Roots of codependency

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When we talk about codependency, most people think that the term is usually associated with a person emotionally linked to a drug addict, whether that addiction is alcohol or illicit drugs. Therefore, when I bring up the topic of codependency in my office, doubts arise: how can I be codependent? There is no substance abuse in my home.

The truth is that the term, at the time it was created, was specifically related to substance abuse. However, today we know that codependency can exist in any relationship with emotionally manipulative people. But the question remains: why do some people become codependent and others do not? Why do codependents often jump from one toxic relationship to another?

Like many other problems and patterns we work with in the office, codependency has its roots in childhood. Codependents are usually born into unstable homes, where there is emotional manipulation and where love is conditional. That is, if the child does not act exactly as expected, he/she will suffer abandonment and/or abuse.

The child in such a home grows up learning to control and monitor their parents moods and abandon their true identity, their true self, to please the parents. It is a matter of survival – after all, every child needs a caregiver. Thus, they learn to “dance the dance” of the manipulator, transforming their own life into a theater, where they are always doing well, or rather, pretend to be. In short: it is learned in childhood that, to receive affection, it is necessary to be “perfect” in the eyes of the caregiver. Everything revolves around the caregiver, who shapes the child’s taste and personality, at least on a superficial level. The child does all this for a small dose of conditional affection, which the child needs so much of.

This pattern of abdicating oneself to please another person at any cost continues after childhood, and can be seen especially in romantic relationships. After all, what we learn through past experiences becomes our internal rule. It is the kind of love we earn in childhood that we usually look for in the future; not because it’s healthy, but because it’s what we know, it’s what we got used to. Thus, a child who was born and raised in a home with narcissists may find himself entering into relationships with similarly narcissistic people, and refusing relationships and even friendships with healthier people. The comfort of the known, even if bad, may be better (in the short term) than the unknown. Thus, codependents are at risk of leaving an emotionally manipulative partner only to go to another, thus generating a cycle of ups and downs and unhappiness.

In therapy, the codependent learns to break the cycle of abuse and also learns to seek (and handle) healthier relationships (whether they are romantic or not), where their self can exist and is accepted.

To schedule an online consultation:
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
whatsapp: +55 (21) 99742-7750

What is a good friend?

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It seems that we all grew up with the idea that our best friends are the ones who are always present, always by our side. Maybe this is something ingrained in us since our time in school. After all, we saw our classmates every day. Some of us reach our early twenties, after college, and ask, Where have all our friends gone? Were we abandoned? Is someone not saying “good morning” everyday really a sign of a lack of affection? Does not seeing our classmates at least once a week mean the end of friendship? Also, these friends you always see on Friday for a beer, are they your real friends? If friendship could be calculated it certainly wouldn’t be a simple formula, but an equation full of variables. So in line with celebrating International Day of Friendship, I have composed a list of things for you to think about in regard to your friends.

Friends are present in good times and bad times
It is common to hear about fairweather friends. You should be careful about a friend who is only around when everything is good, but it is also important to remember the opposite isn’t desirable either. You should be careful if a friend is only present when everything is bad. There are toxic and envious people who will disappear during times of celebration. Therefore, your real friends will celebrate with you and help you through difficult times

… but that doesn’t mean all the time
Do not confuse constant presence with friendship. Someone sending good morning GIFs with a rose or kittens on a daily basis is an empty gesture when there is no substance to the friendship. Also, we all have work, studies, children, husband / wife, projects… Not being present at every single moment does not mean lack of friendship or neglect. You will recognize a true friend when, even when they are distant, they appear to support and help you when you need them.

Friends accept “no” as an answer
Your friends respect their own boundaries and they should respect yours. If someone is expecting you to accept everything they request and if you tell them “no” they stop speaking to you, this is not a healthy friendship, it is a toxic and abusive friendship. Also, you should look at yourself. Can you say “no” and receive “no” as an answer?

..and they keep their word
Remember a person is only as good as their word. Pay attention to promises (and any other types of agreements ) that are made. People who say one thing and do another are not friends. If you cannot trust someone’s word, you cannot trust this person as a whole. Lies and breaking promises in addition to being disrespectful to you are a big indication of a false or failing friendship. Beware of friends that promise a lot, and don’t follow through. It is better to have a friendship where few promises are made but kept, than
to have a friendship where promises are repeatedly broken.

Friends won’t always agree with you
Friends will call you out when you deserve it and sincerity is a priority. Someone who agrees with you no matter what you say or do is most likely just enabling behaviors that you shouldn’t have. Sometimes friends say things you don’t want to hear, but it’s for your own good. They want you to improve as a person, and that is what caring about someone means.

