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POPULAR ARTICLES

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

When You Have Been Betrayed

Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Feedback, Self-Efficacy and the Development of Motor skills

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Performance Enhancement in the Martial Arts: A Review

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?





RECENT ARTICLES

When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy



NEW AUDIOS

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

The Great Desert Mindfulness

Tropical Garden Mindfulness

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Probability and OCD

Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

Day of Fishing Mindfulness

Audio Version of Article: Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

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PSYCHNOTES

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September 21, 2014

PsychNote: VALUE YOUR PARTNER TO REDUCE FEELINGS OF REJECTION DURING DISAGREEMENTS

The desire to marry often involves a yearning to be fully accepted and valued by another person. Loving someone signifies a willingness to give oneself completely to the other person trusting that this person will provide an embrace of acceptance. Yet, this very act creates vulnerability and opens the possibility for deep hurt for some people.

Feeling valued in the relationship critically impacts how someone handles everyday disagreements. Those who do not feel valued may feel rejected when their spouse disagrees or criticizes. As a result, they are more likely to engage in self-protective behaviors including anger, resentment, withdrawal and attempts to hurt the other. While those who feel valued by their partner are more likely to draw closer to the partner after a disagreement to show regard and affection in spite of the disagreement (Murray, et al., 2003).

The unfortunate consequence of this dynamic is that those who do not feel valued will often create an environment that fosters rejection by engaging in the self-protective behaviors. For instance, when a disagreement occurs they say something hurtful to their partner which is likely to produce a similar response in return. Or, when they feel rejected, they withdraw which causes the partner to feel hurt and rejected. Thus, this behavior becomes a vicious cycle creating more of the same.

How can this cycle be changed?

Many times when people want to change this dynamic, they think “We need to stop arguing.” However, not only is this easier said than done, it is not necessary. It is often easier to increase positive interactions than to control negative interactions. Changing the focus of the relationship from “How do I protect myself from hurt?” to “How do I show my loved one I value him/her even when I disagree?” can be done in a number of ways:

1) Thank your partner. Frequently, as often as you can, look for the good things your partner does and comment on them. Often, it is too easy to dismiss what they do with the idea “he/she SHOULD do that.” However, think about it, if a stranger fixed your car or prepared dinner, would you thank that person? If so, treat your spouse as well as you would a stranger.

2) Praise your partner. When you first met your spouse, both of you were most likely complimenting one another frequently. Continue to do that! Sometimes people say their spouse doesn't do anything to compliment. However, that is unlikely. This is the person you chose to spend your life with and if you choose to focus on the positives you could find them.

3) Touch your partner. Simple, non-sexual, touch conveys affection and regard whether it is a hug, holding hands, sitting next to one another, or gently touching the cheek. Such touch needs to be frequent, many times a day, although it does not need to be lengthy.

4) Do something for your partner. Instead of feeling bothered or annoyed by a request, see it as an opportunity to value your partner. Try to do something that is meaningful for your partner, not necessarily what you want your partner to do for you.

5) Listen to your partner. Again, how often do people give their full attention to a stranger or acquaintance but tend to ignore or half-attend to their partner? When a person is listened to they sense high regard from the other person. They feel valued. It doesn't matter if you've heard their story already. Show interest in what your partner has to say.

These are all simple behaviors that can be done many times a day to show a partner that he or she is valued. When a person feels valued generally, they are less likely to feel rejected when a disagreement occurs which can help change the negative cycle described above into a positive one of closeness and acceptance.

One final caveat: Don't take this article, shove it in your partner's face, and say: "See? This is what you should be doing!" That sort of defeats the message. Interestingly, when one person makes an effort to change these behaviors, the other partner will often respond in kind. In other words, be a model for the behavior you desire.

