Anger provides a mixture of motivational benefits, some healthy and some short sighted and self-destructive.
On the positive side, anger creates a sense of power and control in a situation where prior to anger these positive, motivating feelings did not exist. The feelings of control and righteousness that come from anger can motivate you to challenge and change difficult interpersonal and social injustices. If handled correctly, your anger can motivate others to help you win your cause. Anger can provide you with a rest from feelings of vulnerability, and a way of venting tensions and frustrations. It can provide the energy and resolve necessary to defend yourself when you’ve been wronged. If you are a long suffering victim of domestic abuse, for example, and your anger finally reaches the boiling point so that it enables you to leave your abusive relationship, anger has been a truly positive force in your life. If you are a dedicated crusader working to further a truly moral cause (such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s drive for civil rights, or Gandhi’s drive for Indian independence), then anger gives you the strength to carry on, and the will to persevere.
There are negative motivational sides to anger too. Anger can create and then reinforce a false sense of entitlement, an illusory feeling of moral superiority that can be used to justify immoral actions. For instance, anger-motivated aggression can be used to justify terrorism, or to coerce and bully people into doing what you want them to do against their will. Angry people are likely to subscribe to the philosophy that “the end justifies the means” and then use unspeakable means of working towards their goals that defeat their purpose. If you are a terrorist like Timothy McVey (who bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995), a bully like television’s Tony Soprano (lead character in the HBO drama “The Sopranos”), or a ‘school shooter’ like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (who murdered fellow high school students in Columbine, Colorado in 1999), anger has led you to the dark side.
It is important to recognize that the effect of anger can be either positive or negative. If years of unresolved anger reach the boiling point and motivate you to leave an abusive relationship, your anger has saved you from additional abuse. On the other hand, if you use your anger to frighten others into doing what you want them to without considering their needs, you are allowing your anger to coerce and control others and you are no better than a bully.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
he other day I was approached by an acquaintance who was offering me a great opportunity to be a part of a great organization where a lot of money could be made with very little work. He got my name in passing and was good at following up leads. During his call to schedule a time to meet and discuss this opportunity further, I found myself in a dilemma. While this may indeed be a good option to explore further and the guy offering this was a new acquaintance, there was no way I was going to add anything more to my schedule, especially another job. So what to do?
A little into the call I simply told him “no”. I was not interested in adding anything more to my life. A few years ago I would have gone into even more of an explanation and justification of my answer in hopes to not hurt his feelings or our relationship. But I have discovered that the art of saying “no” is often enough in itself. No explanation is usually needed unless it is requested and the relationship is higher on the importance list.
Saying “no” is easy when it is a telephone solicitor or via email. As the degree of contact and the importance of the person rises, saying “no” is more difficult. However, it is important to be able to tell even the important people in life “no” if you hope to have more authority and power over your life. Being able to take charge of your life may mean that everything and everyone will not fit into your dreams and goals. It’s time to face the fact that some things and people are energy drainers. You dread the conversations with them when you meet in the hall at work. You see their name on the caller ID and your insides tighten, but you still answer the phone (even though your voicemail works fine).
Let’s begin to employ the art of saying “no” more frequently. For some of you that may mean this week you only tell two people “no”. Which would double your normal rate. Start small and work your way up. This week, when faced with something you really don’t want to do, say so. When given the wrong order at the restaurant, speak up. This is an easy way to learn how to say “no” which will increase the likelihood that you will be able to say it to more people, even those towards the top of the importance list.
Saying “no” allows you to stay on target with your values and goals. I do not recommend saying “no” just for the sake of saying “no”. Say it to take charge of your time. To take charge of your family. Your marriage. Your job. Your recreation. And say “no” without a long drawn out explanation, which often turns into excuses. Say “no” confidently. It will empower your spirit and your life!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Every person seeks happiness. You hear it all the time. “I just want to be happy.” “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This last phrase points out an important aspect, the pursuit of happiness. There is no guarantee that it can be obtained. One of the common things I see is people spending most every waking moment seeking happiness. As if it is something out there to be gained or discovered. Perhaps this is a major contributor to the status of society.
