Dr Judy 24/7
Sunday
Sep092012

Romney and Obama Get High Ratings for Love

abcnews.go.com

 

Columbia University Teachers College Psychologist Examines How the Candidates' Convention Talk Appealed to Voters' Emotions

Issues like jobs, taxes and war surely affect how people vote, but research shows that people cast their ballot based on emotional reactions to candidates.

Some political analysts have suggested that both the Republican and Democratic conventions left people confused about whether the party in power has created more jobs or fewer, and unsure about the answer to the question, "Are you better off now than four years ago?"

So how did the candidates stack up with regard to feelings? Was it any clearer?

In revealing personal aspects of their marriages and family lives in their convention speeches, the candidates seduced us by making us yearn for aspects of healthy relationships.

Here's how the candidates scored on dimensions of healthy relationships, as outlined in my book, "The Compete Idiot's Guide to a Healthy Relationship":

Mitt Romney

 

Heart

 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's opening comments in his campaign acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 30, defined his running mate Paul Ryan first as "a man with a big heart," and later as a "caring" leader, earning Romney a score of "7."

Surveys show that "caring" is a top personal quality women seek in a partner. Just as the heart provides essential lifeblood, a big heart indicates highly desirable generosity and compassion. These qualities humanize Ryan as well as Romney, himself -- highlighting softer, loving traits.

 

Unconditional Love

 

Romney's definition of his parents' unconditional love, as if straight out of a psychology textbook, earned him an exceptionally powerful score of "10." Unconditional love is the best foundation parents can provide for a child's growth, self-esteem and confidence in pursuing their dreams.

"My mom and dad gave their kids the greatest gift of all -- the gift of unconditional love," Romney said. "They cared deeply about who we would BE, and much less about what we would DO."

Such support is often out of adults' reach, constricted by criticisms and judgments, yet it is an ideal to strive for. In parenting with unconditional love, disapproval can be directed at a behavior, not who the child IS.

Similarly, love between partners should not depend on what you look like, earn, do or say, but be extended for who you are inside as a person.

 

Love

 

Love heals and nurtures.

"All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers," said Romney, earning him a score of "10" for elevating love over power or rules. "If every child could drift to sleep feeling wrapped in the love of their family -- and God's love -- this world would be a far more gentle and better place."

Indeed, putting children to bed and waking them up with a cheerful and loving spirit prepares them to grow up being kind and peaceful adults.

Couples should do the same for each other to be better able to face inevitable stresses of the day. Loving and feeling loved reduces anger that fuels aggression and attempts at control.

 

Romance

 

All couples want to know the "secret" to an enduring relationship and love life. In his acceptance speech, Romney revealed the "secret" to his parents' 64-year marriage, evidenced by the sweet gesture of the rose left daily by his father for his mother -- a sweet tip worth a score of "6."

A calendar of romantic acts is one of the many tips outlined in my book, including simple daily romantic words or actions, like a loving note tucked in a briefcase or lighting a candle over dinner.

 

Partnership

 

Achieving "true" partnership, being "there" for each other, is one of the true tests of love outlined in my book.

Romney provided a top-notch example of this, earning him another score of "10," when describing how when his "mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way."

Such support is an excellent example for all American couples.

 

Respect

 

Respect for and honoring of women is evident in Romney adoring his mother's "beautiful voice," in his hiring women, his appreciating the value of his wife, Ann Romney, in her role as mother (even in contrast to his own "job" as breadwinner), and also in his adoration of and loyalty to her in times of trouble. The image of Romney hugging his wife as they heard her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was a true display of a healthy relationship, in stark contrast to pervasive unfaithfulness suffered by so many American couples (and certainly to the betrayal of a previous high-level political candidate in the face of his wife's tragic struggle with cancer).

Fulfilling the promise of being loyal "in sickness and in health" is a fundamental characteristic of a deeply loving, long-lasting and healthy relationship. Romney's display rates a score of "10" because such loyalty inspires trust -- shown by surveys to be a top quality desired by couples and essential for a healthy relationship.

