Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Help for Dealing With a High-Conflict Custody Dispute

How to respond when your ex provokes you

When you’re dealing with a high-conflict custody dispute, it’s important to remain level-headed and stand your ground. Here are some tips for coping when your ex repeatedly tries to antagonize you over your custody arrangement:

Practice self-awareness. You can’t change how the other person behaves, but you can change the way you respond or contribute to the situation. Especially if you’re dealing with an extremely high-conflict personality who’s manipulative or accustomed to getting his or her own way, focusing on what you know to be true about yourself and the situation will help you stay grounded.

Write it all down. Start keeping a journal where you can document not only your interactions with your ex, but also your own feelings. In particular, you’ll want to look for patterns that can help you create routines for dealing with the situation. And remember, your goal isn’t to change your ex’s behavior -- because you don’t have any control over that. What you want to do—and can do—is identify small changes that will make the situation easier for your children and yourself.

Surround yourself with positive influences. Think about who you listen to most. Is it your best friend? A family member? Make an intentional effort to surround yourself with positive people who will help you be more assertive without unnecessarily making you more upset or adding drama.

Set boundaries with your ex. Put limits on when you’ll answer the phone, text, and meet to discuss the situation. For example, let your ex know that you’re available until 8 p.m. to talk on the phone or text, but that your phone will be set to silent after that. And when you need to discuss custody and other issues in person, make a point of meeting in a public place where you feel comfortable.

Compromise when appropriate.
You don’t want to become a doormat or for one voluntary compromise to suggest that your ex can have his or her way all the time. However, it can be extremely effective to proactively offer up a compromise that is important to your ex but doesn’t cost you more than you’re willing to give up. When possible, try to be as flexible with you ex as you’d like him or her to be with you.

Work with a lawyer you trust. Don’t attempt to navigate a bitter custody battle on your own. Hire an attorney who knows the child custody laws in your state and has experience practicing family law. If money is an issue, contact your state Bar Association for referrals to pro-bono legal services and legal clinics in your area.

Develop a written parenting plan. Put your agreements down on paper so that you have something to refer to when either of you asks for changes or claims that the custody arrangement isn’t being followed. Some states require a parenting plan, but even if your state doesn’t, a clearly written parenting plan will make it more difficult for your ex to manipulate the situation or claim that you’re not following the plan you both agreed to. Be sure to include details like transportation, when each visit will start and end, and how you plan to handle school holidays, as well.

Most parents will see improvement with the steps outlined above. However, if you’re experiencing a particularly high-conflict custody dispute with an individual who’s become aggressive or unstable, it may be safer to back off. The following recommendations are for situations where safety may be compromised by continuing to use rational communication methods:

Seek counseling. Particularly if you’re trying to co-parent with a narcissistpersonality, you should consider speaking with a professional. This will give you a safe place to unload all that you’re dealing with while also providing strategies for coping and remaining differentiated from any drama your ex is attempting to stir up.

Minimize contact. If your ex frequently lashes out at you, take steps to minimize contact with him or her. While I don’t recommend zero contact, unless safety is an issue, it can helpful to limit contact to conversations that are absolutely necessary.

Stay on topic. Avoid venturing off into topics that could worsen the conflict between you. For example, don’t bring up old arguments that aren’t likely be resolved and don’t allow yourself to react when your ex tries to stir up trouble with accusations or inflammatory words.

Consider a restraining order. This is only recommended in situations where your safety or your children’s safety is at risk. Never exaggerate circumstances in an effort to secure a restraining order, as this will only work against you. To get a restraining order, contact your local police station or—in an emergency—call 911.

Finally, remember that the purpose of every communication with your ex is to facilitate his or her ongoing relationship with your children—a relationship that your kids have a right to experience. To the extent that you can, try to put your differences behind you and work toward developing a more healthy co-parenting relationship. And remember, your co-parenting relationship is still developing; with help, it won't always be as difficult as it is today.


Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A Diplomatic Divorce is the Only Way to Go

In an ideal world, all weddings would result in fairytale marriages and happy endings. No one would ever disagree, cheat, grow apart, lie or lose interest, and divorces would never happen. Of course, that world does not exist.

Divorce is an unfortunate reality of life for many people. It's not always a bad thing. People grow, mature and grow apart over time, and some marriages cannot sustain these changes. For some people, the divorce is sudden and unexpected; for others, it's a slow process of marital decay until the separation is inevitable. No matter why the marriage fell apart, the divorce itself is bound to be an emotional period that's difficult for all parties involved.

Some things will make the process easier for everyone, however, especially if there are children in the mix. By setting aside the hurt feelings and working through the practical aspects of getting the divorce finalized, you can both move on with your lives as quickly and painlessly as possible.

What is an Amicable Divorce?

For people in the throes of a divorce, it may seem anything but amicable. Many separations are preceded by months or even years of arguing, blame-placing, lies or other major issues. Even people who end a relationship on generally good terms may still feel hurt and overwhelmed, and it can be hard to see the divorce clearly and objectively.

An amicable divorce is one where both parties can agree to terms of spousal support, child support, custody and the division of assets without needing a judge to make those decisions for you. An amicable divorce is always uncontested, meaning both parties agree that the marriage is over and are willing to work toward bringing it to a peaceful resolution.
In understanding a diplomatic divorce, it may be helpful to understand what it's not:

  • It doesn't mean that you'll both be friends. Although some divorcees are able to maintain friendships with their exes, this is not the norm (certainly not the level of friendship as before) and it's not something that you should expect.
  • It doesn't mean that the divorce will be painless. You have the right to grieve for the loss of your marriage, and nothing can take that right away from you. Approaching the divorce with a clear head will simply help resolve it quickly and without adding more pain.
  • It doesn't mean that you'll get everything you want. A diplomatic divorce is fair, which means both sides will come out mostly even. Neither party really "wins" a divorce, so don't expect to leave the proceedings feeling triumphant.

Once you understand what an amicable divorce really is, it becomes easier to see why it's the best choice. If you can, you should always strive to end your marriage on a diplomatic note; this is doubly important if you have children and plan to share custody.

Why Get a Diplomatic Divorce?

One of the best reasons to try for an amicable divorce is so that your children's lives are as unaffected as possible. Divorce puts a huge strain on families, and children have an especially difficult time adjusting. If you can end the relationship in a way that enables you to communicate civilly, it will be easier for your children to adjust to their new lifestyle. It will also make sharing custody more bearable, and you won't have as much resentment every time you see each other.

Children aren't the only reason to have a diplomatic divorce, however. Even if you don't have children, you can benefit from an equal agreement about dividing your assets and arranging spousal support. Moreover, settling a divorce amicably will provide both members of the couple more control over the separation of property, custody and other important matters.

When a divorce goes to court, the judge ultimately decides who should be granted what. While the judge will attempt to divide assets fairly, the division may not be ideal for both parties. If you can come to an agreement outside of court, you will be better prepared for the terms of the divorce and have more freedom and flexibility than if a judge decided the terms of your divorce for you.