Murray, S.L., Bellavia, G.M., Rose, P. and Griffin, D.W. (2003). Once Hurt, Twice Hurtful: How Perceived Regard Regulates Daily Marital Interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84,126–147. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.1.126



September 19, 2014

New article: WHEN NEEDS COME INTO CONFLICT

Recently, a website reader submitted a passive-aggressive example to Excel At Life for suggestions. However, this example appears to be a case of when needs come in conflict rather than passive-aggressive behavior (although there is certainly passive-aggressive behavior present):

“My husband and I had a new house built. Our first home was agreed upon to become a rental property. The rental property, we agreed, would pay for our daughter's college education. One week before moving into our new home, my husband canceled the lease that I obtained through a realtor and informed me that his cousin was moving in. You guessed it: the rent was always late and my husband started picking the rent up piecemeal. Didn't work out. Cousin eventually moved out and we had to pay for a moving van! This scenario played out twice more, costing us tens of thousands of dollars. I'm crying all the time, my hair fell out and my daughter's college tuition is still unpaid. Today, my husband claims that he does not understand! When approaching my husband concerning the rental property, I said, “Honey, talk to me, please explain what is happening, we agreed what was the purpose.” Further, I stated to my husband that he went behind my back and offered my sister a lease although my sister came to me and I told her that I needed to speak with my husband. I asked my husband again, what is going on and explained to him that family, friends and business should never mix. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for an explanation, he moved his nephew's family in without consulting me as if we had never talked at all. All of this took place between 2000 thru 2008 and my husband will not talk at all when this subject is brought up. We went to counseling over this issue in 2004 and after one session, he said to the counselor, 'my wife is grieving her mother and we will not need any other help.' By the way, my mother passed away in 2009!”

This example illustrates the problem of when couples are faced with important needs that are in direct conflict with one another. In other words, meeting one person's need means not meeting the other person's need. READ RESPONSE



September 16, 2014

PsychNote: HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PRACTICE MINDFULNESS?

While mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce psychological distress, improve attention, and even reduce physical illness, researchers recently found that the amount of mindfulness practice is not as important as the quality of practice (Del Re, et al., 2013). In other words, the length and frequency of practice does not improve overall health as much as how mindfulness is practiced.

What are some ways to know you are engaging in quality practice of mindfulness?
1) Mindfulness is not about “zoning out” or falling asleep. Mindfulness is being aware.
2) Mindfulness does not avoid certain thoughts, emotions, or sensations.
3) Mindfulness isn't an attempt to feel only pleasant emotions or experiences but to be fully open to all experiences.
4) Mindfulness is returning focus to the present-moment experience, whatever it may be, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
5) Mindfulness is allowing yourself to return your attention to difficult experiences with a sense that it is “okay” to experience the emotion or sensation.
6) Mindfulness is a focus on the pure experience of the present moment without distracting thoughts.
7) Mindfulness does not try to push away thoughts or feelings but allows them to “be” while gently refocusing back to the present moment.

The practice of mindfulness is simply taking a moment here and there throughout your day and experiencing that moment fully for what it is without judgment, evaluation, or demands.

Del Re, A.C., Flückiger, C., Goldberg, S.B and Hoyt, W.T. (2013) Monitoring mindfulness practice quality: An important consideration in mindfulness practice. Psychotherapy Research, 23, 54-66, DOI:10.1080/10503307.2012.729275.



September 11, 2014

Cognitive Diary Training Example: RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHERS' FEELINGS

EVENT: Upset with a friend

EMOTIONS: irritation, trepidation, hurt

DISTRESS RATING: 7--Feeling distressed, less in control

THOUGHTS: “My friend didn't ask me to join her when she went out with other friends. I feel hurt. I probably couldn't have gone anyway because I'm busy with the kids, but it would have been nice to be asked. Maybe she doesn't like me as much. I'm probably not very much fun. But I can't tell her what I feel because I don't want to hurt her feelings.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of irritation, trepidation, and hurt?

VIEW ANSWER



September 4, 2014

LIVING WITH BLAMING AND GUILTING MOTHER (Part 4)

Question: My partner's mum is staying with us and she's quite PA and I'd love to know better ways of dealing with some of what she does...

