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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Warning: You or Your Spouse May Be Addicted to Criticism

This simple test could reveal the truth about your marriage.

Photo by Shutterstock. Used by permission.There is this story about 2 judges who were meeting for lunch. One was matrimonial and the other adjudicate criminal cases. The criminal court judge said “Do you know the difference between my court and yours? In criminal court, my cases involve really bad people who try to look really good. In your matrimonial cases, you have really good people who look really bad.”
Marriage is hard and deeply complex and yes indeed, it can bring out the worst in even us really good people.
Did you ever listen to couples argue? It’s horrible. Two people in love trying to destroy the other. The things they say to each other:
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. You never know what you are talking about.”
“Can you possibly be any more stupid?”
“Your mother did the same thing her whole life and now you’re doing it. She has totally ruined you.”
“You are one coldhearted bitch!”
Marriage is the single most difficult thing most people will do in their lifetimes. To be in constant contact with one person day and night, year in and year out takes almost everything a human being can endure. I don’t think a could even live with myself over a lifetime! It can squeeze us to our limits, bringing out the worst in us, a fact that TV sitcoms have used for years to make millions by having us laugh at marriage.
Let’s face it, couples argue and fight. But couples can go beyond that and become critical of each other’s very personality and identity, often going on a “search and destroy” mission in which they find their partner’s weakest attributes and hammer away at them.
I’m not talking here about what most people call constructive criticism. There are clear differences between criticism and offering advice or even critiques. When an individual is critiquing or making suggestions, they are sticking to the issues at hand. When a person becomes critical, they are attacking the very essence of their loved-one's personality. In a healthy relationship, a couple would naturally offer advice or suggestions to the other. This would be based on a healthy interdependence in which each one would influence the other in love. Criticism, on the other hand, tears a person down while remaining nonproductive in resolving marital issues.
For years, psychologists have recognized that day-to-day criticism by a parent of their child can be so harmful that it can produce any number of mental disorders in the child. Our psychotherapy practices are packed with individuals who have had critical parents. And although it can have similar effects in marriage as well, divorce is the most likely outcome.
Marriage guru John Gottman along with his wife Julia have shown in their empirical research that criticism of a spouse can greatly increase the chances of divorce. Best known for their famous “Love Lab,” the Gottmans collected data on hundreds of couples in real time, scientifically observing and processing couple interactions. They identified what is called the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of Divorce." These are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The Gottmans have shown that these four things in a marriage have a high likelihood of producing a divorce. While the present blog addresses only criticism, I encourage you to learn more about the other three and in the Gottman’s research in general.
I believe that habitual criticism of a spouse is an addiction just like a heroin or alcohol addiction. Chronic criticism in my mind shares all the features of a typical addiction. This is because critical people cannot seem to stop their criticisms (just like an alcoholic can’t stop drinking) and seem to seek out situations where they can be critical (like an alcoholic searches for alcohol). Furthermore, they feel better when they are criticizing their spouse just the same as alcoholics do when they drink. And although I am unaware of such research, I would hypothesize that there are even similar brain events going on in the brains of those who are addicted to alcohol and those who are addicted to criticism. 
I have used in my practice a very simple procedure to determine whether or not a particular spouse is addicted to criticism. It is fast and simple and usually produces accurate results. I say to the critical spouse that there are two types of critical people: One type offers good advice to their spouses because they truly want to help their spouse out of altruistic reasons; while the second group has an actual addiction to criticism and are trying to regulate their own feelings by hurting their spouse. I go on to say that there is a simple test to determine which type they are. For one week, they are not allowed to offer any criticism of their spouse. If the person is truly addicted, they will not be able to stop. If they are simply offering advice, it would be easy for them to stop. In most cases, the person is forced to admit that they could not stop and may have to look into themselves as the source of criticism. In most cases and much like the alcoholic, the critical spouse cannot stop.

It is easy to dislike a critical person and dismiss them as being the source of all problems. But if you look into their pasts, you will most likely find that they themselves were the victims of criticism as children. When this type of constant criticism of a child occurs, it creates brain changes, producing a schema; or more simply a distorted lens through which a person looks and interprets life’s events. This schema leads them to seek out the bad somewhere in the good. Something can be 99 percent wonderful, for example, but they will focus on the 1 percent that is “wrong." They might see a great movie only to focus on the minutia of something they didn’t like ("the star seems to be balding"). They might go to a party where everybody enjoys themselves but they feel a particular hors d’oeuvre could have been spicier or that a particular party-goer was too loud when they spoke.
Sadly, as critical as a critical person is with others, they are often more harshly critical of themselves. They can be their own worst critic. I have found that when an individual can openly accept this in themselves, the marriage improves.
Oh yeah, and the “addict” has a real chance of being set free.

