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December 2014



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Archive for December 12th, 2014




Do you look forward to seeing your family at the holidays, but then often come away feeling vaguely disappointed, confused, angry or guilty?


If this is true of you, then you need answers to what is truly going on in your family.  And you need them quickly since The Holidays are here. Is it possible to make this year’s family gathering less disappointing?




As a psychologist I have found that as adults, family dynamics have the power to make or break our holidays. And that family dynamics have the most power when they run under the surface, unseen and unknown by the family members themselves.


The bad news: it is often very difficult to change your family dynamics. The good news: it is usually not necessary to change them. Being able to see what is really going on between family members is enough to make you less vulnerable.


Here are Four Subtle Family Dynamics that can ruin your holidays:

  2. 1. Good Parent / Bad Parent: In this family, one parent is difficult, absent or mean; and the other is constantly trying to smooth over, hide or make up for his bad behavior. This dynamic is hard for many people to notice because we human beings have a natural tendency to see our parents as a unit. It leads to many confusing feelings, since the hurt caused by the Bad Parent doesn’t actually go away; it just gets smoothed over by The Good Parent. You are left sitting with pain which you cannot understand.
  2. 2. Black Sheep: In this family, there is one child who is identified (sometimes very subtly) as “the problem child,” “the troubled one,” or “the one who doesn’t fit in.” This dynamic is pernicious because it is actually one thing disguised as another. To all of the siblings, it appears that the Black Sheep is causing his or her own problems. Whereas the true cause is usually the parents. Typically the parents have somehow, below the radar (and often unaware themselves), singled out this child. Perhaps he is the child who is least similar to the parents; perhaps he is the child who needed something that the parents couldn’t give him. In any case, it is almost never the Black Sheep’s fault.


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Anxiety can be crippling, but sometimes it is a crucial part of getting the best out of yourself.


Artists, comedians, athletes and other performers often talk about the right amount of anxiety and how it can improve creativity and performance.


But anxiety also has a number of lesser known upsides…


1. People will trust you more


People who are feeling anxious can easily get embarrassed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because research shows people are more trusting.


Dr. Robb Willer, the study’s author explains:

“Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue.

Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight.

Embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources.

It’s part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in everyday life.”


2. Fewer fatal accidents


Anxious people often say they are less likely to be injured because they are thinking ahead, but is that really true?


Apparently it is.


One study has found that anxious adolescents are considerably less likely to be killed in an accident than their less anxious peers.


The authors explain:

“Our results suggest there are survival benefits of increased trait anxiety in early adult life, but these may be balanced by corresponding survival deficits in later life associated with medical problems.”


In other words: anxiety may get you down in the long-term but it keeps you alive.


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We’ve all heard the admonition “you need to forgive and forget.” Many of us heard this as a child from our parents when we had been wronged by a sibling or friend. We were told to turn the other cheek and give our pals another chance.
Some of us learned the idea behind this was the golden rule — do to others what we would have them do to us. As parents can be quick to point out, we’ve certainly been guilty of committing our own transgressions and needing forgiveness.

Our parents were not wrong. Knowing how to forgive someone is an essential life skill. It serves us well in our love lives and professional relationships. It saves friendships and restores our faith in our kids. And we definitely benefit from it when those in our lives are able to forgive us when we inevitably screw up.
Forgiving and forgetting is great in theory, but in reality it’s difficult. Below are four reasons why it’s important to forgive but not forget.
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