Worrying about the future can be very stressful and distracting. The best way to resolve anticipatory anxiety is to simply not care so much about what will happen tomorrow.
It is quite normal and understandable to be concerned about your child’s performance in his or her exams. But sometimes parental pressure and too much expectation from the children lead to stress and anxiety among them.
Have you ever thought that the phrases you so casually and unconsciously say to your child during the exam season might be disturbing your child’s composure and, in turn, adversely affecting his exam performance?
It is pertinent, therefore, to be mindful of what you say and what you must not say to your child while he is preparing for his examination. Some such sentences and phrases are given below:
1. “I expect you to get. . .”
Never use this phrase with your child. Burdening your child with your own expectations and ambitions can do more harm to your child’s mental state and his exam performance than you can even imagine. Your child would anyway perform according to his own abilities and mere pressuring and nagging him for a better result cannot guarantee it. Let your child learn about success and failure on his own, while you instill the faith in him that you will be there for him irrespective of his or her result.
What PM Narendra Modi said in Pariksha Pe Charcha-2020 is relevant in this context. He said, “Children should be pursued not pressured into studies and parents should see that they also have ample amount of time to commit to extra-curricular activities.”
Thus, more than your child, it is you who need to learn that every child has his/her own strengths. Good marks in exams is not the only and ultimate way to success, and failure is not the end of the road.
2. “Don’t you think you should be revising?”
It is not bad to keep track of your child’s progress and activities to a certain extent, but don’t let your concern for your child turn you into a helicopter parent during exam days. Your child might need some time to unwind during preparations. Don’t get too anxious the moment you see your child without a book. Allow him the time and space to replenish his stressed mind. Offer the child your help if required, but if he/she refuses, do not insist. Treat your child as a responsible individual and let him know, in a subtle way, that you trust him to make good use his time.
3. “Are you sure this is the best way to revise?
There is no single best method of preparation. Every individual has his own approach to understand and retain information. Just because your child is revising the syllabus in a way quite unlike the way you would, does not mean his discretion has to be doubted. For instance, just because your child revises the syllabus with music on, doesn’t mean his preparation would go waste entirely. Also as a parent, one should understand that the school prepares the child adequately about how to revise. Trust and allow your child the space by letting him adopt the method that works best for him. But at the same time, be ready to offer suggestions if the child feels lost and comes to you for help.
4. “It is going to be fine.”
There are certain phrases that you often say to your child for expressing support. But you might not know that they can also have an opposite effect on the child’s mind to what you intend. Exams are stressful and when your child expresses his or her anxiety, the seemingly reassuring but vague phrases like “It’s going to be fine” don’t really work. What is required, on the other hand, is that you acknowledge that it is okay to be stressful and even after the best preparation, a child can be worried about his performance in the exam. In such a time, it is essential to make the child understand that one can only do one’s best, and that’s enough. Tell him to focus on making an honest effort instead of the result.
5. “You will regret it if you don’t put any effort in!”
This is something many parents must have said, at least once, to their child during exams. Putting in an effort is definitely very important and every individual comes to learn it as he grows up. Your child is still to learn about all the brutal truths of life, which, he or she will eventually learn about, but in his/her own time. Until then, expecting him to act like an experienced bloke is not justified.
The statement “You’ll regret it if you don’t put any effort in!” would hardly serve any good purpose because “regret” is such a strong and scary word for a young mind that it would unnecessarily make the child apprehend danger and uncertainty. If you really want to help and motivate your child, try saying positive things such as, “Honest, intelligent efforts are always rewarded.”
6. “It’s going to be all over soon.”
This seemingly harmless phrase is rather a bit tricky. Saying “it’s a short period, we’ve got a holiday coming up” to a child who is too anxious about the upcoming exam, is not a bad thing but it may backfire as some children might panic thinking they are short on time. Therefore, keeping the child’s nature and possible outcome in mind, you should or should not say this to him/her. A better way to calm your anxious child is rather to talk about pleasant future scenarios without hinting at time frames.
7. “Your cousin got these grades in his/her exams. Let’s see what you get!
This is something you should never say to your child—NEVER—because not only this comparison will put undue pressure on the child to surpass his cousin but may also spoil his equation with his cousin since the child would henceforth see his/her cousin as a rival. Wanting your child to perform to the best of his abilities is understandable but comparing him with other children will only make them feel unsupported and judged. Your child might already be aware of the grades of other children around him/her. You need not overstate it. There are better ways to motivate your child than this. Already there are so many children who fear that they’ll disappoint their parents.
