Tag Archives: relationships

The Costs of Social Media Overuse and How to Practice Moderation

How many times have you walked into a restaurant or a movie theater and noticed that everyone is on their phone? Four friends might be sitting together having lunch, yet they are not really together, preferring to connect with a piece of technology, choosing to interact with an object rather than the people right in front of them. What does this mean about us? What are the implications for future generations? What is the long-term impact of this addiction to technology on modern relationships? What will the next generation look like?

Internet addiction affects nearly 6 percent of the global population. Symptoms of online addiction include anxiety, depression, euphoric feelings when in the presence of devices, lost sense of time, weight gain, and the avoidance of work. It also has serious ramifications for those in romantic relationships. Excessive usage of Twitter and Facebook has been linked to cheating, breakups and divorce, often rooted in conflicts over time spent on these platforms.

dreamstime_m_40519981Heavy internet use can cause people to identify more with online identities than real life ones. Online, you my find it easy to frame your life as one of total fulfillment and it’s likely that many in your network are doing the same. Because of this, it’s often easier to interact online because of its superficiality: it is simple to avoid awkward or vulnerable moments that reveal our insecurities and problems.

And there’s evidence that this is leading to an increasing preference for online interactions over those in real life. According to one study, one in four people spend more time on social media than in real-life social situations, and as many as 11 percent of adults prefer to spend a weekend communicating online than socializing.

The Other Side

Research indicates that social media use can make us feel sad. According to a study from the University of Michigan, the more participants used Facebook, the worse they felt. This, researchers said, is likely due to social comparisons. You most likely have experienced social comparisons when looking through your social network’s glamorous photos and happy messages and feel that your own life pales in comparison. Repeated exposure to these comparisons can lead to unhealthy beliefs about our self worth. A recent study has shown that social media can either increase or decrease feelings of loneliness, depending on how people use it. People who tend to be more passive online (reading other’s posts) are at a higher risk for increasing feelings of loneliness and a lack of belonging.

What can we do to reduce the negative effects of social media overuse?

  1. Practice moderation.

Just like in any other activity, moderation is the key. Too much social media can cripple your social skills, while too little can make you feel as though you are on the outside looking in. Use technology in a mindful way. Try to differentiate between online interactions and real life interactions. Whenever you hang out with your friends, turn off your smartphone and focus on face-to-face interactions. Conversely, when you’re on a business trip, social media can be a lifesaver because you can use it to chat with your friends and family.

  1. Change your perspective.

The first thing we need to recognize is that social media is just a tool like any other. We use it in order to make our lives a bit easier. Think about the main purpose of your online behavior. Is it a way of avoiding real life problems or is it a way of being more productive and efficient? Identifying the main reason why you choose to go online can make a difference.

  1. Assume responsibility.

Just like in real life, social media is a place where everybody is responsible for their own actions and each of us can choose effective and authentic behavior. Despite recent Internet laws and regulations, people are still somewhat free to do as they please, as long as they don’t cause harm to other people. Make sure that what you post (if it’s public) is something you’d be comfortable sharing with your future boss, your friends, and your family. Don’t act quickly or impulsively, take your time, choose your words, save an email as a draft before sending it.

  1. Be transparent.

Relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. Authentic connections are based on honesty and openness. If you want a lasting relationship with your significant other, being honest and open about your social media use, while at the same time keeping healthy boundaries, is the way to go.

As for collegial relationships, the best thing you can do is to act naturally in both real and online interactions. Don’t try to be someone you’re not just because you’re hidden behind a screen.

  1. Be mindful

It’s easy to get distracted by notifications. Social media, e-mails, news, videos, phone calls and text messages interrupt us hundreds of times every day.

Make sure you schedule some time every day in which you are fully aware of what you are doing, whether it’s brushing your teeth in the morning or talking to your significant other. Also practice doing one thing at a time. Some time off with no distractions helps you focus better, improves your cognitive abilities and your performance. It also reduces stress and tension, and this will allow you to enjoy your free time and the company of other people.

