Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.

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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC

The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 675 Route 72 E Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Telephone us at(609)709-2043 and (609) 709-0009.Take Mill Creek Road South, just off Route 72, on the road to Beach Haven West.After about 400 feet, turn right into the office complex of Greater Coastal Realty. Then turn right and go past the Lyceum Gyn. Continue on to the Prudential Zack Building. We. are the last office at the end. We accept Medicare and most other major insurance.Weekend and evening office hours are avalable.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Whaf is the Strongest Human Need?

Steven Hawking, whose life is currently portrayed in the movie, The Theory of Everything, should have been dead fifty years ago, when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given two years at most. But he subsquently married (twice!), and fathered three children.  Today, despite the fact that he can only use one muscle in his cheek, he keeps a busy schedule of lecturing and writing which has made him a world figure and arguably the greatest physicist who ever lived.  

What keeps him going? Abraham Maslow called this the need for self-actualization.  The need for self-actualization emerges after the basic needs for food, shelter, and friendship have been met. When self-actualization comes to the fore, the other needs are often sacrificed for the sale of this higher one. "The writer must write, the painter must paint, and the musician must play music."  

Of course, every theory has its critics. Psychology does not have a "theory of everything," any more than physics does. But however we choose to explain it, most of us would agree agree that Steven Hawking is literally too busy to die.  He wants to find out the secret of the Universe! As illustrated by the following two videos, his life provides irrefutible testimony to the fact that you can overcome almost any kind of suffering if you can find something to do with your life that you can believe in!








Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Never Grow Old


The world is so full of such a number of things,
I am sure we should all be as happy as kings.
                           --Robert Louis Stevenson

Viktor Frankl was a prisoner of war in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. In his book entitled, Man's Search for Meaning, he describes one day when der Herr Kommandant lined all the prisoners up in formation and announced a list of "crimes" which would be punishable by immediate death by hanging. These included such "infractions" as cutting your blanket into strips to make ankle straps because your ankles were too weak to stand on. 

Then, about two hours later, he called them into formation again and announced that two potatoes had been stolen from the camp kitchen. If the prisoners did not give the offenders up to the tender mercies of the Gestapo, the whole camp would starve for the day. Naturally, the entire camp preferred to fast. 

On the evening of this day of fasting, they lay in their earthen huts,  in a very low mood, when suddenly the lights went out. The Senior Block Warden asked Frankel to give the prisoners a talk to raise their spirits. "God knows,"  Frankl said, he was in no mood to cheer anybody up. But he knew he had to try. 

He began by pointing out that the reason that most of the people around them were dying was not becauseof the starvation or the poor working conditions; it was because they had given up hope. Even in this Europe in the second in the sixth winter of the Second World War, he went on, most people could find some reason for hope. He estimated his own chances at about one in twenty, he frankly admitted.. But it was always possible that he could be transferred to a camp with unusually favorable working conditions, for such was the luck of the prisoner. Friends and family could be restored, fortunes could be regained, professions could be resumed, and anyone could find some reason for hope. When the lights came on again, people were limping toward him with tears in their eyes to shake his hand. He knew by the strength of their emotion that he had come upon something of great significance.

At the conclusion of the war, when Frankl had resumed his practice, he began to ask his clients why they did not kill him themselves. One client might say that he was writing a book that he had to finish, another might state that because it was because he deaarly loved his family, and so on. This gave Frankl a central point around which his patients would be able to organize their lives, and it provided the foundation for his therapy.

Today, research has confirmed that people who have a reason for living are much happier and live longer than those who do not. Moreover, the influence of Eastern thought has also helped to balance what many have considered to be an excessive emphasis on materialistic values.


Resources are currently available to help us discover meaning and purpose in our own lives. The folks at www.smartrecovery.org have several forms available which may be of help in deciding just what is important in life and what to go after. They include a hierarchy of values, for helping you to find which values are most important to you; a values and goals clarification list for identifying goals; a decision-making worksheet for weighing the benefits and costs of making a particular change; and a change plan worksheet for help in charting a course to achieve your goals. The information  may be downloaded free of charge by using the print command on your computer, although donations are encouraged.

The importance of having a set of ideals to live by is also shown in the following poem, which General MacArthur kept on the wall of his office to guide him during the darkest days of World War Two.


