Couple-relationship

Your Relationship Is Not a Lost Cause

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/progress-notes/202010/your-relationship-is-not-lost-cause

3 cogent reasons couples therapy is often successful in transforming intimacy.

The heightened emotional bond of marriage in particular puts partners continually at risk for conflict. Murray, Bellavia, and Rose (2003) concluded, “The experience of slights and hurts at the hand of a partner is inevitable. After all, conflicts of interest routinely surface, and even ambiguous behaviors, if sufficiently scrutinized, might seem to reveal a partner’s irritation, disappointment, or disinterest in oneself” (p. 128).

When conflict does occur, partners are often stuck in ruts of retort and resentment. Aggression and withdrawal in the midst of conflict are patterns of conditioned defense, covering up primary emotions, with primal cravings for understanding and support buried beneath. Knee-jerk reactions nearly inevitably result in perceptions of judgment, misunderstanding, and rejection, which diminish respect and increase disconnection. On the other hand, messages of understanding breed respect and connection.

Ontario psychotherapist Malcolm MacFarlane analogized, “I use [an] image of two magnets with the same poles facing each other to describe the sense of contact, energy, and anxiety that we experience when we enter the sphere of conflict with another person. Many people disengage from this sphere of conflict either by avoiding and backing off or by attacking, escalating, and then disconnecting. … The ideal is to learn to stay in the sphere of conflict while being authentic and working through the conflict” (personal communication, June 25, 2016).

Our emotions and thinking are inextricably tied to one another and together generate perception. When we perceive misunderstanding, under-appreciation, judgment, or rejection, our defenses go up. As walls rise, we have increasing difficulty hearing one another, by which I really mean understanding one another. Empathy is a precursor to mutuality.

Couples who do not experience mutuality usually channel feelings of sadness, fear, or shame through self-protective or coercive behaviors. When such interactions evolve into patterns, couples often experience a loss of trust or heightening of fear, which buries the deeper emotions even further.

There is an alternative to overt rage. When either afraid of one’s own anger or when emotion can be buried no further, logic—facts or even beliefs—may provide concealment. Logic is yet another superficial, secondary, reactive, and protective layer of defense for the rawer, primary, underlying emotions within—of which sadness, fear, and shame are prime examples.

The good news?

1. Couples nearly always already possess the resources they need for a positive relationship.

These resources involve increasing safety, empathy, and responsiveness. There are no magic facts that heal relationships. Intimacy is embodied, not encoded. Insight is often necessary but never sufficient in and of itself to bring about change. To recondition marital soil so intimacy may grow, expressions of vulnerability and understanding must increase, and reflexive, knee-jerk reactions must decrease. When highly committed to the relationship and highly motivated to see positive changes in it, partners are often quite adept in pivoting toward constructive and healing changes.

Healing is a function of growth. Growth, and thereby healing, occurs as two people lay down their defenses and connect in safe and constructive ways around the unresolved emotion, being careful to honor the unique emotional process of the one they love without stepping on and triggering emotional landmines. Couples therapy can lay the groundwork for this.

2. Changes must be experienced to be sustained, and therapy provides space for this to occur.

You can choose to keep on explaining what you already believe or risk stepping into a new terrain by exploring together how, rather than why, each of you feels hurt and anger. I’m referring to a shift between defending, criticizing, or debating facts to connecting on a more vulnerable and emotional level.

When one partner aggressively asserts resentments or withdraws in an emotional paralysis, the other partner may react in due pattern, understanding may be thwarted, and a cold distance remains. During this sort of interaction, partners typically feel—and this is where the mutuality ends—misunderstood and unsupported.

Where there is hurt, there must be—and let’s be clear that in some cases this requires great preparation and even facilitation—a coming together and a facing together of the underlying pain. Such pain generally involves sadness, fear, shame, or all three. Respect and connection do not occur at the secondary reactive level of emotion, through explosions, attacks, and retreats, and neither do growth and healing.

