Professional Counseling and Services PH: (520) 481-0670 FX: (520) 843-2075

Tag: anxiety

January 12, 2016

It is not uncommon for people to go through a period of difficulty in their lives, in which they find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of anxious thoughts and feelings. They habitually ruminate about what could go wrong in their lives and what is currently going wrong in their lives, with no resolution in sight. A common symptom of this vicious cycle is poor sleep, this is because the brain remains active well into the night ruminating over anxious thoughts, preventing the anxious person from getting a good night’s sleep.

 

In this post I shall detail a three step process on how to bring an end to your anxious thoughts.

 

Step One.

Open a blank white notebook, pen and cup of coffee on the desk

The first step is to write down your anxious thoughts on a piece of paper. This might be problematic since if you have multiple anxious thoughts competing for space in your mind. The solution to this is to start with one thought, usually the most pressing one. By writing down the anxious thoughts on paper, it helps you to put things into proper perspective, and removes the factor of becoming easily overwhelmed.

 

Now that you have your most pressing anxious thoughts on paper, write down the most realistic worst case scenarios for that anxious thought.  It is best to limit your worst case scenarios to three. So take for example, in your place of work, your supervisor just announced that the company will be downsizing, and to make matters more worrisome a few of your coworkers have already been laid off. Your primary anxiety maybe your fear of losing your job. While your worst case scenario may by that you will lose your ability to support yourself and perhaps a family. The problem with ruminating over your fear of losing your job along with your ability to support yourself is that it will negatively affect your ability to fall asleep at night. If you fall into a pattern of getting by on less sleep than you are used to, your cognitive abilities and your body’s ability to produce energy will become impaired. Which may lead to your worst fears coming true due to reduced performance on your job.

 

Step Two.

 

Hot keys for Accept

The second step is to accept this problem as a part of your reality. Fundamentally this is the most challenging step in the process, as most people have hidden beliefs which dictate that they either “should not” suffer or are “above” suffering. One method of coming to place of acceptance with your situation is to write down on a piece of paper the following statement: “I accept this situation as is, this is my challenge and this is currently where I belong.”

 

Once you write this statement down, take ten slow breaths, breathing in through your nostrils and slowly exhaling through your mouth. Then pay attention to how you feel about the words you have just written down. If you find yourself still experiencing difficulty coming to a place of peace with these words, then you will probably benefit from working with a therapist to address what your core beliefs about challenges are.

 

If you find yourself feeling more peaceful with the primary thought which provoked feelings of anxiety for you, then you are ready to benefit from the next step.

 

 

Step Three.

 

Power of thinking and free your mind as a business or health care concept with a group of rocks in the shape of a human head glowing with a bright inner light as a symbol of freedom and intelligence.

Step three is about exploring solutions to your challenges. Notice the language has changed from anxious thoughts to challenges. This change will be seamless in your mind once you come to a place of acceptance about your worrisome thoughts. Now that you have written down your thought along with your worst fears and you have come to accept this as a proper part of your reality, exploring potential solutions is something that occurs spontaneously in your mind. In my professional experience, clients who come to a genuine place of acceptance with the challenges they experience will often come up with reasonable solutions on their own.

 

For example, reasonable solutions for the possibility of being laid off, is to review your spending habits, cut back on frivolous expenses, while beginning the process of exploring other job opportunities. It is amazing how clear our thinking becomes when we transition from a place of anxiety to a place of genuine calmness. Also, even if you are having a difficult time coming up with some solutions to what you are going through, it is important to remember that there exist people who have experienced the same types of challenges you have experienced before and subsequently found effective solutions to these challenges.

 

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

December 21, 2015

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and can go wrong in your life. So what do you have to lose? When it comes to practicing the change we need to practice in our life, there are people who become frozen with hesitation because their minds are filled with all kinds of possibilities of things that could go wrong and greatly inconvenience them.

