Read Dr Tony's latest article: How To Accept Disturbing Thoughts

How To Accept Disturbing Thoughts

Psychologists believe that the best way to rid yourself of obsessive disturbing thoughts is not to fight them,but rather to accept them and even force yourself to think about them. Psychologists call this exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a process where you slowly expose yourself to your upsetting thoughts or situations that trigger your anxiety forcing you to tolerate the feelings you once had to avoid. Eventually, you learn to desensitize yourself to these disturbing thoughts and they no longer have power over your thoughts and behavior.

Many people have disturbing and even horrifying thoughts. These thoughts are not based in reality, yet cause us to react
as if they are indeed real. For example, people may obsess about germs and worry that the things around them are somehow contaminated and dangerous. Others can’t stop thinking about the possibility of losing control and
even harming someone. You may worry about making irreparable mistakes.These obsessive thoughts can be very disturbing if you don’ know how to deal with them. The more we fight them, the stronger or more frequent they sometimes become.

Disturbing Relationship Thoughts
Unwanted thoughts sometimes occur in relationships. These thoughts can destroy it  even when there is no reality basis for the thoughts.  Most commonly, you may constantly “check” your  partner’s phone for texts or phone calls from old partners or previous relationships. You may become insecure and needy, desperately trying to get the “truth” or control every aspect of your partner’s life so you can trust them again. Constant reassurance that no cheating has occurred does not eliminate your thoughts and fears. Worse, thoughts may turn into accusations or demands that your partner  reveal things that they consider private or off-limits. (like previous relationships). At first,  your partner may be tolerant of these outbursts but constant accusations (when nothing is going on)   get old –fast.

How to Rid Yourself of Disturbing Relationship Thoughts
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, and against common sense, psychologists have discovered that the most effective way to rid yourself of obsessive disturbing thoughts is not to fight them,but rather to accept them and even force yourself to think about them. Psychologists call this exposure therapy which is considered “evidence-based” treatment for this condition.

Exposure therapy is a process where you slowly expose yourself to your upsetting thoughts or situations that trigger your anxiety forcing you tolerate the feelings you once had to avoid. Eventually, you learn to desensitize yourself to these disturbing thoughts and they no longer have power over your thoughts and behavior.  This makes sense once you realize that thoughts are not necessarily true at all- they are just thoughts which you have for any number of reasons (the most common reason is that something that is going on now is triggering old fears and insecurities from previous relationships or from your childhood which you don’t remember).

The idea here is that even if you can’t stop the thoughts, you can control how you respond to them. Think of unwanted thoughts like a strong wind when you are sailing. You can’t stop the wind, but you can change the angle of the sail to control your boat.

To begin this process of learning to respond differently to your unwanted thoughts, you will need to fill in two worksheets.

Start Here; Accepting_your_Upsetting_Thoughts_

Over-Thinking a Situation or obsessively thinking about things can paralyze you. If you are tempted,remember the poor Centipede: "A centipede was happy - quite! Until a toad in fun Said "Pray, which leg moves after which?" This raised her doubts to such a pitch, She fell exhausted in the ditch Not knowing how to run." For consultation with Dr. Fiore in either Long Beach or Newport Beach, call 714-745-1393 or email: drtonyfiore@gmail.com

Needing to be Right- A Sure-Fire Losing Strategy for Partner Communication

For good marital communication, partners should step back, take a look at themselves, and ask if they are going about it the right way to have a loving and devoted partner, to feel deeply connected to their spouse, to reduce conflict, or to have a peaceful home with happy successful children. Having strategies to achieve marital harmony often separates successful couples from others. Successful couples regularly employ what we call "Winning Strategies," while other couples unfortunately use "Losing strategies", (which they often learned as children) yet expect good results. "Needing To be Right" is the first losing strategy we discuss. Does this describe you or your partner?

When I was a young psychologist, I recall a young woman in my practice who was very upset because men simply didn’t see her as very feminine and treated her like “one of the guys,” instead of like a “girl” as she deeply desired. I asked for an example of what she meant.”The other night we were having drinks in a bar and one of the guys said that I wasn’t very feminine,” she said.

“How did you react?“I asked her.

With a serious face she said, “I stood up, took a swing and knocked them all to the floor.”

Psychologists call this self-defeating behavior. In over 15 years of conducting anger management classes in southern California, and hearing hundreds of stories of relationship conflict, I have seen this pattern repeated over and over again. Partners need, want and deserve different things in a relationship, but go about getting it in the wrong way due to poor marital communication.

