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July 7, 2016

I recently came across an article regarding a neuroscientific intervention for sleep paralysis. What I find fascinating about the article is the heavy reliance of mindfulness and meditation the neuroscientist prescribes for sleep paralysis.


Sleep paralysis occurs when you find yourself awake but unable to move. This lack of movement can last from several seconds to a few minutes as the sufferers’ experience sheer terror and agony in their inability to move their bodies. In some cases, people who suffer from sleep paralysis also experience hallucinations, most commonly reported is a shadowy presence in the bedroom.

The four steps for regaining control of one’s body during sleep paralysis are:

  1. Reappraisal of the meaning of the attack
  2. Psychological and emotional distancing
  3. Inward focused-attention
  4. Muscle relaxation

Step 1, “reappraisal of the meaning of the attack” is another way of saying that you should give the attack another label. The idea of waking up from sleep without the ability to move is so terrifying for most people that some sufferers develop extreme anxiety about going to sleep in the first place. For some people they spend the entire experience of their paralysis in a state of fright until they are able to move again. This leads to learned dread and a host of other issues. By relabeling the paralysis, you begin to experience a shift in your perception of what’s going on. For example, if you found yourself in this situation, you could tell yourself that you are experiencing a phenomenon that occurs in 20% of the population and is temporary.

Step 2, “psychological and emotional distancing” means that you should practice adopting an objective view of the situation. Since you have already told yourself that this is something 20% of population already experiences and is temporary, you should readily observe that your feelings of fright and panic are understandable but irrational.

Step 3, “inward focused-attention” this means that you should practice positive thinking. The author of the article recommends focusing on a loved one or a positive event. I would recommend you envisioning yourself getting out of bed and walking about. A mindset that can help with this vision is to inform yourself that while your mind is awake, your brain and your body haven’t yet received the signal to awake and move and are merely playing catch up. So soon you will be out of the bed and walking about.

Step 4, “muscle relaxation” from what clients who have struggled with sleep paralysis have told me, while they may not be able to move, they discover that there are aspects of their body that they can still control, such as their breathing and their ability to flex certain muscle groups. As tempting as it may be, forcing yourself to move only worsens the experience. Instead you are recommended to practice easy breathing and relax your muscles, by doing this you are adopting an attitude of acceptance towards the entire situation, which reduces the likelihood of experiencing a panic attack during the paralysis and shortens the duration of the paralysis.

The more people are able to successfully practice these steps during sleep paralysis, the less dread and anxiety they will have about sleeping, which in all likelihood will reduce the frequencies of the sleep paralysis.

This is the link to the article.

Ugo is a therapistand professional life coach.

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November 6, 2014

Emotional StressMost people who struggle with anxiety have no idea that they do. Anxiety is a phenomenon that affects people with low self worth. People who struggle with anxiety struggle to find value in their humanity, and chronically feel out of place in the world around.

In this post, I am going to address three primary symptoms that people who struggle with anxiety exhibit. They are chronic worrying, poor sleep and chronic irritable mood.

Chronic Worrying

Anxiety is caused by low confidence of self, or an under developed sense of self identity. People with low self confidence find themselves chronically faced with situations they find daunting and overwhelming. They don’t believe in themselves, so they doubt their ability to excel and as a result they are excessively risk aversive. People with anxiety often wish for experiences that are problem free due to their lack of confidence in themselves to tackle any challenges life throws at them. Hence they find themselves chronically worried about what could go wrong next.

Poor Sleep.

Most people who struggle with anxiety experience poor sleep, because like most people, they believed that they are constantly supposed to sleep throughout the night. However it appears that anxious people experience a combination of their constant worries of things going wrong in their lives in addition to their concerns about not getting enough sleep. This keeps them up, sometimes into the early morning hours as they steadily transition into one state of worry to another.


As a result of not getting enough sleep, people who struggle with anxiety present with chronic irritability. They lack patience, which affects their ability to get tasks done properly, which also negatively affects their relationships with others.

