Coping with your child’s behaviour and emotions

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Many parents struggle with what they consider to be bad behavior from their children.  Demands from work and relationships can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed.  The last thing an over-stressed parent has patience for is children who misbehave.  The following is a guide to behavioral management to use at home to gain control over what feels to be an out of control environment.  Children often push boundaries. Therefore, changing behavior requires patience.  At first, children will resist the boundaries and rules; they may even behave worse than before.  Stick to the plan with patience and diligence, and in time behavior will improve substantially.  Offer children choices so that they feel as if they have some control in their lives.  Children are often told no, don’t do that, or do this.  They don’t have as much power as an adult; this can be frustrating at times.  Treat your child with respect, like you would any other human being in an age appropriate manner.

Some sound advice on behavioral management for children

  1.  There are no bad children, only behavior that can improve. Often children with behavioral problems suffer from anxiety or are gifted; they find themselves easily bored.  When children are anxious, they can become easily overstimulated. Turn down the noise and the activities within the room.  Create a safe environment by providing predictability.
  2.  Action and consequence.  Develop house rules where everyone in the household is expected to follow.  Try to phrase the house rule positively.  Always let the child know exactly what is expected of them and what the consequence will be if the rule is broken.  For example, house rule number 1: “Hands and feet are for playing and not hitting or kicking.”  It is important that everyone in the household follows the rules and enforces the consequences.  This means that parents are also not allowed to hit or kick the children.  Children learn from watching adults. Children think, “if mom and dad hit me when I am angry, then I can hit others when I am angry.”  Condition children through positive reinforcement.  Always reward the positive behavior by acknowledging it, ignore behavior that you believe is just to get attention – like temper tantrums. Use negative reinforcement if they misbehave. For example,  if you throw your toys, I take the toys away.   Do not raise your voice to shout at children. Lower your voice so that they have to calm down to hear what you are saying.  You can say the following, “I know that you are angry, but I can’t understand you when you are kicking and shouting.  When you are ready, we can talk about what you want.”
  3.  Maintain eye-contact. Children are easily distracted by sound and other things in the environment.  When you want their attention, ask them if you can see their eyes.  Say, “Can I see your eyes please?” If they are still running around and not listening to you, walk over to them and place your eyes at the same level as theirs; this may require you squat or kneel down.  Maintaining eye-contact lets the parent know that the child is listening, and allows the child to know that they are being seen.  Kneeling down to be at the child’s height also allows the child to pay attention and contains a level of respect between the child and the parent.
  4.  Modeling behavior and emotions.  Children model the behavior of their parents.  If a parent reacts to anger by punching the wall or throwing objects, so will the child.  If you are too angry to deal with your child, walk away until you have calmed down.  When you are ready, model emotions by talking about how you feel.  Example, “I am feeling angry right now because the internet isn’t working and I need to finish my work.”  Then the child watches you take deep breaths as you try to calm down without shouting or throwing things.  Children are kinesthetic and connected to their parents.  If a parent is anxious, the child becomes anxious.  This is also known as “mood contagion.”
  5.  Create predictability. Let your child know what is planned for them that day.  Children are under their parental control and often do not have a choice in what happens within a day.  Let them know the schedule ahead of time.  If your child is playing, tell them we need to clean up in ten minutes.  If you are in a rush, tell them they have one more minute to play and then they need to go.  This way the child mentally prepares for what is to happen next.
  6.  Let your children play. Children relieve stress and anxiety through play, as well as learn how to create, negotiate and problem solve.  Play is also a great way to connect with your child.  When playing with your child, let them direct the play. If they want to play with legos, you follow.  Out of respect, ask them if you can play with their toys as well.
  7. Manage your stress. It is hard to feel patient when you are overwhelmed with your stress.  Allow yourself some alone time to exercise, read or do an activity that you enjoy, daily if possible.  Respect your needs and request that others do so as well.  Express gratitude and appreciation daily.  This trains your brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

The Little Details Of Parenting

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Parenting is both a rewarding and challenging task.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent; just a well informed good enough parent.  Certain parenting behaviours that have been passed down from generation to generation have dire consequences.  The current generation has pressure from all directions, academically and socially.  It is important that the home is a safe place for everyone in the family to retreat too as parents are also tired and stressed.  There is some key point to remember that will ensure a safe and stress-free environment for parents and children.  Most of you reading this article, I am sure, know not to treat children as such.  However, understanding why we should not engage in certain parenting habits is critical for our children’s future.  Here are some typical examples of practices that parents may do but may not realise its effect on children;

Physical punishment is not a good idea.