We Grow Old by Deserting Our Ideals
by Samuel Ullman



Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Keep from Putting Things Offf

This free downloadable ABC Worksheet  from the folks at www.smartrecovery.com shows you how to apply the principles of cogniive-behaviorl psychology to  take control of your life in matters large and small. You can use it for everything from paying your bills on time, to stopping smoking, or deciding on which career path to follow.  

It first asks you about the causes of something you would like to change in your life, and then asks about the emotional consequences which were the result, your beliefs about what happened, what beliefs could be substituted for the ones which brought about the unpleasant results, and how those changed beliefs make you feel. 

You can write on the form itself, clearing and changing it as often as you like. Then, when you are finished, you can either print it out or save it as a text file, using a different form for each problem you would like to work on. To re-examine it or re-do each form that you have completed, just call up that particular file and continue to modify it as you progress. 

It could prove to be extremely helpful if you are willing to give it a try!

 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Brain: A Computer that Stops When You Die?

How can the physical world be reflected so perfectly in the mental world? 


If I think that I want to raise my arm, and then I raise it, how did the mental thought get translated into a physical act? What is the connection between the mind and the body?

In philosophy, this is traditionally known as the "mind-body problem." In the area of hypnosis, it usually takes the form of a debate as to whether hypnosis is a state, in the sense that fainting, coma, and shock are separate states of the organism, or whether it is best conceived of as a non-state, i.e., a set of "believed-in imaginings," as Sarbin has called it in a book by that title, or "the ability to think along with and vividly imagine the instructions and suggestions one is given," as Ted Barber has stated, or, as I have desctibed it,  a shared delusional system.

If we first take a closer look at the mind-body problem which underlies it, I believe we will have a better idea how to approach the state vs. non-state controversy in hypnosis. Several answers to the mind-body problem have been proposed, which usually fall into one of four categories:

1. We could say that everything is physical, and consciousness is just an illusion, much like the reflection in the photo above, as the behaviorist, John Watson and his followers emphasized. This answer leaves many others unsatisfied. When someone who holds this opinion asks you what you mean by consciousness, many people are inclined to scornfully reply, "I mean what you feel when you ask me that question."

2. We could say that everything is mental, and what we call matter is just an illusion, as did the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who believed that everything exists as an idea in the mind of God. (This provides a neat explanation for the problem of miracles: "God changed His mind!)

3. We could say, as did Descartes, that mental and physical get translated from a "pineal eye" located in the center of the forehead. But others will object that if you are going to talk about a connection between them, you must first establish that they are two separate entitites, i.e., you must establish something which is not true in the first place.

4. Finally, we could say, "Why make the problem?" as did the British philosophers, Bradley and Bosanquet. If we don't state things in either-or categories, then we don't have to wiggle out of them.  Hypnosis is a state of the organism, as is any constellation of thoughts -- but it is also a function of the imagination, which is a very real group of abilities located in the organ which we call the brain. And there is no need to separate them through the creation of any artificially-linked analogies.

Does this mean that the brain is merely a computer which stops when you die, as Steven Hawking claims? Not necessarily. If you accept Einstein's equation that matter and energy are two different forms of the same thing, this means that neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed -- just transformed.


Matter and energy are both forms of the same thing!


Einstein expressed with mathematical elegance that matter and energy are two forms of the same thing.  Emerson carried this idea even further with the eloquence of poetry.

I am not poor, but I am proud,

Of one inalienable right,

Above the envy of the crowd,--
Thought's holy light.

  
 Better it is than gems or gold,

And oh! it cannot die,
But thought will glow when the sun grows cold,
And mix with Deity.




See also: The Evidence is In: "Free Will" is an Illusion!





Sunday, August 24, 2014

Determinism is the Secular Equivalent of Salvation

In considering the question of free will, it is also necessary to consider the question of moral responsibility. We hold people legally and morally responsible for their actions to the extent tha they know what they are doing is wrong, and understand the consequences of doing so. To the extent that this understanding is diminished, their guilt is reduced. But what criminal facing execution would have deliberately and with full understanding committed the crime that sealed his fate? How then could we hold him fully responsible for his act, and demand the ultimate penalty? 

