Archives for Relationships
I’m sure you know what selfish means and it’s not considered a particularly lovely trait by most people. But what do I mean when I suggest that you become self-less? Typically, the term selfless refers to people who put other people’s needs before their own. Selfless people typically have very little concern for making money, becoming famous, or obtaining a prestigious position. But that definition doesn’t quite fit what I mean by self-less (note I put in a hyphen to distinguish the term from selfless). I think people can and probably should have at least some concern for their own needs in terms of finances, relationships, security, and so on. And sometimes your own needs may even have to take precedence over the needs of others. But people all too often seriously mess themselves up when they become overly concerned about themselves and their egos. They experience exquisite concerns with how they look, what they say, mistakes they make, who likes them and who doesn’t, et cetera. People who worry a lot about their egos judge just about everything that they do. Their internal dialogues consist of an endless loop of self-hate and vitriol with thoughts such as “How could I be so stupid?,” “I hate myself,” “No one could be this dumb,” “I’ll never amount to anything,” “Nobody could ever like me,” and on and on. It’s pretty difficult to feel alright with thoughts like those.
No doubt you’ve encountered or even read numerous blogs, articles, and/or books that extoll the virtues of optimism. Some research has shown that optimists tend to have better relationships, happier lives, and greater accomplishments. Some authors suggest that you can never be too optimistic and that, by implication, you should worry if you tend toward the pessimistic side of things. I suppose I should be concerned about all of this hoopla over optimism. You see, as my wife will readily verify, I rather often take a different approach. It’s something that Dr. Julie Norem calls “defensive pessimism.” Sounds sort of awful doesn’t it? Does this mean that I walk around morose and glum and project nothing but doom and gloom? Not at all. However, I do frequently imagine “worst case scenarios.” I run various “what if” scenarios through my mind such as:
Social phobia is more than shyness. It involves intense worry about being with people you don’t know, or fear of unfamiliar situations. People with social phobia worry about being judged or evaluated for their actions. And they predict that those judgments will be harsh, negative, and humiliating. They understand that their concerns are greater than warranted, but find themselves overwhelmed with strong feelings of fear. These fears lead to avoidance of people or situations that make them uncomfortable—not to mention terrified. Children and teens with social phobia don’t answer questions in school even when they know the right answer. They don’t want to seek attention and can seem distant, unfriendly, and sometimes even arrogant to others. As adults, they may avoid speaking up at work, making presentations, being socially interactive, and being assertive. It’s understandable that those with social phobia are often underachievers—at school, at work, and in relationships. People with social phobia usually don’t seek treatment for their condition. That makes sense, because they tend to avoid attention of any kind and rarely ask for help. They don’t want to make a call to a mental health professional or seek a referral from their medical provider. Those with social phobia may lead restricted, lonely lives because of their condition.
Last week Chuck wrote a blog about what questions you should consider asking your therapist. He was talking about the importance of feeling mutual trust within the therapeutic relationship. Today, I want to continue a discussion of the therapeutic relationship. The other day, I was sitting on a curb in Santa Fe waiting for a parade. Beside me were a bunch of little kids. There was a long wait and finally a few firemen marched by. That was the parade. When the firemen reached the bandstand, there were several speeches, and then they started to put flowers down in front of the bandstand in honor of 9-11 firefighters who died.
Usually, I like to write about issues that are well grounded in data and evidence. That’s not the case with today’s blog. Maybe someone has data that contradicts what I plan to write, but I’m not so sure. I do know that a clever social psychologist could readily conduct research on this topic. So what am I talking about? Listening. It seems to me that people hardly listen to each other anymore. More frighteningly, maybe they never have and I’m just becoming more aware of it. Do you agree or see it differently? Before you form a firm opinion, consider observing a while.
Almost a third of children are being brought up by single parents. Lots of those parents date. Concerned single parents worry about how to manage relationships when children are involved. Common questions include: When do I introduce my child to someone I am dating? How do I manage an intimate relationship when I have children? What happens if my relationship ends?
Laura and I have worked with lots of children in our clinical psychology practice over the years. Parents worry not only about the problems their kids are having when they come to see us, but also about their children’s long term emotional and physical health. They want to know how they can insure that their kids will be happy, secure, and successful as adults. Unfortunately, there are no strategies that guarantee such idyllic outcomes. However, there is good news. Numerous studies have demonstrated that kids who learn self-control have far better odds of navigating life successfully than kids without this ability. Self-control consists of the ability to tolerate frustration, delay gratification, persist, and think ahead about longer term consequences of their behavior. Studies have looked at kids during preschool years and followed them for the ensuing two or three decades. Children with the ability to control their impulses ultimately do better in school, have more friends, demonstrate less anxiety and other emotional problems, get better jobs, report greater happiness, and even have better health than those who struggle with self-control in their early years.
Today is one of my favorite days-- solstice. The beginning of winter or winter solstice means that each day for the next six months is a bit longer than yesterday. This is very good news for our friends in the northern hemisphere who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Hope returns, light is coming—light always follows the short dark days of fall.
We just returned from a trip to Costa Rica. We had planned to post a blog while we were away but due to our own technical limitations we were not able to figure out how to do much more than answer a couple of emails. Oh well. Not being able to post didn’t seem to push us over the edge. But back to the point. When we travel around the world, we like to check out the emotional well being of people in other cultures and countries. Our tour guide (Franklin Sanchez) informed us that many Costa Ricans consider themselves as the happiest people in the world. We wondered how and why that could be the case.
The other day I was in a restaurant and I overheard someone say to a kid, “Stop pushing your sister. You’re a horrible boy. If you don’t start behaving the devil will come and snatch you away. You’re evil and mean.” I about fell out of my chair and I glared in the direction of the other table. The child was hanging his head and the adult was continuing the tirade, now sounding even more incoherent. I held my tongue, long ago realizing that comments to others in public places rarely help and often make things worse—so I didn’t jump up and give the adult a quick lesson in child management. But, I was tempted and as always shocked that people are still saying things like that to kids.