Anger

Moving on from Dysfunctional Relationships

Not so long ago, I joined a Facebook group for abuse survivors, in hopes of finding support and encouragement. While I was encouraged and supported in the best way an anonymous person on the Internet could be, I felt there was too much reliance on the word “narcissist.” As I tried to find intelligent solace in reading members' posts, I discovered many people playing the martyr. (I had observed that behavior in my own mother). Many of these people seeking and offering advice probably suffered from some mental or personality disorder as well.

I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I have also been told I have low self-esteem. Despite my plethora of issues, I am still able to see myself and others through a clear lens.

Continue Reading

Family

Coping When You Have a Narcissistic Parent

Jaci came to see me one month before the christening of her niece, for whom she was honored to be named godmother.

Jaci could turn off the familiar anxiety video playing in her head. This is what Jaci imagined would happen at the christening, given her past experience with her narcissistic mother, Betsy.

Jaci would be taking with friends and family at the party after the service, having successfully avoided her mother’s company at church. She’d be feeling happy. It would be a joy to hold the baby and know her sister trusted her to be godmother. Then, Betsy appears at her side, cutting into the conversation.
Continue Reading

Family

There’s No Such Thing as a Simple Question

You would think that a simple question would be met with a simple answer. On occasion, that is true. But often, a simple question stirs up a barrage of emotional baggage. Here are two examples:

He says: Do you know where the flashlight is?
She says: You never put anything away and then you expect me to find it. How am I supposed to know?

She says: It’s raining; will you drive carefully?
He says: Get off my back! I’m not an idiot!

Communication is not what you say; it’s what the other person hears you say. And when you have a history with that person, a simple question can conjure up a frenzy of emotions.
Continue Reading

Family

When You Rely Too Much on What Others Think

Caring what others think is totally normal. It’s also adaptive. “[V]aluing other people’s thoughts and opinions is what helps us build relationships [and] integrate socially into society,” said Ashley Thorn, a LMFT, a psychotherapist who works with individuals, couples, and families on improving their relationships. “[It] keeps us respecting and following rules and pushes us to think and challenge ourselves.”

Caring what others think becomes a problem when we hyperfocus on their opinions -- and let them override our own. When we do this regularly, we send “a message to our brain that says we can’t ‘look out’ for ourselves or self-protect.” Which triggers self-doubt and insecurity.
Continue Reading

Children and Teens

5 More Strategies for Helping Your Teen Strengthen Their Self-Worth

It’s important for teens to have a solid self-worth. It’s important for them to know that they matter and are already lovable and worthy. Because when kids have a shaky sense of worth, they may latch onto toxic people and make poor decisions. They may let people walk all over them. They may try to earn their worth.

Adolescence is already a tricky, tumultuous time. Teens are trying to figure out who they are, what they like, what they stand for, what they need. Having a solid self-worth helps them navigate these questions more effectively.
Continue Reading

Family

What’s Your Listening IQ?

When people are “crazy in love,” they have the highest listening IQ. They make excellent eye contact, are totally focused on what their partner is saying, are tuned in to the nuances of the conversation, and freely give head nods, smiles, and chuckles to show they are listening.

As time passes, people become more relaxed with one another. When they do, their listening IQ tends to decline. Direct eye contact deteriorates. People focus on other...
Continue Reading

Children and Teens

5 Tips for Cultivating Your Teen’s Self-Worth

One of the most powerful things parents can do for their teens is to help them cultivate a strong and solid self-worth. According to Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, a therapist who specializes in working with children, teens and families, self-worth is “the value you place on yourself and love for self.”

“It tells us who we are and that we matter,” said Rosy Saenz-Sierzega, Ph.D, a psychologist who specializes in working with teens. “[W]e know we deserve to be loved, respected, regarded and forgiven; we believe we matter enough to have our needs and desires met.”
Continue Reading

Books

5 Tips for Increasing Your Chances of Being Heard

We can’t control someone else’s behavior. We can’t control whether they really hear us or not. But we can make the process easier. That is, we can help the other person better understand where we’re coming from by being clear and compassionate. Often we do the opposite: Often we expect others to know what we need. How could they not? Isn’t it obvious? (Usually, it’s not obvious at all.)

Or we stay silent because we fear that by speaking up, we’ll be seen as high-maintenance, unreasonable or rude. If we don’t have much practice asserting ourselves, we might assume that doing so involves being harsh or stern. Or maybe we unwittingly use criticism or blame, which naturally makes the other person anything but receptive to what we have to say.
Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

5 More Tips for Navigating a Contentious Divorce

Contentious divorces can do a number on your health and well-being. You might find that you're struggling with symptoms of anxiety and depression or a worsening of these symptoms (if you had anxiety or depression before). You might find that you have very little energy and you’re constantly on edge. Maybe you can’t concentrate either. Maybe everything feels more challenging. Grueling. It’s hard to breathe when you feel like you’re suffocating.

But even during such a chaotic time as a contentious divorce, there are things you can do to improve the situation and to feel better. You can be an advocate for yourself and your family.
Continue Reading