Tag Archive | Self-Esteem

Barre Girl at 55; Do you plié?

Here is a great article for the over 40 crowd!

Madame

If you have ever been one of those women, like me, who has sat by the sidelines for years wishing your mom would have let you be in a ballet class, now there is a new fitness craze created just for you! Barre classes are springing up all over the nation designed to, well, what I call nurture your inner ballerina.

It is hardly a ballet class and yet there is just a hint of it. You will do some plié’s and use first and second position (possibly other positions depending on the instructor) and if you have arthritis setting in, like me, will use the barre more than most people. Mostly you will do planks, downward facing dog, put a ball between your thighs or hold onto it with your back leg in the air. You will do side planks, lift your legs up while in the plank and…

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Attachment Issues and Women Abandoned

If you can struggle through the first half of this movie, with its extreme versions of a woman who appears to be histrionic, you will get a second half that is much more intense and mature. This is typical with Bollywood films. They start out with characters who seem like people you have never known (unless you work in a psych hospital) because they often have bizarre personalities, overact their emotions and then there is the dancing and usually lip synching. In this film they actually added what appears to be a real singer. What I found sad was the deterioration of their society by trying to imitate western culture instead of embracing their own. However, the attachment issues are what this film is really about. Something I did not even realize until they finally brought in the psychotherapist, who was actually portrayed in a realistic and therapeutic way, to give a nod to an acceptance of psychology in a culture that does not embrace this at all (not unusual as most cultures don’t).

The therapist is played by Shah Rukh Khan, a very famous actor in India who has played everything from a person with Asperger’s to a psychotherapist. The last film I saw him in he acted like someone sniffing cocaine through the entire movie, so it was refreshing to see him in a more serious role. They actually show the psychotherapist with ethics in this film. Of course there is some suspense now and then as they try to bait you into thinking he might do something very bad. It made me tense because I am tired of seeing these disturbing portrayals of psychotherapists in the media. I even kept thinking, please, please, don’t do it. He didn’t. However, what the psychotherapist is able to uncover, with his unconventional, but appropriate, modalities are the young girl’s attachment issues.

Attachment issues occur in infancy when a child is removed from the mother and father for whatever reason. I have seen this occur with a woman who’s mother was taken from her at birth for quite some time because of the mother’s mental health issues. A young man I know had yellow jaundice and was hospitalized for a week – with mother coming in each day but for only an hour. Another young man was kidnapped at a year and a half by his father and the mother had no idea of his whereabouts. All foster babies in social services end up with attachment issues. In this movie, the girl’s father’s business goes under and the parents leave her with grandparents and go in search of work via new business deals. She writes to them daily but they never respond to her letters. Mom returns with a baby, temporarily and still does not return to take daughter back until later when her child fails miserably in school.

Thus the real concern here is mother being taken from baby or young child and the child is unsure whether they will return. As a result of this, the child develops coping mechanisms to survive. In this movie, the child sought to get attention from her parents, when they did return and she was seen as an unruly child. The parents (this is not unusual) do not take responsibility for the fact that their child is behaving as a result of their actions early on. As an adult, she is unable to attach to the men she believes she is in love with and runs away from them before they have a chance to abandon her.

Many women come to me with an inability to have healthy attachments as a result of birth trauma (or trauma as a young child). I have spoken about Narcissism on here quite a bit and this is similar but not the same. With Narcissists, the parent (s) is there but they do not form a healthy attachment to their child or they are not warm and nurturing and able to respond to the babies needs. Attachment issues can be seen in a variety of diagnoses as it really depends on how the person has interpreted the situation, their emotional intelligence level and the meanings they have placed on scenarios around them. The only constant I see is an inability to have a healthy relationship with a partner. I see unhealthy relationships with parents as well because it is hard to fix these things. The parent (s) is not in therapy. Sometimes the parent is a Narcissist, a substance user still, have mental illness, or they are ignorant to self-awareness in general because they live in denial. With foster children or adopted children, if they are able to find the biological parent, the parent is unsure how to attach to them after all these years. This causes more trauma.

In this Indian movie, “Dear Zindagi,” (2016) it appears that everything comes together within about ten sessions. This is not realistic but it is a movie and they had spent an entire hour or so showing you a histrionic woman doing things like bouncing around in her apartment so you could watch her hair twirling around (about three times there was a scene like this for several minutes). Several scenes of she and her work mates getting drunk, and the second break-up scene was very confusing because I wasn’t even clear they were in a relationship in the first place (mistake in scriptwriting or editing, who knows). In real life, it is easy for this therapist to see attachment issues but not so easy to help a person turn it around.

Childhood wounds are not as easy as having a nice conversation with your parents or bringing them flowers, as she did in this movie. It is not easy to grow up and act like an adult with your parents, when you have been behaving like a teenager around them for most of you adult life or just rejecting them completely. It is difficult when there are multiple babies from fathers and finances are more of a priority then self-awareness and healing. When a couple comes in for therapy and working on communication issues are taken over by dual self-esteem problems that are very deep and untouched. So you are not looking at a simple process. Nonetheless, I think the movie did do some good things. Show psychotherapy in a positive way – to get people to consider this as an option. It opened the door to a conversation of attachment issues, though I don’t believe they actually ever used this phrase. It became an intellectual discussion about life, even though it did not start out this way.

