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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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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Moving Past Fear and Towards Your Goals.

I have a new quote on the bottom of my email, it goes; “We are our own prisoners and consequently, our own liberators.” It’s a quote I came up with and it was inspired by works of Victor Frankl and David Hawkins, but it’s not quite new as I have been using it for at least the past three months to date.

Most of the reasons we have for experiencing fear in our lives, make sense. However, nursing these fears leads to anxiety, and results in you resorting to primal instincts of either being confrontational or avoidant. When this happens, this creates the illusion that external factors prevented you from realizing your goals, or in some cases, creating your goals in the first place. However, the fact is, your goals where not realized because you did nothing.

So regardless of what rules you follow, what beliefs you hold or what you witnessed someone in a similar position to yours, go through, you prevented yourself from thriving. This is good news, because since you have control over the choices you make, you can then go through the challenging process of liberating yourself. Yes, the process is challenging, but you can liberate yourself.

One common reason why you have failed to meet your goals is that you understandably play it safe. Often when people play it safe, they are living dangerously. They could be living a situation that they find convenient and perhaps comfortable, but they are not thriving. When their attention is turned to towards promising situations, they find the investment too costly and risky if they cannot be guaranteed the outcome they desire. So, they remain in their current situation. The problem with this strategy is that things change, and things change because change is a constant.

This means that stagnation is an illusion, because if you are not keeping up with changes then you are regressing. When people play it safe, they don’t develop the necessary skills compatible with changing times and subsequently find themselves out of practice in taking action when it really matters. Further, playing it safe brings you closer to your worst fears, when you are no longer able to maintain your “safe” situation. A good example would be finding yourself phased out of a job. Deep down you knew the job was really a dead end, but you shied away from opportunities to improve your situation due to the amount of sacrifice involved and not being guaranteed an favorable outcome.

The solution lies in knowing this open secret; while there are no guarantees in life, for as long as you are alive and in good health, you will always get your needs met. Things will always work out for you at the bare minimum, because you are simply not going to sit still and allow yourself to wither away. Herein lies your guarantee, aim high enough, and even if you don’t reach your mark, you will land above where you started.

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The Mindset for Dealing with Disappointments.

A disappointment is an expectation that has not been met. There are two types of disappointments, disappointment with self and disappointments with others. This post is going to focus more on dealing with disappointment with others, because it is the type of disappointment that people get more upset about. When dealing with disappointment with self, more than likely you put in effort into achieving a goal, with a desired result and that result did not happen. So, in the absence of a self-defeatist attitude, disappointment with yourself is easier to get over, because you can always change yourself for the better.

However, when it comes to dealing with disappointment because of the actions of someone else, feelings of being upset, perhaps resentful and in some cases hurt are going to be the case for the person experiencing the disappointment. In more severe cases, some people will wish you better luck next time, some will remind you that it is the nature of life, you win some, you lose some. But here is an important question to ask yourself when you experiencing this type of disappointment, in whose reality are you living in?

Reading this question, might catch you off guard as it seems u related to the title/topic of this post. But really, whose reality are you residing in? The ideal answer when you ask yourself this question should be “my reality” but if you ever find yourself struggling to cope with disappointment then it means you have been living in someone else’s reality and that person has let you down.

The answer then lies in getting back into discovering what is important to you. When struggling with disappointment, if you critically consider the situation, you will discover that you are morning the loss of something you never really had any control over. This could be the loss of a job, the ending of a relationship or an opportunity that did not materialize for you. In his book,  Victor Frankl is famous for his quote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”. This means, that, no matter what you are mourning, your thoughts and feelings remain under your control.

Pertaining to dealing with disappointment, there is no rationale in mourning something over which you had no control over. Let’s say you accidentally dropped a glass cup on the floor, no matter how expensive that glass cup was, you can always take refuge in telling yourself that you will be more careful with glass cups next time. This is because a glass cup in your hands is under your control. Experiencing disappointment over the actions of someone else is a situation not under your control, and so the best course of action is to make peace with this fact. Otherwise you are just going to upset yourself even more, and the reason you find yourself even more upset is because there are no remedies in getting others to do what you want them to do. Therefore, if you encounter someone who follows through on their word, that is a blessing. A blessing because they chose an action that benefitted you, an action you had no control over.

You should only concern yourself with your thoughts and feelings and subsequent actions because these are easy to change. As for the thoughts, feelings and actions of others, the best you can do is practice allowance.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and a life coach.