Children are smaller and weaker than adults, and often feel powerless.  When you hit your child or punish them physically, you teach them that the world is not a safe place.  This can lead to difficulties for children to develop relationships with peers and other adults.  It may also lead to depression, anxiety and in severe cases PTSD.  Physical punishment also teaches children that it is ok to physically punish others.  This may also result in more aggression at school.  Bullies are a prime example of children who are victims of domestic violence.  It does not just end at school, in fact, researchers have found a link between men who abuse their wives or girlfriends were most likely exposed to domestic violence as children.  (http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/pn.47.1.psychnews_47_1_12-a)

Consequences of neglect.

When you neglect our children physically or emotionally, they are more likely to develop symptoms of depression.Neglected children fail to thrive and have a difficult time finding meaning in life and other relationships.This is because they believe that they are not good enough to be loved. This has severe consequences for a child’s self-esteem.  In this crucial time in Hong Kong, our children need us more than ever.  Neglected children tend to achieve less in school, and lose motivation.  Neglected children will have a slower brain development, which can lead to poor physical health later in life.  When neglected children become adults, they tend to show signs of problems in social skills, learning and cognitive disabilities, and they struggle maintaining relationships.

Consequences of verbal abuse.

Children have an inner dialogue that is a reflection of their parent’s voices.  When you tell a child he is lazy, fat, stupid, etc.; he will believe he is lazy, fat or stupid.  When a child believes this, they act that way.  They lose motivation and their self-esteem drops.  Negative self-talks that result from verbal abuse often leads to symptoms of depression and lowers your child’s ability to be resilient.  If your child needs to change behaviour, such as grades in school, provide constructive criticism.  For example, “You have been doing well this year in English, but we need to figure out how we can improve your math skills.  Let’s sit down together and work on your addition.”  What many parents may not know is that verbal abuse has long-lasting effects on a child and it can take decades to overcome.  It can also affect the child’s brain development.  “Born into a safe, attentive, and attuned environment, the child’s brain develops normally; when born into one which is either unsupportive or hostile, the brain does not.  Studies show that various parts of the brain are affected by a hostile situation.  (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tech-support/201611/the-long-lasting-pain-childhood-verbal-abuse)

Children model behaviour; they will do what you do.

Children learn how to cope with emotions by watching you.If you want your child to speak about their emotions instead of shouting or throwing things, you need to show them how to do this.If you want your child to show you respect, you need to also show your child respect.Children are little people and should be treated like little people.Children are kinesthetic and often feel what you are feeling.When you are angry, they will feel angry.A good rule is to breathe and speak in a calm voice. Children are a blank canvas on which their world would be shaped and seen depending on what you choose to expose them to.

What we can do as parents:

A child will be more resilient and motivated when he feels safe.  To create a safe environment, predictability is required.  Predictability is ensured when the child is aware of all of the rules and consequences.  If you know that your child will want to pour glue on the table, before you give them glue say, “If you pour this glue on the table I will take it away, and you will have to clean up the mess.”  Ask them if they understand before you give them the glue.  This way there will be a less likely chance they pour the glue on the table, and if they do, they are less likely to have a temper tantrum when you take the glue away.

A child’s play is his work.  When you need them to stop playing, always warn them that they have five minutes left to play before they clean up.  This way they are not surprised when it is time to put the toys away.

It is also a good idea to let children know what will be happening that day.  Try to keep surprises and unpredictability to a minimum.

Practice self-care and compassion.

