Aug 10

“Set Boundaries, Find Peace”: Selected Quotes

Boundaries are expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships. Expectations in relationships help you stay mentally and emotionally well. Learning when to say no and when to say yes is also an essential part of feeling comfortable when interacting with others.  Nedra Glover Tawwab, Set Boundaries, Find Peace

Therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab has written a practical book about boundaries. In Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself (2021) she “identifies six types of boundaries—physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional, material, and time” (Publishers Weekly).

The following quotes will give you helpful ideas about how to set boundaries to improve your life.

Tell people what you need.

Assume that people know only what you tell them, honor only what you request, and can’t read your mind.

Setting limits won’t disrupt a healthy relationship.

Setting boundaries is not a betrayal of your family, friends, partner, work, or anyone or anything else.

Neglecting self-care is the first thing to happen when we get caught up in our desire to help others.

Avoidance is a passive-aggressive way of expressing that you are tired of showing up.

The ability to say no to yourself is a gift. If you can resist your urges, change your habits, and say yes to only what you deem truly meaningful, you’ll be practicing healthy self-boundaries. It’s your responsibility to care for yourself without excuses.

We can’t create more time, but we can do less, delegate, or ask for help.

…I say no to things I don’t like. I say no to things that don’t contribute to my growth. I say no to things that rob me of valuable time. I spend time around healthy people. I reduce my interactions with people who drain my energy. I protect my energy against people who threaten my sanity. I practice positive self-talk. I allow myself to feel and not judge my feelings. I forgive myself when I make a mistake. I actively cultivate the best version of myself. I turn off my phone when appropriate. I sleep when I’m tired. I mind my business. I make tough decisions because they’re healthy for me. I create space for activities that bring me joy. I say yes to activities that interest me despite my anxiety about trying them. I experience things alone instead of waiting for the “right” people to join me.

Those of us who are people-pleasers assume that others won’t like it when we advocate for what we want. Therefore, we pretend to go along in an effort to be accepted by others. But healthy people appreciate honesty and don’t abandon us if we say no.

Once you grow beyond pleasing others, setting your standards becomes easier. Not being liked by everyone is a small consequence when you consider the overall reward of healthier relationships.

Remember: there is no such thing as guilt-free boundary setting. If you want to minimize (not eliminate) guilt, change the way you think about the process. Stop thinking about boundaries as mean or wrong; start to believe that they’re a nonnegotiable part of healthy relationships, as well as a self-care and wellness practice.

Of course we have no way of knowing how someone else will respond to our assertiveness. When someone has a history of rage and anger, it’s understandable that we would avoid setting limits with that person. But we victimize ourselves further when we let our fear prevent us from doing what we need to do.

Jul 27

Soul Mates: Do You Believe in Them?

Do you believe in the concept of soul mates? If so, here are some views you may dislike:

I don’t believe in soul mates, not exactly. I think it’s ridiculous to think there’s only one person out there for us. What if your ‘soul mate’ lives in Zimbabwe? What if he dies young? I also think ‘two souls becoming one’ is ridiculous. You need to hold on to yourself. But I do believe in souls being in sync, souls that mirror each other.
Richelle Mead, Last Sacrifice

Nothing has produced more unhappiness than the concept of the soul mate. Frank Pittman (1935-2012), psychiatrist

There’s no such thing as a soulmate…and who would want there to be? I don’t want half of a shared soul. I want my own damn soul.”
Rachel Cohn, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List

But I’m not going to stop at listing these negative opinions—I’m going to add even more! Why? Because I too do not believe in the concept of having just one soul mate.

To my mind, the idea of finding one’s ‘soul mate’ has about as much basis in truth as the idea that each of us has a doppelganger (an ‘evil twin’) and that if we somehow chance to meet up, a bloody duel will surely ensue, because one of us must die. Shauna H. Springer, PhD, Psychology Today

Moreover, I don’t think believing in one does you any favors. From psychologist Bjarne Holmes‘s post “Why You Should Stop Searching for Your Soul Mate” (Psychology Today):

Research has quite clearly shown that a strong belief in destiny can actually be harmful to you and your relationship. Here’s why. Having the mentality of believing that you’ve found your soul mate is related to all kinds of unhealthy thinking about your love life.

