From blog posts, video logs to headlines news stories, most of us as inundated with stories about “bad” people and how these people affect our lives. The idea of someone or a group of people doing bad things to us can be emotionally triggering, to the point where you can lose yourself playing the role of the victim. You then find other people who can either relate to your story of victim-hood or at least sympathize with you on how you have been victimized.
The problem with this mindset is that, if you are indeed experiencing any degree of victimization at the hands of another person or group of people, you will continue to be victimized until you recognize your role in the story. While it is true that good people from time to time do experience bad experiences and sometimes at the hands of other people, a majority of the time when we have recurring bad experiences it is a result of the role we have unintentionally played in keeping the bad experience alive and well.
The ego can be fragile, it is an instinctual source we turn to, to find a sense of confidence in regards to how we navigate through life. However primary reliance on the ego to get you through challenges in life is a mistake. You need to be able to identify your flaws and weakness and the role they play in your recurring bad experiences or victim-hood, specifically in your relationships with others.
From personal to formal relationships in order to change our daily experiences for the better, we need to recognize the bad things we ourselves do and change them for the better. Seldom can you truly be absolved of all guilt during conflicts with others. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the client is introduced to the standard format of experience + behavioral response = natural and logical consequences. With the behavioral response being the most important variable in that simple equation. This is because, while you cannot control what other people do to you to include other experiences caused by other sources, your response to your experiences determines just how manageable your life is going to be.
In short, worrying too much about what others might do, does nothing to facilitate growth in our lives.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.
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.
One of the things that makes cognitive behavioral therapy so rewarding is the numerous examples that one can draw from which lends more evidence to the power of believing.
There is a new drug, call zohydro and according to this article, it is the most important frightening potent drug recently approved by the FDA, when it comes to opiate drugs on the market today. Concerned advocacy groups indicate that once made available to the general population, that there will be high incidents of deaths due to the potency of the drug.
Times like this, members of the public have two choices, you can depend on others to fight your battles for you, or you can take the initiative to protect yourself.
Some years ago, I underwent emergency surgery to remove an appendix, after the surgery, I was offered by my doctor some vicodin, to which I refused. My doctor seemed surprised and repeatedly asked me if I was sure. I told him I would be fine. Out of what I determined to be genuine concern, he wrote me a prescription for tylenol, a prescription I never filled.
Yes, I was in pain, but it wasn’t crippling. I took an extra day off work for bed rest, and limited my movements. After about four days I had started to feel again like my old self. How was I able to pull this off? By practicing the art of mind over matter.
You see mind over matter is not the stereotypical machismo nonsense, you will hear in a movie line, or perhaps your local gym. From my experience most people who often use that phrase don’t understand the concept.
Instead mind over matter, refers to the a initial of readdressing our beliefs around certain circumstances we will typically find unpleasant, certain circumstances like pain for example.
While my doctor at the time had the best intentions, what he didn’t realize he was telling me was that I wasn’t not supposed to feel any pain after coming out of surgery, so therefore he had arranged for me to take some pain medication which would be helpful in reducing my pain.
However since I had just been cut open and a piece of organ had been removed from my body, it stands to reason that my body should experience pain as it healed itself. It was with this idea that I was able to accept the pain I was experiencing as a good thing. It meant that my nerves where functioning as they should and that my body was healing itself.
This is the kind of attitude through the practice of cognitive behavioral strategies I encourage people who suffer from addiction issues to take. Whether it’s pain, unresolved issues with abandonment and rejection, it doesn’t matter. What we choose to believe plays a role in influencing our ability to deal with psychological and physiological discomfort.
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.
Periodically I come across videos online with young people acting out humorous skits about humiliating experiences. In some cases it is easy to tell that these skits are based on the personal experiences of the main actor or actress while in other cases they are clearly making fun of other peoples’ misfortune.
I am going to focus on skits based on personal experiences, needless to write, making an online video to mock the misfortune of others is not okay.
If I were to meet some of the producers of the videos based on their own humiliating experience, I would like to ask them,
“Prior to making your video, did you heal from the experience?” “Did you learn the lesson you needed to learn from the experience?”
To the young girl who made the skit about how her boyfriend kept their serious relationship a secret from his family and friends and was hesitant to bring her around his family during the holidays, I wonder if she is still in that relationship? If she still is, I wonder why? Does she not consider herself worthwhile to be introduced to her boyfriend’s family and received warmly by them?
If she were a relative, I would suggest to her that perhaps she is the only one between the two, who thinks it’s a serious relationship.
To my Nigerian brethren who made the video about how Nigerian parents are notorious for beating their children who behave in non African traditional ways – that’s not funny. Yes, I know, most people think it’s funny, but it’s really not. If you disagree with me, simply insert yourself into the shoes of the two main characters.
There is nothing more damaging to the self esteem of a teenage young man, who has put in a lot of work into toasting and inviting a female friend over to his home. Only to be walked in on by his father and beaten in front of her. Furthermore, beating a confused girl who has decided to strip before a camera only worsens her damaged identity.
“But I no dey vex for una,” your other videos are funny expect this one.
We have to be honest with ourselves, because lies only help us in soothing our feelings. That way we can pretend not to be bothered by events we have experienced. Events while unfortunate, provide a sliver lining for us to achieve significant growth via painful feelings.
This attitude of pretending not to be bothered by humiliating experiences, is like convincing yourself you have the ability to dodge bullets and fly like a character in a Hollywood blockbuster. However we are all vulnerable, and recognition and acceptance of our vulnerabilities gives us needed courage in accepting life on life’s terms.
If you have been humiliated or shamed, call it for what it is, because pretending not to be bothered only sets you up to experience a repeat. When we are able to admit experiences that wound our egos, we set ourselves up for proper healing.
By healing I mean being able to acknowledge the source of the wounding, and learning the lesson you need to learn.
What are some healthy and unhealthy methods you have used to respond to feeling humiliated?
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
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.
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.
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.
In a previous post, I wrote about using what if scenarios to transition from negative thinking to positive thinking.
However, what if transitioning to a positive thought process is not enough. What if the identified positive thought is intellectually sound, but still emotionally unbelievable?
In this video post, I discuss taking the what if scenario to another level by performing brief behavioral experiments which force you into making a paradigm shift in your thought processes for the better.
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.