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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Monday, May 29, 2017

The Psychology of Humor

Which of the following jokes do you find amusing? Are there any that you just don't get, or are repulsed by?

Did I read that sign right? 
_____________________________________________TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW_____________________________________________In a Laundromat:AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT____________________________________________________
In a London department store:BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS 
____________________________________________________
In an office:WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY, PLEASE BRING IT BACK, OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN._____________________________________________In an office:AFTER TEA BREAK, STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD._____________________________________________
Outside a second hand shop: WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING - BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?_______________________________________
Notice in Health Food shop window:CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS._______________________________________
Spotted in a safari park: (I sure hope so)
ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR_______________________________________
Seen during a conference:FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN'T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR._______________________________________
Notice in a farmer's field:THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES._______________________________________
Message on a leaflet:IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS._______________________________________
On a repair shop door:WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR - THE BELL DOESN'T WORK)_______________________________________
Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn't you say?
Man Kills Self, Before Shooting Wife and Daughter_____________________________________________
This one I caught in the SGV Tribune the other day and called the Editorial Room and asked who wrote this.
It took two or three readings before the editor realized that what he was reading was impossible!
They put in a correction the next day.
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert SaysReally? Ya think?___________________________________
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down JaywalkersNow that's taking things a bit far!____________________________________________________
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes OverWhat a guy!_____________________________________________
Miners Refuse to Work after DeathNo-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!____________________________________________________
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting DefendantSee if that works any better than a fair trial!________________________________________
War Dims Hope for PeaceI can see where it might have that effect!____________________________________________________
If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last AwhileYa think?!____________________________________________________
Cold Wave Linked to TemperaturesWho would have thought!____________________________________________________
Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect HomicideThey may be on to something!____________________________________________________
Red Tape Holds Up New BridgesYou mean there's something stronger than duct tape?____________________________________________________
Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery ChargeHe probably IS the battery charge!____________________________________________________
New Study of Obesity Looks for LargerTest GroupWeren't they fat enough?!-____________________________________________________
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas
in Spacecraft
That's what he gets for eating those beans!____________________________________________________
Kids Make Nutritious SnacksDo they taste like chicken?________________________________________
Local High School Dropouts Cut in HalfChainsaw Massacre all over again!____________________________________________________
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot DoctorsBoy, are they tall!____________________________________________________
And the winner is...Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds DeadDid I read that right?____________________________________________________

Don't laugh, but, the "Mirth Response Test" is aimed at examining the psychodynamic reasons why people tend to laugh at, not get, or be grossed out by, a particular joke. The idea is that laughter releases tension in areas which people might be conflicted about -- which is why so much humor deals with sexual topics. If there is just a moderate amount of conflict, you find it funny. If there is too much conflict, as might be expected in the idea of eating children, you might either be grossed out by it, or not get it at all because the notion is so repugnant.  (A less conflict-laden joke of this type might be, "I love animals. They're delicious!) If someone is inclined to laugh at the one about, "use floor below.,"  in the list above, it might be because . . . well, you get the idea.

On the other hand, sometimes a joke is just a joke, as illustrated by the story of a man who opened refrigerator door to find a live rabbit inside, calmly munching on a carrot. "What are you doing here?" he asked incredulously, 

"What does it say on the door?" asked the rabbit.

"It says 'Westinghouse," the man replied.

"Well," said the rabbit, "I'm westing."  

Maybe we ought to just let the matter "west " there. . . . 

The Ultimate Remedy for Anxiety and Depression

He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.
                                                                -- Nietzche

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who was interned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. He experienced the tortures and depravities first-hand, and he was a keen observer of everything around him. He recorded his experiences in his book, Man's Search for Meaning, which is now in its third edition and has sold over two million copies. 

In his book, Frankl recalled that on one particularly bad day, a list of "crimes" was announced which would be punishable by immediate death by hanging. These included cutting your blankets into ankle supports because, due to insufficient food, your ankles were too weak to stand on by themselves. Then, a couple of hours later, it was announced that two potatoes had been stolen from the camp kitchen. If the culprits were not immediately handed over to the tender mercies of the SS guards, the whole camp would starve for the day, Since they were starving anyway, the whole camp preferred to fast.

