Entries categorized "Research & People" Feed

Addressing the Healthcare Burnout Epidemic

Healthcare and psychology practitioners are facing increasing burnout rates in record numbers, so much so that the American Psychiatric Association focused their 2017 annual conference on the “burnout epidemic.” It has only continued to escalate. The 1,710,000 psychology professionals and 12 million+ healthcare workers in the United States provide an essential service to the population. They heal. They listen. More often than not, they genuinely care. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link then a community might be similarly threatened by its weaker and more vulnerable members. That's why it helps to remember the importance healers have in our communities.

While I urge healers to take their own medicine and practice self-care (get balance in other areas of life, find support, take breaks, take care of your body, take care of your mind—and spirit), I suspect another contributing factor is the attitude a community has about its healers. Are healers supported, valued and appreciated? Or are they the target of criticism and contempt because insurance plans don't cover something someone needs? Are healers discounted because they are part of a "Western Medicine" and "Big Pharma" giant that is taking money from innocent people and making them sicker?

Is the dominant narrative around medicine consumed with fear, mistrust and resentment?

I observe frightened and angered people every day. People don't know what to trust or who they can count on. Instead, people tend to flock to the Internet and diagnose themselves at an almost compulsive level. Armed with reams of online results and haughty know-it-all and defensive attitudes, more and more people jadedly tell their medical professionals what is wrong with them and what to do. Hopefully, a good practitioner can listen without defense and seek to inform, help and heal in a way that earns trust.

Sometimes, the burden of endlessly soothing defensive people can take a toll. In addition, healthcare workers get exposed to repeated traumas and run the risk of suffering re-traumatization of personal wounds along with vicarious suffering. Long hours and back-to-back one-way relationships add to the burnout. The career is strife for burnout. Greeting disgruntled patients just makes it worse.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would make sure that every person in the community was safe and that the relationship between healer and community member could be restored to one of mutual safety, mutual care, genuine connection, and positive healing outcomes. That both people would leave the interaction feeling lighter, freer, happier, healthier--and grateful. 

Joseph Campbell said, "One of our problems today is that we are not acquainted with the literature of the spirit. We're interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour."

I think he taps into this grander issue. The real healing comes from each person's inner spirit. It is in connecting to the spirit (the heart) that forgiveness and healing emanate. It is where loving and grateful discourse is born. We can do this one person at a time. One heart hug from one person to another. One moment of listening. One moment of respect. One moment of forgiveness.

To my almost 2 million psychology colleagues and 12+ million healthcare workers (and all those around the world) and to every other person around the planet who makes up our Earth community, I send you these Spirit-filled wishes of healing, love, peace, forgiveness, and more. May we each seek to become acquainted with the literature of our—and our bothers' and sisters'—SPIRITS. Perhaps when burnout, illness and discord arise, it can serve as a wake-up call to get re-centered into Spirit and cultivate a spirit-focused interaction.

Is Your Brain Starved?

Woman holding coconut to drinkWhen I think about all of the motivations for eating healthy—promises of a longer lifespan, reduction in diseases, losing weight and looking better—the one that most appeals to me is improving my brain. If eating can help me remember things better and process information more quickly then I’m getting an immediate payoff and am therefore more motivated to select healthier food options. The other benefits of a good diet are more delayed and as a human living in an era of immediate gratification, I want results now. That’s why I titled this post about the brain because I’m hoping this will wake you up and motivate you to think about the food choices you’re consuming and whether it is going to help or hurt your brain NOW.

In short, fat is our friend. The brain NEEDS fat. Heck, the brain IS fat (at least more than half of it is composed of fat). So, doesn’t it make sense that it requires lubrication? Think about those poor nerves encased in a myelin sheath that never gets fed properly. It’s like a piece of leather left out in the sun. It dries out. It doesn’t work as effectively. Anyone who has ever read The Seal Skin story can apply that lesson here. (It’s a favorite story of mine and I’ve always wanted to reference it!)

The problem with fat is when we our arteries get clogged and health is risked by consuming it. For years, doctors have encouraged lowering fat when one has high cholesterol. Hundreds of beauty magazines have also encouraged low-fat diets for weight loss. We’ve been conditioned and we’ve seen the consequences. (This blog is inspired by the loss of my mother who lived on a low-fat, barely any calories starved existence for years until her metabolism was ruined and then she gave in and ate foods to sate her deprivated body...which led to losing her health and life to obesity and diabetes. That’s a dire consequence! Of course her body was starved and sugar was the quickest fuel, so her body naturally craved it.)


  "Your body is either in glucosis or lipolysis." 

Fat is not bad. Consuming fat with sugar is bad. To put it very simply, our bodies can run on two types of fuel—sugar or fat. When we consume higher carbohydrates, our bodies automatically pick the easiest fuel for energy—sugars (carbs), or glucosis. If we limit the carbs and consume fats, we can switch our bodies into lipolysis (fat-burning machines), which is what our bodies actually crave and run more efficiently on, like a fancy Lamborghini that needs high-end oil and fuel to operate optimally.

Numerous studies reveal a low-carb, high fat diet reduces weight loss, curbs health problems, and improves overall nerve and brain functioning—including easing mood disorders like depression. What’s exciting is that researchers are finally studying this issue in more depth and reporting on it. One recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that the low-carb, high fat diet produces decreased fat, increased lean body mass, and decreased inflammation (a huge component underlying so many diseases) among Caucasians and African Americans.

The takeaway is to feed your brain with healthy fats and decrease your carbs so that it will actually use the fats you ingest. If you have been living on carbs and sugars for a long time, it will take a little bit of time to heal from the withdrawals, yet you should feel increased energy after a few days.

You may also discover improved digestion. One Paleo blogger provides an interesting analysis of the digestion topic in his post “Does Meat Rot in Your Colon? No. What Does? Beans, Grains, and Vegetables!”

Change your diet for two weeks and see how you feel. Sate your body with healthy fats and see how efficiently your brain works. Then post your results in the comments section. Looking forward to learning how it works for you! Blessed wishes and happy healthy eating!




Inspiration for Changing Careers and/or Creating New Employment

I have a number of posts about job hunting tips, managing your net rep (Internet Reputation), cultivating entrepreneurial success and more (see Career or Business archives--note that articles date back to 2006). Today I thought I'd share some links to articles that would give you some inspiration.

One is a story that a reporter wrote that I find truly inspiring. While, yes, she may have quoted me in the story--let me tell you what she's doing with her career. An accomplished reporter who has covered business and technology for Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, and MIT's Technology Review  to name a few, has taken the brave move to pursue a newfound dream brimming with passion and meaning for her--she is going back to school to pursue veterinary medicine. I'm so thrilled for her and think she's an inspiration for many who feel like it's too late to switch careers. To read the article she wrote after interviewing dozens of other brave souls that took a similar turn, click here http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Changing-careers-means-tolerating-risk-and-doubt-1413412.php. To follow her success and adventures in vet school, see her blog here jessicamintz.wordpress.com.

While Jessica provides inspiration for those who are thinking about changing careers, how about the folks that are trying to find a job and are feeling neck deep in despair? I wrote a post for Psychology Today on the topic. I shatter some myths about job and career security and try to provide some ideas to help. See my article, "Overcoming Unemplyment, Reclaiming Spirit."

As always, please let me know what you think of anything I write--and please share any ideas for topics you'd like me to address.


Check Out My Posts on Psychology Today

I realize I've neglected my blog for a couple of months. I'm sorry to anyone that has missed new content. I just posted a piece on tips for managing a listserv (see below) and I promise to add more of my usual material on various counseling and psychology topics. To let you know, I'll also be focusing on evolution trends to correspond with my new venture, Keys to Evolution. If you have any requests for content, please don't hesitate to contact me at Kimberly@EncompassWF.com.

If you're wondering what you're missing on my Psychology Today blog, entitled "Counseling Keys," here's a peek. Please visit it and be sure to check back here soon. Thanks and Happy 2011!

Children’s Expectations: What Your Child Would Tell You if They Could

President Barack Obama says to live up to our children's expectations. Learn the top three myths about children and what they really expect--if they could tell you.

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December 13, 2010

In Defense of Marriage


Examining why 50% of people stay married and what they get out of their lifetime commitment.

Read More




What is the Difference Between Counseling and Psychology…and Where in the World Does the Term “Shrink” Come From?

For a discipline that’s only around 130 years old, psychology has a lot of practitioners sporting a number of different titles (and I’m not talking about the local bartender down the street, although they can sometimes be quite excellent listeners). I’m talking about psychotherapists, therapists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, and counselors. What’s the difference and why so many titles?  

This post aims to provide a little more clarity about the differing psychological services among practitioners and describes how one discipline grew to focus on mental health while the other focuses on mental illness. In addition, there are answers to some of the common questions about the people who have taken on psychology.

While many think of Sigmund Freud as the first psychology practitioner, it was Wilhelm Wundt who opened the first psychology lab in 1879. Wundt sought to examine human consciousness using an experimental method he called introspection (for interested researchers, he did not use the scientific method as experiments weren’t able to be duplicated). Like its shaky scientific beginnings, the field grew to have a varied background –some of it contains a solid scientific background and others are a bit more airy-fairy, so to speak. 

Perhaps the ethereal aspect of airy-fairy isn’t so far off as psychology literally means “study of the soul” (psychē means “soul, spirit or breath” while logia means “to study”).  A more modern definition means to study human behavior and thought, but we’re going to come back to that definition in a bit. A blessing of psychology’s birth as a discipline was how mentally ill (or perceived mentally ill) people were treated. Just prior to the late 1800s in Western culture—long after people with ‘visions’ had been treated as oracles or shamans—it was believed that people suffered from mental illness because God had cursed them. Consequently, mentally ill people were punished with severe beatings, chainings and/or ostracism. Psychology helped change such views and a more holistic (and humane) approach to treatment was adopted.

Many of the first practitioners in the field were Medical Doctors (M.D.s). A medical doctor has attended medical school. Today’s M.D.s in the field are called psychiatrists and they can provide therapy services while prescribing medications. Psychologists are practitioners that have received their Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.).  A number of other mental health fields offer graduate and Ph.D. degrees in social work, marriage and family therapy, various forms of counseling and counseling psychology—which brings me to the title of this post. What is the difference between counseling and psychology?

Going back to a bit of history, World War II put a big spotlight on mental health as the war had serious mental health impacts on soldiers (war impacts EVERYONE and it has a trickle down effect through the generations). The National Mental Health Act was first passed in 1946 and the U.S. government began funding research and programs related to mental illness and health. In the 1950s, prevention and early detection of mental health problems became a focus. Slowly, a shift in perceptions occurred where people could safely seek treatment for adjustment, transitions, and relational issues without feeling stigmatized. (Clearly, we are still working on shifting those perceptions – in addition to war, old belief systems also trickle down through the generations).

