Psych Central

Self-help Articles

Excuse or Explanation: Is There a Difference?

Friday, August 30th, 2013

shutterstock_43783042“It wasn’t my fault!”
“She made me do it!”
“Everyone else was doing it!”
“I’m sorry, but…”
“He started it!”

Do these sound familiar?

For some people, these phrases may bring back memories of their childhood, or they may have heard these statements from their kids.

Despite sounding childish, everyone has said something similar in their adult life to a spouse, police officer, family member, or friend.

In counseling sessions, I frequently hear how people struggle with the difference between excuses and explanations.

Some people hesitate to give any explanations; they see explanations and excuses as the same thing, and they don’t want to be seen as giving excuses.

Others go to the other extreme and take no accountability for his or her own actions, blaming everything from their upbringing, their stress load, their partner or kids, for their wrongdoing.

Although it can sometimes be unclear, there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation.

People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Excuses are often used to deny responsibility. People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Explanations help clarify the circumstances of a particular event. Explanations are less emotional and less pressured than excuses.

Sometimes, the only one who can really know if their statement is an excuse or an explanation is the one saying it. Telling the police who pulled you over that you are running late for work is a good example of this. If you were hoping to get out of a ticket or lying, it was probably an excuse. If the officer asked why you were driving 30 in a 25, and you answered honestly, it was an explanation.

Why does it matter?

Consider the following situation:

Your 14-year-old daughter has brought home a failing grade on her science report. You ask her what happens. She says:

  1. “It’s not my fault! The teacher wasn’t clear on what to include in the project. Everyone else got a bad grade, too.”                                               or:
  2. “I didn’t understand what the teacher said, and …

Stress and Relationships

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

shutterstock_93694900Stress happens to everyone. But why do some people appear to manage it better than others? How does the way that you and your partner deal with stressful situations affect your relationship?

As a therapist, I work with people who have very different reactions to difficult situations. How a couple manages stress can either break down or build up their relationship. The following are two real life examples of people who faced stressful situations and had very different reactions. Identifying details have been changed.

Example 1: Stan and Beth were stuck in the airport, trying to return home after celebrating their 2nd anniversary. They missed their connecting flight, and it was clear that they would not make it back home until the next morning. Beth was furious and blamed Stan for the missed connection. As Beth fumed under her breath, Stan argued loudly with the ticket agent, criticizing everything from the layout of the airport to the polices of the airline. The taxi ride to a hotel ended up in a screaming match. On the flight home the next morning, they barely spoke.

Example 2: Brian and Mark were driving to visit family for a week’s vacation. On a long stretch of highway surrounded by corn fields, the car began to overheat. Mark pulled over as smoke poured from under the hood. Mark was visibly upset, complaining about Brian’s lack of attention to car maintenance. Brian resisted blaming Mark for driving too fast. Instead, Brian put his hand on Mark’s shoulder and reminded him that they would be fine and laid out a plan of action. After calling for a tow truck (and being told it would arrive in 2 1/2 hours), they sat on the edge of the road together. They made some humorous comments about their situation and the age of their car. When they arrived at their destination a day later, their road trip story was discussed as more of an adventure than a disaster.

Two couples in two similar stressful situations had very different responses. In the first example, missing a flight was an event that turned the couple against each other. There was blame and anger. In the second example, the couple pulled together and tackled the problem as a team. Blame and anger were quickly pushed aside.

When a couple faces a difficult situation, they have three choices to make. The first is how they approach the problem.


Relationship Destroying Statements, and What to Say Instead

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

shutterstock_2436035

Words are powerful, and in a relationship they can be used to both bring people together or push them apart.

As a therapist, I’ve noticed that there are several statements couples commonly make to each other that destroy the foundation of their relationship. Sometimes the words are used deliberately to hurt the other person, and sometimes the destruction comes about through carelessness.

If you want to have a healthy relationship, it’s important to be aware of the impact your words will have on your partner.

Here are the top relationship destroying statements that couples make to each other, and some ideas of what to say instead.


7 Things You Can Do NOW to Make Yourself Happier

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

 

 

Have you ever felt as if happiness is something that you have to wait to come to you?

Do you ever wonder why other people are happy, and you’re not?

The good news is that being happy is more of a choice than you might think.

Happiness doesn’t have to be an elusive idea that only some fortunate people are able to obtain. Here are seven simple things you can do to increase your happiness.


Talking to Your Children About Mental Illness

Monday, January 28th, 2013

 

If you’re a parent with a mental illness, or if someone in your  family is mentally ill, you may struggle with how to talk about it with  your children. You may feel embarrassed or even ashamed about your disease.

Even thought it can be difficult, it’s important to create a safe space for kids to hear and ask questions about the illness that affects you or your partner.

Here are five tips to help you get started.


4 Common Misconceptions About Introverts

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I was at a workshop recently, and the topic of introverts and extroverts emerged. I commented about my own introverted nature, and was met by surprise. Apparently I didn’t fit the image of an introvert that my new friends had in their minds.

Plenty of people in the United States are introverts. The figures vary, but currently it’s generally accepted that about half of the US population are introverted.

The term introvert was first introduced by Carl Jung. And interestingly, the notion of introversion and extroversion is not a matter of being completely one or the other. Personality types, like introversion and extroversion, are on a continuum, and all people have a mixture of both in their personalities.