Who could ever knowingly be so STUPID as to knowingly
and deliberately do anything that would lead to this?
Thinkers and philosophers have been debating the question of determinism versus free will for centuries. Briefly, the argument goes like this. If someone announces that he has made a decision and you ask him why, he will answer, "Because," followed by a list of reasons. Would he ever have decided otherwise? you ask. "Yes," he would answer, if he had other reasons. Our reasons determine our decisions, and our reasons are determined by our motives. But we do not choose our motives! Therefore, our decisions are all caused, and free will is an illusion. 

Can you think of anything that any human being ever does that is not determined by our motives, and the alternatives which we perceive before us? The most that a psychologist is able to do is to point out the existence of still other motives, of which we may be unaware.  The question is not, "Do I choose?" but "Do I choose to choose? and the answer is no!


Just as a computer makes choices in accordance with its instructions, we make choices in accordance with our motives. They are our programs. We only "feel" free if the choices before us are pleasant ones; but in reality, free will does not exist, for this kind of choice is just as determined as any other.


Today, neuroscience provides us with the conclusive answer to the question of whether or not we have free will. 




What we commonly refer to as "freedom" lies in the range of choices which are open to us, and whether or not those choices are experienced as pleasant or desirable, then some people's freedom can be a lot more limited than that of others. The psychiatrist Milton Erickson wrote a classic case study entitled "The February Man," in which he described a client who had such an inadequate personality that he had to do a series of age regressions with her to provide the corrective socializing experiences that she had missed, from childhood through her teen years and all the way into adulthood. This changed both her self and her motives, and greatly expanded her freedom to make her own choices.


Prisons  are still needed, of course, to the extent that they protect the public from dangerous persons, to the extent that they serve as a deterrent to others, and to the extent that they can make us want to do what we know that we ought to do (That's why we call them correctional institutions.). I worked in the NJ State Prison system for fifteen years, and i know that the system doesn't always work as it should, I agree -- but sometimes it does, when people begin to realize what leads to what. When I asked one inmate how he came to jail, he replied uneasily, "I was found behind the wheel of a stolen car." I asked him, "Did you steal it?" and he reluctantly replied, "Well, yeah."



When I say that there is no such thing as a behavior without a cause, I also have to admit that a person's self can be one of the causes. And what is the self? Is it the sum total of a person's past experience, or does it have a unique structure that is more than the sum of its parts? Most of us would say that each person's self is uniqe, and is capable of initiating action on its own.
But aren't there still reasons why you develop one kind of self and not another? Of course there are! So this whole free-will vs. determinism debate is like a reversible figure. If you look at it one way you see one thing, and if you look at it another way you see something else. That[s why the debate has persisted for hundreds of years, and why it will continue to persist until people recognize that it all depends on your point of view,
As far as deciding which view to emphasize, most of us would agree that Adolf Hitler should not be forgiven because he could not help himself/  But sometimes a  voluntaristic view of right and wrong needs to be balanced up a bit. Every day, I see people in my clinical psychology practice whose depression, anxety, and unhappiness are the result of beating themselves up for things which they couldn't help doing in the situations in which they found themselves. Determinists, however, realize this, and therefore they have no guilt. For atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers (although I an none of these), determinism is simply the secular equvalent of the Fundamentalist experience of :"salvation.".

Successful psychotherapy also provides us with  an increased range of choices available to us which did not exist before, and in that sense it can be said to expand our freedom. This is also the promise and the potential of hyperempiria, or suggestion-enhanced experience, and of visiting multiple Universes to re-write our own history, for the enhancement of human potential, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the fulfillment of human existence.    

See also: Hypnosis and the Mind-Body Problem

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to Construct Hypnotic Suggestions and Autosuggestions Scientifically!


Most of us wouldn't quarrel with a definition of suggestion as "presenting an idea in such a manner that a person is likely to accept it as literally true, and therefore 'real.'" But hypnotists aren't the only ones whose work centers around making changes in the perception of reality!

Cognitive-behaviorial psychology works with automatic thoughts, which tell us how to respond to what is going on around us. Challenging people's automatic thoughts and substituting more adaptive ones is one way to produce a more efective adjustment to life. And, according to the definition just presented, these new ideas also qualify as suggestions. 

