What do you tell your children when faced with life style changes?

What to say to your child when you are facing life-style changes:

  1. Listen attentively. Their real concerns may not be what you think.  move7Children are most concerned with aspects of change that affect them directly, like changing schools or after-school activities or friends. They may care very little who’s fault the change was or how upset the adults are unless they are pulled into taking sides.
  2. Domove8n’t try to talk them out of their feelings right away. It makes children feel you can’t handle seeing them upset and they will  try to “protect” you by not sharing with you how they really feel in the future. Validate and paraphrase back what they say to you. Go easy on the evidence about why they should feel differently or want something you can’t give them.
  3. Speak move3often about your own gratitude, even if you are also worried about financial changes. It’s okay to hold more than one feeling at a time. Children can benefit from having adults model that ambivalent feelings (feeling opposite emotions) are okay and do not need to be minimized or invalidated.
  4. Find ways to help children learn to give to others (volunteer, give to the homeless, help another child at school, etc.). Volunteering is one of the best ways to help children build good self-esteem,
  5. Tell stories of difficult times you have overcome in your life. Children love to hear move5stories about parents and grandparents’ childhoods, as long as they are not given as examples to shame or humiliate them (i.e., “I walked two miles to school in the snow and you shouldn’t complain about…”). Share your stories of courage and family ties.
  6. This is the time to convey your spiritual values. Let your child know how you view the bigger picture. Do you believe you are guided? Provided for? Not alone? There are lessons and empowerment to be had?change
  7. State often and out loud the upside of the changes (i.e., We’ll have more time together. We’ll have a park nearby. We’ll get to see your cousins more often. etc.)
  8. If children see you upset, let them know it is okay to feel scared, sad, angry, etc. AND let tmove4hem know that you can “handle” it.
  9. Try hard not to compare (how things were, what others have, what you could be doing, how their siblings or cousins are doing things better, etc.).
  10. Be honest if something they want is not currently in the budget. Don’t shame them for having desires and wishes. And don’t make them responsible if you have to say “no”. Teach them you are strong enough to respect that they have age appropriate hopes and dreams and your saying “no” or “not now” is not their fault. Help them set up a long-term plan to get what they want.
  11. Celebrate. Demonstrate joy. Have special acknowledgments for their accomplishments (They get to choose what’s for dessert. They get to eat on a special plate. Decorate their chair with their clothes and a cut out drawing of their face. Have a picnic outside in their honor.)
  12. Keep some of their activmove2ities the same. With most changes there are a few things that can remain the same.
  13. Help them keep a journal of their feelings and the changes they are facing. Be their scribe and write down their ideas at the end of the day. Help them cut out pictures from magazines and create a collage journal. Let them draw pictures of their feelings and daily events.
  14. Take care of your own feelings. Don’t make children responsible to be your sounding board, or blame them for making you feel stressed. Don’t vent to them about whoever you believe to be at “fault”. Let children be children. Making child en an adult’s emotional peers robs them of the innocence and protection of childhood. Vent to adult friends or in support groups or to a therapist.
  15. Forgive yourself. In every decision, you have done the best you could see to do at the time. Looking backwards we may see many other alternatives, but at the moment of decisions you did the best you could see to do at the time. move6


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Coping with Holiday Stress and Depression

Most people believe the holidays are supposed to be a time of joyous celebration where family members who haven’t seen each other recently get together to praise and acknowledge each others’ accomplishments over the past year. Many people would respond with, “Yeah right.”

For many people the holidays bring out their worst concerns. They may reflect on their “failures” of the past or worry about loneliness. They may have financial worries that place a shadow over any excitement or anticipation those around them may have.

For those who find the holidays less than “storybook perfect”, there may be a risk of the “Holiday Blues”. This type of stress and depression can be caused from holding unrealistic expectations, wanting everything to be perfect or isolating altogether. A sense of cynicism can come from a focus on the over- commercialization or an inability to spend the holidays with loved ones.

