When the going gets tough in your relationships, what is your gut reaction? Do you feel like you spend most of your time pleasing other people? Or do you have a hard time knowing how to meet your needs? Maybe you feel like you don’t see a fight response or flight response in yourself, but you notice one of the two lesser-known responses: the freeze and fawn responses.
You might be wondering, what exactly are the freeze and fawn responses? Two of the four trauma responses (fight, flight, freeze, and fawn) that can stem from childhood trauma, and they both involve symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). A fawn response occurs when a person’s brain acts as if they unconsciously perceive a threat, and compels survival behavior that keeps them under the radar.
What is the Freeze Response?
This response is paralyzing. You are so overwhelmed by fear that your body stops.
You stop thinking, stop moving, and, in some cases, stop breathing.
Because your body stops, it is an unconscious act of dissociation with whatever is happening around you. This response is also associated with “shell shock” or basic post-traumatic reactions. If you have the “freeze” response early in life, you may be predisposed to experience freeze symptoms later in life.
What is the Fawn Response?
Different from the fight, flight and freeze responses, the fawn response points to people-pleasing.
Though people-pleasing is not the only manifestation of fawning, it tends to be the most evident sign.
Pete Walker was a pioneer in defining “fawning.” Walker says this response is developed in childhood to avoid mistreatment from adults.
Fawn responses can be any number of things but are nervous attempts to deflect attention. This can mean flattery, admission to toxic relationships, or complete destruction of personal boundaries.
People who fawn tend to deny their preferences and boundaries to make other people happy. They unconsciously believe that the price for relational security is compliance. They think that if they make others happy, they will be in less danger.
Do I Show the Fawn Response?
Sometimes those who show the fawn response don’t even know they are fawning, and they have likely experienced positive feedback from others in return, so it may not register as a problematic behavior.
Think you may fall into this category? Think back to any time conflict has come up. You can start by asking yourself these questions to find out:
Do I put my needs aside to make others feel better?
Do I feel empty in relationships after giving too much of myself?
Do I avoid conflict at all costs?
Do I feel everyone’s emotions all at once?
Do I think I am responsible for making everyone happy?
If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, it is likely your default is the fawn response.
Why Do I Have a Fawn Response?
There is not a short answer to why someone may show the fawn response. Generally, those that fawn are extremely empathetic and would rather take the emotional blow than someone else, the price of admission in relationships, and fawn types seek safety in interpersonal dynamics.
The most popular theory on fawning comes from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs.) These are events usually happen before the child is eighteen years old and can impair children for the rest of their lives.
When our brains are still developing, we will do anything to avoid danger. The fawn response is to seek safety by merging with the perpetrator. So as children, we do what we are told, even if it isn’t what is right or good for us.
This response invokes strategies from “flight,” “flight,” and the “freeze” responses, so it is seen as the most adaptive reaction. Fawning requires knowledge of whomever is hurting you and skill to know how to appease them. It is often seen in people who endure narcissistic abuse.
Fawning is also sometimes associated with codependency. Both are emotional responses that are triggered by complex PTSD.
In both fawning and codependency, your brain thinks you will be left alone and helpless. The brain’s response is to then attach yourself to a person so they think they need you. This can lead to do things to make them happy to cause less of a threat to yourself.
Though, the threat is the variable in each scenario. In fawning, the threat could be social isolation, conflict with a loved one, or unhappiness. Codependency is generally paired with loneliness.
How Can I Help My Fawn Response?
Trauma affects everyone, not just the one experiencing the trauma.
It affects the one inflicting the trauma, the one affected by the event, and anyone who interacts with those people.
The fawn response is a great example of this since it involves submitting to what others want.
So, how can you begin healing from trauma?
One of the first things to do to stop fawning behaviors is to observe them.
Whenever you are triggered, think about these things:
Why am I fawning right now?
How am I experiencing fawning behaviors?
How do I feel right now?
What do I want to do right now, not how do I think I need to react?
Asking yourself these questions will begin to unlock the trauma-affected regions of your brain.
A next possible step is to enroll in therapy appointments. Being able to share your trauma with a professional can help you process. Not only will you have a listener, but someone who can offer science-backed suggestions!
There are several different methods for healing trauma, including the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) process. This system helps re-wire your brain, creating new neurological pathways that help you react to trauma when it comes up.
Taking stock of your fawning behaviors before going to therapy is good. You can fill your therapist in on the issues since they likely will not see your trauma responses themselves.
Many times, you learn about traumas you weren’t didn’t even know were affecting you.
Find a Safe Person
Aside from a therapist, find a person you can talk with about your recovery. This can be a friend or family member that can hold you accountable.
As you’re healing, they will ensure you continue taking steps to stop fawning behaviors. But, they will also be the first ones you call when you’re struggling!
If you are ready to face your fawn response, to improve your mental health, there are many steps you can take. Begin thinking on ways to stop your fawning behaviors and how to ask for help from trusted people. There is no need to be obsessive compulsive about it, though. The main thing to remember is that other people have benefited from your fawn response, so they may have reactions to your changes.
Don’t worry, you can open up little by little and practicing the art of saying no more readily. Grab a cute mug that promotes positivity and healing. Write something that describes how you’ve been feeling. Or, try a yoga class to deepen your mind-body connection.
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Psychological abuse is a dark topic that most of us would rather avoid. But shining a mental light on it will help you parent effectively, regardless of whether you’ve crossed a line with your kids in the past or are likely to do so in the future.
So what do you picture? Spittle flying and a child shrinking in upon themselves? The truth is that emotional abuse can be more subtle, with much of it occurring outside the frame of that mental image. With the help of two experts, we isolated 13 modes of verbal abuse that fall under three general umbrellas: focusing on character rather than behavior, prioritizing intimidation and control over connection, and choosing punishment rather than discipline.
“I don’t think somebody plops down and goes, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to call my kids stupid and lazy,'” said psychologist Sheryl Ziegler, Psy.D., who has treated thousands of children and families as the founder and managing director of The Child & Family Therapy Center at Lowry in Denver. It’s usually automatic, unthinking. Maybe you talk to your kids the way you were spoken to as a child, or maybe your filter has disintegrated in the flames of overwhelm. In most circumstances, Ziegler said, “Parents are not doing this to be abusive.” And it’s important to keep in mind that good parents have bad moments.
At the same time, too many bad moments leave kids more predisposed to behavior problems, mental health issues (including obsessive-compulsive disorder, dissociation, PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation), and — as adults — chronic illness, heart issues, and even difficulty connecting with their own children. That’s true not just when a child is the target of verbal abuse, but also when they witness a sibling’s mistreatment. Attempts to repair after losing it with your kids are absolutely the right thing to do, but, Dr. Martin Teicher, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said, research indicates that “you cannot make up for verbally aggressive parenting by being verbally affectionate.” Few realize that verbal abuse is “one of the very most potent forms of maltreatment,” Teicher said. Its effects can be on par with those of extra-familiar sexual abuse in terms of depression and anxiety, and there’s some indication in his research and that of others that emotional maltreatment may be even more closely associated with psychological distress than physical abuse.
The good news? Though maltreatment impacts kids differently at different ages, researchers have identified a “dose-response relationship” between exposure and harm. Translation: Stopping these 13 behaviors now will help.
When doctors and researchers try to suss out childhood maltreatment, they often start by asking about insults, particularly statements that make one feel incapable or worthless. Think, “You’re stupid,” Teicher said. When therapists talk to adult clients and conduct surveys, they find that kids hold onto “things like that, that cut to the quick,” ruminating over them well into their adolescent and adult years.
Calling your kid a brat or a screw-up may not seem like a big deal, but these labels, Teicher said, “wind up as voices inside your head or the monkey on your back saying, ‘You can’t do this. You’re stupid. You’re always going to be a failure.'” Ziegler said this type of internalization can translate to surrender: “Like, ‘If I am that in your eyes, then I guess I have permission to act like that, to really go there.'” Parents who insult their kids also send a dangerous message: It’s unsafe to rely on them for caregiving. Children’s ability to depend on others and ask for help thus takes a hit right alongside their self-esteem.
So what’s the solution? The obvious answer is to just knock it off, but that advice works for pretty much no one. Sometimes name-calling happens when you project unconscious hostile feelings onto your kid. In other words, you think internal distress is coming from the outside, and you lash out at what feels like the source. Sometimes paranoia is to blame. Vulnerable narcissism is another common culprit. Only therapy has been shown to work for helping parents sort out where tendencies like these come from and how to overcome them. That said, some tips can help those who only occasionally name-call. In calm moments, try asking yourself, “What is the voice I want in my child’s head?” And then, Ziegler said, when you’re fired up, instead of saying, “You are lazy,” say, “I’m concerned that you haven’t done your chores today.” The goal is to get rid of labels and instead describe concerns. Then you’re talking about actions, not character. What I did, not who I am. “It’s processed very, very differently,” she said.
2. Using “you always” and “you never”
Even when a parent starts off on the right track with “it’s frustrating for me that you didn’t take the garbage out,” sometimes, Ziegler said, “the very next thing they say is, ‘See? You always forget. I always have to remind you.’ And then they start rolling.”
“You always” and “you never” can have the same psychological effect on motivation, self-esteem, and well-being as name-calling. If I always suck and I never do things right, why bother trying? Kids wind up with a “fixed mindset,” something that’s been tied to everything from unhappiness to lower academic performance. Instead, Ziegler explained, “You want to inspire your child that they can grow, that they can change.” If you notice an undesirable pattern in your kid’s behavior, lead with curiosity. She recommended the following phrasing: “I’m wondering if you’ve noticed ….”
But here, too, it’s hard for a parent’s behavior to change without introspection. Ask, “Why do I see things in black and white? During stressful moments, why do I assume the worst in people?”
Deflecting (a.k.a. diversion) is basically bringing up unrelated issues or past offenses during an argument. Let’s say your child comes to you and says, “Mom, it hurt my feelings when you called me a sloth because I never help out.” A parent’s first instinct might be to say, “Well, you also borrowed my shirt without asking last week. You have no respect for anyone or anything.” Ziegler explained what’s going on with that parent’s subconscious: “I’m just going to bring something up—that I’m going to say is somewhat related, but really is offtrack—so we can stop focusing on the fact that I said this terrible thing to you this morning.”
When you load a conversation with historical transgressions, a couple things happen. First, you’re fanning the flames of your own anger, causing it to swell. Deflecting also backfires by not only preventing your kid from having the clean slate necessary for a growth mindset, but also alienating them. Who wants to spend time with a person who constantly reminds them of the worst things they’ve ever done?
4. Other negative character generalizations
Other negative generalizations about your child’s character or worth include counterfactuals and comparisons. Teicher said some of the most abusive statements are “telling them you wish they were never born or that [your] life would have been so much better if they were never born. Or saying, ‘You’re never going to be as good as your brother or your cousin.'” Or, “you’ll turn out just like your deadbeat dad.”
During intense moments, parents who generalize about character tend to see their children as all good or all bad. That’s another thing therapy can address. In the meantime, try to muddy those waters by focusing on your child’s strengths. Strength-based parenting is a whole thing, but the gist is that every strength (e.g., persistence) has a flip-side (e.g., pestering) and most things that look like fatal flaws (e.g., vanity) can be reconceptualized and tapped as a strength (e.g., appreciation of beauty). “Being a strength-based parent is not something that comes naturally to a lot of people, but it works wonders,” Ziegler said.
Though the term “gaslighting” has been around for the better part of a century, its use has skyrocketed in recent years. Still, not everyone is familiar with it. Ziegler explained, “Gaslighting is a type of mental manipulation, where a person makes someone else question their sanity, their decisions, their recollection of an event, even their own reality.” If a parent is gaslighting their child, she said, “That’s a pretty huge red flag.”
Common examples include “I didn’t say that” and “I didn’t shove you; I just moved you out of the way.” Like deflection, gaslighting can be a way to dodge a mea culpa. Let’s say I called my kid “a disrespectful ingrate.” They said it hurt their feelings. If I reply, “You’re just always so sensitive,” Ziegler said, “that would be an example of gaslighting.” She thinks it often comes from a parent fearing a loss of authority. But validating your child’s feelings and apologizing can actually increase your pull with them.
You can also ask why you feel the need to demonstrate that you hold all the power and your actions aren’t to be questioned. Where is that coming from? Could you be projecting your shame onto those around you, giving others a sense of worthlessness and powerlessness in order to have company feeling that way?
6. Condescension and belittling
In this same vein, being condescending, “really is a hallmark of needing to be in control and to actually exert your power in the form of shaming your child,” Ziegler said. Your subconscious goal “essentially is to make … yourself look quicker, brighter, and smarter.” It hurts them and undermines the parent-child relationship. “If you are sarcastic, if you are condescending, if you trivialize their experiences, kids are not going to talk to you about hard things … because there’s not safety in a relationship that’s like that.”
7. Blaming and shaming
When Teicher and his colleagues assess people for childhood maltreatment, they also ask how often their parent blamed them for things, scolded them, ridiculed or humiliated them in front of others, criticized them, and made them “feel as though you were incapable or worthless.”
“Discipline in and of itself is a good thing,” Ziegler said, “Your challenge is to be able to do that in a way … that doesn’t make them feel bad about themselves.” Constant reprimands and accusations pile up, diminishing a child’s self-construct and, often, their potential to live a fulfilling life.
She said, “When you engage in any one of these gaslighting kinds of styles of parenting for long enough — not once in a blue moon, but consistently — what’s going to happen is, when you are told it enough, you believe it.”
8. Frequent yelling
Also on Teicher’s list are “raise her/his voice with you,” “scream at you for no apparent reason,” and “yell at you.” We’re not talking about kind or neutral words in a booming baritone, and we’re not talking about a one-off explosion.
Ziegler said, “Every family I work with at some point says, ‘Yeah, I really lost it, and I yelled. It wasn’t my finest moment.” That’s not abuse. But berating is. Creating a threatening environment is. Frequency is. And not just for the obvious reasons. In “How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent,” Carla Naumburg, Ph.D., wrote, “The more you lose it with your kids, the stronger and more connected your ‘lose it’ neuronal pathways will become, allowing your brain to freak out more quickly and easily in the future.”
That’s a problem because, as Ziegler put it, “All the research shows that yelling doesn’t work as an ongoing parenting strategy…. Yelling equals fear, and fear is the opposite of love.”
She urges parents to get heard in other ways. “Learn to change your tone, learn how to even change your face and your body language — not to be intimidating, to be serious.”
Parents who yell often have trouble regulating their own emotions; building “distress tolerance” resources can change that. The underlying problem can really just be a lack of tools: the ability to understand their own triggers, the ability to take space when they need it, and more. Naumburg’s easy-to-digest book contains several additional strategies for remedying that situation.
9. Intimidation and invasion of personal space
When Ziegler first said infrequent yelling isn’t abusive, she checked herself: “I mean, I guess if you did it one time but you’re in their face, and you’re trying to intimidate them, that’s different.” She said parents tend to forget how big they seem and how vulnerable kids feel. “Think about your height, think about your weight, think about the depth of your voice.” Even if you’re now the same physical size as your teen, your past (and current) parental power makes you loom large in their estimation. If you use your proximity to get what you want, by hovering over them or backing them up against a wall, “that’s bullying type behavior,” Ziegler said.
Find another way. As Naumburg put it, when you’re triggered, “You have two choices: You can either lose it or do Literally Anything Else.”
Another common strategy to control and intimidate is getting your target alone. That looks like waiting for an older sibling to get out of the car before ripping into your youngest or insisting on getting someone on the phone, off speaker, to berate them one-on-one. “If you find that you behave in a different way whether there is another adult around or not,” Ziegler said, “then it might be a sign that you shouldn’t be doing it.”
11. Withholding affection
An academic paper offered a summary of what it means to live in a controlling environment: “[T]he person is pressured to think, act, or feel a certain way.” We’ve already covered “[d]ismissing, minimizing, and invalidating another person’s feelings and ideas, criticising and inducing guilt.” But there’s another piece to it: “creating an environment in which acceptance and love are contingent on the other person’s behavior.”
The other term for emotional withholding is “avoidant abuse,” and it basically looks like running hot and cold — warm so long as your kid does what they’re asked or expresses concordant opinions but icy (think the cold shoulder and the silent treatment) when discrepancies arise. Children end up destabilized, believing their parent’s regard — and their own worth — is conditional.
12. Swearing at
Swearing around your kids is very different than swearing at your kids. Kids know that cursing is often associated with anger, frustration and disapproval. Ask them, and they’ll say, “It’s bad.” Swearing at them takes all those negative associations and dumps them on the kid. To them it can feel like another way to say, “You’re bad.” That’s likely why it’s on Teicher’s list.
Most of us understand that threatening to harm your kid physically is wrong, but not all parents know that threatening non-physical harm is also abusive. If you find yourself promising — if they won’t do things your way — to call the cops on your kid, stop paying their school tuition, put their father in jail, or move them away from their friends, stop. Just stop. For alternatives, Google the phrases “warnings not threats parenting” and “parenting logical and natural consequences.”
Ziegler sees commonalities in these 13 behaviors. “One of them is being pain-triggered, being triggered to be angry, and not slowing down enough to think about what you’re trying to say.”
But it’s important to keep in mind that although this list is long, it’s not comprehensive, and other forms of psychological abuse aren’t as in-the-heat-of-the-moment. For example, another total mind-f**k is laying traps or creating scenarios designed to test how much your kid loves you. While you’re at it, watch out for “non-verbal emotional abuse,” which is characterized by, among other things, a parent being very difficult to please or causing a minor to prematurely shoulder adult responsibilities (a.k.a., “parentification“).