As part of the shift, psychology has generally been defined as treating mental illness and counseling psychology was born to address mental health issues. 

Some of the fundamental tenets of counseling are:

  • People should be treated with respect
  • If given the opportunity, normal growth will occur
  • The goal of treatment is to promote healthy growth
  • Counseling is an educational process where the client is part of the process and actively participates
  • Counseling builds on strengths as opposed to attacking weaknesses
  • Counseling uses empirically validated procedures (scientifically proven via research using scientific method) 

I hope this helps illustrate a little of the history and explains some of the differences in the professional titles and orientations. I could write so much more and may follow up with later posts that address length and duration time of various therapies. For now, let me switch to a few of the common questions I hear.


Answers to Some Common Questions

Are you really going to shrink my head? 

No.  Shrink comes from shrinking the issue. Notice how we can sometimes get so overwhelmed by everything that it feels like the sky is falling, so we throw it all out there. Often times a good therapist/counselor can help you SHRINK the issues down to a single root cause. (But now I want a shrunken head for Christmas just to tease folks. ;))


Are you analyzing me? (when just meeting me at a social occasion)

No. Well, maybe. Seriously, the therapeutic process follows a particular process of information gathering and analysis. Unless you’re in the office and experiencing that process, you’re probably not getting analyzed. Therapists/counselors cannot see through you or read your mind. :)


Have you ever been through therapy?

Yes. Good training requires that you do. Plus, I believe in it. I confess there are some not great folks out there and I’ve seen and paid for their services. Like all fields, there are good people and not so good people. Don’t let the rotten apples deter you from seeking good service.


Did you go into the field to work through your problems?

There isn’t a person alive that hasn’t taken a job to work through a problem (e.g. I have bills to pay ;)). I also don’t know anyone who hasn’t been wounded in some way by life. For me, yes, I would call myself a wounded healer. I’ve experienced a number of things in life that I believe ultimately helps me to be more empathetic and understanding of my clients.


Do you date your clients? 

No. It’s not like the movies or TV shows. All therapy professionals are prohibited from having dual relationships. If you have had your therapist ask you out or make you uncomfortable with inappropriate flirting, stop seeing them and report them. It’s an abuse of power and your vulnerability.



It’s International Conflict Resolution Day – How are you Celebrating this Day?

Conflict res day 2010_WEB_2Today is International Conflict Resolution Day. While started by the Association for Conflict Resolution five years ago, it became recognized as the International Conflict Resolution Day in 2006. One of the main goals of the celebration is to recognize that there are ways to solve conflict through peaceful measures.

When receiving my ACR training in mediation, the biggest thing I learned was to look at the problem differently. The key was to find a mutually satisfactory solution rather than drawing a line in the sand and focusing on differences. I was taught the same thing as a psychotherapist. There is a famous example that illustrates the point perfectly:

Imagine a neighborhood with inviting homes, well-tended yards and tall shade trees where children play together and everyone feels safe. You live in one of the homes and one day a new neighbor moves in next door to you. They are from a different country and their accent is so thick that you can’t quite understand them. You observe many different people coming in and out. You aren’t familiar with their culture and find yourself standing back to observe what they’re about.

One day you go in the back yard and begin picking oranges from the tree. The tree sits in the middle of the property line and you’ve always shared access to its sweet fruits. A woman comes out of the neighboring house yelling at you in a different language. You haven’t seen her before. You are flustered because you don’t know what she’s saying. You are in a hurry because you need the oranges for the dinner party you are throwing and oranges are one of the essential ingredients in the meal. You aren’t about to drop them as they are the last four oranges on the tree and you’re in a time crunch.

What you don’t know is that she, the grandmother, is also in the middle of making an urgent recipe that is a healing remedy for her son (the owner of the home). Her grandson just tried to pick the oranges from the tree, but he couldn’t reach them. He went in to get her help and then she saw you taking them and panicked. She also doesn’t speak English very well.

If you had realized her situation, you may not have felt so threatened. Moreover, you may have felt compassion for her as she was tending to her ill son. You may have gladly given her the oranges and even offered to help her in any way you could. On top of that, if you had realized that she only wanted the juice of the oranges whereas you wanted the zest (the peel), you both could have shared the oranges and been happy. 

Mediation, conflict resolution, peacemaking is about trying to find those solutions. It seeks to understand first before becoming defensive.

Conflicts generally grow out of something so simple – a misunderstanding. Then other people come in to defend you and before you know it, there are two mobbing groups against each other. That’s how war can originate

Please know I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine bullying types of people (sociopaths and other people with more extreme personality disorders) out there that have malice in their heart. What I am saying is that more often than not, people have genuine love in their heart and are motivated by that magic quality. So, the next time you begin to feel enraged or defensive with someone – seek to understand first. Listen with your heart and try to feel compassion for the other person or people. Hearts, by the way, speak all languages, so don’t let that deter you when encountering another person that seems different from you. You just might get love in return, which can only make life greater.

MOTHER__TERESA_167909eIn closing, I want to take a moment to remember and honor Mother Teresa for all the amazing peace work she has done in the world – and for the light she has modeled to the rest of us. She once said that she wouldn’t go to an anti-war demonstration, but she would attend a peace rally, so maybe we can also think of today as Peacekeeping Day. 

(Mother Teresa - 26 Aug 10 - 5 Sep 86)

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

What We Can Do About Bullying

Bullying hurts. It kills. And it impacts everyone – you can be a victim of it, responsible for it, an observer of it, or somehow related to it. The point is that no one is fully removed from it, so it’s in all of our best interests to understand what we can do to confront it.

This is a blog entry and by no means an exhaustive account about what we can do, however, there are some tips that can consistently help a person that has been bullied. I’m placing them here for everyone. If you are a victim, try them and please also reach out and seek help. If you know someone that is a victim of bullying, please reach out to them, support them, and help them to find help. 

  • Breathe - Breathing is often overlooked during anxious situations. We begin to pant or stop our breathing altogether. Take deep breaths (at least four or five of them) and re-center and ground yourself. This will calm you while sending needed oxygen into your blood stream and harnessing your adrenaline, so that you can think and react more clearly. Get in the habit of doing this when waking up and going to sleep along with several times during the day.
  • Do not isolate yourself – It is tempting to withdrawal and not share what’s happening to you. Now more than ever you need people around you. Talk to family members. Find support. Join a support group. Find friends that like activities that you like (book reading clubs, outdoor hiking groups, church, gym, other hobby groups, etc.). Make sure to surround yourself with people that help build your self-esteem.
  • Realize that you are in control of you – Bullies like to take control by manipulating and scaring you. You can lessen their impact by taking control of you, your actions, your thoughts, and your responses to them. When you take control of you, you fan the flames of inner strength and resilience.
  • Make a plan – Find action steps to take to deal with the bullying. Document what is happening and write down what you can do to stop it. Enlist help from loved ones and/or a professional to assist you in figuring out your options.
  • Find additional strength in things that matter to you – Think about things, people, places and dreams you love. Cultivate those parts of yourself as that is what makes you unique and special. Feeding your passion takes power away from bullies.
  • Learn something new – Take a class at the community center or community college in something new, like pottery, writing, computers, art, yoga, foreign language, cooking, etc.
  • Nurture yourself – Remind yourself of your strengths and gifts. Write them down. Do things that you love to do and tell yourself positive things (GET RID OF THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK).
  • Have faith and believe in the power of transformation – Yours and the world’s transformation. Give yourself self-love and find strength to make a difference.
  • Keep healthy boundaries – Beware of people that make you feel guilty, less than them, or continually make it about them and ignore your feelings.
  • Advocate on others’ behalf – This helps build your strength and makes you feel empowered (and not alone) along with developing your empathy and compassion for others (because the worst way a bully can control you is if they turn you into them).


If you or someone you love is continually reliving the abusive event, has become hyperalert and easily startled, has developed a hopeless outlook on life, is dealing with anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, lack of concentration, is gaining weight and/or has lost their appetite, is acting out with self-sabotaging behaviors (cutting, drinking, engaging in risky behavior, sexually acting out, etc.), and especially if you/they are having any thoughts of suicide or killing someone else – SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. 

Bullying has numerous victims in schools, workplaces, communities, retirement homes, and even in your home with your loved ones. Most bullies are toxic and are bent on control. They often do not see their victims as real people (dehumanizing them by seeing them as "the other" or even as a possession). They are in a game to win and sometimes their displayed remorse is part of their game. Bullies are usually immature, narcissistic, and highly competitive. They may not genuinely like themselves and be out of touch with their true emotions. They may have mental health issues and can swing from being loving and caring to dangerous and cunning. Keep your boundaries and don’t reinforce their bullying. Don’t laugh when they tease another person and make inappropriate jokes. Don’t engage them or bully with them. Say no and help stop the tide of bullying.  If you see someone bullied, reach out and give them your care because we can all do something to help heal the pain of bullying.


October is National Bullying Prevention Month – “Take Your Power Back” Bullying Prevention Seminar this Saturday, October 16 Downtown Austin (4-5:30PM)

Bullying is pervasive. It happens in schools, workplaces, in neighborhoods—and even in your home. Bullying spans across the ages as it occurs among children, in dating and intimate relationships, between siblings, with parents, against the eldery, and the ill. Cyberbulling (using text messages, social networking sites and the internet) has created another level to bullying, making its deleterious effects lasting and almost inescapable. Cyberbullying has become so bad that iSafe foundation statistics have shown that ONE in THREE adolescents have been threatened online.

In response to Bullying Prevention Month and the alarming trend of bullying, Keys to Evolution is holding its first seminar focusing on how to protect yourself from bullying. We’ll look at the evolutionary trait of equity and fairness and discuss what prompts people to bully (the lure of power and control) and what you can do to empower yourself in abusive and bullying situations. We’ll also discuss what you can do to help others that have been impacted by damaging bullying behavior.  You’ll receive practical tips to help you heal, survive, and thrive from bullying experiences. You’ll also learn proactive steps to prevent bullying. You’ll learn how to spot an abuser before they bully and the secret manipulative tricks they use to bully people and how to deal with cyberbullying. You’ll receive strategies for dealing with various bullying situations along with things you can do to help your community. 

This seminar is for anyone that has ever experienced bullying or anyone that wants to learn what to do prevent it from happening in the first place.

The Keys to Evolution – Bullying Prevention Seminar “Take Your Power Back from Bullies” will be held this Saturday, October 16 from 4-5:30 PM at the Austin History Center meeting room on 810 Guadalupe. (Come downtown, get empowered and enjoy a nice dinner downtown afterward.) The cost is $49 per person with a percentage of the proceeds going to iSafe Foundation. Participants will also receive a copy of my book, "Ten Keys to Staying Empowered  in a Power Struggle." To register, see http://nomorebullying.eventbrite.com/.


When Things Go Wrong - Travel!

