Anger Articles

Forgiving Can Protect Your Health:Evidenced-Based Strategies

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

shaking handsThere are lots of reasons that we forgive.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. (Alexander Pope)

 An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind. (Kahil Gibran)

While many reasons are ingrained in our moral fiber and cultural roots, a more recent one has been the finding that forgiveness changes our emotional state and as such our physical well-being. Forgiving is a way to stay healthy.


An Unrecognized Reason That Married Men Have Affairs

Friday, September 27th, 2013

man on benchEvolutionary theory, gender differences, stereotype, media myth and cultural expectations invite us to recognize that men have more sexual desire than women both in frequency and intensity, are wired to have many partners, have more difficulty with monogamy and that as such, married men are more likely to have affairs than married women. The reality is that while married men have more affairs than married women –The difference is not that great.

  • In the largest most comprehensive poll of its kind in 1994, Edward Laumann and colleagues found that 20% of women and just over 31% of men in their 40’s and 50’s reported having sex with someone other than their spouses.
  • Young and Alexander in their 2012 book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction accept a rough estimate of 30 to 40 percent infidelity in marriage for men and women.

The other reality is that while extra-marital affairs by definition involve a romantic and emotional relationship that has a sexual or sexualized component, research suggests that sexual drive is not the primary reason married men have affairs.


Overreacting in Your Relationship: Reasons and Remedies

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnyone is a relationship knows that partners have the uncanny ability to bring out the best and worst in each other. Accordingly, whether newly married or celebrating many years together, partners can find themselves overreacting in a way that rarely happens anywhere else in their lives.


When Couples Stop Talking: Reasons and Remedies

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

couplecrpdMost couples know the positive sounds of silence–the mutual experience of sharing time and space together without needing words. Be it walking the dog together, cooking side by side or listening to music–it is the silence of connection and love.

Many couples also know the silence that reflects tension, conflict or disconnection. Unable to speak beyond the necessities of daily life, these couples report, “ We just don’t talk anymore!”

If we recognize “ talking together” as a metaphor for the communication of confidantes, the special interest of partners and the pillow talk of intimates, then we understand that this is a silence that can start to feel emotionally deafening.

Why do couples who once had so much to say end up feeling this way? Is it inevitable as time passes in a marriage? Is there a way back?

Years together need not result in negative sounds of silence.

Yes, events can disrupt harmony and patterns can erode vitality, but if couples are curious rather than blameful about the silence between them, they may find some reasons and remedies to speak together again.

The Reasons:

If we look closer at those partners who end up sitting in a restaurant with nothing to say, painfully aware of the couples happily chatting around them, we find that partners are often unaware of what they may be doing or what has happened to shut down the verbal connection.

Here are some possibilities:

  • The Monologue: Sometimes a partner is in so much need of attention, affirmation or containment by the other that they never stop talking. More interested in what they have to say, they barely realize there is no space for dialogue. The listening partner often complies as audience for a time but there is no real ” we sharing ” and eventually no reason to continue talking.
  • The Critique: Sometimes speaking has become unsafe if one or both partners imply by verbal criticism, overt disinterest or non-verbal gestures that what the other is saying is of little interest or importance. Some are embarrassed or enraged into silence. Some give-up. Some find outside confidantes who want to listen—while the silence at home …

Is There Privacy Or Secrecy In Your Relationship?

Monday, March 4th, 2013

secrtblogpictureIn a culture of cell phones, text messages, Facebook, tweets and instagrams, the definitions of privacy and secrecy are challenged and at times blurred.

You read my emails?

I can’t report every move I make in the course of a day.

Why can’t I check out my high school girlfriend on Facebook?

When it comes to relationships, partners often underestimate the importance of privacy and the danger of secrecy.

Privacy in relationships reflects trust and enhances intimacy. Secrecy in relationships impairs trust and impedes intimacy.

What is Privacy?

Privacy is defined as the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people. It is the state of being free from public exposure and attention.

Why We Need Privacy As Individuals

Psychologically, we understand that whereas secure attachment is key to early development, the growing capacity of the child to internalize this attachment and to separate–to have room to be, to play alone, to have private thoughts, to have space, to develop an authentic self–is crucial.

Why We Need Privacy In Relationships

As adults we continue to need different degrees of privacy to re-charge, regulate stress and nurture a sense of self–be it a solitary hobby or reading the paper alone.

We also need intimacy. We need to be and share with another, to be known by them in a way that no one else knows us.

Boundary Changes in Relationships

As such, in committed and intimate relationship, our individual boundaries of privacy change. In most cases, we choose to share bedrooms, sex, money, food, pets, chores, vacations, confidences, fears, and hardships– the best and worst of ourselves–with another. We also share a respect for each other’s privacy.

