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, December 31, 2012

Welcome Lisa.

Lisa-I am ridiculously happy that you have joined the blog!

All the current members know how much I appreciate knowing that someone is regularly reading and participating in this blog.  Some of our members make comments that really enrich the discussion---it's worthwhile to take a look at the comments.
Now, who will be our 30th member???

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Donations Accepted

Using the button #3

 The PayPal button I have here is so easy and safe to use.  I use PayPal myself all the time.  There has never been a problem.  It is a secure method to transfer money.

If you want to be a user who supports this work and you don't want to use the button, you can mail me a check.  My address is always on the landing page, at the bottom of the page. 

Donations of any size will be happily accepted.
Most important, it will encourage me to keep doing what I am doing here.

This is a user supported blog.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Few Can Influence Many

Some human behaviors or feeling states can be contagious

I observed this myself, way back when, I was awaiting my interview for my first internship at the counseling center run by my graduate program (a useful tip: If you need psychotherapy and have little ability to pay, graduate school programs often run these counseling centers where students gain experience working with clients, under supervision of licensed therapists; the fees are usually based on a very low sliding fee scale)As I waited I began noticing that the student next to me was quite agitated I was notBut as I began sensing her anxiety, I could tell that it might affect me.  I moved to another seat and as several of us continued to wait for our interview appointment, I saw each of the other students, one by one, become anxious too.  Since then I have noticed this phenomenon  on other occasions:  I have noticed, for example, becoming stirred up if I am in the company of an anxious person---I am not immune.  But I am aware.
This experience I had was also mentioned in an earlier post:

Some research that was done awhile ago, which I recently came across in my files tells us that happiness, loneliness, and obesity are also contagious.  Research by Nicholas Christakis at Harvard and James Fowler at U C San Diego.
This effect has since been reported by others again,more recently so, this research has held up.  How can obesity be contagious?  When you spend time around people who tend to overeat or choose unhealthy foods as a habit, you will be influenced to do the same.  I also noticed this myself, in the opposite way.  Because I usually attend several Yoga classes a week, I make little friendships with others who take the classes.  When we chat before or after class, subjects relating to good health often come up because people who do yoga tend to be health conscious.  There's talk about diet, exercise, stress reduction, supplements, and so on.  I do find myself thinking about what others have said, later, and also, trying some of their ideas.  There's also a subtle inspiring effect to re-commit myself to healthy practices.
(A related post:

 The good news is that "Doing good deeds, or just being kind, is contagious --- and the behavior of a few can influence many...When people benefit from kindness, they 'pay it forward', which creates greater cooperation that influences others in a social network...Generosity was...tripled by others, who were directly or indirectly influenced to give more." Sharon Jayson 
 I have also been aware at times of how when one is interacting with a happy person, sometimes the happiness just flows out and washes over the other person and tends to lift their spirits.
  There are few things to think about here:
  • Of course, you want to keep your boundaries intact if you are in the company of an anxious or lonely person.  
  •  You can teach yourself to be alert to how you feel in the company of various people.  
  • In addition, you might consider asking yourself just how are you, yourself, influencing others.  
Remember the butterfly effect-it is a theory akin to the research findings and my own observations reported above.

 Have you ever noticed your own state of mind being affected/altered by proximity to someone in a different state of mind?  Please comment.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Belated Welcome

Missed welcoming one of our new members---my mistake

Those of you who have been following my blog know how happy a new member makes me.  I always post a special welcome.  But, I think one got missed!

This person, who had participated in the blog with regular visits and comments, changed her (his?) name and, at the same I had an influx of new members.  Between the 2, Bama Psych didn't get a proper welcome.

Let's remedy this right now:  Welcome Bama Psych!

It's a delight for me to receive a new member but the bonus is when that member writes comments.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Some, such as Nelson Rockefeller and Mother Teresa believe that love is the most powerful force there is

"Love is sometimes shown in the things you don't say, don't keep track of, and don't notice.  The greatest kindness is often shown in letting things go.  None of us is perfect, but we can all be perfect friends and perfect partners by allowing those we love to be imperfect."
Neale Donald Walsch

"Love is the ability and willingness to allow those you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you."
Dr. Wayne Dyer

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Family Therapist

How can therapy help

 One of the best recommendations for the process of psychotherapy I've seen:  
"Life is not what it's supposed to be. It's what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference. "
Virginia Satir

I attended a seminar once, a long time ago, where Virgina Satir presented.  I think I was still a student then.  She had a few of us on stage to demonstrate her ideas about how things happen in families.  What a privilege!  I'll never forget her warmth, intelligence, confidence, and generous nature. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lowering Holiday Stress

The Christmas rush is on---here is a link to an article with some useful tips for keeping balanced

This can be a playful, celebratory time of year and it can be a difficult time of year.  There's, undeniably a lot of pressure (at least, many people feel it) to have fun and make everyone on your list happy.  Here's a link to an article with some useful ideas for keeping calm and being able to truly enjoy the holidays:  
A post I wrote  previously about gift giving is here:
It's a post that gives you a way to think about selecting gifts.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Best You

Is therapy for problem-solving only?

