Are you addicted to chasing chaos? Experiences from our early life experiences have a profound influence on who we become as adults.
In this research paper on childhood trauma published in the journal of infant mental health, the authors discuss the phenomenon of hyper arousal and dissociation as two primary types of symptoms that result from childhood trauma.
Hyper-arousal is a state of heightened awareness as a result of prolong exposure to trauma, where the well being of the person is consistently challenged and threatened. In comparison dissociation is a state of detachment that occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to trauma where the well being of the person is consistently being challenged and threatened. At this point, it is obvious that the symptoms of hyper-arousal and disassociation are based on the personality type of the person exposed to the trauma. I will also add that hyper-arousal and disassociation occur on a spectrum so most people with unresolved trauma will show both types of symptoms
In regards to chasing chaos, people with unresolved childhood trauma will often seek out relationships in their adult years that duplicate the traumatic relationships they experienced in their childhood. Regardless of how well things are going on for them in their personal lives, they will subconsciously seek out high conflict relationships in attempt to solve the problems they have traditionally been unable to solve in previous relationships. This turns out to be a repeat and rinse process where those persons with predominately hyper-arousal symptoms will habitually overreact to conflicts, leading to difficult to manage consequences. Also for those with predominately dissociation symptoms, they will consistently seek out high conflict relationships where they will under react to conflict, leading to difficult to manage consequences.
The solution is to know yourself, and work with a psychotherapist to begin the process of identifying your unhealthy auto pilot thought processes and subsequent behaviors, with the goal of replacing them with healthier alternatives.
In the early two thousands, I worked for a residential treatment program. This program provided treatment services for youth offenders who had been convicted for various offenses through the juvenile courts. One day the program director, summoned me into his office, he was making me a job offer, specifically, he wanted me to take over the resident director’s job. I found two problems with this offer, this first was that the resident director was still in that position, the second was that it was not a therapeutic position. My primary issue with the offer, was that he had just had a heated disagreement with the resident director, in front of witnesses and his gesture in offering me the job was a power move. I knew that he would be offended if I did not accept the offer, and that he might see it as a political strategy of sorts on my part. Perhaps he would think I was aligning myself with the resident director against him. I simply did not want the job, because I enjoyed being a therapist and I also considered it immoral to accept a job position that was already filled. I did not want to walk around the facility engaging with the resident director, knowing that he was soon going to be fired and that I would take his place. I also did not want to lose my job.
So I took a deep breath, said a short prayer in my mind and politely declined the offer. To no surprise he gave me a look of surprise and annoyance. I happened to understand that if he could so easily throw the resident director under the bus, my acceptance or decline of the offer would not protect me from similar treatment.
This is my understanding of what courage is, understanding that there are no guarantees or shortcuts in life. Courage isn’t necessarily about sacrifice, this is because without realizing it, most human being put their lives on the line in certain everyday activities. Most notably would be driving. Courage is the recognition that challenges or struggles in our everyday lives are inevitable and that avoiding them or putting them off only makes these challenges more difficult to overcome in the long run.
Most of us have been led on to believe that if only we would submit to some type of lifestyle or entity that everything will end up being okay. From cultural beliefs, attending institutions of higher learning to being employed by certain employers. We surrender beliefs in our personal powers to buy into the illusion of an easier life, all the while failing to recognize the role we play in maintaining the illusion.
As a therapist, when working with clients who have difficulty in making what may seem as a risky or out of the ordinary courageous decision; I guide them through an exercise designed to help them recognize how much of their personal power goes into maintaining the current situation that they are currently unhappy with. It is after they have come to understand and accept this revelation that the conversation shifts into how they can use their personal power into creating the new type of life they desire and deserve.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
There are no happy ever afters, they simply don’t exist. This of course is an analogy for when we embark on the completion of a goal, of sorts we decide that we are going to put up with a variety of obstacles so that at the end of the day we will find ourselves in this obstacle/problem free reality, where we shall reside with our loved ones in forever bliss.
Versions of this logical fallacy can be found in religious doctrines, children’s story books and Hollywood block buster movies. A person goes through a struggle, accomplishes a certain goal and seemingly never suffers or struggles again. Except of course if it’s the sequel to block buster movie. In real life people make decisions with this paradigm of thinking and experience disappointing results.
For example, an overweight person gets on a diet, loses the necessary weight, then ends the diet. He or she is then sorely disappointed when in a year later or sometimes less, the weight returns. In truth the diet should have been forever, a lifestyle change for the good, at least until you make an even better lifestyle change.
So in relation to the analogy, the diet is the journey and upon accomplishment of the goal (losing x amount of weight) a new journey begins which will be to maintain the new weight. To end the diet program, means a likely regression into the old diet that never worked out for the person in the first place.
