Why we need personal boundaries

Psychology for Living

As we grow towards wholeness, the concept of personal boundaries tends to come up sooner or later.

In co-dependent relationships, we allow our feelings and actions to be influenced or even determined by the wishes or opinions of others. This means we are not living our lives authentically, that is, in harmony with who we are. This is not healthy because we are not honouring ourselves, and sooner or later we feel resentful.

Having clear personal boundaries means being aware of what we want and need, and not allowing others to violate our wishes, or try to control us. On the simplest level, this could be saying no to a social invitation because you’d rather relax at home.

It could be saying no to sex because you’re not ready, or not feeling intimately connected to the other person. It might be telling a neighbor to call first, instead of just dropping in, or telling the kids that you love the grandchildren, but do not want to babysit so much.

Each time we do something that we really don’t want to be doing, we are, in a sense, violating ourselves. We may get angry inside, and blame the other person, but we can’t expect them to know how we feel if we don’t tell them.

Sometimes we are afraid they’ll be angry or hurt if we speak our truth, or even that we’ll lose their love or friendship. Consequently, we feel guilty for wanting to take care of ourselves, and guiltier if the other person is hurt or offended by the stand we are taking.

Many of my female clients feel that if they assert their needs, that they will seem “bitchy.” If men assert their boundaries, women often take it personally, and so he tries to fix her pain instead of looking after himself. It’s easy to become so enmeshed in the process of taking care of other’s emotional needs and feeling guilty about our own, and this process is at the core of codependency.

Healthy boundaries are about taking responsibility for our own emotional needs and honoring the needs of others. You tell me what you need, and I’ll tell you what I need, and then we’ll figure out the best way to try to meet both of our needs. No one is wrong for feeling how they feel, that’s just the way it is in that moment.

If we can see ourselves as equals, each with wants and needs, and each deserving of happiness, and create a safe space for expressing these, then we are well on the way towards establishing healthy boundaries. And you can’t have a healthy relationship without them.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Do you ever say, “you don’t love me?”

Have you ever had someone say, “You don’t love me!”, when you won’t do what they want? Have you ever said, “You don’t love me,” or “You don’t care about me,” because someone would not do what you wanted?

I remember times when one of my children, upon being refused a treat or a toy, would lament that I didn’t love them. I would always laugh, and so would they, because we both knew how far from the truth that was. But what if adults say this to each other and really mean it? How do you defend yourself when someone says you don’t care? It can be a no-win situation.

First, it is important to recognize that it is inappropriate to tell another person how they feel. That robs them of the freedom to express their own feelings. When we do this, we are projecting onto them our idea of what they feel. When they try to correct us, we might argue with them. If you like vanilla and someone says that you really don’t, you like chocolate, we can see how inappropriate it is to argue with someone about what they feel or think.

Second, loving or caring should not automatically be associated with doing certain things. If you want to know if someone loves you or has stopped loving, it is best just to ask them, rather than to challenge them because of some behavior. If you want to see more of a particular behavior, then its okay to ask for it, but you don’t need to attach an emotional bomb to your request.

If you tell him he doesn’t love you because he never brings you flowers, then where does that leave him when he spends so much time working on the yard because he wants it to look attractive for you? If you’re mad because he never says you look nice, you might be missing the fact that he thinks you’re beautiful, even first thing in the morning. If you think she doesn’t love you because she spends so much time talking with her friends, you might be unaware that she talks to them about how much she does love you.

In any case, a positive approach always works better. Telling someone they don’t care triggers defensive reactions, not deeper levels of caring. Talking about what you would like to create with a person is a way of painting a positive picture that you can strive for. And as for parents telling teenagers that they don’t feel loved because the kids would rather be with friends, or kids thinking parents don’t love them because they won’t finance a car, these are guilt trips plain and simple.

Don’t lay guilt trips on people you care about, because for sure, they’ll think you don’t love them.Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Let’s Talk About Insomnia

Fundamentally, insomnia happens because the mind cannot relax. When the mind cannot relax, then the body cannot either. Relaxation is a natural state in members of the animal kingdom. Our pet can be running around, playing with us, or wrestling with a toy. They have lots of energy and are stimulated. Then, a few minutes later we find them peacefully dozing while their bodies seem completely limp.

Babies are like this after being fed, and long ago adult humans were like this too. Early humans were right brain dominant, without language. The right brain is abstract, and emotional. With language came an increasingly dominant left brain, the logical analytical part.

Over time the left brain became more and more dominant. With the rise of technology, humans are more alert and tuned into that technology. The left brain became very busy. No longer thinking only of the next meal, fighting or mating, it was like there was ongoing dialogue within the brain. Everything speeded up.

Now we could worry about the future or lament the past. We could create worst case scenarios and wonder what others thought of us. The brain did not stop when we slept. We did not hear it when in deep sleep, but when we came out of that phase, the inner chatter woke us. If the chatter was about something we worried or were anxious about, a whole new train of thinking could begin so then we could not go back to sleep.

Further, if our life situation creates stress, the muscles contract which makes it harder to sleep. With a tense body relaxation is not possible.

Many turn to sleep medications, however those do not get to the root of the problem, and if we stop taking them, sleeplessness recurs. The body and mind have not learned to shut down.

Of course, caffeine, alcohol, a full stomach, and too much technology before bed also affects our sleep.

Notwithstanding a neurological disorder, I think most sleep problems would be resolved if we completely relaxed the body and quieted the mind. This is not something we can do overnight (pun not intended). We must train ourselves to relax our muscles and gain control of the mind, so at night we can shut it off just like a television.

The first step is to pay attention. Lie down and notice your body. Then tell the muscles to relax. You should feel a little release. Then tell it to relax more. You can keep doing this and never reach the point where there is nothing left to relax! You will become aware of how much tension is in your muscles. Yoga is great for relaxing the body.

Next, notice what your mind is doing. Is it re-running films of your past experiences? Is it worrying about some person or problem? Is it re-playing the day or planning or worrying about the next day? Is it re-playing conversations? All of these will make it hard, or for some, impossible to sleep.

Start with assessing yourself. Read up on sleep hygiene. You do have the power to learn to put yourself to sleep.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration. 

When to Control and When to Let Go

It has been said, (by a Buddhist thinker, no doubt), that life is very simple for those who have no preferences. If we accept that change is inevitable and do not become attached to specified outcomes, then there is less struggle. To do this, we must release any notions we have about being in control. 

But wait, don’t we also hear a lot about creating our own destiny and the importance of setting goals? Aren’t we taught to create our vision, visualize it clearly, and to keep working towards it? How can both be true? It has also been said that truth lies at the heart of the paradox. Where is the heart in this paradox? 

Well, it might be that we need difference perspectives at different times. If you are going to build a house, you need a plan, you need goals and you must keep to them, especially if you are scheduling sub-trades. If you want to change careers and continue to support your family you need to schedule when you will do upgrading and when you will leave your old job. If you are planning a theme birthday party for your child, you can pick exactly the type of cake you want. These are all things over which we have some measure of control. You cannot, however, choose how the weather will be that day, if all of the invited guests will show up, or how they will behave. 

The Buddhist perspective serves us very well when it comes to those things over which we do not have control. We cannot control whether or for how long anyone will love us. We cannot stop our children from growing up, or the years from slipping by. We cannot control the stock market or interest rates. Nor can we control when others will die, or the outlook of our teenagers. If we try to exert control over these things, or become attached to certain outcomes, we will most definitely create stress, strain and struggle. 

Similarly, if we take an attitude of non-attachment to the timing and quality of the construction of our home, we will also create headaches. If we simply accept changes that lead to the destruction of the ecosystem and are unattached to the long-term implications for the planet, we are not acting in accordance with the highest good for all. The wisdom is in knowing when to hold on and when to let go, when to dig in and when to surrender. 