If you realize you do any of these things, Ziegler said you can share your personal or cultural history with your child: “Gosh, I realized what I’ve been saying and doing to you for years, and I think I was also raised that way, and I thought that was acceptable, and I now realize it’s not.” Try to connect in unrelated ways, too (“Just ask them: ‘What would you like to do?'”), because a strong bond is better than control for your kid and for your bottom line. The more connected your child feels, the better alternative discipline strategies, like a tone shift, will work, and the less you’ll feel you need intimidation and punishment to create the home life you want.
She mentioned one last overarching principle: consistency. “You can’t say, ‘Oh, gosh, I read this article … I’m going to stop doing this one thing, but I’m still going to do nine other things.” Your commitment has to be full-throated.
And it has to hold up over time. “Abusive relationships feel like, when somebody who is the abuser says, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore, and I really realize how wrong it is,’ and the other person is on edge. They are waiting for you — they are expecting you — to do that thing that you just said you’re not going to do. And when you do it just once after a proclamation that you are not, you are just starting all over again with the trust. It gets harder and harder to believe somebody like that.”
Subjecting kids to that cycle just isn’t good enough parenting. Still, engaging in these 13 behaviors doesn’t mean you’re not a good enough parent. As with our kids, it’s about actions, not character, and a growth mindset wins the day. “The sooner they stop,” Teicher said, “the better it’s going to be on how much you can reverse it.”
MORE FROM Gail Cornwall
Dr. Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. In her private practice, she counsels mothers and new parents. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga.
Dissociation and dissociative identity disorder (DID)
This section gives information about dissociation and dissociative disorders. It explains the different dissociative disorders, their symptoms and treatments. This section is for anyone with dissociation and dissociative disorder and their carers, friends or relatives.
- If you dissociate you might have symptoms such as not feeling connected to your own body or developing different identities.
- Dissociative disorder is a mental illness that affects the way you think. You may have the symptoms of dissociation, without having a dissociative disorder. You may have the symptoms of dissociation as part of another mental illness.
- There are lots of different causes of dissociative disorders.
- You may get talking therapies for dissociative disorders.
- You may be given medication that may help with symptoms of dissociation and dissociative disorder.
What is dissociation?
Many people will experience dissociation at some point in their lives. Lots of different things can cause you to dissociate. For example, you might dissociate when you are very stressed, or after something traumatic has happened to you. You might also have symptoms of dissociation as part of another mental illness like anxiety.
Some of the symptoms of dissociation include the following.
- You may forget about certain time periods, events and personal information.
- Feeling disconnected from your own body.
- Feeling disconnected from the world around you.
- You might not have a sense of who you are.
- You may have clear multiple identities.
- You may feel little or no physical pain.
You might have these symptoms for as long as the event that triggered them, or for a short time afterwards. This is called an episode.
For some people these symptoms can last for much longer. If you have a dissociative disorder you might experience these symptoms for long episodes or even constantly.
What are the different types of dissociative disorder?
There are different types of dissociative disorder. There is more information on each of these below.
It‘s important to remember that you could have the symptoms of dissociation without a dissociative disorder. There is also a lot of disagreement among professionals over dissociative disorders.
What is dissociative amnesia?
If you have dissociative amnesia you might not remember things that have happened to you. This may relate to a stressful or traumatic event, but doesn’t have to.
In severe cases you might struggle to remember:
- who you are,
- what happened to you, or
- how you felt at the time of the trauma.
This isn’t the same as simply forgetting something. It is a memory ‘lapse’. This means you can’t access the memory at that time, but they are also not permanently lost.
With dissociative amnesia you might still engage with other people, such as holding conversations. You might also still remember other things and live a normal life. But you might also have flashbacks, unpleasant thoughts or nightmares about the things you struggle to remember.
You may have dissociative amnesia with dissociative fugue. This is where someone with dissociative amnesia travels or wanders somewhere else, related to the things they can’t remember. You may or may not have travelled on purpose.
What is dissociative identity disorder (DID)?
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is sometimes called ‘Multiple Personality Disorder. But we have called it DID on this page.
If you have DID you might seem to have 2 or more different identities, called ‘alternate identities. These identities might take control at different times.
You might find that your behaviour changes depending on which identity has control. You might also have some difficulty remembering things that have happened as you switch between identities. Some people with DID are aware of their different identities, while others are not.
There is a lot of disagreement between researchers over the notion of DID.
We think of someone with DID as having different identities. But some researchers think that that these are actually different parts of one identity which aren’t working together properly.
They suggest that DID is caused by experiencing severe trauma over a long time in childhood. By experiencing trauma in childhood, you take on different identities and behaviours to protect yourself. As you grow up these behaviours become more fully formed until it looks like you have different identities. When in fact the different parts of your identity don’t work together properly.
What is other specified dissociative disorder?
With this diagnosis you might regularly have the symptoms of dissociation but not fit into any of the types.
A psychiatrist uses this diagnosis when they think the reason you dissociate is important.
The reasons they give include the following.
- You dissociate regularly and have done for a long time. You might dissociate in separate, regular episodes. Between these episodes you might not notice any changes.
- You have dissociation from coercion. This means someone else forced or persuaded you. For example, if you were brainwashed, or imprisoned for a long time.
- Your dissociation is acute. This means that your episode is short but severe. It might be because of one or more stressful events.
- You are in a dissociative trance. This means you have very little awareness of things happening around you. Or you might not respond to things and people around you because of trauma.
What is unspecified dissociative disorder?
This diagnosis is used where you dissociate but do not fit into a specific dissociative disorder.
Psychiatrists also use this diagnosis when they choose not to specify the reasons why you do not fit into a specific disorder.
Or if they don’t have enough information for a specific diagnosis. For example, after a first assessment in accident and emergency.
What are dissociative seizures?
Dissociative seizures are hard to get diagnosed. They are regularly wrongly diagnosed as epilepsy.
Dissociative disorders can also be known as non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD).
It can be hard to tell the difference between a dissociative and epileptic seizure. An EEG can read epileptic seizures but can’t read dissociative seizures. An EEG is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain using small, metal discs attached to your scalp.
Dissociative seizures happen for psychological reasons not physical reasons.
What is depersonalisation/ derealisation disorder (DPDR)?
The feelings of depersonalisation and derealisation can be a symptom of other conditions. It has also been found among people with frontal lobe epilepsy and migraines.
But it can also be a disorder by itself. This means it is a ‘primary disorder’. There is some disagreement among professionals whether DPDR should be listed with the other dissociative disorders at all.
DPDR has some differences to other dissociative disorders. In DPDR you might not question your identity or have different identities at all. You may still be able to tell the difference between things around you. And there may be no symptoms of amnesia. Instead, with DPDR you might feel emotionally numb and questions what it feels like to live. We have explained this in more detail below.
You might have these feelings constantly rather than in episodes. It doesn’t have to have been caused by a traumatic or stressful event.
Many people think that this disorder might be more common than previously thought. This might be because of:
- a lack of information about it,
- patients who didn’t report their symptoms, and
- doctors who don’t know enough about it, meaning they underreport the condition.
With DPDR you might have symptoms of depersonalisation or derealisation or both.
With depersonalisation you might feel ‘cut off’ from yourself and your body, or like you are living in a dream. You may feel emotionally numb to memories and the things happening around you. It may feel like you are watching yourself live.
The experience of depersonalisation can be very difficult to put into words. You might say things like ‘I feel like I don’t exist anymore’ or ‘It’s as if I’m watching my life from behind glass’.
If you have derealisation you might feel cut off from the world around you. You might feel that things around you don’t feel real. Or they might seem foggy or lifeless.
Jane started feeling the symptoms of depersonalisation after smoking cannabis. She felt like her eyes were fixed on parts of the room and that she was not connected to everything around her. She felt as if she was a spectator in her own life for many months, rather than actually living ‘in the moment’. It took Jane a long time to be diagnosed. To recover, she was helped to distract herself from the DPDR symptoms for long stretches with engaging activities. This then expanded into periods of time when she felt connected to the things around her again. Cognitivebehavioural therapy and mindfulness taught her to manage her anxiety and the distressing symptoms of DPDR.
What causes dissociation?
There are different things that can cause you to dissociate. For example:
- traumatic events,
- difficult problems that cause stress, and
- difficult relationships.
Other researchers have suggested that the use of cannabis may sometimes be a cause of depersonalisation/ derealisation disorder (DPDR).
How are dissociation and dissociative disorders treated?
Dissociation can be treated in lots of different ways. The type of treatment you get might depend on which type of disorder you have.
Can medications help?
At the moment, there are no medications for dissociative disorders themselves, although you may take medication for some symptoms.
If you have episodes of dissociation you might also have a condition such as depression or anxiety. Some medications could help with this. For example, antidepressants could be used for depressive symptoms and benzodiazepines for anxiety.
Benzodiazepines can be addictive and should be prescribed for a short period only. Benzodiazepines can make Dissociation worse.
You can find more information on:
What psychosocial treatments can help?
Talking therapies are usually recommended for dissociation. There are lots of different types of talking therapy. Different ones might be used for different dissociative disorders.
What is psychodynamic psychotherapy?
If you have DID, then your doctors may think about long-term relationally psychotherapy. This is a type of therapy where you talk about your relationships and thoughts. You might talk about your past. Your therapist can link the ways you think and act with things that have happened to you.
For DID, psychotherapy might be needed for a long time, with at least 1 session every week. This will depend on individual’s situations and on their ability and level to function, resources, support and motivation.
What is eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)?
DID may also be helped by eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). In EMDR you make side-to-side eye movements while talking about the trauma that happened.
Doctors must be careful when using EMDR because it could make your DID worse if not done properly. But EMDR can have benefits when it is used along with other treatment. The type of EMDR used for DID is slightly different to other conditions. So, it is important that your doctor knows about your DID before you start EMDR.
What is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is another type of talking therapy. You will talk about the way your thoughts and feelings affect you. And how your behaviours may make this worse. You focus less on the past and try to change the way you think and behave.
Parts of CBT are recommended to treat DID, by helping you to change your thoughts and behaviours that come from the trauma.
A CBT approach has also been suggested for long-lasting DPDR. If you have DPDR you might often worry about your symptoms and think you have a serious mental illness or that something is wrong with your brain. CBT may help to change this way of thinking. By reducing your anxiety and depression that comes with this worrying, it may also reduce your symptoms of DPDR.
You can find more information about ‘Talking therapies’ by clicking here.
What treatment should I be offered?
In the UK, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) publish guidelines on physical and mental health conditions. These guidelines are a standard for NHS treatment. At the time of writing, there are no NICE guidelines on dissociation or dissociative disorders.
But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be offered treatment. If you think you are having any of these symptoms, then explain this to your GP. They may refer you to a psychiatrist.
You can find more about ‘GPs – What to expect from your doctor’ by clicking here.
What if I am not happy with my treatment?
If you aren’t happy with your treatment you can:
- ask for a second opinion,
- ask an advocate to help you speak to your doctor,
- contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), or
- make a complaint.
There is more information about these options below:
How do I ask for a second opinion?
If you aren’t happy with your diagnosis or treatment, speak to your doctor. If they don’t offer you any other treatment options, you can ask for a second opinion. This is where another doctor will assess you and suggest diagnoses or treatment. You don’t have a legal right to a second opinion, but your doctor might agree to one.
What is advocacy?
An advocate can help you understand your rights to treatment from the NHS. They can also help you be fully involved in decisions about your care. An advocate is separate from the NHS.
You can search online to see if there are any local advocacy services in your area. Or the Rethink Mental Illness Advice Service could search for you. You can find their details at the bottom of this page.
What is the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)?
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) at your NHS trust can try and help you with any problems or issues you have. You can find your local PALS’ details at: www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Patient-advice-and-liaison-services-(PALS)/LocationSearch/363.
How can I make a complaint?
If you aren’t happy with the way you have been treated, you can make a complaint. You have to make a complaint about the NHS within 12 months of what you want to complain about.
You can find more information about:
Self care & risks
What are self-care and management skills?
You can learn to manage your symptoms by looking after yourself at home. You will learn how to notice when you are becoming unwell and know what your triggers are.
Not all of the techniques here will work for everyone. It is important to try something that you enjoy and that you can commit to and that works for you.
Keeping a diary
You might find it helpful to keep a diary. You could write about how you felt over the day. Or you could write down goals that you want to achieve. You could use it as part of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Keeping a diary isn’t for everyone. If you have depersonalisation/derealisation disorder (DPDR) you might already spend a lot of time thinking about how other people see you. A diary may make you feel worse if it forces you to think about yourself. A diary can still help but talk to your GP or a counsellor first.
These techniques can be helpful for people who have been through trauma or who regularly dissociate. They can help to ‘ground’ you in the here and now. This may help when experiencing flashbacks.
Grounding works best when it is practiced regularly. Try practicing these things every day. There are different types of grounding techniques.
Using your surroundings
To use your surroundings, look around yourself. Focus on all the details of everything that is around you. Try describing this to yourself either out loud or silently in your head. Use all of your senses.
You could try positive words or phrases about yourself. For example, ‘I am strong’ or ‘I will succeed’. Write down a few things that are meaningful and positive for you. You could carry these around with you. Try reading them to yourself or aloud if your symptoms are bad.
This is similar to using your surroundings. Try thinking of a place that you feel peaceful and safe. This can be a real or imaginary place. If it is a real place, choose somewhere that is positive with no traumatic memories. Shut your eyes and imagine that place. Focus on all of the details and all of your senses.
Try moving into a posture that makes you feel strong. This could be standing up with your shoulders back or relaxing your shoulders. Try different postures until you find one that works for you.
Try choosing an object that is personal to you. You should try and pick something that only has positive memories attached to it. Carry it around with you and use it to remind yourself of who you are and where you are.
There are lots of different ways to relax. The important thing is to find something you enjoy doing. For example, cooking, reading or gardening. You might find that meditation or mindfulness helps.
Some relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness may make some people feel worse. For example, if you have DPDR you might struggle with meditation. If this is the case, try and find something else that works for you. If you have CBT, you could tell the therapist. They could help you find something that works.
Exercise and diet
There are no specific exercises that can definitely help. But you could try jogging, swimming or just trying to walk more and something that suits your ability. Trying to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables can help. You could also try to reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat. Reducing the amount of caffeine, you drink can be helpful.
If you don’t sleep enough your symptoms might feel worse. It can take a few weeks for you to get into better sleep habits. Here are some tips for helping you sleep.
- Sleep when you feel sleepy.
- Keep your bedroom as a place for only sleeping.
- If you are lying awake in bed for a long period, get up and move around for a while.
- Avoid taking naps during the day.
- Try not to have caffeine for a few hours before you go to bed.
- Make sure you get up at the same time every day. This can help you get into a regular routine.
You can find more information about ‘Complementary and alternative treatments’ by clicking here.
What risks and complications can dissociation cause?
Some people with a dissociative disorder may also have another mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression. This is called a ‘comorbid’ condition. In some cases, this can make your dissociative disorder harder in day to day life. However, all these conditions are manageable and treatable.
You can find more information on:
Carers, friends & family
What if I am a carer, friend or relative?
What support can I get?
If you are a carer, friend or family member of someone living with a dissociative disorder you can get support.
You can get peer support through carer support groups. You can search for local groups in your area on the following websites:
- Rethink Mental Illness: www.rethink.org
- Carers: Carers UK: www.carersuk.org
- Carers Trust: www.carers.org
If you need more practical support, you can ask your local authority for a carer’s assessment. You might be able to get support from your local authority.
As a carer you should be involved in decisions about your relative’s care planning. But you can only be involved if your relative agrees to this. If they don’t agree, their healthcare professionals can’t share information about them with you.
You can find out more information about:
- Carer’s assessment and support planning by clicking here.
- Confidentiality and information sharing – For carers, friends and relatives by clicking here.
- Benefits for carers by clicking here.
How can I supporting the person I care for?
You might find it easier to support someone with a dissociative disorder if you understand their symptoms, treatments and self-care options. You can use this to support and encourage them to get help and stay well.
You should also be aware of what you can do if you are worried about their mental state. Keep the details of their mental health team or GP handy and discuss a crisis plan with them.
You can find out more information about:
Further reading & Useful contacts
Online training on dissociation and Dissociative Identity Disorder, webinars and literature.
Clinic for Dissociative Studies
This organisation has lots of information on dissociative disorders on their website. They also provide care and treatment for dissociative disorders. They can accept referrals from the NHS. They offer general information about dissociative disorders but do not run a helpline.
South London and Maudsley Trauma and Dissocation Service
A specialist outpatient assessment, consultation and treatment service. It’s for adults who are experiencing psychological difficulties following trauma and/or dissociative disorders. The only NHS specialist service offering treatment for people presenting with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe dissociative disorders. Referrals are accepted from GPs and senior clinicians. All referrals have to be approved and funded by the local clinical commissioning group (CCG).
Phone: 020 3228 2969
Source: Dissociative Experiences Scale
A Screening Test for Dissociative Identity Disorder
This 28-question self-test has been developed as a screening test for Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.
