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Tag: therapy blog

December 26, 2013

Why are disappointments so difficult to bear for some people? One reason could be because some people place all their stock for being happy in one basket. Specifically in regards to setting goals and expectations for the future. I often see this with people who struggle with mild depression, and procrastination. If you ask them what they want to accomplish, they are quick to inform you about their dreams, but some where along the way they lost motivation once the going got tough. When this phenomenon occurs it is because there seems to be an expectation that happiness can only be achieved once certain desires, goals and expectations are met. For clarification, my definition of happiness in this post refers to feelings of prolonged content and acceptance , versus joy which is shorter lived.

Where does happiness begin and where does it end? If you read or listen between the lines, sometimes when people are discussing something they want to accomplish, it appears that their beliefs about happiness stem from hidden statements such as, “I can only be happy if..” or “I can only be happy when..”

Ambitions, desires, goals and  accomplishments are all part of the wonderful attributes of the human experience, specifically they bring a sense of meaning and purposefulness to the experience of life. However, what happens when your narrative changes? What happens when a goal you set out to achieve with all your heart is not realized due to circumstances beyond your control?

Postponing your happiness today based your hopes and dreams for tomorrow is a recipe for a case for acute and prolonged depression. I have worked with people who were so caught off guard by a sudden and unexpected change in their fortunate situation that they spent more years depressed compared to the years when they were thriving.  What If you could begin experiencing happiness today, inspite of what your current circumstances are? What would that look like?

From my perspective what happiness today would look like would be living your life from a place of gratitude. Recognizing what you have going on for you and seeing any challenge in your life as an adventure and an exciting part of your journey. So even if you are confronted with disappointment from not having realized a goal, it would be easier for you to grieve and transition with your experiences into your pursuit of another goal.

So instead of the hidden statements such as,  “I can only be happy if…” or “I can only be happy when…” replace them with “I can experience happiness regardless of my circumstances.” This type of thinking leads you towards regarding your goals and ambitions with a different attitude. An attitude that leads you towards focusing on the process, rather than the outcome.

So when the going gets tough, you can always draw energy from your feelings of consent and happiness, because you understand that challenges are a natural and occurring phenomenon in our lives.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

November 25, 2013

A college student I worked with was experiencing difficulty in school, in regards to completing and turning in her class assignments. One day she mentioned to me that perhaps she suffered from attention deficit disorder . I responded by reminding her about how we had rescheduled our agreed upon appointment two weeks prior because she had to take an examination, which was three hours long. I further reminded her that during our most recent meeting, she had informed me that she had passed the examination.

“People with attention deficit disorder struggle to pull that off,” I added. As it turns out, her lack of motivation was caused by her not knowing what she wanted to study and that she was only pursuing the major of study she was enrolled in to impress her parents. This revelation came out after she came to realize that she was able to concentrate for hours at at time as evidenced by how well she had done on the three hour exam. The difference was that over the years she hadn’t been doing it on her own terms.

From time to time, I encounter people who become upset with me because I tell them they can get better, when they believe  they can not. There is another story of a client who used the analogy of a blind man, he informed me that telling him that he could get past his depression was like telling a blind man that he could see again. I then informed him that while blind people certainly couldn’t see, they could still get around  and function on par with their sighted fellow humans.

The human mind is neuroplastic, it has a remarkable ability of reorganizing itself to help us  address our everyday issues in life and thrive, regardless of the trauma experienced and survived. What remains is for us to believe in our ability to adapt and change.

Your Brain is “Neuro-Plastic”—It’s Moldable & Changeable from Josh Kastleman on Vimeo.

 

Consider this study, involving hospitalized depressed men for the effectiveness of fluoxetine in treating depression. The men were divided into two groups, one group which received the actual treatment and the second group which received a placebo treatment. Both groups showed dramatic and significant improvement in their depressive symptoms, as evidenced by self reports and scanned images of changes in their brains’ glucose metabolism using positron emission tomography (PET). This is one of many studies that shows that power of simply believing, through the effects of placebo.