One of the main issues is that believers in having just one soul mate might skimp on doing the work needed to keep their relationship going strong. Holmes offers some tips, which I’m paraphrasing below:

  • Practice and work make for an enduring bond; just having a belief in fated romance—or in finding your “soul mate”—doesn’t.
  • When you’re with a good match, time may indeed lead to feeling that this person is your “soul mate.” But that depth of feeling comes with communication, patience, understanding, and other relationship building blocks.
  • Other beliefs often related to the soul mate fallacy include that your partner can read your mind and that the great sex will last forever. No. Couples have to talk; mates have to continually nurture their relationship.

Where do you fit regarding belief in soul mates? Holmes links you to the following quiz: http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/home/2011/5/6/do-you-believe-in-soulmates-is-love-like-a-garden-take-the-q.html 

Jul 13

“Maid”: Emotional Abuse At Core of Series

While the highly acclaimed Netflix series Maid, based on Stephanie Land‘s memoir (Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive) has no shortage of important themes, e.g., single motherhood, poverty, childhood trauma, and mental health, what I want to single out in this post is the emotional abuse that lands 20-something Alex (brilliantly played by Margaret Qualley) into her multi-episode life-changing predicament.

Kristen Lopez, Indiewire, sets up Maid:

The audience meets Alex as she’s embarking on a transition far too many have to make: fleeing in the middle of the night, trying not to wake her boyfriend, Sean (Nick Robinson), in order to protect her daughter (and herself) from the emotionally abusive alcoholic. Alex and her child make it out, but that’s only the beginning of where series creator Molly Smith Metzler takes us throughout the series.

At first, though, even Alex herself seems unaware, or unwilling to admit, that Sean has actually been abusive. She doesn’t understand why a domestic violence shelter is recommended to her by a caseworker.

Amy Polacko, Ms: “…Alex is brainwashed by society to believe abuse is purely physical—so the young mom doesn’t even realize she’s a victim.”

The most stunning part of this series that’s taking America by storm is not that it expertly depicts the cycle of abuse. It’s Alex’s metamorphosis along the way—because this mirrors the forces at work in our country right now. Ultimately, Maid begs the question: If a few states are following the United Kingdom’s lead by passing coercive control laws, are we as Americans ready to put emotional abuse on par with physical?

Gina Michele Yaniz, Hollywood Reporter: “‘Maid’ challenges the government’s definition of domestic abuse and urges lawmakers to accept that abuse transcends just physicality and violence, it translates to emotional torture that can ruin someone’s life if they don’t have the resources to free themselves from the shackles of an abusive relationship.”

Psychologist Valeria Sabater, Exploring Your Mind, regarding the specifics of Sean’s abusive behavior:

He doesn’t ever physically assault Alex or her daughter. However, violence is exercised through shouting, threats, contempt, and the desire to isolate and emotionally control her.

An important post for abuse survivors by Amanda Kippert, Domesticshelters.org, first warns of the possible triggering viewers may experience while watching Maid. Then Kippert outlines “The 6 Things Maid Got Spot-On” (and one thing they got wrong).

1. Nonphysical abuse is abuse. 

2. Lack of money is a major barrier for single mom survivors to leave an abuser.

3. Nonphysical abuse often goes unreported.

4. Pregnancy can trigger violence.

5. Childhood domestic violence victims are at increased risk for abuse as adults.

6. Survivors are often treated less-than.

And the thing they depicted unfairly? You don’t need to have a police report to call a shelter.

If you or someone you care about needs help, please consider contacting The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or www.thehotline.org.

Jul 06

The Science of Humor: “Ha!” by Scott Weems

Although the science of humor has always held special appeal to me, much of the research is dry. Not that it’s supposed to be funny, but come on.

But the book Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why (2014) by cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems, PhD, is among the better resources.

An excerpt from the review by Publishers Weekly:

Weems examines various categories of humor and what they say about human thought and behavior, including ‘gallows humor,’ ‘lawyer jokes,’ and meta-humor. He tackles the ‘Are women less funny than men?’ controversy, notes a study that revealed the tangible negative impact of sexist jokes, outlines personality traits that supposedly contribute to a person’s funniness, ponders why computers can’t master humor, and investigates how comedic timing operates.

More science of humor from Kirkus Reviews:

Both humor and problem-solving require insight, creativity, psychological health and intelligence; in fact, writes Weems, ‘the smarter we are, the more likely we are to share a good joke.’ Surprise is essential in humor. We laugh at a story that abruptly reveals an incongruity, but this requires a mature brain with vast experience of the world and one that works obsessively to find patterns in the messy, ambiguous information that bombards it. Young children and those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders often cannot tell a joke from a lie.