Completing this Psychological Screening Test
This questionnaire consists of twenty-eight questions about experiences that you may have in your daily life and asks how often you have these experiences. It is important, however, that your answers show how often these experiences happen to you when you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
To answer the questions, please determine to what degree the experience described in the question applies to you and choose the button which corresponds to the percentage of the time you have the experience. The left of the scale, labelled ‘Never’, corresponds to 0% of the time, while the right of the scale, labelled ‘Always’, corresponds to 100% of the time; the range covers 0% to 100% in 10% increments.
Take the Quiz
Please note: This test will only be scored correctly if you answer each one of the questions. Please also check our disclaimer on psychological testing and our psychological testing privacy guarantee.
About Scoring this Psychological Questionnaire
When your quiz is scored, one of two different information pages will appear to describe the results for scores in your range, along with further details of how your score was computed. Roughly speaking, the higher the score, the more likely a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder.
This screening test for Dissociative Identity Disorder is scored by totalling the percentage answered for each question (from 0% to 100%) and then dividing by 28: this yields a score in the range of 0 to 100.
Generally speaking, the higher the DES score, the more likely it is that the person has DID. In a sample of 1,051 clinical subjects, however, only 17% of those scoring above 30 on the DES actually had DID.
The DES is not a diagnostic instrument. It is a screening instrument. High scores on the DES do not prove that a person has a dissociative disorder; they only suggest that clinical assessment for dissociation is warranted. People experiencing DID do sometimes have low scores, so a low score does not rule out DID. In fact, given that in most studies the average DES score for a DID person is in the 40s, with a standard deviation of about 20, roughly 15% of clinically diagnosed DID patients score below 20 on the DES.
The figure shown below plots DES scores (horizontal scale) versus the number of subjects (vertical scale) from a sample of 1055 people. For further information about the DES, its validity and scoring, please visit the Ross Institute.
Grace loves to write commentaries on psycho-cultural and sociocultural dynamics in their myriad forms.
Why Sheltering Children Prevents Them From Coping in the Real World
More and more studies have confirmed that children of overprotective parents are risk-averse, have difficulty making decisions, and lack the wherewithal to become successful in life.
Furthermore, children of overprotective (OP) parents cannot deal adequately with hardships and other frustrations of life. In other words, they have a very low tolerance for frustration and crumble at the first sign of it.
What Is Overprotective Parenting?
- Constant Supervision and Micromanagement
- Prevention of Taking Responsibility
- Excessive Catering and Over-Consoling
- Controlling of the Social Sphere
- Excessive Caution
- Creating Dependency
Protecting Versus Overprotecting Your Child
I remember when I was in eighth grade, there was a boy whose mother took him to school everyday. There was nothing wrong with the boy and he was an honor student. The other pupils in the class found it totally absurd and ludicrous that a mother would take her 13-year-old child to school.
He was constantly derided by the other children, and called a mama’s boy or worse. If his mother did not take him to school, his father did! Even the teachers disrespected him, calling him an infant. When the weather was bad, he stayed home from school.
This boy never participated in school events as many of them were unsupervised. His parents insisted upon being present at his every move. Of course, he never had any friends while in the eighth grade. The other children thought that he was too peculiar and babyish. Some of the other boys consistently bullied him to no end. Everywhere he went was with his parents. This is clearly abnormal for an early adolescent who should be forming some type of friendship and independence.
What Does Helicopter Parenting Mean?
Helicopter parents, cosseting parents, cosseters, bulldozer parents, or lawnmower parents are terms used to describe intrusive parents who are overly involved in their child’s progress in life, especially in education. According to expert Alicia Bradley, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and adjunct professor:
“This term is used a lot with adolescents or even adult children [and refers to] trying to always be involved in every aspect of that child’s life, not just in a supportive way, but in a controlling way. Many times this can be difficult for the child and end up causing stress or tension in the relationship.”
If helicopter parenting is detrimental to children, when and why did it evolve? Former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims, details the events spanning from the 1980s which contributed to the evolution and coining of the term “helicopter parents.” This decade was characterized by an increase in child abductions throughout the U.S. and included the abduction of Adam Walsh which gained national attention and pushed Congress to create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 1984 later saw an increase in the popularity of the “playdate,” during which kids were no longer left unsupervised by parents. By 1990, child development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay formerly coined the term “helicopter parent.”
Actions, Intentions, and Traits of Overprotective Parents
Oftentimes, overprotective parents believe that they are doing the best thing for their children. Parents often shelter their kids from the “harsher,” “more difficult,” and “less desirable” aspects of childhood. According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in which 190 children were examined for anxiety and co-concurring child behavior symptoms, “Maternal overprotective parenting was significantly higher in the group of children with behavior disorders . . . .” The study suggests that OP parenting styles negatively impact behavior in the long-run, despite the parents’ intention for their children to have the best life that can be offered.
Constant Supervision and Micromanagement
These children are often not free to indulge in unsupervised activities like other children. Their parents are of the school that the best activities are supervised ones. Parents who constantly micromanage deprive their children of free will and prevent them from becoming proactive adults.
Prevention of Taking Responsibility
OP children are not assigned household chores and other responsibilities because their parents contend that these are anathema to a carefree childhood. Children who are not given responsibilities, not asked to pitch in, and not self-reliant, fail to thrive in standards situations.
Excessive Catering and Over-Consoling
Children who are excessively catered to expect everything at the drop of a hat. Patience and resiliency is not something that is learned from over-indulgence. A study published by the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford Univerity found that coping with early life stress expanded regions of the brain that help control resiliency. For instance, a child who is consoled for receiving a bad mark on a paper does not benefit. Instead, the lesson should be character building and further prepare the child for the future. Rejection is a part of a life and offers a good opportunity to teach a child the power of bouncing back.
The Differences in Reported Stress Levels Across Generations
The American Psychological Association commissions an annual study termed Stress in America. 2015 data revealed that younger generations are experiencing more stress than older generations: “On average, Millennials and Gen Xers report higher levels of stress than Boomers and Matures . . . and have done so since 2012.”
Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., explains how secure and relaxed parenting styles help to keep cortisol levels low in children, reduce stress, and encourage the development of self-soothing techniques. Dr. Dewar adds that this style of sensitive, responsive parenting is thought to enhance problem-solving abilities, attention skills, and school readiness.
Controlling of Social Sphere
Parents who control their child’s social sphere hinder them from branching out on their own and developing essential social skills that will later serve them in the adult world. By worrying about the influences of other children, parenting styles, and lifestyles, sheltered children miss out on learning how to embrace and adapt to differences in opinions, preferences, and life choices. Underexposing a child makes them maladapted to the real world.
When a parent incessantly worries, tracks, or snoops on a child (via cellular devices, social media, or by reading private content such as written diaries), the child loses their sense of individuality and sense of self. The parent tries to pacify their fears by digging into their child’s private life rather than developing a healthy relationship founded on trust and open communication. Parents who worry about catastrophic events and bar their child from living life raise an adult who will be risk-averse later in life.
Overprotective parents are invasive in other ways. They solve problems for their children that the latter are often capable of solving themselves. They infantilize their children by making them feel incapable of charting their own course. In fact, these parents are making their children extremely dependent and infantilized past an appropriate age.
The overprotected child will likely not learn the skills needed to form their own identity and learn how to solve problems independently. They will not know how to use critical thinking skills to handle different life situations. Their frustration tolerance can be low and anxiety can be high.
— Alicia Bradley, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
How Overprotecting a Child Affects Them at School
Traits of an OP Child in School:
- Dependent on Teachers
- Labeled a Difficult Student
- Lacking in Maturity
- Sense of Entitlement
- Easy Target for Bullies
- Labeled Misfits
- Academically Ahead, Socially Behind
- Lacking in Knowledge of Age-Appropriate Life Situations
Dependent on Teachers
Teachers are not especially pleased with OP children. Teachers often have to assume quasi-parental roles with these kids, doing things such as tying their shoes and performing other tasks that they should be performing themselves. Many teachers voice utter dismay at the backwardness of overprotected children. These are the children who have poor or nonexistent social, emotional, and survival skills.
Labeled a Difficult Student
Furthermore, such children are often the most difficult pupils around. These children often expect teachers to mollycoddle them as their parents have done. They get quite a surprise when teachers treat them like their other students. Oftentimes, these children cannot adjust well to the school environment where some sort of independence is required.
Lacking in Maturity
Children of overprotective parents are often years behind in maturity in comparison to their more free-range peers. Teachers further remark that these kids are highly dependent and insist on being assisted as much as possible. Teachers do not have the time to individually assist each child as there are often many kids in the classroom setting. In other words, overprotected kids are quite problematic for teachers.
Sense of Entitlement
Because of their upbringing, sheltered kids have a sense of entitlement and feel they should have their way. They were not told by their parents that they are not the center of the universe and they must learn to cooperate with others. Because they have a high sense of specialness, they often become quite unhinged when situations are not in their favor.
Easy Target for Bullies
Many such children are often prey for school bullies because they did not develop the social and street savvy needed to survive the school environment. Bullies usually target children who are quite defenseless and extremely vulnerable. In other words, bullies do not attack children who possess self-confidence, social and street savvy, because they know it would be a losing battle. In a study of 197 kindergarteners published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers concluded that:
“Relations between shyness and certain indices of maladjustment were stronger among children with mothers characterized by higher neuroticism, BIS sensitivity, and an overprotective parenting style . . . . “
What Is BIS Sensitivity?
BIS sensitivity or behavioral inhibition sensitivity helps to regulate aversive motives, during which a subject moves away from an undesirable stimulus. OP children of BIS-sensitive parents find it difficult to try new and different situations and they are often risk-aversive themselves. They tend not to be adventurous and are quite timorous regarding life situations.
OP children are often not respected by their peers because of their infantile mannerisms. Their peers consider them utter misfits. Such children do not have the bounce and competitiveness that children from free-range environments often possess. They are often needy and dependent at an age when gradual independence should occur.
Academically Ahead, Socially Behind
Oftentimes, OP children are years behind in development in comparison to their peers. Of course, when parents excessively infantilize their children, it makes them socially, emotionally, and psychological retarded. Even though these children earn high grades, they lack common sense. Other children sense this and these children are often targeted not only by bullies, but other stronger children.
Lacking in Knowledge of Age-Appropriate Life Situations
These kids are sheltered and not aware of age-appropriate life situations. An overprotected 13-year-old often acts as if he or she is several years younger than their actual chronological age. They are also overly dependent upon their parents as they were seldom, if ever, allowed to independently explore their social environment as other children do.
The Consequences of Treating Teenagers Like Children
Overprotected teenagers are often lost in comparison to their more free-range peers and tend to be:
- Outcasts and Pariahs
- Dependent and Risk-Adverse
While their free-range peers are free to explore adolescence in all its intricacies, the overprotected teenager is either kept under a severely tight rein or overly scheduled in activities of their parents’ choosing. They are treated more like children than like the burgeoning independent adults they are becoming.
These teenagers often have quaintly inappropriate curfews for their ages while other peers have more relaxed curfews. Many overprotected teenagers become resigned to their parental influence, just accepting it as their lot in life. Oftentimes, overprotected teenagers accept their overprotective environment as normal. Some are so infantilized and passive that they believe that they can do nothing about it.
Outcasts and Pariahs
Overprotected teenagers are more at a loss in the high school environment than their counterparts in either elementary and junior high school. These teenagers often have nonexistent or extremely poor social skills. This makes them outcasts and pariahs among their peers. Teachers furthermore find such teenagers distressing and disturbing to say the least. These teenagers are emotionally underdeveloped in many ways.
Dependent and Risk-Averse
OP teenagers are the most dependent and risk-averse teens around. Because many of them had no freedom and time to indulge in unsupervised behavior, many of them become quite unhinged when presented with an opportunity to participate in independent behavior. Teenagers who are the wildest and the most rebellious at gatherings are usually the sheltered ones who were kept under a tight watch by their parents.
Overprotected Children Do Not Possess the Life Skills Needed for College
During the college years, many overprotected young adults find it extremely difficult and onerous to adjust to college or university life and are often:
- Socially Unrelatable
- Likely to Become Unhinged
- Incapable of Living Independently
- Unable to Make Decisions
Alicia Bradley, LCPC and adjunct psychology professor, explains:
“If [a young adult’s] sense of identity is not formed, they may not know how to make some important decisions when they are getting out on their own, such as what field they want to get into, how to manage having a job and being a high-functioning, independent adult.”
This applies especially if they elect to attend a school away from their parents’ domiciles.
Overprotected college students are often the bane of their more independent peers and roommates. The latter do not understand how the former is oftentimes quite immature and do not possess essential life/survival skills every adult should have.
Likely to Become Unhinged
Many overprotected teenagers are under such extreme restraints that at the first opportunity when they are away from their parents, they become totally unhinged and wild. Bradley adds:
“[OP children] may also hold some resentment towards the parent for not allowing them the ability to grow and develop like their peers. This can cause a strain in the relationship and that child may begin to push back and engage in some risky or undesirable behaviors.”
Incapable of Living Independently
These are the young adults who possess very little or no sort of life skills. They are often a horror to the more responsible roommate who was raised to be independent at an early age. Many OP children, once they reach college age, find it arduous to live on their own without their parents.
Unable to Make Decisions
These young adults are extremely dependent and are unaccustomed to independent behavior and decision making. According to an article on PsychologyToday.com titled, “The Effects of ‘Helicopter Parenting:'”
“College-aged students whose parents are overly involved in their academic lives, or whose parents created rigidly structured childhood environments, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may also experience academic difficulties.”
Many of these students have parents who choose their school and their majors in the hopes that everything will be smooth for them. They also find it onerous to use independent judgment regarding their college courses and in everyday life, however, many of these overprotected students flunk out because they clearly do not possess the prerequisite independence to survive and thrive.
Traits of an Adult-Child
How Overprotected Children Are Hindered in the Workplace
In the work world, overprotected young adults fare even worse. The signs of an OP potential hire include:
- Parents Who Attend the Job Interview
- The Adult-Child Complex
- Lack of Independent Thinking
Supervisors and superiors are neither going to tolerate nor placate this infantilized adult. Many employers express dismal horror at incoming prospective employees whose overprotective parents come with them during interviews.
Parents Who Attend the Job Interview
This was never done before. It used to be when a prospective employee goes for a job interview, he or she went alone. Nowadays, there is a “new” style of parenting which the parent is very involved in even though that “child” is considered an adult in societal eyes.
The Adult-Child Complex
The OP child’s parents appear at their child’s job interview, informing the interviewer of how special their child is and the skills that can be contributed to the company. Of course, many interviewers are quite nonplussed at this. They figure, and rightly so, that something is quite amiss here. This adult-child is quite immature and would be bad news for the company. The prospect of this adult-child getting a job is now dismal to none.
Lack of Independent Thinking
If an adult-child is hired, they are going to be an immense burden on a modern corporate team. These adult-children make poor employees. They possess no concept of initiative nor independent thinking. They constantly want to be told what to do as befitting their familial environment. These employees are clearly not promotable. On the contrary, these employees are more likely to be fired or serially fired. Overprotected adult-children are more likely to be unemployable than their peers who were raised in a more independent environment.
Overprotected Children Tend to Struggle in Relationships
OP adult-children tend to wind up in defunct relationships, during which the following happens:
- (The OP Adult-Child) Is Extremely Passive
- Parental Involvement
- Imbalanced Dynamics
Regarding relationships, these adult-children are often extremely passive in any relationship they go into. Most of the relationships, whether it is platonic or romantic, do not last very long.
No person wants to compete with the omnipresence of a parent or parents regarding relationships. People often avoid relationships with such adult-children as the relationship can be called vampiric in more ways than one. These people are viewed as babies and no one wants to babysit an adult.
Many adult-children, because of their lack of savvy or social skills, enter into abusive relationships when their partner is the more dominant and/or parental partner. Even though this relationship is often abusive and unequal, these adult-children reluctantly remain in such relationships because they do not possess the means to dissolve it.
The Consequences of Overprotecting Children
Why OP Children Fail in School
In conclusion, overprotected children are slated for failure in school and in life. These children are so infantilized by their parents that they cannot survive the school environment. Teachers view the child as emotionally, socially, and psychologically backwards even though they can be academically prodigious.
Other children avoid OP children because of their needy and dependent nature. They are often a target for bullies because of their lack of social skills and street smarts.
Why OP Children Struggle With Socializing
Overprotected teenagers do not possess the skills that other teenagers possess. They are often not capable of indulging in independent social activities which is necessary in their development. Many overprotected teenagers are given harsher and stricter curfews than their peers.
Oftentimes, the only non-school activities that OP teenagers indulge in are those mandated by their parents or supervised by adults. Many parents believe that the teenage years are highly vulnerable and it is best that their teenagers be supervised as much as possible in order “to stay out of trouble.”
Why OP Children Drop Out of College
During the college years, many OP children cannot reasonably adjust to the rigors of college life. This is especially true if they elect to attend school away from their parents’ domicile. Because the university is a more independent and unstructured environment than either grade school, junior high, and high school, the typical overprotected student cannot survive, thus they often flunk out.
Why Adult-Children Struggle in the Workplace
In the work world or the “real world,” OP children are quite abysmal failures. They often do not possess the skills necessary to thrive and survive in the workplace. They possess no or low self-confidence, no initiative, and a low tolerance for frustration and hardships which is often commonplace in the work environment.
Furthermore, the supervisor is not their parent but someone who expects them to contribute and pull their weight. Many of these children end up being terminated from their employment—not once but several times. More often they become quite unemployable.