The symptoms of the “Holiday Blues” are much like those of other types of stress and depression. Symptoms may include poor concentration, disturbances in eating (too much or very infrequently), drinking too much, difficulty sleeping or wanting to spend all day in bed, irritability, low frustration tolerance, and agitation. Physical signs of stress may also be present such as, stomachaches, headaches, back problems, digestive problems, jaw tightness and physical fatigue.

Even though many people with the “Holiday Blues” experience these feelings during the holiday season, some sufferers can be greatly affected by a post- holiday let down after January 1. These later reactions can be due to fatigue, emotional disappointments of the preceding months and residual financial stress.

There are many practical things anyone with a predisposition to the “Holiday Blues” can do to minimize its effects. Remember that the action one takes to prevent feeling stressed and depressed takes less effort than to try later to pull oneself out of feeling down and miserable.

  1. Give yourself the right to enjoy the holidays as you wish. Try to let go of high expectations and wanting everything to be perfect. Allow yourself to participate in the aspects of the holiday, which have meaning for you and try to let go of anyone’s “shoulds”. Allow yourself to be a little “crazy”. Have some fun and let go of how everything “must” look, including yourself.
  2. Organize your time. Take 10-15 minutes each morning to plan out what your day will look like. Don’t leave things until the last minute. Make lists and plan out how you wish to spend your time. Don’t spend all your time planning for just one event (an office party or Christmas dinner, etc.).
  3. Try something different, especially if this is the first holiday after a significant loss (death of a loved one, loss of home or job, children growing up, or a divorce). Spend the holiday in a different location or celebrating with different people than usual.
  4. Find the specialness and uniqueness in THIS holiday season. Don’t compare it with the past. Life moves forward not backwards. Each holiday season is different and these are the “good old days” you will look back on in a few years.
  5. Spend time with people who accept and love you unconditionally. These may not be biological family. Often our chosen family members are able to accept us more unconditionally. Surround yourself with encouragement and support.
  6. Take care of yourself physically. Don’t drink too much (alcohol is a depressant). Exercise, it will help with all the holiday goodies you want to enjoy. Get outdoors. As the days shorten and less daylight hours are available many people become depressed from insufficient light. Go for walks, eat your lunch outside. Drink lots of water.
  7. Do something for someone else. There is no faster way to get out of a “funk” than to help someone else feel better. Make a gift for someone. Give a gift anonymously. Help out at a soup kitchen, church or temple charity project, local hospital or retirement home, or homeless shelter. Focus on people rather than things. Give “love coupons” good for making a favorite meal, or a walk in the woods, or a visit to a museum or art festival.
  8. Spend time doing low cost or free things. Too often the holidays are focused on consumerism. There are many holiday displays that are free to visit and participate in. Children love to drive around at night and look at lights or visit large hotel lobbies decorated for the holidays.
  9. Remember the significance of this time of year that is important to you. Find a way to celebrate that aspect of the holiday, whether with a group or alone with a personalized ceremony. This is a special time of year and beneath the fear and cynicism, almost everyone has some warm attachment to some aspect of the winter season.
  10. Give yourself the gift of letting go of past resentments. It has been said, “resentment is a poison we take hoping that it will harm another.” Forgive, if only for the holidays or only a part of the remembered betrayal. Release someone from indebtedness for past mistakes. Do this not for them but for your own peace and serenity this holiday season.

If you or someone you care about is having a particularly difficult time with holiday stress or depression, there is help and support available. The Nightingale Center has an extensive list of group referrals and resources. If you would like more information or a free packet sent to you, please call 714-993-5343.

© 2015 by Dr. Lois Nightingale, director of the Nightingale Center in Yorba Linda, Calif.

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Help for Anxiety


40 million people suffer from some form of anxiety every year in the US. This includes Panic attacks, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Phobias, including test-taking phobias, driving phobias and Separation Anxiety in children. In therapy, clients can learn relaxation skills to address the “fight or flight” reaction and coping strategies to overcoming anxiety.






