Anxiety in children caused by parental attitudes

Symptoms of anxiety is very frequent in childhood and adulthood as well. Often the reasons are connected to childhood and to understand them can help to increase anxiety but also not repeating the same mistakes as a parent.

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Source of anxiety can be when a child “learns” that she/he can get love from the parents just by accomplishment. If the child got compliments and kindness just when she/he has got good grades or could have filled up the parents expectations, can develop accomplishment compulsion and the sense of insecurity. This kind of parental behaviour makes the child believe, she/he must do things for being loved and just by being herself/himself is not able to be loved. The same happens also if the child experiences love deprivation as a reaction of the parent for doing mistakes or having defects.

Secrets in the family also cause anxiety in children and often can be instrumental in a development of personality disorders. When a family or one of the parent keeps a secret (can be the child involved-worse) even if the child doesn’t know about it gives a feeling, something is wrong. Children and their negatively changed behaviour or their changed accomplishment in school is the first and most accurate sign of something is going wrong in the family. They are able to sense it. I often ask my clients to see objectively, what kind of changes they can see on their children, because they act like a mirror, showing exactly what the problem is. Like keeping secrets, parents lose being authentic and trustful and that can influence their children’s feeling of security or they become arrogant, showing that parents have lost their position being honest and authentic, so they are weak. Keeping secrets also can make children feel shame as well. So unlogical how so many parents teach their children for the importance of being honest but they don’t act according to their own lessons.

Rigid hard and fast rules and belief system. Consistent parental behaviour provides security for the child but too rigid and strict rules can mean very strong restrictions which can hinder the development of internal control and scale of values of the child. Children can develop a mindset which is connected to external control, compulsion of conformity and a rigid way of thinking where there is an internal insecurity behind. These children can see things and people just in black or white, their mind is not opened for another “category”.

Interchange of roles happens mainly after a trauma or crises, like divorce, absence of one of the parents, serious sickness or death. But also can happen if one or both of the parents are emotionally immature. In this interchange the child takes more responsibility physically and emotionally, more than supposed to do. Learns to repress or overshadow own emotions and needs, develops a very strong and rigid self-control which also can be a source of anxiety.

Repressing emotions. If expressing emotions is prohibited for a child, he/she learns to hide them. That doesn’t mean they disappear but after a while just to experience that having or feel those negative emotions can cause sense of guilt, shame or discomfort in the child. There are families where to express anger or sadness is prohibited. Which doesn’t make any sense, because we are human and have negative emotions as well. But those parents instead of teaching their children how to handle those negative emotions, ordering them to repress it. Repressed anger works under the surface, doesn’t matter how deep it’s delved.

Over-protecting, over attentive attitude. None of the parents think they might be over-protective or having over-attentive attitude because they are the pledge of being a good parent, normal acting like that. Of course protecting our children is one of the main obligations as a parent till a certain level. If parents are over-protective they prevent their children to develop a well-functioning physical and mental immune system by experiences. If they don’t let the child to climb a tree or having adventures, skills won’t develop or if they protect him/her from every conflict, this child in adulthood will be without useful knowledge or experience in conflict situations. Over-protecting attitude also transmits another message, which is the world is a dangerous place.

Before you get angry for your own parents or starting panicking how you are a “bad” parent you need to know that serious damages caused by more causes in the same time or one or two for a long time period. What to do? The solution like almost all the time is getting a proper and detailed self-knowledge. When we understand ourselves, we understand our actions and understand others.

Delphi oracle: Know thyself!

Picture: http://www.gozen.com

Emotional blackmail III. – The victim

To have emotional blackmailing situation it requires two people, the autocrat and the victim. The victim is actively involved in these situations, taking a back-seat and allows this kind of behaviour of the autocrat. Why do some people become easily a victim of emotional blackmail and others don’t? There are some personality traits which make easy to become a victim of emotional blackmail. Exaggerated claim to acceptance, strong fear of anger, making every effort to peace, exaggerated taking responsibility for others and strong self-doubt.

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The recognition seeker

We all seek for recognition, completely acceptable feeling and one of our basic needs but when we feel we must get others’ recognition and our self-image/self-esteem depends on if we get it or not; that makes us addictive and dependent and this trait becomes an easy target to an emotional blackmailer. Recognition seekers continuously need confirmation like a daily dose and if they don’t get it they feel they failed. They believe something is wrong with them till someone confirms the opposite. Their feeling of security completely depends on external confirmations. They believe “If no one praise me I did something wrong.” or “If I don’t get praised I’m bad.”

