Friday, 31 May 2019

What’s a Toxic Person & How Do You Deal With One?

You’ve probably read about the importance of not surrounding yourself with toxic people.
But what defines a toxic person? How do you know that you’re hanging out with one? And if you are,what can you do about it?

We asked two experts to share their take on toxic people along with their insight into navigating these kinds of relationships. Here’s what they had to say about what makes a person toxic, and how you can best deal with one.

So What’s a Toxic Person Really?

It’s not that the whole person is toxic. Rather, their behavior is toxic or your relationship with the person is toxic, said Jodie Gale, MA, a psychotherapist and life coach in Sydney, Australia.

“Often the person is deeply wounded and for whatever reason, they are not yet able to take responsibility for their wounding, their feelings, their needs and their subsequent problems in life.”

They may overidentify and act out the parts of who they are, such as the victim, bully, perfectionist or martyr, she said. “They act from these parts trying to get their needs met, albeit in an extremely unhealthy way.”

According to Gale, it’s common for people with toxic behavior to: create drama in their lives or be surrounded by it; try to manipulate or control others; be needy (“it is all about them all the time”); use others to meet their needs (such as “narcissistic parents”); be extremely critical of themselves and others; be jealous and envious of others, bemoaning their bad fortune and others’ good fortune; abuse substances or harm themselves in other ways, and be unwilling (or unable) to seek help from loved ones, a therapist or a recovery program.

What also feels toxic to you has to do with your reaction to the interaction, said Amy Tatsumi, MA, LPC, a psychotherapist and art therapist in Washington, D.C. Your reactions might include feeling betrayed, withdrawing, numbing yourself or being overly accommodating, she said.

This often happens “when healthy boundaries are crossed and we let go of our values.”

Both people play a role in toxic interactions. So it’s important to consider your personal role as well.

“A hallmark of a toxic interaction is that both people have created a conscious or unconscious story with judgment, fear or blame about the other person and boundaries that were crossed,” Tatsumi said.

Signs You’re Surrounded by a Toxic Person

Gale shared these signs:

  • You’re emotionally affected by their drama
  • You dread (or fear) being around them
  • You’re exhausted or you feel angry while you’re with them or after your interaction
  • You feel bad or ashamed about yourself
  • You’re stuck in a cycle of trying to rescue, fix or care for them.
  • Tatsumi shared these additional signs:
  • The other person doesn’t respect the word “No” as a complete sentence
  • When you’re with them, you feel like you’re “walking on eggshells”
  • You ignore your own values
  • You emotionally “check out”
  • You feel like you’re being controlled, or you’re being overly controlling.

Again, it’s important to explore your own role in the interaction. For instance, how do you compromise your own values or boundaries? Do you lash out because you feel misunderstood or not listened to? Do you withdraw because this is how you react to criticism?

What to Do With Toxic Relationships

Gale offered these suggestions for navigating toxic interactions:

  • Tell the person how you feel in an assertive way. Use “I” statements. For example: “When you act/do/say _____, I feel _____. What I need is _______. The reason that I am sharing my feelings and needs with you is_______ (because I love you, I want to build a healthy relationship with you etc.).”
  • Set and maintain boundaries.
  • Focus on taking care of yourself.
  • “Find ways to protect yourself from their unhealthy behaviours.”

Reflect on the relationship, and consider how you’re caught in an unhealthy cycle of relating to the person. For instance, you might be making excuses for them or trying to fix them.

“If the person’s toxic behavior doesn’t change, or the relationship is just too toxic for you, send them forward in life with love and compassion, and then move forward with your life,” Gale said.

Ending the relationship may be painful, particularly if you have a long history with the person, she said. “Ultimately though, you will have created space for much healthier and far more nourishing relationships in your life.”


Thursday, 30 May 2019

The Bright Side of Negative Thinking

At least since 1952, when Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking was published, Americans have been inundated with the notion that the path to success can be smoothed by accentuating the positive. In this cult of optimism, one must keep one’s eyes on the prize and not let negative waves interfere, and all forms of positive thinking are cast as inherently helpful.

Gabriele Oettingen wasn’t buying it. The psychology professor at New York University and the University of Hamburg spent more than 20 years testing her contention that “starry-eyed dreaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

As it turns out, dreamers are not often doers. Oettingen’s new book,Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation(Current), introduces a seemingly more realistic way of visualizing the future. If our wishful thinking is followed by an acute assessment of the obstacles that stand in the way of our dreams, achievement is far more likely, she contends. We spoke with Oettingen about her work and its practical applications.
Your studies have led you to conclude that positive thinking by itself does little to advance our goals. In fact, you believe it could be detrimental. How so?

My research has confirmed that merely thinking and dreaming about the future makes people less likely to achieve their goals. Just dreaming, detached from an awareness of reality, doesn’t cut it. It seems to let us fulfill our wishes in our minds, but actually it saps the
energy we need to perform the hard work of meeting the challenges we face in real life.
To think positively about the future is very pleasant. It’s a big temptation to think that doing it is the recipe for achieving success, instead of putting in the effort. In our minds, we’ve already reached a desired future, but there is a long way to go. [When people] pretend they are there, they will not prepare themselves for the obstacles and won’t get motivated to make the difficult climb. We might actually forgo realization of our dreams.
What were some of the results of your 20 years of research?