Not getting tasks complete creates a perception of unreliability in the eyes of others, which also creates unwanted friction in relationships with others. Subsequently, adding to the list of reasons of why the anxious persons should constantly be worried.

These are the three main symptoms of anxiety that characterize an anxious person, other symptoms not mentioned such as irrational fears and panic attacks are really sub categories for chronic worrying. This is because chronic worrying encompasses any and all things that could possible go wrong in the person’s life, real or perceived.

A proper course of treatment for someone who struggles with these symptoms of anxiety would be identifying core beliefs which irrationally dictate that things should not go wrong in his or her lives, and changing such beliefs to beliefs that emphasize values of courage and emotional resiliency.

So rather than chronically focusing on what could go wrong in your life, through proper treatment, a person who struggles with anxiety transitions to a person who comes to see his or herself has having the resiliency to survive and thrive through any challenge that comes his or her way.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and professional life coach.

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October 6, 2014

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.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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January 6, 2014

I recently came across YouTube video by TYT (The Young Turks) about a research study on fairness and money. Actually what drew me into watching the video was the video title, “How Being Rich Can Make You A Dick”

The video is about a study conducted by the University of California Berkeley on on the advantages of having wealth. According to the study two participants were kept in a windowless room and were asked to play a game of monopoly. One of the players was given an unfair advantage during the start of the game by way of extra cash included with bonus cash for every move he made, while the other player received less money all around. During the course of the game, the researchers observed that the advantaged player displayed more aggression and arrogance during the course of the game, as compared to the other player. Looking at the TYT video, it appeared the main host Cenk, was alluding to the idea that having wealth over others makes human beings more arrogant and less empathetic towards others with less wealth. If this is what he meant, I would have to disagree with his misinterpretation, and here’s why.

People have an innate sense of fairness, because people who are sound of mind have awareness. Awareness affords us the benefit of knowing right from wrong. So if I give my six year old two dollars and I give my three year old (who just witnessed my interaction with the six year old) one dollar, my three year old is going to ask why the six year old received more money. Why would the three year old ask this? Because her expectation that I give her the same amount of money I gave her brother is reasonable, this is what her sense of awareness informs her.

The concept of fairness is so ingrained in our DNA that you see it play out in the workplace. Once at a former job, a human resources manager who got fired, sought her revenge on her last day by “mistakenly” sending out an email to all members of staff that listed our positions and our respective salaries. I became so angered when I noticed that two of my co workers were making more money than myself that I resolved to ask for a pay raise. The next day in my boss’s office, in anticipation of what my grievance was about (I am guessing) , my boss gave me a pay increase which equated to what my coworkers were making. So I believe that it is reasonable to write that given that my boss clearly valued my work, his sense of awareness informed him that I was not going to be happy with the report I received via email and he also anticipated that I would approach him for a pay increase. While I was pleasantly surprised by his response, it made a lot of sense.

We all know what is fair and what isn’t, so what does this have to do with the study? My interpretation of the study is this; the reason for the boisterous  behavior of the unfairly advantaged monopoly player is because that player was overcompensating for his feelings of inadequacy.

Consider this scenario, let’s say I am sprinter, and I  am preparing for an upcoming race, when my coach approaches me with a proposition to use steroids or some other type of growth hormone to win the race. If I accept my coach’s offer, it simply means that he does not believe I will win the race and that I agree with him. Heck it could also be presumed that my coach may not be a big believer in my abilities as a sprinter. So even if I use drugs to cheat the race and I win the race, my feelings of inadequacy wouldn’t go away.

Chances are high that due to the turmoil I will experience internally, I will act out behaviorally even after I have won the race. I may display a great deal of arrogance and immaturity, just to overcompensate for my feelings of inadequacy or feelings of being a fraud.

I do not believe that inheriting money from your family leads to feelings of inadequacy, however money that is stolen or earned through ill gotten means certainly can level leads to feelings of inadequacy. So if I were to rob a bank or a store, what I am telling myself and others through my actions is that I do not believe I have what it takes to make a honest living.

It’s like the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people,” so when you see people behaving arrogantly, they are probably  coming from a place of inadequacy.

The video is below.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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