This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Healthy Diet Plan

A way to lower your weight that will promote, not compromise, your health
Feeling happy tends to go hand in hand with good food choices and an absence of overeating.  When you are happy, you are more likely to eat only when your body tells you you're (physically) hungry.  You won't be eating in an attempt to quiet emotional hungers.  This blog is full of tips for you to help yourself to create a better life and a more fulfilled you.  If you try some of the suggestions and just check in here on a regular basis, you will begin to see your own vision more clearly and be able to start manifesting it.  You can always start small.  Little changes and improvements add up to an enhanced life experience.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Member=A Happy Day

                             When I see a new follower appear, I am delighted
Welcome to my blog, Faaiza Haroon
                                                                 Photograph of cherry blossoms by Ping H. Chen

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Dark Secret

Psychiatry Grand Rounds, Herrick Hospital;  The Role of Misogyny and Homophobia in Prison Sexual Abuse by Terry A. Kupers, MD, MSP

Secretiveness is a part of some human problems:  Some examples are, the symptoms of the eating disorder Bulimia such as binging and purging, alcoholism is another, and incest can only continue if it is kept a secret.  The ending of the secret is often key to the beginning of addressing the problem in treatment. 

The extent of the sexual abuse that occurs on a regular basis in our prisons is not commonly known. The victims must keep it secret or they will be subject to retribution.  Some of the reasons for the pervasiveness of this problem are overcrowding which causes an increase in violence, that the proportion of the mentally ill being shifted to the prison system instead of being hospitalized is on the increase, and, the exaggerated dominance hierarchy that exists in prisons.
In a prison, each person, inmate and staff alike, are either the top dog or the victim.  The dominant ones, besides the guards, show "..toxic masculinity; they don't show any emotions or express feelings, they have no trust, they are very watchful, they isolate, they are tough, burly, and buffed, big and mean.  The people at the bottom of the hierarchy are labeled in the prison as, losers, weaklings, faggots, and punks (punk meaning that they are the recipients of sexual advances by the perpetrators/tough guys)."
In prison, inmates, -both men and women- are raped, some of them, repeatedly; they are trapped in a situation that is impossible to be kept safe and can't report the attacks due to the repercussions they will be subject to.  Inmates sometimes suffer "...acute psychiatric decompensation and suicide; people are murdered and are demoralized by being called names such as, hoe, bitch and being infantilized and patronized."
Almost all of the "... prisoners have been massively traumatized..." prior to committing a crime and being imprisoned.  They are then further damaged, psychologically, during the prison experience.  The result is people, when they are released, who have suffered, are damaged and have no coping skills that will be effective on the outside.  What the men tend to do, if left to their own devices is, "...isolate, turn to drugs, and blow up.  The women gain weight, isolate and do everything to try to not show anything in their overt behavior that may be interpreted as a sexual invitation."
Suffice it to say, this is a part of our population that needs help.  (And, of course, as they are helped to, first, receive less damage while incarcerated, and second, to be rehabilitated, it benefits all of us and society, in general)  In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (a bi-partisan achievement) was passed, which will offer some help.  It requires that the facilities  provide safety.  Of course, they need to have enough supervision to implement that directive. 
Newly released prisoners need assistance with healing, with making the transition, and with learning how to be a productive, good citizen.
Is there anything you can do?  If someone in this situation is one of your relatives, is in your friend group, or gains employment at your work place, what can you do to facilitate their successful transition? 
If they are in therapy, you can be supportive and encouraging of that effort. "...You can express sincere interest in them, as a person.  You can remember to try to understand what goes on in a prison. .. You can be patient."
If you are a psychotherapist reading this post and are in or near the San Francisco Bay Area, you can volunteer one session per week to see a newly released inmate for therapy by calling this number;  510 841-0974.
Dr. Kupers is, of course, working in the American courts and describing the situation in prisons here.  I know that I have readers from all over the world but, I wouldn't be surprised if the conditions he has observed here would also be found in prisons elsewhere.
If you are living with a terrible secret, speak to a trusted person about it.  A therapist would be a good choice, and so would be a doctor.  Sometimes teachers can help or, in some countries, police officers.
Secrets kept in the darkness contribute to the pathology of some  human problems, such as incest, domestic violence, drug addiction and alcoholism.   Bringing the secret out into the open allows for the possibility of a healing light to shine on it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Practical Matter, Beautifully Stated

Nature is one of our most accessible and best stress reducers.

 ". . . The first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of nature.  Every day, the sun; and, after sunset, Night and her stars.  Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows.  Every day, men and women, conversing---beholding and beholden."---Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882) American writer and poet

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Psychiatry Grand Rounds, 10-10-11:  Brain Based Psychotherapy by Lloyd Linford, PhD

