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“Taking responsibility” seems to be an over-used phrase? It is used to generally inform people that they have to “grow up”. It almost implies wrongdoing. We are told that part of being on the planet entails taking responsibility for your actions and accepting the often dire consequences. The two scary words seem to pop up when we are required to be an “adult” and there is an expectation that we will be taking responsibility for our self, our partner, our children, our work commitments etc. It can seem like a heavy burden; it carries a lot of weight. For many people that weight is just too heavy to carry and we often try to shift responsibility to a higher power like God or fate. Another trick is to divert attention from our own bad behavior, by engaging in the blame game, where we heap all of the responsibility onto someone else.
We are always seeking to be the perfect person, entirely devoid of blame. Many of us we will go to any lengths to avoid ever taking responsibility but end up being weighed down by inactivity and frightened of our own life choices. But it is one of the yardsticks that we measure a successful life –the extent to which we are able to take full responsibility for the choices we have enacted. Everything we experience in the present is the sum total of the choices made in our past. Which means that the choices we make today will create our future.
Embracing Good Choices
Obviously, not everyone is a responsibility avoider. There are many examples of people positively co-creating their existence by taking responsibility through embracing the consequences of their actions and choices. The power to affect a positive or negative outcome in our lives starts and stops with us. The emotional states that we have to work through start with an acknowledgment of our part in creating them. It all starts with making conscious, good choices for yourself so that you can accomplish all of the dreams you hold dear to your heart.
“A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life” James Allen
Taking responsibility can also be a relational act. When you are responsible for someone there is a two-place relation to the equation which becomes slightly more complex. This relational aspect of responsibility was put forward by logician J.M. Bochenski. His theory revolves around an expectation of an action or specific result which someone then has to justify according to a certain set of societal standards or norms. We can also put the philosopher, Immanuel Kant’s ideas on moral responsibility into the mix. He states that we always strive for the highest value of humankind. Of course, there is not only one form of taking responsibility. We are involved not only in our own actions but also taking responsibility in the legal, task and role realm as well as the aforementioned “moral” responsibility.
“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That's the day we truly grow up.” John C. Maxwell
Handing Over to Higher Powers
We have to be wary of outsourcing our responsibility to external sources. When you choose to use the phrase, “It’s God’s will” we think that lets us off the hook of our part in the unfolding events of our lives. Personal responsibility starts in our own bodies and in our psyches. If we hand over our responsibility, we are engaging in a form of extreme passivity which diminishes your life potential. You might not be honoring your creator if all you are doing is sitting on your couch waiting for life to create opportunities for you and clean up any relationship challenges. You have to be an active participant in any relationship –whether with God, your family or your self.
Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Good People?
We can be tempted to naively think that if we are good people and do “good” deeds everything in our lives will turn out for the better. We know that this is only wishful thinking as being a kind human being doesn’t mean that you will be immune to disappointment, loss or failure. Your goodness will not be able to save you from a terminal illness, retrenchment, a loss of a loved one or a relationship failure. Our chosen attitude towards these unforeseen events is the determining factor to being able to move positively forward in our lives despite the seemingly impossible roadblocks.
When Inner Fears Choose Your Attitudinal Response
The attitude we have to respond to crisis and the way that we internalize that adversity is formed through our overarching belief system. We have learned in our lives how to respond to external events or triggers and sometimes these choices do not serve us. When you understand how to truly take responsibility you also have the capacity to influence the events. Just because a situation is challenging, in the beginning, it doesn’t mean that it has to have a challenging outcome in the end.
Some people choose to get into the blame game apportioning their situation in life to someone’s else doing. They lean towards judging people for the situation they find themselves in.
Others will lay their problems at the feet of a higher power – “God’s will” and end up disengaging from making life choices because they feel paralyzed by the scale of their life events.
But we all have an extraordinary ability to find the lesson or value in the ever adverse situation we encounter if we choose to broaden our perspective of the situation. We are all such unique individuals and we each have our own process for internalizing challenges that face us. For many, they feel overwhelmed and on the verge of capsizing. Others feel that there is no way out of or through the situation. However, there are many people who actually become empowered when faced with extreme challenges or adversity – they actively seek solutions.
“When we can’t change the outcome, we are challenged to change ourselves” Viktor Frankl.
The Responsibility Taking Delusion
We witness how some people display a kind of delusion where they don’t ever take responsibility for their part in unfolding events. They have deep unconscious fears that surface to convince them that they are not in any way responsible for their actions or play any part in solving the issue.
Sometimes individual might react to these deep fears by actually blaming the victim for their current life circumstances to avoid taking responsibility for their own culpability in the event. Sadly, we see this example when in some sexual assault cases where the man will blame his attack on the women, as her fault, because she was wearing provocative clothing like a mini skirt. You will also see other people avoiding responsibility because they will have to get “permission” from their partners, who they fear unconsciously, and end up saying, “I would really like to help you in this situation but I am unable to at this time”.
Side-Stepping Indirect Responsibility
A key aspect of accepting responsibility is the journey we take to go beyond ourselves in order to help others with the right actions. This is also known as indirect responsibility. These actions reveal our character and the kind of person we are to the rest of humanity.
You might have also noticed how certain people sidestep taking responsibility for others when they end up giving someone in need items that they can’t use and don’t need. If the person in need then refuses the offer of help because it doesn’t actually help them the ‘giver’ sees this as confirmation that the person is not really in any need and they can be let off the hook of helping out. You might have seen the phenomenon where people will clean out their homes of things they don’t want and by giving them away think they are helping the recipients. Usually, the charity has to use up valuable time and resources trying to find a use for a lot of ‘junk’ left at their doorsteps to “help”. This obviously doesn’t help the charity with their primary needs.
Big Bank Balance, Responsibility Deficit
If we have the means to contribute to society we should try and help out our fellow man. Many people avoid this at all costs. You might even see how certain wealthy people end up casting blame on the person in need for not contributing. This is how they justify their lack of participation in taking responsibility for the people who work hard for them for a pittance. It’s often with disbelief that we hear someone say they don’t have the means to help people when their bank balances tell a different story. Their own inner fears of not having “enough” have risen to the surface and they can’t get past the illusion of their perceived hardship. These fears help them to bypass ever taking responsibility for the people around them.
Don’t Worry the Government Will Sort It Out
Responsibility is also avoided when we fail to show the world as it is and instead paint every situation as “good” news even though the area is experiencing horrific trauma. We put on our rose tinted glasses and see the world as we wish it to be and so don’t respond to the real needs. The most common responsibility avoidance tactic is to imagine that the government is going to take care of it and we do not have to do anything of significance because it will all be taken care of by someone else.
Turning A Blind Eye
We will see the military violence caused by our own country and turn a blind eye to the atrocities while still paying taxes to finance the daily horrors. We abscond from our moral obligations to humankind and give over our responsibility to the military. We know that our environment is in serious trouble but we continue to pollute the atmosphere with our excessive reliance on fossil fuels. We continue to be responsible for more carbon emissions due to our greedy consumption.
When we buy products that are really cheap we let ourselves forget that they have been created due to the exploitation of other human beings working impossible hours under the harshest conditions. You will notice throngs of people being outraged by a plethora of global issue but never being part of taking responsibility to solve them. We put our blinkers on and turn a blind eye even when those problems are happening under our own roof’s.