Watch television for more than five minutes and you will see this idea confirmed. If I can only get the car, house, boat, job, relationship, salary increase; then life will be complete. I will lack nothing, at least until the next can’t-do-without product is available for purchase. The average adult now has more than 4 different careers in their lifetime. My father-in-law had one job from the time he was a teenager until retirement. Forty-two years at the same job. That’s almost unheard of now. It seems our society is more into the thought that if this job won’t bring about happiness, the next one will. If this relationship doesn’t bring about happiness, then a relationship with him or her will. If life in this tax bracket isn’t satisfying, then the next bracket up will be. It’s the same story over and over. Something out there will complete my life. It will fill the void.
What if the key to happiness rests internally? What if happiness can be learned?
This starts with the idea that happiness is up to me. My perspective of things will influence the results. My expectations affect the outcome.
So what is it about my life that brings me happiness? If I change my outlook from happiness being something out there to it resting internally, ask this; what am I grateful for in my life? What are my successes or wins lately? When I focus too much on what else is out there, I neglect the things we currently possess. Going to the other extreme is also unhealthy. Spending too much time focusing on what used to be produces blurred vision about what is.
Focusing too much on the future or too much on the past, I will miss a lot of what is going on now. I think I have told every one of my clients at some point to slow down. We live life at a fast enough speed as it is. Sometimes speed only produces uncertainty. Did you realize that of all the species on the planet, humans are the only ones that when lost, speed up. All other animals will slow down or even sit down until they get their bearings before proceeding. Do you know where you really want to go? What is your vision for life?
If you have trouble answering the preceding questions, that’s where you should spend some time reflecting and searching. Take an inventory of your current life. What are the things that you enjoy? What are the things that drain you? Enjoy the things going on in life right now. Happiness can be learned, and it starts with what’s going on inside you now. Happiness is not something out there, its inside. Resting deep within your soul waiting to be tapped into. By slowing down and seeking what you really want, life will begin to be more aligned and then more full.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
“I’m afraid if I ever let go and just really feel it, I’ll blow up the whole world!” That comment is often made by persons along the way on the journey to wholeness. We fear the enormity of repressed emotions caged up inside of us for what seems like centuries now. We fear that we could do harm if we were allowed to just let it rip.
In fact, some do. Anger management classes are operating right this moment all over the Western world, classes that teach us how to “walk away,” “count to ten,” and other like techniques meant to keep us from behaving on our rage. But anger, on all of its levels from mild irritation all the way up to rage is more than behavior. Yet behavior is what we fear. In fact I’ve heard adolescent boys struggling with rage say, “I didn’t get mad—I know because I didn’t throw anything or hit anyone.” They were totally equating anger only with behavior.
Irritation, frustration, anger, rage: these are all forms of anger. And they are feelings first. But when a person’s rage becomes behavior even before thought has a chance to plug in, it is usually because of one of two reasons: 1) it’s been repressed for a long time, and when someone drops the proverbial straw, it explodes; 2) it works for manipulative purposes.
Either way it has something to do with maturity. I said at the end of the last blog that I’d talk about maturity, and so I am. Maturity is the result of having faced and overcome obstacles by gathering deeper and deeper aspects of self. In other words, when faced with a challenge we don’t repeat a rote behavior, or do what someone else taught us to do, or just do what we’ve always done. Rather, we dig deeper into ourselves to create something original as a solution to the problem or to overcome the obstacle. In the process we learn something about ourselves and/or about life in general.
What has come to be called “uncontrollable rage” comes about as a result of not having developed maturity. We can see this clearly in the example of frustration. When some little thing goes wrong, say a key won’t work in a lock, we generally get frustrated. We feel blocked. What we do at this point is going to make a difference as to whether or not we take a step forward in our psychological growth. Of course, we may have to fail a few times before we can figure out how our frustration can be a catalyst for creativity. But ultimately if we can learn to feel the frustration, hold the tension between the feeling and the act, and then push on just a little further, we find that we can create a solution or even something wholly new out of that frustrating moment.
When we continuously fail to step forward in this way, we do not grow emotionally, and thus we do not mature. And so it is that some will learn that rage works to manipulate or scare someone else into overcoming the frustration for them. Or, they learn that unloading their rage just makes them temporarily feel better—in a similar fashion to the way that using substances can make us forget our challenges in a haze of feeling better—so that we no longer feel motivated to solve the problem or become creative in response to a life challenge.
What most people don’t know is that we have a choice. Feeling our feelings and using them for a springboard for creativity is an option that is always available to us, but one which we can decide not to take. And the more frequently we choose to forgo that option, the less likely we are to mature through the process.