This post is prompted by a reader's comment.  This person was looking for two things from their therapist that the therapist did not want to offer.  One was reassurance that the relationship was fine and in good condition and the other request was that the therapist, in addition to pointing out problems, highlight for her some of her positive attributes.
When I conduct therapy, I go into it looking for the positive characteristics in the patient; that belies an assumption that there, of course, would be some good qualities in nearly anyone.  And I do enter each new relationship with that assumption.
First off though, we want an honest relationship and a true process.  So, here I am not talking about social niceties.  I am not talking about flattery.  Unless it's sincere, I don't mean just throwing in a compliment here and there for good measure.  
What I mean is looking for that individual's real assets and sometimes speaking about them.  I think that honing in on a patient's strengths and bolstering those positive traits should always be a part of therapy.  The purpose of therapy, in my book, is for you to become the best you possible.
But, not all therapists agree with this and so, once again, I remind you that if you want a solution-focused therapist or, on the other hand, if you want one who will try to include all parts of your character and personhood, you must search until you find the right match.  As you can see, if you are looking for one of those styles and you land up with a therapist of the other style, it's going to be a rocky road.
In this case, the client who wrote in also asked for some reassurance from the therapist, specifically about the therapy relationship.  Personally, I oftentimes ask clients to tell me if there is a certain way that they want me to work with them, if they have been in therapy before and have found things that are helpful to tell me about that, as well as to say if something isn't working and to express their wishes.  I expect our therapy  to be a collaborative effort and process.  I also ask, periodically, for feedback on how the therapy is going in the patient's view and often do a year-end review.  All therapists are not going to be of this mind-set.

When you read the post, Making Mistakes, you saw a list of some of the helpful things that therapists have to offer in their skill set.  That list is mostly about problem-solving and promoting growth which is, perhaps, the arena in which the reader's therapist most liked to work.  Indeed, this is the majority of what we do.  People usually come to us with a problem.  Or, sometimes they are having trouble with their own inner life, or their personal functioning.  So, indeed, therapy is not just about ego-boosting.  But, at the same time, I don't think people come to a therapist to be only told what's wrong with them.  It's best to have some balance.
Seems to me if you want a balanced outcome, there ought to be some balance in the process.  If the focus is only and always about problems and what's wrong, the implication (subtle message) is that the client is just a bundle of problems with no good side.
(One little caveat; it must be mentioned that each case is different, i.e. in one case lots of positive feedback and encouragement might be just what's needed and, in another, it might be the worst thing for the client.  Therapists have to make these determinations.  This post is about the development of the therapeutic alliance and collaborating on creating a working style.)  
Nonetheless, if a patient asks the therapist for something, it seems the least the therapist could do is explore with the client what that request means to them, what it's about. 
In addition, generally, I think that courtesy, respect, and a little encouragement on the part of the therapist can go a long way toward providing a welcoming, accepting situation in which the client can openly
share and explore their personal issues.
Sometimes I write about the work of other theorists. Sometimes I do synopses of research I hear presentations on or from seminars I attend.  But, usually when I write here, it is my opinion I am expressing and this post would be an example of that.
Other therapists, please weigh in.
It would be great to hear other ideas about this, whether you have an opposing point of view or are in agreement.
Comments on this topic are welcome.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blog Note

Just a blog business update

 Oops, looks like the film I had up for you is gone.  I am glad I got to share it with a few of you before that happened.
Also, the Google Comments Gadget is broken.  You may have noticed that the comments no longer appear in the right hand column.  The comments can still be seen though.  You just have to look at them via each post.  It's worth it to read some of them.  Some are new thoughts or additions that enhance the post they are on and some are personal sharing.
The comments enrich the blog.  I think that some of them might be interesting to you as you are perusing things here.
Too bad we lost these 2 things but the meat of the blog, the posts are still here and will continue.
If you want to share any of them, it is easy to do on the little tab called More, at the top of the page.  
For those of you who are fans of the posts about therapists themselves, I have a new one in mind.  It takes awhile to create these posts, but it will be coming.  The title will be something like, Closer to Perfect. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