These 5 easy steps are only a guide that you can follow in order to improve your relationships and to reduce the negative effects of social media overuse. However, the most important thing is your inner voice and what it tells you. Learn how to pay attention to your needs. We’re not built to sit in front of a screen most of the day. Our bodies also need some time out in the nature. Don’t forget to also interact with real-world people and objects. Furthermore, learn to make the most of your time online by choosing to use what is helpful and removing what is simply noise and distraction.

Don’t forget that you are in charge of your actions and you might as well enjoy the whole process of building the lifestyle that you want for yourself!

Schema-driven Relationship problems

We often find ourselves repeating the same patterns over and over in relationships, so much so that it can sometimes feel that we’re dating or marrying the same person over and over. This is a common phenomenon, but there is a way to break these patterns, to have fulfilling relationships that reflect the types of people we want to be.

dreamstime_s_50295098

Schemas are strongly held core beliefs that we have about ourselves, others, relationships, and the world. Schemas are hard to let go of because they make us feel safer by providing us with a level of predictability and certainty about how people will respond to us.

Schemas get developed in early childhood through our experiences with our environment, including our family, peers, and siblings. We then learn to cope and respond to our environments. These coping responses are usually adaptive and reasonable reactions to our environments and our upbringing. For example, individuals who have an abandonment schema may have been abandoned by someone they love or may have had a relationship with a caretaker in early childhood who was either unstable or unreliably available to them. Therefore they learned that people are unreliable, unstable, and may leave at any moment.

All of our schemas come from somewhere as a response to our environment, and the coping responses that we’ve learned regarding how to deal with our schemas were also adaptive at some point. If our caretaker was unreliable and unstable then we might cope with it through excessive independence and autonomy or we might cope with it by becoming really clingy and needy with the people we love for fear that we will lose them.

Whatever coping strategies we learned or stumbled onto, we now continue to use over and over again in our adult relationships. This leads us to create a self-fulfilling prophecy in our current relationships where the same needs that were not meant for us in childhood continue not to get met in our current relationships.

When we respond to our schemas in very rigid and inflexible ways, it may lead to schema-driven relationship problems. Schema-driven relationship problems occur when we continue to cope with our schema pain in a way that continues to reinforce and maintain our core belief about ourselves, which ends up damaging our current relationships.

For example, if an individual has an emotional deprivation schema, they hold the belief that their emotional needs and their need for nurturing, support, and understanding will not be met in relationships. They believe that people will continue to deprive them of their basic needs and that they will continue to be left feeling deprived and alone in all of their relationships. When their schema gets triggered in a relationship they might cope with it by not asking for help. They do not express their needs because they don’t believe their needs will be met. This behavior leads to their needs not getting met in relationships, thus reinforcing their core beliefs.

They may also oscillate between not expressing their needs at all and getting to a point of such a high level of deprivation that they become very demanding and urgent about their needs. They may demand that certain needs get met right away and may become very critical and blaming others if they are not. This behavior leads to schema reinforcement and a self-fulfilling prophecy in which their needs are even less likely to get met in their current relationships.

dreamstime_m_51023693

We all have core beliefs and schemas about ourselves and others, but if we don’t have flexible coping responses and ways to effectively express our feelings and needs, we will continue to have the same barriers show up for us, as they did in early childhood. We will continue to re-create the same pain of our early childhood’s unmet needs.

The goal is to understand what triggers our schemas, what our typical coping responses are when our schemas get triggered, and to be able to identify new alternative behaviors that are based on our values and the kind of person we want to be. When we are clear on our core beliefs in our relationships and how these beliefs affect the way we behave in relationships, we then have the freedom and the flexibility to try out new behaviors that might lead to new outcomes. This creates the opportunity for us to get our needs met in our current relationships and to learn the tools and strategies to express ourselves effectively. By doing so, we give others the real opportunity to disconfirm our core beliefs and schemas. When we truly allow others the opportunity to disconfirm our core beliefs, we find the right people and we build healthy, fulfilling, collaborative, and fair relationships.