She has a lot of esteem wrapped up in having been an amazing mother and homemaker. If I choose to do a home-based task differently from how she would have, she will nitpick and point out the many flaws with doing it that way. She'll also say I did it that way because I "don't really CARE" and "that's a lazy way" to do that. Anything that's done her way is just "the way it SHOULD be done" and "why would anyone NOT do it that way!" Despite this she claims she doesn't get ANYTHING done her way although every room in the house is layed out how she wanted and most home things are done her way. When she returns from holidays she spends the next week pointing out things I've missed or supposedly done wrong: "I see it was too hot to mow the lawn!" (I'd mowed three days earlier). "I see no one could be BOTHERED to buy a new salt shaker! You guys!" Shakes her head. Salt shaker is still 3/4's full.

VIEW ANSWER



September 3, 2014

LIVING WITH BLAMING AND GUILTING MOTHER (Part 3)

I will examine and discuss the previous question in parts.

Question: My partner's mum is staying with us and she's quite PA and I'd love to know better ways of dealing with some of what she does...

Partner's mum recites lists of what she does for us to her other children. She makes it sound as if we want her running after us and she's totally put upon. We'd rather tidy after ourselves but can't stop her doing this stuff:
Partner (working from home in personal office): "I don't like you coming in here every hour or so to see if I've got any cups. I'll take this cup once I've finished what I'm working on."
Mum: "I'll just take it."
Partner: "I don't want you to. It's distracting and I feel bad like you're slaving after me."
Mum: "I suppose you WANT the house to turn into a sty. You don't mind the house being DISGUSTING."

VIEW ANSWER



September 1, 2014

LIVING WITH BLAMING AND GUILTING MOTHER (Part 2)

Question: My partner's mum is staying with us and she's quite PA and I'd love to know better ways of dealing with some of what she does...

Partner's mum is upset dishwasher wasn't run overnight. She complains to my partner loudly enough that I can hear: "I know she doesn't CARE about keeping the house tidy but how could anyone NOT run the dishwasher? Why on earth WOULDN'T you?"
Partner: "That's a little unfair when you make these general statements. I know she cares and she must have had a reason."
Mum: "Why on earth wouldn't you! It's just common sense!"
(In fact I hadn't run it because she'd often complained about running it when it wasn't totally full and had even unpacked the top row to demonstrate that you could jam one more glass inside. This time the dishwasher had five or six spaces.)
Partner: "I would like you to think about maybe not making general statements. It upsets people."
Mum: "I'm not allowed to think anything! I've just got to shut up and keep my thoughts to myself. You want me gone. You make it totally clear you HATE having me here!"
Partner: "We like you here. I just want you to know people feel hurt if..."
Mum: "I'm not ALLOWED to say anything!!" Slams door, sulks in room. We leave her to it. Returns two hours later to scream at partner that he's a hateful (expletive)! Slams sitting room door. More sulking.

VIEW ANSWER



August 31, 2014

LIVING WITH BLAMING AND GUILTING MOTHER (Part 1)

Question: My partner's mum is staying with us and she's quite PA and I'd love to know better ways of dealing with some of what she does...

A) She blamed my partner for not telling me her plans had changed (in the last thirty minutes) and that she did want me to include her for dinner after all. But she didn't tell him she now wanted to eat but only that she was leaving later. She didn't tell me (the person cooking) anything. We offered to split what we had but she made a fuss whilst making a sandwich and saying "I suppose you don't want to share!" Sporadically through the next hour she'd sigh and say to herself "it wouldn't have taken you both MUCH effort to pad out the meal" and "you've got to start passing messages."