We found that students who fantasize about getting together with a romantic partner are less likely to get involved with that person. We found that with overweight women, the more they fantasized about losing weight in a program, the less weight they lost—over three months and over two years.

You’ve come up with an alternative approach that you say leads to more constructive results.

I call this method “mental contrasting.” It instructs us to dream our dreams, but then visualize the personal barriers that prevent us from achieving them. My studies show that when we perform such mental contrasting, we actually gain energy to take action. And when we go further and specify the actions we intend to take as obstacles arise, we energize ourselves even more.

Simply put, by adding a bit of realism to people’s positive imaginings of the future, mental contrasting enables them to become dreamers and doers. My work presents a single, surprising idea: The obstacles that we think most impede us from realizing our deepest wishes can actually hasten their fulfillment.

How is mental contrasting useful as a tool to achieve our wishes?

Positive fantasies are great for momentary pleasure, for exploring a possibility a person might have in the future by trying it out mentally. But they seduce people into thinking they are already there. When it comes to actually realizing that possibility, those wishes need to be complemented by a clear sense of reality.

You need to juxtapose those fantasies with the realities in you that stand in the way of achieving these wishes. If you also do that, you get the energy to overcome these obstacles.

If we combine a positive future with the obstacles of reality, then we get going. If we see the obstacles as insurmountable, we realize those wishes are not feasible, so we let them go. We become more selective in what we are going to pursue. Mental contrasting helps us get less overwhelmed with life.

What did your analysis of the blood pressure and brain images of study participants show?

In one study, we recruited 164 female college students to fantasize about wearing sleek, stylish high heels. We randomly divided them into two groups and had them fill out questionnaires on a computer. For three minutes, a message on the screen asked the women in both groups to imagine themselves all dressed up in high heels. They jotted down their thoughts and daydreams. After three minutes,one group was asked to generate more positive thoughts about wearing their heels; the other group was asked to generate negative thoughts.

Before we began, we took blood pressure readings of both groups. Systolic blood pressure is a cardiovascular measurement that reveals how energized or motivated a person is. The women who had fantasized positively showed lower systolic blood pressure. The second group showed no change in blood pressure. Positive fantasies relax us so much that it shows up in physiological tests. But when your objective is to make your wish a reality, the last thing you want to be is relaxed.

We also did work measuring brain responses to mental contrasting. It showed enhanced activity in sections of the brain responsible for willfulness and memory—much different patterns than when people were merely fantasizing about a desired future.

Some of your early work on motivation was rejected for publication. Why?

Reviewers claimed the arguments and results were too far-fetched, that my message was ridiculous. If you come up with data that goes against cultural postulates, it’s always difficult. People were reluctant to acknowledge my message. Some are still reluctant. But it was understandable. You can’t necessarily trust the results of just a few studies. So I spent the next 20 years conducting a number of rigorous, larger studies until my overall findings were supported.

The results were the same: Positive fantasies, wishes and dreams—detached from an assessment of past experience—didn’t translate into motivation. They translated into the opposite.

In your book, you take mental contrasting a step further with the introduction of a meditative practice you call WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. It is meant to help people reap the full benefits of mental contrasting.

Yes, WOOP has another step—the forging of explicit intentions about how to achieve a wish. If you break down the process by which people pursue wishes, you can distinguish two phases: an initial phase in which you weigh your options and decide to commit to a goal, and a second phase in which you plan how to take action to attain the wish.
There is a large amount of literature that shows this second phase is helpful in attaining goals. It doesn’t work if you don’t have a strong determination to implement your wishes. You must identify likely obstacles to your goal and approve behavior to overcome the obstacle.

This little exercise is a discovery into your wishes—what you really want, not what others want you to do. It will help you find out what you are passionate about and what holds you back.

If you’re a professional, you can use it to reach a new milestone in your career, improve your skills—whatever you can think of. It can be used to help with any kind of wish, short-term or long-term, big or small.


These Things You Can Change

Your life may be painful today. I know that’’s a tough start, but you must keep reading.
The people around you are going to disappoint you. The world is going to move faster and it may leave you behind. Your boss is going to undervalue you. Your co-workers will not pull their weight. Your love will not love you enough. Your kids will act like children. Your friends will not call.

And yet this can be the most hopeful, transformative day of your life.

I have always been in the people change business. I’’ve worked in hospitals and churches, soup kitchens and schools, boardrooms and ballrooms, on the playing field and the public square. Every day I explore the most creative ways to move myself and every human being I meet from the places we don’’t want to be to the heights we dream of climbing.

We don’t have to be afraid.

We have more than we’’ve ever had and can do more than we ever thought. We can meet strangers across continents on devices in our pockets from the comfort of wherever we are. We can crowdsource with those same strangers to start a company or make a movie. We can collaborate and innovate. We can explore and inspire. We literally have the world in our hand.

Forgive the long introduction and the spring enthusiasm, but people keep saying everything is wrong and taking it out on each other.

You cannot change them. You have to realize today that you are the most important thing you can improve.

You can change the way you think.

You can change the way you feel.

You can change what you do today.

What stops most of us is that we are afraid, and some days we should be. Those same devices in our pockets show us things none of us ever need to see. They put us in contact with all our friends’ and families’’ bad news and anything wrong in our community.

Some days we should be afraid.

But we don’’t have to stay there.

The moment a thought scares you, the moment you feel anxious or insecure, the moment you think what you want is going to crush you, ask yourself this:

Is there a bear?