Anger avoidance-peace maker

Their mottos are “Don’t be angry!” and “Don’t bring down others’ wrath!” These people’s main wish is always everybody being peaceful and rational. In difficult situation this is able to become a rigid hindrance, like there is nothing worse than an argument. They are whom jump first and make serious efforts to achieve reconciliation, to avoid argument which is the Armageddon for them (this is how they see and feel it). They do everything to avoid any divergence, if they have, they immediately surrender because they are so afraid of the relationship breaks in two. They believe if they surrender this is just a temporary concession to reach a higher good.

The responsibility taker

There are people who take so much responsibility but not just for their own feeling also for others’. They believe they must solve alone every problems and push their sometimes basic needs behind. They have problems with personal boundaries. They pay attention too much other people’s emotional well-being and that makes them completely blind on their own.

The self-doubter

It’s healthy to know that we are not perfect, we all have our weaknesses and make mistakes. Even tough healthy self-esteem can swing into its opposite. Blackmailers often use this weakness. If someone didn’t have a stable self-esteem or at least stable self-image easily can become a self-doubter. These people gives too much importance to other’s opinions, they believe others are wiser and more intelligent.

The victim trains the autocrat to become better and stronger!

When the victim faces with the pressure of autocrat, act/react like excuse, reason, argue, cry and/or beg. If someone does one or two of these actions, she/he is the coach of the autocrat!

Victims believe they are not able to act like, standing up, oppose, run boundaries or simply telling to the autocrat that went too far.

Picture: http://www.dreamstime.com

Emotional manipulation-emotional blackmail II.

I wrote about how emotional blackmail works and described typical types of blackmailers in my previous post. No, they are not monsters, of course what they do, especially how they do it is wrong but there is always a reason why and how they developed this strategy to get what they want. How is the internal world of an emotional blackmailer? How do they think and feel?

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We all have learnt that we cannot get everything what we want and whenever we want. Faced with several bitter disappointments but we accepted them with feeling sad or angry for a while.

Autocrats cannot bear frustration because to them frustration means more than a temporary hindrance. When an autocrat is becoming frustrated it activates a deep fear of loss and privation. Autocratic people seem like everyone else, often are very effective in one part of life. Completely apart from which type of autocrat they are or which means they use, they suffer from a privation, and they do everything to avoid this feeling.

They sense and feel even small tensions as catastrophe and attach great importance to resistance. Often they feel, if they don’t get what they want, they got refused as a person and not what they wanted or asked. They believe if they don’t react aggressively their partner privates them from something which is vitally important. These are the basic believes of an autocrat who is an emotional blackmailer.

These believes can develop by long term anxiety and suspense but also often we can find relation between childhood determinant happenings and the fear of privation in adulthood. Unfortunately sometimes we can’t find any relation.

Autocrats focus their attention on their own needs and wishes and often seems like they don’t care about other’s feelings and how they make others feel when they use pressure or threats. Autocrats are self-centred and it can come from a belief that the attention and love what they have now is limited and can be gone. Often they react like small problems or arguments will end the whole relationship. They experience very intensive emotional disappointment and frustrations when they face with even small resistance and try to make small problems appear as if they are unsolvable.

We must understand that, the autocrat mainly doesn’t respond to the actual situation, responding to a situation which symbolizes something from past happenings. Typical in autocrats’ exaggerated responses that comes with so much noise and emotions but usually the internal deep primary feelings don’t come up to the surface . If they could have known and expressed those primary emotions they wouldn’t need to use emotional manipulation or blackmail to get what they want or they would be able to make a difference between them as person being refused or their request got refused which is a big difference indeed.

Autocrats can’t see the long term outcomes of their behaviour because their urgent compulsion to satisfy their needs or wishes befogs their logical consideration. Often seems like autocrats want to make the victim feel bad. Often they demand and humiliate while trying to make their intention looks if it’s good. They completely see their intention differently as they are in real.

Like the punishers see, they don’t punish their victims, just keep order or control the family’s life properly. The end justifies the means. However there are autocrats who feel or see themselves like victims.  Punishment also helps autocrats to get into an active and aggressive position, in this case they feel strong and invulnerable. With this method they are able to calm down the believed fear of privation. Basic truth is, what we don’t word that appears in our actions. If the autocrats could have been able to look into themselves for a while, probably they would be horrified at their own fears and weaknesses. Unfortunately they just rarely do it, or face with their own fears, they hurt and attack others instead. The harshest punishers mainly those autocrats who lost someone who was important. Lost because that person became emotionally unavailable, left physically or a distance developed in the relationship. Angry punishers often disparage others because it eases the pain of coping and the pain of possible loss. Punishers also often can believe, actually they just help the victim. Instead of feeling guilty after hurting someone, they are proud of their acts because they just make a man of the victim, like teaching.

