Your Thoughts Dictate Your Feelings

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I recently came across this story, of a man who committed suicide. According to the story, he had just finalized his divorce, and he had left a recording stating that this was something that he had given some thought to for some years. His body was found by police next to the recording.

The truth about depression is that we choose how we feel. While there are some who would argue that there are certain life circumstances that lead to depression, or that there are certain clinical circumstances that lead to depression, such as chemical imbalances caused by a lack of certain neurotransmitters, what is consistent is that thoughts produce feelings.

You control your feelings through the content and context of your thoughts. When I have worked with clients who were suicidal, the first thing I say to them is this; “given that you have already considered taking your life, what do you have to lose in considering other alternatives for happiness?”

For the man who took his life, after years of “thinking it through” I would argue that he wasn’t thorough in his thinking process, as he clearly engaged in several thinking errors by coming up with several justifications to end his life when things did not go his way. In fact, he most likely had several more options for pursuing happiness, but due to familiarity, he had become anchored to a lifestyle, which he had long decided was the only way he could be happy.

This is primarily how people fall for the trap of depression, they trap themselves into an all or nothing corner with beliefs about how the circumstances of their lives should play out. People do this often, and they do not realize it, until their circumstances change to something they dislike. Another thing that keeps us trapped in rigid thinking, is being surrounded by people who think the same way we do and subsequently reinforce our thought process. It becomes more troubling, when our circumstances change for the worse, that we find ourselves surrounded by others who are unable to give us sound advice on how to cope and make peace with things not going our way.

Be it issues with wealth, health or relationships, there are always healthy alternatives to every lifestyle. It calls for an open mind, and courage to explore and act on other ways of thinking. Suicide is often a final solution to a temporary problem.

Ugo is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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Thinking Yourself out of Anxiety

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In responding to anxiety, there are three primary mindsets people utilize, and these are objective based, morality based and primal based mindsets. These mindsets have a lot to do with the role anxiety plays in our lives. For example, you are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety when interpreting a situation from a mindset of primal or moral reasoning, than if you interpreted the same situation from a mindset of objective reasoning.

Take for example, you are going in for a job interview, it is not uncommon for you to experience some measure of anxiety before the job interview. But what if your level of anxiety is coming from a mindset of reasoning you should not be using to interpret the upcoming interview? Your level of anxiety would be very high if you were evaluating how the interview would go from a primal mindset. This is because the primal mindset is concerned with getting your fundamental needs met, in short, survival. From this mindset, you would be most concerned with your need for money, in order acquire or maintain your access to food, water, shelter and security. You are most likely to experience high anxiety from this mindset because primal reasoning is often activated by thoughts of scarcity. So, questions like, “what if they say no”, or “what if they say they are going to call me back and they don’t”, would be most predominant in your mind.

The next type of thinking that brings about anxiety, but usually at moderate levels are moral based reasoning. With this mindset, depending on the values you learned in your formative years, you may be concerned with your level of competency for the job or at an extreme end, the level of status the job may communicate to others. Typically, these values are merged to varying degrees. So, if you were concerned with competency, you would be most likely concerned with whether you have the right skill sets to perform the job, and if you can adequately communicate this to the interviewers.  If you are primarily concerned with the status associated with the job, you would most likely be concerned about how likable you come across to the interviewers.

But, what if you approached your concerns about the job interview from an objective based mindset. An objective based mindset is one of neutrality. Nothing personal is taken and none is given, instead the person simply observes and accepts his or her reality for what it is. This means that if you were to adopt an objective based mindset in preparing for your job interview, you would become prepared to accept whatever the outcome of the interview maybe. So, if you are not accepted for the job, regardless of whether it was for lack of qualification relative to other interviewees or likability issues, a decision of “no” would simply mean that you are not a good fit for that work environment. From an objective mindset this would be a good thing, as you would conclude that it is evitable that you will find a job where your services are valued, and where you would fit in well.

It takes significant practice to adopt a mindset of objectivity in assessing anxiety provoking situations. However, what makes this mindset both effective and powerful is the inevitable conclusion that there exists a preferred if not ideal situation waiting for you to experience. What keeps sufferers of anxiety trapped in fear-based thinking is a difficulty to objectively assess situations and visualize what works for them.

Ugo is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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My Co Workers think I am Weird

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When fielding new clients for social anxiety and Asperger related issues, this is a common statement I hear. My response to this statement is, so what?

More specifically, what is your purpose in that specific workplace? Are you there to socialize? Accomplish a specific feat, or make a living? For most people, it’s the latter two. Further questions I would typically ask is, do your co workers have any real reasons to pronounce you weird? What does weird mean? Awkward conversations? A concern for their safety around you? If so, why?

