Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Parent Alienation Syndrome

posted by Linda Mintle

In the 1980s, a forensic psychiatrist coined the term parental alienation syndrome (PAS) to describe the efforts of one parent to turn his or her children against the other. The syndrome involves deliberate mental and emotional abuse that can occur among highly conflictual couples who fight over custody.

The result is a child who harbors tremendous negativity towards a parent that is not based on actual experience with that parent.

It is a phenomena familiar to divorce attorneys who listen to endless cycles of accusations and counter accusations between spouses in child-custody disputes. PAS pits one parent against the other, the good and evil parent. When it works, the children also turn against the maligned parent.

The motivation behind PAS is usually rooted in poor coping from the failed marriage. Instead of a spouse engaging in healthy grieving for the loss of the marriage, the spouse goes after the spouse and engages the children in the battle. The spouse feels so damaged from the breakup, that enlisting the children in the anger and blame of the other serves as a way to further the blame. Or the spouse who vilifies feels so rejected and alone, turns to the children for nurturing and a source of support, even companionship. What emerges is a “we against the world” position. Instead of owning his or her part of the divorcing conflict, the spouse blames the other in a self-righteous way to protect the children.

Whatever the dynamics in play, the end result is poor conflict management and  children suffering the effects of parents who can’t cooperate on their behalf. Children are left with fears, confusion, sadness, and despair because parents can’t work through their disputes. The way conflict is handle destroys relationships and devastates children. Parents manipulate and use their children to get revenge.

Custodial parents are charged by the law to avoid any disruptions with the child’s other parent, yet, time and time, we see this syndrome acted out. This needs to stop for the sake of the children.

 

Why The Biggest Loser Loses Me

posted by Linda Mintle

I’ve worked with obese people for years. My biggest client weighed almost 650 pounds, so I am sensitive to the plight of people who are morbidly obese. But I just can’t get into the Biggest Loser television show and here is why.

1) I’ve never worked with an obese person and yelled at him or her. In real life, I can’t imagine what this does to a person’s self-esteem that is already fragile. It bothers me to hear and see it.

2) We want people to learn to enjoy exercise so that they can sustain it as a lifestyle. Exercising until you vomit or are injured will not endure people to exercise. In fact, I just wrote a blog on how over exertion can lead to a person hating exercise.

3) It bothers me to see people on a scale, half dressed, waiting to see a number that defines their success. This doesn’t work for me, so I can’t imagine how it would for these people. Part of counseling people with weight problems is helping them understand that they are more than a number on a scale. This show only reinforces the opposite.

4) The  journal, Obesity, published a study that concluded that people, especially thin people, who watch The Biggest Loser tend to judge the obese more harshly. You would think that people would be more sympathetic towards the contestants seeing them work hard and connecting to their lives. Researchers think the negativity is because the show leads people to believe that losing weight is completely in the control of the obese. Rebecca Puhl, PhD, director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. told WebMD this, “The real reality is that significant, sustainable weight loss is not achievable for most people.” Rudd was not a part of the study but knows from her research that most people sustain about 10% of their body weight in weight loss.

5) Years later, most of these people regain the weight. Remove the trainers, the diet control and all the support, and weight loss maintenance remains the toughest thing for obese people to do.

So while The Biggest Loser might provide entertainment for many, it’s too bothersome for me.

 

 

Source: Domoff, S. Obesity, Jan. 12, 2012.Miller, C. “The Impact of Viewing the Reality TV show ‘The Biggest Loser’ on Attitudes Towards Obese People.” National Obesity Summit, Montreal PQ, April 2011.

Now I Know Why I Hate Exercise!

posted by Linda Mintle

I saw this story yesterday in the Wall Street Journal on exercise and I had to write about it. Finally, something that made sense in terms of why I hate to exercise!

Like you, I know the importance of exercise. It has so many benefits–controlling weight and maintaing weight loss, helps prevent strokes, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancers, arthritis and falls. It improves mood and boosts energy and I always feel better AFTER I do it. But can I just say that nothing in me gets excited about exercise. Who has time for it? I only do it because I am a grown up. And grown ups do things that are good for them, even when they don’t enjoy those things.

But too many of us are not forcing ourselves up from the couch. Only 3.5% of 20-59 year olds get the recommended amount of exercise!

And baby boomers, well, we are just embarrassing. 52% of us get NO physical activity. Zero! Zip!

So let’s talk biology and how that influences the lovers and haters, of exercise that is!

Apparently, we all have a physical capacity for exertion. New research is confirming the idea that if you push beyond your exertion range too quickly or too much, you can hate exercise. The biology part has to do with how carbon dioxide and oxygen work together. When the balance isn’t good–excessive carbon dioxide is released–the body gets stressed. And when your body feels stressed, you don’t like it. People have different thresholds. If you have a high threshold for exertion like Olympians must have, you enjoy the exercise better than someone who gets exhausted watering the plants.

