CE Credit Info

Continuing Education Information:

The Glendon Association and Psychalive.org offer CE credits through R. Cassidy Seminars (cosponsor).  

 

Purchasing CE Credits: 

Once you purchase a Webinar, a link to purchase CE credits will be provided in the email containing all of your Webinar resources.  After you have watched the presentation and completed the attached supplementary reading, you may purchase your CE credits for $15.  Upon purchase, you will be asked to complete your post test and evaluation, and then you can print your CE certificate.

 

Satisfactory Completion

Participants must have paid tuition fee, watched the entire seminar, completed an evaluation in order to receive a certificate. Failure to sign in or out will result in forfeiture of credit for the entire course. No exceptions will be made. Partial credit is not available.

 

Psychologists

Cassidy Seminars is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to offer continuing education for psychologists. R. Cassidy Seminars maintains responsibility for this program. (#) CE hours.

 

Social Workers

Cassidy Seminars, ACE provider #1082, is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org, through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) Program. R. Cassidy Seminars maintains responsibility for the program. Approval Period: April 15, 2015-April 15, 2018. Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval. Social workers participating in this course will receive (#) continuing education clock hours.

CA: The Board of Behavioral Sciences has deferred CE course approvals to APA and ASWB for its licensees. See those approvals under Psychologists and Social Workers

NY: R. Cassidy Seminars is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider (#0006) of continuing education for licensed social workers. This program is approved for (#) contact hours.

OH: Provider approved by the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board for (#) clock hours, #RCST110701

 

Counselors/Marriage and Family Therapists

CA: The Board of Behavioral Sciences has deferred CE course approvals to APA and ASWB for its licensees. See those approvals under Psychologists and Social Workers.

Other States: If your state is not specifically listed, nearly all state Counselor and MFT boards accept either APA or ASWB approval, or are reciprocal with other state licensing board approvals, such as those listed below. Check with your board to be sure. The Ohio Board includes Counselors.

IL: Illinois Dept of Professional Regulation, Approved Continuing Education Sponsor, #168-000141.  (#) hours.

OH: Provider approved by the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board for (#) clock hours, #RCST110701

TX: Approved CE Sponsor through the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists. Provider #151

 

Chemical Dependency Counselors

CA: Provider approved by CFAAP/CAADAC, Provider #4N-00-434-0212 for (#) CEHs. CAADAC is an ICRC member which has reciprocity with most ICRC member states

TX: Provider approved by the TCBAP Standards Committee, Provider No. 1749-06, (#) hours general. Expires 3/31/2016.  Complaints about provider or workshop content may be directed to the TCBAP Standards Committee, 1005 Congress Avenue, Ste. 460, Austin, Texas 78701, Fax Number (512) 476-7297.

 

Educators

IL: Provider approved by the Illinois State Board of Certification #080304164719171. (#) CE Hours.

TX: R. Cassidy Seminars is an approved provider with the Texas Education Agency CPE# 501456. This course is (#) CE Hours.

 

Nurses

CA: Provider approved by the CA Board of Registered Nursing, Provider #CeP12224, for (#) contact hours. Many state Nursing Boards are reciprocal with other states. Check your licensing board to be sure.

 

Disability Access – If you require ADA accommodations please contact our office 10 days or more before the event. We cannot ensure accommodations without adequate prior notification.

 

Please Note: Licensing Boards change regulations often and while we attempt to stay abreast of their most recent changes, if you have questions or concerns about this course meeting your specific board’s approval, we recommend you contact your board directly to obtain a ruling.

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

Website Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

By using this website you agree that you understand, accept and agree to this privacy policy and the terms of use for the Glendon Association.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by the Glendon Association or other individuals or entities. Any reproduction, retransmission, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the Glendon Association or the copyright owner of the material has granted its prior written consent to reproduce or republish the material. All other rights are reserved.

The names, trademarks, and logos of the Glendon Association appearing on this site may not be used in any advertising or publicity, or otherwise to indicate the Glendon Association’s sponsorship or affiliation, without the Glendon Association’s prior express written permission.

Although the Glendon Association’s website includes links providing direct access to other Internet sites, the Glendon Association takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites.

The Glendon Association is providing information and services on the Internet as a benefit and service in furtherance of the Glendon Association’s nonprofit and tax-exempt status. The Glendon Association makes no representations about the suitability or accuracy of this information and these services for any purpose.

The Glendon Association Website Privacy Policies

The Glendon Association respects the privacy of the individuals who visit our website, respond to our electronic communications and send us email. This Privacy Statement outlines what information the Glendon Association will collect and how it will be used.

The Glendon Association will not collect any personally identifiable information about you (name, address, telephone number, email address) unless you provide it voluntarily.  In some cases the Glendon Association may require that you provide such information, such as when you order a product, service or event online, or if you request information about membership, products, services or events.

When you do provide us with personally identifiable information, we may use it in the following ways, unless stated otherwise.

  • We may store and process the information to better understand and respond to member and prospective member interests, needs and preferences and to determine how we can improve
  • We may use the information to contact you with new announcements and information we believe may be of interest to

Changes to these Terms and Policies

The Glendon Association reserves the right to update or change these terms of use and the privacy policy at any time. Such changes will be posted without notice on this Web page.

You may contact The Glendon Association with any questions about these policies:  [email protected]

 

Are You Giving Up on Love?

It’s hard to really wrap our heads around this. Yet, I find—over and over again—that it’s true. Love doesn’t always just slip away; we push it away… actively. This may sound accusatory and dooming, but to my mind, it is one of the most optimistic realities about relationships. To the degree that we ourselves control the amount of love we will tolerate, we control our romantic destiny. While we may not realize it, in countless, quiet ways, we may be giving up on love.

Our tolerance for love is established early in our lives and is based on our unique childhood experiences. The specific ways we were hurt influence us and come to shape our capacity for closeness. As we grow older, we gravitate to what’s familiar. We may choose partners who hurt us in the same ways we’ve always felt hurt. Or, if we do find ourselves in a healthy and rewarding relationship, we may reach a level of intimacy that exceeds our internal limits, and at that point, we recoil.