When the environment is pretty much the same for everyone, as it is in a standardized test such as the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Suggestibility, well-documented individual differences in suggestibility do exist. However, if you vary the environment enough, these individual differences disappear. Imagine, for example. that the Harvard Group Scale is being given to a class of introductory psychology students at the American University of Beirut, let us say, when a person dressed in a police uniform bursts into the room and says in a loud, commanding voice, "The city is under biological attack, and a germ cloud is headed this way. Take refuge in the basement immediately and await further instructions!" Even if such an announcement is a hoax (i.e., a cleverly-designed suggestion) thought up by a dissident student organization to disrupt the orderly running of campus activities, if it were to be carried out in a sufficiently convincing manner, everyone in the class -- including the instructor -- would probably dash for the exits and head for the nearest underground shelter, manifesting a variety of emotional and cognitive responses to this suggestion without the necessity of a hypnotic induction!

Another way to vary the suggestions enough so that individual differences disappear is to customize them to fit the needs of each person to whom they are given, as cognitive-behavioral therapists do. It is generally acknowledged that the cognitive-behavioral approach is the fastest-growing orientation in psychology, with an ever-growing body of research behind it. Since both high and low-suggestible people respond better to any treatment if you first convince them that they have been hypnotized (Robertson, 2013), if the cognitive-behavioral way of constructing suggestions is more scientific, and therefore more effective, than suggestions generated by other means, then perhaps this method should also be adopted by more people who use hypnosis.

Contrary to what cognitive-behaviorists sometimes advocate, not all clients are suited for working with thought records themselves. As hypnotists, however, thought records can be of great help to us in helping us to analyze a client's problem in scientific terms, in explaining a situation to a client, and in deciding what suggestions to provide and what autosuggestions to teach the client to use.  For this reason, I am including more information in this posting to illustrate how cognitive-behavioral therapy may be utilized in a variety of ways. (I routinely use them both in my clinical psychology practice, sometimes individually and sometimes together.)    

This free downloadable ABC Worksheet from www.smartrecovery.org can become your daily companion for taking control of your life in matters large and small. You can use it to make motivational and behavioral adjustments on everything from paying your bills on time, to stopping smoking, or deciding on which career path to follow. (If you don't have the necessary Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can also download it free of charge.)

It first asks you about the causes of something you would like to change in your life, and then asks about the emotional consequences which were the result, your beliefs about what happened, what beliefs could be substituted for the ones which brought about the unpleasant results, and how those changed beliefs make you feel. You can write on the form itself, clearing and changing it as often as you like. Then, when you are finished, you can either print it out or save it as a text file, using a different form for each problem you would like to work on. No induction is needed, and there are no individual differences in suggestibility to take into account, because each suggestion is individually customized to fit the circumstances and thought patterns of the individual to whom it is given.

Cognitive-behavioral therapists also frequently use a document called a thought record in order to examine just what goes on in the mind when we make those habitual decisions that keep getting us into trouble . . . Here is what one looks like, and here is what it looks like all filled out, courtesy of www.getselfhelp.co.uk.  (A slightly longer, seven-column version of the same form is also available.)  Here are other free versions of the thought record form, adapted for special purposes:
You can make as many copies as you want for your own use by using the print command on your computer, and you can also obtain different versions for a host of other purposes. In addition, there is a free online self-help course and other materials on how to use them. Naturally, I cannot be responsible for the accuracy or the effectiveness of self-help materials downloaded from the Internet. Moreover,as a psychologist, I am a little more conservative than they are about what can legitimately be included within the rubric of "self-help."  But in any event, it works, and no induction is necessary -- although, of course, it helps!.

Reference

Robertson, D. J. (2013). The practice of cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy. London: Karnac Books, Ltd.
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This Blog contains many other examples of experience as an art form, for the enhancement of human potential, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the fulfillment of human existence.


See also the following print sources:

Gibbons, D. E. (2001). Experience as an art form. .New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2000). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press (originally published 1979 by Plenum Press).

Gibbons, D. E., & Cavallaro, L (2013).. Exploring alternate universes: And learning what they can teach us. Amazon Kindle E-Books. (Note: It is not necessary to own a Kindle reader to download this e-book, as the Kindle app may be downloaded free of charge to a standard desktop or laptop computer and to most cell phones.)

Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-291.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rationalization, Positive Thinking, Re-Framing, Affirmations, or Lying to Yourself?

