Author Archives: Lori Edelman

What is resentment?

Resentment, in clinical psychology, is a painful combination of anger, sense of unfairness, regret, sadness, and disappointment. It is complex.

Causes of resentment:

    • feeling that your life was unfair in comparison to others within your peer or family group.
    • pretending like everything‘s OK when it’s not.
    • not being assertive about your needs.
    • being there for others and finding that they are not there for you.
    • saying yes to something when you wanted to say no.
    • being treated as the strong one all the time.
    • finding that the situation has not changed even though you expressed yourself honestly.
    • feeling used.
    • repetitively being told that you should be grateful. 
    • continuing in relationships where you feel less than important.
    • being the person that people call primarily when they need something.
    • feeling temporary; receiving attention during a crisis, only to be ignored when things are at baseline.
    • finding your ideas and work credited to others.
    • not resting or giving yourself downtime
    • constantly being the initiator, planner, organizer in your relationships.
    • not receiving positive feedback: ‘no news is good news’.
    • not feeling heard.

Ignoring resentment does not make it go away. It impacts the way that you interact with others, from avoidance to passive aggressive behaviors. The surge of resentment you feel is a signal of something that needs to be acknowledged. With self-compassion, it’s worth a look.

Also see Doors Behind Door: Secondary Emotions.

Seven Natural Anxiolytics We Love

What do psychologists personally use to manage stress and anxiety?
Like any other strategy or tool, individual preference matters.

Weighted Blanket
I use one that is 20-25 lbs. It’s for grounding through weight and pressure. Pressure preferences are highly variable. Start low.

Vibrating Foam Roller
I use one that’s blue tooth enabled. Releases muscle tension with a variety of massage routines included in an accompanying app.

Leather-bound Writing Journals.
Moleskine is a brand that holds up well over time, no matter how many times you stuff your notebooks in your tote or suitcase.

Soothing Playlists
I like piano and trip hop. Find what clears your head. Important: only use the specific anxiety coping playlist you put together when you are in self-soothing mode. This creates neural associations.

Acupressure/Acupuncture Mat
Lying on a spiky mat may sound more like torture than treat, but once you get past the initial discomfort, the ancient relaxation of acupressure creates deep well-being. I like the Shakti mats.

Brown Noise Machine
We are all familiar with white noise machines. Brown Noise is a deeper version of sound, one that has a much lower pitch. Think of a heavy waterfall or distant thunder.

Golden Milk
Golden milk, also known as ‘haldi doodh’ in Hindi/Urdu or as turmeric milk in western cultures, is a drink with a lot of history. The basic recipe involves combining warm animal or plant milk (coconut, almond, cashew), turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and some kind of sweetener. It has soothing properties that range from the gastrointestinal to the soporific.

(*Embolden Psychology has no third party interest or financial stake in any of these products).
Coming next week: top meditation and relaxation apps, based on the research from neuropsychology.

Also see:
Making Sleep Your Best Friend.
Anxiety toolkit

When you have anxiety AND depression

Sculpture: Warriors’ Circle, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, 2019

Anxiety and depression have a complicated relationship. The chances of acquiring depression is much higher when an anxiety disorder already exists. Nearly half of those with major depression also suffer from severe anxiety. A biological vulnerability for both of these conditions is often present. Depression and anxiety are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Symptoms that might indicate that both anxiety and depression are present:

  • Persistent worries or fears that won’t go away.
  • Physical symptoms including fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and muscle aches and pains.
  • Difficulty relaxing.
  • Trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.
  • Intermittent eating habits- might be too much or too little.
  • Loss of interest in activities or previous pastimes.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or having a sense of losing control over things.
  • Trouble concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Feeling irritable and cranky including about seemingly little things.
  • Constant feelings of sadness or worthlessness.

Having both anxiety and depression can mean

  • Fearing failure, but no motivation to be productive.
  • Wanting to be left alone, but not wanting to feel lonely or abandoned.
  • Avoiding social situations, but desiring close connections.
  • Being afraid and exhausted at the same time.
  • Feeling restless, but immobilized.
  • Feeling everything acutely, but feeling numb.

See also my post on how to talk to loved ones about depression and anxiety.