5 Steps to Overcoming Schema-driven Relationship Problems:

1. Identify your schemas: you can click here to take a schema questionnaire and identify your primary schemas. You can also ask yourself several questions to identify your schemas. This is called the downward arrow technique: What is a strong negative belief that I have about my relationships? –Ask yourself if this belief is true what does that mean about you? If this next belief is true, what does that mean about you and your relationships? Keep asking yourself what these beliefs mean and say about you and your relationships. Once you can’t go any further, you have reached a schema.

2. Identify your triggers. Stay mindful during the week of all you’re into personal situations and noticed moments when you’re schema was triggered. Identify and write down all the triggers that activate your schema. For example, if you have a self-sacrifice schema, it is very likely that anytime someone needs a favor from you or has a request from you, your schema will be triggered.

3. Identify the thoughts and the feelings that come up for you when your schema gets activated. Click here to read about the common thoughts and feelings that are connected to particular schemas.

4. Identify your values: Clarify the kind of person you want to be when your schema is triggered. What kind of person do you want to be, how do you want to respond, when you feel guilty, lonely, deprived, or hurt? Think about the kind of person you want to be and the kind of partner you want to be and write down all these values. Click here to read more about values and how to assess your values.

5. Identify new behaviors. Now that you’re clear about your values, pick three of the most important values and write down a specific behavior that will bring you closer to those particular values. Think about how you will try out each of these behavior this week and commit to it. When will you practice these new behaviors? Keep in mind, the new behaviors will not erase the thoughts and feelings that are connected to your schema. Are you willing to notice all the thoughts and feelings connected to your schema and still carry out these new behaviors, if it means that it will bring you closer to the kind of relationship you want and the kind of person you want to be?

Good luck and remember to stay curious about the outcomes of your new behaviors. It’s very important to stay mindful and observe the outcomes of your values-based actions. Even if the immediate outcome is not what you desired, the long-term outcome will bring you closer to the life you desire.

 

Schemas and Self-Distortions

This video really touched me because it captures a common problem that I regularly see; the way that our schemas and core beliefs radically distort our perceptions of ourselves. While these thoughts may never completely disappear, they don’t need to be so distressing and powerful. By understanding schemas, and learning how to relate to uncomfortable thoughts and feelings with more compassion and acceptance, you can learn to become your own best friend and ally.

Dove, the household name and manufacturer of beauty goods, performed an experiment. In the embedded video, a forensic police sketch artist draws women, hidden from view, based on their description. Next, strangers who have briefly met these women describe them to the same artist.  The difference between the self-described sketches and those dictated by casual observers were startling. The self-described portraits appeared caricature-like and featured sadder looking people with harsher features. One participant said the portrait she helped create looked “closed off and fatter,” while the portrait that was created by the outside observer looked “more open, friendly and happy.”

Schemas

Our schemas can often be wildly inaccurate, like fun-house mirrors. They’re frequently biased by perfectionism—holding ourselves to unreasonable standards—and incomplete comparisons—relating our self-worth to how we feel others are—resulting in harsh self-judgments that impact our health and happiness. The solution to this self-shaming? Self-compassion, distancing from harsh thoughts and defusing from them. Use the following two metaphors to help you relate to your mind differently and make distance from your thoughts:

 

Thoughts as Commercials

Instead of thinking of your thoughts as carriers of absolute truths, think of them like commercials, filled with salespeople pitching products that aren’t necessarily good for you. If we don’t pay much attention to the commercials, they pass by without notice. However, if we call the number at the bottom of the screen, we’re giving into a conversation about something we never needed. negative schemas affect our relationships - Bay Area CBTThe next time you find yourself absorbed in a commercial-like conversation with yourself about your worth, ask yourself which negative thoughts feel most compelling, which thoughts do you notice yourself automatically accepting, buying into, or getting caught up in?

Now, instead of doing what may feel natural, like negating or criticizing these thoughts, notice them without judgment. Approach them with curiosity and empathy, and politely decline the products your mind is trying to sell you. Notice your mind trying to sell you old stories and negative hypotheses about yourself and recognize that you don’t have to buy into it. Simply thank your mind for doing what minds do and reply by saying:  “thank you mind for that enticing story, but I’m not going to buy this product right now.”