This means that the batterer is most likely to be an immature person whose rages are comparable to a toddler or adolescent temper tantrum. And the notion that batterers are just “out of control” is unfounded. The concept of being “out of control” is based in the notion of external locus of control—or the idea that if the external world cannot stop me, then I’m just beyond control. And it belies the fact that we always have a choice.
In fact, when we talk to people who are willing to really be honest about rage, what we learn is that before they behaved out of it, they were aware of other options for expression besides harming someone or breaking something.
On the other hand, rage as a simple feeling can be quite useful for informing us of where we need to place our boundaries, where someone else stops and we begin and vice versa. Holding the tension between the rageful feelings, for example about a previous abuse or betrayal, can inform us of how much we actually do care about our own well-being so that we can solidly declare “never again!” And the rage has just the right amount of energy to allow us to keep our promises to ourselves.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
What is hypnosis? Have you ever been totally absorbed while reading a book, cooking or watching a movie? Did you zone out to the point you didn’t notice what else was going on around you? If so, you’ve experienced a trance-like state that’s similar to what happens to you during hypnosis.
Hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, is a trance-like state of mind. It is usually achieved with the help of a hypnotherapist and is different from your everyday awareness. When you’re under hypnosis: -Your attention is more focused -You’re deeply relaxed and calm -You’re more open to suggestions, and less critical or disbelieving
The purpose of hypnosis is to help you gain more control over your behavior, emotions or physical well-being. Hypnotherapists say that hypnosis creates a state of deep relaxation and quiets the mind. When you’re hypnotized, you can concentrate intensely on a specific thought, memory, feeling or sensation while blocking out distractions. You’re more open than usual to suggestions, and this can be used to change your behavior and thereby improve your health and well-being.
Who is hypnosis for? Hypnotherapy has the potential to help relieve the symptoms of a wide variety of diseases and conditions. It can be used independently or along with other treatments. According to scientific studies, hypnotherapy may be used to: · Change negative behaviors, such as smoking and overeating · Reduce or eliminate fears, stress and anxiety · Lower blood pressure · Control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy · Reduce the intensity or frequency of pain · Treat and ease the symptoms of asthma Although hypnosis may have the potential to help with a wide variety of conditions, it’s typically used as one part of a broader treatment plan rather than as a stand-alone therapy. Like any other therapy, hypnosis can be helpful to some people but not to others. It seems to work best when you’re highly motivated and your therapist is well trained.
Types of hypnosis
There are a variety of hypnotic techniques. The approach you choose depends on what you want to accomplish as well as your personal preferences. For example, in one method a hypnotherapist leads you into hypnosis by talking in a gentle, soothing tone and describing images that create a sense of relaxation, security and well-being. While you’re under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist suggests ways for you to achieve specific goals, such as reducing pain or stress or helping to eliminate the cravings associated with smoking cessation. In another technique, once you’re under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist helps stimulate your imagination by suggesting specific mental images for you to visualize. This conscious creation of vivid, meaningful pictures in your mind is called mental imagery, and it’s a way to help bring about what you want to achieve. Self-hypnosis is a third technique. A certified hypnotherapist teaches you how to induce a state of hypnosis in yourself. You then use this skill on your own to help yourself. For instance, hypnotherapists can help executives visualize what they want to accomplish before they perform it, such as giving a presentation or making a sale.
Although hypnotherapists, like other health care practitioners, each have their own style, expect some common elements:
A typical session lasts from 30 to 60 minutes.
The number of sessions can range from one to several.
You generally bring yourself out of hypnosis at the end of a session.
You can usually resume your daily activities immediately after a session.
Although hypnosis may have the potential to help with a wide variety of conditions, it’s typically used as one part of a broader treatment plan rather than as a stand-alone therapy. Like any other therapy, hypnosis can be helpful to some people but not to others. It seems to work best when you’re highly motivated and your engaged in the process.
Myths about hypnosis If you’ve ever seen hypnotism used as entertainment in a stage act, you’ve probably witnessed several of the myths about hypnosis in action. Legitimate clinical hypnotherapy practiced by a qualified professional is not the same process as that performed on stage.
Myth: When you’re under hypnosis, you surrender your free will.
Reality: Hypnosis is a heightened state of concentration and focused attention. When you’re under hypnosis, you don’t lose your personality, your free will or your personal strength.
Myth: When you’re under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist controls you.