Anxiety Books:

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Burns

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peac e of Mind, Stossel

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Bourne

My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic, Tompkins, Martinez and Sloan

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, Otto and Smits


Easy to use stress reduction strategies

Aps for your phone:anxiety5

Meditation Timer & Tracker

Relax Melodies-Free

Anxiety Free-Free


Qi Gong Meditation Relaxation-Free

Nature Sounds Relanxiety3ax and Sleep-Free

Worry Box—Anxiety Self-Help-Free

Stop Panic & Anxiety Self-Help-Free

Relax & Rest Guided Meditations by Meditation Oasis

Universal Breathing by Saagara-Free

Easy Breathing Techniques:

1. Re-lax: Take 5-10 min. and breathe in slowly, saying silently to yourself “Re” and slowly exhale saying “Lax”.

2. Breathe in through your nose deeply (starting with your abdomen) to the count of 4. Hold your breath for 4 counts and then slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 counts. Repeat 10-20 times.

3. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth (it stays there throughout this exercise). Breathe in through your nose for the count of 4. Hold for the count of 7. Exhale through your mouth around your tongue (it should make a noise) to the count of 8. Repeat 10 times.



Books for Anxiety:

The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do…by Wehrenberg

When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life, by Burns

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by Bourne

What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids), by Huebner and Matthews

The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry… by. Forsythand, Eifert

The Anxiety Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Deal with Anxiety and Worry, by Schab

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias… by Chansky

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by Burns

The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do..by Wehrenberg

When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life, by Burns

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by Bourne

What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids), by Huebner and Matthews

The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry… by. Forsythand, Eifert

The Anxiety Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Deal with Anxiety and Worry, by Schab

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias… by Chansky

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by Burns

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What Parents Can Do When a Child Refuses to Go to School

Truant 4Getting a frightened or angry child to school can be a parent’s worst battle. The struggle between doing what’s right and what your child needs emotionally can become an impossible struggle. Know that many families have successfully maneuvered the obstacles to getting a difficult child back to school and to enjoying a good education and fulfilling peer relationships. You can too.
truant 5
A student is truant after missing, or being more than 30 min. late for 3 days during a school year, without valid excuses. After this, in a public school, the student is reported to the attendance supervisor or the superintendent of the school district. After one conference has been attempted with parents, the child is considered Habitually Truant. A Habitual Truant is then referred to SARB who can report the child to the District Attorney or Probation Officer. The child may then be arrested, or returned to the school, parents or youth center if they don’t go to school. The school may then direct the parents to bring the child to school. Whether the child is in private or public school, fines of $100 for first offense, $250 for second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses can be levied on parents if they do not get the child to school.

There are specific steps to getting your child back into a daily routine of getting to school on time and staying through their final period of classes. The longer it takes a family to get set a plan into action, the harder it is to turn around unsuccessful habits. A therapist can help with the outlining and implementation of a successful and respectful plan.

1. Make sure you speak respectfully and with authority as you help your child get back into a school routine.
2. Have your child evaluated for anxiety, depression or bullying issues. Follow through with professional treatment.
3. Set up a meeting with teachers, school counselor, your child and yourself. Write out a plan. Have everyone sign it.
4. Set up a written reward contract for a reward to be given as soon as your child is picked up at the end of the school day. (Cell phones, computers and video games are privileges, not parental obligations. All electronics need to be charging in parent’s room at night.)truant 6
5. Set up e-mail or other daily communication with all your child’s teachers. Don’t expect your discouraged child to be completely open and honest.
6. Change who drives your child to school. Leave 10 min. earlier.
7. Print out Parents Legal Guide to Public Schools in your county. Highlight truancy passages. Have your child read and sign those paragraphs.
8. Let your child know about legal consequences of truancy, i.e., arrest, or suspension, restriction or delay of driving privileges (Section 13202.7 of the Vehicle Code) or permanent records that may inhibit college acceptance or other employment opportunities. After a fourth truancy a child can be made a ward of the court and sentenced to community service and court-approved truancy prevention programs.truant
9. Do not call in or write excuses for your child. Let them take the consequences given by the school. Do not re-punish at home.
10. Celebrate small victories. Let your child know you believe in them.
11. If one parent is more strict and one more concerned about the child’s emotional well-being, find a written compromise or seek therapy. Do not let your child overhear you arguing about them. truant 3
12. Be kind to yourself and your partner, children naturally try to divide to gain power. It’s a normal part of growing up and hard on parents. This doesn’t last forever.truant 2
13. Model for your child how to handle difficult feelings and ambivalence gracefully.