It is never easy to communicate vulnerably and honestly through the tremble of raw emotion. Couples have an opportunity to begin to experience a restructuring of their patterns of interaction and their experience of intimacy. When one chooses to communicate nondefensively upon feeling misunderstood or unsupported, the resulting mutual experience tends to be feeling mutual respect and emotional togetherness.

3. We are capable of increasing our capacities for emotional management and self-direction. 

Many couples struggle to manage intense reactive emotions they feel in the midst of conflict. We are not necessarily determined by our impulses. If you and your partner find yourselves in a tailspin of disconnection, make a decision today to lean into a new paradigm marked by respect and understanding and driven by intentionality. This is challenging work, and you may benefit from the facilitation a therapist can provide. Over the course of therapy, partners are capable of consolidating new positions, attitudes, and cycles of attachment behavior and experiencing conflict in a more satisfying, growth-oriented way.

And with the surge of COVID-19 came the surge in use of telehealth for therapy, including for couples therapy. Couples now have even greater options for accessing good therapists, and less excuses.

References

Murray, S. L., Bellavia, G. M., & Rose, P. (2003). Once hurt, twice hurtful: How perceived regard regulates daily marital interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(1), 126-147.

crocheting

If You are Feeling Stressed, Crocheting can be of Help

According to a recent study conducted by Dr Pippa Burns and Dr Rosemary Van Der Meer from Australia on a sample of over 8000 female crocheters aged between 41 and 60 years, crocheting can be of great help if you feel stressed or if you want to relax yourself. The purpose of the study was to find a link between crochet and well-being. In the survey conducted, most of the female subjects reported that they felt more creative, relaxed, as well as experienced a sense of accomplishment while crocheting.

The study also reported that the crocheting made the respondents feel more calm, happy, and more useful. It was also reported that there was significant improvement in reported scores for mood before and after crocheting. The study provides ample data which suggests that crocheting as a hobby offers positive benefits for personal well-being of majority of respondents who engage in crocheting to manage mental health issue, grief, chronic illness, and pain as well. As crocheting is comparatively low-cost, and a kind of activity which you can engage in anywhere at any time (portability factor of crocheting), and is quite easy to learn, it can provide similar benefits resulting from knitting. It seems that the respondents experienced the mental health benefits of crocheting as much as from the act itself—the sense of accomplishment of creating something—and they also experience a sense of community connection (online crochet communities). All this suggests that women who, on a regular basis, engage in crocheting as a hobby experience real positive mental health impact of the act.

The findings of the study are also in line with the findings of previous studies highlighting benefits of engaging in other types of crafts. In one such study knitting was found to benefit patients with eating disorders by lowering anxiety causing preoccupations about eating, weight, and shape control. In another study, cognitive benefits of crafts were highlighted among older adults, it was found that older adults who were experts in crafting activities had better spatial skills. Yet another study highlighted the advantages of quilting, in which participants found quilting to be a prolific use of time. Participants learned new skills while quilting; they also experienced enhanced concentration as it is a challenging task, while the colors used felt psychologically uplifting to the participants.

All these findings suggest that simple and low-cost hobbies like crocheting, quilting, or other crafting activities can have a positive impact on your mental health apart from producing beautiful outcomes.

17 Interesting Psychological Facts About Love

1. Most of us tend to be attracted to people who are similar to ourselves.

2. We ignore the ones who adore us and pay attention to those who ignore us.

3. Looking into each other’s eyes can make strangers fall in love.

4. It only takes up to 4 minutes to decide whether you like someone or not.

5. Falling in love has a similar neurological effect as getting high on cocaine.

6. Butterflies in the stomach are real and they’re actually caused by adrenaline.

7. The longer you hide your feelings for someone, the harder you fall for that person.

8. 90% people text things they can’t say in person.

9. People at the same level of attractiveness are more likely to end up together.

10. Romantic love is biochemically indistinguishable from having a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.

11. Feeling ignored causes the same chemical effect as that of an injury.

12. The very last person on your mind before you fall asleep and the first person on your mind when you wake up is either the reason for your happiness or your pain.