Are you one of these people? Do you have reasonable ideas about changes you can make in your life, but are stuck with fear in regards to the prospects of proceeding? If you are stuck with fear in regards to the changes you need to make in your life here are two things to consider. The first thing to consider is what do you want to happen? The second thing to consider is what would happen if you did nothing to change your situation?

So lets say you have a job, and the recent hiring of a new supervisor has turned your work environment into an abusive atmosphere. You could file a complaint with human resources, but you fear this would make matters worse between you and your supervisor. You could talk to your supervisor, but you fear this would lead to you being targeted after the conversation. You could look for a new job, but you fear that your employer could find out and you could be terminated. To make matters worse, you are now working overtime for no overtime pay, because some of your co workers where fired by the new supervisor for making mistakes on the job. Yet, the excess time you are putting in, added to the stress you are currently experiencing, is leading you to make some mistakes on the job which you are already frightened about. So what do you do?

So the first question would be, “What do you want to happen?” Most people in this predicament would answer that they want to work in a peaceful and supportive environment, regardless of where that work environment maybe. This leads to the second question, “What would happen if you made no changes, and continued with things as is?” Looking at the scenario just prescribed the answer would be that it is a matter of time before you make a major mistake on the job and the new supervisor fires you. This most likely would be the case given that you have already agreed to the poor treatment you have received on the job to date and in the eyes of your supervisor you have agreed that the value of your contribution is very low, which leads to a lack of respect by others for your work.

Now some people would interpret this scenario as a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” However this is not true, because the consequences for doing nothing are detrimental and more likely to happen than the consequences for doing something. This is because with doing something there does lie a possibility that things would change for the better as opposed to doing nothing where things are almost guaranteed to get worse. Further more, the moment you start engaging in exercising the change you need to make, you inevitably through research, encounter information which increases the probability that change is going to happen. So it truth, when you find yourself in a bad situation, engaging in change means “blessed if you do and damned if you don’t.”

Our responses to fear in our lives are learned, and most commonly learned responses to fear that dictate that we should always play it safe, even when we are not safe come from the irrational core belief that nothing bad “should” happen to us.

In my practice, there are evidence based cognitive behavioral beliefs that I introduce clients to, which are effective in helping people become less fear based in their thinking and subsequently their action.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and professional life coach.

October 19, 2015

We all have them — those days or nights when the brain simply won’t shut up. Round and round it goes, generating worries and destroying your concentration. Called rumination, it’s as though your brain is stuck in gear and overheating. You can learn to help it slow down and cool off, however. To turn off your brain, you must learn to take your focus off the worry. 

Practiced regularly, these techniques can help eliminate rumination. Remember, it’s not the worry that’s the problem; it’s the brain latching on like a dog with a bone and chewing it to pieces. To change the process you must interrupt the rumination and turn it off. Two additional strategies are to worry once, then let it go, and to plan instead of worrying.

Stop Worries in Their Tracks

Whenever you catch yourself ruminating, stop the thought. Simply picture the ubiquitous red octagon sign and tell yourself, “Stop!” As soon as the thought stops, tell yourself something reassuring, assertive or self-accepting. You can create a list of these and practice: “I am a competent, confident individual.” “I am in control of my thoughts.” You can also use this technique to worry well but only once. Set a timer and spend 10 to 20 minutes intensively worrying about something or about all your worries at once. 

Don’t do anything else, just worry. When the timer alarm sounds, use the stop command. If you’ve identified a worry that needs to be addressed within the next day or two, write it down on your to-do list or calendar. Now, whenever that thought tries to pop up again, you can say “Stop! That worry has been taken care of,” and focus your attention on something else.

Give It a Rest

Just as a machine will wear out if it runs constantly with no maintenance, your brain needs to take a rest from rumination. The ‘turn it off’ strategy allows you to shut down the rumination so your mind can calm down. Sit or lie down with your eyes closed. Imagine that you hold a beautiful vase or decorated container. As each worry comes into your mind, imagine putting it into the container. When you have the container full, imagine closing the lid and put it on a shelf. Now that you have those thoughts neatly packaged, invite a different thought into your mind. If you do this just before bedtime, you can invite a peaceful, pleasant image or thought into your mind as you drift into sleep.