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What is the difference between: a Psychopath, a Sociopath, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Antisocial/Psychopathic?

They arsociopath5e all clinical terms given by the the American Psychiatric Association to an extremely destructive disorder in their “Diagnostic and Statistic Manual”. Each revision of this manual focuses on slightly different aspects of the same psychiatric disorder.

1952 (Sociopasociopath8thic Personality Disturbance). 1968 (Antisocial Sociopath). 1980 (Antisocial Personality Disorder). 1994 (A.S.P.D. also referred to as psychopathy, sociopathy, or dyssocial personality disorder). DSM V expected May 2013 (Antisocial/Psychopathic types, who have inflated grandiosity and pervasive patterns of taking advantage of people).

sociopath3If you or someone you know has been harmed emotionally, sexually, psychologically, financially or physically by a sociopath, the road back to trust, personal esteem and interpersonal safety may be a long one. Victims often feel responsible for the abusive behavior of the predator. Those preyed upon often believe they should have been able to keep the harm from happening. Unfortunate targets of sociopaths are generally hyper-moral and highly empathetic individuals who have a hard time (being the caring, kind, responsible people they are themselves) accepting that there are people in the world without the ability to feel compassion, intimacy, or even guilt. The sad truth is a sociopath finds these admirable qualities excuse enough to take advantage, believing a trusting victim deserves whatever happens to them.










Some diagnostic criteria include:

  • Glibness and superficial charm,
  • grandiosesociopath2 sense of self-worth,
  • pathological lying,
  • conning/manipulative,
  • lack of remorse,
  • shallow affect (superficial emotions)
  • callous lack of empathy,
  • failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions (blames others or circumstances),
  • prone to boredom (driven to find/make excitement and/or drama),
  • parasitic lifestyle,
  • lack of guilt,
  • poor behavioral controls,
  • early behavioral problems,
  • lack of realistic long-term goals,
  • impulsivity,
  • lack of compassion,
  • irresponsibility,
  • believe the law doesn’t apply to them,
  • juvenile delinquency and revocation of conditional release.




Books for victims:

“The Sociopath Next Door”,

“The Gift of Fear”,

“Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us”,

“In Sheep’s Clothing: Understandsociopath9ing and Dealing with Manipulative People”,

“Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You”.

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Modeling How to Cope with Stress for Your Children

parenting2What are you teaching your  children in difficult times?

Children remember what parents modeled during times of stress. These unspoken lessons often become the unconscious habits they resort to as adults when encountering unexpected emotional blows.

You might even notice in yourself that in times of great stress you revert to those annoying coping skills once used in front of you by yParenting our own parents. M ulti-generational habits are hard to break, but it is possible.

To model the skills you would like to make available to your children in tough situations you must pay attention to your reactions and view them through the eyes of your child. What might seem a very reasonable response to you as an adult, viewing the larger picture, may seem very frightening or confusing to a child. Children react to anger with fearfulness  but interpret humor and playfulness as safety.


Tips for Modeling Stress Management for Your Children:

  1. Saparenting3y things you are grateful for daily out loud in front of your children.
  2. Speak about the future with hopefulness.
  3. Tell stories about times you or your family has overcome adversity.
  4. Let your children know how lucky you feel to have them.
  5. Compliment yourself in front of your children for accomplishing things that were truly challenging for you.
  6. Teach and model your spiritual beliefs.
  7. Teach your children the excitement of doing things that are not driven by commercialism, i.e. being in nature, participating in creativity, contributing to those less fortunate, and activities that foster closeness and playfulness such as games or looking through photo albums.
  8. Spend time with positive friends so your children get to be with you rejuvenated after you have vented to adult peers.
  9. Help kids see the opportunity in challenges. Model this.
  10. Express genuine curiosity about their lives.
  11. Laugh out loud with them every day.
  12. Do physical activities with them like walking, basketball, tennis, swimming, etc.
  13. Eat dinner together and talk about positive things (not what you want them to change).
  14. Make bedtime a fun calm time where you share stories, feelings and events of the day.