Reality: You do hypnosis voluntarily for yourself. A hypnotherapist only serves as a knowledgeable guide or facilitator.
Myth: Under hypnosis, you lose consciousness and have amnesia.
Reality: A small number of people who go into a very deep hypnotic state experience amnesia. However, most people remember everything that occurred under hypnosis.
Myth: You can be put under hypnosis without your consent.
Reality: Successful hypnosis depends on your willingness to experience it. Even with voluntary participation, not everyone can be led into a hypnotic state.
A stream, from a far-off mountain, passed down through the countryside, until it at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross the desert, but the stream found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.
It was stuck and had no choice but to cross this desert. Yet there was no way the water cold flow over the hot sand. Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: “The wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream.”
The stream was dashing itself against the sand, and only getting absorbed. Then the stream thought, “sure it easy for the wind. The wind can fly, and that’s why it can cross a desert. But I have always been on the ground and streams don’t fly.” The desert voice continued, “By moving in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over, to your destination.”
The stream replied, “But how could this happen?“ “By allowing yourself to trust in the wind”, the voice responded. This was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it never had to give up control over its direction before. It did not want to lose its independence. And once having lost it, how could the stream be sure that it could ever be regained?
“The wind, “said the voice, “performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river.”" How can I know that this is true?” thought the stream. “It is so, and if you do not believe it, you cannot become more than a swamp, and even that could take many, many years. And it certainly is not the same as a stream.”
“But if I trust the wind and am carried over the desert, I will not remain the same stream that I am today.” The stream replied. “This is true in both cases, either way you cannot go back to what you once were,” the whisper said. “Your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are called what you are even today because you do not know which part of you is the essential one.”
When the stream heard this, certain echoes began to arise in its memory. Dimly it remembered a state in which it or some part of it, had been held in the arms of a wind. And the stream raised its vapor into the welcoming arms of the wind, which gently and easily bore it upwards and along, letting it fall softly as soon as they reached the roof of a mountain, many, many miles away. And because it had its doubts, the stream was able to remember and record more strongly in its mind the details of the experience. It reflected, “Yes, now I have learned my true identity.”
The flowing stream speaks to us about the journey of life. The seemingly insignificant trickle leading to the world’s mightiest rivers, each drop of water becomes part of an uncontrollable flow that feeds it forward. An individual drop of water cannot flow by itself, its needs other drops of water to join in on its journey. Fed by rain that fall from the sky, it gains strength, contributing to its growth. It cannot reach its destination without receiving from others, but it also gives. Giving life to animals, people, and plants. It picks up the soil and deposits it to enrich the land. No stream flows without obstacles, no stream moves straight to the sea, it faces impediments that hold it back, and its mood alters with its circumstances, rushing down a narrow channel or spreading into a tide pool. With each barrier the stream finds a new solution.
The stream joyful to dance over rocks and pebbles. If a tree falls across its path it has new options. Does it wash the trunk away, does it find a new path, does it lie still and stagnant, doe sit dam up until the weight causes pressure and flows over? Its pace slows as it reaches the ocean. And the oceans become one with all the waters on the planet. The warmth of the sun evaporates the ocean water and it gathers in clouds. And the journey begins again. The stream flows with such urgency fighting with itself, caught up in the destruction, swirling, and clashing energy full of both respect and power. There is a sense of timeless eternity in this experience, for the stream is something that will outlive us all. Still the river is constantly flowing, forever changing and adapting.
Like the stream, we may change, but our identity endures. This means the acts may change with time but the actor is what remains constant. Our choices, lifestyle, appearance all change. It is our very nature. If we do not let ourselves be transformed by the winds of life, we become stagnant. So, with great fear and yet great courage, we let life lift us, shape us, purify us, help us become who we really are. We change every day, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in very small ways, but our essential humanity remains constant. One day we are children, the next it seems we are adults, we are lovers, we are parents and friends and grandparents. Yet no matter what the form of our days may be, our essence is steady. You are always just yourself. You may be a mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, son, daughter, friends, employee, neighbor or customer but you are always just you. That is the core of your identity. You are the one who has all these experiences and you are the same person who was a small child riding a bicycle and playing hide n seek. That is what really matters. That is your true identity.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Judgment is the organ of decision making. Our judgment does not operate in a vacuum. We have degrees of judgment and we have attitudes towards ourselves and our judgment. If we respect ourselves, we are likely to trust our judgment and use it constructively for our own behalf. If we hold ourselves as worthless and inferior, we cannot respect or trust our judgment to guide us through life. In fact, we will trust it negatively: whatever it tells us to do, we will do the opposite. The irony is that when it tells us to do something self-destructive and consistent with our self contempt, we will trust it! We lose either way.
