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Tag: happiness

December 4, 2013

motivation with carrot on stick

Consider this story, a female client I worked with who experienced trauma, impoverishment and chaos in her childhood, came in to see me because she was experiencing panic attacks. This turned out to be one of many stories I have heard where people inform me about how difficult their upbringing was and how things in their lives were now much better – except themselves.

The desire to improve our circumstances is inherent in all of us, especially circumstances that are terrible at best. However we risk running into a case of double jeopardy if what inspires us to improve our circumstances is anything other than love. Like this case of the female client mentioned, it turned out that her inspiration for her economic improvement was a combination of fear and resentment. Fear of a chaotic lifestyle that placed the safety of her and her siblings in jeopardy and resentment towards her mother for being incompetent and irresponsible and her father for being absent. Fast forward almost a decade later as a married mother of two children, living in a safe neighborhood with a stable source of income, a good relationship with her husband, my former client could not understand why she was experiencing reoccurring panic attacks.

As it turns out, she was waiting for the other shoe to drop, when she wasn’t recreating the conflicts in her life she had experienced as a child and teen, through conflicts with others, she was a experiencing internal strife which played out as  panic attacks. The trigger for her tendency to instigate conflicts with others or her panic attacks? Fear and resentment had always been her sources of motivation. The therapy was successful, as she was able to learn and practice drawing from peace and love in her life as sources of motivation.

This is one of many stories of people who found themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of becoming emotionally stuck in the very situation they made their life’s commitment to escape. Now why is this? Common sense would dictate that after an ordeal has been experienced, the person who experienced that ordeal becomes relived about the conclusion of the ordeal and never looks back right? Actually in most cases this is the case. People who have experienced bad things happen to them, become motivated to overcome the ordeal and after the conclusion of the ordeal they go on to live healthy lives. The reason that these people go on to live healthier lives is that their motivation for success comes from love. Self love, love for others, recognition of worthiness, whatever label you ascribe to the phenomenon of humanity, people who successfully leave their ordeals in the past learned to rely on their goodwill and the goodwill of others to succeed.

What happens to those who remain stuck in the past? By coincidence of role models or culture, they learned mistrust, to be overly suspicious and developed a mental world view that portrays the world as a dangerous and untrusting place. This creates the irony that even when they have succeeded in physically removing themselves from a chaotic situation, they find it difficult to recognize and trust peace for what it is.

Our beliefs influence our perceptions, our perceptions influence our thoughts, our thoughts influence our feelings and our feelings provide us with the motivation we need to initiate actions or behaviors.

If your source of motivation is negative, you will find yourself engaging in reoccurring behaviors that recreate your trauma in small or significant ways, which keeps you stuck in a cycle of negative feelings and being reactivate to your negative feelings.

The most effective strategy for getting out of such a cycle is adopting an important rule of thumb, which is to never see yourself as a victim, regardless of your trauma, but as a survivor.

Seeing yourself as a victim automatically triggers the fight or flight response, inherent in all living animals. This means that you are either going to be motivated by passive or overt desires for retaliation which amounts to a pessimistic attitude or hostile world view, or passive or overt desires to flee, which amounts to lethargy or chronic social anxiety.

By seeing yourself as a survivor, you trigger the inherent trait in you to seek the support and companionship of others, through a combination of being of service to others and being a recipient of help and assistance. This is easier said than done, but seeing yourself as a survivor helps rewire your brain’s source for motivation.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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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.

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November 18, 2013

On any given day, if you visit any of the popular social networking sites, you will find that pictures of cuteness gets the most views, likes and shares. The question is, why do people like cute things?

cute sitting puppy

The popular opinion has always been that we are hardwired to respond favorably to cuteness. This makes sense on a surface value, as it’s probably a good reason why most parents are willing to put up with sleep loss and dirty diapers.

One study suggests that the faces of babies elicit motivation for care taking by humans. The study, conducted with a sample size of a 122 college students, had the students rate the level of cuteness in several baby photographs. The results indicated that the more cute the students found the babies to be, the more motivation they reported in  wanting to take care of the babies.

In another study, the researchers indicated that when people viewed pictures they considered cute, it boosted their  productivity level. The study consisted of three experiments, in which productivity levels where measured on fine motor tasks, non motor-visual tasks and in the third experiments participants where asked to locate numbers and letters from an arrangement of random and non random numbers and letters. The results of all three experiments showed that participants improved their scores on all three experiments shortly after viewing photographs of cute baby animals.

cuteness and productivity

Perhaps like the first study indicated, that we are hard wired to take care of our young. Given that taking care of another human being full time, is tasking and sometimes emotionally draining, perhaps there are some hormones that get released in the brain when we stare at cute things, which make us become more focused and productive? Does this explain, why I suddenly decided to get into private practice after my son was born? Or why I unintentionally ran seven miles instead of my standard three in the morning, six hours after my daughter was born?

I do know this, the next time I find myself playing the role of a mediator in a custody battle between two parents with small children, I will inform both parents about these studies. It would probably help a protective mother to know that the father of her children is more likely to become more productive in providing for the children, if he spends equal time in co parenting them.

So perhaps if at work you ever get accused of being unproductive for looking at cute pictures on the Internet, you can tell them that you are recharging yourself.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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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.

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