Have you ever noticed that summer comes at just the right time? Exhaustion from life’s demands seems particularly high around this time. It’s as if mental burnout rises alongside the rising seasonal temperatures (as experienced here in the U.S and definitely in Texas).  If you can relate, traveling is your antidote.

In today’s economy, vacations at home (“staycations”) have become popular. The downside to a staycation, however, (and, no, this is not a paid endorsement from a travel agency) is that you may miss something critical that a travel experience provides you—fresh perspective.

We get so wrapped up in daily rituals that we end up getting stuck in a box and then we feel overwhelmed with life. Tunnel vision is the result.

The solution to tunnel vision is getting out of the box of your everyday experiences and changing your surroundings. This allows you to see things from a different point of view and to gain a fresh perspective. You can discover alternative solutions that you would have never dreamed possible. Traveling is the best way to achieve it, as Kent Nerburn points out in his book, “Simple Truths.”

Travel, no matter how humble, will etch new elements in your character. You will know the cutting moments of life where fear meets adventure and loneliness meets exhilaration. You will know what it means to push forward when you want to turn back…you will understand that there are a thousand, million ways to live, and that your life will go on to something new and different and every bit as worthy as the life you are leaving behind.

Whether you’re leaving a piece of life behind or an old way of seeing a situation, travel can have a profound affect on you. It can reinforce deep bonds with your family and loved ones. It can open your heart and mind to possibilities. It can connect you to your inner passions and dreams. It can uplift your spirit and restore your energy. It can also serve to foster brotherhood with all of mankind.

Whatever is happening in your life right now—deadlines, relationship troubles, career challenges, grief, money troubles, parenting issues, crisis of faith, general malaise—go out and discover your personal solutions by traveling. Make plans for a real vacation. Leave for a weekend getaway. Learn new cultures. Go explore. Have an adventure. Then drop me a line (KimberlyATencompasswf.com) and tell me how it changed your life.

Bon voyage !

Why New Years’ Resolutions Fail and How to Make them Succeed

Thinking about making some New Year resolutions? Before you do, consider this: what you focus on expands. Focus on avoiding something (e.g. drinking, overeating, procrastinating) and you just might ensure its continued success. As an example, 98% of people dealing with stress tend to wake up at night ruminating about the thing that bothers them. It might be a fight with a child, an argument with a coworker, burgeoning mortgage bills, illness, or something else. It makes sense to focus on the problem. Yet, like the old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the problem will get the energy, which only serves to reinforce the rumination. They key is to focus on the opposing force of the problem-the solution.  

To illustrate, let’s use the example of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony, and lust). Numerous stories throughout time teach caution about succumbing to these behaviors. The message is reinforced to us at a young age by parents, teachers, books, and the media. For instance, recall Star Wars, episode 3, where Anakin Skywalker transforms into Darth Vader after allowing fear, envy, anger, and pride to mask his heart and intuition. In the episode, Yoda warns Anakin not to focus on the dark side of the force.

Like Darth Vader, human beings focus on the dark side of the force much of the time. I see it in myself, my friends, my family, and my clients. We fall of the bike of positive thinking and start ruminating on the negative and what we’re trying to avoid. Don’t believe me? Look at these top 13 New Year resolutions in the United States. The very first one is to lose weight with managing debt coming in second place. Both of these resolutions focus on the problem instead of the solution. Perhaps that’s why more than 68% of people will give up on their resolutions within the first two weeks.

People would be more successful if they focused on the light side of the force. Instead of making a resolution to lose weight, try making an intention to take care of your body with nourishing food, love and care. That love and care might consist of vitamins, exercise, deep breathing, emollient lotions, uplifting fragrances, plenty of water, and listening. Let your body speak to you about what it feels. A tummy ache might be a red flag that something is bothering you. Maybe putting up better boundaries and treating yourself with respect is needed. You may not hear this critical wisdom if you’re getting mad at your body for not fitting in your clothes.

Regarding managing your debt, can you tell this resolution focuses on lack? Treat your money with love, care and gratitude. Notice everything you have and how fortunate you are that you have the ability to pay for water, electricity, and things so often taken for granted. Debt begins to melt away (and never take hold in the first place) when we manage our money with gratitude. What happens is that people tend to focus on what they don’t have or how little money they or their partner is making, which leads to a vicious cycle of spending to feel better and then regretting. Stop the cycle by appreciating the joy that $1 gives you. The thrill of that hot shower. The warmth of the extra blanket on your bed. The comfort of the fuzzy slippers or soft socks. That is where the magic lives and abundance multiplies.

As for those seven deadly sins, try focusing on their complementary positives—the seven joys. Instead of avoiding greed, think of expanding how much you share. Instead of battling lust, try encouraging people’s soulful dreams. Instead of resisting anger, give yourself nourishing love. Instead of avoiding becoming a sloth (couch-potato syndrome), allow yourself to dance more. Instead of inhibiting your inner glutton, try releasing your inner artist and seek quality over quantity. Instead of hiding from your proud ego, focus on fostering unconditional self-acceptance. Finally, instead of detaining your green-eyed monster of envy, try re-focusing on gratitude in the moment. 

If you’ve gotten anything from this article, I hope it’s that attitude is everything. Please don’t beat yourself up. Take it one day at a time and keep readjusting your sights on the light. It will become natural over time. If you want help, you can try out my new texting tool for free. It’s www.InstantMotivator.com and is designed to help you stick to your positive goals. Type in ACAFreeTrial for your two-week free trial.

Happy 2010! May the next decade bring you joyous light, soulful meaning, loving relationships, and dreams that come true! 

How to Raise Your Child to Survive in Today’s Chaotic World

If you are a parent or have ever felt that emotions were something that could be destructive, please read on. This is perhaps the most important information I can share.

I received a comment about yesterday’s blog post, which triggered this response.  I addressed the concept of “fearmines” (fear buttons that trigger hidden emotional landmines). It may have been a bit oversimplified, but it was also right on target. Today, I’m going to get a little deeper and describe why hidden emotional landmines are actually at the heart of most of our problems today (crime, risky youth behaviors, depression, unemployment, divorce, greed, war) and how it all ties back into our emotional regulation system that was developed in infancy.  I’m also going to share what you can do to help your child develop a healthy emotional regulation system so that they can survive in today’s chaotic world.

Infants (and children) have brains and body systems that are not fully developed (e.g., nervous system, hormones, etc.). Because these systems are still in development, infants and children are extremely vulnerable and highly dependent. As such, babies and children rely on their parent/caregiver as an external system to regulate their care. In other words, imagine having half of a heart, half of a lung, half of a liver, half of a kidney, etc., etc, and needing another human being to compensate and basically act as the missing parts of the heart, liver, kidney, etc., etc. It’s more than co-dependence and completely needed for the child’s healthy growth. Just as the baby depended on the mother in the womb for survival and development, the infant and child STILL depends on the mother/caregiver after birth.

The emotional regulation system becomes disrupted when adequate care is not given to an infant and child. This includes ignoring a baby’s cries, telling them to shut up, or confusing their cries with something else (like shoving a pacifier in their mouth when they want their diaper changed). While we never respond to a baby perfectly 100% of the time, if the number of inadequate responses exceeds the adequate responses, then the baby forms a maladjusted emotional regulation system. This is also preverbal, so later in life some external stimuli can elicit an internal anxiety response that was felt as a baby but now doesn’t make sense for the grown adult to understand. Instead, they feel like something else takes over them (sometimes referred to as an emotional hijacking).

To recognize the symptoms of this disruption in an adult (or yourself) includes common responses like these: 

·                *Feeling like you can’t trust your emotions and that they can get out of control

·                *Denying that you have troublesome feelings

·                *Believing that relationships are not important or, conversely, never being able to be alone

·                *Always trying to be an ideal person that someone (or your parent) will love and finally approve

·                *Cutting off from others

·                *Constant relocating and/or job changes

·                *Battling or overpowering others and/or using others for your own gain

·                *Escaping through drinking, drug use, sexual addictions, food addictions, etc.

The challenge as parents is that we tend to fall back on our own unconscious learning and repeat the same behaviors with our children—which is how such patterns repeat themselves through the generations (generational transmission).

Not surprisingly these symptoms show up in society. Societal symptoms of maladjusted emotional systems form when enough people grow up without healthy emotional regulation systems (reinforcing the problem). Such societal symptoms may include:

·                *Focusing on external productivity over internal emotional states and healthy relationships (like over-focusing on what the child wants to be when they grow up; over-focusing on child’s grades in school; over-focusing on how much money someone makes, what kind of car they drive, etc., etc.)

·                *Chronic relationship disruption and emotional illness (which can be seen in rising divorce rates, escalating depression and other mental health related illnesses, increased crime, increased bullying behaviors, increased self-centeredness, decreased compassion and tolerance for emotion in others) 

A solution to this problem is to work on ourselves and form a new healthy emotional regulation system. Oftentimes, therapy does this because the therapist can sit with the person and affirm their feelings, allowing the person to fully feel their own feelings and then safely respond to them without judgment. This process helps to develop new neural networks of self-care (new emotional regulation systems). In addition, people can do this same thing for loved ones, join support groups, journal about feelings, obtain spiritual support, and do things that provide safe love and emotional healing. 

When the person is able to form a new healthy emotional regulation system, they are able to sit with their feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) and are more able to tolerate other people’s emotions. When that happens, they can also sit with their needy infants and children and better respond to their needs without anxiety, frustration or panic. 

Another symptom of a healthy emotional regulation system is relationship repair. Accepting that no one is perfect and conflict will arise is important to remember. The key is to be able to effectively repair your relationships after a disruption. The more immediate the repair, the more neural networks are formed in the healthy emotional regulation system.

As parents and people, it is critical to comprehend the extent that infants and children are dependent on us. We need to make them a priority and attend to them. This does not mean spoiling them with toys—it means being there, loving them, empathizing with their needs, and helping them to understand and attend to their emotions.

Children become out of control when we ignore them and get angry—putting them in time-outs when they aren’t developed enough to understand consequences. We also run into the trap of referring to punishment as “tough love” when we take away a privilege without taking the time to process our children’s feelings and fears and understanding what motivates them to engage in behaviors that may scare us.   

Finally, understanding that our societal values of productivity over relationships may actually be a symptom of inadequate infant/child care can help us to change the narratives that perpetuate infant/child/human emotional abuse. We are making strides in addressing emotional care as a society, but we’re not there yet. Perhaps the current economic problems, rising unemployment rates, risky behaviors in children (increasingly younger sexual promiscuity in children, “hook-ups”, self-abuse like cutting, bullying, school shootings, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide) will wake us up to the real war that we’re in—the war with ourselves and our own internal emotional regulation systems. Focusing on healing our internal war through love, compassion, empathy, healing, tolerance, awareness, and helping each other as a larger family (instead of isolated individuals in big houses) will surely help the next generations to develop healthy emotional regulation systems. Perhaps when that happens, global harmony (aka world peace) can actually be obtainable.