It doesn’t cost much to make lasting memories.



Free things to do with kids:

  1. Draw chalk pictures of events in your child’s life on  cement outdoors (let them help).
  2. Watch planes take off at a small airport.
  3. Go to a train station, count the the trains that stop.
  4. Visit a local Nature Center (Oak Canyon, Anaheim Hills).
  5. Take your teen to a music store; learn about “their music”.
  6. Make cornstarch “goo” (box of cornstarch & cup of water).
  7. Make up fantasy fairy tales (take turns telling the next sentence of the story).
  8. Go through old photo albums together, share stories.
  9. Feed ducks at a park.
  10. Eat dinner outside on a blanket.
  11. Read books together, use silly voices.
  12. Make an ant farm.
  13. Blow bubbles together.




A hundred years from now the memories you made with a child will still matter.



For many other ideas:

www.creativekidsathome.com               www.abcteachit.com                      www.make-stuff.com/kids           

www.fresnofamily.com/activities/clay-goo.htm                           www.thekidzpage.com

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Self-improvement starts with small changes

self-improvement5Starting any significant life changes can begin with choosing a small behavior change. Choose something you believe you can accomplish to begin with.






Physical HeSelf-improvement2alth

  • Write exercise time in calendar
  • Ask a friend to go with you
  • Add 2 more servings of produce a day
  • Work on an addiction
  • Drink 2 more glasses of water a day
  • Go to bed 1/2 hour earlier
  • Buy a Group-on activity
  • Share fitness tracker info with an encouraging friend


Emotional Health

  • Keep a gratitude list
  • Meditate 10 min. a day
  • Listen to motivational CDs in car
  • Compliment yourself
  • Join a group of positive people
  • Write a list of interesting volunteer opportunities
  • Make a therapy appointment



  • Read a Parks and Rec guide
  • Find Meet-ups in your area
  • Read admitting requirements to a school of interest
  • Browse Amazon.com for info
  • Hire a tutor
  • Watch a YouTube video on the subject



  • Schedule individual outings with each member
  • Put a family activity in the calendar
  • Celebrate birthdays and accomplishments
  • Send E-cards
  • Hug and kiss
  • Laugh
  • Make eye contact
  • Compliment out loud
  • Turn off electronics and talk
  • Tell family stories of courage


Financial Health

  • Self-improvementTrack and categorize what you spend
  • Have savings auto-deducted
  • Look at monthly income and spending (share if in partnership)
  • Balance statements monthly
  • Take a personal finance class


 Primary Relationship

  • Forgself-improvement6ive quickly
  • Send a card
  • Recall how you met
  • Plan a date
  • Share a book
  • Tell about something in your day that made you grateful for them
  • Touch
  • Tell them you’re proud of them
  • Attend a marriage seminar
  • Remember life is short
  •  Accept “no” for an answer without forcing your perspective.


  • Bring mindfulness and staying present to your job
  • Remember why your work is important
  • Do your best work to be in your own integrity
  • Compliment yourself on the way home
  • Commit to bringing joy to coworkers
  • Celebrate yourself and others
  • If dissatisfied explore options


Spiritual Well-beself-improvement4ing

  • Read a daily inspiration
  • Notice where you are rejuvenated
  • Spend time weekly with like-mined people
  • Visit places that inspire awe and community
  • Pray or meditate
  • Do the things that remind you you’re not alone
  • Reach out to someone you view as spiritually centered


Creative Expression

  • Pull out old art supplies
  • Tune up an old instrument
  • Take a class
  • Reinvent an ancestor’s talent
  • Follow along with a YouTube instruction
  • Keep a journal of your ideas
  • Have lunch with another artist
  • Go to an art walk


Working with a therapist has helped many people attain their self-improvement goals.

Call 714-993-5343 for an appointment.


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Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

(It is not necessary to have all symptoms to indicate PTSD)

PTSD2 After a serious trauma (in childhood or as an adult) hidden symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress can plague victims for years. Many sufferers can’t discuss these life-changing symptoms unless offered a safe environment in which to discuss them.

