Posted by Golie Zarabi
Recently I've been getting a lot of comments from my girlfriends about a "certain way" I have been acting. They say that I tend to be a bit paranoid and suspicious of them. As much as it offended me, it sounded familiar. Many of my ex- boyfriends have said the same thing to me. Why am I always expecting the worst from my friends? Why do I have trouble trusting people? -Anonymous
Being able to accept and explore our friends' feedback about ourselves often demonstrates a lot of insight and an interest in self awareness and improvement. It sounds like their statements resonated with you.
Since past boyfriends have also mentioned your tendency to be a bit "paranoid" and "suspicious", I wonder if this has been a life long view you have had of people. Is this a pervasive outlook? In other words, is this the lens in which you see the world? Is this how you experience the people around you?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a theory of psychology that explores the ways in which the way we think affects our emotions, describes that all individuals have a framework in which they view the world, the people around them, and themselves. Our schemas, how we interpret the world, are at the core of our belief systems. When negative schemas become our pervasive outlook, they can begin to dictate our lives. For example, one's schema may be that "the world is an unsafe place" or "you can't trust anyone". If this schema becomes a rigid view of how we experience those near and dear to us, it can become dysfunctional and impact the quality of our relationships.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often focused on changing these schemas and replacing them with new healthy outlooks. Essentially a new lens.
You explained that you have trouble trusting people, and are always expecting the worst from those around you. I wonder if you had an experience where this view was true. An experience where someone proved to be untrustworthy? That said, I imagine that your past relationships and current friendships have also had instances of trust, and loyalty. It is important to recognize if these experiences have been overlooked and minimized, and negative experiences have been maximized. Minimizing and maximizing certain experiences often represent a negative bias we may have about our relationships. At its core, these biases originated from our schemas.
Often certain moments in our lives, or experiences in our relationships, lead us to an "Aha" moment which can inspire further self reflection. It would be beneficial to explore these foundational schemas, or experiences that have sustained these worries and concerns in a safe therapeutic environment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be a good tool for this process towards self awareness.
Questions & Comments:
10.28.13 at 4:02 pm |
10.15.13 at 12:44 pm | Therapists: My boyfriend and I have been. . .
6.12.12 at 8:55 pm |
5.17.12 at 10:21 am |
3.24.12 at 10:40 am | Sometimes I smoke too much, and I can be a bit. . .
1.31.12 at 9:55 pm | It is very important to explore the causes of. . .
October 15, 2013 | 12:44 pm
Posted by Golie Zarabi
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost five years. I believe that he is thinking about marriage soon. I am afraid of committing to marriage because I feel he may not be the one I am supposed to be with. For the last three years I have been also seeing other people here and there and my boyfriend has no idea about it. My boyfriend works all the time and at night is usually too exhausted to take me out or spend time with me. He doesn't have time to give me attention but I know he is working hard to make money for our future. The other men I have been seeing have been very attentive and fun to be around. They know it is nothing serious and I don't want anything serious from them. I don't know why I keep doing this to him he does not deserve this.
Thank you for sharing your situation with us. I understand the need to gain an awareness of the motivations behind our actions and to figure out how to improve our current situations.
You shared that you have been "seeing other people here and there" for much of your relationship. I wonder about these experiences and whether they are isolated events or continuous relationships? What were your intentions for these encounters and in what periods in your life do these relationships emerge? You expressed that your boyfriend is often too busy working or too tired to spend time with you. Often times when we are not given the attention or affection we are seeking from our partner, we search to get these needs met elsewhere. The sense of loneliness or feelings of rejection are filled by other means or by other people. Often our current relationship dynamics are indicative of our relationships and attachment styles in childhood. Do you remember ever feeling abandoned or rejected by your early childhood caregivers? Were you able to express your needs and get those needs met? Do you feel comfortable speaking to your partner about your dissatisfaction with the amount of time you spend together or the quality of those interactions? Often we look for connection outside of our relationships when we are unable to assert ourselves and ask to have our needs met within the boundaries of our committed relationships. If the work is done within the relationship between partners, it lessens the necessity to look outside of the relationship to give us what we feel we are lacking. Interestingly, there is often a subconscious motivation behind what we do. Your experiences with other men have given you enough of the "attention" you are looking for in order to actually stay in your relationship with your boyfriend. These indiscretions have worked as a crutch to help you fill the void you have been feeling, allowing you to continue your relationship with your boyfriend for this long. I wonder, if you were to stop your extra marital relationships how much longer would your relationship with your boyfriend last? Would you be able to tolerate your sense of isolation? With what you have shared, I can understand why you may be ambivalent about an upcoming marriage proposal. Until partners are both able to ask for what they want and work to build a relationship where both partners are getting their needs met, each individual is more likely to look outside of their relationship to feel completely satisfied.
