This is PathwaysVoice, our blog of interesting comments, observations, news, and helpful insights into the world we see around us. It is our effort to support, care, guide, and motivate each of us on our individual paths.
Susan Heitler Ph.D.Resolution, Not Conflict If you feel down on yourself, irritable, and discouraged, try this strategy. Feeling like there is a dark cloud over you? Like you don’t have your usual enthusiasm, and are having trouble motivating yourself to do things? Maybe more self-critical than usual? Isolating at home instead of wanting to go out or do things with others? These signs of depression are important to notice. At the same time, why you are feeling down may remain a mystery. How to feel better may feel equally challenging. In the TEDx talk below, I offer a surprisingly easy three-step route to identifying the cause of your low feelings and then lifting away the dark cloud. [Note that these understandings apply to the depressed feelings of non-physical origin, which are the vast majority depressive episodes that most people deal with. Physical factors such as insufficient sleep, post-operative depression etc. may need additional treatments.] The beginning of the TEDx talk explains that in the face of depressed feelings many, and maybe even most, people either assume there’s nothing they can do that will help them to feel better, or go to a physician to get antidepressant pills. Both of these routes can have significant downsides. Here’s an alternative. At about four minutes into the talk I explain what triggers depression. If you are already aware of the risks of medications, you might want to begin there. I then focus on the three steps that can lead you up and out, back to the realm of well-being. For more information on the causes of depression and how to release yourself from it, see my new book Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief From Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More. Also, do check out the free videos and downloadable worksheets at prescriptionswithoutpills.com. Help yourself to feel better, soon. Or ask a therapist to guide your use of these techniques. Life is not meant to be an endurance contest. If you or someone you know has been feeling depressed, take action, now. Say good bye to those depressed feelings,...read more
Amy MorinWhat Mentally Strong People Don’t Do While many other quarterbacks might have crumbled under pressure, Tom Brady’s mental strength became most apparent in the second half of the 2017 Super Bowl. As many New England Patriots fans lost hope for a win by halftime, Brady led the team to in one of the most stunning comeback victories in the history of the sport. What’s the secret to Brady’s success? He undoubtedly puts in countless hours of practice on the field, but he also reports relying on brain exercises to sharpen his decision-makingskills. His dedication to training his brain to perform at its peak appears to be one reason he’s secured the title of best quarterback of all time. You might not need to demonstrate mental toughness on the athletic field, but you certainly do need mental strength to be a champion at whatever it is you do in life. Whether you’re an accountant gearing up for tax season, or a stay-at-home parentreadying the family for back-to-school, your brain can be greatest best asset or your worst enemy. These four brain exercises can train your brain to perform at its peak: 1. Play to win. It’s doubtful that Brady entered the second half of the game telling himself, “I just hope we don’t embarrass ourselves.” Judging by his poise, it’s much more likely he was focused on winning. Researchers from the Institute of Sport in England discovered that a simple shift in the way you think about your performance can make a big difference in the outcome. If you walk into a situation thinking, “I hope I don’t lose,” you’ll perform worse than if you think, “I’m here to win.” Take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I’m going to do well.” That slight change in your thought process will increase your chance of success. 2. Practice mindfulness. Studies show that mindfulness changes that way the brain responds to stress. That’s why the military has started teaching mindfulness to soldiers prior to deployment: Gaining better control over their brains helps soldiers respond to difficult situations with less anxiety. Athletes from Kobe Bryant to Derek Jeter have also incorporated meditation into their training routines. Phil Jackson, former coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, says teaching his players mindfulness helped him claim 11 NBA titles. Clearly, raising your awareness of the present moment gives you a major competitive advantage, especially in today’s distracted world. 3. Visualize success. In an interview with Mindbodygreen, Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn said, “By the time I get to the start gate, I’ve run that race 100 times already in my head, picturing how I’ll take the turns.” Mental imagery has a profound effect on the way your body behaves. Studies consistently show that no matter your skill level, visualizing yourself going through the motions will help you do better. Whether you’re about to ask for a raise or give an important presentation, imagine yourself going through the motions. Thinking about each step in the process can help you perform at your peak. 4. Use positive self-talk. When asked about his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat, LeBron James told reporters, “I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and do what makes LeBron James happy.” Initially, social media buzzed with teasing about James referring to himself in the third person. Although some suspected he was losing touch with reality, the truth is that...read more
Jill P. Weber Ph.D.Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy … because you can’t move on to something better until you let yourself grieve While managing a divorce or breakup, many women tell me that they drive themselves crazy with the realization that their former partner “seems fine” and has apparently moved on. They obsessively criticize their own very normal grief processes, asking themselves: “What’s wrong with me that I’m so upset?”; “I should be further along by now”; “How is it that he seemed to love me so much and now it’s as if we never knew each other?”; “How can he be fine when I feel so miserable?”; or, “How could we have been so close and now I’m a stranger to him?” Keep in mind: A flight into health is typically temporary. Many women experience profound loss and despair when a romantic relationship comes to an end. Whether it’s a breakup or a divorce, it’s typical for women to fully experience the heartbreak. Even if they initiated the split, they’re still in pain. It’s troubling when going through this natural process to see the man you were in an intimate relationship with apparently moving on easily, while you are stuck with hurt and sadness. Research shows that women do experience greater pain and heartache after a breakup than men. However, and this is important, although women typically take longer to heal, they do eventually completely get over the relationship. Men, on the other hand, often go into an immediate “flight into health,” appearing fine, even happy. Eventually this façade wanes as the loss sinks in over time. And if they don’t fully work through the loss, they find themselves stuck repeating the same negative relationship dynamic with new partners. Grieving is a natural and healthy component of letting a relationship go. When we don’t allow ourselves to feel the hurt caused by the absence of someone we cared about, we deny, avoid, and suppress. Eventually