Try to be patient with the subtitles if you are not a foreign film fan like myself and give this movie a try if you can relate to the above. It is on Netflix and I think you will find it entertaining and enlightening if you can be patient through that first half.

 

Before You Say I Do

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Weddings cost an average of $26,720, according to costofawedding.com. The average cost of a divorce is $15,000-$30,000 according to a 2006 Forbes.com article. In my experience the latter figure will vary based on children, assets and EGO. The American Psychological Association reports that 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Many couples wait until they are very married and very upset before they come into therapy. When there has been an affair, when there is about to be an affair, or when they are so over this person that it would take a fairy Godmother to make any difference in the relationship. With all this negativity why say I do in the first place?

On the heels of the Benjamin Franklin quote above, which I absolutely love because it sums up what I am about to say right here. Pre-Marital counseling is a must to add to that wedding budget as you will get a greater return on your investment. In fact, pre-marital counseling can be the most important money you will spend before you say I do.  Yes, it is possible that you will realize you made a mistake (but this is $15-$30,000 saved). It is also possible that you will save yourself a lot of heartache in the days after the “big day.” Here are some tips for making pre-marital counseling work.

  1. Schedule the onset of counseling at the same time you are sending your “Save the Date,” cards (six to eight months) prior to the big day. You need time to do the work and it may involve individual as well.
  2. Communicate with your therapist what your specific needs are. Even when the therapist has an agenda, make sure to let them know if they are missing something or a new issue has popped up (I always do a check-in before we begin the session). If you don’t tell the therapist, how are they supposed to know?
  3. Self-Awareness – Therapy doesn’t work if one person thinks it is the other persons fault. It takes two to tango and you have to be willing to be held accountable in counseling.
  4. Respect for the therapist and for yourself – paying for sessions on time, showing up on time, being committed to your partner and your future. Psychotherapy is a business first and a healing profession second. This is why you are coming: to get the advice, coaching, and support of a professional – not from a friend or family member.
  5. Homework is there for a reason.  To practice this new way of communicating. Don’t expect results if you are going home and behaving in the same manner.
  6. Be open to recommendations of the therapist – If there are addictions with one or both parties, couples counseling is not ready yet. If there is domestic violence a domestic violence agency should be consulted first for batterers work and counseling for the victim. If there is a history of abuse, there may be a need for individual work for that person before they are ready to begin couples. Your therapist will assess your situation and let you know what is necessary to begin.

Unmet needs from childhood are the majority of couple conflicts. Think about what you didn’t get from your parents growing up – love, nurturance, listening, guidance, a father/a mother, validation, whatever it was this is what you will look for in a partner. Unfortunately, since you aren’t really sure what this looks like, you often get exactly what you don’t want. This is because we are more comfortable with what we know and so this is what we attract. For example: someone to take care of (rather than being taking care of), or someone who just doesn’t give you the love you wish for and you are constantly struggling to attain this. Couples come in talking about small things but what is behind it is something so much larger. This has to do with expectations that have been mulling around in their head but no one has ever spoken of.

Effective communication is the key to a successful marriage. Each time I have attended one of those 50 years + type anniversary parties, they have all said the cliché phrase “communication,” when asked what made their marriage work. I have listened to couples tell me their grandparents or aunt/uncles have said the same. What this means is something that often takes people many years of mistakes to figure out. For older couples I can tell you it also means a lot of compromising along the way because they were married in a time when there was no acceptance of pre-marital counseling other than a few sessions with their spiritual leader.

When I work with couples, I am using the training I took at certified Gottman.com led seminars. These are the principles of Dr. John Gottman which are based on his years of research with couples. If you just “google search” his name you will find loads of articles, videos, interviews, photos and of course their website. His work was introduced to me long before I began my studies as a therapist and after becoming a therapist, his name came across my path once again and off I went to the advanced trainings.

In my personal background, I was 17 years old when I married and I was six months pregnant at the time. I was divorced a couple of years later because of abuse and addictions on their part. I later learned, while doing my thesis and again from Dr. John Gottman with his partner Dr. Neil Jacobson that I was in a marriage with a Pit Bull (When Men Batter Women: New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships, 1998). I have never remarried but I have been in several long-term relationships that did not last. It was a long time before it finally hit me in the head what I had been missing all along. Fortunately for you, who might be working with me, you won’t have to wait at all. The reason why I love doing work with couples is so that I may give them the advantages I never had. Experience, Education, Intuition, Insight, Holistic thought process and continuing education post-graduate school is what you will get when you come into my office.

A therapist cannot promise you miracles because it is up to you two and what you are willing to commit to working on. When my coupleS work as hard in session as they do out of session – on practicing these principles I am teaching them, I do see success. My belief is that a couple should not be married without some form of pre-marital counseling (see paragraph one).