  • Re-experiencing the trauma, flashbacks as though it was happening all over again,
  • Increased anxiety and low frustration tolerance,
  • Intrusive disturbing thoughts of the trauma,
  • Nightmares or other sleep disturbances,
  • Emotional distress when reminded of the trauma,
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating,)
  • Avoiding activities, or places that remind one of the trauma,
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma,
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general, feeling detached from others and emotionally numb,
  • Sense of a limited future, depression, hoplessness,
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger,
  • Difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance,
  • Feeling jumpy or easily startled,
  • Anger, irritability, guilt, shame, or self-blame, survivor guilt,
  • Substance abuse,
  • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal,
  • Suicidal thoughts,
  • Feeling alienated and alone,
  • Physical aches and pains.

Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include:

SeriousPTSD4 accident, war, childhood abuse/neglect, natural disaster, sudden death of a loved one, rape, assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse, terrifying emotional abuse, witnessing a violent incident, or any shattering event that leaves you feeling trapped, helpless and hopeless.




Things you can do for someone you care about with PTSD:

  • CoPTSDmpliment their courage.
  • Be respectful of anniversaries of incidences, losses, etc.
  • Don’t take their anger personally. Anger is always a protective emotion for some underlying fear.
  • Listen respectfully to redundant stories. It’s one of the most precious gifts you can give.
  • Be kind. Don’t try to “educate” them about why they should feel differently or that their feelings are out of proportion to any current circumstances. Never say, “You should be over it”.
  • Remember, you may be oblivious to triggers that set off their flashbacks or painful memories. You did not survive the details of their trauma and the accompanying surrounding stimuli.
  • Never miss the opportunity to keep your mouth closed when you are tempted to judge.
  • Always create the opportunity to tell your loved one how lucky you feel to have them in your life.
  • Offer to participate in life-style changes, like healthy eating and exercise with them.

Books for You to Read:

Shock WaPTSD3ves: A Practical Guide to Living with a Loved One’s PTSD, by Orange

When Someone You Love Suffers from Posttraumatic Stress: What to Expect and What You Can Do, by Zayfert, DeViva

The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship: How to Support Your Partner and Keep Your Relationship Healthy…by  England

Supporting Children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Professionals, by Kinchin and Brown

When Someone You Love is Depressed: How to Help Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself, by Epstein Rosen and Francisco

How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout, by Sheffield, Wallace, Klein

I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment, by Amador

When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness, by Woolis

Healing Together: A Couple’s Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-traumatic Stress, by Phillips, Kane

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When Compliments and Adoration Wilt into Verbal and Emotional Abuse…What Do You Do?

You remember how it was. Compliments, excitement, adoration, gifts, trips and fun. Now those are fewer and fewer and the anger is more often. You brace yourself when you go home. You never know what to expect.

Your partner tells you their goal in arguing is understanding, resolution or compromise, but their words are shaming, blaming and said with the express intention of changing your perception to theirs. The conversation becomes circular always coming back to what you did wrong. You’re probably in an emotionally abusive relationship.

The goal of verbal abuse is one-upmanship, control  and humiliation not real compromise or understanding. Often an abused partner will spend inordinate energy and time trying to explain their ideas and motives to the abuser, only to be met with disqualifications and humiliation. If someone is scolding you for not loving them correctly or telling you that you are responsible for their anger, loneliness, rage, or behavior you are experiencing emotional abuse.

No one can shame another person into loving them or feeling emotionally safe. An abuser is not after intimacy or transparency, they are trying to get undivided emotionally charged attention from you. They want your undivided attention, control and for you to subjugate yourself to their perceptions.

Abusers accuse and shame. They don’t take responsibility for their own feelings, outbursts or threats.

They don’t exhibit real curiosity for others’ emotions or hopes. They do not show respect for ideas differing from their own.

They are unable to clam themselves down when upset and take their frustrations about life out on those close to them. Their own reality and perceptions are the only “right” ones. Black and white thinking is a sign of low psychological sophistication and immaturity. This all or none approach to life is often targeted at those nearest the abuser.