Another example would be some of the clients I work with, be it for anger management, or treatment for anxiety or depression, often the first phase of treatment involves a client holding his breath as he practices the cognitive behavioral strategies towards improvement on his issues. This usually doesn’t work, as he never learns to feel comfortable tackling his issues and any improvements made is quickly negated by disappointment because improvements usually lead to more challenges that need to be tackled. The second phase of treatment involves getting the client to recognize that challenges are a normal part of life, and getting into the habit of finding happiness even during the process of change.
If you a are looking to change your life, you should do so with the belief that whatever journey you embark upon is going to transition into a new journey upon accomplishment of your stated goal. There will always be problems to solve, So this means that it is unwise to put all of your happiness into the accomplishment of any goal. The challenge is to find your place of content in the process of anything you are going to accomplish any goal, with the goal itself being the equivalent to icing on the cake.
This morning I came across a news feed on my YouTube feed it was by The Young Turks and it was focused on CEO pay, specifically the disparity between CEO pay and the pay of the average worker. The commentary in the news video was focused on how unfair the disparity of the average CEO pay was from the average worker pay. Here is the problem I have with the video, am I to imply that in the event the average pay for CEO is reduced significantly that this would improve the average pay of workers?
Most people who are asked this question would answer no, this is because subscribing to the belief that the success or failure of others affects my success taps into a primitive mindset which desires to relieve me of any and all responsibility for any unfavorable conditions I find myself in. The problem with not seeing myself as responsible for my circumstances, is that it leads me into seeing myself as powerless to change my condition.
One Size Does not Fit All.
I enjoy playing puzzle games and the thing with what makes a really good puzzle game, is that there are more than one way to solve the puzzle. This rule also applies to our everyday lives. If I were to engage the hosts of the above-mentioned video about why I disagree with their stance, they would immediately point to the number of reasons why the average worker is unable to get a chance to achieve economic freedom. They will say things like, “not everyone can go to college” (this is true), or that minimum wage is not a livable wage (also true). However if I were to retort with the statement that there is no problem we cannot work through, I will be accused of living in la, la, land. However the reality is that not all paths towards success is the same, as a matter of fact success means completely different things for different people. Most people have been brought up to believe in a one size fits all paradigm, starting in the home and reinforced through institutions of learning. Most people do not know themselves, most people have a poorly defined sense of identity and as a result will continue to hold unto a beliefs and values that do not truly define who they are. In truth, no arguments can solidly be made to support the notion that only way to economic achievement is through college. Generally speaking, there are multiple paths to multiple goals, and every goal has more to one path towards reaching it.
You Have More Power Than You Think.
As children, our powers are limited. It has been hard wired into our brains that fitting in with the beliefs and values of our immediate family followed by our community will increase our chances of survival. As adults we become solely responsible for what we choose to believe and keep believing. While it is true that there are a number of unpleasant things that could happen to us, likewise there are also a number pleasant things that could happen to us. The reality is that the number of pleasant things that could possibly happen to us are increased three fold when we actually take steps to make our desires a reality. When we focus on other people having things we desire, which we do not have, we become susceptible towards buying into beliefs that limit our potential to excel.
So the next time you come across any bit of news information that tells you how unfair life is, and how others have more leverage than you, ask yourself one question; “how does this help you?” If it is more income you are trying to bring into your life, your efforts would be best spent looking up information that tells you specifically how to bring in more income into your life. Or, how to retire in x amount of years, or how to fund your child’s education and so on and so forth. A video on how unfair life is, is not really telling you anything new, instead it is keeping you grounded in old thinking that has most likely not worked out for you to date.
So here’s wishing you live your life to the best of your potential.
So I am at work, waiting for my next client, as I listen to this Joe Rogan podcast on depression, with his guest Carla Santa Maria. Carla states that she has extensive training in neurology and I find myself agreeing with most of what she says.
However here is the thing. If a person has depression, and let’s say that the depression is caused by low serotonin being transferred between cells, the questions is, what caused the low serotonin? Was it a radical change in diet? Dental toxins, a radical change in beliefs? Or a crisis brought about by an antiquated belief system and changing times?
As a psychotherapist, I find myself paying more attention to research on the relationships between our thinking and our neurological processes. I am a strong believer that our thoughts influence mental health and subsequently the biological processes that underlie our mental health.
I will concede that our thought processes can’t be the only factor that influence depression, however I remain a big believer that they play an important role in one’s recovery from depression.
Ugo is a Psychotherapist and Professional Life coach.
