Good News for People Who Worry about Memory Loss
A lot of folks are worried about Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. While deterioration in cognitive abiltity is a serious problem for many, it is important to understand that most memory glitches are not permanent nor are they progressive. In fact, many memory problems are caused by other things such as anxiety, depression, dehydration and other medical conditions and most importantly ... are not indicators of Alzheimer's disease.
Recently there has been some good news for people who worry about forgetting things . According to the study, a person's ability to know that s/he has forgotten something is a strong inidcator that that their cognitive aparatus is in tact.
Nonethe less, if you are worried, the first thing to do if you have concerns about your memory or being forgetful, is to see your doctor. There are simple tests which can identify treatable issues which can clear up the problem and relieve your worry.
Also, learn more about what dementia and other cognition impairing conditions and what is actually involved. Here is a helpful link which provides more detailed information about what your doctor will look for. : https://www.healthafter50.com/memory/article/what-is-dementia-what-doctors-check-for?&utm_medium=email&utm_content=EMH_160815_001&utm_campaign=EMH&spMailingID=9355028&spUserID=MTQxMTQzNTkwMjc3S0&spJobID=981187311&spReportId=OTgxMTg3MzExS0
Remember : The more you know, the less you will worry needlessly !
Understanding the Psychology of Anger : Seeing the Panic behind the Rage
Anger has been in the news a lot lately. With all of the reports in the media about terrorist rampages, mass shootings, political unrest and protests, many people are very upset. A lot of folks feel like the character from the movie Network (1976) Howard Beale who screamed while doing his news broadcast, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Things have gotten so bad that one of the presidential candidates has become the voice of outrage and has done away with political niceties and crudely expresses the pent up frustration and anger felt by so many in our country.
Unfortunately anger is not simply a problem restricted to the media or politics. It has also become a series issue in our daily lives. Domestic violence in families is on the rise as is the general coarsening of our everyday social interactions. Not only are people not as polite as they used to be but the slightest conflict seems to trigger overreactions which include obscenities, yelling and worse.
While we can’t eliminate anger, a little psychological understanding can help us to cope with it more effectively and keep it from getting out of control. So, here are few things to keep in mind the next time you encounter someone who is angry or experience it yourself:
1. Anger is a natural emotion which occurs any time our expectations are frustrated. We all want what we want when we want it. When that doesn’t happen we get upset.
2. Anger is a secondary reaction. This is important to understand. Our first response to frustration and conflict is fear and a feeling of powerlessness! This immediate feeling is intolerable and is quickly replaced with anger.
3. Anger is a defensive reaction which projects strength to hide the feeling of weakness. For example when we are angry we often “raise” our voice because we feels so small or we attack with “cutting” remarks to cut others, who seem so much bigger and more powerful, “down to size”.
4. Anger is a stress response which disconnects neuropathways in our brain from our neo-cortex which is where judgment and logic reside. Anger is panic-based reflex in which the amygdale hi-jacks our high functioning brain. Literally anger reactions are irrational and, while a person is stuck in it, one cannot think straight.
5. Thus, it is important to know that you can’t reason with someone who is angry. Empathy, understanding and caring are the soothing experiences which calms anger and allows a person to regain access to his/her reasonable brain.
Anger is scary and, when out of control, it can be dangerous. Being able to see the fear and sense of powerlessness in the person (including yourself) who is angry can prevent one from reacting in kind and defusing a potentially explosive situation. Understanding the psychology of anger can also help us to be more compassionate in the midst of a difficult situation and the person regain his/her composure.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 8 5 2016
(with acknowledgment to Acadiana Thrifty for image)
The Psychology of Blaming: Learning to See the Fear Behind the Anger
When things go wrong it is normal to want to know why. Seeking understanding is an important way to learn and prevent future problems. Unfortunately, instead of seeking real answers which are often complicated, it is easier to find someone to blame.
Psychologically, the tactic of blaming is known as externalizing responsibility. It is important to understand that blaming is a defensive, secondary response. Blaming is a reaction which follows the primary experience of self-blame and panic. Ironically, behind the unpleasant facade of the blamer is a person who feels out of control. It is important to appreciate this sense of powerlessness when dealing with someone who is engaged in blaming.
Feeling ineffectual and as though s/he has no influence on his/her environment warps his/her perception into an irrational perspective. Since feeling powerless is an intolerable experience it quickly morphs into the defensive/attacking posture of anger which often takes the shape of blaming.
The first step in achieving a constructive conversation with someone who is blaming is to calm their panic and to restore a reasonable perspective. Calm and empathic listening is the best way to quiet upset feelings and reestablish a reasonable dialog. Being empathic simply means that one listens without judgment or criticism and conveys to the person that one understands and cares about their experience.
It is truly amazing to witness how powerful a little empathy is in changing an unpleasant confrontation in to a productive dialog.
For example, let’s imagine that Jim becomes upset with Sally when he sees the latest credit card statement and blames her for blowing the family budget. His first reaction may be shock and fear: How can I pay for all of this ? This initial reaction may be followed by a rapid flood of negative thoughts about how he is a financial failure or a loser. To combat this painful moment, he shifts to criticizing his wife for putting him in such a bad way.
Because he is reacting emotionally, he is not able to think rationally. He may block out important facts such as the unexpected expenses were unavoidable or that he had more money in his checking account than he thought he did. Even if there is a serious problem, Jim’s panic response keeps him from being understanding and kind to his wife. Instead of asking her to explain what happened, blaming responses short circuit a thoughtful examination of the problem.
If Sally is able to withstand the initial attack and remember that she loves Jim, she may be able to hear the fear beneath the bluster and respond with empathy and compassion. If she does, Jim will calm down and the two can work together to analyze and solve the problem.