That evening, as the prisoners lay in their huts, the lights went out. For many, this seemed to be the last straw. As they lay there in total darkness, his Senior Block Warden asked Frankl to give them a talk to lift their spirits up. God knows, Frankl wrote, he was in no shape to cheer up anyone else. But he knew he had to say something. He began by noting that the real reason people were dying all around them was not their poor living conditions, horrible as they were, but giving up hope. Even in this Europe in the sixth winter of the Second World War, he continued, everyone could find some reason for hope. He frankly admitted that he estimated his own chances of survival at about one in twenty. Friends, family, careers, could all be restored, and one could suddenly be transferred to a camp with unusually good working conditions, for this was the luck of the prisoner.

When the lights came on again, it was obvious that he had struck a responsive chord. People were limping towards him to shake his hand. Later, when he was liberated from the camp and re-opened his private practice, Frankl realized that in everyday life as well as in a concentration camp, when people gave up hope they were much more ready to die before their time. Instead of seeking pleasure, as Freud would have it, or power, as Adler maintained, Frankl asserted that the most powerful motivating force in humans is the need to find meaning in life.

In my clinical practice, as well as in the lives of others people I have known, I have seen evidence of the unhappiness and despair which results when the main source of meaning in one's existence has been lost, or when it has never been found in the first place. But meaning need never remain lost,, even though it may appear to be. In the conclusion of the motion picture, Titanic, when her idyllic first love had been destroyed by the death of her lover when the ship sank, the heroine re-appeared as an old woman with children and grandchildren, and observed, "the heart of a woman is as deep as the ocean itself." 

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "The world is so full of such a number of things, I am sure we should all be as happy as kings."  Stephen Hawking, who was only expected to five a short time after he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in his youth, is still busy lecturing to large audiences about the Cosmos in his seventies, even though his illness has progressed to the point that he can no longer sit up in his wheelchair and must use a special device in order to speak. His life is proof that meaningfulness is the ultimate remedy for anxiety and depression -- or as he put it,, "Look at the stars, not at your feet.!"







Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lessons from Turning a Hypnotized Person into a Chicken

"Help! I'm a student in Dr. Gibbons' Introductory Psychology class!"
When I first opened my psychology practice in Manahawkin, New Jersey, one of my first hypnosis clients asked me, "You aren't going to turn me into al chicken, are you?"

"No," I replied, somewhat taken aback. 'That's for stage hypnotists. If I did it, it wouldn't be professional." But I did once. . . .

Several years ago, when I was discussing the topic of hypnosis in an Introductory Psychology class, I asked a student who had volunteered in a previous demonstration if she would be willing to help me illustrate how easy it was to turn a hypnotized person into a chicken. She readily agreed, and at the conclusion of an induction, I told her that I would count backwards from ten to one, and that at the count of one she would have been turned into a chicken.

"You will always be able to hear and to respond to my voice," I continued, "and I will return you to your normal state in a few minutes, before I bring you out of hypnosis. But until I do, you will experience the world exactly as if you had been turned into a chicken. You will remember everything I have said, and it will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Okay?"

She nodded in agreement, and I counted slowly backwards from ten to one, providing suggestions along the way that she could feel herself changing into a chicken; and at the count of one, I announced that she had become a chicken. "Would you like to open your eyes and walk around a bit?" I asked. She did so, walking slowly as I took hold of her elbow. "Why are you walking like that?" I asked.

"I'm a chicken," she answered in a high, cackly voice, much to the amusement of the class.

I guided her back to her desk, counted from one to ten to restore usual perceptions, and then concluded the hypnotic demonstration. I then asked her if she had really felt like she was a chicken, and she slowly and thoughtfully nodded in agreement. 