If there is a bear around you, you should feel afraid. If a grizzly has wandered into your personal space, the alarm in your brain should be firing. On a scale of one to 10, 10 being total catastrophe and one being waking up from the perfect nap, if there is a bear in front of you right now and it is not behind three inches of glass, please feel free to freak out. Go full 10! It is appropriate to lose your mind.

But if your boss is yelling at you, ask, ““Is there a bear?””

If the one you love harps on the same thing he or she did last week and all last year, ask, “”Is there a bear?””

If your friend didn’’t call and you wonder if she loves you any more, ask, ““Is there a bear?””

If you’’re running out of money, you should feel alarmed, but still ask, “”Is there a bear?””

If you’’re at war, fighting for freedom, your life in danger: There is a bear.

If you are homeless tonight: There is a bear.

If your child is sick and you don’’t know what to do: There is a bear.

Fight. Claw. Survive. Do not let the bear win.

But if you are on base with your fellow heroes or back home with those who love you, if you have a place to stay tonight, if your children are being cared for, and you still feel panic, fear, or helplessness, ask yourself.

Ask yourself.

You do not need be afraid.

Our world is different today. It is so much better than when we didn’’t have antibiotics and lasers, smartphones and cheap travel, space exploration and vitamins, democracy and the Internet.

Our world is so much better, and you can be too.

If there is no bear, this day, check your fear; celebrate this moment and the next and the next. Explore. Experiment. End the voices in your head that tell you what’s not possible. 
Find the people who will cheer you on. Find a stranger and give them a taste of your enthusiasm. Find a reason to fail and learn and try again. Wake up each morning and savor your dreams for breakfast. You do not need to be afraid.

This can be the most hopeful, transformative day of your life.


Wednesday, 29 May 2019

What Is Divorce Etiquette And How Can It Help?

You don’t often hear the words ‘divorce’ and ‘etiquette’ used together. When I hear the word ‘etiquette,’ I think manners, politeness, courtesies – again not things we usually associate with ending a marriage. And perhaps that’s exactly why so many people struggle to achieve a good divorce. So what is divorce etiquette and how can it help?

I’m not a fan of rule books but I do think being conscious about how you conduct yourself during divorce could help you better cope with the end of your marriage so you’ll feel less conscious, less awkward and avoid saying or doing things that you’ll regret later. If we did have more generally accepted guidelines on coping with divorce, then the breakups could be less disruptive not just for spouses but also for children, extended families, friends and coworkers. Who wouldn’t want that?

This episode of Conversations About Divorce is all about Divorce Etiquette and joining me for this fabulous conversation are Suzanne Riss and Jill Sockwell, authors of The Optimist’s Guide To Divorce: How To Get Through Your Breakup and Create A New Life You Love.

What Is Divorce Etiquette?

When someone is going through a hard time, it’s part of our human nature to want to help. We often want to do something to let that person know we care. We want to do something to let that person know we’re sorry they’re in pain. But just like other difficult situations, we don’t want to say anything that will make the person feel worse.

Riss says, “When we are talking about divorce etiquette, we’re talking about making a difficult situation better rather than rubbing salt in the wound.”

It really comes down to acting with kindness and compassion in any situation. Setting that intention at the beginning of the process will guide you through the many points along the way when you have a choice. Riss says, “Make it your personal mission to treat them as you would like to be treated.”

Who Is Divorce Etiquette For?

Divorce etiquette applies to everyone whether that’s friends, family, children and especially your STBX. Both partners set the tone for the divorce and how you divorce, can be quite independent of your marriage. This means that you don’t have to carry over the level of disagreement and arguing from your marriage to your break up.

It’s important to think about this early, preferably before there’s even been a discussion about separating because it’s in that very first conversation that the tone of the break up starts to get set. There’ll be many points along the way where you’ll have the opportunity to reset the tone or reinforce it.

“We believe you can apply some rules for common decency with your partner as you go through the difficult process of separating,” said Riss.

Of course, treating your partner with respect doesn’t mean you’ll get the same back. Rockwell reminds us that you can’t control anyone else. However, “no matter how hard you are trying to be kind, understanding, compassionate, doesn’t mean that on that day, that argument, you’ll be getting that treatment back but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth maintaining that intention.”

You have to switch gears – once the marriage is over, you now have to work to transition your relationship with your STBX from a romantic partner to a business partner. That might be for the short term while you figure out the division of assets or it could be for a much longer period if you have children together.

Meeting Your STBX In Public

Meeting your STBX in public may be awkward, even embarrassing but there’s a high probability it’s going to happen. Knowing that means you can prepare.

“You have a choice at every step,” says Riss. “You can choose positive or negative.”
The example we talked about was what if both you and your STBX turn up at school to pick up your kids. Obviously, there’s been a miscommunication so what should you do?

“It’s best to try to work it out without embarrassing your kids,” says Riss. “If someone needs to be the bigger person, take on that role.” If that means you letting your STBX pick up the kids even though you’re convinced it’s your turn, so be it. Better that than having a brawl in the parking lot.

Another situation is when you arrive at your child’s event, maybe it’s a concert, maybe it’s a baseball game. Your STBX sees you and waves at you indicating they have a seat for you. Sitting next to them isn’t what you had in mind so what should you do?