Most young people take their cue from their parents and teachers. If they are called “stupid” every time they make a mistake, they come to hold their intelligence and judgment in the same contempt they hold themselves. They take these insults personally, as a reflection on their worth as a person. They don’t know how else to take it. The reverse process does not occur. The child rarely hears himself being commended for his good judgment in solving a problem. The parent may have the attitude that he doesn’t want success to go to this child head. “It will spoil him.” The irony is that he is spoiling the child with his good intention to avoid spoiling.
The child without self respect cannot win for losing. With his judgment knocked out, he is predisposed to fall back on his unconscious attitudes towards himself. He feels he doesn’t deserve to succeed. If his judgment yells him yes, he will outsmart himself and say no in order to avoid the negative outcome he predicts for himself. His good intention to save himself will be counter productive. If his attitude tells him yes, he will do it. But his attitudes have no brains. They cannot steer him in the right direction. They are in the service of his self-destructive self contempt. The child who respects himself does not feel he deserves to fail, does not predict failure, does not over ride his appropriate judgment, does not arrange to fulfill his prophecies of disaster. He does not stand in his own way. He deserves to succeed in life, no more and no less than anyone else.
The child who does not respect himself reaches the point where his self contempt and his self blame for being such a “loser” ferment into depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviors. Here is a conversation with a young man who, like many imperfect human beings, has trouble trusting his in the present. We had been talking about his memories of himself. The things he remembers are consistent with they way he feels about himself.
Client: “I remember my dad catching me and my brother Simon taking money out of his wallet. I ran out the back door, but Simon got caught. He got the crap beat out of him. When I came home, my dad had calmed down, but I felt terrible about what happened to Simon. He was still sobbing.”
Therapist: “You felt guilty for abandoning your brother. You should have stayed and taken your punishment like a man, but you didn’t. Your judgment propelled you out the back door and you have regretted it ever since.”
Client: “I haven’t thought about that for years.”
Therapist: “This escapade also includes the lament of exemption from the consequences of your behavior. Simon was not immune, like you. You got away with it.”
Client: “I was quick on my feet and I could talk my way out of anything.”
Therapist: “That ability gives us a fictitious sense of power and control over the circumstances of life. We end up defining our self worth in terms of this very minor, superficial trait.”
Client: “What’s wrong with that?”
Therapist: “It’s only the gift of gab; it is hardly a prescription for a healthy, gratifying existence. For instance, it does nothing to relieve you of your underlying contempt for the limits of your judgment. You end up being all mouth no brains.”
Client: “I had everybody fooled, didn’t I?”
Therapist: “You even succeeded at fooling yourself. Your weak spot was your judgment. Your great trick was to overcompensate for the unworthiness of your judgment.”
Client: “How did I do that?”
Therapist: “By imagining that your judgment was superior to the judgment of everyone else, that you knew in advance that you could take things and emerge unscathed. By believing that you could talk you way out of anything, you predicted the future and knew that you would be immune to any consequences thrown at you.”
Client: That’s stupid isn’t it?”
Therapist: “There you go again. It is not a matter of stupidity. It’s a matter of learning things about yourself that are not true.”
Client: “What do you mean? What is true?”
Therapist: “That you were a little boy and you made little boy mistakes. You compounded these human childish mistakes by taking them personally, as if they were a reflection on your intelligence and your self worth. When you got through compounding this pain, you didn’t have any self worth left. You grew up feeling worthless and stupid.”
Client: “That’s how I have always felt; I just didn’t want anyone to find out.”
Therapist: “When we try to conceal our secret stupidity in ways that don’t make any sense, the secret usually comes out one way or another.”
Client: “I’m always screwing up.”
Therapist: “When you do, you mistakenly perceive the screw-up as if it were a confirmation of your stupidity, which is an error in thinking because there was no stupidity in the first place.”
Client: “What other mistakes did I make?”
Therapist: “You made the mistake of perpetually blaming yourself. You imagined that your childhood ignorance was permanent and would last forever, which of course it does not.”
Client: “So I overcompensated by proving myself to others to get their approval. That’s stupid.”