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The fear of intimacy happens for many reasons: low self-esteem, trust issues, episodes of anger, avoidance of physical contact or trouble forming a close relationship.
Anyone who’s loved a narcissist wonders, “Does he really love me?” “Does she appreciate me?” They’re torn between their love and their pain, between staying and leaving, but can’t seem to do either. Some swear they’re loved; others are convinced they’re not. It’s confusing because sometimes they experience the caring person they love, whose company is a pleasure, only to be followed by behavior that makes them feel unimportant or inadequate.
Narcissists claim to love their family and partners, but do they?
Romance vs. Love
Narcissists may show passion in the early stages of dating. But that sort of passion, according to Jungian analyst Robert Johnson, “is always directed at our own projections, our own expectations, our own fantasies … It is a love not of another person, but of ourselves.” Such relationships provide positive attention and sexual satisfaction to support a narcissist’s ego and self-esteem.
For most narcissists, their relationships are transactional. Their objective is to enjoy uncommitted pleasure (Campbell et al., 2002). They’re playing a game, and winning is the goal. They’re engaging and energetic and possess emotional intelligence that helps them perceive, express, understand, and manage emotions (Dellic et al., 2011). This helps them manipulate people to win their love and admiration. They brag to be respected, loved, and gratified. Additionally, their good social skills allow them to make a good initial first impression.
They can show great interest in romantic prospects and seduce with generosity, expressions of love, flattery, sex, romance, and promises of commitment. Amorous narcissists (Don Juan and Mata Hari types) are adept and persuasive lovers and may have many conquests, yet remain single. Some narcissists lie and/or practice love-bombing by overwhelming their prey with verbal, physical, and material expressions of love.
Narcissists lose interest as the expectation of intimacy increases or when they’ve won at their game. Many have trouble sustaining a relationship more than six months to a few years. They prioritize power over intimacy and loathe vulnerability, which they consider weak (Lancer, 2014). To maintain control, they avoid closeness and prefer dominance and superiority over others. Game-playing thus strikes the perfect balance to both get their needs met and keep their options open to flirt or date multiple partners (Campbell et al., 2002).
A sudden breakup can be traumatic to their ex, who is bewildered by their unexpected change of heart — proposing one minute, and then exiting the next. They feel confused, crushed, discarded, and betrayed. If the relationship had continued, eventually they would have seen through the narcissist’s seductive veneer.
Some narcissists are pragmatic in their approach to relationships, focusing on their goals. They may also develop positive feelings toward their partner, but more based on friendship and shared interests. If they marry, they lack the motivation to maintain their romantic façade, and employ defenses to avoid closeness. They become cold, critical and angry, especially when they’re challenged or don’t get their way. They’re likely to support their spouse’s needs and wants only when it’s inconvenient and their ego is satisfied. After devaluing their partner, they need to look elsewhere to prop up their inflated ego.
How is love defined?
Real love is not romance, and it’s not codependency. For Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, it’s “to will the good of another.” In The Psychology of Romantic Love (1980), Nathaniel Branden states that “To love a human being is to know and love his or her person.” It’s a union of two individuals, which requires that we see another person as separate from ourselves. Further, in The Art of Loving (1945), Erich Fromm emphasizes that love entails effort to develop knowledge, responsibility, and commitment. We must be motivated to know another’s wants, needs, and feelings and provide encouragement and support. We take pleasure in their happiness and try not to hurt them.
When we love, we show active concern for their life and growth. We try to understand their experience and worldview, though it may differ from ours. Caring involves offering attention, respect, support, compassion, and acceptance. We must devote the necessary time and discipline. Romantic love can evolve into love, but narcissists aren’t motivated to really know and understand others (Ritter et al., 2010).
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, narcissists “lack empathy and have difficulty recognizing desires, subjective experiences, and feelings of others” (p. 670). Research shows that they have structural abnormalities in brain regions associated with emotional empathy (Schulze et al., 2013). Hence, their ability to appropriately respond emotionally and express care and concern is significantly impaired.