Why Adult-Children Struggle With Relationships
Overprotected children fare worse in relationships where equality is required. They are often at the extreme passive end of relationships as they were raised that way by their parents. Oftentimes, because of their extreme lack of social skills and their passivity, they are drawn into relationships where their partner is more dominant than they are.
Even though these relationships are quite abusive and Svengali-like, they prefer to stay in the “safety” of such relationships than to develop a backbone and have a more fulfilling relationship.
The Importance of Raising Independent, Happy, Successful Children
Overprotected children end up to be failures in life in more ways than one, and OP parents are only damaging their children and either do not or refuse to acknowledge this. Many kids remain in their infantile state until it is quite too late to change! Learn to let go as a parent and let your children grow up. Let us raise our children to be fully functioning and independent adults!
Tips for Raising Independent Children
- Encourage Trying: Encourage your children to try new things, branch out, and get out of their comfort zone. Celebrate effort independent of outcome. If it’s trying a new sport or a new activity, celebrate the fact your child gave it a try.
- Encourage Contributions: Invite your children to be part of the team and encourage them to make age-appropriate contributions. Have them help with walking the dog, putting the dishes away, or helping a sibling get to school in the morning. Responsibilities help children learn the value of trust and teamwork.
- Encourage Problem Solving: Rather than getting involved at the first sign of conflict or challenge, let your child work it out themselves. Don’t always give the answers away. Encourage them to communicate and analyze the situation. What if they are forgetting their soccer shoes on the way to the game? Ask them what they can do to help themselves remember (e.g. leaving the shoes at the front door the night before).
- Build Confidence: By teaching your kids new tasks every week, you encourage them to develop their repertoire of skills. Learning new skills increases confidence and helps them to take those skills with them into adulthood.
- Let Them Choose: Rather than arranging everything for them, allow them to make decisions for themselves. For instance, ask them, “Red shoes or black shoes?” or “Orange juice or apple juice?” By encouraging the power of choice, you help them to develop skills as an independent thinker. Independent thinking is another means of helping your child to develop leadership skills.
- Average Stress Level by Generation
- Adult Children
- 6 Tips for Raising Independent Children
- Prefrontal Plasticity and Stress Inoculation-Induced Resilience
- Former Stanford Dean Says Overparenting Leads to Kids Being Unprepared for College
- Maternal Characteristics Linking Child Shyness to Psychosocial and School Adjustment . . .
- Overprotective Parenting and Child Anxiety
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Any tips on an adult-child where the damage has already been done to reach recovery?
Answer: Seek psychological or psychiatric help regarding the matter.
Question: Why don’t some parents let their children choose what makes them happy?
Answer: Some parents believe that because of their extensive years/experience that THEY know what is BEST for their children. In their purview, they want to protect their children from unseen mistakes/sorrows. They also don’t want their children to fail. They furthermore don’t want their children to experience any unneeded frustrations in life. They want their children to have it better than they(the parents) had it. However, in order for children to be happiest and to reach their furthest potential, children must do what makes them happy as long as it isn’t detrimental.
Question: How to report overprotective parents?
Answer: Unless the parents are physically, verbally, and/or emotional abusive, you really can’t report them. You have to truthfully state that your parents are doing the aforementioned things. Otherwise, discuss the matter with your parents, counselors, or an impartial relative.
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on July 10, 2020:
You should discuss this matter w/an impartial relative or better yet, a school counselor. Your parents are doing you a great disservice. They are crippling your life skills.
tate on July 10, 2020:
I just wish there was a way to make my own parents understand that maybe they don’t know what’s best for me, and maybe what they are doing is wrong and doesn’t work. They always become too involved in all aspects of my life. I feel like I have no privacy. They don’t give me the ability to make mistakes. They take away anything that I could possibly do to make a bad decision.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on May 31, 2020:
Thank you for your commentary & suggestions. What you have stated is pure genius, thank you!
Camry on May 31, 2020:
Don’t be over protective and learn your kid how to play chess. A child who realizes that one does not always win but also loses, learns humility and respect for other people. I can recommend a very good and briliant book, that can bring you a lot of fun. It’s alll about chess. The rules of chess are very simple and children can learn them already from around the age of three. Not everyone can or wants to become a professional chess player but everyone can use chess for learning. For this purpous I can recommend a book (net-boss.org/chess-puzzles-for-kids-by-maksim-aksanov) with bunch of great exercises, which will help you and your kids to be better in this 🙂
Boris on March 25, 2020:
I kept living my life with guilt thinking it was all my fault. Considering that this is nearly 90% spot on I’m done with that. Thanks.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 08, 2020:
Speak to an impartial relative or friend about your parents. Arrange to have family counselling as your parents are toxic & are infantilizing you. Your parents are abusive. Your parents are sabotaging you. When you are able, get a job so you can move out & totally disassociate from your parents.
Lauren Rebecca on March 08, 2020:
My parents are making me miserable! I am 20 years old. I am currently a college student who has dealt with my parents for years. I feel like my parents don’t listen to me AT ALL. I have tried, time and time again, to have a talk with them, but have been shut down at every attempt to do so. Failing miserably. Oh, has it been rough. I have been able to make friends, but find it hard to create lasting and less “classroom” friendships. It is hard because when I do attempt to introduce or talk about my friends to my parents, they just right them off as a “bad influence” without getting to know them! If a friend invites me out, I’m given the third degree and a long run around as to why I can’t go. They try to cover it up by saying that they understand, while bashing the person. They same can be said when it comes to dating. I’m scared of someone I like meeting my parents because they put a lot of pressure on people especially when they/I are not at that stage and ready for all of the formalities that comes to meeting someone’s family. I find this ironic because they want me to be able to get married one day. I keep trying to gain my independence by trying to get a job and learning to drive, but they dismiss how I feel and make me feel silly for wanting something. I have lost great opportunities because of my parents’ inability to cooperate. (Example: My dad felt it was burdensome to take me to an interview and then proceeded to bash me to my mother about my birth condition, saying that would be the reason I wouldn’t get the job while I was waiting to leave, I didn’t get it.) There were other situations similar to this one where he would ignore me completely. I try so hard to live by their rules and expectations while I live at home, but it hurts me. I have little to no life skills. I’m unable to express myself because they get angry when I do. This shows up mu other relationships sometimes as well. Then attempt to make me feel bad when they excuse their need to get physical sometimes (my mom). It gets to the point where even when I think I’m doing the right thing for myself, they ALWAYS find a way to rain on my parade. I can’t do anything without asking them. If I did, it would have to fit their life schedule to even attempt to remember (ie. their plans) or acknowledge my own goals. I’m at a loss for what to do?
Patty Poet from Suffolk, VA on February 09, 2020:
This sounds like my family. Even today, I carry the fears that my parents pushed on me when I try to step out on my own and make my own decisions. My brother is 48 years old and my parents still try to steer him and how he raises his own son. Its tough to build your own self confidence when parents treat you as if you can’t make a good decision without them.
jules tea on December 07, 2019:
Retarded? Abysmal? Failure? Misfit? Outcast? Pariah? Slated to fail?
I get it: overprotecting kids is bad.Very bad. Undeniably true. But the author is really laying it on thick here with pathos laden language. Overprotected kids have to fight and struggle harder to prove themselves. From the tone of this article, you’d think that the sheltered child is one step below a psychopath: though nowhere near as cool.
Igor on October 18, 2019:
Based on most of the comments here it appears that the parents are greatly responsible for why their children have a hard time growing up.
Sylvia Davis on June 13, 2019:
I am a overprotective child. I am 23 now and everything that i read is exactly whats happening now to me!! Nobody has no idea how hard it isbto have an overprotective parent!!! Its not easy and life is soooo difficult for me because all i know is whats going on at home. I also can’t seem to do anything without askin my parents first. My relationships don’t last long at all, i had to dump couple of guys because im worried of what my parents will think of me having a boyfriend. I also hang around children and i got fired at a daycare because i was involving with kids like im a child. I got fired at a nursing home because the workplace seem to be much different than home or school. I am going through a lot! I am so far behind! I don’t even think like a 23 year old. Im glad i read this article..maybe i can talk to a counselor about this! So plz parents, dont be afraid to let your kids grow up!! I can teach other kids n parents about what im going through so that they can do better than me! Thanks.
kaleb on May 22, 2019:
YO! STOP BULLYING! ITS GONE ON LONG ENOUGH!
DrySeasons on May 07, 2019:
Sadly,wether one like it not, what is said mostly covers, what myown like has been / or goes through – because of how my parents were – NOT GOOD PARENTS ! The more Ithinkof in all ways things did go wrong – and how all of this hurt and destroyd my youth,young years and middle age – in different ways – I CANT BUT HATE THEM AND LOATH THEM !
When growing up – Ilived just for them – to please them – nomatter what. In the years I was supposed to be with friends,running around,and learning bout life,girls and having fun – they isolated me from them. And as i did notparticipate in the youth groups parties,dates, get togethers,and things – they letme forever be,and as I got obsolete I got always dumped as I must never has fitted in (wish I at that point in time,just partly started to sense – but not fully ).
My parents was to afraid for me hooking up on drugs – butin our tiny town,that was hardly great dealin the 1980s,andmost youth in that era in my area,was just into stealing beer, wine or some Vodka !
Later – i Was forever crushed byt their kind terror and need of controle – having been put down and all alreaddy when younger.
I fear – thier way of rising me, and all depressions that my isolation putme through – has created a Bordeline – and Its just yet more saddening. My current fear is – that asimin many ways not a full person – and Imyself has been growing upthis way, it will negatively impact my ownparenting ofmy daughter, though I try not to repeat my own parents mistakes with me,by trying thinking of things.
I feel wery angry, sad,empty and filld of all loss of the life others had but i never had – Its so unfair !
Nature Lover77 on April 24, 2019:
This article covers the subject very well. This sentence, “This boy never participated in school events as many of them were unsupervised” brings up additional issues. I think also that many overprotected kids don’t participate in school events because they’re afraid their parents will get overly involved in the event or get overly chummy with their sons or daughters friends because 1.) they’re possessive and are threatened by their child having friends so they want to muscle in on their kid’s friendship and/or 2.) the OP parents don’t have friends their own age.
I think #2, the parents not having friends their own age is often an elephant in the room. There is often a lot of embarrassing behavior associated with parents who never had friends of their own.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 27, 2019:
Also you are of legal age; however, in your current state, you aren’t equipped to take care of yourself. You need to seek counselling which will help you develop the skills to eventually move out & be on your own.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 27, 2019:
Both of you should seek psychological counselling. What your dad did was to cripple you- please seek counselling.
Shyla Wickens on March 27, 2019:
I am a 17 year old girl and I’ll be 18 in a few months. while growing up with my dad, i was very lonely and isolated as an only because my dad didn’t want me and allow me to make friends with kids growing up due to the fact that he attempted to protect me from bad people and influences. this backfired and caused me to lack basic social skills and i developed extreme social anxiety. I couldn’t go out, couldn’t make friends, I lived in a shell and I didn’t know what to do with myself. with me being 17, studying hard in school, working part time, having a car and only recently being able to overcome my anxiety and make friends, its hard for my Dad to adapt to. growing up, he picked and chose my friends. Whenever im out, he texts me and phones me every 30 minutes to see where I’m at. he uses a phone tracker to track me. now that I’ve been making friends as of recently, he has to set up an interview with my friend and the parents to make sure they’re a good fit for me. my Dad tells me I’m NOT allowed to move out at 18. he makes all my decisions for me and does everything for me because he doesn’t trust my ability to do things myself. this has caused me to sit back and think “where’s my dad? I need his help.” when accomplishing the simplest of tasks. I feel like a little kid that constantly needs her dad there to do everything for her. i am a great kid. I don’t drink or smoke, I work and study hard. but this has honestly killed my self esteem. I feel like I can’t do anything for myself. I feel like they don’t trust me. people are always like “just talk to your dad” well it doesn’t work that way. My dad has ALWAYS been in control of my life and no matter what I say, my opinion doesn’t matter. he doesn’t trust me to make friends and do things myself. I feel like I’m just going to stop seeing my friends as there’s really no point on trying anymore. I need help. I feel so miserable living at home and I wish I could just branch out and gain independence. I’m afraid that I won’t even know how to take care of myself when I hit the real world. what do I do? do you think if I just leave at my age of majority then that will damage our relationship?
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 23, 2019:
The whole family needs counselling, especially your mother.
Mark Thatum on March 23, 2019:
Hi! This article was extremely helpful, insightful, and relatable. I dealt with a lot of this growing up, and in many respects feeling the collateral effects of having been brought up this way by a controlling parent. Despite my having been brought up in a two-parent household, my mother was the one who kept a very tight leash on me, as my stepfather was often very detached. I had many conflicts with my parents, especially my mother, growing up and, thus, harbored many resentments towards her for a good chunk of my adolescence, and early 20s (I’m now 28).
She still attempts to be very controlling but I have learned to stave off many of her toxic behaviors. I no longer harbor any resentment and understand that we’re all different.
Now my fear is regarding my two younger siblings, a brother of 19 and sister of 13. I fear my brother’s lot the most because he is at university. He was never as robust and as independently minded as I was, and fears going against my mom very much. He’s 19, stays at home as his college is not far, my mother, for all intents and purposes, forbids him to have many friends, leave the house for extended periods of time, doesn’t allow him to cook for himself, he has no college friends, and is being inculcated with the notion that his education should be his only friend. He called me two days ago and told me something that hurt and disturbed me very much in that he was forbidden to go to his cousin’s wedding in Michigan because of the distance (they live in Delaware…i currently reside in France), and due to issues our mom has with that side of the family as she and my stepfather have divorced.
My brother was very vexed and I felt very sad. And also, my brother is very emotionally handicapped as he acts, expresses, and carries himself much in the manner a 13 year old would. He tells me he wants to transfer to another 4 year institution that way he could reside in the dorms but I told him he knows our mother, who has expressed that she doesn’t want him to move away from home until he has his degree. And also, were or should he move, I know he would have a strenuous time as he has been kept from experiencing the real world. Often isolated and alone with my mom hovering over him.
Long story short, I don’t know what to do, and I want to help and am in dire need of advice as I know this is a ticking time bomb.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on March 05, 2019:
Jim, this is a dilemma. Your wife needs psychological counselling. She is crippling the daughter, making her immature as well as fearful. I suggest psychological counselling immediately!
Jim Avitable on March 05, 2019:
My wife does not allow our daughter to walk to school as she is afraid that someone will kidnap her. Also she does not trust our daughter to be alone at home after school as she is afraid she will go out with or invite boys.
Andrea on December 31, 2018:
I am honestly screwed as a person now because of the controlling hovering helicopter parent who has raised me as a 12 year old for 7 years I am 19 living with my parents I don’t know how to make a freaking phone call, don’t have a drivers license been working on that for a while. don’t know how to even really do college and now she wants me to get my license and go out in the world (basically kind of kicking me out soon) I have no idea how I am supposed to live I feel like I am 12.
Teacher on December 14, 2018:
This is spot on!! I’ve taught pre-K through 6th grade for over 30 years and there is a literal epidemic of these children. And the parents are absolutely clueless!! These parents are THE most defensive people, and really believe they’re the best parents. They actually look down on others and criticize THEM. This will be the reason I retire. These clueless parents and their dependent, draining, immature, anxiety ridden children. The parents take up more of my time, the children take up more of everyone’s time. There is them – and then there is the class. An absolute stick in the wheel of progress to everyone around them. These parents hurt everyone, not just their child.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on November 04, 2018:
Thank you for your response. There are ALWAYS two sides of the argument. I totally agree w/your premise. What you are mentioning is normal parent protection.
Angigi on November 04, 2018:
This reads like an opinion piece and a one sided one at best. Maybe it is more of a personal scorn with her own parents.
I remember admiring my friend for being such open parent and gave so much freedom to her kids. She wasn’t neglectful, She just believed that her kids should be allowed to fall and learn from their mistakes. After all, she turned out fine. Lofty idea. I couldn’t do it. I set bright line boundaries. I took a proactive but approach teach them time management, prioritization, decision making skills. I helped them choose friends. I teach them good study habits. I teach them values and long term thinking about what’s important in life. All the things author described as overprotection. But Kids don’t just turn 10 and magically know all these things. Adults are still learning all of that as evidenced by many business books teaching those skills in the market. What’s wrong with learning it younger and from your parents? My kids have many friends and are active in school with leadership positions. I see no issue with my overprotective style of parenting. We have great relationships and talk openly about all topics including sex and drugs.
My open parenting style friend’s kids did do what she wanted – experimented freely- but seem not to have learned from any of the falls. Instead they turned bitter for the lack of guidance and now blamed her for their failures in life. One lives with her and watches TV all day, refusing to work. One just had a miscarriage with a baby she didn’t want anyway, after being assaulted by her jail bound boyfriend, both high when police arrived.
Kids need boundaries. Over and over again I see the kids from the hands off parents not living up to their potential. One friend’s two kids got kicked out from Christian school for underage drinking, another for posting semi nude photos on IG underage. Both were very smart and talented in sports. They dropped out of sports now.
If over protection means 100% dictatorship and restriction of all school and sports activities, prohibition from leaving the house and all social interaction outside the home, then yes, that would be very harmful, but I wouldn’t characterize that as over protection but borderline unlawful detentment or child abuse. But that is not the sense I get from author’s description of overprotection.
Truth is, every child is different and there is no one formula for every kid. Some kids thrive with boundaries and some rebel. I disagree with author’s assertion that overprotection would always 100% lead to all those problems cited from her observation as a child many years ago.
