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positive psychology Articles

Would You Risk Rejection for Happiness?

Monday, July 15th, 2013

womanrejectionGiven that most of us don’t associate being rejected with feeling happy, it is understandable if your inclination is to decline.

A brief look at the growing research on risk-taking and happiness and the connection of happiness with social relationships, may give you pause to reconsider.

A consideration of risk-reducing strategies may even make it seem possible.


Is Jealousy Threatening Your Relationship? Five Checkpoints

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

jealousyWhile most partners want someone to care if they run away with the neighbor, using jealousy to evoke a sign of love from a partner, or feeling jealous of your partner’s interest in something or someone other than you—takes its toll.

Often confused with envy which is the emotion you feel when you want something someone else has (car, wife, job) jealousy is the apprehension or fear of someone or something being taken away from you.

  • She is much happier speaking with her friends on the phone than speaking with me.
  • You dress up for the people at work but you certainly don’t dress up for me.
  • You will plan a weekend to fish, but you can’t seem to find a weekend for us.

Helen Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love, describes jealousy as a combination of possessiveness and suspicion. She reports that studies of men and women find that neither is more jealous than the other, but that they react to jealousy differently. Whereas women will feel it, overtly showing indifference (often with verbal digs) but hold on to a relationship, men will leave a relationship to save face or become reactive. Male jealousy is a leading cause of spousal homicide cross-culturally.

Clearly, despite the anthropological consideration of jealousy as necessary for early man’s survival, or its equation with love in medieval poetry, in the day-to-day life of couples, jealousy threatens connection and reduces happiness. “A nationwide survey of marriage counselors indicates that jealousy is a problem in one third of all couples coming for marital therapy.”

Recognizing The Threat of Jealousy

Because some of what we do is not always conscious and we are often unaware of the impact of our feelings, words and behavior on our partner, it is worth checking out the role of jealousy in your relationships.

Five Checkpoints:

Unrealistic Fears

  • How realistic is your fear about being replaced, dismissed or overlooked by your spouse for another? Are you upset or jealous if you partner speaks positively about another person—be it a family member, neighbor, or colleague? Do you believe that your partner could so easily forget …

Positive Support in a Successful Marriage:New Findings

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

smilingcoupleRecently the American Psychological Association reported the latest findings on what makes love last in a marriage. The results of one series of studies by Shelley Gable and colleagues were particularly interesting because they were unexpected. They invite speculation and application.

Responding for Better and For Worse

These studies revealed that although we need our partners to be there for us during the “worst” of times, it is our partner’s positive responses to the “best” of times that we receive best and remember most.

Adding to this and surprising is the finding that our partner’s responses to positive events directly contribute to the perception that our partner will be available in the worst of times-regardless of the specifics of their actual support during those times!!

How Do We Explain This?

It seems that context matters. Crisis, be it the aftermath of surgery, the lost job or family problem, makes giving and receiving support challenging and more complicated.

In difficult life situations, a partner’s attempted or enacted support is often not well received or not perceived as helpful for a number of reasons:

Missing the Mark

  • When one partner is in crisis, the other shares in the distress so both are actually in crisis.
  • Many people in the face of anxiety, pain, and frustration, find it difficult to know, much less communicate, what is needed. Even if a partner wants to help—often he/she doesn’t know exactly what to do.
  • Given their closeness and expectations, partners often assume the other should know what they need, or resent the other for thinking that they know.

“ You should know that I didn’t want any visitors.”

“ I didn’t know what soup to get so I got a few…you don’t want soup?”

Can’t Work the Miracle

  • Very often loving partners have the need to work a miracle and relieve their partner’s pain. The failure to work the miracle can leave both stressed.
  • Often the helper falls into the trap of trying to solve the partner’s problem rather than just listening or just being there. The helper often feels unappreciated-the other, unheard.
  • Sometimes in the relentless attempt to help, a partner can miss the …

A Simple Step to Improve Healthy Eating: Recognize the Roadblocks

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

hamburgerIt is difficult to have a healthy relationship with food in this culture. We are invited to consume food of every kind by every media source on a 24-hour basis. The sale of cookbooks and gourmet items has sky rocketed in tandem with warnings about the health hazards of overeating and the nationwide crisis of obesity. A recent study raises the question of whether billboard Ads make people fat!

