The Bachelorette Ashley Hebert and Why Women Go For “Bad Boys.”

24 Jun

It drives us nuts to see The Bachelorette star Ashley Hebert still pining away for that mean, manipulative Bentley Williams. We asked Dr. Alisa Robinson, PhD., of what could be behind the sadly flickering torch Ashley’s carrying for the cad. As Dr. Alisa explains in our exclusive Wetpaint interview, it’s a morbid match of emotional gamesmanship between two wounded players.

Wetpaint: Why can’t Ashley just get over the guy already?
Dr. Alisa Robinson: In terms of Ashley pining over Bentley, first of all, I think it could be do to her own low self-esteem. I mean, she seems uncertain and unsure of herself on the show. She’s been spurned on national television by falling for someone who doesn’t particularly want her in reality. You have to keep in mind, she’s already essentially been dumped on national TV on The Bachelor, so it makes sense that she’d have some insecurity there. That can play into why she’s pining over him.

The other thing that happens is that kind of want-what-you-can’t-have scenario. I think that happens for both women and men. People can get fixated on someone who’s so-called “hard to get.” That can be due to a couple of things. The competitive nature of people can play into that. But also, a person can be subconsciously drawn to that hard to get person because they think that if they get them, then they’re going to feel better about themselves. So it may not be a conscious process, but subconsciously, they feel like, “Okay, this guy didn’t initially like me, but now he likes me, so I must be good catch.”

But with so many guys to choose from, shouldn’t Ashley have stopped focusing on the worst one in the bunch already?

read the rest at

Angelina Jolie and Questions About Parenting

27 May

Question:  Angelina Jolie seems to have boundless energy, adopting and becoming pregnant, having babies one after the other while filming movies all at the same time. She seems devoted to her family and certainly has the resources to hire all the caretaker help she needs. Could her children be getting all the maternal attention they need for healthy emotional development? What about the adopted kids; will they need more attention? How could she possibly do it and meet all of her children’s needs?

Doctor Alisa:  That is a great question! What you are addressing is the issue of early childhood attachment and how that can impact a child’s development. Cleary, Angelina Jolie has more resources than many parents do to hire help to care for her kids. She also seems quite busy and one would wonder how much time she has to be a mom.

Hiring nannies to help care for children is not necessarily a bad thing. When there is hired help involved the best case scenario is that the child is attached to the parents and the nanny. Care from a nanny does not have to take away from a child’s bond to their parent. If the parent is physically and emotionally available to the child, then the attachment to the nanny serves as bonus, not a replacement.

However, many parents are unavailable to form the needed connections to their children during their formative years. The parent or parents may be overly busy with work, may have issues of addiction, or may not be available to attend to the child’s needs for other reasons. Creating a healthy secure attachment with a child not only requires that the caretaker or parent be physically present with the child, they must also be intellectually and emotionally present. Being in the same room with a child but totally ignoring them doesn’t count as being present!

In the best case scenario both parents are available to bond and attend to all of their children. However, often having just one healthy attachment to any caregiver is enough to provide an important relationship for healthy development later on.

The difficulty arises when the child is attached to a nanny, for example, and the nanny leaves (quits, is fired, etc.). This can be a terrible source of loss for the child if the nanny has served as the primary caregiver and is their only source of secure attachment.

As for children who are adopted, they often need more attention and time in order to establish a healthy secure bond. However, much depends on the child, the parent and the situation. There is a great deal of variability in the needs of adopted children and how much time and effort it will take in order to establish a healthy connection.

Without knowing Angelina Jolie’s schedule and relationship with her children it is hard to say with certainty whether her children are getting the attention, affection and connection they need from her. It is not uncommon for children of celebrities to miss out on attention and bonding from their celebrity parent. Given the number of children she has and their varying developmental stages, there is likely a great demand for her time, her emotional presence, and her patience.

“The Bachelor” star Jake Pavelka: A Lack of Sincerity. Is it the Show or Just Him?

6 Jul


The answer:  Probably both.

I think most people question the sincerity of the series show “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” (even though many of us may still watch it anyways!) Remember the theme song for his season “On the Wings of Love?”