Neil J Lavender Ph.D.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Dealing With Workplace Bullies

VimeoI never thought I’d become a victim of bullying, but I suppose no one ever sees the target on their back. I assumed that having made it from grade school through graduate school unscathed that the risk was well behind me. Suffice it to say I was utterly shocked when I became the target of intimidation tactics, verbal assault, condescension, mockery, and shaming by two fellow psychologists when I left their offices to launch my own practice. 

The “reasonable person” which my husband has told me about from law school is the proxy for the average logical mind and what types of decisions they might make and their thought processes. In my case, the “reasonable person” would assume that many clinical psychologists go on to form their own practices and that such an action is not only expected, but not something that would result in such hostile actions by colleagues.
The process of leaving the practice was traumatizing to say the least. The locks were changed on me overnight, thereby precluding me from being able to get into my actual office when I had patients scheduled; my computer was “searched” for evidence of some grand ploy that I apparently had been concocting while drumming my talons on the desk and cackling; and I was generally treated like a criminal (real cool when all the women in these interactions are White and you are originally from a former axis of evil nation). 
Eventually things settled down when I moved out and was able to fully love every moment of doing therapy, writing book proposals, and decorating my office with my beloved fountain beside me. That is, until I was followed 18 months later by these psychologists not only to the same building where I practice, but the same floor.  Granted, these women were in the process of a major downgrade. They went from their wannabe mortgage banker digs to a shared windowless office, and had to let their secretary go (who they made get their lunches every day). 
While I was not thrilled that I’d have to see the faces of these women who had made life miserable in my sacred space, I figured I could take back stairwells, avoid the lobby, and isolate myself in the office. I did that for a day, until I realized that is exactly what bullies hope for. And frankly, it was quite impractical. Sometimes a girl needs to use the microwave!  And so, head held high I marched outside and was in the midst of a lively conversation with our front desk assistants when I was approached by the brawn of the duo. 
Suffice it to say, I had been in the lobby for no longer than five minutes for the first time in 24 hours when this psychologist seized the opportunity to get in my face.  While I was facing away from her, she just stood there waiting to be addressed and then attempted to engage me in contact condescendingly and with mockery. 
I left the interaction shocked that such women can call themselves “pediatric” psychologists. Are these the people who we want our children seeing? Bullying tactics employed by supposed adult professionals?  With my heart racing, I looked up resources from the APA for colleague harassment and found very little.  Apparently we psychologists work hard at protecting our clients and data, but little is done to protect ourselves when psychologists with malicious intentions attack one another. 
Scouring the internet for resources, I found some great ideas and suggestions from sites such as which feature a host of tools ranging from attorney and therapist recommendations to an action plan.  As a psychologist who is now in this situation, here are a few of the suggestions and ideas (many of which I have employed to deal with bullying) in no particular order.
Name it! 
A very helpful tip from sites such as above is that naming bullying is very important.  We can be hesitant to call out behaviors as bullying.  We can feel ashamed, be in denial or feel helpless.  But learning to call it what it is helps to legitimize it in your mind and allows to you communicate what is happening to others.  Words are powerful and learning to use the appropriate terminology allows us to find allies, resources, and know exactly what it is we are dealing with.  Many communities can be built around shared struggles.  While we may not want to think of ourselves as victims of bullying, it is simply not our fault.  People may be displeased with you, but that will never entitle them to bully and intimidate you.
Get support from friends.
Many times we can feel alone when facing such challenges. I see this all of the time with my clients who are facing depression. They may feel down or blue and don’t want to burden others. So they remain isolated and suffer in silence.  Many times family members and/or partners and spouses can be very helpful.  But sometimes they can be too close to the situation. Finding individuals outside of your typical bubble can help you step back and get an objective stance about your situation.  As soon as I found out about my bullies following me to my new office, I called up my best friend.  As we talked through it, by the end of the call I was cracking up and feeling so incredibly relieved.  Her sense of humorhelped lighten the mood and validate my feelings at the same time.
Calm down and breathe.
When you are a victim of bullying, it can be very difficult to take a step back, breath and move into your logical mind.  It can be easy to want to lash out from an emotional space.  And frankly, that is exactly what bullies want.  They are calculated, cold and attempt to use logic.  However, logic is fortunately also where they are severely impaired.  Bullying is very obviously not a logical action by any means.  Hence those who employ such tactics are not always the brightest crayons in the box.  While they may be frightening or intimidating to encounter, you may very well have intellect and cunning on your side.  After all, when has a bully ever picked on someone smaller or less capable than them?  They simply don’t.  They go after those who irritate them due to their inability to outperform them.  So as a victim, use whatever your strength is to your greatest advantage possible.  It may infuriate them, but assuming you are also taking precautions against your safety, justice will ideally reign in your favor when the time comes. 
In the meantime, prioritize your well-being.  Meditate, go to yoga classes, exercise.  Treat your body well!  If you are in therapy, definitely talk to your therapist about this.  If not, consider engaging in psychotherapy as a safe and confidential space to work through your feelings and gain support.
Consult with an attorney and determine if legal action can be taken.
While the logical first choice in dealing with workplace issues is going through a Human Resources Department, chances are that they will not always be as swift to help save you.  You are dodging every interaction with these bullies left and right, while Human Resources takes its sweet time going through the bureaucratic process and you are sweating bullets.
If it is a financially viable option (which for many it may not be), an attorney can be your best bet at helping you determine your options.  Unfortunately, the legal process can also be painfully slow and laws vary by state.  Some states allow for restraining orders, but only after court processes which will also incur costly legal fees.  Others have stalking orders, and so forth.  The entire process can be highly stressful and re-traumatizing as you are forced to re-live your harassment experience over and over again.  It is ideal to avoid the court system if at all possible, but sometimes this is what it may come down to.  However, a lawyer can talk you through what options can work best to protect you.  You may have to file a civil suit if that’s what it comes down to.  Again, as you go through this process, connect with friends, try to have a sense of humor, and stay as calm as possible.
Consult with colleagues.
I know, this sounds like a lot of consulting!  You may have consult fatigue by the end of the day.  You may be discussing this with family, friends, a therapist, your boss, human resources, and an attorney.  That’s a lot of already telling your side of the story.  While you do not want to engage in gossip or retaliation tactics, you do want to consult with experienced and supportive colleagues.  They can help you know what to expect, or if they are as clueless as you are, can at least lend a supportive ear.  Typically, the advantage with talking to colleagues is that they know your field, the dynamics between co-workers and so forth and can help you come up with some solutions however minor they may be.  If your bully revels in cornering you, then perhaps they volunteer to get up to walk to the bathroom with you.  Or they don’t leave your side at the cafeteria.  Colleagues can be your first line of defense given that the battleground is now at your workplace.  
Make an action plan.
No one can ever tell you what the best course of action may be in your particular situation.  Part of the challenge with workplace bullying is that it can take so many shapes and forms.  Sometimes it is a colleague who targets you and other times it is a direct supervisor.  There could be all sorts of complicated relationships and dynamics at play.  Not to mention the possibility of retaliation.  So while a friend may vehemently tell you to sue for discrimination, it must vibe with your needs and circumstances.  However, the worst cause of action is none at all.  I’ll be honest, this was my first inclination.  Ignore it, hope it goes away.  And it did for a good 18 months until my perpetrators followed me and started sending me email and trying to engage me in unwanted contact.  That’s when I realized action was needed.  And again, that action can look different to various folks. 
For me, having this space on Psychology Today is one of the greatest blessings.  It allows me a forum to educate and empower others while going through a difficult situation ideally so I can help others.  Yes, what I’m going through is challenging.  But I am 100% certain I am extremely privileged in the number of options at my disposal.  I don’t have any plans of leaving my office any time soon, but frankly if it came down to it, I could.  Many employees don’t have such luxuries and so their action plans will vary accordingly. 
Ideally, whatever the plan is, however big or small, there will be levels (i.e. ,Level 1, Level 2, etc.) to the plan.  Level 1 might involve self-care.  Level 2 might involve notifying a boss or supervisor.  If that doesn’t work, you might graduate to Level 3 which involves Human Resources.  If that doesn’t work and you can’t hire an attorney, maybe an old friend from college knows a lawyer on the cheap who can give some free advice or you have a great uncle three times removed who studied patent law but can at least give you some tips.  You don’t have to go all the way up the hierarchy initially.  Because again, this could be emotionally-driven and more trouble than it is worth.
Consider a formal complaint.
Filing a formal complaint can involve going to a governing body beyond the one in the workplace.  Again, this varies quite a bit depending upon the field and its norms.  For example, if you are a nurse, and the colleague that is harassing you is a fellow nurse or a physician, you may consider contacting the boards of that profession’s governing body.  Many times these bodies do not encourage such reports as they don’t want frivolous reports or reports made in retaliation.  However, bullying is serious and needs to be treated as such.  You can contact the governing bodies for possible information if it is needed. While these processes can be complicated and stressful, you must also consider whether or not you are protecting a greater good and population. The question you must ask yourself is would you want someone protecting you from a potentially unethical or unlawful (doctor, lawyer, accountant, massage therapist, etc.?)
Fight back through holding your head high.
This one is definitely easier said than done!  However, at the end of the day you have to try your best to keep your emotions in check and look at things as objectively as possible. Happy people do not bully people. It’s quite simple. So even though they may try intimidation tactics and attempt to harass you, bullies often pick their targets not because they are weak, but instead those targets are incredibly strong—they just often don’t know it themselves. Victims of bullying are often those who are kind, compassionate, and sensitive. Bullies don’t try to ensnare tough aggressive types in their webs. In his article, Should Workplace Bullying Be Illegal, Dr. Ronald Riggio suggests that bullies tend to go after those who are highly competent. 
Also, sometimes it can help to read between the lines. I was told numerous times by my bullies how they never viewed me as competition—talk about psychologists attempting mind games!  However, the fact that they kept repeating this also revealed their own insecurities regarding failure. In fact, when they thought I might be leaving for private practice, they regaled me with stories of how many times they almost went under and had to close their doors. The phones didn’t ring, they said.  Of course the phones didn’t ring, they were bullies! It’s called karma! Regardless, it can help to read for the meaning behind what is actually being communicated.  Bullies may attempt to manipulate and frighten, but remember that you are much wiser than they are—after all, that may be a large part of why you have been targeted!
In the end, one of the best ways of fighting back is by being the best version of your authentic self as is possible. When was it that one of the bullies approached me?  When I was happy, laughing and carefree. Unhappy bullies (as they all are) hate to see such levity because of the misery that lurks within themselves. So never stop smiling, and always hold your head up high.

Goal Auzeen Saedi Ph.D.
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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Are You Really Ready for Change?

Image result for changeAs we wrap up the 3rd quarter of 2017 it's time to start preparing for 2018. There are two main questions you need to ask yourself -- who are you spending time with and who is influencing your day-to-day? There are some people you need to better UN-derstand in order to progress.

Check it out these 3 groups.

#mindset #mindshift #newlifedra #people #changeisgood #life

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Rock Your World Naturally by Rekishia L. McMillan, MSW

Rock Your World Naturally 

In this powerful book, Rekishia shows you how to achieve optimal health and wellness by applying the 7 Divine Keys associated with the Rock Your World Naturally lifestyle. Each key will equip you with strategies designed to radically improve your health and quality of life. Within these pages you’ll discover:

●      Seven biblical keys to unlock extraordinary divine health

●      The relationship between your blood cells and health
●      What external forces are wrecking your healthy world
●      What is causing you to spin off of your personal axis
●      How to bring your world back into balance naturally
●      How to embrace the Rock Your World Naturally lifestyle for a lifetime

When these 7 Divine Keys are fully embraced, you will begin living the abundant life that you were intended to live.


NEW YORK, NY (AUGUST 15, 2017) - A Retired US Air Force Veteran, Rekishia L. McMillan, has launched a life transforming book geared towards a natural lifestyle.

The book, Rock Your World Naturally: 7 Divine Keys to Unlock Extraordinary Health, demonstrates how to achieve optimal health and wellness by applying the 7 Divine Keys. Delivered with a blended biblical approach, and tinged with scientific health research, the book assists readers with learning more about their body and the improvements required to achieve greater health. The author also shares her own personal health journey and the frustration she experienced with the complexities of the healthcare system. Over time, she discovered simple and natural ways of reversing the illnesses that were plaguing her world.
Rekishia is a MSW and Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.  During her 20-year military career, she served as a fitness training leader and academic instructor, teaching college courses on stress management, fitness, health and spiritual and mental fitness.  In 2012, Rekishia started Rock Your World Naturally health coaching services where she offers life changing strategies on nutrition, natural healing, stewardship of the earth and healthy eating. To produce this enlightening guide, the author pulled from her skills, as well as her knowledge of over 100+ dietary theories.
Questioned about her motivation to write the book, she said, "I am passionate about sharing the message of health with others to help them improve their lifestyle by following simple principles and holistic strategies that result in living happier, healthier and more satisfying lives."

With many reeling from the effects of poor food choices, environmental toxins and harmful everyday habits, Rock Your World Naturally: 7 Divine Keys to Unlock Extraordinary Health is a timely resource. Through this book, readers will understand the relationship between their blood cells and divine health, identify and overcome hidden obstacles that are wrecking their healthy world, heighten their awareness of the earth through responsible stewardship and end the cycle of following ineffective fad diets to experience natural and lasting weight loss and more.

To help readers easily follow the content in Rock Your World Naturally: 7 Divine Keys to Unlock Extraordinary Health, Rekishia also wrote a companion journal entitled, 28-Days and Beyond Wellness Journal. This guide will assist readers on their personal journey to wellness and equip them with tools to implement and create extraordinary health.

Rock Your World Naturally: 7 Divine Keys to Unlock Extraordinary Health and 28 Days and Beyond Wellness Journal are available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon. Proceeds from the books will go towards helping disadvantaged veterans. For further details, visit:
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