Are You “Walking On Egg Shells In Your Relationship? This Quiz May Help!

January 8th, 2018

Certainly you have heard the expression “walking on egg shells”. Have you used it? Lived it? Currently living it? I hear this phrase said in many couples therapy sessions. Neil Rosenthal, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has written a quality article on the subject, including a questionnaire to help you determine if that is your reality. The answers may help you determine if you are living in such a way, perhaps even with a borderline personality companion. Take the quiz.

Answer each question with a O – not a problem; 1 – sometimes a problem; 2 – a problem half the time; 3 – a frequent concern; 4 – an ongoing problem of great concern.

1. Do you find yourself hiding thoughts or feelings because it is easier than dealing with your partner’s overreactions – or because talking about problems simply make them worse?

2. After you try to explain yourself to the other person, does s/he use your own words and contort them to prove his/her own point? Does your mate blame you or all the problems in his/her life, and your relationship, and refuse to acknowledge that his/her actions cause problems?

3. Is his/her temper so unpredictable that you’re constantly on your toes, adrenaline pumping, waiting for the next verbal attack? Is it difficult to enjoy the good times because you’ve learned never to let your guard down?

4. When you come home from work each day, do you wonder whether Dr. Jeckel or Mr. Hyde will greet you at the door?

5. Do you feel manipulated, controlled or even lied to sometimes in an attempt for your partner to get what s/he wants?

6. Does your mate seem to demand constant attention? Is everything always about him/her?

7. Are you afraid to ask for things in the relationship because you’ll be told you’re selfish and demanding? Does s/he imply or show by example that your needs are not as important as his/her needs?

8. Do you feel that your partner’s expectations of you are constantly changing so that you can never do anything right?

9. Are you accused of doing things you never did and saying things you never said? Do you feel misunderstood? When you try to explain, do you find that your partner doesn’t believe you?

10. Do other people remark that your partner is verbally or emotionally abusive? Do they encourage you to leave the relationship?

11. If and when you try to leave, does your partner prevent you from departing?

12. Do you have a hard time planning social engagements, vacations, and other activities because the other person’s moodiness, impulsiveness or unpredictability may destroy your plans at the last minute?

Okay, what did you come up with? According to Dr. Rosenthal a score of 20 or more indicates that your partner probably has a Borderline Personality Disorder. A score of 11-20 indicates a relationship with a “borderline” borderline: someone who may have borderline personality leanings but who can keep them somewhat in check. A score of 11 or below probably means that the person in your life does not have a Borderline Personality Disorder.

Let me stress that this questionnaire is not a diagnostic tool per se. Dr. Rosenthal is putting it out there to help you reflect on your relationship. Are you “walking on egg shells”? Does your partner have possible Borderline Personality Disorder traits? If the answers are pointing out these negatives, please see a qualified Marriage and Family Therapist pronto!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Slow Your Aging! Learn How To Evolve Your Brain

December 28th, 2017

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

If you are of a certain age, or advanced wisdom, you will be concerned about how your brain functions. Slowing cognitive decline, managing negative emotions, stifling brain cell death, while maximizing brain capacity and efficiency are worthy efforts for those aware of the possibilities available. If you are one of those people, Respected Reader, continue on this journey that fascinates me and could be additive to your life.

I have read books, been to conferences, and used myself as a “guinea pig” to better understand the ability to evolve the brain. Some salient points follow.

Evolving your brain contrasts with static activity that gradually erodes the capacity of the brain to function. This evolution, or creation, of new brain cells involves the Hebbian learning theory which is “neurons that fire together, wire together.” In other words, use it or you lose it! Get “fired up”!

Through the process of creativity, association and repetition new neurological pathways are developed and strengthened. You must actively seek new knowledge and ways of thinking and acting, as well as repeating and using current knowledge, to energize the brain. The brain, acting like a computer, is the processing center for all you think, feel and do.

Most people as they age, hopefully not you, Respected Reader, continue to think and act in comfortable familiar ways. They are stuck. By not being creative the brain, like your body deteriorates. The brain develops “hardening of the categories.”

Let’s be practical and realistic. As you look around at many older people what do you often see? Do you see increased negativity, complaining, criticizing, struggling to adjust to new information (“back in my day”), holding on to irrational beliefs, etc… . These people are stuck in static auto pilot thinking which has reduced the telomeres in their brain. (Read up on telomeres!). These people have a greater probability of dementia. Choose not to be such as these as you gracefully and actively age.