Secrets of How Successful Entrepreneurs Survive Fear

fear Behind every successful entrepreneur lay a field of hidden landmines riddled with fear (“fearmines”). Some were stepped on. Others lay dormant, under the surface, affecting the journey just the same. The key is to be aware of them, know where to step, and what to do when you step on one.

The first and most important thing to know is that EVERYONE has fear.

Successful entrepreneurs just know how to work with it. In fact, successful entrepreneurs were once unsuccessful—the difference is that they continued taking steps on their path in spite of the obstacles (the biggest being their own fears).

àStep one is to get comfortable with your fear and reassure yourself that it’s a natural part of your journey’s landscape.

Once you realize that you’re not alone and that fear is normal, you can then employ measures to avoid needlessly stepping on fearmines all the time.

Fearmines often look a little different. They tend to leave a little bump on the surface and can easily be seen IF you take the time to look. Once observed, you’ll recognize it as some old sensitive wound.

Maybe the wound was something your parents told you (“Get your head out of the clouds!” when you were daydreaming or coming up with new inventions.) Or perhaps it was from being ridiculed by your peers, the ones who insisted you’d never amount to anything and would be doomed to poverty.

àWhatever the wound, take time to recognize it so you can avoid stepping on it and repeating the damage (e.g. like when you repeat the damage by yelling at yourself “Get your head out of the clouds!” after you’ve experienced a let down).

Another common fearmine includes control. Being able to adapt to change and uncertainty is the prerequisite for succeeding as an entrepreneur. People who need a high degree of control will tend not to be as spontaneous, imaginative, flexible, and inventive. Usually they’re like this because of fear.

When we feel out of control and overwhelmed, we tend to take control. However, control is a tricky illusion. The irony is that our fear reaction tends to make us take control where we don’t have it and give up control where we do have it (with ourselves).

àTake stock of your feelings and recognize if fear is making you overcompensate with controlling and/or self-sabotaging behaviors.

A couple of common fearmines have been addressed, but what do you do when actually you step on one?

Failure (getting lost in the fear) is part of the process. Fully feeling the fear and moving through it builds your resilient muscles—and it’s exactly these muscles that make you thrive as an entrepreneur (and as an artist, as a human being, as a parent, as a soul). What counts is taking that deep breath and continuing on the journey knowing that unresolved issues will still be there, but you’ll be stronger the next time when you inevitably reach them again.

àRecognize and repair once you’ve stepped on a fearmine. Honor it. Feel the feelings.  Control your part and avoid overcompensating. Then get back up and keep going. 

By now you’re seeing the pattern that fear creates action (even if inaction)—actions which aren’t always healthy for our self-worth or our entrepreneurial ventures. Understanding how your personal fearmines influence your behavior and how best to compensate for them makes the difference. Knowing this is a normal process helps you to keep going. Recovering from a fearmine is the success. 

Remember that everyone has felt like a pretender and questioned their talent and venture. It’s fundamental human nature to seek understanding, desire approval, and dream of complete acceptance—and fear when we don’t have these things. To fear is human and to recover from it, divine. When treated properly, fear can propel us into depth, growth, and inventiveness beyond any of our perceived limitations.

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Veteran’s Day: Honoring the Forgotten Hope of 11-11

I cried as I prepared to write today’s post. It rekindled some painful memories. However, proceeding to write this renewed my faith and hope. I hope reading it has the same effect for you.

Today is November 11, Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a little more somber and poignant this year as our Nation continues to battle in a “war on terrorism” and attempts to recover from last week’s tragedy at Fort Hood when one man (a psychiatrist) engaged in his own battle as he allegedly shot down 13 people and physically wounded 42 others, and emotionally wounded so many more.

How does one heal? What can one do?

Last night I heard a quote by Benjamin Franklin that appalled me, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.” I disagree. Research shows that hope is one of the key ingredients to resiliency and healing. I say it’s the opposite, “He that lives with hope will die fulfilled.”

Of course, I also recognize that hope is only one ingredient. We need direction and action. The obstacle is when our direction and actions are based on reactivity, revenge, fear, and self-deception.

Perhaps that’s what happened November 11, 1919 when Germany begrudgingly signed the armistice agreement that ended World War I (at the 11th hour of on the 11th day of the 11th month). The total number of deaths from that war, The Great War, was considered to have been 8.5 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, and 21 million being wounded (imagine the millions more impacted emotionally and through the generations).

A possible sliver of silver lining from all this destruction (the hope) was the creation of the League of Nations. While it didn’t stay in formation, it’s focus on communicating worldwide about issues that impact global human rights and public health set a precedent for the United Nations.

What does all of this have to do with Veteran’s Day? A few things.

First, because of the armistice agreement, this day was originally called Armistice Day. Ironically, armistice means “a temporary suspension of the warring parties by agreement.” Armistice Day, as its name implies, was only temporary. It was changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954.

While we remember veterans today (living and passed), I want to point out the astronomical number of civilians that have been killed in war (remember that WWI casualties alone totaled approximately 8.5 million soldiers and 6 million civilians). That doesn’t include all of the civilians directly impacted by war.  Today is not so different as civilians are targets of terrorist attacks around the globe.

As a counselor, military brat, and veteran, I feel compelled to express my sympathy and extend loving and healing thoughts to all people worldwide on this day, not just my fellow veterans. In fact, I urge all people to think of this day as a day of peace and to hold the intention of peace throughout time. 

Change happens when we change our foundation. That foundation is created by our intentions and the words we use. Mother Teresa expressed it best when she described that she wouldn’t attend and anti-war protest but she would show up to a pro-peace rally. The original seed of today’s history is based on the hope of worldwide peace. Please don’t forget it—honor the hope of today and the people around you. Namaste.

How the Hidden Blueprint of Childhood Directs Your Career


How can a damaged upbringing hurl you into career greatness?

You’ve probably heard of numerous examples where people have beaten all odds and succeeded in accomplishing their dreams. The subtle message in these cases seems to suggest that rough beginnings and hardships are the secret ingredients to success. That’s why I laughed and laughed when I heard the line “Don’t fix your Daddy issues!” on Samantha Who?, a former ABC sitcom starring Christina Applegate as an amnesiac who finds herself in a successful job but learns she wasn’t a very nice person to many people. The friend that cautioned her from getting to know her father better said that those initial family problems were exactly why she was so good in her job. (Clearly this advice isn’t so good for my job. But if you watch the show, you’ll learn she’s a much happier person by reuniting with her emotions and changing her former greed at all costs approach to life.)

Similarly, I’m often asked how our childhoods can affect our jobs—especially the risk-taking nature of an entrepreneur. It’s highly individual of course, but here’s a theory that can satiate your curiosity a bit. See if you can identify yourself in any of the following categories and learn how it impacts you, your loved ones and your career and  business ventures.

The attachment theory is one of my favorites and a lot of empirical research has given it more validity over the years. The simple description of attachment theory is how you initially bonded with your primary caregiver (Mother? Father? Adopted parent?) forms the basis of how you will interact (or attach) to everything else in your life. This can be a relationship, hobby, home, career and/or your business venture. 

Secure Attachment – The person who has a secure attachment received the perfect balance of love and nurturing from their parent. The parent was attentive to their needs and empathetic (could feel their feelings). The parent was not intrusive (bugging the baby even if the baby expressed displeasure) or neglectful (not paying attention to the baby). The securely attached person grows up with a sense of confidence, trust, and wisdom. They do not stay in situations that do not work. For example, they would move on if a relationship or venture showed clear signs of failure. Conversely, they would not just give up either. They would make the appropriate amount of effort. (Not everyone has this attachment style, but it’s something we can all learn to cultivate in life.

Avoidant Attachment – The avoidant person had a parent that was more neglectful. The parent could not empathize or was just so busy that they could not be as responsive to their child. Consequently, the child learned that being alone was normal. The avoidant adult is not as good with empathy. Moreover, they do not handle intimacy very well as it can feel suffocating and provoke anxiety. They prefer to keep a distance. This can translate into getting into relationships but not being very close (perhaps traveling or working a lot to maintain adequate distance). It can also mean growing tired of ventures and needing new things to do more frequently.

Insecure Attachment – An insecure attachment simply means that the parent swung from being available to not being available, leaving the baby confused and feeling more anxious about losing and/or attracting the parent. The insecure adult brings this underlying anxiety into their relationships and constantly battles with the fear of losing relationships and the desire to have distance. This person most experiences the tension of the togetherness and separateness continuum. In their venture, they may vacillate about what to do as a consequence.

Paying attention to your anxiety is key to healing the wound if you find yourself identifying with the latter two styles. Re-nurturing yourself can help shift you into a more secure attachment style. You can also go to a counselor or coach as this is one of the secret reasons such processes work. The bond you develop with your therapist or coach can form a new attachment style when your interactions are trusting, open and positive. 

(Stay tuned for the next blog post as it will discuss ways you can self-nurture and self-heal.)

Are You Profiting Off Someone Else's Pain?

Today I was asked how it felt to profit off people’s pain. It’s not the first time I heard this question. The other time came from a busy male CEO that seemed to sneer at my decision to leave engineering and become a counseling therapist.

Today’s question came from a similarly successful male executive. I felt sad and a little misunderstood. I also couldn’t help but recognize the irony that each of them has a net worth far greater than mine.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, I began thinking about all of the layoffs around the world; the state of our health from unhealthy fast food and inactivity; the quality of our relationships that compete with technology, addictions, and a relentless desire for instant gratification; and this ubiquitous thing called the “rat race” that deems a large net worth and array of material possessions as a measure of success. Am I profiting or are the people that have created and sustained this “rat race” culture?

The effects of this “rat race” culture are frightening. Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, cites data that indicates narcissism is escalating by 30% since the 1960s. Childhood poverty in the U.S, has also been on the rise since 2000. In fact, almost half of our children are living in families that range from low-income to poverty level. On top of that, our uninsured rate continues to climb. Unemployment is at staggering rates. Not surprisingly, insecurity and the anxiety that stems from this current environment is at an all time high.

The silver lining can be summed up by the adage, when one door closes, another one opens. This national and global crisis is an opportunity to re-focus on what matters. We need to change the “rat race” culture and focus on how we are raising the next generation.

Rather than profit off people’s weaknesses (providing fast food that people can eat in a car…knowing that people procrastinate and will unlikely cancel their subscriptions that renew automatically…manipulating people to reciprocate and purchase a product when given something for free…selling them cosmetic surgeries that feed their insecure-based self-obsession…capitalizing on their fears with unnecessary products…etc., etc.), we all need to come together and make our character and relationships - not money - the measure of our success. When we do, we cultivate empathy and compassion for people. When we do that, we don’t even think of business schemes that hurt people (Ponzi schemes, etc.).