Many of us try to “ eat healthy” by adhering to a list of healthy foods only to find that the list keeps changing. Even more have stories of diets tried and failed–ranging from no carbs to no meats, to grapefruits, to eating by blood type.

While most of us love food, we often hate what we do with it or what it does to us. When you add personal histories, the plot thickens and the urge to give up and stay unconscious about what we are eating increases.

A Simple Step

In reality, while the goal to healthy eating is this culture is not easy–it is not impossible. Change of any type becomes more likely when we simplify the plan and make success possible. One simple first step is to recognize the roadblocks that sabotage most people’s efforts to eat less or to eat in a more healthy way. Once informed we are a step closer to motivation and mastery.

The Roadblocks:

Convenience

  • While the causes for overeating or eating problems are complex and personal, research finds that one factor that bears on most people’s eating is convenience.
  • Be it at home, at work, on a plane or at a wedding, if it is convenient– we are more likely to eat it.
  • In A Pew Research telephone survey most people reported convenience as their reason for eating junk food.
  • Food researcher, Brian Wansink found that the farther away a candy dish was from the secretaries’ desks, the less they ate– a difference reflected in 225 extra calories a day. In the debriefing, the secretaries revealed that the longer the distance, the more time to talk themselves out of eating another piece!

 A little inconvenience can reduce …


Finding New Meaning In Life After Trauma:Three Guidelines

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

This weekend the Wounded Warrior Project came to our town. Many had the opportunity to run the 4-mile race next to veterans and their families. The t-shirt of the young man in front of me read “ New Year’s Eve 5K, Afghanistan. ” Many were wearing shirts that read, “ If you Like Freedom- Thank a Vet.”  The father of a vet wore a shirt that read, “ We’ve got them back-Now Welcome Them Home.”

As of August 12, 2012 there are 49,251 wounded service members, 320,000 suffering with Traumatic Brain Injury and 400,000 with PTSD. We have lost 6,549 of our men and women to war.

On the 11th Anniversary of 9/11, thousands remembered an unprecedented terrorist attack on this country that took the lives of close to 3,000 worldwide and plunged us into war. It was an event shared publically by the world and suffered privately by too many.

How Do We Go On In The Aftermath Of Pain And Traumatic Loss?

The answer offered by well-known author and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankel is consistent with positive psychology, definitions of posttraumatic growth and the nature of the human spirit to hope.

  • He suggests that we find new meaning in life, something that he recognizes as difficult in face of the tragic aspects of life –pain, guilt and death.
  • Frankl suggests that it is not a search for happiness, but for a reason to be happy despite suffering.

Here are three possible guidelines for finding your way to new meaning in life after trauma:

Meaning by the Hour

In his wisdom, Frankl clarified that finding a new meaning in life does not mean arriving at a single goal that will direct the rest of your life, or make sense of evil. Rather finding new meaning in life should be translated to finding a reason to go on, to having a purpose, to feeling valuable in the hour, the day, the week.

A 14-year-old adolescent girl, who lost her Dad on 9/11, has struggled for these 11 years with shyness, loss of two grandfathers, few friends and the …


The Big Value of “Small Talk” in Our Emotional Lives

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

value of small talkThere is nothing small about “small talk.”

Defined as polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially used on social occasions, small talk has often been seen in a pejorative or dismissive way.

Actually, small talk has a much broader meaning. Whether we love it or dread it, whether it serves us as a “ tool or trait,” we use “small talk” for meeting important psychological needs. We use it to make connections, to regulate anxiety and to facilitate the interplay between these two necessary functions.

