World of Psychology


A Long Journey Home

I flew back from a conference last week sitting next to a man who was flying to Boston, so that he could drive to Springfield to bury his sister. He told me this as matter-of-factly as if he were telling me about his business, a deal he had just closed, or his favorite hobby. And then he broke down and started to cry.

It had been a long but peaceful trip. The man,...

Perfectionism: Ring the Bells

I recently dragged my kids to Baltimore so that I could have lunch with an old colleague (he's we've known each other for 13 years) at the National Catholic Education Association convention. A gifted writer and speaker, my friend can get his audience...

FDA Approves Symbyax for Treatment Resistant Depression

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Symbyax for the acute treatment of treatment-resistant depression (TRD). It is the first drug approved for this indication. Symbyax is a combination pill that combines olanzapine (Zyprexa) and fluoxetine HCl (a long-acting form of Prozac) in a single capsule. Symbyax is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company.

According to the company's press release:

The new Symbyax TRD indication is for acute treatment of adult patients with major depressive disorder who have not responded to...

Mentally Ill Violence in Nursing Homes?

In yet another example of sensationalism posing as legitimate journalism, the Associated Press's Carla K. Johnson penned an article over the weekend calling people with mental illness who live in nursing homes a "threat." What kind of threat? Well, according to the article, it...

Video: When a Friendship Ends

A few readers asked if I would write out the content of my videos in accompanying text. Here you go:

Friendships are a lot like marriages in that some are healthy and some are toxic, or unhealthy. But you sound pretty ridiculous explaining to people why you are sad: "Man, I just broke up with a friend, and it's really painful." But that is, in essence, what you are doing, and it needs to be treated the same way as a romantic relationship or marriage ending: with a lot of support and nurturing. As friendships develop and evolve, some don't have all the right ingredients to last. So it's right and natural that some break. But that period after the split is so awkward, for both people: the breaker-upper, or the breaker-uppee. I've sat in both seats.

I love the way Anne Morrow Lindbergh talks about friendships in her classic, "Gift from the Sea." She writes:

I shall ask into my shell only those friends with whom I can be completely honest. I find I am shedding hypocrisy in human relationships. What a rest that will be! The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.

I love that. Because I'm trying to be more sincere in my relationships. And as I do that I'm finding that some aren't as healthy as I thought. The only requirement lately that I've been asking myself is this: Do I feel empowered by this relationship? Or do I feel deflated? After having coffee or lunch with this person, do I feel better about myself? Does this person build me up? Or do I feel worse about myself? Does this person in some way take away from me?

When I ask that question it reveals to me whether the relationship is toxic or healthy.

Yesterday I was having a discussion with one of my friends about a friendship with which I'm frustrated, and she made a point that helped me understand why some of my relationships can't be healthy. She said, "It's hard to be in a true, loving, mutual friendship with a person who is so wounded that they can't reciprocate the love and the support."

Understood in that perspective, I feel less jaded, less hurt, by the person. I just know that she or he is so wounded that they can't act in any other way. It's not possible for them to be in a mutual loving relationship. Their wounds get in the way.

I'm going to close by reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh's excerpt again, because I find it so empowering:

I shall ask into my shell only those friends with whom I can be completely honest. I find I am shedding hypocrisy in human relationships. What a rest that will be! The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.

Mad As Hell: Anger and the Economy Part Three

Coping with Anger For the Long Haul

Maybe you've seen these headlines recently:
“As the Public Simmers…”
“…Anger Boils Over”
“The Outrage Factor”
“Rage Could End Up Hurting Us”

And my personal favorite, “Anger Mismanagement” which appeared last Saturday on the New York Times Op-Ed page. Charles M. Blow wrote:

“All the tumult is couched in a jumble of jargon that is confusing and infuriating. In laymen’s terms, the financial industry gambled and lost. This damaged the economy. And if we don’t save Wall Street, the world will implode.

Meanwhile, the worlds of many Americans are already imploding… It’s a mess.

Then came…the A.I.G. bonus imbroglio. Employees [at A.I.G. who] caused much of the problem were paid $165 million in bonuses. This I fully understand. And me no likey.