Thoughts As Bullies

One of the hardest skills for my clients to learn is how to cultivate and practice self-compassion. Many of us believe the best way to correct a behavior is to punish—or bully—the person responsible. bullies and negative schemas - Bay area CBTNegative thoughts are met with more negative thinking, which creates a vicious cycle of self-criticism.

However, our negative thoughts are not bad deeds. When you find yourself bullying yourself into being a better person, ask your inner bully a few questions. What does it need, what is it trying to protect you from? What are you afraid might happen if the bully stops?

Next, just like the commercials, stop engaging and arguing. Place your hands over your heart and consciously send love and compassion to yourself and all your inner bullies. Give the bully compassion and validation. Thank the bully for its misguided attempt to do a good deed, but remind it that this approach isn’t helpful.The more you practice non-judgmental awareness of these thoughts, the more you’ll be able to let them go. Just like the women in the Dove video, you’ll find you’ll be able to see a more beautiful you; the way many others already see you.

Adults Need Time-Outs Too

take a time-out - It's OK. Bay Area CBTI’m frequently asked whether it’s ever OK to walk away from a fight.

The short answer is yes. You should take a break from a heated argument because the type of creative and objective problem solving that makes you a whiz at work shuts down when you feel the strong negative emotions associated with fights.

However, you can’t leave the conflict unresolved. Instead, have a time out, allowing you both the space and perspective to calmly assess the conflict.

 When is a Time Out Necessary

A time out is necessary when one or both partners are so triggered that they are no longer able to have a productive conversation. When we are triggered at 90% or 95% our skills go downhill and we are incapable of exploring a conflict with the same level of openness. If feelings of jealousy, insecurity, anger or hopelessness are at high intensity, then our capacity for effective problem solving is diminished. Learning to use time outs to calm ourselves down and clarify our feelings and needs can help us return to the conversation at a later time, when we are less triggered, and resolve the conflict effectively.

How to Make Time Outs Clear and Fair

To make a time out fair, you need clear-cut rules that give the both parties assurances that their space is respected and the conflict will be addressed. It is better to identify and agree on the rules of a time out in a moment when neither partner is in a triggered state. Try these tips:

      • Agree on a word or phrase that signals a time out is necessary.
      • Convey to your partner that resolving the issue is important to you.
      • Don’t use accusatory language. Say, “I feel triggered,” not, “you made me angry.”
      • Agree on a time to talk again, soon. It generally takes around 30 minutes to calm down.

 

How to Have an Effective Time Out

A time out is not merely a break, but an opportunity to feel our negative emotions and gain perspective. To do so, perform an inventory of the emotions and thoughts you’re experiencing. Write down your thoughts and feelings to the following questions:

        • What sensations am I experiencing in my body right now?
        • Where in my body does this experience feel most intense?
        • On a scale of 0-10, how intense is this physical experience?

 

Next. imagine your feelings have a physical form and describe their attributes:

    • Color
    • Shape
    • Size
    • Level of intensity
    • Movement

 

After, turn your attention to your immediate concerns about the time out:

      • What are my fears about this time out?
      • What are my thoughts or beliefs about this?
      • What do I predict will happen?

 

Make note of your prediction. Notice what you predicted, and the future story your brain imagined. Finally, identify what triggered you. Now, check in on your values and the kind of partner that you want to be and use the following steps from Nonviolent Communication to identify and express your needs effectively:

      • When x happened, I felt _____
      • I need _____
      • Would you be willing to _____

 

After a brief period of calm introspection, you should feel closer to the heart of the problem and further away from its intensity. Use this as a tool as often as you and your partner feel triggered in arguments, and you’ll find you’re both better able to listen and be aware of differing needs. If you’re concerned about how to handle yourself when discussing the issue again, consult the University of Texas at Austin’s comprehensive post on building healthy relationships.