Finally, most 13 year olds are dropped off by their parents to school at our middle school. No one picks on them. I don’t know what kind of school author went to.
CJ on October 15, 2018:
I am goin through this and im over 20 its not nice idk how to live true this
TJ on October 01, 2018:
I know and love children set up for this painful end. You cannot avoid the trials of childhood. They just come out later. My only solution is to not let it happen to my kids. I have fought battles against this method of parenting and endured judgement, but my kids are turning out perfectly, surpassing those that judged me. My children are a pleasure to have around and sustain their behavior without me. They are surpassing all the milestones and choose to behave out of their own free will, nurtured and disciplined with boundaries and rules.
This whole culture of pushing off the lessons of childhood to appear to be a nicer parent is revolting. What happens when these kids hit the real world? They will be lambs for the slaughter.
Removing children from the processes of life robs them of the products. An untempered sword shatters. How do you convince a parent that difficulty is good? That the mess is more constructive than their perfection? That temporary conflict is actually better while the consequences of mistakes are small rather than putting those lessons off until the consequences are far more damaging in adulthood.
Who came up with this horrible model for parenthood? It is so unwise…
It is all about the results. I will endure whatever it takes to keep my children out of this strange infantilization culture. My gift to them is when they spread their wings they will fly.
My heart still aches for those who simply have no foresight.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on September 11, 2018:
You have made an eloquent response to the hub, thank you for responding.
Lisa on September 11, 2018:
There are several issues with this piece. First, it places all the blame on the parents, dismissing the responsibility that children have for their own lives. Second, it makes illogical sweeping claims and leaps about the development of children, deeming them failures from the outset. On what terms? Third, it inaccurately implies that parenting style is the sole factor in the success of children. Often, many children grow to realize that they have to take responsibility for their own lives, and they have a CHOICE on how they want to live. It’s counterproductive to just sit there and complain about how their parents were overprotective.
What this article fails to account for is that many children, who lived with this ‘overprotective parenting style,’ have grown up to become fully functioning members of society, as opposed to the incompetent burdens that this article paints them out to be. They can work. They can contribute. They have GRIT to get through the bad stuff.
Moreover, social teasing and bullying are just natural phenomena. It’s possible for them to learn to cope. They can disabuse themselves of the notion that the world is a rosy place full of rainbows and butterflies from an early age. Yet this article depicts such children as incapable of dealing with the real world. On the contrary, they can get a clearer look at the true nature of certain social interactions, enhancing their alertness as they get older.
Further, it is understandable that parents want to ensure the safety of their kids, since they bear the primary role in taking care of their well-being. It’s costly financially to raise children, so it’s conceivable thay parents would take more precautionary measures in caring for them. Enough shaming already. Let parents choose how they want to parent. After all, they were the ones who gave life to their children.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on August 29, 2018:
Have a mature discussion w/your dad. Delineate your concerns.
Lucine Rawiya from S- on July 13, 2018:
My parents are paranoid to the extreme. I’m never allowed to even hang out with my friends (without one of them tagging along) and I’m 17 in a month. I realised there’s no arguing with them so now when I want to do something I just do it behind their backs or without permission. I’m going to have to move out just to be able to get a job. It’s completely ridiculous and it’s preventing me from developing basic life skills. Hopefully I can get out of this situation when I am 18.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on July 01, 2018:
In this case, your father isn’t being overprotective. He is simply looking out for you. Your father cares, he isn’t being overprotective.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on June 29, 2018:
Keep telling them that they are psychologically, even psychically undermining their daughter by their remarks. Recommend counsellng for the entire family.
Alan on June 29, 2018:
I’m trying to help a couple break this habit. They are having a hard time because their daughter is an adult now.
Their protection takes the form of reminders. “Don’t forget to take the car to the DMV… pay your bills… your boyfriend doesn’t respect you…”
They’re afraid of her being hurt. Especially by other men. I’m trying to help them equip her. I think their reminders are telling her “You can’t handle it… we’re responsible for you…”
Liisabjork on June 25, 2018:
My fiances son is 13 and is being raised just like this. It came down to now that his mother said he is not allowed here at his father’s house anymore because the son feels awkward and uncomfortable because of me. (I maintained my ground and most likely he felt intimidated by me) which is not my problem. I had a responsibility to have the boys best interest. But I was seen as crazy and stern. The mother allows him to sleep with her still. She dressed him and cuts his food. I get sick thinking about it. But needless to say I did all I could to stand by my morals . Like I said the son does not visit his father anymore. But, I feel and know the son was trying to get his way and constantly went home telling his mom how he doesn’t feel safe or comfortable. He was trying to manipulate his way to see only his father in some way or form. Also to get attention at home from his mother. He had a motive . we had told him to keep our life business out of his mother’s ears. But he chose to go back home to his mother’s and tell her things by exaggerating . I see it that he is old enough to know how to choose his words and what to say to try to have an outcome in his favor. After the last incident I had enough! His actions had consequences. We were not going to drop everything and take time out of day to fall for his schemes. His father told him that he chose this . He CHOSE to be not allowed here. So that his father would have to drive all over creation so he can be with him. I put my foot down and refused to fall into the boys agenda because he wasn’t getting his way here and. Because he didn’t he coddled by his father anymore and he wasnt waited on anymore or babied. The boy chose to disclose and act the way he did when he went back home to his mother’s. The information he disclosed to his mom was utterly disrespectful to me . His exaggerated stories and fantasiful tantrums was the last straw. Sometimes the only thing you can do is give tough love and difficulty stand up for ethics. This kid is doomed but at least I can say to myself I alw
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Wives and mothers often handle most, if not all, of the invisible work in their relationships. Here’s how to help carry the load.
You might think that your wife has an innate ability to remember your mother’s birthday or which Friday it is that your son is performing in his school play. And you probably know plenty of other dads who have women in their lives who appear to possess some sort of organizational genius when it comes to family scheduling and household tasks. That’s because even enlightened, helpful, and considerate men have blind spots when it comes to what they think men and women are responsible for in family life.
Once, as an experiment, I stopped cleaning the bathroom sink. Eventually, I asked my partner if he’d noticed how disgusting it had gotten. He hadn’t. I also often marvel that I’m somehow the only one of us who can remember which cupboard the glass baking dishes belong in. He cooks dinner maybe once a week, but I need to give him several hours to emotionally prepare for the task and also offer suggestions of what he could cook that I would like and would not be too difficult for him.
I may sound like I’m venting. And I am a little. And everyone is different. But these little elements of managing a household, however, are kind of like tentacles on the monster of society’s broad and often unspoken expectations of nurturance from women. But here’s the thing: According to researchers, this idea that women are naturally more nurturing than men just isn’t true. It’s merely an outdated notion that society has adopted.
Many women bear the weight of not only managing their feelings but also their partners’ in order to accomplish the daily tasks. This is often referred to as “emotional labor,” or the invisible work necessary to manage households, often in spite of working outside the home as much as their partners. It’s described as the mental load of “always having to remember” in a comic about emotional work among new parents that went viral last year. Constant management of their entire families’ needs takes a toll on women and especially wives and mothers, who often grow exhausted and resentful if their partners ignore the invisible burden. If a husband finds himself asking his beleaguered wife “what can I do to help?” chances are the question came too late.
Many women bear the weight of not only managing their feelings but also their partners in order to accomplish the daily tasks that need to be accomplished. This is often referred to as “emotional labor,” or the invisible work done to manage households,
The idea that all women are born nurturers is likely a holdover from the Industrial Age, when work and home lives became separated for the first time, says Rebecca J. Erickson, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Akron University in Ohio. As work moved away from the homestead, women became the executives of sorts of the family sphere.
“The problem is that those expectations haven’t changed since women entered the workforce,” she says. “The belief that women primarily are in charge of and accountable for the emotional climate in the home is still part of the invisible work that women do. And part of the issue about that is that it’s seen as something natural in women as opposed to something that takes time, energy, and skill.”
According to a paper published last year in the journal Sex Roles, more than 60 percent of both men and women reported that women tend to remind their partners more often about things that need to be done. Men also don’t experience the societal pressure to take charge of the family to-do list like women do, the researchers at William Paterson University and Columbia Business School also concluded. In addition, the Paterson-Columbia researchers found that men were much more likely to issue reminders about things from which they’d personally benefit, such as making sure their wives remembered their promise to buy him a new suit jacket for a work party, whereas women’s reminders were typically more selfless.
“The belief that women primarily are in charge of and accountable for the emotional climate in the home is still part of the invisible work that women do. And part of the issue about that is that it’s seen as something natural in women as opposed to something that takes time, energy, and skill.”
“It’s not that women are innately better able to remember and multitask — we were socialized this way,” says study co-author Janet Ahn, Ph.D., professor of psychology at William Paterson University. “It arose out of need. Society socializes women that we’re the ones to fulfill other people’s needs and that good girls help other people out.”
That these ideas are so deeply ingrained is precisely why many men might be surprised to hear that their partners feel they bear an unfairly heavy emotional workload in the marriage. Ahn says she hasn’t met a single woman who has told her that this dynamic doesn’t exist in her home, yet many men she meets seem defensive about her research and insist that they take on just as much organizational work in their relationships.
Men, per Ahn, often say they’re perfectly willing to help when women tell them what they need to do, for example, but don’t understand that expecting women to delegate every conceivable task is a big part of the emotional labor women are sick of typically having to do. For example, if a husband is going to the grocery store but asks his wife about what he should buy or for meal-planning, well, that’s not really helping with the emotional workload.
“The emotional tasks of running a family don’t always get defined because they’re so typically absorbed by women, and men often don’t see them as actual labor like they do with instrumental tasks, such as taking out the garbage or doing the dishes,” says Jennifer Lois, Ph.D., sociology professor at Western Washington University and author of Home is Where the School Is: The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering. “Women, on the other hand, are socialized throughout their lives to pay attention to relationships and the emotions of other people.”
“Men know they need to contribute with housework and childcare but often don’t understand how to have a conversation about the emotional work that needs to be done in a relationship,”
Modern gender relationships, thankfully, are getting better. And the line between what moms and dads are responsible for is blurred. Parents can help erode gender-based stereotypes that foster unfair expectations in the next generation by being good role models, Ahn says. Kids who grow up seeing Super Mom do everything and Dad on the couch with a beer are more likely to recreate those scenarios when they grow up. So, it’s essential to not only manage the emotional workload, but also show kids that their parents truly share the work of the household and daddy doesn’t just “help out” occasionally to be nice.
One can also try to express more gratitude when their partner reminds them of tasks that need to be done and acknowledge that the completion of those tasks benefits the family. Part of that is being more mindful in your relationship, which, can be helpful in lessening your partner’s emotional load and therefore improve your marriage.
If it’s not something one normally does, they could, at some point in the evening, put their phone down and ask their partner to tell them about their day, and make an effort to really be present and listen, suggests Erickson. Such conversations aren’t about fixing problems, but letting her vent and being present, she says.
Another trick: establish a family Google calendar that both partners update – and share equal responsibility over. It can be helpful for men to see a visual representation of everything their partners have been keeping track of because it’s likely more than they realized, Ahn says. And by jotting something on a calendar, even though adding stuff does take a bit of work, outsourcing it, in a sense, removes the cognitive load of having to remember it and remind each other about it.
Ultimately, making emotional work more equitable isn’t just about making sure children are fed and toilets are clean, Erickson says. It’s about how one conveys caring for each other.
If frustration sets in about emotional labor within a marriage, it’s because one isn’t paying attention to their partner’s needs — and this is also a better time to ask than when she’s struggling to heft a heavy box of winter clothes on a closet shelf that you’ve been stepping around for a week. You can say something like, “I want to be a more equal partner to you but don’t always know what you need from me, so I’d appreciate your help to figure out what those things are, and I’ll try to anticipate them on my own as we go on,” suggests Lois.
Ultimately, making emotional work more equitable isn’t just about making sure children are fed and toilets are clean, Erickson says. It’s about how you convey caring for each other. Ask yourself what kind of relationship you want, she suggests. Is it a partner who’s exhausted and feeling unsupported and bitter?
“Men know they need to contribute with housework and childcare but often don’t understand how to have a conversation about the emotional work that needs to be done in a relationship,” she says. “Love is supposed to come naturally, but it takes work getting outside of yourself to show care and concern for another person by being attentive.”
“Love isn’t a feeling,” she adds. “It’s a behavior.”
If you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy, you’ve likely watched two people who find a way to be together — no matter what obstacles stand in their way. The reason is always simple: They’re in love. But off screen, love isn’t always enough to make a relationship last.
In fact, the feelings caused by romantic love can be so strong, they can convince people to stay in relationships that are unhealthy, unfulfilling and ultimately unhappy — whether they realize it or not. For example, when people looked at photos of their romantic partners, dopamine — a chemical associated with reward that makes people feel good — was released in their brains, a 2015 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found.
The way these chemicals make people feel can make them overlook logical decisions like leaving an unsatisfying relationship, says Julie Wadley, founder and CEO of matchmaking and coaching service Eli Simone. “When people are in love, they’re driven off of the drug, the endorphins,” she says. “The chemicals that tell you you’re in love with this person are firing.”
While being in love undoubtedly feels good (and is good for your health,) these feelings alone don’t spur solid, lasting romantic relationships. Here, experts explain some of the signs that indicate it may be time to let go:
Your needs aren’t being met
Every person has different “requirements” that need to be met in a relationship, according to Wadley. These needs can be emotional, like wanting quality time with your partner, or functional, like requiring them to competently manage money.
When one partner feels that the other isn’t fulfilling a requirement, Wadley says, it’s important to communicate that. If that person’s partner isn’t willing to try harder to fulfill that need, it’s probably time to move on, she says.
One of the reasons people stay in relationships that don’t meet their needs stems from the negative views our society has about being single, according to Wadley. It may seem like if they leave the relationship, they may never find something better. But Wadley says that mentality wastes valuable time and perpetuates a person’s unhappiness. “You could be taking that time to find someone who will give you what you need,” she says.
You’re seeking those needs from others
When you get promoted at work or you’re faced with a family emergency, who is the first person you want to tell? In a fulfilling, healthy relationship, the answer to those questions should be your partner, according to Wadley.
It’s great to have trusted colleagues at work, but Wadley says if you’re constantly turning to a “work husband” or “work wife” for support, it may be a sign that you’re not getting the support you need from your partner. “If you’re like, ‘I have a choice between talking to my boyfriend and talking to my guy friend, the guy who is constantly giving you that emotional affirmation that I need — I’m going with the friend,’” Wadley says, “Something’s not right.”
If either you or your partner is seeking emotional or physical fulfillment from people outside of your relationship, Wadley says it’s a clear indication that it’s probably time to end the relationship.
You’re scared to ask for more from your partner
It’s natural to feel uncomfortable talking to your partner about what you need and may not be getting from your relationship. But Wadley says open lines of communication are essential to lasting, healthy partnerships.
“People may think, ‘That’s going to make me sound needy and emotional,’” says Wadley. Instead of speaking up, they suppress how they feel, continue on with their dissatisfaction and feign contentment out of fear of feeling like a burden.
“Then something happens that breaks the camel’s back,” she says. And the argument that ensues can wind up being more damaging to the relationship than it would have been if you had addressed it sooner. Hiding your true feelings about how your partner is treating you likely prolongs the unfulfilling relationship, rather than saves it, according to Wadley. If you can’t get past the fear of confronting your partner, it’s probably time to seek help or part ways, she says.
Your friends and family don’t support your relationship
Lindsay Chrisler, a New York-based dating and relationships coach says you should take stock of how your trusted family members and friends feel about your relationship. “If nobody in the community supports your relationship, that’s a red flag,” she says. If the people who love and support you see that the person you’re in love with isn’t making you happy, it’s a good idea to listen to their opinions, according to Chrisler.
If you decide push aside your friends’ and family’s concerns, it may lead to another sign that it’s time to let go of the relationship: “You’re starting to lie to your friends, you’re starting to lie to yourself,” says Chrisler. When you isolate yourself from your loved ones in order to avoid listening to their concerns, they’re probably right — the relationship probably isn’t, she says.
You feel obligated to stay with your partner
People are more likely to stay in relationships that they’ve already invested time and effort in, a 2016 study published in Current Psychology found. This is similar to a money investment phenomenon known as the “sunk cost effect.” A prior investment leads to a continuous investment, even when the decision doesn’t make you happy.
“When it comes to people and relationships, time does not necessarily equal success,” says Wadley, who added that many of her clients are reluctant to leave an unhappy relationship because they want to reap the rewards of their investment.
But simply investing more time in a relationship with someone you love won’t fix the problems. If both partners aren’t willing to work to fulfill the other’s needs, the relationship probably isn’t worth more time.
You’ve been working on your relationship for more than a year
Of course, when two people are in love and have spent years together or have started a family together, there is a stronger incentive to work out the problems, says Chrisler. Her advice is to seek couples’ counseling if both partners want the relationship to work. But she caveats that you should set a time limit of one year.
“If you spend too much time in indecision, it will erode the foundation of the relationship to the point where you can’t really make it back,” she says.
After about a year of actively working on the relationship and unsuccessfully trying to meet each other’s needs, the difficult decision to break up is likely the best decision, according to Chrisler.
You don’t like your partner
While it may sound counterintuitive, Chrisler says you can actually be in love with a person you don’t like. If that’s the case, you may get by day to day, but it will be nearly impossible to make it through difficult times together.