In closing, I am struck by an example Benjamin Franklin gives in his autobiography about how he was raised as a child. During instruction, they were told not to notice the food they were eating or any of the table settings (external items that money buys) but to focus on the lessons and what was “good, just and prudent in the Conduct of Life.” Perhaps that is something we can all practice. Don’t focus on profit in business, but on what is good, just and prudent in the Conduct of Life.

(Please note-All members of the American Counseling Association, American Psychological Association and similar professional therapy organizations have a strict code of ethics that focuses on the client’s well-being over profit. All professionals must also provide a certain percentage of pro-bono and community work. In addition, most of my colleagues, and myself included, have frequently extended our services and waived fees on a case-by-case basis with our clients as needed.)

What You Can Do to End School Violence

The recent shooting and killing of 15 people by a teenager in Germany this week brought back haunting memories of the infamous gun shootings at school campuses here in the U.S. Like so many who were alive to experience President Kennedyʼs assassination or the horrifying terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, I have vivid recollections of my exact whereabouts when I learned about the shocking school shootings at Columbine, San Diego, and Virginia Tech to name a few of the bigger ones. Living in Austin, I also shudder at the recollections of the 1966 shooting from the University of Texasʼ tower. Then I read a National Crime Survey that reported a whopping three million crimes occur at or near school campuses in the U.S. every year. Two million of these crimes involve violence.
What can be done?
I believe the answer is three-part - It includes biology, family and community.
It has been reported that many of the assailants suffered from some sort of mental health issue. For instance, the teenager in Germany was said to have been treated for depression. While some mental health issue may exist, I want to make note that there is danger in blaming biology as the primary cause for violence. First, it can falsely imply that people who are being treated for a mental health issues like depression or schizophrenia are violent. That is generally not the case in these specific conditions. There are other mental health diagnoses that reveal more anger and violent tendencies, but those werenʼt reported in the media. The key is to get an accurate assessment and proper treatment. Having stated that, while an underlying genetic predisposition can exist, such conditions flourish in certain environments - which brings me to family and community (and what you and I can do).
As parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, we are all modeling behavior in front of children. Children thrive when we listen to their feelings and when we praise them for what they are doing right. One bad apple spoils the barrel and many adults are guilty of heaping a barrel of bad apples onto kids. Try to put your noʼs in check and treat children like you want to be treated. Respect their feelings, their boundaries and try showing more empathy. Be sure to do this with the rest of the family as well because kids will imitate your behavior. Parents that fight, ignore, belittle, and/or treat each other with anything less than love and respect are basically telling kids to treat people the same way (remember - action speaks louder than words).
The reality is we could all do a much better job. When I see rising divorce rates (50% for 1st marriages, 64% for 2nd marriages, and 73% for third or more marriages) along with ugly custody battles and endless blame-gaming between parents, I canʼt help but wonder about the connection to this alarming research finding among high school boys - many boys thought it was okay to hit their girlfriend if she angered him.
Have we just stopped teaching our children about the basics of life? Do we send them off to school, buy them toys and gadgets, plop them in front of televisions and computers, and ignore their basic needs of love and affection? Have we stopped playing and sent them into competitive sports instead? Do we hound them about grades and getting ahead? Have we forgotten the simple pleasures and larger priorities?
We set the priorities at the family and community level. Right now we are undergoing economic turmoil. People have lost jobs, retirement, and savings. Thereʼs a shuffle to figure out what to do. This is an opportunity to readjust our values and priorities. If you are a parent that has been living in the rat race, stop now. Look at your kids. Find a way to focus on their basic needs first. I guarantee that your time and love is far greater that any toy or material item that you could buy them. Perhaps losing a rat race job could be the biggest blessing to rediscovering a real life with your family and finding work that matters. Maybe if you do this, there will be less angst in the world and more peace and love in our childrenʼs schools.

What to do if the Weather is Bringing You Down


   Gloomy weather

Short overcast days and long cold nights can make you sad. There’s even a psychiatric  diagnosis that uses sad as an acronym – Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens when you lose energy, can’t seem to focus, crave sugar and “bad” carbohydrates, and have a sense of defeat with feelings of worthlessness. Some say that people with this response are in tune with nature and are empathically experiencing a kind of winter period alongside the trees and shrubs (when winter land is kind of glum and non-fruitful too). Yet, the world goes on and doesn’t seem to allow for hibernation in humans. Perhaps that’s why western medicine has stepped in to help the half a million Americans that complain about SAD every year.


The solution is light therapy. People can receive up to 30 minutes of light at an intensity of 10,000 lux (in lumination measurement). To contrast, your household lamps generally put off about 100 lux whereas a bright sunny day can dose you with 50,000 lux or more. Researchers are investigating different timing periods and different light sources. In one study, Columbia University researchers discovered impressive results by calibrating light exposure to natural melatonin rhythms. The difference shows improvement in 80% of the patients that were timed appropriately as opposed to 38% (Mother Nature must be really good as most of these patients’ SAD symptoms improve with the onset of spring).

Still, if you can’t wait for spring, check out the Society of Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms to learn more. But before you run out to get your light therapy, know that certain medications and conditions can cause retinal damage from light therapy. This includes: St. John’s

Wort (a natural herb for treating depressive symptoms), Lithium (used for bipolar treatment), Melatonin (a natural sleep aid), antipsychotic medications, and conditions like diabetes and retinal conditions.

The Danger of Getting Stressed Out by the Current Economy

No matter what country you live in, you most likely feel effects from the current global economic difficulties. People are losing homes, jobs, relationships, and security. When this happens, desperation and despair takes over. Stress thrives and is contagious.

According to a survey by the by the American Psychological Association (APA), 58% of people take their stress out on their loved ones. Other APA research reveals that stress manifests as illness in the body for even more people—up 77% of people in stress report having physiological symptoms and 73% of people in stress reported psychological symptoms. When this happens, more people are impacted by stress and a viscous stress cycle continues to grow and expand.

What can you do to keep stress at bay? Take time to heal yourself before stress gets out of control. Take time to breathe throughout the day (deep breathing can be a miracle cure for many ailments). Remember what’s important. Get back to basics. Stress thrives in chaos and confusion, and tends to diminish in simplicity. Live simply—from the heart—and you will feel better. So will the people around you.


If you are experiencing serious side-effects of stress, please seek help with a therapist or counselor immediately. Stress gets worse if left untreated. If you're out of a job and can't pay, many will work with you if you ask them. Please feel free to contact my office if you would like to discuss your needs.


How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Happy Holidays to everyone out there. I hope the peace of the season is able to find its way into your and your loved ones’ heart, mind, spirit and body. Best wishes for 2009! I hear it’s going to be a good one, so spread the word.


If you’re taking a break from your revelry or hard work to read this right now (or if it’s just a way of procrastinating), let me try to offer a little inspiration to help you make your New Year’s resolutions last throughout 2009.


First, I’ll start by sharing an experience from graduate school. I was taking an advanced counseling class and a student was crying after recounting the pain he felt during Christmas because his mother was deceased and it was their first Christmas without her. You could feel the heavy longing in his heart as he described his immense love for her. We all hung on his every word and began to tear up with him when one student reached over to hand him a box of Kleenex. Then out of nowhere the professor intercepted the student with the Kleenex and commanded her return to her seat. It was startling and took me by surprise. All eyes were now on the professor as he explained that handing a Kleenex to a crying client interrupted the release of their pain and really indicated a counselor’s discomfort with heavier emotions.


What does that have to do with making New Year’s resolutions? The answer has a twist in it.


When you think of New Year’s resolutions, what comes to mind? Losing weight? Quitting smoking? Increasing exercise? Being on time to appointments and with deadlines? Increasing your bottom line?


Have you noticed what many of the typical resolutions have in common? They are remedial in nature and tend to focus on weaknesses. They are like dictates from our inner slave-driver that is disgusted by us and is demanding improvement. So we respond by setting the prescribed resolutions as our goal and then try to adhere to them a bit begrudgingly. It is no wonder that more than 2/3 of Americans polled have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions by spring.


So, how can you make New Year’s resolutions that stick?


This is where the twist comes in.


Typically, this time of year brings up a host of emotions for people. Many experience grief—grief over a lost loved one; grief over an unfulfilled dream; grief over money; grief over lost career or market opportunities; even grief over the lack of sunlight. Grief has a stealth way of getting you if it isn’t completely processed—which is more frequent than not. We put it aside. Friends hand us Kleenex and tell us to cheer up and that it will get better. So we repress. Then, I believe, we beat ourselves up a bit and demand a few ridiculous resolutions (maybe they’re not ridiculous, but we feel a little rebellious by our inner slave-driver).


Would you like an alternative suggestion that will result in New Year’s resolutions that stick?


One, don’t be afraid to take a little time-out to grieve this season. It’s normal and healthy. Take some time to walk by yourself and allow the feelings to flow. Maybe write about it in a journal. Talk and process it a bit. Look at old pictures, former goals, re-read old diaries…whatever it is that helps the feelings come up and flow out. Taking a little time for this can provide you rejuvenation. It also makes you a little more alive.


Second, after you’ve given yourself time to grieve and you’ve nurtured yourself. Attempt to make resolutions that focus on the positive. Try assessing your strengths and resolve to enhance what you’re already good at and love. Whatever you commit to, do it from a place of self-care and not inner slave-driver. Then use this year as a test to see if the resolutions stick.


Good luck and best of care throughout 2009!


(this is a post from my new blog series on the Club E NETWORK, the online gathering place for entrepreneurs. It's a great resource and free to join, so check them out if you're an entrepreneur or considering starting your own business and want to learn from others.)




Can Love Cure War? Examining Biology of Love, 12th Century Rules of Love & Evolved Love

A-Red-Rose-For-You small

In honor of the anniversary of the end of WWI (90 years ago on November 7, the “war to end all wars” ended), this blog entry looks at love (the hopeful antidote to war) microscopically, across time and into the future.

Love is by far the most influential feeling a person can experience. Love has an extraordinary way of knocking people off their feet, away from their path, and causing them to behave in the most unexpected ways. It has been opposed to war (think 60’s slogan “Make Love, Not War”), has incited war (Helen of Troy myth) and street fights (West Side Story). Of course, many spiritual leaders say jealousy is not love. They say real love would not cause war, fighting, or anything negative. Real love rises above conflict and wants the best for everyone. If that’s the case why is love so crazymaking for so many people? The answer might be two-fold. There are some biological aspects to falling in love that actually create a chemical imbalance in people. There are also some perpetual myths about love that reinforce love’s dark side.


A quick look at the biological underpinnings of love reveals that the early stages of falling in love (or infatuation) triggers a release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. This increase of dopamine creates feelings of exhilaration, heightened focus, and increases one’s energy—which explains why, when people are falling in love, they might lose weight, become more active, can stay up all night talking with each other, and feel euphoric like they’re walking on a cloud.