B) Partner's mum is upset dishwasher wasn't run overnight. She complains to my partner loudly enough that I can hear: "I know she doesn't CARE about keeping the house tidy but how could anyone NOT run the dishwasher? Why on earth WOULDN'T you?"
Partner: "That's a little unfair when you make these general statements. I know she cares and she must have had a reason."
Mum: "Why on earth wouldn't you! It's just common sense!"
(In fact I hadn't run it because she'd often complained about running it when it wasn't totally full and had even unpacked the top row to demonstrate that you could jam one more glass inside. This time the dishwasher had five or six spaces.)
Partner: "I would like you to think about maybe not making general statements. It upsets people."
Mum: "I'm not allowed to think anything! I've just got to shut up and keep my thoughts to myself. You want me gone. You make it totally clear you HATE having me here!"
Partner: "We like you here. I just want you to know people feel hurt if..."
Mum: "I'm not ALLOWED to say anything!!" Slams door, sulks in room. We leave her to it. Returns two hours later to scream at partner that he's a hateful (expletive)! Slams sitting room door. More sulking.

C) Partner's mum recites lists of what she does for us to her other children. She makes it sound as if we want her running after us and she's totally put upon. We'd rather tidy after ourselves but can't stop her doing this stuff:
Partner (working from home in personal office): "I don't like you coming in here every hour or so to see if I've got any cups. I'll take this cup once I've finished what I'm working on."
Mum: "I'll just take it."
Partner: "I don't want you to. It's distracting and I feel bad like you're slaving after me."
Mum: "I suppose you WANT the house to turn into a sty. You don't mind the house being DISGUSTING."

D) She has a lot of esteem wrapped up in having been an amazing mother and homemaker. If I choose to do a home-based task differently from how she would have, she will nitpick and point out the many flaws with doing it that way. She'll also say I did it that way because I "don't really CARE" and "that's a lazy way" to do that. Anything that's done her way is just "the way it SHOULD be done" and "why would anyone NOT do it that way!" Despite this she claims she doesn't get ANYTHING done her way although every room in the house is layed out how she wanted and most home things are done her way. When she returns from holidays she spends the next week pointing out things I've missed or supposedly done wrong: "I see it was too hot to mow the lawn!" (I'd mowed three days earlier). "I see no one could be BOTHERED to buy a new salt shaker! You guys!" Shakes her head. Salt shaker is still 3/4's full.

VIEW ANSWER



August 23, 2014

For OCD: WHAT IF I FORGET TO LOCK MY DOORS?

EVENT: Leaving the house

EMOTIONS: anxiety, guilt, frustration

DISTRESS RATING: 7--Feeling distressed, less in control

THOUGHTS: “I need to check to make sure all the doors are locked. What if someone came into my house while I'm gone and robbed me? My dog might get out and something terrible might happen to him. I would never be able to handle that because it would be due to me being irresponsible. I better check the doors again just to make sure.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of anxiety, guilt, frustration?

VIEW ANSWER



August 22, 2014

New Music Version of Audio is Available: RIDING A HORSE ACROSS THE PLAINS RELAXATION with music

This audio uses the guided imagery of riding a horse across the plains to induce relaxation. You experience the cool morning as you start your ride. You watch the antelope cavorting across the prairie and view the tumbleweeds blowing through a dry riverbed. When the warmth of the midday sun is overhead, you relax and drift off to sleep in the shade of a tree by a refreshing pool of water.

TAP HERE FOR AUDIO



August 20, 2014

PsychNote: BINGE EATING: CBT VS. MEDICATION

If you have read my previous writing, you are probably aware that I have a grudge against Big Pharma. Not because medication is ineffective but because it is touted as the treatment of choice in spite of controlled research consistently showing otherwise (when it is not done by those associated with the pharmaceutical companies).

The latest example I have found of this is a study by Grilo and colleagues (2012) examining treatments for binge eating disorder (BED). In a direct comparison of a common antidepressant with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) plus placebo (sugar pill), they found a substantial superiority for the CBT group. In particular, after 4 months of treatment, participants who were in the medication group had only a 3.7% remission at the 12-month follow-up whereas 35.7% of the CBT plus placebo group were still in remission (defined by no binge episodes). Interestingly, those who had combined CBT plus antidepressant were lower in remission rates (26.9%) than the CBT plus placebo which indicates combining CBT with an antidepressant does not improve the outcome over CBT alone.