Don’t Worry, Plan

Having a plan can decrease your anxiety and allow your ruminating brain to relax — if you can keep it from thinking of the plan as just something else to worry about. A good plan may need to be tweaked occasionally, but it doesn’t need constant fretting. To make a plan, identify the problem, list possible options to solve it, pick an option and write out a plan of action. Having a plan allows you handle rumination more easily, as you can use it as part of the thought-stopping command. It can also help you break down what seems like an overwhelming problem into small, manageable parts.

Remember, changing habits takes time, and constant rumination is a habit. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes weeks or even months. Be patient; you will gain a sense of power and mastery over your own thoughts.

May 26, 2015

“Deception may give us what we want for the present, but it will always take it away in the end.” -Rachel Hawthone

A morbidly obese client who was working on getting back to a healthier weight, informed me that she only just noticed her obesity a month prior to booking an appointment with me. According to her, while she readily admits that she has always had a weight issue, she informed me that she had no idea that her weight had gotten this out of control.

A teacher who recently received feedback from two of his students. In the feedback, they informed him that his lessons where disorganized, and that he was inconsistent in his punctuality in getting their assignments back to them. This teacher would share with me, how this feedback caught him off guard, especially when other students shared with him that this feedback was accurate. The teacher was caught off guard because he had also prided himself with having very organized lesson plans.

To varying degrees people suffer from the illusion of living their lives as who they believe themselves to be, as opposed who they really are. The primary culprit for this cognitive distortion is our strong desire to feel good about ourselves. Desires to see ourselves in a positive light can subconsciously pull us away from any process of taking accountability. Systems we are aware off which we can use to maintain accountability, such as a weight scales, feedback sheets, daily documentation, etc. can create feelings of negativity in us, which can easily be internalized. People who were raised with the belief system where their self worth was directly correlated with their behavior, are most likely to avoid systems of accountability. If you believe negative or critical feedback means that you are a bad person and you don’t want to feel like a bad person, then why bother? Especially when you could always construct a narrative which you feel good about.

When left unchecked the results of self delusion can be disappointing to devastating, as evidenced from the first two examples above. From the morbidly obese woman, who found herself literally fighting for her life, when she came to a place of acceptance regarding what her health was really like, to the teacher who spent years in a profession stuck on being mediocre. So how does a person protect themselves from becoming self deluded?

The first step is to practice accepting yourself unconditionally. Acceptance of self, is to accept unconditionally, the part of you that is aware or conscious, that is to accept your humanity. You accept your humanity simply because you exist. Your acceptance of your humanity has to be unattached to actions, subsequent accomplishments or failures you experience, you simply accept yourself because you exist.

Acceptance of yourself allows to you to experience negative feelings and not personalize these feelings, instead you come to see feelings are messages. For example, in general positive feelings indicate that there is congruency between what you believe and what you are experiencing and negative feelings indicate that there is a lack of congruency between what you believe and what you are experiencing. Furthermore in other to protect yourself from coming to believing in feelings that communicate false positives and false negatives, you employ systems of accountability, so that you get into the habit of collecting evidence to verify or refute your feelings.

Our ability to deal with negative feelings comes from accepting ourselves unconditionally.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

May 4, 2015

Throwing it all away.

From time to time, I work with people who have either made an attempt at suicide and or expressed serious intent to do so. My first response to these people is to ask a standard question based on a ancient quote; “have you left all stones unturned?”

Stone

 

 

 

 

 

Often times when people contemplate on committing suicide, they are operating on limiting core beliefs, which they have repeatedly used towards getting their emotional needs met in a diverse number of situations. As a result they have experienced limited to no success, due to their lack of flexibility in their core beliefs and subsequently their behaviors.

For example, a common theme I observe with people who idealize suicide is an absence of love from their lives. Often these are people who still struggle with childhood trauma, where they experienced significant physical abuse and or emotional neglect under the watch of caregivers. They often feel unloved and unwanted by others in their lives and in their personal relationships they will resort to subservient roles in the hopes of gaining the  approval of the other person.