Aside from the lack of sincerity and phoniness present in series, Jake appears to demonstrate a serious lack of genuineness and authenticity. His facial expressions are incongruent with the content of his speech. For example, he smiles when he is angry. He uses an upbeat happy tone of voice when really he is distraught and unhappy. Jake appears to be hiding his true intentions. He may be consciously deceitful to others in order to get what he is seeking. He may also be out of touch with his true self and have a lack of awareness of who he really is inside- which leads to a lack of sincerity in his interactions with others.

If you know someone who demonstrates a serious lack of sincerity, be careful. Be especially cautious in entering into a relationship with someone if they show other signs of deceit, lack of empathy and poor judgment this may be a sign of a very serious and destructive personality type.

Giselle Bundchen: Role Model or Just Model?

20 Jun

Recent attention has been given to celebrity moms who have lost weight quickly after giving birth.  Giselle Bundchen recently posed in Vogue magazine and was on the catwalk three weeks after her son was born.  Bethenny Frankl of “The Real Housewives of New York City” reportedly lost a total of 30 pounds in the three weeks after giving birth to her daughter.  Are these celebrity moms setting a good example for other moms out there or could their drastic weight loss be damaging to their own health and the health of others?

Most doctors recommend that weight loss after having a child be limited to a few pounds a week.  Losing more than that can jeopardize the health of the mother, as well as the health of their baby if they are breastfeeding.  Women’s bodies go through a lot during the process of pregnancy and delivery and to drastically lose weight at a time when the body should be recovering is considered unwise.  That is not to say that mothers should not attempt to lose baby weight if they so chose, but the methods for going about the weight loss are just about as important as the weight loss itself.

It is important that women have healthy role models for post-baby recovery.  Often having children can trigger strong emotional reactions in women.  The influx of hormones, lack of sleep and changing body can make post baby recovery quite challenging.  If a female has a history of depression she is at an increased risk of experiencing depression post partum.  In addition, if she has a history of an eating disorder, she may be at an increased risk of engaging in these behaviors again post delivery.  Celebrity moms with drastic weight loss can be potential triggers for depression and disordered eating in many women.

How the media (and the celebrities themselves) talk about post baby weight loss can influence what kind of impact they have on mothers.  When the media portrays drastic weight loss with a sense of astonishment and congratulations it sends the wrong message.  This is especially true when they do not reveal the full picture.  Rarely do celebrity moms disclose the help they receive from staff hired to help them achieve their weight loss goal.  Many celebrity moms have nannies to help care for the child, personal chefs and personal trainers.  They may also forego breastfeeding, or supplement with formula so they have more time to focus on their post baby body.  Adding to the negative messages are the celebrities themselves who may down play the difficulty of the weight loss.  They may paint a picture of a life they want others to believe rather than the life they really live.  Consider some of the claims Giselle and Bethenny have made about their pregnancy and post partum experience.  Giselle reportedly had a pain-free birth and was up and cooking a day after giving birth.  Bethenny minimized her difficulty in losing the baby weight and stated that perhaps women who struggle with losing post-baby weight are having a hard time because they “go off the rails and go to McDonalds or Taco Bell.”

Everyone has the right to chose what they do with their own body, including how they lose weight after having a baby.  My hope is that celebrity moms will be more authentic in showing what it’s really like to give birth, have a child and lose weight.  My hope is that they will be honest about who helps them achieve these goals and what their experience is really like.  If they are to be a healthy role model to other mothers then it is important that they chose to put their own health and the health of their child before vanity and weight loss.

Fear and Bonding in Los Angeles

13 May


Los Angeles- the center of celebrity living- is the backdrop for many reality TV dating shows.  Regardless of where a reality dating show is located, there tends to be some commonalities in the psychological processes that transpire.  One trick that reality dating shows often use to induce affection and bonding in their participants is creating a sense of fear.  I’ve seen this strategy used frequently on the Bachelor and Bachelorette television shows.  For example, in the last season of the Bachelor Jake and Vienna went bungee jumping on their first date.  When people experience a sense of fear or extreme excitement, their body starts pumping adrenalin and other catecholamines, as well as the stress hormone, Cortisol, through the body in massive quantities.  This pumping of catecholamines and stress hormones leads to romantic bonding.