A Man I Don't Know Did Me a Favor

In my community, we have a store, commonly called a "big box store" or a warehouse store.  It is huge and it is full of huge boxes of items of all kinds for purchase.  The idea is to stock up and save money on the price of each individual item in the package.  It is a big, anonymous, crowded place.  The environment is not that pleasant, there are no store employees to help you until checkout and most people shopping there are in a down-to-business mode and sometimes border on rude.  The customers endure all this (oh, and, a crowded parking lot too) because it's a good deal.
The store negotiates agreements with companies selling products at deeply discounted prices but, the company wants to unload these products for some reason of their own.  Therefore, the products available are not consistent.  There's a few things that are there for a long time and then, just when you begin to count on it, that product disappears from the shelves.
One item I had been buying there for a long time was frozen, organic blueberries.  I have been very happy to find such an expensive item (which is also very healthy, not to mention tasty) reliably available.  But, as with all things at Costco, recently, the inventory has been thinning out.  One day I was there, searching and searching through the bags of frozen fruit for my prized blueberries and none were to be found.  A man and his little girl came up and he spotted one (they were there for the same item).  He pulled it out and handed it to me.  His little girl grabbed it from me-it was a child so I gave way, of course.  He gently reprimanded her for doing that and gave it back to me.  I tried to say no you found it (it was the one and only, last bag left), but he shook his head and let me keep it.
How generous.  This man doesn't know me.  We'll never see each other again.  But, I have not forgotten this small, but significant gesture.  Sadly, in a crowded, competitive world, these 'random acts of kindness' are becoming rare.  Happily, it does still happen.
What would you have done in this situation?  Sometimes it seems like there are nice people in the world and not nice people, doesn't it.  We each know who we are because we know what we truly think about in our secret, most innermost thoughts.  We know how we think about others (kindly or meanly?).  So, even if we cover it with politeness, we know ourselves what is inside.  
If you begin to notice what goes on internally, what your own values are and what choices you actually make, you may find a very loving, generous nature at your heart of hearts.  But if you see that there is vindictiveness, a value on getting even, a penchant for criticizing others, acquisitiveness, or any other not so positive ideas, you may want to turn some compassion on yourself.
Often those who are spiteful and self-aggrandizing or just mean-spirited have been hurt earlier in life.  This is where therapy can be of enormous help.
It's not always the case, of course.  Recently the Greater Good Science Center published an article resulting from their research on empathy:
What they found is that as people become more elevated in status and wealth, they become less compassionate.  Those with less tend to be more tuned in to others, more willing to empathize, and more likely to offer help.  The hypothesized reason for this is that the high status people are separated from the fray.  They are not as exposed to the struggles of the majority and also do not fear those difficulties themselves.  In a sense, they live an insulated life.  However, it isn't good for them  as what has been found in previous studies is that compassion leads to personal happiness and the happiest countries are those that have the most equality.  If you identify with this description (elevated status and less concern for the plight of others), you might look around at your peers who practice philanthropy.  They might be considered an exception to this general finding.  Why is that?  What's different?  What motivates them?  You may find something of interest to you there.
So, there are two ways that I have proposed wherein a person can find themselves not very adept at empathizing and thus, living a rather insulated life.
Sharing your joys and trials with others and feeling for others when they share theirs, or, even just when you see it or hear about it, is a human gift and contributes to your well being.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


In this country, today is a holiday called Thanksgiving

This is a useful time to re-visit the concept of gratitude, written about in previous posts.
 Here is someone else's offering on the topic:

How has gratitude touched your life?
There are 10 other posts that discuss or mention the topic of gratitude.  Just type the word into the search bar for a list.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Trying to keep your slate clean

"The bitterest tears shed over graves
are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone."
---Harriet Beecher Stowe

Forgiveness is one of those states that seem so much easier to reach once a person has gone.  Why not try to imagine that and reach the state of forgiveness while they are still here and you can tell them.

How has forgiveness touched your life?

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Some people call it "dumping"

 Two of the worst things one can do to another in a conversation is interrupt and not listen.  This last one can happen anywhere but, in fact, happens a lot on the phone.  Sometimes, one of the people is doing something else while having the conversation.  Don't fool yourself, the other can sense that distraction even though they can't see you.  People sometimes think that they can sort of half listen, or listen superficially, or multi-task or just listen to key words and get the gist of what the other is saying.  It doesn't work.  It can't be done.  The result is, either the communication is completed with misunderstanding or pretend understanding or, it takes more time due to one having to correct the other, i.e., "No, I said, Ms Smith not Ms Jones." 
Time (not enough of it) is often the reason for this attempt to have a conversation, an exchange of information or a visit without really paying full attention.  It's a kind of energy conservation or, attempt at that.  It's an effort to be efficient.  Often it turns out to be less efficient than if both had actually paid attention in the first place since things have to be repeated.