Parenting is difficult when you are tired and stressed.  Make sure to take time out for yourself; you deserve it.  Parents often feel guilty for this, but timeout leads to a more patient and understanding parent.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

Meditation into the unknown

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This script can be used word for word or can be improvised.  Feel free to add your own meditation practices into this for your own personalised experience. Feel free to sit with each pause or line for as long or as little as you need.

A Meditation Into the Unknown

Breathe, breathe in and out. Calm your mind, calm your body through your breath.

Focus on your breath. As thoughts enter your mind, let them go like the wind. Breathe. (Sit with your breath for as long as you feel necessary)

As you sit with your breath, focus on the sounds surrounding you. Just listen.

Now, what can you smell? Everything has a scent, you have a scent. What does this scent remind you of? (pause)

Now turn your attention to your heart. Without using your hand, feel your heart. Notice if it is beating fast or slow, hard of soft. (pause)

Create a space around your heart. Breathe into it. Let your heart be as big as it needs to be. (pause)

I want you to imagine that your heart has two sides. The front is the side you show to the world. That is your light side, the side that is social.

The back side of your heart is the dark side. The side that you hide. This is where you hide your shame and your fears.

Focus on this dark side. Be curious about what is there, without judgement. (pause)

We are going to begin our journey into our dark side, into the abyss.

Breathe

Let your anxiety and fear be there without trying to change it, without judging it. Find the tightness in your body, breathe air into the tightness. Expand the tightness and give it more space. (pause)

As you breathe, imagine you are descending into the sea, into the unknown. The dark water envelopes you, warming you. The darkness is giving you warmth.

As you sink down to the ocean floor, embrace the unknown, the darkness, without judgement, without trying to change it. Just let it be. Everything is as it should be.

You will then reach the depths of the ocean.  Find yourself gently lying on a pillow of white light. This white light creates a halo around you, and you are able to see around you more clearly.

When you look around you, you see that dolphins and whales have created a circle around you. They watch you in awe. They have never seen a human before, and they are amazed by you.

You can sense they are gentle and serene. You are not sure how they are communicating with you, but you receive a strong message. That message is telling you that you are safe and protected.

Breathe in.

The universe has provided you with the air to fill your lungs with the abundance of the universe. You thank the whales and the dolphins for their serene and gentle energy. You thank the universe for the abundance and providing you with air. You thank your heart for being open to receiving the message.

The stars shine down from the heavens, glistening in the water. Forming streams of white light in lines throughout the water. You breathe and realise everything is as it should be.

You let your body go limp. All of the stress and tension in your body is swallowed by the sea, washing away the tightness. You float weightlessly. (pause)

Your heart begins to quicken as you receive a message that it is time to go. You don’t know your destination, but you are not alone. The dolphins and whales surround you as you float quickly through the sea. The waves become quicker and larger. The waves carry you as if they are in a rush to take you to the unknown destination.

The sea creatures guide you and follow you on your path. You feel a strong divine presence. You realise you are a transcended being unto yourself. You have the ability to communicate with the earth and heavens. Breathe.

This new responsibility frightens you. Let it go. Trust that everything is as it should be. Trust yourself.

The dolphins and whales tell you that they can no longer continue with you on this journey. They must go back into the depths of the sea. You thank them. You love them. You are in awe of their majestic beauty. Your heart has opened. You are not the same as before. You are aware that you have your own unique path. You must go alone.

You gently float slowly towards the surface of the sea. The closer you get to the surface; the more light enters the sea. You find that the sun has come out and it is no longer night time.  The darkness is gone.

As you arrive at the surface, you see that the sun is large and fills the sky. There are no animals, there are no birds, there are no people.

You are completely alone.

The light of the sun enters your body. You allow the light of the sun to intertwine with the darkness inside you. You embrace your duality. You continue to float to your unknown destination. Unsure of who or what you will encounter.

You feel completely alone.

The universe tells you to be excited for the things to come as land appears on the horizon. In your loneliness, you embrace the unknown. You step off from the sea onto land and see the sun shining brightly on the path you will create.

