Licensed Psychologist

Statement of APA President in Response to Mass Shootings in Texas, Ohio

WASHINGTON - Following is the statement of APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD, on the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio: "Our condolences are with the families and friends of those killed or injured in these horrific shootings and with all Americans affected every day by the twin horrors of hate and gun violence. “As our nation tries to process the unthinkable yet again, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic. Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion — the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups — is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting. “That shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, as it should be. Psychological science has demonstrated the damage that racism can inflict on its targets. Racism has been shown to have negative cognitive and behavioral effects on both children and adults and to increase anxiety, depression, self-defeating thoughts and avoidance behaviors. “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster. “If we want to address the gun violence that is tearing our country apart, we must keep our focus on finding evidence-based solutions. This includes restricting access to guns for people who are at risk for violence and working with psychologists and other experts to find solutions to the intolerance that is infecting our nation and the public dialogue.” For people who are suffering distress in the aftermath of the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, APA offers a variety of resources, including:

Boundaries

"Good fences make good neighbors." This famous quote by Robert Frost simple refers to the need for healthy boundaries in all relationships.  Boundaries are a separation indicating where you end and where someone else begins.  They reflect how you want to be treated in your relationships and they need to be vocalized. Is it OK to open your partner's mail?  Or go to his/her wallet?  Or read his/her e mail?  Your answer to these questions may be based upon the way that these situations were handled in the family that you grew up in.  For some of us such behaviors were commonplace, while for others of you they are taboo.  In fact, all of them are boundary violations. If you were used to not having your boundaries respected as a child, you may be more likely to ignore or put up with them with them as an adult. Setting boundaries is really an expression of valuing yourself and your needs.  Boundaries are an essential part of any healthy relationship.  When they exist, safe trusting relationships can be created.  In their absence there can be hurt and feeling of violation. It is important that they be stated clearly.  For example. One partner may say, "I need to get to sleep early so that I can get up early tomorrow morning."Or, "If you want to be with me, this is how I want to be treated or spoken to."Some people may view making this kind of statement as selfish.  They may worry that they will be rejected or abandoned if they do so. They may assume that their partner automatically knows their wants and needs.  Or they may expect others to feel the same way that they do. In fact, none of these are true. Healthy boundaries involve speaking up when we feel ignored and advocating for ourselves.  For example, "I feel disrespected when my privacy is ignored." Or, "I am not ok with you speaking to me in a condescending manner or being verbally abusive." Setting of boundaries is a constantly evolving process.  They must be stated and maintained.  When they are stated but blurred or ignored, a partner may feel less important,used or manipulated. Clear communication allows them to be understood.  When that is not the case, you may erroneously assume that the other person is not trying. Boundary statements need not be delivered harshly so that they are perceived as criticism. They can be stated simply. For example, "I need time twice a week to practice my music."  Or, "I want to have some quality time with you every evening."  Or, "I need to spend time with my children twice month. Or, "I want to have some of my own money." Some boundaries may be deal breakers.  For example, cheating is a boundary violation.  As people find a way to respect each other’s needs, they are setting themselves up for a more successful relationship or friendship.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget

Originally posted at www.becomingminimalist.com/35-gifts-your-children-will-never-forget Own less. Live more. Finding minimalism in a world of consumerism. “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Kahlil Gibran I have countless holiday memories. Most of them center around faith, family, and traditions. Very few childhood memories actually include the gifts I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever? To that end, here is an alphabetical list of 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget.
  1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.
  2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…
  3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.
  4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.
  5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.
  6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.
  7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?
  8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.
  9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.
  10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.
  11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.
  12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.
  13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.
  14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.
  15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.
  16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.
  17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.
  18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.
  19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.
  20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.
  21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.
  22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?
  23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.
  24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.
  25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.
  26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.
  27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.
  28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.
  29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.
  30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.
  31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.
  32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.
  33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.
  34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.
  35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?
Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