But if she really believed that she was a chicken, why did she not scurry away in fear as soon as I approached her desk? Why did she allow me to slowly walk her around the room, limping slightly, instead of struggling to get away, as a real chicken would surely do? Why did she answer my question about why she was limping by answering, "I'm a chicken!?" And why were the suggestions so easy to undo, as if she understood English as well as she ever did?

We could talk about a "hidden observer" that always knows what's going on and maintains control, no how matter deeply a person is hypnotized, as Hilgard did. We could talk about "trance logic," which is similar to the logic which is found in dreams, as Martin Orne did. But why should we infer the presence of any fancy mental processes when they are not needed?

What she had actually believed and responded toIMHO, was the narrative of what had taken place! She knew that she was a student in my class, and she knew that she had consented for me to hypnotize her. She still had the kind of "Alice-in-Wonderland" imagination which we all have as children, but most of us lose as we become adults. Therefore, she was also able to act, think, and feel as if she were a chicken for the purpose of a class demonstration.  

The demonstration described here was undertaken in the spirit of fun, and everyone understood that. However, as  long as the suggested narratives are real to the person who undergoes them, their transformational effects on the personality can be powerful indeed! With our adult ability to conceptualize, we can build an almost unlimited number of resource states, in an unlimited number of parallel universes in which anything that can happen really does happen,. In the words of the mystical poet, William Blake, experiential hypnosis enables us, 


To see a world in a grain of sand,
Or a Heaven in a wild flower.
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

Infinity? No problem. Eternity? Check. "Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour?" Hang on, here we go. , , ,

See also:

What is Hypnosis and How does it Work?


Print Reference

Sarbin, T. R., & De Rivera, J. (1998),  Believed-in imaginings: The Narrative Construction of Reality (Memory, Trauma, Dissociation, and Hypnosis) . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.




Shakespeare, the Dalai Lama, and the Serenity Prayer


The traditional Eastern view of life may be summed up as follows:




The Western view, on the other hand, might be expressed in the words of Shakespeare:

To be or not to be, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to bear the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune,
Or to take up arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them.

A modern version of this view is expressed in the following video:  



Who is right? If we were never willing "to take up arms against a sea of troubles," slavery would still exist, wives would always remain submissive to abusive husbands, and democracy would never have come into existence. On the other hand, for a small child growing up in an alcoholic and abusive home, a person toiling in dead-end jobs with no hope of getting another one, a prisoner serving a life sentence, or a patient in a hospice with a terminal illness, their only hope may be to turn inward in the quest for happiness and inner peace. 

For most of us, one answer may be appropriate in one situation or time in life, while the other answer may be appropriate at another time. I once had a Buddhist client with multiple  personalities, who told me that in Tibetan Buddhism you choose your parents according to what they can teach you. "I must have had to learn an awful lot," she told me. She sure did!  

A practical guide to making the appropriate choice is suggested in the following "Serenity Prayer" by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, which has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step organizations:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.


What is Hypnosis and How does it Work?

  



When you're hypnotized you're still you-- but with the added suggestion that you are hypnotized. If you happen to have an "Alice-in-Wonderland" imagination (and some people do without realizing it), then accepting the suggestion that you are hypnotized makes it possible for you to experience things with your imagination which we normally regard as beyond our abilities, as depicted in the picture above. 


Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage. And the men and women merely players." Today, sociologists and social psychologists conceive of society as an interlocking pattern of social roles, which vary in their degree of organismic involvement, depending on the person and the situation: a customer buying a newspaper, someone being cited for breaking a traffic ordinance, a bride and groom in a wedding ceremony, or a victim actually dying under the perceived influence of a voodoo spell, which the late Ted Sarbin referred to as "role taking to the death."

Sarbin regarded hypnosis ia as a social role, and he defined hypnotizability as "role taking aptitude." The degree of organismic involvement in hypnotic role taking also varies, of course, depending on the person, the situation, and prevailing cultural expectations. This explains how, in Mesmer's time, people went into convulsions and fainted. Now, in accordance with prevailing cultural expectations, they usually experience a trance -- unless it is specifically suggested that they will not, as in hyperempiria. 