It will also make the divorce process itself much faster and easier. Uncontested divorces are settled quickly, and if you agree to things in advance, you won't have to spend as much time in court. This will save you time, money and frustration and allow you to begin building your new life without devoting so much time to divorce proceedings.

How to Have a Diplomatic Divorce

The first key to having a successful diplomatic divorce is to choose an attorney who can help you with the process. Make sure to choose an attorney who understands that you want to end the divorce easily and amicably. Some lawyers have a more aggressive approach that will make it harder to end the divorce diplomatically.

Once you've retained a lawyer, it's important to make sure that your ex is willing to end the marriage diplomatically and knows what that will involve. Try to have a discussion with them about your wishes so that you can set realistic expectations. Being in agreement about having an amicable divorce will make the rest of the process much easier.

In some cases, if you and your ex are on the same page, you may be able to resolve the entire divorce without going to court. Both members of the couple will fill out the necessary paperwork, exchange documents and work through difficulties as they arise. Generally one person will file for the divorce and the other will accept it. This is called a pro se divorce and requires negotiation and open communication, but you might find it worthwhile.

If a pro se divorce is too difficult, a collaborative divorce may make more sense. In this case, both members of the couple will retain lawyers and handle all communication through these attorneys. This allows the negotiation to take place outside of court, allowing a couple to resolve the marriage as peacefully as possible and retain more control over the divorce itself.

Using attorneys as negotiators is a good compromise for couples who want to end a divorce diplomatically but are unable to collaborate with each other to complete the process. This ensures that both parties are treated fairly in the divorce without requiring the individuals to do all of the legwork for the divorce themselves. Of course, this will only work if both attorneys are on the same page. If your spouse retains a cut-throat, aggressive lawyer, the negotiation may not go smoothly and you may end up in court after all.

No matter how you decide to handle your divorce, you may be required by the state to go through mediation. The mediator is a neutral third party who will help negotiate the divorce whether or not you decide to retain an attorney. If you both agree that mediation is unnecessary, the district will usually waive the requirement, but a mediator may be able to help you work out the requirements of your divorce.

A Diplomatic Divorce is the Only Way to Go

Whenever possible, it's best to have an amicable divorce. It may be difficult to see this at first, especially if there's a lot of anger about the situation, but it's important to separate the failed marriage from the divorce in your mind. Ultimately, a divorce is not about the relationship; a divorce is the separation of finances, property and activities. It's more like dissolving a business partnership.

By approaching the divorce rationally and treating it diplomatically, as if you were negotiating a treaty, you can arrive at a solution that will benefit both partners as equally as possible. What "equally" means will vary from one couple to the next; for some, it might mean that one person gets alimony payments until they're able to recover from the financial impact of losing spousal support. For others, it might mean simply selling all belongings and dividing the profits equally.

This is where keeping a level head and considering your future is vital to an amicable divorce. Rather than worrying about blame or punishment, you can focus purely on the task of dividing assets fairly and moving on with the least possible amount of pain for you, your ex and your family.

And of course, you can always ask your divorced friends (we all have them) what is the best way to go. Odds are all of them would have gone the diplomatic way if they had the time back.


Monday, 29 October 2018

The Life of the Alienated Parent

Coping with the Trauma of Parental Alienation

According to the work of Dr. Craig Childress, parental alienation is first and foremost an attachment-based trauma. Attachment-based parental alienation is essentially a role reversal of a normal, healthy parent-child relationship. Instead of serving as a “regulatory other,” which involves providing stability and meeting the child’s emotional and psychological needs, alienating parents use their children to meet their own needs, violating boundaries and seriously compromising and damaging the child’s healthy development.

Enduring the experience of parental alienation is also a profound form of psychological trauma experienced by targeted parents. It is both acute and chronic, and externally inflicted. It is thus a type of domestic violence directed at the target parent. The fact that children witness such abuse of a parent also makes alienation a form of child abuse. This is perhaps the principal source of anxiety for the alienated parents, who witness the abuse of their children, and are prevented from protecting them.

This psychological trauma of alienated parents differs from what groups like combat veterans face when they develop PTSD, yet the experience of targeted parents is a form of trauma as debilitating as any other. Although not all parents who are victims of parental alienation experience trauma, as the same event that plunges one parent into trauma may not do so with another, those who are closely attached to their children and were actively involved in their lives most certainly do.

Parental alienation is also a form of complex trauma. It is no coincidence that the pathology of the parent who engages in alienation is often born in complex trauma from the childhood of that parent, and that the current processes of attachment-based parental alienation are transferring onto the targeted parent a form of complex trauma. The childhood trauma experience leads to the development of the aggression behind parental alienation. From a psychodynamic perspective, the processes of parental alienation represent a reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the alienating parent into the current family relationships. The trauma reenactment narrative represents a false drama created by the pathology of the alienating parent, in which the targeted parent is being assigned the trauma reenactment role as the “abusive parent;” the child is being induced into accepting the trauma reenactment role as the supposedly “victimized child;” and the alienating parent adopts the role of the “protective parent.” None of this false drama, however, is true. The parenting of the targeted parent is entirely in normal range, and the child is in no danger and does not need any protection from that parent.

A major impediment for victimized parents is that the problem is largely systemic in nature, as support services for alienated parents are virtually non-existent, and support services for their children are also in short supply. When parents of alienated children attempt to bring their concerns to child welfare authorities, as parental alienation is a form of child abuse and thus a child protection matter, these agencies often disregard the problem, and when they do become involved, rarely share their findings in family court child custody hearings, despite the fact that this information will serve the best interests of the child.

In parental alienation situations the targeted parent is put on the defensive, and must continually try to prove to therapists and others that he or she is not “abusive” of the child. The targeted parent is often blamed for the child’s rejection, even though he or she did nothing wrong: “You must have done something wrong if your child doesn’t want to be with you.” It is often deemed irrelevant that the parenting practices of the targeted parent are entirely within normal range. The alienating parent, often skilled in the use of adversarial combat (and thus rewarded within the current adversarial system), thus has the upper hand. In this upside-down world, your child is being taken from you, and no one seems to care or understand. The emotional trauma inflicted on the targeted parent is severe, and the grief of the targeted parent is deep.

The trauma experience captivates the psychology of the targeted parent, as the world of the targeted parent revolves entirely around the trauma experience and the false drama. 
Repeated court dates, lawyers, therapists, custody evaluations, that all occur in the context of continuing parent-child conflict, consume the targeted parent. Yet it is vital for targeted parents to find ways of coping with the attachment-based complex trauma of parental alienation. They must strive to achieve the triumph of light over the darkness of trauma, and find their way out of the trauma experience being inflicted upon them. They must free themselves from the imposed trauma experience, restoring their psychological health within the immense emotional trauma of their grief and loss.

As much as targeted parents desperately want to save their children, they cannot rescue their children from the quicksand by jumping into the quicksand with them. If they do, they will both perish. Instead, they must have their feet firmly planted on the ground, steady in your own emotional and psychological health, and then extend your hand to retrieve your child. But even then, given the nature of parental alienation and its profoundly damaging effects on a child, a child may not grasp the parent’s hand.