“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” –Paulo Coelho
How Are We Complicit?
We must start to evaluate our own levels of complicity in responsibility avoidance and choose a few battles we can take part in to transform our world positively. But most people don’t and won’t. Humanity could experience a vital transformation if we all started taking responsibility in a few of these areas in our lives.
In therapy sessions, I am always seeking to strengthen my client’s inner courage reserves and assisting with nurturing their spirits by eradicating self-harming suppressed fears. It all starts with embracing the journey of taking responsibility.
I leave you with a quote from Buber:
“Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique”.
So take responsibility for this ultimate gift.
Are You Struggling with The Burden of Apathy?
Life can be an intricate dance and one thing is certain - we are all likely to make mistakes. We might end up making disastrous choices at times and at other times we are going to fail to act when everything inside ourselves says we should. None of us is perfect, we will fall short and fail in our personal behavior time and time again. When faced with a situation where we can make a good or bad choice, the final decision and our response to the challenge will illuminate how effectively we are managing our lives. Cultivating a healthy sense of self respect is directly linked to your ability to take ownership of every aspect of your own behavior –the defining and the catastrophic.
Making Healthy Choices
If you habitually avoid taking responsibility in your life it might have dramatic outcomes for your mind, heart, body and soul. Failure to be able to act or make right choices in your life will chip away at your ever-diminishing sense of self. If you routinely fail to stand up and accept your part in the events around you, that you had a hand in creating, people around you will slowly lose all respect for you. I once had a client with some very apparent narcissistic qualities to them. The need within them was very palatable in the transference. The more we met with one another, the more and more I could tell that what they wanted most from life was respect. Yet, any time we had to reschedule, they would inevitably misread the email not show up and the issue would become something else.
In our youth, we were probably oblivious to the potentially drastic consequences of our poor choices and inability to take responsibility. Or in the above case, the effect that we have on others. However, every day presents a new possibility to make different, healthy choices to shape our lives for the better. It’s an ongoing journey that never ends. It’s never too late. You will bring more value into your personal life when you start actively taking responsibility for your actions.
Self Blame and Spiritual Excuses
But it’s also important not to get into constant self blame that can become a destruction pattern in itself. There is no point in beating yourself up about past actions because self-punishment won’t bring us to self-understanding. Self-blame is not the same as taking responsibility.
Another route people take in avoiding taking responsibility is laying the ‘blame’ at the feet of a higher power. They indulge in ‘spiritual excuses’ that can result in extreme apathy. “It’s God’s Will”, can be the ultimate excuse for not taking responsibility for a situation you had a hand in creating. They resign themselves to accepting everything that happens to them as occurrences that they cannot control in any way.
“What is called “apathy” is, I believe, a feeling of helplessness on the part of the ordinary citizen, a feeling of impotence in the face of enormous power. It’s not that people are apathetic; they do care about what is going on, but don’t know what to do about it, so they do nothing, and appear to be indifferent.” Howard Zinn
This form of apathy can often lead to a helpless depression. My clients who are struggling with depression have described the state as feeling stuck and that nothing changes in their lives. They do the same thing every day - wake up, get dressed, eat, go to work and feel strangled by the sameness. Their paralyzing apathy linked depression makes them feel as though nothing will ever change. They don’t believe anything can provide them with satisfaction or fulfillment. They are afraid that they might come to the end of their lives without having done anything of importance or experienced any life-defining joy.
Sometimes clients have put in extraordinary effort into advancing in their lives but at some point gave up when they didn’t see the progress they desired. They stopped paying attention to the wonders life has to offer and became numb to everything. The spiritually passive person will resort to saying, “it’s God’s plan”, whereas the apathetic individual says, “what does it all matter anyway”. The latter is a severe thought form as it can lead to thoughts of committing suicide.
Taking Active Responsibility
I am deeply compassionate to these people who are in such fragile states of existence but as a therapist, I firmly believe the antidote is in taking active responsibility for creating our lives. I have even heard a client say that they aren’t suicidal but if they were suddenly in front of a fast moving vehicle they might not get out of the way.
I am should know what to say to these people in pain but if truth be told, it’s tricky, I feel both pity and frustration. When a person’s mind digs a grave for itself, it will take more than faith and a hopeful, transcendent feeling to overcome the life crisis. When people are in this hopeless state it is as if the soul has been ejected from the body and self-governing wisdom has flown the coup.
Misinterpreting Your Reality
Philosopher, Michael Tanner calls this “sentimentality”. A sentimentalist, as Tanner explains it is “someone who misinterprets reality, someone who is self-indulgent, and someone who avoids action.” It’s like being in a self imposed limbo, you’re clearly stuck but aren’t concerned about the situation or even motivated to change it. The individual is misinterpreting their reality and in the process are not able to take any action in their lives. They attempt to justify their inability to deal with situations by creating a kind of bubble of innocence around them which is of course a complete fiction.
When people spend a lot of time in their “bubbles” they are prone to becoming self-indulgent. If our overwhelming emotions are not dealt with maturely it can result in dangerous consequences. The self-indulgent individual might often like to stay swimming in negative emotions and continuing with actions that they know will only bring them pain. They are also often brilliant masters of blame shifting.
It’s vitally important to feel our emotions and reliving the pain of them is a great therapeutic tool to find healing. It is good to face the feelings in order to move on in our lives. A sentimentalist, however, might choose to stay in the dark ocean of negativity. They might not experience any improvement in their situation because they are knee deep in pessimism. If you are disconnected from the reality of your life it is almost impossible to take responsibility for what is happening to you and to take the right action.
“Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you.”
Just reading the title and the word 'adolescent' probably brings up so many feelings for you adult readers. So many of us, if asked, would never go through that stage of life again. What I have learned is that adolescence doesn't end at 18, for some, it never ends. I think of these folks as “Peter Pans” because they have not continued to develop or mature. We all know those folks who, even at the age of 30 or 40 are still doing the same thing that they did on Friday nights back when they were 18, the same group of friends, same conversations, same emotional issues. They may be working respectable high paying jobs with lots of responsibility over others, on the surface, but on the inside they are still very young.
The Lonely Bind
Most folks, even me at some points, don't even want to spend time with dealing with their own volatile adolescence. Many of the feelings and experiences are so overwhelming - a sense of desperation, and all in all not knowing what to do. For most adolescents, they are experiencing some feelings for the first time in their life. They're all alone. It doesn't feel safe to talk to their friends because they want to be accepted and fit in. It is beginning of the time of individuation, and they don't want to talk to their parents anymore. Most adolescents are in what I would call a lonely bind.
Most people don’t want to deal with the drama, yet they are craving to get some attention and feel safe enough with someone that they can get help with the drama of their life. This is not like the experience I have spoken about in my writing around delusions (schizophrenia). They can’t trust others and they can’t trust themselves out of fear of being annihilated by their feelings. It is no surprise that so much of what goes awry in our adult life can be traced back to our adolescent years.
Debunking the Adolescent Rebellion Myth
I suspect that most people in the western world would have loved to have had someone to talk to during their junior high and high school years. If asked to do those years over again for a million bucks, most would still turn it down. Wholesome doesn't exactly fit into the frame of adolescence. More like anxiety. Worse still, this period is portrayed in the world and media as a season of rebellion and emotional intensity. Which, alone, is a stereotype which only serves to bring about more fear within ourselves towards our adolescent experience. This stereotype still lives on within us shaping who we are today, and coming alongside and engaging with the complexity of adolescence in our lives.