When you met your partner or spouse for the first time, did you open with a question like: Will you marry me, sleep with me, and have my children?

More likely, you used what would be deemed small talk to show some interest and bridge an initial connection:

“So you are the new guy in the office.”

“What’s a female with a Yankee hat doing in Boston?”

It is also likely that whether shy or outgoing, you have found yourself in a hospital waiting room, a delayed airplane, or the crowd outside a funeral home engaging in small talk – and that it helped you.


Improve Your Marriage by Having an Affair…With Your Spouse

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Do you have any idea how much work goes into an affair?

When you take into account the effort, the planning, the stolen moments, the affection, the creative communications and the anticipation of connection – you have to wonder what having an affair with your spouse could do for a marriage.

The likelihood is that it will do great things.

Having an affair with your spouse is something I have recommended to couples for years. It is an antidote to what Esther Perel describes as “Mating in Captivity,” the neutralizing of connection, the tendency to take each other for granted, the need to prioritize the kids, the jobs, the house, the money…. over the romance.

Does having an affair sound irrational, unlikely, possibly erotic and without guarantees? Yes. That’s the nature of affairs…only this one has a real chance of a happy ending.

What Do You Need to Have an Affair?

Here are the ingredients for having an affair – Do you have anything to lose?


The Psychological Importance of “Our Stuff”

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Well beyond the necessities and somewhere between collecting and hoarding…we all have ‘stuff.’

Be it the toy truck, the pasta bowl, the piano, the silver earrings or the old books, we all have stuff because psychologically we need stuff.

Sartre holds that “to have” (along with “to do” and “to be”) is one of the three categories of human existence…

Wired for Stuff

Famous psychologist, Donald Winnicott, tells us that long before we could verbalize the need, we transitioned from merged oneness with mother to “transitional objects,” the favorite blanket, pacifier, stuffed animal, or a piece of cloth that was attributed a special value as a means of making the shift from mother to genuine object relationships.

That said, our relationship with objects, “our stuff” never stops. It unfolds throughout our life; reflecting who we are, where we are, whom we are connected with and what we need to be ourselves.

One of the reasons we find it easier to ask others rather than ourselves, “Do you really need this stuff?” is that the actual value of anything is primarily a function of our investment in it and/or our interaction with it. We give “stuff” value and meaning.


Does Hope Really Make a Difference? Scientific Findings

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Almost everyone has some experience with hope: We hope for the best. We hang on to hope. We despair when we lose hope.

It would seem that hope, which is broadly defined as an emotional state that promotes the belief in a positive outcome, is in inherent in human nature.

Reflections of the importance of hope are found in early mythology, religion, philosophy and literature.

Pandora, although forbidden, opened the box given to her by Zeus, and in a moment, all the curses were released into the world and all the blessing escaped and were lost- except one: hope.

“To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” ― The King James Version of the Bible

“Hope is a waking dream.” –Aristotle

“Where there is no hope, it is incumbent on us to invent it.” -Albert Camus

“Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops — at all.” -Emily Dickinson

Clearly we need hope, but even as we embrace it we often wonder – Does hope really make a difference? Is it myth, fiction, collective denial?

There is actually increasing scientific evidence that hope changes us psychologically and physiologically – that it makes a difference.


Re-Connect With an Ex? Crucial Considerations

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

reconnect with an ex?Recycling is a good idea, except when it comes to relationships.

Regardless of what people tell themselves about the time invested, the good times missed, the great sex, or the feeling that things will be different; in most cases the re-connection with an ex rarely brings a better outcome.

Research tells us that rekindling a relationship decreases happiness. Studies of college grads as well as larger national studies of older couples reveal that those people who cycle back to relationships, often over and over again, experience less satisfaction, more uncertainty and more disillusionment in their relationships than non-cycling partners.

Let’s face it – breaking up is hard to do. When it has happened there is usually a good reason on the part of one or both partners.

Why then do people look backwards? Why do they imagine it will be different?


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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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