Good luck !
June 12, 2012 | 8:55 pm
Posted by Golie Zarabi
I am 29 years old, and just started a new relationship. For the last couple years I dated casually, but really wanted to have a boyfriend again. I was discouraged for years, feeling that no one would love me again. Now that Im in a relationship, I am slowly realizing that Im still not satisfied. My boyfriend is great and very kind to me but Im not as happy as I thought I would be. I really thought that I wanted to be with someone again, and now I feel like I want to be single.
I understand how discouraging it must be to finally get what you believed you wanted and still not be fulfilled. It seems that you had put a lot of weight on being in a relationship and yet you are still not satisfied. Many times we look outside of ourselves for something to save us from our current state. Often we look to these external means to fulfill a void within us, or to distract ourselves from dealing with what may be the real issue at hand. What did you hope to get from the relationship? What matter was it going to alleviate for you? What feelings or thoughts do you have that leave you unsatisfied and discouraged? You say that you were unhappy being single and now you feel the same in a relationship. If you feel that a relationship is supposed to fill an emptiness and it doesn’t, this may be a sign that this emptiness has nothing to do with a relationship at all. Looking within and gaining more self awareness may bring to light factors that have been overlooked and avoided. Until these concerns are brought to the surface and given the right attention you may continue to feel dissatisfied regardless of your relationship status.
May 17, 2012 | 10:21 am
Posted by Natalie Landver
For the last few months, I have been extremely anxious about people closest to me dying. I have always been somewhat nervous around this issue, but lately, it has escalated. I always think of the worst scenarios of what can go wrong (Always sudden deaths). The thought of loosing my husband terrifies me, and as much as I try not to think about it, the thoughts are there. I used to feel this way about family members too. Most of the time, I realize that these thoughts are crazy, but I am still having trouble getting them out of my mind on a daily basis. How can I better deal with this problem?
Fear of death and loosing our loved ones is not that uncommon. However, becoming consumed by these thoughts, and feeling constant panic about them can be a problem, and may be tipping over to a form of anxiety disorder. It sounds like what you may be going through is an existential crisis. In simplest terms, an existential crisis is a stage of development through which an individual questions the very foundations of life. Often times, when answers to these questions such as the meaning and purpose of life are no longer providing satisfaction, direction, and peace of mind, a person feels fear. This person also comes to terms with the fact that life is not fully in his or her control.
I wonder if this notion of control has been a reoccurring theme in your life. It is also important to note that you do not mention the fear of your own life, rather, fear of people you seem to feel very attached to. It is important for you to explore the type of relationships you have with these people, what they mean to you, and if your dependency on them has a role in these fears of loss.
The fact that this fear has recently escalated makes me question if anything has happened to magnify this feeling. Do you recently feel more attached to your husband then before? Sometimes increased intimacy and the ability to love someone deeper may trigger the already innate fear of loss. At other times feeling unexpressed anger toward our loved ones may shift into fantasies of loss.
The fact that you imagine these “deaths” as sudden implies a cognitive distortion. This means that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true in this moment. These false thoughts usually lead to negative emotions. Cognitive distortions can show themselves in several different ways, but it seems to be manifesting through a term called catastrophizing. This is when people expect disaster to strike no matter what, and they tend to amplify the problem, no matter how big or small. It would be wise for you to talk about these feelings you are experiencing, to better understand them, and to work through them. We all experience unsettling feelings, however, the more you attend to your well being, the better suited you can be when facing these issues.
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March 24, 2012 | 10:40 am
Posted by Natalie Landver
My wife and I have been together for 3 years and we love each other very much. However, she believes that I am addicted to cigarettes. I personally don’t see it like that. I agree that sometimes I smoke too much, and I can be a bit irresponsible at times. But she wants me to cut them out of my life for good. I told her I would not smoke for 2 weeks to prove that I can handle it, but the truth is, I don’t want to stop smoking. I told her I should only stop smoking if I truly want to, not for her, but I also don’t want to lose her, so maybe I should do it for her. I wonder if that is a good reason to quit though, and if I will resent her for that. What do you think?