Such results bring into question the widely followed treatment guidelines provided by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence advising treating binge eating disorder with medication only (Grilo et al., 2012). Again, I question how can medication with all the possible side effects and unknown long-term consequences be justified as an initial treatment given these types of outcomes?

Grilo, C.M., Crosby, R.D., Wilson, G.T. And. Masheb, R.M. (2012). 12-Month Follow-Up of Fluoxetine and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Binge Eating Disorder, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80, 1108–1113. DOI: 10.1037/a0030061.



August 19, 2014


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can involve different types of compulsive behaviors. This audio discusses the compulsion of hoarding which is the fear of losing something. The concept of hoarding and the thinking that needs to be challenged to help make choices regarding saving or throwing things away is discussed. This audio also describes how the fear of loss and grief is associated with hoarding.

The purpose of this audio is to help you become more aware of the specific choice you are making when you engage in a hoarding compulsion. In particular, is the item you are saving worth more than you are? By being aware of this choice, you can take the next step of changing the behavior that controls your life.



August 16, 2014
PsychNote: DID YOU KNOW PSYCHOTHERAPY HAS STRONGER SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE THAN MANY COMMON MEDICAL PROCEDURES?
The general public often thinks of psychotherapy as some sort of “mumbo jumbo” that involves talking with someone about problems. Or, they believe it is probably not much different than talking to a friend. At the same time, the public has the impression of medical care as scientific, based on hard facts.

Yet, interestingly, the actual evidence for psychotherapy is much stronger than many standard medical practices such as beta-blockers, angioplasty, and statins for heart disease, calcium and other pharmacological treatments for osteoporosis, the flu vaccine, certain asthma treatments, and cataract surgery among others (Wampold, 2007). This is not to say those treatments are not effective for the conditions they treat, but that psychotherapy has more evidence for its effectiveness for mental disorders than those treatments have for their corresponding physical disorders.

Yet, psychotherapy is often view as the stepchild of medicine and physicians refer patients to therapists as a last resort rather than for initial treatment. Statistical research shows that primary care doctors in a wealthy and highly educated area of Italy overwhelming believe that anti-depressants are more effective than psychotherapy even though research does not support this belief. As a result, the vast majority of individuals with depression or anxiety are not referred to therapy but provided medication instead (Casini et al., 2013). Here in the U.S. physicians are instructed to refer to psychotherapy when: “One or, at most, two trials of psychotropic medications, under the direction of the primary care physician have failed (Bea and Tesar, 2014).”

Why is this a serious health issue? Not only is treatment by primary care doctors less effective (Hartley et al., 1996) but medication has a higher relapse rate as well as disruptive side effects (Lambert, 2013) such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, sedation. Shouldn't the first line of treatment be the one that is most effective for the long-term and has the least amount of negative impact on the quality of life? In fact, cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety has been shown to improve the overall quality of life while effectively treating the anxiety disorder (Hofmann et al., 2014).

The reason that medication is so highly prized by physicians is because many of them obtain most of their on-the-job education about the value of medications from pharmaceutical reps. Even insignificant gifts such as a key-chain can substantially increase prescribing a certain medication (Higgins, 2007). It is important to be an informed consumer and not just rely on the opinion of your physician especially when it regards mental health care.



Bea, S.M. and Tesar, G.E. (2014). A Primer on Referring Patients for Psychotherapy. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 69, 113-127.