Sockwell says how you handle this depends on whether your STBX is trying to control you. If it doesn’t feel safe for you to sit next to or near your STBX, then don’t. But otherwise, consider that your STBX maybe doing this with your child’s perspective in mind.

“If I were a child, I can’t think of anything I’d want more than to look out from the swimming pool, the stage or wherever I was performing, and see my parents together because they’re there not because they are in a relationship together but they’re there for me,” says Sockwell.

Friends Take Their Cues From You

Soon after my ex and I split up, one of our couple friends was hosting a cookout at their home. She called me and invited me and told me that they’d also invited my ex. She said that she and her husband liked us both, were friends with both of us and they didn’t want to choose who to invite so they were inviting both of us and leaving it up to us to figure out what we wanted to do.

This is a great model to follow but isn’t what typically happens.

Riss says the key word here is comfort. “People take their cues from you. If you’re comfortable, then the person asking you will feel relieved that you’re OK.”

Letting people know that you’re doing OK will make them feel comfortable inviting you to a social occasion.

There will be friends from whom you don’t hear. Sockwell’s straight-forward advice here is that if you’re missing a friend, then you reach out to them.

“Don’t assume they’re not reaching out to you because of what’s going on with you. They may have their own stressors or own health problems or their own separation. You never know,” says Sockwell.

Divorce is a difficult and uncomfortable topic and your friend not contacting you may be because they don’t know what to say. You taking the lead, can put your friend at ease and breakdown the barrier that threatens your friendship.

On the flip side, Riss recommends that if you know someone who is going through divorce, be proactive and let them know you’re there to support them.

Be Sensitive At Work

The workplace is a different environment. There, if you notice someone is not wearing their wedding ring, it may not be appropriate to comment in an open meeting. Sockwell says, “If they haven’t said anything, I’m not going to say anything because they’re probably doing what they can to hold it together.”

If they bring it up, then feel free to invite them to get together after work. If they don’t bring it up, then perhaps you can approach them in a private space to offer support.

If you’re going to need time off or flexibility for appointments, it’s a good idea to let your supervisor know what’s going on but Riss, recommends doing so once you can do it without breaking down in a flood of tears.

You may also want to consult with your HR department for guidance on how to handle changes to your benefit enrollments and also on company policy around name changes, if that’s going to apply to you.

Beware of Social Media

Both Riss and Sockwell agree that it’s very easy to post something to social media that you may regret later. Riss says, “Don’t react out of anger.” Social media is not the place to air your grievances. If you’re upset about something, call a friend and work through your anger another way.

Similarly, Sockwell recommends against posting updates that are calling for pity. She suggests keeping a journal and using that to work through your emotions.

Even though you may have blocked your STBX from seeing your posts, if you have friends in common then your STBX may still be able to see your posts through their feeds and that could end up hurting you.


Tuesday, 28 May 2019

How to Immediately Deal with the Loneliness of Divorce

Knowing how to deal with loneliness will make getting through your divorce much easier. 

These 6 tips could be exactly what you need to stop feeling so alone.

Losing your marriage to divorce is one of the most difficult losses you’ll ever experience. What you’ve lost is so much more than just a marriage. Among so many losses, you’ve also lost a way of life, your dreams for the future, and your sense of belonging.

Despite the family and friends who are reaching out to help and support you as you struggle to make sense of your new reality, the truth is you’ve never felt so isolated and alone. You just don’t quite feel like you fit into the world now like you did when you were married. Learning how to deal with loneliness is a normal (but really miserable) part of divorce. But where do you start? Obviously, you don’t want to start with any philosophical statements about how dealing with loneliness is good for you. Where you need to start learning how to deal with loneliness is with things that you can do to immediately start feeling better.

Here are 6 tips to help you on your path to discovering how you can deal with the loneliness you’re experiencing:

Set a timer for 20 minutes and check out social media.

OK, this is a tricky one and that’s why you need to set a timer. Social media can help you feel more connected with people and that’s what we’re going for here. BUT social media can also make you feel lonelier if you’re using it to do things like compare your life to someone else’s or stalking your ex. So long as you’re using it purely to have a sense of positive connection, social media is a great way to assuage your isolation.

Pick up your phone and text or call someone.

Reaching out to a loved one when you’re feeling lonely is one of the easiest and quickest ways to deal with loneliness. There’s an immediate connection that can pull you back from the unwelcome solitude you’ve been struggling with. (Of course, this may not work so well in the middle of the night.)

Turn on the TV or radio.

Regardless of what time of day it is, there are always TV and radio stations broadcasting. When I was learning how to deal with loneliness after my divorce, I almost always had either the TV or radio on when I was home –just for the noise. The sound made my home feel less empty which helped me to feel less alone.

Know that the profound loneliness you’re feeling is a normal part of divorce.

Although very few of the emotions you’ll experience as you heal from your divorce will feel normal, the loneliness that you’re struggling with right now is completely normal and expected. Knowing that it’s OK and even expected that you’ll feel lonely as you work through the end of your marriage could increase your acceptance of it. And by accepting the loneliness as just a part of the divorce process, the stress and misery of it will decrease just a bit.

Shift your focus away from what was and what you could have, should have or would have done.

When you’re dealing with the loneliness of divorce, it’s really easy to slip from feeling lonely to beating yourself up for what might have been if only you had done something different. And the more the beat yourself up, the lonelier you feel. So go ahead and distract yourself from these thoughts of could have, should have and would have and you’ll notice that your loneliness lightens.