 

Deep Connection

 

Creating a sense of family provides a secure foundation to grow and function in today's stressful world. In the face of high divorce rates and all-too-common fractured families, few can resist the endearing image of a parents' bed invaded by five rambunctious young sons -- as Romney described one of the joys of parenthood for he and wife, Ann. It evoked an image worth a score of "6."

Short of that ideal, couples can create extended families to develop deep connectedness that contribute to thriving.

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama didn't have to say much about his marriage to his wife, Michelle Obama, in his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination on Sept. 6 in Charlotte, N.C., because she did it all for him. Her widely touted speech two days earlier delivered a public love letter likened to none in the history of presidential conventions.

In her testimonial, she said, "Today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago ... even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met."

She also used a magic word that seals a healthy relationship, according to hundreds of surveys: trust.

"I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he's going to do, even when it's hard -- especially when it's hard," she said.

The first lady also praised "unconditional love" from her parents, just as Romney did the week before. The use of this professional term so soon after Romney's use of the same made me wonder whether she or her speechwriters knew the positive psychological impact that allusion would have.

With such a testimonial, Obama didn't need to say as much directly about his wife and marriage as Romney did. He needed only to open his speech with a solid affirmation of love that therapists recommend to all couples: Turn to your partner directly and say how you feel.

 

Love Declarations

 

"Michelle, I love you so much," Obama said, looking directly at his wife in the front row.

The three simple, magic words -- "I love you" -- are what so many women desperately want to hear their man say directly to them. Those are also the three magic words so many men and women fear saying, or forget to say after years of being together.

His words were made even more powerful -- worth a score more than "10" so I gave it a "12" -- by adding the words "so much," and by using the partner's name, as Obama did, saying, "Michelle, I love you so much."

Obama scored higher than Romney in his opening remarks by addressing his wife first, instead of first pointing out the positive qualities of his running mate.

 

Appreciation

 

Continuing his avowal to his wife and letting us all in on it, the president continued, "A few nights ago, everyone was reminded just what a lucky man I am."

Such recognition is a partner's dream. It added "7" more points to his score.

As therapists advise, bump up your appreciation with using additional simple, but magic, words: how lucky you are. The more you let everyone know how lucky you are to have your partner, the more she glows from being so adored and valued.

 

Recognition

 

Everyone likes to be acknowledged and praised for what they contribute to a relationship and that they provide valued support in their partner's life.

The president did that deftly, saying, "[It] wasn't about me. It was about you," and adding, "You're the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he'd be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible. You're the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she's ever called home; why selfless soldiers won't be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love."

The passage earns a "7" for evoking imagery of reaching dreams, being home, loving whom you choose. It pulls at heartstrings.

 

Need

 

In saying, "I'm hopeful because of you," the president expressed a kind of dependence that is healthy in a relationship.

Couples crave knowing that they're needed and like being asked to help. Obama's appeal was even more direct when he said, "Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next 10 years, and improve early childhood education."

His expression of need was worth a score of "6."

 

Partnership

 

The partnership Romney described in his parents' marriage, Obama extended to us.

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished together," he said, drawing us in. His reassuring us that, "We will pull each other up," earned him another score of "6." Being given credit and being reassured of being part of a team in success intensifies a bond.

 

Commitment and Destiny

 

Other words and phrases that stand out in the president's speech, even buried within more political points, evoke allusions to healthy relationships -- words like "commitment" and phrases like "our destinies are bound together."

Commitment is essential in love, and feeling tied by forces stronger than yourselves intensifies the bond. Each one earns a score of "3 1/2" (which would be more, if elaborated), for a total of "7."

 

Apology

 

Perhaps one of the most risky, yet also essential, aspects of a healthy relationship is admitting your own inadequacies or failings, and how you've let the other person down. It takes great courage and Obama showed it -- earning score of "10" -- when he said in his speech, "You can be disappointed with me," and "I'm far more mindful of my own failings."

Quoting President Lincoln, he said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go."

Such admissions are essential for any partner to agree to move forward in a relationship -- affirming the relevance of "forward" as the president's reelection campaign theme.

"We will learn from our mistakes," he said.

Apologies have to happen before a betrayed partner can regain trust and agree to give the transgressor another chance -- like Obama is asking the American public to do, in the face of broken promises and disappointment in his performance.

