“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
It is not uncommon for me to run into a potential client who is seeking to change a detrimental habit. The habit can range anywhere from issues with procrastination to substance abuse. In the process of gathering more information from the client. I encounter a pattern of unhealthy thinking and behaving that is prevalent in all areas of the clients’ life.
Upon bringing this to the attention of the client, I receive a response that the only thing he or she wants to work on is changing the specific habit they complained about, and nothing else. Well, this is a problem, because everything about us is interwoven. This means that while we are working on cognitive strategies to change thoughts and behaviors regarding the identified behavior, the client continues to engage in his established pattern of thinking and behaving in other areas of his life, which only reinforces the bad habit he wants to change.
The idea that we can departmentalize our behaviors is a misunderstanding, A misunderstanding because some people experience significant success in some areas of their lives than other areas of their lives. The simple reason for this is because in the areas they have experienced more success, they invested more time. Regardless, if you are experiencing negative consequences due to chronic detrimental behavior you engage in, it is based on your mindset, or simply put, an unhealthy mindset you adhere to. This means that for people who struggle with unhealthy behaviors, while simultaneously experiencing success in another area of their life, then they have experienced that success in spite of their unhealthy mindset. Furthermore, in the absence of the identified unhealthy mindset, they would achieve even more success in the area or areas they are already excelling in.
Ultimately, the ability to identify a need to change, and the preference to cherry pick what type of change will occur, is a primitive instinct. Meaning that we want to experience positive changes in our lives with little cost or sacrifice.
It is also important to note, that for those who embrace focusing on the whole versus the parts, the process of changing your entire life is counter intuitive in that you only focus on your mindset and become cognizant on when and how you practice change in all areas of your life.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl
As a soldier, my company commander upon learning that I had studied psychology in college, demanded to know if I could read his thoughts. He then followed up by asking if I had studied psychology to find out what was wrong with me. This scenario underlies the attitude most people have towards psychotherapy and the field of psychology in general. Given that the origins of psychology came from the medical disease model, most people feel that any recommendation they receive for therapy means that something is wrong with them.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Counseling is a process where you transition from a place of being emotionally stuck to a place of wellness and thriving. Life is a transitional process, cognitive strategies that worked for us in the past, typically no longer apply in the present. While this phenomenon is nothing new to us, what happens when we experience an event which we were not prepared for? An event for which we don’t have a script or blueprint to even make sense of.
The answer is we get stuck, this is because when we experience new challenges for which we were not prepared for, our instinct is to resort to old strategies that have worked for us in other and different situations. Which some times leads to Einstein’s definition of insanity. Which leads to mental health issues such as poor anger management, depression and anxiety. Through therapy, we can come to understand ourselves thoroughly, by examining our beliefs and values. Particularly those instilled in us during our formative years.
We can come to learn about which irrational beliefs hinder our personal happiness, and practice cognitive behavioral strategies for embracing new beliefs and values that help us experience true happiness and thrive.
So it’s not a matter of something being wrong with you to begin with, it a matter of correcting a misunderstanding between you and the your life experiences.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
Do you struggle with feelings of chronic shame? Are you constantly concerned about dealing with rejection from your peers or those you care about due to a failure in meeting obligations? If you answered yes, to all these questions, then there is a high likelihood that you are being deceived.
Relationships are about give and take, where both parties work together towards mutual benefaction. When shame comes into the picture in any relationship, it means that the person experiencing the shame is being deceived. When a person experiences shame, he or she experiences feelings of low self worth accompanied by a strong belief that he or she does not bring anything of value into the relationship. This leads the person to actually work harder towards contributing his or her share of value into the relationship. A thoroughly shamed person affords others who interact with him or her relief from actually putting in significant effort into the relationship. This is because the shamed person is too busy nursing his or her shame to recognize the unfairness.
Shaming occurs on all levels, from marco/organizational levels to micro/familial levels. As a former soldier, while training for a deployment to Afghanistan, our instructors would use suggestive shaming language to describe soldiers who had experienced the misfortune of driving over an IED. They strongly suggested that they (the wounded and dead drivers) had failed to follow the techniques that they were teaching us. The reality I soon learned, was that there weren’t any techniques that could proof you from driving over an IED or surviving an IED blast. It mostly came down to visibility, the strength of the bomb and the strength of your vehicle’s armor. In essence, luck. So in order to avoid being ridiculed/ having our courage and masculinity questioned, not one of us dared to question our instructors.
As a therapist, I have worked with individuals and couples where one party was filled with grief and shame for not living up to the expectations of his or her spouse, while the other person was putting little to no effort towards addressing the relationship. The bottom line is that if you find yourself experiencing shame, you are most likely being deceived.
Put it this way, if you find yourself in a professional or personal relationship where you are not fulfilling your end of the agreement, the other party will bring the relationship to an end. So if as a solider, I couldn’t cut it, I would have been promptly discharged. I actually witnessed this happen to other soldiers on a number of occasions. The same goes for personal romantic relationships. There is no point in evoking feelings of shame in someone who produces nothing of benefit for you.
When it comes to feelings, shame is a false negative. It does nothing positive to your character as a human being and it reinforces the falsehood that you as a human being are unworthy. In reality, the ability for a human being to recognize when he or she is not meeting agreed upon expectations, with a resolve to change things for the better comes from a mindset of unconditional self acceptance.
When you accept yourself unconditionally, you actually have the agency to take ownership for wrong doing and make amends. To reiterate, feelings of worthlessness is a strong sign that you are being manipulated.
So what do you do if you recognize that your chronic feelings of shame are unhealthy for you? The answer is that you seek the services of a psychotherapist. Chances are, that you had been preconditioned through your early life experiences to become easily manipulated by shame.
A good therapist will work with you towards addressing your triggers for shame and developing new beliefs and behaviors towards responding differently towards those identified triggers.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
In this video post, I discuss the importance of congruence to mental health. For instance if you consider yourself to be a honest, courageous and compassionate person, it would be congruent of you habitually practiced honesty, courageousness and compassion in your daily affairs.
However, it would be incongruent if you considered yourself to be a honest, courageous and compassionate person, and you practiced dishonesty, cowardice and apathy a significant amount of the time. In the video, I state that the more incongruent we are, the more likely we are to develop mental health issues.
This is because the brain was designed to be congruent, even studies like this one, show that people experience more happiness when there is congruence between their ideal self and their actual self, with actual being measured by their chosen actions.
I then offer the viewer two tips on how to maintain congruence in his or her life.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.