As your feet are placed on the ground, you decide it is time to wake up.  When you are ready, open your eyes.  Move your body and try to come back to an awake state of consciousness.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

The beautiful artwork was painted by Kalok Ng             Instagram:  @kolopiguss              email:kalokng@gmail.com

Attachment: A Different Perspective

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Artwork by Kalok Ng

email:thekalokng@gmail.com

The first relationship we had was with our mother when we are in the womb. We were safe and protected in the womb; we were warm and well fed.  When we were born, we bonded with our parents through feeding, sleeping and eye contact.

As we grew into children, we realised that we were separate from our mother, and we developed a sense of self.  If our home environment was neglectful, rejecting or abusive, we may have come to the conclusion that we were not worthy of love.  If our home was safe and warm, we may have come to the conclusion that we were worthy of love.  This relationship dictated our attachment style to our parents and our image about ourself.  We may have had an avoidant attachment style to one of our caretakers if they were too rejecting, abusive or if they were overbearing.  We may have had an anxious attachment anxious style to one of our parents if they were neglectful or abusive.  As we matured and formed other relationships, we formed different attachment patterns to different individuals.

An avoidant attachment to a person is the idea that “I am worthy of love, but the other person is not.”  If you are feeling an avoidant attachment to someone you don’t want the other person to become too psychologically close or dependent on you.  You dislike the idea of psychological intimacy and prefer to remain independent of the other person.

An anxious attachment to a person is the idea that, “I am not worthy of love, but the other person is worthy of love.”  This is the feeling that you want to become intimate or psychologically close to this other person, but you believe that they do not want to be close to you.  You might be anxious about the other person abandoning you.

Secure attachment is the idea that, “I am worthy of love, and you are worthy of love.”  Ideally, both people in the relationship have a secure attachment to each other.  When the attachment is secure, communication and growth can happen.  Both partners feel safe and secure within the relationship.

If we are insecure about our worthiness of love, we may become vulnerable to the influences of the media and society that may heighten our sensitivities to rejection and failure. This, in turn, may harm our relationships, continuing the belief that we are not loveable.  Certain steps can help us to break this pattern.

Recognising negative thought patterns and reframing them.

Sometimes we may have a negative internal monologue because we have been around negative people, or we have been abused.  When we recognise that we have a negative internal monologue – such as calling ourselves “stupid, fat, or ugly.” Try to reframe that thought to constructive criticism. For example, “My boyfriend said he wants to spend time with his friends.  I understand it is nice for him to spend time with them.” Instead of “I think he is cheating on me because I am fat.” The first phrase provides a workable situation that enhances growth, whereas the second phrase leaves you unmotivated with a lowered self-esteem.

Allow yourself some space around your fears and emotions without judging them.

We evolved to heave fear to keep us out of danger and to prevent us from being eaten by bears, or killed by a neighbouring tribe.  However, sometimes our fear is irrational.  Sometimes we are afraid to talk to another person we are attracted to because we have a fear of rejection.  In this case, don’t judge your fear.  Don’t put yourself down.  Instead, breathe into the part of your body that is tight from the fear, and imagine a space opening up in that area.  Run through the worst and best case scenario in your mind.  If they reject you, how will you respond?  If they accept you, how will you respond?  Remember, rejection does not mean you are not worthy of love.  It merely means you are at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Learn communication strategies that enable you to express how you feel

If you feel that you are unworthy of love, you may have a hard time articulating your feelings.  This might be because you have not been listened too in the past, or you believe that your feelings do not matter.  If this is the case, begin by noticing sensations in your body.  For example, if you have a stomach ache, ask yourself if you are anxious or scared, or if you have a tight chest ask yourself if you are sad or angry.  When you begin to recognise the emotional signals in your body, you can be patient with yourself in learning how to verbally express your feelings.  Another option is to write your feelings out and send to the other person.

Learn strategies to boost your self-esteem.