Interrupting is another matter, and, very annoying.  If you really want to make a point and you get cut off, you will have to wait, hold your focus, respond to the deviation and then, bring the thread of the conversation back to where you were going so that you can make your point.  
Why do people interrupt?  The not wanting to really listen, as discussed above, is one reason.  Being impatient is another.  Often it has to do with being, not in an exchange, but doing a diatribe.  In other words, the person who interrupts is only listening to the other enough to be reminded of something or to use the other's offering as a jumping off point for another idea of their own that they want to express.  They are not truly engaged in an exchange. What they want to do is discharge, rant, or lecture.  That is a one-sided type of communication.

A real conversation is mostly made up of listening and responding, on both parts.

In some cases the reason for not listening is deeper than just feeling rushed.  It may be defensive; possibly the person is trying to to avoid hearing difficult information, maybe they don't want to be influenced, or there may be another personal reason.  As the reader who wants to learn about yourself, this is where it gets interesting.  Do you ever notice yourself pretending to listen or politely faking it or doing the interrupting thing?  You can self-reflect on this:  Ask yourself why.
As for those who fake listen to you, you already know that it is tiringA good conversation should leave you feeling fine, not weary, not annoyed, not vaguely discontent.

~Rather than enervate you, a good conversation should invigorate you.  You should leave feeling intact (boundaries not violated).  Neutral is okay but if you leave feeling enhanced, that's a conversation wherein both people were real (open, honest, congruent); that is the stuff of emotional intimacy.  You should not leave feeling depleted and if you suspect you are leaving others a little worse for the wear, it might be enlightening to put some attention on why.~ 

(What kind of conversation do you think the people in the picture are having?)

Have you had experiences like those described in this post?

A suggested post if you wish to think further on this topic: 
and there are also 10 more, enlightening posts on this subject of communication. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome Amanda

Greetings to our newest member

I chose this picture to acknowledge our new member because I learned recently that when mushrooms spontaneously appear, it means it's a very fertile, healthy environment.  Amanda joining and each new person who joins, tells me that this blog is offering something good.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

One Man's Lesson Learned

While listening to the Bill Moyers show on the radio, I heard this statement from a former medic who served in Vietnam:  "We need to grow out of this infantile notion that out of violence comes strength."

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Value of Blogs

We vote for the good ones by joining as followers and by donating to their support

Personally I find inspiration and information by reading blogs.  Recently, though, I was seeking some information on the website of a well-known doctor of integrated medicine.  As I was trying to stay focused I began to notice that I was feeling scattered.  I recognized that it was due to so many ads appearing by the text, by ads flashing, interfering with my process, and vying for my attention.  
It is tiring to have to actively filter out all that extraneous information.  
I don't use advertising on my blog.  This is why I installed the Donate Button.  If you have found some value for yourself here, maybe you will voluntarily offer a donation.  It's so different from being assaulted by ads trying to force you to succumb to their pitch.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Making Mistakes

Sometimes the professionals we rely on don't get it right

Have you ever had a physician make a mistake with you?  I have.  It isn't something you forget or get over easily. 
One example that happened to me is that I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma and urgently pushed into outpatient surgery.  A lot of tissue was removed and it was not only a physical ordeal but also emotionally, a frightening thing to go through.  But, I trusted the doctor and went rushing forward.  Later I found out from a specialist in these type of skin cancers, at Stanford in San Francisco, that I had been misdiagnosed (did you know that slides of these medical events are kept?) and I actually had something harmless called a spindle cell spitz nevus which is supposedly often mistaken for a melanoma.  To finish this story, I later had a scar revision done by a plastic surgeon-also, not fun- but something far in the past for me now from which I am fully recovered.  The point is, the doctor I relied on made a mistake.

One example.  But these things have happened to me more than once.  And to people I know.  I know one person, for example, who had the opposite happen-a cancer that the doctor didn't think was anything.  Sadly, it was ignored and grew and now he is in big trouble.  So, back to our "imperfect therapists" (  If doctors, the professionals who, at least in this country, are elevated almost to royalty, can make mistakes, so can therapists.  And we do.

So, the point is, as the psychotherapy patient, don't be afraid to say, "I don't think so", or "that doesn't seem quite right," or-after true consideration-"I just don't think that fits me."  A solid therapist should be able to take that correction and keep moving along with you.

