Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, January 25, 2016

RELATIONSHIPS: Dating a Psychopath - 5 Clues and Signs


Have you ever been on a date with a psychopath? It would be hard to answer this question accurately because psychopaths are experts in disguise, and it can take a long time – months or even years – to see the full extent of the individual’s pathology. Psychopaths can be male or female, though research shows that more men are psychopaths than women. Check out a few of the primary traits of the psychopath so that you can be educated about what they look like and how they act, and you can detect them as early as possible in the dating process. Keep in mind that there is no loving romantic relationship to be had with a psychopath.

While most people believe that the psychopath lacks the capacity to form an attachment with anyone, this isn’t exactly true. Actually, some psychopaths do have an attachment to at least one person, and that person is often a mother or a grandparent who was loving and kind. Yet when it comes to romantic relationships, there is little to no hope of having a decent relationship with a psychopath. If someone displays only two or three psychopathic traits (e.g., some of the ones described below), there is room for mental health treatment and potentially a romantic relationship in the future.

Superficial charm

Yes, many people are charming, but the psychopath is charming in a way that doesn’t quite add up. He is a story teller and tells stories that always place him in a good light, and the stories don’t feel totally believable. The most important point about the charm of the psychopath is that he often seems too smooth to be entirely real.

Grandiose sense of self worth

There is a significant overlap between narcissism and psychopathy. Every psychopath is narcissistic, but not every narcissist is psychopathic. While narcissists are oriented around establishing themselves as superior in every situation, the psychopath is focused on having power over others and exploiting others to get their needs met. In general, the psychopath is far more dangerous than the narcissist because the psychopath doesn't form true attachments and he feels no remorse, even for the most heinous, injurious behaviors.

Pathological lying

The frequency and depth of lies with the psychopath is mind-blowing. The psychopath can manufacture a lie out of thin air, so quickly that you almost automatically believe him. The psychopath manufactures lies with extreme details, and you feel like he must be telling the truth because he goes to such lengths to defend his lies. If you challenge the psychopath on a lie, watch out: He will not be happy, and he will find a way – direct or subtle – to punish you.

Lack of remorse or guilt

Not feeling guilty or remorseful for doing something hurtful is part and parcel of the psychopathic package. The psychopath does what he wants, regardless of the effect of on others. It’s important to note that not all psychopaths are the same, meaning that there is a spectrum of psychopathic traits. Many people have some psychopathic traits – say, one or two of the characteristics listed here. These individuals have personalities that are disordered to the point that they relate to people and have expectations that are out of sync with the rest of the world. They are frustrating and confusing to interact with, and it is extremely challenging to have a romantic relationship with them. At the most severe end of the psychopathic spectrum, the psychopath has no conscience at all. These individuals will engage in the most vicious behaviors imaginable and they won't think twice about their behavior.

No empathy

Lacking empathy is another issue you will see clearly and early on with the psychopath, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum. For example, if you tell a psychopath a story that upset you or seriously hurt your feelings, the psychopath won’t have much of an emotional reaction. He may try to say or do something that sounds empathetic, but it feels shallow and false. Psychopaths often study the emotional reactions of characters on TV or men and women in everyday life, trying to master how to convey emotions because psychopaths don't feel a range and depth of emotions naturally.

An overall cautious approach


The odds aren’t great that you will encounter a severe psychopath in your dating life, but they definitely live and socialize in some of the same areas as you. Knowing the signs of a psychopath can help you detect these red flags quickly so that you never get to the point where you develop a real emotional attachment to a psychopath. In the best case, the attachment will not be reciprocated; in the worst case, you could end up broke, depressed, physically hurt or even dead.

PARENTING: The Psychological Value of Teaching Your Children to Organize


Calling all parents: One of the best things you can do for your child is to teach them to stay organized. I know, as a parent myself, that it's not easy, but I also know that it's possible. If you teach your child how to stay organized from the time that they're young - say, elementary school age - you will see that this training helps in many other areas of life, too. Kids who learn to organize their own rooms are better at holding onto their things (e.g., bringing their jacket home as opposed to leaving it at school), remembering events and times for activities and appointments, and managing their homework. Organization teaches kids the all-important life lesson: When taking on a task, look at the big picture and create a plan. In a moment, you'll see what I mean.