Do something that feels especially nurturing.

When you’re feeling sad and all alone, one of the best ways to pull yourself out of it is to baby yourself. Do something that feels incredibly loving and indulgent. When you do, you just might find yourself shifting a bit from feeling lonely to enjoying a little bit of alone time.
Hopefully, these 6 tips are exactly what you need to help you know just how to deal with your loneliness. And then again, maybe they aren’t.

If they weren’t that’s OK, because they’ve provided you with some inspiration for the creating your plan for what to do when your loneliness hits.

Either way, knowing how you’ll deal with one of the most miserable parts of one of the most difficult things you’ll ever experience will go a long way to helping you to find your way through all the losses of divorce.


Monday, 27 May 2019

Backlash over mother who admits she loves freedom of co-parenting

An American mother has written an essay for online magazine Slate about her personal experience of co-parenting – and she's been inundated with negative feedback.

Mother of two and law professor Lara Bazelon, wrote ‘Confessions of a Part-Time Mom” and admitted that although divorce hits hard when young children are involved, part-time parenting has, “Turned into a strange kind of gift.”

And readers have lost their mind, calling her selfish, with one writing:

“I’m sure the author got the memo and it sounds like the divorce was much about having ‘me’ time.”

And another posting:

Or maybe that she is just supremely selfish…not a good idea when you are a parent… so I suppose it’s good she is only a part-time parent for her kids’ sake.”

Or this rather sarcastic comment from Joanie:

"Well, just so long as YOU're happy, that's what counts. That, of course, makes you believe that your kids must be happy too. Because if YOU loved it but your kids didn't, what would you do? That would be awkward. So, they MUST love it. And it must be the best thing for them. Because you like it. Good."

So apparently, although divorce may not even be your choice, a mother is not supposed to feel happy when she is away from her children but instead sit and wither away in pain, missing them every, single, second.

In her essay, Lara described the initial pain of shuttling her children between her and her ex-husband:

“Adding to my initial anger, disappointment, and shame about the end of the relationship was a heavy layer of guilt for forcing our children to trundle back and forth between us.”
Lara wrote that saying good-bye to her children was, “wrenching in a way that seemed to symbolize the larger demolishment of our family.”

But soon parenting part-time became her new normal, and Lara confessed:

“Here’s the truth: Having my two children half the time is exactly the right amount, and I cannot imagine my life any other way. Unhappily married in a 1,200-square-foot flat with two toddlers and an aggrieved spouse, I was physically and emotionally suffocated. Now the same space feels positively palatial, particularly when I am the only person in it.”

And admitting that life is better got readers in digital land hot under the collar.

'The writer seems very stuck in the moment, with little ability to have foresight. Conclusion: we need MORE selfishness,' wrote SAHD Champ on Twitter.

And this from Betsy Ingraham: 'This is a joke, right? You didn't mean to print a sociopath's article, right?'

Of course, Lara is not unaware of the expectation of how part-time mothers SHOULD feel, and goes on to discuss what a ‘good’ mother is supposed to experience.

“I know how I am supposed to feel about my divorced-parent reality. A good mother would be devastated to lose thousands of dinner-bath-bedtime-story evenings. A good mother would be heartsick to wake up alone. Deprived of her children full time, a good mother would feel sorrowful and bereft.”

“Not me. I rarely feel bad when my kids are with their father. For a while, I felt bad for not feeling bad. Finally, I realized what plenty of other divorced moms figured out long ago: Divorce suits us, and actually, it suits our kids. Staying together 'for the sake of the children' is not doing them any favors. Kids know everything.”

Being a co-parent myself, just like Lara, I have to admit I’ve had to search for the silver lining in this horrible situation of not being with my babies every single day too. Otherwise I would not have coped.

Lara's spot on when she confesses there’s no point feeling terrible when your kids are with their Dad – do you want to be miserable half your life?

Why must we completely lose our identity when we’re a mother – whether that’s a full-time or part-time mum? We are still a person too.

When people judge me I often wonder, are they envious of the me-time my part-time parenting forces me to have? And yes, I write 'forces' for a reason.

There are not many mothers who choose part-time parenting unless their are extenuating circumstances.

I never, ever would have chosen to be a part-time mother. I was torn apart when my ex left me with two children, but then demanded he see them half the time.

I'd been with them 90 percent of the time while he worked tirelessly and now I was supposed to cope without them half the holidays, half the school week and half my life?
I remember screaming in one of my many mummy meltdowns, “Why should I live my life seeing my children half the time?”

But – since those horrible days, I’ve realised how bloody miserable I was in that relationship. I’ve found myself again. I’m a better person, happier, more independent and guess what? I am a much more patient, loving mother who relishes every single second she has with her two babies.

So to all those parents or non-parents out there judging people like Lara and myself, for admitting a little me-time is lovely. Just think about the reality of divorce, co-parenting and shuttling kids back and forth and cut us co-parents some slack. We are making the best of a tough family set-up.

And remember, while we do get a break each week – when we do have our children, there is no emotional back-up and you have to be 100 percent focused on them on your days.

I've now learned to appreciate those little creatures and never, ever complain about parenting again.

And that, is the true silver lining. Don't take time with your little ones for granted. Ever. Because I used to - and it took losing half my time with them to realise what a precious gift motherhood really is.