As in all things, neither side of a polarity holds the whole truth. We must expand our perspective to reach a level that encompasses all of the parts in a complete whole. Wisdom arises not when we embrace one side of the paradox or the other, but rather when the fulcrum of the paradox rests right in the center of our own consciousness.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the abuser attempts to sow confusion and self-doubt in their victim’s mind. The term gaslighting comes from the Alfred Hitchcock film Gaslight. In this film a man tries to convince his wife she is going insane so he can steal from her. When he turns on the lights in the attic to look for her jewelry, the gas lights dim downstairs. He tells her she is just imagining the dimming lights. Eventually she begins to question her own perceptions and memories.

Gaslighting is a covert form of emotional abuse on which the abuser misleads the target, creating a false narrative and making them question their judgements or reality.

Gaslighting can happen in romantic relationships, but also with friends, family members or in the workplace. It is a manipulative tactic causing the survivor to question their own reality.

This occurs by the abuser questioning facts, denying memories the survivor has, undermining their judgement and bullying them into believing the abuser’s version of reality.

This can lead to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, depression, anxiety, isolation, loss of hope and dependence on the abuser, known as trauma bonding.

Gaslighting behaviors include lying about or denying something and refusing to admit to lying even when you show them proof, insisting an event or behavior you witnessed never happened, or that you are remembering it wrong, changing the subject or refusing to listen when confronted about a lie or other gaslighting behavior, telling you that you are overreacting when you call them out, saying if you acted differently they wouldn’t treat you like this so it’s your fault (blame shifting), trying to smooth things over with loving words that do not match their actions, twisting a story to minimize their abusive behavior, minimizing hurtful behavior by saying “You’re just too sensitive” or “It was just a joke.”

Signs that you are a victim of gaslighting include having trouble making even simple decisions, constantly second -guessing yourself, trying to convince yourself that it isn’t that bad, walking on eggshells around the other person, feeling lonely and trapped, doubting your own memory and sanity, staying silent rather than saying what you think or believe, being on edge and feeling threatened all the time, and thinking you can’t do anything right.

If you feel you are a victim of gaslighting it helps to talk to a friend or therapist. It also helps to keep a journal or record of things that happened so you can go back to assure yourself that something in fact did happen. Collect evidence that will dispute your doubt later such as screen shots of text messages, and dates and times of arguments, along with what was said.

The bottom-line question, of course, is do you want to continue in a situation where gaslighting is happening? You see, you cannot argue with a gaslighter. They will not respond to logic or admit their true motivation. If your conversations with a partner, family member or colleague turns into an opportunity to insult you or question your sanity or ability, step away from the discussion and the relationship if possible. 

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

I Will Be Happy When…

The greatest source of unhappiness is the gap between what we have, and what we wish we had. When there is no gap, we are content. We feel a sense of abundance because we have all we need. Recognizing this, the search for happiness may involve a never-ending process of attempting to fulfil needs.

The problem is, there is no end to the needs that may be identified by the mind. We need more money, more things, more love, more peace, more time. We need more respect, more self-esteem, and more confidence. That list is endless. Then, we can go on with a list of what we need others to have or be.

So in order to be happy, our partner must be more dedicated, more attentive, more passionate for example, or our children must be more responsible, have higher marks, clearer goals, better friends and a different attitude. Our friends should be there for us more/ give us our space, talk about others to us, but not about us to others, and should be more/less spiritual. Then there are the people in the neighborhood who should be more friendly, less nosy, mow the lawn more (except not on Sunday morning), lend their tools or return your tools more readily.

Don’t forget the merchants with whom you do business. They should have more efficient service, lower prices, more selection and stay open longer (or stay closed on Sunday). What about the government? Certainly we would all be happier if we had lower taxes, more services, more growth, less inflation, and fewer politics. But then there is still the weather. If we had longer summers, milder winters, no rain on long weekends, and just enough snow for skiing and white Christmas but not for bad driving and shovelling, then it would be good.

It is easy to see how working on being happy could be a full time job!

There is an easier way. A wise Buddhist teacher once said something like this: the smaller the vessel of your needs, the more easily you experience abundance. We do not have to make our happiness dependent upon anything. If we are grateful for each new day, we will be happy every day we are alive. If we tend the inner garden of our own awareness, and weed out the negative thoughts, and the conditions we place upon our ability to be happy, then we find peace. If we ceased to exist tomorrow, how many of our concerns would really matter?

One day we will not exist. What will happen to our ‘problems’ then? If they won’t matter then, they probably do not matter that much now either. What does matter is that each day is a gift. It is given like a gift certificate, which we may spend however we choose. It is, however, only valid for this day. Spend it wisely, spend it well. Use it for some joy.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration. 

Psychology for living: why we stay in bad situations

Gwen Randall-Young
Psychology for Living

Over the years I have worked with clients who are in unhappy, even toxic, relationships. They may have tried everything, including counselling, but history just keeps repeating itself. When asked why they stay if they don’t see it ever changing, sometimes the answer is that they are afraid of being alone.

Sometimes these people, often women, are CEOs, highly educated and professionally recognized, and are viewed as very strong. Yet when it comes to the idea of leaving a bad relationship they crumble.

It is the inner child of that person who is afraid of being alone. For a young child, being all alone can be terrifying. They do not have the ability to care for themselves, and if left alone for long they feel abandoned.

It is the inner child of the strong woman that holds her back from taking charge of her life. Very few women are incapable of being on their own, but the inner child takes over and expresses fear about doing so.

Certainly, there are cases where finances limit the ability to move on but that is different from being emotionally frightened. Fear of being alone is fear of being with ourselves, and being independent.

Unquestionably, a major life shift can be daunting. However, there is support in terms of lawyers, bankers, realtors, psychologists, family, and friends. Living on our own is part of becoming an independent adult.

Being in a toxic relationship eats away at confidence and self-esteem. It can even have adverse effects on physical and mental health. No one deserves to be mistreated or devalued. If you are in a situation like this, and you have tried everything to improve the relationship, you need to rethink things. It may be the partner’s responsibility for the hurt we feel, but it is our responsibility for allowing it to continue.

As a child we have no ability to change the circumstances in which we live. As adults we might feel powerless, but we are not. Millions of women have freed themselves from bad situations, and virtually none would say it is easy.

Some women tell no one of their suffering because they are embarrassed. This leaves them isolated and vulnerable. It is important to share with someone. If there are no friends or relatives with whom you can share, seek out counselling.

Others think that ending the relationship spells doom for the children. This is not true. Children can thrive after divorce unless it is adversarial. Living in a home where there is stress, tension, arguing, and fighting is worse than living with one parent at a time.

And for those who think therapists always tell women to leave their partners, that is untrue as well. Therapists do not tell people what to do, but rather help them to clarify their thinking and consider all options for a healthier life.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Finding support through tough times

It doesn’t matter what stresses you are dealing with in your life, if you have someone to talk to, they become more bearable. It must be someone who cares about you, and who you trust with your deepest feelings. Burdens are tough to bear alone, and you can easily become discouraged, or lose your perspective.
A true friend is one who can listen compassionately without an overwhelming need to solve your problem for you. Sometimes we just need a sounding board, a way to think out loud.
It is not helpful if the listener becomes emotionally embroiled in the issue, although we often recognize that as a sign of support. Much as you may like to stick together, it can be counterproductive to align yourselves against the perceived “enemy”. This only strengthens the duality and magnifies the conflict.
If it is not a conflict situation, but a matter of grief or loss, a supportive listener will allow for the expression of feeling, but gently steer the conversation away from expressions of hopelessness about the future. At times like that, we need to be reminded of our strength. Often there are people in our lives who would be very helpful to us in times of crisis, but we may tend to shut ourselves off from that support.
Individuals who are generally perceived as the “strong one” in a group or family frequently have the most difficulty in allowing themselves to receive support. They are more comfortable taking care of others than taking care of themselves. But the human soul needs nurturing and nourishing from other human souls, and, ironically, we are stronger if we can accept help, than if we stoically refuse it. Accepting help is a recognition of our interdependence and oneness, while refusal is a choice to remain separate and alone.
Struggles within our souls are often the doorway through which we make deep and loving connections which sustain us through a lifetime. People become closer in times of crisis because the walls come down and our humanness is exposed. Even if the ones we thought we could count on are not there for us, it doesn’t mean we must remain alone. There are always angels waiting in the wings, (no pun intended) if only we recognize their presence.
If you feel there is truly no one you know who can fill that role, or you are not comfortable sharing your inner thoughts and feelings with someone you know, then do not hesitate to reach out to a spiritual leader or professional therapist. You might feel alone, but you do not have to walk alone. Sometimes an objective third party can help to get you on a more fulfilling path. Further, you will be guaranteed confidentiality.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Part time work and your teen

