Fairy tales in real life almost always go wrong

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As young girls, we grow up with the idea that we’re all princesses.  Disney has various princesses, enough to satisfy all tastes.  Parents call their daughters “little princesses”, and we see small pink bouffant dresses with garlands being sold in clothes stores, toy stores, and children’s stores.  A little girl is always a “princess”.  The majority of princesses in children’s stories (only the more traditional ones – stories with a different take on the princess trope are safe) have a prince who solves all their problems, then they live happily ever after.  This is always the end of the story:  The prince finds, then fights for the princess, who is waiting passively for him, and they get married.  The princess, in the end, has a dream come true: her prince.  She doesn’t need anything else.

This bombarding of princesses gives many women the idea that once you have a husband, your story is over.  Nothing else is important.  The whole point of life is finding a husband who will solve all your problems and make you magically happy for the rest of your life.  I shouldn’t need to say that this is not only wrong, but also incredibly harmful to a relationship (for both the husband and wife).  So without further ado, we’ll go straight to the prime reasons that is bad for you, your partner (future or current), and your relationship.

Rigid roles in a relationship are stressful and lead to disappointment, for men just as much as women.  It’s difficult to be a perfect princess all the time, and equally hard to be prince charming who has to do absolutely everything.  When you put everything on your partner he’s constantly exhausted, and when you expect too much, you’re just asking to be disappointed.

Being a princess prevents you from growing as a person. Girls who only focus on being delicate and feminine end up powerless to do anything of importance.  Women who only focus on their romantic objectives tend to have less interest in careers in math and sciences.  Women who don’t place their values in any other area than their own relationship  also have less self-esteem and become depressed more easily than women with diverse interests.

Women who search for prince charming will only find princes who aren’t so enchanting. If your partner wants complete femininity and delicateness out of you, that means he won’t want an assertive, independent woman who can make her own decisions.  Being a princess means your decisions and opinions will not be respected.

To be put on a pedestal and seen as a delicate flower can make you suffer from “benevolent machismo” from your partner.  To have an enchanting prince that protects you from everything has one major downside:  he is going to make all of your decisions for you (and almost always in a way that doesn’t benefit you – remember: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is).  I’m not saying that your partner is guaranteed to be like this, but by being a princess, you open many opportunities for this type of person.

In summary:  A fairy tale relationship is exhausting for both parties.  Demand too much of the man and the woman loses her purpose (and even more with time).  It’s important to have a healthy relationship, with realistic expectations and equal say in important decisions.  Don’t be a princess, be a warrior.  Go, and conquer your world.

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

Social Media and the Real World

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Social media has become extremely important in the last years.  These websites make it much easier to stay connected to friends and family, and also provide news and entertainment.  Calls to family and friends have become comments and chats, and even invitations to real events are sent through Facebook.  I can’t comment much about Instagram or any other sites of this fashion, but Facebook in particular has become essential to business and advertising.

But, like almost everything in life, Facebook has a bad side.  Many people see the number of friends, likes, or shares as a symbol of popularity and status.  Photos of friends or celebrities on the internet can cause unfair comparisons or jealousy – “why isn’t my life like this?”  This principally affects those who already have a fragile self-esteem, by generating anxiety and depression.

If you find yourself being affected by social media, read the following tips:

Visit less pages: Social media is, in fact, addicting.  Control your use.  Anything that is important, like invitations, will be waiting for you there when you return.  Remember that Facebook (or any other social media platform you use) is only a small part of your life.

Stop with the comparisons: Comparing yourself to others in real life is already bad, but comparing yourself to others on social media is completely useless.  It can even start to seem like you’re the only one bad things happen to, but the truth is that a large majority of people only post the good side of their lives – there are few who tell of their daily struggles and their sadness.  You basically are seeing photos without any context.  You should not compare yourself to photos that are selected just to show off a perfect life.