It’s like looking for a herd of buffaloes  in New York City, or convincing people who live in Antarctica to purchase air conditioners. It ain’t going to work.

Think in terms of Losing vs Winning Strategies
Married people often don’t step back, take a look at themselves, and ask if they are going about it the right way to have a loving and devoted partner, to feel deeply connected to their spouse, to reduce conflict, or to have a peaceful home with happy successful children. But, for good marital communication, having strategies to achieve marital harmony often separates successful couples from others. Successful couples regularly employ what we call “Winning Strategies,” while other couples unfortunately use “Losing strategies”, (which they often learned as children) yet expect good results.

To improve  marital communication, we begin a series of blogs on losing strategies regularly employed by couples in trouble, in the hope that you can improve your marriage by not using them in the future. Then, of course, a series of blogs will follow of winning strategies- those ways of communicating that are used by black-belts of relationship success. Full disclosure- This material is based  on the writings of famed therapist Terry Real in his book “The New Rules of Marriage”. I would highly encourage you to download his book and read it as soon as you can.

Losing Strategy 1- Needing to always be  Right.

I was raised by the philosophy that there is a right way to do things, and a wrong way. This way of looking at the world certainly ensured a shared vision of things (it encouraged all family member to see things the same way) but it also stifled creativity and individuality. Instead of teaching us to consider “options” in how to deal with a problem or issue, we were taught that if “A” happens, then you handle it by doing “B.” If somebody tried a “C’, they were told they were wrong because, again, there is only one “right” to a problem or situation.

Of course, sometimes this IS true. The ‘right” solution to prevent tooth decay is to brush daily; the “right” way to have money in the future is to save it or invest it. The “right” way to stay healthy is to eat your fruits and vegetables, exercise, and don’t smoke.

But, other times it decidedly is NOT true. Or, in many cases there can be multiple truths – not “the” truth. People can have long lives eating meat or not. Heavy drinkers are not necessarily alcoholics. People who don’t go to college can still become  millionaires. Dishes can get clean in the dishwasher without pre-washing them. There are multiple ways to get to a destination in your car. Different people feel loved differently. Some people can change bad habits easier than others. Some children respond to tight discipline and tight structure much more than other children.

Children who are raised to believe in the right or wrong philosophy eventually marry other children who also believe this. So, why is this a problem?  They clash because they were taught different “rights’ and “wrongs” – and they were not taught to be tolerant of those differences – and they often certainly were not taught to embrace individual differences, nuances, and variety in our world.

Some partners go so far as to feel “disrespected” if their spouse does things their own way. For example, what sane person puts the glasses in the cupboard upside down to prevent dust from accumulating in them? Everybody know glasses go right side up but CUPS go upside down, Right? Or did I get that wrong?

Learn to disagree without being disagreeable
Successful relationships depend on developing successful strategies to deal with disagreements and conflicts without destroying each other in the process. You can disagree without being disagreeable.

The trick is to focus not only on the argument but on HOW you argue and communicate- in other words, focus on the process as well as the issue. Very hard to do in the heat of battle but this skill separates beginners from black belts in marital communication. It helps to remember that (1) subjective reality cam be different from objective reality, that (2) Words spoken can have different meanings for each partner, and that (3) Body Language conveys tons of information, regardless of the words you use.

Subjective vs. Objective Reality
What is the difference? Let me explain it this way: You and your partner are sitting in the therapist office and your partner says “It is cold in here.” You say,  “there you go–always complaining. Actually it is NOT cold in here- the temperature is 72 degrees.” Who is “right”?
Objective cold is not the same as subjectively “felt” temperature.If your partner feels cold, the reality for him or her is that it is cold in the office , regardless of the actual (objective) temperature. Would you argue like Perry Mason to prove your case that your partner is crazy and that it is NOT cold in the office? I grew up in a home where that is exactly what happened – which typically then caused a major argument.

The truth is, most of the time nobody cares if you are factually (objectivity) right or not!

I recall the case of  Mike and Ann who fought about everything. Mike was incapable of understanding this idea that partners can perceive things quite differently. To test him, we did the following dialogue:

Therapist: “Mike, what is the color of that lampshade over there?”

Mike: It is beige.

Therapist: “Ann, what color do you think it is?”

Ann: “It is Brown.”

Therapist to Mike: “Mike, why do you think Ann sees it as Brown and you see it as Beige?”

Mike: “Because she is lying.”