A client asked me recently about the advisability of allowing teenagers to hold part time jobs. In the ensuing discussion, some important points were raised, both pro and con. One of the concerns was that the work would get in the way of school, either as a result of less time to study, or late hours which would result in tiredness and lack of concentration the next day.
It is my view that during these years school is of the highest priority because performance will profoundly affect the remaining years of the students’ lives. Nothing should be allowed to negatively affect school performance.
If the student is maintaining a respectable average, and seems able to organize time effectively, there are some real advantages to holding a part time job. The experience can be invaluable, and skills and abilities developed will come in handy in the future. As the student begins to earn some money, he/she can begin to contribute to personal expenses and can learn about money management.
They learn that work has its rewards, and how quickly money disappears! Budgeting time becomes just as important as budgeting money, and so there is an opportunity to begin learning about organizing time and reducing procrastination.
So how do you decide if working is right for your child? Firstly, it is important to discuss all aspects thoroughly before a decision is made. Let your child know the types of jobs that would be acceptable to you. There may be some places where you do not want your child working because of the atmosphere or the late hours. You need to set limits on the number of hours per week, particularly during school nights.
You might also want to discuss what will be done with the money earned. Certainly, the student should have access to his/her own money, however you may not feel like you can support your child in working if all of the money is blown at the mall (or worse) each week. A good habit to get into is saving a certain percentage of each paycheck. You can show your teen the value of investing while still young.
If your child really wants to work, the following requirements are recommended:
1) acceptable school average or
2) demonstrate ability to raise average during this term
3) average must be maintained or job must go
4) maintain responsibilities around home
5) talk about what portion of earnings will be saved, spent on necessities, and what amount can be spent on what they want.
Starting a job is a big responsibility, and it can help students to become more responsible. Remember, you will not see as much of them, and they may be a little more stressed at times, but if it’s something they really want to do, give them the opportunity to demonstrate that they are ready.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Protecting the relationship between parent and child

Gwen Randall-Young
Psychology for Living

How often do we hear ourselves, after an upsetting incident with our child or teen, saying to a friend or spouse that really, we believe in the goodness of our child? 

However, in our anger, we may have forgotten to convey that message to the child. So, they have heard our anger, heard our fears, seen us freak out, and conclude that we must think that they are very bad people. We think that in order to make our point and prevent our children from becoming juvenile delinquents, we must react strongly when something is happening that causes us serious concern.

It is true that we may have to respond strongly, but that is different from reacting strongly.

Responding strongly means setting clear boundaries and ensuring understanding. Reacting strongly too often means blaming, criticizing, and perhaps even saying things we don’t mean. Once we start this, children may respond in kind, and there is deep hurt on both sides.

Anger is the way that we often cover up the hurt or fear we are feeling, but anger creates more hurt, and soon we find that we are in a downward spiral. The parent feels that the child no longer loves him/her, and the child feels unloved by the parent, or at least, somewhat unsure of that love. The trust on both sides begins to dissolve. If the process continues, the parent-child relationship can be irreparably damaged.

Having recently worked with a couple of mother-daughter cases, I was able to see miraculous transformations. The mothers were open to my suggestions about what their daughters needed, and the daughters were open to hearing my interpretation of what their mothers were needing. It took several sessions, but gradually the anger and the fear dissolved, and now I am seeing laughter and love.

This does not mean that there is total understanding and acceptance of everything, but there is a mutual respect and compassion. There is also an increased ability to communicate and to negotiate agreements. This is called a win-win solution. It’s the way that allows us to live ‘happier’ ever after.

If you are in a situation with a child that has deteriorated, then both you and the child are in pain that has become a vicious circle. Getting guidance from a professional or spiritual leader is so important.

Dysfunction in parent/child relationships can negatively impact the future of the child in life and relationships. I have seen the deep pain experienced by parents when their adult children want nothing to do with them. I have felt the ache in their hearts when they are not included in the lives of their grandchildren.

If there is struggle in your relationship with a child, the time to seek help is now. This can prevent further damage to the relationship and ensure a happier future.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

The importance of being alone

Do you enjoy your own company? Are you good for you to be with? These might sound like strange questions, but it has been suggested that one of the reasons that we keep our lives so busy is because we are not comfortable being alone with our innermost thoughts and feelings.

For some, when they find themselves alone, it is a time for self-judgment and criticism. They replay in their minds how they behaved, or what they said, and deliver a massive critique. They may list repeatedly all their perceived faults, and a sense of hopelessness about ever improving. This, of course, is the perfect formula for undermining self-confidence and self-esteem, and can even create depression.

Unfortunately, it can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself that you are stupid and boring and that no one likes you, soon you will begin acting in ways that will push people away.

Then there are those who, when alone, find their thoughts turning to fault finding in others. The critic is just as sharp, but this time directs the attack at other people. Thoughts focus on what others did that they didn’t like and begin to create (often false) conclusions about the intentions of the other person. This creates stress, anxiety and even aggression.

Sometimes people avoid solitude because they do not want to think about how they really feel. Perhaps they are in an unhealthy friendship or intimate relationship. If they really allowed themselves to think about it, they may realize that deep down they do not really want that relationship anymore.

Change can be very threatening, so it becomes easier to bury oneself in work or otherwise keep busy, than to confront the problem.

How can you become a more positive influence on yourself, so that time spent alone enriches you? You can begin by refusing to dump on yourself. Reflecting and modifying behavior to get better results is fine, but you do not need to perform your own character assassination in the process.

You can also reflect on how your body feels when you are dwelling on criticism of others. When you do this your body releases stress chemicals which weaken your immune system. This practice truly is toxic for the one engaging in it, and for their relationships.

Spending time alone can be nourishing if we are being kind to ourselves. Some people need to learn to treat themselves as they would a valued friend. It is only in times of solitude that we can truly come to know ourselves.

Shakespeare wrote ‘To thine own self be true.’ This is a well-known proverbial expression which means ‘be true to yourself or ‘don’t do anything that would go against your true nature’.

How can we be true to ourselves if we don’t spend time exploring how we feel about the different aspects of our lives? Begin some dialogues with yourself.

Ask, “What do you really feel/think about—–? Then listen to that inner voice. Doing this will reveal your true nature.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Equality in relationships

Psychology For Living

How decisions are made in a relationship or fam­ily tells a lot about the level of communication. Many decisions are made daily about how money and time are to be spent. Decisions are made about what children may or may not do, about social activities, and about what to have for supper. Some decisions are minor, while others have far reaching impact.

It would be time consuming and at times ridiculous to consult with everyone every time a decision is re­quired. So, we informally delegate decision making with regard to certain things.

But every once in a while, it is important to notice how this is happening, and if it is still suitable for the people involved. Sometimes parents forget to turn over more decision making to their children as they grow older, even though this is an important part of assisting young people to take more responsibility for them­selves. The sudden surge of rebelliousness that sometimes erupts in adolescence may be the result of never having made the gradual transition to having more responsibility. Increased opportunities for decision making ear­lier, in matters affecting teenagers directly, prepares both parents and children for this inevitable shift.

In adult relationships, we often hear the partner say, “My wife/husband would never go for that!” In this case it would seem that over the years one has given the other veto power over what one can and cannot do. This is not to suggest that a couple cannot set mu­tually agreed upon boundaries for behavior within the relationship, but rather it is not appropriate for an adult to deprive oneself of something which is enjoyable (not illegal or immoral) simply because a partner doesn’t “approve.”