All couples have disagreements, but people in healthy, loving relationships keep the mindset that “this is my friend, and I’m going to get through this with this person,” Chrisler says. “And I don’t know how you get through those things without liking them.”
Still, it’s never easy to walk away from someone you love — even when the relationship isn’t working, according to Chrisler. The key, she says, is to listen to the logical part of your brain, instead of submitting to the euphoric chemical reactions that love can cause.
Your partner is abusive
It’s possible for people in an abusive relationship to love an abusive partner. One in four women and one in 10 men have been victims of intimate partner violence, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2010 study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that more than half of the women surveyed saw their abusive partners as “highly dependable.” One in five of the women surveyed said the men possessed significant positive traits, like “being affectionate.” Researchers found that these views contributed to some victims staying in abusive relationships, among other reasons — like isolation, extortion and physical violence.
When it comes to abuse of any kind, Chrisler says it’s crucial to safely find a way out. “It’s difficult to get out of those relationships,” she says. “You have to really love yourself.”
By Annia Raysberg, MFT
Edited by Sophie Linder
I first heard of the Flash Technique (“FT”) in my Eye Movement, Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy training by Dr. Philip Manfield in March 2019 in Oakland, California. EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that was developed by an American psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. Since then, a lot of research has been conducted on the effectiveness of EMDR. Currently, EMDR is a widely recognized treatment for PTSD and other trauma-related conditions. The American Psychological Association (APA), among many others, lists EMDR as an evidence-based treatment for PTSD. EMDR consists of eight stages which typically require multiple psychotherapy sessions. During EMDR processing, the client focuses on the traumatic memory while eye movement, tapping, or another form of bilateral stimulation is used.
Dr. Manfield had developed FT in 2016, and was excited to share it with the class. Unlike EMDR, the Flash Technique does not require the client to commit to a lengthy process. It also does not require the client to focus on the traumatic memory for a long period of time. FT can be used as a part of EMDR treatment, or on its own. I thought that FT was an interesting tool, and I started using it along with the standard EMDR protocol. Sometimes I use FT to lower the intensity of the target, and then process the remainder by using traditional EMDR. My practice was both online and in person, and I used FT with both virtual and in-office clients. My interest in FT grew over time as I was getting good results, and I took the Flash Technique webinar in May 2020. In December 2020, I took the Advanced Flash Technique webinar. As of this writing, I have used FT with dozens of clients in the last two years. I have found it easy to use and very effective when working on a variety of disturbing memories and fears. It usually takes about 15 minutes to implement FT, making it very easy to fit into the standard 50 minute session.
The Flash Technique process starts with identifying a memory or fear, and ranking the level of disturbance that the client feels in that moment. The scale is 0–10, with 10 being the most disturbing. Next I ask the client to think of something fun or exciting that they can talk about for the next 10–15 minutes (i.e., a hobby, a pet, a movie, a trip). This is referred to as the Positive Engaging Focus (PEF). Then I demonstrate for the client how to cross their arms on their chest and tap on the arms (a butterfly hug). While they are tapping and talking about the PEF, I periodically ask them to blink several times in rapid succession. After five or so sets of blinks, I ask them to pause and touch on the target memory/fear. They rank the disturbance and tell me what they notice about the memory. Usually the target is less vivid and harder to pull up. Then we continue with the PEF and more blinking and tapping. Next we pull up the target again. This process continues until the target is no longer disturbing.
In the following session, usually a week later, I recheck the target memory or fear to see if there is still any disturbance. Some targets resolve in one session and the results hold over time. Typically, the easiest cases are single-incident traumas — an event that took place at one time and does not have any related memories. For example, someone who was in a car accident once and developed a fear of driving can usually process the incident in one session without any need for additional work. In other cases, usually when there are many related memories, it requires additional sessions of Flash or EMDR to fully resolve them. Multiple incidents can also be processed but may require additional sessions.
I should note that Flash, like EMDR, does not completely remove all fear. I would not want my clients to put themselves in unsafe situations following FT. Rather, FT and EMDR aim to take away the extreme disturbance associated with a traumatic event. The client still remembers that the event took place, and experiences a normal level of anxiety in appropriate situations. FT does not offer any superpowers or magical thinking. It removes the irrational fear so that the client can comfortably engage in everyday activities.
Here are several case examples in which I used FT:
FT = Flash Technique
SUDS = subjective units of distress (scale is 0–10, with 10 being most disturbing)
PEF = positive engaging focus (something positive and exciting that the client talks about during the sets)
Della, a 33-year-old Caucasian female, was mugged seven years ago on the street. Since then, she had been unable to walk alone at night. She always had to have someone walk her places after it got dark, or she avoided going out altogether. She stated, “I want to be able to walk alone at night if I need to.” Della lived in a safe suburb and did not have an urgent need to go anywhere at night. More recently, Della’s company offered to relocate her to Paris. Della was excited about the opportunity, but realized that she needed to work on this fear if she was going to move to a big city.
We discussed the mugging in more detail. The incident happened when she was in college. She was studying late at the library, and drove home to her apartment at around 2 a.m. She parked her car in a garage a block away from her apartment. As she was walking home, three people came up behind her. They kicked her to the ground, grabbed her backpack containing a laptop, and drove away. When asked to rank the disturbance associated with this memory, Della stated it was a 9 on the 0–10 scale. For Flash, we chose Paris as her positive engaging focus. “I’m excited to move there,” Della said. After five sets of Flash which took about 10 minutes, Della ranked the disturbance at 1 before the session ended.
Two weeks later, Della reported that she had chosen a safe area in her suburb as a test for an evening walk. She walked alone at around 8 p.m. Della stated, “This is something I haven’t been able to do since the mugging seven years ago.” She said that it felt good to walk around and look at the lights. In the past, she would have felt very anxious at the thought of walking alone at night. “This time, I didn’t have any physical symptoms,” said Della. She described that she did feel a little nervous, ranking the SUDS at 1–2. However, it felt like a normal amount of anxiety compared to the paralyzing fear she had experienced previously. She felt good about the outcome. “I wanted to be able to walk alone at night if I had to, and now I can do that,” Della remarked.
Fear of being alone
Danielle, a 37-year-old mixed race Caucasian and Asian-American woman, sought therapy with me for anxiety and depression in July 2020. Danielle shared that her “number one fear” was of being alone, and one day, dying alone. Danielle ranked the SUD at a 10. One of the contributing factors to this fear was Danielle’s current relationship with her boyfriend of a couple years. Danielle wanted to move in together, but her boyfriend decided that he wasn’t ready, and instead rented a one-bedroom apartment in another city. Danielle stayed in her one-bedroom apartment where she was living by herself. In addition, her best friend had moved away recently. “I am afraid I will always live alone in an apartment.” The fear was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting isolation.
To me, the fear seemed largely irrational as Danielle was a very attractive woman with an impressive educational background and a successful career. She had a great personality, was easy to talk to, and had interesting thoughts and ideas. We decided to use Flash on this fear, and we used food as the PEF. After two sets, SUD decreased from 10 to 7–8. When I asked Danielle what was different about the target, she stated, “I’m not in the visual anymore.” After two more sets, Danielle reported, “I feel less sad.” SUD = 6.
A few weeks later, we checked on her fear of being alone. Danielle ranked the disturbance at 3–4. I asked her to explain the source of her disturbance. Danielle replied, “My grandma died alone in a nursing home. She was a prom queen in high school–I have a picture of her. By the time she died, she was decrepit and had bad teeth. I feel guilty that I didn’t visit her.” We decided to continue with Flash. For PEF, Danielle chose comics and graphic novels. After two sets, she reported that the image had faded. “I feel guilty we weren’t close,” she said. Danielle cried and reported the disturbance at 6–7. She pointed out that the fear of being alone on its own was at 2. After the third set, she stated, “The strong emotions about my grandma have dissipated,” and was no longer crying. After the fourth set, she reported, “I feel less afraid of the memory.” For grandma, SUD = 1; for the fear, SUD = 0. She added, “There are things I can do in my lifetime.” I guided Danielle in instilling this positive belief using slow self-tapping. By the end of the session, Danielle was smiling.
The following week, I asked Danielle about the fear of being alone. She stated, “I used to think about it throughout the day, every day, but now I don’t think about it.” She said it felt like 0–1 now. Danielle added, “I am more focused on what I can do now to create a better future for myself.” She reported that she started to organize her finances this past week. She also engaged with new and old friends with the goal of having deeper friendships. I asked Danielle what she thought of the Flash technique, and she said she found it helpful.
Dad’s Addiction Issues
Claudia, a 31-year-old African-American female sought therapy with me in January 2021 to work through family issues. Claudia achieved a lot in her life; she put herself through undergraduate and graduate school where she studied biochemistry, and landed her dream job where she was succeeding. She was happily married to a wonderful young man. However, she struggled with anxiety, especially around her father’s past and current substance abuse issues. Claudia explained that her father was an active alcoholic and has abused cocaine on occasion since she was a child. I asked her to write down her 10 worst memories. Six of her 10 memories involved her father. We noted how disturbing they felt as we went over them.
In our next session, we targeted the first bad memory which was “Dad being high at dinner.” Claudia was 14 at the time. She rated the disturbance associated with the memory (SUD) at 6. Claudia picked her honeymoon as her PEF. With each set of Flash, the disturbance associated with the memory went down by 0.5–1. After eight sets, Claudia reported that the memory did not bother her anymore. “I can’t see my dad’s face anymore,” she said. In the following session, we checked the memory and the disturbance was back at 3. For her PEF this time, Claudia chose her wedding. After two sets, she reported that the event was “hard to recall.” The memory no longer had a hold on her. “I feel indifferent,” she said. The positive belief was “I’m not at fault.” I asked Claudia to close her eyes and play the event in her mind while repeating the words “I am not at fault” as she tapped slowly.
Next I asked Claudia to imagine a folder named “Dad’s addiction issues.” I asked her how disturbing it felt to think of the folder, and Claudia said 5–6. For her PEF, Claudia decided to continue talking about her wedding. After two sets of Flash, she reported that, “Specific memories are hard to pull up.” After two more sets, she reported there was no disturbance. We checked each Dad-related memory, and the disturbance was 0–1 for each. In our next session, I asked about the memory of dad being high at dinner. Claudia reported that she felt 0 disturbance. I asked if there was anything else that felt disturbing to her regarding her dad’s addiction. She replied, “Yes, I am worried about his health. He continues to drink, and he could have a stroke and die early.” This fear felt like a 2 to her.
I decided to use the standard EMDR protocol for this fear. The negative belief was “I’m not in control”; the positive belief was “I can handle whatever happens.” We worked through several channels. One aspect that was particularly painful for Claudia was that her brother was very close to their dad. She cried when she thought about the pain her brother would feel if her father had a stroke in the near future. I used several cognitive interweaves which Claudia found helpful: “You’ve done your part,” and “We don’t know when your dad will pass; he could live for a long time despite his addiction issues.” After several sets, Claudia realized that she would be there for her brother when her dad passes away, which she found to be calming.
By the end of the session, the fear of her father’s early death was no longer impacting her. “If it happens, I can handle it,” Claudia stated. We conducted a body scan which revealed that the pit in her stomach from earlier in the session went away. Claudia reported that she felt good about the work we had done, and at peace regarding her father’s addiction. She no longer felt that it was her fault, or that she should be doing something to force him to stop (which she had tried in the past without success). She felt free to enjoy her relationship with her father as it is today, and let go of fear of the future.
Fear of Cats
Georgia, a professional Hispanic woman in her late 20s, had an extreme fear of cats which made her life difficult. She couldn’t visit her best friend, Zoe, because Zoe had a cat at home. When Georgia saw cats on the street, she felt apprehensive and had to walk away immediately. Georgia was single and actively dating, but had to exclude any potential partners who lived with a cat.
It turned out that Georgia had a traumatic experience with cats as a child. She explained, “It was during my first piano exam at my instructor’s house. I was nervously waiting for my turn to play, and four cats came up to me and scared me.” The cats appeared suddenly and came up to her from behind. Georgia estimated her age to be seven years old at the time. When I asked her how disturbing this memory felt now, she ranked it a 6 on the 0–10 scale. We decided to process this memory with the Flash Technique. We used Georgia’s favorite TV dating show as a PEF. After two sets, Georgia remembered that during a sleepover in high school, a cat jumped on her bed which was scary. After one more set, the fear was 0. This process took about 10 minutes.
In our next session a week later, Georgia reported that the memory of the four cats at the piano exam was not disturbing (SUD=0). I asked Georgia to imagine visiting Zoe and her cat. She reported there was no disturbance. I asked Georgia to pull up a picture of a cat online, and she reported 0 disturbance. Then I asked her to search for a video on YouTube of a cat attacking a person. She watched the video in session and her facial expression was unremarkable; again there was no disturbance. After a few weeks, Georgia reported that the piano exam memory did not produce any disturbance. Picturing cats was not disturbing. Due to the COVID-19 quarantine, she had not had a chance to visit any friends with cats yet.
After a few more weeks, Georgia reported that the fear of cats was 0. She added, “There are some cats that walk on the fence in my backyard. I used to find it really irritating and distracting. I would try to scare them off. Every other weekend I would spray the fence with vinegar to keep them away. It didn’t work! They still came back. Now it doesn’t bother me. The other day I even thought the cat was cute.” Georgia explained that she did not fall in love with cats or anything like that, but the fear was no longer there. She felt neutral towards them which allowed her to live her life with more peace. This result was well worth the 10 minutes that she spent trying out the Flash technique.
Aside from the above examples, I have successfully used FT with other clients, focusing on a variety of negative memories and fears. Some examples include a parent’s suicide, childhood bullying, extreme fear of bugs, chronic pain and fear of becoming disabled, fear of contracting COVID-19, sexual assult, car accident/fear of driving, near drowning/fear of swimming. In some cases, the problem resolved after 15 minutes of FT with no resurgence. In other cases, FT provided some benefit but additional EMDR work was required to fully re-process the event and maintain results over time. To date, I haven’t had any negative experiences with FT. Most clients have found FT to be helpful and enjoyable.
It should be noted that FT, like any other therapeutic intervention, may not be effective for every client or issue. Clients should be aware of potential risks and limitations of FT before starting therapeutic treatment.
About the author: Annia Raysberg, MFT is a therapist in private practice living in Castro Valley, CA. She is currently working with clients via video. For more information, please visit AnniaRaysberg.com.
Client’s names and other identifying details have been changed. Written permission has been received from clients.
Articles on Flash:
Manfield, P., Lovett, J., Engel, L., & Manfield, D. (2017). Use of the flash technique in EMDR therapy: Four case examples. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 11(4), 195–205. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1933-3184.108.40.206.
EMDR and The Flash Technique: A match made in heaven? — EMDR Therapy Quarterly (emdrassociation.org.uk)
Shebini, N. (2019). Flash technique for safe desensitization of memories and fusion of parts in DID: Modifications and resourcing strategies. Oct 2019, Frontiers of the psychotherapy of trauma and dissociation Vol 3 3(2):151–164 2019 ISSN 2523–5117 print/ 2523–5125 online
Wong, Sik-Lam. (2019). Flash technique group protocol for highly dissociative clients in a homeless shelter: A clinical report. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(1), 20–31. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1933-3220.127.116.11
Posted July 25, 2018 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
Throughout history, hope has been viewed favorably, as virtually essential to our welfare. True, many writers have inveighed against “false hope.” But it’s generally been perceived as a positive, almost essential, motivating force. And in any case, it seems inextricably woven into the fabric of human nature.
Take the famous line from 18th century English poet Alexander Pope: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” And far more recently, writing for Blogspot (10/24/11 ), a physician in training named Isaac suggests pretty much the same thing—though here the tone is unquestionably cynical toward this abiding universal tendency:
I hate the word ‘hope.’ It’s a cruel and bitter emotion that won’t leave you alone. In meditation, one is taught to ‘let go’ of attachments to emotions. I can often do that with anger and grief and anxiety … but not hope. I despise it because even if I let go, it never lets go of me.
Other writers as well have investigated the “darker side” of hope, elaborating on how it can actually ensnare you, and far more than you might think. So it’s of considerable practical value to explore the often unrecognized problems with such a curiously optimistic—or aspirational—emotion.
In reviewing the literature on this most paradoxical of subjects, I’ve come up with no fewer than seven “downsides” related to hope. All of them merit scrutiny since it’s crucial to distinguish between good hope and bad.
Put simply, not all hope deserves to be regarded as advantageous; an asset. And because its positive facets are much more publicized than its adverse ones, this post will focus on why it’s a good idea to be mindful of how certain kinds of hope—as well as degrees of hope—can wind up defeating you. For, as the acclaimed German philosopher Nietzsche (admittedly) overstated the case: “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”
So, let’s examine the many negatives that have been linked to hope, so we can better grasp the at least partial truth of Nietzsche’s extraordinary pessimism about this expectational feeling.
1. Hope can be an inherently biased ideal.
Overall, it’s better to have a positive, or optimistic, bias than a stubbornly negative one. But ideally, when we make an evaluation, or come to a conclusion, we ought to base our judgment on logic and rationality—rather than on hope, desire, extravagant fantasies, or a relentless longing for change.
If we lived in a utopia, and so were justified in believing that whatever we wanted would inevitably materialize, then we wouldn’t need hope at all. But given the actual world we inhabit, we’re better off avoiding as much biased hope as possible.
Finally, if we want to succeed and feel fulfilled in life, we need to temper the idealism that “grants” us hope with the hard, unalterable facts of reality.