Dear Feeling Confused,
You seem quite aware of your desire to continue smoking, and per your post, you are resistant to quit unless it is on your own terms. In fact what you are expressing is not too far from the norm. The success in quitting any addictive substance or habit depends so much on the motivation of the individual. In the addiction circle, it is believed that most people become motivated to quit only when they “hit rock bottom.” For some this may come as the simple realization that their health can be compromised, and for others it may come with a higher price like being left by a loved one. Whether or not you are addicted to smoking cigarettes, it is clear that you have not reached a point where you are self-motivated to quit. No one can force upon you to quit smoking, however, the question becomes, are you willing to deal with the consequences associated to continuing to smoke? It seems like you are contemplating that if you do not quit, you may lose your wife. Therefore, it feels to you that you would be quitting for her sake. It would be more useful if you shifted your thinking and looked at the decision to quit not for her sake but for your own sake because not wanting to loose her is about your need and not hers. So you are right, you should not have to quit for her; it should be because you want to. But which desire is stronger? Remaining in a marriage to her, or the desire to smoke?
In the end, however, this is a marriage, and the two of you should be able to have a free and open dialogue about this, as this would set the tone for all your other disagreements.
Finding a win/win situation is always the best outcome.
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January 31, 2012 | 9:55 pm
Posted by Monica Farassat
I have recently been obsessing over my future. I don’t know specifically what I am so worried about but I have been thinking about it a lot. With the new year, I think a lot about where I am going to be by the end of the year. I worry about my career, whether or not I am making the right choices. I worry about finances, and no longer want to get money from my father. I want to be able to control my worries.
If you were in my office, I would ask you several questions: How long have your “obsessions about your future” begun? Did anything happen to trigger these thoughts and concerns? Is this just a current state of affairs for you, or have you always suffered from anxiety?
Your last statement “I want to be able to control my worries” is reflective of how you must be suffering. Anxiety is a very difficult and hard to tolerate state of being. Unfortunately, many people suffer from it. Anxiety can be situational and acute, caused by an uncontrollable event, or it can be chronic, with often a genetic predisposition. This means that we can inherit anxiety, and at times, aside from a learned behavior, there are chemical imbalances in the brain that can contribute to the anxiety.
It is very important to explore the causes of your anxiety. Whatever it is, it is quite necessary to take care of it before it becomes bigger than life. The good news is that this can be treated.
Anxiety often covers unprocessed feelings. In your case the theme seems to be about your fear of helplessness toward an unpredictable world, and your doubts about your ability to take care of yourself. This may have to do with your developmental stage of transitioning into an adult; or it may be based on some outside reality of financial hardship; or yet it could be related to something completely undifferentiated. Sometimes when we do not feel in control of our lives we project that fear onto everything outside of ourselves. Another strong feeling that anxious people experience is the feeling of guilt, which seems reflected in your need not to be dependent on your dad for money.
I highly recommend that you seek help, and find a place where you would be able to unload these thoughts and fears. I have a feeling, all you need is a place where you can explore your options, find your strength, and feel contained. You may just need a push to the right direction.
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January 13, 2012 | 12:37 am
Posted by Golie Zarabi
I am 38 years old, and have been dating my girlfriend for three years now. She has a son from a previous marriage that is 10 years old. For the most part, he and I get a long very well. Sometimes he even calls me ‘dad’. Recently, I feel like his relationship with his mom, my girlfriend, is having an indirect impact on our relationship and its progression. I have alluded to wanting to get married over the last year, and she believes that its too soon for us to get married because it may have an impact on her son. Though I understand her need to protect her son, I also feel like a lot of the things I want to do in my life, and hope to do, will be put on hold because of her son. I wonder if I will always be second best? Or if I will ever be a priority? I don’t want to compete with her child, or be a burden on that relationship, but sometimes I feel like I am getting put on the backburner.