This puts a couple into a parent-child relationship which sooner or later breeds resentment. Often one person in the partnership has the final say on how money should be spent. Rarely is this a conscious agreement, it’s just how it seems to end up. This puts the other person in a position of having to ask “permission” to get something that he/she really wants. Again, this is too much like a parent-child re­lationship, and either resentment builds or self-es­teem suffers.

Each of us has the right to have input in decisions that affect us, and the amount of input increases for children with age and maturity. However, in adult relationships, decision-making should be on an equal input basis. Couples for whom this is a concern need to begin by looking at how decisions on various matters are currently being made, and if both are comfortable with this. If not, then they need to work together to develop a process that they will use so that decision making is more equitable. The decision timing process is often taken for granted; however, it can be a very powerful factor in how we feel about ourselves, and how happy we are in our relationships.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Understanding your parents

Psychology For Living

I have long been an advocate for kids of all ages. Adults tend to think they know best, and sometimes they do. We do not know best about some things, for example, how our children feel.

I work with many young people, and they teach me much about how they think and feel. I am happy to help adults to be more considerate of children. Once in a while though, I have to step back and remember to remind children to be considerate of the adults in their lives.

So kids, here goes. If an adult treats you with utter and complete disrespect, or is abusive, it is very hard to be considerate of them. You can only try to maintain your own integrity in dealing with them.

If you find their behavior demeaning and violating, vow to never be like that. Such behavior is unacceptable. However, most of you who read this will be dealing with adults who would be considered by the rest of the world to be acceptable. Therefore, they deserve respect.

What does this mean? It means that you should recognize that they chose to have you in their lives. Every parent who consciously chooses to have a child does so because they intend to love that child, and to be a good parent. Some do not know how or had poor parenting models themselves. Most of your parents want a good relationship with you. You can facilitate this process if you accept the following guidelines.

As the ones who provide for your basic needs, your parents have the final say in most things. Parents should not be yelled at, sworn at, or be the target of your aggression. They should not be expected to do things for you that you could do yourself.

You should help out in ways that are appropriate for your age. At five or six you should be able to make your bed, set the table, and help with washing up. Then from eight to ten you should manage other cleaning tasks, such as vacuuming, dusting, taking out garbage.
After the age of ten you should be able to clean bathrooms and kitchen, do laundry, and help with meal preparation. By the age of sixteen, you should be able to handle any household task, including buying groceries and cooking meals.

Each family must work out a system that works for them. I do not believe that children should be doing all the work, but nor do I think that parents should either.

Children must have time for homework, lessons, sports and play. Most helping tasks could be accomplished in a half hour per day, during the week, and perhaps an hour on weekends. If you are inefficient, it will take longer.

If, in families, we adopt the idea that we are here to help each other, and give willingly, things go very smoothly. Not liking chores is not reason not to do them. Making parents nag and hassle you before you will do things only creates tension in the home. Doing jobs poorly damages trust.

If you want to test my theory, try for one week to do what you are asked, or even to do things before you are asked. Let your parents know that you appreciate them. If you really want to create miracles, ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. And don’t forget the hugs. Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Protect your marriage

Gwen Randall-Young
Psychology for Living

What do you look for in a partner with whom you will share life, and possibly children?
Falling in love and planning a wedding are incredibly romantic activities, very often undertaken while wearing rose-colored glasses. All the gifts make it seem like Christmas, but there is an important gift that you must give to yourself, and that is the gift of awareness.
You would not buy a car without brakes, or a house with a leaky basement, so why would you commit to a relationship where something fundamental is missing? Let’s look at those fundamentals, assuming that you’ve already screened for major dysfunctional problems.
1) First and foremost is good communication. We’ve heard this a zillion times, but what does it really mean? It means that you can talk openly to one another, without fear of criticism or anger. It means that you feel heard and understood. It also means that most times you feel closer to one another after having talked. It also means that you are honest with each other. If you do not have this kind of communication, then you won’t be able to work through issues related to finances, sex, etc. and then you will have more problems than just communication!
2) Next, there must be some kind of commitment to growth. This comes from the understanding that a relationship is not a static thing, but is ever changing, and we must grow in order to keep up. We all have blind spots, and must be willing to learn and expand our awareness. If you don’t grow, you may wake up one day to a partner who says he/she has outgrown the relationship. By then, it’s usually too late to catch up.
3) There must also be shared goals. You need to be able to look ahead and have some sense of where you are going, or you will surely end up somewhere else. These goals can be revised as time goes on, but they must be talked about, for if you each have a different idea of the future, then you are on a collision course.
4) Finally, you must both have the ability to handle conflict. Conflict is inevitable, in fact it is often the signal that change is needed. If it is not channeled appropriately, it becomes a destructive force, and eats away at the relationship. There are a multitude of books on the subject of conflict resolution, and if they don’t help, you can seek counselling. 
If you concentrate on these four fundamental areas, then you are well on the way to having a relationship that you can celebrate!

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration. 


It is one thing to deal with the tantrum of a two-year-old. It’s easy to pick him up and put him in his room, where he most likely will fall asleep. What if the child is between 5 and 8?
A toddler having a tantrum is angry and may simply lie on the floor and kick his feet. An older child tends to act out towards people or things when in the midst of a tantrum. She may yell out insults, slam doors, or even throw things around. Conventional wisdom holds that when a toddler has a tantrum, the best thing to do is to ignore it.
With an older child, it is hard to know what to ignore. If the child is being physically or verbally abusive, to ignore such behavior would seem to be condoning it.
The key to avoiding tantrums in older children is to keep communicating with them. If they are angry, let them explain why they are so angry. Don’t argue with them, just listen. Once you convey to the child that you understand why she is so angry, you may be able to do some problem solving.
If she is angry because you have said “no” to a sleepover, you can explain your reasons once again and suggest a compromise. Perhaps she could go over for the evening, and you’ll pick her up before bedtime. Asking a child what they might suggest as a compromise gets them into some logical thinking and out of the emotional turmoil, if only for a few moments. It’s unlikely at this point, to revert to a tantrum.
Toddlers have tantrums because they do not have the skills to express what they want, or to argue their point. Older children have tantrums because they think they are not being heard.
The worst thing you can do with a child in a tantrum is to get angry and have a tantrum yourself. You need to stay calm, set the boundaries, and defuse things as much as you can. Tell the child that when he calms down, you will listen what he has to say.
If the child is out of control, being verbally abusive or damaging things, you need to step in. At this point you are not dealing with the issue, simply attempting to control the situation. Tell the child that they can be mad, but they cannot be abusive. When things have settled, you must reiterate with the child that such behavior is unacceptable. They must understand at an early age that being angry does not justify abusive words or behaviors.
Communication and anger management skills must be developed early. This is the first step in the elimination of family violence.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Honesty allows relationships to go to a deeper level

In order to have a relationship that goes beyond the superficial, there must be some level of honesty. In fact, honesty is sometimes what allows a relationship to go deeper. Regardless of the relationship, be it with a parent, child, partner, colleague or friend, the principles are the same. Sometimes we really need to let another person know what is going on inside of us.
This is not an easy thing in our culture. Let’s face it: we are masters of looking like everything is fine on the outside, even when we are crumbling within. Hiding what we are really feeling leaves us feeling lonely and isolated. There comes a point when the feeling needs to be expressed, and because we are not practiced in doing this, sometimes it comes out wrong. Then things get worse.
So, we resolve to bury our feelings even deeper. Now, we feel even more alone, certain that no one, especially those closest to us, really cares how we feel.
What is the way out of this dilemma? When we feel hurt, our first instinct is to protect ourselves. We do this either by building a protective wall, or else by attacking. Neither approach gets us what we want and need. Ironically, if we truly show our vulnerability, only the most hardened individuals would shut us out. If we build a wall, and retreat inside, we shut others out. They interpret this as rejection or abandonment, feel hurt, and then themselves choose retreat or attack. Things have begun to escalate.
If, on the other hand, we choose to initially attack, we similarly provoke one of those two responses.
Clearly, we need an option that would allow us to break out of this cycle. There is one. It demands expanding our view of the situation to encompass the other person’s feelings and perceptions. It requires that we take a problem-solving approach, rather than just trying to argue for our own position. It asks that we truly care about the other person as much as we care about ourselves. It further requires that we not judge the other person as wrong for trying to fulfill their needs.
It can be helpful if we imagine that the problem in question is between two other people (not ‘me’ and ‘you’), and think how we would approach the issue if we had been called in to mediate. If we approach another person with an attitude of caring and an expressed desire to understand their point of view, it is more likely that they will open up. It is only then that meaningful communication can occur. If both people use this approach, both the relationship and the individuals are transformed. When most of us do it, our world will be transformed.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Teenagers in training