It is truly amazing how you can create new brain cells, neuroplasticity, by actively changing the way you think, feel and do things. Heightened awareness, positive thinking, seeking knowledge, optimistically seeing possibilities rather than expecting disappointments, “changing the channel” from depressing or negative thoughts, having loving and fun experiences, etc… can energize your brain to operate more efficiently and growfully. The brain is a powerful tool that can be manipulated by a person with cultivated awareness of what is going on inside the brain. One more time, cultivated awareness.

Certainly there are other complementary components to maximizing optimal brain and body health over the ages. Reducing stress, exercising, meditating, eating healthy, plenty of sleep, taking certain supplements, nurturing and being nurtured, etc… all are beneficial elements for slowing the erosion dimension of your life cycle.

Two authors that have impressed me relative to this subject are Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Joe Dispenza. Both eloquently write about neuroplasticity, changing the brain. Dr. Amen has done incredible work in brain imaging. It is amazing to see what the brain looks like when depressed, anxious, suffering from ADD/ADHD, and other brain states!

I know this is “heady” stuff, Respected Reader, but it is important for you if you want to do all you can to slow the aging process and live a vital energizing seeking way of life. It’s worth it!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

“10 Mistakes Smart People Never Make Twice”!

December 15th, 2017

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

Ever made a mistake? Repeated it? Most of you, and me, have done so. Perhaps we just need to get smarter. According to prolific writer, Dr. Travis Bradberry, “smart” people never make a mistake twice. Who are the “smart” people?

Researchers from the Clinical Psychophysiology Lab at Michigan State University found that people fall into two groups when it comes to making mistakes: those who have a “fixed mind set” (“forget this, I’ll never be good at it”) and those who have a “growth mind set” (“wake up call! Let’s see what I did wrong so I won’t do it again”). Those with a growth mind set acknowledge their mistakes and use them to get better. They have the commitment and tools in place to learn from their errors. Those with the fixed mind set are bound to repeat their mistakes because they try their best to ignore them. And which type are you, Respected Reader?

Dr. Bradberry’s  tips on how to not repeat mistakes. If you want to get “smarter” embrace the following directives.

1. BELIEVING IN SOMEONE OR SOMETHING THAT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: Naivety and lack of due diligence can be catastrophic. I remember making a foolish stock investment years ago that turned out to be a dud. A stockbroker near my office was all hyped about it – and I bought in. The stock sunk, as did my trust in him. Did not use him again and have since researched much better my stock choices.

2. DOING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER AND EXPECTING A DIFFERENT RESULT:  Famous Einstein quote. Smart people know that if you want a different result, they need to change their approach, even when it’s painful to do so. I see this in my practice when certain people keep dating and marrying the same type of people – and failing.

3. FAILING TO DELAY GRATIFICATION: This is particularly true during these times of instant news and communication. Smart people know that you have to put in the hard work, whether it be in career or personal relationships, in order to get the reward.

4. OPERATING WITHOUT A BUDGET: Budgets are built on analysis, commitment, and discipline. Such traits are necessary for any worthwhile goal.

5. LOSING SIGHT OF THE BIG PICTURE: Getting caught up in details, needing instant gratification, not adequately seeing the ultimate goal lead to failure. “Keep your eye on the prize!”

6. NOT DOING YOUR HOMEWORK: Shortcuts don’t work. You must pay the price, do the grunt work, get in the trenches, in order to get the desired result.

7. TRYING TO BE SOMEONE OR SOMETHING YOU’RE NOT: This is a big one. Fake leads to failure. Authenticity and integrity, being real, are the core of who you are. Display with openness and confidence.

8. TRYING TO PLEASE EVERYONE: It doesn’t work. You become a chameleon with no core of essence. You must know who you are and live it out with integrity and consistency.

9. PLAYING THE VICTIM: This is a form of manipulation by a weak person. By trying this tactic you unwittingly give up your power – and that makes no sense.

10. TRYING TO CHANGE SOMEONE: People change only when they want to and have the wherewithal to accomplish it. You cannot “fix” someone. Instead, built your life around genuine positive people that can synergize with you into moving forward.