Friday, 26 October 2018

6 Divorce success stories

So you married your best friend now you're getting divorced -- now what? As devastating as the idea of divorce sounds, it's not necessarily going to pan out negatively. In fact, we found lots of divorce success stories out there. We don't know what the ratio is with divorce success stories versus non-successes. But it's safe to say, there is light at the end of the tunnel, according to these divorcees...

1. Better as Colleagues
"I am a very successful divorcee. I married the love of my life, and after 12 years of a great partnership, we changed and realized we loved each other so much that we had to let each other go. Since we divorced, we have worked together professionally and love it! My 'was-band' found an amazing woman and we are both happier, healthier and love that we are still in each other's lives. You know the old saying, 'When you love someone, set them free?' Well, in our case, we came back to each other professionally and have a very deep love for each other. Friends called our divorce the 'divorce of the decade.'"
- Lorrie

2. Change is Good
"I got married at 20 and was completely insecure. I thought I needed a man to complete me, but I was comatose, walking through marriage without feeling alive. I was terrified my life was over but more terrified that if I left, no other man would want me. My husband wasn't bad to me -- I just got married too young and didn't even know what love was. My turning point was when some of my students dared me to rap. It led me to try, and stimulated me to see there was life beyond an unsatisfying job. My husband hated me being out so much. I was no longer the constant wife-y type, coming home from school to cook and clean and plan social dates with friends. Eventually, I decided that I needed to live instead of passing time. When I finally left I danced out and didn't take a dime in alimony. My freedom was worth everything and all I needed. I'm still good friends with my ex. It was very amicable. He was a good person, but couldn't handle me changing."
- Dalle

3. Lemons Into (Mentoring) Lemonade
"I was very inspired by my divorce. I have turned my lemons into lemonade. I am the founder of the National Association of Divorce for Women and Children, a 24/7 resource center that supports single-again women. When I divorced 14 years ago, I was searching for tools to help move my life forward, and to be the best role model for my children. That's when I became certified in the coaching field. I'm also a certified behavior consultant. I have been working with family law attorneys for years and have developed a program called "Single Again! Now What?", a 12-week program mentoring other divorcees. My joy is when I see a mom believe in herself again."
- Joanie

4. From Lies to New Love
"My first husband and I were married in a beautiful Catholic ceremony. About a year later, I came home from a meeting and my husband was at the kitchen table working on his laptop. He was in good spirits and indicated he was planning to go out to watch football with a group of friends from work. I thought nothing of it... At 2 a.m. the phone rang. It was my husband, telling me he had been arrested... He was charged with four felonies, including importuning and soliciting a minor for sex! He convinced me it was a misunderstanding. I endured the humiliation of his arrest being on television and the radio. I came to understand that our entire marriage had been a charade. Everything that came out of his mouth was a lie. I eventually told him I wanted a divorce. I later learned that he had been cheating on me the entire time. I was so depressed... Finally, I woke up one day and discovered that I actually had it pretty good. I picked myself up and put away the wine glasses. I went to Europe for the first time. I bought my own house -- painted and decorated it myself. I decided to start dating again. I met a man on -- he proposed 16 months later. We have one son and another child on the way. I am truly convinced that everything happens for a reason."
- Maureen

5. Stronger than Ever
"I have been divorced for exactly a year now. I am finally in a great place! I haven't been this happy nor healthy (mentally and physically) in years. I was married for 20 years and began to grow in ways that my ex just couldn't understand. I went through a very difficult divorce -- my ex was very controlling and mentally abusive. I was scared to death to leave, but I began to get stronger. I have turned my story into a business called, where I coach other people to find their 'authentic' true selves. I have never looked or felt better."
- Andrea

6. Friends for the Kids
"My ex-husband and I have an excellent working relationship. We share custody -- one week on, one week off -- and have agreed that we will always give each other the opportunity to have more time with the kids if we need childcare. We both agreed that it wasn't about us. It was about the kids, first and foremost. We are told by many divorced friends that we are fortunate to be good friends now, and should be the example of what divorced parents should be."
- Natalie


Thursday, 25 October 2018

7 Ways to Parent More Consistently With Your Ex

How to Develop Consistent Co-parenting Habits

Whether you're parenting young children or teenagers, it is helpful to develop some routines which remain consistent at each residence. Keep in mind, though, that this does not mean that each of you must parent exactly the same way. On the contrary, it's important for you to develop your own parenting style while also working toward an appropriate level of consistency for your children. Here are some areas where you can collaborate with your ex on co-parenting more consistently:

Schedules: Children thrive on routines. Whether your children are toddlers or tweens, you'll want to make sure your day together includes some type of schedule. Areas, where you can build consistency, include what the kids are expected to do when they wake up early in the morning when they can watch TV when they should do their homework, and when meals will be shared.

Transitions: Understandably, transitioning between two homes can be hard for your children. You can make this easier by creating standards which the children can anticipate, such as creating consistent drop-off or pick-up times and developing a routine for how you'll say goodbye to each other. Being able to anticipate the routine is comforting to children and will help ease their anxiety during transitions.

Meals: Meals offer a great way for any family to build in consistency. Begin by asking yourself some questions: Do the kids usually eat breakfast right away, or do they play for a while first? Can they watch TV while they're eating? What time do they usually eat lunch and dinner? What about snacks? As adults, we can usually handle a skipped meal here and there; but it's important to make sure your children eat at regular intervals. In addition, if your child has a food allergy or sensitivity, it's crucial that each of you follow the instructions provided by your child's paediatrician.

Rules: If you haven't done this yet, sit down with your co-parent and discuss your house rules. How can you make them similar so that the children know what is expected of them each time they move back and forth between your homes? Doing this as early as possible in your co-parenting relationship will help enable your children to meet your expectations.

Routines: Consider how being consistent with regards to school work and chores can benefit your children. It's much easier for them to develop the self-discipline needed to succeed in life when the expectations we have for them are consistent. In addition, your expectations send a message to your children that you value their contribution and believe in their abilities.

Consequences: You'll also want to discuss the consequences you plan to administer when your children misbehave. Are you committed to giving warnings? Will you use time-out? Will you revoke privileges when necessary? If so, which ones? Being united with your co-parent on these issues can make the job of following through with consequences easier for both of you.

Bedtime Rituals: Inconsistency at bedtime is a frequent co-parenting complaint. Realize that it's most healthy for your children to go to bed at approximately the same time each night. This greatly impacts their ability to fall asleep naturally and independently. Talk with one another about what time your kids go to bed and whether they sleep with a night light or a special blanket, toy, or doll. Best of all, consistent co-parenting with regards to the bedtime routines will help your kids wake up refreshed for your time together, and that means more fun for each of you.

The Impact of Consistent Co-parenting
Finally, be careful to observe the impact of any changes you make toward more consistent co-parenting. Initially, making changes can seem like "work." However, as you observe that your children are more relaxed, participating more in family routines, and having fun during your time together, you'll find it to be well worth the effort.