When it comes to bringing about permanent changes, if the necessary ingredients for change in the narrative of one's personal life are present, then accepting the suggestion that one is hypnotized can make it possible to change this narrative more easily. For example, a nurse I used to work with in a screening center asked me to hypnotize her to stop smoking, which I was happy to do. She mentioned that one of her high school teachers used to hypnotize her regularly (apparently as a demonstration subject in his classes), so it was clear that she was imaginatively gifted. 

We didn't have time for the usual stop-smoking program that I use, with three visits and all the rest. But, knowing her as I did, it was clear that if she was ready to stop she was going to do so, with hypnosis providing the necessary catalyst regardless of the time and format which were available to us -- so I just gave her the usual stop-smoking suggestions, with the usual repetition and elaboration. As I recall, I told her that her desire to smoke would vanish, that the cues which would normally awaken a desire to smoke would no longer be effective in doing so; that she could not be suddenly surprised by taking a cigarette without thinking of it; and that she would feel strong feelings of pride, achievement, and accomplishment at the fact that she had become a non-smoker, 

To my consternation, the next day, when I asked her how she had done, and she told me that she had gone home and smoked an entire pack of cigarettes! But six months later, when I casually mentioned something about her smoking, she told me, "Oh, I haven't smoked since the time you hypnotized me."`

"But didn't you go home and smoke up a whole pack?" I asked her.

"Yes," she replied. "And then I stopped."


Having worked side by side on the same unit with her for quite some time, I realized why she had responded the way she did. Her approach to authority was basically confrontational. In her everyday work environment, she made it obvious to everyone around her that, "Nobody's going to tell ME what to do!" So, when I gave her suggestions under hypnosis that she was going to stop smoking, her life narrative required that she had to first go home and deliberately smoke up a whole pack just to prove that I wasn't telling HER what to do. Then, once she had made the point to her own satisfaction, she could comply with my suggestions because she was ready to change. 





`See also:


Print Sources


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.  



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


Sarbin, T. R., & De Rivera, J. (1998),  Believed-in imaginings: The Narrative Consruction of Reality (Memory, Trauma, Dissociation, and Hypnosis) . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.



Monday, May 22, 2017

When You're Just too Depressed to DO Much


You're not suicidal. If you needed prescription medication, you're taking it.  But you just don't feel like DOING anything! And if you have a job or someplace else you need to be, you don't feel like going.  What can you do when your depression is serious enough to spoil your day, but not serious enough to seek prompt medical attention?

You obviously don't feel too depressed to be on the computer, but you could probably use some advice from people who know exactly how you feel. I would like to recommend that you begin with the Ted Talk on You Tube entitled, "How to Get Stuff Done When You're Depressed."  Then, while your depression is on the mend (and one thing that you can count on most of the time is that it will go away), you can help to cheer yourself up by watching four more videos from  their playlist on the subject of depressoon  They have dozens more, if you're still interested, both on the subject of depression and its treatment.

You might also be interested in:

How to Get a Good Night's Sleep 

How to Keep  Your Boss feom Driving You Crazy

Emergency First Aid for Panic Attacks

How to Meditate Like an Expert Almost Anywhere

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Is a Toxic Person Driving You into Therapy?


I often see people in my psychology practice who are anxious and depressed because someone in their family is a "toxic person," or has a personality disorder, and is driving everyone else crazy. "There's nothing wrong with ME. YOU go to therapy!" 

If a person is obviously mentally ill or has a substance abuse problem, we usually have a pretty clear idea of what is wrong and how to go about getting help for them.. But toxic persons, or people with personality disorders, are usually not even aware that they have a problem. We may interact with them every day, and we may even be very close to them emotionally, even though they are often difficult to get along with because something about them is just -- well, different.

Toxic or personality disordered people are not “crazy” in the popular sense of the term, and they usually do not end up in mental hospitals unless something else is wrong with them; but these patterns tend to lie at the very core of their sense of self. They may sometimes even be proud of the traits that make them different and set them apart from others.