During the course of these relationships, as the person with suicidal ideation gives more of themselves to the other person, the less value the other person sees in them, the more used, undervalued and unloved the person feels. Further, the more relationships the suicidal person engages in which they give the best of themselves with little to nothing in return, the more exhausted they are going to feel about themselves and life in general.

The good news is that people in this predicament with timely intervention can adopt a more optimistic view of themselves and life in general and start thriving. However before I get into what the turn around process will look life for suicidal people, I am going to get into the reasons why people with suicidal ideation, typically find themselves  feeling exhausted about themselves, undervalued and unloved in their personal relationships.

Before I begin, I would like to state that the following reasons does not apply to everyone who experiences thoughts about suicide. Further, the following content is not meant to diagnosis and heal anyone who is experiencing suicidal ideation. The following content is being provided as helpful information , if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or know someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please seek consultation with a psychotherapist.

“A Corrupted Sub Conscious”

During the first two years of life, the  right hemisphere of the brain is the first develop, in regards to the establishment of neurological connections. Not only is the right hemisphere the first to develop, it also a experiences a rapid growth sprout during those first two years.

In the field of neuroscience it is generally agreed upon that the right hemisphere is more closely connected to the primary and survivalistic needs of the body than the left hemisphere. As a result, the sensory information is usually interpreted by the right hemisphere from an emotional narrative while sensory information from the left hemisphere is usually interpreted from an analytical / problem solving narrative.

LeftRightHemisphereComparison

The type of emotional narrative used by the right hemisphere to interpret information is usually dependent of the person’s experiences in getting his or her emotional needs met as a child. If the person experienced a lot of success in getting his emotional needs met during childhood, his fundamental emotional narrative tends to be more optimistic. The right hemispheres of people who are more optimistic, tend to communicate easily with the left hemispheres. While the right hemispheres of people who are more pessimistic, tend to communicate less with the left hemispheres of those people. So people who had difficulty getting their needs met as children tend to have a more rigid and pessimistic emotional outlook on life. They are more likely to adopt narratives of helplessness and hopelessness when they encounter challenges in their lives.

insanity

 

 

 

 

 

The typical mindset of a person struggling with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness is such that if one type of solution does not work for the problem he is addressing, then no other solution will work for that problem. This is obviously not true and explains why people with suicidal ideation give up so easily after addressing the same types of problems with the same approach. repeatedly.

“The Devil You Know..”

Depositphotos_6583591_xs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another reason why people with suicidal ideation experience limitation of ideas in addressing their challenges are the people they have grown accustomed to associating themselves with. We are accustomed to dealing with the same types of people we are raised with. This is because during the course of our lives we have developed neurological connections to enable us relate to specific types of people, which affords us a sense of predictability and consistency.

For the person who suffers from suicidal ideation, this presents a big problem, because chances are that you have grown accustomed to interacting with toxic people, and responding to such toxic persons with your own toxicity.  This creates the illusion of de ja vu, were just about every relationship you are engaged in is a toxic relationship, which leads to feelings of inferiority, in that you begin to believe that something is wrong with you and that you are deserving of being on the receiving end of toxicity.

“Reprograming Your Subconscious”

images_iceberg-copy

Your subconscious mind can be reprogrammed, intentionally or coincidentally. Intentionally by yourself or a third party  and coincidentally by information you encounter which inspires you towards change, for better or for worse.

You can come to deeply believe yourself to be a worthwhile human being and come to unconditionally accept yourself.

This process involves creating a narrative and seeking real life evidence to test the effectiveness of the narrative. The first step towards creating this narrative is by understanding the law of opposites. The law of opposites states that everything in existence is a combination or unity of opposites, a common example would be electricity, which is defined by a positive or negative charge.

This means that if you are currently living your life based on a narrative where your worth is low and you reject yourself, there exists a narrative where you  believe yourself to be a worthwhile human being and you unconditionally accept yourself.