PET scan 1   pet scan 2    pet scan 3

The truth is that we are able to accomplish any feat we set our minds unto. So if you are experiencing difficulty in consistently accomplishing a task, or following through with agreed upon expectations, perhaps it has nothing to do with your ability but your willingness, influenced by other factors.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

November 7, 2013

If negativity is to water, then positivity  is to the boat that keeps you afloat and takes you across.

The best way to explain this analogy is to substitute negativity as  challenges and positivity as the courage to practice change in overcoming certain challenges.

From addictions to maladaptive behaviors, the key to emancipation from habits that weigh us down is practicing the courage to take risks. Imagine if you can, the look of disbelief when  I tell a client who struggles with depression that he needs to go thirty days without using marijuana, or the look of horror registered on  the face of the shy young adult who is given an assignment to ask someone out on a  date.

These two examples have something in common and the commonality is people being asked to take the risk to practice change. For example, the client who uses marijuana, by quitting will be taking the risk of experiencing the inner turmoil and discomfort he has been using the drug to hide from. In his head, facing his fears is the worst thing that could ever happen to him even though it’s the best thing that could happen to him. The exact same thing could be said for the shy young man, afraid to approach females he finds attractive.

There are a number of research studies like this one on risk taking that seem to suggest that people are more willing to take risks when they feel happier or more optimistic. However, what if it works both ways?  What if it is true that while happier people take more risks, that miserable people who practice risk taking also experience more happiness? More specifically, what if it turns out that people who are unhappy can experience more optimism if they take risks even when the outcome of their risk taking doesn’t yield success?

For example, what if a young man who is shy finally exercises the courage to begin approaching and making small conversations with women he finds attractive. What if he finally asks someone out and she says no? In my practice what I have witnessed is  that even when turned down, young men who struggle with self confidence report feeling more optimistic, because being turned down wasn’t as horrible and as unbearable an ordeal as they had imagined.

Furthermore, risk is a term that’s often used to describe irrational decisions instead of everyday life in which it should be used. For example, driving your car is risky for obvious reasons, but gambling in a casino is irrational, as the odds are always in the favor of the house, which makes the probability of you winning any substantial amount of money slim to none.

People become adverse to the idea of risk taking when their definition of risk involves taking steps to improve their situation with a high likelihood of failure. This certainty of failure becomes so big in their minds that they become fearful of taking any steps to improve their situations. It is when I explain to clients how they take risks everyday in theirs lives that they become more willing to take the necessary steps to do things differently  to improve their situations. When people start doing things more differently to improve their circumstances, they become more optimistic regardless of the outcome.  They also begin taking about more opportunities that have come up for them as a result of practicing get the courage to change.

Happiness like any other feeling is feedback from the brain that tells you that you are either getting your needs met or in the process of getting your needs met. It is not something that occurs before the event or an action is initiated. For example, it would be equivalent to feeling wet outside on a dry day shortly before rain pours from the sky. We take risks everyday with no guarantees that things would go our way, and happiness is becoming more aware of this phenomenon and being at peace with it.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

November 4, 2013

Would you knowingly expose yourself to an infectious disease? If you are sound of mind, chances are that you will say no. Further, the reason you will most likely say no is because you have an appreciation for how vulnerable your physical self is.

 

Our awareness of our vulnerability as human beings, (on a physical level)  alters the choices we make. Collectively, so few of us willingly take risks that  puts our physical being in  danger.

So what about the mind? Is the mind vulnerable? Should we take the same precautions? The answer is yes, understandably the vulnerability of the mind is a concept that some people struggle to grasp. This is because while their mental state is something that can be experienced, it is not something that they can touch and see when they are mentally wounded by a bad idea.
Ideas are the equivalent of nutrition for the mind, good ideas that we come to believe help us to become successful in experiencing peace of mind, while bad ideas we come to believe, lead us into creating a world of continued crisis in our lives.
Here are three examples of common bad ideas that some people buy into.

Bad idea #1: You lack intellect.

During my time in the military, I discovered the true meaning of intellect, and that is truth. This is why the defense industry invents so much in technology and people when it comes to “gathering intelligence”.  This is a term that is used so often by the military when commanders talk about wanting the learn more about what is really going on in a foreign territory. With this in mind, imagine how ridiculous it sounds when  someone suggests that you lack the ability to gain awareness for the truth. This is exactly what people say when they suggest that others are of lower intellect,  simply because they don’t display cognitive abilities that are subjectively valued.