Disclosure Expectations in Relationships

While one partner may be more disclosing than the other, we can’t expect to hear or share every thought, action, urge or memory of our partner. In a trusting relationship, we have neither the need to check each other’s phone, emails, mail or daily moves, nor the obligation to disclose all. If we enjoy such sharing, it is mutual sharing that fuels our connection.

When thinking about privacy in a relationship it is worth considering:


Understanding Anger in the Aftermath of Trauma and Disaster

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

“Is Anyone Else Angry?”

anger and traumaTrauma theorists tell us that while traumatic events are in themselves physically and emotionally assaultive, it is often the emotions suffered after the smoke clears and the media goes home that become painful and disruptive to our recovery. One of these is anger.

Anger in the aftermath of a traumatic event, be it the loss of a child, the destruction of one’s home, a life-threatening diagnosis or the sequel to combat stress is a common and complex response. It can be experienced as a physiological state, an emotion, a way of thinking, a behavioral response or a combination of these.

  • You are not alone if you feel angry about what has happened.
  • Essentially you are suffering. The problem is that when anger persists–it obscures everything else.
  • The ability to make meaning of it and redirect it, keeps it from holding you back and taking more from you.

Understanding some of the feelings and dynamics that underscore anger after trauma may be an important step in your journey forward.

Anger as Residual of Fight/Flight Response

It is to our advantage that our biological arousal system goes into survivor mode in face of danger causing an increase in heart rate, rapid shallow breathing, cold sweats, tingling muscular tension and often-antagonistic behavior.

The problem is that when the danger has passed, our body often remains in a state of hyperarousal, leaving us reacting with anger to what would ordinarily be mildly distressing stimuli.

  • We blow up at the relatives who keep asking if everything is starting to get easier.
  • We storm off the line that feels too long at Starbucks.
  • We find ourselves fighting over everything with our partner.
  • We are driving faster and yelling more than usual.

Because this is a physically driven anger, we need to work from the body out to bring it down. We need to re-set our body rhythms by moving, sleeping and eating well. Moving in any way (exercise, walking, re-building, cleaning, physically helping friends) is crucial.

One widow, who told me she was mad at God after 9/11, started walking and didn’t stop until the tears and …


How To Tell The Kids About Divorce? An Ongoing Parenting Process

Monday, January 7th, 2013

tell kids about divorcePerhaps even more difficult than the realization that a marriage is ending, is the realization that the children must be told.

Regardless of how different a couple’s views may be on what did or didn’t happen in their marriage, most agree that the children need to be spared as much disruption and distress as possible.

Accordingly, most will follow the recommendations of experts to tell the children together in words suitable to their comprehension level–that Mom and Dad will be separating; that they are loved by both Mom and Dad; that they are not to blame; that sometimes Moms and Dads realize that they are no longer happy together; that some things will change but lots of things will stay the same; that Mom and Dad will still be there for them; that everyone will try to talk about changes so that everyone can feel ok….

Since there are no perfect words to make the loss of the familiar family context sound great to a child, adolescent or young adult, it is worth recognizing that “ telling the children” is only the start of an ongoing parenting process that needs to keep unfolding after the first sit-down takes place.

As you take on this parenting process, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

It’s Not Just What You Say—It’s What You Do.

Be prepared to be ignored, rebuffed or heartbroken by your child’s initial response. Much like adults who are told about something that will change their lives–the initial reactions of children may well be their best attempt to cope.

  • Some young ones will say nothing and simply go play.
  • Some school age kids will burst into tears, or voice worry that everything in their life like school friends, sports, and the bus stop will now be lost.
  • Some teens will begin blaming one or both parents.
  • Some college age kids will validate the decision, “ It’s about time!”

Being patient, voicing understanding, allowing time, validating feelings, or just being a compassionate presence (to a little one who goes off to play alone or a teen who needs a …


Reducing Disaster’s Impact: A Simple Guide to Psychological First Aid

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Nationally and internationally, the most endorsed response in the early aftermath of a disaster is Psychological First Aide.  Used by those responding to disasters, it is a set of guidelines that you can learn to use for yourself and others.

Just as knowing certain aspects of Medical First Aid can help you minimize injury and reduce future medical complications, knowing and using certain aspects of Psychological First Aid can help you reduce the emotional impact of a disaster and its consequences.

Here are Five Steps for Using Psychological First Aid

 I. Establish Physical Safety

  • Given the body-mind connection, it is necessary to secure physical and medical safety as a first step to psychological safety.
  • In securing what is needed to maintain physical safety (food, shelter, water, heat) it is often helpful to access options and then make a temporary or working plan that can be updated. This often mobilizes people to safety, as they know they are not making permanent decisions.  

 Families have moved in together in arrangements they never would have dreamed possible-as a way of keeping each other safe.