Researchers have begun to find out exactly what happens in the body when people fall in love.  Endocrinologists have cited these very chemicals as being responsible for the creation of romantic love between two people during normal courtship.  If these chemicals are naturally produced during the normal period of romance between two people, imagine what happens when two people are put in a situation in which these chemicals are pumped into their bloodstream in exponential quantities.  Engaging in extremely exciting and fearful situations sets the stage for romantic love between two people, even if they might not normally fall for each other (as in Jake and Vienna, possibly?).  The Bachelor and Bachelorette television producers must be aware of this process because they seem to put their contestants into many fear-producing situations (the bungee jumping date is a common one).

This process that takes place in the human body to create a sense of bonding and romantic love also occurs in other situations in which people feel a sense of risk, excitement or fear.  For example, when two people feel they must hide their relationship from others (work, family, etc.) these chemicals are released at an increased rate.  Think about when people have affairs and hide their relationship from their partners- a similar process is occurring there, too.

Although fear can set the stage for an increased likelihood of romantic bonding between people, it does not ensure an ever-lasting relationship.  Another aspect of romantic love that researchers have found out is that it lasts, on average, a year.  So what does this all mean?  Although being involved in fearful situations may increase the natural bonding process between two people, it takes much, much more to make a relationship last.  So although Jake and Vienna got a boost in their initial romantic courtship, courtesy of the Bachelor producers, only time will tell if they have the other multitude of factors needed to make a long-lasting romantic relationship work.

Kate Gosselin: Why the Question of Victim or Villain is Too Simplistic

26 Apr


A recent article about Kate Gosselin by In Touch magazine poses the question of whether she is a victim or a villain. This question, while it may be intriguing, does not capture the full range of human behavior. Rarely are people all good or all bad. Rarely are they just a victim or a villain. Especially in the case of Kate Gosselin it is quite possible that she is BOTH a victim and a villain. It is likely that Kate is a victim, or feels victimized, and also has acted spiteful, vindictive or mean to others.

Kate’s popularity in the media has had it’s ups and downs, but it appears from recent tabloids, that it is at an all-time low. Part of the public disapproval may be from the judgment that people place on her for making media appearances and shows (Dancing with the Stars) more of a  priority than being a mother. Another reason she may have lost popularity votes and has been seen as a villain is her apparent personality characteristics demonstrated on the Dancing with the Stars show.

Many have described her behavior on the show as diva- like. Just looking at her facial expressions during the show and her interactions with her dancing partner give an indication that she is likely a difficult person to get along with. Kate’s hostility and anger may be a reaction to feelings of inferiority and insecurity. Sometimes people act angry towards others when they feel vulnerable or when they negatively compare themselves to others.

When people have deep feelings of insecurity, it is not uncommon for them to lash out at others as a self protective mechanism. This does not excuse one’s behavior, but may give a context in which to understand it. Think about school bullies often times they lash out at others because of feelings of insecurity and worthlessness that come from within. They lash out at others (sometimes at one particular target) as a way to compensate for their own feelings of self hatred and confusion.

When a person’s insecurity leads them to lash out on others, they end up getting negative responses from those around them. They end up alienating people, and then feel further isolated and unworthy. It can become a vicious cycle. These types of people build up walls against others and lack trust. They may not trust other people because they feels that those around them are against them. But in actuality, the people around them may be responding to their angry and unpredictable behavior.

People who attempt to guard themselves by being hostile, defensive or angry towards others, end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are creating the exact reaction in others that they fear. Their psychological defensiveness turns people away and they feel further isolated, which in turn, leads to an increase in their aggressive and defensive posturing. Professional help or therapy can help these types of people find a new way of interacting with others and help them build their self esteem. In the meantime, people with this type of psychological defensiveness can be very difficult to live with, and can draw attention from others (or the media!) who are trying to make sense of their seemingly senseless behavior.

Sex Addiction: Is It Real?

19 Apr


The issue of infidelity and sexual addiction has been a hot topic in the media recently. Just because a person has been unfaithful to a spouse or partner does not mean they necessarily have an addiction. With that being said, sexual addiction does exist, and for many people this addiction can ruin their careers, relationships and lives.