When we decide to start a family, the usual picture in our mind is of cute little babies, and maybe playful toddlers. We don’t typically envision gangly pre-teens or rebellious adolescents.
Consequently, we may begin preparing too late. If you want your children to listen to you when they are older, you must begin when they are very young. This is as much about training yourself as it is about training your children. It is about taking the time to be clear about what you want to teach your child, being as patient and kind as you can be, and being consistent and following through.
It may seem like a big hassle when they are little and you have your hands full, and there may be times when you want to say, “Do it because I said so!”. However, if you are not assisting them to develop self-discipline and to take responsibility, and instead you are relying on the authority (power) that you have over them, you will be left stranded if they reach a point when they no longer respect your authority.
So, if you say it is time to pick up the toys, then it is time to pick up the toys. Even if you have to stand there with them, or help to get them going, the toys must be picked up. If you say it’s time to pick up the toys, and you say it fifteen times over a two-hour period, and go about your other work in between, then you are teaching them that you are not really serious. And ten years later they won’t believe that you’re serious about their curfew either
This is not so much about being stern and rigid, or creating a me-against-you power struggle, as it is about mutual co-operation and respect. It’s also about flexibility in creating win-win outcomes. For example: “You don’t want to put the puzzle away because it’s not finished yet. How about if we just move it out of the way and put all the other toys away.”
If your children know that they can tell you what they need, and that you will listen, they will be more open and less defiant later on.
Many parents are so good to their children, perhaps catering too much to them so that they have almost everything they want. Parents feel that the children will really appreciate all of this as they get older and realize that they have had more than others. These parents also imagine that they will be spared the trials that other parents go through, because their children will like them so much.
Sadly, this often backfires. Children who are used to getting what they want as youngsters become frustrated and angry when suddenly parents are saying “No.” They may want to start staying out late, dating, going to parties, etc. before parents feel they are ready. They may be sullen and demanding, and this is very painful for parents who feel they have given so much to their children. Not wanting to lose their affection, they may end up giving in to unrealistic demands, and then things rapidly slip out of control.
So enjoy the little ones, and let them grow at their own pace. But once in a while, look at them as though they were “teenagers in training.” Ask yourself if the defiant little “No!” that is so cute now, will still be cute in ten or fifteen years. Attention to detail now, will pay huge dividends later on.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Mother/daughter relationships

This column contains information that is vital to a healthy Mother-Daughter relationship. Remember the little baby girl with the delicate features that you could dress up and cuddle? You were the center of her world, and you were in control. She needed you. It was wonderful to feel so close, and to think that it would always be like this. She would always love you and want you close by. When she grew up, you would be friends.

Then something went wrong. As she entered adolescence, you ceased to be the center of her world. She did not always want you around. She no longer wanted to be cuddled. The more you tried to regain that closeness, to pull her back to you, the more she pulled away.

This is a very common scenario. Often a Mother feels hurt, wondering where she went wrong. When she cannot seem to rectify the situation, the hurt turns to anger and resentment. After loving and caring for this child all of these years, to feel rejected seems a bitter twist, threatening to destroy our dream of a close and pleasant lifelong relationship. Panic sets in as the Mother redoubles her efforts to make the daughter want to be closer. Either she tries to make the daughter talk it out and resolve the issue, or she may resort to anger and punishment.

Nothing works because the daughter does not want what the Mother wants. If she tries to explain this to her Mother, the Mother’s feelings are hurt even more. (We do not want to hear that she does not need or want us in her life as much.) The more we pressure her, the more exasperated she becomes, and the less she wants to do with us. The more we lay guilt on her, the more helpless she feels, and the more she resents us for putting the burden of our wellbeing on her shoulders.

She is right about this: we cannot make our children responsible for our happiness. Further, she is following the developmental pattern that has been there all along. Remember when she wanted to hold the bottle herself? Remember when she grabbed the spoon out of your hand to feed herself, even if she mostly missed her mouth? Remember when she insisted on dressing herself, even when she had her pants on backwards?

All the way along there have been times when she has had to push us away in order to figure things out for herself. She did not want us to put the puzzle piece in its place even if it was hard for her, because she wanted the satisfaction of doing it herself. Sometimes she did not want to be picked up and held because she had other things on her mind. Our desire to be involved with her were rejected time and time again. We did not take it personally, because eventually she always came back and needed us again.

Well, this is exactly what happens in adolescence. Pushing us away, drawing into herself, and refusal to communicate are all natural parts of her growth. Some things she just needs to do herself, in her own way. Sometimes she just needs her own space. The way to support her at this stage is to continue to love her unconditionally.

Ask her what she needs from you. If she says she just wants to be alone sometimes, then honor that. If we can stay calm through this stage and not overreact to her apparent distancing, then she is free to approach us when she needs us. If we do not make her feel like a bad person because she is not fulfilling our needs, she will not have to pull so far away. If we don’t hold on too tightly, then she will feel free to come back any time. And she will.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Effects of tone of voice

“10% of conflicts are due to a difference of opinion. 90% are due to the wrong tone of voice.”

Author unknown
There is more to spoken messages than the words we say. Tone of voice is just as important as the content of the message. Voice tone can communicate love, caring, respect and gentleness.
It can also convey disrespect, dishonoring, hostility or indifference. It can render an otherwise benign message threatening or abusive. The voice transmits energy, and can hit another like a warm, welcome Chinook, or like an icy Arctic blast.
This energy affects the recipient on many levels, and can trigger a variety of different feelings. Maybe you did not mean to say it that way, and you did not intend to offend, but, unfortunately, the damage is done.
It is a little like hitting someone, and then trying to erase their emotional response. Because it is ‘just words’, the speaker often feels he or she has not done anything ‘that bad’.
If there is a solid, loving relationship, often mutual understanding and forgiveness allows for some lapses. However, sometimes between partners, parents and children, or siblings, a disrespectful tone of voice becomes the norm in communication.
Some are not aware of their tone, and others think that a harsh tone makes them more powerful. Unbelievably, I still have clients reporting that they get yelled at in the workplace. Being a boss or supervisor does not mean you can treat employees like they are children, and you are the authoritarian father or mother.
When this sort of thing happens at work, it reflects on the one yelling. They are showing that they have not developed the professional skills to handle problems that arise. This behavior is mean and bullying, and shows the person has no control over emotions. No one deserves to be yelled at on the job. Period.
The same can be said of yellers at home. Some may think that in their own home they can do as they want. I suppose that is true. Does that mean those close to us deserve less respect than others?
Of course, I understand parental frustration. But if a parent is at the point of yelling they are likely angry and may say things that the child will remember forever. If children are yelled at throughout the years, is it surprising that they become teens who yell at their parents?
Clear rules and consistent implementation of consequences can modify most behaviors. Handling situations in a calm, but determined, manner garners respect from children and employees.
If we find ourselves saying, “How many times do I have to tell you?” it shows that “telling” (or yelling) without proper instruction, working out a plan to carry out expectations, and consistent consequences is not working. A negative tone will not help any situation, while a calm respectful tone just might.
Think about whether the energy you put out to others is like that warm chinook, or more like an artic blast. Which kind of energy to prefer to receive?

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration. 