Situations (things that happen, things others do) reveal a person (expose their motives/feelings, what they are capable of, etc.) circumstances don’t make a person (mad, sad, retaliatory, aggressive, blaming, etc.). Circumstances do not dictate how a person will respond, they are opportunities that expose what is really inside a person. An abuser will tell a partner that he/she is responsible (or work, finances, relatives or other drivers are responsible) for the abuser’s reactions, feelings and acting out behaviors. This is as mature as a child telling a sibling across the table, “You looked at me and made me spill my milk!”

Adults are responsible to develop self-soothing activities (hobbies, friends, creative outlets, physical exercises, relaxation techniques, etc.) to handle uncomfortable feelings. Abusers do not take responsibility for their uncomfortable feelings, they blame the person closest to them who is often trying to make the relationship work by acquiescing and not making waves.

Victims of abuse often become depressed and/or anxious. They try over and over to use compromise, explanations and avoidance to please the abuser. This only leads to the abuse victim feeling invisible, alienated, helpless and often out of touch with what they feel, want and believe. The victim’s attention becomes more and more focused on what the abuser feels, what the abuser wants or the beliefs held by the emotionally abusive partner.

Once this painful pattern is recognized it can take a lot of time and effort to reclaim the lost aspects of oneself. If you feel you may be the victim of emotional abuse begin by being gentle with yourself. Say kind things to yourself. You didn’t get into this situation over night and it may take some time to change it.

Begin by learning to identify abuse.

Abusers say things like:

“If you were really sorry you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

“Your apology wasn’t sincere.”

“I do everything for you, what do you do for me?”

“You’re so gullible/naive.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it. Why can’t you just take a joke?”

“That’s not what I meant. Can’t you ever listen?  I love you more than anyone ever will.”

“You don’t understand love, you came from a dysfunctional family.”

“Your’e going to wear that!?”

“If you don’t understand (behave) I’m just going to leave.”

“You’re just trying to make me mad, aren’t you?”

“Women are to subjugate themselves to their husband in all ways.”

“Husbands have to love their wives.”

“Your friends wouldn’t talk to you if they knew how you really are.”

“Why are you so defensive all the time? You always think I’m mad when I’m not.”

“You’re always making excuses. I don’t care what you meant to do, it’s what you do that matters.”

“No one else is going to love you/do for you what I do.”

“Don’t walk away from me I’m not done talking.” (This can go on into early hours of the morning.)

“You know what you did.”

“You can’t support yourself. I put up with you. How do you make my life better?”

“If you leave I will take the kids away.”

“You know what you did (years ago) and you deserve what you get.”

If you think you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship gather as much information as you can. Breaking free of emotional, verbal, financial or physical abuse is very difficult. Surround yourself with friends and family who are caring and see you for the wonderful person you are. Develop a sense of yourself. Don’t isolate. Follow your dreams. Join groups of positive inspirational people. Take care of yourself physically, eat and sleep well. Give yourself credit everyday for the things you accomplish. Remember you are responsible for handling your feelings and your partner is responsible to handle theirs. Individual therapy and group support can be helpful.

Signs of Verbal Abuse Video

How to deal with a Verbally Abusive Boyfriend video.

How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship video.

Is My Teenager in an Abusive Relationship? Video

Books on emotional and verbal abuse

“The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond”, by Evans

“But He’ll Change: End the Thinking That Keeps You in an Abusive Relationship” by Hunter”

“But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships” by Murray

“Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder” by Mason

“The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family”, by Payson

“The Sociopath Next Door” by Stout

Books to improve communication

“Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Rosenberg

“Living Nonviolent Communication: Practical Tools to Connect and Communicate Skillfully in Every Situation” by Rosenberg

“Toxic Relationships: How to Regain Lost Power in Your Relationship” by  Brasher

“Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself” by Beattie

Four Rules for being in a Relationship with a Borderline Personality Disordered Person  Video

Narcissists and Intimacy Video

© 2012 Lois Nightingale, Ph.D.

Psychologist PSY9503



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