In all cases, when I have responded to the potential client with why their co workers see them as being weird, the answers have all boiled down to social awkwardness. In a recent conversation, one man shared with me about how his supervisor called him into the office to share concerns expressed to him from other employees about the client’s social awkwardness. I asked him if he had experienced any open conflicts with any of his co workers and he told me no.

The only reason your supervisor should be counseling you behind close doors should be regarding your work performance. If the business can afford to get on your case for being socially awkward, then you must be in the wrong business, or working for the wrong company.

All relationships are transactional, and for people who struggle with varying degrees of a handicap in being able to pick up on non-verbal cues, they can learn effective strategies to successfully interact with others. Just like the deaf and those unable to speak utilize sign language, those who are socially blind can learn effective strategies for effectively communicating with others.

You see, the problem is a lack of self-acceptance. It would be absurd to demand that a deaf person start listening properly, or that a bling person improve his sight. Likewise, it is just as absurd to demand someone on the spectrum to pick up on gestures he has struggled to read his entire life.

With self-acceptance, you learn to focus on your strengths and what you want. So, in communicating with others, you speak your truth and take guess work out of the exchange. If the other party is unwilling to reciprocate, this is not your concern. You adopt a goal-oriented attitude towards living your life and if you are doing no harm, you really have nothing to worry about.

In the Road 2 Resolutions Social Confidence Coaching program, clients learn how to develop concrete visions for what they want to do with their lives, while practicing the assertiveness skills needed for fulfilling their vision.

To learn more about the Social Confidence Coaching program, please visit this link.

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Using Emotional Detachment to move past Depression

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The armchair quarter back. A popular figure of speech for your hyped sports fan, who is overly critical of his favorite team, regardless of sport. The armchair quarter back, who most likely has never participated in organized sports will give you his “professional analysis” of what play the coach could have had the team run, or what moves a team player should have made on the field.

What’s interesting is that even though your average hyped sports fan is far removed from the business of professional sports, they are usually not far removed from their analysis of the games they are criticizing. This is because it is a lot easier for anyone to analyze an activity which they are not emotionally involved in. You can watch a football player make moves on the field, but you are not in the shoes of that player. You do not know what is on his mind, regarding his personal relationships, his relationship with his teammates, his health, what his perception is from his angle, and so on and so forth. The player must cope with all these thoughts and emotions while working to get his job done.

But, what if you could, even for a moment adopt the view point of the arm chair quarter back? Specifically, regarding your emotional disturbances in your life? Just how liberating would that feel? For a moment you would be liberated from negative feelings of confusion, despair and low motivation, and you would most likely find yourself seeing things from a place of neutral clarity.

This strategy allows you instant access to the cortex of your mind where you naturally see things from an objective point of view. This is not to say that your feelings don’t matter, but the problem with negative feelings is that people tend to fall into a mindset of despair that they start acting out on these negative feelings which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A typical scenario would be that of a person in a depressed mood. At worst the person could buy into the nonconscious messages which triggers his depressed mood. Messages of incompetency, having low worth, being unlikable and unwanted etc. The depressed person unaware that he has bought into these messages, will likely act on these messages by becoming withdrawn and unproductive. Whereas from the mindset of someone who is emotionally detached, the desire to accomplish something is paired with memories or evidences of proof that the person’s desire goals are possible, while set backs are just that. There is no wallowing, no despair, just a willingness to take steps towards accomplishing what is possible.

Ugo is a therapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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Practicing Change to move past feelings of Hopelessness.

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Depression is often marked by a feeling of hopelessness. People in this state of mind have come to the erroneous conclusion that their life circumstances are unchangeable. To make matters worse for some people, they have made efforts to change their circumstances for the better, but to no avail, and have subsequently given up.

For people in the predicament, after having experienced repeated bouts of failure, they truly believe that there is absolutely nothing that can ben done about their situation. Fortunately, they are wrong about this belief, for two reasons. The first being that change is a constant, and the second being that they didn’t invest enough time in become good at the change they wanted for themselves.

In truth these situations appear overwhelming to them because they have adopted an attitude of helplessness

Change and Investment

There is a popular joke regarding a man who struggled in his attempts to quit drinking. Once he was asked by a friend how his sobriety was going, and he stated that he had been sober for the past 24 hours. By accident he was doing the right thing, in taking things one day at a time, but it truth, he fully intended to resume his drinking later in the evening.