Wednesday, 24 October 2018

An Experts Experience: Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Divorce Expert, Cathy Meyer Shares Her Experience of Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

My son walked into the room and handed me the phone. “Dad can’t talk right now; he just poured a bowl of cereal and doesn’t want it to get soggy.” My ex, who hadn’t talked to his son in twelve days, was more concerned about his cereal becoming soggy than a few moments of communication with his child. That is what it is like to co-parent with a narcissist.

In fact, there is very little co-parenting that occurs with a narcissist, most of your time is spent attempting to undo the damage a narcissist does to his/her, children. The narcissist isn’t capable of “normal” maternal or paternal instincts. They view their children as objects meant to fulfill the narcissist’s needs, instead of the other way around.

I recently found the list below on Jay Rusovich’s blog, The Downside of Sanity. I’ve not read a more appropriate description of the narcissist parent. If you are divorced from a narcissist I suggest you print out The 10 Commandments of the Narcissistic Parentand tape it to your frig. You will be referencing it often!

The Ten Commandments of the Narcissistic Parent:

  1. I am who I tell you I am.
  2. You will tell me things I want to hear or you will not be heard.
  3. You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken.
  4. Love is conditional upon the aforementioned.
  5. Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death.
  6. There is only one road in and out of here.
  7. Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys.
  8. Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die.
  9. Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good.
  10. Narcissism is a myth.

Let’s go over all 10 briefly. Allow me to add my own two cents to what Jay wrote based on real life experience.

1. I am who I tell you I am:

Our children learned this about their father the hard way. I don’t suppose there is an easy way! Their father would say one thing, do another and when they questioned his behavior he would become highly offended. He thinks of himself as a loving, involved father even though he goes years without contact with his children.

In his mind, he is loving and involved but doesn’t see or talk to his children because they have the audacity to point out to him that “loving and involved” fathers behave in a loving and involved manner. Since his children are people who know he is not who he tells them he is, he chooses to surround himself with people who will believe he is who he tells them he is.

Confusing huh? Imagine being a child and attempting to intellectualize and rationalize such behavior from a parent.

2. You will tell me things I want to hear or you will not be heard:
Refer to the example above. Our children didn’t tell their father he was a loving and involved parent so he now refuses to hear anything they have to say to him. He ignores text messages, doesn’t respond to emails.

He is completely out of touch because they failed to tell him what he wanted to hear.

3. You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken:

This is the one that does the most damage. The narcissistic parent places no value on his/her children’s feelings. When we don’t value other people’s feelings our actions can do irreparable damage to those people. Our son was upset over something his father wrote him in an email. He responded and told his father, “Dad, when you say things like that, it hurts my feelings.”

His father responded and told our son, “I am not responsible for your feelings.” And then he went on to explain to the child just how unreasonable it was for his son to expect him to care about his feelings. You can’t tell a child in one voice, “I love you” and then tell them “If your feelings got hurt it is your fault” in the next and expect that child to not be emotionally damaged.

4. Love is conditional upon the aforementioned:

Yes, if a child refuses to feel the way the narcissistic parent needs them to feel; love, attention, caring, and concern from the narcissistic parent, all will be withheld. The bad news for the narcissist, their children eventually adjust and move on. That old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” works against the narcissist. I can, thankfully say, that, as adults, our children rarely think about or mention their father. When you withdraw your love from someone they will eventually “let go” of their love for you.

5. Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death:

The narcissist alludes to intimacy without becoming fully engaged in intimacy. True intimacy with another person means allowing yourself to become vulnerable and emotionally dependent. Vulnerability and dependency are the kiss of death to the narcissist. Your child will love the narcissistic parent; the narcissistic parent is only able to love what the child can do for him/her.

An example: my ex is now divorced from his second wife. He has a wonderful relationship with his step-daughter from that marriage. Why is he able to maintain a relationship with a stepchild and not his own children? Because, his step-daughter thinks he hung the moon. She sings his praises, believes everything he says and makes sure he knows she feels proud to be able to call him "Dad."

6. There is only one road in and out of here:

And, it is a bumpy road! The road out is far more difficult to navigate.

7. Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys:

My ex replaced our children with his step-daughter. She reveres him, she extols his wonderfulness. She is much like his children were before the divorce. She will forever be the recipient of his goodness until she questions his behavior or, disagrees with a belief he holds. When that happens she will learn how bumpy that road out can get. And, how quickly he can cut people out of his life.

8. Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die:

When my ex and I divorced in his mind I was dead. I was no longer an object that was of any use to him so any needs, feelings or desires I had became of no consequence to him. Since I was no longer important to him he felt our children should view me through his eyes…I was someone who didn’t matter.

He could not co-parent with me; doing so would mean acknowledging me as an individual outside himself. To him I am not an autonomous human being, I’m something he tired of and discarded. The fact that our children love me and refused to also abandon their relationship with me plays an important role in his inability to continue to have a relationship with them.

9. Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good:

When we divorced our children were 14 and 7 years old. The older child was quick to call his father out for hurtful behavior. The younger child made excuses and did whatever he could to keep his father happy. All the younger child cared about was spending time with his Dad. Due to that he detached himself from the emotional pain and focused on pleasing his father.

Our older child individuated, became separate from his brother and had to be done away with emotionally. Our older son in now 32-years-old. His father has rarely acknowledged him since the divorce. He came to his high school graduation after four years of never attending a parent/teacher meeting, extracurricular activity, regular visitation and refusing to enter into counseling. That is the only time since our divorce that he has shown interest in our older child.

His child was “hunted down” and “slaughtered” emotionally.

10. Narcissism is a myth:

I believe that a narcissist knows they are different. They realize they are unable to form normal emotional attachments with others. Admitting to that difference would mean becoming vulnerable to the opinions of others. It is for that reason that most narcissists will deny their disorder.

The narcissist is awesome, just ask him/her. Awesome people don’t have personality disorders dontcha know? For the narcissist, any relationship problems are about YOU, certainly not about them and their awesome selves.

I tell clients who are co-parenting with a narcissist to keep their expectations low. Don’t expect the narcissist to tackle parenting with the same parental instincts they have. And, never believe that you can “get through” to the narcissist and hold them accountable. Focus on your parental duties, be diligent in cleaning up the emotional messes the narcissist leaves behind and get your children into therapy. They are going to need it!


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Divorcing parents could lose children if they try to turn them against partner

Measures being trialled to prevent ‘parental alienation’ feature penalties including permanent loss of contact with child

Divorcing parents could be denied contact with their children if they try to turn them against their former partner, under a “groundbreaking” process being trialled by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

The phenomenon where one parent poisons their child against the other is known as parental alienation, the ultimate aim of which is to persuade the child to permanently exclude that parent from their life.

Cafcass said it had recently realised parental alienation occured in significant numbers of the 125,000 cases it dealt with each year.