The most important thing is, it’s not about the victim and there is nothing to do with him/her. It’s all about correction and strengthening those huge suspense what the autocrat has deep inside. Emotional blackmail more often has something to do with the past than with the present and even more often it’s all about the satisfaction of the autocrat’s needs and not about what the victim did or did not do.

Picture: http://www.pro.psychcentral.com

Prejudice – locked into box

“Blond women are stupid, politicians are corrupt and psychologists are lunatic.” Where do our prejudices come from? Why it is so difficult to quit on this method? What can we do about it?

Who are those people being more susceptible to use prejudice so often?

Prejudice is a kind of an opinion which is not based on expreiences but has a very strong emotional charge. Prejudicial people don’t consider facts. If they heard something which is the opposite of their opinion, they would disregard or using creative argument method. In this case they try to include the information into their world concept by creating absurd explanations.

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Where does our prejudice come from?

Most of us believe in the power of righteous world, so we blame victims for bad things which happened to them. Like when we hear about a raped woman, immediately prejudicial people think, probably that woman were dressed and behaving too provocatively. This kind of mindset leads to being unrighteous to the subject of prejudice. In our case we truly believe never can happen with us. When we are watching the news and hear terrifying things we believe those things are so far from us even tough according to statistic data it could have happened to us as well. This is an optimistic bias.

The reason of using prejudice can be a self-justification as well. Like when we want to believe that member of a group is more inferior to us. In this case we easily can associate negative characteristics to them and easier to discriminate. If we see a person or a group negatively it’s easier to reject them as well. Like if we think people with glasses are ruthlessly ambitious people, we can think that we have the right to behave with them badly because they deserve it, they are the favorites of teachers anyway.

Using prejudice is very common if we are in the low social class because in this case it’s important to know that there are people, groups even lower than us. Also common if we are not “okay” with ourselves, like having a fragile and low self-confidence or being emotionally immature.

The base of using prejudice also can be in a situation of competition. For example if in a country there are no enough jobs, people often start to blame minorities for it. This’s used so often by politicians in their campaigns.

Also common that we are looking for a scapegoat. In this case we are not able to release our frustration on that person or people who we are really upset with and we are looking for a “weaker opponent”. We are not able to wreak our anger on that person because that person is too powerful or the consequences might be so serious. For instance, if someone gets offended by a boss, this person high likely is going to release his/her anger on a waiter or on a child. Unfortunately releasing anger on a child is very common even if that child is not a direct causing of the anger. Releasing anger in a family and on its members is kind of a safe movement for parents. No visible consequences as they see. Innocent children are the perfect victims for it, perfect punching bags, first because they are not able to defend themselves, second easily can take a role of being the scapegoat because they don’t have the ability to see what the real problem is behind the abuse.

There are people who are more susceptible to use prejudice and stereotypes than others. They like to find the answer first for everything, but very often they don’t collect enough information to have an objective view and wrongly pigeonhole others. If they got an information which doesn’t support their previous conjectures, they would ignore those information. If they became a boss (not leaders), they would most likely behave autocratically and using a very typical sentence – Because I said so!

How can we resolve prejudice?

We must see that very prejudicial people have one thing in common, it’s that they have a little information about that specific group or people and not having connection with them. When they get more information or get in touch with them personally that prejudice can be slowly dissolve. It requires an opened mindset, which can be learnt.

Don’t hide behind your prejudice because most of the times you just cover your fears and ignorance with it and becoming blind for being objective and not being able to see the reality.

Picture: http://www.bbc.co.uk.com

Stress management

Fragmentation, defense and coping – Important how we cope with difficulties

Coping with stress has become one of the most basic competency in our world. Someone who is incapable to re-balance oneself again and again becoming seriously ill after a while. But also very important how re-balancing is done as a protection from stress. With some strategies we can make our situation even worse. To avoid more serious problems let’s see the 3 main levels of stress management.

Coping style in difficult situations has is a significant role, because the level of stress and its destruction depends on the success of coping style and not on the intensity of the trauma. So if our coping style’s toolbox is more mature, we are able to stay healthier in crises. Norma Haan identified and differentiated three levels regarding to effectiveness: Coping, Defense and Fragmentation.