The "Nothing On the Floor Rule"

This is the easiest and most clear-cut rule. There should never be any stray items left on the floor. The floor should always be clean. Items belong in containers, and there should be one large container for miscellaneous items that can be stored under the bed or in the closet. The logic: Having no mess is not realistic; having all messy things in one container is a workable compromise.

Organizing the contents of the child's bedroom

If you are going to train your child how to get and stay organized, clear plastic containers will be your most important educational tool. Take your daughter's room as an example. Have a separate container for dolls; doll clothes; hair accessories; brushes and combs; pictures; cards; paper; and so forth.

Sorting items with your child

My daughter is seven, and I still have to sit on the floor with her and sort items with her. We grab a stack of stuff from the table in her room, and we go one by one with each item. Example: "This is a birthday card, so make a pile for cards. These are drawings you made. Make a pile for art work. This is a barrette. Make a pile for hair accessories." Teaching your child to sort items sounds like a trivial thing, but it actually teaches the child how to think and approach problems in a strategic way.

Organizing clothes by season and systematically checking to see what still fits

A few times each year, you have to go through all your child's clothing items to make sure that the clothing is right for the season. For example, when winter approaches, pull out (from whichever container you keep them in) the winter items and have your child try them on to make sure they still fit. Again, this type of organizing with your child teaches your child about planning, and teaches the child that smart decisions are not made based on impulse or immediate gratification.

The overall benefits of organizing

A child who lives in an organized environment will feel more secure and less anxious than other children who live in a messy environment. Kids who learn to keep their rooms organized will also be more organized in managing their homework and sports activities as they get older. Ultimately, by teaching them organization since the time they are young, you are teaching them a skill that can last a lifetime.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

RELATIONSHIPS:Why People Lie (and What to Do About It)


You've probably heard the term "white lie" a thousand times, a term used to describe the kind of harmless lie that men and women tell every day. It's true that not all lies are devious or harmful, but the point is that you have to be clear about the purpose of the lie, regardless of who tells it. First, I will review the most basic reasons for lying in dating and relationships, and I will then share some of the more subtle reasons why people tell a lie. You'll see that I rotate the pronouns because men and women are guilty of the same types of lies, and they are motivated by the same reasons.

He lies because he wants to impress you.

Lying to make oneself look more impressive is the most pervasive motivation for lying in dating and romantic relationships. The root of the problem is that most men and women don't have great self-esteem. They often feel that they aren't very desirable or appealing physically, or they don't see themselves as particularly charming, intelligent or interesting. (Nonsense, right?) To make up for their self-perceived inadequacies, someone may lie to make himself appear more interesting or successful.

How to deal with this lie: If you feel like your date is embellishing parts of his life to impress you, make an effort to reassure him. Say, "What I am looking for more than anything is someone who is sweet and honest, so the added impressive details are great but totally not necessary to hook me!"

She lies to avoid something.

Your date may lie because she is trying avoid any number of things: a kiss or sexual activity, a date or spending more time together, or meeting your friends or family, among other possibilities. Most people, in general, don't love confrontations, so lying as a form of avoidance makes intuitive sense, even though it is a problem that hurts many relationships.

How to deal with this lie: If you feel like someone is lying to avoid something, ask them in a non-attacking manner, "Would you be okay with telling me if you really didn't want to do something? I hope so because I want to be able to tell you honestly when I don't want to do something, too."

He lies to hide his unfaithfulness.

We all know what we’re talking about when it comes to infidelity. Men and women lie every single day to hide the fact that there is someone they are talking to online or in person, or because they have gone so far as to have actual sex with someone else.

How to deal with this lie: If you just start dating someone and discover that he has lied about a sexual indiscretion, consider packing your bags and moving on. While it is arguably more complicated if a partner cheats on you after many years together, the situation should be simple and clear-cut if you someone new lies to hide his unfaithfulness.

More subtle reasons: Indecisiveness or manipulation

Indecisiveness

One of the most common reasons why people lie has to do with discomfort and difficulty with making decisions. Your date may lie because he isn't actually sure what he wants, so he defaults to lying because that feels easier and faster in the moment than figuring out what he really wants.

How to deal with this lie: If you're dating a guy who lies because he's indecisive, overall he will come across as a good guy, albeit one who is too passive. If you sense that the root problem is indecisiveness, say, "If you need more time to decide, get back to me tomorrow and let me know." Removing the pressure is key to get him to tell you the truth - and not lie - in the future.