Sarah Parsons, the assistant director of Cafcass, said: “We are increasingly recognising that parental alienation is a feature in many of our cases and have realised that it’s absolutely vital that we take the initiative. Our new approach is groundbreaking.”

The new approach will initially give parents the chance to change their behaviour with the help of intense therapy. Alienating parents who do not respond will not be allowed to have their children live with them.

In addition, contact between the parent and child could be restricted or refused for a number of months. In the most extreme cases, the alienating parent will be permanently banned from any contact with their child.

Parental alienation is estimated to be present in 11%-15% of divorces involving children, a figure thought to be increasing. Other research has found that about 1% of children and adolescents in North America experience parental alienation.

UK judges are increasingly recognising the phenomenon. One wrote about a case where she was forced to transfer residence to re-establish a relationship between a child and an alienated parent. “I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful,” she said in her summary.

Parental alienation occurs on a spectrum from mild to extreme, all of which can be extremely damaging to the children involved. Experts admit they are only now beginning to understand the range of ways it manifests itself.

Parsons said: “We have reached a much clearer position on parental alienation recently, which we want to send a very clear, strong message about.

“The current, popular view of parental alienation is highly polarised and doesn’t recognise this spectrum. We want to reclaim the centre ground and develop a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of what’s going on.”

Parental alienation occurs almost exclusively when parents are separating or divorcing, particularly when legal action is involved. It is, however, different to the common acrimony between divorcing parents and is internationally recognised as a distinctive form of parental psychological abuse and family violence, undermining core principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN convention on the rights of the child.

In the US and Canada, “parenting coordinators” are ordered and supervised by courts to help restore relationships between parents and children identified as alienated. In Mexico and Brazil, alienating a child from a parent is a criminal act.

Until now, cases of parental alienation in the UK have relied on Cafcass caseworkers recognising incidents on a case-by-case basis. Many parents, however, say their experiences of alienation have been missed or compounded by the social work and family court system, often leading to permanent estrangement from their child.

From spring 2018, all frontline Cafcass caseworkers will be given a new set of guidelines called the high conflict pathway, which will itemise the steps social workers must take when dealing with cases of suspected alienation. The pathway will spell out exactly when children should be removed from the alienating parent and placed with the “target parent”.

The guidelines, which will also affect how cases are dealt with in family courts, were sent out at the beginning of this month to judges, lobby groups including Families Need Fathers, experts, doctors and lawyers for a three-month consultation.

Alongside the guidelines, Cafcass has developed a 12-week intense programme called positive parenting, designed to help the abusive parent put themselves in their child’s position, and give them skills to break their patterns of behaviour.

A trial of it will start shortly, with 50 high-conflict families being sought across the country. After an evaluation in spring, the programme will be rolled out nationwide.

If it does not work, psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts will be brought in. If the alienating parent continues to perpetuate the abuse, however, contact with their child will be limited to supervised visits.

In extreme cases, care proceedings will be initiated and the parent will lose contact with their child. “Our priority, however, is to preserve the relationship with both parents,” Parsons said.

Jerry Karlin, the chair and managing trustee of Families Need Fathers, said Cafcass’s new approach was “very welcome news”.

“The demonising of a parent has long been recognised as damaging the child not only at the time of separation, but reaching into his or her adult life,” he said. “Parental alienation is identified as the single biggest issue among those who come to FNF seeking help.”

Case study – Robert (not his real name)
“I’ve lived through and witnessed the inexorable alienation of my older daughter over the past five years, which has culminated in complete loss of contact. I will not have seen or heard from her for three years this coming January. We had a fantastic, loving relationship for the first 12 years of her life.

“I know from what my younger daughter has told me that in numerous insidious and not so insidious ways, my ex-wife put an intolerable amount of stress on my eldest daughter. It eventually became too emotionally traumatic for her to see me. She eventually sent me a short email, saying she wanted to break off all contact with me. I’ve not heard from her since.

“The pain of being subject to parental alienation as a target parent is a truly soul-destroying thing to live through. In my darkest days, I can remember being out driving at night and thinking that maybe I just wouldn’t turn the wheel when I came to the bend with the high stone wall. This is a horrible form of child abuse that is struggling to get out from under the rock of prejudice and ignorance.”


Monday, 22 October 2018

What Divorced Parents Can Do To Stay Healthy & Optimistic

Being divorced isn’t easy on anyone in the family. It’s likely heartbreaking for all involved and will leave a scar for a long time. This is why it’s so important that you care for yourself and don’t let your wellbeing suffer in the process.

You deserve happiness too and should start realizing this fact today. Give yourself a chance to get back on your feet and then get out there and start meeting your goals one by one. There’s nothing wrong with being apprehensive about what the future holds, but you shouldn’t let it stop you from trying to create a better outlook for yourself.

Find Time for you
Put yourself at the top of your priority list. Even though you have kids, you have to come first during this very difficult time in your life. It’s a huge transition, and you shouldn’t feel bad for being anxious about what the days ahead hold for you. Be sure to exercise daily, eat right and go out and find work that you love doing. You’ll be a better person and parent when you make more time for yourself.

Don’t be Afraid to Date Again
You shouldn’t be afraid to start looking and dating if you’re ready. Get excited about the idea of finding love again. If you’re a guy who has recently found a new girlfriend then check out the site fun attic for cute names to call your girlfriend that she’ll just love. It’s healthy to express your feelings for another person in words and to build a stronger connection with the one you’re dating. Take it slow and remember to protect your heart, but also be open to new possibilities.

Attend to your Mind
During and after a divorce, your mind is probably going nuts. There are so many thoughts and opinions you have on the matter that it’s hard to manage it all. This is why you need to find activities like yoga, meditation and hiking that allow you to attend to your racing thoughts and clear your head. It’s necessary that you spend time working through what’s on your mind and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. If you’re anxious it’s likely because of what you’re thinking, so be smart about getting in front of the emotions before they take over.

Join A Support Group
There are a lot of divorced parents in the world. Don’t think for a second that you’re alone. You may feel like it at the time, but it’s not true. Join a divorce support group to prove yourself wrong and witness how many others are dealing with a similar situation as you. This group will give you a chance to express yourself and connect with others who can share in your pain and provide tips based on their own experience.

Don’t be ashamed if you’re a divorced parent. Look after yourself and get to a better place before you try to tackle other tasks. Practice behaviors that allow you to stay optimistic and see a brighter future for yourself.


Friday, 19 October 2018

Life Is Tough: Overcoming Hardship and Failure

Is it genetics, luck, or pure willpower?

“When life gets tough, the tough get going.” This timeless proverb may be true for some but, for others, hardship can be too much to overcome. When the going gets tough, their life simply falls apart. What is it exactly that separates those who thrive regardless of adversity and those who don’t? Is it genetics, luck, or pure willpower?

Consider that Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before he became the first democratically elected president in South Africa. Abraham Lincoln failed in business, had a nervous breakdown, and was defeated eight times in elections before becoming president. 
A boy born to a teenage alcoholic prostitute and an absentee father found himself in trouble throughout his childhood, eventually growing up to be Charles Manson.