Most of us enter a good relationship in a good place. Early on, we feel great, because we feel valued and seen. We find what we always said we wanted. Yet, this blissful process of caring so deeply for someone else is also an invitation to care more deeply about our lives, which is scary. At this point, as in so many moments in life, we face a choice without being even fully aware of it. Do we side with life and invest in love, or do we choose the path of a more self-protective and defended part of ourselves? This is the part of us that resists feeling. It avoids risks. It gravitates toward numbness, eludes connection, commitment, and, ultimately, love itself.

In my 30 years as a researcher and clinical psychologist, I often reference the Fear of Intimacy, a book by my father, Dr. Robert Firestone, that aims to explain people’s resistance to love. When I introduce the theory surrounding fear of intimacy to people, they often say, “That sounds exactly like my husband!” or “My girlfriend totally has that issue.” It’s a concept people have trouble recognizing in themselves at first, because most people think they want love and don’t consciously feel afraid. Instead, they go along happily in their relationships for a time, then slowly, without awareness, they start to pull back. Ultimately, they diminish their feelings of real love and replace it with anything from routine to petty arguments to complete deadness between themselves and their partner.

Ironically, what sparks this fear can be the reality of getting exactly what we want. So many positive things can set us in motion to pull back from love and intimacy. We may receive a certain acknowledgment from our partner, something that is unknown or uncomfortable, because it contradicts feelings we’ve long had about ourselves.

Each of us harbors an inner critic that never quite believes in our value or our happiness. Milestones like falling in love, getting married, or having a baby can symbolically go against these long-held negative feelings we have about ourselves or our lives. In addition, these life events can remind us of time passing. They can arouse existential fears or a sense that we are growing up and divorcing from familiarities of our past. Negative events can further perpetuate this fear. Anything from an actual loss to a painful movie can strike a chord in us and remind us of life’s fragility.

So, what happens when we get scared? In what ways do we pull back from our relationship? Naturally, these behaviors manifest themselves differently in each individual, and they’re usually based on a person’s particular past. We all have our own specific set of defenses. We may become withholding toward our partner. We may start to feel easily trapped or intruded on. We may become controlling, overly critical, or destructively jealous. Or we may simply become…distracted.

It is all too easy to let practical aspects of life take over, especially with so many to choose from. Careers and kids tend to be big justifications we offer up when we realize we’ve lost touch with our partner. These, of course, are important priorities, but we can use them to divert us from our own desires to love and be loved. Think about ways we use technology, our phones, or even our food as substitutes for real contact. We can even use healthy-seeming activities like work, sleep, or exercise in the service of our defenses. When we work so hard, we miss time with our partner. What about when sleep takes priority over sex or affection? Someone I know went as far as to refuse to schedule any trip with his wife for years because it interfered with his daily routine of biking 20 miles.

We turn to our defenses for distraction or to “unwind,” in other words, to disconnect and burrow into our own self-sustaining world. Our lives take on an inward focus and, on a certain level, become more about taking care of ourselves than about the give and take of a relationship. This is not to say we are being selfish. In fact, on a practical level, we may be filling our days meeting the needs of others. Yet, on a personal level, we may be withdrawing from close and loving interactions.

Maintaining an outward focus is part of living a vital life. When both partners withdraw, the relationship becomes a “fantasy bond,” where both people remain together, imagining they are in love, while there is little to no actual relating. Couples may morph into societal roles of husband, wife, mother, or father and give up vital parts of themselves in the process. While the experiences involved in being a spouse or parent can be the most fulfilling parts of life, we get into trouble when we focus on form over substance. For instance, we can get wrapped up in schedules, arrangements, and functions, allowing them to take up more energy than acts of real relating, affection, humor, openness, or attraction.

We can use our endless “to-do’s” to cut off from deeper emotions that connect us to feelings of love and liveliness. Think about how good we feel on vacation. It isn’t just because there is less to do. It’s because we allot ourselves a period of time to just be, to connect, to take advantage of being with the people we love most. We don’t need weeks off on a faraway island to forge these connections. We can do it on a daily basis in those quiet, little moments we often miss because we have our guard up: that precious half hour in bed with our partner before we fall asleep, that commute we make every day sitting in silence or on a device.

If we stop being open and available to our partner, we are likely to wake up one day feeling as if we are living with a stranger. Those feelings of love that haven’t been allowed to flourish may seem to have withered away. Resisting a fantasy bond means not giving in to our fears. It means going out on a limb and living out our own ideas of what makes up a happy and fulfilling life. It means staying vulnerable despite the inside and outside forces that harden us to the world.

It can feel difficult, or even painful, to really do this in the moment, to stick in there and remain patient and loving with our partner. Yet, if we don’t, the outcome is much more desolate. We can miss out on our own life. When her parents had reached their 70s, a friend of mine asked them if they were still in love. They looked at each other and one responded, “We may not love each other, but we are loyal.” The truth is, we don’t have to settle for loyalty. What good is loyalty when two people decide to spend their lives miserable, but together?

Many couples don’t give up on each other, but they give up on what drew them to each other in the first place: love. Yet, studies in neuroscience show that people can maintain the exhilarating feelings of romantic love for decades. That is why I encourage almost every couple I meet who ever felt they were once in love to stick in there. Take actions toward your partner that he or she would perceive as loving. Make eye contact. Be affectionate—even after 30 years, even in line at the airport. Slow down. Be present. Practice mindfulness, as it may help you reconnect to your most authentic self, your real feelings and desires, and to be attuned to your partner. Offer acts of kindness, large and small. Take part in activities you and your partner used to share and enjoy together. Be open to new activities, something we tend to resist as we get older, more self-protective, or further into routine.

In short, do a lot of the things you did when you first met and started to form deep feelings for your partner, even if you don’t feel like it! Studies show that engaging in loving acts heightens our feelings of being in love. So, be free in flaunting your romantic feelings. Connect with them on a daily basis. No matter what our inner critic tells us, there is nothing foolish about allowing ourselves to be lovesick. There may be more to lose, but there is also much more to live for.