Stepparents and stepchildren

ost complicated set of relationships. Two people fall in love and eventually want to live together. One or both may have children, as well as exes. While every situation is different, much of what follows will be applicable.
It’s true that children should respect their elders and appreciate their parents. This is an area where parents may occasionally run into difficulty with their biological children, but the issue seems to become even more intense in the case of stepparents.
It is a touchy area, because most stepparents want to be liked and respected by their partner’s children. However, the step-parenting relationship is different than being a biological parent. You cannot demand to be treated in a particular way, because that will only exacerbate an already difficult situation.
If the children instinctively like you, respect and appreciation are generally not issues. Usually when they are, it is because of underlying tension between the stepparent and the stepchildren. Sometimes an ex-partner is resentful of the new spouse, and the children show their loyalty by being cool to the new partner.
Alternatively, the children may resent the newcomer, especially if they have had a period of time when they had Mom or Dad all to themselves. Sometimes the stepparent tries too hard to be a parent, to be accepted, or to have some control over the stepchild. This will create resistance in the child, who already has a Mom and a Dad, and does not want a second of either! It is so important to try to view the situation from the child’s perspective.
Most children want their parents to be together, and unless a parent is deceased, they do not necessarily want their parent to find a new partner. When the new person is introduced to the children, it is usually as Mommy or Daddy’s ‘friend’. They seem to be able to handle the idea of a friend. I think if stepparents thought of themselves as friends of the stepchildren, and acted that way, that a mutually respectful parenting relationship might evolve.
Before moving in together, it is important for both parents in the blended family to discuss how parenting will be handled. Accept that there will be different rules and expectations at the bio parent’s home. Do not try to “compensate” for what you feel is lacking. Changing what the child has grown up with because of a stepparent’s view is unfair to the children. If changes are introduced it should happen gradually, and quite a while after the blending. Otherwise, the stepparent will be blamed.
It is also important that children be involved in discussions about the role the new adult is to play in their lives. Really listen to their concerns; this is a big change. If they are involved and have input in these discussions, they are more likely to co-operate. Blending a new family is an extremely delicate process, and so it is best to proceed slowly, gently, and with a willingness to be flexible.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Reparenting Ourselves

“The way we were treated as small children is the way we treat ourselves the rest of our lives: with cruelty or with tenderness and protection.”
                                                                                               ~ Alice Miller
Sometimes people who are outwardly successful in most areas of their lives, still do not feel good about themselves. No amount of external success can change that. Often the roots of this problem go back to the way that person was treated as a child. Obviously, childhood abuse leaves scars.
Even if the child was not abused, other subtle forms of devaluing may continue to haunt an individual throughout life. Being ignored, rejected, or left out in the early years creates a deep sense of not being good or important enough.
Even more subtle are the negative effects that occur when parents project their feelings, ideas, and dreams upon their children. In order to survive and be loved, the child learns to obey: to try to be the person the parents want him or her to be. This requires that the child repress his or her own feelings, and stifle attempts to be himself or herself.
The result, too often, is depression, reduced vitality, and loss of self. This is particularly noticeable during adolescence, when the child’s biological imperative is to explore and experience his or her individuality and uniqueness. This begins with a need to differentiate from one’s parents. What appears as teen conformity is the group effort to distinguish itself from the previous generation. Having done that, individuals will then make an effort to express their uniqueness within their group.
Rather than honoring the child’s right to be oneself, and in their well-meaning attempts to “train” children, parents often instill humiliation, shame fear and guilt. They inadvertently reduce the child’s ability to make crucial perceptions later in life. Ironically, the adult ends up either feeling guilty for expressing true feelings or lives a life trying to please others.
The way to heal built-in patterns, is to recognize the doubts or self-criticisms are messages formed when we were children, based on our experiences.
Then, working to become the all-loving, nurturing and supportive mother/father to our own inner child. We only counteract the old beliefs by forming new ones.
If we do not do this, our inner voice is not really ours, but rather we are parroting negative ideas we picked up along the way. Another complication comes when we project those negative beliefs on to another: “You think I am dumb!” “My friends don’t really like me.” “No one really cares about me.”
If, try as you might, you cannot stop the negative self-talk, it would be wise to consider doing some work with a good therapist.
As adults who were not honored as children, we need to begin the process of learning to honor our true selves. As parents raising children, we need to be very conscious—and may need to revise some of our methods of child rearing, and our traditional views about it.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Psychology for living: a look at chronic pain

I have worked with individuals suffering from chronic pain, and although I listened carefully to how it affected them, I didn’t fully understand until an inflamed tailbone provided me with some direct experience.
Much as I dislike the pain, it has given me a profound insight into what others must deal with when relief is elusive.
Generally, whenever we have a problem in life, we look for solutions. Most often there is something we can do to change the situation. The very term ‘chronic pain’ suggests that there are no simple answers. No one likes to be in pain, nor to be always talking about their pain. But when its bad, it seems to fill your entire world. You can feel like an outsider looking in, unable to fully participate in life.
Pain needs healing, and so it is important to pursue healing modalities. It is critical to have an accurate diagnosis, and an understanding of what is causing the pain. Your medical doctor can arrange tests or referrals to specialists. Do not be afraid to seek a second opinion if you’re feeling unsure.
It is also wise to investigate other kinds of healing, including massage, physiotherapy, natural medicine, acupuncture to name only a few. These modalities can complement each other very well.
Psychological counselling may also help because we know there is a strong body-mind connection. Sometimes chronic pain is a message that something in our lives is not as it should be, or as we would like. The bottom line is that it is a reminder/opportunity to take care of ourselves. Sometimes it is a wakeup call encouraging us either to change our lives, or to appreciate things we take for granted.
If you suffer from chronic pain, then it is important to do as much as you can to be proactive in your healing. Do some research into your condition, consulting with recent publications through the library. Check the bookstores to see if there is a book dealing with your problem. Talk to your health practitioner about what you are finding. These are ways in which you can feel that you are doing something on your own behalf, rather than waiting for answers. Be good to yourself and indulge in things that feel good, be it a massage or a soak in a hot tub.
If you live with someone who is in pain, understand that they cannot truly be themselves when they are hurting. Do not minimize their pain and understand their limitations. You may be frustrated that they can’t do what they’ve always done, but don’t get angry or make them feel guilty. They need your loving support and share your desire that they get back to normal. You may not be able to fix the pain, but your love and compassion can make it more bearable.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit

Healthy immune systems protect us

I have often written about the importance of self-care, physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
After going on three years of Covid, I have not seen an explanation of why, among the unvaccinated and vaccinated, some people got sick from the virus and others did not. In one family I know of, the father and young adult son got the disease, while the mother and daughter did not, despite living in close quarters.
Why is it that some people succumb to whatever the current cold or flu virus happens to be, while others seem escape? It is not simply a matter of who is exposed, as not every child in the class will become sick, nor will every member of the family always come down with the same symptoms.
At the simplest level, it may have to do with basic precautions, such as scrupulously washing hands, and, in the case of Covid, masking and physical distancing. These practices drastically reduced any spread of seasonal flu viruses.
The most important factor, however, is the strength of our immune system. A weakened immune system simply does not have the ability to defend the body from either external or internal threats to health. The reason the elderly are at more risk is because as we age, the immune system weakens.
Some individuals seem blessed with a naturally strong immune system, but there are many things we can do to strengthen our own. Good nutrition, plenty of rest, and exercise are key components. Avoiding products devoid of nutrition or those containing elements that harmful, such as white flour, sugar, excess fat, and various additives makes for a healthier system. It goes without saying that avoiding nicotine, and using alcohol in moderation are wise choices.
Another element that is toxic to our immune system is stress. There are many kinds of stress, and all, over time, will wear us down. Stress causes the body to release harmful substances, and has been scientifically proven to suppress the immune system. T-cells are part of the immune system. Their job is to take out cancer cells so that cancer cannot take root in the body. A strong immune system is like health care insurance!
The most harmful form of stress is emotional stress. We can handle a lot of the ordinary stress of living; keeping the children organized, getting reports done on time, if we are happy with our lives.
Happiness is a buffer for stress, and positive experiences have been shown to strengthen the immune system. However, if we are continually sad, feeling isolated, in conflict, or walking on eggshells, our immune systems will be compromised.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that in our language, we speak in terms of being ‘sick of’ ongoing, difficult situations. Anything you are “sick of” could end up making you sick.
With medical researchers describing ‘superbugs’ and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we would all be wise to ‘upgrade’ our immune systems, and for many, that might mean a major lifestyle change. That is a good thing, and may protect us from more than just viruses!

