Tag Archives: psychology

Manipulation and “The Bachelor Pad”- What You Can Learn From Watching Reality TV

12 Aug






When you stick 18 of the most infamousBachelor andBachelorette veterans in the same house with $250K on the line, it’s a safe bet things are going to get mental real fast. So we caught up with psychologist Alisa Robinson, PhD., of askdoctorlisa.comto get her thoughts on the Bachelor PadSeason 2 opener. In our exclusiveWetpaint Entertainmentinterview, we asked Dr. Alisa about Jake Pavelka’s possibly shady motives,Vienna Girardi’s manipulative ways, and who might be getting set up to be a victim.

Wetpaint Entertainment: What were your first impressions of the Bachelor Pad premiere? What should viewers be looking out for?
Dr. Alisa Robinson: The show is set up to bring out competitiveness and manipulation and, of course, selfishness with everybody kind of steering toward the money. So it makes for great entertainment, but it can also be educational if you know what to look for. So for viewers, if they want to get to a deeper level of understanding of themselves or other people what I would suggest is that they pay attention to the different forms of manipulation in the show. For example, we saw Vienna manipulating Kasey [Kahl], or attempting to manipulate Kasey to not vote for Gia [Allemand]. And then during the time when people are trying to build alliances you see a lot of manipulation back and forth. The reason it’s important to notice manipulation in television is because it can better prepare you to notice this in people in your own life. I think what happens is that people who are generally trusting and tend to see the good in people can be more vulnerable to being manipulated by others, and that manipulation is often done in a sneaky or covert way. So for people who are trusting like that you may actually have to train yourself to be able to identify manipulation in other people.

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Predictions for The Bachelorette Ashley and JP and Some Important Information For Couples to Know

4 Aug




Okay, so Ashley Hebert finally pickedJP Rosenbaum on the season finale of The Bachelorette. But what are the chances that this latest couple will survive the fate of so many of their predecessors and never get anywhere near an altar? We conferred once again with Dr. Alisa Robinson, PhD., ofaskdoctoralisa.com to get some answers. In an exclusive Wetpaint Entertainmentinterview, Dr. Alisa explains disappointing success rate of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette when it comes to finding love, and tells us how Ashley and JP can buck the trend.

Wetpaint Entertainment: Why do so many of these couples fall apart?
Dr. Alisa Robinson: In The Bachelor and The Bachelorette in general, I think oftentimes the couples seem to really struggle with watching the show after it’s been taped. That process of seeing someone dating other people at the same time as they were dating you may feel similar to the experience of being cheated on. Even though intellectually the contestant knows that when they go off the person is dating other people, emotionally it can still feel hurtful, and feel as though you’ve been betrayed. Different people can handle that differently depending on their history and their background. I think for JP he really demonstrated that he’s a pretty mature guy. He handled it pretty well throughout the show. So that, to me, bodes well in terms of his being able to handle that period of watching her dating other men.

Read the rest at  http://www.wetpaint.com/the-bachelorette/articles/exclusive-will-ashley-hebert-and-jp-rosenbaum-make-it-an-expert-weighs-in

The Complexity of Mother-Daughter Relationships and The Real Housewives of New York

8 Jul

The relationships between mothers and daughters are often complex.  The most recent episode of Real Housewives of New York illustrated this.  I’m sure many women can relate to LuAnn’s attempts at finding the right balance between being a friend and being a mother.  Ramona’s daughter, Avery, expressed frustration with her mom for not being home enough, but also demonstrated respect and admiration for her mother in a very touching way.  This type of mixed feelings is very common in parental relationships.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but an emphasis on what is wrong or missing in a parent is often most salient during the teen and young adult years.


It is clear that there is much love between Ramona and her daughter Avery, and it’s is very possible that Avery is what we called “parentified.”  To be parentified means that the family dynamics influence a child to take on an adult role before they are actually an adult.  This can happen when one or more parent has a substance abuse problem. The child ends up being the responsible one, and may take over some patent-like responsibilities, or may act or think like a “little adult.”  Becoming parentified can also occur when a child has many siblings and out of necessity must help to raise the younger children in the household, hence spending more time parenting than being a kid.  Avery demonstrates wisdom beyond her years.  She is reasonable in the advice she gives to her mom and Sonja as they shop for Burlesque clothing.  Yet, she also tells her mom that she doesn’t like being home alone at 9:30 at night when her mom and dad are out.  Although one could be quick to judge these mother daughter relationships, the one common theme is the presence of love.


Perhaps the take away message from watching the complex and interesting dynamics between the mothers and daughters of The Real Housewives of New York is that mothers are human, too.  They can make mistakes and still be good mothers.  They can disappoint us, anger us, or even betray us, but it doesn’t mean we stop loving them.  Mother and daughter relationships are complex and varied.  Although it’s possible that some mother daughter relationships are too damaging and may never be repaired, many women may find peace in accepting their mother for who she is.


Getting to a place of acceptance of your mother for who she is may not make for good television ratings, but it will allow you to have a more enjoyable and peaceful relationship with the person who will forever be your mother.

The Bachelorette Ashley Herbert and how her suitors responded to her interest in Bentley

1 Jul

Sure, The Bachelorette star Ashley Hebert could have been a bit more tactful when she confessed to the boys that she had seen Bentley Williamsin Hong Kong to seek “closure,” but did it really call for the anger and resentment that culminated with Mickey McLean quitting the show? Dr. Alisa Robinson, PhD., of askdoctoralisa.com, explains that the male hive-mind may have been the ultimate force at play in Season 7, Episode 6 — and that guys like Mickey may have been burned once too often.

Wetpaint: How could Ashley have better handled the situation?
Dr. Alisa Robinson: When she told them in the group they seemed to have a different reaction than when she told JP by herself. One of the reasons the guys in the group may have responded differently is how they were told. It might have gone over better if it was in a one-on-one environment. What happens sometimes in a group setting is that you’ll have one guy or a couple of guys with a strong opinion, and that can influence or rile up the rest of them — that kind of group mentality. In these shows sometimes, even though each of the men have a bond with the Bachelorette, they also develop bonds with each other. And research has found that men bonding in groups tends to be very strong, like in sports.

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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.

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.

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.