Therapist: “Nope, that wasn’t stupid either. Stupidity has to do with one’s level of intelligence. The efforts you made to prove yourself to relieve the pain of your self-contempt did not arise out of your intellect. They arose out of feeling that you have about yourself. If these emotional conclusions are mistaken and unrealistic, you will have trouble coping with reality.”
Client: “I believed that my judgment couldn’t be trusted.”
Therapist: “That’s right. That was something you have come to accept as ‘fact’. You didn’t question it rationally or objectively when you were a child. And you never went back to check it out.”
Client: “I’ve been struggling ever since.”
Therapist: “That belief of yours is a double edged sword. One side is that you cannot trust your judgment positively. The other side is that you cannot trust it negatively.”
Client: “What does that mean?”
Therapist: “It means you can only trust your judgment to be wrong and let you down.”
Client: “So when I come up with a good decision, I doubt it will work, so I go ahead and do the opposite.”
Therapist: “Exactly. What happens when you doubt your judgment?”
Client: “It’s always a disaster. I could kick myself for not trusting my gut. I was right the first time, but doubted what I was thinking.”
Therapist: “This is how you confirm over and over again that your judgment cannot be trusted. Your self doubt kicks in and overrides your initial approach. It is this doubt that sabotages your happiness and success in the real world. It is entirely consistent with your identity of self-contempt.”
Client: “It proves that I am just being me doesn’t it?”
Therapist: “Yes. This is how you maintain the consistency of your childhood role as the stupid five-year-old that you used to be. It’s a payoff in a way. It is reassuring to know that you haven’t changed, you are still you even if it a stupid, unhappy you.”
Client: “Well it feels awful.”
Therapist: “It is awful. But these choices are not judgments at all. They are negative beliefs. They have nothing to do with your intelligence. They are emotional. They come from the heart, not the head. You keep overriding your mature adult judgment in the present with this childish belief from first grade. This approach makes sure that you don’t get any happiness, which you feel ‘stupid’ people do not deserve.”
Client: “Why don’t I stop?”
Therapist: “People, who feel they are guilty of being stupid, need to be punished for making mistakes. They don’t believe they have earned the right to be happy. Every six-year-old knows that when you are wrong, you deserve to be punished. So by denying yourself happiness you are just righting the wrong. When you fill yourself with doubt, it relates to the potential of being punished, which must be avoided. But since you don’t trust yourself to make a good decision anyway, you end up in painful doubt. This is the closest you come to finding happiness; it’s a painful pleasure in a way.”
Client: “Can I turn this around?”
Therapist: “Not by yourself. You can not be objective about your own mistaken feelings and beliefs. You are just going to agree that what you are thinking is right.”
Client: “I’m tired of this painful pleasure. I want to quit.”
Therapist: “Wanting to quit is nice but it is not enough. People who are drowning in self-contempt do not deserve to get what they want. They deserve to be punished. First you have to feel that you deserve to get something better.”
Client: “How do I do that?”
Therapist: “It’s done by doing your homework.”
Client: “What’s my homework?”
Therapist: “Instead of giving you an assignment for tomorrow, let me see if you have done some homework already.”
Client: “How could I do homework without even know it?”
Therapist: “Well let me see…How do you feel about coming to see a therapist?”
Client: “I feel it was a good decision.”
Therapist: “In what way?”
Client: “I feel like I am learning something about myself.”
Therapist: “That is a feeling of accomplishment. Would you call it a success?”
Client: “Yes, it was hard to come and ask for help, to admit that I couldn’t do it myself.”
Therapist: “Do you feel stupid?”
Client: “No I feel smart.”
Therapist: “How smart is smart enough?”
Client: “I don’t know?”
Therapist: “As smart as you are right now, that is smart enough. Did you have a choice in coming here today?”
Client: “Yes. I could have chosen not to come.”
Therapist: “So how do you feel about the choice you made?”
Client: “It was a good choice.”
Therapist: “In order to make that choice you had to use your judgment didn’t you?”
Client: “I guess.”
Therapist: “How good was your judgment in making the choice to come here today?”
Client: “Good enough”
Therapist: “This ability to recognize how good is good enough speaks to your own standards. By living up to our own standards we have feelings of accomplishment, success, maturity, security and self-respect. By coming here today you already did some homework for your own good, not for your parents, or for me, but for yourself.”
Client: “I always thought it was selfish to do things for me.”
