Finger pointing and defensiveness get you nowhere

Image from article: Photo by Gemma Stiles

Image from article: Photo by Gemma Stiles

You probably already know this in your gut, but whether you are at the beginning of an argument or deeply into one with another person, becoming defensive nearly always ups the ante. Becoming defensive triggers a reaction in your co-fighter often to become more aggressive. Relationships are hard, sometimes on a daily basis. I came across this article today and felt it was definitely worthy of sharing.

Speaking of sharing, much of this is about sharing power in a relationship and how important this is. This article skims only the tiniest surface of Dr. Gottman's insight. He is a researcher that has produced a vast wealth of knowledge about what makes couples successful, and has over 90% accuracy in predicting divorce in couples he observes. He describes "the four horsemen" that are highly destructive in relationships: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. If these elements are present the relationship can spiral downward quickly, but couples that engage in reparative attempts can still save the marriage. He describes this and much more in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which is a book that I highly recommend. If you want just a taste of some of his work, read this article. 

Book Recommendation: The Drama of the Gifted Child

Image from book cover shown on Amazon

Image from book cover shown on Amazon

This thin, innocuous book was once given to me by a previous therapist whose help I treasured. At the time I started reading the book, underlining diligently as any good perfectionist student does, but I quickly put it down again, fearful of the rising tides of emotions this book brought me. I don't think one book has ever captured the essence of my childhood so perfectly. There are so many pieces of this book I have underlined and could quote. This paragraph begins to scratch at what audience the book aims to reach: 

Quite often I have been faced with people who were admired for their talents and their achievements, who were toilet-trained in the first year of their lives, and who may even, at the age of one and a half to five, have capably helped to take care of their younger siblings. Assording to prevailing attitudes, these people—the pride of their parents—should have had a strong and stable sense of self-assureance. But the case is exactly the opposite. They do well, even excellently, in every thing they undertake; they are admired and envied; they are successful whenever they care to be—but behind all this lurks depression, a feeling of emptiness and self-alienation, and a sense that their life has no meaning. These dark feelings will come to the fore as soon as the drug of grandiosity fails, as soon as they are not “on top,” not defintiely the “superstary,” or whenever they suddenly get the feeling they have failed to live up to some ideal image or have not measured up to some standard. Then they are plagued by anxiety or deep feelings of guilt and shame. what are the reasons for such disturbances in these competent, accomplished people?
— Alice Miller, from The Drama of the Gifted Child

There is often an emptiness, an ache, a depression in patients I have seen as well. I reread this book last week and its message resounded so strongly for several of my patients that I ordered 10 copies of it to give out as it seemed necessary. Addressing childhood feelings can be very threatening. Many people are scared to give up the veneer of happy perfection they glossed over their childhood hurts, but facing those is essential to making peace with them and moving on. The goal of therapy is not to remove those happy memories, but to release the unhappy ones that are still lurking silently in the corner. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to raise their awareness and dive in to exploring childhood as it truly was, not just as you wished it to be. 

Parenting Insights from a Family Therapist

I love good parenting tips. As a parent of two young children I constantly seek parenting advice that helps parents focus on fostering growth while nurturing children, while avoiding shame as a discipline tactic. This soft touch does not mean you become a permissive parent by any means. Limit setting is an essential aspect that every parent must engage in with children, and the article linked below points out wisely that avoiding limit setting raises anxiety in children. 

Image from article.

Image from article.

This article highlights some positive parenting tips like giving children unstructured play time (often overlooked when children engage in screen time), being respectful when setting limits (you lead by example), and one that I find very important: having a life outside your child. I firmly believe that you can only take care of others as well as you take care of yourself. If you are in constant service of your child and never yourself, that relationship will suffer immensely. It is vital to take time for self-care when you are a parent, whether that means handing parenting over to a co-parent or trusted babysitter, self-time is essential to well-being, and well-being greatly enhances your capability as a parent. 

Any favorite resources for parenting? Feel free to link them below. 

Loneliness is as deadly as smoking and obesity

Check out this article on Slate about the dangers of loneliness. Loneliness is dangerous to your health and contagious as well. Unfortunately, loneliness is also on the rise, up to 40% of adults reporting feeling lonely, compared with only 20% in the 1980s. It's not surprising to learn that quality of friendships, rather than quantity is a big factor in loneliness.

Image from article.

Image from article.

Make time for face time with your family

Check out this NPR article about the value of parents limiting their screen time.  Face to face time with our kids is an essential component of child development.  Here is an interesting quote from the article: 

And when parents focus on their digital world first — ahead of their children — there can be deep emotional consequences for the child, Steiner-Adair says. "We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don't matter, they're not interesting to us, they're not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them," she says.

Let your kids know they matter by spending quality time interacting with them face to face and put down your phones and tablets while you do it.  

Click the image above or click here to read or listen to the article.  

Therapeutic knitting in the news

Many knitters have known about the therapeutic power of knitting for a long time, but more research using knitting in clinical settings is happening every day.  Here is an article discussing some recent therapeutic uses of knitting.  It also includes a brief mention of my dissertation work with elementary school students, using knitting to improve social skills, academic achievement, and reduce problem behaviors.