Manipulation

You know how singer Vanessa Williams sang a song about saving the best for last? Well, I saved for the worst reason for last. While most men and women you date won't be prone to lies and manipulation, you will encounter a manipulator or two in the dating pool. If you're dating a woman who lies due to a general manipulative personality style, you can see other clues for this twisted orientation. She often loves to be the center of attention; she always casts herself in a sympathetic light (either sweet and loving, or a victim in some way); and she tends to have stormy friendships and romantic relationships.

How to deal with this lie: If you're dating a woman who lies in a way that feels manipulative (to gain power over you or others), be clear that you don't feel like you can totally trust her. When you explain why, give her specific examples. However, you must understand that this personality style is extremely difficult to change, so you need to ask yourself if you want to sign in for months or years of this type of destructive behavior.

The ultimate goal is to find a partner who doesn’t lie with regularity and who doesn’t lie about anything meaningful. If you start dating someone and catch them in more than one or two lies in the first month, you have to realize that you may be dealing with a pathological liar – and that kind of person can destroy your self-esteem.



PARENTING:My Child Seems Angrier Than Other Kids: What's Wrong?


Deep down, all parents want to believe that their little ones are happy and healthy. Accordingly, if you're a parent who feels that your kid seems a little angrier than he or she should, you're probably responding to a legitimate problem. In other words, it's good for you to worry about this issue, and there are a few possible factors to rule out before deciding that it will just "go away." Notice that I switch pronouns (he, she) throughout the article because both boys and girls can display the same types of anger problems.

Is he getting bullied?

If you see an uptick in anger, the culprit may be bullying. If your son seems angrier than usual, he may be getting bullied at school by one or more other students. Those students could be boys or girls; they could be in the same grade, they could be older or younger; and they could be bullying your son in the school bathroom or cafeteria, on the playground or on the way to or from school. To find out whether he has been getting bullied, ask him yourself; have your co-parent (if you have one) ask him; and call the school to ask a teacher and guidance counselor to ask him. The point: One person asking once will rarely uncover the truth.

Is she feeling anxious or depressed?

Depression in kids often looks different than it does in adults. With kids, their depression often makes them appear irritated or agitated. If they are feeling anxious, they may get nervous by any number of triggers: socializing on the playground; eating in the cafeteria; walking to school; or taking the bus. With kids, they are more likely to tell you what's really going on if you ask them a question and give them multiple choice answers.

Does she have a chemical imbalance that calls for a psychiatric evaluation?

Some children are more prone to anger based on their personality and other biological factors (the chemical makeup in their brain). If your child is angry often and has always been prone to angry outbursts, you can call a local mental health clinic and ask for a psychiatric evaluation. The evaluation would involve a licensed psychiatrist asking you and your child a lot of questions about mood, behavior at home, and behavior at school. In some cases, the psychiatrist will recommend that the child try a daily psychiatric medication; in other cases, the psychiatrist will say the child probably doesn't need meds, and the child will be referred for psychotherapy instead.

Important reminders about anger

As frustrating as an angry kid can be for the parents, never punish your child for his feelings. In other words, you punish the acting out behavior when the kid is angry, but you don't punish the kid for feeling angry. I always tell families I'm working with the same thing: "Anger by itself is fine and even healthy in doses, but it's the way the child expresses the anger that may be a problem." One final comment to parents: Parents often get disillusioned in managing an angry child, telling themselves that their poor child will always be angry and that his life will suffer because of it. The good news is that many children who have anger problems when they're young work those problems out by the time they're older, so don't worry that the problem will last forever. In fact, providing the most empathetic and helpful feedback when they do get angry may make all the difference.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dr. Seth On TV: Dr. Drew


This week, I appeared on Dr. Drew's show to discuss the psychological appeal of Donald Trump, as well as the case of Justin Ross Harris, the man whose baby died when Harris left him for the day in a hot car. The audience had a lot of interesting things to say, and TV experts learn as much from viewers as they do from all the time they spent in graduate school!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dr. Seth On TV: Nancy Grace


I'll be on Nancy Grace tonight discussing some very disturbing cases. Though these cases are upsetting to hear about, I always look to share lessons from which everyone can learn. Tune in tonight!