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 (609)709-2043 and (609) 494-0009.

Driving directions: Take Mill Creek Road South, just off Route 72 E After about 400 feet, turn right into the office complex of Mill Creek Commons.Then, immedately turn right again and go past the Lyceum II Gym. Continue on to the Prudential Zack Building,which will be the only building on your right. We are the last office at the end.

We accept Medicare and most other major insurance.
We do not accept credit or debit cards.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Whaf is the Strongest Human Need?

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

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

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








Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Never Grow Old


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



We Grow Old by Deserting Our Ideals
by Samuel Ullman



Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Keep from Putting Things Offf

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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







Friday, May 30, 2014

CBT and Buddhist Thought: Two Keys to Inner Peace



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

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


Friday, April 25, 2014

Creating the Perrect Balance for a Relationship to Grow

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

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to Overcome Shyness with Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology

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

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

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

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

Feelings, Emotions, and Physical Sensations: Awkwardness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also: 

The Art of Small Talk

 

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


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"The Right Medication, in the Right Dosage,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Do Alternate Universes Really Exist?



In sub-atomic physics, an electron can be in several places at the same time, and its position is only fixed in one place when it is observed -- or so goes the theory.

Imagine that we place a living cat into a steel chamber, along with a device containing a vial of hydrocyanic acid, and a radioactive substance. If even a single atom of the substance decays during the test period, a relay mechanism will trip a hammer, which will, in turn, break the vial and kill the cat. The observer cannot know whether or not an atom of the substance has decayed, and consequently, cannot know whether or not the cat has been killed. According to quantum law, the observation or measurement of sub-atomic particles affects an outcome, so that the outcome as such does not exist unless the measurement is made. (That is, there is no single outcome unless it is observed.) We know that this actually occurs at the subatomic level, because there are observable effects of interference, in which a single particle is demonstrated to be in multiple locations simultaneously.

What that fact implies about the nature of reality on the observable level (cats, for example, as opposed to electrons) is one of the stickiest areas of quantum physics. We're in one universe if we see that the cat is alive at the end of the test period, and we are in another one if we see that the cat is dead. But not everyone agrees with this conclusion. Einstein said, "I refuse to believe that God plays dice with the Universe."  Schrödinger himself is rumored to have said, later in life, that he wished he had never met that cat.

Today, however, if you ask physicists about the existence of alternate universes, most of them will agree that it is a definite possibility. The cover of the February 17 edition of Time features a story about "the infinity machine," a supercooled computer which according to one theory of quantum physics, is "the first techniology that allows useful tasks to be performed in collaboration between parallel universes."   Time states that research with these computers, each one costing $10,000,000, is "backed by Jefff Bezos, NASA, and the CIA," and is proceeding rapidly.


Monday, February 24, 2014

You Can't Just "Commit" a Crazy Relative, Neighbor, or Co-Worker!

Did you ever wonder why there are so many obviously mentally ill people wandering about in the center of large cities? Have you ever thought that you might have to commit that crazy relative, neighbor, or co-worker who talks back to the television and believes that he or she is receiving messages by telepathy? Have you heard of families whose members are constantly fighting and threatening to "commit" one another? Civil rights come first -- and It may not be as easy as you think!

When I was working at a psychiatric hotline, I received a call from a woman who wanted us to come out and commit her grandmother. She was also talking back to the television. In addition, she believed that the airplanes flying over her house were transmitting messages intended especially for her.  I asked the caller if her mother had ever attempted or threatened to commit suicide, or if she had ever harmed or threatened to harm anyone else. I was assured that she had not. The caller also told me that she was certain that her mother had no intention of doing so in the future.

"How does she get her needs taken care of?" I asked.  I was told that her husband does all the grocery shopping and cooks and cleans for her. She was perfectly able to dress herself and care for her own personal hygiene.

I told the caller that we could not even come out to interview her mother. In New Jersey, as well as in other states and many other nations, you do not merely have to be mentally ill in order to be committed, you also have to be dangerous because you are mentally ill. if you are not a danger to anyone else, and if your needs are being taken care of despite the fact that you are so crazy that you would be a danger to yourself were it not for the assistance of others, you are beyond the reach of the mental health system no matter how crazy you may happen to be.


If you are suicidal, on the other hand, you are automatically assumed to be crazy, and that alone will almost certainly get you a one way ticket to the mental hospital. For example, as we were discharging a retired social studies teacher from the hospital after she had received medical treatment for a broken hip, I was asked to screen her because she had casually remarked that she was going to go home and kill herself. When she admitted this during my psychiatric screening, I gently informed her that we would have to keep her in the hospital and admit her to the psychiatric ward. She angrily told me that she had the right to take her own life if she wanted to, and nobody had the right to stop her. Since she was a retired social studies teacher, I told her, "Even in a democracy, we can take away your civil rights in order to save your life." She drew herself up to her fall five feet in height and looked me straight in the eye and used terms which I never expected to hear from the lips of a social studies teacher! 

She was admitted to the hospital psychiatric ward, and when she had satisfied the staff that she was suicidal she was released and allowed to return to her home. Several months later, I heard that she had regain her physical health and was doing quite well psychologically.

When someone has expressed an intention to commit suicide or to harm someone else, a telephone call to your local police department or psychiatric hot line is usually all that is needed to alert the proper authorities, and they will determine whether the problem is a legal or a psychiatric one. Voluntary admission to a mental hospital is also possible under similar circumstances if the person who is having such feelings is willing to make the call. Nevertheless, no matter how crazy one happens to be, unless their behavior also poses a legal risk to themselves or others, there is often not much that you or anyone else can do. Your local laws may vary, and no set of statements fits every possible contingency. Therefore, this posting is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal or professional advice.