Learn about who you are as a human being.  What are you curious about, what is your passion?  What are your strengths and weaknesses and how can you promote growth in your life by setting goals and accomplishing them.  Take care of yourself physically by going to the gym, eating healthy and getting enough sleep.  Refuse to allow any negative people in your life who abuse you.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

Increasing Self-Confidence

Hong Kong Psychologist Counselling Therapist

Standing in the MTR or lift can be a scrutinising experience in Hong Kong, as well as other international cities. We all like to look at our peers to socially compare ourselves to them, and them to us. This increases or decreases our false sense of self.  The false sense of self is the self that is attached to external validation, meaning the approval of others.

Our self-esteem rises and falls depending on our accomplishments, failures, and health of our physical body. When we are accomplishing things such as excelling in a sport, academics, relationships, or our career; we are on top of the world. When we experience failure loss or rejection, our confidence and self-esteem decrease.

The key to balancing our self-esteem, our confidence and our self-image is to realise that wins and fails are only temporary. Nothing lasts forever. Recognise that you are more than those circumstances, more than your accomplishments and your failures. Learn to recognise that approval and security come from within yourself.

Some of us may feel unsure of who we are because we’ve let our parents, our friends, authority figures or society tell us who we should and should not be. There may be points in your life where you are being pulled in many different directions by many different people.

Here are some key points to enhance your self-confidence along your journey to self-discovery

Recognise and reframe negative self-talk.

When we recognise that we have a negative internal monologue – such as calling ourselves “stupid, fat, or ugly,” we can reframe that thought to constructive criticism. For example, “My boss is upset with my performance. I need to try to make it to work on time and make sure that I get more sleep.” Instead of “I’m a worthless failure.” The first phrase provides a workable situation that enhances growth, whereas the second phrase leaves you unmotivated.

Grow as a human being.

Set goals and challenge yourself. When you accomplish goals, you feel better about yourself. On the journey to self-growth and goals, we might meet some failure or rejection. Realise this is normal and everyone faces the challenges. Allow the failure and rejection to inspire you to try again or find another creative avenue.  When a child is learning to walk, he falls and then gets up.  He might cry for a minute, but he always tries again.  As we mature, we encounter more failure and rejection, we can either get up or give up.  Those who give up will never know what they are truly capable of.

Sit in non-judgement as much as possible.

Human beings are judgemental by nature. We have been taught since day one to be “good” and not “bad.”  When we label people, we fail to recognise that all of us are a unique blend of biology, culture, and beliefs. When you accept that people are living their reality based upon their life experiences, you realise that there is nothing to judge.  This non-judgment helps you to feel more comfortable in your own skin because you will also stop judging yourself as much.  You begin to realise that it is a waste of energy and time to judge others, just as it is for others to judge you.  Focus on yourself and what you need to accomplish to become a better person.

Have boundaries.

Don’t allow others to take more of your time, energy or resources than you can give. Do not allow others to abuse you emotionally, verbally, or physically.  It is ok to say no.  When you give more than you want to, you become fatigued and drained.  Often times this may lead to the resentment of others.  If you enjoy helping others, make sure that you are helping yourself as well.

Get rid of toxic people

Toxic people are people who treat you with disrespect or make you feel bad about yourself. Start to recognise your emotional state around others and be curious about that. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals and objectives as you. If you have a toxic boss or co-worker and you need to deal with them, don’t take their negative behaviour personally. Here is another great article on how to manage these sorts of people

http://www.entrepreneur.stfi.re/article/290372?sf=nxprpeg#aa

Remain balanced

When we are out of balance physically, emotionally, or spiritually, we feel down. To remain physically balanced, eat nutritiously and exercise as well as get enough sleep. Connect with yourself through meditation and self-reflection to remain spiritually balanced. Remain emotionally balanced by recognising and respecting your emotions as well as the emotions of others. Emotions give us information about our behaviour as well as the behaviour of others.