What are you going to do with a person who thinks that way?

Often words spoken can have different meanings to each partner:
A second reason that partners argue over things is because spoken words can have different meanings to each partner even though the same word is used to describe something. To remedy this,try to remember the famous words of Robert McCloskey:

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

― Robert McCloskey

The remedy here is to be sure to clarify what you mean by the words you use.
Example:

45 year old Sam to Therapist: “We only have sex  once a month. Last time was 4 weeks ago- on a Saturday night.”

Sam’s Wife to therapist: “That is simply not true. We had sex just 3 days ago. Tell the therapist the truth.”

Sam to wife and therapist: ” That wasn’t REAL sex – that was only Clinton sex.”

Finally, remember that your body language conveys more meaning than do your words: What does your voice tone communicate? Your voice volume? Your facial features? Your general tension level? All these forms of communication are being “picked up” by your partner regardless of what your words say. Monitor yourself when you are talking to your partner for an appreciation of what you may be communicating to them with your body language.

 

Much marital conflict around an issue is really about learning to communicate about that issue as much as about the issue itself. There are winning strategies for effective communication as well as losing strategies. In today's blog, we encourage you to NOT to use the losing strategy of always needing to be right during an argument. For more help with relationship communication and conflict resolution, contact Dr Tony Fiore at 714-745-1393 or email him at drtonyfiore@gmail.com.

Partner Anger May Be Improved by Better Sleep Habits

This is a guest article by freelance writer Paul Smith which offers much useful information to help stressed couples get better sleep which could lead to less irritability, better communication, and improved relationship skills.

How sleep issues can affect anger expression in couples and negatively affect relationships and communication?

Sleep is probably the most underrated of habits that impact health and wellbeing. A lack of sleep the night before is enough to leave us tired, grumpy and fed up for the rest of the day. Getting the right amount of rest is crucial to tackling everything the world has to throw at us and that includes how we interact & communicate with other people especially with our spouses. But why? Let’s examine in closer detail exactly what it is about sleep that has such an impact on us.

Why is sleep important in a relationship?


The short answer to this question is that it affects our “Emotions”. The body needs time to recover at the end of every day. Not getting enough sleep has the potential to hinder our social abilities. It becomes harder to recognize communication cues when tired, and affects how we react to the behavior of others.

What happens to the body with lack of sleep?

What will actually happen if we don’t get enough sleep? Some of the potential dangers associated with getting less sleep include:

  • Weight gain – Sleep plays an important role in burning calories. As such, not getting enough can cause someone to pack on the pounds. It’s also been claimed that sleep-deprived people have lower levels of leptin. This chemical is what controls our ability to feel full. As such, you’re prone to eating more as a direct result of a lack of sleep.

    As well as these more specific side effects, you’ll also experience exhaustion throughout the day. Constantly feeling like you need to sleep is no way to get through the day productively. In some extreme circumstances, it may even result in death. Such was the case with SAP CEO Ranjan Das.

  • Lowered concentration levels – Your ability to focus will be drastically impacted if you’ve missed too much sleep.
  • A lowered sex drive – Your sex life might suffer if you’re not getting enough sleep. The NHS recently published information highlighting how a lack of sleep affected both males and female libidos. This could have a detrimental impact on your relationship.

 

Dangers associated with a lack of sleep

 
As you may have already realized, there are a number of dangers, which go hand-in-hand with not getting enough rest. These include:

  • Mood disorders – Studies have suggested mental illnesses can be caused, or heightened, as a direct result of not getting enough sleep. This occurs as a result of neurotransmitters in the brain being damaged, causing the brain to experience the same symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.
  • Raised blood pressure – Owing to the aforementioned close association of the heart and sleep, it should come as no shock blood pressure is affected when a person misses out on sleep. Increased pressure is the natural side effect of additional strain being put on the cardiovascular system.

How much of an impact a lack of sleep can have on your daily performance?

Physical exercise – Physical activity will also be impaired by a loss of sleep. There are a number of ways in which your body will be negatively affected if you over-exert yourself.

Psychological Effect – It’s a vicious cycle when it comes to sleep and exercise. You’re bound to feel less motivated if you don’t get enough sleep. Naturally, this will have a negative impact on your abilities to push yourself on the workout itself. You may not feel like you want to do any activity at all.

You’re going to notice a significant difference in your motivation, recovery and performance levels when you miss out on sleep. If you have an important day of activities ahead, make sure you always get the right amount of rest the evening before.