This is not a narrative you simple make up, but one you base on evidence.  First you explore evidence that supports  your reasons for degrading your worth as human being. Imagine that your belief of low self worth is a table top, and the reasons you look down on your self are supported by the legs that hold up the table top.

White table on white background

Now write down on a sheet of paper the evidences you have gathered to support your issues with low self worth, each of these evidences will symbolically represent as a leg for the table. You can write down as many evidences as possible even though the standard table has four legs. Once you have written down your evidences, write down on a separate sheet of papers, the exact opposites of these evidences and how they will support the new worthwhile you.

For example, if you believe that you are surrounded by people who do not care about you, as evidenced by the current people in your life, then you write down what it would be like to be surrounded by people who do care about you and who in return you care about.

You will then write down what changes you can start taking in your life to be surrounded by people who do care about you. By doing so, you will be faced with the harsh reality of the things you do to attract uncaring people into your life. Whatever changes you write down, you will come to the realization that practicing these changes will change how you relate to others and subsequently how others relate to you.

A former client of mine, once began the practice of setting boundaries with family and friends anytime they made crude jokes he considered to be offensive. He would place these boundaries and follow through with his commitment to follow through on the boundaries if he was teased for being too sensitive. Much to his surprise he reported experiencing less conflicts with people, as he in turn had become more cognizant of the things he said to others.

This was all based on his new narrative that he would commit to being the most genuine and courageous person he could be, in all of his relationships with people.

In getting to this stage, there was on obstacle that he had to overcome, and that was learning to get past his difficult feelings.

In this previous post, I wrote about feelings, I discussed feelings being tools we use as human being to gage our accuracy of our perceptions of reality as compared to reality as is.

The most difficult part about implementing a new narrative, is getting past your difficult feelings, which usually consist of confusion, guilt, fear and shame. These feelings are false negatives that you become anchored to over the years to unhealthy narratives you formed during your early life experiences.

The most effective way to get past your difficult feelings is to do nothing.  The process of doing nothing does take a lot of effort, as over the years you have developed strong neurological connections that fire in response to certain triggers to illicit certain reactions. The most effective way to do nothing is to practice deep breathing. Deep breathing exercises, invoke deep states of relaxation, leading you to become less reactive to certain triggers. A starter exercise I typically introduce clients to is the process of counting breaths from one through ten and then from back down from ten to one. After this process has been completed you will experience a deep state of relaxation, at which point you can focus on asking yourself why you are experiencing the difficult feelings you are experiencing.

With practice, you will experiencing progress in getting past your difficult feelings, making it more easier to implement your new narrative.

As effective as these techniques are, they are easier said/written than done. If you experience significant difficulty practicing these techniques, it is advisable that you see a therapist.

After all, you have one life to live. So leave no stone unturned.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

April 22, 2015

“Feelings make great servants but terrible masters.”

Imagine you have in your head a map of your local town or city, now imagine if you were to quickly sketch this map unto paper, how accurate would that map be?

Most people I have posed this question to, have responded that the map would be mostly inaccurate. This is because they indistinctly know that it is human nature to make errors, based on ideas and beliefs that have not been fact checked.

Human beings live in two differently worlds, simultaneously. The first world would be the world in our heads, or to put more specifically, the idea of the world as it is, in our heads. This world consist of fact checked information and made up information we have put in place, to make sense of missing information between pieces of information that have been fact checked. The second world consists of the world as it really is – the world outside of our heads.

The bridge between the world in our heads and the world outside of our heads, are our feelings. Our feelings are triggered to varying degrees, from the things we touch, see, hear, smell and interpret through our thoughts. Our feelings serve to inform us whether the world in our heads is congruent with the world outside of our heads. When our feelings are positive, they serve to indicate congruency between both worlds. When our feelings are uncomfortable or negative, they serve to inform us that the world inside our heads is not congruent with the world outside of our heads.

So in the event you experience a negative feeling, it is an opportunity for you to explore your thought processes, with the goal of understanding your core beliefs and making changes in your beliefs to match new information you have learned about the world as it really is.