13. Looking at a picture of a loved one can help to relieve pain and stress.

14. The brain treats rejection like physical pain.

15. It is possible to die from a broken heart. It is called Stress Cardiomyopathy.

16. Once you fall in love, there is no going back to being friends again. So, you can’t be a friend with the person you loved after you broke up. If you can still stay as friends, you have never been in love with that person.

17. Hearts have nothing to do with the feeling of ‘being in love.’ It is only a chemical reaction happening in your brain.

Pendulum for hypnosis

Study Indicates Hypnosis may Offer a Genuine Alternative to Painkillers

A recent study has shown that hypnosis can reduce pain by up to 42% and may offer a genuine alternative to painkillers. The research was led by psychologist Dr Trevor Thompson of the University of Greenwich. Published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, the findings of the study revealed that hypnosis is more effective with people who are especially amenable to suggestion. However, those who are moderately suggestible—essentially most people—experienced a 29% drop in pain.

The research included data from 85 studies across 14 countries, with a total of 3,632 people subjected to different forms of pain stimulation such as heat, extreme cold, exercise, pressure, and even lasers. On a scale of zero to 10, people typically rated the pain they felt as 5.5. “To put that in context, a five level of pain would significantly disrupt our daily lives and have most of us using medication,” told Dr Thompson.

He said, “This is by far the largest review of its kind, examining the effects of hypnosis in over 3,500 people, and presents very compelling evidence. About 15% of the population are highly receptive to hypnosis, and those people saw just over a 40% drop in pain.” Furthermore, “Based on these findings most people would experience around a 30% drop in pain or more, which is generally considered to be clinically meaningful pain relief,” Dr Thompson added.

According to researchers these findings suggest that hypnotic intervention could provide “meaningful pain relief for most people” and, therefore, may be an “effective and safe alternative” to medication. “It can be administered quickly, cheaply and easily at home with a 20-minute audio recording,” they said.

Dr Thompson emphasized that the misuse of prescription painkillers such as codeine and fentanyl had increased hugely over the past few years and was a crisis in some countries, especially the US.

“The next step is to extensively test hypnosis on people with chronic pain, such as back conditions, which people live with every day. Available data on this are not of a high enough quality or quantity. We need to go and try this with people in their day-to-day lives,” told Dr Thompson.

sick woman fake smile

Feeling Sick, Faking Well

Source link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/chronically-me/201910/feeling-sick-faking-well

The Costume of Health in Chronic Illness

Many of us who live with chronic illness engage all year round with a costume that we take on and off: the costume of wellness. This post addresses what that costume looks like, the social pressure we may feel to wear it, and ways to be mindful of when and how we don it.

The Costume of Wellness

The visual accoutrements of the costume of wellness include makeup and clothing that mask the effects of illness. Behavioral manifestations can include denying the impact of illness in words (“I’m fine!”), in silence (pretending we are not in pain), and in actions (not slowing down or limiting activity, even when we endanger our health).

Sometimes we wear the costume of wellness because it helps us feel better about ourselves.  Sometimes we wear it because we prefer our privacy. And sometimes we wear it because social pressure dictates that we must, and we feel we have no choice but to comply.

The Pressure to Appear Well

Many of my chronically ill clients fear exasperating family and friends when they have to limit activities due to illness. Some also are fearful of complaining too much and “being a downer” by bringing up their illnesses. They’ve internalized the message that they will lose relationships if they dare show up without the costume of wellness.

Psychoanalyst Judith Alpert theorizes that our culture is terrified of death, illness, and vulnerability. Thus, “[t]hose who have contact with the chronically ill . . . do not want to be reminded of vulnerability and ultimate demise. In turn, the demand placed on the chronically ill is to control, hide, and overcome the chronic illness.” (Alpert, 2012).

We who live with chronic illness feel this fear in our interactions with family, friends, and the larger public. We may see friends drift away, unable to manage their own uncomfortable feelings in the face of our suffering. We may have disappointing experiences when we reveal our illness selves, receiving the message that this is something that cannot be spoken about. And so we learn, experientially, that we’d better not remove the costume of wellness.