 

Stop Hating Yourself Once and For All

Recently, we’ve called attention to the question of whether narcissism is an epidemic in our nation. Yet, I would argue that it is narcissism’s evil step-sister that is causing the most trouble in people’s lives. Self-hatred is something we may not often say out loud. We prefer softer-sounding terms, like “low self-esteem” or “poor self-image.” The reality is, much of the time we are downright hateful toward ourselves. Throughout a given day, we experience a barrage of sadistic thoughts so smoothly and so frequently that we hardly notice we’re under attack. Narcissism may be a compensation forinsecurity, but deep down, we are our own worst enemy.

When it comes to self-hatred among younger generations, statistics say a lot. A study of more than 3,000 adolescent girls showed that seven out of 10 believe that they are not good enough. They feel they aren’t measuring up in terms of their appearance, academic performance and personal relationships. The same study showed that 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem have engaged in “negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking, or drinking when feeling badly about themselves.” Yet, contrary to what often gets reported, it isn’t just young women wrestling with serious self-esteem issues. In 2011, the American Psychological Association published a study posing that, while self-esteem increases during adolescence then slows in young adulthood, “there is no significant difference between men’s and women’s self-esteem during either of those life phases.”

In truth, we don’t need studies to tell us that a self-esteem deficit clearly exists in our society. Just talk to any teenager, or small child for that matter, and ask them if there is something that they feel critical of in themselves. The answers are sure to shock you. I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t have a laundry list of cruel self-criticisms they can immediately fire off. “I’m fat.” “I’m annoying.” “Other kids don’t like me.” “My parents are disappointed in me.”

These disturbing core beliefs don’t disappear as we get older. In fact, what my father Dr. Robert Firestone and I have found in our 30 years of research is that these thoughts go on to affect us in every area of our lives, making up what we refer to as our “critical inner voice.” We can even pass these “voices” down to future generations. Where this inner critic comes from, why it exists and what we can do about it are the subjects of our book Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice and of my March 24 Webinar “Stop Hating Yourself: A Method to Overcome Your Inner Critic.” Here, I will briefly outline the cause and effects of these self-hating thoughts and introduce a method for how to overcome them.

Where Self-Hating Thoughts Come From

There are two important influences on how we form our self-perception. The first is how our parents or other early influential caretakers saw and treated us. The second is the way these same influential figures saw themselves. Parents are people; they aren’t perfect. They both love and hate themselves, and they extend these reactions to their products (their children).

Our identity is heavily informed by how we were viewed in our early family environment. The healthy and supportive attitudes we were exposed to in our childhoods helped build the positive side of our self-image – our “real self.” This is the part of us that feels a sense of self-worth, compassion and confidence. However, the harmful attitudes directed toward us formed the negative side of our self-perception – our “anti-self.”  If, for example, we had a parent who thought of us as lazy or slow, we may have picked up on these attitudes from ways they acted: looks of annoyance or sighs of disappointment. Perhaps, they criticized us directly: “What’s the matter with you? Hurry up. You’re always making me late. Can’t you think for once?”

As children, we are further affected by ways parents speak or feel about themselves. In the study of young women mentioned above, over half the girls tested said they had a mother who criticized herself. When parents look in the mirror in disgust, when they vocalize what a failure they are or simply don’t feel good about how they’re living their own lives, they are serving as models for their child’s developing sense of self.

How Self-Hatred Impacts Our Lives

As we get older, we tend to internalize the subtle and not-so-subtle attitudes and actions of our parents. Without realizing it, we take these notions on as our own point of view toward ourselves. They become the foundation for our critical inner voice and translate into a running commentary in our heads. When we go on a date, it feeds us little thoughts like, “You sound so stupid. He is not interested.” When we land a job interview, it reminds us, “You’ll make a fool of yourself. Who would hire a nervous wreck like you?”

This “voice” creeps in at moments we may not expect it, right when we are achieving success or getting what we want. It can even sound soothing, telling us to take care of or protect ourselves. “Don’t worry about meeting someone. You’ll be just fine alone. Stay home, relax.” Yet, the critical inner voice is two-faced in the sense that it will also be there to punish us when we listen to its directives: “You loser! You don’t have any real friends. You’re never going to be happy.”

For each person, there are certain areas of life in which this inner critic is louder and more obnoxious. Sometimes, we can get a hold of and quiet this voice in one area, and it pops up in another. If unrecognized, its influence can be strong. It can sabotage our relationships, ruin our careers, impact our parenting style and undermine our personal goals. If we don’t deal with this inner critic in ourselves, it is also very likely to impact our children and lead to a cycle of self-hatred that passes through generations.

What to Do About Self-Hating Thoughts

The first thing to realize is that we are not our critical inner voice, and we are definitely not the person our critical inner voice tells us that we are. Just because we ourselves experience these self-hating  thoughts does not mean that they make up our real and honest point of view. Remember, every one of us is divided in our feelings toward ourselves. The critical inner voice should be seen as an alien point of view, an unwelcome overlay on our self-perceptions. It is truly an “anti-self,” constructed out of our darkest developmental experiences. This voice is not our friend. It is paranoid, hostile, suspicious and manipulative. It gives bad advice and never wants what’s really best for us.

Of course, we are all flawed in certain ways, but when we listen to our critical inner voice, we tend to exaggerate and berate ourselves for these flaws. We lose perspective and fail to exercise the self-compassion that is essential to pursuing our goals and living our lives to the fullest. Voice Therapy is a method developed by Dr. Robert Firestone that helps individuals identify their critical inner voice, understand where it comes from, separate from its point of view and respond to it from a more realistic and compassionate perspective. Challenging self-hatred is a key step to stopping self-limiting or sabotaging behaviors. It opens doors in our lives we didn’t know we’d shut and makes it possible to live a more unique and personally fulfilling existence.

 

3 Steps to Experience the Perfect Imperfect Moment

perfect imperfect momentIn many ways, striving for perfection is a recipe for disaster. I’ve spoken with too many people who could never be smart, successful, slim or striking enough to meet their own unrealistic demands. All the while, these individuals failed to experience themselves as a person of value just for being themselves. I’ve worked with countless couples, who spend as much time obsessing over their relationship as they do experiencing their relationship. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if these thoughts were kind, compassionate and introspective. Instead, they are harsh, cold and critical. The demanding attitude we all have toward ourselves often divides our lives into two realities – what’s actually happening and what we are busy telling ourselves about what’s happening. People who live in pursuit of perfection are missing out on the real pleasures of life.