Experts suggest that if we don’t exercise, use tricks like listening to music, exercising in nature, watching TV (while exercising of course) etc.  When we go beyond our exertion point, feeling bad happens anyway. This means we have to stick with exercise so we can push our limit. In other words, don’t give up because it doesn’t feel good at the moment.

One other point is this: How you react and interpret a physical workout influences your love for it. For example, if you see yourself sweating and breathing hard and think, “This is good, I am getting fit,” versus “Oh my gosh, what am I doing to myself?” you will probably hate exercise less.

Bottom line:

1) Don’t push yourself too fast–do something you like that doesn’t hurt too much. If you are a couch potato, don’t start exercising by scaling a mountain.

2) Make it fun. Do exercise with others. This sure helps my motivation.

3) Find something you are good at. I think my cheerleading days are over here at mid life. Don’t think I could hit a back handspring these days. But, Pilates, yes, I can manage those moves.

4) Use the tricks–I can only do the treadmill or stair machines if I have a TV and music to distract me. Thank goodness someone thought to attach those to my machines at the Y.

OK grown ups, get off the couch. You know what to do!

 

Source: Wall Street Journal, Personal Journal, Tuesday February 19, 2013. 

Part 2: Christian Mindfulness: Why Buddhism Attracts

posted by Linda Mintle

Mindfulness is popular in our culture. A few years ago, I gave a plenary address to a group of Christian therapists in terms of the differences between the Christian view of mindfulness and eastern religions. The response was so great that I wanted to pass along my comments in a series of 4 blogs. Part one of this series can be found by clicking here, The Christian Practice of Mindfulness.

Because Buddhism is not considered a religion by many, but a philosophy of life, it lends well to psychological discourse. By the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Buddhist modernists promoted a less spiritual but more humanistic form of Buddhism, emphasizing change by way of a familiar Freudian concept–make the unconscious conscious.[1] Despite attempts to naturalize Buddhism, there are those who argue that “theology” is probably at work even when presented as a philosophy.[2] Even so, the integration of Buddhism and mental health is given public discourse in the larger mental health community. This is not so for Christianity.

In many ways, American culture is ripe for Buddhist picking. America’s growing pluralism introduces multiple cultural narratives. The deconstruction of truth brought on by postmodernism allows for truth to be discovered, a major tenet of Buddhist thought. And when truth is relative, there is no sin, allowing people to discover their own path to freedom. One could even argue that some Christians have become more independent in their beliefs, straying from biblical principles and creating faith that suits them.

Our culture is curious about meditation and spirituality, especially practices that are based in experience.[3] Buddhism is experiential, allowing people to feel religious without having to adhere to religious doctrine. Furthermore, forms of Buddhism compliment an American ideal—with enough effort and knowledge, you can be the master of your own destiny.

As our world becomes more violent, Americans are attracted to the peaceful, tolerant and nonviolent qualities they see in Buddhist followers. Most would agree that the encouragement of compassion and patience towards others is desperately needed in our society. Even though Jesus had these same qualities, He is ignored or relegated to a great teacher because He claims to be the only path to salvation.

In the scientific community, brain research has made understanding the science of mental life less mystical. Changes in mental process can be studied and measured, opening up scientific inquiry into states of meditation. And since Buddhist meditation promises outcomes of liberation from suffering and pain, and a way to calm the mind and reduce stress, it lends itself to empirical study and therapeutic value.

Buddhism emphasizes compassion, a life of modesty and restraint and respect for all things living.[4] It accepts all world faiths with an emphasis on nonjudgmental and tolerant thinking. With a spark of the divine in each of us, doctrine is unnecessary as one follows his own path, not constrained by the narrow path that Christianity offers. And most Americans, Christians included, are naïve to the true spiritual underpinnings of eastern religions and deeper forms of meditation. For example, people I talk to usually have no idea that the physical movements in Yoga are based on ancient Hindu worship designed to awaken the serpent power within through the discipline of the physical body.[5]

But the problem for the Christian is that the narrative of Buddhism is very different from Christianity. And that difference in narrative makes a difference. This I will address in Part 3.


[1] Encountering Buddhism:  western psychology and Buddhist teachings Seth Robert Segal editor, pp. 9-31 (2003) State University of New York Press

 

[2] Buddhist theology: Critical reflections by contemporary Buddhist scholars. Edited by Roger Jackson and John Makransky (1999). RoutledgeCurzon

Note: the term theology is used even though there is no belief is God

[3] No other gods: Christian belief in dialogue with Buddhism, Hinduism and islam by Hendrick Vroom Wm. B. Erdsman Publisher (March 1996)

[4] Individualtion and Awakening: Romantic narrative and the psychological interpretation of Buddhism by Richard Payne pp. 31-51 from Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures: Essays on Therories and Practices by Mark Unno, Editor (2006). Wisdom Publishing Co

[5] Swamisivananda, S. (1994). Kundalini Yoga. Himalayas India: A Divine Life Society Publication. p. xiv-xv.

 

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