Like most human behaviors, sexual problems fall along a continuum. The question often boils down to how much the person’s behavior is interfering with their ability to function normally or how much stress the behaviors create in their lives. Does their sexual behavior interfere with having normal healthy relationships? Does it interfere with their job? Does it put them at risk with the law? Someone with a sex addiction is compelled to act on their sexual urges. Their sexual compulsions begin to dominate their life. Just as with other addictions, the individual eventually begins to sacrifice what is most important to them in order to continue to engage in their sexually destructive behaviors. Some behaviors common to sex addicts are: compulsive masturbation, multiple affairs, prostitution, exhibitionism, excessive use of pornography, multiple anonymous partners, cybersex, voyeurism, and molestation/rape. A person does not have to engage in all of these acts to be a sex addict. Some sex addicts only engage in one of these types of sexual behaviors, others engage in many or all of them.

Many people often wonder why someone would cheat on a partner that seems to be such a good catch (Haley Berry, Sandra Bullock, etc.) But when someone has a sexual addiction it is not about their partner, or lack of a “good” partner. Although problems in one’s marriage or relationship can fuel a desire to stray, when someone has a true sexual addiction, their compulsion to act on their sexual urges and fantasies can over-ride even very healthy, stable and happy relationships.

Blaming infidelity on sexual addiction may be a ploy for some, but it may be a very real problem for others. It’s important to recognize sexual addiction as a serious problem. Educating yourself about the signs and symptoms of sexual addiction may help you to identify problem behaviors in yourself or others. Sexual addiction can be treated. Many people have been able to create healthier, happier lives once they treat their sex addiction.

Celebrity Narcissism

18 Mar

Narcissism is nothing new. However, the increase in narcissism among celebrities appears to be on the rise. Dr. Drew Pinsky, a medical doctor and addiction medicine specialist who works with and treats celebrities and their addictions, has written a book about the prevalence of narcissism in media and the impact that may have on those who look up to these people. 

Narcissism is a personality characteristic and is also an official personality disorder according to the DSM-IV (the so-called bible for psychological diagnoses). Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder tend to present themselves with a grandiose sense of importance. They often believe they are superior to others and may only want to associate with other people that they believe are at their level. These individuals often lack remorse for others, and their feelings of empathy may be shallow. There are varying degrees of narcissism, from what is called “healthy narcissism” to extreme versions of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Healthy narcissism refers to a high level of self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It refers to the ability to put yourself first sometimes. But it does not mean that you have a lack of regard for the feelings and needs of others. Extreme narcissism, on the other hand, refers to individuals who exhibit many of the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder demonstrate elitism. The person feels privileged and important above others (even if they do not have commensurate achievements).  They often present with what is called “histrionic” features. They may be sexually seductive, enticing, glib and clever, and can be pathological liars.

Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder seem to have high levels of self-esteem but their view of themself as grandiose and important is actually serving to counteract deep feelings of inferiority. It is as if they are over-compensating by creating illusions of being superior, exceptional, and admirable. Some individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will also demonstrate deficits in their conscience. They may be unscrupulous, deceptive, and amoral. Criminals with psychopathic traits frequently have extreme levels of narcissism. It is also often seen among celebrities and those in the entertainment business. These people may have no problem in stepping on others to get ahead. They may use relationships with others to advance their own careers and may switch from one partner to the next based on who has the highest status (or who raises their status by association).

What Dr. Drew and other researchers have found is that narcissism is very common among celebrities, especially reality stars. It seems that individuals with high levels of narcissism tend to be drawn to the spotlight. They are also often quite charming and likeable to others. However, this tendency for others to be drawn to them only lasts so long, as they tend to not make good mates. Being in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be very painful. Imagine being in a relationship with someone who is only concerned with self-interest, who is unwilling to admit wrongs, and who is increasingly likely to cheat.

Research has found that narcissistic traits are highly correlated to an individual’s likelihood of cheating (Buss & Shackelford, 1997). Although narcissists may not openly scheme to exploit and take advantage of others, they often end up treating those they are in relationships with badly. People who are in relationships with them often feel depressed, demeaned and frustrated. For many people who are in a relationship with a narcissist an important step is to understand this personality style and then use the information to help you decide how much of a relationship you truly want to have with that person, to learn how to set limits with them and take care of their own needs. I have worked with people who have had parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and this often leads to low self-esteem in adulthood. A narcissistic parent can be very damaging. A good resource for those wanting to understand narcissism better is the book “Why Is It All About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism” by Sandy Hotchkiss, LCSW.