Casini, F., Sighinolfi1, C., Tedesco, P., Bandieri, P., Bologna, M., Colombini, N., Curcetti, C., Magnani, M., Morini, M., Serio, A., Tarricone, I., Berardi, D. and Menchetti, M. (2013). Primary care Physicians’ perspective on the management of anxiety and depressive disorders: a cross-sectional survey in Emilia Romagna Region. BMC Family Practice, 14, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2296/14/75

Hartley, D., Korsen, N., Bird, D., Agger, M. (1996). How Do Primary Care Practitioners Manage Depression: Treatment or Referral? Maine Rural Health Research Center. https://muskie.usm.maine.edu/Publications/rural/wp07.pdf

Higgins, S.P. (2007). Drug Representatives: Giving You Lunch or Stealing Your Soul? Dermatology Online Journal, 13, 5. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9h81c13s

Hofmann, S.G., Wu, J.Q. And Boettcher, H. (2014). Effect of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders on Quality of Life: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82, 375-391. DOI: 10.1037/a0035491

Lambert, M.J. (2013). Outcome in Psychotherapy: The Past and Important Advances. Psychotherapy, 50, 42–51. DOI: 10.1037/a0030682

Wampold, B. E. (2007). Psychotherapy: The humanistic (and effective) treatment. American Psychologist, 62, 857– 873. doi:10.1037/0003- 066X.62.8.857



August 15, 2014
New Passive-Aggressive Example: CONFRONTING A PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE INSULT

Question: "You know that you shouldn't eat before bedtime, right?" said by brother-in-law (BIL) to overweight mother of nursing baby while she is eating a snack. Said with a giggle. They don't even know each other well and he is staying in their house for the first time.

View Response



August 13, 2014

New Music Version of Audio: Cityscape Mindfulness with Music

This audio relaxation exercise teaches mindful awareness by describing relaxing imagery. This audio allows you to experience the view from a rooftop in a city. As you mindfully experience the city, the sun sets and the lights of the city appear.

This type of relaxation has several purposes. It teaches you how to be mindfully aware of your full experience. By practicing the methods of mindfulness, you can develop a greater awareness and appreciation of your daily experiences. In addition, it will help you develop greater relaxation skills. You can use these methods to reduce the symptoms of stress, manage anxiety, and improve your sleep.



August 9, 2014
New Cognitive Diary Training Example: WHAT IF MY CO-WORKERS FIND OUT I HAVE AN ANXIETY DISORDER?

EVENT: I need to take a leave of absence from work.

EMOTIONS: dread, humiliation, helpless

DISTRESS RATING: 8--High level of distress

THOUGHTS: “I'm having problems with my depression and anxiety which is interfering with work. I need to take a leave of absence for treatment. What will my co-workers think of me if they find out why I'm not at work? They'll either think I'm faking it to take time off work or they'll think I am pathetic because I am anxious and depressed. Either way they won't treat me the same and they might be talking about me behind my back. I am so weak and ashamed that I can't control my problems like other people do”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of dread, humiliation, and helplessness?

VIEW ANSWER



August 8, 2014


This audio relaxation exercise teaches mindful awareness by describing relaxing imagery. This audio takes you for a walk in the Great Desert experiencing the beauty, heat, and sounds of the sand dunes. You return to a quiet oasis pool and fully experience the sunset over the desert.



August 4, 2014

DOES SADNESS CAUSE DEPRESSION?

Many people with clinical depression are aware of the tendency to focus on the negative aspects of their life while in a depressive episode. Likely, this is due to the brain's tendency to organize information in memory according to the emotional state that occurred during the memory. Think of it like a file cabinet containing files of different emotions. If you look in the file labeled “Sad” you find all the different events related to that emotion. When you are looking at a particular file, other items in that same file are more accessible to you. As a result of this type of organization in the brain, the individual is more likely to access memories that are similar to their current emotion.

For instance, you may have had the experience of being angry with someone and at the time could only remember all the previous times you were angry with that person even though positive events existed as well. This occurs because when an emotional state exists it is more directly connected with other memories of that same emotional state. Anger is connected to angry memories. Sadness is connected to sad memories.

This concept is well-known. Clearly, in the case of clinical depression, people have easier access to the negative, particularly sad, memories. Yet this could be true of any time when a person is feeling bad such as from an injury or physical illness as well.