~You are the final authority in your therapy.  
You must look within to discover whether or not an intervention, a piece of feedback, a direction, resonates with you---or not.  
Ultimately, only you can know.~

On the other hand, in giving you this advice I have to warn against the other side where you are too guarded and skeptical in your therapy.  That will work against you.
  •  Your therapist may, indeed, be able to point out a blind spot.  And, if you are open, you should  be able to acknowledge it, once it's highlighted.  
  • Your therapist may be able to foresee trouble in a direction you are moving in, in your life, and you would be wise to consider the possibility when it's presented.  
  • Your therapist may have a clearer view of the larger picture, which you hadn't realized due to being immersed in it, and that is beneficial to you.  
  • By listening carefully and remembering salient points, a therapist may be able to draw together 2 disparate pieces of your communication and present a hypothesis; this can be enlightening for you.  
  • A therapist, by attending, may be able to point out a contradiction; this may serve to illuminate a new perspective for you.
There's a lot a therapist can offer, due to training, due to experience, and due to the fact that when you are there, they put other concerns aside and focus entirely on you.

Nonetheless, they can occasionally be wrong, or slightly off.  (Remember the recent Fallen Angels post---no body's perfect).

Even the most splendid, lovely, accomplished, that you adore, therapist, cannot be flawless.
But!  What I have found---and, this is difficult to explain but it is a real experience,--- is, that if I stay open (as a patient) in a session, consider everything that comes up, whatever and all that is offered, I usually find something in it.  Weird, but true.  So, in my own sessions, I do correct sometimes but, mostly I just try to stay in the flow.

Food for thought I hope.

What comes up for you in reading this?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Warm Welcome

I have the pleasure today of recognizing our newest member

So glad to see that you joined, ncamyamy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Caught My Eye

A brief quote that reflects part of my intention here
Lynn Fishman R.N.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fear of Fear and Seredipitious Happenings

Finding Pema Chodron's post in my e-mail saying the very same thing I had said to a client a few hours earlier

A couple of days ago, I was talking  to a client about the opportunity inherent in bringing the dark side out into the light.  In this case, she had said she realized that a cluster of behaviors that she does habitually were serving the purpose of keeping her anxiety at bay.  In other words, if  she stopped doing these things, she would feel anxious. 

An example of this kind of complex is one person who won't let another be alone, ostensibly so he, the other, won't  be something---afraid, confused, lonely, whatever.  But, really it's to keep person A from worrying or facing his own issues.  Another example would be the person who always plans all the parties; it's a lot of work.  But, he doesn't have to wonder if he will be invited!  There are lots of ways that people do this.  Maybe you can recognize this type of a pattern in yourself.
What I was telling the client was that when you purposely cease the binding behavior, you get to see what your anxiety really is---how does it feel, is it intermittent or prolonged, what is it like-is it in your mind or your body or both.  When I was laying this out, she made a good joke saying, "Oh, what fun, I can hardly wait!"  It was cute.
The thing about what I proposed is that you can either avoid the scary thing or face it and stare it down or, even just go through it.  This last will show you that you can survive anxiety.  "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger.", someone once said.

According to Carl Jung's theory, we all have a shadow side, as he called it.  It means that we have parts of us that we hide away, even from ourselves.  We don't want to see it; we don't want to experience it; we don't want others to see it.
The more you have stuffed away in your shadow, the less you have in consciousness.  The more that is hidden from yourself and others, the less you have access to your full self.  Therapy is a way to bring yourself to more consciousness. 

As I write about this complex and, sometimes for some, hard to think about topic, I am reminded of the children's book, Where The Wild Things Are. 
>The shadow items can also pop up when a person is under great stress or pressure or emotional tension.  Even someone who has done a lot of work with themselves can experience this.  The thing to do is be on the lookout for it.<
An example from my own life is that a few months ago I and a person I had a very close and caring relationship with, had to say good-bye.  Instead of staying with the difficult feelings engendered by this situation, he suddenly shifted into a very cold and distant mode toward me, treating me like a number instead of a thou.  Had he been able to catch himself, we could still have had a meaningful, loving good-bye.  As it is, this has become one of those relationships that goes into memory as torn off.
Perhaps you can begin to see the advantage---in the long run---of increasing your awareness of yourself.  In the short run, it's difficult, yes.  But, as we all know, some things get worse before they get better.  And, if you have a solid therapist to hang in with you on the way, it is very reassuring.
Here is Pema Chodron's version of what I said to my patient:

October 3, 2012
When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don’t magically disappear. Over the years, I’ve come to call resting with the discomfort “the detox period,” because when you don’t act on your habitual patterns, it’s like giving up an addiction. You’re left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that. 

Does this post bring to light for you some of your own unconscious behaviors?  If that happens and it makes you feel a little uneasy, don't run.  Maybe try reading the book mentioned above (it is by Maurice Sendak) or, if you are in therapy, bring it up in your next session.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

We Have Our 25th Follower!

Purple Dreamer is here

Like many of our Followers, Purple Dreamer also has a blog.  I encourage all of you to check out one another's blogs---you may find some like-minded people.
Welcome, Purple Dreamer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why Will You Do It

A Moment of Introspection for You

 The Dalai Lama has a message and he is able to express that same message in many ways.

"The quality of everything we do: our physical actions, our verbal actions, and even our mental actions, depends on our motivation. That's why it's important for us to examine our motivation in our day to day life. If we cultivate respect for others and our motivation is sincere, if we develop a genuine concern for others’ well-being, then all our actions will be positive."  The Dalai Lama

This seems like an important thought to me, does it to you?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stress Reduction, 3

If you tend to see the glass as half full, you may enjoy increased longevity.

 Fill your glass up if it's half empty.  One study found that optimistic people lived an average of 8 years longer than those who are generally pessimistic.

It is interesting to observe yourself.  When, for example, you are discussing a possible outcome of a situation with someone else, do you take the view that it is not likely to come out well?  Do you usually point out the pitfalls?  Are you the one who says, "Yes, but, this bad thing could happen or, such and so could go wrong." ?  You might think you are protecting yourself this way but, read the 1st paragraph again...

Also, notice others.  Do you know anyone who almost always looks on the bright side?  What do you think of them; do you think that they are unrealistic? 

If you find that your usual habit is to be a 'doubting Thomas', skeptical, or expecting the worst, ---this is something you can change.   When you see yourself do it, stop yourself, try reversing it in your mind.  Gradually, you can develop a new habit, a healthy habit of being optimistic!

(This is the completion of a series of 3 posts on the topic.  Stress Reduction, Stress Reduction, 2 this Stress Reduction, 3.  Hope you enjoyed and found them useful) 

An earlier post on the subject of stress:  Stressed Out!!! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Search Keywords/It Takes Two to Tango

A seeker who made me think
 "Taking care of your therapist" is the phrase that appeared on the search keyword list that Google provides for me.  And, oddly, it was there more than one day.
Usually I don't do anything about these search words as I can't know what they mean.  That's why I am always encouraging you to comment  on the blog---because I do want to know what is on your mind.

This cryptic phrase stuck with me for some reason.  It made me think.  Usually, of course, we all naturally view the psychotherapy relationship as pretty much one-sided.  A person who seeks out a therapist is not looking for someone to take care of; they are hoping to find help for themselves.  And, yet, as I continued my work with my patients and this mysterious shred of a sentence stayed with me, I began to notice something.
While the lion's share of the attention in a session is going from me to my patient, there is, in fact, an exchange.  It isn't even or equal and it shouldn't be.  But, it is definitely there.
And, I have been noticing that there is a real range:  There are people who pay attention, consistently, and with great consideration to how they treat the therapist-----all through many versions of everything in between-----to people who will rip off their own therapist.
This last, every time it happens, utterly amazes me.  It just knocks my socks off!  How can a person  finagle a way to not pay either their fee or their insurance co-payment to someone who has given them their compassion, their attention, and their best thinking?  Never ceases to amaze me.

When this happens, it feels de-valuing to the therapist.
Yet, while therapy is on-going, many therapy patients, if not most, can hardly get out the door.  Some are still talking, in the doorway.  They find it very difficult to end the session.  Why is that?  That's because therapy is therapeutic.  It feels good.  It is nourishing to the soul.  To have an intelligent, thoughtful, kind listener is enough to be hooked.  But therapy gives that and a lot more.  It's hard to leave when receiving that kind of attention.  I still don't know how to reconcile this oft-repeated occurrence-of not wanting therapy to end, with the one of cheating or defrauding the therapist.

The last time I was in therapy, I did everything I could to support the relationship with my therapist and to treat him with regard:
This includes simple things like making it to all my appointments, getting there on time, being ready with the payment-whether it is cash or a check and quickly giving it to him at the very beginning of the session, preparing for my session personally, i.e., thinking beforehand about what I wanted to focus on, never bringing my cell phone into the room, staying involved, open, and personally engaged throughout the session, not bugging him too often with in between-session phone calls, listening when he had something to say (not interrupting or cutting him off), occasionally thanking him, not taking it for granted if he did something extra such as get me a referral or talk to my doctor, and giving him specific feedback if he did or said something that had been particularly helpful to me.  If I brought up something or someone we hadn't talked about much or, for a long time, I would cue him in with something like, "My cousin, Ellen, the one I spent a lot of time with growing up..." in case he didn't immediately remember.  Usually he did, but, I just felt it was considerate not to expect him to recall every single little reference I had ever made.  One time, I paid with cash because I forgot my checkbook.  He was so pleased!  Said:  "That almost never happens!"  So, just note that some therapists in private practice find it helpful to be paid in cash.  The point is, just a little attention on the patient's part, can make a big difference.
Some of these things are simple courtesy, a few are coming from a deeper level.  But, it all added up to treating him with regard.  Of course, as a therapist myself, I know what it takes to do what he does.  I don't expect every patient who goes to a therapist to know how they (the therapist) got to that position nor what it takes to stay there.  (And, in fact, I do realize that what takes tremendous effort can, in an experienced person, look quite easy).

But I would hope that, over time, the patient would take in the wonderful combination of caring and thinking that a therapist offers to them.  And yet, it just doesn't always happen.  For some, either it goes unrecognized or unappreciated.
Of course, at the clinical level, it tells the therapist something about the patient's own self care, about how they've been treated previously, and also how they currently function in their relationships with others in their outside life.  Behavior is information. But, for the purposes of this post, I'll not stray off into that kind of analysis and just stick with the therapist-patient relationship.

Some of the things that happen are not quite, but are almost, shocking.  When a long-term client leaves the therapist in the lurch, owing money by tricky means like no-showing the last appointment and not paying for it or not having the co-pay the last few visits, promising to mail it and then becoming unavailable without having settled the account as promised, writing a check on a closed account, and so on, it simply leaves the therapist with a sinking heart.
I used to try and try to get the payment and then, ultimately, after a ridiculous number of attempts, would turn the account over to Collections.  I haven't done that lately as, for me, no matter what the client has done to me, I just can't muddy up the helping relationship with something so punishing.  The intention of therapy is to shine light into the darkness of life, not to add bitter experiences.  So, I absorb the loss.

On the other end of the spectrum, are people who are always responsible for their part, live up to any agreements they've made with the therapist, are considerate of the therapist's time, and pay regularly:
They are generally courteous and show that they are aware that the therapist is a person too.  There is rarely a patient who doesn't miss some appointments (although some never do, without a proper cancellation) but the people at this end of the spectrum always pay for my time.
I've had some who voluntarily gave me a raise (raised their own fee)-yes, believe it or not-and people who have paid, not only the fee for a missed appointment but offered to pay extra for making me sit there and wait not knowing what had happened.  Usually this comes with a sincere apology.  
It is clear, this group has a value for the therapy process and respect for their therapist.  They leave no doubt.

~The world has become a harsher place in recent years.  But the holding experience of a good therapy relationship is a respite from that competitive, confusing world outside.  The therapy office itself can become a container (a confidential container, with boundaries) for your dreams, hopes, fears, worries, wishes and secrets.  It does seem, like the search keyword the writer wrote, to some degree meant, it is fitting to take good care of your therapy and your therapist.~

A good therapy relationship is key to a productive therapy experience.   Most therapists will try to meet you more than half-way.  But, they can't do it all for you.  
Your contribution will be key to the best experience and outcome for you. 

"Psychotherapy is a two-way street:  Both the patient and the therapist must take responsibility for their part in creating the healing relationship." Quoting myself from the post, A Two Way Street

The more that you honor your therapy relationship, the more fruitful your therapy will be.

Pleas write in the comment section about how you feel about how you treat your therapist.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Life Before Death"

Cultivating aliveness

 "What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Mary Oliver

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Turn To Be Grateful

About donations

The 4th donation has come in.  It is from a faithful follower of this blog who has been steadily checking in from the beginning of the blog in 2009.

It means a lot to me.  The donations are essential to supporting the work that goes into creating the blog.  But, more importantly, it tells me-in an unmistakeable way-that someone has found value here.
I feel blessed today, I really do.
Thank you, Sue!
Tomorrow I will be posting a short, but provocative post.  It poses a question which will, hopefully, just give you pause and make you think a bit about your own life course.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Repeating History and Expecting a Different Outcome

We all do it
 "Remember the old Chinese handcuffs thing," a friend reminds me when I get stuck doing the same thing over and over, even though whatever I'm doing doesn't work.

A Chinese handcuff is a toy, a small bamboo tube, about four inches long. You stick an index finger in each end. Then when you pull, you're trapped. The harder you pull, the more stuck you get. Your instinctive reaction, not the handcuffs, keeps you trapped. To set yourself free you have to take certain steps. Letting go isn't enough. You have to relax, then gently push in before you can pull yourself loose.

Sometimes taking action means relaxing and doing the opposite of what our instincts tell us to do. If we have tried to do something a hundred times, and the way we're doing it hasn't worked, it probably still won't the next time. It may be time to try something else.  From Hazeldon publications, courtesy of Christian Jackson.
  Here is a situation that we come across in the therapy office often.  And we are all subject to it, aren't we.  We develop habits over time; the habits evolve into patterns.  And so, we repeat the same coping mechanisms, the same attitudes and approaches, the same interpersonal style, the same problem solving process and ways of dealing with what comes up in life, even when it isn't working.
Sometimes a coping process was created because it was, in fact, effective for you---at an earlier time of life, or, for a different set of circumstances.  And yet, like draught horses, we continue repeating our determined walk down the same old path or, worse yet, around the same circle.  
This is where your natural human ability to be creative can be put into play.  When you notice that a problem in your life is persisting, despite your dauntless efforts to solve it, it's time to rethink your actions. This requires self-observation.  Or, you can ask others what they see you doing.  But, in this case, you will have to work with yourself to be ready to accept their feedback as constructive.  Let's be honest, neither of these start tips is easy.  However, repeating a behavior that is undermining your goal is worse I think.
Those ruts we get in can be pretty deep.  I've seen people in therapy work and struggle with a problem and finally change what they are doing, only to fall back into the same old rut.  It's a slippery slope! 
It may take many tries.  (Circumambulation is a post that talks about the process of repeatedly returning to a sticky topic in the course of therapy:  But the reward at the end is true change, not to mention a problem solved.  Or, even if the problem still isn't completely solved, it will have shifted.  That shifting jostles all the old patterns out of place and leaves room for more movement, improvement and potential for resolution.  
I especially like the 3rd paragraph in the quote at the beginning of this post.  It reminds me of how the Buddhists think.  It sounds like something Pema Chodron would say.  It makes me remember when, years ago, for a brief time I lived in an area where it snowed in the winter (Utah).  I was given the advice that if you were driving and got into a spin, to go with it rather than trying to stop it with your brakes. 
Don't be stubborn.  Don't close your mind.  These attitudes, while they might feel temporarily safe, usually don't serve you well. 
If you make, even an internal shift, not consciously changing your behavior, the other parts of the problem cannot, by logic, stay the same.  Think about it.
              Do you feel encouraged by this post?

Monday, September 10, 2012

How Cool!

It's All Good

A new member has joined us during my birthday week. 
 Welcome Constant Facade---so happy you joined!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Survey Results

Here's what you said you want to have here

 The most votes were for posts about therapists.  I have done several focused on us and now have a Label (on right hand list) which allows you to access any post that mentions therapists, or their point of view.  I will keep this in mind and try to write more about it.  What would you like to know?
 Stress management and relationship issues were evenly voted for and were second to the wish for posts about therapists themselves. 

I asked if you preferred short or long, in-depth posts and it seems you like both so I will continues to present a variety of both with some medium length ones too---variety is the spice of life!

The puzzling thing about the poll is that no one voted for more posts on the subject of addiction.  And, yet, my all time most visited post with 1036 pageviews---and counting, is on the subject of alcoholism and substance abuse... (?)  Every day this particular post is being read!
I don't know quite what to make of this.  But I already have some very solid information in several posts on drug addiction and alcoholism and 14 that mention these topics.  So, for now, I will leave those for you to peruse and not add to that topic.

I am very responsive to those of you who write comments, check boxes and vote in polls.  I want this blog to be useful and meaningful to you.  So, speak up!  I'll be listening.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Note to You

Update on blog news

Reaction Boxes
 More of you are checking the little boxes at the bottom of the post after you read it.  Thanks!  That helps me to know what you want to see here.

Most Popular Posts
 You read my letter to you about my frustration re. the Popular Posts list and you have been exploring and looking deeper into the blog at posts that were not listed there.  This is very gratifying to me!   
As you can see, your footprint is reflected in that list.  Now, there are several posts on the list that were not there before.

 The poll has only one day left.  Three people voted.  One vote was for longer, in-depth posts, two were for posts about therapists, themselves.  I have a post in draft that is in-depth and is about how therapists view one of the aspects of the business side of conducting a private practice in therapy.  It is also information for the consumer from a perspective most never realize.  That will be posted tomorrow. 

The Slide Show
 The slide show had been highlighting the countries who participate in this blog.  Since the U.S., my own country is consistently my largest readership, I decided to dedicate the slide show to showcase one state every couple of weeks.  Watch for yours!

Last, But Not Least
 I have mentioned a couple of times that three might be my lucky number here (one example: )
Yesterday afternoon I received my third donation, from Teresa, a faithful reader.  It's the 3rd donation since I put up the button.  Now, we're on our way!