Narcissists have s several hurdles to loving. First, they neither see themselves nor others clearly. First, they experience people as extensions of themselves, rather than separate individuals with differing needs, desires, and feelings. Second, they overestimate their own emotional empathy (Ritter et al., 2010). Third, their defenses distort their perceptions and interactions with others. They brag and withdraw to control closeness and vulnerability, project onto others unwanted, negative aspects of themselves, and they use denial, entitlement, and narcissistic abuse, including blame, contempt, criticism, and aggression, to ward off shame. Perfectionistic narcissists callously put down others and may attempt to destroy adversaries in order to sustain their illusion of perfection (Lancer, 2017). All these issues impair narcissists’ capacity to accurately take in another person’s reality, including that person’s love for them. In fact, narcissists emotional intelligence helps them manipulate and exploit others to get what they want, while their impaired emotional empathy desensitizes them to the pain they inflict.
Can we measure love?
Love is difficult to measure, but research shows that people feel love expressed by: 1) words of affirmation, 2) spending quality time, 3) giving gifts, 4) acts of service, and 5) physical touch (Goff, et al. 2007). Another study revealed that participants also felt loved by a partner who: 1) showed interest in their affairs; 2) gave them emotional and moral support; (3) disclosed intimate facts; 4) expressed feelings for them, such as “I’m happier when I’m near you”; and 5) tolerated their demands and flaws in order to maintain the relationship (Swenson, 1992, p. 92).
People who love narcissists are starved for many of these expressions of love. Sometimes, narcissists are remote, dismissive, or aggressive; other times, they show care and concern and are helpful. It’s not that narcissists are incapable of feeling or even intellectually understanding someone’s feelings. The problem appears to be rooted in childhood trauma and physiological deficits that impact emotional assessment, mirroring, and appropriate empathic expression. (Unconscious or unexpressed: “I love you, but”); Expressed: “I’m too busy to come to the hospital,” sounds pretty cold, but may not reflect the narcissist’s love for the person hospitalized. When the importance of a visit is explained to them, they might make the trip.
They may show love when they’re motivated. Their love is conditional, depending upon impact on the narcissist. My book Dealing with a Narcissist explains in detail how to navigate and beneficially use this in relationships with narcissists, addicts, or anyone highly defensive. Because narcissism exists on a continuum from mild to malignant, when it’s severe, selfishness and inability to express love become more apparent when greater demands are placed on a narcissist. Dating or long-distance relationships that have fewer expectations are easier.
Bottom line: Wondering whether a narcissist loves you is the wrong question. Although it’s wise to understand a narcissist’s mind, like Echo in the myth of Narcissus, partners overly focus on the narcissist to their detriment. Instead, ask yourself whether you feel valued, respected, and cared about. Are you getting your needs met? If not, how is that affecting you and your self-esteem and what can you do about that?
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Branden, N. (1980). The Psychology of Romantic Love. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc.
Campbell, W.K, Finkel, E.J., & Foster, C.A. (2002). Does self-love lead to love for others? A story of narcissistic game playing, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 340-354. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5a8d/b3534f5398d42cfd0160ca14f92fd6bf05e5.pdf
Delic, A., Novak, P., Kovacic, J., & Avsec, A. (2011). Self-reported emotional and social intelligence and empathy as distinctive predictors of narcissism” Psychological Topics 20(3), 477-488. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0fe0/2aba217382005c8289b4607dc721a16e11e7.pdf
Fromm, E., (1956). The Art of Loving. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
Goff, B. G., Goddard, H. W., Pointer, L., & Jackson, G. B. (2007). Measures of expressions of love. Psychological Reports, 101, 357-360. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.101.2.357-360
Johnson, R. A. (1945). We, Understanding the psychology of Romantic Love. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers.
Lancer, D.A. (2017). “I’m Not Perfect, I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism. Los Angeles: Carousel Books.
Lancer, D.A. (2014). Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. Center City: Hazelden Foundation.
Ritter, K., et al. (2010). Lack of empathy in patients with narcissistic personality disorder, Psychiatry Research. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2fe3/32940c369886baccadb14fd5dfcbc5f5625f.pdf.
Schultze, L., et al. (2013) Gray matter abnormalities in patients with narcissistic personality disorder. Psychiatric Research, 47(10), 1363–1369. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.05.017
Swenson, C. (1972). The Behavior of Love. In H.A. Otto (Ed.) Love Today (pp. 86-101). New York: Dell Publishing.