Therapist: “It’s only selfish if it ends with you. Self-preservation means you take care of your self so you can help others. But if you don’t take care of you who will?”
Client: “I don’t know who?”
Therapist: “No one and you will come to resent those who you help since they take away from your ability to care for yourself. You are an equal member of the human race who is equally entitled to care for himself, no more or less important then anyone else. “
Client: “Actually, it was kind of scary to come here.”
Therapist: “But you did it anyways. Do you feel liberated?”
Client: “From who?”
Therapist: “From the old you. You came here and took responsibility for your own happiness. You made an independent choice and you can do it again. It took courage to try something new and do it anyways, that was quite a risk, but you did it anyways. You have earned the confidence and competence that come with courage. You took control by making a choice in the real world, according to your own standards. How do you feel now?”
Client: “You know, I can’t remember the last time I said that and meant it, but I feel happy.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
One day a farmer was inspecting his property, and as he walked, he came upon eagle that had been shot. With caution and hesitation, the farmer climbed the tree and saw a there was a nest with a single egg. He carefully carried it down the tree, back to the barn and slide it under one of the hens. The eagle hatched along with the other eggs and was raised along with the other chicks. It spent its time scratching the ground for seeds, searching for worms and clucking senselessly.
One day a dark and ominous shadow fell across the barnyard. In terror, the eagle fled for shelter with his companions. Looking up, the eagle saw the outstretched wings of a huge bird, effortlessly gliding through the air. Captivated by the graceful power of this sight, the eagle asked, “What is that?”
His companion said, “That is the eagle, the king of the birds. Its realm is the sky. It controls the air. But we are chicken and we belong to the ground.” The eagle looked up at the bird and saw their similarities. It looked at the chickens. And for the first time, he saw how different he was from them. The eagle now had a choice. It could live and die as a chicken in this backyard coop or it could with some effort, spread its wings and soar into the air.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Donna Talarico sat at her computer one morning, stared at the screen and realized she had forgotten—again!—her password.
She was having financial difficulties at the time, and was reading self-help books to boost her mood and self-confidence. The books talked about the power of positive affirmation—which gave her an idea: She changed her various passwords to private messages to herself, like “imawe$some1″ or “dogoodworktoday.”
“It’s something so simple,” says the 34-year-old marketing manager at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania. “It just reinforces that you’re a good person. You can do a good job at whatever you are trying to talk yourself into.”
In times of stress, even people with close social networks can feel utterly alone. We’re often advised to “buck up,” “talk to someone” (who is often paid to listen) or take a pill. Wouldn’t it also make sense to learn ways to comfort and be supportive of ourselves?
Think of it as becoming our own best friend, or our own personal coach, ready with the kind of encouragement and tough love that works best for us. After all, who else knows us better than ourselves? If that sounds crazy, bear in mind it sure beats turning to chocolate, alcohol or your Pekingese for support.
Experts say that to feel better you need to treat yourself kindly—this is called “self-compassion”—and focus on the positive, by being optimistic. Research shows self-compassionate people cope better with everything from a major relationship breakup to the loss of their car keys. They don’t compound their misery by beating themselves up over every unfortunate accident or mistake. Car broke down? Sure, it’s a drag, but it doesn’t make you an idiot.
“They are treating themselves like a kind friend,” says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. “When bad things happen to a friend, you wouldn’t yell at him.”
In 15 studies conducted over the past seven years, Dr. Leary has found that self-compassionate people are happier. Three of the studies, soon to be published, examine how self-compassion affects people over age 65. The studies found that people who accepted memory lapses, arthritis and other difficulties of getting older, and who treated themselves extra nicely on tough days, reported more positive emotions and were coping better with the aging process.
Self-compassion helps people overcome life’s little, and not-so-little, stressors, such as public speaking. In another study, Dr. Leary asked people to stand in front of a videocamera and make up a story starting with the phrase, “Once there was a little bear…” Then he asked them to critique their performance, captured on videotape.
People whom the study had identified as being high in self-compassion admitted they looked silly, recognized the task wasn’t easy and joked about it. People low in self-compassion gave harsh self-criticism.
Experts say you can learn self-compassion in real time. You can train your brain to focus on the positive—even if you’re wired to see the glass as half empty. A person’s perspective, or outlook, is influenced by factors including genetic makeup (is he prone to depression?), experiences (what happened to him?) and “cognitive bias” (how does he interpret his experiences?). We can’t change our genes or our experiences, but experts say we can change the way we interpret what has happened in the past.