Friday, 24 May 2019

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, 23 May 2019

If You’re Still Angry with Your Ex, Read This

Long-gestating anger will never allow you to move forward emotionally. Instead, you are hanging on to someone that hurt you in a powerful way and your emotions are still too raw for you to do anything but linger in the past.

This will not be an article about the importance and power of forgiveness. I’ve already written about my issues with that philosophy. What I will talk about, however, is the responsibility you have to yourself and your children when it comes to managing anger issues towards your ex.

Responsibility is an interesting word. By definition, it means “a state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.” Is it your duty to deal with any anger that you may have towards your ex? Do you have an obligation or duty to raise and protect your children? I ask both of these question in full realization that anger towards your ex may be justified, especially if there was abuse, infidelity, abandonment or neglect of any kind. These are serious infractions. Unfortunately, the seriousness does not negate your responsibilities.

There is another question that comes to mind in this topical space. What is yourresponse ability? For your ex, it was likely lacking. Perhaps they lacked the ability to respond to frustrations in a mature and respectful manner and it led to verbal abuse. When temptation tapped them on the shoulder, they may have been the type to tap it back and disrespect you in the process. For them, responsibility and response ability were a bridge too far.

You are not them, however. As well, you are no longer with them. This already demonstrates a response ability on your part to teach people how to treat you. You also ensured that your children would not grow up watching a failed marriage play out in front of them. This is a responsibility that both parents have and yet you proved to be the role model that did the right thing. Great response ability on your part.

Without context to your situation, I, nor anyone else, can judge the validity of your anger. However, how you respond to that anger is what’s important. Do you control it or do you let it control you? When we let anger take over, there are several unintended consequences, a couple of which I would like to lay out here.

Anger unhinged will leave bodies in its wake. You may make rash decisions out of anger for your ex; decisions that negatively affect loved ones.

Samantha’s son Nathan really wants to switch weekends so that he could go on a fishing trip with his father (Rick). Samantha is still angry at Rick and is having a difficult time not letting her anger affect her decision. Nathan may suffer.

Erin has lingering anger issues with Ted. Her friends and family hear about it all the time and it puts a strain on conversations and relationships. In some cases, good friends have become complicated acquaintances.

You will never fully move forward as an individual. You and your ex have both moved on, at least physically. But long-gestating anger will never allow you to move forward emotionally. Instead, you are hanging on to someone that hurt you in a powerful way and your emotions are still too raw for you to do anything but linger in the past.

Once you are able to move past the anger, you will be able to begin channeling your emotions to a healthier, more personal journey of rediscovery and self-fulfillment. For every minute that you spend holding onto the past, that is one less minute you are moving forward.

Responsibility and response ability. Two things that you can decide to co-mingle or segregate. We all have responsibilities but not all of us have the response ability. There’s you, your children, your family, your friends, and your ex. Who within the many of these peeps deserves the least amount of your mental attention pointed in their direction? I think we both know the answer to this question.


Wednesday, 22 May 2019

6 Easy Ways To Be A Whole Lot More Optimistic About Anything

If you're a pessimist, you can vault yourself into a worst-case scenario in a nanosecond. You get an invitation to dinner from a new neighbor, and you imagine an awkward meal, followed by a lifetime of mutual dislike right on your own block. New clothes are a torment, lying in wait for a ruinous dab of salad dressing. A trip to one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the country? At best, you'll be miserably cold or break an ankle; at worst, you'll wind up snow-blind.

Negativity may appear to be a great defense mechanism: If you keep your expectations low enough, you won't be crushed when things don't work out. But recent research has revealed that the tendency to be a wet blanket in just about any situation—a trait the experts call "dispositional pessimism"—doesn't merely ruin a good time and prevent you from making friends. It seems that it's a bad strategy by about every measure. Optimists, it turns out, do better in most avenues of life, whether it's work, school, sports, or relationships. They get depressed less often than pessimists do, make more money, and have happier marriages (you won't want to miss these 5 secrets for a happy marriage—from a couple who met 84 years ago).

And not only in the short run. There's evidence that optimists live longer, too. A 9-year study of cardiovascular health in more than 900 men and women in the Netherlands found that pessimists not only die sooner of heart disease than optimists, but they also die sooner of just about everything. And pessimism has even been linked to higher odds of developing dementia.

Fortunately, a grim outlook doesn't have to be permanent. Leading researchers say that optimism and pessimism are two ends of a continuum, with about 80% of the US population scattered from mildly to relentlessly optimistic. But research reveals that if you're hunkered down on the other end, you can slide on over—or at least get some of the benefits that usually cluster on the optimistic side of the scale, says Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, an optimism researcher at the University of Kentucky and author of Breaking Murphy's Law. It takes only a few changes. They're small, gradual—and not what you'd expect.

Don't try to be happy.

In one of Segerstrom's favorite studies, researchers asked a group of people to use a beautiful piece of classical music to raise their moods, while telling other volunteers simply to listen to the symphony. The result: The concert didn't help those who were focused on lifting their spirits—but the others wound up feeling much better.

"To truly be happy, you have to stop trying," says Segerstrom (it's true; naturally happy people never do these 6 things). Even monitoring yourself—Am I feeling better yet?—gets in the way, studies show.