© Darlene Lancer 2018
The growth of interest in Mindfulness Meditation in the West and its therapeutic application for healing the many forms of emotional suffering that we all experience as human beings is a phenomenon of great significance indeed. This movement is not about adopting yet another religion, not about learning a new set of rules to try to live by, and not about finding another set of rituals and practices to follow.
Being able to practice gratitude daily is a great virtue. It helps people feel emotions that are positive and healthy. People who practice gratitude get more sound sleep and are kinder and more compassionate towards others. Practicing gratitude also creates an overall feeling of contentment and makes an individual feel satisfied with life. Science has proven that it can also lead to a stronger immune system.
Learning to practice gratitude begins with the understanding that ‘gratitude’ is not something that is meant exclusively for major events in one’s life. One is naturally grateful for things that hold special place in his or her life, like getting admission in a prestigious or desired college, or getting a promotion but what one needs to learn is that he or she can be grateful for things as small as a good cup of coffee after a hard day of work as well. In fact, this is the key to practicing gratitude in daily life. Following are some simple ways to practice gratitude in daily life and reap its wonderful benefits:
1. Nothing is small: When it comes to practicing gratitude the most important thing that we must remember is that nothing is small. One should appreciate and be grateful for every good thing, whether it is the wonderful weather or getting to work on time because, as said before, gratitude is not for the big things alone. Of course inculcating this habit will take time, therefore, begin with finding one thing a day to be grateful for. While being grateful, try to be in the moment completely, notice the minute details and appreciate everything whole-heartedly and with complete conviction. Only then will you be genuinely able to understand the importance and worth of gratitude. Soon you will notice how naturally it comes to you and that there’s so much in life to be grateful for.
2. Just the right comparison: Comparing ourselves to others is quite common considering the amount of time we spend on social media these days. It is quite unavoidable even. But the key to practice gratitude is to know what kind of comparison might help you be grateful. Comparing ourselves with those who seem better will only bring misery and will only rob us of our joys. Therefore, it is imperative to stop comparing ourselves with others if we truly want to be grateful.
Focus on yourself and be thankful for what you have. And at times when you find it difficult to be grateful, look around. You will find that there are so many others who are yearning to have what you have. This will help you appreciate your blessings.
3. Practice mindfulness: Practicing gratitude requires you to be mindful of all the little things around you whose value you fail to realize and those you often take for granted. Getting to office without getting stuck in a bad traffic jam, or taking a walk on a road that is clean and green are little things that often go unnoticed because we are not in the moment. Practicing mindfulness brings gratitude easily. You will notice that by being grateful, you’ve become happier and more empathetic as well.
4. Gratitude journal: Keeping a gratitude journal is a great habit. Develop the habit to write down all the things for which you are grateful daily, no matter how big or small. Keep a journal of all the positive thoughts that you experience while being grateful. It is also a wonderful way of realizing that there is so much in the world to be grateful for. Also, on the days you find yourself miserable or sad or down, this journal will help you feel positive. Practicing gratitude does not mean that you would never feel disappointed, sad, or low. You would, but the journal will surely come handy and will help you bounce back to a happy state quickly. You can keep a daily journal or a weekly journal whichever suits you better, though starting by keeping a daily journal will better serve the purpose.
5. Help others: Helping others or doing something for others, especially without expecting anything in return, can actually boost your happiness. Research has shown that helping others can increase well-being as well. When you bring smile on somebody’s face, you are bound to experience happiness yourself. Not only that, it will also help you be grateful for being able to do something for someone else. Small acts, such as effective listening or doing somebody’s work or simply being kind to others will instantly make you feel contented and give you a positive feeling of being capable.
6. Spend time with family and friends: Spending time with loved ones will not only make your relationships stronger but it will also bring you closer to your loved ones. Knowing that you have a loving family and friends who care, can make you be more grateful and appreciative. It will also provide you opportunities where you can do something for them and practice gratitude. Hence, make it a habit to meet and spend quality time with your family and friends no matter how busy life gets.
7. Consistency is the key: It is well known that it takes 21 days to two months to form a habit. Gratitude too is a kind of habit; and the key to attain it is to remain consistent so that being grateful becomes a part of your behavioral repertoire. Soon you will realize that what required an effort earlier, has ultimately become spontaneous. Thus, even if initially it takes a little effort to look for the things to be grateful for, it will steadily become more and more effortless and spontaneous.