No two brains are the same, and everyone has the ability to gain awareness of truths in and out of their lives to solve their problems. When people buy into the idea that they are not intelligent, self fulfilling prophecy takes precedence. They lose interest in seeking the truth and live a life where they transition from one crisis to another where, due to their difficulty in making predictions, they would have been able to make if they possessed awareness of the truth.

Bad idea #2: You are a villain.
My first child was born in a hospital, which turned out to be a terrible experience, while my second child was born at home. The reason my wife and I choose for her to have a home birth was due to the terrible experience she experienced at the hospital, and myself as well. After her doctor had failed to show up for the birth, another doctor showed up for the birth and kept looking at his watch the entire time. I thought he was counting the contractions until he mentioned  to one of the nurses that this was taking too long and he would be upset if he missed his golf game. My wife and I ended being talked into my wife taking an epidural medication when she had insisted on wanting a natural birth. I regret going along with the doctors and nurses, but it was my first child and I thought it best to go with the advice of professionals. So this was the insult my wife experienced.
My insult came about ten minutes after my son was born, I was watching my son by the heating lamp as a nurse tended to him,  when I overheard another nurse quietly ask my wife if she felt safe with me in the home. Of course my wife said she felt safe with me,  and the nurse left. I found this offensive to say the least. The next morning, prior to picking up my wife and our latest addition, I made a complaint with the charge nurse of the maternity ward. She apologized and explained to me that they were mandated by state law to ask new mothers this question. I seized upon the opportunity to point out how badly my wife was treated and then myself coupled with the irony of the question.
When people, due to basis of personal prejudice attempt to portray you as a villain, while you certainly have a right to speak up for yourself, overreacting to the accusations only makes their accusations come to life.

 

Bad idea #3: You are worthless.

I am going to again use my wife’s bad hospital experience as an example for this one. It was my wife’s idea to have a baby at home. We argued over this  and I was initially upset with her. You see our medical insurance doesn’t cover home births and I knew this,  but my wife wouldn’t budge on the issue. I was upset with her because I thought she was being spoiled, we already hired a doula to assist us in the hospital and now we had to pay for the services of a mid wife. I grudgingly agreed to the home birth.
The home birth was a success, with the help of the doula, the mid wife and her two assistants. It was on the day that my daughter was born that I came to realize just how right my wife had been. Why put yourself in a situation where you know you are going to be treated poorly when you don’t have to. Growing up in Nigeria, I had become so accustomed to poor treatment, that I would consider anyone who complained about poor treatment to be spoiled.
While I am not entitled to be liked and considered in good graces by anyone, I am certainly entitled to not put myself in such a situation, and to remove myself from such a situation should I find myself in it. The home birth was success on many levels, our daughter was born healthy, the professionals where not in a hurry, they were compassionate towards my wife, and not once did I feel any of them regarded me as a villain.

 

How to prevent yourself from buying into bad ideas.

Seldom are bad ideas sold directly to anyone,  they are usually subtly suggested. However, if you are paying attention you can smell the waste. Here are three ways you can prevent your self from buying into bad ideas that lead you into practicing more harm than good in your life.

 

Prevention method #1:

Politely and assertively disagree. Don’t be afraid to disagree even if you are outnumbered. It is important to keep in mind that your goal is not to convince anyone, but yourself. There is power in disagreement, all the more reason that your disagreement shouldn’t be nasty and disrespectful. Also, don’t worry about you accepts you or otherwise, if someone is intent on having you buy into a harmful idea, they clearly don’t care about, so nothing is lost if you disagree and practice the next prevention method.

 

Prevention method #2:

Identify sources and people who spread bad ideas and keep your distance. For example, I cut of my cable years ago and the programs our children watch are very limited and hand picked by my wife and I. The brain is vulnerable to infection from bad ideas through the simple act of repetition. For example, youth who are habitually exposed to music with unhealthy messages eventually adopt those messages as their beliefs and values, this is what happens when the brain is exposed to only one type of message on a consistent basis.

