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Licensed Psychologist

11 First Date Red Flags

From a Psychology Today Article First dates bring up conflicted feelings for a lot of people. There may be nerves, excitement, or even a feeling of dread. Part of what can make the dating process disappointing is that you want a relationship but you end up spending a lot of time with people who ultimately are not compatible with you and don’t want the same things. It’s tough to continue putting yourself out there when you feel like you’re not getting the results you want. This is part of the dating process. However, the more quickly you can determine whether someone is not the right fit, the more quickly you can make room for the right person. The less draining the process is for you, the more fun you will have with it. Although you can’t necessarily determine where a relationship will lead right off the bat, these are some initial red flags that can help you weed out those who are clearly not suitable for you on the first date: Click here to read the full article

Mentally Healthy, Resilient People Do These Things

From a Psychology Today Article May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As I thought about what to write to promote mental health and resilience, there was no shortage of topics to consider: We are living in turbulent times with a great deal of uncertainty about our personal futures and the future of the world around us. So I decided to write something that would encourage people to take care of themselves and to think about what mental health looks like for them. After all, we struggle with different challenges depending on our circumstances, our relationships, and our desires. We are all fighting different battles at different times in our lives. However, there are ways we can take care of our mental health that we share in common. Doing these things will help you stay focused on staying mentally healthy, strong, and resilient. Click here to read the full article

I'm So Sorry: The Power of a Heartfelt Apology

From the January issue of the North Shore Towers Courier. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is one of the most quoted movie lines of all times... Does love truly mean never having to say you’re sorry? Are apologies superfluous in loving relationships? Is the phrase based on the assumption that people who love each other never disappoint each other? Or, on the supposition that where love exists there is no judgement? Or, on the notion that forgiveness is automatic in loving relationships? Such premises can survive only in imaginary romantic narratives. In reality, the opposite is true: Love means having to say you’re sorry (at least occasionally) when your words or actions hurt someone you love. ...The essence of an apology is conveying to a wronged party that the offender reflected on what had happened, comprehends the wronged person’s hurt, and regrets his or her offense. An apology requires an attempt to put oneself in the other person’s shoes and mobilize empathy, regardless of whether or not the apologizer agrees with the wronged person’s reaction. ...There are apology-challenged individuals who are reluctant to offer apologies, regardless of the seriousness of their wrongdoing. In fact, research indicates that, often, the ones who commit the more serious transgressions are also the ones less likely to feel regret and less likely to make amends. Read the full article Nurit Israeli's Facebook Page

All About Stonewalling and Gaslighting

Originally published at Psychology Today Gaslighting and stonewalling are two behaviors that can be damaging to relationships, but can be countered with boundaries. The truth is, you or your loved one may very well care about your relationship — and a lot. However, without the proper conflict resolution skills, we can become overwhelmed with emotion. If you don’t know what to do or say in a conflict, you might turn to tactics like stonewalling or gaslighting to cope. Knowing what these behaviors look like can help you work to counter them or set boundaries when you see them in others.

Defining the terms

Stonewalling and gaslighting are two behaviors that may:
  • be defense mechanisms
  • signal interpersonal aggression
  • be ineffective ways of coping
  • be a form of manipulation
They can be just one or several of these things at once.

What is stonewalling?

According to the work of relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman, stonewalling is one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” This is a metaphor for communication styles that are damaging to relationships. Read the full article at PsychCentral