"The more often you do something, the more likely you are to do it again."  If you take on a French tutor to work on learning that language, you are likely to do that again.  If you go on a drinking binge, there is a good chance you will repeat that behavior.  Patterns are created in the brain so, "...not only does biology create the mind, but the mind also creates biology."
 If you want to install a good habit in your lifestyle, do it a few times; each time you do, you reinforce that brain pattern and set yourself up to more readily repeat it.  If you want to change, we now know that psychotherapy changes the brain:  "Psychotherapy works by producing changes in gene expression that alter the strength of synaptic connections."
 Neuroplasticity informs us that the brain can change through early nurturing relationships and experiences, psychotherapy, meditation, and mindfulness.  Neuroplasticity means that our brains can form new dendrites, new synapses, improved synaptic efficiency, and perform neurogenesis.  The brain can turn stem cells into new neurons.
Neuroscience was an important field of study until 1900 when Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams.  At that point, most brain studies stopped.  Now, there is an upsurge of interest in this area of inquiry.  Now we have consilience:  Biological realities and psychotherapy are becoming connected in the thinking about human dilemmas and growth.  Once again we see the holistic approach being validated; the mind and body are connected.  As we look at the brain we see that both hemispheres, feeling and thinking are important.  So, now the field will begin moving away from the recent popularity of Cognitive-Behavioral theory to a more comprehensive view:  We do not only move from cognition to affect.  Feelings are not only caused by thoughts but also arise from body states, are a response to memory, and more.
Some of the knowledge emerging from brain studies is:
  • Psychotherapy and anti-depressant medication are about equally effective in depression treatment (info. from effectiveness research).
  • Specialized methods of psychotherapy are not as important as the alliance between the patient and the therapist.  In addition, the outcome of therapy is due to what the patient brings to the table, 40%, to the therapist, 20%, to the technique/type of therapy, only 5%
  • There are gender differences in the brains of females and males.
  • The brain begins with a surplus of neurons; those that are stimulated and used live, the others are subject to apostosis;  "Use it or lose it."
  • Brain development is dependent upon both nature (temperament and genetics) as well as nurture (attachment experience).
  • Attachment=emotional regulation.  A secure caretaker of a child produces a secure adult; attachment leads to healthy autonomy.  Secure attachment leads to lower cortisol levels.
  • 40% of adults are insecure
For more information  on this new current in the theory of therapy, look to the book on evidence based treatment for everyday practice, Brain Based Psychotherapy by Dr. Linford.

You are welcome to comment on this post.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


What quality of yours is most important to you?  What personality trait or characteristic?

"I suppose if you had to choose just one quality to have that would be it:  vitality."
John F. Kennedy

Friday, October 7, 2011


How do you find a top-notch helping professional?

 "If you lose confidence in your financial adviser, all is lost."  Mike Weintraub (find a story about him in the post titled, Paying It Forward and Benefactors).  When I heard this statement from my friend, right away I began thinking about how true this is for so many people who are in some sort of service or helping position with each of us.  It isn't just your financial adviser you want to feel confidence in; it is your doctor, your tax preparer, your dentist, your secretary if you have one, your chiropractor, physical therapist, broker, electrician, and your therapist. 

How do you develop confidence in one of these or in other types of service providers you might employ?  I have been thinking about those  I have come to trust and trying to define why that is and how that happened.  There are also some in whom I was not able to place my confidence.  What's the difference I've been asking myself.  And do the qualities of those I do feel I can rely on generalize to all?

These are the characteristics and experiences I've noticed with the 'keepers' in my life.  Do you have anything to add?  I'd really be interested in your comments.

  • Someone who explains in a way I can understand and who does not become impatient with sometimes having to clarify or repeat something.  
  • A person who, when in their professional role, is calm.
  • It helps if they don't appear rushed or, at least, not all the time.
  • Honesty is critically important but difficult to determine.
  • Reliable:  They do what they say they are going to do.
  • They can show a human side (like a sense of humor, or a personal anecdote here and there), and still retain their professionalism.
  • Pay attention:  They seem to be careful and thorough.  They either have prepared for their work with you or they are very attentive at the time of the work together.
  • What you bring up is attended to as being important.
  • They listen and address, in some way, your presenting problem or questions.  Your concerns are not dismissed in favor of their own agenda.
  • You can feel their regard for you as a complete person, not just another money-generating appointment.                                                                                                      
  • Hopefully the transaction, whatever it is, is successful for you.  But even if it somehow isn't, you come away with the conviction that the effort was sincere.
These are the experiences I've had with a variety of kinds of professionals that led me to have faith in them as opposed to those who were disappointing. Can you add anything to this list?
It seems to me that looking for criteria such as these could help a person rest easy when another individual is dealing with their personal business.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Help with difficult decisions

 Simple + useful=elegant.
There are so many decisions to make as we traverse our own life path.  Some are real dilemmas---difficult; sometimes they are so unclear that we get immobilized.  We can't move, can't choose, and so we stay stuck.  Here is a simple assist, courtesy of my colleague, Charlton Hall.
if you have a thorny problem, try out this simple method as a way to begin sorting it out.

"I have a tool I use, called a 'Cost-Benefit Analysis.' When a client has a decision to make, we do a 'CBA Sheet.' This is a sheet of paper divided into four quadrants. The quadrants are: 1. Costs of doing this; 2. Benefits of doing this; 3. Costs of not doing this, and 4. Benefits of not doing this."
We try to cover all possible ramifications in session. That way I avoid giving them advice by presenting them with all the options and letting them decide. It becomes a great way to dialogue about what goals they, themselves really have for their own lives.
Here's a link to the actual worksheet I use":

Charlton Hall, MMFT, LMFT
Did you try this or something like it?  Please share your comment.