Thursday, August 25, 2016

Education Week Class Notes: Psychology & Marital Classes

How Thoughts Create Stress: Using Cognitive Restructuring, Humor, and Meditation (by Tana S. Page)
See Kelly McGonnigal TED talk -- How to make stress our friend, Youtube video (
[Personal Note: Interesting how the belief that stress is not harmful can lead to biologically handling it in ways similar to joy and courage.  Also interesting how the video describes oxytocine as a hormone that drives us to seek support and give support and how it actually strengthens our hearts at stressful times.  So keeping our covenants of bearing each others burdens that they may be light will actually lead to biological healing for ourselves and others!]

  The upside of stress
Thoughts, Behaviors, Physiology triangle. Thoughts affects behaviors, behaviors affect thoughts,  our body affects both those too.
Becoming aware of our bodies can help us.  Tell yourself to relax.
Scan to see what your body is doing and take control of some things or notice.
Exercise is big for reducing stress. 

Blessing someone can affect us. 
Story of a woman in a near-accident who climbed out of the car mad and ready to yell, but instead tried to bless—[yelling] “I bless you to get wherever you’re going safely!”

Cognitive distortions.  (look them up online)
--All-or-nothing thinking (“Either I get 100% on the test or I failed it.”) (“I must do _____ to be a good Mormon woman.”)
--Jumping to conclusions (“Oh, they’ll never go for that.” “He did that on purpose.  “He never made the effort.”)
--Overgeneralizing (using “always” or “never”, “They always____”)
--Filtering (The glass is half-empty, or focusing on the zit on the face)
--Discounting the positive (“putting off the compliment with )
--Labeling self and others.  (Mean names, stereotypes that confine, labeling children “the athlete”, “the writer”) This makes the other kids feel like they don’t want to try those things.  Instead try making a family label. “The Pages are athletes, we’re musicians.”  Pick the brains of people who are 10-15 years older and find out their secrets.  On secret from an older mom-- In junior high, have kids go out for cross-country and band because that requires self-discipline.  Be aware that in junior high, most kids have to change friends if they are going to keep their standards.
--Magnification –making a mountain out of a molehill (catastrophizing) 
--Emotive reasoning (“I feel inadequate, therefore I am inadequate.”)  This is when we think our emotions are the reality that is going on.  [Personal note: To overcome this, act as if the emotions are lying.]
--Blaming, self-blame. (“Johnny is addicted to drugs, and it is my fault”) Thinking we have control where we don’t really have it.

These words are often used in cognitive distortions:  Must, should, always, never. 

What are your Anger patterns?
A) Swallow it? B) Sabotage or get even? C) Blow up? D) Punish yourself? 
These are mismanagement patterns.  Most LDS tend to swallow it because we try to avoid conflict and contention.

Knowing you are angry is not bad. (Awareness is the first step to management)
Anger is an emotion. What makes us angry?
If our needs aren’t met
If we’re misjudged,
If we can’t do something we expected.

What do we do with the anger?
Note: Children who think their parents are perfect have some of the worst problems. (They think their parents are perfect because their parents have been swallowing anger.)

Notice…What are you thinking, feeling?
Outside the brain is the thinking brain. In the middle is the emotional brain. The brainstem has the vegetative non-conscious stuff. 
The brain may downshift into lower-level brain functions because of stress. 
Example: You study, but in the test, all of a sudden all the info is gone. 

Because of downshifting, one can’t reason with people who are angry. 
Taking a time-out is good.  You need time to relax.  Some people turn to substances for relieving stress. The Word of Wisdom protects those who are physiologically predisposed to addictions.

Cognitive distortions tend to cause down-shifting.
Thoughts have a lot to do with how much anger we experience. Often anger is heightened by remembering the history of a conflict.
We store our emotions in our bodies, and if we don’t repent immediately and forgive, it is still in our bodies.

Re-evaluate the situation. What’s really going on?  Noticing helps us up-shift.
Check your expectations.  What do you expect and why?
Distract yourself.  (If lines make you mad, pick up a magazine. If stuck in traffic, listen to music or a book.)
Get quiet, listen to the Holy Ghost.
Act into the new way of thinking.  Pretend and then the feelings will follow.

We’re cautioned about humor in the scriptures “Much laughter” is sin. “Loud laughter, light-mindedness, and flippancy. Empty levity. All bad.
Compare Humor versus ridicule. 

Laughing with
Laughing at
Going for the jocular
Going for the jugular
Caring and empathetic
Expresses contempt
Builds confidence
Destroying confidence
Involves people in fun
Laughing at self
Being the butt of a joke
Abusive and offensive
Builds bridges
Destroys connections
Pokes fun at universal foibles.

Good humor creates light.
Satan doesn’t like to be laughed at. 
Humor is the way we see things, the way we think, it’s an attitude not an event.
Become more childlike.  Children laugh more.

Benefits of humor:
It massages organs,
Improves digestion,
Stabilizes blood pressure,
Reduces perception of pain,
[Personal Story: My mom would always take classic comedy movies to ward members who were in the hospital because she knew it would help them heal faster.]

Forms of humor:
satire (making fun of inadequacies),
Black humor, (Story of a man who lost his house in a fire and told the firemen, “Make sure to wipe your feet when you go inside!” He got in an accident in the car his family had saved from the fire and as they got out of the flipped car he said to his wife, “At least your pants are still white.” He also lost his job, and his teenage daughter got married, all in about the same three months and he handled it all with humor.)

Sarcasm is the ability to insult idiots without them realizing.
Sarcasm doesn’t reduce stress.  It doesn’t help you or the other person.