In this video, I address a common question I received from my last blog post and video on the negative correlation between Spanking and IQ. The question was on why some people who where spanked as children, present with high IQ as adults.
I have also included links to the articles and studies I referenced in the video.
The Truth about IQ: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2009/07/the-truth-about-iq/22260/
The Genius in all of Us.
Expert Performance and Deliberate Practice
Why Spanking Impairs Cognition in Children and Adolecents
So how exactly does food affect your mental health? Consider my recent experience, I set up my appointments so I can take a lunch break around noon or 1pm. For lunch I usually alternate between a left over meal from last night’s dinner, or the occasional sandwich.
Yesterday, I did something different, I stopped by a pizza buffet on the way to the office for lunch. About an hour and a half after lunch I noticed a significant cloudiness in my thinking process, which seemed to flare up when I took notes. I also found myself mildly irritated for reasons I could not explain.
I have actually read about this before, and I even wrote a post on depression and foods that can help alleviate depression. Consider this, if most antidepressants are designed to increase the transmission of serotonin between neurons in the brain, then where does serotonin come from? More specifically, where is serotonin produced?
80% of serotonin is produced in our guts while the rest are produced in our central nervous system. While the scientific community has known for a long time about certain types of foods which influence our moods, I think it’s something most professionals and the rest of the public take for granted.
The foods we eat does influence how our biology produces serotonin and subsequently our mood, and this post shows how. Based on what I read, it appears the extra carbs I consumed from the pizza slices rapidly boosted my serotonin production, but briefly. Which was probably followed by a drastic decrease in production which led to my mild irritable mood.
The moral of the story is that what we eat also plays a role in our mood and overall mental health. I am going to stick to my leftovers and the occasional subway. In the mean time, if you want to do some reading on your own, I would recommend a copy of the food-mood solution written by renowned nutritionist Jack Challan. Besides recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, Jack discusses types of foods and supplements people should consume in order to help regulate their moods.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
You have to be at work by 9am in the morning, you are just now waking up at 8:20am. Knowing fully well that it takes you about thirty minutes to get ready for work, you spring out of bed. Regardless of what excuses you give yourself, the reality is that you premeditated this. How? You premeditated your oversleeping because you did not set the intent to wake up at a specific time where you would have had plenty of time to perform your morning routine and arrive at work on time. Prior to going to bed the night before, you knew that you were running into trouble once you did not visualize what your routine in the morning was going to be like and you probably lied to yourself.
If you recall all the times you have successfully followed through with an endeavour, what you will most likely recall is that you visualized it happening before it happened. You knew what you were going to do, you anticipated obstacles in your path and how you were going to get around those obstacles. So what happens when we procrastinate? What happens when we fall short from achieving our desired goals, not because of things not going our way, but due to our failures in following through on certain things?
What happens is fear, and even more specifically our unwillingness to acknowledge our fears. Let’s say for example that you have a fear of speaking in public, and your supervisor recently confided in you about management’s interest in you for a new leadership position. You get excited about the job, then it dawns on you, this leadership position requires a lot of public speaking and presentations. You want the job, for all the perks that come with the job, but you do not want the burden of dealing with your fear of public speaking. So you choose to take the passive route by not making any decisions, and you instead give management the impression that you are interested in the job. Not only to you fail to make a solid decision to yourself, you also fail to visualize yourself thriving in that role.
In the absence of a conscious intention for what you want, your subconsciousness will default to making the best decision on your behalf which is designed to protect you from fears. Hence chronic episodes of procrastination. Using the example given at the start of this post, after several occurrences of tardiness, management will take you less seriously for the new job and you would have successfully sabotaged yourself.
This is the story of how procrastination usually occurs, there is fear or reluctance to engage in something, but due to social pressure you go along with it. However you make no plans in your head, nor do you set any intention to follow through, it’s as if you have decided that you will go along with the flow of things and whatever happens will simple happen.
The reality is that as human beings we all have power, specifically the power to influence the world around us. It is important to note that the feats we have achieved in our lives, were achieved because we wanted to achieve them, no one can bring us happiness in our lives but ourselves. This is why it is important to honest with ourselves regarding what we desire and do not desire.
So how do you overcome procrastination? You overcome procrastination by fearlessly setting your intention for what you want to accomplish. If you are having difficulty visualizing it in your mind then write it down as a narrative. In this post, I discussed the importance of using narratives in creating the futures we desire. Writing down your intention as a narrative allows you to play out potential obstacles you are most likely to encounter in a virtual world, which gives you leverage in predicting and developing plans for how to overcome certain obstacles prior to experiencing them.
Once your fears have been acknowledged and you have planned accordingly using the narrative technique, you will find that it becomes easier to set your intentions visually.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.