We’ve heard the expression “live in the moment” so many times that the words often lose their meaning. We lose track of the fact that much of the time, we spiral off into thoughts that have little to do with the here and now. Buying coffee, we forget to meet the eyes of the stranger serving us. We obsess over how we look instead of noticing how we are being looked at – by a loved one, for example. When we fall in love, we worry about losing love, rather than enjoying the blissful feeling of being in love. So how can we shift from judging our lives to actually living and enjoying them? Here are three key elements to making the most of the moments of our lives.

1.  Silence Your Inner Critic

Whether we are accomplishing a major goal or enjoying a simple pleasure, our “critical inner voice” is a thought process that constantly questions, critiques and undermines our experiences.

It subdues us and holds us back. It tells us we aren’t good enough or warns us that we will lose everything. It tells us that we have to be special to be worthwhile. It shouts things like, “If you’re not the best, you’re nothing.” When we receive an acknowledgment, it says, “You don’t deserve it.” When we fall in love, it whispers, “She will leave you. It won’t last.” What happens when we listen to this voice is we actually miss out on reality. We lose touch with the tactile, feeling, tumultuous roller coaster of real life. Instead, we are in our own heads, failing to connect with other people, places and experiences that make our moments worthwhile.

A friend of mine was invited on a getaway by her boyfriend of a few months. She was excited, but a few minutes into their long drive to the mountains, her critical inner voice started in on her. “What will you talk about? You don’t have anything interesting to say. He’s going to realize how dull you are.” During the drive, the running dialogue in her mind made her unusually quiet, uncomfortable, even awkward at times. By the time, they made their first gas stop, she wished she’d never agreed to come. Then, stepping out of the car, she felt a rush of cold, crisp air. She noticed they were surrounded by snow. It was beautiful.

She realized that her self-critical thoughts had left her missing out on everything from a lively conversation with her boyfriend to the stunning scenery. It was a wake-up call that gave her the insight necessary to silence her inner critic. She spent the remainder of the drive, actively ignoring the “voices” that surfaced. When her “voice” told her she sounded stupid, she’d tell her boyfriend a story. When it said she seemed “desperate,” she’d put her head on his shoulder. When it commented on her appearance, she’d look admiringly out the window. Though it got stronger at first, like a child throwing a tantrum to get its way, eventually, the voice grew quiet, and she stopped noticing it altogether.

This is the approach we must all take against our inner critic. I write a lot about this process but recently read it perfectly illustrated in a personal account by comedian Amy Poehler her new bookYes Please, in which she refers to this inner critic as her “demon.”

Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head for love. They feed their demon, and it gets really strong, and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin.

Though actively ignoring and taking actions against your demon will initially make its voice louder and you more anxious, it is the only way to ultimately silence this critic. As one of the leaders in interpersonal neurobiology Dr. Daniel Siegel says, the only appropriate attitude to have toward yourself is to be curious, open, accepting and loving. This attitude is what makes change possible. It’s what helps you to not only reach your goals but enjoy and appreciate the road that gets you there, imperfect as it may be.

2.  Don’t Avoid Feelings

My father, who is also a psychologist and my co-author on Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice,Robert Firestone, recently pointed out that living in the moment isn’t always as joyful as the saying would suggest. Life is filled with a wide array of emotions including pain. However, living in the moment does ensure us a more lively existence. We can’t experience the past or the future, yet we spend much of our time lost in regretting the past and worrying about the future. The present moment is all we have. Think of what we are missing when we trail off and focus on the things we aren’t actually experiencing. Think of how we tune out or numb ourselves in an effort to avoid whatever we would think or feel if we let ourselves be right where we are.

Most of us engage in behaviors that numb us in an effort to avoid sadness. Yet, sadness carries with it many benefits. It makes us feel rich, full and alive to feel our sadness. It has a rejuvenating effect that grows our capacity for happiness. When you try to kill off a part of yourself, you lose more of yourself than you think. The fear that motivates us to avoid deeper feeling frequently leaves us dulled, anxious and miserable instead.

3.  Refocus Your Attention

When we listen to our inner critic, it is like we are looking at ourselves through someone else’s eyes instead of our own. We must learn to take the focus off ourselves and to look for meaning in our experiences. This still means setting goals, but it also means enjoying the journey. Life is about striving, not just being there. Have you ever set a goal to exercise or lose weight, then felt slightly empty when you reached it? That’s because life happens in the journey itself. Your energy can only be felt in your actions.

As you live your life, remind yourself of two things: slow down and pay attention. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Focus less on evaluation and more on your actual experience. Look out the window of your car. Be in the moment. As mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Pay attention in the present like your life depends on it.” And if you do get lost, never beat yourself up. Just bring your attention back to the present moment. You can actually strengthen your mind like a muscle by putting your attention where you want it.

Life is too precious to waste it lost in our heads, evaluating ourselves, one step removed from our own experience.  We can more fully live our life by paying attention to our senses and being willing to feel what we are actually experiencing at any given moment in time

 

The Scientific Approach to Changing Your Life

scientific approach to changing your lifeLast year, a poll indicated that only one in three Americans is reportedly “very happy.” Maybe this surprises you or maybe it doesn’t, but what it likely tells us is that the majority of the population is looking for a change. Whether it’s their job, their relationship, their city or themselves, most people have something on their minds that’s leaving them less than fulfilled. And as the saying goes, real change begins with us.

Last year, New York Magazine reported self-help to be an $11 billion industry. Millions of people are attempting to make significant changes every day. What most of these people may not know is that there is an actual science that reveals how lasting change is possible. Psychologist Dr. John Norcross has been collecting data on what works when it comes to making real changes. Backed by 30 years of intensive research, Dr. Norcross wrote the book, Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions. This month he will teach a one-hour presentation online, describing key findings and proven strategies to finally get around to making the changes you’ve long desired.

So how do you start this process? For one thing, you have to know exactly where you’re at in relation to your goals. Dr. Norcross says there are five possible stages you may be in in regard to making changes: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. He draws on scientific findings to show what works and what doesn’t in each of these stages. If you don’t know which of these phases you’re in, you may be more likely to slip up or fail.