The point is that change is easy, you simply begin engaging in a preferred behavior you have seldom, if ever engaged in the past. However, that doesn’t mean you will be good at it, to the point where you begin receiving the desired results from the change you are practicing. This is the reason so many people give up, they start doing something new, in which they are novice at, and become discouraged when things aren’t going their way.

It’s like taking up golfing for the first time and becoming discouraged because you golfed a terrible score. Mastery must be achieved, before you can set realistic standards in anything you do.

So, there is hope, however in anything you are doing for which you have very little experience, it’s going to take some time before you can expect to drastically change your circumstances. Regardless of what external changes are taking place, it is important to adopt a patient mindset to create the effect you which to experience in your life.

So how does this help with depression? Well the depression itself is caused by feelings of hopelessness that comes from a belief that an undesirable situation will remain the same or get worse. Further, for those who do attempt to practice change, a lack of patience, will likely derail their progress as they will be too inexperienced to create the effects they desire at what they are doing. However, if one where to adopt an attitude of patience and subsequently humility, their sense of hopelessness becomes forgotten as they become hopeful for what the future holds for them if they continue to practice the change they are practicing. Subsequently, this also decreases the severity of their depression.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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Overcoming Trauma

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One of the biggest challenges most therapists face when working with clients, is helping clients overcome their issues or more specifically, their stuck-ness on their experiences with trauma. From cognitive behavioral therapy to EMDR, there have been a few psychological approaches developed to help sufferers from trauma, heal and move on with their lives.

However, by themselves, these psychological approaches are not effective. The reason for this is because, for a person to heal effectively from trauma, there needs to be paradigm shift in the person’s thinking. Specifically, in the person’s world view.

To further understand this, we must first examine what trauma is. The most common definition for trauma is “a deeply disturbing experience.” Then we must ask ourselves, what is a deeply disturbing experience? To understand what constitutes a deeply disturbing experience, we must first examine what constitutes a non-disturbing experience. A non-disturbing experience would be described as an experience meeting a person’s expectations, an experience meeting a person’s expectations would be described as a normal experience. So, if experiences where to be judged by an individual on a spectrum, the middle of the spectrum would be normal, while either end of the spectrum would be deeply disturbing, and surprisingly joyful.

So therefore, anything outside of the normal range would be either positive or negative experiences the person did not expect. So, what makes a deeply disturbing experience traumatizing?

Deeply disturbing experiences are traumatizing because like all types of experiences, they shape our perceptions of life. The more significant the experience, the more it demands that we alter our perceptions of reality. Take for example, a situation where you lose your wallet with a significant amount of cash in it, only to have it returned to you by a stranger, with all your monies intact. Such an event will be joyful one for you and it will be so significant that it will cause you to alter your perception of the world at large. However, with a joyful occurrence such as this, you will be altering your perception for the better. Specifically, you will be altering your perception to become a bit more trusting of people,” this will be easy to do, since the alteration is positive.

But what about a negative experience? One that involves you becoming less trusting of people? This is where trauma comes in, as we are naturally resistant towards making negative alterations of our perceptions. Especially when we think it will be permanent. For issues like extreme violence, betrayal and apathy, people have a difficult time having to adjust their perception of reality to fit these narratives. This is because often times, they interpret the consequences of these negative adjustments as having to live their lives without the support of others. This is precisely where trauma is created. For one to alter his perception of experiences to accommodate bad truths, is a difficult process. Difficult because it calls for a person to make radical changes in his life. Changes so drastic that people, places and things are not ever seen the same again.

So instead of making these changes, the sufferer, chooses to hold on to his old perceptions, which he deeply knows are no longer true, and this is what creates and prolongs the trauma.

So, how can a person heal from trauma. By a concept simple to grasp and but challenging in practice. That concept is to use the same truths he has come to, to create a new life of meaning and value for himself.

By doing so, he now permits himself to let go of the pain to hold on to a new joy.

Ugo is psychotherapist, life coach and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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On Doing Difficult Things

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There are strategies for accomplishing just about anything someone has been able to accomplish. Yet, it is not uncommon for people to avoid using reasonable strategies to address their situation. The most common reason people give for this, is that it is too hard.

It is true, overcoming symptoms related to anxiety and depression is going to be difficult. Be it getting out of bed in the morning or moving past your feelings of fear to engage in an activity you know will be of benefit to you. Hardship is inevitable and subsequently to be expected.

So how do people get past issues with difficulty to improve their lives? The answer is that it is an issue with mindset. Learning to change one’s mindset regarding doing difficult things helps in getting past issues related to doing difficult things to improve one’s life.

If you find yourself in a position to practice necessary change in your life, and you find yourself thinking that it is “too hard,” here are three things to help better orient your mindset.

