Childhood Adversity

The Fine Line Between Selfish and Strong

Read through this list of personal actions, and label each as either “strong” or “selfish.”
1. Your elderly aunt asks you to take her out to dinner and you say no because you have to get home to your children.

2. Your elderly aunt asks you to take her out to dinner and you say no because you are really tired, and need to go home and get some rest.

3. Your elderly aunt asks you to take her out to dinner and you say no because you don’t want to miss the Red Sox game on TV.

If you answered “selfish” to all three:

Chances are, you are highly uncomfortable with saying “no” under any circumstances. You are governed by guilt, and you believe that your own needs are less important than those of others.

If you answered “strong” to:

Number 1: You are able to be strong, at least for the sake of your children. If you are saying no for the sake of your children, you are putting their needs before your elderly aunt’s, and that is a judgment call. Who needs you more right now? If it’s your children, then being able to say “no” to your aunt is a sign of strength.
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Happy Fathers Day, Emotionally Neglectful Dad

Father's Day is easy for all of the people who feel loving, loved and close with their dads. If your relationship with your father is strong and uncomplicated, I hope you will give him the wonderful Father’s Day that he so deserves.
But the world is full of people who have more complex relationships with their dads. If you feel either confused or disappointed about your father, there’s a fairly good chance that it’s because of hidden CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect).

Do you get irritated or snap at your father for apparent no reason?
Do you cringe a little inside when you have to talk to your dad?
Does being alone with your father make you feel awkward or uncomfortable?
Are you uncertain whether your father loves you and/or is proud of you?
Do you sometimes feel that your dad doesn’t actually know you very well?
Do you look forward to seeing your father, and then often feel vaguely let down or perplexed afterward?

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People Don’t Change

People don't change.
How many times have you heard someone say that?
Several years ago a woman came to my office asking for help with an extramarital affair that she was having. In an attempt to help her sort it out I began talking with her about why, when, how; her own feelings and needs, her marriage, and her family history. We had a number of meetings in which I worked very hard to help her figure out what to do about it, and how she might handle ending the affair and beginning to repair her marriage (which is what she said she wanted).
Over time though, I started to see that our work was not producing any relief or help to her. My questions did not spur further thinking on her part, and my suggestions seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Finally, after about six visits, she said something very telling to me which stopped the treatment cold. She said, “People don’t change.”
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Childhood Adversity

A Message to All the Black Sheep in the World

I’ve met many Black Sheep. It’s my job.
In a recent post called Black Sheep, I talked about some common myths, and how Black Sheep are not what they appear to be. Surprisingly, they are simply a product of family dynamics.
But today, Black Sheep, I have three messages just for you:
1. Research Supports You
First, lets talk about the power of exclusion. We all tend to underestimate it.
But a study by O'Reilly, Robinson and Berdahl, 2014 proved otherwise. These researchers compared the effects of workplace ostracism (being excluded or ignored) with bullying.
They found that office workers view ostracizing a co-worker as more socially acceptable than bullying him or her. But surprisingly, they found that ostracized workers suffer more than bullied ones. In fact, ostracized workers are actually more likely to leave their jobs than are their bullied colleagues.
If exclusion is this harmful to adults in their workplace, imagine how it affects a vulnerable child in his family, during the time that his identity is developing.
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Want a Solid, Warm Marriage? Use Vertical Questions

“Sometimes I just feel like throwing you off a bridge,” Craig finally said haltingly, after a long uncomfortable pause.
When he looked up into his wife Liz’s eyes, he was shocked at what he saw…
As a couple’s therapist, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples over the years. If I had to name the one most ubiquitous challenge that I see couples facing, it’s this:
How to know what you're feeling, and manage those feelings so you can share them with your partner.
It’s just so much easier to talk about logistics and happy things. The kids, our jobs, finances, vacation plans; these are all important. And they all share one common factor: they mostly happen at the surface.
The real glue that holds two people together in a way that is strong and true does not dwell there on the surface. That glue is made of emotion, feeling, conflict and, yes sometimes pain. These can only be accessed by courageously wading deeper, into the messy world of emotions with your partner.
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Childhood Adversity

Do You Have Unconditional Love?

“Accept the children the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because they are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.”
― Isabel Allende
Wives wistfully long for it from their husbands. Fathers demand it from their children. Friends call upon it to restore broken friendships. Who doesn’t want unconditional love?
What is Unconditional Love? Love that endures despite any problem, injury, conflict or issue that may arise. Love that asks for nothing in return, and never ceases, no matter what.
Is unconditional love real? Is it attainable? Is it the foundation of successful marriage? Is it a natural human need?
Or is it simply an epic myth?
It almost seems to be a need that is biologically built into the human condition. We long for it, but we can't seem to find it. Is it a matter of finding the right person or doing the right thing? Can only people who are emotionally mature provide it? Is it required for a strong relationship or marriage?
Believe it or not, all of these questions have answers, and they are fairly simple and straightforward.
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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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