Category Archives for "Coping"

3 Ways to Harness Your Brain’s Power & Change Your Life

Between psychology, medical science and neuroscience, we have never known so much about the human mind. Recently I’ve been amazed at the number and quality of studies which are showing us the amount of pure power our brains have; powers that are truly amazing. Powers that change the meaning of the old phrase, “put your mind to it.”

Here are a few of my favorite discoveries of what our brains can do:

  1. Build muscles and increase your metabolism: In a study by Ranganathan, et al., 2004 a group of people who listened to guided imagery of themselves going through a strength training work-out built almost as much muscle mass as people who actually did the work-outs. Scientists think that the mental process of imagining a work-out releases the same hormones to build muscle that are released during an actual exercise session.

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The Four Greatest Psychological Discoveries of 2014

Every day of every year, scientists toil away in their efforts to understand the workings of the human mind. What makes us happy? How do our emotions work? What should we be doing differently in our lives to make ourselves healthier, happier and stronger?

Each year, a few studies stand out as particularly helpful by outlining a clear path to accomplish a better and healthier life; studies that everyone should know about. Here are four such studies from the year 2014. I hope they will help you to shape your coming year.

  1. We look for happiness in all the wrong places: We typically think of major life events, raises, large purchases, and success as the main sources of happiness in our lives. 

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Stressful Family? 10 Mantras to Get You Through the Holidays

Is your family happy and supportive? Are your holiday family gatherings warm, loving and festive? If so, that is wonderful. And you can stop reading this article now.

Is your family complicated? Do you often feel hurt, pained, disappointed, damaged, or let down when your family is together? If so, this article is for you. Never fear, help is here. (For more about painful family dynamics, take a look at last week’s article, 4 Subtle Family Dynamics That Can Ruin Your Holidays.)

No, of course we can’t fix your family issues before this year’s holiday gathering. But we can give you some new tools to get you through it. One of the most powerful tools to cope with a painful family is a mantra. It’s a sentence that you repeat inside your head over and over throughout the day. You can call upon it whenever you need to feel calmer and stronger.  It serves to remind you what’s really going on in your family. It focuses your attention, and it provides you with the strength and resolve to get you through the day.

While going through the list below, choose the one that feels most right to you. It should be one that you can feel in your gut. It should make you feel a little stronger as you say it.

Here are Ten Mantras to choose from:Continue reading

4 Subtle Family Dynamics That Can Ruin Your Holidays

Do you look forward to seeing your family at the holidays, but then often come away feeling vaguely disappointed, confused, angry or guilty?

If this is true of you, then you need answers to what is truly going on in your family.  And you need them quickly since The Holidays are here. Is it possible to make this year’s family gathering less disappointing?

Yes.

As a psychologist I have found that as adults, family dynamics have the power to make or break our holidays. And that family dynamics have the most power when they run under the surface, unseen and unknown by the family members themselves.

The bad news: it is often very difficult to change your family dynamics. The good news: it is usually not necessary to change them. Being able to see what is really going on between family members is enough to make you less vulnerable.

Here are Four Subtle Family Dynamics that can ruin your holidays:Continue reading

7 Steps to Conquer a Painful Emotion

Having intense feelings is simply a part of being alive. No one gets a free pass.

But some feelings just keep coming back again and again, like an old nemesis who refuses to leave us alone. They can drive us to do unhealthy things or make poor choices. And they can make us supremely uncomfortable.

Last week’s article, Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion, was about how to sit with, and tolerate, an intense, painful feeling. This week, we’ll talk about how to resolve the feeling so that it actually goes away.

If you find that emotions are extra challenging for you, it may be a sign that you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect. If your parents didn’t know how to handle feelings, they likely were not able to teach you. Now, as an adult, you must learn these skills on your own. The good news is that you can!

Did you know that being able to tolerate a feeling and resolving it in the long-term are closely related? Here’s why:

In order to make an intense feeling go away, you have to be able to sit with it and tolerate it.

7 Steps for Resolving an Intense EmotionContinue reading

Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion

Recently I received this request from a reader:

What I have found lacking is books or articles on the process of revealing my feelings, the associated pain and some kind of plan to work through the feelings that would help DURING the healing process. Knowing the common steps of healing would be very encouraging and provide both patience and hope.

When you push your feelings down as a child in order to cope with an environment which cannot tolerate them (Childhood Emotional Neglect), you grow up lacking access to your emotions. A large part of the process of healing involves breaking down the wall between yourself and your feelings, and welcoming them.

But what if many of those old feelings are painful? What if the process is so painful that it’s too hard to let the wall down? What if you lack the skills needed to cope with the pain because no one ever taught you?

Managing painful feelings happens on Two Levels:

  1. In the Moment: Coping
  2. The Long-Term: Resolving

Next week’s article will be about Level 2: Long-Term Resolving. So check back!

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Childhood Emotional Neglect: Real People, Real Stories

Some of the most powerful words are those of real people sharing their stories. Some of the quotes below were emailed to me (with permission to share), and some were posted as comments on my website. Here is a sampling of the real words of people who grew up with CEN.

The CEN Childhood

The first 16 years of my life that my family lived together, I can’t remember a single meaningful or real communication that occurred between any of us in that time.

My feelings and emotions were the last things on my parents’ minds. The best they could do was provide a home with basic amenities.