On Couples and Mental Illness: A Tribute to the Powells

One of the greatest contributions of General Colin Powell was to show how couples can deal with clinical depression together.  It was the way he said it — straightforward, unsecretive, unapologetic. “My wife has depression. She’s had it for many, many years and we have told many people about it. It is not a family secret. It can be managed, and understanding, knowledge, and treatment are essential.”

With these words, he became a kind of unintentional medical ambassador for the mental health community, which has been trying to take the mystery and stigma out of psychiatric disorders and change public attitudes toward getting help for decades. His stance was trailblazing in its day. In contrast, as Nancy Reagan told the popular magazine “Family Circle” in a 1981 interview: “I feel that getting psychiatric treatment means that you yourself are not really trying to get hold of yourself. It’s sloughing off your own responsibilities.”

There is no doubt that mental illness of a partner or child is very difficult for a family. Without being overly sentimental, minimization, or exaggeration, Colin and Alma Powell showed unabashed solidarity in their personal day to day, living with mental illness.
RIP.

Emotional intelligence and agility in the workplace

Recently, I was asked by my colleague, fellow mental health professional and hospitality industry consultant, Laura Louise Green, to be the guest speaker on her seminar about Emotional Intelligence at the annual Tales of the Cocktail, the renowned international hospitality industry conference (9/22/2021).

We discussed the importance of emotional intelligence in the hospitality industry, the workplace, and in everyday interactions. What if bringing our emotional life into our work was exactly what we needed to protect our well-being and that of others?

A traditional work model has postulated leaving your emotions at the door. However, a growing body of research on the topic of emotional intelligence (EQ), the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and the emotions of those around you, shows that emotional understanding of self and others is highly related to competency, psychological well-being, and success across a variety of work and interpersonal situations.

Five characteristics of emotionally intelligent people:
* Change Agents
Individuals with high EQ are not afraid of change or taking risks.
* Self-Awareness
They know their own strengths and weaknesses.
* Empathy
They can relate to others without judgment.
* Balance
They strive for balance in their lives and encourage others to do the same.
* Kindness/Grace
They practice self-compassion, andencourage others to bring out the best in themselves.

The Neuropsychology of EQ:
Emotions are contagious; we catch feelings, and we spread them. This means that when we are with other people, physical measures such as heart rate, respiration and blood pressure can actually change to correspond to those of the other person, particularly when looking into their eyes. In neural science, this is called Limbic Resonance.

The practical implication of this information is that by learning to monitor our own emotions and sense emotional changes in other people, it becomes possible to recognize what people are feeling; and, by learning to navigate and manage our own emotions, we influence the emotions of others. EQ can be learned and strengthened.

Practice highlights:
* Monitor emotions- Learn to monitor your own emotions when with others. What are you experiencing? Is it coming from you or from someone else?
* Be present- Be mentally present and emotionally available so that others feel emotionally connected to you.
* Conduct emotional scans- Do an emotional scan before, during and after events that can trigger emotional reactions. Emotions consist of both bodily reactions and thoughts.
* Listen with and for emotion- To be a better listener, recognize the emotions and body language of others. Paying attention is a huge component of EQ.
* Create a healthy emotional climate- Develop a specific plan to foster an emotionally healthy, safe, and productive culture in your workplace and in your relationships. People have different levels of comfort with emotion and being sensitive to that is extremely important.
* Practice lightness- Become aware of the importance of lightness in interaction. People enjoy being around lightness because it, like other emotions, is contagious.

Dr. Daniel Goleman, an early researcher on emotional intelligence and psychology said, “Laughter may be the shortest distance between two brains, an unstoppable infectious spread that builds an instant social bond.”

Ultimately, emotional intelligence fosters connection; the essence of teamwork and relationship.
Also see Mental Health and Empathy. 

NINE DOMAINS OF WELLNESS

EMOTIONAL
Emotional well-being is the ability to regulate moods, thoughts, and feelings, and adapt when confronted with adversity or stressful situations. It is accepting the full range of emotions, in self and others.

PHYSICAL
Recognizing the importance of physical activity, sleep, nutrition, intimacy, and healthcare. Balancing these areas requires effort and persistence.

SOCIAL
Developing a sense of connection, belonging, community, and support system.

OCCUPATIONAL
Personal satisfaction, sense of productivity, and enrichment obtained from one’s work or craft.

SPIRITUAL
Meditation, prayer, expanding sense of personal purpose and meaning.