5 Ways to Be Your Own Best Friend

Originally published at Psychology Today There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Our best friends take us how we are and love us through it all. And in return, we talk out our problems and often speak from a place of truly wanting the best for each other. This is something most of us have in common: We are capable of good advice for our best friends. This advice might sound like, “You deserve better,” or “Apply for the job; the worst they could say is no.” It might even be as simple as, “Let it go.” So, have you ever noticed that it’s harder to speak so lovingly to yourself? The trouble comes from the negative slant the brain favors. It may seem messed up, but often by being negative your brain is trying to help you. Say you are applying for a job, your brain is actually trying to protect you from feeling disappointment by saying, “Why bother? They won’t hire you.” You don’t apply so you won’t feel sad about not getting the job. Of course, the unfortunate side effect is you end up feeling crappy anyway and lose out on new opportunities. In this example, what would your best friend say? They might remind you of how qualified you are for the job, how much the company would miss out on by not hiring you, and if you don’t get it another job will be lucky to have you. Sounds better! How come it’s so easy to say that to someone else? Well, we wouldn’t have very many friends if we talked to them the way we talk to ourselves. Instead, we learned to be supportive, caring, and encouraging in order to maintain meaningful relationships. Here are five ways to develop positive self-talk and treat yourself like your own best friend. Read the full article

How and When to Say No

Originally published at PsychCentral.com Many of us hesitate to say no to others. With mindful tips like these, saying no is an emotionally intelligent skill anyone can master — really! It’s just two letters, and yet saying no can feel really hard — even complicated. For many of us, saying no doesn’t just feel awkward. It feels wrong. So, whenever anyone asks you to do almost anything, you might blurt out, “Yes! Sure! Of course! Happy to!” But in reality, you may feel the opposite. Maybe you’d rather be doing about a thousand other things. Or maybe you’re OK with saying yes, but it’s not the best thing for your daily bandwidth or mental health. Here’s the good news: Saying no is a skill you can sharpen. The more you say no, the more natural it’ll feel. Here are several ways to build the skill of saying no in different situations — even if it feels like you’re doing it from the ground up.

Why saying no feels hard

For starters, it’s important to realize that if saying no is challenging for you, you’re not alone. As social psychologist Dr. Vanessa K. Bohns writes in a 2016 research review examining people’s influence over others, “Many people agree to things — even things they would prefer not to do — simply to avoid the considerable discomfort of saying ‘no.’” For example, a series of small studies, published in 2014, found that when asked, many people would acquiesce and commit unethical acts, such as telling a white lie or vandalizing a book — even when they felt these acts were perceived as wrong. As social creatures who want to be part of the herd, we also want to preserve our relationships. So, we might blurt out yes because we don’t want to be seen as difficult, says Dr. Emily Anhalt, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of Coa, an online mental fitness club. Or, we don’t want to disappoint a good friend or hurt someone’s feelings, notes Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist and the chief medical officer of Elocin Psychiatric Services. Another reason yes pours out of us? Our past. According to Anhalt, while growing up, you might’ve not learned to advocate for yourself. “It’s also possible that you say yes because you deeply want to help. But you forget that your ability to accommodate others isn’t an endless well,” Anhalt says. In other cases — like a work situation — we might worry that saying no says something about our ability to accomplish a certain task, adds Washington. Put another way, we think declining makes us look incompetent.

Why saying no is a good — no, great — thing

When you struggle with saying no in personal or professional situations, it helps to remember the self-preservation in passing things up. “Saying no is one of the best forms of self-care we can engage in,” Washington says. She notes that saying no supports us in: Ultimately, saying no gives us greater navigation over our lives, says Anhalt. This grants us the opportunity to build a fulfilling, meaningful life on our own terms. After all, we can only have power over ourselves — so, let’s exercise that power. Read the full article at PsychCentral.com

How to Identify and Deal with Gaslighting

Originally published at PsychCentral.com Gaslighting can cause intense self-doubt, no matter who's doing it. How can you respond to this behavior? Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that can cause you to doubt your memory, opinions, and even your sanity. It's a tactic some people use to gain power and control over others. Romantic relationships aren't the only situations where gaslighting can occur. It can also happen:
  • in a parent-child relationship
  • in the workplace
  • between family members
On a larger scale, political and authoritative figures have been known to gaslight entire societies. Research suggests that gaslighting behaviors can be rooted in gender and social inequalities. It tends to be common in intimate relationships where there's a power imbalance. It often happens gradually, as well. So you might not realize you're dealing with gaslighting until you begin to wonder why you're experiencing so much confusion, anxiety, and low self-esteem. If you've been experiencing gaslighting for a while, you might start to feel depressed, helpless, and indecisive as a result of the manipulation. One thing to remember in this cloud of confusion is that gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse — if you've experienced gaslighting, it's not your fault. And you're not the only one. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source suggest that more than 43 million women and 38 million men in the United States have experienced some type of psychological abuse or aggression by an intimate partner. But how can you tell if someone is gaslighting you, and is there a way to confront it?