  1. Difficulty is temporary

Imagine if you broke your writing hand and while it healed, you had to resort to writing with your healthy non-writing hand. The question for you once you have this scenario in your head is this, will it be possible to for you to learn to adequately and legibly write with your non-writing hand?

Most people will instinctively say yes, and they would be correct. As neuroscience has demonstrated, the brain will rewire itself to learn a new skill. The initial attempts will be difficult, but, with applied consistent effort there is a certain threshold where the process gets easier as you become more efficient at writing with your non-writing hand. As in all new things you practice for the first time, the initial stages of difficulty are simply your brain’s way of adapting to a new process.

Another example would be weight lifting. If you are lifting for the first time, and you intend on lifting heavy in the future, the process on working on your form and even managing the current weight you lift will be difficult at first. However, after a period of applied consistent effort, the process gets easier.

  1. Difficulty is necessary

The process of doing something difficult will initially serve as a shock to your system. It will signal to your brain, that all resources need to be dedicated to your adaptation to the new task at hand. So long as your commit to applying consistent effort, the fact that you are having trouble engaging in this task means that your brain is rapidly rewiring itself for you learn to do what ever it is that you are doing.

The idea that you should only focus on doing things that come easy to you is inaccurate and unhelpful information. This is because, while it certainly helps for you to engage in things that come easy for you, inevitably you are going to have to do other things to gain new frames of references for achieving growth.

  1. You become more disciplined at doing difficult things.

If it is true that change is a constant, then it is inevitable that you are going to go through changes in your life that will require you doing new and difficult things. The good news is that if you allow yourself to submit to the process you need to change your life, you gain the experience of practicing self-discipline in your daily life.

If you struggle with symptoms related to depression or anxiety, the change you need to practice in your daily life is going to be initially difficult and rewarding in the long term. The choice to change is always yours.

Ugo is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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How to Relieve Yourself from Feeling Hopelessness

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Years ago, I was driving home from work, and came out from the highway and embarked on a stretch of road towards my home. Then I encountered a problem, moments earlier, an accident had occurred, and the local police had blocked off the road. I was about five miles away from my home, I was annoyed and for a moment I did feel hopeless. I felt hopeless because I thought I would have to go back out on the highway, take a different exit and drive across to the other side of town to get to my home.

My feelings of hopelessness soon faded when I realized that there might be another route to my home at the time. So, I quickly pulled out my phone, and after a thorough check on goggle maps, I soon found the alternative route I was looking for. Fifteen minutes later I was back home. This story is an analogy for how to cope with and move past feelings of hopelessness. When people are dealing with a situation where they believe they have reached a dead end, feelings of hopelessness start to set in, when they come to think that they would have to start all over in pursuing whatever it is they were trying to achieve.

The mere idea of the amount of effort they would have to muster in order start things over again, is enough to cause feelings of dread and exhaustion. People who run into road blocks in various facets of their lives only need to pick up where they left off as they discover a new route to resume their journey.

This is easier said than done, as the mere thought of creating a new path, will certainly bring up difficult feelings for the person pertaining to his current experiences. However, this is the best way forward, for the person to envision an end goal that he finds happiness in, and then create a pathway towards this end goal that he strongly believes in.

I typically will spend an entire session with my clients helping them figure out their desired outcome relative to the difficulties they are currently experiencing. Most people initially balk at this exercise, as they deem it “unrealistic.” However, what is unrealistic is the hyper focus on a situation where things are no going your way. Before the hopelessness, there is panic, where people unintentionally engage in the same thinking and subsequent behaviors that led to their current experiences in the first place.

By keeping an open mind and visualizing a desire outcome and practicing the courage to think and do things differently, people who struggle with depression take the first step towards transitioning out of a state of hopelessness.

“It’s all in your head,” maybe cliché, but it’s true.

Ugo is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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Why Your Thoughts Are More Important Than Your Feelings.

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Feelings are important, but your thoughts are more important. The reason for this is because, your feelings are influenced by your thoughts. For people who struggle with symptoms of anxiety and depression, this can be frustrating because they certainly have no intention of entertaining thoughts which cause them to feel anxious or depressed. This frustration is understandable given that people don’t consciously give precedence to depressive and anxious thoughts.

Two types of thoughts.

The problem is that most people don’t understand that they have two types of thoughts that go on in their heads simultaneously. They have thoughts, that they are conscious about, and then they have non-conscious thoughts.

Conscious thoughts.