Real communication

“When people talk listen completely. Most people never listen.”
                                                                                                           ~ Ernest Hemingway

In my experience as a psychologist, what people want more than anything is to be heard and understood. It’s not just about hearing the words but understanding the meaning and feeling behind them.
One of the biggest impediments to good communication is not listening effectively. Just because you have heard the words another has spoken does not mean you understand their meaning, or their feelings. We can repeat their words, but that does not show them that we understand what is behind them.
Often in difficult discussions with partners, teens or in the workplace, each has their point of view and tries to impress that upon the other. While the other is speaking, the listener may be preparing their response and not listening.
If someone has told you that you just do not understand, then you are missing something. First, we must be clear about our intent: are we wanting to argue, to prove our point, or to truly understand where the other is coming from? If you truly want to understand, you can say, “Tell me what I am not understanding?”
There is a very effective strategy you can begin to implement immediately that may surprise you in how well it works. Listen to what the person is telling you and get as much information about their position as you can. Ask questions if you need clarification. For a moment, imagine you are the other person.
Then the two of you can switch positions and express what you think the other has been trying to say. See if you can convincingly present their point of view, or their side of the argument. 
Doing this is valuable for two reasons: first, it requires listening well enough to hear all of the information; second, it requires that you look at the situation from the perspective of the other.
If two people are having a disagreement, or are trying to communicate about something important, a profound deepening of understanding can occur if they take a few moments and each role-plays the position of the other. 
This does not mean simply parroting what the other has said. It means truly stepping into the role of the other, and sincerely expressing their viewpoint. Ask if you have it right and allow the other to continue explaining until he or she agrees that you have expressed it accurately. 
This alone may not solve the problem, but at least each knows the other’s point of view. There is mutual understanding. Next comes the part where you work as a team to decide how to deal with the differences.
With couples, it is very important to resolve important issues, and if there is a stalemate it is wise to have a counselling session or two.
With children, often the parent overrules, in the best interest of the child.
Give the child comfort and compassion as it helps if they know you understand how they feel.
A similar situation exists in the workplace. Sometimes the boss or manager makes a unilateral decision. It is then for you to decide if you can live with that, or if it is time to move on.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration. 

Narcissistic Personality

The word “narcissist” is heard a lot lately. We can think of a narcissism spectrum. A person can exhibit narcissistic tendencies without having a full blown narcissistic personality disorder.

A person also need not have every one of the traits of narcissism to be considered narcissistic. They can have as few as fifty-five present of the traits, to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. It is particularly difficult to deal with a narcissist in relationships that are important to us.

Narcissism is diagnosed on the basis of behaviors. There are no blood tests or other exact determinations of this condition. Even therapists have to go on the behaviors and attitudes the person presents. 

What are the traits of a narcissist? Narcissism is extreme self-involvement to the degree that the person ignores the needs of those around them. They frequently disregard others or their feelings. In addition, they do not understand the effect their behavior has on others. 

Narcissists can be very charming and charismatic. Their negative behaviors are not shown right away, especially in relationships. They often have a sense of superiority and entitlement. This is different from self-confidence. Their world is all about good/bad, superior/inferior, and right/wrong. They have to be the best, the most right, do everything their way and control everyone.

They tend to be manipulative and controlling. A narcissist will try to please and impress you, but eventually their own needs come first.

A common sign of narcissism is the constant need for praise or admiration. They often brag or exaggerate their accomplishments for recognition.

A glaring sign of a narcissist is lack of responsibility, including blaming, deflection and gas lighting. They put all the blame and responsibility on others to maintain their façade of perfection. It is always someone else’s fault.

Most often the narcissist blames the one person who is most emotionally close, most loving, attached and loyal in their life. The victims of narcissistic abuse are the safest to blame as they are the least likely to leave or reject them.

Narcissists lack boundaries. They become upset if told “no”. If they want something from you, they will go to great lengths to get it through persistence, demanding, rejecting or pouting.

They frequently misread subtle facial expressions, biased towards interpreting them as negative. They can tend to interpret a neutral comment as an attack and become defensive. 

You cannot use reason or logic to get them to understand how their behaviors hurt you. One assumes if they know how they make you feel, they will change. They won’t, since your explanations don’t make sense to them. They are only aware of their own thoughts and feelings.

As a result of their inability to understand feelings, their constant need to protect themselves, and their lack of empathy, narcissists cannot truly connect with, or love others. 

They have anxiety, which they project onto their closest loved ones. They accuse them of being negative, mentally ill, unsupportive or selfish.

If there is a narcissist in your life, self-care becomes crucial. It may include working with a therapist to understand why you suffer so much pain, no matter how hard you try to make it right.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration. 

Psychology for living: why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

A conspiracy theory is a belief that some individual or secret influential group is responsible for a circumstance created to serve themselves. It is assumed there are malevolent intentions. Examples of such theories are that the 9/11 was an inside job by a secret group within America, or that the royal family was behind Princess Diana’s death.

There have been many conspiracy theories around the Covid 19. Central is the theory that instead of preventing the spread of deadly infectious diseases, vaccines make people ill and that this has been covered up by pharmaceutical companies and governments. Some believe the Covid vaccines are an attempt by Bill Gates to microchip humanity.

Theories that hold that Covid is a cover-up, include that the virus is not real, that illness is caused not by a virus, but instead caused by radiation from 5G towers, that it was created in a Chinese lab as a bioweapon, or that the vaccines were designed to restructure our DNA. There is no evidence for any of these beliefs.

People are drawn to conspiracy theories for several reasons. First is the desire to have information, they want to know the truth when something unsettling has happened. Second is that people are drawn to these theories when there is uncertainty. Often they have not been taught the tools to differentiate between good or credible sources, and bad or non-credible sources.

People who feel powerless and disillusioned tend to gravitate more towards conspiracy theories. Espousing these theories can make them feel good about themselves by feeling they have access to information others don’t necessarily have. They often suggest that others who do not accept the conspiracy theories are sheep, or “drank the kool-aid,” while they have “the truth.”

Experts suggest that when misinformation offers simple, causal explanations, even if unverified, it gives many a sense of agency or control. The feel they know what is “really” going on. People who have high anxiety, feel insecure in their relationships or their lives, and who tend to catastrophize life’s problems, are more likely to believe conspiracy theories.

The more isolated they feel, and the more they refuse to believe evidence that disproves their theories, the more they deepen their involvement in those theories. It is also common for those people to further isolate themselves from anyone who challenges them.

These beliefs can turn in to a conspiracy theory addiction. Such individuals may seek out information to support what they already believe is true. This is exacerbated in those who have less tolerance for uncertainty, or with lower analytical abilities and thus are more likely to embrace these theories.

Their strong need for understanding and consistency can lead to addictive behaviors, such as spending excessive time on the internet, and becoming less involved with relationships and responsibilities.

It does not help to ridicule others, or try to prove them wrong. If someone wants our opinion about what is true or false, we can present facts from credible sources. I have seen arguments tear families apart. This is one of those things about which it is best, in my view, to agree to disagree, and then change the subject.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Psychology for living: anger makes things worse

Gwen Randall-Young

Psychology for living

Life presents opportunities daily for us to get caught up in polarity, negativity and conflict. Whether it be something in our personal lives, our work situation, or a global issue, anger can be triggered. We may justify our anger based on the actions of others.

Some may say that another made them so mad, as though that person caused them to behave as they did.