One-way love (unrequited love) or rejected/abandoned love can wreak havoc on the impacted person’s serotonin levels (displaying significant drops in serotonin as high as 40%, according to research by Donatella Marazziti). Such drops in serotonin mimic obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and probably explain the stalking behavior of some jilted or obsessed lovers.

Long-term, committed love reveals an increase in the bonding hormone oxytocin and is responsible for feelings of security and contentment. At this stage, dopamine returns to normal, but oxytocin levels are heightened. This could explain why people don’t feel that excited rush of first love in longer-term relationships and often differentiate feelings of being “in love” with feelings of “love”…or confusing the chemical shift as an absence of love.

Enduring Myths?

On top of our ever-changing chemical reactions to “love," humankind is also conditioned to beliefs and rules about love. These norms/myths/narratives create behavioral responses that are deemed acceptable or non-acceptable by society. For instance, divorce was once unacceptable but has increased as society has accepted it as less taboo. Pursuing individual happiness is a new norm. Nonetheless, some myths are enduring throughout time. To illustrate, here is an excerpt of “rules” about love put forth in the 12th century. See how many apply today.

“The Rules of Love” by Andreas Capellanus, 1185

  1. The state of marriage does not necessarily excuse anyone from loving.
  2. He who does not feel jealousy is incapable of loving.
  3. No one can love two people at the same time.
  4. It is well known that love is either growing or declining.
  5. Whatever a lover takes from his lover’s will has no savor.
  6. A male does not fall in love until he has reached full manhood.
  7. A mourning of two years is required by the survivor.
  8. No one should be prevented from loving save by reason of his or her own death.
  9. No one can love save by the eloquence of love.
  10. Love is accustomed to be an exile from the house of avarice.
  11. It is unseemly to love anyone whom you would be ashamed to marry.
  12. A true lover only desires the passionate embraces of his beloved.
  13. Love that is made public rarely lasts.
  14. Love easily obtained is of little value; difficulty in obtaining it makes it precious.
  15. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of the beloved.
  16. On suddenly catching sight of the beloved, the heart begins to palpitate.
  17. A new love drives out the old.
  18. A good character alone makes someone worthy of love.
  19. If love lessens, it soon fails and rarely recovers.
  20. A man in love is always fearful.
  21. The feeling of love is always increased by true jealousy.
  22. A suspicious lover and the sensation of love is increased.
  23. A man tormented by the thought of love, eats and sleeps little.
  24. Everything a lover does ends in the thought of the beloved.
  25. A true lover considers nothing good but what he thinks will please his beloved.
  26. Love can deny nothing to love.
  27. A lover cannot have too much of his beloved’s consolations.
  28. The smallest supposition compels a lover to suspect his beloved of doing wrong.
  29. A man troubled by excessive lust does not usually love.
  30. A true lover is continually, without interruption, obsessed by the image of his beloved.

My thoughts

I believe there is another level of love—an evolved love—that many people are now experiencing. This kind of love can cure war. Through knowledge and psycho-spiritual growth, we can override our basic biological and cultural drives toward jealousy, insecurity, lust, and discrimination. By understanding the natural biological and cultural underpinnings of the dark and light side of love, we can step back and realize how our ‘primal’ brain and prevailing culture influences us and then separate those responses from a more higher-functioning and evolved response. That is where evolved love thrives—and we as a collective whole can unite and overcome war. As Blaise Pascal suggested, “The more intelligent a person is, the more originality is found in others. Ordinary people see no difference between men.” Evolved love is expansive, not constrictive or jealous, and let’s you love someone special while also seeing and loving the “originality” in people worldwide.

Your $5 a Month Personal Coach for Health, Wealth & Happiness

What one thing do clients get the most out of our sessions? New positive thought processes. While I can work with clients on issues that are unique to them and their circumstances, I have found repeating patterns among many - especially in these current economic conditions. Fear has been at an all time high right now as people fear losing their savings, jobs, homes, and primary relationships. This is made worse because fearful thoughts form deep neural pathways of negative thinking that reinforce and actually manifest the very thing that's feared ("self-fulfilling prophecy"). The flip side is that you can focus on what you want and create it in your life, like Walt Disney's famous quote "If you can dream it, you can do it."

Many know this, but few achieve it. Why? There are a few reasons. People get distracted and respond to issues in the moment. Fear and negative thinking are difficult to override. The negative messages in the environment (sometimes referred to as the "real world") compete with positive intentions. Over time, people go back to their normal way ("set point") of thinking and believing. For those who can afford it, coaching helps and keeps people on a path that overcomes these obstacles. Yet, not everyone can afford a coach. In addition, coaches cannot be with their clients 24 hours a day.
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Power Struggles in the Hood

When the Racheal Ray show asked me to be one of their experts on an upcoming segment about neighborhood conflicts, I confess I panicked a little. Trying to solve feuding neighbor issues can be a little like trying to tame wild cats. Attempting to do this on national television would surely undermine any credibility I had achieved. At least that was my fear. To my relief, the show was cancelled and I helped them on another issue. Still, I was asked to let them know if I came across any feuding neighbors for future segments. I didn’t have any candidates for them. But wouldn’t you know that life has a funny way of providing ironies. I have watched turmoil grow in my neighborhood over the past year. In the past three days alone, about two hundred emails have been posted on our neighborhood listserve. The issue? Traffic. That’s the surface issue that has ignited a bunch of personality clashes and power struggles. This is even more ironic, because I just finished writing and launching my new eBook on power struggles (“Ten Keys for Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle”). But alas, I am just a neighbor in the neighborhood. I don’t have a neutral voice, so the nuggets of communication suggestions that I could share may not have the same effect. Still, I will try my best to communicate in a manner that promotes reconciliation and peace. To any of my neighbors that read this blog, please feel free to check out a copy of my eBook and consider that maybe everyone does want a safe neighborhood with calm traffic. Maybe people are being defensive with each other and the more offensive you get, the more defensive they’ll get. Guess that’s why Grandma always said “you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

Is Fear Driving Your Life?

Cars smaller Confronting fear is the number one challenge you’ll face in every moment of your life. Fear holds us back, controls our behavior, and leads to self-sabotage. Fear is also at the core of hatred, violence, oppression, self-deception, hopelessness, anxiety, and failure. You probably already know some of the common fears:
  • fear of rejection (keeping you from asking that special somebody on a date or applying for that promotion);
  • fear of failure (which keeps you immobilized and in constant procrastination mode); and
  • fear of intimacy and trust (you’ve been burned so you keep people at a distance lest you get hurt again).
    The difficulty is that we often have no idea which fear is at play and how it is silently manipulating us into self-sabotaging acts. That’s why self-examination can be so powerful because we can uncover secret destructive fears and then confront them head-on with courage and awareness. Thus, the first step is to identify the fear that is in the driver’s seat of our actions and the second step is to move through the fear and take back control of our lives.
    So, what if I were to tell you that there is one main fear that’s holding you back according to your personality type? Wouldn’t that be helpful? You could then confront that particular fear in every moment of your life and, in doing so, achieve greater success, peace, and happiness. According to the Enneagram, a personality assessment with roots that date back more than 2,500 years, there are nine major personality types and each type is driven by an underlying fear which needs to be identified and challenged. See if any of the following nine fears apply to you. Perhaps you can relate to all of them, but try to see if any one in particular resonates with you the most.
    1. Fear of being bad, evil or corrupt.
    2. Fear of being unloved and unwanted as you are.
    3. Fear of being worthless and without value apart from your achievements and external status.
    4. Fear of having no identity or no personal significance.
    5. Fear of being helpless, useless, and incapable.
    6. Fear of having no support and guidance—not being able to survive on one’s own.
    7. Fear of being deprived or trapped.
    8. Fear of being harmed or controlled by others, violated.
    9. Fear of loss and separation, of annihilation (extinction).
    If any of these fears speak to you, examine how they might be controlling your life. We tend to compensate for our fears by engaging in exaggerated behaviors in the opposite extreme. So, you might become a perfectionist if you fear being bad. The cure is to 1) recognize the fear 2) reassure yourself that you’re okay and 3) take control by living life from your heart and life purpose and not in reaction to your fear. Then you will be in the driver’s seat of your life and fulfilling the dreams from your heart.

    PTSD Explained

    PTSD researcher Dr. Paula Schnurr received the Ladies Home Journal "Health Breakthrough Award" for her work with PTSD and women veterans this year. She provided needed data that revealed benefits of prolonged exposure therapy. Now you may have thought all therapies were equal, but they are not. In fact, an assessment conducted by the American Psychological Association found a deficiency of research on PTSD, which is of growing concern in today’s complex global war and terrorism climate.

    If you're wondering about PTSD because you've heard about it in the news or you know someone who suffers from it, or if you are battling it yourself, here's a little information about the history of PTSD along with some information about recent treatments.

    First known as “Shell Shock” among WWI veterans, PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) is a debilitating condition brought on from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event (see below for criteria). It affects about 5.2 million Americans aged 18-54. Traditionally, PTSD treatments have included a mixture of psychotherapy (talk therapy), pharmacotherapy (medication), Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In addition, newer research about Exposure Therapy has demonstrated some promising results. Exposure Therapy involves slowly and carefully re-exposing the person to images of the trauma until the images and memories no longer evoke an anxiety response. Please note that researchers are continuing to investigate even better treatments.

    Because no one treatment fits all, researchers are also recognizing those who suffer from Complex Grief. Complex Grief can be experienced by those who have PTSD (similar to Survivor’s Grief—the guilt and grief one experiences when surviving a war or tragedy). It can also affect family members of lost soldiers in war. Part of the grieving and healing process involves finding meaning in the loss. The complexity comes about when meaning can’t be found. In addition, researchers are discovering that the former “move on” approach isn’t working. Rather, it’s about honoring and remembering.

    DSM-IV Criteria for PTSD

    A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present: (1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

    B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways: (1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed. (2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.
    (3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur. (4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. (5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

    C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following: (1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma (2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma (3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma (4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities (5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others (6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings) (7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

    D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following: (1) difficulty falling or staying asleep (2) irritability or outbursts of anger (3) difficulty concentrating (4) hypervigilance (5) exaggerated startle response

    E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month.

    F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

    Ancient Wisdom Reveals Why We Do What We Do

    We get so tempted to ruminate and reinvent the wheel when history has already revealed an answer. Chances are whatever project on you're working or whatever problem you're trying to solve has been contemplated before and maybe even fixed. That's why Goethe said "He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth." So, check with your elders and look at history.

    As for psychology's history, at just over 100 years old, the field is just an infant. However its parent -philosophy - is much older and has much wisdom to shed. For instance, here is what Aristotle 384 BC- 322 BC (student of Socrates and tutor to Alexander the Great) purported long ago...

    All human actions have one or more of these seven causes:








    Can you find one of these root causes in your own behavior?

