Why it matters the way a man treats his mother, things to learn and love more about your introverted child, a look at psychological trends between generations, and looking at PTSD after a natural disaster.
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“I've always found it helpful to think that generations are going to need different strengths to cope with the world in which hey will find themselves. ”
"My mother says that my grandmother is histrionic. What does that exactly mean?"
Signed 15-year-old granddaughter.
When someone is described as histrionic it means that they are overly dramatic and emotional. They might slam doors or burst into tears over a perceived insult when none was intended. Their reactions may be seen as theatrical or melodramatic. My mother would sometimes call me "Sara Bernhard" when she thought I was being histrionic. This is a personality trait, but it could also be a personality disorder, depending on the severity of the symptoms. If you think about this characteristic as existing on a continuum, on one end is the trait of histrionics and on the other is "histrionic personality disorder." This person's self-esteem is dependent on the approval of others. They really need to be noticed and to be the center of attention. Initially they are socially fun to be around, but their larger-than-life reactions to things soon wear thin. No one likes being manipulated after a while, and people will often walk away to avoid the situation. People with HPD do not usually believe they need therapy, as they don't believe there's anything wrong with them. If they do seek help it's usually after another failed relationship. So I don't know if your grandmother is really histrionic or if she has HPD, but it sounds like your mom was exasperated with her. You can practice being calm in an emotionally charged situation, observe what's going on with understanding, and resist becoming involved in the "histrionics."
"Can everyone do lucid dreaming?"
A lucid dream is any dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming. I'm certain that we've all experienced that without planning it. Developing the skill to plan your dream, to actively and consciously participate and consciously participate in your dreams, and to perhaps influence the outcome is the purpose of lucid reaming. Yes, you can go on the Internet and join in a chat room of lucid dreamers, and you can find a step-by-step guide to lucid dreaming on YouTube. I'd never given this subject much thought until recently when I read an article in The New Yorker about it being used as a treatment for PTSD in returning soldiers. The sleep clinic developing this technique is in Albuquerque, and apparently they teach lucid dreaming as a way to combat the nightmares that are a part of post traumatic stress disorder. That raised the idea of lucid dreaming a peg or two in my book as it's non-pharmaceutical, it's self-directed, and it's a skill that's available anytime you need it. There's even an application that's called Lucid Day Dreaming. So to answer your question, anyone can lucid dream with training and practice.
"They say you should never get involved with a fellow that doesn't get along with his mother. Do you think that is true?"
Any folk wisdom deserves close consideration as it usually is built on a time-honored truth. In this case, the truth seems to be that the past informs the present, and that we ignore that fact at our peril. And, let's not forget the fact that we repeat patterns that have become habitual. All of this sets the stage for why we should pays attention to how the new man in our lives treats his mother. How a man relates to women is profoundly dependent on his past and present relationship with his mother. There are steps to be gone through in various stages of growth and development, culminating in successful separation from her, that determine how a guy is going to move through the rest of his life. this will be influence to a large part by his mother's personality and mental health and whether they like each other or not. Surprisingly this is not a given. There are mothers that don't like their sons as well as mothers that think their sons can do no wrong. So pay attention to his relationship with his mom, his sense of respect, are, and concern, and you may see your future in the making.
"My best friend is really messy. She doesn't pick up her room and just plain seems lazy about keeping things in order. It is her room, and she can keep it the way she wants it. But, when I am invited to her room or I have to get her for something and make any kind of comment, she says I am OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I know I like to have things in order but where is the line on OCD?"
Signed best friend.
Must your bed be made before you leave your house or the dishes be done before you go to bed? How anxious are you when these things are impossible to accomplish? This is not obsessive compulsive disorder, but it can give you an idea of the discomfort that someone with true OCD experiences. The tasks that these folks must complete to stave off extreme anxiety are all-encompassing and life crippling. They are often obsessed with cleanliness, washing their hands twenty to thirty times a day, sometimes more. We think of them as germ phobic and aware of "contamination," for example, after being touched by a child's sticky little hands. An encounter like that can set off an episode of clothes washing, car decontamination, multiple showers, washing out the washer with bleach and on and on. No, it doesn't sound like you have OCD. You're more of a neatnik. Someone with OCD can have their lives brought to a halt by a need to reestablish control over their surroundings. But that's what its about for a neatnik as well. We like to have our surroundings under control and established patterns of behavior, like always hanging our clothes in the closet instead of dropping them on the floor, help us maintain that. Life outside our homes is often controllable and that order in our homes is a healthy response.