2. Hope can set us up for disappointment and defeat.
The emotion of hope pertains to that which hasn’t yet transpired. So it’s only natural that the more favorable our expectations of the future, the greater will be our disappointment—or disillusionment—when these expectations aren’t met or are irrevocably crushed.
In this sense, it’s much better to consciously restrain our hopes so we can also limit the hurt that a defeat, failure, or setback likely would engender. Hoping may be pleasurable, but hope defeated can be quite painful.
Consequently, it’s useful to keep in mind that anticipating favorable results is not without its hazards and that these risks are best reflected upon in advance.
3. Hope can hamper us from adequately preparing for negative outcomes.
A flexible, forward-looking mindset is almost always preferable to a rigidly fixed one. But there are many situations in which a realistic acceptance of a possibly (or likely) negative outcome is more beneficial than clinging to a hope counter to what is quite probably (if not certainly) going to happen. If the odds of a favorable outcome are little to none, it just makes sense to moderate our perspective so that it’s more in line with real-life eventualities.
If you’re definitively diagnosed with terminal cancer, for example, and resolve to begin making peace with your mortality, accepting the fate that sooner or later awaits you, you’ll thereby optimize the chance of experiencing “a good death.” You’ll say your fond farewells to loved ones, express feelings that till now you’ve kept buried, and tie up whatever loose ends in your existence you can, completing your days in a state of gratitude for everything life offered you—even as you reconcile yourself to what it didn’t. Realistically, the only way to “triumph” over death is to embrace it as an intrinsic, though terminal, aspect of life.
Compare this openness and receptivity in coming to terms with your ultimate demise to the obdurate determination to fight your fate till the bitter end, as though resisting what’s inescapable will assist you in bravely contesting your mortality. That’s simply denying your part in the human condition. And that’s not just grandiose, it’s also foolhardy.
Yet rather than cultivating humility and fortitude in the face of imminent death, many people willfully choose to turn their back on what’s best encountered head-on. To be sure, mounting a monumental fight against one’s ineluctable fate is frequently viewed as courageous. But a much stronger argument could be made that it takes more courage to open-heartedly accept it.
Consider what various writers and researchers have had to say about this reality-refuting aspect of hope:
Michael Schreiner, in his “The Problem With Hope” (11/13/15) , notes that “it’s easy to confuse the idea of mindful acceptance with unhealthy states of being like giving up, complacency, or settling for less.”
And Cathal Kelly, in her “Study Finds a Downside to Hope” (11/06/09) , reports on a University of Michigan research team that “followed patients who had their colon removed. One group knew the procedure was permanent [while] the second group was told that after a period of healing, their bowels could be reattached. / After a few weeks, both groups were struggling. But six months later, the group that had been permanently disabled showed far more life satisfaction. . . . The group awaiting a reversal procedure remained depressed and unhappy. / “They knew things would get better [concluded the team’s leading investigator] but that made them less satisfied with present circumstances. . . . While usually a good thing, we see that hope has a dark side.”
In this same article, the author goes on to quote Dr. David Casarett, a hospice physician and senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics: “Our job as physicians is to point people toward the sort of hope that is achievable.”
And later in this piece, Kelly quotes yet another physician on the matter—the late British physician Robert Buckman: “Even if the news is bad, even in some respects hopeless, it allows you to know what you’re dealing with, and you can cope” [vs., that is, hope].
4. Hope can be like prayer: wishing for something rather than more forcefully working toward it.
Not always, but definitely sometimes, hope inhibits taking necessary, or advisable, action. That is, hoping or praying for something doesn’t in itself imply doing anything about it. Rather, it can keep you in a holding pattern rather than prompting you to act to “achieve” your hopes.
One author suggests that, even more than this, it can be understood as a kind of “moral cowardice” (from Simon Critchley’s “Abandon (Nearly) All Hope,” New York Times, 04/19/14) . And whether this sort of hope comes from an enduring belief in a beneficent God or from a more secular position, all too often it leads to passivity—as though if you only wish hard enough for a desired outcome such an affirmative stance alone will maximize its possibility.
But here again, consider the research. An article entitled “The Problem With…Hope” (farnishk, The Earth Blog, 01/24/08) , in which the author refers to “a widely cited and carefully controlled study into the relative effects of prayer on post-operative coronary recovery” (see AHJ: American Heart Journal, 2006, 151, 934-942) “found no significant difference in recovery rates between those who received prayer unknowingly and those who did not receive prayer at all”—and also that “the group of patients who knowingly received prayer had a 15-20 percent worse recovery rate than the other two groups.
5. Hope can encourage you to forfeit personal power and control.
Closely related to the above, passively hoping for a desired outcome can be tantamount to relinquishing any responsibility for making it happen. Resignedly, you could be giving yourself the message that you can’t do anything about the situation when, quite possibly, you actually could. Once you give something over to an external force, then, practically, you’re “surrendering” to it.
So far as I could determine, this hypothesis has yet to be researched, but it’s reasonable to assume that the motivation to give one’s all to an upcoming challenge would be diminished by that person’s looking for some deus ex machina to almost magically intervene on their behalf. Too often, hope is susceptible to drift—or degenerate—into mere wishful thinking.
The Earth Blog author cited in #4 succinctly characterizes such hope as a “dereliction of responsibility.” And he notes that this breach in the populace’s handing over to various authorities what, finally, they must each take responsibility for refers not only to religious leaders but also to politicians, heads of corporations, and even environmental organizations. Such a regrettable phenomenon represents for him nothing less than “a mass [my emphasis] dereliction of responsibility.”
And the author closes his critical piece with this wonderfully suggestive quote: “When hope dies, action begins” (from Derrick Jensen, Endgame ).
6. Hope can be a tool of self-deception.
False hope is a hope that has no meaningful basis in reality. It’s self-deluding, and eventually it will probably end up sabotaging or defeating you. So you need to ask yourself whether what you’re hoping for makes any legitimate sense, or whether it simply makes you more gullible. For when hope literally runs away with you, your ability to see things clearly—and with just the right degree of skepticism—is seriously undermined.
Consider, for instance, hoping that you’ll win the lottery (after all, someone’s got to win!) or, more generally, standing up to forces far more powerful than you and with the law on their side. Such excessively aspirational hope isn’t only irrational, it’s also imprudent and can at times be dangerous. For it can increase the risk that you’ll get into more trouble than you might already be in. What is it but hope that creates our most wondrous, but farfetched, fantasies. But, enjoyable as they may be, to the extent that they’re over-the-top, it’s wise to maintain them as fantasies only.
7. Hope can set us up for hopelessness.
When hope is defeated, and possibly repeatedly defeated, it’s vulnerable to be replaced by hopelessness—or downright despair (which means the complete absence of hope). And once hope weakens or vanishes, it’s all the harder to take action that could be effective in helping you reach your goals.
On the contrary, if you proceed in your endeavors without hope, independently striving to accomplish whatever objectives you’ve set for yourself, you’ll be taking full responsibility for your future. And regardless of whether you succeed or fail, you’ll be able to attest to—and maybe even congratulate yourself for—all the industry, zeal, and perseverance you put into your attempts. That’s finally far more affirmative than “helplessly” depending on providence to enable you to overcome personal obstacles. Though putting your trust in hope can be extremely tempting, diligently applying yourself to what you most care about is a much more reliable way to prosper in life.
Speaking of the Greek philosophy of Stoicism, Darrell Arnold, Ph.D., discusses how Stoics saw inner peace as linked to eliminating hope, because hopes are eventually dashed. Moreover, the Stoics saw the emotion of anger as originating from
misplaced hopes smash[ing] into unforeseen reality. We get mad, not at every bad thing, but at bad, unexpected things. So we should expect bad things . . . and then we won’t be angry when things go wrong. Wisdom is reaching a state where no expected or unexpected tragedy disturbs our inner peace, so again we do best without hope” (from “Is Hope Bad?” Reason and Meaning, 3/14/17).
Better, that is, to accept the world as unfair and then focus on what, nonetheless, might be possible for you to change.
To conclude, it’s not bad to hope—if, that is, you hope wisely. Still, if you earnestly dedicate yourself to what you want to happen, not really trusting in hope but (self-confidently) in your own tactical and prudent efforts, then hope may become redundant—and even be an impediment. As already indicated, when your hopes are false or unrealistic, you can end up feeling not simply frustrated and disappointed but also angry and resentful . . . and possibly embittered as well.
So, if you wish, go ahead and hope. But do so judiciously.
© 2018 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
Becoming a stepparent? Read these 8 important stepparenting no-no’s and how to solve sticky situations.
A stepfamily offers a new chance at love and family life, but it is also an attempt to bring together various parents and problems, different spouses and siblings. “A stepfamily is a fundamentally different structure and it makes a different foundation for relationships than a first-time family,” says psychologist Patricia Papernow, Ed.D., a member of the National Stepfamily Resource Center’s expert council and author of Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t. One of these differences is that in a stepfamily, the spouses do not have an equal relationship to the children or in the parenting process. This dynamic sets up a web of boundaries that stepparents are wise not to cross. Here we tackle eight common slip-ups to avoid and how stepparents can handle these situations.
1. Trying to take the place of the mother or father. Whether the new marriage is a result of divorce or death, you can never take the place of the other biological parent and should not attempt to. “These children are not yours,” says Derek Randel, parenting expert and certified stepfamily coach through the Step-Family Foundation in New York City. “No matter what the biological ex-spouse has done, respect the child’s need to love that parent.” The same goes for requiring that the stepkids call you “Mom” or “Dad.” Don’t ever demand it or even ask for it.
Instead: Be clear with yourself and the stepchild about your role in the family. “A stepparent can become a loved, respected mentor to the child while realizing that he can’t reconstitute the biological family,” Randel says. Remember that a stepchild can develop feelings of love and respect for you without using the term “Mom” or “Dad.” And if the kids do decide, on their own, to use that term for you, demonstrate a quiet gratitude and a responsibility to live up to the label.
2. Spanking your stepkids. Even if you believe in spanking, a stepparent should never cross the line of administering physical consequences to a child. “Always refrain from losing your cool and hitting, swearing or ‘losing it’ with your stepchildren,” says JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies to Help Children Thrive Through Divorce. “It’s hard enough when tempers get out of control between children and their own parents. The incident and the painful memories of [physical discipline from a stepparent] can last a lifetime and take a toll on any chance of building trust and respect in the new family.”
Instead: Remove yourself from the situation if you feel yourself getting overly worked up and report any misbehavior to the biological parent to determine if consequences are necessary.
3. Assuming a position of authority. Young children, under the age of 5 or 6, may be more willing accept a stepparent’s authority in the new family, but school-age children and teens will often rebuff a stepparent’s attempts at automatic authority.
Instead: “For new stepparents, it is best to proceed slowly–not as a disciplinarian, but as a supportive friend to the child and a supportive resource to your partner,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll suggests. You may have won the heart of your new spouse, but if he or she is a package deal with kids in tow, you’ll need to earn the love and respect of your new stepchildren too. Basic respect is a must, but you’ll need to put time and effort into the relationship with your stepchildren if you want more.
4. Getting involved in parenting discussions between your partner and the ex. It can be tempting to weigh in on a parenting discussion between your spouse and his or her ex–but don’t. “The ex didn’t agree to coparent with you and will likely feel ganged up on if you give unsolicited advice,” explains Jenna Korf, a certified stepfamily foundation coach at Stepmomhelp.com and co-author of Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict. “Exes who are still holding on to anger or hurt from the divorce can cause a world of pain for you and your spouse, so try to avoid inserting yourself into their discussions.”
Instead: Although stepparents can certainly provide their input into a parenting situation, this should be done privately with the spouse, not during the conversation with the ex. “Any decisions or information should then be shared with the ex by the biological parent,” Korf says. Make a concerted effort to build a positive relationship with your spouse’s ex so that your interactions and input can be well received.
Getting involved in parenting discussions between your partner and the ex.
4. Getting involved in parenting discussions between your partner and the ex. It can be tempting to weigh in on a parenting discussion between your spouse and his or her ex–but don’t. “The ex didn’t agree to coparent with you and will likely feel ganged up on if you give unsolicited advice,” explains Jenna Korf, a certified stepfamily foundation coach at Stepmomhelp.com and co-author of Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict. “Exes who are still holding on to anger or hurt from the divorce can cause a world of pain for you and your spouse, so try to avoid inserting yourself into their discussions.”
Instead: Although stepparents can certainly provide their input into a parenting situation, this should be done privately with the spouse, not during the conversation with the ex. “Any decisions or information should then be shared with the ex by the biological parent,” Korf says. Make a concerted effort to build a positive relationship with your spouse’s ex so that your interactions and input can be well received.
5. Getting involved in arguments between your stepchild and your spouse. “If you want to preserve your relationship with your stepchildren and partner, it’s best to let them work conflict out on their own,” Korf says. “Unless the stepparent and child are well bonded, the child will likely feel that the stepparent is butting into their business, and this can cause the child to feel resentful of their stepparent.” Even if you have the best intentions, Korf says, your interference can prevent your spouse and your stepchild from learning how to resolve problems on their own and can have a negative impact on your marriage. “For stepmoms, if you swoop in and try to fix everything for your husband, he may feel emasculated and view your action as a belief that you don’t think he can handle his own child. This will surely cause some tension in your marriage.”
Instead: Be your partner’s support system, Korf suggests, giving him feedback only if and when he asks for it. If he doesn’t come to you for help, then assume he’s got it covered.
6. Ignoring or countering the wishes of the ex. If your stepchild’s mom has forbidden dyeing her hair, midriff-baring shirts, or dating before she’s 16, it’s not your place to override her wishes. “Realize that there are no ex-parents, just ex-spouses,” Randel says. Your new spouse may no longer be married to the ex, but the ex still gets a say in parenting their children.
Instead: “Your spouse needs to coparent with the ex. The more helpful and understanding you are, the easier it will be for the entire family,” Randel says. If you have serious concerns about the stepchild’s health, wellness, or safety because of the ex-spouse’s rules, talk with your spouse about it. If you just don’t like the rules the ex-spouse has made for the child, step back and realize you don’t get to control everything.
7. Bad-mouthing the ex. As tempting as this may be, talking poorly about the ex-spouse is always no-no–even if the stepkids are doing it. “It is important for a stepparent to listen with empathy and kindness but not put down the parent to the child or allow the child to hear negative comments about their parent,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll says. “After all, the child is 50 percent of that person, and they may experience negative comments as an attack on their very own DNA. Children can be damaged by exposure to ongoing conflict and repeated negative messages that put them in the middle of conflict.”
Instead: Be a sounding board if your spouse or stepchild needs to vent, but don’t contribute to the bad-mouthing. When possible, contribute to the quality of family life by helping to contain any conflict between your partner and their ex. “You can be a tremendous support to your partner and your stepchildren when you maintain some objectivity and do not enter into every conflict,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll says.
8. Pressuring your new partner to always put you first or seeing your stepchild’s need for one-on-one time with his parent as a threat to your marriage. Children often worry that a parent’s love for a new spouse will mean less love for the child. “This fear may cause children to behave with anger and resentment that seems unjustified,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll explains. If a stepparent does not understand the need for a child to have a deeply connected bond to his biological parent, problems in the family and the marriage can arise.
Instead: First, understand the importance of a strong parent-child relationship and have confidence that their relationship does not undermine your relationship with your spouse. A jealous attitude towards your stepchild will negatively affect your marriage. “Because parents have strong bonds with their own children, they instinctively protect them against harm,” Dr. Pedro-Carroll says. “Thus, hurt feelings or problems between a stepparent and stepchild can easily undermine a remarriage. Stepparents and stepchildren developing positive relationships is critical to the new family’s success.”
Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.
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Leaders fail for a variety of reasons. It might be due to an inability to adapt to change or think strategically. Perhaps they struggle to develop good working relationships with key stakeholders or build and maintain a team. What we have come to know is that emotional intelligence, or EI, is the No. 1 predictor of professional and personal excellence and it accounts for 58 percent of performance in all job types. Additionally, 90 percent of top performers in organizations have higher levels of EI, making it a critical factor for leadership success.
Integration of this critical leadership competency is quickly becoming a requirement for leaders. A briskly changing business environment necessitates skills in self-awareness, trust building, conflict management, listening and empathy. These abilities support leaders to effectively manage the demands of a transforming work environment. Progressive organizations need leaders with high EI to move their teams into the future.
All of this is easier said than done. Developing our EI takes time and deep introspection. It requires us to look inward at the emotions we are projecting and those that are stifling in the workplace, as well as work to understand the emotions of others. Here are the four quadrants of EI and how to develop them.
Become more self-aware.
The ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen influences how you respond to specific situations and certain people. Strong self-awareness ensures we have a realistic picture of who we are and, more important, how we “show up” with others. Recognizing our emotional triggers and practicing mindfulness can aid in this process.
An important aspect of self-awareness is recognizing our personal values. We filter our experiences through the lens of our values. This results in a perception of the world that is painted more by our own story than by actual reality. The more we can change our own story about various things that happen to us, the more we reclaim our personal power. This allows us to have more freedom in our relationships with ourselves and others because we are not triggered by circumstances in the same way we might have been.
Manage your own emotions, stress and anxiety.
Self-management refers to managing one’s internal state, impulses and resources. It involves emotional self-control and your ability to use awareness of your emotions to direct your behavior. Self-regulation reflects how well you control and manage your emotional reactions to all situations and people, while keeping disruptive emotions in check.