    Stop Unconscious Prejudices from Destroying Your Relationships, Business & the World

    Discrimination, racism and intolerance are a lot like holding a grudge. The grudge-holder remains steadfast in their conviction and refuses to understand another point of view or to engage in any type of connection. But what about the stealth grudge-holder? You know--the person that CLAIMS they're not upset but continues to give little jabs anyway.

    Multicultural counselors have a name for stealth forms of discrimination. They call it microaggressions and it's very real and quite toxic. As you'd imagine, it's one thing when someone you love or care about is still stewing about an incident while claiming they are over it, but it's a whole other thing when your boss or Chairman of the Board is launching gestures and double-talk at you that are loaded with the equivalent annihilation power of the atomic bomb. Yet you're in a double-bind because nothing has really been said, so you can't prove the existence of the passive-aggressive poison in the room. Worse, the person responsible for such behavior is probably just as unaware. Hence, "micro"aggressions.

    Numerous studies have been conducted to reveal how oblivious people are to their prejudices. Perhaps you'll recall the "Candid Camera" episode that showed a woman walking down a street with a purse on her arm as several staged teenagers walked passed her. The teenagers were culturally different but dressed in identical clothes. As you might guess (even though the woman claimed not to be "prejudiced"), the woman placed the purse on her opposite shoulder when she saw the Black and Latino teenagers approaching. Sandra Bullock does a good job portraying a similar scene in the excellent, make-you-think movie "Crash."

    So, what can you do to become more aware of your own unconscious prejudices in order to stop perpetuating microaggressions? First, take a moment to really ask yourself some questions--deeply ask yourself. For instance, how do you feel about people of color, people of other religious views, people of different sexual preferences and identities? How do you feel about intermixed relationships? How can you identify with the experiences and challenges facing differing groups of people?

    If you came up with some prejudices, here’s something to consider. A lot of people are talking about the law of attraction--the idea that what you believe and think will be manifested. This is the basis of the film, "The Secret." Well, if the law of attraction is real (in sports psychology it works--you visualize the goal and see yourself completing it), and it's true that many of our prejudices are unconscious (which has been validated through enormous amounts of research), wouldn't it be valuable to unlock our prejudices and change them so that we can stop manifesting in others the very behaviors we fear?

    Are You Living Life in the Fast Lane?

    I learned my preference for pace of life the hard way. I once had the opportunity to "escape" the fast-lane and move to a quiet little village tucked away in the magnificent Sierra Mountains that overlooked the breathtaking Lake Tahoe. It was a dream come true-or so I thought. I had a lovely home with the kind of stone fireplace that makes you feel warm and loved. Aromatic pine trees reached high above and into the heavens. Life was grand. I was going to use this soulful communion to be a writer and release the novels that were screaming to get outside of me. Then a reality began to creep in. I fought it as much as I could, but it won. I discovered that I could only commune with the pine trees for so long. Boredom, no isolation, kicked in and drove me nuts. It's a long story, but that's when I learned that I needed a little bit more than just peace and solitude in my life. Some people thrive on continuous calming serenity with while others require the nonstop buzz of a fast-lane life. I am somewhere in the middle. (Note to couples-figure out if you match in this area and/or learn how to compromise!)

    To find find out where you stand on the continuum of needing quiet solitude & being addicted to the fast-lane (without actually moving like I did!), take this short 7-question "Pace of Life" quiz by Prof. Richard Wiseman and The British Council.

    Studies Reveal Differences in Artists & Engineers, Republicans & Democrats

    My first career was in engineering (environmental), so I was particularly interested in a recent study published in The Career Development Quarterly that described thinking style differences of artists and engineers. Now, while you might immediately react with a "Duh! Of course artists and engineers are different!," look a little more closely at these differences and notice how one could have difficulties if they ended up in the wrong field.

    First, artists and engineers have high visual-spatial abilities in common, so it could be easy to translate that skill into a more lucrative field (e.g. a variety of engineering jobs...not to mention that the U.S.A. needs more scientists and engineers). But this is where the commonality stops.

    Engineers, as the study confirmed, think linearly and hierarchically and prefer a highly prioritized thinking style. Engineers also do extraordinarily well in carrying out the plans of others. (task-driven, follow the rules...in order).

    Artists, on the other hand, did better without rules and input from others. They also displayed more emotionality, introspection, and had higher aesthetic interests.

    What are the potential dangers if one thinking style ended up in a different thinking-style field? If an engineer style were in an art field, they could be branded as "in of the box" (uncreative) and could flounder if not given a strict set of rules to follow. The artist style in an engineering field could be perceived as difficult to work with and too emotional. Over time, the employee's confidence and self worth could decline if the labels are introjected (accepted and reinforced through negative self-talk). Ideally, organizations could grow to embrace both styles and value the differences of each—which could lead to improved products and output, but generally one style dominates organizational culture and flow.

    EEGs of Democrats & Republicans
    Interestingly, artists and engineers weren't the only group to be found with differences. A study published in Nature Neuroscience revealed neural activity differences in Republicans and Democrats. Electroencephalographs (EEGs) were performed while study participants engaged in a Go/No-Go decision task in an effort to measure their "conflict monitoring." EEGs revealed that liberals had a higher tolerance for ambiguity (able to shift gears/adapt to quick changes) while conservatives displayed more structure and consistency (persistence).

    Emotional Closeness Key to Raising Daughters

    Another study reveals differences exist in men and women. This one, published in The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, looks at family factors that contribute to social self-esteem in young college women. Kelly Gorbett and Theresa Kruczek from Ball State University examined several influencers (family adaptability, amount of time left in care of others, birth order, siblings, gender, and family cohesion) and discovered that family cohesion and healthy sibling relationships fostered later social self-esteem--a critical component of mental health and achievement.

    What's interesting about this research is that it pokes a hole in the theory that cautions families against enmeshment, or being too close. Instead, this research finds that the close bond with daughters actually helps the daughters even more. Perhaps part of it is due to the fact that women's oxytocin levels increase (the bonding hormone) when they share secrets and are close. In contrast, men's oxytocin levels increases after sex--which may explain why men tend to run when women talk about problems. Women are seeking to bond and men may not understand that. Nonetheless, with a little patience and understanding men can increase their oxytocin levels by engaging in supportive and nurturing communication with their female loved ones. Men can also help by supporting and encouraging that close talk among the women in their lives. Women, take this as reassurance that all of that sharing and closeness that feels good with your daughters really is good for them.

    Fast Facts About Depression

    >Depression has a higher diagnosed rate among women than men (although men have higher rates of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, alcoholism, drug addiction, and autism)

    >Depression may be more obvious in women because stress hormones and estrogen combine to increase anxiety and depression, while testosterone does the opposite

    >Depression affects blood pressure, blood clotting, the immune system and is a risk-factor for coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke (which are seen in younger ages and higher rates of men than women)

    >Loss of a parent in childhood and low-self-esteem are linked with depression in men

    >Children of a depressed parent were found to have a 50% increased risk for depression and a 5 times higher rate of cardiovascular disease

    >90% of the studies on anti-depressants are funded by pharmaceutical companies

    >1/3 to 1/2 of depressed patients that see a primary care physician are not accurately diagnosed

    >Sexual side-effects of SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can decrease over time, or can be aided through the addition of a second medication, or possibly treated via switching to a different type of antidepressant like bupropion

    Source: Harvard Medical School bulletin

    Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance

    National Institute of Mental Health

    5 Life Tasks for Achieving Quality of Life

    Clients often ask me how long it will take to resolve whatever issue that's impacting them at the moment. While I offer specific steps and a manageable "program" to address their particular situation, the reality is it's up to them. It's highly dependent on the type of changes they are willing to make. Are they only making superficial modifications or are they going deeper and allowing some genuine transformation to occur at the soul-level? (We refer to this as first-order and second-order changes--you need both.) Nonetheless, our brains tend to be wired to initially seek a Cliff's Notes version of healing. To satisfy that mental hunger, here are 5 life tasks put forth by Witmer & Sweeney (92) that reveal what needs to be accomplished to attain wellness and quality of life.

    Life Task #1-SPIRITUALITY
    Spirituality addresses the meaning or "breath of life" for people and may have a religious connection for some, but not all people. It is finding oneness, embracing the inner life, having a purpose, optimism, and value.

    Life Task #2-SELF-REGULATION
    This component is at the heart of many therapies. It is taking care of oneself and being able to have emotional responsiveness while having self-control. It also involves self-worth, realistic beliefs, spontaneity, intellectual stimulation, problem-solving and creativity, sense of humor, fitness & health.

    Life Task #3-WORK
    Work can be our vocation and involve our identity. It's how we choose to interact with the world. It is a life-span task (always evolving) and has measurable psychological, economic and social benefits.

    Life Task #4-FRIENDSHIP
    A basic need is a sense of belonging. This task relates to that need with social interest and connectedness, social support, health and interpersonal relationships.

    Life Task #5-LOVE
    Love-that creative fire inside the heart that inspires music, poetry and many good feelings. This task, however, involves more than the initial rush of infatuation. It is the deeper love that involves intimacy, trust, cooperation, and genuine commitment.

    7% of U.S. Workers have Depression, Costing $30-$44 Billion in Losses Each Year

    The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Report has released findings that 7% of U.S. workers (aged 18-64) experienced a major depressive episode in the last year. Report estimates reveal depression in the workplace costs U.S. companies $30 to $44 billion dollars per year. In addition, the research shows that depression rates in the workplace vary by occupation. The highest rates for depressive episodes in women were found in food preparation and serving related occupations (14.8%) while the highest rates for men experiencing a depressive episode were in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations (6.7%). The lowest rates of depressive episodes in both men and women were found in the life, physical, and social science occupations (2.3% for males and 7.2% for females).

    The NSDUH Report is an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

    Psychotherapy + Medication Shows Best Results

    Another research study shows that people experience best results when they undertake a combination of medication with psychotherapy--in this case, it is adolescents that have had a major depressive disorder. The study, published in the October 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that when adolescents received antidepressants in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) over the course of 36 weeks, they recovered faster than those who were receiving CBT alone.

    The study was funded by funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Click here to see full press release.

    4 Psychological Obstacles to Communicating Effectively

    Ever have a conversation not work out? You think you're communicating, but something else takes over and the communication misses. Sometimes it's obvious like a full eruption and other times it's so hidden that you're left with an uneasy feeling wondering "what just happened?" Looking at the basic communications model, the breakdown occurred with the messenger, the message or with the receiver. (Come to think about it, I was always taught that any breakdown in communication was the messenger's responsibility...which does contradict the old "Don't blame the messenger" adage, doesn't it? Another both/and, truth is in the middle situation.) To expound, one of family therapy's legendary founders, Virginia Satir, offers a psychological explanation.