Relationships are hard and require work. Learning to decode encrypted behaviors like blaming is a valuable skill to transform difficult situations into moments of growth and closeness in a relationship.
Rev. Michael Heath LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 7 20 2016
Psychological Manipulation: What it is and How to deal with it
Those who are disturbed by the level of incivility demonstrated in the recent presidential campaign have reason for concern. One of the important lessons emerging from new research is the finding that many people are simply unable to have reasonable conversations with those with whom they disagree.
Specifically, irrational conversational patterns which employ psychological manipulation occur more frequently than was previously believed. Unfortunately, emotional manipulation is not limited to politicians. Whether in the work place, with friends or at home, the use of psychological tactics to gain the upper hand and control disputed outcomes is widespread and is not only frustrating but can be even abusive.
While most of us have encountered someone who is “manipulative”, it is sometimes difficult to understand why things don’t feel right or know just what exactly is going on. Here are some tips to help you recognize, understand and deal with these frustrating situations.
To begin, at the heart of psychological manipulation is a collection of verbal and physical techniques designed to impose one person’s view or behavior on another when a conflict is encountered. Instead of respecting or accepting the other person’s position, a manipulator seeks to change and control it by resorting to emotional ploys.
Physical threats are an example of manipulation at its crudest and most abusive level but there are many less obvious emotional ploys which can be used to get the other person to change his/her mind and agree with the manipulator’s position. Typically, manipulative tactics exploit the other person’s irrational fears and self-doubts.
To get an idea of how more subtle manipulation feels, think of how Charles Boyer manipulated Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight. In the classic film, the evil husband (Boyer) drives his wife to the brink of madness by saying that things his wife saw actually happened - didn't.
The goal of the more subtle forms of manipulation is to discredit the validity of the person’s view by attacking their self-confidence or intelligence. Denial and misrepresentation of the facts are also used in addition to name calling, blaming and refusing to respond to critical flaws in the manipulator’s arguments are but a few of the ways manipulators attempt impose their will on the others.
People who are good at manipulation play upon emotional vulnerabilities and succeed in changing the subject from the issue at hand to the unreliability of the other person’s perception, knowledge or judgment.
If you find yourself in a conversation where you encounter any of these tactics, realize that you are not having a reasonable conversation but are being manipulated. The key to dealing with someone who is being manipulative is to recognize it and refuse to play along. If a person you are talking cannot be rational and accept the facts or respect your opinion , it is critical that you understand that reason will not hold sway in the conversation and that coming to an agreement or a rational compromise is not possible.
It is also important to remember that someone who is trying to manipulate does not care about the facts or your point of view. His/her only goal is to control the outcome to the situation. When manipulative conversations are detected, the only effective response to be made is to end the conversation immediately.
Thus, a good rule of thumb is don’t even try to talk with someone who is unable to be reasonable. While we can’t stop a person from being manipulative, we can decide not to engage or participate in a useless conversation. Doing so can greatly reduce the needless frustration and grief you will experience.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 7/7/2016 _____________________________
Coping with the Absurd and the Horrifying Stories in the News
The tragedy of the Orlando massacre has shaken America's soul and left many wondering why such atrocities continue to happen . Many people who are otherwise mentally healthy report experiencing increased anxiety and fear for no particular or obvious reason. If you are one of those folks or just someone doesn't know how to respond or cope when disaster strikes, here are some helpful tips for navigating distressed emotions in the wake of a calamity:
1) Understand that feeling stress in the aftermath of a disaster is normal. Our minds are not designed to cope with such outrageous events and we all are vulnerable to exaggerated fears and panic. Feeling temporarily out of control or being overwhelmed with sadness or anger is not unusual.
2) There is no normal or correct way to feel. People react in a variety of ways. Some get angry. Some get depressed. Some become numb. Some people withdraw. The way a person reacts is, to a large extent, determined by previous life experiences and his or her particular genetic makeup and vulnerability to shock.
3) If you are experiencing symptoms such as increased anxiety or irritability or feel detached from your surroundings, or have trouble sleeping, don't ignore the changes. Write down what you can observe in a private journal or talk about it with a friend. If writing or talking doesn't seem to help and your distress is really interfering with your daily life, call your doctor.
4) Although news coverage is ubiquitous, it is important to limit your exposure to the media and its coverage of such horrible events. Watching reports can increase your discomfort while avoiding the programing can help reduce the intensity of your distress.
5) Ask yourself what is most upsetting about any news report that causes your distress. Be specific and ask yourself if you have ever felt that way before in the past. Many times contemporaneous issues can connect with unhealed wounds from the past and generate intensely dysphoric experiences which are exaggerated and out of proportion to the actual stimulus. Being able to identify the antecedents can help you to factor out and focus on the present issue which can greatly reduce your sense of being overwhelmed.
6) Take an emotional helicopter ride. A powerful way to lessen the aftershock of tragic news is to change perspective and to get "above" it all. For example an airline crash is a terrible occurrence but when one realizes that crashes are very rare, this change of view point can help quiet our fears and calm our anxiety. Looking at events from a different point of view allows you to place yourself at a distance from the immediacy of the event and thus reduce its impact. Even though gun violence is a growing and serious threat which needs to be addressed, it doesn't happen every day and most of the time most of us are safe in our environment. Asking how a given tragedy immediately affects you personally is a good way to calm exaggerated fears.
Even though tragic events are out of our control, these simple steps can help us to cope and regain a reasonable perspective more quickly as you get through the ordeal. As always, if problems persist, seek professional help.
The Rev. Michael Heath 6 21 2016
(with acknowledgement to Getty photo)