There is a huge difference between individuation, where a child starts becoming an adult and forming their own opinions which could differ from the parents, and the act of rebellion. They are not “rebelling” but becoming their own person on a biological and psychological level. “Rebellion” speaks of an emotionally based opposition of a perceived injustice and you rise up against what you think to be “wrong”. Teenagers might rebel against the outdated discipline methods of their parents. They are seeking new methods for resolving conflict.
The truth is that most of us look back on our adolescent years as being some of the hardest years of our lives. Why is this? I would venture to say that this season of life is much more about learning to navigate relationships with yourself, others, and what’s going on around you than about putting out the fires of rebellion.
“The idea that people (including young people) should instinctively know how to act in life, especially when we haven’t (in most cases) trained them to properly use (and value) their reasoning minds, is one of the more stupid – and destructive –ideas out there. Sometimes this not-quite-named contradiction is what adolescents are rebelling against, in the first place. Dr. Michael Hurd.
Adolescent Anxiety, Our Anxiety
I have said in other posts that we all go about this life with some level of anxiety. Ontologically, we are all anxious because we are born into the world unprepared for what is asked of us. Some examples are that we need to be slapped to begin breathing. Attachment research with infants has taught us that when the parents are unresponsive to the child's communication or needs, that it has long-term traumatic effects. This act of withholding is now barred from research with infants due to its effects. We don't know how to handle things. We are in some way, lost at sea in a world where we have no bearing unless we've gone through it numerous times.
This anxiety is so prevalent, or more external and expressed during adolescence than potentially any other time. The Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report found that 60% of children with diagnosable depression are not getting the necessary treatment. One of my colleagues in theology school did her entire thesis on the stigma in the western world of avoiding the messiness of adolescence. The messiness of intense and ballistic emotions, hormonal changes, and clinginess towards others. She posits that we are turning them away. Leaving them to find their way. (it would be great to reference her name here)
The Need to Belong at Any Cost
The theme of belonging is one of the most prevalent issues in my counseling work with involving adolescents. The questions or fears of "will I be accepted?", "will I be alone forever?", "does he/she like me?" dominate. As adults, we still struggle with these dilemmas. It's a natural process of trying to find ourselves in the world as we develop the “I” in relation to another. We all struggle to do this, and it is completely normal not to know what to do with our feelings.
When things get hard, anxious, and we don't know what to do or how to make sense of what's going on inside or outside, we retreat inside ourselves to find some comfort and to make sense of what's going on. When there is no structure within the mind, built up through relationships with the parents and others, we act out to get us what will give us the most relief to get us through the NOW. There is such complexity, such messiness within the adolescent, and within ourselves that we have not come to learn, feel and bring compassion too.
Depression can be fueled by the extreme vulnerability adolescents are feeling. Their hormones are changing and all of the new sensations can bring a feeling of instability. This is where the warped self image can start to develop or issues around sexuality. You can see some teens “acting out’ whilst others “act in” according to Michaela Bernard who looks at insights for parents around recognizing and understanding depression in their children.
Staying Tuned In
So we are either the adolescent or the parent, friend, or therapist of the adolescent with this narrow thinking that we are working with rebellion rather than stumbling-relationality. An article in The Wall Street Journal talks about a longitudinal study which suggests that it is far more beneficial for parents to remain empathetically engaged during their child’s adolescence. The popular belief is that at this tumultuous time parents should take the foot off the brake and step back. The research is pointing to the necessity for parents to actually stay more emotionally connected with their children at this time. It’s vital for parents to intervene in their children’s lives at a time that is so fraught with anxiety and the desire to “fit in”. Often times this doesn’t happen which is why in working with adolescents you end up working with the parents as well. Parents also need to work through their own “adolescence” to resolve the traumas experienced during that time.
You might not want to go “back’ to that time but it might be stopping you from going positively forward in your life. Give me a call so we can talk about your adolescent or your own adolescence that is affecting your life at the moment.
“You can get discouraged many times, but you are not a failure until you begin to blame somebody else and stop trying.” John Burroughs
Placing the blame at someone else’s feet often feels as natural as breathing. We all do it. It’s really easy to execute because we see people do it around us all the time. I don’t think there is anyone who can say they haven’t played the blame game? There are so many examples of our friends, family, colleagues, political leaders etc. refusing to take responsibility for their actions and pointing fingers at others. All of the blame shifting is to deflect attention away from peoples own wrong doing. “It’s their fault!” they cry, “I am the victim in the story.”
It’s much more comfortable to share your tale of woe looking for commiseration and words of consolation. But maturation of the spirit requires that we look inwards to ascertain our part in the situation. Owning up to our part in a series of events is a massive step in our self-development. If you can admit your part in ‘battles’ and can eliminate your need to play the victim role, you will always be in complete control of your choices. This is what sensational freedom looks like –radical responsibility. It’s a hard act to perfect, but is ultimately empowering.
What I am advocating is exceptionally difficult especially when something horrible has happened because of something we chose to do (or didn’t do). It’s much easier to blame someone else than to face the consequences of our actions.
"Take accountability... Blame is the water in which many dreams and relationships drown." Steve Maraboli
Blame Shifting Auto Pilot
As a mental health therapist, I naturally encounter many patients who blame shift as a default setting or abdicate the responsibility for their actions to God’s will.
I am not immune to blame shifting. From time to time, I find myself having to deal with my need to hold others accountable for my choices. It feels like learned behavior that I need to unlearn. You know when you learn to drive a car and after a while the whole process happens purely by muscle memory. You don’t have to think about the mechanism of driving it seems to happen all on its own. My blame game seems to happen in the same way. I can go onto autopilot muscle memory in an instant. It feels quite a normal thing to do. I have to consciously wrestle with the balance between taking personal responsibility for my choices and holding others accountable for their perceived negative actions.
How I Put on the Victim Jacket
Earlier this year I found myself in a fraught situation where I had to negotiate with a group of people who operated from a lack of integrity. They showed me a mask of authenticity and I chose to believe their ‘sales pitch’ regarding their moral compass and ethical way of conducting their business. I believed the story they offered me and made the decision to engage with their organization. It was a truly stupid decision on my part as I didn’t do my homework thoroughly and failed to see the cracks in the glossy veneer. I realized quickly that I had aligned myself with people who were acting in “bad faith”.
I became enraged with the situation when I discovered the depth of their dishonesty. I couldn’t believe how they operated. I immediately placed the blame of aligning with them at their feet. I was in a predicament where I was working for people who were inauthentic and damaging to people who interacted with their business. I felt like a “victim”. I stayed in that blaming mode, spewing fire about them for quite a while.
Signing Up Your Army
I repeated my story to anyone who would listen and my community commiserated with me. They listened as I went on and on about what I had endured and that the blame lay squarely with these “perpetrators”. The blame place was familiar, comfortable and it actually alleviated some of my tension. I felt justified by my blame shifting outrage. I found comfort from family and friends who quickly joined in with slandering these terrible “oppressors”. I was “right” and they were definitely wrong.