You can get rid of the false beliefs and  perceptions
 that make life diffiicult -- if you go sbout it in the right way!.
When the truth is too unpleasant to face directly, we sometimes lie to ourselves and believe our own lie in order to hide from rea;ity. This process is called rationalization, and there are two main kinds. "Sour grapes" rationalization is what we do when we fail to attain something and tell ourselves we didn't want it anyway. The name comes from the old folk tale about a fox who was trying to get into a vinyard to eat some grapes and, when he was unable to do so, walked away in disgust, thinking that the grapes weren't worth eating anyway, because they were probably sour. "Sweet lemon" rationalization is what we do when life hands us a disappointment (a "lemon"), and we make ourselves believe that the lemon is actually a blessing in disguise, as might be the case if a child was denied an inheritance and convinced himself that the life of hard labor which was the  became his lot was really better because it bult up his strength and physical endurance.

We have other ways to lie to ourselves, such as the excessive use of affirmations, and positive thinking which is not really true, but which only allows us to put off facing the inevitable. "You can do anything if you put your mind to it," is one example, or the classic , "Every day, and in every way, I am getting better and better," are affirmations which eventually lose their power to inspire us because they are not confirmed in everyday life. 


However, there is one kind of way to change how you look at things, called re-framing, which is a way of thinking differently that is actually more true than the way you looked at them before. A client with a lifelong fear of hospitals, for example, may have acquired this fear as a child when one by one, the family members who went to the hospital died. This fear had also generalized to a fear of dentistry. Re-framing would help this individual to see that hospitals are not really houses of death, but houses of healing, because if you go to the hospital when your physician deems that you ought to do so, the chances of surviving illness are actually much better than if you do not go.


Re-framing is one of the most important tools of hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral psychology. Much of the work of both hypnotists and cognitive-behavioral psychologists is aimed at teaching people to think differently, but more realistically, about themselves, the world, and the future, as they make and test hypotheses to see whether or not their previous beliefs are accurate or need to be revised. 


It still takes work, of course, because the "insight" brought about by re-framing often may not be enough by itself. Social psychologists have amply documented that an attitude, or a tendency to respond in a certain way, is made up not only of an action component, but a belief component and an emotional component. Once we change our long-held beliefs about a situation, we still have to contend with a lifetime of accumulated emtional and experiential baggage which supports the former point of view. But at least, now we know know the right direction in which to proceed! The client who reported a strong fear of hospitals, and who was now in her seventies was soon facing long-neglected dental work. In order to get her through it, in her own words, "hypnosis was my savior!" 


One of my favorite scripts for this type of work is john Hartland's ego-strengthening suggestions, which may easily be adapted for a wide variety of purposes.  The suggestions themselves are adapted from his book, Medical and Dental Hypnosis, which is now in its third edition. The suggestions are available online at no charge, and may be accessed by the foregoing link. Although Haerland's style is a bit more authoritative and commanding than those which many contemporary hypnotists are used to, I have found it to be especially well-suited for overcoming the emotional residue left over afer successful reframing. 


An alternative approach which uses imagery rather than verbal suggesstion is illustrated by Julie Andrews' rendition of the song, My Favorite Things. (For best results, of course, you'll want to make up your own list.):







Friday, May 30, 2014

CBT and Buddhist Thought: Two Keys to Inner Peace



Albert Ellis has put together a list of false beliefs that are driving you crazy, because they are foisted upon us by others and set us up for failure and disappointment ahead of time. They are all false, but many of us are inclined to at least occasionally believe some of them. Take a look at this list and see if you are inclined to agree with any of them, at least part of the time. You can get rid of these irrational ideas by recognizing and eliminating them.

A Greek philosopher once said, "Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them." Here is a link to a list of wrong perceptions that are driving you crazy, which are also foisted upon us by others and make events appear to be much worse than they actually are. See how many of these thought patterns might be clouding your own view of the world, by causing you to look at life "through mud-colored glasses." If you are inclined to look at things this way yourself, once you recognize that they are not accurate, you can get rid of them too.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Creating the Perrect Balance for a Relationship to Grow

Bowen family systems theory emphasizes the idea of differentiation from your significant other, as opposed to fusion with him or her. Increasing your degree of differentiation is a lifelong project, which can be ranked on a scale from zero to 100. People who are more differentiated are less reactive to close relationhips, and less likely to become triangulated into other relationships. Generally speaking the more differentiated you are, the more you are in control of your own development and the better adjusted you are. 