The Pressure to Manage Well

Inevitably, there are the times when we can’t pass as well — when we’re hospitalized or incapacitated in ways that we can’t hide. We may not be expected to wear the costume of wellness during these situations, but we likely are expected to wear the costume of “the heroic sick person.” The heroic sick person never complains, is able to joke through her pain, and comforts the well with her positive attitude. There’s a lot of social approval for this type of heroism. As Alpert (2012) notes, “The person who smiles and jokes while in obvious physical misery is honored by all.”

Little Women’s sickly Beth is the prototype of the heroic sick person. Angelic in looks and character, she meets her illness and ultimately death with acceptance, bravery, and good humor. There’s no room in this sanitized depiction of illness for terror, bitterness, ugliness, and bodily fluids. There’s no room for being human. There’s no room for truly being sick. (Machado, 2019).

Wearing Wellness Mindfully

There are times that we make the decision to appear healthier than we feel. We may have discovered that it’s good for our mental state to act as if we are more robust than we feel. We may be discerning in determining not to share the vulnerable details of our illness experience with people who would not hold that information safely. The choices of how to define ourselves—both internally and relationally—are ours.

It’s important to be mindful, though, of how much our decisions to mask our illness identity are driven by our perceptions of social pressure. Do we fear abandonment if we appear ill? Do we fear disapproval and distance from those we love if we fail to live up an ideal of wellness? If so, putting on our wellness costume can have negative effects on our mood. Research shows that when people perceive that others think they should feel happy, and not sad, it leads them to feel sad more frequently and intensely (Bastian, et al., 2012). Putting on a smile may NOT be in our best interest, especially if we do so because we fear relational ramifications for being authentic.

How to Wear Our Costumes

Each year, I look forward to interacting with the trick-or-treaters who come to my door. They are delighted with themselves. The five-year-old Superman half-believes he can fly. The seven-year-old movie star feels beautiful enough to walk the red carpet. I conspire with them in their put-on identities, admiring the strength of the pint-sized Hulk and shrinking with fear from the ghost wrapped in an old sheet. We revel together in the playfulness of the holiday and in the thrill of power we feel when we mindfully choose how to present our identity.

It would be crushing to these children to fail to believe them, to say, “You’re not a princess; you’re only the child next door.” But it also would be frightening to insist that the presentation is reality, that the skeleton has negated the little boy inside the costume. Indeed, sometimes children will pull up their masks as if to reassure themselves and say, “I’m not really a monster; I’m just me!”

Can we wear our costumes of wellness as children wear their Halloween costumes? Donning them can be powerful, playful, and resilient. But we don’t want to wear them so rigidly that others can no longer identify us — or so rigidly that we can no longer identify ourselves.

References

Alpert, J.L. (2012).  Loss of humanness:  The ultimate trauma.  American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 72, 118-138.

Bastian B., Kuppens P., Hornsey M. J., Park J., Koval P., Uchida Y. (2012). Feeling bad about being sad: the role of social expectancies in amplifying negative mood. Emotion, 12, 69–80.

Machado, C.M. (2019).  The real tragedy of Beth March. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/08/29/the-real-tragedy-of-beth-march/

Banner carrying Anxiety as text

5 Anxiety Quotes

1. “Our possibilities of happiness are already restricted by our constitution. Unhappiness is much less difficult to experience. We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do without pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction; and finally from our relations to other men. The suffering which comes from this last source is perhaps more painful to us than any other.”

Sigmund Freud

2. “Meeting with anxiety can free us from boredom and sharpen our perception, If there is anxiety, there is life.”

Rollo May

3. “Whenever you avoid alarming situations, you almost always increase your anxiety about them.”

Albert Ellis

4. “Anxiety is the gap between now and later.”

Frederick Salomon Perls

5. “Psychological or spiritual development always requires a greater capacity for anxiety and ambiguity.”

Carl Jung

Also read:
Sleeping Problems and, Anxiety and Stress—A Two-way Street
Self-Help Techniques to Manage Anxiety
Childhood Anxiety Related With Later Alcohol Problems
Test Anxiety—Strategies to Overcome