You are most important:  Likes on Facebook aren’t going to bring happiness.  Happiness comes from within, and your quality of life depends on how you think of yourself, not how others think of you.  Invest your time in doing things that make you feel good, and don’t let a website control your life and mood.  You are much more than your internet profile.

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

Should I mention divorce?

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Unfortunately, divorce happens.  Even married couples who have bought a house together, have kids, share all of their business and possessions, and look perfectly happy, break up more often than you might think.  It’s sad, and the saddest of all is that in many of these situations, divorce could be avoided.

I do not want to make anybody announce the thought of divorce at the first moment it crosses their mind in a fight, as many do – because this is not a subject to be discussed with a hot head.  It’s a subject that should be discussed calmly.  Many people mention divorce in all the fights that they have with a partner, and like the story of ‘the boy who cried wolf’, the subject loses its gravity, and the ‘threat’ of divorce becomes a rehearsed speech without any real value.

However, during consultations, I see many patients who, by the time they come to therapy, the damage has already been done, and it’s already too late for any hope of repairing the relationship.  Lack of appropriate communication is a serious problem in a large percentage of relationships.  Communicating about considering divorce before giving the “final warning” is essential.  Here are some reasons:

-It is important to communicate with your husband/wife about important concerns you might have about the relationship.  Your partner has the right to know your thoughts and desires, and to have a chance to think on the situation.  A final decision on divorce does not appear from nothing, and until the moment in which it is announced the idea could have passed through the head of one partner thousands of times, while the other doesn’t suspect anything.  It’s unfair to attack them with a final blow without them having any idea what’s happening.

-When you or your partner is communicating about the seriousness of the situation, he is much more likely, and more motivated to change, and can demonstrate how he plans to do something (or not) to salvage the relationship.

-Having a conversation about divorce with your partner not only will it make them think about it, but it will also help you think more clearly about the subject.

If you can’t express yourself easily in a relationship when it comes to divorce, marriage counseling is a good place to converse with each other, with the help of a therapist.  Don’t leave therapy for the last minute, when the divorce is already final.

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

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Gaslighting

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(www.pixabay.com)

Gaslighting is an emotional manipulation technique that, when repeated multiple times, makes a person question and doubt their own sanity.  It is very common in abusive relationships – in fact, emotional abuse is far more common than we would imagine.

But where did the name come from?
Gaslight is the name of a movie written by Patrick Hamilton.  It tells a story about a marriage, where the husband tries to make his wife think that she is going crazy.  He does this with many subtle tactics, for example, turning down the gas lights (thus the name of the movie).  The wife mentions to her husband that the lights are dimmer, and he constantly denies it, making her start to question her sanity.

Phrases include:
“You’re crazy”
“I never said that”
“You’re being too sensitive”
“Is it PMS?”

A gaslighter discredits the feelings and/or memories of the victim.  Clearly, nobody remembers absolutely everything that is said, but there is a big difference between not remembering and accusing someone of having problems with memory/emotions and trying to rewrite their memory.  Gaslighting is a technique of disorientation.

These phrases, between other similarities, slowly break the self-confidence of the person suffering from gaslighting.  Other symptoms are:

-You question your own memory or emotions
-You suffer from mental confusion, including “feeling crazy”
-You see yourself always making mistakes, and are always asking forgivness from someone, but never can understand how you reacted in that way
-You can never understand how, with so many good things happening in your life, you are unhappy
-You frequently create excuses to defend your partner/parent/friend
-You are unable to make simple decisions
-You feel like you can’t do anything right
-You ask yourself if you are a good enough person

Remember that gaslighting can be done by any person, including bosses, co-workers, family members, and partners.  If you feel that you need to defend your sanity or your value from someone, it’s good to ask yourself if you are being manipulated by them.

Therapy can help you perceive the manipulation and deal with it, by changing the dynamic of the toxic relationship or cutting it out completely.

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

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
psicologapaulamonteiro@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
psicologapaulamonteiro@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

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