I honestly don’t remember my parents much at all, though both are still alive and married today.

I never heard the phrase “I love you.”  There was no one to talk to, no one who cared. I brought myself up in every sense of the word.

I remember the intense indescribable pain that I felt as a young child when my mother wouldn’t acknowledge the simple child affection I wanted to give.Continue reading

Robin Williams and Childhood Emotional Neglect

After Robin Williams’ sad and shocking suicide, friends, family, fellow stars, and even reporters offered multiple explanations for the virtually inexplicable:

Why did he do it?

Some of the many possible factors which have been proposed are depression, alcohol, drugs, and Parkinsons Disease. But I see another potential factor which is never mentioned by anyone. A factor which falls between the cracks just as its sufferers do: Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).Continue reading

Childhood Emotional Neglect: How to Stop Your Fatal Flaw in its Tracks

The Fatal Flaw: A deep-seated feeling that something is wrong with you. You are missing something that other people have. You are living life on the outside, looking in. You don’t quite fit in anywhere.

If you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN), chances are, The Fatal Flaw is at work in your life.

If you pushed your feelings away as a child, you now lack access to them as an adult. You sense deep down that something is missing (it’s your emotions).  And your life lacks the richness, connection and meaning that your feelings should be bringing to your life. This is the basic cause of the Fatal Flaw. Most people who have it are not aware of it, and this gives it incredible power.

The 7 Key Effects of Your Fatal Flaw

  1. You are not in touch with your gut feelings, so you don’t trust your gut (even though for the majority of CEN folks, their gut is most often right).
  2. It undermines your confidence to take risks.
  3. It makes you uncomfortable in social situations.
  4. It keeps many of your relationships at a surface level.
  5. It makes you question the meaning and purpose of your life.
  6. It makes you fear that if people get to know you well, they won’t like what they see.
  7. Therefore you are quite fearful of rejection.

6 Ways to Take Control of Your Fatal Flaw

  1. Become aware of your Fatal Flaw: This will take away its power.
  2. Understand that your Fatal Flaw is not a real flaw. It’s only a feeling.
  3. A feeling can be managed, so start to manage it. Pay attention to when you feel it, and how it affects you.
  4. Put it into words and tell someone about it.
  5. Override it every time that you possibly can. Do the opposite of everything your Fatal Flaw tells you to do.
  6. Start breaking down the wall between you and your feelings. Welcome them as the vital source of information, guidance, and richness that they are (even the painful ones).

Yes, your Fatal Flaw is powerful. But so are you. You have a great deal of personal power that is being drained by your Fatal Flaw.

So today’s the day. Declare war on your Fatal Flaw, and start using your weapons of awareness, your emotions, your intellect, and your words.

This is a battle that you can win. I promise.

To learn more about the Fatal Flaw, what caused it and how to overcome it, see the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

A version of this article was originally published on Psychcentral.com and has been republished here with the permission of the author.

Recommended Reading for Childhood Emotional Neglect

Recently I was interviewed for a podcast on the Personality Disorders Awareness Network which took questions from listeners. One of the questions was a request for names of other books about Childhood Emotional Neglect (besides my books, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect  and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children).

Although Running on Empty (2012) and Running On Empty No More (2018) are the first and only books specifically about CEN, there are a number of other books which talk about important aspects of CEN in a  very helpful way. Here is a list of a few of the self-help books in my waiting room, and the particular aspects of CEN that are addressed by each. I hope you find them helpful.

  1. Self-Esteem by McKay & Fanning: I recommend this book for two adult CEN struggles. The first is Unrealistic Self-Appraisal (page 80 of Running on Empty). If you have difficulty identifying your own strengths and weaknesses or your own personal preferences and personality traits as is often a problem for people with CEN, there is an exercise in this book which addresses it directly. Secondly, if your unrealistic self-appraisal is skewed in the negative direction, that is the definition of low self-esteem. This book offers education, explanation, understanding and thought-provoking approaches to increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence.
  2. If You Had Controlling Parents by Dan Neuharth, PhD, Stop Walking on Eggshells, by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger, and Children of the Self-Absorbed by Nina Brown, EdD are very helpful if your CEN is a product of parents who fall into the following Parent Types (page 14 of Running on Empty): Narcissistic, Authoritarian, Addicted, Achievement/Perfection or Sociopathic. In these two books, you will learn more about how your parents affected you, how to set boundaries with them as an adult, and more.
  3. I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Terrence Real. If you are a man or have a man in your life who struggles with emotional awareness, expression, and connection, often a result of CEN, this book is a compassionate and enriching view of what that struggle is like and how to get out of it.
  4. Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. These books are about one of the most primary struggles of the CEN person: alexithymia (p. 98 of Running on Empty), as well as the purpose and usefulness of emotion (p. 120 of Running on Empty). Both books are very readable and interesting and will educate you on the most important principles of emotion: how it works, what it does, and how important it is to understand and navigate the world of feelings.
  5. Your Perfect Right by Alberti & Emmons. This book is essentially a course in how to improve a number of struggles outlined in the Self-Care section of Running on Empty (p. 138 of Running on Empty). Like saying “no,” asking for help, and speaking up for yourself in general.

I will update this list as I discover more books. If you have found a particular book helpful, please post it in the Comments Section of this blog, and I will add it to the list.

This article was originally published on Psychcentral.com and has been republished here with the permission of the author and PsychCentral