Researchers Clasen and colleagues (2013) wanted to know how the sad mood evoked by memory affected the depression in turn. In particular, does the focus on sadness contribute to a persistence of the sadness?

To examine this question, the researchers manipulated attention to sad information. In addition, they created a sad mood by having participants either watch a sad film clip or listen to sad music. The research showed that sad mood could be induced in both depressed and non-depressed individuals but tended to last longer for those who were more severely clinically depressed. This indicates that depressed individuals, in general, are more susceptible to a sad mood persisting.

However, I think the more interesting finding in this research is that a great deal of difference in recovery from a sad mood can occur between different depressed individuals and that the same is true for non-depressed individuals. In other words, not all people with depression are more attuned to the negative information in the world around them nor do they take longer to recover from a sad mood state. Not only that, but although depressed individuals who do have a negative focus take longer to recover from a sad mood, they do recover!

To me, this is support for the premise of my article “Depression is Not Sadness.” The reaction to creating a focus on sad information as well as the process of recovery from a created state of sadness is very similar for depressed and non-depressed individuals. The fact that depressed individuals recover from a sad mood in a similar way as non-depressed people supports the idea that sadness and depression are different experiences and that sadness is not the cause of clinical depression.

Clasen, P.C., Wells, T.T., Ellis, A.J. and Beevers, C.G. (2013). Attentional Biases and the Persistence of Sad Mood in Major Depressive Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 74–85. DOI: 10.1037/a0029211

Read "DEPRESSION IS NOT SADNESS"



August 3, 2014


This audio uses the guided imagery of riding a horse across the plains to induce relaxation. You experience the cool morning as you start your ride. You watch the antelope cavorting across the prairie and view the tumbleweeds blowing through a dry riverbed. When the warmth of the midday sun is overhead, you relax and drift off to sleep in the shade of a tree by a refreshing pool of water.

antelope on the prairie
As with all guided imagery exercises, choose the imagery that seems the most relaxing to you. This may be used while sitting or lying down in a quiet, comfortable place.  Just close your eyes and listen without trying to force yourself to relax.  If your mind wanders, gently bring yourself back to focus on the words. You may use this for sleep because it describes waking up whenever you are ready.

Do not use while operating a vehicle!

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August 2, 2014


This audio discusses the intrusive thoughts that occur with a certain obsessional type Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in which the individual is anxious or fearful due to experiencing unacceptable thoughts, images, or impulses. The purpose of this audio is to help the person with OCD understand that having such thoughts is normal and that worrying about the thoughts creates the obsessional process.

Although this audio may provide reassurance for the individual who has such thoughts, it is meant to be a step in the treatment process and not relied upon solely for reassurance. The individual with OCD should try to make this a way of thinking so they can learn to dismiss the thoughts as other people do.



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Excellence vs Perfection Some people may be curious as to why this website is dedicated to the "pursuit of excellence" when I am constantly warning about the dangers of perfectionism.  To address this question we must differentiate between the pursuit of excellence and the need to be perfect.  These concepts are not only different but can be considered antagonistic to one another. In fact these concepts are so opposed to one another that  excellence can best be attained by giving up the demands of perfection.

What is Perfectionism?  Perfectionism is the individual's belief that he or she must be perfect to be acceptable. Perfectionism is black and white with no gray area. Anything other than perfect is failure. Perfectionism is an attitude, not necessarily a behavior. In other words, two people can engage in the same behavior such as trying to win an Olympic gold medal but one can be pursuing excellence and the other is demanding perfection. The difference lies in the thought process about the goal or behavior, not in the goal or behavior itself.  READ MORE...



Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience? Listening to the weather forecast one frigid day, I realized how much we are influenced by the catastrophic thinking of the media.  The weatherman reported, "The weather has brought more misery to the St. Louis area."  Certainly, the weather was causing problems that day.  An ice storm caused car doors and locks to be frozen so that people had a great deal of trouble getting into their cars.  However, I thought, unless someone was in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone and they were unable to open their car door because of the ice, this was not "misery."  Instead, I would call it an "inconvenience."  Most of us walked out to our cars to find that we couldn't open the door, went back inside a warm house or office, and found some solution to our problem.  READ MORE...