From one generation to the next, however, families tend to become less and less differentiated and more fused, ultimately leading to schizophrenia, which in traditional Bowenian theory is the ultimate form of fusion. (This, of course, flies in the face of contemporary research findings documenting the high rates of schizophrenia in pairs of identical twins who have been adopted by different families and raised apart. If one such twin develops schizophrenia, research has found, the chances are much higher than would be expected that the other one will too.)
In contrast, the Daoist concept of Yin and Yang teaches that the secret of a happy adjustment is to find the right balance between all the opposing forces in the couple's life together. Yin and Yang are constantly changing; but just as one cannot exist without the other, it is also true that too much of either Yin or Yang in the relationship can eventually weaken and consume the other, thereby destroying it from within. Each partner should learn from the other, and they both should change in a measured degree as time goes on. If one member chnges too rapidly, without the other being able to follow, the relationship is weakened or destroyed; and if one partner comes to dominate the other so completely that the other's individuality is obliterated, the relationship will also become debilitated. (Of course, the same principles apply to the relationship between parents and children, between friends, and even between therapist and client!)
The Yin-Yang symbol, reproduced below, illustrates this balance, which under ideal conditions is is equally distributed, with a portion of the Yin contained within the Yang portion, and vice-versa. (Every man, for example, should have a feminine side, and every woman should have a masculine side, as Karl Jung pointed out.) 
Yin and Yang are seen as universal principles which exist throughout nature, i.e., the crest of a wave is Yin, and the trough is Yang; a growing shard of wheat is Yin; but when it is harvested, it is Yang, So pervasive is the concept of Dao in Oriental culture that the Yin-Yang symbol and lines representing the various most common combinations have been utilized to form the flag of South Korea. Chinese villages on the sunny side of a river will frequently have "Yin" in their name, whille those on the shady side of the river will frequently incorporate the term, "Yang;" and the capital of North Korea is named Pyongyang, to indicate that it is located in a valley. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"IF" by Rudyard Kipling

IF

by Rudyard Kipling
There is a lifetime of wisdom packed into every verse of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If," which has helped to sustain me through misfortunes great and small. I hope you like it too.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thought your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings:
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it. . . .

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to Overcome Shyness with Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology

It is generally agreed that the cognitive-behavioral approach is the fastest-growing orientation in psychology, with an ever-growing body of research behind it to demonstrate that it actually works.

Just as physical therapists can provide you with exercises to improve physical functioning, cognitive-behavioral therapists provide exercises to develop more effective psychological adjustments. Cognitive-behavioral therapists frequently use a document called a thought record in order to examine just what goes on in the mind when we keep making those bad choices when we could have made better ones. Here is what one looks like, courtesy of www.getselfhelp.co.uk, and here is what it looks like all filled out. You can make copies for your own personal use without charge by using the print command on your computer. They also have a free self-help course on cognitive-behavioral therapy, and a host of other helpful materials.

Shyness is a common phenomenon which we all feel at one time or another, especially around someone whom do not know well, but are physically or emotionally attracted to. Shyness most closely fits their worksheet for social anxiety. Here is a hypothetical example of how it might be used, with the column headings in italics and one set of possible responses in standard type.

Situation and Trigger: You are eating lunch alone in the company cafeteria. An attractive co-worker from another department sits down at the table with you and begins a conversation about job-related matters.

Feelings, Emotions, and Physical Sensations: Awkwardness.

Unhelpful Thoughts or Images: "I'd like to get to know her better, but I don't know what to say."

Self-focus: Trying to hide what I am really thinking about.

Safety Behaviors: Pretending that I'm only interested in the topic of conversation.

Balanced, more rational response: I could say something like, "I'm enjoying this conversation, and I'd like to continue our talk later on. Can I call you for lunch sometime?"

Outcome: I will either be able to begin a friendship that could develop into something serious, or I will be able to stop fretting about her and focus my attention on someone else.

