Video Games: Are they Stunting Boys’ Growth

As a practicing therapist, I am struck by the emergence of boy-men.  That would be males in their late teens and twenties are simply not growing up.  This has been a trend I have witnessed both from the treatment of these guys as well as in the treatment of females in the in the same age group that don’t seem to be able to find suitable partners that have a clue about what is needed to make an adult life happen.  It is very frustrating for the females.  The corresponding males seem to be clueless as to what they are complaining about.

While I see the same issues arise across economic and racial groups there is a common ground;  an involvement in video games, fantasy sports, interactive-pornography, and other forms of online altered universe that creates a virtual reality for them that make face to face uninteresting.

The most successful of the merchants of virtual reality have a better pulse on the laws of human behavior than the top mental health professionals.  Whether its levels in gaming, or the winning round choices in sports, or getting a virtual sex partner to do what a real one won’t, these forms of virtual reality have positive reinforcement down to an exact science of what they have to do to get you to the next level and pull out the credit card.  Beyond that, there is a virtual peer group that imitates friends … just like so many people might confuse all of their “friends” on Facebook with real friends, even more so in these higher levels of addictive lifestyles.  I’m not calling it entertainment.  For the people who have a problem, it is no more entertainment than alcohol is social entertainment to the alcoholic.

The virtual world starts to take over because in the real world they are starting to feel like losers and they are not hitting any of the benchmarks of maturity such as academic achievement, meaningful career direction or relationships.  In this virtual world they are getting to the next level and have lots of reinforcement from their fake peers online.

This makes the real world a dreary place and one that they draw further and further away from, falling further and further behind.

As with any other addiction, the first step is for the person to realize they have a problem.  That is very hard in this case for a few reasons.  One is that we have not, as a society, even begun to realize the extent of the issue, therefore, they are not hearing from any one that what they are doing is problematic.  Two: this is the only place they are experiencing any achievement or pleasure.  Since they have not developed properly along the way, they are not missing what they don’t have because they don’t even realize they don’t have it.

That is why it is so important that if you are a parent, and you notice that your child’s virtual world is more important than the real one, that you intercede.  They will rebel with the same tenacity of a drug addict.

Exactly how to proceed is different with each person, but it is important to set real world benchmarks and work to achieve those.

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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is based on the straightforward notion that our behaviors or influenced by our feelings and our feelings are influenced by our beliefs.  Marketing people have known this forever.  That we make purchasing decisions on the basis of emotion has always been known by marketers.  If, for instance, cars were purchased strictly on the basis of logic, there would only be a very few models and how much different would they look – and how boring!  Beliefs and emotions are intimately entwined in everything that we do.  Without feeling life is dull and meaningless.  So, in this way, our feelings give our beliefs meaning.

Developmental psychology is also built on a very straightforward notion that life moves forward, never backward. Even a regression is something that is happening in a forward moving fashion.  The idea of regression is our way of our understanding something that is coming unwound; it is not an actual moving backward in time.   

In my practice, I mix the basics of developmental psychology and CBT.  If a behavior is really going to change, then ultimately the feelings that leads to the behavior need to change and in order for that to happen the beliefs that create the feelings must change.  It doesn’t matter how we get there, but get there we must. 

Take the alcoholic for as an example: on a very deep level he/she does not believe he/she can get through this event or that event, or the day or night, without drinking.  One way to change that belief might be in backwards fashion.  That is, engage in some type of behaviors which prevent drinking, having experienced positive feelings as a result it may help foster the belief that in fact he/she can live without a drink. 

However, to further root that belief, it is important to understand where that belief came from.  One gentleman was raised in a family who was transferred frequently.  When they moved they would have a party for their neighbors.  People that did not drink were not invited back again.  It is simple.  People that do not drink are not worth knowing.  Once we understood this belief, we were able to do some reality testing.  This particular person had been to many AA meetings and had met some very nice people. They did not drink and were very much worth knowing.  This, combined with his experience of being able to go without a drink, and now realizing that this did not make him a person “not worth knowing,” really began to change his feelings.  With these changed feelings he has been able to put together a considerable number of years alcohol free.

So, while the purists of CBT may not care about the origins of beliefs, in my practice, I’ve found it frequently very helpful to clients to get in touch with not only what they believe but why they believe it.  Once that source can be examined, the belief can be pulled out by the roots and just like a weed, it is often important to do that so that the belief does not mimic a virus and mutate into another behavior that is even more damaging than the first.

Chuck Markham, LPC

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How Schools Create Bad Behavior

The mess in our schools today is a whacky combination of whole teaching, that holds no one accountable to anything, and an avalanche of accountability that wrings the slightest ounce of creativity out of everyone. Add to that, an unholy alliance to the politically correct orthodoxy that punishes any expression of assertiveness or sex, while at the same time banning any mention of God or morality, and you are left with an empty vessel that hollows out our children and stuffs them with, well, stuff … uncritical, a-moral stuff that does not connect with them, their, heart, mind or soul or a sense of excellence.

The schools are required to cover x-amount of material in x-amount of time and that time over the next few years is becoming more compressed, which would be fine except significant percentages of mainstream students are not learning the material now. They have managed to do something that only an unfeeling bureaucracy could accomplish: to teach more and nothing at the same time.

They are shoveling more material down the students throats without regard for whether it is being learned or not, creating an army of excluded, bored students. While they commit this travesty on our young, they then ban any expression of aggression and guess what, they have behavior problems. Gee Duh.

The schools are a mess- an amoral, uneducated mess.