"Does drinking enough water have anything to do with good mental health?"
The study of brain physiology and chemistry and its effects on mental health and functioning is very much in the forefront of research today. Have you noticed all the books recently published about our brains and how they work? We are also learning more about how to protect our brains and to promote mental acuity and efficiency for as long as possible in our lives. Remember the last time you were thirsty, really thirsty? You probably had difficulty with focusing or solving a math problem or even remembering what we were supposed to do next. Adequate consumption of water can help to solve that. A well-hydrated brain is a better functioning brain, and a better functioning brain can provide a better foundation for better mental health. Dehydration in the elderly is well known and causes many visits to the ER. Dehydration in younger people has effects that are subtler but no less debilitating. We are lucky to live in a society where access to water is so easy and water is one of the reasons our brains function well.
"Our youngest seems to be perfectly happy all by herself. Our other two children are very outgoing and social. She doesn't seem troubled but just more into her own world. should I be worried about this?"
Signed concerned mother of a 10-year-old.
Your daughter sounds like a well-adjusted introvert. This can look like a problem to the extroverts in the family. The state of simultaneously being alone and happy is hard to imagine for social and outgoing people like your other children and perhaps you as well. We have a tendency at any age to feel sorry for folks who live alone or travel alone or spend time in their rooms alone. It's thought that they are somehow de[rived or at least dejected. In truth it's a well-kept secret that the ability to be alone and enjoy one's own company is part of a good foundation for mental health. If our happiness depends on the presence of others and constant related-ness in the form of Facebook, texting, or Twitter, we are vulnerable to eventual disappointment. Have you heard of people taking a vacation from social media to get back in touch with themselves again? Your daughter needs to be able to be social and outgoing as well as being by herself, somewhere in the middle, moderation in all things. But no, I don't think she has a problem.
"My 15-year-old daughter decided to tell me that she has been cutting and she wanted to show me. It is a complete shock to see your kid's arms and legs with red cuts all over them. She said she did it two years ago and then felt the need to do it again because she is so sad. She is very social, seems to have friends, but says she pretends to be happy. Yes, she is going to therapy. Is there anything more I should be doing?"
Signed concerned mother.
There are no one-size-fits-all answers to questions about adolescents and cutting. This is a serious issue and needs to be treated as such. I'm very sorry that you and your daughter have to confront this problem. Some people cut to relieve anxiety; others to self-punish; and still others to get attention in the only way that works for them. These youngsters do not usually intend to commit suicide or to seriously injure themselves, but it can happen if the cut is too deep or too close to an artery. One suggestion I have would be to start family therapy in addition to your daughter's person work. I would suggest another therapist whose specialty is working with families. When a child or adolescent acts out, it is often a reflection of unresolved family issues. Children act these things out often to their own detriment. Your daughter is a member of a larger unit. Her pain and dysfunction can be better understood within the context of the family as well as through her individual therapy.
"I am wondering if generations have psychological trends. It seems this upcoming generation cares nothing of manners and is very introspective with little or no social graces. I can see a natural evolution in culture but do generations think differently?"
Signed curious person.
Yes, generations are different and have different priorities. I'm a member of the Silent Generation, the one before the Baby Boomers who precede Generation X, who are the parents of the Millenials. While there are basic principles that remain the same, such as parents love their children, how they show this love is different. For example, if a Baby Boomer's child's school need improvement, the Boomer would likely roll up his or her sleeves, pitch in and fix the problem. A Gen-X parent in the response to the same problem would move the child to a better school. Our differences are molded by the world in which we were raised and the attitudes of our parents as well as society. Parents who lived through the depression of 1929 raised me. That affected how they taught me to think about work and money. The 1950s were a time of prosperity that influenced Baby Boomers to have different attitudes and expectations. I've always found it helpful to think that generations are going to need different strengths to cope with the world in which hey will find themselves.