It sounds simple when you look at it this way. But if you do not use the CBT Thought Record to put your thinking, feeling, and behavior under a microscope, you might very well continue to fret about being shy, but never do much about it. Of course, you might want to practice using the thought record form for other hypothetical conversations, in order to be prepared for a variety of possible outcomes. Once you get the hang of it, if you continue to do these mental workouts as regularly as you would exercise physically in a gymnasium, you will eventually become able to think, feel, and act like a confident person in almost any situation.

Confucius said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Cognitive-behavioral psychology can be of great help in preparing you for all the important steps to your destination! 

See also: 

The Art of Small Talk

 

This Blog contains many other examples of experience as an art form, for the enhancement of human potential, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the fulfillment of human existence.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"The Right Medication, in the Right Dosage,

Psychotropic medication is not for everyone!
A prison inmate with previously undiscovered bipolar disorder had driven his car into a tree while in a manic state, which resulted in the death of his girlfriend and his subsequent incarceration. He later said to me,"It's too bad that you have to come to jail to find out that you have a mental illness!" I agreed that he was unfortunately correct. ("Insanity" is a very difficult defense to use, even when it may be justified.) Later, when his meds had taken effect and he saw how effective they were, he told me, "The right medication, in the right dosage, will kick ass!" 

I told him that I had never heard it put so incisively before; but again I had to admit that he was right. Many of the criticisms of "Big Pharma" over-marketing psychotropic medication are probably valid. Research has shown that for many problems involving mild to moderate anxiety and or depression, a regular exercise program and, or talk therapy of the same length of time can be effective -- but certainly not for bipolar disorder!

However, medication is certainly not without its drawbacks. It's a science to develop a new psychotropic medication but it's an art to use it, because no two people are exactly alike. Even after years of rigorous testing to gain approval for a prescription drug, a particular medication can have absolutely no effect on one person, work well for another, and put still another in the emergency room. (I've talked to more than one person in each group.) 

Because psychotropic medication can sometimes can take weeks to build up in your nervous system before you find out whether or not they are going to work, and because of the possibility of side effects just mentioned, prescribers often start a person on "baby" doses of a psychotropic medication and gradually increase the prescribed amount until a therapeutic level is atually reached. This often results in having to wait even longer to find out if a particular medication, or combination of them, is going to be effective.

No decision regarding whether to use or not to use psychotropic medication such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety agents, or mood stabilizers, should be made without consulting an appropriately licensed professional who can prescribe such medication. But for those who respond poorly or adversely to psychotropic medication, talk therapy can be useful either as a booster or as an alternative. For example, a client whose depression appeared to be primarily rooted in family difficulties recently had been prescribed an anti-depressant by her family physician, but it was either not working or it had not kicked in yet. She was about to stop taking her medication, but I reminded her that some medication does take weeks to build up in one's body, sometimes the dosage needs to be adjusted, sometimes there are unpleasant side effects, which make it necessary to try another medication before finding just the right meds, either singly or in combination, which work for a particular individual.

While she continued to see her physician, using a multimodal induction and the Best Me Technique, I suggested feelings of peace, happinesss, tranquility, and relaxation. Almost immediately her depression lifted, and we were free to begin the process of identifying goals and discovering the sources which would help to bring meaning and fulfillment into her life.

Was her change in mood due to hypnosis, or did her medication finally start to work?  Life is not an experimental laboratory; and with a live patient who desperately needs to get better, our goal is to get results, rather than identifying exactly what leads to what. The only thing we can be sure of at this point is that she was highly satisfied with the outcome.


 

Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Have Better Sex at Any Age

Consecrating themselves to one another anew
Sometimes a stranger will tell you things that he might not tell his best friend.  I was once seated next to a man at a restaurant who told me how worried he was that his sex drive was slowing down as he was entering his forties. I replied that the difference between sex in your twenties and sex in your forties was like the difference between a starving man devouring a hamburger and a cultured Frenchman enjoying a leisurely seven-course gourmet meal in a fine restaurant. If you take your time and savor every moment of the total situation, the total enjoyment you are going to have is  much greater. And where sex is concerned, you're the chef  -- and the best way to have a gourmet experience is to prepare one for your partner! 

We both ordered dessert. 





 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Case for Single Payer Health Insurance

I am a psychologist and my wiife has a doctorate in psychological counseling. For several years, we have been members of Physicians for a National Health Program which, despite the name, welcomes members of all health-rekated professions, and advocates for the abolition of private insurance companies in favor of a single national payer, which could be achieved by expanding Medicare to cover the entire population.