Many people find they can reach a certain point in their goals before backtracking. They’re on a path to success, then suddenly do something to self-sabotage. The process of procrastinating or indulging, then punishing ourselves can be vicious cycle. We all have a “critical inner voice” that coaches us toward self-destructive behaviors that counter what we really want. “Go ahead and have another cookie. You deserve it,” the voice will whisper, when we are trying to lose weight. That same voice that lures us to steer off course, berates us when we fail. “There you go again, eating like a pig. You’ll always be a fat loser!”

To help stop this self-sabotaging cycle, Dr. Norcross suggests methods to identify which of the five stages a person is in. If someone is in precontemplation, for example, they may feel pressured by others to change but are mostly not aware of or resistant to altering their behaviors. According to Norcross, people in this state probably shouldn’t attempt to take action. They’re not really ready for change.

If someone is in the contemplation stage, they may be starting to think about changes they could make but still feel ambivalent or lack confidence. Norcross says this could be a time to review the pros and cons of changing. A person can start to prepare or “get tools in order” for future actions he or she would take in the next stage, preparation. Just like it sounds, preparation means you intend to start making change soon. Individuals can set the scene for action by making sure they have the time, energy and support they’ll need to move forward. They can begin to set dates and goals, and even alert others of their intentions.

Finally, the time for action comes, and this is when the person starts to make changes. During this transition, people should anticipate that their critical inner voice will initially get louder. It will yell and scream like the Wicked Witch after she was doused with water in “The Wizard of Oz.” However, they must remember that, like that witch, the voice will slowly melt away, as they persevere in their goals. During this process, they’ll want a healthy outlet and support system to help them deal with the fear and anxiety that accompanies the excitement of evolving into who they want to be.

Once someone has made a change, they will need a plan to prevent relapse. A person’s critical inner voices will be present at every stage of change, including the maintenance phase. By learning tools to combat this inner critic, knowing its tricks and ignoring its directives, the person is in a much stronger position to create and sustain real change. Organizing a support team made up of people in their life who support their goals is an essential part of relapse prevention. These individuals see the person in a compassionate light and when he or she is around them, the critical inner voice is quieted.

The important thing to remember is that change is a process, not just a single action. Change is rarely linear; there are twists and turns. It’s frightening to change, especially when you’re going out on limb to go after your own unique goals. In this process, you realize who you really are, separate from society, family or any other outside influences. You differentiate from old influences or identities and become your true self. On this journey, you will have to face the scary reality that your own mind can be your own worst enemy. Yet, by practicing self-compassion and following an organized, scientific strategy that yields the best results, you can feel empowered to make authentic, satisfying and lasting change.

 

6 Rules to Live By When You Discipline Your Child

rules discipline childAnyone can tell you that discipline is a messy business. Not even the best of parents could possibly get it right all the time. However, part of what complicates the process of teaching our kids to behave is that parents bring a lot of their own baggage to the table. Kids can be a big trigger of feelings from your childhood, feelings you aren’t even aware of anymore. When a child acts up, it can stir you up, making you feel intense and heated. It can cause you to feel insulted, disregarded or ashamed. The trouble is, once you’re riled up by your own emotions, you aren’t as equipped to calmly and rationally deal with your child’s.

As Dr. Daniel Siegel says in his new book No-Drama Discipline, co-authored by Dr. Tina Bryson, discipline is about teaching, not punishment. Too often, when parents feel provoked or triggered by their kids, the discipline becomes more about releasing their feelings than teaching the child. Parents will be much more effective when they get a handle on their own emotions and are able to be attuned to their kids. With that in mind, here are some rules to live by when it comes to disciplining your child:

1. Always be calm first.

When you’re wound up yourself, your behavior may not only be mis-attuned but inconsistent. For example, your child may be bouncing on the couch cushions, and you exhaustedly ignore it. Then, the minute they accidentally knock over a lamp, you scream at them, “Look what you did! Stop acting like an animal and jumping all over the furniture!” The child may already be confused. Why were you seemingly okay with the jumping just minutes before? Then, instead of stopping them when you were calm and first noticed the behavior, you blow up the second things inevitably go wrong. A parent startling them and “flipping their lid” looks very scary to children. Moreover, when children are yelled at, they rarely remember the lesson their parent was trying to get across. What they do remember is the fear that overcame them when that parent lost his or her cool. The best thing parents can do before they approach their child is to calm down themselves. Take a few breaths, find a way to relax, then address the situation.

2. Think about the outcome.

Discipline isn’t effective when it’s a matter of releasing your own frustration. Yelling at your kid, “Why are you throwing a fit? You’re driving me crazy!” probably won’t get them to settle down and be rational. Think about what you really want to achieve in the situation, the lesson you want them to take away from the experience. Most likely, you want your child to feel seen and cared about, but to also have a sense of morality and responsibility. You want them to feel secure in your relationship, but understand that they won’t always get their way. When you think about your goal for the interaction, you can take more conscious, effective steps to get there.

3. Connect on an emotional level.

This is a point Dr. Siegel beautifully illustrates in his book and will elaborate on in his upcoming Webinar on “No Drama-Discipline.” When a child is falling apart or experiencing stress and acting out, you should first connect with them on an emotional level that will get to them in that moment. Often, that means making physical contact, kneeling down to their level, perhaps putting an arm around them and looking them in the eye. Find a way to help them calm down without arguing logic or reason. Instead, take a moment to just deal with their emotional state. “It seems like you’re feeling really sad about this.”

Once they’re calmer, you can help them find a solution to the problem. As Dr. Siegel says, “connect and redirect.” If they ask you for a cookie before bed, you could say, “Let’s make cookies together for your friend’s birthday party next week, but right now, how about we read a book?” The resolution won’t always be so black and white. If your child’s falling apart about a homework assignment, the answer isn’t going to be to not do it, but maybe they could spend some time on another project then come back to it or take an entirely different approach to what they’re working on.