INTELLECTUAL
Searching for ways to expand knowledge, learning, skill sets, and creativity.

FINANCIAL
Comfort and sense of safety with current and future financial scenarios.

ENVIRONMENTAL
Creating stimulating personal environments, indoor and outdoor, that foster well-being. We occupy space in our room, home, office, neighborhood, and niche. How does your environment support you?

UNIVERSAL
Our sense of being part of the cosmos; that what we do has an effect on others and on the world.

See also HOW TO FEEL BETTER: 12 WAYS IN 30 DAYS.

A Few Things I Learned From Being a Psychologist (and from life)

  • Grief is not linear. A surge can take you by surprise; other days, you wake up lighter. Give space for both.
  • Saying mean things about yourself starts eroding how much you like you. Tell yourself: ‘please don’t talk about him/her/them like that.’
  • Variability is life. Having a bad day happens.
  • Learn to recognize quick sand. Before you get sucked in, don’t ignore the slippery feel under you.
  • Sometimes it’s important to give yourself a timeout. Send yourself to your room.
  • Routine and rituals reflect intention. What you do daily matters.
  • You do not have to wait for the perfect words, ideas, or inspiration to express yourself.
  • Boundaries are not just about other people – you can set them with yourself.
  • The Five Pillars that hold up your foundation are: nutrition, sleep, movement, meditation/prayer, and social support. Don’t ignore them.
  • No good decision came from a place of exhaustion.
  • Everything is therapy: Your physical environment, the company you keep, your music, art, activity, apparel, writing.
  • You cannot force, bribe, seduce, manipulate, or wish someone into loving you.
  • The ache to be accepted as you are is nearly universal.
  • Pretending to be uninjured does not heal wounds.
  • The tapestry and story of your life is incredibly nuanced; no one is ‘boring.’

Also see 13 WAYS TO PRACTICE NON-COMPASSION.

13 ways to practice non-compassion

  • Saying yes to things you don’t want to do.
  • Returning to relationships that have decidedly not worked out in the past.
  • Giving in because you don’t like conflict.
  • Telling people you’re OK when you’re not.
  • Making an unhealthy decision even when you know better.
  • Forcing yourself to stay awake when you need to rest.
  • Not asking for clarification when you don’t understand something.
  • Not soothing yourself when you’ve had a bad day.
  • Messing up and not forgiving yourself.
  • Not making time for things that mean a lot; music, reading, whatever your craft or personal passion may be. The ME time.
  • Refusing to treat yourself- Not buying yourself the plants/flowers, the perfume, the book, that you really want.
  • Saying mean things about yourself.
  • Overriding your intuition.

See also Why Self Compassion is More Important Than Self-Esteem.

The Neuropsychological Costs Of Poverty

Poverty is Trauma
Kids growing up in poverty are constantly releasing the stress hormone cortisol, which can give them short attention spans, restlessness, and short tempers. Physically, they feel the same kind of heart-pounding stress an adult feels after a car wreck. And they feel it all the time.

If you think about the impact on education, imagine if right after you were in a car crash or had a huge health scare, I walked up to you and said, ‘I need you to take a test.’ Or, ‘you just need to sit down and focus.’  Could you do it? Would you perform well? It’s doubtful.

And for kids, with their frontal lobe and brain functioning still developing well into their 20s, lingering effects of poverty are even more significant.

Experiencing prolonged adversity takes its toll. Research indicates that even more striking than lack of adequate nutrition and limited access to consistent healthcare, chronic stress, across the longterm, makes children and adolescents susceptible to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes.

The impact upon the brain, development and functioning, for children with chronic financial adversity is commensurate with those suffering from other forms of post-traumatic stress disorder: the hippocampus part of their brains is atrophied; the amygdala, which regulates the processing of acute emotional responses, is overwhelmed. Chronic financial stress experienced by children can be devastating for learning/education, since the hippocampus and amygdala, in tandem, regulate emotional responses and are also critical in the formation of memory, consolidated knowledge, and spatial awareness.

Poverty Affects One In Six American Children
Poverty during childhood development has immediate effects on cognitive ability and neurological activity. Children from low-SES backgrounds show decreased levels of cognitive function and brain activity across numerous domains. The most severe effects are found in language/communication and regulation of executive function (attention, organizing, self-monitoring, prioritizing, planning).