These examples are extreme, but they demonstrate the different routes people may choose when facing major obstacles. Some people turn to alcohol and drugs, stealing, or physical violence. Nearly 16,000 people drank themselves to death in 2010. Every year, more than 3 million children will witness domestic violence in their home. Conversely, many people have gone through hell and back and are moral, happy, and successful. As a youth violence and family trauma psychologist, it’s my job to find the turning point between the right path and the wrong one.

In my own life I dealt with hardship and failure. My family was poor. I had to cope with suicides, mental illness, and domestic violence; two of my family members died of alcoholism. My grandmother was a teacher and I thought I would follow in her footsteps. 
After attempting to go to school for teaching, I realized that I was not cut out for it. I felt like I had failed. When I was young, I tried to be a writer and was not successful. My first marriage was a failure, as was my first business. I was challenged significantly when I enrolled in my Ph.D. program at the age of 42 and my classmates were all 20 years younger.

And the story would not be complete without telling you that someone attempted to rape me when I was a young woman. I only told a few people. I cried and cried. I wanted to scrub the skin right off my body. Yet today, I can face my fears and am a big fan of “Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit.”

Despite all these trials, life marched on and turned out positive. I earned my Ph.D. I am a successful non-fiction writer and the author of two books that have sold well. I own my own practice, Eastern Shore Psychological Services, which has grown considerably and won numerous awards. And I am happily remarried to a loving husband, although I once told myself that I’d never marry again.

Why was I able to overcome the negative parts of my life when others from similar backgrounds have ended up addicted to substances or in jail? The simple answer is that I had enough protective factors in my life to outweigh my risk factors. For instance:

  • The neighborhood I grew up in was safe.
  • I was always supported by people who loved me.
  • I did well in school and had opportunities to succeed.
  • I had pro-social role models.
  • I received treatment for depression and PTSD.
  • There were many happy events in my life.
  • I kept going, one foot after the other, no matter what.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that children who have more than five risk factors (learning problems, maltreatment, chaotic neighborhoods, etc.) and less than six protective factors (adult support, life skills, clear standards set by care givers, etc.) have an 80% chance of committing future violent acts. This means that, while we all face varying levels of hardship, there must be a counterbalance of positives in our lives so that we may continue to grow and succeed.

Looking back at my family members who struggled, I realize that they did not have the level of support and education about depression and alcoholism that I was fortunate to have. At two points in my life, I had problems controlling my anger, just like my father. But I gained support through education and friends, and I learned to deal with it effectively. Without these support systems, statistical research says that I would most likely have failed.

It’s true that some of our ability to deal with hardships and failure has to do with biological traits and genetics. Some of it may have to do with luck. But mostly it has to do with the environment and people around us. Our parents, siblings, peers, educators, and community all play a vital role in shaping who we become. Life is tough and we all have our own challenges to face. But we don’t have to face them alone. With a caring heart and encouraging hand, we can all play a role in supporting others through their greatest hardships.


Thursday, 18 October 2018

5 Things You Need To Know About Happiness After Divorce

There’s no way around it: Your life is going to irrevocably change should you decide to go forward with your divorce.

How it changes is entirely up to you, though. Will splitting up be a springboard for a bold new start — or will divorce slow you down and make you feel like a lesser version of your former self?

On Monday, Redditors made a strong case for divorce as a catalyst for positive change, after a man on the cusp of separation came to the site’s divorce board looking for answers and advice.

“Is anyone out there happier a year after the divorce?” he asked. “Should I give [my wife a divorce] and enjoy what little time I will get with my children? Will I be happier without her in the long run?”

The divorced Redditors seemed to think so. Read five things divorcᅢᄅs on the thread admitted about happiness after divorce, then head to the comments and tell us if you’re happier a year (or years) after your split.

1. You’ll certainly have rough days every now and then, but sadness won’t be your norm for long.

“My one-year-after divorce [anniversary] is only two weeks away and I can’t remember a time in my life that I have been happier. I have more confidence, I have a sense of inner peace, I am free to pursue my dreams, old and new, and I have found myself able to live every day for my own joy and happiness. I still have days when the darkness creeps in and it hurts, but happy days far outweighed the [dark days].” -kintsukuroisparrow

2. If you reclaim your happiness, you’ll be a better parent.

“I divorced in October of 2012. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, ever. I’ve also got two kids, ages 8 and 12, and was staying in it for them. I’m a much happier person and as a result a better father. If you’re miserable, your kids pick up on it. ‘Staying in it for the kids’ is only making everyone, including the kids, miserable.” -vbfronkis

3. You might not be happy about being a divorcee, but you’ll be happier in general.

“Happy I’m divorced? No. Happy I’m divorced from her? HELL YES.” -2stroker

4. You’ll likely have happier relations with your ex.
“For me, personally, hell yes I am happier. My ex and I get along so much better. Our communication has increased tenfold. There are no more emotions tied to our communication which helps. The power struggle, the fighting over stupid stuff, and irritation related to seeing each other every day and sharing the same space is gone. We get along like old friends. Is it perfect? No. But we found a way to make it work.” -feelingfroggy123

5. You have to choose happiness after divorce.

“The thing with life during and after divorce, in my opinion, is that it is what you make of it. You choose whether you wallow in it or rise above it. You choose how much you carry with you on a daily basis. You choose if you learn and grow or keep looking behind you. No one else has that power, not the ex, not the attorneys, not your friends or family, you, and only you, get to decide that.” -kintsukuroisparrow


Wednesday, 17 October 2018

How to Become an Optimist: 3 Daily Habits To Help You Get Started

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Maria Robinson

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Anais Nin

One of the most common questions people ask me via email is how to become more of an optimist.

So this week I’d simply like to share three habits that can help you to get started with that. I use these myself just about every day to stay optimistic in pretty much any situation.

It may sometimes take a while before I find an optimistic thread of thought but these three habits usually help me to do it.

1. Ask yourself questions that let you see the optimistic viewpoint.

When I’m in what seems like a negative situation my most common way of making something better out of that is to ask myself questions that promote optimism and helps me to find solutions.

Questions like:

  • What is one thing that is positive or good about this situation?
  • What is one thing I can learn from this situation?
  • What is one opportunity within this situation?

These questions are not something that I can always use right away. Sometimes I need some time to process and accept the feelings and thoughts that arise.

But after a bit of time, when those thoughts and feelings have mostly passed, I ask myself one or more of these questions.

2. Get optimistic support from the world around you.

One of the most important factors if you want to be able to stay optimistic are the influences around you. Optimism is – just like enthusiasm – contagious.

So find ways to create an environment that supports you.

  • The people in your life. Try to spend more time with optimistic people and less time with people who seem to always be negative about things. Positive people will support you, add upbeat energy and can help you to find a constructive change in perspective when you have a situation that is bringing you down and when you are just making a mountain out of a molehill.
  • The information you let into your mind. One of the simplest things you can do to create and support your own optimism is simply to regularly read blogs and books and listen to or watch recordings created by optimistic people.