Instead, aim to be engaged. "Engagement bypasses pessimism," she says. One reason: When you're fully involved in something, it can distract you from a pessimist's favorite pastime—rumination. (That's what psychologists call the destructive pattern of obsessing endlessly over problems or concerns.) When you're ruminating, it's not just a bad day—it's always a bad day, and a bad life, and you're a bad person. The habit will blow up even a minor problem to billboard size. It takes up so much bandwidth, who has room to focus on a solution? It's no surprise that optimists accomplish more than pessimists.

Attitude adjustment: Find quick distractions you can use when you realize you're stuck on the same negative thought, suggests Segerstrom. Try activities that demand your full attention: Go to a yoga class (or a kickboxing or aerobics class, where you have to commit fully to avoid falling on your face). At the office, try calling a friend or switching on some absorbing music.

Imagine that it's the end of the world.

Ruminating is just one road to pessimism. Another habit that dims your outlook: a process called catastrophizing, mentally rewriting grim possibilities until they become true doomsday scenarios. A simple cough turns into pneumonia (and not the kind you recover from, either). One missed deadline is the first step in a fast trip to permanent unemployment.
This rumination-and-catastrophization combo packs a terrible one-two punch: Worst-case scenarios may be absurd, but playing them over and over makes them seem not only logical but inevitable. And it sucks the joy out of life.

Attitude adjustment: Exaggerate those scenarios to the point of comic hilarity, says Karen Reivich, PhD, codirector of the Penn Resiliency Project at the University of Pennsylvania and coauthor of The Resilience Factor. "At some point you think, Oh, come on, now. Am I really going to be living beneath an underpass in a refrigerator box because I'm a day late on a project?" 

Don't stop with the refrigerator box. Picture yourself trying to trap squirrels for supper—maybe even whipping up some squirrel fondue for the other bag ladies you've met under the bridge. Then paint the opposite scenario. Your project makes your company a million dollars! You're promoted to CEO! Finally, write down the outcome that's most likely. Chances are, it won't include the executive suite—or the one under the freeway.
"The beauty of this goofing around is that you feel a bit of power over your thoughts and the situation," Reivich says. "That sense of control is the antidote to pessimism."

Go ahead, blame someone else.

Researchers have learned that optimism and pessimism both boil down to little more than our "explanatory" style—a person's distinct way of interpreting life's ups and downs. When a good thing happens, pessimists dismiss it as a fluke; optimists take the credit. When bad things happen, pessimists blame themselves and expect to suffer a long time, while optimists see bad events as having little to do with them, and as one-time problems that will pass quickly. A pessimist who misses a shot on the tennis court says, "I'm lousy at tennis"; an optimist says, "My opponent has a killer serve."

University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD, author of Learned Optimism and a pioneer of positive psychology, was the first to discover that a person's explanatory style is fairly stable—and that it often explains why pessimists fail when optimists succeed. After all, it's easier to keep practicing your tennis serve if you're sure you'll do fine against someone at your level.

Thanks to the power of their explanatory style, optimists have an easier time even when things go wrong. Optimistic breast cancer patients are just as depressed by bad news as their pessimistic counterparts, researchers have found. But women with an optimistic disposition are more likely to expect their cancer ordeal to have a positive outcome, studies show; not surprisingly, these women report significantly greater emotional well-being during treatment, while pessimists suffer more distress. 

The good news: Researchers have found that pessimistic, self-blaming people can learn to come up with alternative explanations for setbacks and move forward to problem solving. However, making a long-term mindset switch takes continuous effort.

Attitude adjustment: When you catch yourself thinking like a pessimist, reframe the problem so that it's not all your fault. Instead of standing alone at a party thinking, No one is interested in talking with me—I look pathetic! try something like Where's the hostess? I'd never let a newcomer fend for herself without making introductions!
Of course, a true optimist wouldn't go looking for a scapegoat—and you do have to acknowledge your contribution to a problem if you want to make it better. But it helps to recognize that you're not the problem, even if your behavior could use some tweaking. Finally, set a small, achievable goal: Find that hostess and ask her to introduce you to three people at the party.

Try, try again.

Why do optimists tend to end up with so much to feel good about? Long after pessimists have given up and gone home, optimists keep trying to solve problems. In one study, optimists continued to work on unscrambling an impossible-to-solve anagram 50 to 100% longer than pessimists.

There wasn't a lot of payoff for persistence in the anagram exercise (and the pessimists are still thinking, suckers!). But in the real world, studies show that persistence leads to more success in school, a fatter paycheck, and a host of other perks.

In fact, in a study of law students, Segerstrom found that a person's level of optimism in the first year of law school corresponded with his or her salary 10 years later. The impact wasn't measly: On a 5-point optimism scale, every 1-point increase in optimism translated into a $33,000 bump in annual income.

Attitude adjustment: The quickest way to get yourself into the positive-feedback loop that keeps optimists going strong (hard work leads to success, which leads to more self-confidence and a willingness to work even harder, which leads to...) is to act like one. What's more, studies looking at the "fake it till you make it" approach show that it can have a surprisingly strong—and immediate—impact on your emotions. In research at Wake Forest University, for example, scientists asked a group of 50 students to act like extroverts for 15 minutes in a group discussion, even if they didn't feel like it. The more assertive and energetic the students acted, the happier they were.

What's best about this kind of cognitive-behavioral change is that it doesn't even require much faith, Segerstrom says. "You don't have to believe an antibiotic is going to work for it to work." The same is true of reaping the benefits of adopting a positive mindset. 

Make friends with an optimist.