Everyone has an optimistic and a pessimistic circuit in their brain, says Elaine Fox, visiting research professor at the University of Oxford, England, and director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. Fear, rooted in the amygdala, helps us identify and respond to threats and is at the root of pessimism. Optimism, in contrast, is rooted in the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure center, which responds to food, sex and other healthy, good things in life.
“The most resilient people experience a wide range of emotions, both negative and positive,” says Dr. Fox, author of “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain.” To enjoy life and feel good, people need roughly four positive emotions to counteract the effect of one negative emotion, she says. People who experience life as drudgery had two or even one positive emotion for every negative one, Dr. Fox has found.
It’s possible to change your cognitive bias by training the brain to focus more on the positive than on the negative. In the lab, Dr. Fox showed subjects pairs of images, one negative (the aftermath of a bomb blast, say) and one either positive (a cute child) or neutral (an office). Participants were asked to point out, as quickly as possible, a small target that appeared immediately after each positive or neutral image—subliminally requiring them to pay less attention to the negative images, which had no target.
Want to try this at home? Write down, in a journal, the positive and negative things that happen to you each day, whether running into an old friend or missing your bus. Try for four positives for each negative. You’ll be training your brain to look for the good even as you acknowledge the bad, Dr. Fox says.
When I asked, I was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of ways people said they treat themselves with compassion, care and kindness. Anittah Patrick, a 35-year-old online marketing consultant in Philadelphia, celebrated her emergence from a long depression by making herself a valentine. She covered an old picture frame with lace and corks from special bottles of wine, and drew a big heart inside. Using old computer keys, she spelled out the message “Welc*me Back.” Then she put it on her dressing table, where she sees it every morning. “It’s a nice reminder that I’ll get through whatever challenge I’m facing,” she says.
If Kris Wittenberg, a 45-year-old entrepreneur from Vail, Colo., starts to feel bad, she tells herself “Stop,” and jots down something she is grateful for. She writes down at least five things at the end of each day. “You start to see how many negative thoughts you have,” she says.
Kevin Kilpatrick, 55, a college professor and children’s author in San Diego, talks to himself—silently, unless he is in the car—going over everything positive he has accomplished recently. “It helps me to hear it out loud, especially from the voice that’s usually screaming at me to do better, work harder and whatever else it wants to berate me about,” he says.
Adam Urbanski, 42, who owns a marketing firm and lives in Irvine, Calif., keeps a binder labeled “My Raving Fans” in his office. Filling it are more than 100 cards and letters from clients and business contacts thanking him for his help. “All it takes is reading a couple of them to realize that I do make a difference,” Mr. Urbanski says.
He has something he calls his “1-800-DE-FUNK line.” It’s not a real number, but a strategy he uses when he is upset. He calls a friend, vents for 60 seconds, then asks her about her problems. “It’s amazing how five minutes of working on someone else’s problems makes my own disappear,” he says. Sometimes, as a reality check, he asks himself, “What Would John Nash Think?” in honor of the mathematician, Nobel laureate and subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind,” who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
Are things really as dire as he thinks? Is he overreacting? “It always turns out that whatever keeps me down isn’t really as bad as I thought,” Mr. Urbanski says.
Here are ways to be your own best friend in stressful times.
- Instead of “pushing through” a bad day, look for ways to actively improve it. Take a small break. Get an ice-cream cone. Invite a friend out to dinner.
- Resist the urge to make your problems worse. “Ask yourself, How much of my distress is the real problem, and how much is stuff I am heaping on myself unnecessarily?” says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.
- Boost your daily ratio of positive-to-negative emotions, says Elaine Fox, a cognitive psychologist. What do you enjoy doing? Seeing your best buddy, watching a funny movie, walking in the park? Make a list and do one a day.
- Then list things you really don’t enjoy. Are there people who bring you down? Hobbies that no longer interest you? Errands you can delegate? Some of this stuff can be avoided.
- If you don’t feel happy, fake it. You wouldn’t constantly burden a friend with your bad mood, so don’t burden yourself. Try holding a pencil horizontally in your mouth. “This activates the same muscles that create a smile, and our brain interprets this as happiness,”
Take this quiz:
- Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
- Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
- Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
- Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
- Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are not second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
- Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
- Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
The lesson? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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