For example, let’s say you consider yourself to be a very good chess player. You consider yourself so good, that you believe that you are capable of competing in tournaments and winning. You firmly believe this to be true about yourself until your first experience at a tournament, which does not go your way. Upon facing this contradiction, you will most likely experience feelings of being upset and disappointed. In response to these negative emotions, you will be tempted to dwell on them and perhaps become reactive. However the appropriate response will be to explore your thoughts and ask yourself why you have become so upset in response to your poor performance at the tournament. You will then conclude that you have overestimated your skill level in the game, at which time you will begin to feel accepting and peaceful regarding the new adjustments you have made to your beliefs regarding your skill level as a chess player. Further, with these new adjustments made to your beliefs, you will probably become more focused on what improvements you need to make regarding your chess skills.

Our feelings are not to be served or catered to. This statement is not to be confused as a blatant disregard for the humanity of others, but a statement that addresses the irrationality on placing emphasis on our feelings of hurt and pain, without further exploration into what triggered these feelings and what messages these feelings are delivering to us.

Consider this, you experience a conflict with another person and then you inform that person that he or she does not care about your feelings. In reality what your really trying to say is that he or she does not care about you, this is because they can’t care about your feelings, your feelings emit from your head and they can’t be seen. Sure they can be expressed through body language and facial expressions, but ultimately those feelings were created by your thoughts and your core beliefs in response your experience.

This may seem semantic, or like splitting hairs, but this is an issue we respond to on a subconscious level. This means that we are unaware when we carter to our feelings instead of accepting our feelings as they are. When we carter to our feelings, we lose track of the message being conveyed, which leads to a further detachment from the reality outside our heads. Which ultimately leads to a chaotic lifestyle, after all, you can’t solve problems with lies.

April 8, 2015

Fear of being criticized, fear of being humiliated, fear of being rejected, fear of violence being visited upon you. These are the common types of fear that some people find themselves being subjugated to, by their own minds, on daily basis.

The irony about living in fear is that whatever it is that you fear, will most likely happen if you do not put yourself in a position to accept and deal with it. It takes more energy hiding from people and situations which evoke fear in you, when compared to the amount of energy it takes for you to invest in preparation strategies for embracing your feelings of fear and tackling the problem at hand.

There are two cognitive processes for getting past your fear, the first is learning about the core reasons for your fear, while the second is changing your beliefs about your feelings.

Firstly, with most people I have worked with in regards to getting past their issues of fear, it has always come down to their fear of suffering. We fear suffering far more than we fear dying, I guess this is why in Christian texts the talk of hell and the idea of being burned while experiencing never ending agony was captivating and frightening for myself and my peers as children. Regardless the belief that one shouldn’t suffer is an irrational belief. It is an irrational belief, because through suffering comes growth. The infant who is teething, is going through a stage of suffering, with the end result being strong teeth. The toddler learning to walk is going through a stage of suffering, with the end result being efficient mobility. The teenager struggling to learn algebra is going through a stage of suffering, with the end result being improved cognitive ability in calculating and solving math problems. Suffering is not to be avoided but embraced. I am not embracing nor encouraging any form of self punishment here, but rather I am endorsing and encouraging an attitude of courage.

Secondly, is the issue with feelings. Feelings make great servants but terrible masters. Some people who struggle with anxiety issues will often avoid discussing certain topics or tackling certain issues due to their fear of having to dealing with painful feelings. This behavior is based on the flawed belief that our feelings are to be tendered to. Our ability to feel is based on our need to compare our perception of the world as it exists in our heads to the world as it really is outside our heads. When our feelings are positive, it means that the world we perceive and the world as is are congruent. When our feelings are negative, it means that the world we perceive is incongruent with the world as it. Our negative feelings are an opportunity for us to reexamine our thoughts and core beliefs with the goal of correcting our perception to match reality as close as possible.

The process of practicing these cognitive processes are easier written than done, and in most cases require the assistance of a professional.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and a life coach.

