Q&A with Dr. Dorothy: Your tough questions answered
Dorothy Ratusny is a Certified Psychotherapist specializing in Cognitive Therapy. Send your ‘Getting Deep’ questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m so afraid of dying of breast cancer. I want to take a mammogram but my friends freak out when I talk about going to the doctor and tell me that I am too young to worry. I’m 18. Should I relax a little bit and stop worrying?
The short answer is YES. Relax a bit! We create unrealistic fears by building a big “story” around something that we have no evidence for. Challenge your thoughts by asking yourself, “Where’s the evidence?” So in this case… “Where’s the evidence that you’re going to die of breast cancer?” In reality, there really is no evidence! Once you learn how to challenge your worrisome thoughts, it becomes easier to let go of them. Practice using “Where’s the evidence?” on all of the thoughts that create anxiety for you and notice how you start to feel. You can also stay informed by educating yourself on the research (including well-evidenced risk factors) around breast cancer. The more knowledge you have, the less likely you are to “freak out” about worries that are not based on actual fact.
My boyfriend recently cut his hair to please my family. The thing is, he didn’t have to, and now he blames me for it. I understand his emotional attachment to the hair he had grown for two years, but I’m tired of apologizing. What should I do?
I think that it’s important for you to stop apologizing. Your boyfriend made the decision to cut his hair, regardless of what he claims the reasons were. While it sounds like he is regretting his decision, blaming you keeps him from taking responsibility for his actions. You can compliment him on his new haircut, but allow him to accept responsibility for what he has chosen to do. You may have to be patient for this to happen (and there are no guarantees that he will ultimately accept responsibility), but continuing to apologize doesn’t help him. By the way, there’s also a good lesson in all of this: trying to please others rarely makes us happy in the end!
I just became friends with a new girl. She’s my neighbour and she’s really religious. The subject of beliefs hasn’t come up yet, but she assumes that I’m Christian as well. (I’m not.) I don’t believe in God, and I don’t want to offend her, but I don’t like the way she’s always giving me religious advice and asking me to go to church with her. How should I tell her that I don’t want to go?
Close friendships are typically (although not exclusively) based on shared values and beliefs. If this girl is a real friend, she won’t judge you for having your individual beliefs — about religion or any other subject. By explaining how you feel about religion and acknowledging your differences, the hope is that you can have a dialogue about what you both believe and still remain open to learning from each other.
A girl I know is into heavy drinking. One time, she passed out in some bushes behind school property. A few friends and I found her, and she was sent to the hospital where she was diagnosed with alcohol poisoning. She never thanked us. She calls me horrible names and spreads nasty rumours about me. Once, we got into a fight about a guy and she threw a cheeseburger at me! We could have left her there instead of helping her. Why is she being so mean?
It sounds like this girl is pretty unhappy. It must have been embarrassing for her to have you and your friends find her passed out in bushes. Even though lashing out at you by spreading rumours (or throwing food) is clearly not the answer, try and put yourself in her shoes. Remember, it’s easier for some people to be hurtful and mean rather than take responsibility for their actions. If this girl is a heavy drinker — and has had alcohol poisoning—there are probably other serious issues she’s dealing with personally and in her home life. Keeping that in mind may help you deal better with her bad behaviour towards you and your friends.
I really want to quit smoking pot, but it seems impossible. All of my friends smoke, and most of our social activities centre around smoking in one way or another. I don’t want to drop my friends, but I also don’t want to be smoking every day when I grow up and have a family. Since this is my last year of high school, I feel like I should be making some mature decisions about my future. I’m not sure that I want to stop smoking completely just yet, but I know that this will have to change. Can you help?
The fact that you have identified this as a potential problem for your future is a very mature step. You don’t necessarily have to drop your friends, but you may find that as you cut back on your smoking, you may start to look for friends who don’t smoke (or who smoke much less frequently). When you feel ready to start working on this, you can begin by slowly cutting back on the amount that you smoke. Over time, you may find that you are able to smoke every other day or just on weekends as a step towards quitting. For now, begin to pay more attention to the reasons why you smoke. Are you using pot as an escape from other things in your life that may be stressful? Is it something that you have gotten used to because it’s just what everyone does? Is it something that you feel that you could change? Knowing where you stand with regards to smoking pot will help you when you are ready to cut back or quit.
For more on Dorothy check out www.dorothyratusny.com