Snapshots of family poverty in data from 2018 showed a troubling picture for America’s youth, with 13 million children food insecure and one in six children living in poverty (research stats were collected before the Covid-19 pandemic). Living in a financially unstable environment can threaten a child’s sense of safety because it may mean they cannot access basic needs, like food, shelter, and healthy relationships, on a consistent basis.

Children who live in poverty move more frequently, have families more likely to deal with eviction/housing instability/credit problems, have reduced ability to attend school on a regular basis or access curriculum virtually, and may have parents who work several jobs making them less accessible for quality child and parent time.

Long-standing financial hardship IS trauma. It changes the brain, affects everyday functioning, restricts life experience, and ultimately, personal outcomes.

Stats Sources:

    • Childrensnational.org (Disclosure: Dr. Siddique previously worked at the adolescent medicine department at Children’s Hospital, Washington DC)
    • American Academy of Pediatrics (Www. AAP.org)

Also see the mental health blog at Embolden on racial trauma and the brain:

Racial Trauma and Mental Health

The Psychology of Humor: Why Jokes Matter

Today we have a guest post from Jackie Summers.

I was 12 years old. My bully had me cornered at the bus stop after school. Six kids surrounded me, and my bully had me shoved up against the wall, his fists in my windbreaker.

I knew the routine. He was going to try to rob me. With him in my face, his friends watching, and my feet dangling off the ground, I said “my wallet is in my back pocket but i have Tic Tacs in my jacket, and you had onions for lunch.”

His friends burst into laughter. I took a chance and made fun of someone more powerful than me, at the risk of my health, and that day it kept me from getting my ass kicked.

Now flip it. If he’d beaten me up, taken my wallet, and then made fun of my breath, would the joke have been funny, or just cruel?

As a kid I was bullied a lot. I learned to make jokes as a defense mechanism for stressful situations from reading comic books. Nothing infuriated villains more than Spider-Man cracking a joke while he fought. It masked his own fears while giving his opponents the impression he didn’t take them seriously. Spidey took down a lot of foes more powerful than he, because he could think fast and distract them.
According to Dr. Hoorie I Siddique PH.D. of Embolden Psychology, the science of making jokes/laughing under duress has a specific neurological profile:

  1. When you laugh at someone or something, it causes disinhibition.
  2. The frontal cortex is the stop sign of the brain. Lack of inhibition or filter is a common symptom with frontal lobe dysfunction.
  3. This disinhibition makes it easier to laugh while short circuiting higher order thinking.
  4. If you can laugh at someone vulnerable, it follows that you would be hard-pressed to go into problem-solving mode if they need help.
  5. Literally sets up a pattern of not being able to see the person as a vulnerable being.

You can see where all this is leading. Every time I got beat up, being laughed at either while it was happening (or after it was done) was just salt in literal wounds. It’s sociopathic to laugh at someone while they’re hurting, especially if you are the one who caused their pain.

Alternatively, the ability to make jokes under duress at the expense of my oppressors took quick thinking, courage, and a clear enough mind to think critically.

Says Dr. SIddique:
“Humor perception, not surprisingly lights up the pleasure centers of the brain. Like sex, or delicious food, laughing at something we find funny makes us feel good and creates a rush of endorphins.”
“Humor production is more complicated, and shows the most activity in the temporal lobe. This is the auditory processing area, that takes in verbal information from the environment, and puts it into words and phrases.”

In short: making fun of people more powerful than you humanizes them. This is why we cheer when our heroes quip in the face of danger, and cringe when antagonists add insult to injury.
Making fun of people less powerful than you dehumanizes them. It’s how the mobs of Rome were able to cheer gleefully for gruesome deaths in the coliseum, or how ordinary folx took delight in lynchings in the Jim Crow South.

Imagine instead of six bullies trying to rob an underclassman, you have the ear of millions. Imagine using great intelligence to poke fun at a powerful but woefully incompetent politician. You’ve humanized them; they’re less scary. Millions of people are now managing their fear, less afraid to resist oppression, their own or that of others.

Use that same intelligence to make fun of someone who’s marginalized and you’ve dehumanized them. You’ve just made it easier for their oppressors to justify their actions, you’ve given license to millions of people to laugh at their plight, and possibly short circuited their ability (or desire) to aid their cause.

Please think about this as you consider what entertains you.

Embolden Psychology
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Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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