Happiness is an Attitude For many years when my husband and I were first together I would ask him "When are things going to get better?"  We were dealing with the usual stressors that couples face: not enough time, not enough money, and the inevitable random events such as family conflict, deaths of loved ones, illnesses and injuries.  In addition, for most of our early years together I was in school and struggling with the balancing of demands of advanced education, part-time work, and a family. 
But I had the belief that we were working towards this perfect life that one day would emerge shining a rainbow of happiness forever over us. My husband, inclined more toward the practical, just answered my question of "When are things going to get better?," with "Another six months."  That answer typically pacified me for awhile because I thought I could handle any amount of stress for six months.  However, a point would occur when I once again I asked my husband "When are things going to get better?"  Once again, he would answer "Another six months."  This scenario occurred fairly routinely for many years.

However, fortunately during this time I had experiences that began to teach me about my expectations of life.  In particular, when I was completing my internship at the Veterans Administration Medical Center I had the opportunity to work on the spinal cord injury unit.  That experience forever changed my thinking.  In particular, I was struck by the differences in attitude among the patients.  READ MORE...


Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics Not a day goes by when I don't throw down the morning newspaper complaining about the use of statistics in an article.  In our world the media liberally sprinkles statistics throughout articles and television programs to support a point of view.  The problem, however, is that statistics are frequently misleading if not outright inaccurate.  Without a clear understanding of the nature of statistics and the definitions of statistical terms, the public believe the statistic-supported statements as if they are fact.  In addition, without understanding the agenda of the journalist or analyst using the statistics, the public accepts these "facts" uncritically.  READ MORE...






What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage Frequently, I am asked how to handle irrational jealous feelings.  Usually, the individual recognizes that her feelings are unreasonable with no valid evidence but feels incapable of controlling the jealousy.  In addition, the person usually recognizes the destructive nature of indulging in the feelings and the resulting behavior.  Such behavior typically involves excessive questioning of her spouse, suspiciousness, and accusations.  Many spouses become extremely frustrated with this behavior because they have no way of proving their faithfulness.  This leads to an escalating cycle of anger which is used as further evidence by the jealous spouse that her suspicions are correct.The jealous spouse often desperately wants to stop the behavior but finds that he can't control the thoughts which makes him feel miserable.  He believes that if he can just prove his suspicions one way or another, he will feel better.  The unfortunate fallacy in this thinking, is that trust can never be proven; it can only be disproved.  The definition of trust is the belief that something is true.  Therefore, without evidence to the contrary, if we want a satisfying relationship, we have to choose to trust the person we love.  READ MORE...



RECOMMENDED BOOKS...


Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight"I don't have any willpower."

"I'm weak."

"I'm lazy."

"I can't do it."

Do these statements sound familiar? Too often, our self-statements about weight management interfere with our efforts and lead to failure. By changing how we think about developing a healthy weight we are able to change the behaviors that can lead to success.

Not long ago I conducted a little experiment with my cardio-kickboxing class. After an intense class I told them to get the heaviest weights they could curl 8-10 times. I spent a minute telling them to focus on feeling tired, that they had just worked out hard and they couldn't do anymore. Then, they were to curl the weights to exhaustion. Once they finished, I spent another minute telling them to focus on having energy, feeling good, feeling refreshed, and knowing they could do more. Once again, they lifted the weights to exhaustion. The results were that out of nine people, only one did fewer lifts the second time! And typically, when someone lifts weights to exhaustion they should not be able to lift as much the second time when it is only a minute later. Although this was not a controlled scientific experiment, it was a demonstration to my class to show how powerful our thinking can be. What this exercise showed was how positive thinking overcame the natural exhaustion of the body and created a self-fulfilling prophecy of lifting more weight because the participants believed that they could. READ MORE...