Conscious thoughts are thoughts that we actively create, through our interactions with our daily experiences. Through our interactions with daily experiences, we are either confirming what we have already come to believe, expanding on the principles of what we have come to believe, making corrections on the principles of what we have come to believe, or completely disregarding what we have come to believe and embracing an entirely new concept.

Conscious thoughts are thoughts we actively and intentionally create, through our inner dialogue or dialogue with others. This is the reason people often have a difficult time believing that their thinking about an experience or a series of experiences have led to their issues with anxiety and depression. No one intentionally thinks their way to depression.

Non-Conscious thoughts.

Non-conscious thoughts are previously established thoughts that work automatically in the background while you are consciously focused on tasks and activities you have determined to be more important. An example would be learning how to drive. When you first learn how to drive, you are consciously aware of the reasons for every little thing you do with the driving of the car. You are consciously aware of when you decided to time the breaks, when you decide to accelerate, when and how you make a turn and so on and so forth. After six months of driving, the thoughts you give to these activities occur beyond your awareness when driving as you give more attention to other things, such as finding a radio station you like or seeking out directions in a new place.

Non-Conscious thoughts are pre-programmed and occur automatically, in response to specific stimuli. With the car example, the stimuli in question was pretty obvious, however in most cases the stimuli, or trigger for unhealthy non-conscious thoughts are subtle. Keep in mind that most of these powerful thoughts were formed during early like experiences, most of which people don’t remember.

The solution is to identify what a life without any of the symptoms associated with depression or anxiety would look like. This process involves the practice of optimistic thinking and identifying the behaviors that go along. The next step would be the process of behaving as if you were already in a place of calm and happiness. This process triggers a reverse feedback loop where your behavior begins influencing your feelings, which in turn strengthen your practice of new thoughts.

The process of practicing change for the better is a difficult one and well worth it.

Ugo is a therapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

Feelings of stress and anxiety are predominantly influenced by the bio chemicals adrenaline and norepinephrine. The chemicals come into the play during situations the brain perceives as dangerous, activating a fight or flight response. The problem is that most times people experience stress and anxiety are related to situations that are not life threatening. The fight or flight response system is perfect for life threatening situations, such as a house fire, or narrowly avoiding a car accident. However, the fight or fight response system is grossly ineffective for inconveniences such as the possibility of job loss or an ongoing feud with a neighbor whom you perceive as aggressive.

When the fight or flight response system is employed for non-life-threatening situations, the bio chemicals involved remain in the system for longer than necessary and begin to cause health issues in the person who is experiencing prolonged stress and anxiety. A common unwanted effect of prolonged stress and anxiety is a compromised immune system, which leaves the sufferer susceptible to a wide range of illnesses.

With this being written, there are three strategies to effectively cope with and move past issues with stress and anxiety. These strategies are as follows.

Control your thoughts.

The space between what you think and how you choose to behave, lies your feelings. Therefore, all feelings are influenced by your thoughts. What you think produces a spectrum of positive or negative feelings to the degree that things are going your way or otherwise. Your thinking influences your perception of everyday events, which include your perception of your ability to get your basic and psychology needs met, regardless of the challenge. This in turn influences your overall sense of confidence and subsequently your behavior. To control your thoughts means that you should begin practicing positive and reality-based thinking. So even when things are not going your way, your positive thoughts will help you in practicing resiliency through challenges and in resisting the temptation in resorting to old negative thoughts.

Recognize your triggers

Once you begin practicing strategies for positive thinking, you need to become aware of people, places and things that trigger your old negative thoughts. After all your brain is still wired to think this way, and it usually takes about 30 consecutive days of practicing the new thoughts, for you to develop significant resiliency to the old ways of thinking. Once you have successfully identified people, places and things which trigger your old ways of thinking, and subsequently behaving, you have two options. Your first option is to avoid these identified triggers. In most cases this isn’t feasible, this leads to option number two, which is to change your thoughts on how you perceive these identified triggers. Ideally, it is best to exercise both options, if possible.

Create your new reality

This is synonymous with controlling your thoughts, in fact it is the same thing, but taken to another level. To create your new reality, is to identify what types of people, places and things you would ideally engage with. The next step will be to identify the pragmatic steps towards making your ideal situation a reality. This is the most powerful step in the process of dealing with stress and anxiety and the most challenging. Because in the process of identifying the types of people, places and things you prefer to be surrounded by, you are now tasked with the difficult step in orienting yourself towards becoming more compatible with your ideal reality. So yes, this involves the process of picking up where you last left off in changing yourself for the better.

All these steps are possible, and they involve commitment towards practicing the necessary cognitive behavioral strategies towards dealing with and moving past issues with stress and anxiety.

Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions.

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