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According to Hann the coping strategy like facing with the problem is the most mature and healthiest in conflicts. Defense is less favorable because using it in a long term can cause neurotic conditions. The fragmentation technique has a pathological nature, using it exaggeratedly in a long term can cause psychotic episodes. That’s why it’s useful to know how those levels work and how to change them and make them more effective, protecting our mental and physical health.

Fragmentation is on the most primitive coping mechanism level. Its point is contradicting the reality (re-writing) as a reaction for stress. Fragmentation is specially ritual and emotional character following individual rules, and works irrationally. This coping style destructs the objective system of the reality and that’s why just in extreme situation mentally healthy people use it and just for moments. People with psychotic disorders can be trapped in fragmentation for a longer time period. Fragmentation anaesthetizes just temporarily. Like hebefrenia, when someone reacts to stress very unnaturally.

Defense, or parrying is on a bit higher ego function, which essence is using self-defense mechanisms (projection, rationalization etc.). Using defense mechanisms are still forced, denial and rigid, not just distort the reality and logic but also release expression of hidden impulses. This parrying embodies a desire which is to get rid out of anxiety but without solving the problem in real and detailed. But unfortunately it’s a lie. One of the possible form is slipping back into earlier developmental stage (infantile mainly). It’s a kind of regression. For instance when an adult makes a tantrum because of an outcome of stress, behaving like a child who believes with flapping, shouting or swearing can avoid the uncomfortable situation what facing with. Regression can conform for a while but doesn’t solve the problem.

Facing with the problem as a coping style is on the highest level on stress management strategy. On this level we have a psyche consciousness and flexible change, so we can stay in the objective reality and able to express proper emotions as well. The coping style can be cognitive and affective. Affective “emotional” coping doesn’t solve the problem by itself but energizing and provides the feeling of controlling the situation. The cognitive (intellectual) coping essence is to examine the stressful situation, evaluate and systematically processing it. It’s not so comfortable but necessary sometimes.

Interesting the fact that humor is the most mature form of coping with conflicts. The essence of humor is that under emotional pressure we don’t take ourselves seriously. It seems childish but it’s not. Even if we make fun of the difficulty that doesn’t mean we deny it or underestimate it. We have a clear view of the problem but we don’t let the stress to disable us. We are able to stay calm and solve it.

Make yourself more resilient!

Not easy to recognize when and which coping style we are using. The truth is all of them are in the repertory of our mind and they are kind of automatic and can remain unknowing. Also known there are people who are more susceptible to defense than cope. But this doesn’t mean we can’t change! Some forms of coping style can be learnt and changed by raising awareness and practicing.

Picture: http://www.cognitivebehaviourtherapycenter.com

Positive psychology – repression

„Keep eye just on the positive things!” „Close out negative things in your life!” Catch-phrases nowadays, we repeat them almost daily. Positive psychological confirmations are very fashionable to reach a “good life”. Very often I experience how people would love to wipe out every negative emotions from their daily life. Even though they are part of us since we are humans. They want to wipe out anger, sadness and stress which is almost impossible. The key is to learn and being able to handle them on a healthy level.

Really is it a good/happy life without negative emotions?

Positive psychology – like tendency – appeared around 20 years ago. Its principia is being focused on positive things and our best attributes and with this view/mindset we are able to live a much better life. Definitely it’s a better approach than the old illness focus.

Our world is fast, there are solutions for everything, analgesia instantly as well. Immediately when we experience a grain of negative feeling, we find something what with it can be relieved. However there are eternal human basic emotions which are not going to disappear just because we have a faster internet and they will not stop existing just because we drive a more comfortable car. My personal and professional experience is the main problem of people nowadays is to tolerate trouble. Their tolerance level of taking negative things or emotions is decreasing. They can’t do anything with something which can’t be changed just accepted and taken.

Taking? Come on! That takes so much time, energy and patience! – Most of the people say. They are frightened of it.

So the solution is to run away from it or rephrasing, thinking of other things or don’t acknowledge it. Besides lying to ourselves one of the most popular solution (Number 1) is to push away and trying to forget it. There is just only one problem with forgetting and repressing, nobody never could have done it successfully 100%. The human psyche always remembers and wants to heal, even if it has to push through the ego protection mechanisms.