…my simmering anger finally has a target. I’m unapologetically, deliriously, cathartically belligerent about it.”

Stand in line, friend!

Righteous anger is not a bad thing. Personally I feel better when public figures like Andrew Cuomo gets seething mad. He gets mad so I don’t have to. It works. The opposite happens when public figures dither around explaining why they can’t do anything about a specific outrage or worse, why I shouldn’t be mad (the point of Mr. Blow’s article).

Anger about the economy can spill over to our everyday lives in such a way that it poisons our peace of mind and the very relationships we depend on to shore us up in times of trouble. According to all the signs it’s time to batten down the hatches, trim sails and settle in for a long bumpy ride. To prevent chronic anger from eroding your well-being, try the following:

Build an Ego Cushion. Caring for our bodies is the foundation on which all our behavior depends. If we neglect ourselves physically, our ego cushion is thin. Then the primitive impulses of our limbic system easily break through and we are prone to act out in destructive ways.

Eat & Drink. When our mood is off we tend to either not eat enough or eat too much of the wrong stuff. Go for your comfort foods, the kind of stuff you eat when you’re sick, but watch portions. Make the Oreos an occasional treat and keep chewy dried fruit or crunchy low fat pretzels in the pantry. Reduce sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

Sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well try the techniques described in Sleep and Your Sanity. Also, melatonin and valerian are two natural over-the-counter sleep aids used by ER doctors on rotating shifts. You can find them in your supermarket. If you still can’t sleep, talk to your doctor about the right prescription medication for you to help you get back on track.

Exercise. Working up a sweat in a kick boxing class, a good run or smacking a ball around is a good way to sublimate* anger. Make breaking and keeping a sweat for about fifteen minutes a day a prescribed habit, like brushing your teeth, not a luxurious indulgence.

Tired or Hungry? If you feel like one more demand on your attention is going make you explode ask yourself, "Am I tired or hungry or both?" Just the other day, after one long day of a long week, I was home five minutes when my husband asked me about an outstanding bill. In a split second the emotional steam built from my toes right out my ears. At least I knew I was very tired and very hungry so I literally closed my eyes, took a deep breath and announced I needed half an hour before any financial discussions could take place. It was a close call. I’m glad to say my husband is still alive.

Talk the Talk: Practice Good Communication Every Day. Be direct and non-defensive when something is bothering you. Many damaging arguments are averted because I try to let my loved ones know specifically what I’m angry or frustrated about as soon as possible. At times that's quite a challenge when we're afraid of the other person's reaction but the risk is worth it. The Power of Two, by Susan Heitler and Taking the War Out of Our Words, by Sharon Ellison, are good guides to powerful non-defensive communication for home and at the office too.

Reasonable vs. Unreasonable Thinking. Keep your frontal lobes engaged by asking yourself:

Is it reasonable for me to be furious because I lost my job while an incompetent boss gets a bonus? Yes.

Is it reasonable for me to yell at the kids because I lost my job? No.

When our thinking is reasonable and marked as reasonable we feel verified and that helps process the negative emotion. If we decide our thinking is unreasonable it gives us a chance to stop, and find the real source of our unhappiness. Do this effectively by using this dialog box exercise(Tip #3).

Avoid ‘absolute’ words. Like ‘never’, ‘always’, ‘can’t’. Absolute words are traps. Anger and anxiety feed off absolute thinking, aggravating an already tense situation. Life is more complicated than black and white and therefore more kind. Instead of “I’ll never find a job in this economy” try, “Finding a job in this economy is horrible but I’m smart, creative and I’ve got a willing partner. We’ll make a plan and find a way.”

*Sublimate: verb. To divert or modify an instinctual impulse into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity. Sublimate your anger; channel it. Write a letter to the editor or to your representative in Congress; join a team training for a charity marathon event; yell at the TV during the March Madness games. It’s all good.

Also in the Mad As Hell, Anger and the Economy series:
➢ Part One: Angry Yet?
➢ Part Two: How to Keep Anger From Going Nuclear

Coming up:
➢ Part Four: When Anger Consumes Your Loved One

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