 

Prevention method #3:

It’s not enough to disagree with those who spout bad ideas,  you also have practice good ideas. Your thoughts create your reality, and when you practice what you believe, you bring about self fulfilling prophecy and more importantly you surround yourself with people who agree with you and are supportive of you.

 

Ugo is a  psychotherapist and life coach.

November 1, 2013

This Therapist’s Blog is changing names. The change means from here on forward, This Therapist’s Blog will become Road 2 Resolutions.

Change is this case is a good thing, and we plan on bringing you the same short but meaningful and insight provoking posts.

Also, the previous posts from This Therapist’s Blog will remain available on Road 2 Resolutions Blog.

Thanks for reading.

Ugo

October 21, 2013
What is stress? There is a short story circulating around the Internet about a psychologist who walks before an audience with a glass half filed with water. She asks members of the audience to guess the weight of the glass, and after several missed guesses, she tells them the answer. The answer is irrelevant, however she proceeded to explain to the audience that the longer she holds the glass of water, the weaker her arm would become, while the weight of the glass of water remains the same.

Her analogy was simple,  stress we hold unto  for a short time, isn’t a bad thing. However stress we hold unto for a significant period of time weighs on the mind,and leads to cognitive issues accompanied by poor health.

“Reality exists in the mind before it is experienced.”

A common reason people struggle with stress is due to a refusal to accept that they are dealing with circumstances out of their control. Often times we have a narrative in our heads regarding how we believe certain experiences should unfold and how we will respond accordingly. This is both a strength and a weakness, because our ability to practice foresight allows us to plan ahead and prepare for the future. While on the other hand, we have a tendency to think ahead of ourselves and develop unrealistic expectations on how things should unfold simply because we planned ahead. It also doesn’t help that we are inherently pleasure seekers and often times the realities we create in our heads are designed for us to feel good about ourselves and the situation. This also presents with an irony of us being unprepared to deal with circumstances we believed we were prepared to deal with.
So what is stress? Stress is a phenomenon that occurs when people over a significant period of time continue to respond to the same life challenges with antiquated strategies that they have repeated tried in the past with limited to no success. After repeated attempts at addressing the problem, they then brood over the matter consistently, only to attempt using the same ineffective strategies once again. In such circumstances, a cruel thing can occur. The situation can resolve itself only to reoccur again, leading the stressed person to believe that the strategies they employed actually were effective, when they were not.
An example would be a panic attack sufferer coming to believe that his or her hyperventilating and overreaction to the episode of panic is what led to the end of the panic episode,  when in fact the panic episode coming to end was caused by the depletion of adrenaline in the person’s body. This then begins a vicious cycle, as the person now develops anxiety due to his or her attempts to anticipate when the next panic episode is going to occur.
The solution to stress is to practice accepting life on life’s terms, this process involves internalizing a great deal of humility in coming to accept when narratives we tell ourselves on how our lives should unfold are proven to be flawed. When we come to accept our narratives are flawed, then next step is to make revisions to the new narrative based on new information acquired from our experience.
If I were an audience member when the psychologist in the short story was giving the presentation, I would have raised my hand to catch her attention. If she had noticed me, and called for me to speak, I would have recommended that she drink the water, and then put the glass down. This for me would represent the metaphor of coming to accept reality for what it is (drinking the water) and exercising the courage to rewrite your narrative, (putting down the glass).
Ugo is a psychotherapist and a life coach.
October 18, 2013

Over the years I have noticed a trend with people who struggle with anger management, they are usually people pleasers. They bend over backwards most of the time to please others,  mostly because they are fearful of conflict. They desire to not ruffle any feathers, they prefer to get along for the sake of getting along with others even though,  getting along with a specific group will cause them anguish.

That is, until the last straw breaks the camels back, then  they explode. They then take on the label as angry people. It is only after they have internalized anger management skills that the passivity that’s to present itself. It then turns out that they suffer from codependency and that they need to learn self advocacy.