Practice gratitude

Express appreciation to those around you who are kind or do kind things for you. Express gratitude towards yourself and your body. Expressing gratitude rewires our brain to feel and think positively.  When we feel positive, we attract positive people into our lives.  The majority of people in the world want to be appreciated and respected.  Expressing gratitude to others enhances relationships with others and yourself.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

Love and Loss

Hong Kong Psychologist offering counselling and therapy services

Attraction is both physical and psychological.

Psychologically we may be attracted to people for many reasons. We tend to be attracted to people who: have the same or complete opposite personality traits as we do, seem familiar because we see them often, or remind us of one of our parents. We may also be psychologically attracted to certain people based on our culture or religion. Unfortunately, if we have been abused as a child, we can be attracted to people who abuse us.

The Beginning Phase of Romance

In the beginning phase of dating, the hormone oxytocin and the brain chemical dopamine leave you feeling high. Just like a drug, you physically yearn for this other person and may find yourself thinking about them often. This is the lust phase. During this phase, your body might overrule your brain. During this phase, it is easy to fall in love with the person you think you are dating, rather than who that person truly is.

During this phase, do not rush into a relationship.  Ask your partner questions about who they are and their background to get a better sense of who they are as a person.  How do they cope with disappointment, and manage other family and peer relationships?  Do they have the same ethics as you?  Do they want the same thing out of a relationship as you do?  Does this person leave you feeling drained or energised?  What does this person expect from you and what do you expect from them?

The Transition Phase into Love or Loss

At some point, your hormones and dopamine levels stabilise, and you begin to analyse the other person as a romantic partner. If you have had a history of abuse or low self-esteem, this phase may frighten you. You may seek to desperately cling to or avoid your new romantic partner. If your new romantic partner is also feeling avoidant, this partnership will most likely lead to loss rather than love.

Here is a scenario to illustrate this point:  Frank is a man who recently got out of a long-term relationship.  His heart is broken, and he is scared to get into a new relationship.  However, he has been dating Sally for the past four months because he is attracted to her physically.  At first, the chemistry was great, but now he finds that Sally wants to settle down and have children. He has told her that he does not want that.  Now Sally has become clingy and texts his phone constantly to see where he is.  She is concerned that he is with another woman.  She fears that she is going to lose him.  Sally does not believe that she is worthy of love because she grew up in a verbally abusive home.  Frank is normally secure with love, but since he just got out of a relationship, he is afraid to get into another relationship.  The more Frank avoids Sally, the more clingy Sally becomes, and the more clingy Sally becomes, the more avoidant Frank becomes.

In an ideal situation, both partners would feel that they are worthy of love and that their partner is worthy of love. Both partners would recognise that both individuals have needs within and outside of the relationship.   Both partners would want the same thing out of the relationship as the other.  For example, both are ready to commit, or both just want to be friends.  This is the situation that is more likely to lead to love rather than a loss.

Love

Love and commitment are not always the same. For a committed relationship to take place, both people need to be looking for commitment. Both people need to accept the other person for their strengths and flaws. This is often easier said than done. Often in relationships, the fear of losing the other brings our insecurities to the surface. If both partners can communicate effectively, this can bring two people closer together. Love is saying “you are a person, not a possession. I respect your needs as I respect my own. I will not ask you to change your personal identity to fit mine, and I will not change my personal identity to fit yours. I am an individual, but I am a member of your team, I am on your side.”

Biology

Biologically we may be attracted to someone based on their pheromones. These pheromones are released through our sweat and give information about our genetic make-up. Biologically we seek romantic partners who have a different genetic make-up than us because this ensures our children will have a stronger immune system. We also seek romantic partners who have clear skin, bright eyes and are physically fit because this also indicates that our children will be healthy.  Usually, in animals, the male is the one with the bright colours in their fur or feathers to attract the female.  In humans, women use make-up and hair dye to attract men by showing they are healthy and young, which indicates fertility.   Some men and women believe that dressing seductively will attract a partner.  This dating strategy is good if you are looking for a short-term partner.  If you are looking for a long term partner to settle down with, it is better to dress more maturely to show that you are a good provider for children.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

Identifying Toxic People

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co-author Paul Logan (www.basicreflex.com)

Artwork by Kalok Ng

Email: thekalokng@gmail.com

Identifying toxic relationships and abuse

Toxic relationships often harm our self-esteem and leave us feeling drained of energy. When we learn how to identify toxic relationships and abuse we can move away from them. If we have a history of being abused, we may not recognise that we are caught in a cycle of abuse. Some warning signs to watch for are:

You feel unheard 

You have told the other person how you feel or think, yet they do not seem to hear you.  When you speak, they may often talk over you or not allow you to get a word in edgewise.  They may talk as if they are the expert on all topics, therefore what you have to say is irrelevant.