II. Establish Psychological Safety

  • Accept and normalize your feelings.Recognize that feelings of disbelief, fear, terror, helplessness, and anger are very common to the situation you have faced. For most people they may persist as difficulty sleeping, intrusive thoughts and memories, or a sense of numbing for a week or two and then dissipate.
  • In those cases where someone displays a sense of disorientation, unremitting panic or inability to cope, emergency medical care is warranted.
  • You have often heard the expression “ What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” – Well, Not So Fast.
  • Consider that while people differ, for most of us, it takes a while to adapt to a crisis situation. Even as people are busy surviving and helping others survive, survivors are often feeling a mix of relief, pain and uncertainty. It makes sense.
  • Recognize that in disasters – SMALL THINGS ARE BIG in making us feel less helpless.
  • Look for those things you can control. Set up achievable goals- be it playing a game with the children; finding …

You Needed Last Night’s Dream: Research and Re-thinking

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Whereas there is increasing recognition of the importance of sleep, there is less awareness that one of the reasons we need to sleep is that we need to dream.

Even though you may not remember them, you dream several times a night.  In a typical lifetime, we spend about six years dreaming.

Throughout time and across cultures man has ascribed importance to dreams. Recognized for his seminal contribution of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud considered dreams as the royal road to the unconscious. According to him, dreams represented instinctual aggressive and sexual drives pressing for discharge. Disguised by the primary process of symbols, displacements and condensations, the dream was believed to represent hidden instinctual wish fulfillment.

While dreamers still make important use of the metaphors and symbolic representations in their dreams, the royal road has been expanded and repaved.

Evolving psychological theory and research from Brain Science reveal that well beyond wish fulfillment, we need and use dreams in the organization of data, the consolidation of memory, the integration of skills and the regulation of psychological functioning.

Matt Wilson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells us “ Dreaming is a process, and not only is it useful, it may be essential for making sense of the world.”

Important in understanding the function of dreams are the new findings on sleep cycles:

  • Early dream studies had found that at those times when sleepers were deeply asleep with muscle tone at zero, they were exhibiting rapid eye movement (REM). When awakened, they reported dreaming. This was termed REM Sleep.
  • We now understand that most people sleep in 90 minute cycles in which they descend from light sleep, stage 1, without rapid eye movements (non-REM) to deep non-REM sleep (stages 3 and 4, also known as “slow-wave sleep”), then begin a return journey; but don’t quite make it. Just before waking, we enter REM sleep after which we repeat the cycle four or five times a night.
  • Lab studies reveal that we have dreams in both phases of sleep and that non-REM dreams and REM dreams actually serve different functions.

The …


What Presidential Campaigns Can Teach You About Your Relationship

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

campaigns and relationshipsIf you are human, in a relationship and living on this planet there will be decisions to make and problems to solve. They may be intrinsic to your circumstances, imposed upon you by outside factors, or a function of your personal needs and goals.

For most couples issues related to jobs, residence, children, socializing, religion, sex, money, in-laws and more demand decisions but often invite dissent.

If you want a clear example of the type of behavior to avoid when problem solving as a couple you have only to take a look at the presidential hopefuls.

Recognizing that they are, of course, contenders and putting aside the specifics of their platforms or the campaign engines that drive their rhetoric, they nonetheless offer a glimpse of the type of the exclusionary thinking and reactivity that erodes collaboration, jeopardizes problem solving and risks relationship success.

Dynamics to Avoid:

Consider avoiding the following as you and your partner build the platform for your life together.

  • Coming from an “all knowing position.” “ You know nothing about cars and have no experience buying them, I will choose.”
  • Blaming the partner for things outside of their control. “ Why would I want to go on another family vacation when the kids always get sick?”
  • Assuming the worst about your partner. “ I really want to socialize with the people from work but I know you will be uncomfortable.”
  • Looking only at what the partner has done wrong with respect to an issue. “ When it comes to money, you are the last person who should have anything to say. You used to have a bad credit rating.”
  • Negativity about the other in public. “ He has no idea of the kids’ schedules or what they need on a day to day basis.”
  • Coming into the problem solving with a solution. “ So I have it all figured out – we will buy a two family house with my parents.”
  • Refusing to see problem solving or decision making as a building process. “That won’t work, forget it.”
  • Seeing each other as one-dimensional. “ You are a city person. Why would you …

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Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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Recent Comments
  • Lin Agostinacchio: Great writing. You pinpointed so much about divorce. I know many friends and relatives that are...
  • Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP: Becky: Thanks for adding these. My intention was to mention some as examples of the...
  • Becky: You didn’t mention acupuncture, chiropractic, or the Wahl’s Paleo diet, a diet high in omega 3...
  • Mindy: “Why couldn’t you change him/ her” You should start putting these gender lists in alphabetical...
  • Lin Agostinacchio: Great blog. Life is a balancing act.
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