3. Start your day in an optimism creating way.

The way you start your day often sets the tone for the rest of it.

A stress-free morning leads to less stress and better focus during your day.

A work out early in your day leads to more energy throughout the day.

And optimism while you are eating your cereal or traveling to work or school can help you to stay positive and constructive as you go through the ups and downs of your day.

Three practical ways to get this good start is to:

  • Read or watch something optimistic or funny for 10-20 minutes during your morning.
  • Have an uplifting conversation over breakfast or early in your day.
  • Listen to a motivating audiobook or podcast as you ride the bus, your bicycle or while you’re walking somewhere.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Happy Divorce

Is it unrealistic to think we can divorce and co-parent happily?

When Fran Drescher's new sitcom, Happily Divorced, debuted earlier this summer, I started noticing snippets and diatribes tisk-tisking Hollywood for sugarcoating the end of traditional marriages.

In her New York Times Magazine article, "The Divorce Delusion," Heather Havrilesky argues that the new cheery outlook on separation does audiences a disservice. "Stories of divorced couples peacefully co-parenting and becoming wonderful lifelong friends contribute to this expectation that, if we're not emotionally overachieving with a person who usually feels more like a mortal enemy than a soulmate, that means we're petty, unenlightened thugs of the lowest order," she says.

I'm usually the first to complain about Hollywood's unrealistic depictions of family life, but in a world where I still hear feminists talking about "failed marriages" and "broken homes" versus "intact families"--as if there is something intrinsically wrong with non-nuclear set-ups, well, I think there's something refreshing about the new sugarcoat.

The happy divorce might not be everyone's experience, but it's no delusion.

Conventional wisdom tells us we'll only be happier after a divorce if the marriage itself was a war zone. So I was surprised the other day to hear a friend admit that she'd (happily) left a spouse of 20 years simply because "I don't want to be married."

Wow, I thought. You can still do that?

She described her husband as good and supportive, but "we lacked a certain emotional and sexual connection."

Researchers warn us against walking out on married life without a dang good reason. A recent German study found that the level of life satisfaction among divorced adults didn't recover to pre-divorce levels even six years after the divorce. (Although this could be a better argument for never getting married in the first place.)

And a 2003 American study found that unhappily married folks were no happier after their divorce.

But many women beg to differ. And happiness studies aren't about averages--they're about exceptions. How do some of us manage move on gracefully? What makes some of us resilient? And how can the rest of us cultivate that resilience?

The reasons for a divorce can certainly soften the emotional blow. If one partner is gay, for example, as is the premise of Happily Divorced, well, "that's a get out of jail free card," says Candace Walsh, editor of the anthology Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open up About Moving On.

But even when no one's coming out of the closet, she says, "the idea that you're unhappier after divorce is outdated, old-paradigm thinking. In my experience, staying in a marriage that my ex and I both agreed had all its best moments behind it was epically depressing. I and many of the women in my book talk about this immense sense of lightness and liberation which came with ending their marriages and starting fresh."

Contributor Samantha Waltz agrees. "I was much happier after my divorce," she says. "My husband had been very controlling and I literally felt like I'd been let out of prison. Colors were brighter, sounds sharper. My depression lifted. He was extremely critical of the children as well, and their self-confidence visibly grew when they no longer lived with him. My ex has worked hard to rebuild his relationship with them and be more accepting of them. That wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed in the marriage."

That's not to say the transition is easy.

"I was in a difficult marriage, full of counseling and struggle, so in a way, my divorce was a relief just by virtue of being something different," says blogger Kristin Tennant. "But that doesn't mean I was immediately happy. There's a lot of destruction that has to take place before any reconstruction can begin, and that takes time and work."

Happily Divorced, it turns out, is based on Fran Drescher's real-life relationship with her gay ex. So maybe in real life the couple didn't continue living together, and maybe they went through a long period of anger and estrangement before they started sharing advice about boyfriends. But Drescher insists the two really are soulmates again--just a new kind of soulmates.

As Candace's father told her when she was in the midst of her own divorce: "The year after my divorce from your mother was the unhappiest year of my life. But the years that came after that have been the happiest years of my life."

The key to bouncing back?

"Move on," Candace says. "If you stay in the energy of the marriage or the divorce, you'll be less happy than if you allow it to get on with the next chapter of your life in a conscious, optimistic way. How? Seek out new experiences that will lead to new adventures. And make sure to prioritize therapy, exercise, and lots of good venting sessions with safe people who have gone through the same thing."


Monday, 15 October 2018

Becoming an Optimist

How to turn away from the dark side.

I have always been a bit of a pessimist. I generally expected the worst and and didn’t trust it when something good happened. In my early twenties I met two people who changed my life, both of whom were optimists. These people wore rose-colored glasses, saw hope and promise in every situation, and seemed to generally feel happy. Given my negative nature, I immediately saw the flaws in this approach to life: they will be disappointed and hurt frequently and they will overlook their own mistakes. But in time, I grew to respect them and envy their sunny and positive approach towards life. I wished I could be like that but I didn’t know how to become that way.

It took a lot of work and required almost constant vigilance on my part. I would quickly find fault in something and then need to search for the good aspects of a situation to negate my own negativity. I often had to ask myself what they would do or say in the situation—how they could possibly make lemonade out of the rotten lemons that were all that I saw. It felt wrong and stupidly positive sometimes to find the good in a situation when I saw only the dark and negative side of it. But with time, I noticed that it became second nature to see both the good and the bad in a situation and I was surprised by how freeing it was.

I was also surprised by how much I needed to be able to see both my own good and bad characteristics—how important it was for me to be able to recognize that there are things that I am good at rather than to excuse those things as being “just luck” or something that “anyone could do.” Even now, as I type those words, they cause a certain amount of anxiety for me—to say that I am good at something for fear or disappointing myself or others, but it also feels strangely exhilarating. I also realized that others need to hear positive feedback and the importance of balancing the good with the bad when giving students feedback, when helping someone through a tough time, or when trying to make sense of the bad things that have happened in life.

Don’t get me wrong, at times I still dip down into pessimism and find it hard to dig my way out. I have not entirely changed my “dark side” and it still rears its ugly head at times. But more often than not, I can see hope in difficult situations and if all else fails, comfort myself with the idea that things usually work out in the end even if they haven’t gone the way that I planned them to. The most surprising thing is that although I clung to my negativity for dear life and thought that it provided protection, I find that I need protection less than I thought that I did and that the optimism somehow “fits” better than negativity did.

So how does one become an optimist? We always say that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, but clearly that saying was coined by a pessimist!

1) Notice your negativity. Listen to what you say and how negative it is. Track your thoughts on a daily basis and notice the negative assumptions and conclusions that you draw. Identification of your negativity is essential to change.

2) When find yourself saying something negative, think of something positive to say even if it doesn’t “ring true” to you at the moment. If you are habitually negative, seeing the sunny side is going to feel false and Pollyannaish at first. That is okay. You can’t expect to change overnight.