To schedule an online consultation:
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
whatsapp: +55 (21) 99742-7750

3 acts of self-sabotage

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1. Always thinking “If only I had…”
We all have regrets relating to something that happened in our past, it could be something that we could have controlled (‘If only I had studied more…”) or had no control over(“If only I had been born in another country/family…”).  The big problem is that these regrets can drag on for years (sometimes even decades!), they don’t help improve our attitude (unless you have a time machine), they only bring frustration, and the worst part: dwelling on these thoughts can make us follow the same paths we went down before

Transform the “if only I had…” by changing how you think of the past, and learning from it:
-“That happened, yes, but now I learned and I can do it differently.”
-“I can’t change my past, but I can change my future.”

These thoughts are far healthier and will help you work towards ending the regret and self-sabotage.

2.Burying your feelings
Many people think that expressing strong feelings means starting public drama or yelling at someone. However, the truth is that if you embrace your feelings, the chance of these things happening is reduced as opposed to burying your feelings; whether for fear of being judged, or due to guilt.

The truth is that buried feelings grow stronger instead of disappearing.  It’s like having a pot of boiling water:  if you cover it, not only will it continue boiling, but eventually it will boil over and make a mess.  However, if you remove the lid and let the air in, you’ll have a much more stable situation.  Knowing and expressing your feelings does not make a mess; covering them, however, does.

3. Starting tomorrow
This is especially common when people start a new diet: They eat normally, and the diet always starts tomorrow.  And tomorrow never comes.  This happens with productivity too:
“Today is a bad day, I’ll start my project tomorrow.”
Why not transform this one day delay into fifteen minutes? Why, instead of starting ‘tomorrow,’ don’t you start in an hour?  Shortening this pause helps to reduce the “all or nothing” way of thinking.  Take a break, however short:  take a walk, breathe, mediate, or talk with a friend – anything that helps you to concentrate on “re-booting” your system.  Don’t forget that tomorrow is never today.  Focus on your plans now.

To schedule a consultation:
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
(21) 99742-7750

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Sedentary Lifestyles and the Brain

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We all know that regular physical exercise is important for our health, but most of the time, the importance of this isn’t taken very seriously – in many cases we simply don’t have the motivation to be physically active (not counting the desire to lose weight or gain muscle, as these are well known and have been extensively covered). However, here I present another reason to stay physically healthy: it’s good for your brain.

A study done in Finland confirmed that aerobic activity stimulates the birth of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus of adults which, consequently, increases the volume of the brain. Unfortunately the flipside is also true – being out of shape in your middle aged years can lead to shrinking of the brain as you get older.

A study done at Boston University arrived at the same results as the Finnish study. The American study lasted for two decades, with 1,583 participants, each around 40 years old. At the start of the experiment, the participants ran on a treadmill that measured each of their physical capabilities. Two decades later, these participants returned to carry out the same test, but were also given an MRI test. The physical capability of each person in the study was measured using their heartbeat – that is, how long it took each participant to reach the target heart rate. In this test, the scientists measured the maximum rate of oxygen metabolization by the body in a minute (abbreviated VO2); the lower the VO2, the less physically fit the person.

The results showed that people who were more out of shape in the 90s will now, two decades later, have measurably decreased brain volume. The following correlation was observed: for every 8 ml/kg/min VO2 less measured while on the treadmill, the brain ages and shrinks ONE EXTRA YEAR

Therefore, thanks to these studies, we have evidence that physical activity is important for cognitive functions throughout our lives. Even though these days find us running about faster and faster (but not physically running – that’s far less common), we need to take a small amount of time to care for our brain – and to care for our body at the same time.

Paula Monteiro
Psychologist
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

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Looking to the Past

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In today’s culture, with technology constantly evolving, and where every day is more rushed than the last, looking towards tomorrow is considered normal and essential. The flipside to this is that looking back to the past is considered a waste of time, or a maladaptive behavior.

But the truth is that there is a difference between wanting to live in the past, which, by the way, is very unhealthy, and just taking a look at it. Remembering the past can be an effective way to deal with tough times in the present.

First, we need to realize that without the past, there would be no present or future. For example, imagine a person who finally graduated from college and obtained their degree. Getting a diploma is an exciting moment for any student, but, the diploma wouldn’t have the same meaning if it wasn’t a result of many late nights studying for tests, exhausting work, and stress, would it? The moment is special because of the events of the past. When things are going well, or when something good happens, we can look back and see how past events we perceived as negative actually were beneficial in shaping the present. Also, remembering our past achievements can remind us that bad times in the present will pass, just as bad times in the past have come and gone.

Nostalgia also reinforces our social ties and helps to regulate our mood. We remember all the people from our past: our father, mother, teachers, friends, and co-workers; who, for better or for worse, all played a part in helping us become who we are today. Research shows that in difficult times, nostalgic people deal with their problems by finding the support of others and not being afraid to release their emotions. Furthermore, in events that are out of our control, nostalgic people are more capable of both seeing the good side of the situation, and learning from the experience

Visiting the past can teach us many things and give us the motivation we need to face today’s problems; contrary to what many people think. Making a trip in time can be a productive experience, as long as you don’t forget to come back and live in the present.

Paula Monteiro
Psychologist
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

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