Romney vs. Obama: The Love Scale Score

Score 59 for Romney and 55 for Obama on the love scale.

Joe Biden's Love Address

Interestingly, Vice President Joe Biden took a similar tact to the president in his convention speech with an opening comment directly declaring devotion to his wife. Like Obama, he addressed her by name, and used those three simple magic words: "I love you."

Expanding the romance, he let us deeper into his boudoir talk, with a poetic twist, when he added, "You're the love of my life and the life of my love."

What woman would not be seduced by the thought of a man so wildly pursuing her love?

Unashamedly, Biden declared in his speech how thrilled he was to hear his wife say publicly in her address at the convention, "I've always loved you." Here was a man admitting his relief in being told he's loved, after a history of five pleas before getting her nod.

Another healthy relationship move the V.P. did: value your wife's career -- again, the more publicly the better.

The happiest spouse will say, "He helps me be who I really want to be," and, "He tells the world how wonderful I am."

Biden's acknowledgement of his wife's accomplishments as a teacher would make any female voter think, "I want a man like that in my life."

In the past, President Obama has also admitted to pursuing his wife before she finally gave in and dated him.

A man willing to be vulnerable and admit his pursuit of being loved is appealing indeed. So is the Romney story of childhood sweethearts in long-lasting love.

With the American people suffering so much from fractured families and financial woes, the candidates would do well to invoke these qualities of healthy relationships in their race for the hearts of Americans.

Judy Kuriansky is a clinical psychologist and couples counselor who goes by the name of "Dr. Judy" and is well known for dispensing advice on the radio. She has donated to a Republican presidential campaign in the past. The opinions expressed here are her own.

Saturday
Aug252012

Hope Springs in Marital Counseling

 

After 31 years of marriage and two grown kids, Kay and Arnold from Omaha Nebraska haven’t had sex in five years and are sleeping in separate rooms.  Fed up, Kay prepays $4,000 for a week of intensive couples counseling, requiring travel across the country to the tiny town of Hope Springs in Maine.

Kay and Arnold are fictional spouses in the movie “Hope Springs” but their story and dialogue is so true-to-life, the audience might as well be a fly on the wall of real therapy sessions with a real couple. 

Kay, played frumpy, shy and retiring, by the brilliant character actor Meryl Streep, is a stereotypical menopausal wife and mother, who rotely serves bacon and eggs to her husband every morning and endures his ignoring her, reading the paper and watching golf on ESPN. The boorish, grumpy, and unnervingly uncommunicative Arnold is brilliantly portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones., as a stereotypical left-brained accountant, terrified of expressing feelings and intimacy. Always having squinted his eyes shut in sex, he – no surprise—turns out to suffer from erectile dysfunction when, in one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, he finally locks in a deep gaze with his yearning wife. 

Steve Carell from the TV show “The Office,” portrays an ever-so-even tempered therapist with probing questions and exercises (“homework”) right out of a counseling manual. 

The town’s name turns out to be a good metaphor for the fact that Hope can Spring from such counseling.

Here are some highlights that are so true-to-life:

It’s the woman who reaches her wits end and insists the spouses go to therapy. The man resists. (He does have one legit complaint:  the $4,000 fee is high for a weeks’ worth of only one session a day, not including room and board!).

Out-of-town week-long counseling is straight out of the original sex therapy model from the early 1970s by Masters and Johnson – dubbed the grandmother and grandfather of sex—where sex-starved couples spent a week at their center in St. Louis.  Escaping their normal routine and stress is essential, with a hotel room as a useful setting to jumpstart passion.

  The counseling is so true-to-life, as if the writer recorded a real couples’ process.

The initial session is always an exploration about what both partners want and fear. The first “homework” is always to spend the night just holding and hugging, with no sex.  Back in the office, they report how it went; sometimes, but not in this case, couples have spontaneous “cures” and shyly report “successful” sex (since disobeying instructions eliminates performance pressures).

Appropriately probing questions about fantasies reveals Arnold’s secrets straight out of statistical surveys: oral sex and a threesome.  True also to stereotype, Kate pictures romance, renewing vows on the beach (they do, in the credit-rolling tearjerker scene), longing for deep kisses, and revealing that she’s unschooled in performing fellatio.  Ever so stereotypically, the proper matron later steals in the supermarket to buy fruit, and practice in the bathroom on a banana (which she first absentmindedly eats), while following instructions from the real tome by a gay man (who supposedly knows best).