Feeling Second Best
Dear Feeling Second Best,
It is quite clear that entering a relationship where kids are involved is no small challenge. It’s understandable that you are frustrated about the slow progression of your relationship, and often feel second best to your girlfriend as compared to her son. However, when you chose to date a woman with a young child you actually signed up for a divided attention from her. It is inevitable that as a responsible mother she would be protective of her son, and would want to make the best choices for him. In fact, this sort of accountability should be considered as a positive quality about this woman, which might have been one of the reasons you were drawn to her. You would know that if the two of you ever have children together she would be a good and responsible mother. All this said, you might also want to consider that her love and affection for her son does not need to compare with her love and affection for you. She treats you like an adult. Her responsibility towards you is of a romantic, and adult nature. You can negotiate the terms of your relationship, and discuss your needs in a mutual and adult level. Her relationship to her son is more of a caretaker nature, and is therefore not mutual. He needs her in a completely different way than you do. Just think about the balancing act your girlfriend must be struggling with between being a competent mother, and an attentive girlfriend.
It seems like you feel Your goal and hope in being with her is incongruent with what she can provide at this time. What you need and want is being affected by her limitations due to being a mother. This is where in an adult relationship you can talk about your needs, and she can also express hers, and you will have to find a way to make both of you happy. Negotiation means creating a win/win solution. But first you have to think about whether or not your love for her can endure her commitment and dedication to her child.
In the end, it is quite important that you can be honest about your rivalry feelings towards her son. Understanding why you feel this way may help reduce some of the tension you experience around this subject. For example, is it possible that some of your own unfulfilled childhood needs (with your own mother) may have been triggered by watching the relationship between your girlfriend and her son? These are just possibilities, worth exploring. The point is that you should pay attention to your feelings, and first explore it from your end, and also try to always find a way to have a dialogue about such important matters with your girlfriend. Often couples caught up in complex dynamics, like yours, benefit from couple’s therapy, where both of you can assert your needs and discuss transitions you may be embarking on in the future while being sensitive to each other’s needs.
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January 7, 2012 | 11:12 pm
Posted by Natalie Landver
I am a 20 year old female and my parents have been divorced for over 5 years. My mom has been remarried for the past three. I feel close to her husband when I am around him and he has become another father figure in my life. However, when occasion’s and events bring us together and my biological dad is also present, I feel bad giving my step dad any attention or love in front of my dad. Even though he never says anything about my relationship with my stepfather and I don’t think he is angry of the fact that I have a relationship with him I still feel guilty and I am afraid of being disloyal. How can I bring these two worlds together without hurting either them? I care about them both in different ways.
Dear Feeling Guilty,
Your position of feeling responsible to keep everyone comfortable may need a closer evaluation. You seem to be concerned for the emotional well being of your dad, and believe that if you show affection to your step father, your biological father would feel hurt. All this is despite the fact that your father has not mentioned anything to you, and has not expressed any anger to you. It may be worth considering that some of the feelings that you worry about with your dad may stem from your own unfinished or unattended emotions related to your parent’s divorce in general and specifically to his loss, and having to adjust to a new father figure and family dynamic into your life.
Have you stopped to think about the effect of your parent’s divorce, and the adoption of a new father figure at the tender age of 15, and how ultimately it all might have impacted your understanding of family?
My concern is that you may not have had the forum or the opportunity to evaluate your feelings about this. It is wonderful that you like your step-father, but have you ever allowed yourself to feel your own hurt as a result of this divorce? Did you have to pretend that everything was o.k. because you did not want your parents to tolerate further pain, or that you did not want to rock the boat further? Feeling guilty is extremely powerful; sometimes guilt also covers other feelings like disappointment, anger, etc. Think about it, why should you feel guilty for liking your step dad? Where does this feeling guilty stem from? What did YOU do wrong? Your parents should feel relieved that you get along with him. Why is it your responsibility to integrate the two worlds, and to keep everyone safe and pain free? Don’t you trust that your father can actually take care of himself? Do you see him as fragile?
It is not unusual for children, to take on the emotional responsibility of the well being of their parents in the case of divorce, and physical separation from one parent. They are so scared of losing their parents (especially the more absent one), that they take on the task of making them happy. Look at your other relationships. Does the “guilt” come up in other aspects of your life as well? Does “caring” to you means responding out of guilt, or taking on other people’s emotional hurt? Is it possible for you to care about others in different ways?
It may be a great idea to share your feelings with your father. It sounds like he may be approachable. Sometimes what we think in our head, turns out to be much bigger than it is in reality.
In the end, it’s a great opportunity for you to reflect upon your tendency to carry on the load of your parent’s well being, and to feel their pain for them. It is very important to spend the time to really think about and understand where your feelings of guilt come from. Finding ways to gain insight into your feelings, and behavior, might release some of the intensity of this guilt.
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