“It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.” - Sophocles
Light Bulb Moment
Later, I had a client. In the session I realized I was listening to a fellow blame shifter. They outlined the atrocities they had faced at the hands of a vindictive boss. I listened but I could also see the places where he was culpable in the dance of office politics. And a big light went on in my head. My client had healed me in a moment. I had to dig deep and repair the victim idea of my self. I wasn’t really a victim? As I stood in my successful, growing therapy practice, looked around at my loving, support group, counted my blessings and remembered the strong, confident, honest human being who I was at my core –I came to accept my part in how the situation had developed.
Faulty Moral High Ground
I also had to own up to being the “perpetrator” –spreading negativity and harsh words about these people? I had been gaining a sense of righteous indignation at how I thought I had been treated which had emboldened my blame shifting gears. Had I been revealing these people’s conduct publically to feel better about myself? Yes, I had been slanderous.
I had engaged in revenge fantasies and in so doing lowered my highest potential. I blame shifted and believed “everyone was on my side”. I Began looking at these things more intensely with my own therapist in a self analysis. I can now completely embrace my part in how I subjugated myself in a work relationship. I willingly signed up to an unequal, dishonest partnership and put myself in a disastrous environment.
“The more you talk about it, rehash it, rethink it, cross analyze it, debate it, respond to it, get paranoid about it, compete with it, complain about it, immortalize it, cry over it, kick it, defame it, stalk it, gossip about it, pray over it, put it down or dissect its motives it continues to rot in your brain. It is dead. It is over. It is gone. It is done. It is time to bury it because it is smelling up your life and no one wants to be near your rotted corpse of memories and decaying attitude. Be the funeral director of your life and bury that thing!”
― Shannon L. Alder
The best part was that as soon as I could honor my own culpability in the events that unfolded I was reinvigorated mentally, emotionally, physically, psychically and spiritually. Taking responsibility is about owning up to the mistakes you’ve made –even if it’s only to yourself. I am a believer that outside extreme circumstances, we all have a part in the creation of our reality and what goes on around us. So think about your part in it, and own up to it, even if they're not owning up to theres.
I had wrestled with myself and the good rose up to meet me.
This is for folks who have a hard time taking mindfulness or meditation seriously. So much of what I hear from my clients is that they don't give it much thought because it is associated so much with spirituality and religion. Hearing folks say things like, "can we be mindful of this," or "be mindful of whats going on in your life." For many, the idea of mindfulness might seem frivolous, a waist of time amidst the hustle and bustle of the business required to live a life in most of urban America, but recent scientific studies have found that it can have a real impact on the day-to-day lives of those who practice it. Although mindfulness meditation has been around for thousands of years, researchers have only recently begun to get a grasp on the science behind the practice.
1) It calms the mind.
If you have ever wanted a better night's sleep but couldn't escape your worries, mindful meditation can help. A study published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience has linked the practice to control of the cortical alpha rhythms. These rhythms are linked with mental focus, which leads to better control over emotion and thought. This increased control has also been connected with a reduction in anxious thoughts.
2) It improves focus and memory.
If you're looking for a productivity boost, or struggle keeping on task, meditating every day can help you focus. Researchers at the University of Oregon have found that regular mindfulness meditation slowly changes the structure of the brain, increasing the density of grey matter and the number of signal connections within!
3) It strengthens willpower.
Anyone who has made a New Year's resolution knows how hard it is to keep it for more than a couple of months. In a study in the Elsevier Consciousness and Cognition journal, mindful practice has been shown to reduce the impact of self-control depletion.Because self-control is strongly determined by your emotional state and energy levels, mindfulness has been proven to help increase control over the emotions, thereby making it easier for the person to maintain self-control even when they're tired. This control helps making the hard choices easier, meaning you're less likely to be tempted away from your goal.
4) It reduces stress.
A recent study in the journal Health Psychology has shown that mindful meditation can reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. If you're suffering from constant pain, mindfulness can also help manage the stress that results from it. The Annals of Rheumatic Disease journal published a study in which patients who suffered from arthritis and practiced mindful meditation reported much lower rates of stress and fatigue, when compared to those who didn't meditate.
5) It makes you more compassionate.
While most studies focus on the benefits of meditation to the individual practitioner, a study by Harvard and Northeastern universities, published in the Psychological Science journal, has shown a link between mindfulness and virtuous behavior. The study found that those who meditated regularly were more likely to help a stranger in need than those who didn't.
With scientific study increasingly showing reasons to meditate, there's never been a better time to get involved. Just 10 minutes of meditation a day is enough to see improvement in many areas of your life, so why not get started today? Don't think practicing mindfulness it as something that you need to have a pillow on the ground, go to a specific location like a monastery or church, but think of it as something you could do on the bus in or your car to work, while relieving yourself in the bathroom, writing in your journal, or while you are listening to someone stories. Think of it as simply being aware of what is going on inside you. Whether that be with a feeling in your stomach, a thought, phrase, an image, or piece of music that comes to mind. Just try to be aware of something.
Online psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as e-therapy, is not a new concept. Even Sigmund Freud wrote letters to his patients as a method of therapy. In fact, its high demand has seen the growth of foundations like the International Society for Mental Health Online, a centralized portal for information and guidelines for customers interested in online psychotherapy. To be clear, online psychotherapy involves tools that allow for both the therapist and patient to complete sessions or communicate via the Internet and other integrated software applications. Tools may include email, instant messaging, real-time chat like Skype, or video conferencing.
Online Therapy Exceeds Expectations
As a way to reduce medical costs and improve access to mental health services, Internet technologies in psychotherapy has gained significant popularity. But in spite of its increased demand, the question remains: is e-therapy as effective as conventional, face-to-face therapy? Some initial studies have revealed that traditional delivery methods of therapy were comparable to online psychotherapy. To confirm this theory, clinical researchers from the University of Zurich put it to the test.
What The Research Showed
First, researchers reviewed the care 62 patients received from six therapists, with most suffering from moderate depression. The research team divided the patients into two groups, and randomly assigned each one to either traditional psychotherapy or online psychotherapy. The treatment consisted of eight sessions using various techniques based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, which the patients could complete orally and in writing. Patients treated online performed one predetermined written task, which asked about their own negative self-image.
The results of the study showed that by the end of the treatment 53 percent of the patients who had online therapy indicated a decrease in depression or were no longer depressed, as compared to 50 percent of those patients who received conventional therapy. Even after three months, researchers noted that the depression found in the patients treated online continued to decrease, while the depression suffered by those patients treated with conventional therapy either stayed the same or increased.
With this particular study, researchers asked patients to rate their treatment. Ninety-one percent of the patients treated with conventional therapy and 96 percent who received online therapy reported their contact with their therapist as "personal." Overall, patients from both groups rated their satisfaction level with the care they received as good.
Another note of interest was that the patients receiving online therapy used both the online contact and homework given by the therapist to progress in their treatment, often rereading correspondence from their therapist. Overall, the Zurich researchers concluded that online psychotherapy is effective and may be a practical supplemental method.
Pros and Cons of Online Psychotherapy
Even with all the notoriety, online psychotherapy has its disadvantages. As stated by Dr. Jon Grohol, Psy.D., in his recent article "Skype Away: Online Therapy is Still Exciting!," online therapy has its place, but it cannot deliver on therapy's most important benefits, such as the ability to witness nonverbal behavior. Just as a picture paints a thousand words, nonverbal cues are difficult to interpret with an iPhone™ or tablet, and can handicap a therapist. There's also the question of intimacy. Is Skyping your therapy session going to deliver the same form of face-to-face intimacy that an office visit would? Another issue Dr. Grohol raises -- and it's a point worth making -- is that Skype has not been certified as HIPAA compliant. Would the demand for this convenience drop if consumers were aware of this? Dr. Grohol seems to think so.