In another key step in real therapy, the couple expresses upsets and angers to each other, to clear the air. She’s shares that he never talks to her, he says she always quietly gets her own way.

An antidote to anger is sharing your best sex experience to reignite the glow.  Arnold and Kay finally smile at each other, recalling fondly a romp on the kitchen floor when he thoughtfully placed a towel behind her head so it wouldn’t bang against the hardwood.

As is typical, the man storms out of the sessions when topics get too personal.  The woman runs out too, in tears, when she’s too hurt (though against sex-role stereotypes in the film, Kay drowns her sorrows getting drunk in a bar (disappointedly) while Arnold retreats to a museum).

Another essential:  Tell each other what you each want. Typical, she wants love, he wants just “to do it.”  Ever so sweetly, Kay and Arnold try to accommodate each other, she by performing fellatio in a movie theatre, he by wining and dining her in a romantic restaurant and suite. 

The romantic dinner is a must.  Kay and Arnold’s night is complete with blazing fire, chocolate strawberries and champagne. 

But all does not always lead to the happy ending -- yet, in real life or in the film. When true intimacy looms – as Arnold opens his eyes to finally meet Kay’s in true love-making instead of just doing it - he can’t perform and Kay takes it to mean he doesn’t love her.  Ever-so-typical again, the woman blames herself for the man’s erectile dysfunction, feeling unloved, undesirable and rejected, when it’s really his fears and not her fault.

 True again to real life, only when the woman is ready to leave, the guy realizes he can’t live without her, drops his defenses and comes to her with more open heart.

Counseling like this really works.  The process could be right out of my session notes with many cases, and advice about steps to communication and intimacy in the “The Complete Idiots Guide to a Healthy Relationship” and “The Complete Idiots Guide to Tantric Sex.” 

The movie should be standard homework for real couples, following an article I wrote about “Cinematherapy” about how watching relevantly-themed films together is an excellent way for couples to vicariously confront tough relationship issues, model sharing, and experience success.    

While laughing out loud and getting choked up over Kay and Arnold’s journey, real couples can see how Hope really does Spring.

Friday
Aug242012

THE MOVIES, CHURCH and STREETS: Is Nowhere Safe

 

Fear once more grips Americans, in the wake of a tragic shooting in NYC outside the famed Empire State Building where a laid-off employee gunned down his 41-year old former employer.

Seven innocent bystanders were caught in the crossfire between police and the gunman, including one woman getting her morning coffee.  The horror of the shootout makes people wonder:  When you can be shot on a busy street in New York City, in a movie theatre in Colorado (at the Batman screening) or in a religious house (in Wisconsin at the Sikh temple), is anywhere safe?

 

The list of random shootings is sadly long.  Such events remind us painfully of the unexpected nature of life, not being in control, and natural feelings of powerlessness.

 

One way to cope is to increase your street smarts and be alert. As one taxi driver told me, “I never park in construction sites, in case something falls on me”; a mother told me, “I teach my kids to never talk to strangers”; a young woman says, “I cross the street when I see shady characters.” 

 

Interviewed on CNBC-TV’s “Closing Bell” with Maria Bartiromo today, the focus was about what blame to put on unemployment. A lot.  The blow of losing a job, and the frustration over not finding another and not having money – drives people to extreme desperation and anger.  The blow is to one’s ego (hard for men and a increasing number of women) and to survival.  Looking for an outlet, such frustration can reach a boiling point, where people strike out.  The object can be close to home, leading to the “kick the dog” phenomenon and increases in domestic violence, or any other perceived cause of one’s sorry state.  People can reach many back years, recalling a traumatic experience, and identify some perceived responsible party who becomes the target of their misery.   

Paul Viollis, CEO of Risk Control Strategies, also a guest on the show, agreed with me, citing that research in workplace violence shows a direct relationship between lay-offs from downsizing, unemployment and concomitant identity crises, with violence.  He said such incidences are avoidable by carefully crafting proper termination procedures.  