Read the full article

Working From Home with Your Partner: How to Thrive vs. Survive

We've all heard the saying that familiarity breeds contempt; it's sure not something we'd like to apply to our marriage and relationships. However, my guess is you've never been in a pandemic with your partner before.  Staying at home, living together, working together, day and night, with most likely tons of fear and uncertainty as the sky has been falling. What do we do when we feel irritated and triggered by our partner as we traverse these unknown times? As my couples will tell you, one of the things I'm big on is getting couples to a place of zero tolerance for expressing irritation with each other.  Read the full article at imagorelationshipswork.com »

Growing a Healthy and Loving Relationship

Re-posted from an article by Jeannie Ingram, LPC-MHSP Valentine's Day just passed and love is in the air. Not for everyone, unfortunately. As a therapist, I'm often needed when love is no longer in the air. A heart has been broken, and love has turned cruel. Or the pain of loneliness has become unbearable. Only occasionally do people seek therapy when love is blooming like the daffodils. But take heart. Like the words in so many songs, love is indeed the answer; it always has been, and always will be. It's the question that needs examining, that question being, "who do you love"?

Love Yourself First

People often give their love to another before they've ever truly explored what it means to love themselves, and this can be a setup for problems in the relationship. Why? Because until you truly deem yourself worthy of love, you may sabotage the love of another, finding it difficult to trust. It's like building a mansion on quicksand. It may be beautiful at first, but after a short time, it will likely disappear. To experience a sustained, loving relationship with another, you must have a sustained, loving relationship with yourself to receive love with an open and undefended heart. I am not talking about narcissism, which is an ego-inflated sense of self-importance. I'm referring to a healthy and loving understanding of self and truly knowing that your value is at least that of others. All of us have equal value. Believe it or not, many people struggle with this. For some, it's due to leftover childhood shame or negative messages that program us into thinking something is wrong with us or that we're not worthy of love. Again, if we didn't get it as children, it's hard to trust when it tries to come into our adult life.

Love is a Verb

Love is about action. Love is about caring behaviors. Many people believe love is a feeling, and it certainly can be. Still, that feeling is ultimately the result of how we demonstrate our love in both giving and receiving. To expect the feeling of love without actively nurturing it through everyday actions is like expecting fruit from a non-existent tree. If we want to grow the fruit of love, we must first take the action steps of planting and nurturing the tree. Then we can expect the fruit or the feeling of love to blossom.

Tips to Grow the Love Tree

  • Find ways to express your love, and don't be confused by advertising messages. 
  • Spending money to show your love is unnecessary. 
  • Showing love through your language, thoughtful, caring behaviors, and realistic expectations. 
  • Replacing demands with requests and appreciations allow the flow of love.
  • Refrain from language that criticizes, condemns, disparages, and shames. It will create misery, not love. Instead, reframe into expressions of desire, encouragement, and gratitude.
  • Try seeing mistakes as opportunities for redemption and forgiveness rather than punishment.
  • Try seeing yourself as a human being who, like everyone else, is searching and worthy. 
  • Practice random acts of kindness toward yourself, as well as toward strangers.
This is the way we should all be treated, and no one, not even you — should be an exception. Because, like being in love, it sets you up for inner peace, success, and joy in life. Who doesn't want that?  When you have love and peace toward yourself, you're much more likely to attract and maintain genuine love with another person. So this Valentine's Day, may I suggest that you give yourself the gift of loveBegin by looking in the mirror and seeing the person who most deserves it. And love that person with your whole heart and your actions. Love is, after all, the answer.