While actual diagnosis and treatment should only be undertaken by a mental health professional, the summaries which follow will help you to gain at least occasional insights into the behavior of many of the people you interact with every day, and which probably form the basis of many toxic relationships in the workplace, and possibly even within your own family and circle of friends. We all occasionally have some of these traits; but if you think that you may have a particular type of personality disorder, you should only consider this question very carefully, with professional help -- and the chances are very good that you don't.

The following descriptions of personality disorders have been compiled by some of the best minds in the field of mental health, drawing upon years of clinical observation and literally hundreds of research studies to find patterns which “clump together” in present-day culture. Please keep in mind, however, that it is possible to have more than one personality disorder at a time, and many people can possess some of the traits of one or more personality disorders without having enough to qualify for a formal diagnosis. 

A word of caution: You Tube is flooded with descriptions of personality disorders, but since anyone can post to You Tube, there is no quality control whatsoever. Even people who may have published books on one or more personality disorders may tend to treat everyone the same, without due regard for individual differences. Like anything else on the Internet, such postings should not be taken as authoritative unless you trust the source!

Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The ancient Greeks used to tell the story of Narcissus -- a lad who was so good-looking that he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and spent so much time gazing at it that he eventually fell into the pool and drowned. People who are given a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder are often perceived as being selfish or conceited. They may often spend a great deal of time telling you how great they are, or boasting of their achievements or accomplishments.

Some people think of a person with a narcissistic personality disorder as having a superiority complex to cover up for an inferiority complex. When you get to know such people well, it soon becomes apparent that the reason they spend so much time “tooting their own horn” is that deep down inside, they really feel afraid, inadequate, and unlovable.

Narcissists do not always act selfishly in the short term. They are often highly motivated to pursue long-term goals in order to prove their worth both to themselves and others. For this reason, narcissists often tend to gravitate to positions of leadership in business, government, education -- and yes, even churches.

Narcissists often cause a great deal of suffering, particularly when they happen to be employers, family members,  or romantic partners. Yet there are ways of dealing with them. (Since no two personalities are exactly identical, however, you cannot stereotype them and treat them all exactly the same way.)

Histrionic Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder may often be compared to an adult version of the “spoiled child” who will do anything to remain the center of attention. If histrionics are able to “show off” and remain the center of attention by doing a good job, they often accomplish a great deal. But if they feel that they are being ignored, or that the attention which they crave so deeply is denied them, they may become angry and disruptive in order to get it back again -- even if it’s unfavorable attention this time! ("I don't care what yor say about me," one publicity-hungry histrionic is reported to have said to a reporter for a scandal magazine. "Just be sure you spell my name right.!")

Antisocial Personality Disorder.

People with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder did not incorporate our society’s standards of right and wrong into their personalities as well as the rest of us have. They begin getting into trouble with the authorities by the time they are adolescents, and don’t grow out of it. As you might suppose, this pattern is much more common in men than in women.

Since personality disorders are so difficult to change, many such people keep going back and forth to jail from their teen years until middle age, when they seem to mellow out of their own accord. They make up the bulk of most prison populations, and often have a history of substance abuse or substance dependency. However, people with antisocial personality traits (I like to call them stealth antisocials) may be encountered almost anywhere, even at the highest levels of many organizations; and they may not be found out until their behavior gets them into trouble. (The discovery and apprehension of stealth antisocials in high-profile positions is the basis of many of the news stories we read about every day.)

Borderline Personality Disorder.

To understand the person who qualifies for a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, think back to some of the stormiest days of your own adolescence, or the adolescence of someone you know well. With an incompletely developed sense of self, the borderlines have no firm idea of who they are and where they are going. Their lives are often erratic, with frequent job changes and alterations in long term goals, and intense and unstable friendships and romantic involvements.

Because of their poorly developed sense of self, borderlines often have difficulty with so-called “boundary issues,” or the ability to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate in a given situation. Some borderlines, in fact, may find it difficult to even talk to a person of the opposite sex for very long without acting as if they are falling in love with them. As would be expected, the romantic lives of borderlines tend to be especially intense and tumultuous. The manipulative abilities of people with borderline personality disorder often enable them to deceive those who do not understand the inner storms which produce such behavior, which frequently causes their sudden bouts of passion to be mistaken for genuine love.

Borderlines often engage in “splitting,” with either extremely positive or extremely negative feelings towards others, sometimes suddenly reversing from extreme friendliness to extreme rejection and vice-versa. This changeability frequently leads them to engage in behavior that is highly manipulative. This splitting may also be the reason why the interpersonal relationships of borderlines are often centered around real of imagined fears of abandonment. (One book on borderline personality disorder is entitled, I Hate You - Don’t Leave Me!) These tendencies to engage in splitting may also explain why borderlines also seem to have a strong ability to divide those around them into separate camps of friends and enemies.  

Borderlines usually have very low self-esteem, and suicidal gestures, genuine attempts,
and successful suicides are not uncommon. Since many borderlines have a history of cutting themselves, or other forms of self-injurious behavior, it has been speculated that this represents an extreme attempt to combat the overwhelming numbness of an otherwise empty life.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.


People who have been diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be popularly known as a “nit-picker” or “neat freak.” They may become so involved with orderliness, perfectionism, and control that efficiency suffers as a result. This culture tends to place a high value on preoccupation with detail in certain jobs. With proper training, people who have milder forms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may become excellent law clerks, college registrars, bank auditors, or personal physicians -- in which case, it may not be a personality disorder any more, unless it interferes with their functioning off the job!

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is closely related to another disorder with a similar name, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD for short, which is similar in nature but more limited in scope. Obsessive-compulsive disorder refers to a pattern of continually recurring thoughts (obsessions), or behaviors which one is compelled to continually repeat, such as checking a door several times in a row to be sure that it is locked.

Avoidant Personality Disorder.

People who carry a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder have had such unpleasant social interactions in the past that with the possible exception of one or two close relatives or special friends, they have come to fear all human contact. Avoidants are frequently not merely shy about most social situations, they are genuinely phobic about them. Their avoidance is often centered around a core belief that if people really got to know them, it would immediately become obvious how incompetent and worthless they really are, and the immediate result would be scorn, rejection, and loss of employment. People with an avoidant personality disorder often tend to gravitate to solitary occupations -- researchers, librarians, or forest rangers, for example; and they may be attracted by certain monastic orders. (Of course, not everyone in these types of occupations could be diagnosed with an avoidant personality disorder!)

Dependent Personality Disorder.

A central theme in the life of people who have been diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder is a need to be looked after and taken care of, often accompanied by excessive fears of real or imagined abandonment. Ironically, some people who qualify for a diagnosis of DPD may behave in exactly opposite fashion. Those with milder forms of this disorder may attempt to satisfy their underlying dependency needs by becoming so efficient and thorough that they make themselves indispensable. Others, whose disorder is more severe, become highly dependent on instructions from above, and are reluctant to show any initiative in carrying out their responsibilities for fear that they will have made the wrong decision.

Paranoid Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnoses with paranoid personality disorder tend to see the activities of other people as ill-intentioned -- even when the opposite is true. Compliments may be seen as attempts to gain undue influence through flattery, and offers of help may be seen as evidence that the person to whom the help is offered is viewed as incompetent. The resulting suspiciousness and hostility may tend to bring about the negative attitudes and behaviors which the person with a paranoid personality disorder believes were always there. (The saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!”)

Schizoid Personality Disorder.

The person who has been diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder is an extreme loner or a “cold fish” who just isn’t interested in being around people. Such people are often found in the most solitary jobs which others might tend to shy away from. Because of their extreme lack of social skills, they should not be expected to change simply by inviting them to parties or by introducing them to a wide circle of people.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder typically have bizarre notions of cause and effect, and may practice unusual rituals of their own devising, either to make things happen or to prevent them from happening, similar to those who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Their everyday speech patterns and favorite topics of converstation are usually regarded by those around them as being somewhat bizarre, although not totally “crazy” in the popular sense of the term. They may also take a keen interest in cults and in the paranormal. Although certainly not everyone who is interested in such topics has a schizotypal personality disorder, the true schizotypal still tends to stand out because of bizarre thought patterns.

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.

Although the American Psychiatric Association no longer officially lists this as a separate personality disorder, people with passive aggressive tendencies try to disrupt things by sabotaging the success of their employers, their family, or their friends without appearing do so deliberately, because they feel that their own needs for recognition, status, or achievement are not being met, or that other people are more successful than they are. Passive aggressive people may risk an occasional confrontation if it helps them to get their frustrations out, but they can usually gauge their actions carefully enough to avoid losing their jobs or their families.

If they are not frankly and firmly confronted about their behavior, their passive-aggressive patterns may become worse over time as they continue to follow their own “hidden agendas” and they feel that their actions are being accepted or condoned. They may single out for special treatment vulnerable individuals or groups who will not or cannot “fight back,” and their behavior may degenerate into outright bullying. Then, when the inevitable day of reckoning does arrive, the consequences may be much more serious -- both for the victims and for the organization -- than if the problem had been immediately and forcefully dealt with.

Limitations of a Personality Disorder Diagnosis.

In order to qualify for any of the foregoing diagnoses of personality disorder, the disorder must be seen to cause people significant distress in their social, intellectual, or occupational functioning, regardless of whether or not they are aware of this fact. Temperamental but highly successful movie stars, for example, whose demanding and self-centered behavior would interfere with their adjustment in another setting, would probably not qualify for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder as long as they can "get away with it." Similarly, people who live alone in a remote location miles from the nearest neighbor would not qualify for a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder as long as they are able to function well their current situation, regardless of how intensely they may dislike having social contact with their fellow human beings.

It's easy to see how more than one personality disorder, or the traits of several, can work together in the same individual. Most of us are familiar with, or have heard stories about, the narcissistic borderline who sleeps her way into an executive position and then proceeds to systematically eliminate all those who are familiar with how she got to where she is, while tyrannizing over the ones who have been hired as their replacements. We are also not surprised to learn about a narcissistic antisocial convict (sometimes referred to as a psychopath), who immediately commits another crime upon his release from prison, which entitles him to several more years of "three hots and a cot," plus free medical and dental care. Many of us have also witnessed instances of a passive-aggressive histrionic, who regularly disrupts public meetings with their oft-repeated tales of woe, to the extent that it becomes next to impossible to get any business done. 

People with personality disorders are not likely to seek professional assistance, because they are frequently inclined to blame their troubles on everyone but themselves. When they do seek help, it is usually because they are forced to do so (often in conjunction with an assault or a suicide attempt, or because a family member insists on it). They tend to remain as long as they are "hurting," or as long as they are forced to stay. When they are no longer hurting and are in a position to stop, they discontinue treatment.

Istead of seeing the personality-disordered individual directly,a therapist is much more likely to see a family member, romantic partner, or employee who presents with anxiety or depression as a result of their interaction with someone who has a personality disorder (whom they may refer to as a "toxic person" or an "energy vampire").

A final word of caution: as stated previously, an actual diagnosis of a personality disorder should only be made by an appropriately trained mental health professional. One of the easiest and most powerful ways to insult people is to let them know that you suspect them of having a personality disorder! While avoiding making such a diagnosis yourself unless you are properly trained to do so, and not communicating your suspicions to the individuals concerned, knowing how to recognize the major symptoms of a personality disorder will place you in a much better position to deal with such people on a daily basis, and to seek professional assistance in order to better cope with them if you need to do so. 

Print Sources

Cavaiola, A. C., & Lavender, N. J. (2000). Toxic co-workers: How to deal with dysfunctional people on the job. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual, DSM-V. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Predicting the Path of Sciientific Revolutions

Scientific progress appears to depend less upon the contribution of individuals, and relatively more upon the cultural superorganic -- the accumulated knowledge and experience of the culture into which they are born.