In this article,  I use the term “introvert” to describe someone who interacts with the world mostly in an introverted fashion, rather  than an extroverted one, and vice versa for extroverts.

The definition of what extroversion and introversion mean is based upon on how an individual sees and reacts to events, objects, or people. Introverts spend a great deal of time monitoring how things impact their inner world. An outside event (or person or object) is described and examined in regards to how it affects them and their history, thoughts, emotions, and feelings. For example, if an introvert is watching kids play, they may be reminded of themselves when  they were little, imagining how care free they felt. An extrovert might comment on how crazy kids dress these days.

In a similar way, introverts gain energy by focusing inward. After spending time around a group of people, introverts feel tired and depleted. It takes effort for them to socialize, and in order to feel more energized they may pull away from the outside world and spend time by themselves. Extroverts find spending time with groups of people or activities to be energizing, and solitude is taxing.

Many people, both extroverts and introverts, carry misconceptions about what it means to be an introvert. Here are four commonly held beliefs that are not accurate.


Pregnancy and Infant Loss: The Pain of a Life Cut Short

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Pregnancy. It’s a time when parents dream of the child they will someday meet, when they look through baby books for names, decide on nursery decor, and imagine what life will be like when their child arrives.

When these dreams and hopes are cut short by miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of life hours or days after birth, the pain is unmeasurable.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. 

The statistics on pregnancies that end in miscarriage or neonatal deaths (less than 28 days old) are staggering. One in four women has experienced this kind of loss. And yet there continues to be a shroud of secrecy about it.

Some women feel ashamed of their grief and keep it to themselves. Others believe that something is wrong with them because months or even years after the miscarriage or loss they have to hold back tears when their friends celebrate a new birth, a coworker announces her pregnancy, or they’re invited to a baby shower.

If you have experienced the loss of a child in pregnancy or after birth, whatever you are experiencing is okay. Each person, each family, experiences loss differently. There is no one ‘normal’ or right way to grieve a baby who is gone too soon.

Remember:

  • Your loss is individual, and there is no clear road-map as to how your grief will be expressed and experienced.
  • Many parents take pictures of their child who was born still, hold them, rock them, and talk to them. It’s natural to need to say goodbye.
  • Allow yourself to grieve and mourn the life that could have been. There is no time-line as to when your grief will ease.
  • It’s okay to talk about your child to others. Your son’s or daughter’s  life may have been cut short, but it still mattered and it was still real.
  • You may feel alone in this, but know that pregnancy loss is something that many, many women experience. Sadly,  few people  talk about it.
  • It’s okay to reach out to others for support. It’s okay to not know what you need, or to need different …

Surviving S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Friday, September 28th, 2012

It’s fall here in the United States. For much of the country, this means darker skies, shorter days, and colder temperatures. For many people, the change in season can also mean an increase in depressive symptoms.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD)?

SAD is a type of depression that occurs during a change in season, usually fall and winter. People who suffer from SAD have many of the same symptoms as those with depression: lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness, withdrawing from friends and family, weight gain, and not enjoying things that one used to enjoy.

How many people experience SAD?

Many people experience seasonal affective disorder. According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal,  6 percent of the people in the United States suffer from SAD 1. This does not include the number of people who experience a less severe form of seasonal depression – the winter blues. SAD is more common in the northern areas of the United States, and less common in areas of the south where there is more sunshine.

How is SAD treated?

There are several treatments for SAD. Like major depressive disorder, SAD can be treated with psychotherapy and medication. But SAD also responds very well to light therapy. Light therapy uses a full spectrum, intense light to help decrease depressive symptoms.

What is the difference between SAD and clinical depression?

People who experience SAD have the same symptoms as people with major depressive disorder. However, major depressive disorder is not limited to the darker days of fall and winter.

Tips for surviving SAD

  1. Watch what you eat. You may feel like loading up on carbohydrates, alcohol, and processed foods, but try and avoid this. Poor diet can contribute to mood swings and lack of energy. Fish has lots of good omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D, which people naturally get through sunlight, can be lacking in the winter, and is a good supplement to take.
  2. Make sure you get enough exercise, preferably outside. Exercise naturally improves mood and helps with sleep.
  3. Consider investing in a light box. You can pick them up without a prescription, and many people have found them useful …

The Amazing Connection Between Happiness and Kindness

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

The search for happiness is universal. People from everywhere and in all circumstance seek this illusive thing called happiness.

Can you remember the last time you were happy?

Was it hours ago?

Days?

Weeks?

Years?

What was happening in your life at the time? What made you happy?

Happiness is a goal for many people. But there are different ideas floating around about what exactly makes people happy.


Sometimes it’s the Little Things that Hurt the Most

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Have you ever had a moment when things are going relatively smoothly, then something small happens and your whole world is turned upside down?

Often we think that big problems come from big incidents: your spouse divorces you and you become depressed, your house burns down and you have nightmares for weeks, you fight in a war and have PTSD.

But trauma doesn’t fit so neatly into a box.

Some people experience severe trauma with very few lasting side-effects; others go through what many would consider a minor trauma and it has a significant, life-changing impact. So what’s going on?


 
 

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