4. Never isolate or physically punish.

It’s my hope that, in this day and age, parents know the scientific arguments against physical discipline. There are a million reasons not to strike your child, with maybe the least important being that it does NOT make them behave. However, another common approach that should be questioned is isolation or “time outs.” Without getting too much into the current controversy surrounding time outs, a major takeaway is that isolating your children when they don’t behave denies them an important developmental lesson. You want your child to be able to connect and communicate, even when tough issues arise. You want them to learn how to use others to help themselves emotionally regulate. This is a matter of socializing your children and making them resilient in the real world, where they won’t be able to hide out any time there is conflict.

5. Teach empathy.

It’s a familiar image: the parent dragging their kid across the playground to apologize to a child he or she has upset. “Now look her in the eye and say you’re sorry for taking her toy.” The child halfheartedly repeats what the parent says and scrambles away as fast as he or she can. Little is learned from this exchange, in which you’ve forced your kids to go through the motions without really understanding what they’ve done. A better strategy is to talk to the child and help them understand what the other person in the interaction was feeling. “How would you feel if someone took your toy without asking?” By getting them to relate, you set a foundation for learning empathy. It isn’t about having them dish out empty apologies but helping them gain a real feeling for the emotions and experience of another person.

6. Lead by example… and let them be.

Today, parents want to be liked by their children. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but as parents, we have a responsibility to teach our children how to be as adults. Spoiling kids or over-parenting sets them up to have a skewed sense of importance. When they grow up, the world will likely disappoint them. On the flip side, rejecting them or being too strict may make them feel distant from you or compelled to rebel. The best thing to do is to be your best self. Lead by example. Act like the person you’d like them to be. When I say this, I don’t mean be a doctor and expect your kid to be the same. I mean really try to live by the general qualities you admire, i.e. compassion, patience, acceptance, honesty, generosity. Be kind, supportive and loving. Provide structure and safety, but then, let them be. Allow them to explore their world and discover who they are. Don’t impose unnecessary restrictions that reflect only what you want and not what they want. In this way, they will be drawn to internalize your positive qualities, while feeling the freedom to become the people they’re meant to be.

 

The Scientific Approach to Changing Your Life

scientific approach to changing your lifeLast year, a poll indicated that only one in three Americans is reportedly “very happy.” Maybe this surprises you or maybe it doesn’t, but what it likely tells us is that the majority of the population is looking for a change. Whether it’s their job, their relationship, their city or themselves, most people have something on their minds that’s leaving them less than fulfilled. And as the saying goes, real change begins with us.

Last year, New York Magazine reported self-help to be an $11 billion industry. Millions of people are attempting to make significant changes every day. What most of these people may not know is that there is an actual science that reveals how lasting change is possible. Psychologist Dr. John Norcross has been collecting data on what works when it comes to making real changes. Backed by 30 years of intensive research, Dr. Norcross wrote the book, Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions. This month he will teach a one-hour presentation online, describing key findings and proven strategies to finally get around to making the changes you’ve long desired.

So how do you start this process? For one thing, you have to know exactly where you’re at in relation to your goals. Dr. Norcross says there are five possible stages you may be in in regard to making changes: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. He draws on scientific findings to show what works and what doesn’t in each of these stages. If you don’t know which of these phases you’re in, you may be more likely to slip up or fail.

Many people find they can reach a certain point in their goals before backtracking. They’re on a path to success, then suddenly do something to self-sabotage. The process of procrastinating or indulging, then punishing ourselves can be vicious cycle. We all have a “critical inner voice” that coaches us toward self-destructive behaviors that counter what we really want. “Go ahead and have another cookie. You deserve it,” the voice will whisper, when we are trying to lose weight. That same voice that lures us to steer off course, berates us when we fail. “There you go again, eating like a pig. You’ll always be a fat loser!”

To help stop this self-sabotaging cycle, Dr. Norcross suggests methods to identify which of the five stages a person is in. If someone is in precontemplation, for example, they may feel pressured by others to change but are mostly not aware of or resistant to altering their behaviors. According to Norcross, people in this state probably shouldn’t attempt to take action. They’re not really ready for change.

If someone is in the contemplation stage, they may be starting to think about changes they could make but still feel ambivalent or lack confidence. Norcross says this could be a time to review the pros and cons of changing. A person can start to prepare or “get tools in order” for future actions he or she would take in the next stage, preparation. Just like it sounds, preparation means you intend to start making change soon. Individuals can set the scene for action by making sure they have the time, energy and support they’ll need to move forward. They can begin to set dates and goals, and even alert others of their intentions.

Finally, the time for action comes, and this is when the person starts to make changes. During this transition, people should anticipate that their critical inner voice will initially get louder. It will yell and scream like the Wicked Witch after she was doused with water in “The Wizard of Oz.” However, they must remember that, like that witch, the voice will slowly melt away, as they persevere in their goals. During this process, they’ll want a healthy outlet and support system to help them deal with the fear and anxiety that accompanies the excitement of evolving into who they want to be.

Once someone has made a change, they will need a plan to prevent relapse. A person’s critical inner voices will be present at every stage of change, including the maintenance phase. By learning tools to combat this inner critic, knowing its tricks and ignoring its directives, the person is in a much stronger position to create and sustain real change. Organizing a support team made up of people in their life who support their goals is an essential part of relapse prevention. These individuals see the person in a compassionate light and when he or she is around them, the critical inner voice is quieted.

The important thing to remember is that change is a process, not just a single action. Change is rarely linear; there are twists and turns. It’s frightening to change, especially when you’re going out on limb to go after your own unique goals. In this process, you realize who you really are, separate from society, family or any other outside influences. You differentiate from old influences or identities and become your true self. On this journey, you will have to face the scary reality that your own mind can be your own worst enemy. Yet, by practicing self-compassion and following an organized, scientific strategy that yields the best results, you can feel empowered to make authentic, satisfying and lasting change.

 

5 Most Important Relationship Resolutions

relationship resolutions new yearNo matter what stage we’re in in a relationship, we tend to wonder what the future holds. No two people, or two couples for that matter, are the same, so how can we predict where the road will take us?  The truth is we can’t. Relationships are complicated and uncertain territory. Yet, in my years of working with all kinds of individuals and couples, I’ve noticed certain patterns that inevitably seem to creep in at some point in a relationship. Being close to someone and maintaining a deep level of intimacy is a precious but fragile thing. It can bring us our greatest sense of pleasure and fulfillment and our deepest feelings of vulnerability, fear and even anger. So what can we do to give ourselves our best chance of maintaining that loving feeling we have when we first realize we are falling for another person? Here are five resolutions I believe all couples would truly benefit from taking on.