3) If you identify a negative thought, write it down. Next to it, draw a column for the evidence supporting that thought. Then draw a column for the evidence that argues against the thought. You will be great at identifying evidence supporting the negative thought and struggle with the evidence against the negative thought but with practice this will come easier.

4) Search for positive aspects of situations. Your team lost the Superbowl this year, but at least you got to watch the game with your friends and had some delicious food. You lost your job but this gives you the opportunity to find a better job and you wouldn’t have taken that opportunity otherwise. Most situations can be seen in both a positive and negative light. You just have to find the positive one and keep reminding yourself of it in order to eventually believe it.

5) Think of someone you know who has a positive outlook on life and ask yourself what that person would do or think in particular situations.
Then try to think that way too. This is a way of using others’ optimism to internalize it and make it a part of you.

6) Give others positive feedback. Even if someone has done something poorly, there has to be some aspect of it that is good. If you can find this, your view of the product will be more positive and the other person may feel encouraged to continue.

7) Give yourself positive feedback and notice when you discount it by saying that “anyone could have done this,” “it really wasn’t anything special,” “it’s only because I got lucky/worked hard.” These are excuses that you use to push off the positive feedback, usually because pessimists feel uncomfortable with good things and often fear disappointing others by acknowledging their own strengths. Deal with the anxiety and just say thank you if someone (including yourself) gives you positive feedback.

8) Identify the purpose of the pessimism. Does it provide protection against disappointment? Does it help you not to get hurt? Do you think that it helps you to plan for possible challenges? We often think that pessimism and worry are helpful but this is not true and we would handle the disappointment, hurt, and challenges even better if we were not bogged down by anxiety and negativity. Run some experiments to see whether the negativity is truly serving its purpose? Do you never get disappointed or hurt? Are you always prepared for challenges? If the answer to these questions is “no” that means that the negativity and worry are not working for you. It does not mean that you need to become more negative or worry more. Trust me on this one.

9) Take the risk of being positive and see how it feels. Try it on like you would try on a new pair of shoes. And just like new shoes, it may need some breaking in to really fit. But with time, optimism will start to fit like a glove.

10) Practice, practice, practice.
It has taken me years of work on this and I still sometimes dip into pessimism. It took you a long time to learn negativity and will take you a long time to learn optimism.

With time and practice, you will notice that you can teach an old dog new tricks and that the old dog may become a little less anxious, depressed, and grouchy and a bit more warm and sunny over time. And who doesn’t like a happy dog?


Friday, 12 October 2018

The Benefits of Optimism

Staying positive can improve stress management, productivity, and your health

Do you know someone who seems to always have a smile and a positive thought? Or are you yourself one of those people who is full of optimism? Hardships are seen as ‘learning experiences’ by optimists, and even the most miserable day always holds the promise for them that ‘tomorrow will probably be better.'

If you always see the brighter side of things, you may feel that you experience more positive events in your life than others, find yourself less stressed, and even enjoy greater health benefits.

This is not your imagination.

Researchers like Martin Seligman have been studying optimists and pessimists for years, and they have found that an optimistic world view carries certain advantages.

The Benefits of Optimism

Superior Health

In a study of 99 Harvard University students, those who were optimists at age 25 were significantly healthier at ages 45 and 60 than those who were pessimists. Other studies have linked a pessimistic explanatory style with higher rates of infectious disease, poor health, and earlier mortality.

Greater Achievement
Seligman analyzed the explanatory styles of sports teams and found that the more optimistic teams created more positive synergy and performed better than the pessimistic ones. Another study showed that pessimistic swimmers who were led to believe they’d done worse than they had were prone to future poor performance. Optimistic swimmers didn’t have this vulnerability.

Research like this has led some companies to go out of their way to hire optimists -- a practice that seems to be paying off.

Optimists don’t give up as easily as pessimists, and they are more likely to achieve success because of it. Some optimistic businessmen, like Donald Trump, have been bankrupt (even multiple times), but have been able to persist and turn their failures into millions.

Emotional Health

In a study of clinically depressed patients, it was discovered that 12 weeks of cognitive therapy (which involves reframing a person's thought processes) worked better than drugs, as changes were more long-lasting than a temporary fix. Patients who had this training in optimism had the ability to more effectively handle future setbacks.

Increased Longevity

In a retrospective study of 34 healthy Hall of Fame baseball players who played between 1900 and 1950, optimists lived significantly longer. Other studies have shown that optimistic breast cancer patients had better health outcomes than pessimistic and hopeless patients.

Less Stress
Optimists also tend to experience less stress than pessimists or realists. Because they believe in themselves and their abilities, they expect good things to happen. They see negative events as minor setbacks to be easily overcome, and view positive events as evidence of further good things to come. Believing in themselves, they also take more risks and create more positive events in their lives.

Additionally, research shows that optimists are more proactive with stress management, favoring approaches that reduce or eliminate stressors and their emotional consequences. Optimists work harder at stress management, so they're less stressed.

'Explanatory Style' Explained

‘Explanatory style’ or ‘attributional style’ refers to how people explain the events of their lives. There are three facets of how people can explain a situation. This can influence whether they lean toward being optimists or pessimists:

Stable vs. Unstable: Can time change things, or do things stay the same regardless of time?

Global vs. Local: Is a situation a reflection of just one part of your life, or your life as a whole?

Internal vs. External: Do you feel events are caused by you or by an outside force?

Realists see things relatively clearly, but most of us aren’t realists. Most of us, to a degree, attribute the events in our lives optimistically or pessimistically. The pattern looks like this:

Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them (internal). They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future (stable), and in other areas of their lives (global). Conversely, they see negative events as not being their fault (external). They also see them as being flukes (isolated) that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events (local).

For example, if an optimist gets a promotion, she will likely believe it’s because she’s good at her job and will receive more benefits and promotion in the future. If she’s passed over for the promotion, it’s likely because she was having an off-month because of extenuating circumstances, but will do better in the future.

Pessimists think in the opposite way. They believe that negative events are caused by them (internal). They believe that one mistake means more will come (stable), and mistakes in other areas of life are inevitable (global), because they are the cause. They see positive events as flukes (local) that are caused by things outside their control (external) and probably won’t happen again (unstable).

A pessimist would see a promotion as a lucky event that probably won’t happen again, and may even worry that she’ll now be under more scrutiny. Being passed over for promotion would probably be explained as not being skilled enough. She'd therefore expect to be passed over again.

What This Means
Understandably, if you’re an optimist, this bodes well for your future. Negative events are more likely to roll off of your back, but positive events affirm your belief in yourself, your ability to make good things happen now and in the future, and in the goodness of life.

Fortunately for pessimists and realists, these patterns of thinking can be learned to a degree (though we tend to be mostly predisposed to our patterns of thinking.) Using a practice called ‘cognitive restructuring,' you can help yourself and others become more optimistic by consciously challenging negative, self-limiting thinking and replacing it with more optimistic thought patterns.