Dealing with Difficult Feelings to Help Yourself & Your Relationships

Re-posted from an article by Deborah Fox, M.S.W. How to manage difficult emotions may seem counterintuitive to many people. We humans don't like to be uncomfortable or in emotional pain. How many times have you been told or tell yourself the following:
  • "buck up."
  • "don't wallow."
  • "move on." 
  • "don't feel sorry for yourself."
  • "think of how many others have it worse than you."
Plenty, I'm sure. The conventional wisdom of our culture is full of "think positive thoughts." The problem is that this wisdom doesn't chart the path we need to follow to that end. The answer to managing difficult feelings, we have to feel them before moving on and regaining our optimism and good cheer. This isn't easy. What may become common parlance, "oh, it's a total 2020," meaning a downer, things couldn't get much worse, is indicative of what many of you are experiencing. We are still in the middle of an uncontrolled pandemic, climate change, and political conflict. How can you not feel sad, or worry, or despair some days? Maybe your distress isn't about current times. Perhaps you struggle with a host of other uncomfortable feelings such as feeling unimportant, insecure, or anxious on an ongoing basis. For many people, the stress of what's going on in the world now exacerbates those feelings.

Managing Positive and Negative Feelings.

Our emotional system is not designed to feel positive feelings only and remove negative ones. That would be nice, but it just isn't so. To find our joy in simple pleasures and with those we're most connected to, we also have to feel our way through the tough ones. The key is to build your tolerance for feeling these difficult feelings and turn towards each other for connection and support. We are social creatures, and we need each other to go through the middle of turmoil to come out the other side.  Tuning into these difficult feelings will inevitably make you feel more vulnerable simply because you will not push the discomfort away. This is a challenge because feeling more vulnerable is uncomfortable, too. However, it's in that state of vulnerability that you can truly connect with another human being. You'll feel less alone, and you can walk through these uncertain times together, rather than just coping in separate silos.  There are moments--- milliseconds that you can grab before they slip away. These are the moments when you can identify that you're feeling down, worried, or despairing. When you're trying to "move on" or distract yourself, you'll find yourself feeling more and more blah or irritable---the perfect hiding places for vulnerable feelings. If you succeed in identifying that you're feeling sad or anxious at the moment, sit there with it. "Sitting with it" means naming it, feeling it, and not allowing yourself to prematurely make it go away by distracting yourself or starting an argument with a loved one. You will feel uncomfortable and vulnerable--- take a deep breath and stay there in that feeling. This sitting with the uncomfortable feeling allows you to know what affects you that you lose touch with when you shut down on the feelings.

Uncomfortable Feelings Have a Lifespan. 

It might be five minutes or five hours, and it may come and go. It's sitting with the feelings that allow you to build your tolerance for feeling vulnerable. You build it slowly, bit by bit. The more tolerance you have, then you can allow its life span to run its course. If you distract yourself by grabbing your phone or turning on the TV, it'll just go underground and lie in wait to ruin your mood for days on end.  Sitting with the feeling allows you to express, usually in a way your partner, or a close friend, can hear and empathize. Their ears open when they listen to you speak from that place of vulnerability. Feeling this connection is what can most alleviate the intensity of the discomfort. It won't make the pandemic uncertainties or anything else go away, but it can allow you to feel less alone. Feeling less alone goes a long way to walking through any crisis feeling stronger. Shutting down or arguing happens so easily because it's a momentary relief from the discomfort. The energy of arguing or the numbness of withdrawing doesn't feel great either, but it can be preferable to feeling vulnerable.  If you're already angry or withdrawn, ask yourself, "what else am I feeling, or what was I feeling earlier?" Maybe not immediately, but this question will allow you to pinpoint what feelings are hiding just below the surface. You know you're irritated, but you might be able to identify that you were anxious before you got annoyed. Then you can choose to sit with the anxiety.

Difficult Feelings are a Normal Part of Life. 

This is always true, but these uncertain times are causing tremendous turmoil and challenging our usual coping ways. What's critical is not to allow these feelings to overwhelm us. We're outside of our comfort zone, and we need to grow that zone to go forward and be able to grapple with what comes our way. We can't do it alone. Turning towards one another will serve us well and allow us to come out the other side to experience joyful moments amidst uncertainty.
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