Mother's Day or Doomsday

Mother's Day. Images of mothers and happy children are everywhere. It seems that everyone is part of this joyous celebration. Everyone, that is, except the woman who has not been able to conceive. For her, Mother's Day is a nightmare, a painful reminder of her failure. She feels disappointed in herself, disillusioned that her body has betrayed her, and defective as a woman. Men have been socialized to think of parenthood as one possible ingredient in their traditional adult roles; girls are programmed to think of the achievement of motherhood as an absolute necessity to their identity as adult women. They perceive a threat to their ability to become mothers as a threat to their ability to be seen as legitimate adult females. No other activity can substitute for it. A woman without children often feels cheated, angry, depressed, jealous and anxious. She doesn't have what she's dreamed of all her life. Her body isn't cooperating with her desire to become a mother. She feels like a failure. She is jealous of people who have children, and guilty for feeling jealous. She is tired of all of the questions and advice from family, friends, and even strangers. She is frustrated that the medical tests and procedures have not worked. Each month she rides an emotional roller coaster first hopeful and then devastated. Caught up in the quest to have a child, women forget that they are anything other than childless. It is important for infertile women to reclaim their lives, regain control and once again feel joy and meaning in their lives. There are powerful psychological tools that women can use to help themselves. They can learn to change their negative thoughts. They can learn how to nourish themselves. They can improve communication with their spouses. These techniques have helped many women feel more optimistic, and less anxious and stressed. They feel better, their lives feel more meaningful, and sometimes, once they have have done these things, they may find themselves pregnant.

The Flight from Conversation Part 2

We use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. These days, social media continually asks us what's "on our mind," but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It's hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect. As we get used to being shortchanged on conversation and to getting by with less, we seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether. Serious people muse about the future of computer programs as psychiatrists. A high school sophomore confides to me that he wishes he could talk to an artificial intelligence program instead of his dad about dating; he says the A.I. would have so much more in its database. Indeed, many people tell me they hope that as Siri, the digital assistant on Apple's iPhone, becomes more advanced, "she" will be more and more like a best friend - one who will listen when others won't. During the years I have spent researching people and their relationships with technology, I have often heard "No one is listening to me." I believe this feeling helps explain why it is so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed - each provides so many automatic listeners. And it helps explain why - against all reason - so many of us are willing to talk to machines that seem to care about us. Researchers around the world are busy inventing sociable robots, designed to be companions to the elderly, to children, to all of us. One of the most haunting experiences during my research came when I brought one of these robots, designed in the shape of a baby seal, to an elder-care facility, and an older woman began to talk to it about the loss of her child. The robot seemed to be looking into her eyes. It seemed to be following the conversation. The woman was comforted. So many people found this amazing. Like the sophomore who wants advice about dating from artificial intelligence and those who look forward to computer psychiatry, this enthusiasm speaks to how much we have confused conversation with connection and collectively seem to have embraced a new kind of delusion that accepts the simulation of compassion as sufficient unto the day. And why would we want to talk about love and loss with a machine that has no experience of the arc of human life? Have we so lost confidence that we will be there for one another? We seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being. Think of it as "I share, therefore I am." We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we're having them. We used to think, "I have a feeling; I want to make a call." Now our impulse is, "I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text." So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don't experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves. We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don't teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely. To make room for conversation, we can create sacred spaces in the kitchen or dining room. We can make our cars "device-free zones." We can demonstrate conversation to our children. And we can do the same thing at work where we are so busy communicating that we often don't have time to talk to one another about what really matters. Employees asked for casual Fridays; perhaps managers should introduce conversational Thursdays. Most of all, we need to remember - in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts - to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another. I spend the summers at a cottage on Cape Cod, and for decades I walked the same dunes that Thoreau once walked, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices. So I say, look up, look at one another, and let's start the conversation.

What Do We Owe Our Children?

What do we owe our children? Are we wrong to spend our time and money on ourselves when our children are having hard times? These questions come up for discussion over and over again among parents of adult children. Some of these parents are part of the self made generation who started with little and became successful through years of thrift and hard work. Some pursued higher education and paid for it themselves, others did not go to college. Their goal was to give their children the comforts and advantages that they missed when they were growing up. They reminisce about their immigrant parents and are proud of their own independence and that, on their own, they became more successful than their parents. They are critical of their adult children who seem to feel entitled to the luxuries that their parents waited for for many years. Parents seem unaware that by rescuing and indulging, they helped to mold their children into adults who are less resilient when they fall on hard time. Unlike the parent's generation, their adult children are not as independent and are quite comfortable asking for childcare help or for money to help them maintain their expensive lifestyles. Some parents of the senior generation have trouble giving to themselves long after the financial necessity of counting pennies has past. The other day I spoke with an 90 year old woman who was wracked with guilt at the thought of spending some of her dwindling financial resources on her own medical needs at a time when her married child's business was slow. She was quite able to empathize with his financial concerns, but did not feel entitled to expenditures for herself that she would consider luxuries, but were truly necessities. This was very disturbing to me. So what do we owe them? One excellent answer came from Jonas Salk. He said "Good parents give their children roots and wings." Roots give them a knowledge of home and keep them grounded through tough times, and wings recognize the need for autonomy so that they feel comfortable venturing out into the world and maybe even flying farther than we ever did. Perhaps as we recognize their strengths and encourage their autonomy, we can develop a more mutual relationship with our adult children.
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