Your words and emotions are used against you

The toxic person watches your emotions and listens to your words closely so that they can use this information in the future to get a reaction out of you.  Toxic people often draw energy from other people’s negative reactions.  If the toxic person is feeling angry or depressed, they want those around them to feel the same way.  You may often feel as if you are constantly walking on eggshells.  You are never sure what pleases them or makes them angry.

The toxic person tried to isolate you from friends and family

This is a huge red flag that should not be ignored.  If the toxic person wants to isolate you, beware that this might be an indication that abuse is around the corner.  If you are isolated from others, they can abuse and control you with the interference of others.

The toxic person criticises you or shames you in private or in public

The toxic person is often concerned that they are going to lose you.  To keep you they might try to use this tactic to make you feel bad about yourself.  If you feel bad about yourself, you will be easier to control. Beware if you often feel humiliated or small around this person.

When toxic people enter your life, they want you to believe that you can’t live without them. They use manipulation tactics to keep you hooked to them. These tactics may include

Acting hot and cold. 

One minute they are love bombing you, sweeping you off your feet and the next minute they want nothing to do with you.  They may profess their love to you and the next disappear for days at a time.

Gaslighting 

Gaslighting is used to make you feel like you are going crazy.  For example, they might say, “I didn’t do that, you’re crazy.  Have you completely lost your mind.”  When in fact, you saw or heard them do this particular action in question.  They will use this tactic to make you doubt your own judgement.

Playing victim to get your sympathy.

This tactic works on those who are high in empathy.  Often toxic people are attracted to empathetic people because they can use the empath’s willingness to help against them.  Once they have your sympathy, the toxic person will hurt you to control you or make you feel bad about yourself.

These are just a few of the tactics that toxic people use.  Leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult because self-esteem has been damaged. Often the help of a counsellor or therapist can be useful to make sure that you are safe both physically and emotionally. It can take some time to rebuild self-esteem and self-identity after abuse.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel

Connecting Through Play

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People are social creatures that long for human connection.  This connection includes the knowledge that you are seen and heard, and that you are respected and appreciated for who you are.  Children also need human connection; we can connect with them through play.  Play is a child’s way to innovate, problem solve and relax.  When we play with our children, we can teach them how to interact and play with other children on the playground or at home.  Here are some quick tips on how you and your child can connect and build a strong relationship through play.

Always ask first

This models the kind of behaviour that you want them to have with their siblings and other children.

Ask your child if you can play with them.  If they say no, do not be offended.  They might be in the middle of figuring out a solution to a problem they have been working on.
Ask them which toy they want you to play with.

Let them lead the play

This shows your child that you care about them and that you are willing to step into their world.

Do not tell them what you two are going to play.  Follow their lead.  Ask, what do you want to play?  What do you want me to do?

Make eye contact and excited facial expressions

This helps your child feel seen and loved.  When you act excited, they will be excited.

Sit on the floor with them; get down on their level.

Children have little control or power.  This is a way to show them that the two of you are on the same level leading to a deeper connection.

Set boundaries, rules and expectations. 

Let them know that hands and feet are for playing and not kicking.  Explain that if they throw toys, they will be taken away.  Rules and boundaries keep a child feeling secure.  This way he understands what is appropriate behaviour and what consequences will be if rules are broken.  The rules and boundaries set are also for parents to follow.  Parents also should not hit, kick or throw.

Monica_in

Dr Monica Borschel is a US trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment.  Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmonicaborschel