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 21, 2018

How to Fall Out of Love

Many of the clients we see daily in our psychology practice have  a broken heart somewhere in their past as one of their stressors. Sometimes (though not always), you may be able to fix it yourself. Here's how.



Thursday, May 17, 2018

How to Train Yourself Not to Be Anxious

With 99% of the same genes as our closest monkey cousins, the chimpanzees, it's no wonder that under the pressures of modern life, the tendency to become anxious can sometimes spiral out of control! This brief posting is not intended to serve as a substitute for counseling or therapy. If anxiety has begun to affect your personal or work relationships, you should definitely seek the services of a duly licensed mental health professional. However,for many everyday situations, the following information may be helpful in correcting the habits that can sometimes get us into trouble.

It is generally agreed that cognitive-behavioral psychology is the fastest-growing oreintation within the profession. There is also a rapidly-accumulating body of evidence that it actually works! Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, may be summarized as the study of the relationship between thinking, feeling, and behavior.  Just as physical therapists can provide you with exercises to improve physical functioning, cognitive-behavioral therapists provide exercises to develop more effective psychological adjustments.


The information below was garnered from several different sources, and provides you with a variety of useful forms and worksheets so that you can use whatever combination of these CBT tools you find most helpful for training yourself not to be anxious The information referred to in any of the links below can be downloaded from your computer by clicking on the link and using the print command on your computer. 


Cognitive-behavioral therapists frequently use a document called a thought record in order to examine just what goes on when we keep making those angry responses that keep getting us into trouble. Here is what one looks like, courtesy of www.getselfhelp.co.uk. They also provide a summary of the STOPP technique, which they describe as "CBT in a nutshell," and which can be summed up in one sentence: "Try not to act merely in the moment. Pull back from the situation. Take a wider view; compose yourself." Following is a hypothetical example of how the anxiety thought record form might be used to see a situation from a different perspective, using the example of being suddenly cut off in traffic by another car, with the column headings in italics and one set of possible responses in standard type. You can practice using these forms for a number of other hypothetical situations, or situations that have actually made you angry in the past, in order to be prepared for a variety of possible situations in the future. 

Situation: A car suddenly swerves in front of you and slows down, causing you to slam on your brakes in order to avoid hitting it.


Feelings, Emotions,:  An increase in heartbeat and blood pressure, clenched jaw, faster brething.


Emotions/Moods (rate 0-100%):  Anxiety


Physical Sensations & Reactions: Swearing, gripping the steering wheel


Unhelpful Thoughts/Images:  Urge to speed up and pass the car in front of you, honk at the driver, make an angry gesture, and cut back in front of him.


What I Did/What I Could Do/What's the Best Response? (Re-Rate Emotion 0-100%)  Realize that the emotion will pass in a few moments, but if you act on it the situation could escalate and possibly lead to serious complications.



The ABC Worksheet from www.smartrecovery.org, which is downloadable as an Adobe pdf file, 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 not only for controlling anxiety, but also 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 put enough thought into it to give it a try!


Finally, the folks at www.smartrecovery.org have a tool chest of resources which is a treasure-trove for people who want to alter hard-to-change behaviors of every type.They have prepared a selection of tips and tricks for managing anxiety in such a manner that in many instances you can not merely control it, you can get rid of it!  Here is a partial list of some of the other materials which they have to offer. The information may be downloaded free of charge by using the print command on your computer, although donations are encouraged. Here is a partial list of some of the materials which they have to offer:

Of course, training yourself not to be anxious is going to take time and patience. However, 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  be able to think, feel, and act in a calm and confident manner in almost any situation. On the other hand, if you do not use the CBT Thought Record to identify your triggers and the other choices that you have, you might very well continue to feel anxiety when you know you it could continue to get you into trouble, but never do much about it. 

Just as reading a book on surgery will not make you into a surgeon, and reading an exercise manual will not build muscles, merely reading a Blog posting on how to train yourself to avoid anxuety will not be enough to enable you to get rid of it. People who practice meditation, for example, do not hope to attain enlightenment merely by reading about it!  Regular practice using the thought record for a variety of situations is the key to success. 


Confucius said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." But once you have taken that step, you have to keep going. The two rules for success in any self-improvement program are: 1) Begin, and 2) Don't stop!  If you frequently experience problems with anger, you should have plenty of motivation to follow both of these rules. No matter how long the journey, cognitive-behavioral psychology, especially when undertaken with professional guidance, can be of great assistance in successfully reaching your destination!

See also: 
How to Keep Your Boss from Driving You Crazy
How to Recognize a Personality Disorder

 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Trump and Hitler: The Psychology Behind the Myth

In view of the recent indictments of  an organized Russian group working to influence U.S. elections in favor of Donald Trump, and the disclosures of his recent affairs with Playboy and porn stars, many of my psychology clients have been asking whether or not Trump's success might be due to his using  hyperempiria, or NLP, especially because his major sources of support seem to be Fundamentalist Christians. Whenever you use "alternative facts" in place of the real ones, as his advisor Kellyann Conway admitted, it is an attempt to harness the power of suggestion. But if no induction is used and if the situation is not defined as hypnosis, why is it still sometimes effective?

A recent article in Psychology Today stated that half of all Americans couldn't come up with a sudden demand for $450 in a crisis. Although Trump may be unwittingly using some techniques which are commonly referred to in lay hypnosis circles as NLP or neuro-linguistic programming, almost everyone now agrees that there are a lot of angry voters out there. on both the right and the left, who supported Trump because they feel that the system has failed them (see below).



My wife grew up in New Jersey, and I have lived here for 25 years. We have read the first-hand newspaper accounts of how Trump has bankrupted several casinos and walked away with millions, paid his workers sub-standard wages, and stiffed his contractors by paying them much less than they were actually owed. Beneath his outward bluster lies a narcissistic personality disorder with antisocial traits, but don't just take my word for it. Here's a link to a story in The Independent which bears the headline, "Donald Trump has Dangerous Mental Illness, say Psychiatry Experts at Yale Conference." (His recent psychiatric examination was not a test for personality disorders.)

The biggest tragedy of all is that people often tend to make up their minds based on emotions rather than  facts, and hear what they want to hear. Trump's base has shrunken only slightly, but all we have to do in order to set things right is to stop ignoring the problems that are making people "mad as Hell." This is not as difficult as it may appear. There are a lot of people who stayed home last time because they didn't like either candidate and are now as energized as a space probe. It will become increasingly difficult for special interest groups to persuade them either not to vote at all, or to vote against their own best interests. 

Is President Trump using hypnosis, hyperempiria, or NLP, then? No, but he has his NRA backers, his Russian data miners, and his dog-whistle racism. Hitler, on the other hand, limited his "alternative facts" to only two: the alleged superiority or the German race and the allegation that all the difficulties the Germans had suffered were due to a "world Jewish conspiracy" to hold them down. If Hitler were living in twenty-first century America, these beliefs would probably be categorized under the diagnostic categories of delusional disorder grandiose type and delusional disorder persecutory type. 

Hitler also taught that a big lie would be believed easier than a little one if it were repeated often enough, so he w restricted his big lies to only these two alternative facts. Nevertheless, the most important reason that Trump does not pose as much of a danger as Hitler did is obvious. Hitler was a much better speaker! He even made use of lighting, symbols, and audience involvement to drive home his points. Here, with English subtitles, is one of his classic speeches. Judge for yourself.















  
  

Virtual Reality Hypnosis: Changing People Inside and Out


(An earlier version of this article appeared in HYPNOS, 2003, 31(2), pp. 89-93, under the title, "Multimodal Suggestion for Facilitating Meditation and Prayer." Reprinted by permission.)


"Thought will live when the stars grow cold
And mix with Deity" -- Emerson

Many people confuse virtual reality hypnosis with mechanically-inspired notions of virtual reality, ignoring the fact that suggestion has the power to change people both inside and out! Considering the variety of suggestions which may be accepted by sufficiently responsive individuals (Shor & Orne, 1962),  it may be hypothesized that suggestions will be actualized more easily if they are formulated in such a manner as to systematically and comprehensively involve several different modes of experience. The Best Me Technique of virtual reality hypnosis utilizes the simultaneous involvement of Beliefs, Emotions, Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, Motives, and Expectations, for greater involvement and effectiveness. Taken together, the elements of this technique form the acronym, BEST ME, and may be summarized as follows (Gibbons, 2001; Gibbons & Lynn, 2008)..
Belief systems which orient an individual to person, place, time, and events may be suggested as being different, allowing the participant to mentally transcend present realities.

Emotions may be enriched, intensified, weakened, or combined with others.

Ssensations and physical perceptions may be suggested and experienced with an intensity approaching those of real events.

Thoughts and images may be created and guided in response to explicit or indirect suggestions.

Motives may either be suggested directly or implied as a consequence of other events.

Expectations may be structured concerning the manner in which the participant will look forward to and remember suggested events which will occur in the future, and the manner in which suggested experiences will subsequently be recalled and interpreted in memory.
Hyperempiric suggestions may be administered in any order, each of the aforementioned categories may be employed as often as necessary, and each step in the procedure may incorporate elements of the others. In the latter case, the label applied to each step refers to the dimension of experience which is being given the greatest emphasis. For ease of illustration, the suggestions contained in this article have been provided in the B-E-S-T-M-E order. In actual use, hyperempiric suggestions may be administered in any order and repeated as often as necessary, with modifications which contribute to the total effect, much as one might repeat the verses and choruses of a song.

Mystical and Transcendental Experience Mediated by Suggestion

People of many different religious traditions have attested to the life‑changing potential of mystical and transcendental experiences involving contact with a consciousness beyond one's own. In one study of the Fundamentalist Christian experience of salvation, for example, subjects readily attested to both the personal reality of the experience and its subsequent influence upon their lives, although such experiences did not seem to be universally attainable and did appear to be related to the ability to respond to suggestion (Gibbons & DeJarnette, 1972; Gibbons, 1988).

Many clients approach life from a primarily religious point of view. Such believers -- particularly those who are elderly, infirm, or who have experienced a number of personal tragedies -- may experience a "dark night of the soul" (Peers, 1990) as they struggle to deal with the stresses of life without access to sources of experiential spiritual support for their beliefs.However, Glasner (1955) refers to several purported uses of suggestion and hypnosis in Scripture to encourage and inspire the faithful, concluding, "Although it is impossible to state with any definiteness that hypnosis is referred to in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) and in the Talmud, there would seem to be considerable evidence that the authors of these works were indeed familiar with phenomena which we today should call hypnotic or which we should explain in terms of suggestion" (p. 39).

From the standpoint of the therapist who is well-versed in the techniques of hypnosis, experiences of this type may easily be made available to clients who desire them and are sufficiently responsive to suggestion. Such experiences should be determined by the needs and expressed preferences of the client, with the goal of providing reassurance, strength, and encouragement. It should be of little consequence whether the religious and metaphysical beliefs of the client are shared by the therapist or are in conflict with those of the therapist, or whether the therapist has no theological or metaphysical beliefs at all.

The following BMT suggestions for facilitating meditation and prayer describe a visit to a cathedral. They are not intended to be used as a script, but rather as an illustration of how the Best Me Technique may be used as a template for constructing multimodal suggestions for a variety of similar purposes. They may easily be modified to refer to a visit to a temple, a mosque, an ashram, a shrine, or any site or event which the client may find personally meaningful.

Because of the nature of the experiences to be undergone, an expressly hyperempiric induction, based upon specific suggestions of increased awareness and responsiveness (Gibbons, 1975), may be preferable to a more traditional hypnotic induction based upon expressed of implied suggestions of diminished awareness (Bányai & Hilgard, 1976; Gibbons, 1976), although either type of induction may be presented using a multimodal or Best Me format facilitate involvement with the experiences which follow.

After the therapist has become sufficiently aware of the client's needs and preferences through preliminary discussion, and the client understands and fully consents to the experiences in which he or she is about to participate, suggestions may be given in the following manner.

Belief systems. Now, as I continue to speak, you can gradually become aware of yourself standing in front of a pair of large wooden doors, which are the doors of a great cathedral. If you accept each detail of the scene as I describe it, without trying to think critically, your imagination can be free to allow you to experience the situation just as if you were really there.So just let yourself stand there a moment, gazing at the carved wooded doors, as you prepare to enter. [Brief pause.]

Now, as the doors swing open, you first traverse a small area paved with stone, stopping at the font if you desire, and pause before a second pair of doors which leads inside.

Emotions. You can feel a surge of happiness and anticipation as you pass through a second pair of doors and into the dimly lit interior. As your eyes gradually become accustomed to the dimmer light from the stained glass windows, take a moment to look around in wonder at the magnificence of all you see.

Sensations and perceptions. Let yourself breathe slowly and deeply, as you inhale the faint aroma of incense, and listen to the gentle tones of music floating upon the quiet air.

Some distance away from you stands the High Altar, bordered by banks of gently glowing candles. You select a pew and, after pausing to genuflect if you wish, you enter the pew and take your seat or kneel once more.

Thoughts and images. Let your mind flow with the experience, and allow it to fill you to the very core of your being, until you feel as if you are able to hold within your own consciousness an awareness of the entire Universe, and all its beauty. As it does, you can feel yourself gradually becoming aware of the presence of a Consciousness other than your own.

As this Consciousness begins to merge with yours, you can feel the power of an infinite healing energy filling and flooding every muscle, and every fiber, and every nerve of your entire body. And it's as if all of the worry, and all of the tension, and all of the care that you have ever felt are being driven out and replaced by the power of this infinite, unbounded, healing love.

As your own consciousness merges ever more completely with this Infinite Awareness, you feel as if you are able to hold within your own mind an awareness of the entire Universe, and all its beauty ‑‑ infinite, beyond infinity, and eternal beyond all measure of eternity. And in this sense of total oneness, you are able to freely communicate all your deepest thoughts and needs.

Motives. The experience, as it continues, is providing you with all that you had hoped to obtain from it. The serenity and the peace which you find here will remain with you, as a source of deep inner strength which will enable you to cope much more effectively with all of life's problems.

Expectations. You will treasure the memory of this experience as it meets your needs in the future; and each time you return, you will be able to derive new benefits which will meet your needs even more effectively.

At the conclusion of the experience, the client may be re‑oriented to the present and the induction terminated in the usual manner.

Discussion

Although most of us routinely provide a considerable amount of detail with the experiences we suggest in order to make them more realistic, the Best Me Technique of hyperempiric suggestion provides a systematic framework for incorporating sufficient detail into several major types of experience, in order to make sure that the suggested experiences are sufficiently comprehensive for maximum effectiveness.

Suggestion has previously been found to facilitate the Fundamentalist experience of "salvation" (Gibbons & DeJarnette, 1972). Similar types of "believed-in imaginings" (Sarbin, 1998) may be involved in hypnotically-induced experiences of reincarnation, pre-incarnation, and co-incarnation, which, like religious sacraments, as well as hypnosis itself, may be conceptualized as a form of experiential theater. 

Lawrence (M. A. Lawrence, personal communication, June 27, 2003) reports the successful application of the Best Me Technique with nursing home residents who are dealing with end-of-life issues.  



Recently, Kelley Woods and I (Gibbons & Woods, 2016) have been suggesting to hypnotized clients that they are being transported to an alternate universe where time and space do not exist. After orienting them to this universe and inducing emotions which are as pleasant as possible -- i.e., "dissolving  into an ocean of infinite, unbounded, and everlasting love," and returning them to the present with the lessons of this experience back with them, to enhance their prevailing mood and pave over the emotional effects of all the bad things that have ever happened to them..  

Clients have been saying things like, "I can't thank you enough!" and, "I'm at a point in my life now where I think I can accomplish anything!" The changes which they are reporting in their lives seem to bear this out.  It's too early for any hard data, as we have just begun to use these techniques. But we would like to invite you to join us in exploring these fascinating new realms of experience, and sharing with us in the thrill of discovery!

References

Bányai, E. I., & Hilgard, E. R. (1976). A comparison of active-alert hypnotic induction with traditional relaxation induction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85, 218-224.

Gibbons, D. (1975, August). Hypnotic vs. hyperempiric induction: An experimental comparison. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago.


Gibbons, D. (1976). Hypnotic vs. hyperempiric induction: An experimental comparison.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 42, 834.

Gibbons, D. (1988). Were you saved or were you hypnotized? The Humanist, 48, 17‑18.

Gibbons, D. (2001). Experience as an art form: Hypnosis, hyperempiria, and the best metechnique. San Jose, CA: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2003, July). The best me technique for constructing hypnotic suggestions Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the British Societies of Medical, Clinical, Dental, and Experimental Hypnosis, London.



Gibbons, D., & DeJarnette, J. (1972). Hypnotic susceptibility and religious experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 11, 152‑166.


Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2008). Hyonotic 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 Kindle editions are available.) 

Glasner, S. (1955). A note on allusions to hypnosis in the Bible and Talmud. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 3(1), 34-39.

Hammond, D. C. (1990). Hypnotic suggestions and metaphors. New York: Norton.

Heap, M. & Aravind, K. K. (2001). Hartland's Medical & Dental Hypnosis, 4th ed. London: Churchill Livingstone.


Lazarus, A. A. (1989). The practice of multimodal therapy. Baltimore, MD: Johns HopkinsUniversity Press.

Lazarus, A. A. (1997). Brief comprehensive psychotherapy: The multimodal way. New York:Springer.

Peers, E. A. (1990). Dark Night of the Soul. New York: Doubleday.

Sarbin, T. R. (1998). Believed-in Imaginings. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Shor, R. E. & Orne, E. C. (1962) Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.


Yapko, M. D. (2003). Trancework: An introduction to the practice of clinical hypnosis (3rded.). Philadelphia, PA: Brunner-Routledge.


 


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How to Adjust Your Motives SCIENTFICALLY!

The folks at www.smart recovery.org, have developed a method for changing the beliefs which guide our lives which is based on Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior TherapyTheir free downloadable  ABC Worksheet 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 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 unpleasant result, your beliefs about what happened, what beliefs could be substituted for the ones which brought about the unpleasant result, 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.



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









Friday, April 27, 2018

Overcoming Fear of Death when Not Religious

Some non-religious people who are afraid of dying may find assuraance in the following video by a well-known brain researcher.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to be More "Therapieutic" for your Family and Friends


Most of the actual "therapy" that is done in the world is carried on between close friends, romantic partners, family members, and co-workers, who provide understanding and emotional support to those around them while serving as a good listener and helping them to look at things in a more positive light. In clinical settings, family systems theorists point out that the "identified patient" who comes for counseling or psychotherapy may not be the one who actually needs it, but merely the one who is the most sensitive. How can we help people to be a therapeutic influence for others whom they are close to, who may be more in need of help than they are, but who refuse to even consider such a possibility?

Cognitive-behavioral psychologists have found many ways to change people. Many of these techniques, once we have learned them and put them to work in our own lives, can also be used to help those around us. While they cannot, of course, serve as a substitute for actual counseling or psychotherapy which is provided by a duly trained and licensed mental health professional, they can help to make life easier, both for ourselves and for those whom we hold dear. 

For example, Albert Ellis has compiled a list of "ten irrational ideas," which is reproduced below, Most of us believe some of these false beliefs at least part of the time. The first one, "I must be perfect in all respects in order to be worthwhile," does an especially great amount of damage, since it guarantees that we are going to feel like miserable failures whenever we do not live up to this impossible ideal. We can spare ourselves a great deal of misery when we cast out this false belief once and for all! But what about our friends and loved ones? Whenever someone who is close to you acts as if he or she could use a gentle reminder that they are being too hard on themselves by expecting to be perfect all the time, you might point this out by saing something like, "You know, dear, sometimes I think you feel like you have to be perfect all the time or you're a failure. But even the Pope goes to confession. You mustn't expect yourself to be perfect when nobody else is!"

You don't need a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to apply ideas like this in a common-sense manner when the situation is appropriate. The rest of the items on Ellis's list can also take their turn when the situation warrants it.  


 Ideas that Cause Negative Emotions

 "I must be perfect in all respects in order to be worthwhile." Nobody can be perfect in everything that we have to do in life. But if you believe that you're a failure unless you are perfect in every way, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of unhappiness.

"I must be loved and approved of by everyone who is important to me." Sometimes you just can't help making enemies, and there are people in the world who bear ill will to almost everyone. But you can't make your own life miserable by trying to please them.

"When people treat me unfairly, it is because they are bad people." Most of the people who treat you unfairly have friends and family who love them. People are mixtures of good and bad.

"It is terrible when I am seriously frustrated, treated badly, or rejected." Some people have such a short fuse, that they are constantly losing jobs or endangering friendships because they are unable to endure the slightest frustration.

"Misery comes from outside forces which I can’t do very much to change." Many prison inmates describe their life as if it were a cork, bobbing up and down on waves of circumstance. You can choose whether to see yourself as an effect of your circumstances, or a cause.

"If something is dangerous or fearful, I have to worry about it." Many people believe that "the work of worrying" will help to make problems go away. "Okay, that's over. Now, what's the next thing on the list that I have to worry about?"

"It is easier to avoid life’s difficulties and responsibilities than to face them." Even painful experiences, once we can get through them, can serve as a basis for learning and future growth.

"Because things in my past controlled my life, they have to keep doing so now and in the future." If this were really true, it would mean that we are prisoners of our past, and change is impossible. But people change all the time -- and sometimes they change dramatically!

"It is terrible when things do not work out exactly as I want them to." Could you have predicted the course of your own life? Probably not. By the same token, you can't predict that things are going to work out exactly as you want them to, even in the short term.

"I can be as happy as possible by just doing nothing and enjoying myself, taking life as it comes." If this were true, almost every wealthy or comfortably retired person would do as little as possible. But instead, they seek new challenges as a pathway to further growth.


Perceptions that Make Negative Emotions Worse



Similar practical applications can be found for the items on the second list. which cognitive-behavioral psychologists refer to as "cognitive distortions."  Most of us have heard the expression, "looking at the world through rose-colored glasses." But when you use cognitive distortions, you tend to look at the world through mud-colored glasses! Here are some habitual ways of looking at things that you should stop from rolling through your head if you catch yourself using them.

All-or-nothing thinking. Everything is good or bad, with nothing in between. If you aren't perfect, then you're a failure. You procastinate doing stuff because they are not perfect until you have no other choice than doing them.

Overgeneralization. A single negative event turns into a never-ending pattern of defeat. "I didn't get a phone call. I'll never hear from anybody again."

Mental filter. One single negative thing colors everything else. When you're depressed, it sometimes feels like you're "looking at the world through mud-colored glasses."

Disqualifying the positive. If somebody says something good about you, it doesn't count. But if somebody says something bad about you, you "knew it all along."

Jumping to conclusions. You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

Mind reading. You think somebody is disrespecting you and don't bother to check it out. You just assume that he is.

The Fortune Teller Error. You think that things are going to turn out badly, and convince yourself that this is already a fact.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization. Imagine that you're looking at yourself or somebody else through a pair of binoculars. You might think that a mistake you made or somebody else's achievement are more important than they really are. Now imagine that you've turned the binoculars around and you're looking through them backwards. Something you've done might look less important than it really is, and somebody else's faults might look less important than they really are.

Emotional reasoning. You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

"Should" statements. You beat up on yourself as a way of getting motivated to do something. You "should" do this, you "must" do this, you "ought" to do this, and so on. This doesn't make you want to do it, it only makes you feel guilty. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

Labeling and mislabeling. This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. When you make a mistake, you give yourself a label, such as, "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, "He's a louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

Personalization. You believe that you were the cause of something bad that happened, when you really didn't have very much to do with it. And ask a friend to help you realize your emotions or worries so that you can have someone to rely on.

Don't memorize these lists, just keep them handy.  (One of my cilients keeps them posted on her refrigerator for ready reference!) And when someone you know well enough starts showing signs of exaggerated worry, self-distrust, fear, anger, or despair, see whether or not some of these false beliefs or false perceptions might be behind these feelings. And, in the process, you'll get pretty good at applying these principles to your own life.

As previously mentioned, this type of "psychological first aid," augmented by sympathetic listening, affection, and encouragement, is not to be considered as a substitute for actual counseling or psychotherapy, which can only be carried out by trained professional. But If we can get the people around us who refuse to even consider the possibility of formal counseling or psychotherapy to "lighten up" in the manner just described, it can frequently make life better for ud ss well as for them!

See also: 
How to Recognize a Personality Disorder
How to Keep Your Boss from Driving You Crazy

Print Sources


Ellis, A. (2006). IHow to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything -- yes, anything! Chicago: Citadel Press. 

Laazrus, A. A., Lazarus, C. A., & Fay, A. Don't believe it for a minute! Forty toxic ideas that are driving you crazy. San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact Publishers.



 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Toxic People Who can Wreck Your Life


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. Of course,actual diagnosis and treatment should only be undertaken by a mental health professionall but There is an old saying, "If it wlks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck -- it's a duck!"

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.