 

Analyze This!

This is a really great video from “The Psych Show” host Dr. Ali Mattu. All therapists dread this question but he does an exceptional job of explaining what is really going on. I agree with him completely. It also says a lot about co-dependent behavior. Wanting to know whether or not a person is okay with you, feeling threatened by a therapist because you don’t know how to act around them. It is also a way of saying “I have low self-esteem,” out loud or “I know I have a zit on my nose,” to attack before you are attacked. A defense mechanism designed to protect ones self, which is in essence saying “En garde.”

Usually when I am asked this question I will say, I am here to have a good time and I get paid to do these things. I might also say “What do you do for a living,” then I will ask them if when they go to people’s houses do they question people about these things that they do. For example, CPA – do you go to a house and question people about whether or not they expensed the boat they have out on the dock and then discuss the legality of this? Or a carpenter – do you go to a house and think about all the mistakes in the way it was built (actually they do – then they can drum up business). When therapists go to a party, we are dressed in our normal non-professional outfit, might have a drink in our hand or took a bite on a cheese puff and are wondering about the books on the shelf or the cute guy in the corner, just like you are.

The Girl on the Train or The Wife of the Narcissist

“I am not the girl I used to be,” the beginning and the ending of the movie, somewhat like a poem. In between is the passion, frustration, and anger; all building toward self-awareness.

The Girl on the Train is about the lives of three women who are joined together directly and indirectly through one man. They are all involved with a narcissist. What is clever about this movie is that the director takes you on a long journey; giving you a chance to get to know these women but only their interpretations of what they believe is the truth. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are made to believe that you are the one causing all the problems. The narcissist causes you to feel as if you are walking on eggshells, that you are going crazy. Your reality becomes distorted as a result. In this movie, the woman is an alcoholic so this of course makes it very easy to assume she is the bad person.

Naturally the movie shows us a bad therapist, which is sad, but in this case it is just continuing to lead us down a tunnel of wrong turns. In fact, two of the three men in the movie are false assumptions and the guilty party seems like a good guy at first. That is the makings of a good suspense. In reality though, the narcissistic man often seems like the good guy. He comes across as very appealing, sexy, responsible, a good provider. So in a sense the director was doing his/her job of turning the audience into a victim of the movie. When they finally present the truth, it is done through a scene where the alcoholic has the courage to humble herself in front of another. Meeting up with a woman on the train whose party she had attended, blacked out and created a scene. After making amends, the woman is able to tell her what really happened and suddenly she is able to wake up and trust her instincts (not her perceived reality) for the first time.

Armed with that small dose of reality, she begins to re-build her sense of self. She revisits other scenes from her life and is able to remember what actually happened, not what she was made to believe happened. Stupidly, but then we all are, she confronts her emotional tormentor with the truth. A narcissist confronted is a very dangerous thing to do because they are unable to confront the truth. Naturally, victims often believe that they are doing the right thing by standing up for themselves and trying to make sense of things with the abuser. This is the nice person wanting to give the bad person a chance to apologize, to come clean and admit to the truth. Make sense of your reality on your own, you can’t try to get them to make sense of things because their life is pathological. They get rid of what is in the way; they detach themselves so far from reality that they are incapable of self-awareness. Instead of trying to make sense of why they do the things they do, learn from the experience and become a stronger person. However, The Girl on the Train is a movie, not real life. As it is not a nice new age storyline, with Louise Hay giving us an affirmation at the end and everyone doing yoga, it has to end with something violent and more to the point.

It has to end with women cheering in the audience. The bad guy has been assaulted and we can all go home feeling relieved that justice was served. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen. In real life I doubt that the other woman would have stood up for her either but it is possible. I think what might have really happened is that the wife would have defended her husband. In reality, the alcoholic finally made peace with herself. The other woman was just beginning.

The ending of this film shows the alcoholic probably in recovery; for real this time. She has symbolically moved to the other side of the train because she is ready to move past her trauma and move forward in her life. We look at the ending but don’t realize that the truth is so easy. Taking that step forward by sitting in a different chair, looking out a different window, getting a new job and just letting go, which is what everyone wants us to do. It is simple for someone who is facing a small problem. When the victims psyche has been wounded at a depth such as this, they become glued to the chair and cannot get up. Thus they force themselves to try and make sense of reality because their instincts are telling them there is just something not right about what they assume is the truth. Trusting your instincts can become a task when you have begun to give your power to someone else.

Emotional abuse is ABUSE. Living in a nice neighborhood and being married to a man with money, does not make it okay to be emotionally abused. Emotional abuse is Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence does not mean you have to ALSO be physically or sexually attacked for it to be named as such. So many women are victims of emotional abuse alone and are surprised to hear they are living in a domestic violence type relationship. They often feel unworthy because they have not been hit. Unfortunately, the physical abuse can happen, the longer you stay and where there is emotional abuse, often there is sexual abuse as well. If you are being pushed into acts of sex that are unwelcome, uncomfortable, unwanted, than this would be sexual abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.