1)      Focus on small acts of kindness

If there is an easy answer to what makes people happy, it would be generosity. It is a natural mood booster, a scientifically proven method of living a longer and more satisfying life. Being generous with our partner isn’t about a tit-for-tat exchange of commodities or favors. It’s an ongoing feeling we foster within ourselves that (if we stay attuned) allows us to remain connected to what lights our partner up. It’s about being giving of ourselves in small, meaningful ways, offering a kind look, a supportive smile or a gesture of acknowledgment.

Over time, couples can become increasingly tight and stingy with each other. They can punish each other by withholding interest or affection. It’s important to stay in touch with our own desire to be giving toward our partners and the pleasure it can bring us. If we truly love them, it should be reflected in our behavior. We can do this by consistently engaging in acts that they would perceive as loving. This means offering something that matters to them, not just on our own time or with any strings attached. When we do this, we can feel a sense of satisfaction that is deeply rewarding. Plus, we ignite a spirit of generosity in our partner that creates a more natural give and take in the relationship.

2)      Pay attention to the inner voice that creates distance.

Every person harbors an internal enemy whose sole purpose seems to be to undermine our happiness. This “critical inner voice” can even sabotage our relationships. It’s there to warn us not to trust or to remind us to be jealous and suspicious. It can put us down, letting us know that we are too fat, thin, ugly, boring or unsuccessful to find and maintain a loving relationship.

Our critical inner voice feeds on all of our negative life experiences from the day we are born to form a destructive perception of who we are. Because its negative point of view is so entrenched in us, it can be hard to shake. Try to notice how this inner critic creeps into your relationship. It may sound friendly when it says, “Don’t let her get to you. You are just fine on your own. She will only wind up hurting you.” It may also sound vicious, bombarding you with thoughts like, “He doesn’t love you. No one could ever care about you.”

This voice should be seen as an enemy. It’s there to drive a wedge between us and our partner. It can turn us off or shut us down in ways that push us further from what we want. Try to differentiate this “voice” from your own, real point of view. Don’t let it convince you that you’re foolish to be open and vulnerable to another person or that you’re unworthy of love.

3)      Be aware of fantasies you may form.

A “Fantasy Bond” is a term coined by my father, psychologist and author, Robert Firestone. It describes an illusion of fusion that couples form that replaces real love. When two people start to fall in love, they see each other as independent individuals. They appreciate and respect the other person for who they are, separate from themselves. As time passes, however, they may replace these feelings of love for a sense of safety and security by starting to relate as a single unit. They may form routines or start making rules for each other that they believe will protect their fantasy bond. However, these forces actually serve to deflate their attraction to each other and suffocate the relationship. Their worlds, which at first grew bigger with the addition of each other, now seem to shrink.

It’s so important for couples to be aware of the threats this fantasy can pose and to break patterns that will ultimately hurt the relationship. Be wary of routines. Notice if you’ve started relating as a “we” instead of “you” and “me.” Ask yourself if you’ve started to rely too much on your partner. The degree to which we see our partner as a savior or an extension of ourselves is a degree to which we aren’t having an honest relationship with the real person who exists right next to us. When we regard our partner as a separate person, we appreciate and enjoy them much more for who they are. It’s only when we see someone as themselves that we can really share something meaningful with them. In this way, not getting into a fantasy bond will actually keep us closer to our partner and lead to a lasting, loving connection.

4)      Help your partner feel secure.

Often, our focus in a relationship can be too much on ourselves. What am I getting or not getting from my partner? How is he or she making me feel? Failing to see things from the other person’s perspective can get us into trouble, leading to breakdowns in communication or a lack of empathy and understanding. Instead of focusing on ourselves, we should try to think of ways we could be more outwardly loving. How could we make our partner feel happy or secure? Maybe that will mean putting our arm around them more often or agreeing to keep our cell-phones out of bed. These little acts of kindness and affection can go a long way.

Unlike in a fantasy bond, this practice isn’t about giving in to manipulation or sacrificing ourselves as independent people. If someone is overly jealous or demanding something unreasonable of us, we shouldn’t necessarily give in. However, we can always reflect how they’re feeling back to them to make sure they feel heard. We can also express our own feelings toward them.

For instance, a friend of mine noticed his wife feeling more and more insecure after they got married. She started to become possessive and worried when he left the house or did things with friends. His response wasn’t to put a halt to his social life. Instead, he asked her what was going on. He showed compassion for the mean thoughts she was having toward herself. He made sure to acknowledge all the positive ways he saw her that were different from how she saw herself. He told her he loved spending time with her and that her feelings mattered, but his friendships were also an important part of who he was and what makes him happy. In the end, they both wanted the same simple thing, to feel understood and valued. They wound up feeling closer than ever, just from talking honestly each day.

The simple exercise of being consistently attuned and kind will usually spark reciprocal attitudes and actions in our partner. We are more likely to get a loving response when we approach someone from a warm and vulnerable stance. This leaves a relationship with a solid foundation, where both people feel seen, safe, soothed and secure, what Dr. Daniel Siegel refers to as the 4 S’s of a secure attachment.

5)      Be willing to be vulnerable.

A loving relationship may sound like what we want, but most of us actually have a lower tolerance for love than we think. We aren’t always used to being treated kindly or with affection. Valuing another person brings up a lot of sadness about the preciousness of life. As psychologist and author Pat Lovehas said, getting what we want can actually remind us of the emptiness we once felt in not getting it in the past. In order to grow our capacity and tolerance for loving feelings, we have to be willing to feel our sadness and stay vulnerable. It’s almost instinctive to want to harden or defend ourselves the moment we feel threatened, but the more resilient we can be in actually softening ourselves and staying open, the more love we can expect to both feel and receive.

