships,” he says. “It’s going to isolate you from others. The likelihood increases that you’ll get depressed, and you’re going to cause problems in your life that increase anxiety and worry.”
Sotile is director of psychological services for the Wake Forest University Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs and a special consultant in behavioral health for the Center for Cardiovascular Health at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Counseling and anger management classes can help the chronically angry to get their deep-seated emotions under control. But you can take more immediate steps, too, experts say.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
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