March 12, 2015

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.

February 2, 2015

I recently came across a two year article about the popularity of Xanax, and it reminded me of the number of patients I have worked with who had already been taking medication for months and sometimes years, before they decided to try the therapeutic route. I suspect that most people who stick with their medication, even past the point of diminishing returns are unaware about the specifics of how anxiety and panic attacks are typically addressed in therapy.

When treating anxiety, there are three therapeutic models, I use interchangeably , the cognitive behavioral model, the exposure model and the hidden emotion model.

The cognitive behavioral model approaches anxiety from the idea that it is the beliefs and subsequent actions of the person that is making the person anxious. So when the person holds unto beliefs that create anxiety, that person becomes sensitized to situations that can arose anxious thoughts, with the anxious thoughts being a product of what he believes. Take for example, if a person believes that all dogs are dangerous and vicious. This person then becomes aroused by concerns for his safety whenever he finds himself in the presence of a dog, or when he learns that there is a dog close by. Furthermore this person’s anxiety might become even more amplified if he engages in behavior he believes will keep him safe from the dog. So in this situation, we can say that the person’s anxious thoughts are caused by his beliefs about dogs. So in order to help the person get past his fear of dogs, we have to work on helping him adopt a more healthier belief about dogs. In the short term we will get him to practice healthier behaviors to cope with his anxious thoughts about dogs, when he is in the presence of dogs.

The exposure model approaches anxiety from the idea that the anxiety is being caused by the person’s decision to avoid her identified stimuli for the anxiety. An example would be a fear of negotiating one’s way through a crowd of people. So the person’s anxiety would be triggered every time she encounters what she considers a crowd. Using the exposure model, the person would be encouraged to gradually immerse herself into crowed situations, during which she will go through the process becoming desensitized to crowds.

The hidden emotion model approaches anxiety from the idea that anxiety is caused by a fear of confrontation with others. As a result, people who fear confrontation mask their emotions through a facade of being nice. The hidden emotion model posits that through the chronic process of forcing niceness, people sweep their true feelings “under the rug.” Which leads to the repressed feelings being expressed through chronic anxiety and in worse cases, panic attacks. The hidden emotion model addresses anxiety through a process of helping the person become more aware of his feelings, alongside strategies for helping him become more assertive through the practice of assertive building strategies.

In practice what I have learned is that regardless of which model I use to address a client’s needs, it all comes down to identifying maladaptive beliefs the person holds unto and helping the person adopt and practice healthier beliefs. Anxiety is treatable, and in worse cases such as recurring panic attacks, a person can learn to bring the episodes of panic attacks to an end.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

January 18, 2015

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

As a soldier, my company commander upon learning that I had studied psychology in college, demanded to know if I could read his thoughts. He then followed up by asking if I had studied psychology to find out what was wrong with me. This scenario underlies the attitude most people have towards psychotherapy and the field of psychology in general. Given that the origins of psychology came from the medical disease model, most people feel that any recommendation they receive for therapy means that something is wrong with them.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Counseling is a process where you transition from a place of being emotionally stuck to a place of wellness and thriving. Life is a transitional process, cognitive strategies that worked for us in the past, typically no longer apply in the present. While this phenomenon is nothing new to us, what happens when we experience an event which we were not prepared for? An event for which we don’t have a script or blueprint to even make sense of.

The answer is we get stuck, this is because when we experience new challenges for which we were not prepared for, our instinct is to resort to old strategies that have worked for us in other and different situations. Which some times leads to Einstein’s definition of insanity. Which leads to mental health issues such as poor anger management, depression and anxiety. Through therapy, we can come to understand ourselves thoroughly, by examining our beliefs and values. Particularly those instilled in us during our formative years.

We can come to learn about which irrational beliefs hinder our personal happiness, and practice cognitive behavioral strategies for embracing new beliefs and values that help us experience true happiness and thrive.

So it’s not a matter of something being wrong with you to begin with, it a matter of correcting a misunderstanding between you and the your life experiences.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

 

HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com