In short, not getting enough sleep puts us at an instant disadvantage in almost every aspect of daily life from both a health and social perspective.

How to Reduce Resentment Toward Your Partner – Even if Your Partner Won’t Change!

Continuing our last blog in which we gave you “love-hacks” as a short-term fix for marriage conflict, today we ask you to look at deeper and longer-term issues that you should look at. Resentment often is at the top of the list. You may have resentments toward your partner because essential needs are not being met through your marriage. Based on the work of Dr. Eli Finkel, in “The All-or-Nothing Marriage,” there may be alternatives for you short of divorce which you should consider.

Do You Have Resentment In Your Marriage?

Mary, age 40, came to see me recently for a consultation on how she could improve her marriage and deal with an angry husband who refused to see a marriage therapist. She was extremely resentful, unhappy and depressed. She had tried “everything” to get her husband to change- all to no avail.

The resentment Mary was feeling was normal when a partner has grievances toward their partner which are unexpressed – or- when your partner does not respond even when they are indeed expressed. Take our free Anger Quiz to assess the degree of resentment in your marriage. Many times grievances are formed in a marriage because some essential needs are not being fulfilled – needs which you want satisfied through the marriage. After all, satisfaction of some of those needs are the reason you married in the first place.
Mind you, just because you have normal needs doesn’t necessarily mean you are “needy.” We all have needs, as a famous psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote about way back in the 1940s. Here is a simplified version of his needs diagram. In Maslow’s theory, lower needs (such as having enough to eat) need to be satisfied before higher needs such as “esteem” seem important.

The question is: to what extent should we look toward marriage to satisfy some of these needs?

Continue reading “How to Reduce Resentment Toward Your Partner – Even if Your Partner Won’t Change!”

Anger and Couple Finances: How to Avoid Financial Infidelity

We welcome this guest article by Dr Tina Tessina describing how conflict, resentment and anger around money issues can jeopardize a marriage or relationship. She also instructs couples on how to have discussions around money and provides resources on how to better budget to reduce financial stress and anger.

The most valuable thing in a long-term stable relationship is having a partnership, and most new couples don’t realize that money is a major factor in marital happiness. Money is one of the biggest generators of problems, arguments, and resentment in long-term relationships. Couples argue about spending, saving budgeting, and disparity in earnings. When couples have difficulty with money, it can lead to financial infidelity: out-of-control spending, lying and hiding finances; which can destroy the relationship. Overcoming money problems together and working as a team will strengthen the bond between you, and help you create a healthy, lasting partnership.

Money doesn’t have to be a wedge between you and your partner. It can be a great tool for learning more about one another and using money matters as a discussion point can help your relationship grow and thrive. Money can create misery or happiness, depending on how you manage it. Making long-term plans, helping reach goals and improving your quality of life are just some of the things you will be able to accomplish if you work together.
Continue reading “Anger and Couple Finances: How to Avoid Financial Infidelity”

Can I Fall Back in Love After The Thrill Is Gone?

I am pleased to offer this guest article by colleague Dr. Steve Rockman for couples who need to re-ignite that love feeling for each other. The advice given in this article is common sense in many ways and profoundly true! Establish a “Love Bank” and start making deposits. If you want more, start giving more! Be nicer to each other and be less critical.

Having been a therapist for over thirty years, I am always pleased to find new ways of helping couples. A few years ago, I discovered a treatment approach by Willard Harley that’s short term and practical. Combined with other techniques that I use, this approach has proven effective. Furthermore, it offers hope to relationships that seem hopeless. I’ve had several successful cases where one member had fallen out of love, ready to leave the relationship. If you’re interested, read on.
Continue reading “Can I Fall Back in Love After The Thrill Is Gone?”

Is it OK for wives to verbally abuse husbands for not helping more around the house?

Husbands who fail to help with chores, child care, and daily household tasks is a leading cause of household anger and deteriorating relationships. 

In situations like that, women often feel justified in being angry, frustrated and fatigued—and verbally expressing their discontent. But, wives are not justified in verbally abusing their husbands to get them to do more.

Assertive communication

The right way to get your husband to help around the house involves teaching wives a better way to communicate and motivate their husbands. This is one of the most important ways marriage counselors can reduce relationship anger.

Assertive communication involves learning to express what you need or request without anger or rage. Anger and rage usually makes things worse and invites retaliation. In addition, parental anger is very harmful for children to witness.

Continue reading “Is it OK for wives to verbally abuse husbands for not helping more around the house?”