The price of repression

Being focus just on positive things (elimination of negative) for a long time has a huge price. Generally this is the time when unexplainable illnesses appear, when the body hurts but the psyche is sending messages – most of the time with screaming symbols in the symptoms. For instance a panic attack on a bus, which mostly not caused by public traffic. Appears generalized anxiety and depression just to remind us for our previous losses what from we are keep running away. Some people dig deeper and deeper daily to deepen their own mines just having more and more space for upcoming repressed things.

This is the “right” time when the concerned person is left alone, even if he/she acknowledge that having a problem, how can she/he share it with someone, in a time when it’s not fashionable to have negative feelings and sadness? The fear of not being a good member of a group is evolutionary coded in us. To belong to somewhere or to someone is the key of survive. Our life, emotions and self-esteem is strongly influenced by social media where thousands of pictures, posts and positive life coaching messages (they are my favorite-empty words) show how others are (seem) so happy. In this “society” it’s very difficult to undertake that Yes, I’m not okay and I might not being well for a while. It doesn’t fit the superficial picture perfect. So many people ask help when they are already broken down completely.

The beginning of solution

Still there is a delusion if someone goes to a therapist few times, that person will fill him/her up with happiness again and being able to hold on again for a while. The good and bad news are the same: it’s not happening in therapy which is successful in a long-term. The therapist doesn’t solve our problem, but coming down into its depth, can take our pain and hold us. In the real process first the clients must find those words what with can talk about those things which hurt most. If she/he has found the words, then those negative happening can be put into timeline.

But to be able to face with our problems and difficulties, one thing is definitely necessary: accepting life as it is – doesn’t matter how it is. Don’t rephrase it, not using rationalization and justification, just accept it. Releasing our faith in justice which says bad things happen just with bad people. Accepting that loss is part of life, which will happen with all of us and it doesn’t matter if we think of it or not. Inevitable. Loss is one of our mutual experience but how we react and handle it depends on us. We actively can do for our own well-being and this is our personal responsibility.

Overeating

It’s Christmas and this is a perennial topic. Feast, the table groans under the rich food. We are just eating and eating, stuffing ourselves till we are ready to burst. Stress? Anger? Why does some people eat that amount of food which are unhealthy and limit quality and time of life?

Most of the people know the relation between overeating and gaining weight. Obesity is one of the major national health problem in Western countries.

Several researches showed that the main reason of overeating is a neurological malfunction which works similarly like addiction. It can be cause by psychosocial factors, stress, depression or environmental elements. Lee and his colleagues published in Science & Society scientific review that there is a similarity between drug addiction and several types of overeating. In both addictions’ background there is a mechanism which is after an expedient behaviour (like eating chocolate) dopamine (happiness hormone) production follows which has a kind of behaviour reward nature. Sugar, fat and salt have a significant effect on our brain. For instance sweet foods have a kind of nice and painkiller effect so the taste of food often gets connected with our internal reward system. With frequent ingestion of sweets its taste links up with the emotion of settling. The reward center in our brain also gets activated by effects like external stressors, depression or the feeling of helplessness. When we get affected by them immediately we want to ease our internal tense. Most of the times we don’t even have time to recognize our appeared emotions, we suddenly discovered that we are standing in the kitchen and having already chocolate or cake in our hand. If our brain has already learnt that food/sweet provided comfort before in similar situations then it’s going to be one of the main coping mechanism (maladaptive) for dealing with negative emotions, like being angry, stressed or sad. (Emotional eating).

Environmental factors

Our environmental factors subconsciously stimulate us to overeat. We eat more when more people are around a table and we are willing to eat till we are ready to burst. (Cohen, D. A. 2008)

What can we do to avoid overeating?

We are all the time in a hurry in this fast word and multitasking which means very often we eat while doing other things, like working, watching TV or travelling. If we split our attention we are not able to pay attention to our internal conditions and what we eat and how much. We don’t even chew our meal properly. Try to focus to the taste of your meal, its texture like a kind of mindfulness exercise. Eat slower and chew properly (min. 30 times) your meal and you are going to feel step by step how much food is enough for your body.

Use smaller plates and glasses to avoid environmental factors. Put smaller amount of food onto your plate.

Pay attention to your emotional condition, be more aware how you feel. Most of the times we eat because of our emotional internal condition. Recognize when you are sad, angry or stressed because recognition is the first step to handle overeating. Look for another relaxation technique, like sport, meditation, taking a walk or talking with a friend. If you feel that it’s too challenging for you, look for professional help.

Eating to ease internal tenses is a maladaptive coping mechanism to handle negative emotions.

“We eat to live, not living to eat”

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a lots of love and joy for the holidays!