As of this date, Skype technology has not been approved for confidential, private mental health sessions. However, other health solutions, such as iCouch offers a secure video platform and HIPAA compliant tools for scheduling and secure messaging.
Detractors aside, patients see some huge advantages to online psychotherapy. For instance, geography is no longer a limitation to doctor selection. Patients can see a therapist half way around the world if they choose. Interviews cited in an article by New York Times writer Jan Hoffman, titled "When your Therapist Is Only a Click Away," suggests that many psychologists see this delivery system of mental health care as well suited to treat agoraphobia, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. It is an opportunity for patients to get treatment who otherwise might not receive it.
Other Advantages to Online Psychotherapy
One of the biggest advantages to online therapy is convenience. Not having to drive to and from the doctor's office saves time, and it's convenient. Some patients also report that they feel more relaxed and less anxious about talking through difficult issues because of the "disinhibitory effects" of online communication. There's also the advantage of decreased costs; patients may not be taking the entire 60 minutes of time with their therapist. Also, there is something to be said for having an online therapist on-demand, whenever and wherever a patient might need one.
Depending upon the mental health issue and the comfort level with computer technology by the patient, this may seem like the road to take. However, for more aggressive mental illnesses, it may not be the best delivery method for optimal mental health.
When first deciding to take your child or adolescent to a therapist, there are a million and one emotions and thoughts that go through your mind. To go one step further, this is another thing altogether but today we have some information that will hopefully calm your nerves about psychotherapy. If you are currently undecided on what to do, we have some simple steps that you will follow after contacting this professional.
To kick things off, your child will have around four sessions with the therapist so they can assess the extent of the issue and the history of the child in their family life as well as in school and outside of school in the social scene. At the beginning, these simple sessions will allow the therapist to better understand the task ahead.
Depending on the therapist, this might happen before they meet your child so you can express your concerns and give the full picture. After providing a history, you might even talk with the therapist individually because this increases the chances of getting all the important information and perspectives out in the open. With some therapists, this meeting might be a simple phone conversation.
Meeting the Child
With this foundation of knowledge, the first meeting with the adolescent will occur to see their point of view. Normally, children will be coy in the first session but they soon realize that this is their opportunity to help themselves and say things they perhaps can’t to family members. Since this is all confidential, the therapist will not report back to the parents unless something comes out that would put the child in danger. With this confidentiality, the idea is that they will feel comfortable and willing to talk.
Teachers and Other Professionals
Although this will depend on the severity of the issue, other professionals who have regular contact with the child may also be contacted for more information or opinions. As well as teachers, this could include mental health professionals or social workers as they could provide a different insight.
Once the initial assessments have been made, the therapist will give their impressions to you as the parent as well as recommending the right treatment moving forward. In order to match the needs of the child in question, the recommendation will include a timeframe as well as how intense the solution should be for best results. If necessary, the therapist will also make recommendations to teachers or suggest a psychiatric or neuropsychological evaluation.
Ultimately, the process of therapy itself will differ from one therapist to the next but we should note that children perceive time in a very different way to adults. For this reason, the sessions will normally start twice a week for children because once just simply isn't enough. For teenagers and young adults, once a week will be normal but it might be more intensive if they have been hospitalized or have threatened to self-harm.
In terms of length, this will be unique once again because some children can overcome their problems in around 6 months whilst others take longer. For those who have greater emotional and social difficulties, it will take as long as it takes and this could be 18 months or more.
Involvement of Parents
Ultimately, therapists generally like to see involvement from parents because it shows they want to make things better. However, there needs to be limited to allow the therapy to work. Therefore, parents should never push for details about the therapy. When the time is right, the therapist may bring the parents in for a group session somewhere in the future.
In all cases, the treatment will only end once all parties are happy that enough progress has been made; this means the therapist, parents, and the child or adolescent themselves. This being said, it should never end abruptly so therapists will ensure that they are in a position for sustained success. Of course, returning in the future is always an option if things seem to slip.
As you can see, each child will be treated differently and the right course of action will be chosen depending on their needs above all else!
Does the thought of beginning therapy make you feel scared or anxious? These unnamed fears about what will be revealed on the other side of the therapist’s door might stop you in your tracks from receiving the benefits inside. There is a fear that you might “lose yourself”. This fear is grounded in not knowing what will become of “me”: What will I have to give up, how will I live without those things, and what will remain? I propose a way to allay those fears. Think of therapy as creative play. The process of talk therapy is an act of play, an act of creating something from within. When we are deeply engaged in “play” we take risks and often find ourselves transformed by playing the “game” of life.
Stephen Nachmanovitch states in his book “Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art” that “Each piece of music is play, each dance, each drawing, each episode of life, reflects our own mind back at us, complete with all its imperfections, exactly as it is.”
Play as an Antidote to Stress
American psychologist Dr. Charles E. Schaefer, recognized as “The Father of Play Therapy”, stated that play expands self-expression, self-knowledge, and self-actualization. When we allow ourselves to play we are connecting to our inner joy and it results in positive connection to people, it stimulates creative thinking and regulates our emotions. It's often the most powerful antidote to stress. Therapy as play allows us to create a distance between our problems so we can see them objectively and it allows us to mentally digest an overwhelming life experience.
The Healing Properties of Self-Narration
In talk therapy, we can allow ourselves an opportunity to become the storytellers, the narrators of our own beautiful life novels. We can lay our tales at our therapist’s feet like short stories that are yearning for discovery and deconstruction. When we can re-enact and re-tell the chapters of our life we are engaged in creatively expressing our inner worlds. We are learning to share and hear our own stories.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato
One eight-year-old girl’s comments on play reflect its cathartic release of anxiety, “In play, I turn myself inside out and give myself a shake, shake, shake, and finally I’m glad all over that I am me.”
When we play, we shift towards process rather than product. When we begin to play or create, we tap into our individuality. Stephen Nachmanovitch, a musician, author, computer artist, and educator, says that we begin to dialogue with ourselves as we participate in the act of play: “As our playing, writing, speaking, drawing, or dancing unfolds, the inner unconscious logic of our being begins to show through and mold the material. This rich, deep patterning is the original nature that impresses itself like a seal upon everything we do or are.”
Creativity at Play
If we approach our struggles like an artist looking to express our inner worlds through the medium of paint, dance, music, literature we might find the ideal vehicle to reflect on ourselves. When we play, we are calling on our inherent creativity that is the central source of meaning in our lives. Using our creativity feels like we are living our lives more fully. Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Ph.D., an associate research scientist for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, found that people who engaged in everyday forms of creativity like making a collage, playing an instrument, taking photographs, writing article or stories displayed the characteristics of being curious, open-minded, positive, energetic and persistent.
People who used their creativity daily expressed feeling an increased sense of well-being and personal growth compared to their colleague’s/classmates. Creating is the therapeutic gateway experience that relieves suffering. In “The Psychology of Creative Writing” by Scott Barry Kaufman and James C. Kaufman they discuss how expressive writing increases immune system functioning.