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Support Groups and Therapy for People with ASD

As a therapist who specializes with adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum, I am often on a look out for online forums dedicated to such a population. Unfortunately, while the true intent of these forums is to provide support and validation for those on the spectrum who struggle to with adapting to the daily struggles of socializing in everyday life, there exist forums where the main theme appears to be who can throw themselves the largest pity party.
I have also witnessed this phenomenon with groups for depression and anxiety, and while I am a staunch advocate for freedom of speech and expression, I believe it is a dangerous situation of people supporting each other in unhealthy thinking. I also believe a big part of the problem is the victim based mentality that has become ubiquitous in popular culture. With this being written, there are three main mindsets people on the spectrum need to adapt, when seeking professional help or help from support groups.
Care is not Obligatory.
In the past decade, I have witnessed the rise of websites crowdfunding websites. As someone who adheres to libertarian principles, I can attest that the success of these crowdfunding websites is proof that most people are fundamentally good. There are no laws in place, or social pressures for that matter that mandate anyone go to these websites to donate money to people. There will always be people who are kind heart-ed, who desire to help those in need. So therefore, the idea that other people must care about your plight is an irrational one. Especially when a group of people come together and focus feverishly and complain about those people who don’t have compassion for their difficulties. This will always be unnecessary given that people who care already exist.
Seek to get Better.
A former client of mine once looked me in the eye, and insisted that his collection of symptoms and quirks were due to his brain wiring. I told him that I agreed with him. He then told me that what he needed was drugs and not therapy. I shared with him that after he had built enough tolerance to whatever was prescribed to him that he would be back in my office. After we had a good laugh, I then introduced him to the concept of neuro-plasticity, where the brain forms and strengths new pathways based on the thoughts and behaviors of its owner. It short, change is possible, and it all boils down to the practice of mental effort. So, when looking for a therapist or a support group, you are looking for help designed to help you move past your grieving process and put you into the process of thriving.
Ranking is Overrated.
Yes, we are social animals, and we have desire to belong to social groups. This is the chief complaint I habitually field with first time clients on the spectrum. Their feelings of not feeling welcomed or belonging to a group, clique or tribe. In truth, you already belong to a tribe, and you are already accepted. If this was not true, you would be dealing with several people actively trying to expel you from your respective community. In truth, what you are dealing with is a desire to rank well on the social hierarchy. As a therapist who has worked with over 800 clients, I have worked with all sorts of people, from high achievers to those who are content with a humble existence, and every one of them to some degree expressed feelings of alienation from the general populace and their respective community members. So, if you are feeling like a bit of an outcast, you are in good company. One does have to wonder if that tribe of people who are truly cohesive and all accepting of their member is a myth. Regardless, when looking for a support group, or therapist please keep in mind that it is not healthy is engage in an us versus them mentality. This is not healthy.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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How to Handle Hostility

One of my favorite books, by Dr. Eric Berne, discusses in detail three ego states people transition throughout their daily experiences. These ego states are simplified as adult ego state, parent ego state and the child ego state. For clarity, I will define each of these states as their definitions bare importance for the title of this post.

The adult ego state can be defined as an objective state of consciousness. It is in this mind state that we can see things for what they are, without any assigned meanings or interpretations, (think Data from star trek). The parent ego state can be defined as a moralistic state of consciousness, it is from this state of consciousness that we pass judgement on the behaviors of ourselves and others. Finally, the child ego state can be defined as primal/emotional state of consciousness. It is from this state that we seek to get our emotional needs of acceptance, recognition, love, respect and autonomy met.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what does all this have to do with handling hostility? Simple, the best way to handle hostility is from the adult ego state. This is because, in this mindset, you are not taking things personally, you have both your parent and child ego states in check and you win. The aggressor is not successful in getting you upset and gives up.

This video, shows the me using demonstrating the adult mindset in action.

Now getting yourself in the adult ego state is easier said than done, even If you know you will be dealing with hostility in a future interaction. While I respect and deeply appreciate the work of Dr. Berne, nothing compares to cognitive behavioral therapy. This is because the best way to handle hostility comes from a revaluation and reordering of your belief system. For example, if you know you are headed into a hostile situation, it would be a great time to challenge your beliefs regarding your interactions with others.

If done properly, you will always arrive at an objective belief that states something to the effect that while hostility from others is not preferred, you can choose to not take it personally and focus on more healthier relationships. The process of addressing your beliefs forces you to simultaneously address your beliefs about morals and values (parent ego state) and how you get your emotional needs met, (child ego state.)

The strange thing about the parent ego state is that is that it is often wrong and only right when you encounter someone who shares the same morals and values with you. A popular example would be religion, specifically, religious rules on human behavior. Your morals are often going to be validated by someone of the same faith as you, while disregarded by someone else who does not share your faith. An objective reevaluation of your belief system will reveal that if someone’s behavior does not involve harm to someone else, then there are no issues. Further, even if someone’s behavior does involve harm to another person, the best course of action is to aid the person harmed, rather than attack the person doing the harming.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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