Once you begin to understand narcissism and how it manifests, you will become much more able to spot it in individuals in your life.  You will also likely begin to recognize it in popular culture and media. You may begin to understand celebrity behavior and antics better. Hopefully, by seeing celebrity narcissism for what it is, we can begin to de-glamorize celebrity bad behavior and see it for what it really is.

The Remorse of a Reptile: Making Sense of the Alleged Murder of Chelsea King

7 Mar


The recent case of Chelsea King, a 17 year old girl who went missing while jogging on a trail in the San Diego area, has garnered much media attention.  Now that John Albert Gardner III has been charged with the rape and murder of Chelsea King many are left questioning how someone could commit such a horrific crime against another human being. John Gardner has a history of sexually violent acts against minors, and previous court documents reportedly describe him as “callous and vicious.” This extreme callousness and lack of remorse for others has actually been linked to a deficit in the brain of people like him. In some ways, these individual’s brains are more like that of a reptile than a human.

Individuals with a serious lack of remorse and who prey on other human beings are often referred to as psychopaths. This term is often used interchangeably with the term sociopath.  Essentially, what these terms refer to is a specific personality structure in which in an individual lacks remorse for their actions, demonstrates extreme narcissism and has a predatory nature towards other human beings. They have no sense of empathy and are almost completely motivated by self-interest. Although many psychopaths are criminals- not all are. It has been suggested that they tend to be overrepresented in politics, top ranks of corporations, law enforcement agencies, law, and in the media.

Robert Hare, Ph.D. is a specialist in the area of psychopathy.  He defines some of the key characteristics of psychopathy as:

  • Aggressive narcissism
  • Glibness or superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning / manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow
  • Callous / lack of empathy
  • Tendency to engage in a socially deviant lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation
  • Parasitic lifestyle (living off of others, taking advantage of other peoples’ kindness)
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • A history of juvenile delinquency


So how are the brains of psychopaths different from other humans?  Research has found that they vary in several ways.  One is the difference in how their limbic system operates. The limbic system is a part of the brain that is essentially right in the middle of your brain.  It is responsible for regulating emotions, some aspects of behavior, long-term memory, and other functions.  What researchers have found is that the limbic system in people considered to be psychopaths processes information differently. Brain scans have shown that there is little to no activity in the part of the limbic system that produces a sense of empathy. The part of the limbic system that modulates affect and emotions and the parental response to offspring that is present in mammals, is essentially non-active in the brains of psychopaths. It is as if this part of their brain is functioning similar to how a reptile’s would. In a sense they really are “cold-blooded.”

Why Breathe?

2 Mar

Why is breathing so important in a mindfulness practice? We breathe all the time. And we often do it with very little thought. It just comes naturally. But the breath is an important part of being in the present moment. While practicing a mindfulness meditation exercise the breath is often used as an anchor to the present moment. The most basic form of a mindfulness meditation involves closing your eyes (sitting, standing or laying down) and focusing on the breath. Every time that the mind wanders from your point of focus, bring it back to the breath. Mindfulness meditation involves a continual re-focusing on the breath.

The practice of following the breath is very healing. Over time, the body and mind begin to slow down. By engaging in this practice you are actually training your brain to learn to focus in the moment and to stay present. The mindfulness practice is particularly useful for people who have very busy, active minds that are always on the go (which is most of us!)

The breath is also very important in helping to ground you to the present moment in your day-to-day living. When you find yourself caught up in endless chatter in the mind, or you find that your mind has taken you somewhere you do not want to go, return your focus to your breath. Breathe consciously for a few minutes. Then resume whatever it is you are doing. You may be surprised by just how helpful this can be.

Connecting to the breath is also a very powerful tool in dealing with intense emotions. When you feel an emotion very strongly whether it be fear, anger, or sadness- you can help yourself cope with this emotion by turning your attention to your breath. Notice the breath moving in and out of your body. Let your focus stay there for a while and ride the waves of your breathing. Remember your breath is a part of you that is always available. It can help you get centered in the present moment and it can see you through the tough times.