Self advocacy is the process where people learn to set healthy boundaries in their relationships. They learn to say no when they need to say no, and they learn to accept that other people are responsible for their own emotions, negative or positive.

Often, people who struggle with passivity, grew up with one or more abusive care givers, where as a child they learned to survive by predicting when a caregiver would become upset and using manipulative techniques to manage the emotions of that caregiver. Unfortunately that attitude carries over into their adult years, where they attempt to please people in their lives, for fear of being ostracized. Given that it is not possible to please anyone, they find themselves experiencing plenty of frustration in their personal relationships, with periodic episodes of restorting to poor anger management.

So how do these people develop self advocacy skills?

With self advocacy, there are two specific habits to practice, and these habits are getting into the habit of accepting when others are in a bad mood and setting healthy boundaries for self. The process of practicing these healthy boundaries involves the same skill set, with the practice of not being reactive to negative feelings.

So when a person who struggles with passivity or co dependency feels the urge to pacify an adult who is angry, they practice becoming mindful of this urge and doing nothing. When this same person is setting a healthy boundary with others, they will practice becoming aware of their fear of being rejected by the other person, leading to the urge to set no boundaries. They will then choose to set their boundaries regardless of their fears.

Being mindful and not being reactive to negative feelings, is something that can be practiced in imagined scenarios. I have found that when clients practice self advocacy in imagined scenarios, they become better prepared to practice self advocacy in unexpected real life scenarios.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

October 17, 2013

In this post, I will use a fictitious question and answer scenario to describe what I do as a psychotherapist. This question and answer scenario is based on several exchanges I have had with people over the years who asked me what I do for a living.

“What do you do?”

“I am a psychotherapist, and I help people solve problems.”

“Really? Interesting, what type of problems do you help people solve?”

“I help people solve problems they unintentionally create for themselves. Often times when people by coincidence develop a pattern of unintentionally creating problems for themselves, it leads to the mental health suffering.”

“Hmm.. do you have an example?”

“Sure, let’s say you have a friend who happens to be in a physically abusive relationship. From your stance the solution is simple, you then advise her about this solution, which is to leave the relationship, right?”

“Yes.”

“But your friend doesn’t heed your advice and continues to be involved with her abusive partner. The reason for this is that your friend, most likely from her early life experience has come to embrace a set of beliefs accompanied with values which has led her to develop a set of priorities that put her at a disadvantage in personal relationships.”

“Maybe she felt neglected as a child by her caregivers and her response to the neglect was to place a high priority of staying in a relationship, no matter what. Perhaps because she has come to see herself as unlovable, and undeserving of a healthy relationship, even though it is what she truly wants. As a result her current beliefs and values creates a cognitive blindness towards her true worth and value as a human being, and just how easy it is for her to find a healthier relationship.”

“If I were to work with such a person, I would help her come to understand how irrational her current beliefs about relating to others are, and how her insistence in sticking it out with someone who abuses her only leads to her getting emotionally re-injured. Further, I can help her develop alternative beliefs and values that lead her to accepting herself unconditionally with genuine compassion. This mentality will then help her successfully seek out relationships where she is valued and respected.”

“Thank you Mr. Uche, that was very informative.”

“Thank you for your time, and you are welcome.”

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

October 16, 2013

In this video, I discuss a brief strategy for dealing with boredom. The brief strategy is to do nothing, but listen to your breathing for a period of ten minutes. After ten minutes has elapsed, you should seek to engage in a productive task. More than likely a commitment you have been procrastinating on.

In this video I also explain that boredom happens when we have become over stimulated with pleasure arousing behaviors, to the extent that we experience feelings of numbness whenever we attempt to reengage in behaviors we derived pleasure from. On a biological level this occurs when the glands that produce dopamine, the hormone and neurotransmitter which communicates pleasurable feelings to us, become exhausted and depleted. Further, I explain in the video that this phenomenon occurs from practicing the mindset that we should always find pleasure in every thing we do.

This mindset isn’t realistic, as in life inevitably, we are going to find ourselves engaged in activities which we don’t enjoy doing, but are activities of necessity. An example I give is changing a baby’s diaper.