The Mask of the Outer Canvas
Whatever we create in life is a reflection of our internal makeup and experience in the world, whether it is poetry, literature, art, sculpture, or the nature of our relationships with others or with our work. The masks we chose to wear both shield and reveal our true nature. We imagine that we are doing a great job hiding our troubles behind a chosen persona but we tend to give ourselves away. We leave clues and hints as to who we are by how we present ourselves in the world. Our masks are merely imprints of our true self’s character. Walking down the streets of Seattle, it is not uncommon for me to look at what personality masks others are “wearing” and imagine their personality – their true nature – based on that presentation. We look to what is outside to give us an idea of what is inside, as our outside is naturally an expression of the inner self.
The outer canvas of ourselves that we show to the world can easily be interpreted by others. In play we allow our masks to slip away as we give ourselves over to the present moment and the process of creative self-expression.
Therapy Play Date
I believe therapy is the perfect place where we can play. Therapy is the stage, the therapist your audience and the time is yours to present your self-narration to a trusted listener in an environment of acceptance.
D.W. Winnicott, in Playing and Reality, describes it as, “bringing the patient from a state of not being able to play into a state of being able to play. It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”
Counseling involves the participation of both the client and the therapist. It is a process of leaning into one another in which the therapist provides a safe space in which the true self can emerge.
This is the real secret of life—to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play. Alan Watts
We know that we are feeling stuck in our lives and we can’t seem to activate and change the course of our suffering. We know that we need some help to work through the issues that are holding us back from being all we can be in this life –and yet we resist. We find every excuse under the sun to avoid the necessary healing we seek. We have learnt stubborn resistance from youth. It has always been how we maintain our integrity in the face of authoritarian figures who attempted to control us as children and adolescents. We sometimes project these feelings onto a potential therapist. Resistance, when you are an adult, is just self-sabotage getting in the way of personal growth. Resistance to healing can take many forms…
Falling Asleep on Self Fulfilment
Intuitive healer, Carolyn Myss, speaks about an aspect of this phenomenon in her article “Three Popular Ways of Avoiding Powerful Guidance”, “I always try to observe when people turn off their attention span, because allowing yourself to be distracted, or falling asleep, often indicates an unconscious effort to avoid hearing content that holds the potential of personal empowerment”.
I once worked with someone, who, week after week would begin falling asleep at around half way through the session. One week, I decided to explore it with him, within the next few days he had a narcissistic defensive break and was threatening to kill me. We all have defenses, and we're willing to do whatever it takes to not explore whats behind them.
Sometimes clients are resistant to acknowledging the circumstances in their life that might lead to personal life changes that they can’t control once out in the open. Case in point. By admitting the problems out loud they will need to act and so they sometimes prefer to just blank out or block any form of self-reflection. Come to terms and face the pain that is within them. It takes much, much, much courage to face ones "issues."
What You Resist Persists
When clients have had invasive controlling parents, experience a feeling of being “stuck” no matter what “therapy” they try or actually enjoy others frustration with them for lack of action –they are in resistance. Sometimes it’s easier to buy a new outfit than describe the sadness of a lost loved one to a stranger. Clients sometimes resist expressing their emotions in case they get overwhelmed and can’t “manage” them. They think that if they were to open the door and start crying they might never be able to stop. So they resist even starting the journey.
Others might just want a quick “fix” and resist the actual length of time it takes to unearth the trauma and cleanse it out of the body, mind, and soul. Others might resist because they have been taught that therapy is a “luxury” or something “frivolous” for over indulged people so they don’t allow themselves the chance to benefit. And still, other individuals are too ashamed to even contemplate seeking help.
Becoming a new person? - Priceless - Mastercard.
Where I see particular resistance to self-growth is around paying for therapy. Potential clients who can more than afford the session fee will suddenly balk at the price. It would be investing in themselves which would mean they would have to lower their resistance to personal change. Up come the barriers.
I also experienced this resistance to investing in my own healing. It was four years ago when I was beginning my process of personal therapy I realized that I was spending $20 a week on coffee, $15-25 on food when I was at work or school (and a lot on beer with friends), and an additional $40-100 a month on books that I honestly wasn't reading - and still haven't read. Adding all that up on the low end of those figures, those savings would have paid for half of my monthly therapy!
As a therapist, I am not asking clients to put aside all that is pleasurable to pay for therapy, or to bend over backwards. What I'm asking you to do is ask yourself, what it is you want? I'm not talking about kids, a one bedroom home, a car that works, but much more deeply, what is it you want for your life? Once you've answered that, ask yourself what sacrifices you're willing to make to get there, and perhaps entertain the idea that some of those small changes to get on course for the big change, are only going to enhance your life and relationships.
I would ask you to interrogate your resistance to the session fee. You will uncover that it has nothing to do with the dollar amount but the cost of really shifting your life circumstances that are going to take emotional engagement.
You can make it work. After my initial resistance to paying for my personal development, I now pay far more than my personal fee on a weekly basis for my own therapy for my training analysis to be a psychoanalyst. It is a lot, but the benefits that I have experienced over the past four years in therapy are priceless. I don't even blink or flinch because having that space to air out my problems is really priceless. I am no longer in constant resistance to myself.
Of course counseling is expensive. But private therapy isn't just for “rich people who can afford it”. It’s a service as vital as a gym membership, medical check ups, dental visits etc. It is for the people who see value in it and are willing to make it work. Which for some requires a varying degree of sacrifice. The people that I see in counseling run the spectrum from the individual running the dishwasher at a restaurant to nurse practitioner to a lawyer.
For a lot of folks that I do consultations with, I get the sense that they've either never been in therapy or they don't have a strong sense of the value of having someone available who they can share the weight of their problems. There is a normal period of adjustment where they have to get used to putting their needs first and being heard in a safe space.
When they stopped resisting, many of the folks I see, have begun to have a better sex life, know how to deeply rest, experience better work/life fulfillment, have more free time, a renewed sense of vision for their life, higher quality and more deeply satisfying relationships with their friends, partner, and family.
What Is Really Holding You Back?
Ask yourself honestly what is really holding you back? Can you afford the cost of doing nothing towards solving the issues that are plaguing you in your life? Can you actually put a price tag on self-fulfillment and personal happiness? What would it be worth to your family to have you in a more joyful and peaceful state? Think about investing in yourself for the long term instead of buying cheap, entertainment that offers a fleeting distraction from your anxieties. Give yourself permission to put yourself first and to stop resisting positive transformation.
Note on Insurance for Counseling visits: Even though your therapist or counselor could be an out of network provider it is still possible for them to get you a reimbursement from some insurance companies. We are also able to assist clients with meeting their deductibles so you can access coverage. This means that counseling can be less of a financial stress.
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Over the years, there have been many questions surrounding the topic of psychoanalysis which is why I have decided to compile this brief guide here today. With a better understanding, we can all move forward on a level ground and remove the many misconceptions that exist in today’s society.
I have to begin by saying that I am not yet a formal Psychoanalyst. This title or branding of therapy, some would say, is reserved for those who have done a formal 4-5 years training program. Though I'll be beginning my own formal analysis and training in the Fall of 2017, I cannot yet call myself a Psychoanalyst, but rather a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist.