    Satir believed all behavior is communication. She asserted that any breakdown in communication was the result of some discrepancy in the message. Have a look at her list of psychological discrepancies and see if you can relate to the scenarios:

    1.) Inhibition-you have a feeling but couldn't express it (maybe you're angry, but afraid to show the anger so you don't say much...or you're hiding feelings of love while painfully hoping that your loved one will notice your true intentions).
    In this scenario the receiver picks up on the missing part of the message and feels uncomfortable while the messenger also feels the discomfort of not being honest. Net sum=lose, lose

    2.) Repression & Projection-these are psychological terms that express a similar dynamic to the first discrepancy, but in this case the messenger isn't aware of their feelings (yup, it's SUBconscious...and guess what? It happens a lot! After all, how often is hindsight 20-20??) In addition, the messenger projects their repressed feeling onto the other person. (Uhh, this means the messenger sees the subconscious feeling in the other person. So, you might feel angry but view the other person as angry with you. Amazingly enough, this is SO common. Some say all of life is a projection)
    Net sum=lose, confused

    3.) Suppression-okay, another psychological term for describing the same resulting dynamic, but in this instance the messenger feels the message is not allowed. For instance, a son or daughter feels they can't disrepect their parent so they hold back what they feel. Another scenario is that an "unspoken rule" exists that says we don't allow conflict so everyone has to act happy. Unspoken rules are at the heart of many problems.
    Net sum=lose, lose, lose

    4.) Denial-Who hasn't heard of this term? It's when you have a feeling but you're not sharing it because you deny its importance or relevance. (basically same dynamic with slight difference in messenger)
    Net sum=lose, lose

    Of course all of these discrepancies can occur simultaneously for the messenger and the receiver. Consequently, A LOT of communicating is going on in a simple look, a sigh--and in the silence. What can you do to decrease the discrepancies and foster better communicating? Get in touch with those feelings! Figure out where you are and then be honest about it. Maybe the other person will follow your lead. You'd be surprised at how smooth a conversation can go when you open yourself up and are genuine with another person.

    Good luck!

    Understanding Depression

    Clinical depression has been reported to affect 19 million Americans each year. Those are the numbers we know. Other research has indicated that only half of the people with depression seek help. Of those seeking help, approximately 74% are reported to see a primary care physician instead of a mental health professional. Depression was improved for about 80% of those who sought treatment. The bottom line is that a whole lot more people can receive help IF they seek it.

    It's not always biological...
    The cause for clinical depression can vary, as documented causes include Genetics and Biology, Situational (divorce, financial problems, job loss, loss of a loved one), Chronic (chronic abuse, discrimination due to gender, ethnicity, physical differences and abilities), Co-occurrence (co-occurring with other medical conditions such as post-partum depression after giving birth, lifelong illness or terminal disease), Side-effects (from other medications), Cognitive (negative thinking patterns and rigid belief systems), and Co-Morbidity (exists with other conditions like Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).

    Best treatment...
    Because depression can be instigated from a number of causes (along with depression's ability to create a number of consequences in one's life such as difficult relationships, potential job loss, decreased self-esteem, etc.), the best treatment includes a mix of medication and psychotherapy and lifestyle/environmental changes. Ideally, one will find a therapist that serves as a kind of case manager that works in conjunction with a psychiatrist and/or primary care physician. Some of the best therapists take a holistic approach and can help you with basics like communication skills, financial responsibility and career counseling to deeper issues from family stress, thought patterns, and trauma and grief recovery.

    Depression Symptoms...
    First, there is probably something to investiagte if you're wondering about depression in yourself or someone else. Here's a list of symptoms you can explore, but talk it out with a professional for the best diagnosis.
    * Changes in appetite or sleep (either more or less of each)
    * Changes in cognition and activity (memory, speech, physical activity)
    * Decrease in energy
    * Loss of enthusiasm for activities, daily routines
    * Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    * Difficulty thinking, making decisions or concentrating
    * Recurrent thoughts of death or thoughts about suicide (esp. plans or attempts)

    Having three or more of these symptoms is a cause for concern. Any recurrent thoughts about suicide or death is an urgent call to seek help. Talk to a professional about your symptoms and their length of time...especially if you've noticed an increase in any or all of your symptoms.

    For more information about depression, check out Mental Health America. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

    When Expectations & Beliefs Collide

    When working with clients, I find that there’s one lowest common denominator to many of the struggles they are experiencing. Yet, oftentimes, connecting to that underlying influencer is not a short, direct route. Rather it’s a meandering discovery that conjures up past memories, reflections, disbelief, fear, intrigue and a host of other reactions that seem almost nonsensical. Sometimes, it feels like a complete waste of time to even look for a “cause” of some struggle when forgetting about it provides the greatest sense of relief. That is, if you can forget about it. Usually, it teases and cajoles you into waking up. That unsettled, discontented feeling lingers no matter how much joy surrounds you, no matter how fast you run, no matter how many distractions and self-indulgences you seek.

    It’s complex and unnerving, so how could I dare suggest something as simple as a lowest common denominator? What is it?? My experience (personal and professional) reveals that a conflict between one’s expectations and one’s belief system lies at the heart of most struggles. Ahh, but it’s not that simple. We are born into this world and our respective cultures inheriting years (centuries of generations) of conditioning to believe and behave in a million ways we’ve never examined. We may feel liberal on the surface but find we have deep-seated, culturally-enforced rigid beliefs that create the struggle.

    Think about how you view struggling. Deep down, do you believe that struggling (or suffering) makes you a better person? For example, do you expect not to suffer but inwardly believe that you need to suffer in order to be loved, saved, and okay with yourself? How about love. Do you expect love but inadvertently inhibit it by taking it for granted or demanding something of it? Work? Do you expect to see yourself as separate from your work while allowing it to actually define your identity (feeling shame if it’s not good enough or proud if it brings you lots of wealth)? These questions and many more begin to identify your surface self and your unconscious “conditioned” self. Aligning the two creates congruence and harmony. So, perhaps you can allow the struggles to provide you the opportunity to learn about those underlying conflicts.

    While you’re at it, try reading some inspirational and thought-provoking novels that reinforce some of the joys and struggles, hope and fears you’re experiencing along your journey. Check out authors like, best-selling and award-winning Paulo Coelho or Mitch Albom.

    Finding Meaning through Erikson's Life Stages

    The meaning of life is a giant topic--one that has preoccupied theologians, philosophers, scholars, and humankind throughout time. All kinds of theories have been posited, but have you ever noticed that your own personal viewpoint has changed over the years? For instance, your 5 year-old self might have said that the meaning of life is about learning the alphabet in order to have recess while your 19 year-old self may have suggested that meaning is about finding love. Whatever the answers, it does seem to change over one's lifetime. That's why Erik H. Erickson was pretty brilliant when he suggested in the late 1950's that people experience specific "psychosocial stages" during their life. Some of these stages borrow (but slightly differ) from Sigmund Freud, while others are added to address all of one's living years. Many lifestage theories have come about since Erikson, but you'll find strong similarities. This post is dedicated to Erikson and remembers his original stages. Take a look at them and think about how they match up to your life experiences.

    0-18 months
    Trust vs. Mistrust

    Does infant have enough loving and nurturing to develop a sense of trust or does infant become distrustful when not consistently nurtured or heard? According to John Bowlby's Attachment Theory, this is where a secure, avoidant or anxious attachment comes into play.

    18 months-2 or 3 years
    Autonomy vs. Shame or Doubt

    This is where the child begins to recognize their independence. A parent's reaction to this stage can create feelings of autonomy and self-esteem or, it is suggested, that an over-bearing and punishing parent can make child feel doubt, shame and lead to lower self-esteem throughout life.

    2 or 3-6 years
    Initiative vs. Guilt

    This is an extension of the previous stage where a child recognizes independence and takes initiative through individual acts. Child begins to develop a sense of responsibility over their own actions. Again, it is suggested that a parent's reaction will result in a child feeling guilty about this expression of independence or validated to take initiative.

    6-11 years
    Industry vs. Inferiority

    Typically, a child at age 4 will begin to play with (interactively) other children. Similarly this stage involves a child developing a sense of self-worth via interactions with peers. In addition, teachers and the educational environment play a critical role in helping the child to feel encouraged and industrious or insecure and inferior.

    11 years-teen years
    Identity vs. Identity Diffusion

    Not surprisingly, this is the most well-known stage of identity development. The teenager develops an identity by literally trying out different "selves" and finding one that fits. Peers, role models and social pressure play a part in this developmental stage.

    Late Teen-Early Adulthood
    Intimacy vs. Isolation

    The preoccupation with this stage is developing close relationships and achieving intimacy. Think marriage, partnership, family, religious commitment, career achievement...and fear of being isolated and not obtaining goals.

    Middle Adulthood
    Generativity vs. Self-Absorbtion

    Assuming intimacy has been achieved, generativity now takes hold. How can one give back to their community and feel their contributions are worthwhile? The other side of the struggle is that one does not give back and remains self-absorbed.

    Late Adulthood-End of Life
    Integrity vs. Despair

    This last stage is about looking back at one's life, facing death and overcoming despair. Integrity is about integrating the experiences of one's life and finding a sense of satisfaction and meaning.

    Want Teambuilding? Don't Bring Up Money

    University of Minnesota researchers discovered link between money and behavior. Uh, okay so that seems obvious. Essentially, subjects in a series of nine experiments demonstrated more self-sufficient attitudes and behaviors when primed with words associated with money. Pictures of self-sufficient salespeople and entrepreneurs come to mind. Ah, the rugged Wild West "can do" spirit. (Remember the Wild West's connection to gold...money...get it?) Well, the flip side of all this self-sufficiency was that researchers found that participants were more willing to share, donate more money, and helped out fellow subjects more when they weren't primed with money words. So, go ahead and use money as an incentive for individual job tasks. Just don't use it when you want folks to depend on each other. You can check out the study published in Science.

    Why We Love & Fight - Lessons from Primates

    Remember the nature versus nurture argument? Try thinking both/and instead of either/or. It solves everything. While you're doing that, check out Frans de Waal's latest book, Our Inner Ape. In it, de Waal reveals fascinating connections between humans and primates. Yet, more intriguing are his revelations about the differences found among chimpanzees and bonobos. Chimpanzees appear to be more aggressive and power-hungry while the matriarchal bonobos are more social, sexual and have more adept conflict-resolution skills.

    Systems is Key to Neuroeconomics Research

    As is the case with many scientific advances, the emerging field of Neuroeconomics exploded when research scientists began sharing their research methodologies and tools with each other. In this case, neurobiologists and neurophysiologists are shattering some old economics theories. For instance, some research conducted with monkeys revealed that monkeys, like humans, reject inequality. They'll walk away from a reward if they feel they were treated unfairly. The fascinating thing about much of the research conducted in the field is that it has been brought about by systems thinking. Researchers began noticing the complex relationship between the variables (circular causality versus linear causality). For an overview, see "Economy of the Mind" put out by the The Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics at George Mason University.