Emotional Awareness

A Lesson From Hollywood: The Graduate & Ray Donovan

               What's that you say Mrs. Robinson?
               Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
The Graduate, a 1967 classic film nominated for 7 Academy Awards, is about a newly graduated college student named Benjamin, played by Dustin Hoffman, who comes home to stay with his parents while he figures out what to do with his life. The film is widely remembered for the seductive relationship between the graduate Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson, a married middle-aged friend of his parents.
But one overlooked scene in the movie is far more powerful than any of the sex scenes. It takes place at a party that Benjamin's parents are throwing to show him off to their friends. They have given him a completely unsuitable gift for his birthday: a full set of scuba gear complete with mask and air tank.
The parents coerce Benjamin against his will to wear the suit out among the party guests to jump into the pool. The scene is shot from Benjamin’s point of view. You hear his panicked breathing escalating, and you feel the sense of helplessness and isolation that he is experiencing from inside the suit as he parades, a spectacle, through the tunnel of his parent’s vacant, staring friends, and plunges, alone and defeated, into the pool.
As you watch the scene you realize that we, the audience, know Benjamin far better than his own parents do.
And you realize that these supposedly well-meaning parents of his are actually emotionally killing him.
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Childhood Adversity

Narcissist or Sociopath in Your Life? Four Essential Answers

Readers’ Comments on PsychCentral:


"Such a pity that escape (divorce) seems to be the only viable outcome. I’ve had to divorce my wife, but she still controls the minds of my now young adult daughters, so now I live with the pain of this alienation."
"Does it serve a purpose to see a narcissistic parent’s condition coming from childhood emotional neglect? Yes. Once I realized that possibility, I looked at myself and realized how I often did to others exactly what my father did to me: because he left me with the same fragile sense of self. Fortunately I did not pass it on to another generation, having decided to end the bucket chain of abuse."

As a blogger on PsychCentral, I regularly read the most popular blog posts. I’ve noticed that articles that contain the words “narcissist, borderline or sociopath,” three types of personality disorders (PDs), are often the most read, liked and shared.
I also notice that the folks who comment on those posts very often express a mixture of strong emotions like confusion, hurt, anger and helplessness. Clearly a great many of you, our readers, are hungry for information and guidance on how to handle your relationships with these complex people in your lives.
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Childhood Adversity

Are You A WMBNT Parent?

I know why you’re reading this article.
Two reasons, actually: First, because you are curious to know what a WMBNT parent is. Second, because you’re a caring parent. How do I know this? It’s simple. Only parents who care about their children and their parenting would be curious.
To understand the WMBNT Parent, meet Edward and Libby, both caring parents.
Edward the Child: Edward grew up in an abusive family. His alcoholic mother was mean, angry and physically abusive or threatening half the time, and ignored him the rest. Edward’s father loved his children. He worked 70 hours-a-week to support the family. In the few hours that he was home, he tried his hardest to appease his wife, and to smooth over and hide her bad behavior. Edward and his siblings grew up fending off their mother, and fending for themselves.
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Emotional Needs

3 New Psychology Research Findings You Should Know About

Lets face it. For us human beings, often the most difficult struggles in our lives come from inside of us.
We are all essentially walking, talking bundles of emotions and issues. We can’t sleep, we’re in conflict, we get obsessed or we suffer from anxiety. We’re angry, sad or grief-stricken. We are in pain.
Fortunately, science comes to the rescue. Psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists are busy giving us answers. What makes us happy? What coping techniques work best? How do our emotions work, and what do we do with them?
Here are three new studies that offer important and helpful information about how we can all live our lives happier and healthier.
Study 1:
A huge study in the UK by Kinderman et al., 2013 surveyed over 32,000 adults about their levels of anxiety and depression, and the potential causes. They found that traumatic life events were the largest factor in creating both.
But here’s the surprise. They also found that people’s coping styles contributed to anxiety and depression almost as much as the traumatic events themselves.
Here are the three coping flaws that were identified as major contributors:
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Alexithymia

Raised By Parents With Low Emotional Intelligence

Ten-year-old Jasmine lies alone on her bed, glad to be sequestered behind the closed doors of her room.  “It could happen,” she whispers quietly to herself. In her mind she’s reliving the fantasy that’s helped her to get her through her life so far: her father answers the doorbell and a kind, well-dressed couple explains to him that Jasmine was accidentally sent home with the wrong family at birth, and that she actually belongs to them. They then take her back to their home, where she feels loved, nurtured and cared for…
Jasmine doesn’t know it, but this is only the beginning of her struggle. She will spend the next twenty years wishing that she had different parents, and feeling guilty about it.
After all, her parents are basically good people. They work hard, and Jasmine has a house, food, clothing and toys. She goes to school every day, and does her homework every afternoon. She has friends at school, and plays soccer. By all accounts, she is a very lucky child.
But despite Jasmine’s luck, and even though her parents love her, even at age ten she knows, deep down, that she is alone in this world.
How could a ten-year old know this? Why would she feel this way? The answer is as simple as it is complicated:
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Couples

9 Steps to Reach Your Emotionally Neglected Spouse

My husband says he loves me, but I don’t feel love from him.

My wife gets confused, overwhelmed or frustrated every time I try to talk to her about a problem.

My marriage feels flat. Some vital ingredient is missing.
These are complaints which I have heard many times. Almost always from folks who are in a relationship with someone who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

CEN happens when your parents communicate this subtle but powerful message:

Your feelings don’t matter. 

Children who live in such households naturally adapt by walling off their emotions so that they won’t bother their parents or themselves.  Since these children's emotions are squelched, they miss out on the opportunity to learn some vital life skills: how to identify, understand, tolerate, and express emotions.

If your spouse grew up with CEN, he may have difficulty tolerating conflict, expressing his needs, and emotionally connecting with you. No matter how much you love each other, you may feel a great chasm lies between you. No matter how long you've been together, you may feel inexplicably alone.
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Childhood Adversity

Black Sheep

I’m the black sheep of my family,”
said the young man who sat before me in my therapy office. I tried to imagine this adorable, sad young man being the “black sheep” of anything. I couldn’t.

Generally considered the outcast of the family, the black sheep is typically assumed to be an oddball. Furthermore, the rest of the family believes that the black sheep brought this upon himself.

It is true that sometimes the black sheep is indeed “odd” by anyone’s standards (sometimes the result of a hidden mental illness). Or she may be a sociopath who violates the family’s boundaries and care, so that the family has to exclude her to rightfully protect themselves.

But surprisingly, very seldom is either of these scenarios actually the case. Many, many black sheep are lovable folks with much to offer their families and the world. In fact, they are often the best and brightest. They may be the most creative of the family, or the one with the most powerful emotions.

In truth, the world is full of black sheep. Think hard. Does your family have one? This question is not as easy to answer as it may seem, for many black sheep are not physically excluded from the family. For most, it’s much more subtle. The exclusion is emotional. 

Three Signs That Your Family Has a Black Sheep: 
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