"My husband wants to do a staycation this summer. He thinks there is too much to do on the house and wants to save money. I think he is either too stressed out or too cheap to take a vacation. My question is if this is healthy or not? The Europeans many times take six weeks and really get away for the summer. I am thinking that getting away is a good idea for everyone. What do you think as a therapist?"
Signed mother of two.
My definition of a staycation is not staying home and working on the house. A staycation usually means that you vacation at or close to home. You should plan to have adventures, go hiking or simply play tourist. I suppose you could visit a nearby museum or go to an art show or maybe the zoo. How about picnics and movies or camping with the kids in the backyard; turn the phone off, don't answer e-mails and sleep in. Doesn't that sound like fun? Think of it as a time to put family first. This kind of vacation is not easy, and you have to have plenty of planning in place. I suspect that this is not a vacation for MOm. Most people find that going someplace else is more conducive to kicking back and letting go. All of our electric gadgets, like tablets and smart phones, conspire to counteract our attempts to achieve this blissful state. I remember being on a boat years ago off the coast of Honduras. I was scuba diving at the time. This boat had no newspapers, no TV and ship-to-shore radio for emergencies only. The state of mind was lovely and hard to achieve on a staycation.
"I am concerned about post traumatic stress syndrome affecting our community. With the devastation from our recent flood, I am sure that many children and adults will be in need of some therapies. What behavioral aspects should we look for in our children and when is therapy recommended?"
Signed member of the community.
Natural disasters have been with us a very long time. So long in fact that our responses come from a deep and primitive part of the brain. Fear, terror, and our urge to protect, to jump into the water to save another human, all originate from a basic part of our psychological makeup. We band together in tribes, we become angry with the gods and feel helpless and vulnerable to the whims of Mother Nature. All of this is normal human response and should not be apathologized. We have a tendency today to give a normal response like grief a new name much too quickly. Having nightmares or flashbacks is a natural way to integrate an experience into our psyches and to desensitize us in a natural way. Humans have learned to talk to one another after a disaster and to give each other the freedom to repeat it as often as necessary, to cry in pain or relief and to slowly pick up the pieces in order to move on.
The feelings of complete helplessness and the realization of our vulnerability and inability to protect our family, our animals, our property, or ourselves inflicts real damage on our sense of confidence as well as on our identity as individuals in control of our destiny. A disaster shakes the very foundation of our belief in ourselves and the world in which we live. As one of the disaster websites says, "Water causes more than property damage." It causes emotional and psychological damage as well. But we must remember that it is normal to feel sad and disheartened. If we hear thunder or the sky darkens and we feel a sense of foreboding, it's an expected reaction following the recent experience with flooding. All of this will diminish with time. When it doesn't improve, when the symptoms continue and perhaps get worse, it might be called post traumatic stress disorder.
But before such a diagnosis is appropriate it is possible to mitigate the effects of a natural disaster with a knowledgeable and thoughtful response. Children's sense of safety and security will be adversely affected by any natural disaster. They see the adults around them feeling frightened and out of control and being children, they feel that somehow they are the cause of it all. Reassurance and a return to a normal routine as soon as possible is an appropriate response. Once again it's talking and being honest while being reassuring that saves the day. Show love and affection no matter how busy or upset you are. What matters most as folks put their lives back together is families, friends, and neighbors helping each other with kindness.
In the future, if symptoms such as insomnia, bet wetting, nightmares, and flashbacks continue, please seek help from your community mental health center. Group therapy, especially play groups, is particularly suited for treating PTSD. I remember a film about children who had been involved in a bus hijacking were playing "bus" in a classroom, pushing the chairs around and reenacting the incident with some very positive changes. Allowing children the freedom to work some of the issues out in this way can prove to be very helpful.
-Romona Scholder, M.A., RNCS, Psychotherapist