A GoodReads reviewer states some “fun conclusions” in Ha! that he appreciated:

…Common sense walks, humor dances…A humorous attitude signifies an engaged mind…People who are quick to laugh are quick to forget stressful experiences…Because the human brain can hold two or more opposing ideas at the same, it often resolves the apparent conflicts with humor, which recognizes the incongruities…Humor is a psychological coping mechanism for a life full of absurdities and ambiguities.

British researcher Richard Wiseman, Weems tells us, analyzed the responses of tons of people to many different examples of humor. Weems explains some results (The Huffington Post):

Of the thousands of jokes analyzed in Wiseman’s study, the ones rated highest by everybody included some shock or surprise, but not so much that they became the centerpiece of the joke. More important was a sense of false expectations being overturned. My personal favorite involved two ducks sitting on a pond. One of the ducks says, ‘Quack.’ The other quickly responds, ‘I was going to say that!’ It’s hard to be offended by that.

What did Wiseman’s science determine was the funniest joke in the world? (Keep in mind that not everyone will agree.)

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He’s not breathing and his eyes are glazed, so his friend calls 911. ‘My friend is dead! What should I do?’ The operator replies, ‘Calm down, sir. I can help. First make sure that he’s dead.’ There’s a silence, then a loud bang. Back on the phone, the guy says, ‘Ok, now what?’

What makes you a funny person? States Weems: “When we refer to someone as having a humorous personality, what we mean is that this person sees the ambiguity, confusion, and strife inherent in life and turns them into pleasure.”

Jun 22

Sarah Kendzior Continues to Warn of a Gaslit Nation

We have a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government. Sarah Kendzior

Expert in authoritarianism Sarah Kendzior, author of The View from Flyover Country (2018) and Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America (2020) will have a new book coming out in September. It’s called They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent.

Also co-host of the popular podcast “Gaslit Nation,” Sarah Kendzior is an important voice regarding not only the sociopolitical causes and effects of Trumpism but also the related psychology. Below are quotes from each book that I find particularly pertinent for Minding Therapy readers.

I. Flyover Country

It is easy, when people feel frightened and abandoned, for a demagogue to exploit those feelings of despair for political gain. It is easy for that demagogue to translate fear into fanaticism, to shift extremism into the mainstream and market it under the guise of populism. By the time buyer’s remorse hits, a new and more brutal political culture has arisen. A gaslit nation becomes engulfed in flames.

When survival is touted as an aspiration, sacrifice becomes a virtue. But a hero is not a person who suffers. A suffering person is a person who suffers.

Paranoia is aggression masked as defense. It was paranoia (and hubris, and greed) that caused the run-up to the Iraq War; it is paranoia that leads to thousands of innocent Muslims being profiled in New York; it is paranoia that led to Trayvon Martin being shot to death on the street. In Congress, paranoia is less a style than a sickness, employed less with flourish than with fear. Paranoia is the refusal to recognize others except as filtered through ourselves—and how do Americans see themselves? Afraid, afraid, afraid.

II. Hiding in Plain Sight

“Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear,” scholar of fascism Hannah Arendt wrote after the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

The nightmares I had been fending off had come home in the form of the Trump administration: a white supremacist kleptocracy linked to a transnational crime syndicate, using digital media to manipulate reality and destroy privacy, led by a sociopathic nuke-fetishist, backed by apocalyptic fanatics preying on the weakest and most vulnerable as feckless and complicit officials fail to protect them.

Authoritarianism is not merely a matter of state control, it is something that eats away at who you are. It makes you afraid, and fear can make you cruel. It compels you to conform and to comply and accept things that you would never accept, to do things you never thought you would do.

Once an autocrat gets into office, it is very hard to get them out. They will disregard term limits, they will purge the agencies that enforce accountability, they will rewrite the law so that they are no longer breaking it. They will take your money, they will steal your freedom, and if they are clever, they will eliminate any structural protections you had before the majority realizes the extent of the damage.

“No one saw it coming,” but what they mean is that they consider the people who saw it coming to be no one. The category of “no one” includes the people smeared by Trump in his propaganda: immigrants, black Americans, Muslim Americans, Native Americans, Latino Americans, LGBT Americans, disabled Americans, and others long maligned and marginalized—groups for whom legally sanctioned American autocracy was not an unfathomable horror, but a personal backstory.