protective factors Articles

The Importance of Recognizing Your Resiliency: Strategies

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

person climbingI was recently in a shop with a friend when a young man in his late twenties came in to get his hair cut. Friendly and likeable he was amusing the hairdresser with some stories of his birthday. It was not until he struggled to get the money out of his wallet, that I realized his hand was quite deformed. I was so struck by this positive young man that I said to my friend, “ I love his resilience.” I was very surprised when my friend replied, “ I envy it.”

Given that she had managed a considerable amount of anxiety over the course of the year while working and dealing with family loss, I was struck that she seemed unaware of her own resiliency.

Do you recognize your own resiliency?


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 …

Surviving and Succeeding in Face of Uncertainty: Six Strategies

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

uncertaintyEvents like the Boston Marathon Bombing, Hurricane Sandy’s Devastation, The Newtown CT School Shooting and the many traumatic events they echo, assault us with the uncertainties of life.

Leaving death and destruction in their path, such events undermine our necessary denial that life is predictable, that children can be safe and that we can be in control.

For a time, we are left wounded, shaken, vulnerable and afraid. Caught in the traumatic moment, we fill in the future unknowns with expectations of more of the same trauma so that next time we will be ready.

Eventually, despite the memory, the extreme loss, the bodily injuries and even the fear, we want our lives back, we want our children to play, and we want to smile…

We need to find a way to survive and at times even succeed with life’s uncertainties.

Here are six strategies that may begin to answer that need. Some you may already use. Some you may want to consider.

Validation of True Self

  • Often recognition of who we are and what we need in life out-trumps the fear of uncertainty. In her personal description of running the Boston Marathon, runner and blogger, Chrissy Horan describes that although finishing as the first bomb went off, she has struggled with grief and sadness for those killed and injured, with “what if” she had walked through the last water stops, with tears and with questions of safety. Notwithstanding the uncertainty, however, she like many throughout the country put her sneakers back on to run. As she says, “ It is just what I do.”
  • Not dissimilar are Long Islanders now six months after Hurricane Sandy, who report that faced with extreme weather patterns, altered and destroyed shore lines, partial renovations, houses raised and more hurricanes coming–they are afraid. Many have for the first time considered leaving. Most will wait and see. They report a “magnetic draw” to the water. As one man who feels that his family could not survive another Hurricane Sandy said, “We don’t have very long memories . . . We live on an island and this is …

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 …

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.


“The Hunger Games”: Some Suggestions For Parents

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The new film, “The Hunger Games,” based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, has outstripped Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax as the top grossing film this year. Perhaps because it is based on a young adult novel written in the voice of a 16-year-old heroine with many young fans, it earned a MPAA rating of PG-13 despite considerable violence. As such, there has been concern about its impact on the millions of teens who will be viewing it.

Research studies have demonstrated both an increase in aggression and desensitization to violence by children and teens viewing many hours of violence in TV shows, interactive games and films. Longitudinal, cross-sectional, and experimental studies have all confirmed this correlation.

In “ The Hunger Games” what is of particular concern is that the violence is lethal violence of children against children, an activity portrayed as “games.”

The Role of Parents

As parents you can best mediate the impact of what your children have seen or are viewing if you are “media literate” i.e. – you know what your children and teens are exposed to. Accordingly, if your teens have seen or are going to see “The Hunger Games,” it makes sense for you to see it. If necessary, see it separately.


The Benefits of a Self-Enhanced View of You: New Findings

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Do you think you have an inflated sense of self?

Do you have positive illusions about the way you compare with others, make decisions, control your circumstances?

While this enhanced self-perception may not, particularly in the extreme, cause you to win friends and influence people – it may actually serve you well in buffering stress and coping with adversity.

A recent study by Gupta and Bonanno gathered longitudinal data to examine the relationship between self-enhancement and adjustment of college students to potentially traumatic events over their four years. It is the only study to date using on-going reactions instead of post trauma retrospective reports.


Mental Health Day: Suicide Protection Across Generations

Monday, October 10th, 2011

don't jump signSuicide ranks as the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States. We have lost loved ones across the generations.

  • Older Americans are disproportionately likely to die by suicide. Although they comprise only 12 percent of the U.S. population, people age 65 and older accounted for 16 percent of suicide deaths in 2004.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in college students and the third leading cause of death in adolescents.  Every day 14 teens take their own lives.
  •  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the second year in a row, middle -aged adults have the highest suicide rate in the country, surpassing even older Americans.

While there are many factors that contribute to suicide, an important new study identifies two factors that have been associated with increased risk for suicidal thought and behavior across the lifespan – hopelessness and lack of connectedness to others.


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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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