If you're not in the mood for playacting, hooking up with an optimist may be the next best strategy. A yearlong study of more than 100 college-age couples from the University of Oregon found that both positive thinkers and their partners have greater satisfaction in their relationships than optimist-free pairs, in part because happy-go-lucky types tend to see their partners as supportive.

"If you are the partner of an optimist, both of you will be more satisfied in the relationship and more constructive in resolving conflicts," says Sanjay Srivastava, PhD, lead researcher on the study. It's not that a rosy worldview is contagious, it's just that you'll feel more positive about the relationship.

Attitude adjustment: Besides "slipstreaming" on your partner's optimism, socialize with cheery friends and bounce ideas off your more positive colleagues; research hints that these kinds of relationships with up-side types can make you feel better, too. And if you happen to be married to a pessimist, or are on your own? Your optimistic friends and coworkers are your best sounding board.

Try these 3 quick, feel-good moves:

You don't have to spend years in therapy to become more positive. Studies have shown that these three strategies take just 1 week to make a real improvement, according Seligman.

Use your signature strengths in a new way: Researchers asked study participants about their top five strengths—generosity, for instance, or creativity—and then told them to use one of these strengths in a new and different way every day for 1 week. The result? The volunteers measurably increased their happiness for a full 6 months.

Write down the good things: Every day, a group of adults was asked to write down three things that had gone well and why they happened. And again, even though the experiment lasted only 1 week, participants reported feeling happier for 6 months afterward.

Pay a gratitude visit: People were given 1 week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to them, but whom they had never thanked properly. The happiness boost from this experiment lasted about 1 month.


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

8 Ways to Finally Stop Wasting Your Time Hating Your Ex

Hating your ex is only hurting you.

You’ve done it! You’ve finally created a post-divorce life for yourself that you love. And honestly, things are absolutely perfect. Well, perfect except for one thing – you still hate your ex.

Hating your ex for a while as you heal from your divorce is part of the process. But when the hatred doesn’t abate despite moving on in every other way, it’s time to re-evaluate the energy you’re continuing to invest in the animosity.

The fact that you still hate your ex reflects all the hurt you felt about the end of your marriage and/or your ex’s behavior before, during and after the end. And these are valid reasons to seriously dislike, mistrust, and/or wish your ex would fall off the face of the planet.

But the more time, effort and emotional energy you spend hating your ex, the less time, effort and emotional energy you have for you and your nearly perfect new life. And seriously, your ex doesn’t deserve any more of you, do they?

So now it’s time to put the detestation behind you and stop investing in the past.

Here are 8 tips to help you move on if you still hate your ex:

Get Grateful.

Start focusing on what’s good about your life now. Any time your mind wanders to the past and what did or didn’t happen, remember that today you’ve got a great life and shift your attention to what’s good.

Take a time-out from technology.

Being connected is a fact of life and has its benefits and detriments. And technology has a couple significant drawbacks when you’re still hating your ex.

First, the ability to connect 24/7 increases the likelihood of yet another argument with your ex. Second, the ability to keep tabs on what your ex is doing.

Neither of these is necessary or good for you, so do what you have to do to eliminate being constantly connected to your ex and the temptation to cyberstalk them.

Curb the caffeine.

Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline which stimulates the fight, flight or freeze response. So when you know you will need to interact with your ex, cut down on your caffeine consumption and you’ll find that you are more able to keep your cool.

Stop the negative self-talk.

When you load yourself up with negativity about you, it’s really easy to want to shift the focus (and blame) from you to your ex which only exacerbates your extreme dislike. So learn to stop the negative chatter about you and you’ll start being less vulnerable to your ex’s antics.

Get sufficient slumber.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you don’t get enough sleep, you tend are grumpier the next day.

Well, if you’ve already got plenty of reasons for still hating your ex, then cheating yourself out of the rest and recovery that sleep offers will just make you that much more prone to continuing your hatred because you’re too exhausted to try something different.

Change your perspective.

You’ve already had to change your perspective about so many things because of your divorce. Choosing to change how you feel about your ex is just another one of the perspectives you’ll be better off changing that continuing to center on.

(And changing your perspective doesn’t mean that you’re going to forget. It just means that you’re not going to focus on the negativity anymore.)

Set boundaries.

There’s no reason why you can’t come up with appropriate limits to how and when you will engage with your ex.

(Obviously, if you have kids your engagement with your ex will be much greater than if you don’t.)

Stay aware of your emotions.

Hate is a very strong emotion. When you’re stuck hating your ex, it’s very easy for the hatred to seem to take on a life of its own. That’s when you know you have a habit, an unconscious reflexive emotion of hatred toward your ex.

By staying aware of your emotions, you’ll be able to catch yourself in the habit of hostility and choose to change your thoughts as you consciously move on from hating your ex.

Employing these 8 tips won’t cause you to immediately stop hating your ex. But they will get you on the correct path for finally moving past the hatred and hurt.

And if you find that after working these 8 tips on your own for a while that you’re still stuck hating your ex, then it’s time to reach out for some help. There are plenty of divorce professionals who can help you overcome your hatred.

Your time is precious – arguably the most precious resource you have. You’ve already invested so much time into your ex and the marriage you had. You don’t need to continue to spend any more of your life hating your ex.

You deserve to fully enjoy the wonderful new life you’ve created for yourself without your ex ever taking anymore undeserved focus again.