An intelligent interviewer (I watch her on many TV shows and see her in person when she hosts her show from the Clinton Global Initiative every year), Maria asked why this gunman took action a year after being fired.   My answer: frustration festers.  An explosion of anger isn’t always expressed immediately, but can build over time when other failures add up to make the pot boil over.

 

My advice to companies:  bolster human resources departments, and also outplacement services, that have been drastically decimated through budget cuts. Institute better pre-screening programs, and also ongoing employee screenings for stress levels – which are not just to protect the employers but also to determine when employees get fired up and need help with anger management for their own good (please, look to professionals, not Charlie Sheen playing one on the new Anger Management TV show).  Stress tests—that everyone is familiar with when their get cardiology check-ups—can be a preventive measure. 

 

 Some shooters do show early signs, that are overlooked.  Shooters can be psychotic (the Batman shooter who has been “diagnosed” as schizophrenic; psychopathic, or just plain out-pf-control angry. In today’s NYC case, the employer and employee already ahs cross-claims of harassment – a tinderbox that needed to be monitored.  IN the    

 

Advice for city governments:   invest resources in social services, so people who are unemployed can get psychological counseling.  The NYC Employer-shooter targeted his ex-employer, and shot him to death, a full year after being fired.  Long-term mental health counseling for the unemployed are essential and part of prevention of such incidences.

 

The heroes of today’s tragedy:  The construction worker who alerted police when he noticed the gunman, following the NYC public safety campaign that has persisted in the message: “If you see it, report it.”

 


 

Thursday
Aug092012

Healing after the Sikh tragedy

Tonight was a powerful vigil to show support for the Sikh community.  Hundreds gathered at Union Square Park in New York City.  Many worre T-shirts bearing the message "We are American.  We are Sikh, We are One." Community leaders, Interfaith ministers, including my friend Reverend T.K. Nakagaki, and city council representatives delivered messages of peace and brotherly love.  Along the shelf of the arch in the square, in the darkened evening, lighted candles illuminated the faces of the people and a policeman who were cruelly massacred, as people lingered saying prayers and huddling together.  Talking amidst the people about healing, bringing the below advice at the requets of a Sikh friend, I was reminded of the saving grace of people coming together showing solidarity in the face of such tragedies.    

 

Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting

You may be struggling to understand how a shooting could occur and why such a terrible thing would happen.  There may never be satisfactory answers to these questions.

We do know, though, that it is typical for people to experience a variety of emotions following such a traumatic event. These feelings can include shock, sorrow, numbness, fear, anger, disillusionment, grief and others. You may find that you have trouble sleeping, concentrating, eating or remembering even simple tasks. This is common and should pass after a while. Over time, the caring support of family and friends can help to lessen the emotional impact and ultimately make the changes brought about by the tragedy more manageable. You may feel that the world is a more dangerous place today than you did yesterday. It will take some time to recover your sense of equilibrium.

Meanwhile, you may wonder how to go on living your daily life. You can strengthen your resilience—the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity—in the days and weeks ahead.

Talk about it — Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.

Strive for balance — When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.

Turn it off and take a break — You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.

Honor your feelings — Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore, or off balance.

Take care of yourself — Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest, and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or reestablish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.

Help others or do something productive — Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.

If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies — Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including "survivor guilt"— feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.

For many people, using the tips and strategies mentioned above may be sufficient to get through the current crisis. At times, however an individual can get stuck or have difficulty managing intense reactions. A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.

Recovering from such a tragic event may seem difficult to imagine. Persevere and trust in your ability to get through the challenging days ahead. Taking the steps in this guide can help you cope at this very difficult time.

This tip sheet is from the American Psychological Association. 

Friday
May252012

PIX11, Mom's The Word: Young Divorcees


Forty percent of brides who say their vows between their 20th and 25th birthdays can expect to renege on the "till death" promise (compared to 27% of those who wait until they're older.)

As a parent, what should you do if your child is getting married to the wrong person or getting hitched before you think they're ready? Psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky and Cosmo's Senior Editor, Carolyn Kylstra will be here to weigh in."
--PIX11.com
Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 17 Next 5 Entries »