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Memory and Perception

How to Understand Gaslighting

The term gaslighting comes from Patrick Hamilton's  1938 play Gas Light, which was later made into a film in 1944 starring Ingrid Bergman. In both the play and movie, a wife becomes concerned about the dimming of her upstairs lights. When she discusses it with her husband, he dismisses the incident by repeatedly suggesting it is "in her head." Gradually the wife begins to doubt her sanity. In reality, the husband is causing the lights to dim in an attempt to make her doubt her own mind.

Gaslighting is an extreme form of emotional manipulation that is aimed at controlling the way someone sees themselves and their reality. Through tactics such as denial, lying, and contradiction, this form of psychological abuse tries to destabilize a person from the outside in.
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Victim Shaming and Blaming

With all the allegations coming to light about sexual abuse perpetrated by celebrities, including Harvey Weinstein (no relation to the author of this article), Roy Moore, Louie CK and Kevin Spacey, it seems timely to write an article, about supporting survivors, how to avoid victim shaming, even if it took years to speak up, ways to prevent abuse, as well as means to deal with disillusionment when our icons commit such crimes.

First and foremost is the acknowledgment that sexual assault, whether it comes in the form of words or touch, is about power and control. Sex is merely the vehicle of transmission. It dehumanizes. It steals sovereignty. It robs a person of their sense of safety in their own environment and their own skin. There is no ability to consent when someone has power over another, whether it is economic, legal or by virtue of having given birth to the victim.
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Apologies after Sexual Misconduct: Genuine or Phony?

Many men must be shaking in their boots.

How many more accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior will make the front-page news? And when it does, how will the men respond?

If they take their lead from the President of the United States, who was called on the carpet for his sexually degrading remarks during the election season, they will make an apology that is insincere, inadequate and insipid. “I said it; I was wrong; and I apologized” was designed to call off the dogs and get back to the business of attacking Hillary.
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Kink: The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name, Even in Therapy

If you search, you’ll find that “BDSM Coach” is an actual job title on LinkedIn. The largest international convention in middle America is the International Mr. Leather contest, which brings together over 20,000 kinky attendees from all over the world. Nearly six million members belong to Fetlife, a Facebook-like online social network for folks into fetishes. Even Harvard University has a formally recognized student-run BDSM club.

So why does it seem that so many psychotherapists did not get the memo on working in a culturally competent way with this established sexual subculture? “The fact is kinky desires were -- until rather recently -- widely pathologized by the psychological community,” says Lauren Krpan, licensed professional counselor and trained sex therapist. “But so was homosexuality until the 1970s. We are working on removing stigma. There is nothing wrong with you if you’re kinky; it’s just your identified sexuality.”
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The Power of Preying: Why Men Target Women in the Workplace

The recent firestorm of allegations made by several female actors of unwanted sexual advances and rape seems to have exposed yet another powerful man, Harvey Weinstein, as an apparent sexual predator. Like that of his counterpart Anthony Weiner (and the alleged conduct of Bill Cosby), Weinstein’s alleged predation appears to have been fully calculated. Different than the garden-variety rapist who looks for opportunity in the moment, then lunges in an adrenaline high at his victim, such men in power deliberately orchestrate a scenario forcing their prey to service their deepest, darkest perversions and to remain silent.

These men have ample opportunity to groom the innocent by garnering their trust, seducing them with false promises, and banking that their terror of exposure will keep the victims from exposing the perpetrator. The predator, of course, knows that where he leads, the vulnerable prey must follow because they want or need something from him. When the predator finally strikes, the victim becomes disorientated -- a trusted, admired other has violated her. Sexual acts happen swiftly, sending the victim into a haze of confusion or freezing her ability to move or to determine what’s okay and what’s not in that one moment.
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Bouncing Back: Resilient Thrivers Tell Their Stories

This is the first in a series of articles about people who have survived life challenges that they never anticipated. For each of them, the unexpected brought lessons and skills that have helped them to move from victim to survivor to thriver.

Albert Borris is a 58-year-old man who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Moorestown, New Jersey. For three decades, he worked as a Student Assistance Counselor in a high school setting, guiding young people who were facing psychological and addiction oriented challenges. According to his colleagues and those whose lives he touched -- likely thousands over the years -- he was superb at his job. He is the father of three children; two young sons and a daughter who is following in her father’s footsteps professionally, now in graduate school earning her Masters of Social Work.
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Healing from Trauma Boosts Relationship Joy

Trauma happens. It’s not something people often talk about. Possibly, someone you’ve been getting to know and like, your relationship partner, or your spouse has experienced a horrific life changing event, such as a sudden or violent death or suicide of someone close, physical or sexual abuse, bullying, violence, (domestic or family, war or political), a life-threatening illness, or something else.

Healing takes both time and a willingness to face the trauma, whether it’s old, recent, large, or small. We cannot force readiness to deal with trauma. Each of us has our own timetable, which should be respected.
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The Nature of Post-Traumatic Growth

You’ve had a terrible, stressful experience. Maybe you’d even call it a trauma. Are you going to be debilitated by it for the rest of your life? Maybe; maybe not.

PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is a term that’s bandied about a lot in our current culture. But have you heard about its corollary, post-traumatic growth (PTG)? Probably not. Since it’s not a reimbursable diagnosis, it doesn’t capture the headlines that often. But, it’s important to recognize that people can emerge from life’s traumas stronger, more resilient and even happier than they once were.

How does this positive outcome occur? Let me show you the ways:
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#MeToo: You Too?

A viral campaign that has been making the rounds on social media comes equipped with a hashtag and an attempt to bring attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse, both in the workplace and in personal life. It arose because of the not so secret secret of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein (no relation to this author) threatening and assaulting women.

On October 15th, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: "If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet." She
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Helping Others Can Heal the Brain

The greatest show in Las Vegas history must be the recent outpouring of the best of humanity. The courage shown by professional rescuers and regular citizens reaching out to help, and even risking their lives to do so, leaves many of us wondering what would we do and what can we do to help others.
Making a positive difference in someone’s life doesn’t take a life-threatening effort. Simple kindnesses can go a long way for someone struggling. I was lucky enough to receive such help this summer.
I blew out my ankle. Really blew it out. As I enjoyed a walk with my husband, on slightly uneven pavement my foot slid off the side of my two-inch platform sandal. Three bones broke and the ankle dislocated.
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Free Live Webinar: Healing from an Unloving Mother

As central as the mother-child relationship is to psychological health, that of the mother and her daughter has its own specificity. Daughters whose emotional needs weren’t met in childhood or who were actively disparaged, ignored, controlled, or scapegoated emerge into adulthood with specific deficits. They may not even know the degree to which they’ve been wounded by their mothers’ treatment until they begin to flounder in life, embark on a series of failed relationships, find it hard to stay balanced and focused, or engage in self-destructive behaviors.
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The Las Vegas Shooting: A Therapist’s Perspective

In texting with my mother and sister about the mass shootings in Las Vegas, they shared their concerns, sadness and confusion. “Mental Illness?” my sister asked, as I am the professional… I suppose.

In my career I have worked with clients who have committed murder, who have had multiple cases of sexually assaulting young children or disabled victims, who have been witnesses to traumas of being held at gunpoint, sex trafficking, watching one parent shoot the other, incest by a parent. These are extreme cases and I wish I could say they are rare.

My reactions to mass shootings, the opioid drug epidemic, and other heart-wrenching situations that you wish were not reality, are extremely mixed. I have to react as a human being and as a therapist in the field. Maybe saying I “have to” is not accurate. In actuality, I am just internally torn.
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