Ultimately in the long run, the best response to boredom is a preventative one, which is to embrace a mindset of living a goal oriented lifestyle which involves having to do things from a place of meaning and purpose, instead of  a constant search for pleasure.

With a mindset of living your life from a place of meaning and purpose, you will no doubt engage in a significant number of pleasurable and non pleasurable activities.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

October 15, 2013

There have been recent studies to date like this one, that have found evidence to support the theory that rejection is processed in the same pathways and centers in the brain as physical pain. These evidences have been documented primarily through verbal expression (regardless of language) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fmri) where blood is observed and documented in functioning areas of the brain when people experience any degree of social rejection.

 

For example, this recent article discusses a study where participants where asked to participate in a virtual game of ball tossing, where the participant experienced social rejection after the other two participants stopped passing him or her the ball. In reality the other two participants did not exist, it was merely a computer simulation. However after the exercise, the participants were asked to document their feelings about the experience, while undergoing an fmri scan. It was discovered that the participants experience of rejection where registered in the same regions of the brain known for registering physical pain. Even more striking in this study is that researchers discovered that upon the experience of social rejection, the brain produced it’s own opioids to ease the pain. It was further observed by the researchers that individuals who tested as having more resilient personality traits produced more opioids in response to social rejection than others.

 

In the latter part of the article, it was theorized that perhaps people suffering from depression or social anxiety have an abnormal opioid response system and how this research would provide drug companies with more information for making medications that treat anxiety. 

 

What if you didn’t need medication to deal with social rejection, real or perceived? What if having a resilient attitude influences your brain chemistry to producing more opioids in response to social rejection. Or perhaps, what if the opioids are produced in response to a mental decision to accept the pain of the social rejection for what it is and move on.

 

From time to time, I come across research that suggests the reason we experience pain from social rejection is due to our instincts as mammals to bond to our caretakers when we are children. However, children experience pain a lot differently from adults, this is mostly because children have very little information about their world to establish a frame of reference for pain, physically and emotionally. Hence when children experience pain they often become alarmed and cry out for assistance of an adult caretaker, who hopefully will bring some comfort into their world. 

 

As adults, our experience of pain is significantly different, this is because with experience we have come to establish beliefs about which experiences with pain, emotional or physical are more alarming than others. Take for instance, some days ago I accidentally burned myself on my clothing iron. The actual experience lasted less than a second. I was ironing a shirt, my hand accidentally made contact with the hot end of the iron and I took away my hand instantly. Despite the pain I experienced afterwards, I was not alarmed. I simply continued ironing my shirt, knowing that my hand  would hurt a little for a while afterward before healing, which is exactly what happened.

 

Now what if a person could develop that same attitude towards social rejection? Years ago I was invited to be interviewed for a job I had applied for. The interview lasted for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. It was interesting as somewhere during the interview it turned into an oral examination of my clinical knowledge, and literally a written exam. I did well with every question I was asked, and two months later when I suddenly heard from them and was offered a job, I respectfully declined. 

 

I declined because throughout the interview, I perceived nothing but hostility from the lead interviewer. The lead interviewer never returned my smile, ignored my gesture for a hand shake while everyone else on the panel shook my hand and expressed politeness skills. I felt confused and upset by the hostility of this interviewer and once I found out that this interviewer would be my supervisor if I was hired, I made up my mind that I would not take the job.

 

From my perspective I was simply listening to my feelings. Even though rejection does hurt, I believe that I am not entitled to be liked. Therefore it is irrational for me to intentionally associate myself with others who reject me. Like the pain from the hot iron, I did a cost benefit analysis and made a decision to not involve myself with that organization. Once I decided that job was not for me, I felt better during the interview as I came to recognize that the lead interviewer had no power to give to me, what I couldn’t get for myself.

 

Perhaps pain experienced during social rejection is relative, perhaps the more pain you experience in response to social rejection and the more it lingers, is indicative that you believe that without acceptance from that particular group you will not be able to get a particular need met. Perhaps people who are resilient to social rejection, are resilient because they believe that there is someone for everybody.

 

Personally I believe in life, we always have options. For everything that does not go your way, there is always an opposite occurrence waiting for you to experience.

 

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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