the hurt grows and transforms into behavioral or emotional dysfunction. Part of grieving is thoroughly understanding the good and the bad in the relationship—within our partners and within ourselves As I describe in Breaking Up & Divorce—5 Steps, we must accept our loss in order to cultivate positive, new prospects in the future. And if we don’t do this work, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes in our next relationships. It is more challenging in some cases than others, but there are straightforward steps one can take to speed up the healing process and intelligently prepare for a new romantic relationship. If you are grieving the loss of a romantic partner or a marriage, remind yourself that grieving eventually opens a door to new growth and happiness. I can’t tell you how often I have seen healthy grieving after a divorce or romantic loss eventually lead to healthier patterns—and more fulfilling unions. Grieve, but at the same time be kind to yourself in the process. Don’t think, “What’s wrong with me that I’m still upset?” Remind yourself that you are upset because you deeply cared for someone who is no longer in your life. It would be bizarre, robotic, or inhuman to care for someone so deeply, let them go, and never miss or long for what you no longer have. There is a future for you out there: Sadness will give way and you will be prepared for something better. Jill Weber, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC and the author of Breaking Up and Divorce 5 Steps: How to Heal and Be Comfortable Alone. For more, follow...read more
Susan Noonan MD View From the Mist Losses that require a grieving process. I had an interesting conversation the other day about the losses we all experience when receiving a diagnosis of mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder. Yes, losses. At first glance it seems unfair, given that there is such a large burden to carry with the illness. But it does happen and is something we need to acknowledge and deal with, otherwise the effect of these losses will come back to haunt you. What do I mean by losses? Well, it could be the loss of time from your life while you were ill; loss of opportunity from school, work, or life; loss of the life you would have had if you were not ill; loss of relationships, a spouse, friends. There could be financial losses from high medical expenses or modifications to your job or a job loss; perceived loss of standing in your community; or loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. And other losses I haven’t listed here. That seems quite overwhelming. But some people who have depression don’t think of these as losses. They think that they don’t deserve certain things in life, so when a loss happens it’s what they expect for themselves. Their lives are miserable, and they don’t perceive loss of time or opportunity as a loss. It somehow doesn’t apply to them. They feel that they are not deserving of a spouse or friendships, so losing those people is not perceived as a loss. It’s what they expect. And with depression, self-confidence and self-esteem are generally impaired as a part of the illness. The person’s thought processes are so distorted that he/she does not realize it has happened. So what do you do? The first thing to do is to acknowledge that you suffered one or several of these losses. Then you must go through a type of grieving process. Some people begin with denial or become angry with the sources of their loss. Others find their depression worsening. These are not particularly helpful to your recovery from the loss. It is more helpful to sit with it for a while, think about it and come to some acceptance of the fact that you have experienced this loss. This involves coming to terms with the lost opportunities and time from your life. It involves acceptance of the fact that others have disappointed you, let you down, or were not supportive during your time of need. Then you will be able to move on, making your life the best you can from this point forward. What happens if you don’t do this? The pain from these losses will still be present in the back of your mind. It is a burden you will carry with you each day. If you try to suppress it, that will require much emotional effort and energy. It will surface on occasion and cause you more emotional pain, continuing to haunt you until you deal with it adequately. So, it’s important that you do allow yourself the time to grieve these losses. Then move...read more
Marilyn A. Mendoza Ph.D.Understanding Grief What Parents Can Do “The Three Faces of Eve,” an actual account of an emotionally disturbed young woman in therapy, was a popular book and movie in the 1950’s. It first introduced the public to the concept of multiple personality disorder or as it is referred to today, Dissociative IdentityDisorder. In Eve’s breakthrough therapy moment, she goes back to an early repressed trauma at the age of six of being forced by her mother to kiss her dead grandmother goodbye. It was her grief and terror that led to her initially splitting into two distinct personalities. While this is an extreme example of the trauma that death can cause in children, we as a society still struggle with how to deal with children when a loved one is dying. One of the hardest things for parents to do is talk to their child about death. Many adults are uncomfortable thinking or talking about death. This discomfort is only magnified for them when they have to talk about dying with their children. With good intentions, parents want to protect their children from pain. Yet death is a part of life that children do need to know about. Many parents try to convince themselves that children do not know what is happening when someone is critically ill or dying. Children overhear things and often know much more than we think they know. They are sensitive to their environment and can sense changes in routines, moods and attitudes of the adults around them. They may not know that death is permanent but they can sense that something very sad has happened. With in-home care, they see doctors and nurses coming in and out and know that something out of the ordinary is happening. It can be a very frightening and confusing time for children if things are not explained to them. Some parents will send their children away from home. Many times the adults are overwhelmed with responsibilities and do not feel they can provide adequately for the children. Others may send them away to avoid telling them that someone is dying. At this time, what children need is the comfort and security of home and close family contact. Sending children away may only serve to make them more anxious and distressed. The best way to help children deal with death is to provide information and comfort for the level of their development. When children are not given appropriate explanations, their imaginations often come up with things that could be much worse than the truth. What you say to a 3 year old is different than what you say to a 13 year old. For children younger than 5 years, they can be told the person’s body stopped working and that they can no longer breathe, eat, think or talk. Grade schoolers have a better understanding that death is final. They will respond best to information that is simple, concrete and direct. This is also the age group that is more likely to blame themselves for the death. It is important to give them reassurance that it is not their fault. Adolescents understand the full meaning of death. However, that does not mean that they are able to deal with the emotional upheaval that comes with it. Adolescence, in general, is a time of turbulent emotions. Recognizing and expressing their feelings following...read more