Following are some excerpts of recent Senate testomony by Mark Carlin:

Here are two basic facts to remember about the health care system in the United States. First, there is the high cost, as noted in a 2012 report on PBS:
How much is good health care worth to you? $8,233 per year? That’s how much the U.S. spends per person.
Worth it?
That figure is more than two-and-a-half times more than most developed nations in the world, including relatively rich European countries like France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On a more global scale, it means U.S. health care costs now eat up 17.6 percent of GDP....
Whether measured relative to its population or its economy, the United States spends by far the most in the world on health care.
The U.S. spent $8,233 on health per person in 2010. Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland are the next highest spenders, but in the same year, they all spent at least $3,000 less per person. The average spending on health care among the other 33 developed OECD countries was $3,268 per person.
That statistic brings up the much-beloved free market criteria of return on investment (ROI), at which the US performs abysmally according to many studies when it comes to health.
An NPR article in 2013 is entitled, "US Ranks Below 16 Other Rich Countries In Health Report":
It's no news that the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than most high-income countries. But a ... new report says Americans are actually less healthy across their entire life spans than citizens of 16 other wealthy nations.
And the gap is steadily widening.
"What struck us — and it was quite sobering — was the recurring trend in which the U.S. seems to be slipping behind other high-income countries," the lead author of the report, Dr. Steven Woolf, tells Shots.
He says Americans of all ages up to 75 have shorter lives and more illness and injury.
It should be noted that in this report, the United States is being compared to other "developed" nations. A recent United Nations Population Divison report ranked the US 40th in life expectancy among all nations in 2010.
In short, the US spends the most on medical care with poor life expectancy results, even including many nations that are not considered wealthy.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) may have made insurance coverage more inclusive, but it keeps the insurance companies in charge of calling the shots (for those without Medicare, Veterans Care or Medicaid) and adding to the cost of health care through administrative costs and profit.
According to the advocacy organization Public Citizen, a number of experts from single-payer nations recently testified at a Senate sub-committee hearing chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a leading supporter of Medicare for all. The spokespersons from Canada and Denmark offered compelling reasons why the US should move from a private-insurance system to a government administered program (such as, well, Medicare):
For example, the Canadian witness, Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president of medical affairs and health system solutions at Women’s College Hospital, compared access to care, quality of care and costs in the U.S. and Canadian systems, and found all were superior in Canada. Martin compared the American average for administrative costs of 31 percent to the 1.3 percent administrative costs paid by Canada (not counting costs for private supplemental plans available to Canadians.) Professor Jakob Kjellberg from the Danish Institute for Local and Regional Government Research, who served as the Danish expert witness, said his country’s administrative costs are only 4.3 percent of total health care spending.
In short, as has been argued before, private health insurance (which we still obviously have under the ACA) increases the cost of medical care, with nearly a third of that cost eaten up by private insurance non-health related revenue. To repeat the testimony cited above: 31 percent of US health insurance costs goes to insurers, while in Canada only 1.3 percent of medical costs are administrative.
As far as access to care, to the contrary of what Sarah Palin infamously asserted -- that government care would lead to death panels -- it is private insurance companies who employ staff to decide whether medical care -- sometimes a matter of life or death with chronic illnesses and rare diseases -- should be provided. Medicare does not employ "profit-increasers" to deny care.
Indeed, a spokesperson for Public Citizen pointedly summarized the hearing:
Today’s panel was a good first step that will hopefully inspire a real discussion about the benefits of single-payer health care in the United States, said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. A single-payer, or Medicare-for-all, system would eliminate health insurance companies from the equation, ensuring that only patients and their doctors make decisions about care options.
Although the ACA is to be praised for providing many uninsured people an opportunity to sleep with some peace of mind, it is still a rickety system constructed to ensure the political support of medical insurance companies.
US politicians, including President Obama, regularly boast about the US being the leader of the world in progress and a model for other nations.
Having the most expensive healthcare system, with the worst general outcome ranking for developed nations, makes the US look like a wobbly caboose not a powerful engine.
Medicare for all could solve that problem when it comes to cost-effectively fostering a healthy national population.

Please join us in working to put an end to the abuses of private, for-profit insurance companies, from which we all suffer on a daily basis. 

Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D.