Consequential thinking can help in this process: imagining the upsides and downsides of our actions and then determining which action will best support our desired outcome. Take time to pause during presentations and casual conversations to use this thinking strategy while allowing those you are conversing with time to process the information, as well.
Recognize the emotions of others and develop empathy.
Empathy is what allows us to pick up on the emotional climate in social situations and to be able to understand what others are thinking and feeling. We can develop this skill through active listening. The ability to focus completely on what is being said both verbally and nonverbally allows us to create connections with others.
We all want to be heard. The stronger our active listening skills, the easier it is to feel empathy for others and connect with them based on the emotions they are sharing with us. Another way to sharpen this skill is by asking powerful questions. This creates space for empathy by encouraging deeper conversations at work and in our personal lives.
Develop better social skills, including trust and rapport with others.
Building trust and rapport with others over time helps when a conflict does arise. Once we establish trust with the people around us, we start to see different outcomes in our interactions. Our conversations change, and our intent shifts.
To build trust with your team, be respectful, listen by trying to understand their perspective and admit when you’ve made a mistake. These are all simple but incredibly important building blocks of trust.
With leadership comes unavoidable conflicts, as our daily work brings together diverse perspectives, power struggles, competitive spirits, performance discrepancies and so on. Much of this turmoil provides a canvas for greatness; yet, navigating conflict is challenging for most. As a leader, the key to solving conflicts is to embrace them.
We hone our leadership abilities by recognizing conflicts when they arise, understanding the nature of the conflict, and bringing about a swift and just resolution. This reaction builds trust and rapport with your team and can be the difference between mediocre and top-tier performance.
Since we know EI is the foundation of success and performance, building these skills is a game-changer in leadership and life. Developing these four EI skills can help leaders unlock the potential for swift conflict management, connectivity and trust among teams and overall understanding in the workplace.
Love relationships are fabulous when things are going smoothly, but when troubles begin, our often-unhealthy default communication techniques can cause even more harm. Unfortunately, these unhealthy habits can lead us into unproductive cycles that bring unnecessary struggle and pain into our romantic relationships.
If communication is not your forte, don’t worry. Below are 10 signs you can look for to help you increase your communication awareness and enrich your relationship in the most mindful, uplifting ways.
As you review the signs, strive to keep judgment of yourself or your partner to the side. The more objective you are, the more beneficial your insights will be. In fact, you might want to make notes as you read. If you—or your partner—engage in any of these habits, just make a note using a 1-to-10 scale regarding the severity of the issue. Remember: The goal is to raise your awareness in a positive way, so put on your “relationship researcher hat” and have fun!
1. One person needs to win.
If you find that you focus or your partner focuses on winning—getting your way or being “right”—in arguments, you’re on the wrong track. Healthy communication focuses on a collaborative, win-win attitude that makes room for both individuals’ perspectives.
Unhelpful: You are so irrational; your opinion is just plain wrong.
Helpful: Your perspective is different from mine. I’d like to know more about your thoughts so that I can understand you better.
2. Blaming and shaming are at work.
When one or both partners get into the shame-or-blame habit, communication—and the relationship—go downhill. Rather than blaming or shaming a partner, focus on the nature of the problem itself—not attacking the person who made the error.
Unhelpful: Our bills are past due again; if you were smarter, you’d get a better job, and we wouldn’t be in this situation.
Helpful: We’re a bit behind on our bills. Let’s sit down this weekend to work out a budget and payment plan. With a little bit of teamwork, I know we can get our finances under control.
3. Criticism instead of healthy feedback.
Although many people are sensitive to receiving feedback, almost no one appreciates being criticized. The difference between the two can be overt or subtle, so strive to get used to offering positive, healthy feedback rather than negative criticism.
Unhelpful: You’re completely inconsiderate and selfish. You’re not even thoughtful or responsible enough to let me know when you’re running late.
Helpful: I understand that the commute can be unpredictable, yet I feel hurt when you don’t let me know you’ll be late. I’d truly appreciate a quick text or call when you’re running behind.
4. Eye contact and body language are off.
Body language can sometimes speak volumes. It’s easy to slip into negative habits during conversations with a partner. From eye-rolling and looking away to folding your arms or walking away during a conversation, negative body language can signal disrespect, irritation, anger, and dismissiveness. These subtle and not-so-subtle behaviors are a passive-aggressive way of controlling conversations in a highly negative way.
Healthy communicators tend to focus on the speaker, make good eye-to-eye contact, and physically lean in during the conversation.
Unhelpful: Why am I snickering and rolling my eyes at you? Because you’re so irrational.
Helpful: I feel so connected to you when you hold my hand and really look at me when I’m talking. I feel seen, valued, and understood.
5. Multitasking gets in the way.
It’s a busy world, but short-changing communication by multitasking generally results in fragmented attention; this leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Multitasking also sends this message to a partner: Whatever else I want or need to do is more important than giving you my undivided attention.
Unhelpful: What’s wrong with you? Can’t you just let me do other things while you talk?
Helpful: You’re my priority, and what you have to say is important. Let me stop what I’m doing to focus on our conversation.
6. Angry, passive-aggressive, or passive tactics are in play.
When anger, passive-aggressiveness, or passive behaviors are the norm, positive communication is almost impossible. Angry comments—verbal assaults—are a sign of trouble. Sarcasm and jokes used as weapons are passive-aggressive strategies that create dynamics. And passive behavior—not speaking your truth or shutting down—gets in the way of healthy communication.
Unhelpful: You’re f-d up. And you think you’re a good partner? Why don’t you just get out of here?
Helpful: I feel really angry when you dismiss opinions. I need a break right now to re-center; I’m taking a walk around the block and will be back in 15 minutes.
7. Interrupting is the norm.
Interrupting sends the message that another person’s message is unimportant or incorrect. If patterns of interrupting are chronic (or getting to be), frustration and resentment arise.
True, active listening involves slowing down to actually hear what another person is saying without interjecting an opinion. In fact, interrupters are generally very poor listeners; rather than listening, their own internal dialogue—which spews out as an interruption—is proof that their attention is self-focused rather than other-focused.
Unhelpful: Stop! What you’re saying is absolutely wrong! Let me tell you how it is.
Helpful: I listened fully to what you had to say. Is there anything else? I want to make sure you’re finished before I share some thoughts.
8. Disagreements become fights.
As a firm believer that partners in healthy relationships tend to disagree rather than fight, it’s important to notice whether a difference in opinions quickly escalates into a fight. Fighting creates a warlike atmosphere where anger and resentment thrive; fights rarely end with a positive solution. Disagreements, however, often bring couples into a space of feeling mutually seen and heard. These couples know that they can safely disagree on topics without being attacked.
Unhelpful: You always want something. If it’s not a new car or your latest hobby, you’re after a trip somewhere. Now you want to redo the backyard. Isn’t enough ever enough for you?
Helpful: I’m feeling a little stressed about redoing the backyard right now. I’ve looked at our budget, and it would be a struggle this year. What do you think about holding off until next spring? We can set money aside and really do it right. How does that sound to you?
9. Technology interferes with face-to-face time.
From cellphones and computers to ever-present television screens, it’s easy to get lost in the world of technology. If you find yourself retreating to technology (or any other activity) in favor of face-to-face time with your partner, it’s a sign that your communication—the desire to really bond with your partner—is suffering. And intimate communication, like any skill, needs regular practice to stay in good form.
Unhelpful: Giving the best of yourself to your work or personal interests and leaving little energy to communicate with your partner.
Helpful: Setting aside time every day to talk with your partner. Whether by taking a walk together, sitting down to share coffee, or having dinner at a table together (instead of in front of the TV), your communication—and your relationship—will flourish.
10. Resentment and unsolved issues lurk in the background.
If one or both partners stockpile issues instead of addressing them as soon as possible, trouble is brewing. Some people hold on to issues to use as weapons in later arguments; and even when the other partner tries to resolve the issues, the passive-aggressive person often chooses to maintain the stockpile. Others compartmentalize issues in the hope that the problem will go away.
While some minor issues do fade if left unaddressed, many are recycled issues that are never solved. When core hurts, resentments, or irritations are not addressed, it’s a sign that positive strategies are needed.
Unhelpful: I’m not going to forgive. I don’t care if you apologized and made things right. I want you to pay for what you did for the rest of your life.
Helpful: I’m hurt and feel like we need to get to the roots of what happened. My fear is that you might hurt me in the same way again; it’s important to me that you are genuinely accountable for what you did. I think it will do both of us a world of good to gain more clarity and understanding. We can then start fresh.
Taking next steps.
Be patient with yourself and your partner as you venture into the often-unfamiliar world of healthy communication. Keep at it, stay mindful, and do your best one day at a time. Before you know it, your practice will pay off by bringing you and your partner closer than ever.
Here’s more on how to fix a lack of communication in relationships.
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7 problematic things parents do that can make their children insecure, withdrawn, drug-dependent, or otherwise worse off as they grow up
- Parenting behaviors — from being over-involved to constantly stressed out to emotionally abusive— can have lasting impacts from childhood all the way up to adulthood.
- Abusive parenting during childhood may lead to a greater likelihood of developing age-related diseases.
- Over-involved parenting also may lead to feelings of entitlement and less self-efficacy when you get older.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For better or worse, how your parents behaved when you grew up has had — and likely will have — a lasting impact on who you are today.
Clinical and research psychologists have studied how adults suffered from poor parenting for decades. Whether your mom or dad was over-involved in your life or neglectful, there are negative consequences to certain types of parental behavior.
While young children emulate their parents early on, adolescents and adults who recognize negative behavior can manage the influence parents have on them, said Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist and the author of “Who Stole My Child?: Parenting through the Four Stages of Adolescence.”
“Parents are hugely influential for who [their children] are and how they act,” Pickhardt told Business Insider. “However, what mediates that effect is the decision by the child to want to decide to follow that example or to differentiate from that.”
Here are seven ways your parents’ behavior growing up may have had a negative impact on who you are today.
Growing up with alcohol or drug dependent parents can lead children to take on the caretaking role early in life, Mark Borg, Jr., a NYC-based clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst, told Business Insider.
In turn, kids may lose out on a childhood to take care of their parents. As they themselves get older, this could lead to trouble having fun or letting their guard down, according to Portland Lifestyle Counseling.
If children recognize their parents are unhappy, they start performing in a way they know can cheer their mom or dad up, Borg said. Children grow up being used to taking care of their parents by performing behaviors they know will please them, but might not be what they want.
In adulthood, these children continue performing for other people instead of being vulnerable and open with their emotions.
“You’re basically preforming to make your parents feel better so they can be more active and parent you,” Borg said. “What they wind up doing inadvertently as adults is they wind up being unable to take in what other people have to offer. The caretaking works against being vulnerable.”
Researchers found that if parents emphasized control when their children grew up, young adults reported having lower levels of self-efficacy, yet greater feelings of entitlement.
When parents had open communication and adequately set rules, young adults felt higher levels of family satisfaction than those with controlling parents.
Stressed parents who lash out can scare their children. To cope, kids develop “defenses” against strong feelings of fear or sadness to adapt to their environment, according to Lisa Firestone, a psychologist and author of “Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free from Imagined Limitations.”
While these defenses work as emotional barriers to feeling pain when you’re young, they can lead to trouble opening up emotionally with others — including your own kids — into adulthood.
“These early adaptations may have served us well when we were young, but they can hurt us as adults, particularly as parents,” Firestone wrote in Psychology Today.
While “snowplow parents,” or mothers and fathers who bulldoze obstacles out of their children’s path as they grow, may think they are helping their children avoid challenges, they are actually doing the opposite.
Unlike helicopter parents who hover, snowplow parents “smash down” obstacles usually by using their wealth, status, and sense of privilege, wrote Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College, in a blog post on Psychology Today.
These parents place great value on the outward appearance of success, and, snowplow parenting, at it’s most extreme, comes at the price tag of tens of thousands of dollars, Gray wrote.
But snowplow parenting doesn’t adequately prepare kids for adulthood and could ultimately backfire by transmitting feelings of anxiety onto a child, Graham Davey, a professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, wrote in a blog on Psychology Today.
“Given that genetic inheritance is not an overwhelming contributor to the variance in our anxiety levels, this strongly suggests that anxiety may somehow be socially ‘transmitted’ within the family,” Davey wrote, although the transmission may go both ways, also from child to parent.
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“Tell your partner something that you like about them already,” is the 31st question I ask this usually very nonchalant guy over FaceTime. We’re two hours and thirty minutes into this video call, testing out the ’36 questions to fall in love’ theory. He tells me he likes my smile and I can’t help but blush at that response. When asked, I share something more superficial, telling him I like his body, precisely everything about it and, in that moment, I feel a sense of coyness that I hadn’t felt in a little while.
36 questions to fall in love
Created in 1997 by psychologist Dr. Arthur Aron, 36 questions to fall in love is a study, conducted at Stony Brook University, New York, that tests accelerated intimacy between two strangers. Dr. Aron conducted this test by bringing a heterosexual man and woman together with a list of 36 questions to test out, followed by four minutes of sustained eye contact. This couple got married six months later.
Broken up into three sets, each section gets more and more personal. From ‘Question 1: Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?’ to ‘Question 36: Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.’
The point of the study is to test the social psychology of relationships and create closeness, although Dr. Aron states that the closeness is intended to be a temporary feeling. So, you’re not expected to immediately fall in love as soon as the 36th question is answered, but you should feel something. Right?
Before testing the study out for myself with a guy I used to date, (I really wanted to try out these questions and had no one else to ask, okay?), I was curious but cynical. I’ve never believed in love at first sight or when characters in movies become obsessed with one another within three days, so I didn’t expect a miraculous surge of adoration to wash over me but I was keen to discover something new about someone I already knew and ask questions I wouldn’t tend to ask.
The advantage of the structured 36 questions
Our answers to ‘Question 9: For what in your life do you feel most grateful?’ was the same – family, while ‘Question 16: What do you value most in a friendship?’ revealed our compatible need for thoughtfulness and having people around us that have our best interests at heart. These questions were some of my favourites.
There are three questions out of the 36 that centre friendship, including ‘Question 20: What does friendship mean to you?’ and ‘Question 27: If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.’
I personally think that a good romantic relationship should have a good friendship at the foundation as the friendship element is what makes your bond strong, meaningful and genuine, not attraction and a couple of shared interests.
It was particularly useful for us to have a list in place with questions neither of us had created or over analysed. I spoke with relationship psychotherapist, Matt Davies, who seconded this notion for first-time daters. “When you’re first meeting, if you don’t have a structure, what you’re doing is you’re generating all kinds of superficial chat,” he says.
“Psychologically you’re assessing, ‘Do I like this person or not? Do I feel safe with them?’ But, with that out of the way, the questions provide you access to finding out whether you feel comfortable and safe with them.”
The 36 questions are key in unlocking that vulnerability and genuineness that a lot of people struggle to show generally, let alone when seeking love.
Questions like ‘18: What is your most terrible memory?’ (my answer nearly made me tear up) and ‘30: When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?’ tested how honest and open we could be with one another, which aren’t traits that are often explored early in a potential relationship, due to fear of opening up or sharing personal things ‘too early’.
Dr. Davies says, “Psychological intimacy is a prerequisite for passion. [The questions] allow people to understand that we’re all human, and that is so connecting. It’s the opposite of alienation, where we might think somebody is better than us or we’re one down or one up. I think that is really important to help with intimacy.”
And ignite intimacy it did – while we were already comfortable and familiar with one another, we both learnt something new. Forget the simple things like our favourite colours or favourite movies, we unlocked deeper, emotional experiences such as my sister being in the hospital being one of the worst times of my life and him crying in front of a previous partner.
Do the 36 questions to fall in love work?
The initial cynicism I had definitely eased up as the questions progressed, although I didn’t like every single question due to their vagueness and repetition. However, perhaps that’s what’s needed. The vague elements of some questions allowed us to be as open-ended as possible, while the repetition of the questions that asked us to say positive things about one another fulfilled my biggest love language.
Once we finished the questions, we joked about whether we were in love yet. Well, we’re still not dating but the enhanced closeness we felt has got to mean something.
Full list of 36 questions to fall in love
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling …”
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share …”
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.
The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs/Dept. of Defense, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and the World Health Organization among many other national and international organizations recognize EMDR therapy as an effective treatment. More specific information on treatment guidelines can be found on our EMDR and PTSD page.
How is EMDR therapy different from other therapies?
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue or
completing homework between sessions. EMDR therapy, rather than focusing on changing the
emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, allows the brain to
resume its natural healing process.
EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. For
many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other
How does EMDR therapy affect the brain?
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help.
Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy helps children and adults of all ages. Therapists use EMDR therapy to address a wide range of challenges:
- Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
- Chronic Illness and medical issues
- Depression and bipolar disorders
- Dissociative disorders
- Eating disorders
- Grief and loss
- Performance anxiety
- Personality disorders
- PTSD and other trauma and stress-related issues
- Sexual assault
- Sleep disturbance
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Violence and abuse
Can EMDR therapy be done without a trained EMDR therapist?
EMDR therapy is a mental health intervention. As such, it should only be offered by properly trained and licensed mental health clinicians. EMDRIA does not condone or support indiscriminate uses of EMDR therapy such as “do-it-yourself” virtual therapy.
EMDR Therapy is a Recognized Effective Treatment for PTSD
Anyone can experience intense trauma. EMDR therapy is widely considered one of the best treatments for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it has been endorsed as an effective therapy by many organizations.