This way of thinking allows the angry one to take no responsibility for their behaviors. It is important to clarify that we are talking about angry behaviors, not feelings.

Something can trigger our anger, but the way we respond is totally our own choice and responsibility.

If you do not agree with this, what would you say to a husband who beat his wife, and argued, “I wouldn’t have had to hit her if she hadn’t lipped me off.”

This is a knee-jerk, primitive response, and as a civilization, this has not served us. It is clearly time to evolve beyond this way of thinking.

Look at our world today. Never has there been so much divisiveness.

Individuals, families or groups may find that conflict becomes a central facet of existence. There is always something, or someone, to rage about, either silently or openly. However, true joy is impossible in an angry heart, and anger never brings peace.

Marshal Rosenberg, a global mediator, did not seek to get parties to agree about their interpretations of the situation. It was about ceasing the fighting, and then looking for options both could live with, despite their differences.

I remember spending hours building intricate sand castles at the beach. Soon the waves began lapping at the edge of the structure, and eventually washed it away. In the end, the beach was completely smooth, flat and pristine, with no sign of what had once been.

We are no more permanent than the sand castle. Time laps at the edge of our lives, and will ultimately wash away all signs of our existence. The same, eventually, will happen to our entire species.

Of what consequence will be our battles with individuals or nations? What will it all have been for?

As individuals, and as a species, we must ask ourselves how well we are utilizing our evolutionary potential. What separates us from other animals is our ability to think, plan and communicate with each other. Whenever we fight, we are at our most primitive.

Yes, there will be problems, disagreements and differing viewpoints in any situation. We must care enough to consider the other’s point of view, and work to create respectful relationships where we can work together to find solutions.

The time will come when we are all gone. There may be no memory of our existence on this earth. Somewhere however, our souls will carry the memory of how we lived here, and how we treated one another. Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Nurturing Young Minds

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

~ Albert Einstein

Gwen Randall-Young

Our children will become the ones who influence the way civilization evolves in the future. It is natural for us to want the best for them, and to help them develop their gifts and talents.

The rational mind is logical and analytical. The intuitive mind has been described as that part that sees many things at once, views the big picture, contains perspective, is heart centered, oriented in space and time, and tends to the real or concrete.

This kind of thinking cannot be taught, as much as modeled. It involves language, communication and sharing ideas with others in a way that feels safe.

Intelligence is not just about “book learning.” We all know of people who achieved great success, be it in farming, business, or computer technology who may not even have completed high school.

While I am certainly an advocate of education, there is a danger that children might equate their intelligence with how they do in school. While there certainly is some connection, many very intelligent children do not, for various reasons, perform well in school. They may have difficulty with attention, sitting still, behavior, or they may be bored.

It is important for parents to help children have confidence in their own brains! Perhaps they are skilled at building things, or they are artistic. A child might have a good imagination. These are all signs of intelligence. Similarly, a child might be very compassionate and understanding. This demonstrates emotional intelligence.

School success depends on so much more than what the score on an IQ test. There must be motivation, an ability to concentrate and stay focused, and a good fit between learning style and the teaching style of the classroom.

If you really want to raise intelligent children, then have intelligent conversations with them. Expose children to the world of knowledge beyond what is taught in the classroom.

Most importantly, be curious about their own thoughts.

Show them that their thinking has value, beyond knowing a right answer. Ask them often what they think about a topic, listen carefully, showing them that their ideas are interesting. Do not tell them the way they think is wrong!

Certainly, you can express a different way of looking at the topic or issue, but follow up with a question about what they think of that.

Over the years I have worked with some brilliant people, often women at high levels in their companies, who hold back expressing their valuable ideas. They fear they might be seen as wrong, or they don’t want to step on the toes of a higher up.

Thus, the “intelligence” of the organization is diminished.

However, you are involved with the children in your life, value their ideas, and ask their opinion. Build their self-esteem, and encourage them, even if they are not blazing stars in the classroom. Einstein wasn’t.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

The truth about lying

No one likes to be lied to. From the time our children are very young, we emphasize the importance of always telling the truth. Most parents feel strongly about this and find it distressing when their child is lying to them.
In recent years, especially in the political realm, lying, sadly, has become commonplace, It even is seen as a “strategy” to undermine opponents. Lying, or misrepresenting the facts, has lead so many in our world left not knowing who to trust. To my mind it is a form of brainwashing.
There is also a lot of lying in personal relationships. Often when confronted with a mistruth, the listener says, “Why did you lie?”
People lie for many reasons. Generally, it is because they feel someone would be mad or upset with them if they knew the truth. What this means is that they betray the trust of another to protect themselves from the consequences of their behavior.
The minute one does this, the relationship with the other is compromised. The one who lied now has to pretend. They have to pretend that what they said was really true. They have to pretend they have been honest.
The one who lied also has to carry guilt. They must carry the knowledge that they have been dishonest to someone they care about, and who has complete trust in them. If this happens in a love relationship, it can be very dangerous.
Dangerous is a strong word, but I use it because I have seen relationships irreparably damaged when the lie is discovered. Once one has shown he or she is capable of lying, his or her word can never again be trusted as it once was. Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with that truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
Furthermore, the partner agonizes over how many other lies there may have been in the past. The lie has thus contaminated both the past and the future. The entire relationship has tilted on its axis, and while work can be done to regain trust, things will never again be quite as they were.
What is the bottom line? Obviously, it would be to not do things you will have to lie about. If you are doing something of which your partner would disapprove, he or she has the right to know, and to make decisions accordingly.
Honesty and openness are the cornerstones of trust. Trust, in turn, creates security.
In adult relationships, a lie can leave the other always feeling they are walking on thin ice.
You may fear that telling the truth would jeopardize the relationship. However, accountability is about not doing the things that would jeopardize the relationship in the first place. I leave you with this thought, expressed by Bo Bennett: “For every good to tell a lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.”
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.

Making ‘we’ more important than ‘I’

Do you find yourself arguing frequently with your partner? This may happen for several reasons. If one person is criticizing the other, undoubtedly an argument will ensue. The solution here, obviously, is to stop criticizing. No one likes to be criticized.

Telling someone that what they are doing or thinking is wrong will only trigger defensiveness. Instead of telling the other what he/she is doing wrong, simply ask for the behavior you would like. Offering to modify one of your behaviors in return creates a win-win situation.

Sometimes the arguments are a result of differing opinions. You have probably noticed that when two people are reiterating their respective positions, they may become louder or more forceful, but that rarely shifts the perspective of the other. The result is either a blow-up, with an aftermath that lasts for days, or one party gives in to keep the peace, but may feel unheard or resentful.

This can become a pattern in the relationship, either with a partner, parent, teen, or someone at work. Such a pattern slowly degrades the relationship and provides no opportunity for resolution, or finding a healthier way of communicating.

There is a better way. Marshall Rosenberg is a mediator who worked globally to help countries find agreement over difficult issues. He is also the author of “Nonviolent Communication.” Rather than fighting each other, his model shows the two people (or sides) how to join together and work as a team to solve the problem. One says “black”, the other says “white.” The first step has both working to clearly understand the other’s concerns and preferences. Then each proposes “grey” solutions, until they come upon one that both can live with.

One cannot underestimate the importance of showing the other that you understand what they are saying and how they are feeling. This can be done even if you disagree. It shows respect for the other person and their point of view.

If you are one half of a couple, there will be times when you disagree. It is vital, for a healthy relationship, that you learn the process, and the art of compromise. Indeed, there may be some issues that are non-negotiable for you, for example, things involving legal or moral issues. These should be few, so for most issues, there should be room to reach some kind of agreement.

Neither party may be completely happy with the result of the compromise, but if the relationship is one in which there is respect for one another, both will see that while there may have been a “loss” in terms of one’s stance on the issue, there is a “gain” in terms of the relationship. In ten years, the issue will be o, but you will be reaping the rewards that come from putting the relationship first.

Sadly, in our world there are not enough examples of conflicts being approached in this way. Evolving beyond polarity has to start somewhere, so in our homes is as good a place as any.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.