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Hey Guy, It’s Not Wrong to be Strong

One of the top complaints on the hearts of the women who walk through my door is, “he doesn’t do anything.  Not only do I have to do everything, I have to plan everything.  If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.  If I don’t plan it, it’s not happening.”

Thinking they are being thoughtful, Guys often say, “I don’t care hon, whatever you want.”

Often the only part of that sentence that is heard on the receiving end is, “I don’t care.” What comes after that, she doesn’t hear.  What is being experienced is exasperation at the lack of leadership from their man.  The guy’s attempt to “fix” this problem pisses her off even more.  He jumps into the control seat.

Being a loving leader is not about controlling or fixing.  It is about listening; lots and lots of listening and then communicating a strong sense that, having listened, there is nothing to worry about because if there is something to be done, it will be done and if what was needed was to be heard, she was.

We, guys, are usually more linear in thinking and more goal focused than women, while, as a rule (and rules a made to be broken) women usually think more contextually.  As guys, once we know what we are going to do we just go there.  Sometimes there are consequences in the wake, but consequences be damned, we know where we are headed.  With women, there is a lot more getting ready to go there, and a lot more things to think about and a lot more tending to the consequences on the way.  The net result with most couples is the woman’s brain busy, busy, busy most all of the time.  That is why “me time” is so important to them.  It is also why they are so frequently attendant to other peoples’ needs and don’t get any “me time” at all.  So, by nature, they need it more “me time,” and they are also less likely to get it unless someone (wink wink, guys) is there to help them get it.  In many cases, she would LOVE nothing more than to have confidence that when her man says “I’ll take care of it,” that she could let that thing and all of its attendant consequences go.

While it may not be easy, it is not very complicated at all.  There are two ways to gain her confidence:

  1. Listen
  2. Follow through

And this will give that busy brain a chance to reflect on why and how much she LOVES you.

In most cases, if you do these two things consistently, within the context of a committed relationship, for a given period of time, about 3 months, you will gain her confidence which translates into love for being appreciated.

The first part, the listening part, is often the hardest part for guys.  We want to get right to the doing, the following through.  Many times, many, many, many times … are you listening? Many times; the following through is listening.  Yes.  Listening is doing something.  How do you know if you are listening?  One simple way to know is that your lips should not be moving if hers are moving.

Be Bold, Be Strong.  Be loving and listen and … lead and follow through.

Chuck LPC

twitter @chucklpc

twitter @cwbookguy




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Intimacy and Sex

Sex can be intimate; talking can be intimate.  Talking can also be a lie.  Sex can be a shield.  For adults dating, often times if they haven’t had sex by the third date, then “something is wrong,” or, “it’s not going anywhere.”  Because we give sex has a unique status in the continuum of actions we can take in our life, it is easy to assume intimacy where there really is none at all.  In my practice, I often meet couples that have been married for a long time that are not intimate; sometimes they are having sex and sometimes they are not.

Intimacy is a mutual vulnerability; some crave being held close as if in a primal cradle while others like to be rocked as if released from the chains that bind that have always bound them.  Sexual intimacy is animal and angelic at once, intuitive, yet studied.  When one takes the time to be curious of the other’s particular desire and makes them vulnerable enough to try to please their partner (with no guarantee that they will), that can be a very big part of intimacy.  Sometimes sexual intimacy ends in laughter, sometimes in tears, sometimes in a sigh of relief or the moans of release.  Sometimes they end in a cuddle and sometimes in a run around the block.  Intimacy is a conversation that is open and openness sometimes invites discomfort. But, when we are intimate with another person, be it in conversation, in the actions of our life, or behind closed doors on the bed or the floor or, to bring back our youth, in the back of the car … when we are intimate with another, it is an experience that leaves us different than we were before.

To expect this on a third date in most cases, is to invite one person’s projection of who they’d like us to be and for them to invite our projection of who we’d like them to be and for each of these projections to engage in gymnastics of the sexual variety.  In most cases, it’s much too much to ask, not only that we know them well enough, but even more, that we trust enough to let down our guard, thus even making it impossible for the other to find us even if they would.

We’ve all been wounded, and have trauma of our own.  Sentinels stand guard, maybe not of our genitals, but of our souls, where others, not knowing or caring to know, or too immature to know, have made such a mess.  But we are determined to be free, before we really are and sometimes it would be better to converse for a while, get to know the lighter and darker reaches of each other’s soul before we attempt intimacy which is really an act of trust, of letting go before the sentinels will leave their post, we’re going to need to know more than just our projection of the person before us, but actually see them, as they are.  Intimacy; a conversation, a word, an act … of trust.

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How Couples become a Caricature of Themselves

How is it that one person in a couple who was always reasonably responsible becomes a complete Type A driven control freak, while the very open relaxed partner becomes so irresponsible that he/she can’t be trusted to take out the garbage on trash day or walk the dog if the other is away.  They each, in effect, become a caricature of what was formerly an outstanding, but not all-consuming, trait.

The laid back one will stake out their territory – “I have a right to relax!” While the other will stake their claim to their over-responsibility by declaring, “Some one has to do it!”

Of course, they are both right in their statements, but, in protecting these traits in themselves, have allowed themselves to become those traits instead of those traits simply being a part of them.

The cure for this is for each of them to be able to drop their defensiveness and accept that each of them need what the other has.  This may be one of the things that attracted them to each other in the first place.

This cure requires not only a degree of acceptance of the other, but also, a degree of acceptance of oneself.  It takes a secure person within a relationship to realize that they will not become the “hole in the doughnut” by adapting strength from their partner to themselves.

To realize this together is the ultimate in intimacy.

Chuck Markham, LPC

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