For example, in regard to current debates regarding the nature of hypnosis and related experiences (Gibbons & Lynn, 2008; Gibbons & Woods, 2016), I would like to recommended Professor Frank Pajares' excellent outline and study guide  for Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn, 2012),  which has recently been published in its fiftieth anniversary edition. Of particular relevance are Pajares' notes on Chapter V, X, and the chapters which follow it.

Kuhn was frequently cited by the late Theodore X.Barber, the leader of the non-state view of hypnosis, which is currently expressed in Theodore R. Sarbin's Believed- in Imaginings.(DeRivera&Sarbin, 1998).


i got a good laugh (and an invitation to lunch) at a meeting of the American Psychological Association when, with Barber in the audience, I announced that many of the old-time hypnotists would no doubt regard me as a "Barberian!"


As Shakespeare said in his play, The Tempest, "The past is prologue" -- or, as a New York cab driver reportedly phrased it, "Brother, you ain't seen nothin' yet!"



References
Gibons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2008). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. In Ruhe, J. W., Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.

Gibbons, D. E., & Woods, K. T. (2016) Virtual reality hypnosis: Exploring alternate and parallel universes. Amazon Books, 2016. (Both print and Kindleditions are available.) 

De Rveraa, J.,, & Sarbin, T.  R. (Eds.,  Believed-In Imaginings:he Narrative Construction of Reality. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998

Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 4th ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press





 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

CBT: A Scientific Method for Mastery of Life



Here's how to get off the merry-go-round!
According to the teachings of cognitive-behavioral psychology, it isn't what happens to you but what you believe about what happens to you, that causes you to be unhappy, depressed, afraid, angry, joyful, or excited.

We carry around with us a set of deep-seated beliefs about who and where we are and what is going on around us, which keeps us oriented to person, place, time, and events. When something happens, these beliefs generate "automatic thoughts," (or autosuggestions) which interpret what is going on and determine how we feel about it -- angry, anxious, afraid, or depressed, or some other emotion -- and they also determine how we react to it.. Automatic thoughts are not unconscious, but they usually occur so rapidly that we aren't aware of them unless we are trained to look for them. When we can identify exactly what these autosuggestions are, we can examine them and decide whether or not to replace them with others which constitute a more accurate assessment of reality, and therefore create long-lasting, adaptive changes in thinking, feeling, and emotion. 

The following lists may be viewed as a kind of "psychological first aid" for getting to the root of the false beliefs and false perceptions that we all have from time to time, and for taking positive action to keep them from coming back.     

Albert Ellis has put together a list of ten commonly-held beliefs about ourselves, the world, and the future, which prevent us from experiencing life to the fullest because they set us up ahead of time for failure and disappointment. They are all false, but many of us are inclined to at least occasionally believe them, at least occasionally.   

The Greek philosopher Epictitus said, "Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them."Here is a list of inaccurate ways of looking at things, which might be clouding your view of the world. You can get rid of these irrational ideas by learning how to recognize and eliminate them.  

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 (which operate as autosuggestions), 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!

There are several other helpful aids to life management in their tools and  homework and articles and essays sections.

When the early successes of cognitive-behavioral psychology became apparent, the British National Health Service decided to create a Web site which would make this information available free of charge to all at www.getselfhelp.co.uk.  I don't believe that it is a Government Web ite any more, but it is still a treasure trove of cognitive-behavioral information, as indicated below. Cognitive-behavioral therapists frequently use a more specialized version of the ABC Worksheet, mentioned above, 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,  (A slightly longer, seven-column version of the same form is also available.) You can make as many copies as you want for your own use by using the print command on your computer. They also have other free versions of the thought record form, adapted for special purposes. Since the links to many of the more specialized forms are always changing, I have not specifically listed them. But if you find the cognitive-behavioral approach useful, there is a veritable treasure trove of applications to be found at this site. I would encourage you to browse around in their site. You will not be disappointed.