What do you think, Respected Reader? Do you practice some or all of these directives? Perhaps they may serve as a reminder to lessen your mistakes. I leave you with this favorite quote of mine from Nelson Mandela, “I never lose, I either win or I learn”.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates

Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: jstathas13@gmail.com. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com. Blog: drstathas.com”

Still Disagreeing About What Happened “Yesterday”? Stop Now!

December 6th, 2017

One of the biggest problems in communication is when people continue to argue over things that happened in the past, recently or years ago. No where is it more bruising and destructive than in committed romantic relationships.

In practically every couple therapy session that I have one person will say that s/he is still upset about something the other person said or did. The other person will say that s/he is wrong. This or that was not said or done. “No way!” To which the other person says, “Yes, it was!”  Ad infinitum. Escalation continues. Tempers flare. Both are invested in their belief of the situation. Does anyone win? No. Does compromise happen? No.

People get invested in their perception. Get that? “Perception”. One definition I read stated that perception is “A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.” Notice the definition said “a” way, not “the” way.  (I will never forget my first Scripture class in the seminary when the professor held up a book and said that the name of it was “A History of Israel”. Then he said, “Gentleman, note the title is “A history” … not “The history”. Point made.)

Perception is a SUBJECTIVE sensory experience. It is not objective. So-o-o, when someone states that this or that occurred, s/he is stating his or her subjective remembering of the situation. When people start arguing in my office about what had happened or said I ask them to stop talking. Then I ask if either of them brought with them the video or audio tape of this situation. Of course, they did not.

Then I say there will be no more mention of the who did or did not do what the other person says happened. Further discussion will focus on the needs and wants of each going forward and how to best communicate and effectuate such positive outcomes. The past cannot be changed and to continue to argue about it is destructive. Let it go, move on!

This moving on is hard for most individuals in this power exchange. S/he wants to be right, to be vindicated. Well, if one person needs to be “right”, then the other person needs to be “wrong”. And who wants that – nobody!

When such disagreements about the past need closure I ask each individual to say something like this, “I thought that’s what was said, maybe I am wrong” and the other person says the same. “Wiggle room” results with nobody having to “win” and a respectful communication allowing each to move on while letting go of needing to be “right”.

 

Respected Reader, may you do your best to not get caught up in the negative past. “You cannot go forward while looking back over your shoulder.” Maximize living in the present with an eye open to create a wonderful future. Respectful communication in this vein leads to more smiles and connectedness with the other person. Well worth this extra effort!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

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Stressed: Tips For The “Stress Proof Brain”!

November 24th, 2017

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Americans had the most statistically significant increase in stress levels in the last ten years. Such stress is debilitating to both brain and body. Stress destroys! Psychologist Melanie Greenberg has authored a new book, “The Stress Proof Brain”, to help interested folks combat stress. She presents five tips. Coincidentally, these are the five tips I teach my clients/patients. Here they are, along with my commentary.

  1. LIVE IN THE MOMENT: Too often people stress/worry about something from the past or what might occur in the future. Focus on the here and now. Calm down by listening to your breathing and/or find a type of meditation that work for you. Vigorous exercise assists. These efforts calm the brain and fight off anxiety.
  2. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL: Actively compartmentalizing what you can control and re-directing your mind to that which you can control lowers your irrational stress.
  3. EXAMINE YOUR THOUGHTS: If a pervasive thought is negative and stressful, “change the channel” – change to a different thought that is positive. While this is not always easy, especially when you are obsessing, it is worth the effort to try and do this. The more you do it the easier it becomes. You can control what thoughts, and consequent feelings, are present in your brain more that you might think
  4. PRACTICE SELF COMPASSION: Too often you can get down on yourself, blaming or criticizing. Be gentle with yourself. Learn to love yourself and display it in various ways.
  5. FIND LIKE MINDED PEOPLE: Sharing your thoughts, feelings, and time with positive caring people helps to reduce stress and help you find solutions when needed. Being accepted and nurtured is stress reducing.

Respected Reader, I hope you will take a minute to examine what your stress level is. Regardless of the intensity these five tips can lower it and help you function at a better level. If these practical tips don’t help you may have a deeper more resistant anxiety and might want to consider psychotherapy as a remedy.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates