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Melissa Lee-Tammeus, PhD/LMHC | Blog
Anger Is Not Bubble Made
4/14/19
Anger is perceived in our society as a very individualistic problem. When taking an individualistic approach, anger is recognized by exploring one’s negative perceptions in order to change them. But does this always work? Not so much.

Studies indicate that individual approaches to anger – that somehow one with anger lives in a sort of bubble of his or her own making – are archaic and are not near as helpful as once perceived (Costa & Babcock, 2008; Stop F.E.A.R. Coalition, n.d ). In contrast, a more collectivist approach that embraces the family is being looked at as a new way to address anger. A collectivist approach encompasses the individual but looks at much more than the anger and the person with it.

It takes into account family disagreements, qualities of dysfunction, and the role of expectations. Collectivist approaches are a new way of thinking about the family and its members and the anger that stifles its functioning. All of these factors can create destructive manifestations of anger (Jager, Bornstein, Putnick, & Heindricks, 2012). Studies indicate that a much more holistic approach needs to be taken when dealing with anger and angry behaviors (Costa & Bacock, 2008; Jager et al., 2012).

So, what does that mean for those who are dealing with anger?

You do have a responsibility for your behaviors and you do have to take a long hard look at what you are doing and how you are contributing to your family dynamics. But you also cannot expect to change within a vacuum. Sooner or later, you will have to test these things out in the real world. For most of us, the real world means family, partners and spouses, kids, co-workers.

This means you have to get real.

Let people know you have anger issues. Most likely, they already know. So fessing up gets rid of the elephant in the room.

Let them know you are working on it. And then hold yourself accountable. They will. So the more you add action to those words, the better.

Tell them your coping skills. Explain to them the changes you are trying to make. Ask them to help you make them. Accept that you will not be doing what you did before.

And, honestly? That’s going to freak people out. They may not know how to react. Before, at least they knew what to do. Now, there’s a new game in town. Let everyone know what you’re playing, which will change their game positions, too.

For instance, if you used to stay in the room and would end a fight by punching a wall and now you are trying like crazy to walk away and count to ten before that thought hits your fist, let that person know that taking a breather is the new ending. That you need that. That a hole in the wall is not the end. A walk away is a break and you will be back when you calm down.

Then, they know their part and they can help. They can let you walk away, knowing you will be back without the anger.

This will take time. Learning new lines to a really old play is hard work.

Anger is not just the individual. It affects everyone around you. Don’t pretend they are not there. If you are in therapy for anger, consider bringing them to a session, or two, or five. Let them in. Let them know you are rewriting.

Make a new play together.

References:

Costa, D., & Babcock, J. (2008). Articulated thoughts of intimate partner abusive men during anger arousal: Correlates with personality disorder features. Journal of Family Violence, 23(6), 295-402. doi: 10.1007/s10896-00-9163-x

Jager, J., Bornstein, M. H., Putnick, D. L., & Hendricks, C. (2012). Family members’ unique perspectives of the family: Examining their scope, size, and relations to individual adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 400-410.

Stop F.E.A.R. Coalition. (n.d.) Policy Statement on Couples Counseling & Anger Management in Domestic Violence Cases.
Get Your Sea Monkeys on or How to Get What You Want
4/14/19
Motive is defined as a drive, an instinct, a biological excitement (Bindra, 1985). One philosopher and psychologist, the one and only Sigmund Freud, had much to say about instinct and motivation.

Clear back in 1915, Freud wrote his famous work entitled Triebe und Triebschicksale. Here, he explained motivation as a part of our soul. We were designed – hardwired – for action. The unconscious had everything to do with innate drives that compel us to do things (Mills, 2004). He wasn’t far off from the biological model of motivation called the drive reduction model in which one is biologically driven to remain in a state of balance called homeostasis (Myers, 2011).

So the reason we get hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, or have to go to the bathroom during an important meeting when that’s the last thing we want to do is make a spectacle of ourselves by rushing to the exit? Yeah, that’s motivation. Your body wants balance and it’s gonna get it.



Freud believed in biological drives but that not all drives were biological. I know, right? He believed that drives had an aim – to create satisfaction and ultimately pleasure – which means they could go beyond biology.

So “the heart wants what the heart wants” ? Freud would totally agree.

But we need an object of that desire, whether it be real or fantasy, in order to really make it work.

For instance, I see a pair of boots I like, I want them, and then I convince myself I need them. I buy them to satisfy that drive. Is that drive real? Um, no. It is fantasy. Definitely. I don’t need the boots. I want the boots. But, it doesn’t matter – I’m still motivated and it works.

Maybe you’re not into boots. Maybe it’s something else. Like cookies. Or tools. Or sea monkeys.

There’s some fluidity with drives though, says Freud. So, one day you may want boots. One day sea monkeys. Or maybe sea monkeys with boots.

Now we know that Freud didn’t quite cover it all. Frank (2004) and other psychologists say that instincts and drives include not only objects and biological balances but the need for recognition, understanding of events, emotional availability by another, and affirmation (Akhtar, 1999). Frank (2004) suggested that in clinical settings and the like, we need to start focusing on needs and how we develop them over the lifespan. I could not agree more.

Helping others to explore their needs – both immediate and fantasy – are important in working with motivation and drive. After all, how do we know how to strive for something if we don’t know what that something is?

In my line of work, I often find students and clients alike struggling to put into words what they want. However, when focus is given to both the unconscious and conscious desires and they are brought to light, it seems to make motivation to get those things much more accessible.

So, today, give yourself permission to desire, want, and need. Then, you can bring forth the ways to get it.

References:

Akhtar, S. ( 1999). The distinction between needs and wishes: Implications for psychoanalytic theory and technique. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47, 113– 151.

Bindra, D. (1985). Motivation, the brain, and psychological theory. In S. Koch, & D. E. Leary (Eds.), A century of psychology as science (pp. 338–363). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Frank, G. (2003). Triebe and Their Vicissitudes: Freud’s Theory of Motivation Reconsidered. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 20(4), 691-697. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.20.4.691

Mills, J. (2004). Clarifications on Trieb: Freud’s Theory of Motivation reinstated. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 21(4), 673-677. Doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.21.4.673

Myers, D.G. (2011). Psychology in everyday life. Worth Publishers.
Cybersex: Harmless or Destructive?
4/14/19
Four years ago, the average amount of time people spent on cybersex, sex chat rooms, and internet pornography viewing was eleven hours per week. Today, the Zur Institute (2014) noted that there are 4.2 million pornographic websites and that these sites get 372 million hits daily. Search engines requests that include cybersex and pornography range to 68 million, which calculates to 25% of total search engine requests. The averages are rising and so are relationship issues associated with this past time.

Depending on the rules in a relationship, cybersex and pornography viewing may be seen as a type of affair or betrayal or it may not. But most often, regardless of the rules between couples, such practices can affect and destroy relationships. Such addictions are becoming more commonplace for couples and individuals and often come up in relationship counseling. Computer and internet use, regardless of content, creates a lack of family communication and bonding and has been linked to depression and isolation (Goldberg, 2008). Such over-usage affects the entire family, not just the one with the addiction (Young et al., 2000 as cited by Goldberg, et al., 2008). Partners of users of cybersex specifically have intense reactions to the usage such as hurt, betrayal, rejection, devastation, and loneliness (Goldberg, et al., 2008).

Those engaged in cybersex activity can experience sleep issues and personality and behavioral changes (Schneider, 2009). They tend to request and demand more privacy and alone time and may start giving up many family responsibilities. And believe it or not, there is also a disinterest in “real” sex with the partner that is actually there. Many times the types of cybersex engaged in online are not common or comfortable scenarios for the user and the partner as a couple, which make the consequences of the behavior even more of a betrayal (Schneider, 2009).

Most often it is the one who is not using the internet seeking help from a therapist. He or she often has a lot of conflict about the partner’s behaviors and habits and feels all the loss one feels in a case of infidelity. Feelings of disloyalty, desertion, conflict, and a loss of familiarity are prominent (Goldberg, et al., 2008).

If this seems to be a problem in your relationship, you are not alone. And you are not wrong for thinking it is important to address. Counseling is a great way to start looking at ways to heal the relationship and find joy in real sex with your partner, instead of competing with the internet.

References:

Goldberg, P. D., Peterson, B. D., Rosen, K. H., Sara, M. L. (2008). Cybersex: The impact of a contemporary problem on the practices of marriage and family therapists. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34(4), 469-480.

Schneider, J.P. (2009). Effects of cybersex addiction on the family: Results of a survey. In Moore, N. B., Davidson, J. K., & Fisher, T. D. (Eds.). Speaking of sexuality: Interdisciplinary readings (3rd ed.: pp. 568-580). New York: Oxford University Press.

Zuri Institute. (2014). Cybersex Addiction & Internet
Making Some Sunshine
7/12/15
Self efficacy is one’s personal belief system by which one thinks, creates action, and makes decisions (Bandura & Locke, 2003). Emotions and behaviors, we exude through self-efficacy, whether perceived as positive or negative, are super sensitive. They can be changed through external cues such as opinions and judgments of others. They can change on a dime when we compare ourselves to someone else. They can even grow based on encouragement and praise.

Whatever we chose affects how we feel about ourselves, what we think about ourselves, and what we do with ourselves every minute of every day (Bandura & Locke, 2003).

Self-efficacy theories are rooted in the core belief that we have the power to produce anything we want (Bandura & Locke, 2014). You’re like SuperHuman with the cape AND the cool ride. You just gotta know how to use it.

So, here’s the deal. Right now, latch on to one positive aspect that you are bringing to the table right now.

Is it the fact that you are kind to animals? Is it the fact that you can’t let a smile from a stranger go unreturned? Is it the fact that you could have thrown that cigarette out the window but you put it in the trash instead? Grab something, anything. I guarantee you can pick one positive thing. Reading this counts too, by the way. After all, it’s all about improvement, right? Points for you, right here! Woohoo!

When you focus on these positives in yourself, you can build a positive self-perception. Everyone deserves a bad-ass self-perception. You deserve to know you matter.

It matters that you contributed to society by cleaning up your own mess, or spreading a bit of sunshine, playing with an animal that needed attention, or reading something with the hope of self improvement.

Reiterating and acknowledging your contributions gives you permission to be even more engaged next time around.

And guess what? Imagine what happens when you pick out positives for others to help with their self-perception? We are talking unicorns and cotton candy for all, people.

What is important to remember when thinking about self-efficacy is that we all are sensitive to environmental cues. We can either stifle that in ourselves or others or we can help it blossom. Bandura and Locke (2003) said that “erroneous feedback serves as a form of persuasory influence” (para. 12).

Your words and actions have power. Everything you say, everything you do, can build up your worth or tear it down.

So, give yourself some sunshine. There’s more where that came from.

References:

Bandura, A., &, Locke, E. A. (2003). Negative self-efficacy and goal effects revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(1), 87–99.
Divorce: Being the Bigger Person
7/12/15
Cheating is the primary reason for divorce. Incompatibility, substance abuse, and simply growing apart are close runner-ups (Amato & Previti, 2003).

But, even with all that against a couple, usually only one part of that couple wants to end it. Women, roughly 75% of the time, are the ones to start divorce proceedings (Lawler, 2007).

The person that takes that step to make it official is called the “leaver” while the other – and kids are “other,” too, by the way – is considered the “victim” (Lawler, 2007, p. 1). Even if it is seems entirely legit as to why the leaver is leaving, you don’t get to claim victim. There’s your first clue that this is not going to be pretty.

And, really, there’s only two ways a divorce goes down – by orderly separation or by disorderly separation. These are nice legal terms that mean sort of tolerable and off the chain horrific.

Clearly, an orderly separation is the best. But it’s also the hardest. It takes interaction, collaboration, and honesty. Possibly, you never had this as a couple, so how in the world do you get it now? And more over, you don’t need this just between the two of you, but with your kids and even the grandparents. Believe it or not, you’re not the only one going through this – feelings of loss and grief are free for the taking (Drew & Silverstein, 372; Salts, & Smith, 2003).

Orderly separation look like this: relationship boundaries and expectations for everyone talked about and agreed upon, plans made ahead of time for everything from holidays to school pickup times, and when something ain’t working you say it then and there and fix it then and there. When spouses can work as cooperative colleagues, adjustments can be made and it can happen quickly and with less negativity (Lawler, 2007; Salts & Smith, 2003).

Damn hard to do. Someone has to be the bigger person. All the time.

If no one takes that role of the bigger person, then a disorderly separation is most likely. This is where the past clashes with the present. This is where the past and present hurt blinds the future possibilities. Granted, it’s damn hard to see through the pain and feelings of desertion and vulnerability. It can put a cloud over anything that resembles “be the bigger person.”

But here’s the deal. Your kids have it way worse than you. They are victims, too, remember. They witness the fighting. They are the ones who get ignored. They are the ones that become the pawns in the ridiculous game of who hurts more (Taanila, Laitinen, Moilanen & Järvelin, 2002).

So, whether you are the leaver or the victim, you gotta work on what happens next. Without the honesty, the placed boundaries, the expectations voiced and understood, even the terminology discussed and dissected and agreed upon, dissension and confusion for all family members will keep growing (Taanila et al., 2002).

Your best bet if you can’t be the bigger person is to get some mediation (Lawley, 2007; Salts & Smith, 2003). Having someone outside of the emotional situation can help a couple come to an understanding about the new roles, boundaries, and expectations that need to occur.

And find yourself some support because you will not get it from your ex. Not the way you need it. Find a divorce group, or sympathetic friend, or a compassionate family member. Get yourself a therapist.

The dissolution of a relationship is nothing short of experiencing a death. Your emotions and coping skills will be unpredictable and extreme. One minute they will be there. The next minute they won’t. You will not be the bigger person all the time, no matter how hard you try. After all, it’s not just you in this.

But give it your best shot. Your kids’ future is worth that. And so is yours.
You Can't Say That! or Can You?
7/12/15
In the United States, we have this thing called free speech. We can say whatever we like, however we like. Granted, at times, it may be distasteful, brutal, or lack sincerity and truth, but never the less, we are granted the right to say it.

You may pay some sort of price for it, though.

You can work and then come home and complain about work. But you could get fired the next day based on the rules of your employment.

You can come home and then complain about the government’s policies with no thought of concern about the FBI at your door. But, then again, there’s a limit to that as well.

But even then, you do have a right to fight for justice, whatever that may mean to you. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (n.d.), you are entitled to “the right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Article 19).

In case there’s any confusion regarding what this right entails, the document clarifies: “this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas . . . regardless of frontiers” (Universal Declaration, n.d., Article 19).

So, let’s take this down a notch.

How much interference are you giving yourself in sharing your thoughts, ideas, dreams, insecurities, etc., etc., etc.?

How many chains are you putting on yourself in holding back what you really want to, need to, have to say?

How often do you truly exercise this right?

How often do you hold back for the sake of someone’s feelings? Or the fear of embarrassment? Or the anxiety of judgment?

How much are you not saying because you are afraid of the change it may bring?

There may be a legitimate reason why you are not exercising your free speech. After all, picking your battles is important. Getting fired may not be worth a moment of free speech. Joking about your need to blow up a government building due to the long line at the DMV may not quite be worth the time spent in the security area of your local police department.

But, how much are you holding back at the expense of your needs? Your desires? Your morals? Your sense of self? Your self esteem?

It may be time to exercise that right of free speech.

Because you may be paying the price for not doing it too.

References:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (n.d.) Retrieved from
Listening to the Quiet
7/12/15
Lately, I have discovered something about myself. I am slowly becoming a quiet person. This is big news coming from a loud mouthed Leo who used to do or say anything to get attention. Pierce your navel for you at a party? Check. Get a nose ring? Check. Have a comment for every conversation ever involved in or even the ones not? Check. Be the one to talk to this or that person? Check. Be the one to get the party started? Check. Nude beach? Check. Color my hair all different shades? Check. Make a lot of noise? Check. Wear the highest heels ever? Check. (Well, truth be told, I still do this one – there’s just too many shoes to ignore out there).

But, as I have aged and the longer I work in this career called mental health counseling and teach to my college students, I have found out many things. I am beginning to really observe others who are on the quieter side and am starting to see an incredible strength in them I never truly appreciated before. I am discovering some amazing things on this journey of just being quieter.

1) The quietest people, when given the time and platform, have very important things to say.

2) There is beauty in silence. When we allow the quiet, emotions have a chance to speak all on their own.

3) Truly hearing someone requires listening without talking. To be in that present moment and not be preparing to say something back is incredibly freeing.

4) Interrupting with the pretense that you are “so excited” to add your two cents is simply disrespectful.

4) Despite all the chatter, not a lot gets said most of the time.

5) It’s okay not to be the center of attention. This does not mean you are not important. This means that you don’t need to be the center of attention to know you are important.

6) You learn an awful lot if you just shut up.

7) Just because you are the one talking, it doesn’t necessarily mean people are listening.

8) Your words matter more when they are spoken less.

Ever know that person who never shuts up? You walk away from them knowing everything about them and they didn’t even ask you how you were? Yep, me too.

I don’t want to be that person. The less I become that person, the more I see that in others. It’s discouraging. So much chatter. So little communication.

I used to think that in order to prove my knowledge or worth or show I was paying attention, I had to make sure everyone knew I was there. That my opinion was heard.

Now, not so much.

I think I’ve come to a place in my life in which I am comfortable not bleating my own horn or making sure people see me. I’m good. I don’t need your approval to know my own worth. And I can be quiet and simply watch the chaos around me. Or listen to someone else with the pure joy of truly understanding what they are saying.

Now, believe me, you. I speak up when I believe it is important. But, if I am really honest, over the years, much of the things that have come out of my mouth – all that talking – well, it wasn’t that important. It was just attention seeking. That’s a tough thing to admit.

I am now learning to pick my conversations. I am learning to let others have the floor. I am learning that my worth is not in my ability to talk more than the next person, or to talk louder than the next person, or have the better story, or have the only story.

What I am really learning is that being quiet is okay.