Essentially, psychoanalysis is something that’s always evolving but the premise remains the same; to listen and learn about the condition of the human mind. From the recipient’s point of view, they talk while the expert listens and this validity tries to understand the feeling of being alone in a room full of people. With psychoanalysis, I attempt to understand our own thoughts, behaviors, and feelings so we can understand our actions that follow.
Don't Judge Me
Currently, there are many misconceptions but perhaps the biggest is that psychoanalysis judges people and places them into a certain category. All things considered, the opposite is actually true because psychoanalysis recognizes that we are all unique. Rather than putting everyone into a predefined category, it works towards finding the meaning for each and every person. More than anything else, this is why it requires sensitive experts to practice psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is not about putting you into a box. It is a process, though painful and confusing at times, that has the goal of helping you become who you are. Your truest most authentic self.
For the therapists, there are a few key skills required because they need people to accept their own personal experience whilst maintaining a professional head. Ultimately, every clinician will have their own personal experience to draw on and the reactions when sitting with clients look to combine theory with experience. As professionals, we respect the conscious mind but we perhaps learn more from the unconscious mind which is why psychoanalysis works with fantasies, dreams, thoughts, feelings, actions, memories, body symptoms, and more. Normally, these are things that aren't said aloud but psychoanalysis changes the norm.
When the term ‘psychoanalysis’ or anything related to this comes up, we immediately picture a professional sitting in a chair next to the patient laying on the couch. Of course, this is done for a number of reasons including to relax the patient but there isn't a set method that will work every time. With psychoanalysis, there is also off the couch therapy where professionals visit schools and non-profit organizations. Furthermore, they visit residential treatment centers and discuss various topics from a psychoanalytic point of view. Although the one-to-one session does exist, psychoanalysis is more than this for individuals, couples, and even families. I myself have a couch that is big enough to lay on, but no one does.
As you may have noticed, it all sounds a little mysterious and even we would agree with this. However, it is all very practical once you dig beneath the surface and this is what we have been attempting to do in recent times with the many blog posts we have provided. With our help, we hope that you can address any issues that might be affecting you or family members, friends, or even colleagues. With psychoanalysis, it can even be applied to the mind and behavior of children while assessing emotional development. With this in mind, psychoanalysis allows us to understand the mind and this is why it is essential in an environment where mental health problems are rife.
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In recent years, we have started to learn more about depression and how it affects different people. Slowly but surely, the stigma related to the mental health condition is being removed but there is still a lack of information available; this is especially true for parents of teenagers.
It's no wonder rates of depression and suicide have risen within the U.S. among adolescence. Teenagers are under massive amounts of pressure with the boom of technology and "connectivity", adolescence are bombarded with challenges that other generations have not had to navigate. Often times left alone with themselves and friends to figure out what to do, say, think, and even feel about life. For this reason, I have compiled five key signs that every parent should know to see when it is a good time to get them into counseling or support.
First and foremost, this is the most common problem facing adolescents in today’s world. Along with depression and anxiety, bad behavior and acting out are all huge problems and it requires attention from parents. Of course, there are some behaviors that provide no concern but parents need to be able to differentiate between poor behavior and a serious problem. With the latter, management is important in order to work towards a resolution.
When going through adolescence, it is a time where the social norms are being challenged and they can start to move away from parents emotionally. As they progress from childhood, they see changes with their body as well as the mind. Suddenly, the world is huge and they need to find their place; this is a vital time in anyone’s life. As a parent, you need to remember that, even though they challenge authority, they actually need authority in order to survive because they are struggling to become independent after being dependent for so long.
If we have discovered anything over the last few decades, it’s that we are all unique. Whilst some kids prefer to externalize their thoughts and act out, others prefer to stay quiet so you need to look out for both. If adolescents can’t express their feelings, you (and teachers) might think they are just quiet in nature but what if they are bottling it all up? When these types of young people get depressed, it is a huge problem and can lead to serious mental illness in future years. To prevent this, intervention is needed early on.
Leading on from the previous point, let’s talk about the illness itself because it is incredibly difficult to diagnose since the symptoms are so different and varied. As we have said, some act out while others close the shutters and withdraw themselves from social situations. In terms of the latter, they might also lose contact with friends, reject invitations to go out, lose interest in things they previously loved, and perhaps even harm themselves in more severe cases.
In truth, there can be a thousand different explanations for depression but it is important to note that parents and family members can contribute unknowingly and unwillingly. For example, this is especially true in cases of divorce or adoption because they lose the feeling of belonging and blame themselves which makes them sad and angry.
When this happens, as parents, we also blame ourselves because we can’t help but you mustn't take this as a personal insult. Sometimes, we are just too close which means that they aren't willing to talk. In these situations, it is absolutely fine to call in a professional who is trained to deal with depression in young children and adolescents. If your child was being sick constantly, you would take them to the doctor and this is no different.
As long as you keep these five tips in mind, depression doesn’t need to be the end of the world for them or for you. Instead of letting them enter a long life of suffering, pay attention to this advice and you can help even if it isn't directly!
Despite being one of the biggest mental health issues around today, anxiety is still widely misunderstood. Every year, the medical issue is filled with misconceptions and is therefore neglected all around the world. Today, we will be looking at the problem from the point of view of a psychoanalyst to try and gain an insight into what we can do to resolve the problem.
On a psychological level, everybody in the world suffers from anxiety. Whether it is sitting in the waiting room for a job interview or wondering if we will get through the traffic lights before they turn red. However, the real problem occurs when we don’t have the resources to deal with high levels of anxiety over a prolonged period of time. Suddenly, it overwhelms us and there are three famous responses; flight, fight or freeze.
All things considered, there are different ways that this problem can manifest and many aren't even recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistically Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). When trying to cope with worry or nerves, we all have unique ways of dealing with it whether it is biting fingers, cracking knuckles, or tapping the feet on the floor. When anxiety levels push too high, we struggle to deal with it and even the normal coping techniques stop working. When this happens, we can experience the following symptoms;
Loss of Focus
When you feel as though you can’t concentrate on anything at work, school, or home, this could be a sign of anxiety. Often, people can’t help but fall for distractions and this leads to decreased performance in these arenas.
When this occurs, your heart will begin to pound and you feel as though there is no air in the room. As you struggle to breathe, your body starts to sweat and the hands can also shake. In the mind, it feels as though there is a dark hole that you will never climb from. Also, there will be panicking thoughts that you’re having a heart attack and that you could die.
Sadly, this is a big problem and it is one that leads to many others. Not only do we struggle to fall asleep, we also can’t stay asleep for long periods of time. Whether it is money concerns, relationship issues, work deadlines, or anything else, we struggle to switch off the brain and it goes into overdrive.
Physically, symptoms can come in the shape of fatigue, headaches, stomach troubles, gastrointestinal complaints, and similar issues. Also, it could manifest into behavioral problems and this is especially true for children and adolescents in school. Similarly, it could also do the opposite and force someone into their shell.
Ultimately, we know that the problem is unique and some people feel the urge to do desperate things like pull out hair or eyelashes. In others, it gives weird phobias such as objects or even people in addition to obsessive compulsive disorder which is something our minds do to cope (unsuccessfully) with the anxiety.
Within psychoanalysis, the question of anxiety is pivotal and Freud once gave two definitions to the problem; neurotic anxiety and realistic anxiety where the latter comes from danger rather than internal psychic conflicts. To this day, there are various schools of thought regarding anxiety but they all share one common feature in that there is an unconscious meaning behind it all and this is utterly unique to the person in question.
When undergoing psychoanalytic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, this gives an opportunity to talk about anxiety and work with experts about how it manifests itself. After you begin to understand yourself better, you start to realize your own meaning of anxiety. Then, the right steps can be taken to overcome what is now a serious issue.
Anxiety can be both mentally and physically debilitating, and staying grounded during anxiety attacks is difficult. With practice and support, however, it is possible to do so, and there are several techniques that can help you feel stable and safe. Try each of the following exercises in turn to see which ones work best for you. Learning and practicing them while you are feeling calm will help you to remember and use them during periods of anxiety.
Simply count to 20, and then back down to one. Doing this several times can occupy the brain enough to distract you from whatever is causing your anxiety. If this proves ineffective, try counting in a way that is more challenging, such as in multiples of three or using only prime numbers, to keep the brain engaged.
Extend this exercise by noticing five things that you can see, four things you can hear, three you can touch, and two you can smell, and then take one long deep breath. Repeat this several times. This is a popular grounding exercise that helps you to be aware of your surroundings and focus on the present.
Carry a small object, such as a piece of jewelry or a handkerchief, that has a significant meaning to you. When you start to feel anxious, take the object out and hold it, touch it to your cheek, look at it, or pay attention to it in whatever way you find helpful.
Grounding objects can also be improvised. For example, pick up a small stone (remembering to practice when you are calm) and hold it in your hand. Choose some positive affirmations that inspire you or comfort you, and say them aloud while looking at the object. Try to do this every day, perhaps first thing in the morning. You will start to associate the object with the sensation of being grounded and positive. Carry the object around with you and touch it or look at it whenever you start to feel anxious.
A quick way to ground yourself when you feel anxious is to experience a short, intense sensation. Some people pinch themselves or snap an elastic band against their wrist. The sensation might also be pleasant, such as taking small bites of rich dark chocolate or sipping a strong cup of coffee.
It is worth brainstorming the sensations that you find intense in everyday life, and also which sensations you can access in different situations. For example, it might not be possible to eat a piece of chocolate if you're in a meeting at work and can't excuse yourself, but pinching your leg under the table would be subtle enough to go unnoticed.
Describe the Physical Sensations
Anxiety attacks usually trigger a variety of physical symptoms, including shortness of breath or hyperventilation, increased heart rate or heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, nausea, and dry mouth.
If you are experiencing the physical effects of anxiety, talk yourself through the actual symptoms, reminding yourself that each one is a short-term symptom of anxiety caused by a surge of adrenaline.
Work through the body, starting with the top of the head and moving to the face, neck, shoulders, and throat, and down to the feet and toes, while stating aloud the physical symptoms that are affecting each particular body part. When you reach the toes, work your way back up, and then down again. The physical symptoms should begin to lessen and gradually fade away as you repeat this exercise.
Visualizations and Rooting
Some people find visualizing a peaceful scene helpful when experiencing anxiety. Visualizations are not limited to beaches and palm trees. The next time you feel uneasy, imagine that an invisible egg surrounds you. You determine the boundaries of the egg, and can give yourself as much or as little space as you need. The eggshell can be made from anything at all -- gold, titanium, a force field -- anything that helps you to feel safe within the space you are visualizing. You can be invisible inside the egg or let others see you, whichever you find more comforting; most importantly, you choose how long you stay inside the egg and when you want to leave.
Rooting is another form of visualization that helps people to feel grounded. Place your feet firmly on the ground and take some deep breaths. As you breathe in, imagine that you are a tree growing up and out; as you breathe out, imagine your feet have roots extending into the ground. Inhale and exhale 20 times, growing taller and deeper with each breath. Afterwards, hold the image in your head and breathe comfortably.
If possible, speak out loud. If you are alone, try telling yourself a story as though you were sharing your day with a friend, or calling out everything you can see, or reciting every U.S. president you can remember. Hearing your voice will help you stay grounded in your body and keep your breathing under control.
Certain techniques may help you in some instances but not in others. Try keeping a record of what you've tried, what helped, and what didn't. Collate this information onto an index card and carry it around with you so that you have easy access to your grounding techniques when gripped by anxiety.
Anxiety is a natural part of life and can be incredibly helpful. Without it, people wouldn't be motivated to swerve to avoid a car accident or visit the doctor after stepping on a rusty nail. More often than not, though, anxiety comes from points of stress and frustration such as reacting to an angry boss or worrying about paying the bills. In these situations, tension causes undue psychological harm that can create a multitude of unhealthy outcomes.
Without even knowing it, people confront these anxieties every day, developing strategies to defend themselves against the uncomfortable, and sometimes debilitating toll on the brain and body. These defense mechanisms momentarily ease the symptoms of anxiety, but do nothing to address the cause. Fortunately, by recognizing these defenses, anyone can work through these problems head-on so they can put an end to anxiety-inducing issues for good.
One way people defend themselves is by projecting undesirable personal characteristics onto others. For example, someone who is excessively hostile might claim other people are the sources of hostility. Doing so eases the uncomfortable experience of being in such a state and further reduces any anxiety associated with knowing that belligerence may be socially unacceptable. The same can be true for a variety of feelings and behaviors. In a relationship, people often blame the other person for problems when it is the accuser who is the cause of the issue. A person may antagonize their friend for being controlling but may be the one who is overbearing.
A common defense especially likely to occur in close relationships, displacement involves "taking-out" anger on a person who has done nothing wrong. For instance, a husband who has had a rough day at work and has been nagged by his boss will displace this anxiety and frustration when he gets home by yelling at his wife or causing relationship issues. Sometimes this can happen between complete strangers, like when a person who is frustrated with a company's policies yells at a cashier, even though they are aware that the staffer does not dictate the situation.
Maybe the most pervasive defense mechanism is denial, i.e., to deny something by refusing to accept its existence. Denial presents itself in many ways: the recently divorced woman who claims she's not upset; the aggressive friend who shouts, "I did not get angry!"; the child who pretends his dead dog is still around. These are all ways in which people refuse to accept their reality by denying the presence of any situation that might cause anxiety. You may be familiar with denial as the first step in the five stages of grief, and this makes sense considering grief so commonly causes psychological turmoil.
Like all other defense mechanisms, denial is a normal reaction to unsettling events, but it can result in numerous problems when ignored. These issues can only be dealt with when they are acknowledged. Those in denial, though, cannot take this first step because they refuse to accept their circumstances. In doing so, they are prohibiting themselves from feeling better and are committing to a lifetime of underlying anxiety.
How to Avoid Using Defense Mechanisms
Sometimes the best way to overcome using a defense is by listening to others. The mind become so focused on the anxiety-causing events that it ignores, and therefore fails to see, how these responses shape thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Other people can sometimes provide an objective viewpoint and enable a person to view a problem from a fresh perspective by recognizing when and how they use defense mechanisms.
The adage of "putting yourself in another's shoes," although useful, requires taking an objective perspective without help or guidance from others to determine whether a defense mechanism is causing harm. People are often much better at understanding a situation when they see it from a "third-party" perspective and doing so can empower them to identify their defenses as they occur. Once they have done this, they can work toward resolving the problems that cause anxiety, either with the help of friends or a counselor.