Meditative exercise
Sit in silence and try to think of nothing. When you notice your brain starts wandering into thoughts, pull it back into nothing. Continue to do this.
While taking the sacrament, try to think of Christ. When your brain starts thinking of other things, pull thoughts back to Christ.
Our digital devices make us more anxious. 
Have restrictions on the media at home.  Don’t let kids take their phones to bed.  Missionaries are more anxious these days and they think it is linked to social media use. 

Go for a walk without headphones. Pray and be quiet. To receive, we have to become empty. “Be still and know that I am God.”

Overcoming Challenges in Marriage: Practical Gospel and Therapeutic Solutions for Modern-Day Problems: He Said, She Said: Identifying Your Negative Marital Cycles and Learning to Interrupt Them (by Lori K. Schade)
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. – Family Proclamation
A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.

A husband and wife are two different people with different backgrounds and histories.

Marital oneness – emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, physical intimacy, + other intimacies
The different types of intimacy all influence each other.
They make it safer to develop other kinds of intimacy.

Wedding pictures show hope, expectation, optimism

And then….Life Happens – eventually causing marital drift.
Couples must be intentional to keep close.

Marital drift can be caused by:
Work, in-laws, church callings, neighbors, community responsibilities, children, financial, health concerns,

Family night – picture of something that is messed up.

Marital cycles.. [see Studio C sketch of every marital fight ever. Shows process in meta-humor] 

Defensive responses start the problem.
Then spouse reacts to the defensiveness and history.
Then often children will insert and put in a destraction.  Spouse may side with a child for affirmation to shore up their case. (This is a terrible idea.)

More on Marital drift. 
Cycles contribute to marital drift.  People feel helpless to fix it.
Competing attachments to marriage may develop. 
Stressors become a refuge instead of a spouse.
Examples of competing attachments: children, extended family, friends, church or community responsibility, work, computer (social networking, games, porn), substances (drugs, alcohol, prescription, food), shopping, affairs (emotional, physical),
Currently there are huge shifts in marital problem because of video games.
Emotional attachment affairs can persist for a very long time.  Huge texting issues in emotional affairs.

We are born to connect.
--Emotional connection is coded as a safety cue in our brains. (Solitary confinement is a major way prisoners are punished.)
--Secure relationships offer safe bases from which to enter the world. Reliable attachment figures give us safety to explore. 
--Secure relationships serve as a buffer to physical and emotional pain. (Brains registers less pain. Social rejection is wounding)  Scientific study: People walking up a mountain with a heavy backpack reported less difficulty just with another person walking with them.
--When we cannot connect, we experience rejection and isolation, which registers as pain in the brain.

Still face experiment. 
[Personally I find this experiment very painful to watch.)
Babies get distressed if an adult doesn’t respond emotionally to them.
But adults are no different when it is done to them.
Pursuers try to re-establish connection
Distancers try to withdraw and run away
Protesting the disconnection in the relationship becomes intensified. (Complaining, criticizing, blaming, withholding, badgering, bickering, scolding, attacking, etc)
Nagging indicates loneliness, hurt, and pain of rejection.

Something to know about Distancers who seem disconnected and non-caring: It takes a lot of effort to look like you don’t care.
Distancers do it because they can’t take the pain of feeling rejected or the pain of disappointing the spouse any more.  They never want to hurt like that again.

Couples begin anticipating and reacting to one another. Neurons that fire together wire together.   Emotions are faster than cognitive reactions.
Emotional reactions shut down the logical part of the brain.
Couples become fixed in their positions.
Anticipatory interactions – making assumptions that prevent different methods from being recognized.

Eshcer sketch of angels and demons. 

It takes effort to see the angels more than the demons.  In the same way, negative emotion gets our attention more.
Intentionally look for the bright spots in your marriage.

Situations when spouse something and the other spouse interprets a different way.

“The more you____, the more I ______.
The more I______, the more you _____.”
Helps us understand there is a negative marital cycle.

What emotions are really driving the cycle?
--Anger.  We have a right to be angry, but it automatically pushes people away. It isn’t going to work.  One spouse must placate and they eventually resent that.

What is so painful? 
hate disappointing the spouse,
(Often families of origin teach us a method of dealing with conflict that doesn’t work)

Ask yourself:
What are you afraid of? 
What do you fear the most?

Marital cycle demo –
Slow down
--be curious about partner’s emotion. This is hard when you prefer to withdraw. Moving toward emotion helps you diffuse it. but has to happen before it escalates.
--Ask, “What is that like for you?”
--Ask, “What can I do?”  when you don’t know what to do .
--“I want to be there for you, but I’m not sure what to do
--Disclose your own vulnerable emotion. (Males don’t like to sound weak, so they go with “painful”
--Say “I want to try to do something different now/this time.”  (Do this before things escalate)

Common Pursuer mistaken beliefs:
--If I showed him or her the vulnerable side of me, he or she wouldn’t like it
--I need to protect myself
--If I am soft, I’ll be reinforcing bad behavior
--I can’t have an impact on my spouse
--It’s more distressing to get no response

Common mistaken Distancer beliefs:
--I don’t matter, he/she care 
--They don’t love me
--I’ll never be enough
--He/she will never accept me

Men get told to suck it up and not express emotions unless it is anger, happiness, or sexual attraction.
Men commonly do a Spock thing. (But there are female Distancers too)

Try to see the positive intent of your spouse.  Try not to seeing them as lazy, selfish, etc.  Instead see them as hurt, or fearful, or worried.
When we look for the worst in anyone, we will find it. But if we concentrate the best, that element will grow until it sparkles.


Anonymous said...

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Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I will be posting more very soon.