Great joy comes with great sadness. Having something precious often reminds us it will one day be lost. Protecting ourselves by giving in to our fears will leave us much lonelier and less satisfied in our romantic lives. Being vulnerable, we will inevitably experience hurts or losses, but we will also have experienced much deeper levels of love and joy. And what better to wish for in the coming year than a fuller capacity for love and a richer experience of joy?

 

The Simple Truth about Anger

Feeling angry is a universal human phenomenon.
It is as basic as feeling hungry, lonely, loving, or tired.
-Theodore Rubin

“A thought murder a day keeps the doctor away.”  What this quote emphasizes is that feeling one’s angry thoughts is a healthy manifestation, whereas the denial or suppression of angry feelings has a pathological effect. In my experience as a clinician, I have observed that suppressing angry feelings inevitably has destructive consequences.  I postulate four major ill effects of bypassing the feeling of angry emotions. They are (1) developing psychosomatic symptoms; (2) turning the anger against oneself; (3) projecting anger outward onto others; and (4) acting out hostile, negative behaviors.

1.When we shy away from our angry emotions, they tend to become somaticized, causing varying degrees of harm to the body. Holding back angry feelings creates tension, and this stress reaction plays a part in a wide range of psychosomatic ailments, such as headaches, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.  As reported by the College of Nursing, University of Tennessee: “…Such low scores suggest suppression, repression, or restraint of anger. There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis.”

2. When people internalize feelings of anger, it causes them to turn against themselves and become self-critical and self-hating. If this process reaches serious proportions, it plays a significant role in feelings of depression and worthlessness. It can lead to self-defeating, self-destructive and, at times, suicidal behaviors. Psychoanalysts have traditionally understood depression as being primarily due to anger directed against the self.

3. People who avoid or suppress anger frequently externalize their anger by disowning it in themselves and projecting it onto other people, thereby perceiving others as being angry or hostile. This causes them to experience the external environment as alien and dangerous. They then react to these perceived enemies with counter-aggression or paranoia, often triggering a dangerous downward spiral of progressive maladaptation and misery.

4. When people cannot tolerate angry emotions, they tend to act out their anger inappropriately.  They find it difficult to control and are hurtful or abusive to themselves and others. Often, they act against their own best interests.

Those who stifle their anger are apt to express it indirectly through passive-aggression or by becoming withholding.  Withholding behaviors, such as being forgetful, habitually late, procrastinating and otherwise provoking, alienate others; in particular, they create distance between partners in intimate relationships and bring about problems in the workplace. In general, passive-aggression is dysfunctional, drives people away, increases guilt feelings and has a bad overall effect on the perpetrator.

Lastly, when people find it difficult to acknowledge anger directly, they instead tend to justify the reasons for their anger, which leads to feeling misunderstood, victimized, righteously indignant or morally wronged. This often causes the anger and victimization to become obsessive, and the angry thoughts not only persist for long periods but build and eventually take their toll on one’s overall happiness and adjustment.

Anger is perhaps the most misunderstood of human emotions. There are many misconceptions about it.  Some people perceive anger as bad or immoral and feel that becoming angry makes them a bad person. Others believe that anger is the opposite of love and feel that expressions of anger have no place in close, personal relationships or in the family. Still another common, yet incorrect, belief is that being angry at someone implies that one is accusing that person of wrongdoing.

Anger is a natural and inevitable response to frustration or stress. The degree of anger is proportional to the degree of frustration experienced at the time, whether or not one’s feelings of anger are rational and appropriate to the situation or irrational and entirely inappropriate. As the Dalai Lama rightly noted, “If a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong. He’s not right in the brain.” In this regard, it is beneficial to understand that anger is a healthy emotion, and it is ideal to feel the emotion fully. Critical, vicious thoughts and attitudes are entirely acceptable, morally speaking, whereas actions must be judged on moral grounds, and even a sarcastic or superior tone or an insensitive act can be considered hurtful.

In The Ethics of Interpersonal RelationshipsI emphasize that it is essential, in terms of our mental health and well-being, to give all of our feelings free reign in conscious awareness and experience, whereas, in relation to our actions, we must make a rational decision about how to express our anger that involves both moral concerns and reality issues. In the chapter titled “Mastering Anger,” I describe two salient points in relation to acting on our anger: is it consistent with our values and would it be in our own best interest?  Regarding the latter, it would be foolhardy, for example, for a person who values his/her job to blow up at the boss; instead, it would be more productive to simply acknowledge and feel the hostile feelings without acting them out.

For the most part, over-reactive emotional responses in adults, including intense anger or rage, contain a primal element based on early experiences that were threatening or traumatic.  Becoming sensitive to the types of situations that arouse overly strong reactions of anger is useful in making a distinction between present-day and primal emotions.  Whereas the anger in the current situation may be justified, the intensity is often not appropriate to the personal significance of the event.  An awareness of the primal components of one’s anger not only helps defuse the level of anger but also allows time for rational self reflection and a more thoughtful consideration of one’s thoughts and actions.

Bear in mind that it is crucial to be able to express anger, and at times it can have a remarkably positive effect in personal, vocational or political situations.  It is generally best to state one’s anger directly and in a calm tone of voice, rather than in an angry or rageful manner.  For example, saying “I felt angry at you when you did thus and so,” matter-of-factly is more effective than expressing it angrily, which will usually provoke an immediate angry retort. However, if you are further annoyed by the response to your anger, or it fails to achieve your purpose, you can always state things more strongly and forcefully. In general, this escalation should be gradual and controlled to achieve the best results.

In summary, when we deny or suppress hostile emotions, our anger is likely to be internalized, turned against our bodies or our selves, or externalized, distorting the world around us. In addition, we are more likely to lose control and act in ways that are detrimental or destructive to ourselves and to others. 

The acceptance of anger and the ability to tolerate angry feelings brings anger under our control and regulation. Indeed, when men and women are able to experience angry feelings and are comfortable with them, they become stronger and more self-possessed. In addition, they tend to be more accepting of anger in their children and more likely to encourage their child’s movement towards positive self-expression, while discouraging passive aggressive or manipulative behavior. In this way, they teach their children important lessons about anger management (e.g. when and how to express it) that are so critical in later life. For all the reasons noted above, psychotherapists work hard to help their clients recognize, accept and fully experience their angry emotions and learn to express them when appropriate.